REVIEW: Penguins of Madagascar [2014]

“Venetian blinded again” Is Penguins of Madagascar a total cash grab? Not quite. It’s one thing when a studio hones in on a successful franchise’s periphery character and deems it worthy of a spin-off by pretending it possessed enough depth to carry a feature of its own, but it’s another when the filmmakers embrace its appeal and simply expanded upon that element. Puss in Boots was painted as a hero to begin with and supplying him an origin wasn’t a giant leap past Shrek. The “cute and cuddly” penguins from…

Read More

REVIEW: The Croods [2013]

“Never not be afraid” One credit has fascinated me since The Croods opened in theaters: story by John Cleese. That John Cleese? Surprisingly, yes. It’s a somewhat convoluted journey from his failed adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s The Twits with Kirk DeMicco catching the eye of Dreamworks and earning them the pick of the litter as far as in production pitches at the studio. They chose one about a stereotypical caveman and his “modern” counterpart running from the volcanic apocalypse plate tectonics wrought. It was set up at Aardman, left for…

Read More

REVIEW: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted [2012]

“I’m like a candy cane in a black and white movie” A round of applause for directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath—and Conrad Vernon who joins them to expand on his responsibilities playing Mason the monkey—because they have kind of accomplished the impossible with Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. I was surprised at how much better Escape 2 Africa was in comparison to the original Madagascar, but never expected my level of enjoyment to rise even more with the third. Darnell—also a co-writer with Noah Baumbach—and McGrath have grown alongside…

Read More

REVIEW: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa [2008]

“I find it pretty and slightly hypnotic” It’s amazing what happens when filmmakers craft a plot for their characters. I’m not saying I approve of sequels with lame flashback origin prologues trying to make up for the lack of story in their predecessors, but I won’t complain if such contrivances help ground the jokes into a cohesive three act structure. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa isn’t hampered by the need to remove its leads from their fabricated habitat, instead starting off the reservation and relying on everyone’s intrinsic desire to return…

Read More

REVIEW: Madagascar [2005]

“Just smile and wave boys. Smile and wave.” Made as though in opposition to Pixar’s brand of magical storytelling, Dreamworks Animation’s Madagascar ushered in the studio’s want for broader comedy and adolescent appeal. With Shrek, they found a franchise that subverted Disney’s use of fairy tales for cinematic fodder and created a nice hybrid of laughs and story with an underdog hero inside an ugly duckling tale. But after a steady stream of Pixar work including Monsters Inc. and the previous year’s The Incredibles, you have to believe that Dreamworks…

Read More

REVIEW: Rio [2011]

“Sing it, Lionel” Always playing third fiddle to the powerhouses of Pixar and Dreamworks, Sony Pictures’ Blue Sky Studios has held their own with the Ice Age franchise and a couple supporters. Their newest endeavor, Rio, looks to try and recreate a bit of the magic from their competitor’s Madagascar, setting the tale in an exotic locale—Brazil—and populating it with a blend of random humor, violin playing sentimentality, and an eccentric hoard of hive-mind beasts for slapstick entertainment. The music is unfortunately not up to snuff, giving a film aimed…

Read More

REVIEW: Cars 2 [2011]

“I vant to siphon your gas” Being that I was not in what appeared to be a vast majority of people who thought Cars was ‘lesser’ Pixar, I can’t say I was too surprised to find I was on the outside of the even bigger group of critics who trashed Cars 2 as a sequel based solely on toy manufacturing profit. Yes, it is totally a cash-grab—I’m not questioning that fact—but alongside this is an attempt to create something the studio has yet to do, an entertaining comedy existing on…

Read More

REVIEW: Despicable Me [2010]

“Oh yes, I have pins and needles I’m sitting on” Yet another hat is thrown into the ring. Illumination Entertainment joins the stiff competition of Hollywood animators, bringing along with it a stellar voice cast and the ever-present 3D format. Christopher Meledandri—the man behind Fox’s steady rise into becoming one of the top three studios of the medium alongside Pixar and DreamWorks—left his executive job to head up this new company, pilfering artist Chris Renaud to co-direct the firm’s debut Despicable Me with Pierre Coffin. Let’s just say that it’s…

Read More

REVIEW: Bolt [2008]

“You’re a degenerate creature of darkness” It’s a little strange to me that it took Pixar becoming Disney’s new animation studio before the Mouse House itself started releasing new animated films of quality. Starting with the highly enjoyable Meet the Robinsons, Disney has carried on the eccentric comedic bent with this year’s Bolt. This is no Pixar film, don’t get me wrong, but it is very entertaining. Trying its best to capture the heart prevalent in each of their films, Bolt succeeds with a marginal surface sentimentality, tugging at the…

Read More

REVIEW: Kung Fu Panda [2008]

“Can you handle the crazy feet?” Pixar is where it is at for me animation-wise in Hollywood. Maybe that makes me a snob, but something about their films resonate on a level that the others can’t even begin to touch. Sure Shrek and Madagascar are funny, but besides the off-belly laugh, they are kind of shallow and hollow. With that said, I went to check out Dreamworks new foray into computer graphic cinema, Kung Fu Panda. Admittedly, I knew very little about this thing other than the fact that Jack…

Read More

REVIEW: Over the Hedge [2006]

“Let’s call it Steve” There are so many animated films coming out a year that it is tough to bring yourself to see any of them. Sure the Pixar brand means instant gold, however, the multitude of studios popping up with computer graphics are really watering down the quality. Especially with every studio releasing the same thing in competition, how many free from the zoo films did we sit through, it is a true surprise when one of these films surprises you. When I first saw the commercials for Dreamworks’…

Read More