Disconsolate Edmond is pranked by his office coworkers who put a pair of fake donkey ears on his head. To their astonishment, Edmond never takes them off. Never. Not while he’s asleep. Not when he’s at home. A bizarre take on mental illness and severe depression, this animated short also captures the monotony of a life doing a thankless job. Strong work though with an ultra crude visual style. Bleak. Perplexing. Vivid.
Pixar’s first great short. Where their previous efforts showcased innovation in the 3-d Computer Animation field, Geri’s Game tells a simple yet memorable story to go along with the technology. An elderly man plays a spirited game of chess with himself as an opponent. Perfectly paced and edited, and though Pixar’s animation continues to evolve and becomes more sophisticated with each day, I don’t believe Geri’s Game has been topped. Odd. Funny. Clever.
Voices of Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Courtney B. Vance, Koyu Rankin, Bob Balaban, Liev Schreiber, Anjelica Huston, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Kunichi Nomura, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Scarlet Johansson, Ken Watanabe
Set ahead in dystopian Japan where dogs are reviled for carrying an incurable disease, Mayor Kobayashi signs a decree that isolates the canine population to trash island. Once there, Chief (Cranston), a stray, and four other alpha dogs spend their days scavenging for food, before the arrival of a human boy searching for his missing dog gives them new purpose. It’s a unique and tremendous vision Anderson and his team of animators create, but, like all of his films, I simply felt no connection to the material. His distinctive style keeps me at a distance. I find Isle of Dogs more impressive than moving, more amusing than funny, and not endearing enough to be memorable. The voice work, the character design, and fluid, imaginative camera movement are extraordinary, but Anderson rarely reaches for more, and there is more to film than technical brilliance. Idiosyncratic. Striking. Stiff.
Voices of Greg Cripes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Nicholas Cage
Theatrical film given to the cast of the popular cartoon television series, Teen Titans Go! stars Robin, Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Cyborg working desperately to be taken seriously and get their own film (like Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Batman). Although no more than an extended episode of the show, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies had the children in the theater in stitches, and I laughed out loud several times, myself. As much meta humor and sly references as a Deadpool movie. Fun. Colorful. Funny.
Voices of John Goodman, Walter Cronkite, Julia Child, Rhea Perlman, Jay Leno, Kenneth Mars, Felicity Kendal, Charles Fleischer, Martin Short
Rex (Goodman), once a vicious predator, transformed by a scientist’s invention into a kind dinosaur, travels to the 20th century to fulfill children’s dreams. He joins a group of transformed dinosaurs meant to visit the Museum of Natural History, but they get sidetracked after meeting two runaways who get locked into a dangerous contract at a spooky circus. There’s plenty here for children to enjoy, but We’re Back lacks the intelligence, depth, and artistry of the best animation, many examples of which were coming out at about the same time as this film (The Lion King in 1994 and Aladdin in 1992). Pedestrian. Harmless. Childish.
An alien experiences his first day on the job controlling the spaceship while his boss observes. Pixar short with all the trademark qualities (clever idea and no dialogue), but lacks the trademark appeal. I think it comes down to the character design which is fine but fairly traditional. Every aspect of the animation is well-done, but feels like it’s been done before. Droll. Conventional. Meh.
Voices of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill, Lynda Baron, Ewen Bremner, Morwenna Banks
A perennially bored young girl with flowing red hair, Mary (Barnhill), stumbles upon a rare and valuable flower known as a “fly-by-night,” which gives magical ability to the one who finds it, though for a limited amount of time. Next thing she knows, Mary’s being whisked away to a school for the magically gifted, where she discovers a dangerous plot led by the school’s headmistress, Madame Mumblechook (Winslet) and a professor, Doctor Dee (Broadbent). The story is unfulfilling, relying to heavily on the astonishing animation. As brilliant as that aspect of the film is, it serves what could possibly have been a short story stretched out to feature length. Beautiful. Disappointing. Passable.