Posts Tagged ‘LAIKA’

Media Update 9/1/2016

September 1, 2016


Kubo and the Two Strings

I am writing this Wednesday night before this gets published. I just got back from Kubo and I am so excited to talk about it. It feels like almost every animated film I see these days is the best one I have ever seen. This was no exception. The movie made me laugh, made me smile, made me cry, almost made me cheer and made me dream. It was so well animated in that familiar yet evolving LAIKA style that started with Coraline and continues today. For me, LAIKA is what Pixar used to be. Every story they pick is important to tell and emotionally uplifting and I feel rocked after seeing it. They also still operate with stop motion animation which is so fluid that I thought they had just voodoo’d the models to life. The actors all did a good job but I couldn’t even recognize the famous names (except George Takei) throughout their performance. They became their characters and it was amazing. It also had some pretty spooky moments which thrilled me because I think kids are tough enough to take a few scares. I expected great action sequences like all their films before but I did not expect great martial arts sequences. The loving tribute to Japan and its mythology and folklore was just great to see. I don’t want to say anymore in case I give something away. You should go out right now and see this movie. Right now!


The Little Prince

I never read the book that this movie is based on but it sounds like a book that would have made an impression on me as a kid. When I was of Children’s Book age, I was reading Disney and Roald Dahl which is probably what warped and sparked my imagination at a young age. I heard the movie was really good and I have had a love affair with animation since I was a small child. I am lucky to have lived through some of the best ages of animation and computers have done wonders for the art form. What used to take forever, now takes a lot less time. That extra time allows for animation studios to do even more impressive things with the art and story. Almost anything is possible these days. The animation in this movie is very innovative and incredibly new to me. It combines pure computer generated images with paper animation aided by computers. It literally feels like a book coming to life. The story itself is very sweet, sometimes sad and surprisingly deep for what should be a kid’s story. A lot of that is going around. The main story is about finding the fun in life instead of focusing only on success. It also has a lot to say about human relationships and the importance of friends. I definitely recommend it.


Anomalisa

I had seen the posters for Anomalisa and I knew that it was getting great reviews but for some reason, it did not look attractive to me. I did not know anything about it, but the art style looked a little weird and I just was not sure about it. Then the movie was washed away in the glut of movies that come out every year. Oscar season reminded me of the movie when I heard that Dan Harmon was attached somehow. It turns out, the animation was done by Starburns Industries, the same studio that makes Rick and Morty of all shows. I had never watched anything written or directed by Charlie Kaufman but I knew that he made offbeat, artsy films which I usually avoid. I decided to step outside my comfort zone a bit. The animation is pretty neat looking. I would not say that it is beautiful but I do not think it is supposed to be. In fact, the animation feels almost too close to live-action actually. The movie did end up being really artsy and quirky but really depressing. The movie just felt ‘ok’ to me. I loved the concept but it just was not my cup of tea. I think it would have worked better as a short than a whole feature film. I don’t even know if I should recommend it but it was not bad. I will say that this is R-Rated and definitely not for kids.

Music of the Week:
Galantis – No Money
Bat For Lashes – All Your Gold
Crush 40 – One Of Those Days
Dixie Dregs – Cruise Control
Christina Grimmie – Shrug

Weekly Update:
– School started up again but I got a lot of new stuff watched in my week off. Be prepared.
– This week’s theme is “Animated Films not made by Disney or Dreamworks”
– I watched a lot more Person of Interest and now I’m halfway through Season 4
– I watched a little more Dark Matter and I’m almost done Season 1
– I started listening to the TV Crimes podcast and it’s great
– I watched a lot of Law and Order SVU
– I watched a little more Castle too
– I watched a ton of MatPat, Grumps, Commander Holly and other Youtube videos

LAIKA Studios Box Set

March 2, 2015

Animation is a brilliant art form. I have been fascinated by it from a very young age which evolved from Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry to watching Saturday morning cartoons to Nicktoons and beyond. For a long time, Pixar was my God of Animation starting with the premiere of Toy Story. I saw Toy Story five times in theater and, at the age of 13, I seriously considered studying animation so I could get into the business. I got lessons on how to use the program Raydream Design Studio so I could develop my own CGI. I went so far as to take a class on Saturdays at the Maryland Institute College of Art where I learned stop-motion animation. I never really cared about stop-motion too much since I didn’t know at the time that it was used for stuff like Star Wars. I just saw it as the artform that brought us kind of lame things like Gumby and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That would soon change.

First I discovered Aardman studios and fell in love with Wallace and Grommit and I was impressed (and depressed) by Creature Comforts. Then a movie was released that blew my mind and changed my life forever and that’s no exaggeration. Of course, I’m talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas which was a brilliant film. It is often attributed to Tim Burton but it was directed and developed by Henry Selick. It felt like they took a slice of my life and transplanted it into a very spooky yet playful garden. It’s my go to movie when I’m depressed around the holidays.

I recently got a collection of all of the Laika Studios films and I decided to watch two of them over again and check out the newest selection.


Coraline

I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman but I got on the fandom boat a little later than a lot of people. I actually started reading Gaiman with the introduction of The Graveyard Book and I am working on steadily consuming his work. One of the more recent things I got was Coraline because the movie was wildly popular and I wanted to read the book and watch the movie. I eventually broke down and watched the movie first and I was captivated by the glorious return of Henry Selick’s direction and the simple, relateable story. While the movie is different from the book, everyone involved took great pains to capture the spirit of the story and hit all of the key points. Coraline is a tale told about being careful what you wish for, not being so critical of what you have and appreciating those around you even though they’re not perfect. It’s also about monsters and interdimensional travel. It’s a really excellent movie that I’m glad to have in my collection to watch over again.


Paranorman

I will be honest here, I went into this movie with near zero expectations and I didn’t even realize it was from the same studio as Coraline until I looked it up afterward. It was a positively reviewed movie on Netflix and, as previously covered, I like spooky stuff. I remembered the trailer had zombies and ghosts and not much else. What I got was actually a pretty touching story about finding your place in the world and acceptance of who you are and the mistakes others make. At least, that’s what I took away from it. Also, the movie’s pretty funny even if it has a kind of mournful undertone through a lot of it. The trailers made this one look silly and fun and full of action but there is also a lot of emotion here. I definitely recommend it even though I probably just raised your expectations. It should meet them.


The Boxtrolls

Finally, I got to see the Boxtrolls and I soaked in the experience on full, glorious DVD on a spectacular 32″ television. Exquisite. All joking aside, I always want to go see animated films in theaters but pretty much nobody else I know wants to go see them. Also going to the movie theater is a crapshoot on the kind of crowd you’re going to get. Animated movies tend to be populated by families which can mean children who don’t understand the etiquette of a movie theater yet. I’d rather use Netflix or buy a DVD than attend the theater with that risk present. Though, I usually have a rule that I don’t buy DVDs of movies I haven’t seen yet so I don’t end up with a clunker taking up space. However, I make exceptions for movies that got enough good buzz or whose creators have good track records. So I took a chance on LAIKA studios because of Coraline and Paranorman being so good.

I didn’t really know what to expect because strangely enough, I never saw a trailer like I had for the previous two films. I knew a little bit because I had seen fleeting images on the internet and because I’m a fan of Kate Leth. So I had mixed expecations due to so many unknown unknowns. The first thing I noticed was that the studio really stepped up their game on the animation and the movie was even more beautiful than the previous two films. You know, as beautiful as the industrial age/steampunk world could be with all of the really grimy details. I can not say enough about the brilliant art direction since, because of the textures and detail, I often forgot the sets were models. The characters were all just as well-crafted and extremely expressive. It’s an amazing thing when animators or puppeteers can imbue an inanimate object with a soul.

The souls they put in were great too. I was really impressed with a great cast of performers who helped to breathe life into their characters. The characters were weird when they should be weird and touching when they should be touching. I was genuinely happy to meet the good guys and hated the bad guys with a passion. Except that it wasn’t always so black and white (a point that is brought up by some side characters throughout). Elle Fanning and a relatively unknown Isaac Hempstead Wright are brilliant as two children out of their element in a childish adult world. Among the adults are Nick Frost, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Dee Bradely Baker and plenty of other great actors.

The movie is about a lot of things but there are several themes that pop into my mind. I like how the movie points out how ridiculous normal society looks from the outside and that goes for both societies in the story. There was a definite focus on family and how important those closest to you are even if you don’t always like them. Social status is only as important as you make it and don’t try to be something you’re not. Good and evil are sometimes a matter of perspective and you can’t let yourself get blinded by the lies other people tell.

I whole-heartedly endorse watching this movie as I really had a good time watching it. I laughed, I felt and I had a lot of thought-provoking, philosophical moments. So the next time you think all animated movies are “just for kids”, think again.


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