Bob’s Burgers (2022)
Written by Loren Bouchard & Nora Smith
Directed by Loren Bouchard & Bernard Derriman
I was apparently one of the few viewers who watched Loren Bouchard’s Home Movies during its month-long run on UPN in 1999. At the time, I enjoyed the animated series and especially the contributions of H. Jon Benjamin as Coach McGurk. I also briefly remember seeing a few episodes of Science Court on ABC around 1997, also done in the trademark “squiggle vision” of Bouchard’s work at the time. However, when Bob’s Burgers came around, I wasn’t really watching many animated programs; I can’t exactly say why but it just doesn’t appeal to me much. While my wife loves Bob’s Burgers, I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and definitely found them to be funny, but nothing that had me coming back week after week. However, when the film was released, I was interested to see how it translated into a bigger format.
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Saturday Morning All-Star Hits (Netflix)
Written by Kyle Mooney, Ben Jones, Dave McCary, and Scott Gairdner
Directed by Ben Jones & Dave McCary
Nostalgia is one of the most dangerous sentiments people can have, made even worse when an entire society becomes regressively lost in it to avoid confronting present-day problems. Unfortunately, America is currently a society obsessed with nostalgia, with each generation suckling at memories from their childhood and yearning to return to that state of unknowing. “Make America Great Again” implies a better time, and even those who wear this proudly do so without acknowledging that it would not have been better for adults in their economic class. The pull of nostalgia is most potent during times of societal collapse and is one of the many tendrils of fascism that very slyly closes around the throat of the future. Kyle Mooney and co-creator Ben Jones have managed to create a streaming series that bathes in the aesthetics of nostalgia but doesn’t succumb to the lies that it was better “back then.”
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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)
Written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
So much nostalgia that you feel like you’re going to vomit; this is what American mainstream media feels like these days. Every week, another intellectual property is rebooted, remade, sequel-ized, etc. Most of it is complete garbage. Nostalgia is a type of feeling that appeals to very regressive, reactionary, infantile minds. People are reasonably on edge because Western civilization seems to have reached its zenith and is now in a spiral of decline. The Boomers were the first generation that began to dominate with nostalgia; we saw multiple television series from their childhood made into feature films. Nothing has rivaled the Millennials’ slavering thirst to relieve every Saturday Morning Cartoon and blockbuster movie they saw growing up. So it was only a matter of time until Chip ‘n Dale saw this treatment, shaped by the cynical nature of animated comedy.
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Perfect Blue (1997)
Written by Sadayuki Murai
Directed by Satoshi Kon
I have tried to get into anime throughout my life, and I just don’t think it’s my thing. When I was in college, I had friends who would regularly consume Dragonball, Inuyasha, or whatever else was on Toonami. I ended up watching several films & parts of shows like Vampire Hunter D, Hellsing, Attack on Titan, among others. I can say that I usually enjoy feature films. I love Akira and Metropolis; I think they push past many tropes that generally don’t click with me in this particular animation genre. Of course, Miyazaki is fantastic, but he exists in a category all his own. Perfect Blue is something beyond anything I’d ever seen before, an anime with clear links to some of the best psychological thrillers of live-action cinema.
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The Spine of Night (2021)
Written & Directed by Philip Gelatt & Morgan Galen King
American animator Ralph Bakshi saw his star rise and fall across the 1970s and early 1980s. He’s fondly remembered as the director behind numerous fantasy films of that period, Lord of the Rings probably his most well-known work. Because hand-drawn animation had many limitations, Bakshi would often employ rotoscoping, a technique where film of live action actors is drawn over, adding textures and embellishments but keeping the fluid motion of real people. This technique would evolve into digital motion capture, and rotoscoping has become a niche technique used sparingly. However, Richard Linklater has used it to make his films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Inspired by Bakshi, we have The Spine of Night, a dark horror fantasy that tells of another world where ancient dark magic prevails.
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Written & Directed by Dean Shaw
If Cryptozoo feels like an indie comic book, you wouldn’t be wrong. The creator Dean Shaw is a comic book writer/artist. The work looks like a crude outsider art piece with hints of inspiration from other obscure animated works. I personally saw a lot of Fantastic Planet in the character movement and the themes of the narrative. The story is ambitious but ultimately fails to come together, in my opinion. There’s something here, but I don’t think all the ingredients mixed well. We have an animated film that wants to build a vast world and talk about the environment & humanity.
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Violence Voyager (2019)
Written & Directed by Ujicha
Gekimation. A new word for me and one I won’t soon forget. It describes the very unique style of animation seen in the work of Japanese filmmaker Ujicha. Characters are paper cutouts moved & posed in real-time against paper backgrounds. There’s no stop-motion animation here. It’s hard to compare this to any other animated works because it is so unlike anything else. There are hints of early South Park with the DIY-paper aesthetic. Storywise we’re in Junji Ito/David Cronenberg territory, a very retro body horror atmosphere. But Violence Voyager will be a shock to your senses no matter how many things you know inspired it.
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Shadow of the Bat (Season 1, Episodes 57 & 58)
Original airdates: September 13 & 14, 1993
Written by Brynne Stephens
Directed by Frank Paur
Shadow of the Bat does many things and feels like a movie boiled down into weekday afternoon animation. It’s the best modern presentation of Batgirl we’ve ever gotten outside of the comic book, and it really showed how poor she was brought into the films with Batman & Robin. What’s interesting here is how separate & independent Batgirl is from Batman & Robin, the characters. Her origins are born out of a story centered around her, and the established heroes play supporting roles in this two-parter, with Robin being the more prominent of the two, in my opinion.
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With the success of 1989’s Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns, it was clear that Warner Bros. was going to cash on this newfound love for the Dark Knight. One of those ventures was Batman: The Animated Series, which aired on Fox before moving to the WB network for its final season. BTAS exploded on the children’s television scene as nothing else had before. This was not the Superfriends, or the other Hanna Barbara takes on Batman. It also wasn’t exactly a one-to-one match to Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham City. While the series was undoubtedly influenced by the Burton films, it also owed much to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. There’s even a strong vein of Hitchcock through the series with its emphasis on the darker aspects of the human heart as well as explorations of the subconscious mind.
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Written by Dr. Seuss
Directed by Chuck Jones & Ben Washam
This is my favorite of the classic Christmas animated specials. When I was in the middle of my childhood, in 1988, I think that TNT bought the rights to the Grinch and aired it exclusively on their network. As stated before, I grew up without cable television, and so I’m not sure how I saw this special and remember it so well. I’d like to attribute that to how well animated and written the story is, and so it ingrained itself firmly in my memories. The special came back to broadcast in 2000 on The WB and has floated around networks like ABC and its current home NBC.
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