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How to Train Your Dragon-Movie Review 08/14/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Adventure, American, Animated, Comedy, Movies.
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How to Train Your Dragon (American) 2010

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Original Score (John Powell); Best Animated Feature Film (deBlois and Sanders), Academy Awards
WINNER, VES Award, Outstanding Animation Effects, Visual Effects Society Awards
WINNER, Golden Reel Award, Best Sound Effects, Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA

From Dream Works Animation
Directed by Dean deBlois and Chris Sanders

Voices by Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, and Craig Ferguson

A very funny and enjoyable animated film from Dream Works Studios.

Hiccup (Baruchel) is a young Viking who is a huge disappointment to his overbearing father, Stoick the Vast (Butler). Although Hiccup has many creative and inventive talents, his father wants him to follow in his footsteps and become a fearsome Viking. Hiccup must learn to kill the dragons that threaten their town on the island of Berk. As he begins training under Gobber the Belch (Ferguson), Hiccup has little hope of ever killing dragons and little hope of ever impressing the spirited Astrid (Ferrera). An accidental run-in with a dragon gives Hiccup the opportunity to save his town.

This film overcomes what could be a predictable storyline with funny dialogue, well-matched character voices, and incredible animation. It was filmed in 3D and received many awards for special effects. A sequel with the same cast is in the works, due to be released in 2014. I look forward to seeing that (and maybe a re-release of this one) in the theater.

98 min. Rated PG. Not suitable for very young children (scary and intense scenes).


Ratatouille-DVD Review 05/24/2011

Posted by Films to consider in American, Animated, Comedy, Movies.
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Ratatouille (American) 2007

Among numerous awards and nominations:
Winner, Best Animated Feature, Academy Awards
Winner, Best Score Soundtrack for Motion Picture, Grammy Awards

Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
Voices of Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Brad Garrett, and Janeane Garafolo

In case you missed it the first time around: a fun animated story about Remy (Oswalt), a French rat who has “chefly” tendencies.

111 min. Rated G.


Sita Sings the Blues-Movie Review 02/17/2011

Posted by Films to consider in American, Animated, Indian language film.

Sita Sings the Blues (Indian) 2008
aka “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told”

Among other wins and nominations:
Winner, Grand Jury Prize-Narrative Feature, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Winner, Crystal Bear-Special Mention, Berlin International Film Festival
Winner, Best Full-Length Film, Annecy International Animated Film Festival
Winner, Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, Gotham Awards
Nominated, Someone to Watch Award, Independent Spirit Awards

Directed, written, produced, designed, and animated by Nina Paley

A very unusual retelling of the story of the Hindu goddess Sita from the Indian epic Ramayan, with whimsical animation accompanied by recordings of jazz vocalist Annette Hanshaw made in the 1920s. Somehow Hanshaw’s soulful lyrics perfectly fit what happens in this ancient tale. (Check out the cover of the DVD by clicking below for a sample of the animation style.)

Paley has three narrators explaining and discussing two interwoven versions of the tale, and those in turn are interspersed throughout with a modern-day story of love and heartache (based on Paley’s own life).

The accompanying interview tells about copyright issues surrounding the 1920s recordings by Annette Hanshaw and how Paley found a solution.

82 min. Unrated.


The Triplets of Belleville-Movie Review 10/02/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Animated, French language film, Movies.
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The Triplets of Belleville (French/Animation) 2004

Nominated, Best Animated Feature; Best Original Song (Belleville Rendez-vous), Academy Awards

Written and directed by Sylvain Chomet

Hold onto your hat while watching this charmingly unusual animated film, or, better yet, take it off altogether.

A young boy being raised by his grandmother is only pulled out of his doldrums when given a tricycle. Eventually Champion, as he is called, graduates to a bicycle and soon is in training for the Tour de France. His grandmother, Madame Souza, is his taskmaster, and a very effective one she is. But not everyone wants Champion to win . . .

Using very little dialogue, a full and engaging plot unfolds. Every nuance of emotion, every gesture contributes to the story (a good lesson for the writers among us). Be prepared for: great contraptions (love the Rube Goldberg-like devices); interesting music (the songs will stick in your head); an absolutely ridiculous chase scene (what the heck – it’s a cartoon!).

After seeing this film, you’ll thoroughly understand the following request: Please, if you invite me to your house for dinner, do not serve frog legs. Vive les grenouilles, mais pas sur mon assiette!

78 min.; PG-13 (too scary for little ones)

Persepolis-Movie Review *** 06/16/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Animated, French language film, Movies.
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Persepolis (French) 2007

Winner, Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival
Winner, Freedom of Expression Award, National Board of Review
Winner, Best Animated Feature, New York Film Critics Circle; Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
Nominee, Best Animated Feature, Academy Awards

Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Based on an autobiographical comic book by Marjane Satrapi

This animated film tells the story of Marji, a spirited young girl, beginning with her life in Teheran in the late 70s during the overthrow of the Shah’s regime and ending with her move to France as a young woman. It captures the serious overtones of the period as well as the insight and humor in Marji’s approach to life. The story is exciting, funny, and dramatic, and much more emotionally captivating than I expected. I’ve seen it twice and enjoyed it as much the second time as I did the first. Highly recommended!

The animation was done by hand, a process which hadn’t been used in France for 20 years. Be sure to watch the Special Features for a greater appreciation of the animation process and of Satrapi’s personality.

96 min. Rated PG-13.

For a link to an interview with Satrapi on NPR: