Posts

Showing posts with the label CG

Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures: Happy First Frost (2010)

Image
This is only a Christmas episode if you squint, but we think it counts. The characters specifically say that it’s the shortest day of the year, that everyone has different traditions to celebrate, and theirs involves gift-giving. One or two of those wouldn’t do it, but all three and we’ll give it a pass. This is despite the fact that the animation company didn’t bother to give any of the backgrounds or characters any sort of winter look.

The plot mostly follows the aforementioned gift-giving. Strawberry Shortcake and her candy-colored friends have a Secret-Santa-like tradition where they pick names out of a hat and give secret presents. They are preparing for this when a caterpillar (named, I kid you not, “Mr. Longface”) visits, and they invite him to join in.

Strawberry picks his name and sets out to find the perfect gift. Blueberry has Lemon’s name, and decides to give her a huge book about organizing books. Unfortunately, this is a terrible gift for Lemon, who owns only two other…

Mainlining Movie Discussion: Home (2015)

Image
Home is a CG science fiction comedy from last year that’s ambiguously a Christmas movie. It’s loosely based on the 2007 novel, The True Meaning of Smekday. It’s not a clear enough example to be covered in the normal season, but we felt it deserved a spot in our archives.

We’re trying something a little different on this one: instead of posting a review written by one of us, we’re presenting this as a discussion.

Let us know what you think of the format: we're thinking of adding it to our standard repertoire.


Erin: Let’s start with the story. The movie is set immediately after the events of a disappointingly bloodless alien invasion where the human race is transported to Australia. A girl’s left behind, and she befriends an outcast alien who’s inadvertently endangered the planet by sending a party evite to another alien race.

The girl’s trying to find her mom, and the alien’s trying to undo the damage he’s done. You get the idea.

Unlike me, you actually read the book. How’s the premis…

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)

Image
We went into this with a lot of trepidation, between the snooze fest that was the predecessor and the cruddy-looking CG. However, this special was actually much better than the first!

It follows basically the same format - short pieces linked by pedantic narration - but the pieces themselves are far superior. It’s as though the people writing them actually liked their jobs, liked the characters and cared about the humor (again, completely unlike the first special).

Furthermore, the special is the same length, but there are five pieces instead of three. The shorter format is much stronger.

The first piece combines artistry and humor as Minnie and Daisy try to outdo each other as the stars of an amateur skating show. They each have backup skaters from the Fantasia Dance of the Hours sequence. It’s sweet and funny without getting too sappy, and we were surprised with how decent the animation was.

(Complete side note: I don’t know if shipping Minnie and Daisy together is a thing, but i…

Bratz Babyz Save Christmas (2008)

Image
It was awful.

I mean, we expected awful. It's called "Bratz Babyz Save Christmas," and it's a sequel to a direct-to-video movie based on a toy line spun off of another toy line that was essentially a knock-off of Barbie: this was never going to be brilliant film making. But we weren't ready. I'm not sure anyone could have been ready. I'm going to do my best to prepare you, in case you're foolish enough to try and watch this yourself, but the task of trying to depict in words the experience we just endured is a daunting one. This thing, on all levels, in all ways... it was awful.

Based on the four minutes I was willing to invest researching this, it seems to be the third movie in the CG Bratz Babyz direct-to-the-dumpster-behind-Best-Buy-because-no-one-was-actually-stupid-enough-to-buy-the-video series. Did I mention it was awful?

It was. Let's start with the animation. You know how crappy attempts to create CG humans result in a doll-like quality …

The Swan Princess Christmas (2012)

Image
The Swan Princess Christmas is the third of four direct-to-video sequels to The Swan Princess, a movie which failed to make ten million dollars during its entire theatrical run and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 44%. This is the first and only installment of the franchise I've ever seen, so I can't attest whether the abysmal writing, direction, and animation were par for the course, or if this fails to live up to the series's pitiful legacy. Assuming Wikipedia is right, this was the first in the series to be computer animated.

For the majority of this movie's run time, the plot is essentially incomprehensible. The two leads, Derek and Odette, are getting ready to spend their first Christmas together. They have three talking animal sidekicks who almost never interact with them: a puffin, a turtle, and frog trying to get women to kiss him. And there's a cat who's working with the ghost of the villain from the first movie.

To get a Christmas tree, Derek goes snow…

Sofia the First: Holiday in Enchancia (2013)

Image
Aww, Sofia. I wanted you to be fun. I wanted you to be clever. I like the idea of a Ur-princess narrative. But you were only sticky-sweet and not-too-terrible.

Sofia the First is an animated series from Disney Junior, about a girl whose mother marries into the royal family of a fairy-tale kingdom. According to Wikipedia, she is the bearer of a mystic amulet that connects her to advice from other Disney princesses.

In this episode, we're introduced to their traditional winter-gift-giving holiday: Wassailia! It's a fairly simple fantasy Christmas. There are presents, decorated evergreen trees, and traditional foods. The most prominent point unique to Wassailia is the lighting of a special candle in honor of the season that...it's not quite clear, but it seems to bring blessings on the family.

The kids (Sofia and her step-siblings James and Amber) sing about how they celebrate the holiday to open the episode. Sofia is excited for her first Wassailia in the castle, but the p…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys (2001)

Image
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys was a direct-to-video CG sequel to the original stop-motion special. Before we go on, I'd like you to stop for one moment, close your eyes, and count in your head all of the direct-to-video CG movies made in a five year period around the year 2000 that didn't utterly and completely suck.

Take your time: make sure you're not forgetting any.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say you were able to think of zero examples. Once you add Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys to the potential pool, you'll find the final tally hasn't changed.
Let's start with the animation. I appreciate this was a different era and CG animation was still new. But this was just pathetic. The characters were lifeless, the movement was constricted, and even elements you'd expect to be easy - camera movement and crowds - were lacking. I'd be extremely surprised if this thing's director had…

Frozen (2013)

Image
Cards on the table here: Lindsay and I don't agree on whether this even qualifies for the blog. She thinks it's not a Christmas movie because it technically takes place in the summer, has nothing to do with Christmas, and never once mentions the holidays by name. And those are valid points.

But here's where I'm coming from: I'm looking at a movie with five main characters where one's a talking snowman and another is a reindeer. A full 40% of the leads are Christmas tropes.

"Are there bells?" you may ask. Yes - hanging ice bells that the reindeer gets tangled in.

"But does the reindeer appear to fly?" you'll respond. There is a scene where the reindeer leaps over a ravine that's reminiscent of flight.

Let's add this all up:

xMY = (1.25 Talking Snowmen * Reindeer * Winter Wonderland)  / (No Santa * No X-Mas mention)

If I'm doing the calculations right, that still comes out to 2.71 megayules, which is well above the cutoff for …

Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)

Image
Olive, the Other Reindeer is an animated special produced by Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, and features Drew Barrymore in the lead role. With that kind of muscle behind it, you'd expect Olive to be pretty good. And you'd be completely and totally wrong.

The design and animation tops the long list of problems plaguing this thing. The majority of the special is done using 2-D animation on 3-D environments. The backgrounds are fine, if underwhelming (think video games from a decade ago). The characters, on the other hand, are astonishingly and unbelievably awful. The special is based on a picture book, which uses highly stylized two-dimensional images that resemble (intentionally) something a kid might draw. The special attempts to recreate this effect and winds up with something resembling what a first-year college student might animate. It's painful to look at. A few years later, this would probably have been done in Flash, and the results would have…

VeggieTales: St. Nicholas Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving

Image
Ah, VeggieTales. At last we meet face to face.

VeggieTales is about a bunch of anthropomorphic vegetables who praise Jesus and tell really, really awful jokes. The vegetables don't have hands, but still manage to lift small objects in front of them, as if they did. I can only assume this is done with a limited form of telekinesis.

As premises go, I think I'd rank this dead last out of absolutely everything humanity has ever invented. And yet... somehow... this was so bad it failed to live up to its potential.

I'm going to gloss over the frame story about a broken truck and jump right into the real meat of this thing, which concerns the "real" Santa Claus. Of course, they're referring to Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Ultimately, I'd describe the final result as being less historically accurate than Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Sure, they turned Nicholas into a pepper, but that was far from the only alteration. The story started out acceptably (not cou…

Lindsay's Review: My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Sleuth Christmas Movie (2007)

Image
It’s rarely so clear to me that Erin has no fundamental appreciation for children’s media that’s actually aimed at children.

Because I really enjoyed watching this. Okay, a lot of it was laughing at bits that weren’t necessarily meant to be funny, and some of it was laughing at Erin, but that is enjoyment nonetheless.

You know what? I am actually completely okay with variations on Winnie the Pooh. This is a franchise in which I would be a major hypocrite if I tried to pretend to be a purist. After all, I was raised on Welcome to Pooh Corner (“Be Too Smart for Strangers!”) and I loved The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (“He’s round and he’s fuzzy, I love him because he’s just Pooh Bear! Winnie the Pooh Bear!...) and I was in a stage production loosely based on the stories when I was about... nine, I think? (I was the bee who pointed out to the other bees that Pooh was hiding behind the piano.)

So, I’m fine with Darby, and I’m fine with trying out different sorts of plots.

And you …

Erin's Take: My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Sleuth Christmas Movie (2007)

Image
I think Lindsay's reviewing this as well, since we had very different impressions of this made-for-DVD movie. She enjoyed it, while I consider its existence an affront to all that's good in the Universe.

Here's the thing: I'm a pretty big fan of the Bear with Very Little Brain, and I've got some rather strong feelings regarding how Pooh and his friends should be adapted. The makers of this thing apparently feel differently. For example, I believe that Pooh and Tigger should NOT be part of a team that's sort of a combination of Mystery Inc. and a bunch of superheroes, as that represents a profound and disturbing lack of understanding of the world of Winnie the Pooh.

Here are a few other points I differ with the makers of "My Friends Tigger & Pooh":

Modern clothes and technology should not exist in Pooh's world.And expedition to the North Pole should not end at the literal North Pole.The characters should not be famous.New characters should rare…

How to Train Your Dragon: Gift of the Night Fury (2011)

Image
This special is one of four Dreamworks Christmas collected on Netflix under the title, "Dreamworks Holiday Classics." While it's not awful, it is an utter waste of time and effort. To be fair, I wasn't a big fan of the movie this was spun off of, though, so your mileage may vary.

The story takes place at Snoggletog, a stand-in for Christmas. Everyone's getting ready for the holiday, and they're all excited, since it'll be the first since they enslavedmade peace with the dragons. Without warning, all the dragons suddenly take off, leaving the Vikings confused and terrified for no discernible reason.
Did I say all the dragons? I meant all but two: Toothless is stuck because he needs Hiccup's help to fly, and Meatlug is stuck, because his ownerfriend secretly locks him up. Hiccup feels bad that his dragon isn't free, so he makes him an improved tail. Toothless then predictably takes off.
Eventually Meatlug is accidentally freed by Hiccup, who winds …

Dreamworks Holiday Shorts (2005, 2010)

Image
The Madagascar Penguins In A Christmas Caper (2005)
I didn’t hate this. It wasn’t amazing (and seems to have mixed up the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo) but I laughed a few times.

The dimmest little penguin decides to go out after a last minute gift for a lonely polar bear, and the others have to mobilize to rescue him from an elderly lady who’s mistaken him for a plush toy. The woman is a bit of a hideous stereotype, with her vicious yippy dog and her unrelenting grumpiness and her claustrophobic Manhattan apartment. However, I thought the action was amusing, and it wasn’t long enough to really overstay its welcome.

Your mileage may vary. Erin thought Merry Madagascar was better than this one, and I very much disagree. Either way, though, I think you can safely skip it.


Shrek: Donkey's Caroling Christmas-tacular (2010)
Apparently this started life as a DVD extra, but has since been repackaged to round out the collection of Dreamworks specials appearing on Netflix. It’s terr…

Merry Madagascar (2009)

Image
Urgh. I tried to give this the benefit of the doubt. And at the beginning, it actually seemed like it might be good.

And then the “jokes” started.

Another sub-par mess from Dreamworks. No big surprises there. With the notable exception of the Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, which is excellent, I don’t think anything we’ve seen from Dreamworks for this blog has been very good.

This tried. It had moments of greatness, but the sum total wasn’t even good.

The plot runs as follows: Santa gets shot down over Madagascar by the crazy Lemur army (that part was definitely the highlight), bumps his head and gets amnesia, and the main characters take it upon themselves to deliver the presents and, on the way, deliver themselves home to New York for the holidays. It comes close to being funny a few times, it comes close to being sweet, but most of it was dull as dishwater and as predictable as paint drying.

The characters are divided neatly into categories: funny and heartwarming. Never shall a charact…

Yes, Virginia (2009)

Image
There is, inside of me, a swell of rage and hatred, and it's all thanks to the 2009 CG production, "Yes, Virginia."

Now first off, I want to acknowledge what's good about the special. And, as much as I hate to admit it, there's a quite a list. The animation looks good, the designs are generally inspired, the dialogue was competently written, and the voice acting - featuring both Doctors Horrible and Octopus - was pretty solid.

So why then does this special make me angrier than anything else I've seen this year? Because of what it is, what it does, and why it exists. I appreciate that most Christmas specials are designed to make money - hell, it's part of what I love about the holidays - but generally those specials are direct in their strategy. A special's produced and sold to a network, advertising revenue changes hands, and on the back-end maybe DVDs are produced. It might not be charitable, but at least there's something honest about the syste…

The Polar Express (2004)

Image
I think it's important to note that movies based on short children's books can work. Look no further than "Where the Wild Things Are" for a primer in how its done. If something isn't long enough to adapt into a movie, DON'T ADAPT IT: use it as inspiration, and build a new story and world.
Whatever you do, don't stick with a plot that requires five minutes to function and try to pad it out into an hour and a half epic. If you do, you could conceivably wind up with something nearly as bad as Polar Express, a film so awful it more or less got its source - a beautiful, subtle picture book - removed from most peoples' lists of classics. It's common for us nerds to accuse a movie of ruining a book, but in this case, it's kind of true.
The Polar Express isn't the worst holiday movie we've seen, not by a long shot. But I'm having a very hard time thinking of another that's this bad made at this budget. As such, we're going to hono…

The Happy Elf (2005)

Image
Okay, so apparently at some point Harry Connick Jr was delusional or high enough to think producing an animated special based loosely on a stupid song he wrote was a good idea.

And then somehow NO ONE involved thought: wait, this is a TERRIBLE idea!

Thus was born the steaming pile known as The Happy Elf. Ugh, even the name is boring.

The plot is idiotic, every single character is annoying. The only thing this has going for it is that it isn't very long.

Rob Paulsen plays the lead, and if anyone could have pulled it out of the dive and made the twitchy hyper obnoxiously Pollyanna elf charming, it probably would have been Rob Paulsen. But it was not to be. The dialogue is so terrible, and the performances are all painfully overwrought.

The animation... on a purely technical level, it might not be quite as bad as some of the CG we saw last year. It's bad, but the humans are maybe 5% less creepily mask-like. However, 99% of the designs and movements were poorly chosen, and the st…

Prep & Landing: Naughty Vs. Nice

Image
Well, this is depressing.

First the good news: this wasn't awful. In fact, taken on its own merits, it was even good. It was funny, cute, and kind of fun.

But that's just not good enough this time. This isn't a new special existing in a vacuum: it's the sequel to the single best Christmas special made in more than a decade. And this one doesn't measure up.

The original, while not being too dark for kids, was exciting. Yeah, half was devoted to heart, but when things turned, there was a real sense of danger. That was completely missing this time around: I never felt like the elves could actually die.

There were still some cool scenes, particularly the opening, which expanded the series's mythology by showing the other half of the operation: the elves there to punish the bad kids. For a minute, there was a darkness to the tone, but they just couldn't hold it. Almost immediately, we shifted to the comic relief. And guess who played that role.

If you said eith…

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Image
This might change after I see this a few more times, but for the time being I consider Arthur up there with the best Christmas movies ever made. The top three - Nightmare Before Christmas, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street - are now the top four.

At its core, Arthur Christmas is a brilliant little picture about a dysfunctional family at Christmas time. The reason we should care is that this family is heir to the Santa dynasty, a lineage of Father Christmases going to back to St. Nicholas.

There's a lot to like in this one. Right off the back, the portrayal of the operation is ingenious and original. Comparisons to the Star Trek Enterprise are obvious - I'd argue that there are at least as many parallels with Battlestar Galactica. This Santa's using technology a few hundred years ahead of the rest of the world. Intriguingly, they've also got some more traditional magic in reserve, though that's generally become obsolete.

The elves appear quickly and instantly steal t…