animation

BLAP! ZLOTT! KAPOW! LEGO Batman punches its way to be one of the most entertaining DC movies yet

Batman is reeeaaally annoyed by Robin.

Fresh off the disappointing start to the expanded DC cinematic universe with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squadin swings The LEGO Batman Movie, a refreshingly funny meta action flick. Will Arnett reprises his vocal role as the caped crusader, his second feature film appearance since stealing the show in the 2014 smash hit The LEGO MovieIt was only eight months after The LEGO Movie‘s initial theatrical release that Warner Bros. announced that Arnett/Batman was to get his own flick, ultimately helmed by Robot Chicken producer Chris McKay. The quick trigger finger wasn’t without merit. Inspired by Christian Bale’s most recent take on Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and with the endless ability to skewer the super hero universe and genre that have been constantly under the microscope lately, LEGO Batman was a sure bet. And, indeed, the bet paid off. The LEGO Batman Movie is a fun, frenetic, visual marvel with a little less witty humor and heart than its LEGO film predecessor. But with enough laughs and dazzling animation to ensure its blockbuster status, it also places among the best superhero films of the last few years.

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Film Review: Moana

by Chad Liffmann on November 23, 2016

Moana is beautiful, adventurous, and musically gifted.

Animated Moana gives a miraculous multi-dimensional performance.

Animated Moana gives a miraculous multi-dimensional performance.

Yesterday I watched Moana. Today I listened to the soundtrack about eleven times through. Yesterday I questioned the benefit of seeing films in 3D. Today I feel that a film can truly benefit from non-gimmicky 3D. Yesterday I wondered when there’d be a new Disney song, besides “Let It Go”, that I’d welcome getting stuck in my head. Today I’ve had three Moana songs stuck in my head and love’em all. Do you catch my drift? Disney has delivered a beautifully animated film that holds true to the traditional spirit of Disney animated feature canon while adding new depths to characters and story structure. Moana is a cinematic gift — a film that is accessible and enjoyable to all audiences, re-watchable, boasts a stellar soundtrack, sets a new standard for animated environments (though I feel like I say that every six months), and has one of the most admirable female heroes ever put on screen. Yup, I mean it, too.

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‘Kubo’ is a visual masterpiece!

Beetle, Kubo, and Monkey looking high...

Beetle, Kubo, and Monkey looking high…

I’ve never seen stop-motion animation as inventively crafted or as embedded in the storytelling as I saw in Kubo and the Two Strings. Laika, the animation studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, releases their most ambitious film yet with Kubo. Part parable and part fantasy epic, Kubo has a bit of everything, and though it gets a little over-indulgent in the final ten minutes, the film never feels overcrowded. Credit is due to first time director Travis Knight (son of Phil Knight, of Nike), who does a solid job of executing on an intelligent script by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. The filmmakers infuse Kubo with unique action sequences, family-friendly humor, some nightmarish chills, and strong emotional themes. When these aspects are woven together with solid voice acting and stunning visuals, Kubo becomes a memorable cinematic tapestry.

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Film Review: Minions

by Chad Liffmann on July 10, 2015

Oh, so cute! Yet even more minions would’ve served Minions better.

Bob and Kevin and Stuart. Three Three (Minion) Stooges.

Bob and Kevin and Stuart. Three Three (Minion) Stooges.

I’m not going to get too bogged down with analyzing the storyline or characters here (other than the Minions). The story actually well suits a feature-length treatment for these until-now side characters: After many millennia searching and serving (and inevitably losing) the biggest and baddest bosses they could find, three Minions leave their “colony” to find a new big bad boss. Honestly, I could watch 90 minutes of these adorable yellow pill-shaped creatures reading to each other in a classroom. With a language consisting of 50% Italian, 40% gibberish, and 10% random sounds, unique personalities befitting each standardly-named individual, and an unparalleled sense of loyalty, these little guys are too cute to dislike.

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Amos, (Me), Siddhartha, Elizabeth, and Dan of 'Aria for a Cow'

Amos, Me, Siddhartha, Stephanie, and Dan talking ‘Aria for a Cow’

The shorts programs at SFIFF58 have been increasing in popularity the last few years, and Shorts 5: Family Films is no exception. One film from the group, the colorful and magnificent musical Aria for a Cow, is appropriately quite the showstopper. I sat down with Disney animator and Aria for a Cow writer/director Dan Lund, art director and co-producer Amos Sussigan, background designer and painter Stephanie Dominguez, and production manager Siddhartha Maganti at the Hotel Majestic, a few blocks from where their short would premiere the next day and a few hours before their premiere party. The camaraderie within the group is infectious, and they had no trouble jumping right into the nitty gritty of their film: 

Where did the idea for Aria for a Cow originate?

Dan Lund: I’ve always had a pretty healthy ‘outside-of-Disney’ project type thing going. I was a PA in 1989 at Disney and was working with people who were working with Howard (Ashman). I had kept hearing about this passion project of his called ‘Fatty of the Opera’. Right before we started working on Frozen I had this period where I didn’t have an outside project to work on and it kinda freaked me out. I was in New York and I had mentioned to a friend, ‘I wonder what ever happened to Howard’s “Fatty of the Opera” project’ and my friend knew Sarah (Howard’s sister) peripherally and he said, ‘You should email her.’ So I did and she graciously agreed to give me all the information I needed on this passion project if I listened to her favorite song that no one has ever heard by him, called Aria for a Cow.” I really just did it to get the other thing I wanted, but the other thing I wanted turned out to be a little odder than I thought. And I just fell in love with the cow song. She let me turn it into an animated thing. Originally she was thinking of it being a children’s book but I don’t know that world at all. The song was just lyrics on a page. I wrote the wraparound. I didn’t just want to make a music video. I wanted the song to have a home that was as story-driven as the song.

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'A Single Life' short from the Animated Shorts Program.

‘A Single Life’ short from the Animated Shorts Program.

SFIFF58 is underway, and we’re here to bring you all the goodies! Here’s a quick look at a few selections from three of the MANY amazing shorts programs, all of which are worth checking out at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23-May 7):

Shorts 6: Youth Works
April 25, 11:00am – Tickets & Info
Created by amazing young talent, this collection of narrative, documentary, and animated films is astounding and just a taste of the strong pool of future filmmakers we can expect to see more of down the line.

Kers
(Alexia Salingaros, USA 2014, 5 min)

KERS

KERS

Steadily shot and succinctly edited, Kers is a quick portrait of a female graffiti artist. Challenging the notions of gender roles and respected art forms, the subject reveals the struggles and lifestyle her passion has created for herself.

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Spinning Platters Interview: Benjamin Renner, “Ernest & Celestine”

March 26, 2014

Nearly a year after Ernest & Celestine screened at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, this charming French animated film is finally being released into U.S. theaters (in the Bay Area on 3/28).  I’ve been eagerly awaiting this moment, since Ernest & Celestine was not only one of my favorite films of 2013, but also […]

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Film Review: Monsters University

June 21, 2013
http://youtu.be/xBzPioph8CI

It has been nearly twelve years since Monsters Inc. made its theatrical debut, introducing audiences to one of film history’s most imaginative storylines and a memorable duo of lovable Monster protagonists, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman).  It was Pixar’s fourth feature film and became an instant classic, one that still ranks […]

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Film Review: Epic

May 24, 2013

Naming a film Epic is asking for a lot, especially when it’s based on a children’s book of a different and less demanding title, “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” by William Joyce.  Mirriam-Webster defines ‘epic’ as “extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.”  To focus Epic on inherently […]

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SFIFF Spotlights #1: Ernest & Celestine / Key of Life / Leviathan / Much Ado About Nothing

April 30, 2013

The 56th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) is in full swing.  From April 26th through May 9th, Bay Area cinephiles, filmmakers, and movie lovers of all ages can visit select theaters on either side of the bay to see exciting new films from all over the world. Here at Spinning Platters, we’ll shine […]

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