Category: Animation

Your Lie In April

Summary: A piano prodigy who lost his ability to play after suffering a traumatic event in his childhood is forced back into the spotlight by an eccentric girl with a secret of her own.

Year: 2014

Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A

Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016

Country: Japan

Director: Takehiko Shinjo

Screenwriter: Naoshi Arakawa (manga)

Cast: Ryan Bartley (Megu (voice)), Robbie Daymond (Saito (voice)), Erika Harlacher (Emi Igawa (voice)), Carrie Keranen (Hiroko Seto (voice)), Erik Scott Kimerer (Takeshi Aiza (voice)), Wendee Lee (Saki Arima (voice)), Max Mittelman (Kousei Arima (voice)), Erica Lindbeck (Kaori Miyazono (voice)), Erica Mendez (Tsubaki Sawabe (voice)), Kyle McCarley (Ryota Watari (voice)), Stephanie Sheh (Nagi Aiza (voice)), Julie Ann Taylor (Nao Kashiwagi (voice)), Cristina Valenzuela (Koharu Seto (voice))

Runtime: 12 x 22 mins episodes

Classification: PG

 

OUR YOUR LIE IN APRIL VOL 1 REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

Harley Woods:

Your Lie In April is a Japanese animated series, based around a coming-of-age / first-love story intermingled with competitive musical ambitions. Volume One is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.

This series hits with immediate impact. The first thing we see is a girl, Kaori, following a cat around. This is both endearing and amusing but also features some interesting animation that already raises expectations on the quality of the series. We cut to the titles and are treated to yet another catchy theme tune – Hikaru Nara by Goose House.

Soon after, we are treated to exceptionally animated sequences done with 3D models and rotoscoping and sharp camera movements. This really livens the scene and makes it present, even as we will see sweat fly off of characters as they perform with all their might. These sequences become something you eagerly await throughout the series as they are so passionate and reflect the power of the music being played. Artistic licence is taken to colour and light the scenes so that you can follow what is happening to the colours emotionally and mentally.

In a word: impeccable.

This is one of the most engaging stories I have been privileged to watch, filled with identifiable characters and relationships. I wept several times – particularly during concert scenes where characters’ emotions come out in their music. That said, this is a complex and emotional story where layers are peeled off piece by piece, with foreshadowing of what is to come reflected in what has already been.

I have not been touched by or connected with a story so instantly as I have with this one.

Plenty of anime humour and dynamics are used throughout the story to even out the emotional intensity and balance out the high quality animated sequences. This is as much to keep the series to a deadline and budget as much as it is to entertain and not overwhelm the audience.

The characters were recognisable instantly and initially laid out simply, but layers of details and dimension show more and more with each episode. Arima Kousei is the voice and heart of the series and I could connect instantly and even see a mirror for myself. This is a highly immersive experience.

The voices are very suitable but also have that typical anime feel, but this is good to heighten things a little and ad the entertaining elements as counter for the highly internal and reflective feel that marks this series.

The production is an interesting blend and this is set-up in the first episode (showing the different elements and styles involved throughout the story). Character movements seem real, which are then raised with CG / rotoscoping for the intense musical performance scenes. Again, this is countered by the heightened moments of manga-style humour and exaggeration to lighten the drama. Beautiful music and imagery throughout the show keep you locked into this world; transfixing.

This DVD set, being only the first half of the series, is not over-endowed with features. The usual textless opening and ending credits are included (which is fine, as I had Goose House’s theme stuck in my head, and now have it on my phone). These sequences are actually quite a joy to watch in themselves, so it is forgivable not have more features included as the real experience is the story itself.

However, this leaves me really eager to see volume two and I, for one, cannot wait to grab it up as soon as I can!

I highly recommend this series, with 4.5 out of 5 stars.

(Mind you, I may only have taken half a star off as I’m dying to see the rest of the show!)

 

Stars(4.5)

 

 

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):   Stars(4.5)

 

IMDB Rating:  Your Lie in April (2014) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Your Lie In April Vol 1 reviews: Nil.

 

Trailer:

Wolf Girl

Summary: About Erika who claims that popular boy, Sata is her boyfriend. She has no choice but to make him her fake boyfriend. Unfortunately,he may look like a sweet person, but he is actually an ultra sadist and treat her like a slave.

Year: 2014

Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A

Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016

Country: Japan

Director: Kenichi Kasai

Screenwriter: Ayuko Hatta, Sawako Hirabayashi

Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya (Takeru Hibiya (voice)), Kanae Ito (Erika Shinohara (voice)), Matsuoka Yoshitsugu (Nozomi Kamiya (voice)), Takahiro Sakurai (Kyouya Sata (voice))

Runtime: 12 x 24 mins episodes

Classification: M

 

OUR WOLF GIRL AND BLACK PRINCE REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

Harley Woods:

Wolf Girl & Black Prince is a Japanese animated series, revolving around an off-beat high school romance. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.

I found this series to be an enjoyable watch despite, or perhaps because of, my constantly conflicting feelings about the main pair’s romance. This romance is centred around Erika (the lying ‘wolf-girl’) and her ‘black prince,’ Kyoya.

What, at times, seems like an abusive relationship (or, at least, a pretend relationship) is complicated by sudden glimpses of care and sweetness throughout that keep you building hope in a happy outcome; just as Erika does as she realises the truth of her feelings and confesses her love to Kyoya.

By raising these conflicting feelings within its audience’s minds the story successfully manages to put us in Erika’s place. At times we want her to just end it; it’s a ridiculous situation to be in. And then we suddenly think that there’s more to it, and more to him, and maybe we want to give him another chance…

It’s just like a relationship – especially one that may not be good for us. Still, you do have to wonder why Erika does put up with it and this could be a question that makes you wonder if you want to keep watching once you are past the halfway point and our protagonist is still putting herself through emotional heartache.

However, the truth of the situation is that Erika constantly lands herself in the thick of it with her lies and exaggerations but ends up finding numerous friendships – which is what she set out to do in the first episode of the series as she starts her first day of high school. Find rewards like this is what really makes the show attractive and enticing.

A great array of supporting characters and interrelationships are shown throughout the series. Some characters could have benefited by more screentime, or a longer series, but as the story is Erika and Kyoya’s relationship this would have been extraneous to the main plot and dragged out the painful parts of the relationship to the point where you would probably stop watching.

A lot of time is spent hoping for more details into Kyoya’s past and reasons for his actions which  are hinted at but held very close to the chest until the end, unfortunately. It would have been nice to put a bit more of this information in along the way, but it is worth pursuing to the end to get more pieces of the puzzle, despite the harder moments of character ‘sadism’ in the series.

This DVD is only presented in the original Japanese audio with English subtitles (which I prefer, anyway). The characters work with suitable voices that fit the usual archetypes and stereotypes, setting suitable tones for each moment of drama, humour, romance and so on. It is this voice work and the additional characters that keep the entertainment going and lighten the more emotionally draining moments.

This is a well-made series, done in the typical style with the primary focus on exaggerating Erika’s rollercoaster of emotions and highlighting important moments such as the flashbacks to Kyoya’s childhood.

I like that the production team did not resolve every little thing for each and every character, as this is how it is in real life. Despite some heightened drama, you walk away believing in the relationships and characters’ personal / internal dramas; like a window into a single chapter of someone’s life.

Focus is given to the romance and relationships and getting that to a certain point without wholly and conveniently fixing everything in everyone’s lives.

This is a ‘lite’ DVD set, with the only features being the usual textless opening and ending credits. I like this, however, as the theme tunes got stuck firmly in my head. Being a short, complete story I did not feel the set suffered from not having further features, as the real experience is the story itself.

This series is available in stores now from Madman Entertainment.
Stars(3.5)

 

 

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):   Stars(3.5)

 

IMDB Rating:  Wolf Girl and Black Prince (2014) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Wolf Girl And Black Prince reviews: Nil.

 

Trailer:

A Letter To Momo

Summary: Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. Upon their arrival, she begins to explore her new habitat, meeting local children and learning their routines and customs. However, it’s not long before several bizarre occurrences crop up around the previously tranquil island. Orchards are found ransacked, prized trinkets start disappearing and, worst of all, each morning after her mother leaves for work, Momo hears strange mumblings coming from the attic of their home. Annoyed by these creepy goings-on and her mother’s refusal to believe them, Momo embarks on a strange and supernatural adventure to discover the source of the mischief, which leads her to a trio of troublesome imps: the flatulent lizard Kawa, the childlike Mame and their hulking ogre leader Iwa. Momo also learns that her visit to the island is in some way connected to her father’s mysterious letter.

Year: 2011

Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A

Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016

Country: Japan

Director: Hiroyuki Okiura

Screenwriter: Hiroyuki Okiura

Cast: Daizaburo Arakawa (Kazuo Miyaura (voice)), Frank Ashmore (Great Uncle (voice)), Bob Bergen (Mame (voice)), Kota Fuji (Yota (voice)), Kanoa Goo (Yota (voice)), Katsuki Hashimoto (Umi (voice)), Mia Sinclair Jenness (Umi (voice)), Karen Miyama (Momo Miyaura (voice)), Yuichi Nagashima (Mame (voice)), Toshiyuki Nishida (Iwa (voice)), Takeo Ogawa (Koichi (voice)), Amanda Pace (Momo Miyaura (voice)), Yoshida Sakaguchi (Great Uncle (voice)), Philece Sampler (Great Auntie (voice)), Stephanie Sheh (Ikuko Miyaura (voice)), Dana Snyder (Kawa (voice)), Ikuko Tani (Great Auntie (voice)), Fred Tatasciore (Iwa (voice)), Kirk Thornton (Kazuo Miyaura (voice)), Koichi Yamadera (Kawa (voice)), Yuka (Ikuko Miyaura (voice)), Rick Zieff (Koichi (voice))

Runtime: 120 mins

Classification: PG

 

OUR A LETTER TO MOMO REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

Harley Woods:

A Letter To Momo is a Japanese animated feature, produced by Production I.G. and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.

A Letter To Momo is a beautiful story and very true-to-life in it’s character portrayal and relationship aspects. This then melds with the fantastic and supernatural as Momo meets her ‘guardian angels’ who have taken unique forms from an old comic she was reading.

Shocking and hilarious moments ensue as she tries to deal with an unreal situation on top her own emotional ordeals after the death of her father and sudden move to a new home.

As we settle into life at the same time as Momo we experience childhood again and feel her bashfulness as her mother tries to force a friendship with local children (only to embarrass Momo) and relive all of the typical moments of childhood.

The real stirring begins when we learn what has brought Momo and her mother to this new life and how deeply the impacts of recent tragedy still play on this child’s heart and mind. The natural and ‘everyday’ way that the storytelling works is something the director and writers should be commended for.

The characters are brilliant – the humans are believable and ‘true’, while the otherworldly are fantastic and engaging and lovable despite their mischief.

One cannot help but care for Momo and want the best for her in each situation. A few moments I wanted to cry for the emotional jolts and later again for the pure joy and enjoyment I took from this movie.

As usual, I watched the production in the original Japanese which I think is an absolute must for this movie. The portrayals are true for each character and not ‘hightened’ like mass media anime. This is a real character piece with honest emotion and performances which I think would be harmed by dubbing over language and mannerisms of an entirely different culture.

The honesty in which it is played makes for a unique and touching experience.

The production overall was, in a word: beautiful.

The unique style, much different than the usual anime ‘manga style’ adds to the believability and draws the viewer more deeply into the story. The production staff have made every effort to bring the audience into the story.

Beautifully painted backdrops, realistic characters and a realistic sense of movement in the animation show just how great the thought and effort has been in the making of this film. The simpler character style and painting creates a more realistic look than expected, with the more predictable and fantastic stuff left for the supernatural figures.

Great direction and storytelling has paid-off for a highly rewarding and encapsulating viewing experience.

This is a great DVD from Madman, which includes Featurettes on the making of the production (which is really great to watch to see how this splendorous movie came to life from concept to completion).

Also included are an art gallery, test clips and trailers. All of these make for a value-packed DVD and an intensely enjoyable and uplifting experience which has quickly become one of my favourite movies.

 

Stars(5)

 

 

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):   Stars(5)

 

IMDB Rating:  A Letter to Momo (2011) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Black Butler: Book Of Murder reviews: Nil.

 

Trailer:

Black Butler

Summary: At the behest of the Queen, Earl Ciel Phantomhive hosts a lavish dinner party attended by several of the finest members of polite society—as well as struggling author, Arthur. But as the party reaches its high, a terrible murder takes place and none other than the Earl himself is suspected of the crime.

As a violent storm rages on outside, the death count continues to climb. The Phantomhive household and their eminent guests find they must cooperate in order to solve this mystery before they too fall prey to the mysterious murderer. However, it seems that not even the perfect butler, Sebastian Michaelis, is safe from this horror.

Year: 2014

Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A

Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016

Country: Japan

Director: Noriyuki Abe

Screenwriter: Yana Taboso

Cast: Shintaro Asanuma (Arthur (voice)), Yuki Kaji (Finnian (voice)), Emri Kato (Mey-Rin (voice)), Ryohei Kimura (Charles Grey (voice)), Jamie Marchi (Irene Diaz (voice)), Mana Miyamoto (Irene Diaz (voice)), Daisuke Ono (Sebastian Michaelis (voice)), Maaya Sakamoto (Ciel Phantomhive (voice)), Shinnosuke Tachibana (Soma), Eiichiro Tokumoto (Grimsby (voice)), Hiroki Yasumoto (Agni (voice)), Koji Yusa (Lau (voice)),

Runtime: 58 mins per ep

Classification: M

 

OUR BLACK BUTLER: BOOK OF MURDER REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

Harley Woods:

Black Butler: Book Of Murder is a 2 part miniseries, originally shown in Japanese cinemas, which acts as the fourth instalment of the ‘Black Butler’ anime franchise. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by MadMan Entertainment.

The story revolves around a dinner party at the Phantomhive manour, as ordered by the Queen. Ciel Phantomhive is the Queen’s ‘watchdog’ and although just a boy he always carries out his orders and protects her majesty with the aid of his demonic butler, Sebastian.

In this instalment his loyalty is under scrutiny so the Queen order Ciel to host a dinner for her cousin, where trouble is expected. The trouble in question takes the form of an old-style murder mystery, of the kind seen in classic British mystery novels of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and Agatha Christie. This genre has been recreated particularly well, with the added twist of grand scheming and devilry that one expects from the Black Butler series.

Although this very genre-specific story is a slight departure from the usual style of the series, it is a faithful follow-on to the previous 3 instalments. A few inferences in the plot do incorporate details from the previous chapters, so knowledge of these makes for a more rewarding viewing. I found the story to be highly engaging with plot developments that keep you on the edge of your seat to discover the resolution.

Great characters fill this tale with most development being given to the guest cast, being that this is a finite miniseries. The regular cast have already been well developed so it is more important in this instance to get the bit-players across in a way that rounds their characters enough to understand their reactions and behaviours in the context of the narrative. That said, there does seem to be a little more impetus for Ciel to function on his own without relying on Sebastian.

I think the only loss in this regard is not seeing more of the Phantomhive staff have their unique character moments which usually come out more towards the end of each series as a bit of a surprise twist, but this time is incorporated from the start in more subtle ways. However, this leaves little wastage and things proceed naturally toward the ultimate resolution.

The Japanese voice cast are always impeccable and this is how I choose to view my anime. However, I did take the take to check out the American dub for the sake of this review. I don’t think a lot of the voices fit the characters too well – Sebastian for example sounds a little too old and less smooth as his character is often revealed to be.

However, props should be given to the American cast for taking the time and effort to provide suitable accents for each character and their background (predominantly British, with Chinese and Germanic characters). I appreciate that level of effort as it would be otherwise jarring to the audience who are supposed to be immersed in a drama in old England.

The art and animate was brilliant as usual, and the creators have successfully made reference to past elements and tied loose ends. This allows the series to move forward in a new chapter where they can, perhaps, create a new feel or a new beginning.

The characters are unique and their styles and those of Victorian London have been well presented and recreated, with a little bit of ‘anime flair’ to spice it up.

The settings are interesting and beautiful and help to immerse the audience in the world being presented. Action and animation are top quality and always a joy to watch. It’s always hard to look away, especially when Sebastian and the Phantomhive staff get into action.

The DVD is lite on special features, being more of a ‘special miniseries / movie collection’ rather than a full series in its own right. Included on this DVD release are the US trailer and Feature commentary on the second instalment by members of the US voice cast.

The commentary is good for those who watch the dubbed version and enjoy these performers, but for someone like me who enjoys the original soundtrack and the production as a whole it might have been nice to have a featurette or something.

On the whole, this is a very enjoyable anime, and I give it 4 out of 5.

Stars(4)

 

 

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):   Stars(4)

 

IMDB Rating:  Kuroshitsuji: Book of Murder (2014) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Black Butler: Book Of Murder reviews: Nil.

 

Trailer:

Batman The Killing Joke

Summary: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

Year: 2016

Australian Cinema Release Date: 23rd July 2016

Australian DVD Release Date: 3rd August 2016

Country: USA

Director: Sam Liu

Screenwriter: Brian Azzarello, Bob Kane (characters), Bill Finger (characters), Jerry Robinson (characters), Brian Bolland (graphic novel), Alan Moore (graphic novel)

Cast: Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne (voice)), John DiMaggio (Francesco (voice)), Robin Atkin Downes (Detective Bullock (voice)), Brian George (Alfred (voice)), Mark Hamill (The Joker (voice)), JP Karliak (Reese (voice)), Andrew Kishino (Murray (voice)), Nolan North (Mitch (voice)), Maury Sterling (Paris (voice)), Tara Strong (Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (voice)), Anna Vocino (Jeannie (voice)), Rick D. Wasserman (Maroni (voice)), Ray Wise (Commissioner Gordon (voice)),

Runtime: 76 mins

Classification: MA15+

 

OUR BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

David Griffiths:

Few movie/television franchises have evolved as much as Batman has over the years. For those of us older enough we grew up watching the campy Adam West led series that saw Batman’s violence limited to ‘POW’ and ‘KAPOW’ being placed on the screen as Batman almost playfully put down his enemies. For anyone that had never read the original Batman comics and graphic novels there was no hint at all at just how dark this series could be. Tim Burton touched on it with ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns’ while Christopher Nolan fully embraced with his Batman trilogy. Now however comes what is possibly the darkest ‘Batman’ adaption to ever grace our screens – the animated cinematic event that is ‘Batman: The Killing Joke.’

Loosely based on the Brian Bolland/Alan Moore graphic novel of the same name ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ sees the successful duo of Batman/Bruce Wayne (voiced by Kevin Conroy – ‘The Office’) and Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong – ‘Ice Age’) pretty much keeping Gotham City crime free. But things sour when their relationship turns sexual and it seems to Barbara that Bruce still wants to treat her like a child. As she decides to quit the Batgirl role both her and her father, Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise – ‘RoboCop’), are attacked by The Joker (Mark Hamill – ‘Star Wars’) who is determined to prove that anyone can break the way he did.

Anyone who is expecting that ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ is aimed at children because of the fact that it is animated is in for a very rude shock indeed. I say that because those have read the graphic novel know that the treatment that Barbara and Commissioner Gordon receives from The Joker is extremely violent and adult orientated and here director Sam Liu (‘Green Lantern: The Animated Series’) doesn’t hold back. And while Liu doesn’t tone things done ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ is far from the perfect film.

Liu and his screenwriter, Brian Azzarello (‘Batman: Gotham Knight’) actually do a pretty good job making this a Joker origins story and while they produce a great insight into how the Joker ended up the way he did and what he is capable of doing there are also weaknesses in the plot. The opening scenes which show Batgirl and Batman trying to bring down Paris Franz (Maury Sterling – ‘The A-Team’) are massively too long. As a film this should be a Joker origins story but having a whole early sub-plot of having Paris develop a crush on Batgirl before the Joker is even properly introduced makes the film feel clumsy and awkward as it suddenly switches from being a Batgirl movie to a Joker movie… not a great move when you know what the Joker does to her here. It’s also a weird thing to say about a film that only runs for 76 minutes but that added Batgirl story makes the film seem over-long.

Perhaps the worst crime though that ‘Batman: The Killing’ commits though is its rushed ending. Liu does a great job setting up what appears like it is going to be an epic battle between Batman and The Joker after Joker has tortured Commissioner Gordon in an old fairground. But alas the battle is never as epic as you expect it to be and the ending is just ever awkward as you see Batman and Joker laughing together… something you would never expect to see when you know what Joker has just done to Batgirl. Anyone that knows Batman would know that this would never be his response to such an act and it feels dangerously out of place here.

The darkness of ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ does ring out the best in its voice cast. Anyway who says that Mark Hamill has had a ‘nothing’ career since ‘Star Wars’ will be silenced by his eerie and manic portrayal of The Joker while Kevin Conroy is his typical smooth self voicing Batman. The other star here is Tara Strong who gets the benefit from the added Batgirl storyline and she reveals herself to be one voice artist who really knows how to get emotion out of her voice.

‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ does have its weaknesses but they are somewhat overcome by the fact that this is one of the darkest Batman stories that we have ever seen on the big screen. While it may be animated it certainly doesn’t lessen the impact of the darker scenes and the filmmakers behind it need to be congratulated for not toning it down. Well worth a look if you are a hardened Batman fan.

Stars(3)

 

 

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):   Stars(3)

 

IMDB Rating:  Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Batman: The Killing Joke reviews: Nil.

 

Trailer:

Kung Fu Panda 3

Summary: Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

Year: 2016

Australian Cinema Release Date: 23rd March 2016

Australian DVD Release Date: TBA

Country: USA, China

Director: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Screenwriter: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger

Cast: Jack Black (Po (voice)), Jackie Chan (Monkey (voice)), Radzi Chinyanganya (Mi (voice)), Bryan Cranston (Li (voice)), David Cross (Crane (voice)), Barbara Dirickson (Grandma Panda (voice)), Steele Gagnon (Bao (voice)), Willie Geist (Dim (voice)), Dustin Hoffman (Shifu (voice)), April Hong (Mrs. Chow (voice)),  James Hong (Mr. Ping (voice)), Kate Hudson (Mei Mei (voice)), Angelina Jolie (Tigress (voice)), Knox Jolie-Pitt (Ku Ku (voice)), Pax Jolie-Pitt (Yoo (voice)), Shiloh Jolie-Pitt (Shuai Shuai (voice)), Zahara Jolie-Pitt (Meng Meng (voice)), Randall Duk Kim (Oogway (voice)), Liam Knight (Lei Lei (voice)), Wayne Knight (Big Fun/Hom-Lee (voice)), Lucy Liu (Viper (voice)), Seth Rogen (Mantis (voice)), Al Roker (Sum (voice)), Lindsey Russell (Peony (voice)), J.K. Simmons (Kai (voice)), Fred Tatasciore (Master Bear (voice)), Ming Tsai (Ming (voice)), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Mast Croc (voice))

Runtime: 95 mins

Classification: PG

 

OUR KUNG FU PANDA 3 REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

John Noonan:

Five years since he last skiddooed onto the scene, Po the Panda is back and this time, for fear of sounding like a movie poster, he’s bringing the whole family. Yes, a chance encounter at his adoptive father’s restaurant leads  Po (Jack Black) to meeting up with his long lost Dad, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston). Meanwhile, the vengeful spirit of a great warrior known as Kai (JK Simmons) has returned to the mortal realm and is seeking to steal Po’s chi.

This is the second sequel to DreamWorks’s 2008 hit and it’s amazing to see the difference between this and their previous flagship series, Shrek. By the time Shrek coughed and spluttered into his third sequel, the franchise was nothing more than weak storylines on which to pin dated pop culture references and Eel songs.

Conversely, Kung Fu Panda 3 allows Po and his pals to grow organically. Despite being declared Dragon Warrior in the previous film, there’s still much for the young panda to learn. Including it seems, that of how to be a panda. With his newly found father, Po ventures to their secret village in the hills to understand panda nature (tips include that they don’t do stairs and they don’t get up before midday) and potentially learn something that can defeat Kai.

Yes, this ‘just be yourself’ through line is a tried and tested formula, but it’s yet to feel derivate in the Panda universe. Po, despite his prowess, is a still a student. He has questions about his place in the universe that he hopes to answer. Meanwhile, there is only so many ways to you teach an ogre that’s okay to be an ogre, as long as you change yourself a bit.

Kung Fu Panda 3, as has become expected, is beautiful with traditional animation – admittedly done by computers – used for line drawn flashbacks. It’s a simple trick, but one that is used to great and emotional effect. Elsewhere the vocal talent is uniformly brilliant, with JK Simmons sounding like he’s channelling the angriest of angry John Goodmans, whilst James Hong steals every scene as Po’s adoptive father, Mr Ping; who doesn’t take kindly to others cutting his grass.

Rumours are that DreamWorks’s have at least another three chapters in the story of Po, and whilst that is a tempting offer, should they never surface, rest assured Kung Fu Panda 3 is a wonderful and joyous ending to a truly enjoyable series of films.

Stars(4)

 

 

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):  Stars(4)

 

IMDB Rating: Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Kung Fu Panda 3 reviews: Nil

Trailer:

Alvin & The Chipmunks Road Chip

Summary: Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) return and this time they have a huge problem. Not only has their ‘father’ Dave (Jason Lee) put a stop to them performing live, so they can be normal kids for awhile, but his relationship with Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) is going so well it looks like they are about to get engaged.

Now the Chipmunks are happy for Dave but are concerned that if he marries Samantha that wil mean that they that are now ‘brothers’ with a boy that seems to enjoy torturing them, Miles (Josh Green). When they learn that he isn’t too happy about being related to them either the four decide to embark on a road trip to Miami to prevent the engagement from happening.

Year: 2015

Australian Cinema Release Date: 26th December 2015

Australian DVD Release Date: TBA

Country: USA

Director: Walt Becker

Screenwriter: Randi Mayem Singer, Adam Sztykiel, Janice Karman (characters), Ross Bagdasarian (characters)

Cast: Christina Applegate (Brittany (voice)), Jennifer Coolidge (Ms. Price), Kaley Cuoco (Elenaor (voice)), Anna Faris (Jeanette (voice)), Josh Green (Miles), Matthew Gray Gubler (Simon (voice)), Tony Hale (Agent Suggs), Ellie Knaus (Anna), Jason Lee (Dave), Justin Long (Alvin (voice)), Jesse McCartney (Theodore (voice)), Maxie McClintock (Alice), Joshua Mikel (Wyatt the Pizza Guy), Red Foo (himself), Eddie Steeples (Barry), Bella Thorne (Ashley Grey), Kimberley Williams-Paisley (Samantha)

Runtime: 92 mins

Classification: PG

 

OUR ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS:ROAD CHIP REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

David Griffiths:

Well I guess it had to happen to one film and for most territories around the world it was Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip that went up against the might of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. When you actually think about it it’s not such a bad strategic move considering that most little kids who will want to see Alvin and co will have very little interest in going to see a film about intergalactic warfare. That leaves the big questions being… is this the kind of movie that will entertain or put my children to sleep?

Anyone who has sat through all four Alvin & The Chipmunks movies will tell you that this has been a franchise that has been all over the shop when it comes to quality. The first film surprisingly had meaning taking a huge swipe at the music industry and the way it treats young artists, but from then (like most of the franchises) these days it seems to have had more lows than highs. That is where you might be pleasantly surprised by Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip.

While the cast in front of the camera (and behind the microphone in some cases) haven’t changed this time around, the crew behind the scenes has. Known comedy director Walk Becker (who has previously brought us Van Wilder and Wild Hogs) steps up to the plate and is probably the reason behind a lot of the slapstick that surfaces this time around. Also new to the creative table are screenwriters who can boast films like Mrs Doubtfire and Due Date on their Resumes.

The new creative team behind the film takes this movie in a completely different direction to the last two films. Here the franchise once again finds its heart as the film explores the delicate subject of siblings being brought together as parents remarry etc. Surprisingly the film actually does that quite well, and while Miles is originally set-up as a brat you are supposed to hate the screenwriters do actually take his character on a journey that allows the audience to see how he ended up the way he did. It’s surprisingly moving.

Of course as you would expect from a movie aimed at the younger demographic there is also a lot of scenes that adults are going to find ‘silly.’ The battle scenes with Agent Suggs (Tony Hale) are over the top and too slapsticky for adults to really enjoy but you can guarantee younger kids will be in hysterics over them. Likewise the Red Foo scenes which are nauseating for anybody that has taste in music, but luckily the latter music scenes depicting the Chipmunks doing everything from playing in a redneck bar to rocking out with a brass band in New Orleans are a lot better.

As is normally the case with this franchise the actors are really overshadowed by the CGI chipmunks. Jason Lee seems to be cruise control, as is Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Tony Hale overacts constantly throughout the film, something that it is obvious he was asked to do by the creative team and for the most past it works. The biggest surprise though is the acting performance of Josh Green. The young inexperienced actor really shows that he may be an actor to watch in the future and he masterfully takes his character on a journey throughout this film. He manages to switch from comedy to moving emotionally scenes at a whim and he is one of the few actors who isn’t over-shadowed by his furry, cute co-stars.

Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip has enough crazy scenes and music sequences to keep younger kids happy while the older generations will warm to the more heartfelt moments throughout the film. Yes this film isn’t the car crash many expected it would be.
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Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):  Stars(3)

 

IMDB Rating: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip reviews: You can listen to our full Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip  on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #158. You can also read our full Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip review on The Book The Film The T-Shirt.

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Blinky Bill The Movie

Summary: Blinky Bill (voiced by Ryan Kwanten) the mischievous koala is devastated when his father, Bill Koala (Richard Roxburgh) leaves their home town and goes exploring in the outback but hasn’t returned after twelve months. Despite promising his mother (Deborah Mailman) that he won’t Blinky heads off to look for him.

Soon Blinky is joined by an accidentally freed zoo koala named Nutsy (Robin McLeavy) and a crazy filled neck lizard called Jacko (David Wenham) as he battles the dangerous outside world in a bid to find his Dad. The journey is made even more dangerous by the fact that they are being pursued by a cranky cat (Rufus Sewell) who wants to make the koalas his dinner.

Year: 2015

Australian Cinema Release Date: 17th September 2015

Australian DVD Release Date: TBA

Country: Australia, USA

Director: Deane Taylor, Noel Cleary, Alexs Stadermann, Alex Weight

Screenwriter: Not listed

Cast: Toni Collette (Beryl/Cheryl (voice)), Barry Humphries (Wombo (voice)), Ryan Kwanten (Blinky Bill (voice)), Deborah Mailman (Blinky’s Mum (voice)), Robin McLeavy (Nutsy (voice)), Barry Otto (Mayor Cranklepot (voice)), Richard Roxburgh (Bill Koala (voice)), Rufus Sewell (The Cat (voice)), David Wenham (Jacko (voice))

Runtime: 91 mins

Classification: G

 

OUR BLINKY BILL THE MOVIE REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

David Griffiths:

Blinky Bill is one of those children’s characters that never seems to go out of fashion. Created by author Dorothy Wall in 1933 generations of Australian children have grown up loving Blinky in the countless television shows, books and two movies that have told the larrikin koala’s stories over the years. Now in 2015 Blinky gets a resurgence and unlike so many other characters that have been re-invented for the kids over the years this is one character’s story that still holds up.

Aside from trying to make a character cool for the younger generation that has been around for over 80 years there are a few other hurdles that director Deane Taylor has had to overcome with Blinky Bill The Movie. First of all is trying to get kids who have grown up on the slick animation of Pixar to warm to a movie that uses some old fashioned style animation. The key it seems in this case was to come up with a story that transcends generations and here the filmmakers seem to have done that well. Not surprisingly when you consider that Taylor has worked on some legendary animation projects over the years including Popeye, Casper, The Flintstones, Pink Panther, Footrot Flats and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas the film does conjur up that simple old time animation story of a character on an adventure while being pursued by a character wanting to put an end to it – yes Sewell’s cat here is like the Will-E Coyote or Elmer Fudd characters of old.

Taylor brings a simplistic style to the film’s storytelling and it ends up working. To be honest there is nothing new here but for some reason the audience finds themselves barracking for the little koala and his friends and while some of the gags are a little childish there are some other humorous moments in there that are obviously designed to bring a smile to older audience members. Like the Ginger Meggs stories there are some things about Blinky that are a little questionable about whether today’s parents are okay with their children watching it but for the most part this is a fairly innocent film. Some serious issues around refugees and conservation does get a look in with the screenplay but just like Oddball this isn’t a film that you are going to walk out of and feel like you have been preached at with.

One of the obvious things about Blinky Bill The Movie is that this is a film that seems to be aimed at an international audience rather than just an Australian audience. The inclusion of big name actors like Toni Collette, Barry Humphries, Ryan Kwanten and Richard Roxburgh do give this film a lot of credibility while the inclusion of so many lovable forms of Australian wildlife could just give this film a life outside of Australia if it is marketed right.

Blinky Bill The Movie does nothing wrong. A simple story that has you barracking for the young koala as he outruns the villainous cat is very Looney Tunes like, while the script is smart enough to also include some touching moments about the relationship between a father and a son. Blinkey Bill The Movie is mainly for younger children but certainly won’t put an adult to sleep, it’s just innocent fun.

 

 

 

 

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Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):  Stars(3)

 

IMDB Rating: Blinky Bill the Movie (2015) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Blinky Bill The Movie reviews: Blinky Bill The Movie with be reviewed in an upcoming episode of The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show.

Trailer:

Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The NeverBeast

Summary: Tinker Bell’s (voiced by Mae Whitman) good friend Fawn (Ginnifer Goodwin) creates a stir when she brings a predator into Pixie Hollow to care for. The ‘Eagle incident’ soon sees her cop the wrath of Queen Clarion (Anjelica Huston) and the fairy in charge of security, Nyx (Rosario Dawson) which leaves the young fairy wondering whether or not her kind heart makes her act without using her brain.

She soon finds herself torn again however when she stumbles across the mysterious NeverBeast, a creature that she has never seen before. While she decides that she needs to study the creature it soon becomes apparent that the NeverBeast may not be a welcome creature in Pixie Hollow.

Year: 2014

Australian Cinema Release Date: 26th March, 2015

Australian DVD Release Date: TBA

Country: USA

Director: Steve Loter

Screenwriter: Steve Loter, Tom Rogers, Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle, Kate Kondell

Cast: Pamela Adlon (Vidia (voice)), Chloe Bennet (Chase (voice)), Jeff Corwin (Buck (voice)), Rosario Dawson (Nyx (voice)), Ginnifer Goodwin (Fawn (voice)), Grey Griffin (Narrator), Danai Gurira (Fury (voice)), Megan Hilty (Rosetta (voice)), Olivia Holt (Morgan (voice)), Anjelica Huston (Queen Clarion (voice)), Thomas Lennon (Scribble (voice)), Lucy Lui (Silvermist (voice)), Raven-Symone (Iridessa (voice)), Kari Wahlgren (Robin (voice)), Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell (voice)),

Runtime: 76 mins

Classification: PG

 

OUR TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF  THE NEVERBEAST REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

David Griffiths:

While animated franchises like Ice Age and Madagascar have dominated the box office over the last decade or so Disney has also had a smaller franchise that has chugged along nicely and never really delivered a bad film. Sure the Tinker Bell franchise doesn’t exactly set box office records nor does it dominate headlines but then this is a series aimed at young girls who are too young to be going out and buying the latest video game or expensive electronics so it has really been a franchise that has been left to its own devices and enjoyed by its fans… and some film critics alike.

Sadly despite the fact that the Tinker Bell franchise has never had a weak spot it does look like the latest film, Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The NeverBeast, may be the finale as Disney is yet to commit to a seventh film. If that is the case than it will be a bit of shame seeing that fans of the star herself, Tinker Bell, might be a little miffed at why this Tinker Bell film doesn’t centre around the green fairy but instead centres around her friend, Fawn.

Despite that fact however it is hard to fault the film which was written and directed by Steve Loter (who strangely enough also worked on Kevin Smith’s Clerks animated series). Once again the film is entertaining from start to finish and while it doesn’t reach the heights that Tinker Bell And The Secret Of The Wings it still has enough charm to flow along nicely, and yes even contains an ending that may or may not bring a tear to the eyes of both adults and children alike. Like the other films in the franchise Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The NeverBeast is not afraid to take the young viewers on a journey that will see some well placed morals drilled into them as well. Topics such a stranger danger are there for all to see, while dig under the surface a little and you will also see the screenplay pushes across valuable lessons in preventing cruelty to animals and also not judging people (or creatures in this case) for looking a little bit different to the way you do as well.

Once again this film also manages to again bring a big name voice cast to the table as well. Mae Whitman reprises her role of Tinker Bell and franchise regulars Anjelica Houston, Raven-Simone and Lucy Liu. This time however we also see current ‘it’ girl Rosario Dawson take on the role of the tough Nyx while Once Upon A Time star Ginnifer Goodwin plays the sweet natured Fawn, revealing a natural talent as a voice actress.

If the Tinker Bell franchise is to come to a close with Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The Never Beast than it is a bit of a shame. While the film isn’t weak at all, the fact that it doesn’t centre around the main character of Tinker Bell will be a little sad for the fans of this amazing series. With suspense and emotion littered all through out the script this film once again shows one of this is one of the better franchises doing the rounds.

 

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Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):  Stars(3)

 

IMDB Rating: Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (2014) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Run All Night reviews: You can also read our Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The NeverBeast review on The Book The Film The T-Shirt.

Trailer:

Penguins Of Madagascar

Summary: You’ve all come to know the cute but wise-cracking Penguins from the hit Madagascar franchise of films, but now is the time to learn a little more about them as they have their own film. The film shows how Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon) first come to ‘adopt’ the baby of the bunch, Private (Christopher Knights) and also shows how in their own minds they have become an ‘elite’ squadron… who can’t fly.

Things turn really nasty for the Penguins though when they decide it is time to leave their Madagascar buddies but soon find themselves being hunted by the evil Dave (John Malkovich), a shape shifting squid who has a serious vendetta against the flippered quartet. The Penguins seem even more in danger when they can’t bring themselves to work with an elite animal protection squad called The North Wind, led by the smart agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Year: 2014

Australian Cinema Release Date: TBA

Australian DVD Release Date: 1st January, 2015

Country: USA

Director: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith

Screenwriter: John Aboud, Michael Colton, Eric Darnell (characters), Tom McGrath (characters), Brandon Sawyer, Alan J. Schoolcraft (story), Brent Simons (story)

Cast: Sean Charmatz (Cricket (voice)), Benedict Cumberbatch (Classifed (voice)), Werner Herzog (Documentary Filmmaker (voice)), Danny Jacobs (King Julien (voice)), Ken Jeong (Short Fuse (voice)), Christopher Knights (Private (voice)), Annet Mahndru (Eva (voice)), John Malkovich (Dave (voice)), Tom McGrath (Skipper (voice)), Chris Miller (Kowalski (voice)), Andy Richter (Mort (voice)), Peter Stormare (Coroporal (voice)), Conrad Vernon (Rico (voice))

Runtime: 92 mins

Classification: G

 

OUR PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR REVIEWS & RATINGS:

 

Greg KingYou can check out Greg’s Penguins Of Madagascar review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #111

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David Griffiths:

Spin-offs from successful franchises often fall by the wayside. Anyone remember how spectacularly Joey failed after the demise of Friends, or seen your local store littered with DVDs in the bargain bin of characters such as Stitch or Pumba who have failed to reach the popularity that the franchise they were lifted from managed over time. Even Disney learnt that Planes couldn’t capitalise on the success of Cars before it.  Now the brains behind Madagascar try to do the same with Penguins From Madagascar and while the film is likely to put bums on seats it is highly unlikely that fans of the franchise will be as impressed as they have been previously.

Perhaps the biggest problem for this film is that it follows hot on the heels of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, a film that many fans say is the clear best in the series. Penguins Of Madagascar had a lot to live up to but sadly fails on most levels… a fault that sadly falls at the feet of the screenwriters.

First the screenwriting team have decided to bring out the tired old cliché of introducing a James Bond style character into the cartoon world. Here it is Classified the suave talking Brit (who happens to be a wolf) who is always able to save the day, except here he seems to fail on a number of levels. It’s as if the screenwriters have just chosen to ignore how many cartoons and animations have done this over the years, including Cars 2 which was released not all that long ago. Recycled plot lines are never a good idea in a movie.

Even Dave the ‘baddie’ seems to be a re-hash of the bad guys we have seen previously in much better films like Despicable Me or Planet 51. It almost seems like the writers decided that there was no need to actually come up with anything creative at all when developing the script, that the name Madagascar being in the title would be enough to ensure that this film would put bucks in the bank regardless.  In fact the only thing you could even say the screenwriters get remotely right is that they push the edict that everybody is important no matter how they look, which is a more than worthy life lesson for the kiddies watching.

Then there is the fact that many of the so called jokes written into the Penguins Of Madagascar script just end up becoming unfunny and going nowhere. The idea of throwing an actor’s name into the ring to get a laugh, eg ‘Let’s save Kevin’s Bacon’ gets tired really, really quickly and is never fully explained to why it is there… are the penguins closet cinephiles? We don’t know because we are never told anything that in depth about the characters.

Sure some of the chases and moments of supposed peril that the penguins find themselves in may be enough to impress the littlies that go along to see this film (and most likely pester their parents to buy them the toys from whatever fast food restaurant has them on offer) but this is hardly going to be a film that even kids are going to want to watch over and over and it is bland and predictable. And well if you are a parent who is being forced to go along and watch this with your tikes be prepared for a film that is likely to put you to sleep very, very quickly as it is nowhere near as exciting as the previous films in the Madagascar universe.

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Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):  Stars(2)

 

IMDB Rating: Penguins of Madagascar (2014) on IMDb

 

Other Subculture Entertainment Penguins Of Madagascar reviews: You can hear our full Penguins Of Madagascar review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #111. You can also read our Penguins Of Madagascar review on The Book The Film The T-Shirt.

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