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American Animation Films
CGI Film "Race" on DVD
Race (2010)
American Animation DVD Review

"Race" is an independent animated sci-fi action film geared toward an audience somewhere between gamers and fans of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (It's rated PG-13 for "some suggestive images and action violence"). Its visual style reminds me *heavily* of "War Planets", the Mainframe TV series that was their big thing after Reboot! And personal note... I loved both series!

CGI Film "Race" on DVDOn the high energy Star Car racing circuit, driver Trance Caldron and Team Earth are independent, undisciplined, and out to prove themselves. After they stumble onto an attempt by archrival Team Tagmatian to overthrow the peacekeeping Alliance leadership, the prestigious Star Car Championship becomes a mach speed backdrop for a deadly showdown where the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. Trance must push his car, his team, and himself to the limit. In a race between good and evil, winning is everything.

The project is the first self-produced feature from Hyper Image, a Post Production and Animation Studio in Glendale, California. After about a decade of development, production, post production, and a long search for distribution, the film is out and available for purchase and it's high time we supported some home-grown talent with an impressive set of skills.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, July 2010

Battle For Terra
Battle For Terra (2009)
Animation DVD Review

All the hype this year has been about the James Cameron film "Avatar". A lot of people have been saying it's essentially a rip-off of "Dances with Wolves", but set in space. Well, it's not, it's a complete rip-off of this film, "Battle for Terra", and this is *already* set in space.

The Terrans (aliens) actually have advanced technology, but the Humans still wipe the floor with them after an initial hard fought battle. The swinging trees don't beat the storm troopers on Terra.

Battle For TerraThe price of failure for each side is extinction, so when characters you've grown to like have to kill each other, you believe their motives. Lots of movies have made me sense the evils of war by showing me its effects on those who fought and those just caught up in it. Battle for Terra is the first I've seen where the evilness hits home during the thrill ride that is on-screen sci-fi combat.

There's a scene in "Saving Private Ryan" where a wall collapses. An American squad and a German squad find themselves suddenly face to face with each other. As an action scene, it's as tense as anything on film. But imagine the emotional impact if Spielberg had spent the previous hour getting you to know (and like) both squads. This is what Battle for Terra achieves and then some.

For what seemed like a kids movie at first, Battle for Terra didn't pull many punches.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2010

G.I. Joe: The Movie
G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
Animation DVD Review

Crashing through the sky, comes the fearful cry... COBRA (cobra!) COBRA (cobra!) Armies of the night, evil taking flight... COBRA (cobra!) COBRA (cobra!) Anyhow, the movie does get pretty silly when the battle cry turns into Cobra-lalalalalalala, but we're more than willing to put up with it to see old-chrome-dome get turned into a full-fledged snake, and even Don Johnson does a half decent job as Lt. Falcon (but he's way overshadowed by Sgt. Slaughter).

G.I. Joe: The MovieWith all the buzz over the Live-Action film coming out this summer, we at anime.com feel nostalgic for the *real* GIJOE movie -- the one that starts with that amazing piece of music, that action-filled battle sequence (in which nobody ever gets hurt), and some of the classiest animation ever to be put to the screen. Yes, the opening five minutes more than makes up for the rest of the film, and I also guarantee that the opening five minutes is better than that whole summer-blockbuster flick coming out.

This DVD is more than worth it, because all the Public Service Announcement "Knowing is half the battle" extras are in there, as are some toy commercials and a bunch of other stuff that makes it not just pure 80's, but a real throwback to when Buzz Dixon and the other writers managed to craft a pretty good cartoon without racking up a body count. And frankly, it's good to see my old buddies back in action. Even Shipwreck.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2009

The Chosen OneThe Chosen One
The Chosen One (2007)
Animation DVD Review

The Chosen One keeps the animation simple, but the themes are complex. A slacker named Lou (voiced by co-scripter Chad Fifer) stumbles through a bizarre assortment of escapades only to discover that he's a benevolent deity with super-powers. Or is he the devil? And, if he is, does that make him a bad person?

The Chosen OneThe story questions themes of God and "Organized Religion" without being overly religious — in fact, a Catholic Cardinal (voiced by Lance Henriksen) and other spiritual leaders are portrayed as zealots (watch out Tom Cruise!). The post-modern keyboard soundtrack and the effectively lean animation are supported by an all-star voice cast that includes Tim Curry, Chris Sarandon, Laura Prepon and Traci Lords (!).

The laughs are between the lines in this subtle, CGI-free feature. It's a limited-animation (think: Adult Swim or Southpark) film for grown-ups that aims for the soul. It also proves that you don't need to have giant robots, explosions, and barely clothed women to create a compelling film for adults. All you really need is a wonderful script.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2009

Dead Space: Downfall
Dead Space: Downfall (2008)
Animation DVD Review

When a deep space mining operation discovers a mysterious alien Marker they believe they have finally found evidence of our creators. However, the removal of the Marker from its resting place and brought on the ship unleashes a horrific alien species, which had been entombed within a remote planet, and for the crew of the USG Ishimura, life just became a living hell as a desperate fight for survival ensues.

Dead Space: DownfallTheir screams CAN be heard in space — but only the slashers are listening. So begins Dead Space Downfall, the animated prequel for EA's upcoming third-person action horror game Dead Space being released for Xbox360 and PS3. Imagine if you will "Resident Evil", but on a spaceship with tight quarters and very little room to run.

The visuals closely resembled that of the recent Hellboy animated films as, both were created by same folks over at Film Roman, however, like Hellboy, it sports a very anime look overall that is quite pleasant (for a horror film). If you're even thinking of playing the game, you owe it yourself to get this film and really immerse yourself into the backstory, to make for a fuller play experience.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, October 2008

Batman: Gotham Knight
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Animation DVD Review

Very much like the groundbreaking "The Animatrix", Batman: Gotham Knight is a series of six interlocking animated segments that take place in the "Batman Universe", and is meant to tie in with the live action films "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight".

Batman: Gotham KnightAnd very much like The Animatrix, this DVD is all anime, all the time. No expense was spared to make this one of the best-looking Batman animated films *ever* (seriously, the production value and look of this is jaw-droppingly astounding). In each segment, the Japanese director was free to stylize Batman as he saw fit, so you are treated to a wide array of anime interpretations of the venerable Dark Knight.

The good news for fanboys is that Kevin Conroy voices Batman for ALL the segments, as, for most of us at this point, Kevin *is* The Batman, as he has played the role longer than any other actor. Bruce Timm, who helmed the original Batman The Animated Series, is in as Producer/Director, as is writer Alan Burnett, so, we're guaranteed a good time.

Batman Gotham Knight is a fresh and exciting new entry into the Batman mythos, bridging the two most recent Batman theatrical movies starring Christian Bale, and spinning out of a 40-year history in animation with this pinnacle of perfection, Batman.. animated.. apparently with no bounds on budget.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, July 2008

Dragonlance (2008)
Animation DVD Review

The first novel in the celebrated Dragonlance fantasy series was written way back in 1984. It's about time the thing got to the screen. It took a combination of old fashioned cartoon animation and state-of-the-art computer graphics to bring this New York Times best-seller to your DVD player. Here is Dragons of the Autumn Twilight in all its glory.

DragonlanceJourney to a far-away time in the far-off land of Krynn. Here, the stuff they role-play in Dungeons and Dragons are amazingly real. Warrior elves live among the trees, and really hate it when humans show up. An evil god schemes to subjugate all life with her dragons, and dragon-like minions.

Can the gods of goodness intervene? They might not want to. They're still miffed at humanity for taking them for granted.

Enter Tanis Half-Elven and his posse. Can they find the courage they need to save the world? It's a battle of swords, magic and wits in this lively adaptation. Grand adventure awaits. The quest begins.

Reviewed by Lawrence Sufrin, April 2008

Complete Superman Cartoons: Diamond Anniversary Edition (1941)
Complete Superman Cartoons: Diamond Anniversary Edition (1941)
Animation DVD Review

The greatest "anime" cartoons ever made in American were the role model for everything anime that came after. Produced by Max and Dave Fleischer in the 30's and 40's, these Superman cartoons represent the pinnacle of the golden age of animation and look like nothing else, even after all these years. The attention to detail is astounding. All seventeen animation masterpieces are included on this single DVD in the best possible quality.

Mechanical Monsters seen later in anime...While a few of these occasionally turn up on TV, they were faded scratchy prints. These are fully restored (as much as possible given the age). The DVD includes a bonus Fleischer short, "Play Safe," plus information about the restoration process, three choices of sound, complete history, synopsis, and credits. Pay particular attention to "Mechanical Monsters", which inspired the flying robots in Laputa. At a mere ten bucks, this disc is a steal at any price!

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2003

Bambi meets Godzilla!
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Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)
Animation DVD Review

Everyone knows the joke, but have you actually ever seen the film? It's quite possibly the funniest one-joke film ever made, although, I guarantee you'll be in hysterics just reading the credits. Where would we be without Marv Newland? This videotape offers more off beat animation classics including Betty Boop in "Crazy Town" and Max Fleisher's "Small Fry," so this is not an entire tape of crudely animated films by amateur animation fans. Like the title animated short, every film included on this tape is a guaranteed classic — you're not likely to be the same after you've viewed them all.

What would Walt think?!If you are a student of animation or just a fan, the films included on this tape showcase just how far you can go with a limited budget, lots of creativity and an extremely bizarre sense of humor. It inspires me to go out and make my own films. Perhaps you'll feel that way as well after you view Bambi Meets Godzilla. I mean, just think of the possible sequels, what with Barney and those darn Teletubbies running around perverting our youth.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2002

The Last Unicorn
The Last Unicorn (1982)
Animation DVD Review

We've been waiting a long, long time for this to come out on DVD! Successfully combining clunky-looking Rankin-Bass character designs with graceful Matsumoto-esque anime characters, this powerhouse of a film stays true to the original novel, and gives us something more with the magnificent voice-acting talents of Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin and Tammy Grimes.

The Last UnicornThe score is phenomenal and sucks you deeply into the movie. Animated by the same studio that would also eventually give us the quintessential Miyazaki masterpieces, it's a tour-de-force that's enjoyable by both kids and adults alike. The Last Unicorn was easily the best film of the Rankin-Bass studio, and (if you've never seen it yet), the haunting images will stay in your heart forever.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, May 2004

The Iron Giant
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The Iron Giant (1999)
Animation DVD Review

This is the finest anime film never made in Japan. It's not cheezy, it's not just for kids, it doesn't preach, and it doesn't have any stupid songs. It's a good, honest movie with a solid script, refreshingly intelligent dialog and likeable characters. You'd have to look far and wide to find a better animated-film made on this side of the planet. A loving attention to detail allows computer animation and traditional cel-work to be smoothly combined in this film, which gives the giant robot of the title a real mechanical feel particularly when he transforms (like a swiss-army knife!).

We love a good robot story...Regardless, you'll see the familar touches that render this to be essentially "Gigantor The Movie", except that it takes place in the "Cold War Hysteria" of the 1950's where things like "Duck and Cover" were a reality. In fact, the older you are, the more likely you are to get half the jokes in the film!

Overall, the anime influence is apparent, and yet, there's an impressive amount of originality, particularly in the humorous sequences where Hogarth must hide the independent bits-of-'bot that are all scurrying to get back to the head to rebuild the Giant after an unfortunate run-in with a locomotive. This sequence, made all the more hilarious due to the mother (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) and federal agent snooping around, is critical to the overall plot, as you'll see later in the film — it's not just "thrown-in" for comedy, as is often seen in films like this from other American animation studios. This ability to blend the comedy into the film in a way not usually seen makes this a prime example of how to tell a good story — it's just really an excellent movie. Watch it once and you'll treasure it forever.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, September 2002

Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph BakshiUnfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi
Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi
Animation Book Review

You gotta' hand it this guy. He ALWAYS made animated films for adults, way before anyone else, even when the Japanese were producing only animation for kids. Now admittedly, the adults Ralph was making films for were LSD-taking, pot-smoking hippies, and trust me, many of his films look better under the influence of *something*.

Cool WorldBut they are original, they are groundbreaking, they are controversial, and they are pure Bakshi. He's an artist of an order that I could never even hope to aspire to and for that I admire the man. Also to his credit, he was able to bring animation work to NYC during hard times, even if he had to (supposedly) borrow money from the mafia to do it.

Ralph BakshiRalph is and was a man of contrasts. By one measure, he was able to make a cafeteria full of art students wait 3 hours for a 15-minute chance to meet him, by another measure, he was a man who took over Howard Beckerman's animation studio to make phone calls, because he apparently had no phone of his own. There are probably a million anecdotes about Ralph, and some of those may have even made it into this book.

If you want to read about a genius of the medium, regardless of what you think of his films, then grab this and devour the information. If you want to work in the industry, you need to know what Ralph went through.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2008

The Art of Finding Nemo
The Art of Finding Nemo (2003)
Animation Book Review

If you're interested in a "real" behind-the-scenes look at the making of a animated movie (in this case a clever and amazing Pixar animated movie), or are into cartoon design, want insight into what's being done or want to get into the field yourself, then look no further. The Art of Finding Nemo celebrates the talent at Pixar, featuring concept and character sketches, storyboards, and lighting studies in a huge spectrum of media. Unlike many so-called "making of" books, this one contains zero stills from the final film. Instead, the reader is treated to actual making-of art, from napkin drawings to elaborate conceptual pastels.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, September 2003

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