The Lord of the Rings (1978) | Animation Archives

the lord of the ringsToday I will be talking about The Lord of the Rings. No, not that one. The other one. Yes, the 1978 animated version.

At first, Ralph Bakshi, the director of this Lord of the Rings adaptation, wanted to make three films, one for each book. Due to studio interference, what ended up happening was an adaptation of one and a half books with no promise of a sequel. The movie ends at the conclusion of the battle of Helm’s Deep.

Bakshi wanted to be true to the books, so the plot is quite close to the source material, and the majority of the dialogue is lifted straight from the books. This worked somewhat well in the film, but in a number of places, the dialogue needed more context or didn’t flow well.

Because of budget restrictions and possibly artistic choices, a large portion of the film is rotoscoped (i.e. filmed in live action and painted over). This technique gives the film a unique look, especially when the rotoscoped animation is in the same frame as the traditional cel shaded animation. I quite liked the rotoscoped orcs and black riders, as the uncanniness of the animation style added to the menace of the characters. Other character designs did not work as well, such as Sam’s overly dopey design, Boromir’s weird viking design, and the atrocious manticore-man design of the Balrog.

Now I had never seen Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Lord of the Rings, but I had seen Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I knew this version was a great influence on Jackson’s films. As I did a bit more research, I found that the influence was a bit more contested than I originally thought. In interviews, Bakshi has called Jackson’s films a “rip-off,” and seems quite bitter that Jackson never once contacted him while making the live action trilogy.

While watching this movie, I did notice a lot of similarities to Jackson’s version, but I’m not quite sure if it’s homage or a rip-off, like Bakshi said. Jackson definitely had more to work with, and Bakshi certainly was a pioneer in bringing The Lord of the Rings to the big screen. Jackson’s trilogy, however, is near cinematic perfection, and Bakshi’s version has been mostly lost to time. For a more in-depth look at the similarities, check out this comparison video of the two films by YouTuber Matt Skuta.

Overall, while I think the film did not do so well on a technical level and has aged poorly, I greatly enjoyed my time with it. It’s not a must watch, but if you enjoy The Lord of the Rings at all, you’ll find the film interesting, at least.

You can help choose next week’s movie! Just comment below with either The Plague Dogs (1982), The Brave Little Toaster (1987), or An American Tail (1986).

The Princess and the Goblin (1994) | Animation Archives

the princess and the goblinThe Princess and the Goblin is a film I remember enjoying as a kid, but I couldn’t remember that much about it. I decided that it would be the first film I would cover in this new blog series. Not sure if that was the best decision, but here we are.

Directed by József Gémes and written by Robin Lyons, The Princess and the Goblin is an adaptation of an 1872 novel by George MacDonald, whose writings inspired J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among others. I haven’t read the book, but one of my friends who has read it said the book was considerably better than the movie.

The film begins with Irene, the titular princess, as she runs away from her nanny into the forest. As night falls, she is chased by ghoulish creatures. A boy, Curdie, comes walking down the road and scares away the creatures with a song. The story continues as Irene meets the ghost/spiritual presence of her great great grandmother, also named Irene, while Curdie gets lost in the town’s mine, only to find goblins and learn of a nefarious plot.

The prince of the goblins, Froglip, hates “sun people” and does not want to “obey laws”, “help others”, or “be friendly”. He plans to invade the castle to kidnap the Princess Irene and force her to marry him, thereby becoming the king of the overworld as well as the underworld. Curdie is eventually captured, but Irene comes to rescue him, with her great great grandmother’s guidance. They make their way back to the castle to warn everyone of the coming goblin invasion.

The Princess and the Goblin is not great by any stretch of the imagination. A terribly limited animation style, over-exaggerated accents, poor plot structure, and a lack of musical variety are the main drawbacks of the film. There are some cool segments, like Irene surfing down a rock slide extreme sports style, but nothing that would make me want to watch it again. Definitely not a must-watch, but it’s got a cool VHS cover. Because I want to end on a positive note, however, I will dig a little into one of the main ideas presented by the movie.

The Magic Called a Song

When Irene’s great great grandmother warns her of the coming danger and tells the princess that “my magic may not be enough” to protect her, she follows with this:

Great Great Grandmother Irene: “You may need a different sort of magic, the sort of magic that is inside everyone if they dare to find it.”

Princess Irene: “You mean like, being brave?”

Great Great Grandmother Irene: “It’s more than just being brave, my child. It is the magic of good against evil, of right against wrong, of doing what you think is right, even when nobody else will help you.”

It is this magic that the main song in the movie talks about. The second verse begins, “There’s a power in every breath; there’s a power in every note.”  Music has power to affect the soul, as music therapy is known to help with depression. This idea is the “magic called a song” that drives away “the night.”

Just as Irene, Curdie, and the others use music to help defeat the goblins, music can help us in our fight against our own demons.

I will end by sharing the last verse of the song:

All that’s strong inside us

That tells us wrong from right

Becomes a song inside us

To chase away the night

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to some chill, lo-fi beats.

You can help choose next week’s movie! Just comment below with either The Lord of the Rings (1978), The Plague Dogs (1982), or The Brave Little Toaster (1987).

Introduction | Animation Archives

Recently, I’ve felt like I haven’t been writing enough, so I came up with an idea for a new weekly series for my blog:

Animation Archives: A meandering path through the animated films of yesteryear.

This blog series will explore the varied offerings of the animated films of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. It’s mostly an arbitrary choice based on some thoughts I had on what animated films I remember from my childhood.

I took some inspiration for this series from a few sources, though not all of these pieces talked about this time period specifically: this amazing piece on Don Bluth by Meg Shields; a podcast episode about the best non-Disney animated films by Anyway, That’s All I Got; and this video essay about lessons animation taught us by Mikey Neumann.

As I wander through these three decades of animation, my main goal is to have fun watching some old movies and telling you guys about them. It doesn’t matter whether those movies are good or bad, well-known or lesser-known, or if I’ve already seen them or are watching them for the first time. I’m doing this series to better myself as a writer and hopefully add a little enjoyment to your week as well.

Won’t you join me?

New posts will be published Wednesdays at 12:00 UTC.

Most Anticipated Films of 2018

2017 was a great year for film, and 2018 has the potential to continue that with some films I suspect will be fantastic and others I’m not as excited for but hope to be pleasantly surprised by. I know I’m a bit late in writing this (it being practically February), but it’s still accurate for my feelings at the beginning of the year. Before I get to my top 10 most anticipated movies of the year, here’s some notable entries that didn’t make the cut.

This year we have a new Mamoru Hosoda film (Mirai no Mirai), a new David Lowery film (Old Man and the Gun), a new Sang-ho Yeon film (Psychokinesis), a new Steven Spielberg film (Ready Player One), a new Luca Guadagnino film (Rio), a new Alfonso Cuarón film (Roma), a new François Simard and Anouk Whissell film (Summer of ’84), a new Terry Gilliam film (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), a new Yorgos Lanthimos film (The Favourite), a new Joe Cornish film (The Kid Who Would Be King), a new David Robert Mitchell film (Under the Silver Lake), and a new Richard Linklater film (Where’d You Go, Bernadette). We’re also getting a new Nacho Vigalondo writing credit (Paradise Hills), Taika Waititi in just an acting role (Corpse Tub), Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury (Bohemian Rhapsody), a new movie in the Cloverfield universe, a Han Solo movie (Solo: A Star Wars Story), a mature puppet crime movie by the Henson company (The Happytime Murders), a new movie from Laika, two new movies with Joaquin Phoenix (Mary Magdalene and You Were Never Really Here), and directorial debuts for Karen Gillan (The Party’s Just Beginning) and Paul Dano (Wildlife). We also have some sequels: Incredibles 2, Maze Runner: The Death CurePaddington 2Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, and Sicario 2: Soldado. Don’t forget the superheroes—this year we have Aquaman, The New Mutants, Venom, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

And now, here’s my 10 most anticipated films of 2018:

10. Tomb Raider

  • I will not get excited for a video game movie. I will not get excited for a video game movie. But, but maybe this time…

9. Mary and the Witch’s Flower

  • A new film by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and the first film by Studio Ponoc. I greatly enjoyed The Secret World of Arrietty, and I also liked When Marnie Was There,  so I’m looking forward to this one. (At the time of this writing I’ve already seen Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It was okay.)

8. Thoroughbreds

  • A directorial debut by playwright Cory Finley starring Anya Taylor-Joy and the late Anton Yelchin. The dark comedy tone of the trailer has me interested.

7. First Man

  • Damien Chazelle’s first non-music film. Interested to see his take on the moon landing.

6. Avengers: Infinity War

  • We’ve been building to this for a decade. I hope it’s better than the last two Avengers movies.

5. Annihilation

  • Alex Garland’s next film after Ex Machina. This one’s also sci-fi, and the trailers are intriguing

4. Early Man

  • This new film from Aardman Animations looks to be a ton of fun and a great time.

3. A Quiet Place

  • The trailer sold me on this movie. The atmosphere and premise looks like it could land A Quiet Place on my favorite horror movies list.

2. Black Panther

  • Marvel knows how to make some good trailers. Filled with great actors and directed by Ryan Coogler, I’m honestly more excited for this than Avengers: Infinity War.

1. Isle of Dogs

  • My most anticipated movie of the year. Wes Anderson returns to stop motion animation with Isle of Dogs, and I can’t wait to see the end result.

Let me know in the comments what are your most anticipated movies of this year. Here’s to a great year!


Favorite Films of 2017

2017 was a fantastic year for movies, and I saw a lot of them. I’ve included at the bottom of this list a list of films I have seen from this past year and films I missed as a helpful reference for those who like to ask why something isn’t in my favorites. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, so here’s my 15 favorite movies of 2017 (plus some honorable mentions):

Honorable Mentions

A Silent Voice, Colossal, Dunkirk, Get Out

15. A Ghost Story

A quiet reflection on grief and loss as well as the enormity of time and our place in it. Atmospheric and poignant, I can’t wait to what else David Lowery has in the works.

14: Mother!

Not exactly a horror movie—more of an allegory for Darren Aronofsky’s interpretation of the Bible. Definitely not for everyone, but I appreciated the artistry and the thought-provoking effect of the film. More for contemplation than “enjoyment.”

13: The Founder

This biopic about Ray Kroc is a compelling period piece and character study sold by one of Michael Keaton’s best performances.

12: The Disaster Artist

This shouldn’t have worked. But it did. An account of the making of the cult film The Room and the relationship of the two men behind it, The Disaster Artist could have devolved into your standard comedy and made Tommy Wiseau the butt of the joke, but instead became an inspirational tale about not giving up on your dreams.

11. Baby Driver

Pure class. Edgar Wright is the king of editing, and at this point, he’s just showing off.

10: Brigsby Bear

A quirky film about an ex-kidnappee who finds himself in the joy of creating. An ode to wonder and creativity despite challenge and hardship.

9. Silence

A complex film about two Jesuit priests who go on a mission to Japan and find their faith challenged in ways they did not expect. Stellar cinematography superb acting from Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver. A contemplation about words versus actions, this film should only be watched by those that are theologically prepared.

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A provocative tale concerning a murder investigation with no leads and the intertwining relationships of people in a small town. Darkly comedic, this film has some relevant social input and is held up by fantastic performances, especially by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.

7. Thor: Ragnarok

The finest action-comedy to grace screens in 2017. This film had me laughing out loud for the majority of the runtime. Props to director Taika Waititi for his mastery of comedy.

6. My Life as a Zucchini

A bittersweet, yet heartwarming tale about kids in an orphanage, their struggles, and their relationships.

5. Your Name

Makoto Shinkai has proven himself to be a director to watch in the coming years with this film about the intertwining connections between people and the significant impact we can have on others even through the most seemingly trivial interactions.

4. Coco

A beautiful film about family that just might be my favorite Pixar movie.

3. Blade Runner 2049

This layered sci-fi story has some of the best directing, cinematography, and visual design I’ve seen. Takes the world of the original Blade Runner and goes deeper with its messages about our humanity and our technology.

2. Wind River

A murder mystery with impeccable writing, stunning cinematography, social insight, and Jeremy Renner’s best performance.

1. Logan

This film is now one of my all time favorites. An exploration on the themes of loss, death, and the end of things, but also belonging. Excellent world building and fantastic performances by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and newcomer Dafne Keen. I could talk for hours about this film; every time I watch it I find something I hadn’t noticed before.

And there you have it, my favorite films of 2017. If you would like to see longer reviews of any of the films mentioned above (or below) please leave a comment! Now on to my most anticipated movies of 2018…

Movies I’ve seen that had their widest US release in 2017: A Cure for Wellness, A Ghost Story, Alien: Covenant, All the Money in the World, A Silent Voice, Atomic Blonde, Baby Driver, Band Aid, Beauty and the Beast, Before I Fall, Blade Runner 2049, Blame!, Brigsby Bear, Carrie Pilby, Coco, Colossal, Darkest Hour, Dave Made a Maze, Death Note, Dig Two Graves, Downsizing, Dunkirk, Ferdinand, Get Out, Ghost in the Shell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I Am Michael, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore., It, It Comes at Night, John Wick: Chapter 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Jungle, Justice League, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Kong: Skull Island, Lady Bird, Little Evil, Logan, Mother!, Mudbound, Murder on the Orient Express, My Life as a Zucchini, Okja, Only the Brave, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Pitch Perfect 3, Power Rangers, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Silence, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Suburbicon, Super Dark Times, Table 19, The Bad Batch, The Beguiled, The Big Sick, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, The Circle, The Disaster Artist, The Foreigner, The Founder, The Greatest Showman, The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, The Red Turtle, The Shape of Water, The Star, Thor: Ragnarok, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, War for the Planet of the Apes, What Happened to Monday, Wind River, Wonder, Wonder Woman, and Your Name
Movies I planned to see in 2017 but haven’t yet: After the Storm, A Monster Calls, Anna and the Apocalypse, A Quiet Passion, Bad Genius, Battle of the Sexes, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Call Me By Your Name, ColumbusDetroit, Free Fire, Good Time, Goodbye Christopher Robin, Hidden Figures, I Kill Giants, I, Tonya, Ingrid Goes West, Lady Macbeth, Last Flag Flying, Lion, Logan Lucky, Loving Vincent, Marjorie Prime, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, MarshallMolly’s GameMy Friend Dahmer, On the Beach at Night Alone, Personal Shopper, Phantom Thread, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Raw, Song to Song, Split, Stronger, The Breadwinner, The Florida Project, The Glass Castle, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lost City of Z, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), The Polka King, The Villainess, Thoroughbreds, You Were Never Really Here and many others

Only the Brave Review

A story of brotherhood amidst hardship, Only the Brave paints a sometimes deep, but usually overly simplistic, understanding of these men’s lives, leading to an ending of emotional resonance that may feel similar to other films in this based-on-a-true-story subgenre. But it’s up to the viewer to decide whether the film is inspirational or manipulative.

Only the Brave is directed by Joseph Kosinski and stars Josh Brolin and Miles Teller. It tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the first and only municipal hotshot firefighting crew in the United States. We follow the twenty firefighters through their beginnings and initial certification all the way through to the fateful events of the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The crux of the film’s characterization centered around the relationship between Eric Marsh (Brolin) and Brendan McDonough (Teller). Through their similar history, we see Marsh develop as a mentor for McDonough, helping McDonough to become a responsible adult for his new daughter.

The use of fire in this movie was quite compelling. I could tell the actors were doing a lot of real, physical work, and I couldn’t tell how much of the fire was practical and how much was CG. The muted color grading worked wonders for this film.

Overall, Only the Brave is well made and well acted, but the treatment of its source material may divide viewers.

Grade: B+

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review

Ah, The LEGO Ninjago Movie. It may not be the most original plot, but hey, I had fun. The third LEGO film from Warner Animation Group, The LEGO Ninjago Movie follows Lloyd (Dave Franco) and the rest of his friends as they defend the city of Ninjago against Lloyd’s evil father Garmadon (Justin Theroux) with the help of their teacher, Master Wu (Jackie Chan).

First, I’ll get the negatives out of the way because while they’re somewhat significant, they aren’t important. This film has one of the most cliché plots ever: outcast/chosen one with evil father finds the power he needs within himself. Spoilers, I guess? It is the weakest plot-wise of the three LEGO movies, but fortunately, it excels at other things.

Now I had a lot of fun with this movie. Part of the reason was the corny jokes afforded with the cliché plot, but the visual comedy in this movie was outstanding. A giant robot that shoots sharks. Ninjas failing at hiding effectively. LEGO horses. The fuchsia ninja. I don’t know if all of it was intentional, but I was laughing at so many small moments of visual comedy.

Not to mention the visual design of the film. The city of Ninjago breathed vivid life and color and the LEGO builds were super cool. It was a nice change from the drab grayness of Gotham in The LEGO Batman Movie. They didn’t do the forest area in the LEGO style, but it still looked nice, so I’ll give them a pass.

All in all, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a fun ride, and one I would recommend even to skeptics. It’s another solid entry in the LEGO Movie franchise, and if I enjoyed this movie as much as I did, I bet young kids would think it’s the coolest thing ever.

Grade: B+

Blade Runner 2049 Review

So when I heard they were making a sequel to Blade Runner, I thought to myself, “Great, another sequel no one asked for.” I had previously only seen the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, and while I understood its importance as an influential work, it didn’t really wow me. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to this movie, and I didn’t have much hope for it. Man, am I glad I was completely and totally wrong. The critics are right: Blade Runner 2049 is a cinematic masterpiece, and it was one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had. But what can I say about it that hasn’t already been said? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a go. Also, this review will be spoiler free, which is actually quite hard since the whole movie counts as a spoiler.

Blade Runner 2049 is a 2017 film directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) with an amazing cast, including Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and many others that do such a great job I feel bad about not listing them. Gosling is “K,” a Blade Runner for the LAPD who hunts down outdated replicants (humanoid robots). He comes across a miraculous secret which eventually leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired Blade Runner. That’s almost all I can say about the plot.

The cinematography and visual design of this film are phenomenal: props to Roger Deakins and his mastery of the camera, the color grading, and the beautifully desolate atmosphere of Blade Runner 2049‘s dystopia. Each set piece is so well crafted that it didn’t seem like I was there nearly three hours.

The writing is masterful, expanding on the themes of the first film. It goes deeper and explores more complex ideas than the original, focusing on our preconceptions about humanity, as all good sci-fi does. Every part of this film is nearly flawless.

I would love to write more about the film, including spoilers, if people want to read it, because Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films of the year, and probably this decade. I think people will be talking about this film for years to come, and if you’re a fan of good filmmaking, definitely catch this one before it leaves theaters.

Grade: A+

The Foreigner Review

The Foreigner is a 2017 film directed by Martin Campbell starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. It is based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather. More of a political thriller than a straight-up action movie, The Foreigner has great acting performances by Chan and Brosnan, but while enjoyable, ultimately doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre.

Chan is Ngoc Minh Quan, a Chinese immigrant and Vietnam War veteran whose daughter is killed in a terrorist bombing by rogue IRA members. Quan tracks down Irish deputy minister Liam Hennessy (Brosnan) who has a history with the IRA because he believes Hennessy knows who killed his daughter. As Hennessy searches for the answers within his organization, Quan continues to put pressure on him in his quest for revenge.

Chan does well in his role as Quan, a more serious role than a lot of his other movies. He does a commendable job and even at his age can still pull off the amazing stunts this movie has to offer. I hope Chan is given more opportunities for serious dramatic roles. Even though Quan is the main character, however, Brosnan’s Hennessy carries the movie. I haven’t seen any other movies with Pierce Brosnan yet, but in this movie, his acting is outstanding. He is completely convincing in his spheres of political intrigue and is the best character in the movie.

All that said, however, while I enjoyed this film, and the writing was solid, it didn’t bring anything new to the action thriller genre to make it stand out. If you know you like this type of film, you should check it out, but for all others, maybe wait till it appears on a streaming service to watch it.

Grade: B

The Founder Review


The Founder is a 2016 film directed by John Lee Hancock and starring Michael Keaton (Ray Kroc), Nick Offerman (Dick McDonald), and John Carroll Lynch (Mac McDonald). The biopic follows Ray Kroc as he meets the McDonald brothers and transforms their small restaurant into the fast food juggernaut it is today.

The film begins with traveling salesman Ray Kroc peddling multi-mixers to diners across the United States until he receives an order for six of them. Thinking it must be a mistake, Kroc heads to San Bernardino to find out for himself. What he finds is McDonald’s, a walk-up restaurant with super speedy service. He meets the McDonald brothers who give him a tour of the restaurant. Kroc wants to franchise their restaurant, over which they express concern, especially about maintaining quality standards and a family-like environment. Eventually, they come to an agreement and draw up a contract, and Kroc begins the expansion of the brand. He becomes dissatisfied having to run everything by the McDonald brothers, and his personal finances aren’t doing so well. Fortunately for him, he meets Harry Sonneborn, played by B.J. Novak, and they come up with a realty plan that gives Kroc de facto control over every new franchise. This plan allows Kroc to make enough money to eventually reach a settlement to break his contract with the McDonald brothers. Kroc gets the McDonald’s brand, and the brothers get a few million dollars and a handshake agreement for royalties (of which they see none).

The genius of this film comes down to the characterization and acting, especially on the part of Michael Keaton. The character of Ray Kroc sometimes makes you root for him and his ambitious, American dream spirit, and other times makes you absolutely hate him and his greedy, cutthroat ways. Keaton brings to life this complex character with superb acting throughout, but especially the last scene. When Kroc is rehearsing his speech in the mirror, he conveys power, but also the negatives of his character: plagiarism, lying, infidelity, and greed. As he comes to the part of his speech where he is about to lie, Kroc pauses, and with great emoting on the part of Keaton, seems to contemplate his actions for a split second before he continues on. The last scene was amazing and tied all the themes of the film together quite nicely.

I’ve read conflicting reports on the factual accuracy of the film, (and history is written by the victor) but as a film, the story works well. I got a bit of a The Social Network vibe from the film, and I liked the insight into a complex character driven by a greedy ambition. The film seems to take no side, letting viewers draw their own conclusions about Kroc and his methods. Overall I greatly enjoyed this film (you might could say I’m lovin’ it… No? Okay.), and if you like trips through the wonderful world of capitalism, you will too.

Grade: A-