Animated Adults: Why the time for mature stories told through animation is now

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“Animators can only draw from their own experiences of pain and shock and emotions.” – Hayao Miyazaki

Firstly, no, this isn’t about hentai or those disturbing cartoons that have the Simpsons or the Griffins engaging in unspeakable acts. So for those that came upon this post either hoping for that or by simple (if deranged) Googling, my apologies. Adult animation isn’t meant to evoke pornographic images of cartoon boobs flopping about but instead is the idea of animated films made specifically for mature audiences, dealing with mature subjects. The fact is that there are some stories that can truly only be told through certain mediums, whether it’s the printed page or the silver screen. And within those mediums, there are subcategories of ways to tell stories – live action versus animation being one divide. While animation has been relegated to “kids’ stuff” for the majority of its existence, the time is perfect for more animated films to be created and released that specifically target an adult audience.

The latest example to hit theaters is “Sausage Party,” a foul-mouthed computer animated film that sounds like a Pixar feature run through the National Lampoon‘s offices. The movie imagines a world where food is sentient and talks to each other but is unaware of their role in the lives of humans as something to be consumed. And so this “Toy Story” meets “Superbad” journey of a hot dog and a bun begins, with many deviations along the path for jokes of varying degrees of offensiveness and taste.

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Drink of the Week: Warday’s Cocktail

Warday's CocktailYou may wonder how I go about picking out the drinks here at DOTW. A lot of the time, it has something to do with what I’ve got laying around the palatial North Hollywood premises of Drink of the Week Manor. Occasionally, I look at the calendar, and sometimes, I simply stumble over something at random.

At times, though, my own life enters the picture to some extent. For example, I am actually writing these words while shoehorned into a Hawaiian Airlines jet and, guess what, last week’s drink was as well.

By the time you read this, however, I will be firmly in place at my annual geekboy retreat to Comic-Con and, so, the name “Warday’s Cocktail” leaped out at me from the pages of, once again, “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” Now, it occurred to me later that Warday is probably just some guy’s name, but right then, “Warday” seemed redolent of Silver Age Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin creations for both DC and Marvel. Also, the ingredients are mighty provocative.

Then, the daily news stepped in with events to dark too discuss within the confines of a cocktail blog. Best to just go with the idea that Warday was probably just the name of some enterprising bartender of the prohibition age or prior.

Moving rapidly along, while you could definitely argue that the name of today’s drink is in questionable judgment, the taste of this week’s drink is, at the very least, respectable and worth investigating. It definitely makes for an interesting combo and, I’m here to tell you that it can be just the thing after the end of a truly disturbing day or week.

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Missing Reels: “The Fearless Freaks” (2005)

Missing Reels examines overlooked, unappreciated or unfairly maligned movies. Sometimes these films haven’t been seen by anyone, and sometimes they’ve been seen by everyone… who loathed them. Sometimes they’ve simply been forgotten. But in any case, Missing Reels argues that they deserve to be seen and admired by more people.

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“You don’t even have to be a fan of the music!” That’s a lie that people often spread about music-centered films. Whether it’s a biopic, a documentary or a concert film, fans of the movie will insist that, in order to like it, viewers don’t even have to like that particular artist’s music. It simply isn’t true. If you don’t like Ray Charles music, then those recording sessions in “Ray” will seem fruitless; if you’re not a fan of The Talking Heads, then “Stop Making Sense” is an interminable bore. No matter how well crafted the film is around those scenes, or how well shot the performances are, if you don’t dig the music on display, you won’t really like what’s happening on screen.

So I won’t repeat that lie here about the music of The Flaming Lips when watching the documentary “The Fearless Freaks.” I will, however, say that there’s a lot more going on here than just the music, which is true of the band itself. The Flaming Lips have always been about the experience, whether it’s their four-disc Zaireeka album played simultaneously, or their freak-out concerts, and the same goes for the documentary which covers their odyssey from crappy punk band to psychedelic musical masters. It helps if you’re already partial to some of their music to enjoy this film, but if not, then hopefully you can enjoy its simple story and arresting images.

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Third Time’s Not the Charm: The worst threequels in cinema

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Sometimes it’s best to quit when you’re ahead. It’s tempting to keep on going with the gravy train and assume that the cash will just flow in based on the name alone, but sometimes that means coming up with paper-thin excuses to make a movie, to tell a tale no one was asking for, and to simply try to skate by on the goodwill of the former films. Some of these duds are nadirs of the series; some of them are just portents of worst things to come. A couple would be the forerunners for better films (“Rambo” is a great return to the brutality and morality of “First Blood,” and many Trekkies hold “Star Trek IV” close to their hearts), but for the most part, these third entries are unabashed attempts to cash in on known quantities without any of the artistic merits of the previous two films.

There are some pretty good threequels as well, but these ten films aren’t anywhere in the neighborhood of being considered good. In conjunction with the upcoming release of “Star Trek Beyond,” the third part in the new Kelvinverse “Star Trek” series, it’s time to reflect on the ten worst threequels in film history.

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Unsaved Progress: The failure of video game adaptations in film

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It should be a slam dunk – a known property with recognizable characters, an established story and plenty of excuse for spectacle. So why has it been so hard for Hollywood to successfully adapt a video game into a good film? Since 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” movie studios have tried to capitalize on the billions of dollars of success of video games by bringing them to the big screen. Yet time and again, what lands is a loud thud of a movie, boring to major audiences and befuddling to the devoted fanbase.

Despite the constant critical and/or financial drubbings the films take upon release, producers continue to attempt to adapt video games into successful franchises. “The Angry Birds” movie opened well, but was generally despised by critics, and soon there will be movie versions of “World of Warcraft,” “Assassin’s Creed” and a revamping of “Tomb Raider” franchise. It makes sense why filmmakers and companies are chasing these properties, for all the reasons stated above, but why have they always been such terrible dreck with only occasional flashes of innovation?

The first issue is that video games are immersive properties. Gamers are actively participating in these adventures, instead of watching them unfold passively on the screen. That creates the first hurdle for these films to overcome: how do you create something engrossing enough that it wraps people up in the events and makes it feel like it’s happening to them? Even the best blockbusters struggle with this ability to get audiences to identify and empathize with what’s happening on screen, let alone those made simply for cash-in purposes. Therefore, in order to do justice to these video game properties, filmmakers are already facing an uphill climb.

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