Although “Big Mouth” Season 3 (October, Netflix) ultimately delivers enough good episodes that I give it a soft recommend, it is a clear step back from its first two seasons. In the worst episodes, the writers get so caught up in their timely messages about sexual identity, dress codes and objectification of women that they forget to make those episodes funny.
Writer-director Richard Linklater lovingly adapts “A Scanner Darkly” – Philip K. Dick’s 1977 classic about drug use and the drug war set amid a future drug-producing spy state – but the 2006 film is also an example of how movies can play flatter than the novel even when faithfully translated. The film is also notable for using interpolated rotoscoping, in which live-action frames are given an animated look, a technique also used in this fall’s Amazon Prime TV series “Undone.”
Released between the two sequels in the summer of 2003, “The Animatrix” – a 100-minute DVD collection of animated shorts – fills in some gaps and gives us a fuller picture of the “Matrix” mythology. The storytelling is sharp, some written by the Wachowskis or based on a story by them, and the animation is consistently beautiful while running a gamut of styles. It’s not for fans strictly into the kung-fu fights or the main characters (who only make cameo appearances), but it’s a treasure trove for those who want new angles into the material and fewer gaps in the narrative.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) is a typical, solid animated kids’ movie about teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) learning how to be Spider-Man, but on my home viewing I got the sense that it’s mostly supposed to be a visual spectacle. Many action sequences are tailored to theatrical 3D, and some frames look like when you remove your 3D glasses and peek at the screen. My Cold Bananas colleague Shaune tells me this isn’t lazy 2D conversion, but rather a mimicking of old-school comic-book printing, with colors bleeding together. I might’ve enjoyed the visuals more with that perspective.
Netflix’s “Big Mouth” – which recently released its second season — marks the latest sea change in Things You Can Do on Television, as it chronicles 12- and 13-year-olds entering puberty. But unlike “The Simpsons” in the 1990s and “Family Guy” in the 2000s, there has been little hand-wringing from parents’ TV groups about “Big Mouth,” which opens with episodes where Andrew (John Mulaney) ejaculates in his drawers at a school dance and Jessi (Jessi Klein) has her first period on a field trip while wearing white shorts. Fortunately for its creators, “Big Mouth” also exists in the most prolific age of TV history: There’s so much out there that watchdog groups can’t keep up.
In its final 10 episodes, “Valerian and Laureline: Time Jam” wraps up by riffing heavily on the “Star Wars” prequels, but it stands as its own thing thanks to its trademark bevy of wild ideas – many involving time travel, as the series fully embraces its title. And as had been telegraphed in the sitcom-esque bickering flirtation (or flirtatious bickering?) heading into the closing credits of many episodes, the saga’s final statement is about Valerian’s and Laureline’s relationship … although it’s not exactly what I hoped for.
The “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline” writers finally give us the cute romantic sequence they had been so obviously holding back from us in the 30th episode, “Get With the Times,” and darn if it isn’t almost tear-jerking. Laureline must stay on a planet and press a button after Valerian takes off in their ship; they can’t both depart.
Whether it’s because I’m more used to the show’s rhythms or because the scripts are getting better, I enjoyed episodes 11-20 more than the first 10 episodes of “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline.” These aren’t the comics’ Valerian and Laureline, who love each other and don’t make a big deal about it. These versions of V&L are melodramatic; every time a second male is in the story, we get a love triangle because of Valerian’s itchy-trigger-finger jealousy.
The “Valerian and Laureline” franchise follows a similar pattern to the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” empire. Both started with a comic aimed at adults (or at least young adults), were franchised into a cartoon aimed at kids, and then a movie aimed somewhere in between. In each case, those in charge rejiggered the characters, vehicles, settings, plot and purpose.
“Moana ” — Finally! Finally we have a Disney princess movie where the goal of the film isn’t for the heroine to find and keep a man! I know that shouldn’t sound revolutionary. Unfortunately, it is. Beyond that, “Moana’s” themes of overcoming fear not just in oneself, but entrenched within society are quite appropriate for right now, and they are handled deftly and in a way that is accessible to both young and old. Throw in some amazingly catchy music from Lin Manuel-Miranda, and Dwayne Johnson being as charming as ever and you have the best animated movie of the year!
— Michael Olinger, Top 10 films of 2016, Medium, Feb. 27, 2017