The Other Side of Animation 62: Extraordinary Tales Review

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Something I have noticed from certain movies of 2016 is that they had plots that either weren’t substantial enough for a single movie, like Batman: The Killing Joke, too much is crammed into one movie, or it should have been a miniseries. That last example was very apparent with films like Free State of Jones and Warcraft. To me, if a story isn’t substantial enough for a feature-length film, then maybe don’t stretch it to feature length with something that could make or break the story. If a story has too much to follow and too much information in it, then maybe make it a four-to-six episode miniseries. Or, if you want to tackle multiple short stories or poems, but don’t want to make a single one of them feature-length to keep the writing at its best, then maybe make an anthology film. This is where Extraordinary Tales comes in. This spooky anthology film is set around five stories/poems by the famous author, Edgar Allen Poe. It originates from the director Raul Garcia, who’s work experience includes being in the animation department of multiple Disney films from the 90s, and the director of the film, The Missing Lynx. It also boasts big names of horror talent, including Bela Lugosi (archive recording), Roger Corman, Guillermo Del Toro, and the late great Christopher Lee. So, how does this film do in paying tribute to one of history’s most gothic and death-obsessed writers? Well, let’s find out shall we?


The film’s set-up takes place in a graveyard where Poe, voiced by Stephen Hugues, has taken the form of a crow to look around at the location where he was buried. He encounters Death, voiced by Cornelia Funke, who he has been obsessed with, but also fears. Poe talks to Death about how he doesn’t want him or his work to be forgotten, and how he fears about the affliction of dying. It’s pretty much a set-up for the short films, which are all uniquely animated versions of The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Masque of the Red Death.


So, what’s good about the anthology film? Well, the animation is striking and unique. It’s all CGI animation from overseas, which is usually a call for concern, but each of the stories has a different art style. It makes them stand out, and match the creepy atmosphere of each set-up. You have The Fall of the House of Usher with its pencil-shaded polygonal look, The Tell-Tale Heart’s striking black and white aesthetic, the colorful underground comic style for The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, and the painted look of The Masque of the Red Death to name a few.  I don’t know how many viewers would find these stories “scary” due to like comedy, horror and what is scary is subjective if ever rarely agreed upon, but a lot of these shorts are unsettling and eerie. Like, you can feel the dread of death looming over you as you watch these shorts. It also tackles them pretty differently from the paranoia of death, the many ways one could die, trying to escape it, or trying to hide away from it. It’s a neat idea.


The actors they hired to narrate the stories/voice characters in the stories are great choices. Of course, my favorite one is the late Christopher Lee narrating and voicing the characters in The Fall of the House of Usher. Guillermo Del Toro also does a great job, and it is rather interesting to hear him narrate a story. I also find it fascinating that they got an archive recording of famed horror icon Bela Lugosi reading The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s pretty cool to hear him read the story. I think the one short that stands out the most is the last one, The Masque of the Red Death. It has no narration and is all visual storytelling. Heck, Roger Corman, the king of schlock himself, only gets one line in this story. To me, for being not much of a Poe connoisseur, I feel like the short films got the vibe and the tones down to a T. However, that is just me, because there are always going to be those people who prefer the written version over the film version.


As usual, I do have some complaints. As it is for most anthology films, some of the shorts are stronger than others. While I think they each stand out in their own unique way, I think The Tell-Tale Heart is my least favorite due to a technical issue I have with the archive recording. It’s cool that they obtained the recording of Bela Lugosi reading this story, but it’s very hard at times to hear him. The English DVD that I bought doesn’t come with English subtitles. It’s hard to hear some of the narrators in some of the stories, like The Pit and the Pendulum. It’s great that Netflix has this film (as of October 17th, 2016), and you can watch it with subtitles. It feels like the sound mixer needed another look-through before saying the job is done. Who knows, maybe that is the best they could do with the archived recording, but watching this on a high volume or with headphones or closed captions would be best. I also think the set-up for the short films could have been stronger. All Poe does is talk about being forgotten, when he won’t be. I mean, I get that feeling of a proud legacy being left behind the passage of time, but they could have just showed the shorts and be fine, or find a better way to combine the setting and shorts.


In the end though, GKids brought over another great movie with striking visual styles, and a more mature tone. If I had to pick where I would put it terms of the library of GKids films, I would probably put it in the upper middle area. It’s a great movie, but some technical issues and the divisive nature of adaptations will probably result in your experience being different than mine. Even then, I would highly recommend checking this movie out if you want some creepy animation. Well, next week, let’s go back to the goofy side of horror with a DC animated film that I actually liked?! That’s scary. Next time, we look at Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Beware the dark, and beware the goofy 60s Batman!

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation: Halo Legends Review

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So, to quickly follow up on my Robot Carnival review, I recently picked up the Discotek Media version, watched it through to the end, and compared it to the import copy I already had. You get a crisper visual quality to the Discotek version, but overall, both are pretty much the same. If I had to look back and suggest getting one version over the other, I would get the Discotek version, but neither DVD has a lot of content to them.

Now then, let’s take a look at another anthology film that is, sadly, not one of the better ones. Released in 2010, Halo Legends is one of the larger anthology films I know about, with eight individual stories by different animation studios. I mean, technically, it’s seven, since two of them are part one and two of a single story, but still. The release of Halo Legends on February 16th, 2010 got mixed reviews, with the criticism of the stories being uneven in quality, and making the odd choice to combine Halo and Japanese animation. Let’s see if these criticisms are valid years after the release.

The first and second stories are called Origins, which are animated by Studio 4°C and directed by Hideki Futamura (Beyond, The Second Renaissance Part I & II, A Detective Story, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and Perfect Blue). The plot to this story is basically a briefing of the Halo universe from the original invasion of the Flood, the Forerunners, and the massive weapons known as Halos, to what happened in Halo 3.

The third is called The Duel, animated by Production I.G, and directed by Hiroshi Yamazaki (Karas: The Prophecy, Eden of the East, and Ghost in the Shell.) The plot is set up like some kind of samurai short film where an alien known as an Arbiter seeks revenge for the death of his wife by the hands of The Covenant religion for not converting to their beliefs.

The fourth story is called Homecoming, and is animated by Production I.G again, and directed by Koji Sawai (Patlabor, Ranma ½, Trigun, and .Hack//Sign). The plot is about a group of soldiers who are rescued by this female red-armored Spartan, and their attempt to escape a warzone full of The Covenant.

The fifth story is called Odd One Out. It’s animated by Toei Animation, and directed by Daisuke Nishio (Dragon Ball franchise, and One Piece franchise.) This is a more humorous story about a Spartan soldier named 1337, who has a massive ego, but a huge case of bad luck as his body crash-lands on a planet and away from the ship on which he was riding.

Our sixth story is called Prototype. It’s produced by Studio Bones, and directed by Tomoki Kyoda (RahXephon, Saiyuki, and Darker than Black) and Yasushi Muraki (Steamboy, Welcome to the Space Show, and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie). Prototype tells the story of a marine sergeant with a devastating past, who goes by the nickname of Ghost. He and his demolition team are sent to protect a weapon facility from being overrun by The Covenant,and get rid of a new prototype weapon.

The seventh story is called The Babysitter. This segment is produced by Studio 4°C again, and directed by Toshiyuki Kanno (Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1- The Egg of the King, Black Lagoon, Trigun, Digimon: The Movie, and has worked on multiple Dragon Ball Z films). It follows a group of elite soldiers, who help a Spartan soldier to take down an important target known as The Prophet.

The eighth and final story, which was only put on the physical disc versions of this anthology series, is called The Package. Produced by Casio Entertainment, and directed by Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed Alpha, Star Diver, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Soul Eater, and Harlock: Space Pirate), The Package follows Master Chief and a group of soldiers that must obtain a very important package on an enemy ship.

So, with eight (seven if you are being a stickler) stories with different settings and animation-styles, how do they gel? Well, I do not have a lot of positive elements to say about this anthology, but let’s get the good out of the way, okay?

In my opinion, the best stories are The Duel, One Odd Out, and Homecoming. The Halo franchise is not really known for in-depth and amazing storytelling, but the stories for these three are rather well executed. If I had to pick my favorite story, it would have to be The Duel. I chose this one because it did something different with the lore and universe of the games, and turned it into a samurai film with a downright gorgeous painting-like presentation. It also hits on a lot of elements, like having atmosphere and characters you want to invest in. Odd One Out also does this same thing, but instead of characters you emotionally invest in, you just turn your brain off and laugh at some fun, over-the-top anime-style entertainment. It helps that while Odd One Out does stand out in tone, it has some of the better writing since it’s committed to being silly. This is what works with the shorts, like in The Animatrix. In that anthology, the directors and producers took their own ideas about The Matrix, and got creative in, well, creativity and emotions.

Unfortunately, the rest of the anthology is rather forgettable. It doesn’t help that, in my opinion, the universe of Halo is not very interesting. Origins is a helpful tool to tell the backstory of the franchise, but it doesn’t have that visual flair that The Animatrix has, and the history pretty much boils down to “humans are stupid for constantly fighting, and when The Flood returns, we will ban together and fight, but then go back to killing each other.” I felt like the story was trying to be more than what it was. The anime-ish tropes that plagued the stories like The Babysitter and Homecoming also take me out of the experience, since I felt like I was watching a boring sci-fi anime. I will say at least Homecoming has the better story, but beyond the plot twist of the red female Spartan’s past, the rest is pretty forgettable. Babysitter suffers as well, because this anthology loves to drill into your head that anyone that wears the Master Chief Spartan armor is not interesting, personality-wise. Instead, Babysitter incorporated not only characters that die and we don’t care about, but it also has the whiny, talented individual that is supposed to learn some lesson at the end, but it all falls on deaf ears. Another unintentional element of some of the Spartans dying in these shorts is that they are built up to be these invincible super-soldiers, but fail. I mean, I guess if you make your character godlike, then you stop caring about them, but still. However, the final short that was on the disc, The Package, is boring. It’s just forgettable action with again, characters you don’t really care about. I know short films are limited in terms of building up multi-dimensional worlds, but this short I think hurt Halo more than helped. I also found the animation to be the least impressive of the core shorts

As of now, Halo Legends, is the weakest of the anthology films I have seen. It has a few good elements, but for every good part, it has about three bad parts. I originally picked up the film for $10, but that is a tiny bit much if you ask me. For this middle of the road anthology film, I would recommend spending maybe $5 or so on it. It at least has enough in it to make it worth seeing once. I know this was a downer review, but that is bound to happen from time to time. Sometimes, we have a good day and sometimes, we don’t. You just keep pushing through, and if you are like next week’s review of M.D. Geist, then you are bound to have something good happen to you. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent It