Who's In It: The voices of Micheal Sinterniklaas, Brina Palencia, Maxey Whitehead, Pam Dougherty, J. Michael Tatum
The Basics: A college math genius named Kenji, while visiting the expansive family summer home of a girl named Natsuki, accidentally stumbles across--and fears that he's activated--an artificial intelligence program that threatens to cripple not only the biggest online server in the world, but also every real world functions the server controls. Meanwhile, Natsuki's very large extended clan has gathered together for their matriarch's 90th birthday and their own complicated family drama plays out while the digital side of life crashes all around them. As the two worlds intersect, Kenji and Natsuki fight to stop the mutual destruction.
What's The Deal: Take the dread and dualism of the original Tron, the convoluted family dynamics of serious arthouse dramas like Olivier Assaya's (oddly enough, similarly titled) Summer Hours, the popcorny tension of 80s teen-saves-everyone-from-World-War-3 movie WarGames, then shake them up in a bizarre, dizzyingly colorful toon-splosion that resembles what it must look inside artist Takashi Murakami's daydreams, and you've got this incredibly cool film. I don't even want to call it "anime" because I don't want to turn off anyone who thinks they don't like that style. I just want to call it the early 2010 standard bearer of incredibly exciting--and unexpectedly emotional--animated features. Gnomeo and Juliet better bring it on.
Where It Comes From: Writer Satoko Okudera and director Mamoru Hosoda are the people responsible for the anime hit The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but it's with this film that they're showing the world they really mean business. Half dreamlike and half domestic, it's not afraid to slow down and be quiet for that still-life moment. Meanwhile it's almost too beautifully detailed and extravagant, with so much stuff packing each frame of screen that one viewing won't be enough to get it all. And any movie that makes Grandma a pivotal character is really working outside the nerd box. You really aren't anticipating how cool this one is. See it.
Best Way to Watch It: If you get the chance to see this one on a big movie screen then don't be lazy and wait around for DVD. It's fine in the smaller format, but it was designed to overwhelm, so do your best not to miss it that way.