Keegan-Michael Key

136: Hotel Transylvania 3 Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

To me, the Hotel Transylvania franchise gets a lot more flack than it really should. Not to say that the films are flawless, I mean, they aren’t perfect films, but they are ultimately harmless. The hate these films receive seems to be way more critical than studios that have made worse films. Again, they have their flaws, and some parts are going to be more negatively received than others, but in a world where Guardian Brothers and Norm of the North exist, you can watch much worse in the animation scene than the Hotel Transylvania franchise. I was curious to see how the newest film, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation would work out. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky again, we see Sony take its franchise and instead of releasing it in the fall like the last two, it uproots our heroes for a summer release. Does it work? Well, let’s see what we find.

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Adam Sandler returns as Dracula, who is having a bit of a rough patch in running the hotel with his daughter Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez. He’s feeling lonely, and has no time for such things like dating or taking a break, while running the hotel. Mavis then decides to take her family and the entire gang on a cruise at the Bermuda Triangle. As Dracula and his friends/family get on the cruise, he catches himself zinging/falling for the captain of the ship, Erika, voiced by Kathryn Hahn. Unfortunately, no one knows that Erika’s full name is Erika Van Helsing, the great granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing, voiced by Jim Gaffigan. Will Dracula find out before it’s too late and everyone is in trouble? Will they enjoy some really good visual gags and jokes?

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Let’s get the good out of the way, first. I know some people would rather hear me talk about the bad, but for me, I found a lot to love about this movie. First off, the animation is still amazing. No matter what pros and cons the individual films in the series have, the animation from Genndy Tartakovsky and his team bring so much life and identity with the films, and it’s no different here. Heck, Genndy himself makes a lot of jokes that wouldn’t have worked otherwise by a lesser director. They also take advantage of the setting, with the characters like the wolves dropping their kids off at daycare, Frankenstein and his gambling addiction, Atlantis as a casino with a giant kraken voiced by Joe Jonas, the shuffleboard goal being the outline of a dead body, the plane ride to the Bermuda Triangle being piloted and run by gremlins, and you get the idea. You can tell that the animators had a lot of fun working on this film, due to how lively, expressive, and entertaining the characters are. While no one really has a story arc outside of Dracula, I think everyone had a good gag, joke, or line. Some of the characters also felt more like characters than in the last movie. That’s probably because Adam Sandler was not behind the writing for this film. I think some of best gags also come from the fish servants that are all voiced by Chris Parnell. One of the biggest laughs that the audience and I got was at the scene where Chris is singing the Macklemore song Downtown in a super deadpan style. I also enjoyed the chemistry between Dracula and Erika. It was cute at times. I know much of this film is gag-driven, and can feel a lot like a Looney Toons cartoon, but it still finds moments for characters to breath and talk. Sure, it has predictable plot elements, but I liked elements that other people have criticized in this film. One example I find myself disagreeing with is that Dracula is being terrible by hiding the secret to Mavis that he has a crush on Erika. To me, I think that’s a bit more realistic, because how would you feel as a single parent and finding someone that reignites that spark, but you are worried about how your kids would react? The same goes for Mavis, as while it almost comes off like she has the exact same plotline as Dracula does in the first film, she’s nervous. I think there is a bit more heart in this film than others are saying. I even love how they flipped the whole dance sequence trope that happens in other films. I won’t spoil what happens, but I think everyone will get a laugh out of it.

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Now, with all that said, I still have plenty of flaws to talk about with this one. While I was laughing, it was laughing more at the reactions and physical aspects more than the jokes. While I’m glad the film didn’t overload the film with subplots, I wish more characters had something to do. They finally pay off the joke that the invisible man has an actual invisible girlfriend, but nothing is done with it. They make Frankenstein’s wife and him more of a loving couple, but not the invisible woman? I also wish Mel Brooks’ Vlad did more. The second film didn’t utilize him enough, and he’s basically background noise here. Jim Gaffigan is a wildly entertaining addition to the franchise, but, you guessed it, not a lot to do until the end. I also found the film predictable, but this film’s story was not its full focus. I respect that Hotel Transylvania 3 was meant more for gags, but I do wish there was more story in this film like there was in the first one.

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I know some people are mad at Genndy’s response to the Critics response to the film series’ reception, but I feel like he has a point. I found myself having a fun time, and needed a goofy romp after a stressful week of work. Now, I’m not saying I don’t get why people don’t like this series or find problems with it. I totally get why this might not be for everyone, but for me, I enjoyed it. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s not going to harm you or is sending some kind of negative message. It even has a nice moral at the end. While I don’t know how much more they can pull from this franchise, I have enjoyed my time with it. Sometimes, you just need a lightweight movie. So then, next time, let’s dive into a wacky and surprisingly humorous time with Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 74: Storks Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When The LEGO Movie came out back in 2014, it took the world by storm. It was one of the biggest films of the year, and one of the biggest surprises in movie history. Everyone thought this was going to be a cynical cash-in like Home or Minions, but it ended up being better than what anyone could imagine. The directors and writers put in their all for this one movie, and it paid off with being one of the best animated films of the decade. It also showed that just because you are based on a toy, doesn’t mean you have to be terrible. It was a huge victory for Warner Brothers, and a great start to their new redone animation branch. So, to me, Storks had a lot to live up to. Released back in 2016, Storks was released by Warner Brothers, and while not bombing, it didn’t do as well as The LEGO Movie, and got mixed reviews. You either enjoyed the movie, or you got really irritated with it. Where do I stand on this film from director duo Doug Sweetland and Nicholas Stoller? Well, let’s find out.

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Storks is set in a world where, well, storks don’t deliver babies to households anymore, and are more like a cartoon version of what Amazon wants to do with delivery drones and delivery-packaged goods. The lead or one of the leads is a stork named Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, who is close to being the new boss of the company that is, as of right, now run by a stork named Hunter, voiced by Kelsey Grammar. While Junior may be close to getting the new position of boss, he is told to fire and get rid of the one human that is working there, an orphan named Tulip, voiced by Katie Crown. After some shenanigans, Junior and Tulip end up accidentally turning on the old baby-making machine (literally a machine) and, well, make a baby. It’s then up to them to get it to the family that requested it, while avoiding Hunter, a small pigeon voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, a pack of wolves played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and a stork that went rogue long ago named Jasper, voiced by Danny Trejo.

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So, this is a lot to take in with its comedic set-up, execution, and world. How does it all work? Well, for me at the very least, this is one of those movies that could and should have had a couple of more lookovers to polish it all out. I knew going in, that this movie would be more on the comedic side of things, and that would be okay. I’m fine when a comedy wants to be a comedy, but if you are going to add heart and soul to your comedy, it needs to be balanced out with the funny moments. I mean, think about some of the great comedies of the last two decades or so. Comedies like Hot Fuzz, Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek 2 work because while they are very funny, you still cared about the characters and what they were going through. It was icing on the cake that the movie was gut busting hilarious. At least for me, Storks doesn’t really reach that height of comedy.  I don’t think its two leads, while well-voiced and can work off each other well, have the greatest of character development. You get Tulip’s drive to find her family and to make sure the baby gets to its family, but Junior doesn’t really have the best drive as a character. It doesn’t help either that it goes through a “liar’s reveal” trope, but I can give it credit that it doesn’t daudle too long on that part of the story. It also would have been nice if characters like Jasper and Hunter could have had more time to be fleshed out or be even funnier or more entertaining as characters. Even the family that the baby is supposed to be taken to, with parents played by Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, should be funnier than what you get in the movie. Maybe it’s because they are fairly white bread overworked parents, but when you have those two actors, you can do more with them, and we know they can do more since both have been in fantastic animated films like The Iron Giant and Finding Dory.

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Now then, how is the comedy? Well, like most comedies that can be considered good or entertaining, there are some great jokes that are hilarious when done well, a few amusing jokes that make you chuckle, and some that fall flat. It’s a shame more films don’t take the route that the best comedies have taken, and pick and choose their jokes and not fall onto some of the more popular tropes in comedies. A lot of the visual gags and lines work, due to the animation of the film, but you do hear a groaner here and there, and characters like Pigeon Toady will either be annoying or hilarious depending on whom you are as an individual.

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Now, the film does try to cover up some plot holes by being very meta about it, with characters literally asking why these things exist, and that became fairly distracting. To me, meta humor is starting to slowly hit that point where it’s less about being very funny and clever, and more about using meta humor to hide and ignore that the story has issues. Why is the baby machine still around? Why were there storks delivering babies when there are more…natural ways of having babies? Why did the incident with Tulip shut down everything in terms of baby delivery? Why is the ‘off button’ behind a bunch of razor blades? I know when it comes to cartoon comedies, you have to just go with the flow, but the meta humor rides the line of covering up lazy world-building and writing.

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Now, that is not to say that I hate this movie. I know I just criticized it a whole bunch, but I found Storks to be an incredibly entertaining ride. The animation is great, it’s the right kind of fast, it helps the physical comedy hit it out of the park multiple times, and it’s got great designs. This is the same studio that did Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and it looks so much better than what the studio had to do with in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Seriously, watch that movie and tell me that you see how cheap it looks compared to the original Cloudy film.

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Anyway, the voice cast also does a fantastic job. Sure, you get some pretty solid performances from some of the actors like Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, and a majority of the cast sounds very engaged with their performances. I also give Warner Brothers so much credit for casting an actual honest-to-goodness voice actress for Tulip. Tulips’ actress, Katie Crown, is an actress most known for her role as Izzy from the Total Drama franchise. It’s just so rare that actual voice actors get major roles in animated films. It could have been so easy to just get a bubbly big-name actress to do this role, but they pretty much said “screw that”, and got an honest-to-gravy voice actress. As for a comedic cast, it’s really solid stuff. Andy Samberg, Keegan Michael Keye, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammar, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Danny Trejo, and Katie Crown all work off each other well and have some pretty great chemistry. For the comedy itself, I was laughing at multiple points in the movie, from the introduction of Key and Peele’s wolf characters, to the encounter with the penguins. Storks brings in very much “out there” brands of comedy that you would see in a Looney Toons short. I mean, it is Warner Brothers, they should know how this all works by now. Even the somewhat boring white bread family gets some great lines, but that should be no surprise, due to Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston being used to flexing their comedic muscles before.

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Storks might be a bit clunky in the world-building and story department, but it brings in so many laughs that it pretty much makes for an enjoyable ride. However, do I understand why it didn’t do well in the box office, and why critics were split on the film? Of course I do. I might like the film and recommend it for a good fun animated comedy, but you should be able to understand when someone else couldn’t get into it. Still, if you feel like you are in the mood for a comedy that’s less reliant on raunchy comedy and stock humor, Storks is that comedy. Well then, it’s time we look at films from 2017, and we shall start with Nerdland. Thank you for reading. I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 44: The Angry Birds Movie Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

This has been an odd year for video game movies. How? Well, how about the fact that we are getting movies that actually looks like their gaming counterparts. To be honest, I find that so shocking, since either due to technology or no one caring, it was always so hard for Hollywood to make these kinds of movies look like the games on which they are based. Too bad they still can’t be good movies, with this year’s Ratchet & Clank being one of the contenders for one of the worst movies of 2015. It might look like the game, have the same voice actors, and is basically the game turned into a movie, but it can’t save itself from sloppy storytelling and boring characters. That’s why today’s review of The Angry Birds Movie is such a surprise. It’s actually not bad! Released on May 20th, 2016, this CGI animated film directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, who both have animation film experiences, including films like Tangled, Hotel Transylvania, and Wreck-It-Ralph, The Angry Birds Movie is honestly the biggest surprise of this year. I mean, not a surprise that it’s fantastic, but it isn’t a mess on arrival. I think everyone was thinking The Angry Birds Movie was going to bomb, hard! So, how is it? Well, let’s find out!

The film takes place on this island full of flightless birds. The main story focuses on Red, voiced by Jason Sudekis. Red is an angry individual among a village of happy- go-lucky birds. After getting into an incident with a customer, he is forced to to attend anger management, run by a bird named Matilda, voiced by Maya Rudolph. While there, Red meets up with a few individuals like Chuck, voiced by Josh Gad, Bomb, voiced by Danny McBride, and Terrance, voiced, or grumbled by Sean Penn. While attending the class, a ship of pigs arrives on the island led by Leonard, voiced by Bill Hader. And if you have played the games at all, the pigs steal the eggs, and it is up to Red and the gang to find the Mighty Eagle and save the eggs before the pigs eats them. Can they get them back? Will the birds get angry?

So, what is actually good about this film? Well, the best element that the film has going for it is the bright, colorful, and fast animation. It actually looks better than what I was expecting. It definitely makes Ratchet & Clank look so much worse, in terms of textures. While the overall look of the birds might be odd with the feet and arms, the designs don’t look that bad. I also found the script to be not that bad. Sure, it doesn’t totally devoid itself from modern animated film tropes in terms of hip dialogue and pop cultural references, but there was a lot less of it than I was expecting. The script also led itself to some pretty funny jokes. Not all the jokes land, in fact, a lot of them don’t, but I did find myself laughing a couple of times. I think that is because the actors they did get for the roles of the characters actually put effort into their acting. It could have been so easy for this film to get actors who would do nothing more than play themselves. The celebrities they hired are mostly comedians and comedic actors from sketch shows, and I was praising the casting choices when I wrote about this film a few months back. And yes, there is stunt casting and celebrity cameos that really weren’t worth the money due to how few lines they are given during the film. Still, my favorite performances came from Jason Sudekis, due to how relatable he makes Red, Danny Mcbride since I’m a sucker for big dumb characters like Bomb, Bill Hadder as the main antagonist Lenard, Keegan-Michael Key, since, well, he is Keegan Michael Key, and he made that bird judge lively, and to my surprise, Sean Penn as Terrence. Honestly, the Sean Penn casting is pretty hilarious in a very meta way due to his past history of anger, and his character, who is a giant caveman-like angry bird. The biggest surprise from this entire experience is how much effort was honestly put into this film. This could have easily been worse than both Ratchet & Clank and Warcraft combined, and yet, this is probably the best video game movie adaptation of the year. Granted, we have to see how Assassin’s Creed does, but so far, The Angry Birds Movie has more effort put into an overall experience than the two other video game movies out right now. I’ll be honest though, Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds probably put their best time and consideration into this film, since they have been going into a downward spiral of popularity with all the recent financial losses and layoffs throughout the last couple of years.

With all that praise being said, this film still has a huge amount of problems. First off, the film suffers from the usual children’s animated film tropes of pop cultural references, fast musical elements, and potty humor. Can studios get it through their thick skulls that you don’t need to make a film around those elements? Like I said above, they really didn’t need to stunt cast so many of the celebrities due to how they don’t have many lines at all. It just seems like a pointless expense to worry about. The pacing also could have been better. Once you hit the halfway point, and to no surprise, the pigs steal the eggs. The film does waste so much time with this Mighty Eagle character, and that is such a huge disappointment. They get Peter Dinklage as this character, and unfortunately, the Mighty Eagle bit goes on for way too long, and has the worst jokes of the film. Oh, and what is with this film and its fetish with its butt-shaking jokes? Like, wow! There are so many butt jokes! The ending is enjoyable, since you get to see the birds fly from a sling shot into the pig’s kingdom, but the pacing during this scene could have been slower, due to how you can’t really take a breather. This is why when you get those quiet moments of the good guys trying to find what they are looking for, or running into the bad guy between the action sequences, it gives the viewers time to take in what has been happening.

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the political undertone. A lot of critics have pointed out that apparently, The Angry Birds Movie has some political themes under its belt, with Red representing the conservative individual stuck in a liberal PC world, and some other elements. So, what do I think about all this? Well, while I can see where some of them are coming from, I think people were looking too deeply into a movie that has a Sean Penn caveman bird with some intentional or unintentional comedy with said character, and an extended peeing joke at the halfway point of the film. I think it’s unintentional timing due to the current political landscape. And that is about as political as you are going to see me get with these reviews.

Overall, The Angry Birds Movie is a surprise. It’s not a great movie by any means since it falls into so many of the traps seen in bad kids films, but it was still so much more enjoyable than a lot of the animated films that have come out and will be coming out from the likes of LionsGate. I have already seen the worst movie of the year, Norm of the North, so anything that actually put effort into the overall package gets my thumbs up. I don’t know if I would recommend picking it up at release, but it’s not going to be the worst purchase or viewing in the world or of this year. Well, we are going from a surprise, to a new modern day classic with Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent It

Hit or Miss Trailer Predictions: The Angry Birds Movie


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz for more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon on patreon.com/camseyeview. Hope you enjoy the article!)

Welcome back to Hit or Miss Trailer Predictions. This is a series of first impression articles covering the newest trailers on animated films, and breaking down the good or bad that the trailer offers.

For the past couple of years, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing something Angry Birds related. I, for one, am with the crowd that is getting sick and tired of it. If you think that isn’t true, then maybe the hundreds of layoffs of employees from the developer behind the popular franchise should be another reason to show people’s constantly losing interest in flinging birds at pigs. Now, of course, the franchise got to be so popular that they had to make a movie. Cut forward to 2015, and we have our first official trailer for the film that is coming out next year. So, what are my thoughts/predictions? Well, let’s break down everything. If you would like to make your own assumptions on the upcoming film, check out the trailer and tell me what you think!

 

Animation/Art Direction

Besides seeing iconic characters have arms and legs, the film actually looks good. Like I said, it’s strange to see the birds and pigs have limbs, but you quickly get used to it. I also like the fluid animation and the fast-paced humor. I know neither of those things are new or original anymore, but I think for a film like this to work, it needs to channel what made The LEGO Movie and Hotel Transylvania work. Have fast animation and jokes, but balance it out with heart, and a story with likable characters. I also love how colorful everything looks. It’s as if you stabbed a rainbow and let it all bleed out onto the CGI models.

 

Humor

While some of the jokes in the trailer fell flat for me, like the yoga skit with Josh Gad’s character, I found myself smirking at the rest of them. Sure, the jokes might not be original, and you can have predictable stories, characters, and maybe some jokes, but it’s all in the execution. Like I said, I found myself liking some of the jokes, for example when you first meet the bad guy, and the main lead having to deal with the little bird kicking the ball against his house.

 

Story

So, basically, there is this island where all these birds live, and a few individual ones have, well, anger issues or some kind of tick to them. One day, out of the blue, a ship arrives and out come these individuals called pigs. No one knows why they are there, and three birds, Red, voiced by Jason Sudeikis, Chuck, voiced by Josh Gad, and Bomb, voiced by Danny McBride decide to investigate why the pigs, led by one who is voiced by Bill Hader, are on the island. I think this movie will need to be clever since the game the film is based on didn’t really have a story. Hope it is clever, anyway.

 

Voice Cast

Honestly, I like this voice cast. You could tell that the company making this film, Rovio and Sony Entertainment, had the coin to bring in some actors that include Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage, Keegan-Michael Key, and a few other actors. It’s interesting to note how many of these actors are from sketch comedy backgrounds. I think that will work in the film’s favor, due to how they can work off one another.

 

Any last minute good/bad comments?

I am not the only one thinking this, but I do think the film is a year or two too late. Instead of coming out when the franchise was huge, they instead come out when the popularity of the franchise is dying. I wonder if Rovio, the company behind the franchise, is basing all of their bets on this one film. Granted, a few bad business decisions have made Rovio go on a downward slide, but still.

 

Prediction: Unexpected Hit?

 

I am going to go out on a limb for this film and say it’s going to be an unexpected hit. I mean, look at what happened with The LEGO Movie or the recent Peanuts film. So many people thought they would crash and burn, but came out to be good movies. Granted, I won’t be surprised if Angry Birds ends up not being a good movie, and fails in the box office, but who knows. I just have a little more faith in this film than say, Norm of the North since there is actual effort put into Angry Birds. Now, how much effort that is, will show in the film’s story, characters, and acting. However, like I said above, this film does seem like it’s coming out too late. Don’t let me down, Angry Birds. I’m putting some of my faith into your film! Let’s me say this. This will be much more faithful in terms of an adaptation than freaking Jem and the Holograms.