Summit Entertainment

Worst to Best Animated Features of 2017 Part 1

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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 editorial!)

I apologize for this being so late, but here we are! This is the Worst to Best of Animated Films from 2017! It’s easy to look at 2017, and see it as not that fantastic of a year for animation. There was very little to be excited about, and it felt like the big studios dumped all of their filler projects in one year. It definitely looks inferior, compared to 2018’s line-up of animated films. However, looking past the big budget film scene that honestly had only two good animated features, the indie/foreign scene in 2017 was actually drop-dead amazing. It might actually be the strongest year for indie/foreign films since 2013. As usual, the rules are the same for these lists. They must have been released in the states in 2017. They also must be a part of the Oscar submission list. I sadly won’t be able to get to The Big Bad Fox, because GKids is, for one reason or another, not putting that film out yet, and I simply do not have the time to wait any longer to see it. I won’t tackle any direct-to-video films unless they are the DC-animated features, or if they are a big deal. Let’s get started!

39. Guardian Brothers

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Man, talk about a pointless film. While the original Chinese version is not that great either, at least it had a point to it. The Weinstein cut took out the one theme that made the film worthwhile, and they made it a bland, boring, obnoxious, cynical, and utterly pointless animated feature. It has decent animation, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as China’s Big Fish & Begonia. Screw this movie, and screw the Weinsteins for being utter garbage people, and utter garbage animation distributors. I am so happy they are gone.

38. Spark: a Space Tail

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The only thing this film has going for it, is that it was not Guardian Brothers. It was at the very least, presented as intended. It’s still a horrible film though, with bland visuals, boring jokes, unlikable characters, and generic action. It’s also one of two films from 2017 that wasted the talent of Sir Patrick Stewart. I saw no reason why this film needed to get made, when it’s full of nothing original or creative. Maybe Open Road Films will make sure to pick up better films in the future, but for now, they need to find something more worth their time.

37. A Stork’s Journey

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While I commend German animators trying out CGI theatrical animation, it helps when you have a thought-out film. This film’s CGI is ugly, the animation looks unfinished, and the characters are either forgettable or unlikable. I hated these characters, and they were a real reason why this film did not work. I liked the owl and her backstory, but that one character alone is not worth watching this film that Lionsgate thought was a good idea to bring over.  I also wish Lionsgate would stop thinking that just because a YouTuber is in it, it means people will buy it. 

36. The Deep

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This film is insane. While it has slightly better textures and animation than A Stork’s Journey, the lead character is just as bad. He is a selfish, inconsiderate brat. The film also doesn’t know how to make its world-building  sound logical with what happens in the third or so act. The only reason it’s above A Stork’s Journey is purely because of technical aspects. It actually doesn’t look that terrible for a very limited/straight-to-video release. It also outright lies about saying the people that worked on Madagascar made this film, when I couldn’t find anything about them. Unless proven otherwise, they lied in their marketing.

35. Leap!

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While not the worst of the Weinstein-distributed animated films with the least amount changed, it doesn’t mean it’s good. I can see it being a guilty pleasure, or a favorite among young kids, but it’s an awfully forgettable experience. The characters are not that memorable, it’s predictable, the music is not catchy, the acting was a touch annoying, and there were story points that felt out of place. While the animation was better than most films, the super-realistic textures to everything made more comedic moments look creepy and unrealistic. The dancing is sort of nice, and I didn’t hate the lead character, but if Hollywood wants to advertise great European animated films, they should have pushed The Little Prince and the many French films GKids brought over, like The Girl Without Hands, more than this forgettable, if ultimately harmless film.

34. The Emoji Movie

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Yes, if I was only doing the major releases, this would be the worst of the animated films. Yes, it’s cynical, uncreative, boring, and annoying. However, how many people actually saw this film from beginning to end? Yes it’s a horrible movie that Sony shouldn’t have rushed out and put into theaters, but at the same time, no one really talks about it anymore. It’s bad, but it never had any long-lasting value, outside of being infamous on the internet. It’s still nicely animated, and I liked some lines and sequences, but yeah, this movie is not good.

33. Seoul Station

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Listen, there is nothing wrong with a prequel story. They can add more lore and world-building to the original film. However, Seoul Station fails as a prequel. It doesn’t truly say how the outbreak in Train to Busan happened, the characters they focus on are bland, the story doesn’t really do all that much to add to Train to Busan, the animation is stiff, and the dialogue is not all that great. I wish I liked this more, because I think Asian countries outside of Japan can make some truly good work. I just don’t think this is one of them. It’s real only highlight is that you get to see an animated film that is a horror flick. You don’t get to see that often in the animation scene.

32. Nerdland

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You would think a comedy starring Patton Oswalt and Paul Rudd would be amazing, but this was not. You can tell this product flip-flopped in development. The characters weren’t all that likable, the jokes didn’t really land, and its depiction of Los Angeles was boring and typical. However, I do like the art direction, and when it was funny, it was really funny. I just wish I could have been more positive about the film, but I’m not going to give it a pass, because it happens to have two of my favorite actors in it.

31. Sahara

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I was honestly curious about this one. I was surprised to see Netflix bring it onboard for the US, and was wondering why they didn’t really advertise it. Well, once you watch it, you will see why. The English dub was so obnoxious, that I had to switch it over to the original French dub. The animation was not all that great, and the story was cluttered and forgettable. I liked some of the color usage, some of the dancing, and the few quiet moments, but they weren’t enough to make this a good experience.

30. The Star

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Boy, did this not need to be in theaters. If this was on Netflix from the start, that would have been fine. It’s probably the most positive of the Christian-based family films, and even with a $20 mil budget, its animation is not super terrible. However, it was still not all that funny, the story was boring, the side characters were too many and not at all entertaining, and I just felt badly for the cast that had to be in this movie. Again, it’s harmless, but there was no real reason this had to be in theaters.

29. Rock Dog

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 This movie’s development history, Lewis Black, and Eddie Izzard are the only good/interesting aspects to this film. The lead is bland, the film needed a bit more cash to polish out the animation, and it was a mess story-wise. It felt like it didn’t know what it wanted to be, so it copied a bunch of other elements from other and way better films. It has its moments, and I like the song at the end, but sadly, when this is one of Lionsgate’s better animated offerings, you know something is up with this film.

 

Stay tuned for Part two in the future!

119: Early Man

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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!)

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There is something always exciting when Aardman makes a new film. While not financially successful here in the states for some sadly understandable/annoying reasons, I always get excited, since it brings something fresh and interesting to the table, even if the films have elements that we have seen before. I make sure to always see their films, because I want to support the studio. That’s no different here, with their newest film, Early Man. Directed by Nick Park, Early Man was his first theatrical directing gig since his Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was released on February 16th, but is not doing well at all in the box office. It is getting positive reviews, but its financial take is discouraging. Granted, when you go against something like the important Black Panther and the decently reviewed Peter Rabbit, you are going to get into some trouble, especially if you are Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment, and you don’t market your movie! I can get into that bit of stupid, but I’ll save that for a different article. For now, let’s review Early Man!

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Eddie Redmayne plays our hero Dug, a caveman living with his tribe in a crater that, generations ago, was formed by a meteorite. He’s getting complacent about how his tribe only hunts rabbits. One day, after a successful rabbit hunt, their tribe gets invaded by a more evolved group of humans. This evolved group of individuals is led by a man named Lord Nooth, voiced by Tom Hiddleston. Dug accidentally gets himself “taken” to the new civilization, meets a woman named Goona, voiced by Maisie Williams, and finds out that his entire valley is being mined out for its metal. After interrupting a soccer game (and yes, I am going to call it soccer), Dug challenges Nooth to a soccer game. Unfortunately, Dug and his tribe don’t know how to play soccer. Dug then enlists the help of Goona, and they train to win their valley back!

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Let’s talk about the positives.  Since this is Aardman, the animation is fantastic. Each character has a unique design, and they each move beautifully. The sets are also vibrant, lush, and huge. These might even beat out The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Pirates: Band of Misfits. As with most British comedy, it’s well-written, clever, and there are lots of foreground and background jokes. I found myself laughing at multiple points in the movie, along with others in my audience. I think a lot of the jokes flew over the kids in my group’s heads, but they still laughed quite a lot. Much of the humor works because the characters are fun to be around. While some are simple, which is a problem to a degree, I never found myself getting annoyed by them. They were fairly likable. Dug is a kind optimist, the tribe leader played by Timothy Spall is delightfully daft, Nooth is a blast as a villain who seems to enjoy being a villain, Goona is the strong female archetype, and Dug’s tribe all have their own amusing moments. I know the film’s humor is mostly pun-related, but if you can execute them properly, then I don’t mind it. I can understand if it’s not your type of humor, but I loved it. They even stay away from the more modern-style of humor you would see in films from Illumination and Blue Sky Studios. It’s great that they did that, since it makes the film more enjoyable to watch as time goes by. The performances were also really good. Eddie Redmayne captures the hopeful and maybe ignorant optimistic side of Dug, Tom Hiddleston gives Nooth a wonderfully cheesy and not-at-all accurate French accent that leads to many of the film’s best jokes, Maisie Williams does a good job at being a tough individual, and the rest of the cast, including Richard Ayoade, Selina Griffiths, Johnny Vegas, Mark Williams, Gina Yashere, Simon Greenall, Richard Webber, Rob Brydon, Kayvan Novak, Miriam Margoyles, all have humorous performances.    

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As much as I love Aardman and the fact we got a stop-motion film this year, I am going to criticize this film a bit. The film is, for the most part, hugely entertaining, clever, funny, and well-written. However, it does start to lose steam, when you get to the actual soccer part of the plot. It goes through a few sports clichés and puns that don’t work unless you know the sport, and it goes into sports film territory with the underdogs versus the champions. You can pick up on what’s going to happen very easily during this part. While I love a lot of the tribe members, many of them don’t get much development. About half of them get stuck with a single character trait. That also goes for the champion team that they compete against.  I also felt like the story could have been a bit more complex. I love that Aardman keeps things simple, but sometimes, that hurts them, since some of their stories become predictable. I know I can blame some of this film’s underperformance to Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment, since this should have been a big deal for their animation output, but they treated like it was just another direct-to-video animated film. However, Aardman is also partly to blame for a couple of this film’s problems. I just wonder how much better this film would have been received if they had chosen a more…world-loved sport, since the US doesn’t really care about soccer, or simply stuck with the caveman and Bronze Age civilization meet-up. I didn’t mind it being about soccer, since I caught a lot of the soccer jokes, but I know that won’t be for everyone.

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While I think I prefer Shaun the Sheep The Movie and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, I did love Early Man. Personally, it’s the first good animated film of the year, and even if you didn’t fully care about it, you know deep down, it’s going to be better than Sherlock Gnomes. Early Man is a film that gets better the more I think about it. I definitely recommend checking it out. It’s an original film that’s not based on any pre-existing properties, and if you really want more original films to succeed, then you need to actually go see them. Well, it’s time to get to the 120th review, and I have a lot to say about that movie when we get to it. 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 82: Rock Dog 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!)

As the internet becomes bigger and louder, there is a concern that when it comes to game and film reviews, people are going to blow up a bad or good game even more than they should. I mean, people on the internet are already known to over-react to everything, without taking a moment to think about it and see if there is more to something than what is there at face value. I mean, yeah, sometimes, the issue at hand with a game or movie deserves the flack it gets, but sometimes, you get something like Rock Dog. Released recently near the tail end of February, Rock Dog was an American/Chinese animation collaboration, and cost $60 mil. It was interesting since the Chinese part of this co-production went to the states to find an animation studio to do the bulk of the work at Reel FX Entertainment, the team behind The Book of Life. It was released in China first, and was meant to be part of this big push for the American and Chinese film industry to start collaborating more. Unfortunately, petty business politics forced Rock Dog to flop in theaters, due to a lack of theatrical distribution in Chinese theaters. It was a little concerning when there was no real talk to bring it over, even though there was English voice work done. For better or for worse, Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate picked up the American distribution rights, and, well, the film isn’t doing well here either. Kind of a shame, since if you know anything about the Chinese animation industry, it’s like the late 80s early 90s anime scene, utter chaos and nightmarishly terrible schlock. So, how is it? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around Bodi, voiced by Luke Wilson. He lives in a village where he’s training to be a guard, but after obtaining a radio that fell from a plane, would rather be a musician. After convincing his dad, voiced by J.K. Simmons that he should go to the big city to become a rock star, Bodi ventures forth to find a famous rock star named Angus Scattergood, voiced by Eddy Izzard. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to him, a group of wolves led by a leader voiced by Lewis Black plan to take over the village and eat its sheep civilians. Can Bodi save the day and become a glorious rock star?

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Let’s get the bad out of the way, since while this is in no way near the raging cesspool that is Norm of the North, it still has a hefty amount of problems. The biggest issue comes in the form of the story. It’s a huge mess. It has way too many elements that are too similar to recent offerings. It has elements of Kubo and the Two Strings, Kung Fu Panda, a pinch of Zootopia with the animals, and any music-based film you can think of. Rock Dog is like the fattiest piece of meat you can think of, and it needed about 80% of that fat trimmed right off to make it a better movie. There was no reason to have mystical kung fu elements, or the wolves to want to eat the bi-pedal sheep people of this one town. Heck, the wolf mafia seems to be making money and doing fine without having to deal with this one town. I also find the fact they want to eat the living and breathing sheep people kind of creepy. It’s why you don’t want to have these types of thoughts come up in worlds with bi-pedal animals, since it would be like me wanting to take over a town in the middle of nowhere Texas and wanting to chop up the animals and eat them. I would care more about the characters involved, but you could also cut a lot of them from the film and not lose anything. Luke Wilson does a decent job as Bodi, but the father is your stereotypical father character who doesn’t fully understand his son’s passion for something. The creepy Sam Elliot yak doesn’t do much, Eddie Izzard is okay as a cynical rock star, for some reason Matt Dillon is here as a jerk character, and the two friends that Bodi meets in the city, a fox and goat, are just nothing. They have no personality or any real character. They are just there to fill out some kind of story quota, when they don’t give us any reason to care about them. I also find it distracting that you have all these big names like Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Kenan Thompson, Jorge Garcia, and Matt Dillon, when they could have cut some of them, and hired proper voice actors. I’m sure they were brought on because China found these actors appealing, but I don’t see the characters they play as; I see them simply as actors getting paychecks, but without the effort for said paychecks. Okay, that may be a bit harsh, since the script isn’t all that inspiring either. Granted, the script isn’t horrible, and it does stay away from a lot of kid film tropes, but I don’t remember a lot of lines, and the jokes weren’t funny. The only time I did chuckle was when Lewis Black or Kenan Thompson was onscreen, and even then, it’s more in how they deliver their lines than the lines themselves. I know this happens more often than not, but I’m always very disappointed when you get such good or funny actors, and then pair them with a weak script.

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The animation is also underdeveloped. While not super horrible and cheap-looking as, say, a lot of the straight-to-video animated films from China, it’s not high enough quality to be theater-worthy. It’s definitely better-looking than Norm of the North and The Wild Life by miles, but you still see awkward animation and lack of any memorable designs. It feels cheap in the sense that there are only 5 or so animal types in the films. It makes you respect and admire how much effort was put into Zootopia’s living, breathing world, how many animals they had, and how many variations of them were in the film. No two animals felt similar in Zootopia. In Rock Dog, a lot of the animals look very copy-and-paste. It really needed $10 mil or $20 mil more to make the animation look better. Sure, not everyone has Illumination, Pixar, or Disney money to throw around, but if you are going to be shoved into theaters with the other big films, you are going to get criticized for not being as high quality as the big releases. And no, cheap or clunky animation isn’t always an artistic choice.

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So, it sounds like I don’t really like this movie. I mean, I don’t think it’s the worst, but I do have some positives to say about it. While it is a mess in terms of story and character, to me, the film never felt cynical or manipulative like in Norm of the North or Ice Age: Collision Course. It felt like the writers and directors were being as earnest as they possibly could with the story and characters. It’s a very basic script and story, but I never felt like I was being insulted for watching it, like a lot of bad animated films do to the audience. I also found the main song from the film, Glorious by Adam Friedman enjoyable. I know it sounds like a lot of indie rock bands right now, but hey, I like this type of music. Granted, it’s distracting hearing Adam’s voice coming out of a character voiced by Luke Wilson, and it is yet another musical concert-style ending, but still, I could think of much worse songs on which to end a film.

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So, yeah, Rock Dog is not a good movie. In terms of animation from 2017 so far, Rock Dog is not going to be the worst of the worst either. In the end, it’s a very harmless movie. It doesn’t feel super-cynical or soulless, like Norm of the North, but it doesn’t have that charm that something like The Book of Life had. Still, I can’t say that it would be the worst thing to show off to a kid. I can see families renting it for a night and then returning it. It’s too early in the year for reviewers and critics to say Rock Dog is going to be the worst of the year. I have already seen one film that was worse, Nerdland, and there are plenty of upcoming films that look like pure trainwrecks and pessimistic cash grabs more so than Rock Dog. Rent it if you are curious, but don’t feel badly if you decide to skip out on it. Well, that was fun, so how about we celebrate April with another Japanese Animation Month, and take a look at one of the most recent GKids offerings with Welcome to the Space Show. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!