film review

124: Gnomeo & Juliet 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!)

Many would argue that animation’s darkest year was 1985. This was the year Disney’s The Black Cauldron came out, bombed, got panned, and lost to The Care Bears Movie. Outside of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Gwen, The Book of Sand, there was nothing else. I do agree with that opinion, but there have been a lot of bad/underwhelming years for animation. You not only have 1985, but you have 1987, 1997, 2006, and one of the more interesting years to talk about, 2011. 2011 had a lot of the same problems 2017 had, where there was not much to look forward to, and much of it felt like filler, just to get to the few mainstream films and the indie darlings. Even the indie animation wasn’t stellar in 2011. So, where does Gnomeo & Juliet rest on the list of films from 2011? Directed by Kelly Asbury, the same director behind the DreamWorks hit Shrek 2, Gnomeo & Juliet, if you couldn’t tell by the title, is a variation on the famous tragic romance story of, well, Romeo & Juliet. While it didn’t get the best reviews, with an overall rating of 56% and a reviewer average of 5.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, it was a surprise financial hit. Then again, when you do not have a lot of competition, you are bound to do well. It even spawned a sequel that we will get to next time. So, after seven years, and learning that this was a passion project for Elton John, does this film actually hold up? Let’s check it out, and see what happens.

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The story takes place between two gardens that are next to each other. One belongs to Mrs. Montague, and the other belongs to Mr. Capulet. Once they leave the house, the garden gnomes from both gardens come to life. We then focus on our two leads, Gnomeo, played by James McAvoy and Juliet, voiced by Emily Blunt. Their families hate each other, and oddly enough, the two gnomes fall for each other. Can they find a way to be in love with one another before war breaks out between the two families? Can Elton John shove in as many references to himself as possible?

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So, let’s talk about the positives first. While I am not the biggest fan of this film, nor do I think it’s some underrated gem, I do have a few positives aspects to talk about. While not having a huge budget, the film’s budget was at a supposed $36 mil, they did find a way to work with it. The animation is not fluid, but you could argue that is the point. Because of how they are made of clay, you can excuse the textures and their clunky movements. I mean, it’s not like garden gnomes stay clean 24-7. They get affected by the environment and weather. This argument can’t be used for every part of the film’s CGI animation, but at the very least, the garden gnomes and garden items can use it.

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When the film isn’t focusing on pandering family film elements, and decides to focus on Gnomeo and Juliet, their chemistry is cute. Emily Blunt and James McAvoy work well off each other, and their relationship dynamic can be adorable at times. I also like the lawn flamingo, but that could be because he’s voiced by one of the greatest voice actors of all time, Jim Cummings. The flamingo probably has the second best story bits besides Gnomeo and Juliet. While I didn’t laugh a whole lot, there were a few jokes and moments that did get a small chuckle. Some of the Elton John references were cute, but that’s because I know who he is. The ad for the super lawnmower that is narrated by Hulk Hogan is also enjoyable, but in that “oh, I know who that is” kind of way. I don’t know if kids would find any of this film funny, because I saw this by myself. Now, you can calculate how sad that a 28 year old is watching an animated feature by himself on your own time.

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Everything else from this point on, fumbles and cracks onto the ground like a potted plant falling from a three-story window. The story is fairly predictable, and since this will not follow the ending of the film, it’s hard to sit there, knowing what’s going to happen at the end. This is especially the case when you are watching this to review its sequel. Many of the side characters are harmless, but they don’t leave that much of an impression on you. It makes you wonder why they got Ozzy Osbourne for the deer when he doesn’t really add anything to the role. At least in Brutal Legend, he was himself and was having an obvious blast with his character. It always bugs me when you get celebrities for cameos, and do nothing with them. While I give a somewhat pass to the animation, you can definitely tell this needed more polish. Of course, more polish might be a bad thing at times, but I wouldn’t be taken out of the experience when the animation quality dropped at the level of straight-to-DVD films.

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Really, it’s tough to be mad at this film. Gnomeo and Juliet is harmless. It’s really forgettable, and while not a good film at all, it’s not super memorable enough to be as the filmgoers like to say “terra-bad”. If you see it for a dollar or something, then I think you would be seeing a harmless, if ultimately mediocre animated feature. It’s definitely way better than Mars Needs Moms and Hoodwinked Too, but only by a slim margin, because it had some heart in the production. I definitely would be recommending films like Song of the Sea or Ernest & Celestine over Gnomeo & Juliet. Well, you won’t have to wait much longer, as the next review is of the sequel, Sherlock Gnomes. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

 

The Other Side of Animation 94: My Life as a Zucchini 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!)

I am very fortunate with my family life. My family is pretty healthy, we have a good life, I am close to everyone, and I wouldn’t want to trade it for the world. Sometimes, it’s good to remember how fortunate you are, if you have a good family situation. Not everyone can get that, and I can’t even begin to understand or imagine myself growing up in a broken home, or as an orphan. I’m never going to relate to it, and I’m not going to try and act like I can. I think that is what’s interesting about today’s review of My Life as a Zucchini. This is a stop-motion animated film from last year, that was directed by Claude Barras, and was distributed here in the states by the always-amazing GKids. It picked up a lot of critical acclaim and award nominations. While only 60 minutes long, you would be amazed at how mature this film can be.

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The story revolves around a young boy named Zucchini. He does have a real name, but he would rather be called Zucchini. After the death of his mother, he is brought to an orphanage by a police officer named Raymond, voiced by Nick Offerman. While there, he befriends the other kids who live there, and gets to learn a bit more about each of them as time goes on. One day though, a young girl moves into the orphanage named Camille, and changes Zucchini’s life.

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So, what’s so amazing for a movie that’s no longer than an episode of Game of Thrones? Well, there is a lot to love about this little movie. It has a laid-back atmosphere, and while the kids can get rowdy, and there are some dramatic moments, the movie is very quiet. It lets the kids be the main focus. It’s definitely a smaller story and is not epic or sweeping, but it doesn’t mean it sacrifices quality storytelling. You get little details, like how Zucchini keeps the memory of his parents in the form of a beer can and a kite, or how while not told specifically what happened to one of the girls, her gestures and outward mood says everything. It’s a film that tackles what these kids probably feel like being parentless. The world is scary, and they don’t really trust anyone, or feel like there is any real hope outside the orphanage. I don’t blame them. The film knows really well how to balance the darker themes of unconditional love, family, being alone, with more positive moments of finding a way to help each other stay optimistic. You get to learn a bit about these kids as the film goes on, and they act like real kids. You know how you watch a family movie or a movie in general where kids are a focus? You know how rare it is to find child characters or child actors who are actually good? In My Life as a Zucchini, they act and talk like little kids. Even how they interact with the adults feels genuine.

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The animation is just beautiful. The stop-motion movements are all gorgeously handled, and while having some interesting designs, they find ways to make the movements fluid, and expressive. The voice work is probably one of GKids’ best dubs. Not only because of the celebrities that they hired, like Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Will Forte, and Amy Sedaris, but the child actors for the English dub do a perfect job. One of the charms of the film is that they had all child characters in the original dub sit in one room to make the interactions with one another realistic. I’m sure trying to work on a dub to do such a thing would be very daunting for child actors who may not have a lot of experience voice acting, but they found a way. The music reminds me of a lazy Sunday afternoon, with a more indie tone to the background music when it pops up.

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If I had to really complain about something, the film probably could have been longer to maybe 80 minutes instead of 60. I loved every moment, and the film does use that time wisely, but I would have liked to have spent some more time during certain areas. Sometimes, there is a comment that doesn’t land, but in general, the run-time is my only major complaint.

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I really loved watching this movie, and if you saw my Worst to Best of 2016, you saw that it was my 4th favorite movie of the year. It’s deceptive in how mature and quiet the film, considering it stars a bunch of kids, and it does a great job tackling what an orphan feels like, along with the sad reality that some children grow up in broken households. I’m happy this film got so much love with the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. If you haven’t seen this movie, then you should. I want to keep this “theme” of family going, as next time, we will review Wolf Children. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 58: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV 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!)

In Short, multimedia projects are tricky to pull off. You could do well with the toys, comics, the movie, and TV show the multimedia project is based on, but one bad project could instantly spoil or give a bad first impression of said project. That’s what unfortunately happened to certain multimedia projects like Sonic Boom, which was all pretty solid until the Wii U tie-in game came out and ruined the first impressions of this new iteration of Sonic the Hedgehog. It was broken, not fun to play, not a well-designed game, and it is the worst selling game in the franchise. Luckily, everything else was pretty solid so, it saved itself from being an utter failure.  Well, Square Enix decided that they wanted to do something like Sonic Boom and decided to make an anime miniseries, and it is the topic of today’s review, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. This film that takes place in the upcoming games’ universe was directed by Takeshi Nozue, and has some surprisingly big actors in it, including Aaron Paul, Sean Bean, and Lena Headey. Normally, I wouldn’t review stuff like this, but since it had a limited run in theaters, and is connected to one of the biggest gaming franchises of all time, I definitely had to cover it. So, what do I think of the film? Well, unless you want to see some amazing realistic CGI, then you won’t get much unless you are planning on playing the video game.

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Anyway, this film is a prequel film that takes place before the opening hours of the video game. It follows a group of elite guards known as the Kingsglaive. They help protect the king of Lucis, Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, voiced by Sean Bean. The lead character that the plot revolves around is one of the Kingsglaive named Nyx Ulric, voiced by Aaron Paul. One day after a major battle against the kingdom of Niflheim, Nyx, along with his friends, is hired to help protect a female political figure named Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, voiced by Lena Headey. Of course, things begin to go wrong, and it’s a race to protect the giant crystal guarding Lucis, making sure Lunafreya doesn’t get killed or captured, and of course, set up the events that will lead into the video game.

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So, what’s the best thing about this movie? Well, it’s the animation. While this might be a similar situation to Square Enix’s past CGI films, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, this is probably the best-looking of all the films. Its textures and animation are outstanding. This is easily some of the most realistic-looking character models and animation that I have ever seen done in terms of cgi-animated films. Everything looks amazing, and while it doesn’t fully do the whole “you won’t be able to tell this is cgi” kind of realistic, it’s still incredibly commendable with how good this looks. The fighting is also very flashy and fun to watch. I think it’s because of how agile the characters are, and how they use magic to throw their knives and be able to teleport to the knife. It’s definitely something you will have to see for yourself, or play the game to understand what I mean with the whole “teleporting combat”. The final act where the entire city is just torn apart and the enemies are invading is really intense, and it is a spectacle when you see the giant stone guardians of the city come to life.

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Sadly, that is pretty much it for the compliments, because everything else is pointless. The lead characters are not memorable in the slightest. If you have seen any generic anime or action show with a team of characters including the bland male lead, the heavier-set well-intentioned best friend, the tough chick, and the snarky male. Heck, some of them don’t get to even be characters, like the tough chick gets killed so early in the film that it’s hard to care about her death. Heck, it’s hard to feel invested with a lot of these characters, because only a handful actually matter to the main story that will be in the video game. This means that unless you plan on picking up the game, you probably won’t or already don’t care about what happens to these characters. The only time you get to see the actual leads from the video game is at the very beginning and at the very end. Even if you look past the whole video game tie-in aspect of the film, it’s a painfully generic and boring film with only a few highlights of action and animation. I mean, at least this film is attached to the newest game in the franchise, and isn’t a pointless film like The Spirits Within, which is barely part of the Final Fantasy franchise.

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I also found the film to be difficult to watch at times. It’s too flashy, and sometimes there is too much on screen to make it easy to watch. I think it’s because the film is overly detailed with its world and characters. It’s a beautiful movie that is just sometimes clustered with details and sometimes not-so-subtle product placements.

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Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is an almost pointless film that is part of a multi-media product. Unless you are a gamer and want to check this out, I would avoid it unless you want to see every animated film that was able to be in theaters. It’s a film that is flawed because it’s tied to a video game. If it had more freedom with its setting, and essentially, not being a part of a multi-media project, then it would have been better. As a film, I can think of much worse movies I have seen this year, like next week, we will look at one of the biggest U.S. bombs of 2016 and of all time, The Wild Life. Thanks for reading, I hope you all liked the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 56: Sausage Party 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!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!:  This film is in no way meant for kids. It’s rated-R for a reason, with shock humor, swearing, sex jokes, sexual events by way of food, and graphic in its jokes and imagery. Do not watch this with your kids. Hope you enjoy the review!

As much as people like to think theatrical adult-animated films are new, they really aren’t. Back in the 70s, we had a lot of stylized-adult animated films with adult themes and softcore porn. Now, to say that they are rare to see these days is true. Due to how quickly the fad of adult-animated films came and went for only a few years, it’s now almost surprising to see an animated film made for theaters, directly aimed at adults. Not to say the direct-to-DVD market hasn’t seen them, since a few have popped up, but I wouldn’t put them in the same category or quality as ones released in theaters. Sure, we got Hell & Back, but that was in no way made to be on par with or of the same quality as, say, Eight Crazy Nights, another horrible adult-animated film that Adam Sandler somehow thought was a good idea. It’s definitely a thing to keep an eye out for, but just because it’s different doesn’t warrant that it’s going to be good. This is definitely a hurdle that today’s review of Sausage Party had to contend with. This 2016 stoner-comedy comes from the minds of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and duo of directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tieman. It was a hyped film when it was first shown off during SXSW 2016, and a leaked script went viral online. It was a surprise hit for a month not known for great movies, but also is now caught in  some controversy that I will of course talk about later on in the review. I mean, I have to. It’s the biggest news story for this film, besides how big of a hit it is. So, is this film as good as some of the big classics it’s spoofing, or has the food gone into moldy-way-past-its-time milk? Let’s find out.

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The story revolves around a hot dog named Frank, voiced by Seth Rogen. He lives in a supermarket with all the food that believes and sings a song about what supposedly happens once you leave the supermarket. Frank is also in love with a hot dog bun named Brenda, voiced by Kristen Wiig. One day, Frank finds out that he and Brenda are going to be leaving in the same cart. However, on that same day, they encounter a slightly “touched” individual named Honey Mustard, voiced by Danny McBride, who tells them what really happens to food after they enter the “great beyond”. After a cart crashes into another one causing mass chaos and death of certain food items, Frank and Brenda end up in the supermarket, along with a bagel named Sammy Bagel Jr, voiced by Edward Norton, a taco named Teresa del Taco, voiced by Salma Hayek, and a Lavash named Kareem Abdul Lavash, voiced by David Krumholtz. Can they find out what is exactly going on, and also avoid a villain, voiced by Nick Kroll? What will happen to Frank’s friends played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera?

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If I’m going to be honest, I’m going to start with the negatives with this film. I don’t hate this movie, but I do think it has its handful of flaws. Maybe it’s because I have been spoiled by Edgar Wright comedies and The LEGO Movie, but I found the humor to be hit-and-miss. It’s not consistent enough as it tries to balance crude humor, stoner humor, clever humor, and food puns. I would rather have had fewer jokes that hit bullseye than a bunch of jokes where only some work. I did find myself laughing at a lot of the jokes and finding some of the situations clever, but then you would run into jokes that were crude just to be crude, because some notes from the higher-up said they needed to be crude. I also found the pacing to slow down a bit in the middle part of the film.

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Now then, let’s talk about the current may-or-may-not be true controversy revolving around the studio that made Sausage Party, Nitrogen. The controversy is revolving around a bunch of anonymous animators for this film, saying that many of the animators on the film were not credited, they all worked unpaid overtime, and were abused from one of the directors, Greg Tieman. Here is how I look at the situation. If the investigation turns out to be true, and I won’t be surprised if they are, since I also worked in an industry (the game industry) known for abusive work experiences, then screw Tieman and Nitrogen for making people work unpaid overtime. Humans are not machines, and they don’t deserve the fear of blacklisting, being left off the credits, or being fired because they are exhausted. I have also heard it was to keep production budgets low, and whoever thought that, whether it be Tieman or not, can go bugger off. People these days need to be able to make a living, and not giving them the time and relaxation they need is infuriating, since you can tell this film had so much love and work put into the animation. However, if these turn out to be fake allegations, then that’s also terrible. It would be a bad image for animators who have actually gone through abusive jobs, and if these complaints turn out to be false, who is to assume that all future complaints are false? I can see either being the case, but we will have to see what happens.

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So, with that out of the way, what is great about this movie? Well, I like the animation. For a small budget (and if true, unfortunate unpaid overtime), the animation is fluid, expressive, and it captures that look and vibe of something from Disney, Pixar, or those old-fashioned concession stand ads that you would see. While most studios try to have that Disney/Pixar look, this film is yet another example, alongside The Little Prince, that does a good job at making good looking humans. I also liked the vibe and characters of the film. Granted, some of the characters are a bit one-note to get some social commentary out there, but I found myself enjoying their company, since some of them were able to be fleshed out, like Michael Cera’s character, and Frank. I also like the commentary about religion this film brings up because, at first it comes off like “why in tarnation do you all believe in something that we have no proof of?”, and then becomes a bit more evened out with “yeah, we all have different beliefs, and I should be more respectful, but we have to fight or else we will get eaten!” While some of its commentary is very shallow, I do like that a stoner comedy tried to be more than just, well, a stoner comedy. I think everyone brings their A game and feels fully invested with their huge or small amount of screentime given to them. Yes, it might have a bunch of Seth Rogen’s crew, like Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, but you also get hilarious performances from Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, and the rest of the cast. I think this is why I tolerated a lot of the food puns, because when the good jokes rolled through, I was laughing hard. I even laughed at the shocking food orgy. While it was so out there, it was amazing that they got away with so much, only because it was all food. It literally gives a whole new meaning to “food porn.”

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Now, in terms of it being a stepping stone for future animated films aimed at teens/older adults, I am all for it. While it might have that awkward controversy, it is a monster hit. I know some disagree with it being the film to bring in more adult-animated films, but I disagree, and think that’s just pessimistic and cynical thinking. While it might not be the very first adult-animated film, I do think it will have a place in helping more animated films get made that are aimed for an older audience. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want all adult-animated films to be just stoner comedies, but if this helps get more varied animated films than fast-paced comedies, then I welcome it.

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Sausage Party might have its flaws, and while the controversy that neither Sony nor Seth Rogen have brought up at all is troubling if true, I still very much enjoyed the movie. I had a fun time even with its sometimes clunky jokes and pacing. However, this recommendation to see it does come with a huge asterisk next to it. If you can separate the film from its supposed controversy (which again, if proven to be true, I hope great things happen to those wronged in the situation, and if proven false, then screw those people), then definitely go see it. If you can’t do such a task, then maybe wait for a rental, or check it out at a discount theater so you don’t give too much money to the film. If you don’t like this movie, I perfectly understand, due to how divisive comedy can be. Well, that was tiring, but I must press ever onward with my one-year special, covering Rex the Runt. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 55: April and the Extraordinary World 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!)

So far, 2016 in animation has been pretty fantastic. It is easily having one of the best years in animation. While there have been a few clunkers like Norm of the North, Ice Age: Collision Course, Batman: The Killing Joke, Ratchet & Clank, and Bling, the huge amount of great movies have outweighed the terrible in spades. I mean, this year’s Oscar race for best film will and should include Zootopia, Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Boy and the Beast, Only Yesterday, The Little Prince, Kubo and the Two Strings, and depending on how good it is, Moana. I also feel like while there have been a lot of great and mature films for this year, I do wish there were a few films that were similar in spirit to films like Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc, The Rocketeer, and those old pulp sci-fi adventure shorts and books. Luckily, GKIDS has our backs yet again with April and the Extraordinary World. This 2D French and Belgium collaboration was directed by Christian Desmarues and Franck Ekinci, and produced by Michel Duthell, Franck Ekinci, and Marc Jousset. It was released back in April (ha ha), and was recently released on DVD and on-demand. So, is this adventure worth your time into an extraordinary world? Or is it a clunker like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?

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The story places us into a world in the early 20th century, where all the scientists in the world are suddenly vanishing. As a result, the world doesn’t get introduced to electricity, and motor engines, and is stuck in this steam punk-like time period, where there are barely any trees or plant-like life left in the world. The story then goes on to focus on a young woman named April Franklin, voiced by Angela Galuppo. When she was a young girl, her parents and grandfather vanished after a chase sequence from the police. She is now living on her own with a talking cat named Darwin, voiced by Tony Hale.  During this time, April has been working on a formula that her parents had been working on before the incident when they vanished. Unfortunately for her, the police detective, Pizoni, voiced by Paul Giamatti, is looking for her and uses the help of a street urchin named Julius, played by Tod Fennell, to keep track of her goings-ons. What happens next is April discovers the serum, and gets chased by an unknown force that is behind the scientist kidnapping. Can she and Julius find her still-alive grandfather, voiced by Tony Robinow, and stop whatever is trying to capture them?

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What I like about this movie is, unlike Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which only captures the look of the setting, but not its characters, is that it captures that penny dreadful/pulp fiction-style story and setting perfectly. You are kept invested with why this evil force is capturing scientists, and why this serum that April’s parents were making is so important to the force. It also leads to characters that, while some could consider them simple, are still very likable. I love April as a female lead, and that the film, like Big Hero 6, shows how science can be a pro rather than a stupid dated joke. The film definitely takes advantage of its setting, and you get a lot of creative and amazing visuals and technology for this world with barely any plant life left. While it might not be “scientifically accurate”, it does remind me of the creativity with the idea of steam punk, like in Steamboy with its massive machines. It also has some good adventurous scenes and chase sequences with the chase at the beginning of the movie easily being one of the best scenes in animation in 2016. It really does capture a The Last Crusade and Rocketeer-style adventure film that you rarely get to see these days.

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The animation is great. It has a lovely French-style comic look to the entire film, and it is smooth in terms of movements. Like most European animations, the physical humor is blended well into the story, and is truly funny and never feels forced. I don’t know why, but with the exception of a few people in Hollywood, European animation has found a way to make humor gel well, and not feel clunky or awkward. Maybe it’s the execution of the jokes, or maybe it’s the writing. I don’t know, but the look and atmosphere brings in elements of films you would see from Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Heck, this entire film reminds me of Castle in the Sky in some ways. It’s a film that will age really well for future viewings and generations. I also enjoyed the voice cast. While I think maybe one or two performances were just okay, I really liked everyone else. They also hired a pretty good cast of actors for this film, like Paul Giamatti, JK Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Tony Hale, and Angela Galuppo.

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Unfortunately, this tale of adventure in a steam punk world is slightly flawed. I think even though it almost has a two-hour running time, they could have maybe made it a bit longer to explain a few elements, or at the very least fix some of the clunky storylines, like the relationship with April and Julius. The conflict at times feels a bit forced with the two, and while I do like the two characters, I think they could have handled the relationship better.

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Still, I really do love this movie. I think it’s easily in my top 10 of the year with its, pardon the pun, extraordinary world, likable characters, creativity, and how fun it is to watch. I would have to think about where I would put it in terms of the best of GKIDS, but I think no matter where I put it, April and the Extraordinary World is still going to be a pretty big recommendation if you like fun adventure movies. Definitely get the Blu ray and DVD combo pack, and lose yourself in a world of steam and adventure.  Let’s keep these positive vibes going with the controversial Sausage Party. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 54: Kubo and the Two Strings 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!)

I am very passionate about animated movies that don’t get the treatment they deserve. I think it’s obvious everyone would rather watch a great movie and support it than something drummed up from Hollywood that shows they have no idea what they are doing. Still, it’s probably the most infuriating thing when a great movie is drowned out by utter garbage. I think one of the best examples of this was with Kung Fu Panda 2. This 2011 sequel was released around the same week that The Hangover Part 2 was released. What happened? More people went to see the mediocre sequel to a film that wasn’t really that great in the first place, instead of a sequel that did everything right by being not just a great movie, but a great sequel. Kung Fu Panda 2 did well enough, but seeing it get beat out by a mediocre sequel was no short of maddening. I could go into detail about why the public movie-going audience can be a major problem about the movie industry, but I‘ll tackle that another time. Today, I’m going to talk about what is quite possibly the best animated movie of the year, Kubo and the Two Strings. Yes, the masters at Laika have made the best animated movie of the year that tops even the amazing Zootopia and The Little Prince. This film, by director Travis Knight in his first directorial position, wowed me. I mean, why did it wow me? Well, let’s find out.

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The story follows the adventure of a young boy named Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson. He lives in a mountainside cave with his mother. During the day he performs magical shows with his shamisen bringing origami characters to life, but always returns by nightfall at his mother’s request. One day, Kubo accidentally stays after the sun has set, and encounters two creepy raven-like women named Sisters, both voiced by Rooney Mara. Kubo’s mother comes down to save him, but ends up sending Kubo away. Kubo then wakes up in a snowy part of the world, and is now accompanied by a white monkey, voiced by Charlize Theron. They run into a humanoid beetle-like samurai named, well, Beetle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey. The three set off to find a legendary set of weapons and armor to take down the Moon King, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, the powerful being that has been trying to take Kubo for his own needs. Can Kubo survive and find the weapons to take down the Moon King?

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Let’s talk about the good, because I have nothing but good things to say about this remarkable movie. The story is perfectly packed with what you want in a good action adventure movie. It has a great male lead. Kubo is one of the best child characters I have ever seen, not only this year, but in animation in general. He cares for his mother, is enjoyable around the people in his town, and has a great realistic child personality. Speaking of great personalities, the film has an impressive cast of side characters. These are some of the most likable secondary characters, with Monkey’s protective and serious persona, and Beetle being a great fighter, but a mostly light-hearted tone to him. The three characters, Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle work so well off each other, and that happens because of a terrific script. The best part about scripts from Laika is the fact that the humor gels well with classic dialogue that, like The Little Prince, is timeless. Everyone sounds like they were from that time period. The film has a great voice cast. While I could argue the tightrope argument of why Laika didn’t cast more Asian actors for the roles, since the two that they hired, George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki are side characters who play no major role of the story, but that’s for another article that I won’t talk about here, because even with that little hiccup, the cast they hired for this movie is perfect. The actors all pull off amazing performances that make you see the characters, and not just actors being actors. I have noticed that recently, many animated films have made sure to get actors that fit the roles, and can immerse themselves within them. Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Brenda Vaccaro, and George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, for as big or small as their roles are, all did amazing jobs. I don’t know whether the person in charge of the performances did a great job, or whether these actors felt super passionate about the project and animation, or both, but give them all A+ on their performances. The movie knows how to pace itself with fights, story, and world-building. While some could argue that they could have added another fight, I am so happy that this film balanced out some really good fights, and how they took their time with developing the characters and the world around them. Too many times do action adventure-oriented films put all their bets on the animation and action, while not having much focus on everything else. Kubo and the Two Strings was just a remarkable movie to be in, and has stakes and sequences that keep you invested and wanting to know what happens until the very end.

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The animation is beautiful. It’s easily the best stop-motion animation I have ever seen. It’s so fluid, the world and character designs have personality, and look unique. The fight scenes are well-animated, and are choreographed beautifully. It’s some of the best action you will ever see in animation, alongside Kung Fu Panda, Ninja Scroll, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Boy and the Beast, and Read or Die. They take advantage of everything about the film, from the surrounding environment to who the characters are, like Beetle being able to fly and crawl on walls. The music is gorgeous to listen to, with some great tunes from Kubo’s Shamisen sequences to the amazing score by famed composer Dario Marianelli, who also did the soundtrack for Everest, The Boxtrolls, and V for Vendetta. The ending song that plays in the credits, While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Regina Spektor, (which she covers so well, it was originally a Beatles song by George Harrison) is performed on a Shamisen. That is so incredible that this singer went all out with this song in terms of performing the song on the main instrument of the film.

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I really don’t have major complaints about the movie. I think this is one of those rare perfect movies that even if you could come up with any negative issues, they wouldn’t bring the movie down at all. Actually the biggest problem this film has is being released in August. I am so upset and irritated that Universal decided to release this during the worst part of August, due to the target audience not being able to see it until the weekend because of school starting, and while a mediocre comic book movie is still at number one. That’s another problem. Why would people go see a movie that is flawed, clunky, and had obvious scenes cut out or sloppily edited, instead of a complete, passion-filled animated film that had more effort and creativity put into it than 99% of the films released this year. This is exactly what happened to Kung Fu Panda 2, and that is a crime that the movie-going public doesn’t fully respect animation and think it’s just for kids. That will be an argument for another time. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this movie, and I want it to be doing better than as of 8/24/16.

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If you couldn’t tell, I love Kubo. I stand by my opinion that this is the best animated film of 2016. I thought nothing would top Zootopia and The Little Prince, but Laika did it.  It’s not only one of the best stop-motion films of all time, it’s one of the best animated films of all time. Seriously, people, go see this movie. It deserves much more of your attention than a remake of a remake nobody asked for. I don’t mean to bash other movies out right now, and I do like a lot of modern/current movies, but people cry and complain that we don’t get to see enough unique and original movies, and then when one comes out and is critically acclaimed, no one sees it because of maddening reasons. If you love original movies, and want to support something that isn’t a big budget disaster, then seriously check out Kubo and the Two Strings. I have felt so satisfied reviewing good movies, and I want to continue that with one of my favorite indie-animated films of 2016, April and the Extraordinary World. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the movie, and see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials!

The Other Side of Animation 53: Belladonna of Sadness 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!)

MAJOR WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This film is in no way meant for children or teenagers. This is a very adult animated film with graphic violence, and scenes of consensual sex, sexual images, and graphic assault using abstract imagery. Do not see this movie with your kids. If you decide to see this movie, please do some research and look up all that you can about this movie to see if it might be your cup of tea. I don’t know what else to say, but you have been warned! Viewer’s discretion is definitely advised with this movie. Hope you enjoy the review!

We are heading into some rough waters ahead. We are looking at another explicit and sexual animated film known as Belladonna of Sadness. As with Fritz the Cat, there was a time in animation where animators and filmmakers got very, and I mean very, experimental with their budgets and filmmaking experiences. What we got were a lot of adult-oriented animated films with mature themes, social commentary, and quite frankly, a lot of sex. This is where you would find a lot of “cult classics”, and I don’t blame them for being so, but being good is on a whole other situation onto itself. Sometimes you see the depth of the story with its characters and themes, and other times, you find self-indulgent schlock that got made because the creators promised nudity, and Hollywood was excited. Luckily, for the few films that escape that trapping, you have some of the most unique film experiences around. So, where does Belladonna of Sadness land? Belladonna was part of a trilogy of adult anime films called Animerama. This series of films included One Thousand and One Nights and Cleopatra. This third film, unlike the first two, was also not brought over here until recently. It was even restored with eight additional minutes of footage that was cut from the rerelease of the film in Japan. It was directed by Eiji Yamamoto, who has worked on all three films and has worked with Osamu Tezuka on other projects including Kimba the White Lion, Astro Boy, Odin, and Space Battleship Yamato. Though Osamu only worked on the first two, he was the one who put the wheels in motion for this trilogy of adult films. Yes, the creator of anime helped made three sexually-themed animated films. It’s really weird to see the contrast in themes and tone between Astro Boy and Belladonna of Sadness. So, does this film elevate itself into something ambitious and deserving of its praise? Or does it dissolve into some schlocky entertainment?

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The story stars our newlywed couple Jeanne and Jean. They go to the Lord of their kingdom to get the Lord’s prayer. Unfortunately, the Lord denies their request, and Jeanne is sexually deflowered and assaulted by the Lord and his lackeys. After such a traumatic and horrifying experience that no one deserves to have happen, Jeanne makes it back to Jean, scarred and forever changed. During the night, Jeanne gets visits from an evil spirit that offers, in exchange for pleasure, her power to get revenge on the scumbags that ruined her life. During the story, she gains enough power to obtain the support of the town to rebel against the Lord. Can she use her powers well, or will she be consumed by the powers of the evil spirit?

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I’m just going to be blunt right now with my opinion about this movie. If you do not like the sound of this movie because of the, quite frankly, delicate subject matter that’s hard to swallow, or if you have seen the film and do not like it for the same reasons I just mentioned, I 100% understand. This is one of the few times where I totally understand why you might or don’t like this movie. It’s definitely a tough film to sit through, and is probably the worst part about the film. It’s a revenge fantasy with a very, and I mean very, touchy subject. Sex and rape are fragile topics to use in stories, and you have to be extremely careful to execute it properly, or else it comes off as gimmicky or incredibly distasteful. It’s why I don’t fully respect animated films of this genre. They use sex as a means to get sloppy stories out there that gallivant around saying, “we have deep stories and commentary so the sex is part of the symbolism and the commentary!” It wants to be pro-feminist, and while some parts are done well, you have to keep reminding yourself of the horrific disturbing horrors that Jeanne had to go through to get these “pro-feminist” sequences. Also, for an animated film, it has very little animation. I can sort of understand if the fluid animation was used for artistic purposes, but this film is mostly panning shots over still images. I know this was 1973, but even then animation was starting to have fluid movement. Maybe because of the abstract art, but they have sequences where there is movement in the abstract art, so it’s confusing to know what kind of budget this film had. The film even ends on a still shot of the famous painting Liberty Leading the People. It works in the grand scheme of the film, but it’s a film with complex art that can be more distracting than focused.

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So, outside of the rough subject matter, what is good about this movie? Well, unlike a lot of films in this sub-genre of animation, I actually feel like it does this type of story and style of film the best. You want to make sure Jeanne gets back at the royal scumbags that ruined her life, and feel badly for what happened to her. You want to see her stand up to the society that ruined her, and you want the ones that screwed her over six feet underground.  I think why these types of films fail is because they focus so much on the shock and awe of having sexual themes and visuals, but forget to have a coherent story and likable characters that don’t learn a lesson or develop as characters.

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The animation and visuals are outstanding. For an animated film from 1973, this is one of the prettiest and visually abstract films I have ever seen. Sure, the animation itself is very limited, but when it does happen, it’s fluid, and looks better than most anime from that time period. I also adore how it doesn’t look like traditional Japanese animation. It doesn’t have any of the usual tropes you see with the art form, and it looks great. It also matches the visuals with a daunting and down tone. The atmosphere perfectly brings you into a world of dread and 70s acid trips. The studio that made this movie went all out to make the most challenging film of its time period. Fun fact, the studio that did make this movie actually went out of business because how ambitious Belladonna of Sadness was. It’s also partly a pro-feminist movie with how the female lead is going against authority, and how women were perceived at that time. Granted, I wish this came without the very touchy subject, and to me, it’s not the smoothest with its pro-feminist themes, but I still like that Jeanne was a very strong woman.

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Like I have mentioned above, if you cannot get into this film or don’t like it for its subject matter and story, I perfectly understand and won’t deny that this will have a very small appeal to people not into films and animation. I still very much enjoyed Belladonna of Sadness, and do plan on watching it again, and think it’s an ambitious piece of cinema. If you want to pick up a copy, you can get it on Blu-ray that comes with a cool little 16-page booklet. Well, now that we got this interesting piece of lost cinema out of the way, next time, we will be looking at Kubo and the Two Strings. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!!

The Other Side of Animation 52: The Little Prince 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!)

In the field of animation in terms of animated films, you can always tell when an animated film was made with passion, and when one is made for the bottom dollar. When you watch a film that had love and effort put into it, you hear timeless dialogue, well written jokes, an engaging story, and a film that you want to re-watch multiple times. It’s a film you know you want to buy day one when it hits store shelves. When you see a cynical project, while it might hide behind good animation, and a stellar cast, you can tell through the same elements of story, characters, dialogue, the humor, and so on where you understand that this was made less by a studio of talented animators, and more like a bunch of higher-ups who have no idea what they are doing, and use focus groups to think what would make a good memorable movie. It’s sadly something that is going to take a while to change, but luckily, when a passion-filled project does come out, and you see how much effort and thought was put into it, it makes the experience enjoyable. This is where the recently released The Little Prince fits in. This is an American/French collaboration with the director of the first Kung Fu Panda, Mark Osbourne. It was originally set to be released in theaters in the states March of this year by Paramount, but for one reason or another, they dropped it. Some say it would have been dealing with big releases during that time, but if I have learned anything this year, The Little Prince would have had no competition besides Zootopia and The Jungle Book, due to the Hollywood machine putting out more flops and underperformers of projects no one wanted. Luckily, it was picked up by Netflix and was released on August 5th. So, what do I think of this movie? Let’s check it out!

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While this film is about the book, The Little Prince, it actually has a lot more in common with a film I love, The Fall. Essentially, a small girl, voiced by Mackenzie Foy, lives with her mother, voiced by Rachel McAdams, and a father who is always away at work. While training and getting prepared to be accepted into a high-end academy, the girl ends up befriending an eccentric old man named the Aviator, voiced by Jeff Bridges. Over the course of their friendship, the little girl learns about the story that the Aviator wrote, known as The Little Prince, a story about a young boy with the same name, voiced by Riley Osborne. Will the young girl learn to grow up, but never forget about childhood?

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So, is what’s great and interesting about this film? Well, to the few that may have not have watched this movie, the film is not just about The Little Prince. It actually uses the book itself as a device for the themes of the film. Now, is that a bad thing, like some critics make it out to be? I mean, it is called The Little Prince, and it should be about the book. However, I feel like the critics who can’t get past the fact that this isn’t 100% about the book, and this is probably the only time I’m ever going to say it, they didn’t get it. They were too set on this film being a 100% adaptation of a rather short book. They act like the additions to the story are as bad as the live action Dr. Seuss books. I guess what I and a majority of people who saw this movie are trying to say is, we disagree. For me, like I mentioned above, I saw a film called The Fall, and it essentially has the same set-up, with an older male character telling a story to a little girl, and how it symbolically relates to the real-life situation of the characters. Seriously, there are a lot of ways you can connect the characters from The Little Prince book with what’s going on with the little girl in the real world. It’s quite in-depth and smart for a film aimed at the whole family. I love a bunch of the symbolic elements, like how the Conceited Man, voiced by Ricky Gervais, represents the ideal of becoming something that is constantly applauded. Or how the Businessman can be connected to how the little girl thinks of her father. I know the theme of “forgetting about your childhood and losing your inner child” might not be the biggest topic as of right now, but in a way, it kind of is. In a world where it seems like there is nothing, but dread on the news, inexplicable presidential politics, violence every other week, and so on, I bet it could feel very daunting to be a kid growing up in this world we live in right now. While it is good to grow up and become more developed as a human being, don’t forget about your childhood.

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I hear some people say the CGI animation is not good, but seriously, have you seen how bad European CGI animation can be? Have you seen The Snow Queen or Sir Billie? Heck, on the contrary, The Little Prince looks amazing. The textures look fantastic, the characters move fluidly, and the designs are very Pixarish in the best way possible. So many films try to have that Pixar and DreamWorks look, and this film captures it perfectly. I mean, it is directed by the guy who was in charge of the original Kung Fu Panda. Of course, one of the biggest elements talked about with this movie is its combination of both CGI animation and stop-motion. The stop-motion looks amazing. It looks like paper craft, and the designs of the CGI models translate well to and from the stop-motion. It’s a beautiful movie, with also a great soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, Richard Harvey, and female singer, Camille.

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I really have no problems with this movie. I kept trying to find a major problem, and I honestly couldn’t. Yeah, I wish there were more stop-motion moments, but there are enough to feel special, and don’t overstay their welcome. I guess my only real complaint is that I wish there was going to be a more wide-spread physical release of the film here in the states. Everywhere else in the world it gets one, and I know Netflix has no plans in releasing their own properties onto other viable formats. Still, I wish I could get my hands on a US copy of the film because I want to see how this film was made, with behind-the-scenes features and interviews with the director and voice actors, something we could have gotten if this film was picked up by GKIDS.

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I really freaking love this movie. It has the passion and timeless feel of an animated film that you rarely see these days. Easily one of the top three best animated films of 2016. It’s such a shame that Paramount Pictures decided to drop this flick. Still, if you live in the states and have Netflix, watch this movie. If you live anywhere else in the world and can buy a copy of the film, then go buy it. Well, while I do wish there were more movies like this, next time, we will be looking at a more polarizing film with Belladonna of Sadness. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essential

 

The Other Side of Animation 51: The Painting 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!)

Every once in a while, after reviewing a huge amount of tripe, you need a pallet-cleanser. You need something that is creative, admirable, and in the end, a fantastic movie. It’s always a refreshing experience after you have watched multiple bad adaptations in a row, and one of those adaptations has one of the most infuriating characters I have ever seen (yes, I am talking about…..). This is why I decided to go to one of my favorite films from recent years, The Painting. This is a beautiful CGI-animated film by Jean-Francois Laguionie, who is the director of Gwen, or the Book of Sand. This is a visually exquisite CGI-animated film, with some of the most creative imagery in any animated film that I have ever seen. It has a few flaws, but how good is The Painting in terms of GKIDS-distributed films? Well, let’s find out.

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The Painting’s story takes place inside, well, a painting where there is definitely a hierarchy in terms of how the people in the painting live. You have the Alldunns, people who are fully painted, the Halfies, people who are not completely painted, and the doodle-like Sketchies. Through a curious case of events, a male Alldunn, a female Halfie, and a male Sketchie team up to go find The Painter, who is pretty much their god, in order to get him to come back and finish everyone so there isn’t this needless hate for one another in the painting. In an interesting twist, the female Halfie ends up falling out of their painting and into the real world. She and the others then go on adventures by entering new paintings, meeting new characters, and end up learning about the actual fate of the person that created them.

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Essentially, what you are getting is Inception, but with paintings, and that’s not a bad thing. I find the whole idea that these characters inside paintings can jump to and from a painting, and that the characters don’t want to conform to the ideals that are inside each painting. I like the different locations, like a painting where two armies fight for no other reason other than that is what they were painted doing, or a painting of Venice, Italy being a never-ending party. There is even a lot of visual wonder with the painting the three main leads are from, with a forest of giant flowers. It’s a very interesting set-up, with some creative visuals that really give this CGI animation some personality and its own identity that elevates this adventure film above the rest.

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Speaking of animation, the animation in this film is great. I know I usually criticize European animation for their misuse of CGI in the past, because, yes, it’s distracting when the art direction doesn’t translate well to CGI, but due to the paint-like look of the film, it definitely allows the CGI to look better in terms of fluid movement, while giving the film its own look. They even find a way to make the CGI look good when they are in the real world. It’s honestly on par with Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Since this is a film about painting, the color pallet is bright and vibrant, with some quite whimsical designs that are visually pleasing to look at. I also love the different designs you see on the characters when the heroes bring back the paint. In terms of the characters, they are simple. The male lead is a romantic, the Sketchie is cynical, and the Halfie is the calm collected individual. However, they don’t come off as annoying or forgettable, and their goals are understandable. I found the ending to also be quite wonderful, with how the painter talks about that while the individuals in the painting thought they were imperfect, the creator sees the beauty in the incomplete. In a way, it’s like real art. What you might see as flawed or ugly, someone else could see as beautiful and abstract. Sure, sometimes certain art is indeed pretentious, and is just as bad as you think it is, but it’s all going to be different for each individual. It’s a good message.

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If I had to complain about one thing about this movie, it would have to be that some of the elements are not fully explained. Like, how can our main leads exit through the painting, but others can’t without their help? Why are the giant flowers not actually aggressive? I can also see some people thinking the story is simple, but I think the story is deep enough to be enjoyable to everyone.

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The Painting is a creative and visually beautiful animated film. It’s definitely one of the more abstract films from GKIDS’ library of films. I would highly recommend picking up this film for its creative visuals and story. Next time, we move from a GKIDS classic, to a new modern day classic from Netflix, The Little Prince. Thanks for reading, I hope you all liked the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!!

The Other Side of Animation 50: Underdogs 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!)

 

Well, we are here yet again with another GOYA Award winner. I never made it my intention of criticizing/talking about this award system from Spain so much, but yet, it gives me a lot to talk about. When we live in a world where the movie-going individual has found admiration, respect, and love for animated films from overseas, it’s amazing how many clunkers there are that try to essentially be a DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, or any of the riffraff that isn’t those big three. You can definitely find some interesting stories with some of these films, like with today’s target, the Argentina/Spain collaboration, Underdogs. This film, which is also known as The Unbeatables in the UK, and Metegol in Argentina, Underdogs has a very, peculiar history of being brought over to the states. It was fully translated, dubbed by celebrities, and was (and still is) being distributed by The Weinstein Company here in the states. Unfortunately, it kept being pushed back multiple times in 2015, but a week before its actual release, it was pulled from the release schedule and is now on Netflix and is now available on DVD. Boy, doesn’t that sound frightening? It sounded like The Weinstein Company made a very big mistake in investing in this movie, which is why they released it when no one even remembers or cares about it. It kind of screws over the big stars they brought on board for this, like Ariana Grande, Katie Holmes, John Leguizamo, Nicholas Hoult, and Mel Brooks, to name a few. Then again, I haven’t heard one interview where they talked about it. So, did they want to make sure no one saw this for a reason? Is it a huge disaster? Well, let’s see what the damage is.

The story revolves around a young man named Jake, voiced by Matthew Morrison. He lives in a small town where he works at a bar as a busboy. One day he gets into an encounter with the town bully, Ace, voiced by Nicholas Hoult, and challenges him to a foosball game. Jake beats Ace at a game, and humiliates him in front of everyone in the town, and impresses his love interest, Lara, voiced by Ariana Grande. Seven years pass, and Ace returns to the town as one of the biggest soccer players in the world. Ace, being one who doesn’t take losing lightly (even when that loss happened seven years ago!), he decides to buy the town and ruin everyone’s’ lives. Jake falls into despair, and due to the miracle of lazy scriptwriting, a tear falls from his face onto a foosball figure and brings it to life. This horrifying little individual is Captain Skip, voiced by Taran Killam. He decides to help Jake beat Ace at soccer, and save Lara. Can Jake and his team of tiny foosball players (who don’t really do much but provide slapstick comedy and force the humans to do all the work during the actual soccer match) save the day?

To be honest, I can see why this film was, how you say, quietly shown the door. The animation is not very good. Part of that reason is that a lot of the character designs are unappealing and quite frankly ugly-looking. Sometimes, a design doesn’t translate well from paper to CGI. There is a reason why Pixar and Disney have a set style for their characters, because they are appealing to look at. The only times the animation gets decent is during the soccer sequences, and even then, it’s still not impressive in the slightest. It’s like watching an action anime where you know the entire budget went into the action sequences, and what little was left went into making the other elements of the film passable. The resolution of the textures is just painful to look at. The voice acting was also very spotty, where the dub didn’t match the lip movements, and the actors didn’t care that they are getting paid to, you know, act! It’s like they went with a practice take, and didn’t need anything else! It doesn’t help the film either that the plot is not focused. It has boring characters, a romance that isn’t earned, and probably one of the most pathetic villains I have ever seen. Oh yeah, let’s talk about one of the top 5 most pathetic villains in all of cinema. Ace loses a foosball match, leaves for seven years, comes back, and basically ruins the small town because he was humiliated by that one match. How much of a pathetic waste of air do you have to be to have that ruin your entire life? Heck, the logic in this film makes no sense. Why would an entire town be afraid of one punk kid? It’s not like there isn’t a police force there, you see policemen, why didn’t they just billy-club the punk for being a terror of the town, and send him to jail? Why is there a magical tear in this movie? How do the other foosball players come alive when they weren’t hit by a magical plot item? Why was there genetic mutation going on, and yet is never brought up again? This entire film tries to pretzel itself with all these ideas to make sense, but it ends up with a pretzel with too many twist and turns. It’s also overbaked, and sits like a rock inside your belly when you eat it. There is zero satisfaction with watching this film from beginning to end. You just don’t freaking care about anyone, since the film doesn’t take time to develop anyone outside of one-dimensional tropes. It ends with a Rocky-style “the bad guy wins, but everyone loves the underdog!”, but it’s so boring, tired, and again, it doesn’t feel earned, and yes, you don’t even care!

So, was there anything I liked about this movie? Well, I sort of liked the little foosball players. Granted, most of the time, they were annoying, and John Leguizamo, god bless him, was trying, but he came off as grating most of the time. That being said, those little guys were definitely much more interesting than the actual humans. I also liked one joke, but that is not a sign of positivity in a film that isn’t funny or at all watchable.

Funny enough, the biggest piece of praise you can give this film is that it was smart enough to stay straight-to-DVD. They didn’t pull a Norm of the North and shove it into theaters, which I think was the original idea. Luckily for The Weinstein Company, they should know that I knew about the movie, and will make sure they, and everyone else, knows that they released a terrible movie. It’s easily the second worst animated film I have seen in 2016. Again, the only reason it’s not number one with Norm of the North, is because The Weinstein Company knew they would get crucified for releasing this waste of time on the big screens. I don’t get how this became popular, besides it being popular in countries that treat soccer as a religion. This is just pure garbage, and no, this might not have been an American-made film, but saying “I shouldn’t be criticizing this film because it was super popular in other countries” is pure ignorant bullocks. There are so many films from foreign countries that have come out over here, and were and still are amazing. The only reason this film was at all popular was because it is focused around a sport that everyone else treats like it’s the only thing worth living for. Plus, Spain and South America have made amazing animated films, like Boy and the World and Wrinkles, so there is no excuse for “it’s a country not known for animation”, since there have been amazing films that can quite frankly be better than what we make here in the states. Avoid this movie at all cost, and not even for a bad movie night. Just don’t waste your time on this horrendous excuse for animation. You know what? After watching so much schlock, I’m going to do as many positive film reviews as possible, so next time, we look at The Painting. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review, and I hope you don’t buy this movie. See you all next time

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 49: Batman: The Killing Joke 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!)

PARENTAL WARNING/HEADS UP: This film is not for younger audiences. It has cursing, brutal violence, and scenes of consensual sex, and applied sexual assault. It is not for a young viewing audience, and you should definitely skip out on this if you plan on watching it with your kids. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

This is going to be an interesting topic to talk about, due to today’s review. Have you ever watched a movie that you either love, enjoy, or hate, but then find that one scene that everyone talks about or notices about the film at hand, and it hurts the movie on many different levels? For example, the ending to From Up on Poppy Hill bothers me, even though I love the entire movie. The conclusion is so abrupt, and has no real closure for the viewers. They get the answer to their long requested, well, question, and then the credits roll. Heck, a lot of Japanese animated films do these abrupt endings, and it’s incredibly distracting, like in The Secret World of Arrietty, REDLINE, and Whisper of the Heart. The Wings of Honneamise has an incredibly uncomfortable moment that is essentially the male lead almost assaulting the female lead, and then the movie tries to paint it like it’s the female lead’s fault that it happened. Yeah, when you spot these moments, they can lead to a lot of problems in terms of the execution of said scenes, and how they impact the overall film. That’s why I decided to talk about the recently released (digitally at least) Batman: The Killing Joke. Directed by Sam Liu, produced by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, with a script and story written by Brian Azzarello, The Killing Joke was definitely one of the more infamous events during the San Diego Comic Con of this year, with the controversy of the additional 30 minutes of story added to the original 45 minute run-time. It also got a lot of heat for a specific scene 19 minutes into the movie where Batgirl and Batman have sex. Yeah, we will get to that part in due time and talk about it. The overall reception of its release digitally (physical release in August) has definitely been mixed with much criticism aimed at the additional 30 minutes and the apparent sex scene. Anyway, what do I think of it? Well, let’s find out.

The Killing Joke is based off of the 20 or so paged graphical novel of the same name, revolving around The Joker, voiced by the always amazing Mark Hamill, essentially ruining the life of Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, voiced by the also always amazing Tara Strong. The Joker essentially shoots Batgirl in the spine, causing her to be paralyzed, and kidnaps her father. It’s up to Batman, voiced by the also excellent Kevin Conroy, to stop The Joker and his schemes. The 30 minutes of additional footage are essentially about Batgirl taking down a sociopathic thug that has become obsessed with her while Batman attempts to teach Batgirl about not taking certain situations too far.

Yeah, let’s get to the biggest problem with this film, the additional 30 minutes. They have no reason to be there since they don’t connect to the main story. The thug Batgirl has to deal with is never brought up, or those incidences are never mentioned again from within the main plot of the film. They essentially said that they wanted to add more to Batgirl’s character so she isn’t just a plot item in the original story. I can respect that, but they don’t find a way to make it interesting enough to make the tragic thing that happens to her mean more. Instead of connecting the new footage and story with the obvious main villain, The Joker, they instead waste our time with what feels like a lost episode to one of the many Batman animated cartoons. They throw in this sociopath thug that has no real weight to the second half of the story. I have talked to a few people, saying that the thug is essentially Batgirl’s version of The Joker, but still. Not to say what happens to Batgirl and this thug wasn’t deep and scary, but if you are going to simply dump him in the second half, then why have him at all? Why not do what Jessica Jones did with Jessica and Purple Man? That could have given the reason for  The Joker to be obsessed with wanting to partly ruin her life in the main story. Have her humiliate The Joker in one of his heists, and then have him escape and cause the deed that made the original story infamous, or have The Joker be humiliated by the Gotham police which triggers him to “do the deed”. I know giving  The Joker logical thinking would be odd, but hearing him talk in this film made him seem like a logical individual (even if he is still a bit nutty). Now then, let’s talk about the notorious scene of Batgirl and Batman having sex on a rooftop. Thankfully, she is of legal age so it doesn’t get too creepy, but I have seen this happen a couple of times in the comics, and once in Batman Beyond, and, well, I don’t think it works. I never thought it worked having Batgirl be romantically tied to Batman. I can see her being sort of fan-girlish around him or like a daughter he never had, but sexually tied? Yeah, no. Also, it’s never mentioned again when the actual plot happens. It’s so infuriating to watch this movie, knowing that the additional footage really doesn’t do anything new with the actual plot, because there is some real good stuff in the later part of the film. They don’t even fix the main problem with The Killing Joke, where the incident of Batgirl getting shot and worse (I won’t say what was suggested happened to her), with how she was more of a plot element than an actual character or have any major reason to be there. They call this “Stuffed into the Fridge”. Essentially, something bad happens to a character just because they wanted it to happen.

By the way, this film got an R rating, and it really didn’t earn it. This is no more edgy than a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or Criminal Minds episode. This has to stop, really. Unless your movie deserves it, don’t think giving it an R rating is going to make it any more desirable. Just because Deadpool and Batman v Superman made it cool, doesn’t mean every movie needs to be doing it. Sometimes, having creative limitations can make you work harder on making a better product within the barrier. And whoever says you should enjoy this as two movies needs to go rework their logic. I don’t agree with that statement that you should enjoy both plots individually. The additional 30 minutes should have been connected to the main story, and it isn’t.

The animation and art is also a mixed bag. The designs of the characters are fine, and the voice work is excellent, but the animation itself is super janky. It feels very cheap. It comes off like the film’s budget went towards the action sequences and the voice actors. It’s definitely very distracting to see clunky animation for such a famous story in comic books. Even with some of the technical problems Justice League vs Teen Titans had, it still looks good in terms of animation.

So, what is good about this movie? Well, when you get to the actual plot, the story is creepy, atmospheric, and dark. Even though we have seen dark Batman and Joker storylines in animated form, like Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, this is probably one of the creepier stories with how far The Joker goes to break Commissioner Gordon. It’s easily one of the darkest moments ever in DC animation. The voice work is also excellent. It shouldn’t be a surprise with Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong delivering great performances. The two scens of The Joker talking to Gordon, and the ending conversation between Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are easily some of the best moments of DC animation.

I was hugely underwhelmed and annoyed by this movie. If the 30 minutes were done better, the Joker had more of a presence in the beginning with Batgirl, take out the pointless sex scene, and they fix the elements of the original story to be better, I think we could have one of the darkest and best written DC animated films around. I don’t agree with what Bruce Timm said in terms of defending what happens in the movie, and I think they should be ashamed they couldn’t find a better way to make the end product fantastic, which is a word I can’t use on any of the DC animated films that came out this year. If you love the original book or want to own every animated film made by DC, then by all means get it, but I can’t see myself buying this movie physically in the future. I have had a hard time thinking about where I would put this in terms of films, from worst to best of this year. I could argue and point out how terrible the first 30 minutes are, but could put it up in the middle ground area because the second half, while still having problems, is pretty fantastic. I guess I would just say to see it for yourself, and you tell me what you think. I might not like this movie, but believe me, I would rather watch Batman: The Killing Joke over and over, instead of what will be the 50th animation review. Thank you for reading, and see you all next time.

Rating: Lackluster

The Other Side of Animation 48: A Wind Named Amnesia 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!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEAD’S UP!!!: I am going to spoil this movie’s plot to get a point across. There is also female nudity seen at some scenes in the movie at the beginning and the end. There is also some light violence. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Hope you enjoy the review!

For such a visual medium that is animation and filmmaking, it’s amazing how talky and dialogue-heavy certain shows and films can be. We have all been there, where a film relies on a huge amount of dialogue that the viewer must digest. In a lot of ways, that can be a good thing. If the writing is good, we get creative or endearing characters. It lets us relax and take in the interactions of the individuals we are following and get to invest into. On the other hand, when it comes off that the writing isn’t that great, or the story and themes aren’t executed well, the film feels bloated and slow, like you can’t fully get into it because you are trying to resist the urge to close your eyes and get some sleep. This wouldn’t be an issue worth talking about, but we have seen films/media where the writing, or lack of writing in some cases, elevates the film. Sadly, when the writing is bad, then that bad writing gets worse when it tries to be deep and life-changing when it doesn’t have the context and substance to do so, and that is a major problem. This sad little problem is what ruins A Wind Named Amnesia. This Japanese-animated film from 1990 is an odd case, not because of the manga the film is based upon, but because of who is attached to it. The director of the adaptation is Kazuo Yamazaki, who has directed films and shows like SuperBook, The Samurai, Maison Ikkoku, Slayers the Motion Picture, Yumetsukai, and Five Star Stories. The writing was in the hands of an individual we will talk about at a later date named Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Any anime fans would know him for his films like Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. It was original distributed by Central Park Media, and was recently rereleased by Discotek Media. For its time, it had a load of positive reviews, but how does it hold up? Well, let’s find out.

The story takes place in 1999 in the United States. Two years before current day, a wind blew over the earth, resulting in everyone losing their memories and all of their intelligence, resulting in everyone regressing back to caveman intellect. The plot revolves around a young male named Wander. He, well, wanders across the US to find out what is going on. After encountering some feral humans and a giant robot, he takes it down the robot with the help of a mysterious woman named Sophia. They decided to travel together across the states seeing what life is now like with feral individuals.

So, let’s get the good out of the way first. I think the animation is pretty solid. It’s not mind-blowing, and sometimes it can be clunky, but it just reminds me of the days when everything was not digitally colored. At least, when the digital colors weren’t making everything look cheap. I also like the human designs. It just sticks out in terms of what you would normally see today in anime. In a world of anime that doesn’t look all that different from one another, unless your style sticks out like Akira Toriyama’s, this film really doesn’t have a lot of anime-style tropes or design choices in it besides the male lead’s look. Even though I’m about to rip this film apart, I will give the film credit for being a bit different than what we were getting at the time. I mean, back then, most anime was full of sex, blood, cursing, and violence, and no real plot or characters. I can totally see where people were coming from when they praised this film. If all I reviewed back then were terrible violent schlock titles, A Wind Named Amnesia would feel unique and awe-inspiring. It’s odd, since if you know anything about Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s work, it’s very different than what his usual work consists of.

Now, with all that praise out of the way, let’s dive into what this film gets horribly wrong. By the way, even though this is based on a manga, I don’t really care if I need to see the manga or not. I’m criticizing this movie as a movie. I am judging and criticizing what I saw through my experience of watching this movie. Let’s get started! This film’s plot is scattershot. It really doesn’t have too much of a focused narrative throughout the entire film, besides these mini-stories that are cobbled together to make a film to run up the 80 minute run-time. Now, in the past, I have praised films that take their time and shoot the breeze, like in The Rabbi’s Cat, but that’s because the characters were worth the brain power to focus on. A Wind Named Amnesia doesn’t really have great characters. Wander is boring, and Sophia is a horrible character, but we will get to that point soon. It’s funny how this film does have a set goal, but then decides to take as many detours as possible to these areas that could have been interesting, but due to the execution of the plot and characters, they come off as pointless, since they are never mentioned again. For example, they run into a tribe of people who are trying to sacrifice this woman to a giant construction vehicle that they see as a literal God. Another encounter has them coming to this huge high-tech city that is run by a computer and only has two other humans living there who can also speak. The overall plot feels like it’s has all these neat ideas, and maybe they are explained or fleshed out better in the manga, but they never feel fully thought out or executed in the most correct way in the film. There is even this stupid robot thing that chases them throughout the film that is way too determined to kill these two people. Overall it seems like a film that could have either used a longer running time, or be turned into a mini-series.

Now then, let’s get to the biggest failing of the film, Sophia. Later on in the film (spoilers), it turns out that Sophia is actually an alien from outer space that has been watching the human race for thousands of years. When they saw that the humans learned space travel, they thought we were going to be a threat and decided to send the wind down onto the planet sending the human race back thousands of years.  Yeah, that’s bad enough that they went with a twitch reaction to us finally learning how to get into space, but Sophia also explains that it was supposedly for our own good. Yeah, deem one race of aliens too dangerous so you wipe them of their intellect and have them mostly start off like cavemen. It’s so messed up and hilariously awful how these advanced alien beings thought we were going to be a threat, when we should be considering the aliens a threat, because they have a weapon that can wipe the minds of any living beings, and have been watching us for over a thousand years. This wouldn’t be so bad if Sophia wasn’t constantly being condescending towards human lives and ideals, and spewing half-baked arguments like, “you shouldn’t force your will on others”, when what she is essentially doing is forcing her will on the male lead by saying he shouldn’t go save a girl or question why this advanced alien race would find humans a threat. The film even tries to make it like what Sophia did was the right thing in the end. Sophia is quite honestly, one of the worst female characters/characters I have ever seen. This whole film then turns into a tripe and sloppily cobbled-together mess of “humans need to learn or else they will kill each other” kind of message, and it’s preachy and indulgent without the proper substance to back up its claims. All because this one incredibly condescending group of aliens thought we were going to be an issue.

I can’t give a bigger “thumbs down” to this film. A Wind Named Amnesia is one of the worst animated films I have ever seen.  It might even be in my top 10 worst, due to a boring story, uninteresting/unlikable characters, and pompous philosophical commentary. Yes, for its time, this film stood out, but now, it doesn’t hold up. Maybe the manga is better and doesn’t give the audience the big “screw you”, but I will never know, since any film should be good whether you have read the source material or not. Well, next time, we will look at the infamous Batman: The Killing Joke, and how to ruin a story by adding 30 additional minutes. Thanks for reading, Hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 46: Tarzan (2013) 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!)

With a new film released about the man among apes, Tarzan, called The Legend of Tarzan, I decided to get on the bandwagon, and review something, well, Tarzan related. Since I review animated films, I tried to find one that wasn’t the classic Disney film. So, what I did find was a CGI animated film from Germany. Yeah, we are heading into some weird and horrible territory. Tarzan was released back in 2013 in Russia (odd, since it’s a German-animated film), but made it stateside, and everywhere else in 2014. The film was directed by Reinhard Klooss, and animated in motion-capture. I remember nothing about this film’s marketing, Not even a trailer or one ad online. All I have read about this film are the reviews, and boy, the reviews were not kind at all. So, do we have one of the worst animated films of all time? Let’s find out.

While the film does follow a bit of the story of Tarzan, with his parents getting killed off, and Tarzan now being raised by gorillas, that’s pretty much any similarities this film has with the original source material. What does the plot follow in this film? Well, during the age of the dinosaurs, a meteor crash-landed into Africa, and holds a limitless and powerful energy inside it. Skip to modern day where Tarzan (this time, he is American and not British, for some reason), played by Kellan Lutz, meets a bumbling scientist and his daughter, Jane, played by Spencer Locke. They team up and have to stop Clayton, played by Trevor St. John, from destroying the environment and obtaining that meteor. Can Tarzan save the day? Can this film waste my time and give me time I will never get back?

Boy, where do I start with this film? I seriously had a hard time writing this because there is way too much wrong with this movie to put into a nicely organized line. I guess I will start out with the animation. This film was advertised that it was made heavily using motion-capture technology. Listen, this kind of technology is still very impressive to me, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal, since this was made a few years after the closure of Image Movers Digitals, the studio behind films like Polar Express and Beowulf. To be frank, this kind of technology doesn’t really make for great animation for films. Sometimes you can work around it, but it always looks clunky, and the character models clash with the more realistic designs and movements because of the motion-capture. The human character models are too cartoony looking, and the proportions never look right. Sometimes the scenery views are pretty to look at, but then you have to go back to 2013 video game CGI models. It’s extremely distracting. I don’t mean to draw parallels to the Disney Tarzan film that came out 17 years ago, but the Disney film used the medium to its advantage. You remember how cool, fluid, and fun it was to watch Tarzan slide, slip, ride, and swing on vines and trees, due to the animators taking the movements from extreme sports athletes, and how they would make Tarzan look like he was surfing/skating on those vines? It was freaking amazing. Unfortunately, due to the limitation of motion-capture or lack of creativity, watching the somewhat ugly character models move is boring and off-putting. The reason why I harp on this film’s character design so much is because they use rather realistic animals, and they don’t mix with the Barbie-dollish look of the characters. It worked in films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, because they had consistency with all the characters.  The character models also don’t have very expressive eyes, and look dead half of the time. Why does it seem so hard to animate eyes?

Another giant problem with the film is the setting. Why modernize the setting with helicopters, automatic rifles, and mp3 players? It was timeless with the original setting. Why did they make Tarzan American? I mean, really? Why was his nationality changed? Why is there a sci-fi and environmental element to the film? It really makes no sense, nor does either element have any reason besides being the McGuffin of the story. Seriously the meteor really has no reason to be there. What was wrong with this story being just about Tarzan growing up among the gorillas? Why is there an evil gorilla at the beginning? What was wrong with the relationship between Tarzan and the father gorilla? Another incredibly amateur-hour story bit they brought in was these guardian monkeys that are in this movie that protect the area around the meteor. Well, technically, that’s wrong. They don’t live in the area where the meteor landed, but in the outskirts of the jungle surrounding the meteorite landing area, and they do nothing throughout the entire movie. They don’t really protect anything, and just sit there. Also, did the creators of this movie ever go to Africa? Because Africa in this film is like the most bipolar country, apparently since it not only has a barren wasteland where the meteor landed, but active volcanos, and large snow-covered mountains. And yes, I did look it up and see that in some parts of Africa, there is snow, but apparently it’s not enough for skiing, which is the complete opposite of this movie. Oh, and apparently, Africa has cassowaries (big, flightless birds) even though they are not native to Africa, and giant monstrous vine creatures, made due to the energy the meteor is giving off.

I don’t usually want to sound harsh, but these actors for this film were terrible. I now swear that Kellan Lutz is box office poison, since none of the films he has been in did particularly well, including Legend of Hercules, Immortals, and Expendables 3. I felt like no one gave a really compelling performance, and that’s either because they have never voice acted before, the director in charge of the actors was asleep, or the actors didn’t really care. They even throw in this really forced and really awkward narrator that also has no purpose, and sounds like he was rushing his lines to get out of that recording booth as quickly as possible. The side characters aren’t really side characters, since they have no dimension or personality to them. They were there just because. It feels like that was the line used when people questioned why this film had so many odd and nonsensical changes to it.

Seriously, that is the one term I would use for this movie, “No one really cared”. There was really no effort into making this a good movie. It almost seemed as if they were forced to work on this film when they had no interest in it. No one put any effort into making this film even remotely close to the source material. Say what you will about Disney’s Tarzan film, but at least they kept it pretty similar in a lot of ways to the original source material. The overall product feels like this cynical Hollywood cash-grab that was made for no other reason than to get made.

So, under this massive waste of time, is there something that can be salvaged that would be considered good? Well, not really, but I did enjoy some of the scenery of the jungle. I also sort of enjoyed the quiet moments that were put in between the rest of the bad story and acting. I wish there were more films that were more about no dialogue, like The Illusionist, since you can watch that movie and get what is going on without one tiny bit of dialogue.

Once again, with no exaggeration for the sake of comedy, the 2013 (2014 for the states) CGI-animated Tarzan is one of my top 10 worst animated films of all time. It might even be in my top five worst animated films of all time. How could the studio and the director do such a half-baked nonsensical adaptation of something that isn’t that hard to adapt into film or into CGI animation? Heck, the overall plot really has nothing to do with the source material, with it taking place in modern times, and this pointless, forced, stupid, brain-dead sci-fi/environmental plot point that has no reason to be there. This is also on top of characters that are boring and or annoying, a narrator that is awkwardly put in, and is also quite purposeless, and animation that isn’t all that great due to being limited by the motion-capture. It’s one of the worst cases of motion-capture as well. There might be a nice environmental shot here or there, but those few second shots don’t save the film by any means. Avoid this movie at all costs, like an angry silverback gorilla coming at you. Do not buy this movie. Don’t even rent it for a bad movie night. If you want to see Tarzan in animated form done right, or at the very least, done in not such an insulting way, watch the great Disney film, or check out Legend of Tarzan. I sure as heck know that it will be more worth your time than this pointless adaptation. Boy, while the next review is of an adaptation, I can at least say it was much more enjoyable than Tarzan. Next time, we look at the animated version of The BFG. Thanks for reading. I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 45: The Prophet 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!)

Well, my next couple of reviews will be of adaptations of books, and yes, I’m going to be on the side of the idea that a film needs to be for everyone, and not just for the vocal minority fans of the source material. I agree that the source material should be well respected in the movie form, but if it doesn’t make for a great movie, in terms of characters and story execution, then it doesn’t really matter. Like I have mentioned in a previous review, there is only so much that fan service can cover until the flaws show up. After talking to a friend and fellow film critic, I decided to make a chart of sorts as to what makes a good film adaptation and what makes a bad one. On the bad side, you have films like Green vs Red and Vampire Hunter D. Vampire Hunter D is a sloppy adaptation of the manga that doesn’t let the people, who have never heard of the franchise, into its world by explaining what the heck is going on, why things are as they are, or talk about many little details like D’s freaky hand thing. Green vs Red is a poorly put together special that focuses too much on making winks, nods, and references to the franchise, and fails in making a compelling movie. On the good side of the chart, you have films like Ernest & Celestine, The LEGO Movie, Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro, How to Train your Dragon series, 1989 Batman, and a majority of the Marvel films like Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ant Man. You can watch these movies and not even know jack squat about the source material. In that middle area of the chart, you get films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. You can still watch the movie, enjoy or hate it for what it is, but it isn’t a perfect translation from source material to film. So, with that entire chart now laid out, where does The Prophet rest? This film is based on Kahlil Gibran’s book of the same name. It was released in August of 2015, produced by Salma Hayek among others, distributed by GKIDS, and was directed by Roger Allers. If you know anything about animation, then you know Roger Allers was the co-director of The Lion King, and has worked on many animated classics and cult classics like Animalympics, Rock & Rule, The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Emperor’s New Groove, and The Little Matchgirl. Another noteworthy element of the film is that at different points in it, scenes will be animated by different directors, and we will get to who the directors are in good time. So, how good is this film? Can you watch it without knowing the source material, or do you have to get out your tablet and download the book? Let’s find out.

The story follows a young mute girl named Almitra, voiced by Quvenzhane Wallis (Beast of the Southern Wilds, Annie). She is a little girl known for being a bit of a pest who upsets her mother Kamila, voiced by Salma Hayek. One day, Almitra decides to go to where her mother works as a maid cleaning up a house that is occupied by a “dangerous” criminal named Mustafa, voiced by Liam Neeson. Almitra befriends Mustafa, and the story then moves to Mustafa being deported from the country he detained in, and his many encounters with the townfolk as he drops them philosophical words of wisdom.

I am really excited to talk about the good elements of this film. During the philosophical essay parts of the film, each sequence is directed by a different director, and some of the essays are turned into songs sung by Damien Rice and the duo of Lisa Hannigan & Glen Hansard. Many of the essays focus on topics of love, children, war, death, marriage, and life. I know hearing the word “philosophical” sounds like you are about to get an earful of some angsty college professor or student thinking they are trying to make what they are saying deeper than it really is, but these essays actually have weight to them. They never sounded like they were aiming for something they couldn’t hit or a bunch of tripe that sounds important and deep, but isn’t. It all works pretty well when you throw in Liam Neeson’s calm and majestic voice. Neeson actually brings weight to the essays, and is just so soothing to listen to. I know it is easy to make fun of Liam Neeson due to his recent film endeavors, but he really puts his A+ game into this role. He makes Mustafa a very likable individual, who really wants to show the world there is a way to solve your conflicts without the need for violence. And really, that whole mindset is why he was a prisoner in the first place. He was bringing hope to people who are under a military rule. The government got afraid by his words, since they brought hope and optimism to the people they ruled over. Granted, the overall story is pretty lightweight, due to how it is really set up to focus on the essays, but you still care about the characters involved.

The animation is definitely a beautiful combination of 2D animation and CGI character models. When the film isn’t on an essay, the animation is CGI models on a 2D background. It sometimes looks a bit off, and the movements can be clunky, but it’s a consistently good looking cartoon CGI with pleasant designs. When it gets to the essays, each one is a different art style, with the directors pulling off amazingly beautiful sequences. Seriously, this is some of the best animation you will see in this decade. It is filled with so much passion and love that you can tell the creators put their all into each sequence. The directors for these moments include Tomm Moore (Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells), Paul and Gaetan Brizzi (Asterix Versus Casesar, DuckTales the Movie, TaleSpin, A Goofy movie, Tarzan, Enchanted, and 9), Joan C. Gratz (Candyjam, Mona Lisa Descending A Staircase, Lost and Found, and Kubla Khan), Mohammed Saeed Harib (Freej), Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues), Bill Plympton (Idiots & Angels, I Married a Strange Person, Cheatin’, and Mutant Aliens), Joann Sfar (The Rabbi’s Cat), and Michal Socha (Chick and Loop). You have some pretty amazing powerhouses here, who have all worked on films with wildly different visuals and styles, and they put their own touches into each of the sequences. The voice acting is also pretty good, with a solid cast including Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Joh Keasinski, and Frank Langella.

If I had to nitpick a few elements of this film, it would be that Quvenzhane Wallis’s acting is not the best. Her voice acting is a bit clunky, and I can forgive this since this was probably her first time doing voicework. I also found a few lines to stick out too much due to how timeless the rest of the film feels. It’s not DreamWorks pop culture lingo bad or anything close to that, but they stick out nonetheless. I also wish the entire film was 2D animated. Like I said, the CGI character models are nice and do have expressive and fluid animation, but when it gets a little clunky, it’s noticeable. Still, I have seen CGI animation at its clumsiest, so I can give it a pass. Really, these minor complaints don’t take away a lot from the overall film.

To me, The Prophet is a fantastic movie, with likable characters, deep messages, and astounding animation. If you can get the film, I highly recommend doing so. I would consider it a new modern classic that everyone should check out. It’s so much more ambitious and different than what we usually get to see today, and shows how amazing the field of animation can be. This is definitely one of GKIDS’ best films. Well, next time, we go from well done philosophy, to one of the worst adaptations in film history with Tarzan. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and see you all next time

Rating: Criterion/Essenstials

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

The Other Side of Animation 43: Lupin the 3rd Special Part 3: Lupin the 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone 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!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is cursing and female nudity. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the reviews!

Here we are, the final part of this three-part Lupin the 3rd special. If you had to ask me what elements make the Lupin the 3rd franchise great, it would be rather simple. You have to have a solid heist, a creative and fun execution of said heist, great interaction between the main characters, and be a lot of fun to watch. It might sound simple, but you won’t believe how many times something that seems so easy, could be so horribly messed up. Green vs Red was a prime example of this whole ordeal, because it focused so much on one element, but forgot to give just as much focus to the other elements. It resulted in a boring story, and an experience I feel like isn’t worth the price of entry. At the very least, due to a franchise that has been around for over 40 years, there are plenty of specials and films to look at, and for me, one of the better gems of the franchise comes in the form of Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. This special was a spin-off two-part event that rides on the coattails of the 13-episode series, Lupin the 3rd: The Woman called Fujiko Mine. Jigen’s Gravestone was released back in 2014 in Japan, and was recently released by Discotek Media with their very first dub job. This special can also be seen as a starting point for the newest TV series that you can watch on Crunchyroll if that is your thing. So, how good is this special? Well, let’s put on our best blue coats, and check it out.

The film takes place after The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, but before Lupin the 3rd: Part 4. It once again stars our loveable thief, Lupin, voiced by Keith Silverstein, and who now dons a blue jacket. He is with his partner- in-crime, Jigen Daisuke, voiced by long-time voice actor, Dan Woren. During a job to obtain a precious stone, the plan goes belly-up. The two escape with the stone, but it just so happens that they are in a country known for its high-class security. If making a challenging escape wasn’t bad enough, the two of them are being stalked/hunted by a hitman named Yael Okuzaki, voiced by Jamieson Price. By the way, this is all going on with a background story of two nations, East and West Doroa, trying to make a peace agreement, and the queen of East Doroa was assassinated during a concert while in West Doroa. Is there a way to stop this madness, and what does the sub-plot with Fujiko Mine have to do with the overall situation?

One of the best elements of this special is how focused it all feels. There is pretty much one plot of Lupin and Jigen trying to find out what is going on while avoiding Yael Okuzaki, and uncovering the fiasco that was the assassination. It leads to some great action sequences that are intense. It’s always good to see the heroes struggle. When you have characters that are over-powerful, you don’t feel like investing your time with them, since you know they will always be okay. The best part about any film or any kind of story is having characters you can relate to. It’s like watching early Steven Segal films, the lead-in Sword for Truth or Damian Wayne in any of the current DC animated films. They are strong characters, but since nothing can’t stop them or cause them to struggle, you lose interest. This is also pretty shocking in terms of the struggles you see in Jigen’s Gravestone. Jigen is one of the best, if not, the best sharpshooter of all time. He can take down anything with a well-placed shot from his revolver. However, this movie brings in the hitman Yael Okuzaki, who actually beats him. Think about it. The best sharpshooter in anime/animation history loses a fight against someone better than him. Granted, you find out how Yael is able to be so good, later on in the special, but you get the idea. Even the ever agile Lupin gets knocked around. Sure, everything wraps up nicely in usual Lupin-style, but I was kept invested with the characters and the story until the end. I actually enjoyed the chemistry between Lupin’s light-hearted attitude and Jigen’s more stoic stubbornness. Yael is also a cool villain. He uses a special sniper rifle that is just the bare minimum of weight, and can shoot at extremely precise targets. Not only that, but he is also a great duelist, and drives a hot rod with a chain gun in the engine. He is a pretty imposing figure each time he is on screen.

For an hour-long spin-off, the special has some great and expressive animation. I love this look from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and what is similar to the style of the newest TV series. It updates the visuals with thicker lines and smoother animation, while having more retro/exaggerated anime designs. The ending theme song Revolver Fires is also delightfully cheesy in terms of being a very James Bond-sounding theme song. The voice work is also well-done. It’s Discotek Media’s first dub, and the actors they hired were great. Keith Silverstein (Vector the Crocodile in the Sonic franchise, and Robin from Batgirl: Year One) is a good Lupin, the ever-popular Dan Woren (Roy Fokker from Robotech, Rene D’Anclaude from Armitage III, Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach, Jagi from Fist of the North Star movie, and Chapel the Evergreen from Trigun) does a solid job as Jigen, and Jamieson Price (Jelly Jiggler from Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo) is intimidating as Yael. The other actors from this special, including Kirk Thornton, Richard Epcar, and Cristina Vee, all do good jobs in their roles as Mamo, Zenigata, and Fujiko Mine, but they aren’t really the focus of this special.

I have a few problems with this special. First off is the pacing. The overall special is paced well enough to keep you invested, but for one reason or another, they cut the special in half. This means you get to hear the cheesy ending theme twice. I feel like there was no reason to do this. This isn’t The Hateful 8 in regards to length where you needed a mid-point break. It’s an hour long, I think if people can sit through the length of an Orange Is the New Black episode, they can sit through this. I also found Fujiko’s role in the film to be blatant fan service. Her role in the film isn’t entirely pointless, since where you see her is connected to the overarching plot, but she doesn’t add anything to the story. She doesn’t even help out in the end against Yael. This film’s story isn’t even about her, it’s about Jigen and Lupin’s first real heist gig together. This special was so good at keeping the focus on the two actual leads. They don’t even bring in Goemon, and Zenigata only comes in at the very end in a post-credit scene. I don’t mind Fujiko as a character, she is quite good and has an interesting relationship with Lupin, but you could have omitted her and her nude fan service, and the story would lose nothing of importance. I guess it would be better than just putting a female-in-distress in the film in place of Fujiko, but again, you would lose nothing. They could have easily replaced this with more time to develop Jigen and Lupin’s relationship.

Even with these gripes, Jigen’s Gravestone is a great little gem of an action flick to watch. Sure, it has some flaws, but after watching Green vs Red, this is Castle of Cagliostro levels of greatness. If you feel like owning either the DVD or Blu-ray version, you can get a copy off of Discotek Media’s website. It used to be up on Hulu, but apparently Hulu hated old anime, and doesn’t have it up there anymore.  We can hopefully see this on Netflix in the future, along with the anime Hulu removed. Now then, next time, we go from hidden gem, to a surprising little flick like The Angry Birds Movie. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 42: Lupin the 3rd Special Part 2: Lupin the 3rd: Green vs. Red 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!)

Recently, there have been a slew of films released like Ratchet & Clank, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where a lot of “defenders” or stubborn fans, pick your poison, say that those films were made for “true fans” of the license/property. Well, these comments have led me to ask a question, “How much can fan service save a film?” I mean, we have seen this before where a film will mostly be for fans of the franchise with all the in-jokes and references. However, let’s be real, and not kid ourselves. Fan service can only go so far before you realize the movie is terrible. It’s like, how you can only go so far with a great cast, amazing animation, or near-realistic CGI, if the other elements of the film don’t work, then the movie is bad. I know you can make the argument of what defines “bad”, but seriously, if you are all flash and no substance, you aren’t going to last long. It’s why a lot of these films or projects based on popular properties don’t end up as overall good movies. Studios spend so much time making sure the fans of the source material enjoy it, they forget that you need to be a good movie. This is why I chose the Lupin the 3rd TV special, Green vs Red. This TV film was made to celebrate the franchises’ 40th anniversary. If you are a huge fan of the franchise, you will get all the winks and nods to the legacy of the iconic anime character. Sadly, if you are not a fan of the franchise, and want to see a film that is just as good as Castle of Cagliostro, then you are going to come up short. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The plot is rather complicated, so excuse me if I don’t give a super-proper plot summary. All over the world, a slew of thieves have shown up, all proclaiming to be the infamous Lupin the 3rd. While this is going on, a young man named Yasuo, a pickpocket and chef, one day obtains the iconic green jacket of Lupin the 3rd at a small little dive that he works at. Yasuo then gets wrapped up into another plot about obtaining the notorious Ice Cube, a new contraption made by a company called Night Hawk. Can Yasuo find out what exactly is going on, and why all of these imitators are popping up all over the world?

I don’t really have a lot of nice things to say about this special. First off, and this is pretty much a sin for not just anime, but animation in general, it’s boring. Why is it boring? Well, it tries to focus too much on being fan service for the fandom rather than focusing on a logical story. The whole Ice Cube subplot becomes very third-wheel, since it’s more about Yasuo’s transformation into the new Lupin, than obtaining the Ice Cube. Sure, I like the fan service and references to past Lupin series/movies/whatever, but to be the main focus when you have two other plots that should have been the focus, is a major problem. Is it cool that you see the red, green, and pink jackets? Yes. Is it cool that you get to see a lot of the differently designed Lupins? Yes. Is it great to see some of the winks to The Castle of Cagliostro and how the film loves this specific version of Lupin? Heck yes! But, it can’t be the only thing to carry this movie. The film also wants to have this, quite frankly, self-indulgent theme of how Lupin isn’t a real person, but more of a state of mind, and the representation of freedom and how everyone wants to be like Lupin. Listen, it’s nice that you wanted to be philosophical and all, but that isn’t the reason why you watch Lupin the 3rd. You watch anything from this franchise for the comedy, the interaction between lovable characters, and the fun, if goofy action that is pretty much a light-hearted version of anything spy-related. Like I said, the fan service distracts and takes over the time that could have been used on the characters from the actual franchise. While Jigen, Fugiko, and Detective Zenigata do get screentime, Goemon sadly shows up for a few lines and that’s it. It feels like they were at some kind of crossroads with how to handle this special. They needed to please the fans from young to old, but they needed a plot as well. I guess I wouldn’t have minded if I actually liked the characters they decided to focus on, but they were so boring and forgettable. They could have also not taken the plot through a Pulp Fiction-style execution, since the plot was already hard enough to follow.

I have to be honest; I found the art direction extremely bland. Sure, the main characters look alright, but the fun of the franchise was its art style. It was exaggerated and cartoony. Green vs Red looks like generic anime that tries to have the retro touch that makes Lupin the 3rd so memorable. That’s why the newest series, including the Fujiko Mine prequel series and the Lupin the 3rd: Part 4 series, work because the designs are so diverse than what you normally see in anime.

Okay, I think I have railed on this long enough, what is good about this special? Well, as much as the fan service and references get in the way, I do like seeing all the little things, like all the differently designed Lupins and the nods to Castle of Cagliostro. It makes me smile, even though the overall experience is flawed. While I do not like the self-indulgent philosophical elements, I do respect that they tried to do something deeper than a simple hour-long clip show showing off the franchise. The brief, but final showdown between Lupin and Yasuo is pretty neat, since they actually do a different art style for those brief seconds of action. Too bad more of the film couldn’t be like this or the giant robot scene.

As much of a fan as I am of Lupin the 3rd, I think this was a trainwreck. Not the worst movie I have seen, since that would mean no effort was put into this, but it’s still a mess of fan service being glorified, boring characters, and a sloppily put-together story. How would I have recut the whole film? Easy, keep the focus on the Green vs Red gimmick. Have Lupin encounter someone who looks exactly like him foil his heists, only to find out that someone made a clone of him. Skip the pompous college textbook philosophical elements, and have it be a great fun adventure. Unless you want to own everything Lupin the 3rd, you can pretty much skip this film. However, if you must have it, you can obtain a DVD copy by going to Discotek Media’s website, since they are the ones who are distributing it here in the states. Green vs Red shows what happens when fan service takes over the more important elements of a film. I don’t want to end this three-part special on a negative note, so let’s take a look at the recent spin-off special that was possibly a gateway to the newest TV series with Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. Thanks for reading, I hope you like it, and see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster

The Other Side of Animation Lupin the 3rd Special Part 1: Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro 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!)

Welcome to part one of the Lupin the 3rd special! This is where we look at films/specials that are all about our favorite thief! After such an enraging experience of watching of Norm of the North that will be topped by two other movies, I think it’s time to talk about one of the top 3 greatest animation icons of all time and has no equal, Hayao Miyazaki. Ask anyone who is into animation who this guy is, or heck, ask any film lover who this guy is, they will tell you that he is a one of a kind animation god. He executes stories and characters like no other, and has a creativity that animators and studios wish they could copy. Sure, not all of his ideas work, and his grumpy old man attitude can be a tad tedious, but those are just minor nitpicks since, when it comes to movies, I would watch anything he has done. I wanted to pick out a movie to talk about from him since his films are so special. I was thinking about talking about a TV show he worked on called Sherlock Hound, since it’s a wonderful hidden gem series that anyone should check out, but I haven’t watched all the episodes, and I want to make sure I see the whole thing before writing a review about it. I mean, how stupid would it be if critics wrote reviews of films or shows that they didn’t fully watch? So, what did I choose to review of the great Hayao Miyazaki? Well, I thought, “why not watch his directorial debut with Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro?”  This 1979 film was the second film based off of the Lupin the 3rd franchise, and came out essentially a year later after The Mystery of Mamo. It’s an interesting fact to know that we can thank a lot of the current characteristics of Lupin the 3rd and the gang, because of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli partner/co-founder, Isao Takahata. It really does show off the best elements of the franchise, and cuts away all the tripe that would otherwise plague most anime these days. And if you are curious, this does mean I’m going to be talking about Lupin the 3rd more often now, because there’s so much to talk about with this franchise. Let’s get started on this great underrated gem.

The story once again revolves around our hero Lupin, voiced by David Hayter, and his best friend and partner-in-crime, Jigen, voiced by John Snyder. After a successful heist at a casino, they realize the bills are all forgeries. Lupin then hatches up a new plan to head toward a country where the forgeries might have originated. During a pit stop on the side of the road, Lupin and Jigen encounter and try to save a princess-in-distress named Lady Clarisse, voiced by Bridget Hoffman. After a creative car chase, they find out that she is the soon-to-be bride of the Count of Cagliostro, voiced by Kirk Thorton. Can Lupin and his friends find out about what the heck is going on and solve the mystery within the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro. By the way, the actors I listed are from the Animaze/Manga Entertainment dub. This film has a Streamline dub and the already-mentioned Animaze/Manga Entertainment dub.

So, what is so great about the second canonical film of the Lupin the 3rd franchise? Well, I find it to be a superior film to The Mystery of Mamo, and a lot of the Lupin the 3rd films/specials combined. Let’s talk about the designs for the first part. The art direction/animation has a lot of Miyazaki’s fingerprints. The characters are much more expressive, the lines are smoother, and the animation is actually quite fluid for the time. And that is saying something, since The Castle of Cagliostro came out essentially a year after The Mystery of Mamo. As much as I love the Lupin series from that period of time in the late 70s, the first movie’s animation wasn’t really movie quality. Everything here just feels more impressive in terms of the technical and animation side of the film.

Luckily, The Castle of Cagliostro is not just great animation from 1979 and has some really fun action sequences. The car chase that pops in at about five minutes into the movie is one of the best moments of any action/adventure film. It’s over-the-top, intense, there are stakes, and it put a smile on my face from beginning to end. There are many great scenes, from breaking into the castle to the climatic fight between the Count and Lupin in the clock tower. Another element that is lovingly executed is the slapstick. Unlike Go West!, the slapstick is restrained and is used only when the mood calls for it. It results in the comedy between the characters hitting its target, and makes me smile and laugh every time the quirky moments happen. The voice acting is top-notch. I think the Animaze/Manga Entertainment dub of the film is also pretty iconic and at the same level as the Geneon dub of the original Lupin the 3rd show. They get some pretty good actors for these parts, big and small, including David Hayter (Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid franchise), Kirk Thorton (Jin from Samurai Champloo), Bridget Hoffman (KOS-MOS from Xenosaga), John Snyder (Raoh from the Fist of the North Star animated series), Kevin Seymor (Tessai and Shijima from Ninja Scroll), Dorothy Elias-Fahn (Meryl Stryfe from Trigun) and the fantastic Michael Gregory (Professor Gill from the original Kikaider anime series, Laughing Bull from Cowboy Bebop, and Brilliant Dynamites Neon from Trigun). They all do fantastic work bringing the characters to life. One of the elements I love about Miyazaki’s interpretation of the Lupin cast is how he cuts the fat with everyone. Lupin isn’t as perverted as he is in the show, Fujiko isn’t seen as a great thief/sex object for Japanese sex jokes, but an actual great thief/character, Jigen is pretty much the same, and for what little time Goemon has on-screen, he is pretty humorous. I love the franchise, but I find some of its more anime trope-laden elements to be crude at best, and painfully distracting at worst. It’s like how in Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone, if you took out the scene where Fujiko is naked or just take her out entirely, you would lose nothing from the overall plot. I get why the Lupin cast is how they are, due to the time period they were made, and I still love them, but some of its elements either don’t age well or don’t translate well into other cultural mindsets.

If I had to pick apart a few things I didn’t like about the film, it was probably be because of the intense work schedule and elements that had to be taken out due to the said stressful work schedule, but I found some of the plot elements could have been handled better. Like, there is no mystery as to where the forgeries are coming from, since Lupin knows exactly where they are. While the plot element of Lupin knowing the countess from the past is charming, it could have been taken out. I also wish Goemon had more time on-screen. He had only 14 lines. Yeah, when you have a samurai that can cut a plane in half, you shouldn’t be underutilizing him.

In the end, The Castle of Cagliostro is one of the best adventure movies around. It’s fun, with likable characters, great action, and, for the time, amazing animation. Sure, it does have a little bit of fat it could trim from the plot, but for a first-time movie for Miyazaki, it’s pretty much spot-on. Not many directors can say their first movie was a huge hit. You can get either a DVD or Blu-ray version of this film from Discotek Media. I wish they did a combo pack, but overall, it’s a fantastic movie that I think anyone can enjoy, and not just fans of the franchise. Speaking of fans of the franchise, let’s dive into why making a film only catering to fans can be a bad thing with Lupin the 3rd: Green vs Red. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 40: Norm of the North: THE WORST MOVIE OF 2016


(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!)

I had a multitude of ideas on how to open up this review of today’s film. I could have gone on a monologue about how you should never go to theaters in January unless it’s an Oscar-nominated film or a really good indie film, how Hollywood keeps greenlighting animated films that are obviously not up to DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney, Warner Bros, and even Sony Animation standards, because they think the movie-going audience is stupid, how Lionsgate keep shooting themselves in the foot, because they keep distributing badly animated films, how this makes Hollywood look worse, and you get my point. Norm of the North is a prime example of what is wrong with Hollywood. Directed by Trevor Hall as his first time directing a movie (You have my condolences), and created by Assemblage Entertainment, Splash Entertainment, and was distributed by the same studio that put out the Alpha & Omega series, Lionsgate. Do you know what Splash Entertainment has made? They are making more straight-to-video Alpha & Omega sequels.  And you know what Assemblage has made? They made some of the straight-to-dvd Swan Princess films. I know you should always give a movie a chance, but when the writing is on the wall, and the marketers know they have no way to conceal it, then there is no way to argue that this film is in anyway good. I feel badly for the actors involved in this, and even worse for the poor individuals who decided to make sure Norm of the North got its funding budget paid off. I mean, really people? I know sometimes you just need to get out of the house and go see a movie, but why didn’t you just go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens or something better during January until Kung Fu Panda 3 came out? So, if I haven’t made it clear enough, how bad is Norm of the North? Well, let’s find out.

Norm of the North stars a polar bear named Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider. He has the ability to somehow speak to humans. Norm sticks out from everyone, because he doesn’t kill seals, which does bring in the question of how has he survived this long without killing a seal. Anyway, a generic greedy rich individual named Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong, wants to make the arctic a livable human environment because, yeah, people really want to live in a frozen wasteland that’s incredibly dark at different times of the year, and have polar bears and freezing temperatures at every time of the day. It is up to Norm to get to New York City and try to stop Mr. Greene’s plans!

Oh boy, oh boy, where do I start with this film? First off, it has the quality and animation of a straight-to-bargain-bin DVD film. Heck, it was supposed to be a straight-to-DVD film in the first place, but some person who I hope is fired and ashamed of their decision now, thought they would get the ultimate amount of profit by putting it into theaters. Because, you know, if Lionsgate thought they would make money off this flaming pile of putrid waste, they would have released it during a month that wasn’t January. Heck, if people were patient enough, they could have seen Kung Fu Panda 3. I know it meant waiting another two weeks from Norm’s January 15th release to Kung Fu’s January 29th release, but screw it, it would have made sure that you didn’t waste your money on a film that looks horrible. Seriously, I can’t put it into words at how horrible this film looks. Its textures are low quality, the animation is jerky, the character designs are sloppy, some creatures look horrifying, and it doesn’t look movie theater-quality. Say what you will about some of the mediocre animated films that come out each year, like this year’s Ratchet & Clank, Angry Birds, or any of the bad DreamWorks films, at least they look movie quality. You remember last year’s Hotel Transylvania 2 and Minions? They might not be the best movies, but they look movie theater quality. Heck, Minions had some really good CGI, and that movie was a cynical cash-grab! The human designs in Norm of the North look like they were designed by first month animation students. They look just as good as those horrifying humans you see in The Hero of Color City. And yes, now that I have mentioned that film, I need to now review it. Nothing about Norm of the North is theater quality enough. Even the editing is just painful, with that cheap cross dissolve that ends each scene of the movie. There is no reason this film had to be in theaters. Seriously, Hollywood, if you can’t make a film look as good as something from Illumination or Pixar, then don’t put it in theaters, or else you look like money-grubbing fools.

So, what about the characters and story? Well, the characters are all forgettable and stupid. Like, seriously stupid. One girl just wants to run up and hug a polar bear cub, which would pretty much get her killed in real life, since you know, running up to a bear is a smart thing to do. Heck, the logic of the characters is so questionable, that it constantly punches holes into the story that is already pretty full of holes. For example, why does this obviously bad guy, Mr. Greene want to make condos in the arctic? Has he ever lived there? It’s a frozen wasteland, and making a living there is already brutal! Did he not see 30 Days of Night? It gets pretty dark there for a good chunk of the year. Oh, and it’s also in a place where there are bears! Yeah, because when I wake up with frostbite, the first thing I want to see is a bear outside my door. Also, how does Norm get to speak to humans? What made him want to start having human tendencies? Why does he want to be king of the arctic? Why is there even a plot about being the king of the arctic? Why does he not want to eat a seal, when in reality, he would have starved to death? How does no one even remotely know of a giant polar bear walking around New York? I mean, I know New York is its own zoo, full of large loud individuals, but come on! And did no one see the obviously bad guy moment happen in the 3rd act? Why is there a pointless love interest that gets, like, three lines in the entire movie? Did anyone try with this movie?

And really, that’s the biggest problem with this trainwreck, no one tried. No one put the effort into making a comprehensible story, or to make the characters worth investing into. I mean, there are so many plot points that are thrown in there because other films do them, without knowing how to execute them. I know this stuff gets brought up a lot when a film has similar/familiar elements that we have seen done hundreds of times, but we don’t care if they have been done hundreds of times, because they were executed well. None of the plot elements are done well here, and are just more glaring than ever. They just made this movie because the studios that made it needed a job, and Lionsgate, for one reason or another, wanted more animated films, because, you know, you want to follow up your critically acclaimed, Shaun the Sheep Movie with the worst animated film of 2016. Want to know how aggravating and hard this film was to watch? I paused at most six times to watch other shows and work on other articles. Yeah, watching Norm of the North was painfully tedious work. A movie shouldn’t be tough to sit through.

And before anyone says that I and so many others are being way too hard on this movie, there are stories of kids walking around and bored with the movie inside the movie theater. Yes, when kids for this supposedly ‘made for kids’ film are bored out of their wits, then that is a big problem. Just because a film is made for kids doesn’t mean you can’t hold a standard to it. I am so freaking sick and tired of this excuse, because there are so many great animated films coming out every year that destroy that notion. For example, let’s take a look at the films that came out here in the states that break the notion that kids films can’t have standards. You have Inside Out, When Marnie Was There, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, The Box Trolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Wind Rises, Wolf Children, Ernest & Celestine, Song of the Sea, Shaun the Sheep Movie, The Prophet, Boy and the World, and April and the Extraordinary World. These all have high standards in terms of stories, animation, characters, and they all make sure not to treat the audience like they’re stupid. You know, like how Norm of the North is. Every film, no matter who it’s made for, needs to be held to a high standard. You can’t just brush it off and be like “oh it’s a kid’s film, it can get a pass”. That’s just lazy and condescending, which results in lethargic animated films that only cater to the lowest common denominator like Norm of the North and The Wild Side.

Now then, with all this vile hatred for this movie, is there really one good element of the film? Well, as odd as it might sound, Rob Schneider and some of the other cast members are not the worst things about the movie. Sure, they aren’t great, but I can at least say they are trying with the mediocre material. Granted, I haven’t seen a film where Schneider was great all around, but still, I respect an actor that can at least try to make it work when the situation doesn’t really give you room to, you know, be good.

This is easily one of the most cynical, disgusting, spiteful, aggravating, and downright worst animated films that I have ever seen. Heck, I’ll one up that, it’s one of the worst animated films of all time, and I don’t say that lightly! You might think I’m saying that for comedic effect, but I’m not. Just come talk to me in real life, and I will show you how much I hate this movie. It might not be the number one worst movie of all time, but it’s easily in my top three. Even Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return and Cool World are not in the top five worst animated films I have ever seen. At least with those two films you can laugh at how horribly put-together, unintentionally creepy, and lazy Legends of Oz is, and how grating, but visually interesting Cool World is. Norm of the North has none of those factors. This is just a pure example, along with many other films, of why the Hollywood system is busted. What’s even sadder is that Lionsgate, the distributor, has not learned their lesson, since they have two more trainwrecks coming out next month and later this year with The Wild Side, and The Adventures of Panda Warrior! I think that whoever made this film get into more theaters than amazing films like April and the Extraordinary World, Boy and the Beast, and The Green Room needs to be fired, and then ridiculed for doing so! Avoid this animated film at all costs. Just don’t even think about purchasing it for a bad movie night. This movie just enrages me so much, that I need to go back to reviewing stuff I love. Here then, Norm of the North is out, and next time Castle of Cagliostro will be in. Thanks for reading. I pray to you that you do not watch this horrible movie, even as a bad movie night film, and see you all next time!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 39: The Monk and the Fish 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!)

For me, it’s always interesting to see what you can get done in a movie in such a short amount of time. How many times have we seen films that could have been longer, or didn’t have enough to fill out its runtime and you can tell there was obviously forced padding? That’s why it is fulfilling to watch a movie that uses its time wisely, and doesn’t need to be longer than it is. This is what attracted me to this short film called The Monk and the Fish. This is an Oscar-nominated short film released in 1994 by famed director Michael Dudok De Wit. If he sounds familiar to any film fans, he is the same director of the award-winning short, Father and Daughter, and the director of the upcoming Studio Ghibli co-produced film, The Red Turtle. Seriously, check out that trailer, it looks great! Anyway, this is the second short film made by Michael Dudok De Wit. So, is it any good? Well, let’s do a short review and find out.

The story is pretty simple in terms of a plot. A monk of the “robe and balding hair variety” sees a fish, and throughout the six minutes, tries to capture it. Can he get the fish? Or will something else entirely happen to the Monk?

So, what’s good about this short film? Well, it’s to the point, easy to get into, and has enjoyability for both the casual moviegoer and those who like looking for a deeper meaning in a film’s themes. For example, the film is very funny with its comedic animation and simple expressions from the monk, and can remind younger audiences of shorts from the Looney Toons era of cartoons. More adult filmgoers can see this short about a monk conflicted with himself and his faith, and in the end, find peace with himself and the fish. The best part about this entire short film is the fact that it’s done with no talking. After watching The Triplets of Belleville, I found myself really enjoying these animated films that can get you into its story and characters without having a single piece of dialogue from the individual characters. It’s something I wish more mainstream studios would do. Heck, Disney has done pretty well with its shorts that are told in a visual way. I feel like it would have made a movie like The Good Dinosaur way better than what we actually got. Another element I adored about The Monk and the Fish was how the music matched up with the animation. That’s very difficult to do, and many times, it can be a little distracting when it’s not done correctly.

Overall, The Monk and the Fish was a fantastic short movie. I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar, and it just shows what you can get done in such a short amount of time. While you can watch the entire short online, you can go to a website to get a physical DVD copy with two other short films. The site is called filmporium.com, and they have a huge number of animated short films that were all nominated, or have won an Oscar for best-animated short. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the film itself since it gets done what it set out to be. I can understand if it is not a film for you for its more artistic themes, but if you want to watch something different, then I would highly recommend you watch this great short film, and prepare yourself for the director’s newest movie that ruled the Cannes film festival, The Red Turtle. Well, it was fun looking at a short film, because next time, we go to our 40th review and quite possibly the worst film of 2016. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials