french film

161: Funan 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/camseyeview. 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 absolutely not aimed at a children’s audience. This is an extremely adult film that focuses on a true historical genocide that happened in Cambodia. Younger viewers should avoid this flick, and go see The Angry Birds Movie 2. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Animation unfortunately gets pigeonholed into being aimed at a children and family audience. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, because sometimes, a film or show aimed at a family audience, given the right writers and the right execution, can tackle tough subject matter.  Sadly, something that the entertainment industry sadly seems to limit is animation for more teen and older adult audiences. Just because it’s animated, it doesn’t mean you can’t tackle something aimed at an older audience. We get plenty of adult animated shows like Bojack Horseman and Big Mouth, but feature films are, for some reason, kept off the production line. Yeah, we got 2016’s Sausage Party, but that film’s controversy of how the animators were treated unfortunately killed the theatrical chance of seeing more on the big screen. This is why the foreign animation scene is so incredible, because it knows that you can tackle different genres, themes, and have all kinds of audiences. Plus, when will the live-action Hollywood scene tackle something like Dennis Do’s Funan? Directed by, well, Dennis Do, and distributed in the states by GKIDS, this French-animated feature ruled the film festival scene in 2018 by taking home major accolades from Annecy, second place-Jury Prize from the 20th Bucheon International Animation Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2nd Animation is Film Festival. As far as I can tell, this is 2019’s best animated feature. Why? Well, let’s dive in, shall we?

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The story follows a Cambodian woman named Chou, her husband Khuon, Sovanh, their son, Khuon’s brother Meng, Chou’s mother, grandmother, and their other children Hout, Tuch, and Lili. They are living peacefully in Cambodia, but are unfortunately caught up in the notoriously destructive Khmer Rouge, as they are separated from each other and try to survive and reunite. Can they try to avoid being killed, and become stronger by making it through this violent time?

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So, you think with this film being animated and such, they would pull back on the punches and darkness of the events shown. I mean, that’s what Sgt. Stubby did. Well, Dennis Do did not pull back on any punches. The film is unapologetic about showing the darker moments of this incident, and that includes scenes of murder, innocents stepping on hidden landmines, suicide, and so on. It’s definitely a film that is, to no surprise, aimed at a much older audience. However, it’s not really all about the terror of this incident. It really does focus on the family, and how they try to make sense out of what is going on, as they try to survive and not end up in front of an extremist’s rifle. You get the closeness of the family as they attempt to play along until they are able to reconnect or find a way to escape the hell in which they are put. You get a sense of everyone in the family, although the real main characters are the father, mother, and son. It’s a fairly quiet film as the emotions are told through the visuals. You feel for the family, and you want them to survive. Dennis Do knew how to balance it all out as every intense moment constantly hits hard. It’s a powerful emotional experience.

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The animation is incredible. It has a beautiful lush watercolor art direction that has smooth animation and great character designs. You can feel the emotion coming off of the characters’ faces. Gorgeous backgrounds and scenery is found among the regime-riddled camps that the film is usually set in for a chunk of the story. What also helps bring the emotions to a perfect level is the music by composer Thibault Kientz Agyenman. A lot of the soundtrack is full of tunes that set a somber, but optimistic tone that really envelopes you into the situation. This also includes powerful performances from Berenice Nejo and Louis Garrel.

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I knew I was in for something special when I saw the trailer, the news that it was doing well on the festival circuit, and how it was one of the first films selected for the Animation is Film Festival, and I was happy to be one of the first US film fans to see this breathtaking experience. Sure, some critics, for one reason or another, think it should have been about the genocide, but that wasn’t the point of the film. Just because it’s set during an intense period of time, doesn’t mean that has to be the entire focus. The entire film was inspired by the stories that Do would ask his mother about that time period, and it was crafted into this beautiful story. To me, that comment comes off like they wanted the film to be something different than what they got. Funan is a powerful film, and when it comes out on Blu-ray, or if you are lucky to find a theater playing it, buy the Blu-ray or see the film! Seriously, if you want more original films that help animation’s image in the US, please see this film. Unfortunately, since these types of films don’t get much screentime, how about we move on to a delightful surprise with The Angry Birds Movie 2? I think that would be pretty nice! Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

 

 

 

 

Animation Tidbits: Annecy 2019 Part 2

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

Alrighty, for the final part of this look at Annecy 2019, I decided to combine a bunch of films from different categories. This is because the various categories don’t have enough to warrant talking about in individual articles. At least, that is my opinion on the other categories. The one major change they made was a new category called Contrechamp, a category with animated features that are in competition, but have visuals that challenge the medium of animation. Otherwise, the films on the list will be from the screening events and In Production section of the festival. Let’s get started!

Children of the Sea (Contrechamp)

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story focuses on a girl named Ruka, who saw a ghost in her dad’s aquarium when she was little. She becomes attracted to the aquarium and the appearance of two mysterious boys named Umi and Sora, all the while the adults who work there figure out the mass disappearance of the earth’s fish. In a lot of ways, it’s almost unfair that this film is the perfect representation for the Contrechamp section of the festival. It’s almost unfair how downright jaw-dropping-off-your-face beautiful the film is. Studio 4C has done a lot of great work, but this easily looks like it will be their best. Plus, with GKids now attached to bringing it over to the states this year, I have major hopes it’s going to be at Animation is Film 2019! If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped, Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of the Studio Ghibli classics, is composing the music for this film.

Away (Contrechamp)

Directed by Gints Zilbalodis, Away is about a young man who’s riding a motorcycle, trapped on a mystical island while trying to avoid a shadowy monster chasing him. This is also a film that looks like it will be taking advantage of the Contrechamp title. Sure, it kind of looks like an indie game that’s trying to be the next artistic achievement in gaming, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Plus, this was directed and animated by someone who is 25 years old. That is wildly ambitious and I give him kudos for that. It looks like a visually creative film that I hope does well.

Underdog (Contrechamp)

Directed by Sung-Yoon Oh and Chun Baek Lee, the story revolves around a blue dog that was once a house pet, but ends up back in the wild. He encounters wild dogs, and tries to help them survive and live freely. Generic title aside, I really like the visual look of this film. It reminds me of the work arounds French animation uses in projects like The Painting. It has a super vibrant color palette, and while the CGI may not be Pixar or Disney level at all, it has its own identity and personality to it. I’m happy to see South Korean animation finally making some break-out titles to show that they can make animated features that aren’t tied down to propaganda, and can be watchable by all. Though seeing some of the marketing blurbs say it was more emotionally gripping than Zootopia? Yeah, we will have to see about that.

Ville Neuve (Contrechamp)

Directed by Felix Dufour Laperriere, Ville Neuve focuses on a man named Joseph, who moves into a house with his friend, and tries to get back with his ex-wife, and this is happening with the 1995 Quebec Referendum happening in the background. I like the minimalist approach with its focus on whites, blacks, and grays. It comes off like a more personal and intimate film, and I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this one.  

Playmobil (Screening)

Now then, let’s jump in with the first film in the “Screening” category. Directed by Lino DiSalvo, the story focuses on a young woman named Marla, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets pulled into this Playmobil world with her brother Carlie, played by Gabriel Bateman. They get separated, and it’s up to Marla to team up with Rex Dasher, a secret agent voiced by Daniel Radcliffe and Del, a food truck driver voiced by Jim Gaffigan, to get her brother back and avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, played by Adam Lambert. Yeah, this film did not get the warmest impression, being negatively compared to the 2014 The LEGO Movie. I can understand why. It comes off as a bit outdated that there needs to be a reason for the Playmobil world to exist, when people would rather just enjoy the world that they make. Still, the film looks silly and aware about itself, and some of the jokes I saw got a chuckle out of me. Hopefully it can be an entertaining flick once it releases later this year.

The Prince’s Voyage (Screening)

Directed by Jean-Francois Languionie and Xavier Pircard, this is a follow-up to a film Jean Francois did a while back called A Monkey’s Tale, which follows the prince from that film, as he washes up on the shore of an island, and encounters an individual named Young Tom and his two parents, who were exiled scientists. The film itself looks great, but that should be no surprise, because it’s the same guy behind The Painting, but I am curious to see how they make this film work, because who remembers A Monkey’s Tale? It has only gotten an English UK release, and no one in America has probably heard of this guy or his films. Still, the CGI looks stylized, and I’m curious to see how this film does in continuing the story with these characters in a travel diary-style form.

Abominable (Screening)

Finally, we are seeing actual trailers and footage for this film. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, we follow the exploits of a young Chinese woman named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, as she encounters an actual Yeti on the rooftop of her apartment building. It was previously caught by a scientist named Dr. Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson, and an evil rich man named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard. It is up to Yi, her friends Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai, and Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor, to get the Yeti back to his home in the mountains. This is an important film, due to this being DreamWorks first Chinese collaboration with Pearl Studio. As per usual with their non-comedy stuff, Abominable looks visually great, and has some endearing moments, but the jokes and references made in the first trailer and in the recent trailer are iffy. Hopefully, this is more of DreamWorks working at a How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda level, and not Shrek the Third level. Also, what is up with their marketing for this film? Everyone has already seen a trailer for the film for two or so months before the “official” trailer was released last week. What was the point of having two trailers and one of them was already viewable in theaters? Oh well, I hope this is a good movie.

Toy Story 4 (Screening)

Directed by Josh Cooley, we follow our heroes dealing with their new lives and a new encounter with a self-made toy named Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. One day, Forky gets out, and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, sets out to bring Forky back, but also runs into Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Shenanigans then ensue as Woody and the gang try to get Forky back to their new owner Bonnie, and Woody starts to have a crisis of what it means to be a toy. It’s too easy and frankly lazy, to say how this is a “cash grab”, when all films are cash grabs. We didn’t need a 4th one, but if we needed this one to get back on the train of original films starting with next year’s Onward, then so be it. Plus, I have been hearing good early word of mouth, and plus, who doesn’t want to see Keanu Reeves in his first ever voice role? Even if we might “not need it”, I’m glad to go back if the story is good.

Frozen 2 (Screening)

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, our heroes from the first film, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are off on another adventure to go beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. Yeah, there isn’t much known about the film right now, so let’s talk about how incredible the teaser trailer was. This film looks jaw-dropping-off-your-face-and-exploding gorgeous. I’m sure a lot of this is just teaser editing, and the film may not be this serious in tone, but wouldn’t that be awesome if it was? I know there is a bit of Frozen burnout, but I liked the first movie, and I’m excited to see how this new one unfolds.

Weathering With You (WIP)

In the Work in Progress section, we have the newest film from Makoto Shinkai. The story revolves around a young boy who moves to Tokyo alone, and almost becomes broke, until he gets a writing job for an odd occult magazine. His life feels like it’s constant misery, as rain and dark clouds follow him everywhere. One day, he encounters a young girl who has a mysterious power to clear the sky of the clouds and rain. While I have been critical of some of Shinkai’s efforts and directorial touches in the past, this one has me very excited. To no surprise that Shinkai has more drop-dead eye-popping visuals, something about the story feels instantly likable, and GKids recently announced that they will be bringing it over! I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope to see it sometime soon.

Promare (Midnight Special)

Finally, for the Midnight Special, we have Promare. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and animated by Studio Trigger, we follow Galo Thymos and his team, the Burning Rescue Fire Department. Their main goal is to take down a group of evil mutants called BURNISH that emits and can control a special fire that is engulfing the planet. This movie looks so over-the-top, silly, nonsensical, it’s super drenched in its anime identity, and this is why I follow foreign/indie animation. This movie looks crazy in the most positive way possible. Sure, if you know anything about Studio Trigger’s previous work like Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Little Witch Academia, and SSSS Gridman, then you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant Japanese animation around. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope to also see it soon.

And that wraps up what I think looks to be the most promising at the Annecy International Film Festival. Even with these listed, there are truly more interesting features being shown in their completed form or work-in-progress form. Just go check out the site, and see the multitude of animated projects being shown, and find your favorites.

145: MFKZ 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/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the things I can’t stand about the current image of animation is how many see it in a fairly limited way. They think that animation can’t be successful or good if they step beyond the family market, which is just incredibly ignorant thinking. That’s like saying adult comedies can’t go past a Seth Rogen stoner comedy, or horror films can only have jump scares and gore. The best part about animation, and I will say it as many times as I need to, is that animation is limitless. You can do anything you want with the medium. For every Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch (2018), you get a Liz and the Blue Bird. For every Incredibles 2, you get a Mirai. For every Duck Duck Goose, you get a How to Train your Dragon. My point is, films like today’s review, MFKZ, is to show how varied and vibrant animation can be. Directed by Shojiro Nishimi and Guillaume Renard, and produced by Ankama Animations and Studio 4C, this high-octane action flick stood out from rest of the films from 2018 for its odd, grimy, and intense visuals that were based on the comics made by Guillaume Renard himself. It was one of the first films during 2017’s Animation is Film Festival, but got a wider US release in October of 2018. So, was the wait worth it? Well, let’s check it out!

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So, what is this movie about? Well, a lot. We follow the story of Angelino, dubbed by Kenn Michael. He lives in Dark Meat City, a hyper-stylized, grimy, and grungy version of Los Angeles. He scrapes by making rent money with his friend Vinz, who’s a walking skeleton boy, dubbed by Vince Staples. They have to deal with living in the more poverty-riddled parts of the city and deal with the rent situation from their landlord Willy, dubbed by Dino Andrade. One night however, Angelino and Vinz get their apartment raided by Stormtrooper-like policemen that are chasing down Angelino for yet unknown reasons. This is on top of Angelino getting over an accident where he crashed into an armored car. The accident in question has him able to see individuals who are not who they supposedly are. This is probably why Angelino is being targeted. After that, Angelino and Vinz get sucked into a world that mirrors They Live (the John Carpenter horror flick). They encounter a group of luchadores who protect the world from evil forces, a group of thugs led by a man named Shakespeare, dubbed by RZA, a lovely woman named Luna, dubbed by Dascha Polanco, and getting relentlessly chased down by an evil man named Mr. K, dubbed by Giancarlo Esposito and his right hand Bruce, dubbed by Danny Trejo. Can the two make it out alive, and find out the mystery behind Angelino’s new abilities?

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So, yeah, let’s get this out of the way first, this film has a lot going on. However, unlike many movies with plenty of plots happening, MFKZ is definitely more focused. It’s more They Live, but with over-the-top action. I know nothing can beat that infamous brawl between Keith David and Rowdy Piper, but the action in MFKZ is easily one of the best elements of this film. Once again, with the knowledge that its animation, and the fact that Studio 4C is the studio that animated the film, the action is topnotch. It’s fast, intense, gritty, over-the-top, and varied. You get car chases, luchadores body-slamming Stormtroopers, Angelino gains new tentacle nightmare powers, and gunfights. For the most part of the film, you are constantly moving and learning about the characters. It’s a lot of fun to see them deal with one another, while dealing with constant action and darkly comedic dialogue. I mean, you can be critical of this film, but you can’t be mad at a thug leader who quotes Shakespeare while carrying large machine guns. It’s deep enough for you to care about the characters, but the film knows you want the fun schlocky sci-fi action, too.

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Another major highlight is that the cast is probably one of the most diverse groups of actors for dubbing and films in general. Rarely do you ever hear or see voice actors who aren’t white. There are ethnic voice actors, but they don’t seem to balance out with how many white voice actors there are in the business. It makes sense that MFKZ would then have ethnic actors/voice actors, including Kenn Michael, Vince Staples, Dino Andrade, Michael Chiklis, Giancarlo Esposito, Jorge Gutierrez, Dascha Polanco, RZA, Danny Trejo, and you get the idea. They all do a pretty good job with their roles.

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While I do love this movie, am happy that it exists, and overjoyed to see an action-animated feature aimed at adults, I’m not entirely surprised by the overall rating and the critic-rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not saying that it’s bad, because I really enjoyed it, but it is flawed. The third act especially has some pacing issues. It goes full steam ahead when the story gets going, but then it halts in its tracks. It then underplays some of the major plot elements by that point in time, and scales it back down to being more intimate and personal about not losing yourself to your darker intentions, and being human on top of the anti-establishment They Live story beats. The final scene also ends on a sequel bait joke that was funny, but also rubbed me the wrong way, because who knows if we are going to get a sequel or not.

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While it sort of unravels in the end, and I get why people aren’t fully on-board with this movie, I love that this movie exists. I’m always down for more action animation and films with weird and out-there plots. I find it hard for myself to be mad at its flaws, because there are a group of luchadores that protect the world from demons, and it’s essentially a wacked-out version of They Live. I definitely recommend either finding a theater that will play this, or checking it out when it hits DVD. While not perfect, I’m glad films like MFKZ and Ruben Brandt exist. For now, let’s talk about what is possibly the best animated feature of 2018 with Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

142: The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales 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/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Comedy is probably the most consistent genre that animation is saddled with in the mainstream market area. It’s not like that’s a bad thing, to be honest. Comedy lends itself very well to animation, since you have full control of any kind of comedy that you want to do, from physical comedy to visual gags. As much as live-action can do great comedy, it’s limited by the fact that you can do more with animation. Unfortunately, comedic animation, unless you are Warner Bros., simply means fast movements and not much else. I think a lot of US animation studios wanting to make a comedy should look at Benjamin Renner’s The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. Distributed by GKids here in the states, and originally a planned trio of TV specials, The Big Bad Fox was one of the films I was super excited to see. Probably for understandable reasons, it took forever to finally see this movie, and I’m happy to say, that the year-long wait was worth it. Let’s quickly dive in, and get on with this comedic masterpiece.

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The story revolves around three plays! The first story focuses on Rabbit, dubbed by Adrian Edmondson, and Duck, dubbed by Bill Bailey. The two are sent on an adventure to deliver a baby, when a stork crashes into a tree. Unfortunately, Duck and Rabbit are not the brightest bulbs, and Pig, dubbed by Justin Edwards, must go along to make sure the baby gets to where it needs to go. The second story revolves around Fox, dubbed by Giles New, who wants to be big and tough, but constantly fails to get a chicken to eat. After getting some help from Wolf, dubbed by Matthew Goode, Fox ends up with three eggs that hatch, and the chicks think that Fox is their mother. The final story centers around Duck and Rabbit thinking that they accidentally killed Santa Claus, and go on an adventure with Pig to save Christmas!

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There has been a lot of great comedies this year that have made my sides split, including Game Night, The Death of Stalin, and Blockers. However, I think The Big Bad Fox has the best comedy out of any film in 2018. Why? Because it knows what makes comedy work. Sure, it has plenty of physical gags, but the writing is also very witty, grounded, and just the right amount of sass that makes these talking farm animals feel real. Although, I have to say, the physical comedy in this film is really funny. It’s not too cartoonish or fast. It’s the right pace that you would see in Animaniacs or the old Looney Toons shorts. You can see the control the animators had over the movements that made, quite honestly, every joke land. It’s rare when a joke will land time after time after time. I think it’s because the jokes that you see in this film are pretty universal. It’s not full of gross-out humor, its dialogue is not meant to shock for shock’s sake, like Paradise P.D., and you can tell that they were careful with picking out each and every joke. Of course, good jokes wouldn’t work unless the characters did as well. While this is definitely not a story-driven experience, I still found myself loving the strictness of Pig, the wimpy demeanor of Fox, the silly goofiness of Duck and Rabbit, and the laziness of Dog. They still have moments where they change as characters, and do grow.

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In terms of the animation, it’s beautiful. The same 2D-flash watercolor look from the director’s previous film gels so well. Sure, you can see multiple lines on the characters not linking to one another, but Renner’s style has always been fast, and you get the overall point. The children’s book-style look fits the stories that are told for this film. The animation is still expressive, snappy, and wonderful to look at. In terms of the voice cast, while I wish they could have gotten actors like Bobby Moynihan and Steve Blum to play certain characters, I do think the British cast was the right choice. Sure, the trailer with the English dub on it doesn’t give off the best impression, but while watching the movie, it’s pretty well synced. I can maybe say one small moment where the lips and the dialogue might not match, but it’s more of an animation issue than the script.

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Really, the biggest gripe I have with the film is that, while I love the play aspect, I do wish they had found a better way to weave the story together. You see these characters all the time, but due to how this was originally supposed to be three TV specials, there is nothing truly connecting one story to the other. Some characters don’t even appear in the other stories. Also, for a film called The Big Bad Fox, his story is set in the middle of the film. I guess it’s to break the pacing of the two other stories revolving around Rabbit, Duck, and Pig, but it is odd that there wasn’t a different name to the overall film. Then again, it’s based off of Renner’s graphic novel of the same name, and honestly, at this point, I’m nitpicking.

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While it might not be as emotionally in-depth as Ernest & Celestine, The Big Bad Fox is still an amazing movie! It’s easily the best comedy of 2018, and one of the best animated features of this year. I luckily got to see this at an advance screening, and it will be going through a limited release on October 19th, so keep an eye out for a release in your neck of the woods. If you can’t see it, buy it on DVD. The wait was worth it, and I’m happy with that. Since it’s now October, it’s time to look at something that has more of an edge to it, and maybe, be one of the most entertaining animated flicks of 2018 with Ruben Brandt Collector. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Animation Tidbits #6: Annecy 2018 Edition Part 1

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

For every kind of hobby or job, you bet there is going to be a massive festival, convention, or what have you, to celebrate all that. Like, for me, you’ve got your gaming events like E3, and for the sake of this article, your Animation is Film Festivals and Annecy. For this editorial, I’m going to be talking about the Annecy 2018 festival. I always look forward to seeing what the rest of the world is doing, and it shows that the foreign animation scene is still incredibly healthy. I’m going to only go over the choices in three categories of the festival. I will be talking about the films competing, the films showing out of competition, and the films in the work-in-progress section. However, I won’t talk about previous films that I have talked about in the past Animation Tidbits editorials, like The Breadwinner and Gatta Cenerentola. Let’s get started with the films In Competition.

In Competition

Funan: This is a film by Denis Do, and is from Belgium, Cambodia, France, and Luxembourg. It’s about a woman who has to fight back and survive during the Khmer Rouge regime. Its animation reminds me of Long Way North, where they had the human designs, and everything else lacks the black outlines. It doesn’t seem to shy away about the horrific incident during this period in time, and what happened to the people in Funan.

Mirai: It’s always an exciting time when Mamoru Hosoda is making a new movie, and Mirai is interesting. If you haven’t heard about this film, it’s about a four year old boy, who has to deal with getting a new younger sister. However, while in a garden, he ends up meeting a woman who happens to be his future younger sister as a teen. It has a lot of Hosoda’s wonderful touches, like his gorgeous animation, distinct character designs, and his focus on themes of family with a magical element to it. While I love most of the Japanese/Asian-animated films released stateside this year, I really can’t wait to see Mirai.

Okko’s Inn: Okko’s Inn is based on a manga and anime series. It’s about a young girl who helps her grandmother at her hot spring inn, and learns how to run it. Along the way, she ends up meeting new human and supernatural friends. I’m a bit turned off by the art style, due to the more simple designs. I’m also fairly concerned with how the story will be handled, due to the fact that while it’s not going to be based on any stories in the series or books, anime film adaptations of existing properties don’t always end up being that good. Still, that could simply be me not being that impressed by its trailer. If we can actually see this film in the states, I would be down to checking it out.

Seder-Masochism: If this trailer’s art style and vibe look familiar, it’s by the same director who did the very interesting Sita Sings the Blues, Nina Paley. This story follows multiple stories, including the story of Moses, the angel of death, and much more. While it is definitely on the more limited budget side, it’s visually amazing, it has its own personality, and once again, the music choice is inspired. This just reminds me that I need to review Sita Sings the Blues.

Tito and the Birds: This is one of the few South American (specifically Brazil) animated features that caught my interest. It is the story of a boy who must save his city from an epidemic that causes people to get sick when they experience fear. At first, I was concerned about the visuals, while watching the trailer for this film. The movements looked stiff, but with the help of fluid expressions, colors, visuals, you don’t really notice some of the clunky movements. I’m curious to see how in-depth they go with this “fear epidemic” situation, because I could see something similar to how propaganda was used in Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards. Tito and the Birds definitely has me intrigued.

Wall: While some people probably could argue that this film’s animation shouldn’t count, since it looks like Waltz with Bashir and the upcoming Another Day of Life, but it’s not really live-action either. The striking visuals tell the story of the wall between Israel and Palestine. It’s more grounded and more serious than other entries, and I’m curious to see how much advantage they take of the film being animated for some creative visuals. It will include politics, social issues, and economic topics that are caused by this wall.

The Wolf House: Probably the creepiest animated feature of the festival, this stop-motion nightmare of surreal and disturbing imagery is about a woman who finds refuge inside a house, while hiding from German religious fanatics in Chile. You definitely have to watch the trailer to see how insane some parts are.  This could also lead into a style-over-substance experience, but we will have to see how dreamlike the film gets, before it becomes too much. Still, I wasn’t expecting something like this, and I can’t wait to hopefully see it someday.

That’s it for part 1! Next time, we shall look at the films in the Out of Competition category.

126: The Girl Without Hands 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/Heads up: There will be scenes of female nudity, blood, violence, and dark themes. I mean, it’s a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale, what do you expect? Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

The common complaint I see about animated features these days, is that there is no variety. To a degree, that is true and especially true if you do not follow the other side of animation. It seems like it’s all CGI, with no room for action or drama-focused animated films. They all have to be comedies, and every studio has to have some kind of Pixar/Disney look to them, before they actually branch out with their own visual identity. I think the last time there was some truly diverse options among the mainstream animation scene was 2000. In the year 2000, we had Chicken Run a stop-motion flick, The Emperor’s New Groove, 2D, The Road to El Dorado, 2D that uses some CGI, Fantasia 2000, which had a mix to the overall experience, and you get the idea. By 2001, when the Oscars decided to let the animated features get their time in the sun, the first three nominees were all CGI flicks. Sure, if you look past the mainstream today, there is plenty of variety in terms of writing, stories, characters, and animation styles, but that’s not always going to be the case, and most filmgoers won’t know about films like The Girl Without Hands. Directed by Sébastien Laudenbach, and based on the Brothers Grimm tale, The Girl Without Hands is a 2D animated feature that caught a lot of traction, because it was mostly done by one person. Of course, multiple people helped out with voice work, editing, and so on, but Sébastien Laudenbach did a mass majority of the work. While on the short side at 76 minutes, it won critical acclaim, and stands out as one of the 2010’s most unique films on a visual level. Let’s jump into this atmospheric film, and check it out!

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The plot pretty much follows the original story. A farmer and his family is about to starve, because they were unable to grow crops and water. The father of the family ends up meeting this shady and not-at-all suspicious individual, who offers him and his family riches. In return, the individual wanted the farmer’s daughter. Of course, after making the deal and making his family rich, the individual that made them so turns out to be the devil. The daughter, of course, declines the offer to be his bride. When push comes to shove, the devil decides to take her hands. I won’t go into much detail after that.

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The story itself is rather bare bones, to say the least. It’s not super complex with underlying themes of some sort, or any obvious ones, but still. However, where that could be a problem with a lesser film, the simple and to-the-point narrative of The Girl Without Hands really fits. Like I said, the film is only 76-minutes long, but you can tell the story does not waste time or feel padded as it tells this dark fairy tale story. It’s also a very quiet movie, with most of the music only coming in at specific moments. The rest is mostly ambient noise from nature, until the characters decide to speak. It brings this tense atmosphere whenever the devil decides to drop in, or a peaceful moment in time when it’s focusing on the girl. Even with the minimalist story, you are able to follow the motivation of the characters. I even like that it doesn’t try to be realistic. It’s a fairy tale, and it’s going to have the logic of a fairy tale. Do not try to bring logical complaints into this film.

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It’s very easy to follow this film, and that’s helpful, due to the concern of the film’s biggest reason to be seen, the animation. The Girl Without Hands has some of the most interesting animation from a film released last year. It’s a film that’s fun to show off in stills, but even more visually interesting when you watch it in motion. With all the high polished animation out there, seeing this film’s minimal brush strokes and simple outlines were a limitation, but also a very effective way to tell the film’s story. It brings this fantastical, if ominous vibe to the story. It feels other-worldly. Yet, there is this beauty to it. It’s very smooth and very expressive with how the characters move. It’s especially fun to see the animation used for the devil character and his shapeshifting. It has a lot of empty space in every frame, but that’s the point in this dreamlike tale. The voice cast is also pretty good at portraying their minimalist-made characters. It’s a case of there being no dub, but I think a dub wouldn’t really add much to the experience. No celebrity or famous voice actors would bring much. Granted, I know some people, including me, would rather have a dub, but this is one of the few cases where I’m fine with there not being one. The actors do a good job, and bring a lot of emotion and life into the film.

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My only real nitpick is that it’s sometimes hard to see what exactly you are looking at, but for the most part, the minimal style translates very well to the screen. Honestly, all I have for complaints are nitpicks. I kind of wish there was a dub, just so I wouldn’t have to read subtitles. It would also let people be able to focus on the beautiful artwork instead of having to train their brain to follow both the subtitles and the story. I also felt like the ending, while satisfying, was a bit confusing at the very last bit, in terms of exactly knowing what happened. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s “abstract” to say the least.

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The Girl Without Hands is a truly unique and a one-of-a kind animated film. It’s an animated feature everyone should check out, and one I highly recommend purchasing. Sure, it has no dub, but I think the beautiful art work and fairy tale-like story will be strong enough to keep you invested into the 76-minute runtime. Our next film is one that I have wanted to talk about for a while, but now I have to, with the sad passing of Isao Takahata. The next review will be of what I considered to be his best film that I have seen, Only Yesterday. Thanks for reading this review! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Favorite Shorts from the 19th Animation Show of Shows

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

Recently, I went with my dad to the 19th Animation Show of Shows. This was a viewing of 16 different animated shorts from around the world. It was a blast, and there were plenty of amazing shorts that were shown. I decided to do a list of my favorite ones. I’m not going to go in any order, because one being better than another one came down to splitting hairs, and really, they all deserve a place on this list.

Can You Do It

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This was the first short shown as a cool mix of CGI and a wonderful modern pop art style by director Quentin Baillieux. While it is a glorified music video for the song by Charles X, it’s a fantastic and fairly optimistic song laid over a mix of economic classes, coming together for this one event. It’s an incredible short, and has an incredible song.

Next Door

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While this short is from 1990, this 2D animated short from now-famed director Pete Docter was full of charm. The 2D animation was fluid, and the cute story of a young girl and a grumpy old guy bonding over something made my heart flutter around with happiness. It’s also a good historic short for people curious to see Pete’s earlier work.

The Alan Dimension

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This was a fun and charming short by Jac Clinch. Its mix of 2D, CGI, and stop-motion made it one of the more visually unique animated shorts about an old man who has this special power to see into the future. It was the right balance of funny and heartwarming, as it showed what happens when you think too much about the future, but not enough about what’s important to you right here and right now in the present.

Hangman

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If I was putting these in order, I think Hangman, a short from 1964 by Paul Julian and Les Goldman, that was remastered in 2017, would be my favorite out of the 16. This animated adaptation of a philosophical poem, while lacking in pure 2D animation, made up for it in a strong, foreboding, eerie, and uncomfortable atmosphere. Seeing how the Hangman worked, and how the people reacted to the individual was the highlight of the short. While a lot of it was still frames, I could argue that when there is animation, it elevates the horror aspect of the short. You can find it on YouTube (though not in amazing quality), but if they can somehow restore this, and upload it to YouTube or on a DVD with some extras talking about it, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Gokurosama

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After Hangman, my second favorite of the shorts was this French animation called Gokurosama. It was an effort by Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, and Romain Salvini. The CGI animation was perfect for this type of short. It had a nice misty glow to the entire Japanese shopping mall location, and everyone looked like small model figurines that you would see in a miniature display of a building that you would show to investors. While there is no dialogue, the fact that it perfectly paces itself with the physical comedy and a very simple slice-of-life story is what made this a highly watchable short. It reminds me how creative certain people can be when working with certain limitations, and I want to see more animated films try and be like this short or Hangman.

Dear Basketball

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I’ll admit, when I was writing my editorial about the Oscar-animated shorts, I was fairly harsh on this short. I know there is a lot of talk about Kobe’s past allegations, and while I still enjoyed LOU and Revolting Rhymes more, Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball was a fantastic short. I still adore the fanciful pencil sketch style that flowed well with the elegant John Williams score. It’s not just a short about basketball, it’s about a man who gave his life, body, and soul to the love and passion he had for his sport. It’s an emotionally touching short, and I can’t wait to see what Glen Keane does next with his upcoming feature film.

Island

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This German short by director Max Mortl and Robert Lobel had a very cute stop-motion look to the rhythm of nature. It has no dialogue in it, and only has the sounds of the wildlife that end up making a catchy tune. Its designs might be simple, but they get the job done, and make for some pretty humorous animal designs. It was one of the shorter shorts on this list, but it was the right amount.

Unsatisfying

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Unsatisfying was probably the shortest of the shorts on this list of favorites, but it seems like it was intentionally short. This humorous 3D/CGI short was showed the most unsatisfying moments in life. They are simply small moments that kept building up as to how unsatisfying certain moments in life are. I think anyone who watches this short can relate to something, like a soda getting stuck in a vending machine, missing the bullseye playing darts, and you get the idea. It’s bittersweet, but all around hilarious.

 My Burden

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My Burden is a stop-motion film by Niki Lindroth Von Bahr about the night lives of night shift employees, all of which are animals, at a customer support service, a hotel, a grocery store, and a fast-food joint. While the tone has music and individuals dancing, it also shows darker themes that the director described of boredom, being alone, and existential anxiety. While I have never really worked night shifts, I can understand on an emotional level how that feels. The stop-motion animation was charming, and there was a subtle sense of humor with certain moments, like an anchovy at the hotel saying he’s alone, because he has bad skin. It might be a weird short about animals with night-shift jobs, but that weird feel is what makes this a favorite short.

Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon

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Listen, I love nature documentaries, and whenever I see one on TV, I do watch it. However, I loved this wonderful CGI short parodying a segment of a nature show. Directed by Tomer Eshed, this German-animated short was misleading, in a good way. At first, you see the fairly realistic-looking CGI chameleon, but then you see the animation side of things slowly ooze out with how the chameleon smiles after eating a small fly, and then watch as his constant hunger gets the best of him. It’s another short that has no real dialogue besides the faux nature documentary narrator, and relies on physical comedy. It’s short, but very effective. It was probably the one short that got some of the biggest laughs in my theater.

Everything

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Now, I do have some issues with this one being considered an animated short. It’s a really good short, but should it count as an animated short when it’s a video game? It’s basically some slightly altered gameplay footage. However, I can’t deny that this was a very effective short. The voice-over narration done by late British philosopher Alan Watts really makes you have an existential moment about life. He unloads about how everything is connected, from the smallest atom, to the biggest living creature. Everyone has a role to play, and we constantly rely on one another to live. The visuals are simple, but they get the job done. Plus, the simple visuals get really surreal when you see a bunch of items flying around in space. While I can debate if this actually counts as an animated short, it’s still a short worth checking out!

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 89: Sahara Review

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

When I choose a film to watch, I try not to go directly into the film with a sense of “oh man, I’m going to hate this film”. Who wants to go into a film knowing it’s going to be bad? I said in my previous review that I like to be surprised. If it turns out to be a good or bad movie, that’s up to the film, and what I take away from it. That’s how I go into every film, and it was no different with the newly released Netflix-distributed film, Sahara. I knew about this CGI-animated film from France since the end of last year, but was intrigued when I saw Netflix was going to distribute it. I was a bit concerned when they didn’t really advertise the film, and after watching it, I understand why. Let’s dive into the desert with Sahara.

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The story revolves around a cobra and a scorpion, who feel out of place with the colony of other snakes they live with. The cobra named Ajar, voiced by Robert Naylor, decides to try and fit in with the snakes that live within the oasis on the other side of the valley. Unfortunately for him, the snakes in the oasis are pretty high class, and have a rather strong defense system. He and one of the oasis snakes escape the boundaries of the environment, and end up bonding with one another. That is, for a few seconds, as a snake charmer kidnaps the oasis snake. Ajar, along with the Oasis’s snake’s lazy obnoxious brother, must go save the “love” of his life before she ends up in a worse situation.

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Yeah, as much as I love foreign animation with their focus on story and characters, with different art styles and styles of animation, Sahara definitely doesn’t feel like one of those amazing films I talk about on my site. It becomes very obvious, outside of the rating for this film, that it’s meant for very little kids. Even if this was meant for younger kids, I can’t imagine someone like my niece sitting through this boring film. I don’t think I have ever felt so bored with an animated film from France since forever. None of the characters are very fleshed out, and they end up getting stuck with very basic character traits. Ajar is your generic lead character, Pitt the scorpion is your nervous safety-reliant friend, the female lead has no real character to her, and even the villain isn’t a super terrible guy. He’s not a good guy or anything, but the villain of this film feels forced. That’s also a problem when one of the characters you follow has a very hipster/surfer bro-style of talking that sounds way off from the original French dub of the film. Yeah, that’s another problem, the English dub is terrible. It’s not poorly done, but I feel like they either got the wrong voice director, or the actors weren’t putting their all into it, but a lot of the characters in this film were annoying to listen to. Especially that brother to the lead female, he is by far the most annoying character I have seen so far in 2017. First off, how does he have a blonde wig? Why does he talk like a surfer? Why is he a pot addict? Yes, it’s technically not pot but pollen, but it’s the same thing in terms of context. How do these characters reference things like Batman and Robin when they are snakes in a desert? I made it halfway through the film before I paused, switched to the French dub, and watched it with subtitles. You can tell that the French actors were putting more into their performances than the US cast.

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The film also loves to include a slew of characters that have no real purpose for the film. None of them push the narrative along, they don’t have much in terms of personalities, and sometimes, they are entirely 100% objectively pointless. For example, Pitt gets a scorpion girlfriend. Why? Because they needed a love interest in the last 20 minutes for him. Why? Because heaven forbid, we get any animated films these days that don’t rely on a romance between characters. You have bullies that never show up again, a cult of bugs that don’t show up again, and a family of scorpions that were way too willing to let their daughter go along with Pitt on the adventure that you never see again. And you have these security birds that only appear in the beginning of the film, and I swear one of them probably dies in the desert. I wouldn’t mind all of these pointless and boring main and secondary characters if they had any real chemistry. There is no convincing chemistry and charm between any of the characters. The two leads don’t even have romantic opportunity together; they fall for each other in a matter of seconds. Give Disney some credit, they at the very least, give the leads three or more days to do such a thing. It’s so weak and poorly executed that it’s eye-rolling.

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Did I like anything about this tale of snakes? Well, that’s one thing I can give credit to for this film. It is about an animal that you don’t see as leads in an animated film very often, and are not villains. I also like the animation and designs of the characters. It looks generic by US animation standards, but it looks way better than most foreign CGI fares. Even the humans have good looks to them that remind me of the Illumination Despicable Me look. I also found the movements to be fluid, and maybe that’s because most of the characters are snakes, but I think that’s pretty commendable that they put more detail into the animation. The colors are also very nice, because even though it is the desert, there can still be a lot of different colors, from the vibrant plants to the different skin or scale tones of the animals that live there. It was also nice to see the film was willing to take breaks every now and again to let the characters breathe. It’s nice to see that since a majority of animated films from the states tend to be very hyper and comedy-focused; this one could take its time for viewers to breathe and to slow the plot down. It doesn’t fix any of the issues with the plot, but having some atmosphere is nice.

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I still stand by my opinion that a lot of foreign animation is leagues better than a majority of the films made in the states, but this is one of the few times where I consider this one of their blunders. It’s not the worst animated film from France by any means, but it makes you wonder why the heck Netflix picked it up, and why it was even made. It has nice animation, but nice animation can’t save a film from its lackluster characters and story. If you really want to see this, for the love of animation, please watch it in French with English subtitles. It’s one of the few French-animated films that I have seen that felt like they weren’t even trying. Well, that happens from time to time. Thankfully, Sahara is way more watchable than what is quite possibly my worst animated film of 2017. You will just have to wait to see what that is next time. Thanks for reading!

Rating: Lackluster!

Animation Tidbits #2: What's Cam Looking Forward To? 5/5/17

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

So, in my personal life, I love to make emails about a bunch of upcoming films for my family, who may or may not know much about what’s coming out. I recently did an email with all the upcoming animated films that are being released here in the states or somewhere around the world where I hope they get a stateside release. I decided to make a series of Animation Tidbits, where I show off some trailers or clips of upcoming animated films that have caught my eye. Now, some of these are already well known, but I’m sure many people have not heard of many of the films listed in this editorial. Let’s get started.

Early Man 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLTDY9yZDRM&w=560&h=315]

Up first is the trailer for Nick Park’s newest stop-motion feature, Early Man. I mean, I love Aardman Entertainment and all of their films. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be up for this one. While I don’t usually get super-hyped for big-named cast members in general anymore, I think Early Man has an incredible cast, including Tom Hiddleston (Marvel films, The Night Manager), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Timothy Spall (The Last Samurai, Enchanted, and Sweeney Todd), and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones). Unfortunately, I have to wait until 2018 for this promising flick.

Coco

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNCz4mQzfEI&w=560&h=315]

While Cars 3 doesn’t technically look terrible, and it does seem like Pixar wants to make a good movie from this flawed and merchandise-spewing trilogy, Pixar’s original film is what I’m looking forward to more. Yes, it’s another animated film based on Day of the Dead, and I do know the pointless turf war Coco fans and The Book of Life fans brought up with each other on Twitter with the two films’ directors, but it’s Pixar. I know their recent track record has been bumpy, but I usually feel like I can be excited and love their original content. The voice cast for this film is also pretty stellar with Benjamin Bratt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Renee Victor, and newcomer Anthony Gonzalez. Hopefully, this becomes another great original film in Pixar’s line up.

Wolfwalkers

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL_RH3P6Cz0&w=560&h=315]

I’m patiently waiting (badly) to hear a release date, and for GKids to pick this film up. Wolfwalkers is the next film by two-time Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore, who was the director of Song of the Sea, and The Secret of Kells. The animation looks beautiful, you can sense and feel the atmosphere and Irish cultural elements, and it’s a downright gorgeous 2D animated film. I do wish the movie-going world would give this director and the super talented team at Cartoon Saloon a lot of support.

Gatta Cenerentola

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SApSVOLeGU&w=560&h=315]

Or as it’s known in English, Cat Cinderella. This is the first obscure film that I hope gets an English release. It’s an Italian CGI animated film, using mostly motion-capture for the animation. It’s a modern dark take on the Cinderella story, and it looks amazing. I know the movements can come off as clunky, since motion-capture can be finicky if not done correctly, but I think the tone, setting, and the idea will elevate it. Plus, it has a gorgeous art style, and I could listen to that song in the trailer all day.

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_qdx76xLXc&w=560&h=315]

If you watched the amazing Ernest & Celestine, the art style should look familiar to you, since one of the directors of the film, Benjamin Renner is behind this film. It’s based off of his comic, and while the trailer is in French, you can pretty much understand what is going on. It has good animation, a great sense of humor, and it’s just adorable. Hopefully, GKids can pick this one up.

Calamity

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One of my favorite films from last year was the French film, Long Way North. While I think it went under the radar way too much last year, the same group that made Long Way North are back with another female lead-driven film. While it might be based on the historical figure, Calamity Jane, the filmmakers are taking on the character in their own story. I know that might be a bad idea in some cases, but Long Way North was so fantastic, and these guys know what they are doing.

 Icarus

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While I love a lot of the films on this list, I think Icarus has me the most excited in terms of the setting. It’s a mixed-media animated film, using CGI and beautiful 2D animation. It makes the three Greek Gods, Zeus, Poseidon, and Aphrodite not just Gods, but Newspaper Journalist Gods as they try to weave interesting tales out of Greek Mythology for the paper. First off, the idea itself is awesome. I could see a lot of commentary about journalistic integrity, and how a lot of sites like to use clickbait-style headlines for not very interesting stories. I also love the combination of CGI and the lovely 2D animation. You just watch the trailer, and you get a lot of great visual eye candy. It also helps that there is a Pixar Veteran directing the film named Carlos Volgele. I just love the idea, and I definitely want GKids or Shout! Factory to bring it over.

Well, there you have it. These are the animated films that I am looking forward to at this point in time. I will do these from time to time when I find enough films to warrant a list like this, but do expect more of these. I might do these more so than a “Most Anticipated Films of –insert year here-“lists. Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a good day!

The Other Side of Animation 71: Phantom Boy 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!)

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Well, since January is pretty much a month in which you stay the heck out of theaters, I decided to use this month to catch up on movies I didn’t get to review last year, and review them for this year. Let’s begin! A while back, I mentioned that the directors of A Cat in Paris were making a new movie called Phantom Boy. The Academy Award nominated directors, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol pretty much stepped up their game with their feature-length action crime thriller. Phantom Boy was released in the states in 2016 by our buddies at GKids, and brought in a solid cast that included Fred Armisen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jared Padalecki, Marcus D’Angelo, Melissa Disney, and Dana Snyder. It’s definitely a bit more ambitious than the directors’ previous film, but does it mean it’s better? Well, let’s just say that it’s in my top 20 of the year for a reason.

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The story revolves around this young boy in New York named Leo, voiced by Marcus D’Angelo. He is currently going through type of treatment, and while doing so, gained the ability to leave his body, and fly around like a phantom. Leo will need to use this ability of his, because while this is going on, a terrorist known as The Face, voiced by Vincent D’Onofrio, is threatening to shut down the entire city and cause chaos. Leo must team up with a young police officer named Alex Tanner voiced by Supernatural star, Jared Padalecki, and stop The Face from taking over the city.

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Like it’s sibling from earlier in 2016, April and the Extraordinary World, Phantom Boy can be summed up with a few words. Those words are “charming, funny, and entertaining”. It’s a film that is easy to get into, since it has a bit of everything. Its premise is interesting, the chemistry between the characters is great, the action is fun, and it can be quite a thrilling ride to watch the clock go down, and observe the two leads deal with The Face as they try to stop his plan. The vibe and mood you get with this film is like a really entertaining 80s family film. It’s dark and atmospheric like in the same vein of a crime thriller, but it has its well-written light-hearted moments. It’s creative, but not hard to grasp in how it works. It’s a movie that doesn’t drag its heels, but it also gives time for the characters to breathe, and have some of the events that are going on, sink in with them.

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The animation is great. It’s essentially the same art style used in A Cat in Paris, and it’s once again beautiful. The scenes where Leo is flying around are whimsical, and a joy to watch. While it might not have inventive scenes like the blackout scene from A Cat in Paris, it trades that in for probably some of the best villain chemistry in any animated film. The Face is a great comedic villain, and his comradery with his two goons and everyone else is one of the best highlights of the film. They even throw in this funny long-running gag where The Face tries to tell his dramatic backstory, and you never get to hear it. It’s like reading a Buzzfeed title, but not getting the actual article. The film even brings back an Easter egg from the director’s previous film, and gives that little fuzzball a lot of screen time.

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If I had to complain about one major problem I have with the film, it’s that it’s once again a rather simple story. On one hand, it should be kept simple, since you don’t want to overcomplicate the setting and make the rules of Leo’s powers super-confusing. On the other hand, I feel like there could have been more done with the powers, like what else could he do, or how did he specifically get the powers? It really seems like there was meant to be more deep themes about Leo leaving his sick body to get away from it, but they didn’t know how to expand on it. I also got confused by the ending. I won’t spoil what happens, but I never understood what exactly happened. It’s hard to explain without spoiling, but I don’t feel like telling you all how it ends. You will have to find a copy of the film and rent it for yourself.

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Still, despite the flaws, I really liked Phantom Boy. It’s creative, and still has a lot of the charm from the director’s previous film. It’s another high quality GKids release that I think everyone should own. It’s a good example of an animated gem that you can find if you choose to follow the indie or smaller animation releases and not just the big releases. Well, we got the good movie out of the way, how about we go into one of the biggest hit animated films from last year with The Secret Life of Pets? Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See it!

The Other Side of Animation 69: Snowtime! 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!)

Winter time is here, and this is a film I have wanted to talk about for a while, Snowtime! When I review films, I always want to make sure I review seasonal films around the appropriate time of year. That’s why I really don’t do horror animation unless it’s October, and you get the idea. That’s why I wanted to talk about Snowtime! since it is the holidays now, and everyone should be watching winter-themed or Christmas-related specials and films. Snowtime! is a French/Canadian collaboration directed by Jean-Freancois Pouliot. The film also boasts a couple of big names for the English dub, including Sandra Oh, Ross Lynch, and Angela Galuppo. It’s also on the list of animated films up for the short list for the Oscar’s Best Animated Feature category. So, does this movie deserve to be included with the likes of Zootopia, Moana, Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Long Way North, Only Yesterday, Miss Hokusai, and Kubo and the Two Strings as one of the best animated films of the year? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around a group of kids in a small town who decide to have this epic snowball fight that takes place over the winter break. And, well, that’s pretty much it. The film is attempting to be more intimate in scale and slice-of-life.

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I’m going to mention the good stuff first because once again, I have a lot more to talk about in terms of the negative aspects of the film, but I don’t think it’s entirely terrible. Now then, I really like the art design. The overall animation might be clunky, but the character design really does stand out. It reminds me of a good timeless children’s’ book-style art direction. Granted, some of the kids look like they have similar design choices, but the overall look of the film is pleasant. They even go into these 2D sequences when in a memory of one of the kids. It definitely has a much more interesting look than what you usually get with limited released animated films for families or straight-to-DVD schlock. I also respect that the film wants to be on a smaller scale and laid back. I think that’s pretty neat, since so many films aimed at children and family are loud and fast. I want animation studios to get that not every film needs to be fast and in-your-face with modern references and culture. It’s probably why no matter what I’m going to negatively say about Snowtime!, it will probably hold up better than most animated films.

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Now then, let’s break down why Snowtime! is not that great of a film. As I was watching it, I was thinking it was just okay, and was pretty harmless in terms of animated films of this year. It doesn’t have the grand epic scale or the edge of Kubo or Zootopia, but it’s not as insulting or terrible as Norm of the North and Ice Age: Collision Course. Granted, there are a few fart jokes in there that are distracting, but the overall film is very inoffensive. However, it really doesn’t have a whole lot that’s memorable about it. The kid characters aren’t that interesting and have very basic traits. Some of them get some “depth”, but due to how short the film is at 70 minutes, they don’t pace them enough, or they aren’t fleshed out enough to leave a lasting impression. It made me question why they needed actors like Sandra Oh in it, since having her or the other “big” names they got don’t add a whole lot to the film. I will at least respect that they keep the dialogue very timeless, and don’t try to make it sound modern or hip.

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Now then, let’s talk about the biggest and most glaring problem with this movie. When the film gets into its third act, out of nowhere, it turns into an anti-war film. One of the characters dies and it comes out of the blue and breaks the immersion of the film. You are sitting through this harmless bit of entertainment, and then bam! A character dies and it ends on this anti-war message. My jaw hit the floor, because it doesn’t fit the rest of the movie. Why did a character have to die? What was the point of it? Wasn’t this supposed to be an epic snowball fight? It ruins the movie because you can’t focus on the ending due to that one scene. It’s so hilariously bad that you wonder what the heck was going on when in development. It feels so forced into the movie, and I know this film was based on a book, so it might be just a bad or clunky adaptation, but it’s still so shocking that it happens. Another element that bugs me is, where the heck are the parents in this movie? This isn’t something like Charlie Brown where you know the adults are there, but you don’t see them. You never see them in this movie. It caused me to riff on the film a bit, due to how they don’t appear once in the entire 70-minute running time. Like, was this an unintentional Children of the Corn film?

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I was surprised by the experience I had with Snowtime! It wasn’t a great movie, but it’s also not the worst I have seen. I respect that it wanted to be more laid back and simple, but that last third is way too distracting, and elevates the other problems the film has. I know Shout! Factory Kids is new to this business of bringing over animated films, but they really need to learn from GKids and think of quality over quantity. If you can somehow rent this film or watch it on Netflix, I would do that, but if you want to watch a good Shout! Factory Kids film, you are better off skipping this film, and watching and buying Long Way North. Well, next time, we will look at one of the most infamous franchises in animation in one review. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Rent it

The Other Side of Animation 59: The Wild Life 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!)

Hey everyone, Lionsgate a.k.a #AntiGKids is back again with another nauseating and, to no surprise, horrible movie! Yeah, I know this might be picking on the studio, but they tried to con people out of money for Norm of the North and this movie, The Wild Life. The Wild Life is a French/Belgium collaboration that was originally called Robinson Crusoe. Ironically, this film has very little to do with the actual character, and focuses on the animals instead. It’s directed by Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, which explains a lot if you know about Ben Stassen’s filmography. It was produced by Illuminata Pictures, nWave Pictures, and UFilm. The only film that I can think of that is remotely well known in terms of what these companies and directors worked on was the incredibly mediocre Fly Me To The Moon 3D. Even though it’s not a huge bomb of a film from the other side of the world, it’s one of the biggest flops in terms of first weekend CGI film releases in the states. So, is it as bad as I, and many others, have made it out to be? Well, we shall see.

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The story revolves around this Parrot named Mak/Tuesday, voiced by David Howard Thornton. He tells the story about life on an island with his friends that include a tapir, a goat, a chameleon, a pangolin, an echidna, and what I think is a kingfisher. Believe me when I say that the types of animals are much more interesting than their actual names. One day, they see that a human named Robinson Crusoe, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, has been stranded on the island. Now the animals have to find out if this human is trustworthy, while avoiding the evil cats that sadly came along on the ship Crusoe was aboard.

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Man, this movie is horrible, but why? It looks just as cynical as most mediocre animated films, and it doesn’t look as bad as Norm of the North. So, what’s the problem? Well, I can describe this movie with one word, boring. This film is a chore to sit through, and that’s because of the characters. They are a bore. Each character has one trait, and they milk that more than NBC Universal milks that Illumination advertising budget. The goat is old, and that’s it. The tapir is fat, and that’s it. The pangolin and echidna are pointless characters, and you guessed it, that’s it. No one is worth remembering in this film. Oh, and they are all rather stupid. Like, Norm of the North levels of stupid. Listen, people, stupid characters don’t make a good movie. You can have one well written stupid character, but the entire cast can’t be as dumb as the person who thought Nine Lives was a good idea. In the end, I did not care what happened to anyone, and I was just ready to get off my seat and curse the people who brought this into theaters. It doesn’t help either that the film essentially had about three climaxes, overstayed its welcome, and characters acting inconsistently. Seriously, the kingfisher character wants the human off the island, but then in one scene of the movie, she attempts to ruin Crusoe’s S.O.S signal to keep him on the island. Like, do you want him gone or not?!

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The biggest sin this film has going against it is that it is completely pointless. There was no reason for this film to exist. It’s not smart, clever, funny, interesting, and it is soulless. Heck, it doesn’t even really focus on Crusoe, and granted, some things from the original book they probably couldn’t do, but it’s also another film that had no freaking reason to be in theaters. I seriously question moviegoers, when the great Kubo and the Two Strings has to continually suffer in the box office. I saw no advertising for The Wild Life besides a poster for it a few months back. That’s it. Why does Lionsgate keep thinking that they can bring over any animated film, and people will love it? You know what? We don’t!

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The animation definitely looks better than Norm of the North, but only in terms of textures. It had more money and talented people working on this film than Norm of the North, but the animation is still very robotic. No one moves naturally. Well, maybe the chameleon moves the most naturally due to them already moving like robots, but I digress. The voicework is also annoying. On one hand, they got mostly voice talent for this film. It really doesn’t have big names to back it up (which makes it a mystery why it got to be in theaters in the first place, but still). It’s somewhat nice to see a film not rely on big names to sell its movie. On the other hand, the actors aren’t that great, and you can tell the English dub team wanted bigger names than what they could afford.

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So, out of this incredibly boring and annoying trainwreck, what does this film do well? Well, it only does one thing really well. What is it? It only has one or two really bad stereotypical kids film jokes. Yeah, the rest of the humor is horrible, not funny, and the two butt jokes are lousy excuses for humor, but to their credit, I do have to say that this film stays far away from the modern children animated film joke tropes. I was shocked by this because this was distributed by Lionsgate, which as you all know, released Norm of the North, which they should still be ashamed for making.  Anyway, The Wild Life has bland and boring humor, but it’s not super-condescending and cynical like Norm of the North or Bling. I was actually surprised, since it’s so easy for studios to get the note from higher-ups to put in these “wastes of space” jokes that make kids who have no sense of humor laugh, and adults who were unfortunate enough to take them to see it roll their eyes. I will also give credit that the animation looks decent. It’s still bad, but it’s not immensely mediocre. More Ratchet & Clank, than Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

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Man, I really hated this film. I don’t hate it as much as Norm of the North and Underdogs, but it’s a vapid pointless film that had no reason to be in theaters. The film will be out in a physical format in November, but don’t pick it up. Instead of getting the dvd for this film on November 22nd, go purchase Kubo and the Two Strings on the same day. You will thank me. Now then, this is my 4th worst movie of the year. What is my 3rd worst animated film? Well, stay tuned.

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

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 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 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

The Other Side of Animation 38: Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure 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!)

So, on The Other Side of Animation, we have seen a lot of animated films that try to capture that old Tex Avery and Looney Toons-style of speed and comedy. It has worked for some, from the more subtle physical comedy of Ernest & Celestine, to the overly hyper Cool World. It can be a tricky line from either being really good comedic animation to being mentally draining to watch. You have to pretty much pick and choose when to make the animation work, and not be an eye sore on the viewer. Today’s review is a film that straddles that line. Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure is a French animated film based off of the popular long-running franchise that was released back in 2007. It was also a part of the 32nd Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and was in the same year as Nocturna and Sita Sings the Blues. You can guess correctly that Sita Sings the Blues won, but how is Go West!? Well, let’s find out.

The story follows our main cowboy hero Lucky Luke. He arrives in a city to oversee the Dalton brothers, four brothers who end up breaking loose from jail and going down a street of banks robbing them. After a creative car chase and great slapstick, Luke and the Daltons get wrapped up in helping out a caravan of people. They make it to California to acquire a piece of land that will otherwise be owned by a greedy individual. Can Luke make sure all goes well?

Well, let’s get the good out of the way first, since there are some great elements to the film. For a film based on a popular license, you would think no effort would be put into the animation. Luckily, this is French animation and not American animation, because the 2D animation for Go West is fantastic. It’s good fluid cartoony animation that made me think of some elements from Looney Toons, Ren and Stimpy, and Tex Avery cartoons. There was no time where I felt like the animation felt out of place. Even though slapstick can be done poorly these days, the slapstick is admirable here since it, for the most part, feels genuine and thought out. It might be a bit too cartoony for the physical timing, but it’s pretty enjoyable, especially in the first 16 minutes of the film. Speaking of those 16 minutes, that is probably the best part of the movie. It’s like a longer version of the great chase sequence from Ernest & Celestine, but with a Looney Toons flare. It’s a creative chase to try and get the Daltons from stealing the money.

With all that said, this is one of the few French films I have found to be a disappointment in many ways. After the 16-minute mark, the film becomes boring and tiring. Due to the fluid cartoony animation, it becomes too busy at points, and it feels like it’s trying to be funny all the time. A lot of gags and jokes fall flat. Why do they fall flat? Well, because a majority of the characters, besides Lucky Luke himself, are stupid. Comedy doesn’t work if everyone is acting the same. It comes off of the interaction between two or more different characters. That’s why it works in Pinky and the Brain or Tom and Jerry because the two duos are different in terms of personalities. The stupidity of the characters also leads to there being no real threat, since like I said, the characters are not that bright. The film also feels like it had no real plot to begin with, and tries to fill it out with slapstick and character quirks that don’t work. I can’t feel invested with a lot of the characters besides Lucky Luke. I also found some of the logic to not be executed well. Why would one of the Daltons get really upset at his brother for cleverly hiding the stolen money inside the balls and chains that were attached to them? I feel like that’s a creative plan. I also found a lot of the characters forgettable. I don’t remember any of them. Even most animated comedies try to make you care about the characters.

It’s such a shame that so much effort went into the animation, but the story fell flat. I mean, if this is what the original source material was like, then that’s fine, but it doesn’t really attract or appeal to anyone outside of the fan base. You should always make a good movie first, than worry about the fan base. This is why films like Ratchet & Clank are not working. And yes, we will get to Ratchet & Clank at a later date. Go West is not a horrible movie by any means, at least it had a few memorable parts, but unless you want to own every animated film released in the states, then you are better off finding the full English version on YouTube than going out and finding a copy of the film to own. I can also understand if this was made for a younger audience in mind, but wouldn’t you rather make a movie everyone can see? I know sometimes it’s best to make a movie geared toward one crowd, but sometimes, it’s good to make it all around enjoyable. Well, let’s move onto something different. How about an animated short film called The Monk and the Fish? Thanks for checking this article out! I hope you liked it, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent It

The Other Side of Animation: The Triplets of Belleville 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 some female nudity, but not a whole lot of it. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

So, we have seen crazy and insane storytelling done badly that was entertaining to watch in a “so good, it’s bad”  kind of way, but what about watching an animated film that is all sorts of crazy, but was done well enough to be considered one of the all-time great animated films? As we have seen in a lot of animated movies and shows, it seems like the most popular form of comedy is being fast-paced, over-the-top, or flat-out crazy. Even then, there is an art and style to said creative comedy. You can’t just be loud and visually weird and unusual. If you are all just flash and no substance, why should we waste our time with you? Yeah, shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and films like The LEGO Movie are over-the-top, unique in their visuals, and have interesting senses of humor, but they all have good stories and characters you love and want to invest into. This is why, after that trainwreck of glorious/horrible animation that was MD Geist, I wanted to look at an odd, surreal, but amazing movie like The Triplets of Belleville. This movie was released back in 2003, winning critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. The Triplets of Belleville was directed by Sylvain Chomet, the man behind the 1991 animated film, The Old Lady and the Pigeons, and the 2010 animated, The Illusionist. So, is this film as good now as it was back in 2003? Well, let’s find out!

The story revolves around a grandmother named Madam Souza and her grandson named Champion. They live a simple life, until the day she finds out her grandson has a fascination with cycling. After getting her grandson a tricycle, the years pass, and we see the son is training for the grand pike race known as the Tour de France. During the race, Champion gets kidnapped by the French Mafia, and taken over to a romanticized version of New York. Madan Souza and her dog go after him, only to find themselves lost in the big city. Luckily for them, they end up encountering the famed Triplets of Belleville, three famous vaudeville singers from back in the day. Can they get Souza’s son back from the French Mafia?

So, this is a French 2D animated film about a grandmother, her dog, and three old ladies taking on the French Mafia to get the grandmother’s grandson back, with some of the most unusual and ugly (in a good way) artstyles ever implemented. Yeah, it’s a weird and sort of crazy film, but it all works! Why does it work? Well, maybe because while it has some unusual and crazy visuals, the story and characters are kept simple and easy to understand. You really get invested in and charmed by the individual characters, and this is amazing since there is basically no dialogue in the film. There is some at the beginning and end, but they are there to pretty much bookmark the start and end of the film. The only dialogue you hear is from the radio. Luckily, the execution of the animation and art design makes it quite clear to know what is going on with all of the character’s goals and intentions.

Speaking of animation, it is beautifully done. The art direction is what really makes this film stand out. It’s about as anti-Disney and DreamWorks as you can get, with humans that are quite frankly over-exaggerated and gross-looking. However, I mean that in the best way possible. Unlike the third-party tripe you get, the characters are well designed and have very memorable looks and diverse animations. I think some of my favorite character designs come from the grunts of the French Mafia. They look like walking dominos, and are just cool to look at. The overall presentation, like I have mentioned, is over-the-top and reminds me of caricatures. It’s rather beautiful in that regard. I love it when I get to see different art styles put into play, and in my opinion, more films need to do this instead of trying to be another DreamWorks and Pixar knock-off. The music is just groovy and jazzy. I love the original song that was nominated for best original song. It’s catchy and just a fun song to listen to.

If I had to complain about something, it would be this weird little hiccup that I saw with the English subtitles. Even though there is no talking, when you see the TV or radio sequences where there is dialogue, the English subtitles turn to French subtitles when you watch the film in English. Why is that a thing? I even watched it in French and the English subtitles are still French. That is such a huge hiccup in terms of the tech department that it’s kind of baffling that some employee didn’t quality control this part. Hopefully they fix this with a Criterion or Blu-Ray release. Heck, why isn’t this film part of the Criterion collection? It would look amazing.

The Triplets of Belleville is nothing short of a modern classic. It deserves to be talked about more than it does. I know it’s a famous movie, but man, this film got better the more times I watched it. Sadly, you can only get this movie in a DVD format, but if you can get it, I would highly recommend it. It’s pretty cheap and I even found a collector’s edition of sorts that had a ton of extras and both the French and English version of the film. I just want to keep praising this film for hours, but I would then be repeating myself. So, let’s move onto a film that could have been something better than expected, even with bad advertising, but was just a bad film overall. Next time, we look at Hell and Back. Thanks for checking out my work, and see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation: A Cat in Paris Review


(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. Thanks for reading and enjoy the review!)

That’s right, viewers, we are back in Paris. However, we are not seeing A Monster in Paris, but we are reviewing A Cat in Paris. This 65-minute French-animated film was directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, and was produced by Folimage. If this company sounds familiar to foreign animated film buffs, this is the same studio that made Raining Cats and Frogs, and Mia and the Migoo, another distinctive-looking animated film. I decided to talk about this film since the creators behind A Cat in Paris have recently made a new movie, and, well, I’m excited! Let’s get on the catwalk and see how good this movie is!

A Cat in Paris is about a young girl and her police commissioner mother. The mother is voiced by Marcia Gay Harden, and she is currently trying to capture and arrest an evil crime boss named Victor Costa, voiced by J.B Blanc. While this is all happening, the young girl learns that her cat leaves the house at night to meet up with a cat burglar named Nico, who is voiced by the always great Steve Blum. A friendship grows between the young girl and Nico, they need to stop Victor Costa from getting a large artifact, and the police are all wrapped up in this plot!

Let’s begin with the good stuff. First off, for 65 minutes, the film does everything that makes a good crime thriller. It has a solid crime, some decent bad guys, some high stakes, likable characters that you want to see not get harmed, and a very atmospheric world. Seriously, the art style really brings you into the noir-style Paris. Its use of pastel-style colors really brings personality to the city night life. Some people might find the character designs a bit weird, but the animation is so beautiful and smooth. It’s a really stylish movie and it stands out among most animated films. I also like the character. Nico is a charming and rather friendly cat burglar, Victor Costa and his goons are goofy and entertaining, the mother’s relationship with her daughter is well done, and it can be pretty suspenseful at some points. It can also get really creative. For example, there is one scene later on in the film where Nico cuts the electricity to a house, and everything is just pitch-black inside the house where Costa is holding the girl hostage. Everyone is in this black background, and everyone walking around and talking are all simply white outlines. It’s hard to really explain, but it’s a fine example of creative 2D animation. The voice cast does a great job. I know you can say that Marcia Gay Harden has type-casted herself in this role due to her reoccurring role on Law & Order: SVU, but she pulls off being a tough cop and a loving mother. You even get a surprise performance by Angelica Huston, who plays the little girl’s nanny. For me, the performances of the goons, and Steve Blum as Nico steal the show.

 

Now, I can understand if people can’t get into this film’s story because of how simple it is, but for me, I don’t mind a simple plot if you execute it properly. My only real issue/non-issue with the film is that I wish it was longer. I feel like they could have fleshed out the relationship a little more with the mother and daughter, and maybe given a reason why Nico is a thief in the first place. Then again, I think they do execute these elements well, and maybe not dragging the length of the film out is for the better.

A Cat in Paris is an entertaining film. It might be short, and not as complex as some of the other films that GKIDS release, but in the end, it’s good to always have a fun movie to watch. It might be aimed more at a younger audience, but I would rather show A Cat in Paris over a lot of tripe that you see among animated films that are released in theaters. You can watch this on the American Netflix, but if you want to, go buy the Blu-ray/DVD combo to support the company so they can bring over more great films. You know, how about we talk about a Christmas special? I have an idea for one during the week of Christmas, but for now, how about we talk about a little guy known as Ziggy, and his wish with Ziggy’s Gift? Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!