the worst

The Other Side of Animation 110: Guardian Brothers 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 wrote my editorial about The Weinstein Company, and how awful of an animation distributor they were, a few days later, they announced that they were going to open up a new animation distribution branch that will specifically handle animated films. This raised so many red flags, but against my more moral judgement, I decided to give them a chance. As much as I get annoyed with certain studios like Illumination or Blue Sky, I never want them to fail. Even my anger with Lionsgate is more to the fact that I want them to stop bringing over everything just because it’s cheap and affordable. I want studios and distributors to succeed because when they do something good, it should be rewarded. Too bad The Weinsteins lost that one chance in one move with the 110th review, Guardian Brothers. As a rule, I only look at infamous bombs, successes, and failures as every 10th review, since I would rather talk about awesome stuff, and not be tied to looking at only “bad” stuff. So, what’s so bad about this one? Well, this was supposed to be the next “big” animated film to be brought over by The Weinsteins. It had a large cast, including Edward Norton, Meryl Streep, Dan Fogler, Bella Thorne, and Nicole Kidman. I mean, that sounds impressive for a film to have that cast. Hopefully it means that the film is such a monumentally amazing product that they wouldn’t even dare just slip it onto Netflix with no one knowing unless someone said something, right? Yeah, if you couldn’t tell by that “oh so subtle” amount of sarcasm, they slipped it onto Netflix like they did with Underdogs. Kind of makes you wonder why they cared at all to bring this over, chop it up, and spend that money hiring those big actors if they are just going to act like cowards, and release it with no one to know that they did such a thing. Before we start, I wanted to be fair with this film, so I watched both the original Chinese version, and The Weinstein version. So, heads up to the fact that I’m going to be comparing the two. Oh, and screw The Weinsteins. Well, let’s get started.

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The film follows two brothers named Yu Lei and Shen Tu, voiced by Edward Norton and Dan Folger. They are gods that are feeling unloved by the humans, because no one is worshipping them for what they represent in the human’s lives. They then get taught about how they could possibly gain back the love and popularity with the humans, by adapting with the changing times. Unfortunately, they decided to shrug that off, because as you know, people fear change. Luckily, they get told of a different solution. The solution may come in the form of an evil spirit that was sealed in earth, after being defeated many years ago. Yu Lei decides to take on this task, while his brother Shen Tu  gets involved with trying to stop him, but also deal with a mother and daughter who are the only humans who keep their presence around, even as the world moves forward. Can Shen Tu stop his brother from unleashing a terrible evil? Can the gods find a way for humans to love them again?

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So, let’s just do a quick review of the original movie. I have to talk about the original first, because a lot of my complaints come from how Weinstein and his inept crew of animation individuals handled this movie. The original movie was called Little Door Gods. It was around 100 or so minutes, and to be frank, the movie is mediocre. It’s a film with a horrible pacing problem, jumping between Shen Tu interacting with the humans, and him trying to stop his brother from unleashing an ultimate evil. This is on top of the mother and daughter characters trying to stop a franchise mogul from taking over their restaurant. It ultimately takes away the stakes, due to how much the plot jumps around. It’s too much going on, and you don’t even see this large evil spirit until 15 minutes before the movie ends. Overall, the best part about the movie was the moral. Times change, and you need to adapt to the change, but you can still respect the past. It’s an interesting story element, and it gives the film a reason to exist. It’s like Meet the Robinsons or Monster’s University, two films that are not really that good, but have great morals near the end of their respective runtimes. It made slugging through the film less of a waste of time.

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Now, what do the Weinsteins do with this film? Well, you know the entire point of the film was to embrace change, but to stay true to yourself, and respect the past? Well, too bad if that was your favorite part! They entirely rewrote the script, and took out those aspects. So, what do you get? Not a whole lot. You still get the whole evil spirit plot point, but the overall story feels hollow. You can obviously tell they cut scenes to be shorter, or cut out scenes entirely. There is a great example of this stupid scene cutting, when Shen Tu and the little girl go get the health inspector, and the health inspector reminisces about a costume party that you never get to see. You even see a snippet of that scene in the end credits. Like, why cut it out? Granted, a lot of the film was padded to fill the runtime, but if you are going to cut a scene, then make sure it’s a scene that has no value to the overarching story. It doesn’t help that the film has all the cringe-inducing additions of a Weinstein-distributed animated film. They force in jokes, pop songs, and a terrible voice-over dub. For a film starring such a huge cast of actors, you would think they would care about their performances, but it sounds like they cranked out the dub in a day, found out Leap! didn’t do well in the box office, and just used the first take for the film, and shoved the film onto Netflix, with no warning or advertisement.

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Seriously, why was this film picked up? This was supposed to be the flagship title under the Weinstein’s new animated feature label, and yet, they just shoved it onto Netflix, with no one knowing unless you are in the animation scene. They already had the worst reputation in animation, and they made it worse by forcing this movie out. Even with the edits they made, it doesn’t fix anything. The movie was already flawed, so by editing it, the flaws are more apparent, and you don’t end up with a better product. It’s still a boring movie to watch, and all the added “benefits” don’t improve it. Animation has come so far since its inception, and the Weinsteins act like this is still 2001 when Shrek came out. Are you that ashamed that you started an animation branch, and knew Guardian Brothers wasn’t going to go over well?

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So, is there anything really good about the Weinstein version or the original version? I mean, kind of. While films like Kung Fu Panda 3 have better fight scenes, Guardian Brothers still has some scenes where the action is pretty decent. The last fight against the evil spirit is creative at points, and even though this next praise is only for the original version, I still like the moral of having to confront change, since I know that is hard for a lot of people. The animation, while not theatrical quality at all, is still better than most Chinese-theatrical animated films. You can tell they wanted this to look good. You can tell the country wants to make more films with the effort that Pixar puts into their films. It’s not there yet with Chinese-theatrical animation, but I respect that they are at least trying. That is something the Weinsteins have never done with animated films.

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It was challenging to know how to grade this movie. On one hand, it’s not a great movie, but the original is harmless. The Weinstein version is a chore to watch for a load of other reasons, and for their first flagship title under their short-lived animation branch, they messed up. They made a mediocre film worse, by simply removing the moral of the original film and simplifying everything. When you have an actress like Meryl Streep in the movie, and fail to use her, you know something is broken beyond repair. As much as I hate Spark: A Space Tail, it was, at the very least, presented as intended. Guardian Brothers was not, and it’s a worse film for it. Avoid it at all cost, and just watch or buy the Kung Fu Panda trilogy if you want some Chinese-themed action films with good stories, characters, and fight sequences. Well, it’s Christmas time, and this year, things are about to get a lot more oversaturated and yellow as we review the Despicable Me franchise with their first film. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Blacklist/The Worst!

The Other Side of Animation 60: Bling 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!)

With this year being very popular for animated films big and small, it’s definitely showing that the movie industry and media distributors are grabbing animated properties left and right to be able to call their own. Sony Pictures Classics bought the rights to distribute The Red Turtle, GKIDS got their hands on Miss Hokusai, a popular 2015 entry from the Annecy Film Festival, and Netflix bought The Little Prince when, for some unknown and quite frankly stupid reason, Paramount dropped it. Sadly, that means that some companies are going to pull a Central Park Media or LionsGate, and buy up any animated films they can, not caring if it’s good or bad. This is why I’m looking at one of Google Play’s exclusive films, Bling. This is a Korean CGI-animated film produced by Digiart Productions, the studio behind the infamous rip-off film The Reef. The writing on the wall, in terms of quality, is no better seeing the writers, who worked on films like Alpha & Omega, Outback, and The Reef. Yeah, this is going to be one of those movies. Let’s dive in and see what the damage is.

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The story revolves around a young man named Sam, voiced by John Carter himself, Taylor Kitsch. He is a robot maker, who lives with his three robots, Wilmer, a pig robot voiced by Jon Heder, Kit, a monkey robot voiced by Jason Mewes, and Okra, a frog robot voiced by Tom Green. Throughout his entire life, all Sam wanted was to marry the love of his life, Sue, voiced by Jennette McCurdy. However, when an evil mastermind named Oscar, voiced by Jason Kravits, and his robot, Victor, voiced by James Woods, wants to take over the city, it’s up to Sam and his robotic friends to take them down.

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Let’s get the bad out of the way, first. In the first few minutes of the story, you get a lot of the film’s biggest problems. First off, the moral message. In the first five or so minutes, the movie basically says, “to be a good piece of wedding material, you need materialism!”. Forget about actually knowing about one another, bonding over dates and social sequences, and after a while seeing if you are into each other enough to want to spend the rest of your lives together. Because you know, you can simply marry anyone if you just pimp out a hugely expensive ring showing your self-worth. And this theme is everywhere in this movie, making a lot of the characters rather unlikable, and having an incredibly cynical drive to them. I don’t know if this was the intent, and the writers had a stupid moment that made them skip over this huge issue of the film, because I would like to know, but holy macaroni, this brings the film down immensely. Like I said, the characters don’t really have personalities, and some of their dialogue sounds incredibly forced and contrived, especially with the monkey robot that is obviously inspired by the Journey to the West story. The other characters are simply forgettable or oddly tame, compared to their actors. Like, how do you have Tom Green, infamous for Freddy Got Fingered, and somehow make him act like he got hit with a sleeping spell or some kind of tranquilizer? In the end, that may be a blessing if you have ever seen Freddy Got Fingered, but I digress. He brings no energy to his snarky cynical robotic counterpart. This film also has the failure of comedy. I just recently rewatched The LEGO Movie, and it made me realize how incredibly funny that film is, and how animated films can have good comedy, but nope! There is no excuse for this film going for low-brow humor, like its excessive amount of fart jokes (all of them coming from the pig robot), when other animated films are raising the bar with their wit and clever writing, like in Zootopia. Why would you just have okay writing and not hit it on the mark every single time you deliver a line or joke? Seriously, there needs to be higher standards in animation and filmmaking, in general. Apparently, someone loved the fast-forward button, because the first part of the movie moves at a really fast pace. It doesn’t let us get a breather or a break to be embraced into this film’s world, or learn about the characters (you never learn why Sam decided to make robots at all), which is really generic and not interesting or memorable, like the city in Big Hero 6 or again, Zootopia.

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In terms of animation, it looks more appealing-if-generic to look at than Norm of the North and Underdogs, but it’s also not technically impressive looking. It’s slightly better than what we can do with TV show CGI animation these days. Some of the action scenes are decent, but not super-engaging. After watching Kung Fu Panda 3 and The LEGO Movie, you can do action in animation, and for a film that tries to have so many fights, the sequences are not up-to-par. This is also when we have seen Kubo and the Two Strings, and how that film is being ambitious with a more action adventure-oriented experience. I know I sound harsh in saying “well, they aren’t trying hard enough when others are showing how much effort they are putting into their movies”, but I’m being honestly harsh. There needs to a level of quality these days due to how many people aren’t going to the theaters anymore, but that’s mostly because Hollywood thinks we will watch anything, and just ignore the super high quality effort put into some movies.

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I don’t want to come off like an utter jerk, because I do have a few, if minor, positive comments to say about Bling. Even though its animation is not good, I will say it’s more pleasing to look at than Norm of the North and Underdogs. It’s rather impressive that Korea and China are upping their animation budget, even if it still won’t reach Pixar or Disney levels, yet. It might have this plastic/soft clay look to everything, but it sort of works for some of the robot designs. I found the only actor to actually put any effort into his or her acting is James Woods as Victor. Honestly, he has the most interesting personality and development as a character.

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While it might not be as bad as Norm of the North or Underdogs, it’s still the third worst animated film of this year. I’m rather surprised that I found something worse than Ratchet & Clank, The Wild Life, and Ice Age: Collision Course. I think it saves itself only because of the effort put into the animation, and it decided to only stay in theaters for like, three days, and then go through Google Play for its distribution. Avoid this movie, and if you want to watch Asian animation done right, you are better off buying any of the Studio Ghibli or Mamoru Hosoda films or any of the Japanese-animated films from GKIDS. Well, Halloween will be upon us, so let’s check out some Halloween-centric films like Hotel Transylvania 2. Hope you are all ready for some spooks!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

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