The Other Side of Animation 175: Batman Hush 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!)

If I was a writer, I would not want to be in charge of writing a mystery thriller. Not only that, but one that has to revolve around Batman and the DC universe. When I think about the process of writing a mystery thriller, you have to be a few steps ahead of the audience. You don’t want to be too complex for the viewers to not follow along, but you don’t want to be so predictable that everyone gets the twist before it happens. This sounds so stressful, and it’s even more nerve-wracking when you are then tasked with adapting a well-known Batman story and having to make it work in a film format. This is why we are talking about Batman: Hush.

Directed by Justin Copeland, and released back in July 2019, Batman: Hush is based on the famous comic of the same name, but upon release, the reviews were generally positive, but not as glowing as other animated films released under this series of DC properties. So, what do I, a casual comic book and Batman fan, think about it? Well, let’s look under the cape and find out.

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Our story follows Superman. Nah, I’m kidding. It follows Batman, voiced again by Jason O’Mara, as he’s doing his usual Batman business of taking care of crime in Gotham City and going through his social life as Bruce Wayne. During an evening party, he encounters Selina Kyle, voiced by Jennifer Morrison, and his friend Thomas Elliot, voiced by Maury Sterling. After getting a call that Bane, voiced by Adam Gifford, is holding a kid hostage, Batman then runs into Selina Kyle as Catwoman, who took the ransom money that was for Bane. While on this pursuit, Batman is almost killed by a new masked antagonist, and after recovering from a near-fatal fall, learns that the villains of Gotham are being threatened by this new villain named Hush, voiced by Geoffrey Arend. Supposedly, Hush has dirt on every single villain in Gotham, and that includes Batman himself. Can Batman find out who Hush is and stop his nefarious scheme?

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One of the elements about this film that stood out to me was how much time we see Batman as Bruce Wayne. Seriously, the film does take a lot of time from the mystery of who Hush is to have Bruce and Selina’s relationship be a focal point of the story. Normally, I worry when a superhero film decides to not be about the superhero elements, because then you have to work hard on the rest of the story to justify keeping the characters out of their hero suits. The chemistry between Bruce and Selina is fairly cute. I like seeing Bruce let loose of being this stone-cold stoic individual, and his sidekicks reacting to the situation at hand. Even Damian, who is consistently the worst part of this new iteration of DC films, has a few funny lines. Since I never read the original comic, I was judging how the story was told, and I was kept invested due to the script being stronger and the character dynamics being more amusing than previous films. There were even fun sequences where Batman and Catwoman travel to Metropolis and fight Superman, and an amusing sequence with the Joker. In terms of action, I mean, you have a film where Batman fights the big hitters of his rogue’s gallery, a new villain that was able to almost cripple the Batman, and a stellar Superman fight. It checks off my boxes for a superhero film to be entertaining. The fights are intense and mostly satisfying. You have to try hard and make fight sequences with Batman look bad.

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Animation-wise, while I try to keep my criticisms limited to the next segment of this review, Batman: Hush looks okay. I know that due to releasing so many of these films a year, the animation takes a hit, but if you like how Young Justice or the new Harley Quinn look, then you know what to expect with these films. When the action is going, the animation is great, but when it’s not, it’s simply doable. I still think I would rather have DC stop releasing so many of these films a year, if that meant they could put a bit more of the budget into the animation. At least Batman vs. TMNT and Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans had visually distinct looks. The voice cast for Batman: Hush, while still the same as previous films, are elevated by the tighter script. Seriously, this is probably some of the best voice work done for these films in a long time.

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Sadly, while the first two-thirds of this film are clunky, but charming, the third act is what drags this film down for me. From what I have read and what people have told me, the twist on who Hush was in the comics was wildly different from the film, and they changed who he is in the film, and to me, the film didn’t properly execute the new twist. It felt very last minute on who Hush was, and the film’s mystery element wasn’t as compelling during the last act of the film. It didn’t even have those nice details you see on the second time around like Knives Out did. The film felt like it forgot that this new villain was wandering around and was able to blackmail other villains into helping him out. The non-hero stuff is great, but it makes me think Bruce forgot (even with the head injury he took) what was going on. It also made Hush way less interesting when you found out who he was. It didn’t kill the entire mood of the film, but it almost did for me.

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While better in many ways compared to the previous DC animated films, Batman: Hush still disappoints. I don’t know if I could fully recommend it if you were a fan of the comic, but if you need to own every one of these films, then go ahead and check it out. For now though, let’s move away from the grimy Gotham City streets to a magical realm as we jump into Netflix’s first animated feature purchase with Ni No Kuni.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

 

Rating: Rent it.

The Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018 Part 4 Finale

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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 editorial/list!)

So, two years later, we finally get to the end of 2018’s Worst to Best Animated films! I promise to get started on the Worst to Best of 2019 very soon. For now, if you have yet to see Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, then I recommend you do that first, because if you don’t see a film in my top 10, then it probably didn’t make it there. Let’s get started!

10 MFKZ

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It might not have a tight story, and it meanders around a bit, but I loved my time seeing MFKZ. It’s one of the few dubs to have a POC cast, it has some great lead characters, and the action is off the wall bonkers. It’s such a fun ride, and while it isn’t for everyone, if you love schlocky trashy action films that are ambitious, then everyone needs to check out MFKZ. It’s a film that throws everything including the kitchen sink into the mix, and it’s quite a delight, warts and all, unless you are under 13, because this film is rated M for Mature.

9 Ralph Breaks the Internet 

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I know it wasn’t exactly the sequel people wanted with a follow-up to Wreck-it Ralph, but all things considered, I find myself loving and thinking about the experience of watching Ralph Breaks the Internet. Ralph and Vanellope are still great characters, the themes of toxicity are all well tackled. It might not have the best story, but the little details, the animation, the side characters, and the overall film was just great. Still, it almost didn’t make it into my top 10 due to some regressive elements in the script. Still, I enjoyed my time surfing the web with Ralph.

8 The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

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It really shouldn’t have taken two years to finally get this film in my possession. Anyway, while Ernest & Celestine may have more story and heart to it, Benjamin Renner’s follow-up with the anthology film, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is a cute and hilarious romp. The 2D watercolor animation is mixed with some of the best physical comedy you will ever see in animation. It’s light-hearted and it’s a comedy I think everyone should check out!

7 The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

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Masaaki Yuasa is going to be here on the list a lot. That’s because he made two films in one year that include what is probably my favorite adult animated comedy, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. You would think a story about a young college girl traveling through a booze-infused city would be limiting in its appeal, and while there are some anime tropes that I could have lived without, the film is just a surreal and wildly exciting trip through the city streets, as you learn about the young adults that live within the city. I had a very unhealthy obsession with this film, as it was the one I watched the most out of any film from 2018. It’s thought-provoking, intellectually interesting, funny, endearing, and one of the most unique experiences you can get with animation.

6 Lu Over the Wall

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It’s a shame Masaaki Yuasa’s other film, the family-friendly Lu Over the Wall, was considered by many to be a Ponyo ripoff when, to be frank, Lu Over the Wall is its own delightful and strange offering. It has a lot of the crazy Yuasa-style animation you know and love, the characters are vibrant, and it has a lot of heart and great music. It has a third act hustle that doesn’t fully work, but Lu Over the Wall deserves all of the love and acclaim it has received.

5 Isle of Dogs

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Many may not be down for Wes Anderson’s style of filmmaking, and yes, there are elements of this film that should be discussed with how they were executed, but man, I loved this film. I adored the world, the insanely detailed animation, the cast, the combination of stop-motion and 2D animated sequences, and the music makes for a very endearing fairy-tale-like story.

4 Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom

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Mari Okada’s first directorial feature about motherhood in a fantastical land is a film that flew too low under the radar. It has beautiful animation and a story that has made me audibly cry in the theater and at home watching this film. If this film isn’t on your radar to watch, then please make it happen. It’s one of Japan’s best-animated films of the past decade.

3 Ruben Brandt: Collector

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Honestly, these next three could easily be tied for no 1 due to how incredible and imaginative they are. Ruben Brandt is one of the most unique thematically and visual films of all time. It’s mixing of an action heist thriller with the surrealist art style that adds bits of intrigue and horror make it for one of the most impressive animated feats seen in the theatrical animation scene. I now wish Sony Pictures Classics did not screw up this film’s release, and put it on Blu-ray as it deserves.

2 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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It was tough to pick between Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and my favorite film of the year, but that’s because Into the Spider-Verse is the shot in the arm that western animation needs. Not only does it combine a complex story using one of the best lead characters in any superhero film, but one of the most unique animation styles seen in the last decade. It deserved all of the acclaim and awards that it won, and if you have yet to see this film, please do so.

1 Mirai

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Man, in one decade, Mamoru Hosoda has either been in my top 10, or has made it to the no. 1 spot, and that’s no different here with Mirai. Maybe I have a little bias toward it since it was the first film I saw at Animation is Film 2018, and I am giving it some points above Spider-Verse since it was an original concept, but I do love Mirai with all of my passion and love for theatrical animation. I love the low-key coming of age tale of a young son and his new baby sister. I love the music. I love the time travel concept. I adored the comedy in this movie. I love that the parents aren’t throw-away characters. The animation was beautiful. The music was fantastic. I could go on about why I love Mirai, and  why it’s my favorite animated film of 2018, and why I consider it the best animated film of 2018.

 2018 was a pretty solid year, and I promise to get the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 out faster this year, but before I work on that, I must work on my first The Other Side of Animation Award Show! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading the list! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 174: Playmobil: The Movie 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!)

When you are a film fan, it’s extremely easy to overlook the fact that making a film is an incredibly challenging feat of art to make happen. You have to make sure multiple parts of this machine are running, and if anything happens, you have to make sure you are prepared for such situations. This is especially true with animated features. You can’t just delay something or just say “redo this scene, you got three weeks” unless you just introduce crunch periods, which are never a good thing. Animation takes time, and more so than most films that get made. You have to hand-craft everything from scratch. Sometimes, animation projects get wrung through the wringer, and due to bad luck, timing, and other elements, it could mean a bunch of hard-working and very talented individuals that made the film probably were given a bad project, and the final product will not be as good as they intended it to be. I wish more animation fans would understand that. So, what’s with the long paragraph? It’s because I want to talk about Playmobil: The Movie.

Directed by Lino DiSalvo, who was the head of the animation for Frozen, based on the “popular” toyline of the same name, produced by Method Animation, On Animation Studios, and DMS Entertainment, and distributed by STX Entertainment, Playmobil is another animation flop in a year full of animated flops. Having originally been pitched around to studios like Sony, the film started production in 2014 and was supposed to come out by 2017. Bob Persichetti was originally the director and writer of the film at Sony, but then the pitch fell through, and Bob went on to direct 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In 2016, the rights were then bought by Open Road Films to distribute it in the US, got Lino DiSalvo to direct, and the film’s budget was going to be $40 mil. Then in 2018 Open Roads went bankrupt, and STX Entertainment bought the rights to the film. Playmobil was shown around the world, and was even the opening night film for 2019’s Annecy Film Festival. It was met with mostly negative reactions that were so bad that people walked out midway through the film’s run. This also isn’t counting all the delays and money trouble STX was having, and the film finally landed with a dead-on-arrival thud on December 6th, 2019 and the UK in August 2019. It was a critical failure and a financial bomb as of writing this review. It has only gained $13 mil on that $40 mil budget. It became one of the top five worst domestic releases in over two-thousand theatres and shares the same spot as other noticeable failures like Delgo. Yeah, that’s quite a ride, and I feel badly for the talented people that were working on this film. So, is it worth all of this panning, and did it deserve to bomb in theaters? Well, let’s look at it!

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Our story focuses on a sister and her younger brother named Marla and Charlie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Gabriel Bateman. Marla promises Charlie a world of adventure and fun, but those plans are abruptly halted by a tone change of them finding out their parents died. No real explanation as to how they died, but they died. After some time passes, Marla becomes the new breadwinner of the house, and has to take on the adult responsibilities while her brother has become a handful to deal with. Charlie then calls out Marla for not being fun anymore, and runs away to this toy convention downtown. She runs after him and finds him at this Playmobil display, and the two get sucked into the world of Playmobil. They get separated, and it is up to Marla to find Charlie and get out of there. Along the way, Marla encounters a food truck driver/delivery man named Del, voiced by Jim Gaffigan, and the two must avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, voiced by Adam Lambert.

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So, let’s talk about marketing. Normally I don’t do this, because most of the time unless the director has an iron grip on the situation, marketing is done more by the studio and the crew doesn’t have a say in what gets shown. You may have noticed I didn’t mention Rex Dasher, Daniel Radcliffe’s character. Technically, from the trailer, he was the main character. Well, that’s not even close to being true. As many have mentioned, Rex Dasher is only in the film at most for 10 minutes. He’s not the main character, and I’m wondering if this was to try and get some of that synergy vibe from Spies in Disguise. It’s not like other trailers for Playmobil: The Movie are non-existent. They are around, and the American marketing has hidden the fact that this film opens and closes with live-action sequences as if this film was made in the 90s or early 2000s when those live-action remakes of animated properties were huge. It’s some of the worst marketing I have seen for an animated film, and the director and his team didn’t deserve this kind of marketing.

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I think the studio knew that they didn’t have a hit, and tried to twist it as much as possible to be appealing, but here is the thing, no one cares about Playmobil anymore. Or, at the very least, it’s still not super popular. The problem is that this film wants to be The LEGO Movie when the Playmobil toyline itself was not interesting or creative. It doesn’t help that the toys were more plastic than anything else. Yes, they had brand tie-ins, but of course, this film wasn’t going to be able to afford those licenses, and all we are left with are generic toys and characters. What worked about The LEGO Movie is that beyond having LEGO Batman and all of the tie-in references, LEGO Movie was still able to be creative and thoughtful. Sadly, Playmobil was not that. It doesn’t have a good creative core that it can work off of. It has one pretty good joke at the beginning when they play with the fact that Playmobil figures are infamously stiff, but they break that one rule within seconds. There is nothing here about this film’s world that makes me think of anything creative. It looks and feels like any normal animated film out there. Say what you will about LEGO Ninjago or any of the LEGO Movies that were released in theaters, they at least make you think of LEGO as a brand and identity. It’s not like Playmobil doesn’t try to get creative as it introduces a bunch of side characters from different realms, but they never stuck with me, because most of the stuff is fairly generic.

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Also, this film is a musical! Yeah, if there was one thing this film hid more than the live-action sequences and Radcliffe as not the main character, it’s the fact this film has musical sequences. I know Meghan Trainor and Adam Lambert wrote original songs for this film, and I’m sure this was probably the first time for someone who wrote the songs, but the music in this film is hugely forgettable. No real hooks or anything all that interesting. While it may not be as bad as Jeremy Renner’s songs used in Arctic Dogs, I found very little to like about the music in this film. I think the only one who had any fun with their number is Adam Lambert, but that’s because he’s probably the most talented person there, and is having fun with his character.

This reminds me, I didn’t talk about the characters. That’s because most of the cast is dull, forgettable, or unlikeable. Anna Taylor-Joy is sleepwalking through this film. Gabriel Bateman is also not all that interesting as a kid, and he’s despicable as a character at first. He has the gall to call his sister a terrible person because she now has to take adult responsibilities with the house and taking care of him. I mean, yes, he’s a kid, but he should be lucky that he’s not on the street or in an orphanage. The other cast members don’t have anything to them outside of their one character trait.

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I know I’m railing on this one hard, but it’s because I was rooting for it to not be an empty experience, and I got one, but there are a few elements that I did like about it. I think the animation is pretty decent. It’s nothing mindblowing and doesn’t go all the way with the aesthetic of Playmobil, but it’s not bad. Like I said above, most of the characters are boilerplate boring, but at least it seems like Radcliffe and Lambert were the most energized of the bunch. Unlike most of the cast, they were the two you really couldn’t replace. While most of the jokes land flat, a funny joke does pop in from time to time. Not enough of them are funny, but I did get a chuckle here or there.

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Normally, I would save this film for a review that’s all about notorious film fiasco, but I really couldn’t do that. It’s not that it didn’t fit the bill, because, I mean, come on, but animation reviewing needs to be improved upon, and that’s taking into considering with how we frame the way we talk about films. Playmobil: The Movie is not good, and it’s going to end up in my bottom 5 animated films of the year. However, I do feel badly for the talented people involved. Like I said, some of the crew that made this film worked with Disney in the past, and it’s not even an offensively bad film. It’s harmless, and at worst, it’s a mediocre film that was a bad idea from the get-go that could have been something great if it was given the right attention. I would say don’t check this film out, but because no one is seeing that film, I think that’s already a given. I hope the people who worked on this keep getting work, and they get to do something more rewarding in the future. Now then, let’s get to the DC animated films I need to catch up on with what I consider to be 2019’s weakest DC animated feature, Batman Hush.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 173: I Lost My Body 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!)

We seem to have a peculiar relationship with films that go through the festival circuit. Unless you get to be a critic, and fly out to Sundance, Cannes, Annecy, and all of the big and small film festivals, audiences and most critics don’t get to see much from these festivals until they are released in theaters. Then, when more people can lay their eyeballs onto the film, the reaction tends to be different than the festival reactions. Is there a certain kind of air to festivals that changes your perspective on film? Should people trust quick impressions or reviews from said festivals? Either way, I find it interesting when a big festival winner makes it to wide release, and the reaction is different across the board than what the critics say during the festivals. This was my experience with I Lost My Body.

Directed by Jeremy Clapin with a screenplay by Guillaume Laurant, this French animated film was the big cheese of the festival circuit. It was winning left and right, showered with critical acclaim, and was the Grand Prize winner at the 3rd Animation is Film Festival. Now then, despite getting all the acclaim in the world, did it fall victim to the festival crowd, or does it deserve the huge amount of acclaim under its belt? Well, let’s see how attached I feel to this unique film.

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Our story follows a severed hand, as it ventures across an entire city to try and get back together with the body it was attached to. Well, that’s only half of the story. The other half is following a young man named Naofel, dubbed by Dev Patel, as we follow his life from childhood to being a young adult, and his relationship with a woman named Gabrielle, dubbed by Alia Shawkat.

So, where do I stand with this film? Outside of the glowing festival-time reviews, there are two different camps for this film. You are either on the side of loving both sides of the film. Or, you are on the side of loving the severed hand’s adventure, but not the human side of the story. Granted, you need both sides for the story to make sense, but I get it. On one hand (heh), you have a story about a young man who feels confined to a narrow-minded way of living, and feels like he can’t be free. It’s a film with a lot more of an emotional/philosophical logic behind the incidents in the story. It’s a film about connection and freedom. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get why the hand segments are more loved than the human segments. There is something way more fascinating about watching this hand traverse its way around a city, and try to get back with the body it belongs to. The way the animators have the hand movement is so animalistic and real. It’s like a twisted fairy tale as you see the encounters this hand goes through from fending off rats to ending up in a baby’s crib. Due to the power of animation, there is something magical and entertaining to watching the hand sequences. You get so much emotion and life out of the hand when you compare those moments with the human.

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I’m not saying the human parts are bad, because there are some emotional moments in the film as well. Again, you can’t have just one part, because you need both sides of the film to make sense. If you wanted to make it just about the hand, then you would need to rework half of the story. Unfortunately, there are areas where the human love story has some questionable elements around it. Now, the film is aware of this, and it has a better conclusion than you would think. The film is aware that the male lead encountering the female lead and what happens between them can be considered a touch stalkerish, and it’s not like you can’t make an interesting romance with an iffy set up. The problem is that you have to make it so you forget about the ickier parts, and I don’t really forget that this guy does go around stalking this woman. I know this film is working on more magical/dream logic, but there still needs to be this consistency within the story and tone, and it’s not really there through a majority of the human side of the story. The ending was also underwhelming to me. To be fair, I get what the ending was doing, but it felt a little too open arthouse for me. I get it, but it’s not for me.

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Still, there is a lot to love about this film. The mix of 2D designs with CGI bodies is wonderful, and while the humans are obviously animated with more limitation to them than the dismembered hand, you can tell what the characters are feeling, and the designs are delightful to look at. I had a hard time wondering how they pulled off this look, because you don’t get to see a lot of CGI features that get to branch out, and not look like a third-rate Disney or Pixar film. I highly recommend finding the behind-the-scenes videos about how the director got the look of the film down. I can’t stress again how much I adore the hand sequences. There is a reason this film picked up a lot of traction just for this part of the story alone. The music by Dan Levy is also gorgeous, giving off an ethereal and atmospheric vibe to the overall experience

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Yeah, by the wording of this review, you can probably tell that I’m not fully on board with the immense amount of festival hype, and if I had to be honest, I’m really happy I saw White Snake instead of I Lost My Body at Animation is Film Festival. However, with all that said, I still did enjoy I Lost My Body. Even if I’m not fully on board with arthouse films, I’m glad they exist. I guess you can say I have a complicated relationship with them. I don’t think it fully accomplished its goal, but I also like having something this ambitious and creative around. It’s widely available on Netflix right now, so if you are looking for an animated film to wash out the taste of Arctic Dogs and Playmobil: The Movie, then I would highly recommend I Lost My Body. Speaking of Playmobil: The Movie, why don’t we look at that film next?

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 172: Finding Santa 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!)

Heads up!: I obtained this film through a screener given to me by Tricoast Entertainment for review purposes. I did not get any other kind of compensation other than this screener. Thank you, Tricoast Entertainment for reaching out to me to review this film!

So, for the first time in my writing career as an animation critic, I got a screener! For those that are not familiar with screeners, they are essentially ways for critics to watch upcoming releases of new films either physically or digitally. I was originally going to review something else, but when I received an email offering to tackle an animated film, I had to put Batman vs. TMNT and I Lost My Body on hold, and now, I’m tackling another Christmas film called Finding Santa.

Directed by Jacob Ley, this is a Swedish animated film that was released back in 2016 and was brought over to the states by Tricoast Entertainment. Did this Christmas feature deserve the cold shoulder? Or did it deserve a little love during this festive time of year?

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The story revolves around an orphan boy named Julius. Like I just said, he lives at an orphanage with other kids, and loves Christmas and especially Santa Claus. Sadly, some of the other orphans despise Julius, and decide to reveal that Santa isn’t real. It breaks his heart once he finds out that their caretaker pretended to be Santa, and he runs to a shed out in the woods where he keeps a small box of trinkets. As he arrives and opens the box, a blue light shines, and Julius is sucked into a magical realm where Santa is missing, and the evil Krampus has taken over his duties and wants to deliver coal to the children around the world. It is up to Julius, and his new friends to save Santa and Christmas.

So, what is good about this Christmas film? While not my favorite visual look, I do admire the direction the animation took. The way the characters move, look, and are painted, the entire film looks like a children’s book. It matches that visual tone easily, and I can tell they had a certain look they wanted to go with. It reminds me of Broken Age with that same children’s book look. I know some might scoff at the paper puppet human designs, but unlike some films that use Flash and motion-tween to make the characters move, they have a bit more animation to them, so they aren’t lifeless like those 2D wood or paper puppets. However, I will also admit that sometimes the designs do become unintentionally creepy. To me, it’s the teeth that make the characters look unnatural.

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In terms of what I liked about the story, while I have my issues with it due to the dialogue, I can tell they tried to do something different here. I see a team trying to make a more whimsical and fantastical fairytale-like Christmas story. There is also a bit more at stake with Julius who wants to find out where he is from. As an orphan, I bet there is a lot of that kind of wondering due to the situation they are put in by being at an orphanage. It might not fully work out, but I get the sense there was more depth to the story than you would think.

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Sadly, even for 80 minutes, I found Finding Santa to be a slog to get through, and I can name the main reason why, with the two villain children. There is a difference between making children mean for the sake of the story, and then there is making them so mean, that even if there is development and they take a chill pill, they are too mean for their own good. I know it can be a joke that children can be unintentionally or intentionally monsters, but the two antagonists push it too far, and the film grinds to a halt each time they show up. The film has a mean streak at a lot of points, and they don’t feel naturally planted within the story. Also, I feel this film is at different sides of the tone it wants to reach. Finding Santa was obviously made for younger audience members, but it also has some slightly darker and more mature moments that don’t gel well. It doesn’t earn the darker moments, and the dialogue and characters don’t mix well. The English dub is not the greatest. I found the English dub to be grating, and that doesn’t help things when Krampus is so high-pitched and whiny sounding.

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As a whole, I admire the ambition and effort put into Finding Santa, because unlike a lot of foreign made-quick animated fare that gets quietly brought over to the states, you can tell the director and his team had an idea in mind. Unfortunately, I found elements of the film to clash with other elements, and the overall experience to be lacking. Still, at least I found stuff to admire and/or enjoy about this than say, Wonder Park or UglyDolls. If you are curious about this film and want to see it for yourself, it is on DVD, and it will be readily available on most digital on-demand platforms like VUDU, Itunes, Google Play, AT&T, DirectTV, Hoopla, Sling/Dish, and Amazon December 3rd. I think I would want to check out Klaus and Arthur Christmas more, but I’m glad I found out about films like Finding Santa. I’m always down for Christmas films for kids and families that put in the elbow grease to do something that isn’t a typical Christmas film. Now then, let’s talk about the newest Netflix animated feature that they purchased, I Lost My Body.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it

The Other Side of Animation 171: Klaus 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!)

When it comes to films centered around the holidays, I’m very picky about which ones I want to watch. I’m especially picky when it comes to Christmas movies. I don’t hate them, because my family has a slew of Christmas classics we love to watch, but much of the time, most films based around a holiday like Christmas aren’t great. So many are either try-hard, cornier than a monster made of corn, or unintentionally mean-spirited. It doesn’t help either that most Christmas-related fare gets shoved into romance films that Hallmark makes all of the time. Like making any movie, all you need to do is focus on writing and story, and you should be good! That’s why when I find a Christmas movie I adore, I support it with all of my strength, which is why I’m tackling Netflix’s Klaus!

Directed by Sergio Pablo, and animated by SPA Studios, it was picked up and distributed by Netflix, and released November 8th in the US to pretty positive reviews, and will be getting an Oscar push for this year’s award season. It’s also the first original animated-feature for the streaming service. I was personally excited about the film, and I only got more excited when I saw the behind-the-scenes event at Animation is Film. So, what do I think about this festive new film? Well, let’s get to that part of the review!

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Our story focuses on a young man named Jesper, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, an individual who has no real drive in life who would rather lay around and be lazy since his father is wealthy. After trying to get kicked out of the postal academy his father enrolled him in, his father has a different idea. Instead of falling for Jesper’s shenanigans, he sends Jesper off to the furthest place on the map to a small town called Smeerensburg to be that town’s postman. Unfortunately for him, Jesper quickly finds out that Smeerensburg is the unhappiest place on earth, with two rival clans of families that have been fighting since the literal dawn of time. Jesper only has one year to make a functioning postal service in this town, or else he’s cut off from his family’s money. Can he change his ways and make a living postal service work in such a wretched town? What about this mysterious woodcutter, voiced by J.K. Simmons, at the end of the island, and the woodcutter’s mysterious barn of toys?

As the marketing, the behind-the-scenes event, and the story have revealed, this is an origin story for Santa Claus. It’s essentially, a modern-day and better-animated version of the Rankin-Bass classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I don’t mind that, because it’s a pretty straight forward origin story for the jolly red man. It’s about the origins of a fictional character told through the view of a young man learning to be a better person, and how a nice gesture creates another nice gesture. That theme, by the way, is why this movie is so good! I always enjoyed themes like this, because, while it might be a simple one, it sticks with you. I mean, when has an act of meanness ever inspired someone to work with you or do something mean to someone else? It doesn’t take that much effort to do something kind and caring. The theme sticks with me more, because of the premise of the town Jesper is in. It’s a town that has had a long-standing rivalry bred by toxic and hateful behaviors and traditions. One an act of kindness starts in the town, it spreads and everyone becomes better people, and they get rid of the traditions that were brought upon them by the previous generations.

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In terms of the characters, I enjoyed my time with them. Sure, Jesper can be a little annoying at first, but since he’s another in a long line of “whiny individuals that redeems themselves in the end”, I find him to be one of the better versions of this character. He does start as a jerk, but then realizes what his good deeds lead up to, and he’s written better than most of these types. The other characters also ooze and flow with charm and personality. A lot of it is who they got for the roles and the animation, but I loved the characters. From Rashida Jones’ Alva to Will Sasso and Joan Cusacks as Mr. Ellingboe and Mrs. Krum, the film is full of amusing characters. I also adored J.K. Simmons as Klaus. They give him a lot of pathos in who he is, and Simmons puts in another fantastic performance. Even Norm Macdonald as Mogens, the boatman, has a lot of character to him. The villains are especially deviant as, while they are joke villains, there is a bit more imposing and threatening to their centuries of hatred and ignorance that makes them threats. As for the comedy, I remember busting out into laughter many times due to the delivery of the jokes, and I’m sure everyone had fun playing these characters. The jokes range from mostly physical and visual gags, but the dialogue is kept timeless as to not add any pop culture references to date the script. Some lines may feel a touch more modern, but it’s in the way that the Emperor’s New Groove has more modern-sounding dialogue, but still fits the setting.

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The animation though, we have to talk about it! This is one of the most visually splendid films of 2019. It’s pure 2D animation goodness. Sure, some parts may have used a tiny bit of CGI, and yeah, it’s a lot of digital coloring and lighting, but due to how talented the team of animators is, and how much passion and little details are put into the final product, the result is a film that feels like Christmas. You look at the lush landscapes and the bitter cold town that Jesper is stuck in, and you feel like you are there. The film feels grand in scale as the cinematography brings you into this world. It’s a film with a visual presentation that I would have loved to have fully seen on a big screen.

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I love this movie, and it’s not just because it’s 2D animation. However, I do have some very minor complaints about it. First off, the pop songs. Now, the main soundtrack to Klaus by composer Alfonso Aguilar Gonzalez is incredible. What’s forgettable and just okay are the pop songs in the film, and while one of them is played as a joke that works, the other ones heard are okay, but nothing special. I wonder if this was a thing that Netflix requested, because if you took out the pop songs, you would miss nothing. They don’t ruin the scenes they are in, but they stick out.

I wish there was more time for Jesper and Alva’s relationship to bloom. They have decent chemistry, but I wanted there to be more time for the two to spend with each other instead of the film relegating her to be the love interest in the second half of the film. It almost makes me wish they didn’t end up together, but their chemistry was cute. They also pull the third act “liar revealed” gag, and while it’s not the worst trope I know, and it is a bummer it was used, it still makes sense in a way? Like, I wish animated films and films in general would stop using this trope, but as long as they are executed well, I don’t mind seeing them in the film.

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Normally, I temper my hype, because I always go into a movie ready to be disappointed by it, but Klaus was worth all of the hype, and it is worth getting all of the support it needs to help bring back interest in 2D animation to the theatrical scene. I highly recommend everyone who has Netflix to watch this movie right now, and constantly during the holidays. It’s a new Christmas classic, and one I would put on par with The Nightmare Before Christmas. In terms of animated Christmas movies from this decade, I would argue that it’s better than Arthur Christmas, but that’s just me. Now then, we got our Christmas movie out of the way early, how about we jump into some DC comic book movies for a while? I need to catch up on them, but before we tackle Batman vs. TMNT, I got a screener to review first, and that will be a surprise to you and me with how this next film turns out!

 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018 Part 3

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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 editorial/list!)

I really need to get these out faster. Anyway, let’s get started with part 3 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018! We are now diving into the films that I really enjoyed. Let’s get started!

23. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

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While it might not be anything too special for a show based on a “controversial” show, they took advantage of being feature length, and had some of the biggest laughs out of any animated film from 2018. It was basically the same kind of film as 2019’s The Angry Birds Movie 2. It’s a light-weight story with good character chemistry and a lot of different kinds of jokes. It’s a fun time, even if it does fall back on a lot of juvenile jokes, and the mid-credit scene will be trolling fans of the franchise until the end of time.

22. Mindgame

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While this may be a 2004 film, the US finally got an official release last year, and that means it counts for this list. This was Masaaki Yuasa’s first major film, and it is a wild ride with diverse visuals and a set of complex themes. It might not be told the best in terms of storytelling, but I’m so happy that we now have an official release for this flick. Just go in knowing little-to-nothing.

21. Batman Ninja

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Man, the best DC-animated film was the one that went out of its way to be different. Gee, it’s like people love unexpected projects like this. While Batman Ninja is all style and little substance, who is going to really complain about a movie where Batman is transported to feudal-era Japan, and has to basically go all ninja on the Joker? Yeah I thought so. It might not have the best CGI animation, its visuals and action set-pieces are a delight to watch unfold. This is easily one of the most fun, and probably my favorite DC-animated feature so far.

20. Flavors of Youth

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While this film may have been better if they didn’t try so hard to copy Makoto Shinkai’s style, I still admire the types of stories they wanted to tell about childhood, identity, and you get the idea. The animation doesn’t fully match Shinkai’s gorgeous art direction, but the fact we got a small-scale anthology film is nice, and something we wouldn’t really see in theaters.

19. Seder Masochism

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Listen, I get why many are not on board with the director’s Nina Paley’s personal beliefs. I get why many would absolutely not want to check out her work, but I’m a critic, and I have to review stuff like this whether we agree or not with the beliefs. So, outside of that, I enjoyed Seder! I found it an interesting and quaint little film with some great visuals, fun music mixed into the scenes, the commentary about religious extremism was fascinating, and the recordings of her and her father talking about religion were easily the best parts about the film due to how personal they felt. While many may not like her personal opinions, I still recommend people check out the film.

18. Next Gen

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While Netflix is still working its way into having a good animated film line-up, Next Gen is that, well, next step into the animation scene. While many called it a mix of Big Hero 6 and The Iron Giant, I found Next Gen to stand on its own. It has a fun female lead, commentary about the overreliance on technology, and a touching friendship between the girl and the robot in the film. It’s also one of the few animated mainstream films to have major action beats in it. It might not be perfect, but Next Gen is a fun little ride, and a hidden gem for animation fans.

17. Early Man

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While this film absolutely did not deserve to bomb, and was wrongfully crushed under the incredible Black Panther, Early Man is still another feather in Aardman’s cap. It might not be the best written, and the third act is the film’s weakest part, it’s still full of that Aardman charm and wonderful animation that you have come to know from the studio. Sadly, it’s mostly forgotten, because audience members think stop-motion is dated. Oh well, I still enjoyed my time in the Stone Age.

16. Incredibles 2

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After years of waiting, we finally got a sequel to Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. I mean, I could talk about why it took so long, but that’s for another time, and while I have plenty of issues with this film, I still did like it. It might have a weak villain and concepts that aren’t fully fleshed out, but the film has gorgeous animation, strong writing, more great family chemistry, and the action is fun. It’s definitely not Brad Bird’s best film, but it’s a great film, and I’m glad it did well.

15. Smallfoot

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It’s a shame that Smallfoot was a victim to bad marketing that made out a rather ambitious film to be no more than a dumb comedy. The comedy aspects are themselves hit or miss, along with the musical numbers as well, but the main story and what it tackles about identity and what is the right thing to do, is so refreshing. It’s also a gorgeous film with a fun cast and likable characters.

14. White Fang

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This is one of 2018’s biggest surprises and one of 2018’s most underrated gems. It has a gorgeous art style, a more mature and quiet atmosphere, and a solid voice cast. It might be a bit lightweight, but I still highly recommend watching this lovely film from Netflix.

13. Tito and the Birds

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It’s nice that we are getting some high quality animation from Brazil, and Tito and the Birds is a good first introduction to that country’s animation scene. It might be a bit familiar to those who are fans of 80s films, but its message of overcoming and not letting fear mongers get their way gels well with the beautiful animation.

12. Modest Heroes

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It might suffer from being an anthology film where one of the shorts isn’t as good as the others, but the fact that Studio Ponoc was able to craft three different stories about being a hero with varying art styles, and giving some new voices in the animation industry a chance to tell a story is delightful.

11. Liz and the Blue Bird

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This is easily one of Kyoto Animation’s best films. While it might be a spin-off of an anime series, you can watch it without knowing about the series on which it’s based. That’s because when you break it down, it’s a coming-of-age romance and friendship story between the two female leads. It’s a sweet little film that I think everyone should buy a copy of.

Next time, we will break down what I consider to be the 10 best animated films of 2018! Thank you for checking out this list, and if you want to help support my work, you can go to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!