The Other Side of Animation 233 – The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf 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 was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

When a ton of different kinds of similar films come out in one year, you want to stand out and be able to stay on your own two feet against the competition. There is nothing worse than being the film that you reference in a negative way when you are comparing it to the film that may be similar but is the better option. This happens from time to time with certain years in animation. Why should anyone choose the subjectively weaker option, when you have something subjectively better offered to you? In this case, this year we have two different action fantasy films that take place in their respective franchises. You have the famous Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is the sequel film to the first season of the shonen action franchise, and now we have the prequel film to the Netflix live-action series, The Witcher with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 


Directed by Kwang ll Han, written by Beau DeMayo, based on the book series by Andrej Sapkowski, and produced by the legendary Studio Mir, this is a prequel story that takes place decades ago before our lovely Geralt takes the mantle as the main character. So, what do we get instead of a story following a baby Geralt? Well, you should heighten your senses and get your silver sword ready for what I’m about to review. 

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Our main hero for this story is Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, an infamous swashbuckling Witcher and future mentor to the franchise’s main character Geralt. Vesemir is going about his days as a monster slayer, who is hated among monsters and humans alike. I mean, technically, no one likes Witchers and there has been tension among his kind due to the growing tension between humans, the dwindling number of monsters, and their futures. During one night, Vesemir encounters a truly unique version of a monster known as a Leshen, and that sets him off on his journey to find out exactly what is going on, who is behind these weird new experiments, and will he and his kind be able to survive?

So, with this being a prequel story to the main events of the TV series, how does it handle the overall story of Geralt’s mentor and his days as a younger Witcher? I think one decision that was well executed was the fact that you can pretty much sit down with this film and not have seen the live-action show or played the games, and get an understanding as to what the story is about, and the dark fantasy world in which they live. It has a sort of typical fantasy thriller experience, and you can understand who was behind what exactly, before the twists are revealed, but because the dialogue was this great mix of camp and charm, and the overall story is morally grey, it makes for a fun romp to experience. The world of The Witcher is dark, morally grey, and unforgiving. While I call Vesemir the hero of our story, he has some skeletons in his closet that make him a flawed hero. Like I said though, you are easily roped into the story as you do see the complexity of this world’s politics. What you find out about the origins of the Witchers isn’t great, but you can see their perspective in how one becomes a Witcher and how they try to survive in a world full of discrimination and hatred, and how that can corrupt anyone. Now, with all that said, the film knows it’s an action flick, and Vesemir, while having his serious and dry moments, is mouthy. He has some very action movie one-liners and is cocky, but in a fun way. He also has a sincere heart for himself and for the people he cares about. It results in a film full of some mild cynicism, but a lot of heart. It might have a script that can be a bit blunt at times with its commentary, but it never bothered me, and with some lessons and themes, it’s good to be blunt about certain things. Now, if you are wondering if you will ever see Geralt, you will, but don’t expect to see him in any real meaningful way. This is Vesemir’s story, and he’s a fun lead character. It’s one of the few prequel stories where I feel like it tells a good story that never made me think about “well, why should I care about anyone here since it’s a prequel?”. Anytime a prequel can make me say that, they are on my good side. 

Now, for the presentation, this is Studio Mir, and while the overall animation looks like a better-budgeted Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, it looks great. There is a reason why Studio Mir is a highly sought-after studio for action shows and why so many studios try to copy their direction in crafting visuals and action. There is a lot of slick action choreography and camera work to make this some of the best action seen this year. It’s a film with a ton of satisfying action and gore on screen that makes for a visceral, but fun romp! Since this is a film based on the Witcher series, you should also expect some pretty good music as well! It’s composed by Brian D’Oliveira who was a composer on games such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Journey to the Savage Planet, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Tearaway, and Papo & Yo. He brings this mix of European folk with some middle-eastern sounding tunes. The voice cast is also pretty good. You have Theo James as our lead character, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell, Tom Canton, David Errigo Jr., and Matt Yang King, to name a few of the actors seen in the film. The cast feels like they would fit right into either the live-action series or the third game. 

While I love this film overall, I do have some minor gripes. Tetra, while being a sinister villain, is not all that interesting. They fill the void with some literal last-minute backstory that connects her to an incident told offhand about the conniving nature of the Witchers. It’s not handled the best. The side characters also don’t leave an impression. You tend to forget their names, and they seem to be there to either fill out more of the world or to get killed. I think I would have liked to have seen them get fleshed out more. Maybe it’s because of the length of the film itself, but I would have loved this film to be two hours so you can give more time for the side characters to be expanded upon and to add more action. 

Even with the minor gripes, whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a good fantasy action film that I think fans and newcomers can easily jump into with ease. Now, do I Like this more than Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? I think in some ways, Nightmare of the Wolf is better, but only because Mugen Train requires you to watch the first season to get the full enjoyment of the film. You don’t need to watch the Netflix Witcher series to enjoy Nightmare of the Wolf. Still, I”m happy to have so many action animated features this year, and I’ll be happy to see so many get made. Now then, I think it’s time to talk about a film that I meant to review a few months back, but, well, I wasn’t able to for one reason or another. It’s time we take a look at the Funimation exclusive The Stranger by the Shore

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 232: Cryptozoo 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 was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Magnolia Pictures. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Magnolia Pictures.

PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is some nudity throughout the film. This film is not for kids and more for older teens to young adults and above. The viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

Back in 2017, for what felt like half a year, Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea was my favorite animated film of that year. 2017 was a rather middling year for animation since it seemed like all of the best films were saved for 2016 and 2018. It didn’t have many standout films until the latter half of the year, and that was when I felt like the year finally had some competition. To me, if I like or hate your movie, I want to at least feel like I’m getting something different or distinct, and not just be some bog-standard film that was made for the sake of making something. When you are someone like Dash Shaw, well, you are bound to leave an impression with his vibrant visuals and distinct writing. That’s why I was super pumped about the fact he had a new movie coming out, and was in pain that I wasn’t able to check it out during Sundance and Annecy, but luckily, I got a screener and am able to check it out now! This review will be about Dash’s new movie, Cryptozoo. 

 

Like I said above, this film was written and directed by Dash Shaw. It had its world premiere at Sundance back in January 2021 winning the festival’s Innovator award, competed in the Contrechampe section at Annecy, and will be distributed in the states by Magnolia Pictures. So, with Dash bringing us another abstract and wild experience, what do I think of this new surreal trip? Does its busy visuals drag down the film or do I gel with it like peanut butter and jelly? Let’s take a look and a visit to Cryptozoo

The story takes place in a world where cryptids exist alongside humans. Our main character is Lauren Grey, voiced by Lake Bell. She has made it her life’s goal to find, capture, and protect cryptids in a zoo/animal sanctuary-like environment after encountering one at a young age. Along with a rich widow named Joan, voiced by Grace Zabriskie, she is assisted by a medusa named Phoebe, voiced by Angeliki Papoulia, and is on a quest to find a mystical creature/cryptid called a Baku, an entity that is known for eating dreams both good and bad. They have to get it before it falls into the grasp of the military and a ruthless individual named Nicholas, voiced by Thomas Jay Ryan. Can they get the Baku before it’s too late? 

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So, let’s start with the obvious, the animation is bonkers. While it might flow and feel like papercraft with very stiff and limiting animation, you can tell this was an artistic decision and not a budget or limitation. Again, just because it’s not made by Disney or had the budget of a Pixar film, doesn’t mean animated films on smaller budgets or teams look worse. There is such a thing as art direction. It reminds me of a lot of those papercraft animated features from Russia, but done with more modern tech, and is combined with some proper 2D animation to give this film an extremely wild visual flair. You can not say this film looks like any other animated film out there. It looks like a bunch of clipart and detailed cutouts. It’s a trippy film as well, using a ton of psychedelic visuals to express different story beats and a mood that I can only compare to films like Foam Bath from 1979. The voice cast brings a more grounded vibe to film than the more comedic Sinking into the Sea. It helps that you have a pretty good cast with Lake Bell, Micheal Cera, Angeliki Papoulia, Zoe Kazan, Grace Zabriskie, Peter Stormare, Louisa Krause, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Alex Karpovsky.

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However, we have seen features with amazing animation fall flat under the story and writing department. It’s not uncommon to find films that do so. Luckily, while the visuals may be a bit much for the eyes at points, the story is substantial enough to keep you invested. It has an indie feel as we see the commentary about how our protagonists and antagonist plan to use the cryptids for their use. Sure, Lake Bell’s character might be doing the right thing by wanting to help protect and save the cryptids, but the film and script want you to see it from a different point of view with the zoo/sanctuary setting. To be clear, it’s not saying both sides are equally bad. The villain is obviously in the wrong with how they obtain cryptids by force or through the blackmarket dealings. It’s more that it’s painting it all in a morally grey way rather than trying to fence-sit on the topic at hand. You can pull a lot from how the cryptids are represented here in the film, and I’m glad the film decided to have an ambitious tone to its experience. Yes, some stories do and should need very straightforward stories, but when you get to mix it up a little via something that’s not so clear cut, then you can have a more distinct journey. You still have to be careful, but I felt like Dash Shaw did a good job portraying the two sides of humanity and the cryptid situation. 

While the visuals may be a touch overload at times, and the dialogue is calm and beefy, Cryptozoo is unlike any other animated film out in 2021. It might not be my favorite, and its major award season chances are probably going to be in the lower bracket of getting nominated, but I think it deserves a chance. It will be out on demand and will have a small theatrical release on August 20th, and I think everyone should check it out! If you are looking for something distinct, then you will be delighted to know that this film is truly worthy of the word unique. Now then, we will be hopping back over to Netflix, and will be checking out the new Netflix action fantasy film The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 



Rating Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 231: Monster Hunter – Legends of the Guild 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/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 hear the terms, direct-to-video, made-for-TV, and “based on a video game”, it doesn’t always bring out the best reactions. Not that any of these tags can’t offer something of quality, but it’s usually not the case. You can find some gems among these terms, but when you get something that combines them into one mess of an experience, well, that’s a bad sign. It hurts because the film I’m reviewing today is the TV film Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

Directed by Steve Yamamoto, written by Joshua Fine, and produced by Pure Imagination Studio, this CGI film isn’t based on any of the released games, though if you wanted to connect it to one, it sort of takes place a little bit before Monster Hunter World. It’s a made-for-TV film that was sent directly to Netflix, and while it got one trailer, it was not a film that was available to review in advance. That should tell you everything right then and there about the film’s overall quality. How does this hour-long film adapt and work with the world of the famous video game franchise? Well, you should read on, my fellow hunters. 

Our main focus in this story revolves around Aiden, voiced by Dante Basco. He’s a young man who dreams of becoming a hunter to one day take down large beasts and or the infamous elder dragons. One day, after going out to try and stop a monster from causing trouble in the village, he runs into a professional hunter named Julius, voiced by Brando Eaton. After saving Aiden’s life, Julius warns Aiden that his village is in the migration path of an Elder Dragon that will cause destruction and death in its wake. Aiden decides this is his big chance to become an official hunter and pleads with Julius to take him on this hunt. The two are then joined by a thieving cat named Box, voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, Nadia, a Heavy Bow hunter voiced by GK Bowes, an Insect Glaive hunter named Mae, voiced by Caroline Caliston, and a blacksmith named Ravi, voiced by Dan McCoy. Can these ragtag hunters save the day and stop the Elder Dragon known as Lunastra? 

So, this film is only 58 minutes long. How in tarnation do you tell a compelling story within this time frame with multiple characters to flesh out, stakes implemented, and to overall engage you as the viewer to maybe go out and buy some Monster Hunter stuff? The obvious answer is you don’t. The fact that this is the directorial debut of Steve Yamamoto is extremely telling in how poorly told the story is. Yes, Monster Hunter has never been about the plot and was more about the gameplay experience of hunting giant monsters with friends. With all of that said, there was still an interesting enough plot to push you through the single-player experience. The story here is so squished and forced together that it doesn’t give any character time to grow. Yes, Aiden does get an arc, but he’s the only one to get an arc. Every other character either has little or no growth. The story feels so small-scale, when fighting an Elder Dragon in the game is meant to be this big event, and they choose one that you only encounter on the side and not in the main mission lineup. The film tries to make you care about the characters, but good luck remembering who these characters are, and how distinct they are as individuals without pointing out what weapon they use. Oh, and guess who dies first? You won’t believe it unless you know your monster movie or horror movie tropes. They even kill another character for the sake of drama, and it’s offscreen. I felt emotionally numb throughout this hour-long experience, and that’s a shame, but that’s what happens when you make a film based on a game that’s more about the thrill of the hunt and not the emotional hoops you jump through to get into the story. Even with it being based in the world of Monster Hunter, there is nothing that makes it stand out. I think the overall story could have been executed better if it had more time to tell its story, but since it only had an hour, there was no time to make a lasting impression. It tries to have a touching message at the end of the film, but it all fell flat for me. 

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How about the animation? Well, the CGI is decent for TV film standards, and I will give them credit for the monsters looking good. I mean, these are iconic monsters. They had better look how they do from the games, but here the movements are either stiff, too floaty, or not lively enough. I’m sure the animators didn’t have as much time to make this as polished as it can look, but the visuals are only slightly better than the CGI cutscenes from the video games from the PlayStation 2 games. When the action does kick in, it looks good, but the impact of certain hits and weapons feels unsatisfying to watch. The facial movements are also stiff and more emotion could have been put into their reactions. The voice cast is fine. The actors are doing their best with what they are given, and from what I can tell, this film was a first for a few of the actors, and, well, we all have to start somewhere, right? Dante Basco is a super talented actor, but he, along with the other actors, is not given the best material to work with. I give them kudos for making it work as well as they could, but the dialogue was mediocre. 

So, is there something that I like about this film? I mean, not really. Even though the fanservice bits and easter eggs are noticeable if you are a fan of the franchise, that shouldn’t be the end all be all of quality for fans of the franchise. Yes, this was made for fans of the franchise, but you shouldn’t just get the bare minimum and be okay with that. Wouldn’t it have been cool to get Studio Trigger or that studio that made Rise of the TMNT behind this property? How cool would that be? 

Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of the franchise, but I found myself despising 99% of this experience. Outside of Dante Basco doing what he can with the writing, the CGI animation is janky, it doesn’t look better than the CGI animation seen from the PlayStation 2 games, the editing is maddening, the story is tripe, and it adds up to nothing. It offers nothing outside of a few decent action beats, but since you can go and watch something like the upcoming The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf or Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, New Gods: Nezha Reborn, and get a much better looking and feeling experience. Legends of the Guilds feels like it was meant to be this pilot to have multiple stories about some of the characters seen throughout the franchise, but it falls apart pretty fast. Not the worst film I have seen this year, but it’s still at the bottom of my animated film list. If you have to watch it, I hope you enjoy burning an hour of your time that you won’t get back. Luckily, the next film I’ll be reviewing will have more to say as we look at Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo. 

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: Blacklist/The Worst. 

The Other Side of Animation 230: Vivo 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/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 was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

Sony Pictures Animation has had quite a year, hasn’t it? The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Wish Dragon, the upcoming release of Hotel Transylvania 4, and with a lineup of other amazing and promising projects coming down the pipeline, Sony Pictures Animation is experiencing a renaissance of artistic creativity that has matched the likes of Disney and Pixar at their peaks. It’s nice to see a studio like Sony find their route through the sea of animation and result in some of the best or more interesting animated films for the past few years. They are doing what every studio should do by diversifying the experiences that you can’t get from other studios. Don’t try to make a Disney-like experience. If I want a Disney experience, I’ll go to Disney. Luckily, Sony Pictures Animation is so distinct that you won’t have a problem seeing them craft something other studios have turned down for some reason. For example, let’s talk about their newest film, Vivo. 


Directed by Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords, this new animated feature was born from a passion project by Peter Barsocchini and a failed pitch from Lin-Manuel Miranda with songs written by Miranda and his collaborator Alex Lacamoire. It was originally pitched at DreamWorks Animation after Miranda’s play In the Heights was a hit, but due to DreamWorks getting restructured in 2015, the pitch fell through. Later greenlit through Sony Pictures and set for release back in November 2020, Vivo was delayed due to the pandemic. Afterward, Sony made a deal where their animated films and live-action films will make it to the streaming service Netflix. So, where does this land on Sony’s recent streak of animated films? Well, you will have to read to find out. 

The story revolves around a young Kunkajou named Vivo, voiced by LIn-Manuel Miranda. Vivo lives with his owner Andres, voiced by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. They live in Cuba together and play music. Their life is perfect until Andres gets a letter from a previous love interest named Marta Sandoval, voiced by Gloria Estefan. Marta requests that he come to Miami for her last performance so they can see each other again after so many years have passed. Unfortunately, Andres passes away before he can make the trip. At the wake, Vivo meets Andres’ grand-niece named Gabi, voiced by Ynairaly Simo. Vivo decides to go to Florida with Gabi and her mother Rosa, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Vivo then attempts to communicate with Gabi to take Andres’ last song to Marta’s final performance in Miami, and it is up to Gabi and Vivo to get there in time!

Let’s talk about the animation first. Something that Sony Pictures has tied their name to in terms of their visual style and art direction is experimental and groundbreaking innovations and snappy movements. So, What does Vivo bring? Well, due to it being a musical, the animation is still snappy, but it matches more with the music, so the movements are slower-paced to sync with the tunes. It still has the distinct Sony Pictures Animation elements with the human designs, but it doesn’t go as far as Spider-Verse or The Mitchells. With that said, it didn’t need to go that route since it still has its distinct visual look that I can’t match to other animated films that are out there. As per usual though with a Sony animated film, it does have some very vibrant and unique animated sequences that give a unique 2D CGI look using bright neon colors that make certain moments pop. It’s such a cool-looking movie, and I’m glad many of Sony’s animated features tend to have their looks. I adore these 2D/CGI moments in the film that don’t feel like they are trying to copy what another one of their films did. In terms of the voice cast, I adore it all. Lin Manuel Miranda is still growing on me as a lead actor and just an actor in general, but he brings a charm to the character with a certain innocence, and his comedic timing is getting better. I also enjoyed his singing. I know he doesn’t have the best voice, but for how the song was written and set, he passes with flying colors. Ynairaly Simo is also good as Gabi and brings that energetic “I dance to the beat of my own drum” spirit that encapsulates the character. The rest of the cast does a fine job as their respective characters as well, including Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Gloria Estefan, Leslie David Baker, Nicole Byer, Katie Lowes, and Zoe Saldana, all making for a memorable cast that has their own identifiable moments. The music by LMM and his co-writer is really good! It’s nice to see a strong musical from someone other than Disney for once. I know other studios have tried, but they tend to try and feel like a Disney musical rather than be their own type of musical. I found myself humming a lot of the tunes as I worked on this review and when I was at my job. 

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Story-wise, it’s a film that’s all about how music connects us, family, love, and the legacy you leave in this world. While the story itself has familiar beats and rhythm to the overarching story, the execution still made the journey through the film worth it. Music is such a universal language, and Vivo showed that no matter who or what you are, music connects us. At first, I was curious about why Vivo couldn’t speak the same language as the humans, but I think that helps reinforce the whole “music is universal” message that the film is going for. The studio sort of goes the route of something like Courage the Cowardly Dog where around everyone, he talks like an animal, but when addressing the audience or interacting for the sake of the audience, he speaks English. It’s an incredibly sweet story overall, and it reminds me of a US studio doing their take on one of my favorite films, Chico & Rita. Not only does it take place partly in Cuba, but the same kind of music is played throughout both films. It has, again, a familiar story beat about family, but I think everyone has gone through this situation where they lost a loved one and didn’t get to say something to them. They didn’t get to leave what they wanted to say to them. It’s an overall touching story, and even some bits with the side characters are fun. 

Something that I wish more US animated films would do is step out of their comfort zones when it comes to certain characters and stories. I say this because the film itself doesn’t offer that many surprises, and that’s a shame because I like the overall experience and story, but it’s full of story elements you have seen before. It makes for an experience that’s well-told, but something we have seen before. You know what’s going to happen, and while it’s all executed well, there are elements to the story that could have been improved. The side characters are a good example of this. To me, they fell flat. The main film should be about Vivo and Gabi, but you still want to see the rest of the cast stack up to them or be memorable in some way, shape, or form. Rosa is just a typical caring mom, the Sand Dollars are typical tyrannical girl scouts, and Lutador is a road stop villain. He isn’t there to be important to the story, but more of a challenge that they have to face when trying to get to their destination. Rooker plays him with a devilish charm, but he’s like Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone. No real mention or build-up until you see him. I also wanted there to be more time between Vivo and Andres. It gets to the tragedy as soon as possible, and that was jarring. Even when the trailer accidentally spoiled what happened to Andres, I wasn’t too bothered by it since I felt like something was going to happen, but I wish we either had spent more time with Andres, or Andrew lived and got to see Marta in person before passing. I know you would have to retool the film if the story kept him alive, but I feel like we didn’t get much time with him. It’s a shame since I love Juan de Maros Gonzalez as Andres and would have liked to have seen him in more scenes interacting with the people in the city and for there to be more scenes of just him and Vivo. 

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I think the biggest downfall of this film coming out is the fact it came out after something as big and acclaimed as The Mitchells vs The Machines, and it’s not fair to Vivo to be held up to that high standard. Vivo stands on its own two feet in terms of its own experience. I think that’s something quite nice about the animated films from Sony this year. They all feel distinct and different from one another. Sure, I might have a ranking of which ones I Like more, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have still found so much joy in how many unique offerings this one studio has given us this year. If you have yet to watch Vivo, please do. Netflix has done a terrible job with marketing this film, and it would be a real shame for this to get buried because of Netflix’s asinine algorithm and being overshadowed by other films and shows released that day. I love that we got an original film from the amazing Kirk DeMicco, Lin Manuel Miranda, and the other members of this passionate team. Seriously, do not let this film get buried. Now then, I would take a small break from reviewing, but the work is never done! Next time, I will be writing a review about another CGI animated film that Netflix is burying on the site with Monster Hunter: Legend of the Guild. I’m a little worried about how this film will turn out, but it can’t be any worse than that awful live-action adaptation from 2020 right? See ya next time! 

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 229: Centaurworld 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 was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

I previously talked about this in my Snotty Boy review, but animation is such a beautiful medium of storytelling. With passion, talent, time, and the right team at hand, one can make a unique and distinct experience that you can’t find with something in live-action. There’s always something to be said when a usually cartoony property is given the live-action treatment, and how much more critical fans and critics are of said live-action adaptations. Why would you limit yourself with live-action when you can do pretty much everything within the world of animation? Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I’m reviewing a new show that would be nigh impossible to translate into live-action. The new series on Netflix, Centaurworld. 


Created by Megan Nichole Dong, Centaurworld is yet another creative and unusual animated series for the notorious streaming service that you probably wouldn’t have seen on TV. So, what do I think about this fairly offbeat adventure with a bunch of quirky centaurs that is filled to the brim with musical numbers and a slew of my favorite character actors? Read on to find out! 

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Our story revolves around Horse, voiced by Kimiko Glenn. In her world, she is with her human companion, Rider, voiced by Jessie Mueller riding across the war-torn wasteland with a magical object that could help them out. Unfortunately, Horse and Rider get separated, and Horse ends up getting warped to a brand new world with the magical item. Horse has now found herself in the most magical place of all, Centaurworld! While there, she encounters a delightful cast of characters including a giraffetaur named Durpleton, voiced by Josh Radnor, Zulius a Zebrataur voiced by Parvesh Cheena, a kleptomaniac gerenuk-like taur named Glendale, voiced by Megan Nicole Dong, a birdtaur named Ched voiced by Chris Diamontopoulos, and a llamataur named Wammawink voiced by Megan Hilty. Can Horse and her new herd of friends find the rest of the pieces of the artifact and get her home and avoid someone called The Nowhere King? 

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So, we are about a good decade or so past the premiere of shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and Steven Universe. These types of shows have brought into the animation and TV world adorable worlds with a very offbeat tone and edge that will spill out into something that kids can still enjoy, but are there for the adults as well. It might be made for “kids”, but you catch more fish with bait, if you know what I mean. So, since on the outside, it looks like a lot of other shows, how does this show differentiate itself from other ones? Well, let’s start with its visual look. It’s a gorgeous show with a cartoony look, with fun and expressive designs that take advantage of its setting and the creatures you encounter in this quirky world of half-man and half-animal creatures. One of my favorite little details is the centaur bird character played by Chris Diamantopoulos, who’s human half is the upper torso so he has to keep flapping with his human arms. The designs are all very creative and aren’t just straight-up half human half horse individuals. Like, if the basic definition is half human half animal, then why not go all out with how they look? That’s the beauty of animation, because with all of the different designs, they all mesh well together. If they tried to do these in realistic CGI, they would not work at all. Even our main character Horse has a bunch of fun little animation tricks on her that give her so much character despite how she was probably tough to animate. Yeah, I know some people have talked about the weird design contrast with Horse being wildly different than the other characters, but when you see the story unfold, it’s this brilliant bit of commentary and storytelling about Horse herself, and at the end of the day, the design difference never bothered me. I’m being vague because I find Horse’s arc to be fascinating, and creative with how her arc unfolds. I have also heard some people argue that the show’s visuals are aiming for more of a “let’s make meme-worthy looks” approach, but while that may be the case, it’s not as distracting as some other shows and films like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Powerpuff Girls 2016. 

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Speaking of arcs and story stuff, the story itself seems like it’s going to be a goofier take on what would almost sound like a cartoon from the 80s. Like HBO Max/Cartoon Network’s The Fungies, it almost has a vibe of those shows. However, once you start binging the series, Centaurworld does reveal that it has a lot of baggage with its characters. This is a show that anyone can watch, but the topics and themes are very much adult. You can look at me and not believe me, but the show does tackle themes of abandonment, dealing with trauma, depression, self-esteem, love, trust, loss, and while the show will get goofy at one point or another through a lot of the episodes, the story beats themselves will ease you into the obvious baggage these characters have. It’s a clever way to approach these topics, and you can see how they weave it through the episodes. It might look and feel like a more polished 80s show, but it’s got the edge of a more modern cartoon that you just love to see. It’s able to be story-driven, but still takes its time with getting to the destination. This is why I love modern animation. Could you imagine people pitching this show back in the 70s and 80s? You would never get this far without some very heavy amounts of studio interference. Netflix might not be perfect, and I have plenty of issues with them as a company, but the fact they are letting creators do any kind of show they want is impressive. It’s not based on some pre-existing property or a spin-off of a popular show. Plus, the voice cast is amazing. On top of having a bucket list of guest stars, the main cast is one of my favorites of the season. You have Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Parvesh Cheena, Josh Radnor, Jessie Mueller, and Chris Diamantopoulos. Now I will say that it is a bit weird to see a POC character voiced by a white actress, and while she does a great job as Rider, I would be lying if I didn’t find the casting a tiny bit distracting since we had the constant recasting controversies last year. Everyone is distinct and they bring in a lot of fantastic energy to their performances. For me, while the comedy in the show might be hit and miss with some viewers, they mostly landed at a rate of 95%, and the song sequences are a delight at every point. Seriously, this show is so much fun to watch if you are a fan of musicals. 

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Centaurworld is another slam dunk TV series for 2021 and Netflix. It’s everything I look for in a show, and I was grabbed by the premise alone. I think it was creative and smart that Netflix got a bunch of super talented individuals and asked them to make their dream projects that you would have a hard time pitching in more traditional settings like on a TV channel. I hope they keep this up because this is how we get more great shows and stories. It might be goofy, but it mixes its darker elements and musical moments so well. The show might be a bit much at first, but keep watching it, and I’ll be patiently waiting for a second and third season if that happens. Seriously Netflix, make sure Megan Nicole Dong gets to complete this show! Next time, I will be talking about the third Sony Pictures Animation film this year with Vivo

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: Essential!

The Other Side of Animation 228: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop 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!)

It would be an understatement that Japanese animation loves to revolve stories around teenagers. Teenagers seem to be the core age range for so many animated films from Japan, and while I understand the want for older characters, I get it. Teenage years are the end of your childhood and right before your adulthood begins. A lot of interesting coming-of-age stories can be told in a variety of different experiences. For example, with the newest animated feature that Netflix picked up, we have a coming-of-age teen romance that not only has a unique visual look, but also has an adoring theme about how art connects us. Let’s talk about Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop


Directed by Kyohei Ishiguro, and produced by Signal MD, the same studio that made 2017’s  Napping Princess, it was originally supposed to come out last year, but due to that one thing that caused 99.9% of all films to get delayed, it didn’t come out until July 22nd and was released by Netflix onto their service in the US. Unfortunately, like most Netflix exclusive films and shows, it has been buried under everything coming out onto the service, and I’m going to make sure you see this film. 

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The story revolves around a young boy named Cherry, dubbed by Ivan Mok, who interacts via haikus, and a young girl named Smile, dubbed by Kim Wong, who hides her smile and braces behind a mask. After running into one another at the mall and accidentally picking each other’s phones up, their summer changes their lives forever. This includes helping an old man find his long-lost record, and Cherry and Smile dealing with their individual friends and family. 

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I think let’s talk about the outright beautiful animation shown on-screen first. This flat bright color palette reminds me of the bombastic visuals seen in anime like The Great Pretender, where they take realistic photos and then paint over them in this very vibrant pop-art look. The character movements for the most part are weighty and realistic, but when the time comes for it, the characters move like individuals seen in something by the likes of Science Saru or Trigger. They bring such a rough, but readable and lively look to everyone, that it makes the film itself stand out from other Japanese animated films that have come out this year or will be coming out in the future. It’s an animated film with its distinct vibe and feel, and while it may only be about 90 minutes in length, it has a low-fi charming pace to the overall look and atmosphere of the story being told to us. 

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In terms of the story, it’s a smaller-scale experience with it mostly focusing on the love story between our two leads, but due to great writing, identifiable and likable characters, it’s nice to see something smaller-scale. Not every animated film needs to be about the literal ending of the world. Their relationship, and the fact that it grows strong even though there is the possibility of it ending is catastrophic enough. I know I’m defending what would normally amount to melodramatic teen problems in real life or normal mediocre teen dramas, but it’s always in the execution that you make the teen drama interesting. You want to root for Cherry to be able to speak in front of people. You want Smile to be able to not be ashamed of her buck teeth and braces. You want to see them get the record back. It’s compelling and epic in scale in its small way. Sure, some of the characters are a little one-note, but you do recognize them and they are kept consistently entertaining and relatable. It’s a film about how art connects us, and it’s a constant theme throughout the entire film as we see poetry, art, and music give everyone connections to one another and how we move through the world around us. It also helps that we have a fantastic dub cast that includes Ivan Mok, Kim Wong, Sam Lavagnino, Marcus Toji, Ratana, Ping Wu, Yuuki Luna, Victoria Grace, Kim Mai Guest, and Andrew Kishino. It also helps that there is an incredible composer as well. You’ve got Kensuke Ushio, who composed music for A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Birds, Ping Pong, Japan Sinks 2020, and Devilman Crybaby. The music overall is fantastic and the main song that plays in the final act and in the credits is beautiful. I’ll look up the songs and download them if I can get my hands on them. 

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Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a delightful, low-fi, and really sweet animated feature. It executes its story and characters with grace and respect to the viewers, and tells an endearing and wholesome story through its music and visuals. It’s on Netflix right now, and I highly recommend everyone check it out! I can’t wait to see what this director does next since he’s attached to that upcoming samurai-themed Bright film. For now, I will talk about a truly excellent Netflix series that you will not want to miss out on!


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: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 227: Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish 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 was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me by Funimation. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Funimation.

Funimation was always an odd one when it came to foreign animated film distribution. Even when they were the original distributors of Mamoru Hosoda and some of Makoto Shinkai’s films, they were never doing enough to get in the nominee circles, unlike GKids and Shout! Factory. They could have some of the most financially successful and acclaimed films and still not get nominated. Films like Your Name and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train are successful as all get out, but they are still just successful among that scene in the film industry. It’s a shame because after getting acclaim from Your Name, their focus went more toward distributing anime series. They brought over the occasional film, but they either weren’t big hits or were based on a hit franchise. GKids took the crown of “Got an animated film from Japan? We will probably distribute it”. Maybe it’s because they were bought by Sony, but they recently have started picking up films again, and films that aren’t even attached to any major franchises! These include the hour-long Stranger By The Shore, and today’s review, Josee, The Tiger, and the Fish


Directed by Kotaro Kamura, based on the short story by Seiko Tanabe, written by Sayaka Kuwamira and produced by Bones Inc, this animated film was released back in October 2020 in Japan and then competed in June 2021 at the Annecy Film Festival, which got beat out by Flee. Luckily, during the Annecy Film Festival, Funimation picked up the rights and gave it an, unfortunately, limited release, but I’m sure at some point you will all be able to watch it. So, was it worth waiting a year for this film? I mean, you can read the review to find out. 

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Our story revolves around a young man in college named Tsuneo Suzukawa, dubbed by Howard Wang. He is a college student who works part-time jobs to get enough money to try and study overseas in Mexico. One evening, he ends up saving the life of a young woman named Kumiko Yamamura aka Josee, dubbed by Suzie Yeung, who was pushed in her wheelchair down a hill, and Tsuneo ends up catching her. While making his way back to Josee and her grandmother’s place, he decides to take the grandmother’s offer to be Josee’s caretaker. It doesn’t start well with Josee being tedious to work with, but will Tsuneo find out that there is more to his life with taking care of and bonding with Josee? Will Josee find a new spark and love for life? 

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When you look at the film and this premise, you dread that it’s going to be one of those films. You know the ones, right? These are the romance films that deal with an able-bodied lead who falls for someone who is either handicapped or has some deadly illness that milks the misery and sadness of the situation. It turns what should be a dramatic story into one that ends up coming off unintentionally hilarious or more mean-spirited with how melodramatic the overall story develops. It’s either that or the person with the handicap or sickness is there to help elevate the bland, boring, able-bodied protagonist in order to find his spark in life. These films tend to come out either during award season or come out during dryer times of the film year. Sometimes you get one that changes the formula around, but most of the time, they are very paint-by-number experiences. What does this film do differently then? Well, it has a good story, likable characters, emotional and realistic themes, and beautiful animation. Unlike many films in this genre, the real strength of the story does lie in its two main characters. You understand why Josee is so aggressive and snappy at strangers due to how the world around her has treated her, which shines a light on how some people treat others who have disabilities. You also understand Tsuneo’s drive and forgetting everything around him when you get into that one-track mindset. Instead of one character lifting the other, both of our leads help each other out. This is such a great element to the story, because otherwise, by a lesser writer or director, Josee would be the prop that helps support Tsuneo get to his dreams, while Josee either accepts her place in life or in some cases of those terrible films, dies. Josee herself is a realized character who loves art, and you understand her attitude toward everyone when she’s been cooped up in her grandmother’s house. Weird how you make a more compelling story when you have a romance where both characters have agency. It talks a lot about reaching for your dreams and how you can help one another to get to them. The story can be a bit melodramatic at points, as it’s expected from anime, but it never quite took me out of the experience like a lot of romance animated features. While some of the dialogue can be a bit much, with some lines reinforcing a somewhat toxic mindset, much of the dialogue flowed well, and the film could be very funny. 

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What helps elevate the beauty and emotional core of the film is the animation by Bones Inc. For those that are not aware, Bones Inc is the studio behind the acclaimed My Hero Academia series, SK8: The Infinity, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Soul Eater, Space Dandy, Mob Psycho 100, Carole & Tuesday, and the recently released Godzilla: Singular Point and The Case Study of Vanitas. They also have done work on films like Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and Sword of the Stranger. This is a gorgeous movie with drop-dead gorgeous coloring, movements, and a pretty fantastic combination of CGI and 2D elements that don’t stand out. The animators are even able to let the characters have cartoony reactions to certain lines and story beats, which is great since it shows that they are willing to break the character designs to help the characters emote a bit more for jokes, and reactions. They even let the story become fantastical with an incredible sequence where Josee becomes a mermaid with her mermaid half formed from her dress. and it’s such a creative touch that gives the film a lot of charm. The voice cast is also pretty good with an English dub that includes Howard Wang, Suzie Yeung, Dani Chambers, and Zeno Robinson to name a few of the talent behind the characters. They do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life, and I enjoyed their performances. The music is beautiful, atmospheric, and fantastical with a soundtrack composed by Evan Call, who composed the music for the incredible Violet Evergarden series. It reminds me of a lot of Kensuke Ushio’s work from A Silent Voice

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As much as I love and want to rave and cheer about this whole movie, I do have some very minor complaints. As I said previously, it can be a touch melodramatic, and that’s true within the film’s third act where a love triangle angle is thrown in when it wasn’t a thing throughout the entire movie. It felt like it was put there to ignite the third act resolution, and while I get that, it would have been more powerful, at least to me, if Josee made the decision herself and not because another character who was secondary to the plot decided to light the fire under her feet. I know it’s anime, and anime is known for big dramatic speeches and interactions, but they tend to be too much at points. Josee, while believable and likable as a character, does begin a bit rough around the edges. It takes awhile for her to come out of her shell, but the first few minutes are too much at points. 

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Still, even with those criticisms, I loved Josee, The Tiger, and the Fish. It’s in my top five favorite animated films of 2021 so far, and it shows how strong of a year 2021 has become when studios are willing to release movies for people to watch. I mean, I know the pandemic was a thing, but still. Sadly, by the time this review comes up, it will have already gone through its limited release, but if you can find a way to watch it and support the official release of the film, do so! Now then, next time I’ll talk about the new Netflix animated feature from Japan, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop.

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: Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 226: Snotty 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/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!)


Parental Warning/Heads Up: This film is not meant for children and involves an immense amount of crass humor, sex, mentions of Nazis, and scatological elements. If you for some reason want to show this to your kids, you are better off waiting until they are teenagers or older to check this film out. Anyway, here is the review! 


Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me by Picture Tree International. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Picture Tree International.

Animation as a storytelling medium seems to always be in a constant battle to find mass-market appeal. Due to how animation has been treated as a medium only for children or family audiences, there has been a real struggle to tell more adult stories. This is weird since many different countries have been doing so with no struggle. Want to see more adult stories? The Japanese animation industry has plenty. However, that is still not enough to tell Hollywood and the rest of the world that “hey, a lot of adults like animation, and we would like to see adult animation that isn’t the usual stuff we have been getting for two decades now”. Unfortunately, when you think of adult animation, you think of adult comedies full of crass or shock humor, or shows that are hyper-violent and edgy. There seems to be no real happy medium for adult animation to be able to tell diverse stories. It doesn’t help either that no one watches the adult animated films that do go against the norm, and thus fail at the box office or streaming. Anyway, despite my misgivings with the animation fandom and community and how the animation industry seems to disrespect or not want to support more adult animation, I am happy to check out and hopefully enjoy these movies when they do come out. Where do I land with Snotty Boy aka Rotzbub

Directed by Marcus H. Rosenmuller and Santiago Lopez Jover, this CGI film that is a German/Austrian collaboration was released on June 14th and was a competitor in the Annecy 2021 Film Festival. It lost out to My Sunny Maad in the main competition segment and is currently looking for distributors to be released all over the world. So, does this raunchy comedy mixed with a coming-of-age story pull it off and help expand the view of more adult animation? Well, you will have to read the review to find out! 

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Our story revolves around a boy named, well, Snotty Boy, voiced by Markus Freistatter. He lives in a small town in Austria in the 1960s and is going through much of what boys go through with puberty, learning about their sexual urges, love, and dealing with some lingering Nazi sentimentalities. What unfolds is a list of actions including drawing lewd pictures of the woman working at the butcher’s, having his first beer when he’s not supposed to have one, and falling in love with a Romani girl that visits the town. Can he find out who he is before the start of summer and find love while dealing with some garbage individuals? 

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When you look at the trailer for this film, the art style and designs are based on the life of Manfred Deix. It has this weird cartoony visual look that has a more exaggerated Adventures of Tin Tin 2011 look. The texture and human look also remind me of how humans were portrayed in the Shrek franchise. The movements are a touch more cartoony and floaty, which makes the overall execution of the animation look a bit uncanny. They don’t move like humans but have textures and designs that do. The film has a distinct look, but it also has these weird uses of blurring and lighting that make everything look like it was made in an Unreal engine. I like some of the 2D sequences and the overall film at least looks unique in its visual presentation. It might not fully work, but it stands out from other foreign CGI affairs. 

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So, what about the story itself? It has some pretty adult topics like the hateful sentimentality that would be lingering around in the 60s and sadly today, sex, and dealing with being true to who you are if you have a talent, to make sure that talent is nurtured. It’s a lot of things you don’t normally see in adult animation, and it has an entirely different tone and vibe to the story than say, America: The Motion Picture. It’s rather admirable, and while a lot of it is raunchy, shocking, and crass, there is this air of teenage innocence and wonder that this film captures with its grotesque visuals that show off more of the ugly side of going through stuff like puberty. It’s a weird mix that works through a good chunk of the film. It has a low-key vibe at points as you let the main character just chill and go through his thoughts. I even liked some of the villagers in the film. It might be a super crass movie, but I dig how it’s a film that is willing to take its time with the story and characters. 

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With all that said, It is a very crass movie with a lot of sex and poop jokes. It’s a shame because there are some very clever jokes and some of the sex jokes are funny, but I constantly found myself a touch too grossed out at points. I’m not against adult comedies being crude and rude since one of my favorite comedies from 2018 was Blockers, but I have a limit. I also found some characters insufferable, and I know that is the point at certain story junctions, but I did not care for them. I also understand why the characters are designed as they are, but when everyone looks ugly as sin outside of the Romani girl, the lead’s dad, and a few other characters, well, it’s a bit much. 

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I don’t know how much appeal this film has to get fully picked up for widespread distribution, but it’s an interesting watch! I wouldn’t put it in my top 10 of the year, but for adult animation from overseas, I’m happy I got to experience it at all, and I would be interested in seeing who would pick up such a film. I’m sure if push comes to shove, Netflix will probably pick it up. I do think animation fans looking for a more adult experience should give this film a shot if they can find a way to watch it. Hope it finds a US distributor! Anyway, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to review next. Maybe it will be something from the US. I’m not sure. You will have to check in next time. 






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 225: America The Motion Picture 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 live in a world where many people seem to think film criticism is black and white. A film is either good or bad, and, well, that’s limiting to the world of art and film. Criticism should be more of a gradient. No one is ever like “yeah, I like and hate everything”. You all have films you love, like, think are good, okay, mediocre, bad, the worst, and you get the idea. Sometimes ya love a film because it’s uneven or maybe you hate it for the same reason. This is how I feel about Netflix’s newest adult animated film with Matt Thompson’s America: The Motion Picture. 


Written by Dave Callaham, directed by Matt Thompson, produced by Channing Tatum, Adam Reed, Matt Thompson, Will Allegra, Peter Kiernan, Reid Carolin, Eric Sims, and Christopher Miller, and Phil Lord, this 2D animated feature was produced by Floyd County Productions, Free Association, and Netflix Animation. This is their newest attempt to reign over the animation scene with a film that you wouldn’t see in the theaters or on TV. Well, what do I think of this absurd take on American history that sounds like it was a film made by Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 for a history report? 

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Our story revolves around George Washington, voiced by Channing Tatum. He lives in an alternate history where he was alive at the same time as Abe Lincoln and many other important and pseudo-important historical icons. As he is enjoying a show with his best pal Abe, it is interrupted by Benedict Arnold, voiced by Andy Samberg. Arnold pulls a, well, Benedict Arnold and has not only interrupted the signing of the Declaration of Independence but also killed Abe Lincoln in his plan to take over the United States for King James, voiced by Simon Pegg. George decides to rise against the evil tyrants and finds a team of individuals to take down the British. These include Sam Adams, voiced by Jason Mantzoukas, Thomas Edison, voiced by Olivia Munn, Paul Revere, voiced by Bobby Moynihan, Geronimo, voiced by Raoul Trujillo, and Blacksmith, voiced by Killer Mike. Can our rebellious group of rabble-rousers save the soon-to-be-titled United States of America? 

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Listen, when the trailer for this film came out, it’s understandable that the reception to it and its wildly free take on American history would be polarizing. When you make commentary about politics, you have to, well, take small careful steps. However, after finally watching this film, it’s not meant to be taken seriously as a political comedy. Don’t come into this thinking you are going to get a Death of Stalin. Like I said above, I joked, but this does come off like a history report made by Jake Peralta, which is fitting since Andy Samberg is in this film. It has some commentary and I’ll have some thoughts about that, but it’s meant to be this cracked-out take on history that reads more like a pulp action story. It’s a fast-paced action comedy that takes full advantage of its nonsensical period of history, as it keeps you moving to each quirky setup, punchline, and action beat. It has some themes about working together to take down hate and to support stuff like science, but you will be here to enjoy the high-octane action and absurd characterizations of historical figures. The action is creative, violent, and has some of the better laughs in the overall film. It also helps that the cast is delightful and how they all bounce off of one another. It’s not perfect character dynamics, but some of the angles they take with the leads are delightful. 

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Animation-wise, it’s a bigger budgeted production of Archer, I think it looks better than Archer due to how much more movement and polish the character models are given. It helps that the film has a more comic book cartoony look that makes it stand out from Archer. They move fluidly, and they do have dynamic movements and much more expressive facial animation than the studio’s usual work. Hopefully, the studio that animated this film Floyd County Productions unionizes because animators should have better working conditions, but the team that worked on the film’s visual look did a fantastic job. I also enjoyed the voice cast. Channing Tatum, Will Forte, Jason Mantouzkas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Raoul Trujillo, Killer Mike, Simon Pegg, and Andy Samberg put in some fantastic performances. It comes off like everyone had a ton of fun acting in this film since it’s not a traditional project for these individuals. The music by Mark Mothersbaugh is fun, but I wouldn’t call it his best work. It helps fit the tone and the mood, but outside of the mix of rock and hip hop thrown into the story, I don’t remember much. 

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I wish the music was the only thing I had criticism about this film. Like most comedies, I found some of the jokes to be hit and miss. It’s more of a dumb popcorn flick than a groundbreaking political comedy. The political jokes that are there are familiar and nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s like this movie wanted to be a pulpy schlocky action flick, but then also had to deal with the question of people overthinking this film with how it was going to handle its political themes. To me, it’s very basic in its views. It’s pro-science, anti-racism, and the ending is fairly funny and cynical in a realistic way of how America turned out in the end. To be clear, it doesn’t love or support the far right. Even the POC characters are constantly calling out George or Sam Adams on their shenanigans and insults. However, I don’t think it balances out its cynical political comedy and the violent pulp action elements very well. I wouldn’t call it the sharpest comedy or action film that Lord and Miller have helped produce. A good handful of the main characters are also not that interesting. Some of them are more fleshed out than others. It’s also a bummer that Blacksmith sits out for a major chunk of the second act alongside Geronimo, but I am happy that the two have some of the best lines and the best moments in the final battle. America: The Motion Picture is also very macho-driven. Outside of Olivia Munn’s Edison, the female characters do not get as much support and love as the male characters. 





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While it is extremely uneven in its execution, I enjoyed it. I can also understand if other critics and animation/film fans do not tolerate this one. It’s, at the very least, an interesting film to come out and doesn’t feel as boring and boilerplate as Spirit Untamed. If you are in the mood for something a bit different than the usual family-focused animated films out right now, then give it a watch. I’m glad something like this exists even if it’s not perfect, because more distinct animated films deserve to be made and either succeed or fail. If you want more diversity in what stories are told, then you need to support the ones trying to stand out. For now, though, let’s travel to Germany as the next film I will be reviewing is Snotty Boy.

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 224: Luca 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!)


You know how I have mentioned in a few reviews this year that studios like Disney can and have become very complacent with how they want to deliver their animated features? How the teams at these studios want to push the boundaries on the stories they tell, but know that they have to begrudgingly stay within the boundaries since they are one of the biggest media corporations aimed at families? It must be frustrating because you can tell that they want to do more, but can’t. You can see that in their films like The Black Cauldron from 1985, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and to some degree, Raya and the Last Dragon, they feel like it could have gone further. The same goes for Disney’s other major studio, Pixar. While Pixar tends to get away with a little more than their owners with how ambitious or adult-themed their films can be, they sure did have an identity crisis after 2010. From 2011 to 2020, while still releasing great movies like Inside OutFinding DoryCocoToy Story 4, and Soul, their lineup was less than stellar. It reminds me of how Disney was back in the 60s-80s after Walt Disney died, or back in the 2000s after their streak of hits from the 90s. There are going to be growing pains, but in some ways, that is healthy. Could you imagine being forced to reinvent the wheel over and over again or else you are considered a failure? Or how the studio will function after a major founder leaves or is fired because they were a scummy individual behind the scenes? Anyway, I talk about all of this because of Pixar’s newest film, Luca

Directed by Enrico Casarosa, written by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, this is Pixar’s newest animated feature that was unfortunately sent directly to Disney+, and while you can argue about the whole theatrical scene right now due to the pandemic that we are still in, and they made sure everyone could watch the movie, it’s still a bummer they didn’t give the film a theatrical release. Still, how does this new Pixar film stack up among their 26 years of animated features? Well, let’s dive into the crystal blue waters and check out this fishy movie. 

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Our story revolves around Luca, voiced by Jacob Trembly, a humanoid fish being that has been told his entire life that humans are dangerous individuals and has mostly lived his life as a shepherd of fish. One day, while letting the fish graze among the kelp, he finds items from humans that have fallen into the water. As he goes to collect these items, Luca encounters another fish person named Alberto, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer. Alberto lives on the surface world, and you find out that if sea monsters walk on land, they turn into humans. Luca gets tantalized by the land as he hangs with Alberto. That is until Luca’s parents scold Luca for going onto land and plan to send him off to the deeper part of the ocean. Luca rebels and decides to go to the human town of PortoRosso with Alberto. There, the two meet a young girl name Giulia Marcavaldo, voiced by Emma Berman, her father Massimo Marcavaldo, voiced by Marco Barricelli, a bully named Ercole Visconti, voiced by Saverio Raimondo, and learn about the human way of life. Will Luca ever go back to the ocean, or will he fall in love with the human world? 

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So, it’s hard to talk about this film because of the discussions being had around the studio itself. People have seemed to put Pixar on this unhealthy pedestal of if they aren’t reinventing the wheel, changing your life in the most impactful way possible, or their films don’t make you cry, then they are lesser. This discussion has popped up again due to how small the scale in story and stakes in Luca are. It’s a more casual slice-of-life/coming-of-age story than something as complex as Soul or Inside Out. Apparently, that’s a bad thing, even though animation fans have wanted to see the big studios take on smaller stories like what you would see in foreign animated films. Well, they finally do it, and while I have some complaints about how it’s handled, I enjoyed my time with Luca‘s story and themes. It was nice to see a big-budget film studio tackle a story that’s mostly about two young characters enjoying and experiencing life. It’s not about saving the world, or the risk of the fish people dying off. It’s two boys who experience the human world. Sometimes, it’s good to have a story scale back its experience. There are still themes of acceptance, discrimination, and so on, but the main deal about this story is the friendship between our two leads. The overall film is built around this, and personally, there is still a lot under the surface with the friendship and those themes of acceptance and discrimination. While they have said there is no romance between Luca and Alberto, you can pick up themes from the LGBTQ+ from how the humans treat the fish monsters and, well, the fish people themselves. Yes, the film is about a close friendship, but there may be some things that were put into the film that comes with the territory. 

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Animation-wise, Pixar shows why they are on top of their game. I know some people have criticized the art style, but when you ask for Pixar to change things up, well, this is what you get when you ask them to do such a thing. I found it charming, and it has its little animation details that it can call its own. I saw it used more cartoony blurring movements during some moments, and the mouth movements are pulling more from some modern cartoons. I adored the swimming animation when Luca is a fish monster, and I could go on about how they accurately catch the nervous mannerisms of a fish when Luca is hesitant to go to the surface. It reminds me of a bunch of times being in shallow water and watching fish come up to me to either check me out or nip at my skin. The designs are quite appealing, and the transition between fish and human forms is so fun to watch. The human designs are also pretty fantastic with a look that I can’t pinpoint with any other Pixar film. It shows how far we have come from 1995 to now with CGI animating humans. The visuals are quite lovely as, whether it’s accurate or not, how they portrayed a small coastal town in Italy, and the dream sequences are just a delight for the eyes. Casting-wise, I very much enjoyed who they hired. Sure, it’s odd that they didn’t stack the cast with all Italian actors due to the setting and such, but they all do a pretty good job at capturing their character’s personalities and mannerisms. I mean, when you have a cast that has Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Marina Massironi, Sandy Martin, and Sacha Baron Cohen, then you know that the cast will be pretty good. The soundtrack though, oh my goodness, the soundtrack is ear-pleasing to the nth degree! It’s one of the best soundtracks of a Pixar film ever with a mix of music composed by Dan Romer, who also composed the music for Beasts of the Southern WildBeasts of No Nation, and Wendy, but the soundtrack is also filled with plenty of Italian pop that blends in with the film to make for a distinct experience. 

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My one major complaint about Luca is that it could have taken a bit more from its obvious Ghibli inspirations by being a longer movie. It’s paced well for 90 minutes, but a lot of the charm of Ghibli films is that Miyazaki and the other directors let the characters lay around and just exist. Sure, it led to a lot of animation flexing from the hard-working animators, but it let the characters simply live their lives in their movies. Luca sort of does this, but doesn’t fully commit to it. It still had to keep the story moving and had to have a third-act conflict that ended in a happy ending. Heck, it even has a third-act conflict that, while built-up better than a lot of Ghibli films, it’s pretty predictable, since it’s about dealing with hateful individuals and discrimination. Granted, with how current events are right now, it’s sadly going to be timely. 

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Luca might be smaller in scale, but it’s a delightful film with a lot of charm. Could it have been even more like a Ghibli film? Sure, but at the end of the day, I still want a Pixar film to BE a Pixar film. A studio is always at their best when they are making films that have their own distinct identity and personality. I highly recommend watching Luca on Disney+ and still wish it got some kind of major theatrical release because this film would look gorgeous on the big screen. Now then, before I get to some other films, I must attend to a screener of a new Netflix original film. You probably know what it is, but if you don’t, well, you will have to wait and see. 

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: Essential