The Other Side of Animation 117: Birdboy: The Forgotten Children Review

bird1

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

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This film is not meant for children. It’s a dark and twisted film with themes of depression, violence, sex, drugs, and humanity. This is not for younger viewers. Viewer’s discretion advised. Enjoy the review!

It’s funny how limiting most moviegoers see animation as a film-making medium. They only see it as a thing for kids and families, and while that can be true, it can be so much more. I have pretty much reviewed a ton of animated films or shows aimed more at an older teen and adult audience, but sadly, those don’t get a lot of traction in Hollywood. Sure, Sausage Party from 2016 showed that it could work, but all that good will was probably thrown out the window when the controversy of the animators being forced to work un-paid overtime was revealed. Animation has no limits, and you can tell any type of story with it. Sure, some limitations are needed to make sure nothing goes too overboard and such, but it’s a medium that’s way more creative, and can be aimed at all audiences. For example, today’s review will be of Birdboy: The Forgotten Children. Directed by Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivero, based on the comic by Alberto Vazquez, and distributed by GKids, this 2D animated film was a dark horse among the 2017 animated films. It was much darker and more mature than a lot of the offerings last year that were more comedy-oriented. It didn’t get a huge release, and while it won a couple of awards, I don’t see many people talk about it. I think it’s time for that to change.

bird2

Taking place on an island after a nuclear explosion destroys the island, the animal inhabitants’ resort to scavenging and trying to live a life, even if the island they live on is mostly covered in garbage. The story is more about the study of the characters, but there is a plot. It revolves around a mouse girl named Dinky, who is not happy with living with her parents who keep complaining about how she is slipping in her school work, and love her dog brother/thing more. This is on top of her parent’s reliance on “happy pills” and how they suspect that Dinky might be a drug user. Dinky decides to get with two of her friends, get some money, and leave the island. Although Dinky is fine leaving with her two friends, she is also worried about another individual, Birdboy. Birdboy’s story is that his father, who used to run the lighthouse before the explosion wrecked the island, turned to selling drugs and was shot. Birdboy, on the other hand, has been turned into an outcast, and is constantly hunted by the police, due to being accused of selling drugs, when more or less, he takes them. Can Dinky and her friends get off the island? What exactly is going on with Birdboy? Why is he taking the drugs? Why does this film look as if David Lynch made an animated movie?

bird3

So, let’s talk about the positive aspect of this film. I’m going to be calling Birdboy the Anomalisa of 2017. Now, why would I be calling it that? It’s because a lot of what makes Birdboy great is the symbolic and psychological nature of the entire film. The film might look innocent and adorable, due to the round designs, but no one is a perfectly okay person. Dinky is a delinquent, one of her friends has supposed schizophrenic thoughts, Dinky’s parents are heavily religious individuals that suffer from depression, Birdboy is a drug-addicted outsider who is suppressing personal violent demons, and the entire rat population, that call themselves “The Forgotten Children”, are violent scavengers that have no problem skinning you for your copper materials. There are multiple layers to dig into with this film, and it is not subtle at showing that a couple of the characters in this film have personal demons that can manifest themselves into horrific monsters. Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s definitely a depressing world. Thankfully, you care about the characters, since while some have major issues, they do have humanity to them. The movie basically says that not everyone is inherently evil or a monster.

bird4

Birdboy probably has the most interesting animation out of any film from this year. I think it’s quite obvious from my comments above that the world the characters live in is very misleading. The round innocent designs clash, and make the much darker sequences pop, making them way more effective. If everything was just grizzly from the beginning, then the effect of certain scenes and characters wouldn’t be as powerful as they are with the more child-friendly designs. I know some say that this type of misconception can lead to it backfiring on the film, but the animation works extremely well. It has designs that are almost similar to ones you would find in Adventure Time, and that franchise has plenty of mature and dark moments. I was never taken out of the experience due to the animation, and I think that’s something worth mentioning, since if this was handled by anyone else, it would have probably been a disaster. I saw this with the English dub, and while the English trailer for the film may make some lines look weird in terms of syncing with the clips, it was pretty good all-around in the actual film.

bird6

If I had to nitpick or criticize this film for anything, it would be that it might go too symbolic with everything. Due to the 75-minute runtime, I found myself noticing the film liked to be a bit more abstract than a little more logical, but even by saying this, I’m staying on the back of my heels. I say this because this might be one of those films you will need to see twice. I know that sounds like I’m excusing elements that might just be bad storytelling, but at the same time, seeing a film twice would probably help in some cases.

bird7

In general, I can tell Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is a film that will be splitting people down the middle. It’s beautifully animated, emotionally poignant, and wonderfully atmospheric and dark. Though the story and how it is executed is definitely going to be the part where you like it or not, some will like the dark nature and symbolic elements, but I can see that alienating other viewers as well. Still, if you can somehow watch this movie, definitely do so. It’s a unique film that I wouldn’t mind supporting. Since we are on a GKids run, it’s time to keep that going with their most recent offering, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go see it!

Advertisements

The Other Side of Animation 115: HarmonQuest Review

harmon1

Warning/Parental Heads up!: This show does have some profanity in every episode, and some suggestive elements at times. Don’t watch with younger kids. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Hope you enjoy the review!

So, since I review animated films and video games, it should be no surprise that I have dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons/Pathfinders. I’m no master of it, and I only play it when my best friend from Seattle comes to town, but I always love fantasy stuff like that. There is something about making your own character, and having a story unfold with you and your friends’ actions in epic or comedic fashion. Sadly, most shows or entertainment don’t really do a good job at using D&D/Pathfinders in an entertaining way. I know there are popular videos online of lengthy sessions, but the problem is, no one has really found a way to make it both entertaining, and also work in a show-like format. Luckily, we do have such a product. Today’s review will be of the two current seasons of HarmonQuest. Inspired by the HarmonTown podcast tradition of having D&D sessions, HarmonQuest was created by Community creator and Rick & Morty co-creator Dan Harmon and Spencer Crittenden. It’s a half hour, half-live-action and half-animated show. It was originally part of the streaming service Seeso, but due to that service’s failing, the second season is now at home on VRV. So, is it great? Does Dan Harmon have a hit on his hands? Well, let’s get out our character sheets, roll the dice, and find out.

harmon2

To be clear, I am reviewing both seasons, so I’m going to be talking about the plot for both. I’ll try my best to keep spoilers out as much as possible. The first season stars a half-orc ranger named Fondue Zoobag, played by Dan Harmon, a goblin rogue named Bone Weevil, voiced by Jeff B. Davis, and a half-elf barbarian named Beor O’Shift, voiced by Erin McGathy. The three are sent on a mission to get back three magical rune stones that are being used by an evil cult to summon the Great Manticore. The second season has our leads trying to stop an evil sorcerer from fusing the demon and the human realms together.

harmon3

Let’s start with the positives. I mean, I technically can say that every positive this show has comes with a small negative attached, but in general, I have a lot of praise for this series. For one, this makes the whole concept of Pathfinders and Dungeons & Dragons approachable. Like I said, I’m not the biggest player for this kind of stuff, but due to how the story is kept moving and exciting, it really makes you wonder why more people who dabble in this hobby don’t do this. You are a show, don’t just give us unfiltered bore fests that are four hours long. Of course, the show wouldn’t be getting two seasons if the characters weren’t interesting. Luckily, the show does a great combination of having scripted events and improv comedy. What I mean by this is that they will have situations given to them, but the actors involved don’t have precisely worded scripts, and instead, have to think on their feet. Everyone from the main cast to the special guests work wonderfully off one another, and I don’t remember a current animated show that made me laugh harder than HarmonQuest. Sure, the show has plots and “character moments”, but you watch this show for the interactions of everyone. The first season probably had my favorite interactions, and that’s mostly because, while not every guest has played the game the entire show is based around, their reactions, actions, and lines do work, and no one feels like they are out of place. Season two also does a good job, but unfortunately, I have a few issues with season two, but we will get to that later.

harmon5

Since this is an animation review series, and this show is 50% animation, I think for what it is, it holds up, and gets the job done well. I like that every character’s designs are based around the likeness of the actors portraying them (Well, most of the time), and no one feels out of place. I can understand people calling it simple, but for an online series with big names attached to it, it’s not too flashy, but it’s not cheap looking either. You can tell the animators had fun listening to the actors play out the plot and then think, “how we can make this look great, and hilarious at the same time?” The designs are also not confusing. You can tell who is what if you are into this type of game.

harmon4

So, it’s time to bring up those negatives I have with the series. Like I said, it comes off as a pro and a con at the same time. While I love the special guests that they get, like Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Scheer, Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Olsen, Jason Mantzoukas, Steve Agee, Thomas Middleditch, and Aubrey Plaza, sometimes, it seems like the guest character doesn’t really have a lot to do in the plot. They are more there to get the plot going than to do much. I felt like this with the episodes that had Aparna Nancherla and Rob Corddry in them. I love the improv between the characters, but the two seasons lack a major story or arcs for the characters. I think that’s partly the compromise with doing the bulk of the story on the spot, but I feel like not a whole lot happens to make the characters grow. Enough happens to give some outlines for the characters, but they are never the focus. And sadly, the comedy doesn’t always land. I don’t think it’s the actors fault, improv is probably one of the single hardest forms of comedy to pull off correctly, but some of the guest role-players don’t mesh well with each other. I was so excited when I saw actors like Patton Oswalt, and Rob Coddry in certain episodes, and while they have maybe a laugh here and there, I found myself liking those episodes less than others.

harmon8

In general though, HarmonQuest is one of the funniest animated shows around right now. Sure, it’s not always consistently entertaining, but it’s definitely a show I have watched multiple times, and I don’t do that often. Unfortunately, this isn’t on something like Amazon Prime or Netflix, which is easily the two biggest streaming platforms, but if you want to watch it, you have to get a subscription for VRV. I do hope that it can get a third season, since it ended on a cliffhanger. If you are into anything fantasy, or if any of this sounds appealing, definitely go watch it. Well, that was fun, but next time, we shall dive into Blue Sky Studios once more to check out their latest film, Ferdinand. Thank you for reading this review! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will see everyone next time!

Rating: Go See It!

My Two Cents On The Submissions For Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.

The-Breadwinner-post

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

The recent line-up of animated feature films for the Oscars next year have popped up, and for the first time, I decided to break down the chances each of the contenders have to make it into the five spots. Overall, the line-up is pretty strong! I know that sounds weird, since the mainstream big budget films from the bigger studios have not been all that great, but if you look at the indie film offerings, you have quite possibly, the best line-up of smaller animated films of this decade so far. It’s probably just as good as 2013 with the wide variety of indie animation. Now then, I’m going to break it down into different categories with films that have spots already filled, films that have amazing chances, films that might have a chance, and films that have no chance. Little side note, I find it hilarious that none of the Weinstein-animated films like Guardian Brothers and Leap! are not on the list. Thankfully, that is great, because screw Harvey Weinstein and his horrible take on animated films. Now then, let’s get started!

oscar4

100% Certified Spots

Coco*: While it just came out, the amazing amount of hype this film has gotten and the early positive previews, this is probably the only Pixar film that has a chance at making it into one of the five sacred slots for Best Animated Feature. Plus, it just looks like a great movie. Way more than most of the films released this year from bigger companies.

* Despite the recent controversy of now ex-head of Pixar John Lasseter’s leave because of allegations, I don’t think it would be fair for everyone else who made Coco suffer because of his actions.

Loving Vincent: While not getting as wide of a release as Coco or other big animated films, Loving Vincent has been a critical darling and a constantly talked about movie since making its runs in festivals. Plus, winning one of the three major prizes at Annecy Film Festival sounds good as well. It’s just a unique film that has caught the film world by storm.

The Breadwinner: We have a movie being made by a veteran of the Best Animated Features section, Cartoon Saloon, which had The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea nominated, the distributor GKids, and so much universal acclaim from reviewers and people who have seen it combined, it would be a shock if this didn’t make it onto the shortlist. Plus, it got a lot of attention during the Animation is Film Festival, and won the main prize there.

oscar2

75% Possible Contenders

In This Corner of the World: Lots of festival buzz and highly positive reviews. It probably has the best chance out of Japanese animated films, besides Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Plus, what Academy voter doesn’t love a war time-era film?

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales: It’s being directed by one of the directors of the Oscar-nominated Ernest & Celestine. Plus, it’s under the GKids banner, and they have had two or so films in the running before for Best Animated Feature. Though I am concerned with how it doesn’t have an official release date yet for 2018, I would hate for it to be viewable after the awards.

The Girl Without Hands: Another festival favorite, and an almost entirely a one-man job. That alone is very noteworthy. Plus, high reviews and again, GKids. The beautiful and stylized animation doesn’t hurt either.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower: Let’s check off the boxes. GKids? Check! Made by ex-Studio Ghibli individuals? Check! Director of Oscar-nominated When Marnie Was There? Check! I think that covers it. Though I’m concerned that the release is just a month away from the awards, but we shall see.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children: Another well-received animated film being distributed by GKids, and won a couple of awards including the GOYA award for Best Animated Feature, and has gotten mileage for being an animated film with a twisted edge to it and dark themes under the cute designs.

oscar3

50% Maybe?

Ethel & Ernest: As much as I love this movie when I watched it, with no real release date, I don’t know if its legacy as Raymond Brigg’s work will make it noteworthy enough to make it into the sacred five slots. I love this movie, but man, they should do something to compete.

A Silent Voice: I loved this movie, and I think it has more of a chance than Your Name did last year, because it was released in theaters in the states months before the award show, but that might not be enough, since most people, unless they are film or animation fans, know a lot about this movie. The biggest amount of coverage it got was when it beat out Your Name as Best Animated Film of 2016 from the Japan Movie Critics Award. I just hope the distributor in charge of the theater distribution for this film makes a big enough push for more people to see it.

Cinderella the Cat: To be perfectly honest, this was a surprise to see on the list. I have been following this film for a while, and all I know about it is the positive reception it has alongside that one review from Variety.com. However, since there has been no news on a US distributor, I don’t know how much its positive foreign reception will win people over.

Window Horses The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming: This is a cute and utterly charming movie about a girl trying to find peace for herself, while finding her father. I don’t hear too many people talking about this one, but it has enough festival buzz for a chance to make it, but it’s an uphill battle to get past some of the other indie/foreign films.

The LEGO Batman Movie: While I do love this movie, and think it came out at the right time, due to people still grieving about what happened three months earlier in 2016, the original didn’t get nominated (still sort of annoyed by that), so what chance does this one have? Plus, while I do love it, it’s not as good as The LEGO Movie. It doesn’t have the full heart and soul the previous film had. It’s a great and hugely entertaining watch, but I don’t know if they will give it a pity vote.

Napping Princess: Personally, this is one of my favorite movies to watch in 2017. However, it’s probably the GKids film, along with another on the list, to get the least amount of talk or push. It’s a fun adventure movie with some great characters and sequences, and some festival buzz, but it’s critically one of the less loved films of the 2017-distributed GKids films. Not going to stop me from enjoying it, but I can see it having more of a struggle than the others that I listed above.

Captain Underpants: This was one of the biggest surprises of the year, and while I am confident in putting it in the 50% range, it would sound odd, wouldn’t it? Oscar-nominated Captain Underpants. I don’t know how they will take this one seriously enough to consider it.

oscar5

25% Very Slim Chances

The LEGO Ninjago Movie: While it was still much better than most of the films on this list, it was also the least liked of the three films, and underperformed. It wasn’t a bomb, but it did not rake in as much cash as they were expecting. Plus, it’s the only one that you can consider to be more of a cash grab than the others. It also has the weakest story and writing out of the three LEGO Movies.

The Boss Baby: This film is mostly noteworthy for coming out around the same time as Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump skits became the funniest bits of comedy for a while, so that probably helped push this movie’s financial success, but outside of that, the film itself was not well received, and in general is not regarded as one of the best animated films of the year. I know some have put it high on their list, but that’s only because they haven’t seen many movies.

Cars 3: Unlike The Boss Baby or the next entry, Cars 3 doesn’t have that much to say “yeah, this movie deserves an Oscar!” it’s more emotionally investing than the second film, but it still has a slew of problems in terms of its story and the ending. Plus, it underperformed because nobody wanted another flipping Cars movie! It’s not a horrible film, but I doubt it will have a chance.

Despicable Me 3: While a financial hit all over the world, Despicable Me 3 has too much going against it. For one, the story is not great, the characters are now barely there, and any advantages they had with improving or pushing the story forward, they don’t take, and just keep staying in that safe circle because it worked for them in the past. Sure, they got one nomination with Despicable Me 2, but that was a pity nomination in a rather underwhelming year. If SING and The Secret Life of Pets couldn’t get a nomination, then Despicable Me 3 won’t either.

Ferdinand: Listen, I don’t like picking on Blue Sky Studios, because I think they are a super talented group of people. However, they are having the same problems as Illumination Entertainment has. It’s why I put Ferdinand low on the list. Granted, the movie looks better than a lot of their offerings, but I just can’t find myself trusting that it’s going to be a great movie. Plus, Blue Sky doesn’t have much notoriety in the Oscar races.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea: I love this movie. It’s still my favorite animated comedy of 2017 so far, but looking at it now compared to the other contenders, I don’t see it getting nominated. It would be awesome, and GKids is behind it, but it’s too indie for its own good, and I think GKids has had better animated offerings now than back then.

oscar6

0% No Chance in Hades

The Emoji Movie: Come on, I might not think it’s the worst animated film of the year (that goes to The Guardian Brothers), but it’s still really terrible, and it has no chance in Hades in making it. Even when Sony sort of knows it doesn’t have a chance, then that is saying something.

Sword Arts Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale: Yeah, sorry, but nope. It’s a film based on a pre-existing anime, and those never get nominated. It didn’t happen then, and it won’t happen now.

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland: I have a fondness for The Moomins, and I do love the cast they are building it up for, but I highly doubt it will have enough people knowing the source material to care. I love weird and unique foreign stuff, but this will not have one of those sacred spots.

The Star: I do not think the organization is going to let this one get a chance. It looks cheap, the advertising is  not giving the film justice, and I just don’t see it making it. I love the cast, and I wish they were in a better movie, but I’m sorry, The Star is going to have to shine somewhere else.

There you have it, my guess as to what films have the most to the least amount of chances to get those five spots for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. As of right now, I am fairly confident that I am going to be correct with these placements, and hey, if any of the films that haven’t come out yet turn out to be good, then I am all for pushing them up the ranks. Do you all have any guesses? What five films would you love to get chosen for the Oscars?

 

The Other Side of Animation 106: Loving Vincent Review

vin01

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

While CGI animation is and was a groundbreaking discovery in the world of animation, it has lost its luster. I mean, these days, you expect an animated film made with CGI to be exceptional or at the very least, theatrical quality. The same goes for when 2D animation was in theaters. It’s an even bigger deal these days when an animated film hits theaters, and it’s not even close to being theatrical quality. Sometimes, you get a CGI-animated film that elevates itself or does something super creative, but for the most part, CGI animated films are nothing super special. This is why today’s review of Loving Vincent is so impressive to me. Originally launched as a crowdfunding project, Loving Vincent, directed by Dorota Kobeila and Hugh Welchman, is being heralded as the first fully-painted animated film. After many years, and over a hundred different animators working their blood, sweat, passion, and tears into the film, it got a festival release during 2017, winning one of the major awards at the Annecy Film Festival, alongside Lu Over the Wall and In This Corner of the World, and had a more wide-release into theaters in September of this year. So, what do I think about this movie? Well, let’s pick up your paint brushes and find out.

vin02

The story takes place a year after the death of artist Vincent Van Gogh. The story revolves around Armand Roulin, played by Douglas Booth. He is sent by his father, Postman Roulin, played by Chris O’Dowd, to deliver a letter to Vincent’s brother, Theo. While delivering the letter, Armand decides to take it in his own hands to find out what exactly happened for Vincent to kill himself.

vin03

So, what is great about this movie? Well, I think it would be tough to talk about this film and not start with the animation. It’s easily the best thing about this movie. While technically, they use more than paint to make this film work, it’s still really impressive and mind-boggling that they got this to work. While it could be considered partly rotoscoped in terms of animation, it’s probably the best-looking animated film of the year. Everything looks so breathtaking in this painted style, and you can’t really believe that they made this insane plan work. Every frame is beautifully rendered in the art style used by the painter.  Sure, they had to cheat a little with some of his iconic paintings, but they still pay huge respect to the artist and his work. It technically uses two different painting styles. You have the usual style that Vincent used in his work, and for flashbacks, it goes into this more “realistic” black and white painting look. Both styles mesh well, giving you this other-worldly experience that is jaw-dropping to see in motion on screen. That’s saying something in a year where The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, and The Breadwinner exist in terms of beautiful animation.

vin04

Now, in terms of the story, this is where I have seen people split on this part of the overall experience. I have seen criticisms thrown at the film that it was more style over substance. The plot meanders around, and the mystery goes nowhere. Well, personally, I disagree. As Armand goes around the town where Vincent stayed, he tries to find out what may have driven the painter mad. Some people have complained that you are not given an answer to the mystery, even though you technically are given a couple of reasons. People didn’t treat him well; they laughed, mocked, and loathed his talents. No one treated him with respect. Even the people that supported him had underlying motives. Another complaint I hear is that there is no true ending to the mystery. There is no pure answer to the overall story. Well, you know what? Life doesn’t always give you answers, for as much as we would love to be able to explain everything that happens. Things aren’t always neatly tied up. It won’t matter how smart you are, or how much you know, sometimes, there is nothing conclusive. It’s bittersweet, since this painter worked for eight years, only sold two paintings, and only got famous after he killed himself. Sometimes, the world doesn’t want you to know why it does things. With that in mind, it was interesting and fun to watch Armand try to solve the situation, while talking to the various  individuals who all had different opinions on Vincent. Vincent was brilliant, he was mad, they felt sorry for him, they laughed at him, and you get the idea. I was kept invested till the very touching end of the movie.

vin05

I also liked the actors in the movie. I thought the cast, including Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Aidan Turner all put in very believable performances.  Combined with the amazing animation, you felt every emotion and facial movement they gave on-screen. I know a lot of it was on a stage, but that’s even more commendable. The music by Clint Mansell was also very fitting, giving calming numbers, intensive music during transitions and more serious moments, and touching moments when needed. Then again, when you are the composer behind Requiem for a Dream, the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror, The Wrestler, Black Swan, and Noah, you should expect some phenomenal music.

vin07

If I had to complain about something, it’s the fact that some characters only appear once, and are not really seen again. They don’t offer much to the overall story and mystery, and I wish there was more to them than just certain one-off sequences.

vin06

Loving Vincent is a loving tribute to one of the world’s greatest artistic minds, and simply a wonderful movie. It’s easily my new favorite animated film of the year so far, and it’s a triumph in filmmaking and animation. I understand some people won’t agree, but you know what? In the end, my opinion is all that matters to me, and Loving Vincent is one of my favorite movies of 2017, one of my favorite animated movies of the decade, and quite possibly one of my favorite movies period. I can’t wait to buy this movie on Blu-Ray and watch it again. I don’t really get that with a lot of movies, and I’m happy this was not simply a case of style over substance. If you can watch it, go see it. We need more films this ambitious and creative. Sadly, it’s time to go back to an animated film that tries harder, but still doesn’t hit the landing. Next time, we review The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Animation Tidbits #4 What’s Cam Looking Forward To 10/19/17: Animation is Film Festival Edition

lu00

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

Welcome to another What’s Cam Looking Forward To on Animation Tidbits. I guess you can call this version the “Animation is Film Festival Edition”, because a lot of the films on this list will be at the LA-based Animation is Film Festival. So many of these animated films are making their US release at this festival. It’s a shame it wasn’t happening closer to me, since I live all the way in Texas, but I think anyone who wants to see some truly, in the sense of the word, “unique” animated films, they should go to this event. Now, some of these films I have talked about before, like The Breadwinner, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, Zombillenium, and The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. However, the mass majority of these will be new to the Animation Tidbit label. Let’s jump in!

Fireworks

While I am still bitter about Your Name’s success opening the floodgates for a slew of teen dramas/romances to overcrowd the market, I’m always willing to put that aside to judge the film on its own merits. Fireworks is helmed by the producer of Your Name, Genki Kawamura. It’s a tale of two junior high school boys, who fawn over the same girl who is going to be leaving their country-side town. One day, one of the boys finds a magical sphere that can control time, and uses it to try and get together with the girl, who by the time he finds this sphere, has fallen for the other guy. In the film, the boy will use the sphere he found to turn back the clock to fix a mistake, but may end up causing more consequences to doing such a thing than he would like. It reminds me of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which used the same plot idea. If handled well, it would lead to some touching scenes. The animation, while having fairly generic anime character designs, looks great, and I’m always down for a teen drama/romance to be taken or tackled in different ways. I wonder how good it will be compared to the mega hit Your Name, or the other massive hit, A Silent Voice. Granted, I am getting tired of Japan’s fixation on teen dramas and romances, but if the film can tell a compelling story and bring some creativity to the table, then I’m down to check it out. This will be playing the same day as The Breadwinner on Friday, the first day of the event.

MUTAFUKAZ

I love to consider this the French/Japanese-animated lovechild of a classic Robert Rodriguez action movie. MUTAFUKAZ is, like I mentioned, a French/Japanese collaboration combining Studio 4 ° C, director Shojiro Nishimi and Guillaume Renard, the creator of the comic on which the film is based.  It revolves around a young boy named Angelino, who lives with his skeleton friend Vinny in a dirty disgusting city known as Dark Meat City. After getting into an accident, Angelino starts to experience unknown powers, and boy, everything just hits the fan afterwards. Everything is thrown into this film, like a stew made of everything inside your fridge. You have gang fights, frantic car chases, Akira-style physic powers, trippy visuals, Jin-Roh-style soldiers, and utter chaos. It all blends together in this over-the-top action film that looks fantastic. I think for such a crazy idea, it was a good idea to get Studio 4 ° C because they are good at getting frenetic and fast-paced action done well. I’m concerned it’s going to be flash over substance, but it’s still one of the animated films I’m looking forward to seeing the most, due to the fact we rarely get action-focused animated features anymore.

Big Fish & Begonia

I have not been subtle about talking about the lackluster animation scene China has going on. It’s either bad anime-style clones, or really bad CGI with no thought about being creative with a small budget. This is why Big Fish & Begonia is poised to be the turning point for better animated features from that country. For a film that took a decade to make, the animation is gorgeous, and a lot of it makes the film look like this Chinese version of Spirited Away, which is fine by me. I have read early reviews of the film, which spoke highly of its philosophical elements, and it will have an English dub at the event, which means that Shout! Factory is probably getting ready for a more wide release and announcement for the film. If you want to see what could help turn China’s animation scene down a much more optimistic route, then you should definitely go check this film out.

Lu Over the Wall

Now, we have one of the big boys playing at the plate. Masaaki Yuasa, the director behind Mindgame, has two films out this year and at this event. Lu Over the Wall is the first film being shown, and is another take on the Little Mermaid story in the same way Hayao Miyazaki did with Ponyo. That means you will get offbeat characters, trippy animation, and a more light-hearted tone. It’s definitely what I got from the trailers and, from a few clips that are on YouTube, the charm really comes through the animation. It looks fantastic, and I hope GKids can bring this film over along with Masaaki’s other film that will be talked about later in this editorial.

Tehran Taboo

Now, this is a nice little surprise. Tehran Taboo is a German-Austrian collaboration about three different women and a musician trying to survive in a harsh and punishing city known as Tehran, where sex and drugs run amok under heavy religious and patriarchal ruling. It looks like an emotional and human experience, as we see these characters survive in such a restrictive life. I know some will argue about its animation, since it’s not technically 2D animation, but some form of rotoscope animation, but those purists can go bugger off. You are still tracing over living individuals frame by frame. Animation is much more vibrant and expansive these days, and this is a good example to show that. If you want something mature and adult during this festival, then it’s probably a good idea to step into the dramatic world of Tehran Taboo.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

It’s not a surprise that one of the two major viewings that are sold out is the spiritual successor to Studio Ghibli, Studio Ponoc’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower. First off, the animation looks fantastic. It has a style very similar to Studio Ghibli, and while I have heard people say that this is distracting, I don’t find that a problem. Studio Ghibli isn’t doing anything besides Hayao Miyazaki’s newest film, and if it’s a distracting thing to have fluid and very expressive Japanese animation, then I think that’s a pretty good situation to have. Even Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata have shown their approval of the film. It looks like a great one, and it has directors I trust behind it. It’s one of the most anticipated animated films of the year, and probably one of the sure Oscar nominees.

Night is Short, Walk on Girl

Finally, we have Masaaki Yuasa’s second film, Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Technically, it is a follow-up to a series he worked on called The Tatami Galaxy. The surreal romantic comedy of a girl and the guy who has a crush on her looks trippy, unreal, and hilarious. This is what I love about Yuasa’s work. Fantastic and vibrant visuals, interesting characters, and what might look random, has an underlying tone of something much more. I am concerned that I can watch this without having seen the TV series, which I just started, but the quality of the film will depend on if it stands strong on its own or not. Still, I hope GKids brings this and Lu Over the Wall over to the states.

The Other Side of Animation 103: My Little Pony the Movie (2017) Review

mlp01

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

You know what? It seems like a lot of times, movies are not surprising anymore. You usually know or can predict how a movie is going to turn out if you look at the overall picture. Of course, seeing it in person and predicting how it is going to turn out are two different things, and if you want to have a solid base for your opinion on a film, you should watch it. Sometimes, you get a nice little surprise, but most of the time; you kind of know what to expect. It makes it all the more important when something you were expecting to not be all that great, turns out to be a solid fun time. This is where My Little Pony the Movie comes into play. For the record, I have not watched this show in years. I lost interest, and from what I remember, while I think the show itself was actually pretty good, I was not looking forward to this. On the other hand, this is the first 2D American-animated film we have had in almost a decade. It’s a good idea to support it if you are tired of CGI animated films. It’s a gamble, since I can understand how some filmgoers who are probably older teen-young adults would be hesitant to purchase a ticket by yourself, unless you have a young niece or nephew who wants to see it. Then again, I don’t think you need to be 100% a kid to enjoy this, but I should probably just start talking about the movie.

mlp03

The story follows our lead character Twilight Sparkle, voiced by Tara Strong. She is having trouble setting up a Festival of Friendship, due to personal self-esteem issues of being a good princess and wanting everything to go as planned. Unfortunately, as we see the arrival of the big guest at the festival, Songbird Serenade, voiced by Sia, the kingdom is under attack. The individual in charge is a unicorn with a broken horn named Tempest Shadow, voiced by Emily Blunt. Tempest Shadow works for a powerful individual known as the Storm King, voiced by Liev Schreiber. Twilight and her friends, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Applejack flee the kingdom and must go on a magical adventure to find a solution to save the kingdom, and take down the evil Storm King.

mlp02

A lot of animated films this year have been underwhelming for many reasons, but a major point of interest for me, was the fact that most animated films this year didn’t really know what they wanted to be. Despicable Me 3 wanted to be a big laugh-out-loud comedy, but clumsily tried to have a story arc between the lead and his brother that went nowhere. Cars 3 was meant to be this hugely emotional experience, but it couldn’t focus or stay committed to its more mature ideas, and played its trump card too early. Batman and Harley Quinn couldn’t balance out dark comedy with the heavy amounts of violence. It’s like some of these films had an idea of what they wanted to do, but either quit halfway through, or the writers didn’t know what to do, or maybe execs stepped in. I don’t know what happened, but do you know what is the most refreshing aspect about My Little Pony the Movie? It’s the fact that it knows what it wants to be. It wants to be a fantasy adventure film, and that’s perfectly okay. It wants to have the leads go through exotic and dangerous lands, and meet new characters. It wants to have a few solid action sequences, and it does so. It’s not a complicated movie, and I like that. I admire that, while simple, it’s a film that knows what it is.

mlp03

What I like a lot about this film is the fact that it is the first mainstream 2D animated film released in theaters. We haven’t had this happen since 2011. Sure, 2D is slowly making a comeback, but it wasn’t just a side gimmick, or a neat fact. Now, in terms of the 2D animation, it’s really nice. The movements are fluid, and everything is way more expressive than the TV show. It wasn’t something like previous movies based on TV shows in theaters, where it was just a slightly higher budgeted episode of the show. Now, technically, it’s not fully 2D, since they use CGI models for buildings and certain things, and I do have some comments about that, but overall, the animation in My Little Pony the Movie is high quality. I was concerned with how much of the advertising was showing off the big named celebrities, and that the main characters of the show were going to get sidelined, but thankfully, the main six characters do take up a majority of the film. You follow them throughout most of the film, while sometimes cutting back to the villains. A lot of the writing and jokes are pretty good, and I found myself laughing and chuckling throughout the entire film. I remember the show being charming with its writing and characters, and that carries over into the movie. I like the chemistry all the characters have, and I found it engaging. I think it helps that the voice cast from the show came back to voice their characters. Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea LIbman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cathy Weseluck hold their own against the celebrities like Emily Blunt, Michael Peña, Taye Diggs, Zoe Saldana, Kristin Chenoweth, Uzo Aduba, and Sia. Even the original songs by song writer Daniel Ingram are actually pretty good. They are catchy and well-composed. I found myself humming the villain’s song after watching the film.

mlp06

Sadly, one of my concerns about the film, the huge celebrity names attached to it, partly came true. A lot of the celebrities don’t have a lot of screen-time, and some of them don’t have a lot to do. Sia pretty much appears at the beginning and the end of the film for the big dance party. Uzo has a fantastic voice, but her character doesn’t do much, and that goes for Kristin Chenoweth as well. The only celebrities that have something to do are Michael Peña, Emily Blunt, Taye Diggs, and Zoe Saldana. That’s a huge shame, because in the movie, you will rarely see Liev Schreiber, who is the lead villain. He has some of the best lines in the movie, but he doesn’t feel as big of a threat as he should. Emily Blunt’s character is more imposing than Storm King.  It leads the final fight to be well-animated, but it rings hollow when they defeat him, since he was played up for more comedic moments than anything else. The story also hits some familiar story elements that will probably annoy older viewers. The kids probably won’t mind it, but it does lead to some of the film’s few pacing problems. The only other major complaint I could come up with is that the CGI and the 2D animation do not mix well. There are many times where you see the fluid 2D animation interact with the CGI buildings or backgrounds, but do not gel, and it’s very obvious. It makes me wonder what kind of budget they had, to not be able to do full 2D animation.

mlp04

It’s by no means a grand or super amazing film. It’s not one of the best fantasy adventure films like Castle in the Sky or April and the Extraordinary World, but it’s a solid and harmless movie. I see no harm in going to see it. You would think they would simply bank on the popularity of the show, but they didn’t. Yes, they could have expanded on some elements better, I wish the characters with big celebrities behind them had more to do, and yeah, I could see some arguments about how it probably shouldn’t have been in theaters, but it’s a solid film. Go see it if you have a niece, or go enjoy it yourself. I can think of much worse animated films that are in theaters or on Netflix than My Little Pony the Movie. Well, we are almost ready to review some spooky films, but I need to get through some animated films first before doing so. Next time, we are going to check out Napping Princess. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 102: The Cat Returns Review

cat01

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

Well, it’s been two years since I started reviewing animated films, and I feel like it’s time to talk a little about myself, and what kind of movies I like to watch. I tend to enjoy a large variety of genres and different directors. I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore film fan and watch every single classic film, but I watch what looks like something I would enjoy. However, I tend to mostly pick a film that I can watch with no need to learn about something beforehand, or require to research some lore or backstory before watching the film, so I can get into the story. I like to be instantly dropped in, and be able to not be distracted by in-your–face-world-building elements. In short, I want to be able to put in a movie, not have to be in a certain mood to watch it, sit back, and relax. I think that’s why for this two year special, I decided to choose the Studio Ghibli film, The Cat Returns. This is definitely an oddball of the Ghibli filmography. It was released back in 2002, and was originally conceived as a 20-minute short film for an amusement park. Unfortunately, they canceled the project, but Hayao Miyazaki decided to use the idea for his own studio. The individual sitting in the director’s chair this time around was Hiroyuki Morita. His name might not sound familiar, but he has done some work in the industry by starting at Ghibli as a key animator for My Neighbors the Yamadas and an in-between animator for Kiki’s Delivery Service. Morita went on to direct the anime series Bokurano, and was mostly an animator for stuff like Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Tales from Earthsea, Afro Samurai: Resurrection, Lupin III: Bye Bye Lady Liberty!, and Tenchi Forever! As it stands, The Cat Returns is one of the few animated films from the studio that was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. We didn’t get this film until 2005, and by that time, people were more focused on Miyazaki’s newest film, Howl’s Moving Castle. Let’s claw our way in, and check out The Cat Return.

cat02

The story follows a high schooler named Haru, voiced by Anne Hathaway. Haru is having a rough spot in her life, where it seems like nothing is really working out for her. After coming back from school one day, she ends up saving a cat that was about to get run over by a car. By luck, the cat she saved happened to be a magical cat prince, voiced by Andrew Bevis. The prince thanks her, and later that night, Haru is visited by the prince’s father, The Cat King, voiced by Tim Curry. After some misunderstandings and complications, Haru ends up getting engaged to the prince, and tries to find a way to get out of the situation. She then meets a whimsical character known as The Baron, a small humanoid cat-like being, voiced by Cary Elwes. He decides to help her out, but right when he agrees to help her, Haru gets kidnapped and taken to the Cat Kingdom. It is up to The Cat Baron, along with his sidekick Muta, voiced by Peter Boyle, to help Haru escape the Cat Kingdom.

cat03

The first thing you will notice about the film is the animation style. It’s still the fantastic 2D animation you know from such a studio, but it’s the designs that are for the most part, different. Everything is a touch more simplistic, and the human designs aren’t in the traditional Studio Ghibli design, and are more anime-style. It can definitely lead to more fluid animation, and for a film like The Cat Returns, it suits it. The story is very light, and while that might sound like a downside, it’s not. It’s a fantasy adventure film that uses its 75 minutes well, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a film that knows what it wants to do. It’s just an easy-to-get-into fantasy adventure film. Now, that doesn’t mean The Cat Returns itself is lacking substance. It’s still a Studio Ghibli film, with likable leads, a solid set of side characters, a creative world, and a fun villain. It also has some amazing visuals from the Cat Kingdom to the action sequences that help cement the film’s more light-hearted tone. I have heard some people compare this to some fantasy comedies like the Princess Bride, and I can see where they are coming from. It’s funny and has an eccentric personality, but also acts like a fairy tale with odd rules and lush visuals. The film does have a message of never giving up on yourself or your dreams, but it’s more of a backseat moral. It wants to be more about the whimsical side of things, and to be a more comedic fantasy film, and I have no personal problem with that. It’s something that I have seen pop up from time to time, where critics in general dismiss a film being simple as a bad thing. I never really got that, since simple doesn’t always mean terrible. Of course, it does come down to execution, but even then, it’s not always seen in a positive light. I mean, do we call out The Wizard of Oz as being too simple and relying more on emotion than logic? No, we celebrate it as one of history’s best movies, and rightfully so. Sometimes, when I’m going out to get a bite, I’m not in the mood for something big, fancy, and complex. Sometimes, all I want is a cheeseburger that’s done well, and a $5 milkshake. Movies don’t always have to be complicated.

cat04

As for everything else, the cast is pretty fantastic. Anne Hathaway does a pretty stellar job as Haru. While Haru might not be one of the classic Ghibli female characters, she is still interesting. She’s innocent and kind of light-headed, but she is still strong and wanting to make sense in a fantasy world, which is usually much harder than you would think. Cary Elwes is fantastic as The Baron, and it sounds like he was having a lot of fun playing another fantasy hero. Pete Boyle has some of the better laughs as Muta, and, of course, it’s hard not to talk about this film and not bring up Tim Curry’s old hippie performance of the Cat King. You can tell that he was having a blast as this expressive and hilarious villain. Then again, it’s Tim Curry, and he’s always a blast to watch, no matter what the film is. Andy Richter plays an assistant to the Cat King, and while I know in the Japanese dub, the character was female, and, yeah, it’s weird that they would do this, I think Richter pulls it off. Actually, the actors in this film do pull off excellent comedic timing. It’s probably one of the few Japanese-animated films I can think of, where the humor is easy to translate to any country. A lot of the times, and sorry if I have already said something similar in a previous review, comedy in different parts of the world ranges in what they define as funny, and it doesn’t always translate well when you place it in another country. A lot of older anime had this problem when you realize Japan loved wordplay and puns, and some of those don’t translate to English well. It’s why a lot of foreign films I tackle have more universally acceptable comedy, like old-fashioned Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin-style comedy, since you don’t need to know a foreign language to know why something in a film is funny in that form.

cat05

I love this fantastical adventure, but I have some complaints. While the fight sequences are well-animated and are a blast to watch, the final fight between The Baron and the Cat King is underwhelming. There is a great action/chase sequence leading up to this battle, but then the battle itself only last a few seconds. I love the 75-minute runtime, but there are definitely times where the story could have been fleshed out more. You find out about Muta’s history in a scene near the very end of the film, and it doesn’t really add much. It’s more lore for the world of the Cat Kingdom, but not much else. There is this fun crow character voiced by Elliot Gould, and while it’s always good to hear him because his voice is unique, he doesn’t show up in the movie a whole lot. He pretty much shows up near the end of the first act, and then in the final act.

cat06

The Cat Returns might not be one of Ghibli’s strongest films, or one of their most epic, but it’s still Studio Ghibli. It’s still well-animated, entertaining, well-acted, funny, and full of amazing imagery. I consider it the hidden gem of the studio, and to be honest, it has grown to be one of my favorites. Yeah it has its faults, but every film is going to have faults. It just depends on how big or bad they are to not be able to ignore. I would say go buy the Disney release of this film, but I would personally wait until the GKids re-release is available. Definitely not my favorite from the studio, but it’s still a splendid movie. Well, speaking of fantasy adventures, it’s time we look at 2017’s My Little Pony: The Movie. Everybody, thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!