The Other Side of Animation 88: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea Review

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

To me, there is no real surprise to going to the movies these days. Since so many films are coming out, and Hollywood isn’t becoming too risky with its big budget films, there is just no real reason to go to the theaters. Yes, indie films do balance that out with telling more diverse stories and taking more risks, and not every film needs to be original, but at the same time, I want to be surprised. I don’t want to sit there knowing what exactly is going on, or walk into a movie knowing what the big twist or story points are going to be. That’s why I loved going into and coming out of My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. This newly distributed GKids animated film was directed by comic book writer and artist, Dash Shaw, and boasted a solid cast, including Reggie Watts, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, and Susan Sarandon. So far, it has had a pretty positive reception, with only a few people being split on the overall film. Where do I fit into that group? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around two best friends, Dash, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, and Assaf, voiced by Reggie Watts. They run a school paper with their editor Verti, voiced by Maya Rudolph. After some shenanigans with Dash being jealous of Assaf and Verti going out, calling out Assaf in a new editorial, and getting in trouble with the popular girl, Mary, Dash finds something rather shocking. The school is building a new roof-top gymnasium, but the principle is ignoring building code, and the high school, well, sinks into the sea. Dash must get his friends, Assaf and Verti, out of there alive, alongside popular girl Mary, voiced by Lena Dunham, and a rather awesome lunch lady named Lunch Lady Lorraine, voiced by Susan Sarandon. Can they make it out alive? Can this film give you vast amounts of LSD-rich visuals?

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First off, let’s talk about the animation. When the trailer for this film came out, everyone was criticizing it for its less-than-stellar animation. To be fair, if you are not used to other styles of animation, I can understand the confusion, since it doesn’t look like a Pixar or Disney quality film. Personally, I have started to follow the philosophy of “I don’t care how much your budget is, it’s what you do with it that matters more”. You can be as pretty as you want to be, but if your overall experience has lackluster storytelling, execution, and characters, pretty animation won’t cut it. If it was all about looking nice, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur wouldn’t have bombed. My Entire High School is more style over lazy animation. It might not have fluid movements all the time, but it has charm and personality. This isn’t like where GoodTimes Entertainment attempted to make a theatrical quality film with a $10 Mil budget with Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer: The Movie, and obviously spent it on hiring big time celebrity actors instead of putting out high quality animation and having celebrity voice work at the same time.

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Personally, I never felt distracted by My Entire Highschool’s visual style, and got very comfortable with the film because of the film’s other strength, it’s writing. While indie dialogue can become hit-or-miss, I felt like the writing and characters for the film were very strong. I liked the dark comedy sprinkled throughout the film, I liked the chemistry between the characters, and I liked how punchy the dialogue felt. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Dash Shaw found a way to make the quips and lingo coming from the characters feel natural. I can see why some people are calling this a modern day John Hughes film, since it has that tone and vibe down from something like The Breakfast Club. I also liked the characters. Sure, Dash doesn’t become a likable character at first, and I wouldn’t personally go as far as he does on some things, but I honestly felt like he acted more like a realistic teenager than most teens you see in movies. How many times have you been jealous and spiteful because of sudden change? Or how about how you felt like you were the greatest thing imaginable? To me, the characters came off more realistic than anything else. It also shows off how hollow and rather toxic school communities can be, due to how the different groups of students can damage one another. It’s also a satirical approach to a disaster movie, since while natural disasters can be scary and very damaging events, it’s darkly humorous that a principle would be so inept in budget spending that he would rather risk making more money and ignore safety code to justify a roof-top gymnasium than making sure the school didn’t collapse. It’s dumb and unrealistic, but how immensely over-the-top have most disaster movies been?

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If I had to complain about something, it would be that the LSD-style images near the third act can become a bit too much at times. I don’t have any trouble dealing with flashing images, but there was one scene where it almost became too much. It’s one of the few times I could think of where the visuals and indie style almost becomes distracting. I mean, yes, the animation is very different, and I think that helps it stand out, but when the indie vibe becomes too in-your-face, then that’s a problem.

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I know this movie will probably be on a base-by-base situation in terms of overall enjoyment, but I really loved My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. It had great laughs, vibrant visuals, a good sense of humor, and the actors did a wonderful job bringing the characters to life. I thought it would be a while for something to top The LEGO Batman Movie as my favorite film of the year, but for now, it has topped it. I’m sure things might change in the future with upcoming GKids releases and other releases, on top of rewatching these films for the end of the year list, but for now, I have a current favorite animated film of 2017. Sadly, it’s getting close to the 90th review so how about we look at a movie Netflix didn’t bother to advertise for obvious reasons with Sahara? Thank you for reading my review. I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time

Rating: Go see it!

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

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

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

Early Man 

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

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

Wolfwalkers

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

Gatta Cenerentola

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

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

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

Calamity

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

 Icarus

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

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

The Other Side of Animation 86: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

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

It’s actually quite refreshing to see DC get back on its feet after the failure that was 2016. So far, it has had two great movies with The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, both being fantastic films that are fun to watch and have a lot of great personality to them. Neither of them feels like they were trying too hard to be edgy or focused on the wrong aspects of the film that completely ruin everything else. So, where does Teen Titans: The Judas Contract stand among the DC fodder of this year? The Judas Contract is a follow-up to 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans, a film that I really despised, and felt like it was wasted, based on the fact that one unlikable character took too much of the main story-time from the other members. So, how good is the follow-up? Is it as fantastic as the 2005 original show, or is it just another dud in the basket of other duds from DC? Let’s find out.

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The story takes place one year after Justice League vs. Teen Titans. The team has gotten bigger with the newest member, Terra, voiced by Christina Ricci, a girl who can control rock. Nightwing, voiced by Sean Maher, has become co-leader of the Titans, along with Starfire. The main driving force and threat of this film centers around Brother Blood, voiced by Gregg Henry, a leader of a cult. He plans on taking the powers and life force from the Titans to ascend into godhood. He won’t be alone in pulling off this plan, as he has the help of Slade/Deathstroke, voiced by the late Miguel Ferrer. Can the Titans stop Brother Blood and Deathstroke? Is Terra a fully trustworthy character? Does this film have similar story beats to the 2000s series?

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Right off the bat, I want to say that this film does everything better than the previous film in every single way. First off, Damian Wayne does not steal the spotlight, as this time, everyone gets shared screen-time. For the most part, everyone gets their own little story arcs, like Blue Beetle and his divisive relationship with his family, Nightwing and Starfire being a couple, and Beast Boy with his relationship with Terra. This is what the first movie should have been instead of Damian Wayne being the worst thing on earth and hogging up what was pretty much Raven’s story. I liked a lot of what was going on between the team members, and found their chemistry to be leagues better than the last film. Even Damian Wayne is toned down in this film, and becomes rather tolerable. I can’t believe that he would be toned down, since the writers adore making him a power fantasy character. Sure, I can see some people not enjoying the pairings or story arcs of what is going on between the different characters, but at the very least, it’s a step up from Damian hogging the spotlight, while everyone else is either poorly written or not fleshed out. This time, it really does feel like a team, and that is what you look for in these types of films. It’s why the Justice League in this film universe really bugged me. It’s because they always acted like they didn’t really like or respect each other, and they seem to be at each other’s throats, and willing to kill each other.

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The animation is the typical direct-to-video DC film quality. It has good animation, even if at times they slow down the framerate, making the movements look iffy. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the film has some fantastic action sequences. Granted, when you have Deathstroke and a bunch of characters that have super powers, you should be able to make the action top-notch. I personally prefer the action in Justice League Dark, but that’s mostly because it’s all magic-based, and you can get away with cool spells and pretty visuals with magic. I also liked that everyone was pretty competent in terms of being able to hold their own. The previous film had some good action, but some characters felt like they got the short end of the stick.  The voice cast is also stellar. Everyone from the previous film reprises their roles, and Terra’s voice actress, Cristina Ricci, and Miguel Ferrer in one of his final roles as Deathstroke do great jobs at their own characters. The rest of the voice cast is decent, like I think Gregg Henry as Brother Blood does a solid job as a creepy cult leader. Oh, and if you are a comic book fan and haven’t seen this film yet, they do keep the creepy Deathstroke and Terra relationship that happened in the comics.

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The only real major complaint I have about the film is that the lead villain, Brother Blood, is not entirely original or unique. I have seen a couple of different versions of him, and each time that I have seen those iterations, he was way more imposing and threatening than this version. This version was simply boring, and he was just another zealous cult leader. Granted, Deathstroke had more of a character arc, alongside his relationship with Terra, but if Brother Blood is supposed to be the bigger threat, they didn’t do a good job. I also felt like the romance plot between Beast Boy and Terra was done way better in the show. Granted, a lot of storylines in films could be done better if they were spread across multiple episodes, but here it felt forced, even though that is what happens in the comics and the TV series. I think it also loses a lot of that emotional weight, because fans of the franchise have seen this story arc before. The only interesting change would be if we see the effect it had on Beast Boy in the next film.

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While I think The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark are better, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract gets my “Redemption from Something Awful Award”, due to how it improves upon everything the first film failed to do. Heck, if Wonder Woman and the future DC-animated films continue to be good, Warner Bros. could have what can be considered their best year in terms of DC films. If you haven’t checked this one out, definitely do so. Well, as I wait for Batman & Harley Quinn to come out, how about we take a look at Smurfs: The Lost Village next time? Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

Animation Tidbits #1: Storycorps

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

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Welcome to a new segment I want to try out called Animation Tidbits. This is a spin-off series of editorials/quick reviews of short pieces of animation. These could be shorts, talking about animated show openings, the occasional TV series, or short films that don’t qualify as “feature length”. I have recently come across a lot of great stuff, but didn’t feel like putting a full-on review about them. What am I going to talk about first? Well, it’s about a very cool non-profit organization I found out about last year. This company is called StoryCorps, and their goal is to record the stories of normal everyday people of different backgrounds. Now, why is this animation-related? This company sounds great, but why am I talking about it personally? It’s because with some of their stories, they will tell them through animation. Seriously, they will get a team to make these wonderful 2D-animated shorts done in a couple of different varieties of art styles. Some of them have this great 2D cartoonish Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls art style.

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What kind of stories do they tackle from this organization? Well, there are a lot of different kinds that range from their life on a certain job, stories from the eldest members of the family, losing loved ones during 9-11, to other moments from their lives. What’s really amazing about these is that every story that I have seen is charming, heartfelt, touching, sad, interesting, and hopeful. You can tell that every emotion that is heard through the individuals speaking is raw and real. Since we just came off of one of the worst years in recent human history, and the beginning of this year hasn’t been all that nice either, hearing these stories and the surprising and heartwarming endings to some of them makes me smile. I’ll admit that I even cried during some of the more personal stories. I just adored that they decided to do this, and even if you decide to check out the non-animated stories, you will find a lot of fun and engaging ones. If you do decide to check out the animated stories that they have made, a good place to start is with a 30-minute video called Listening Is an Act of Love. It contains a couple of different stories, and I highly recommend checking that one out first, and making sure to support this great organization.

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The only real nitpick I have is that sometimes the art styles look a bit off, and the animation quality is inconsistent. Still, it’s a very minor nitpick, and I’m not going to lose sleep over it. The main focus on these shorts is more on the human spirit and their stories than on the quality of the animation. These are fantastic, and I could listen to them all day.

Here are the videos I would highly recommend checking out! These are my favorite videos from this organization.

Listening Is an Act of Love: This is the video I mentioned above in this article. It’s 30 minutes long, and all the stories are touching and emotionally resonating.

Clean Streets: The story of retired sanitation workers, Angelo Bruno and Eddie Nieves, who worked together 10 years on the same route in Manhattan’s West Village. It’s probably one of the more ‘feel good’ videos, and always puts a smile on my face hearing the two talk about their time as sanitation workers.

Driven:  This video focuses on the first Africa- American racer to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Wendell Scott. The video is narrated by his son Frank, as he talks to Wendell’s grandson about his father’s life as a racer.

The Saint of Dry Creek: The story focuses on Patrick Haggerty growing up during the 1950s, and is about his father who knew that Patrick was gay. It’s a shining example of the human spirit during a time when it wasn’t easy, when you weren’t straight.

Facundo the Great: an interesting memory from famed musician Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez, about the time when he was little, and teachers would Americanize the Hispanic children’s’ names. That was, until a new student arrived.

A Good Man: It follows the story of how Bryan Wilmoth reconnected with his younger siblings after being thrown out of the house years ago for being gay. It’s a touching story, and it reminds me of how strong a family bond can be.

To R.P. Salazar, With Love: A love story about how Rachel P. Salazar and Ruben P. Salazar all started with an email being sent. It’s a cute romantic tale that will put you into a good mood if you are feeling down.

The Human Voice: Following oral historian Studs Terkel, it focuses on what Studs thinks is missing from modern day.

Danny & Annie: As for the final recommendation, a story about the 27-year marriage of Danny Perasa and his wife, Annie. The story follows them from their first date, to the sad final days of Danny’s fight with terminal cancer.

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Like I said, I love what this company does, and I highly recommend checking them out. Thank you for reading, and I will see you all next time on the next Animation Tidbits.

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 3 (Finale)

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

Now it’s time to look at the final 11 films from 2013, and be done with this underwhelming year of movies!

11. Colorful

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Before making one of my favorite films of 2016, Miss Hokusai, Keiichi Hara made this animated feature, Colorful. This film is about a soul that gets a second chance at life by being brought back into the body of a young boy who committed suicide. It is up to the soul to find out who he is before six months are up. For the first half of the film, I was not enjoying it. I thought the character designs were ho-hum, the lead character was a giant jerk, it was sort of boring to sit through, and the lead’s voice actor was really annoying. I was sitting there wondering why it was so popular at festivals, and why so many people were gushing over it like it was the most important animated film of all time. When I got to the second half, it finally started to get good, and show why this film was made and its purpose. I loved the scenes between the lead and the father, the lead with the odd friend, and the more atmospheric and quiet moments. When the lead was actually putting his head into the game as to why he was chosen to be brought back, he becomes much more interesting as a character. It has a lot of great moments, but sitting through half a film of mean-spirited characters to get to a really good second half was difficult. I’ll go more into detail at a later date with this film, but I can definitely say that in the end, it was worth checking out.

10. Approved for Adoption

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This is one of the few animated films from 2013 that I would wholly consider unique. Approved for Adoption is an animated/live action documentary about the life of Korean-Belgium comic artist known as Jung. It is about his life when he was adopted by a Belgium family when he was a kid during the Korean War. It’s mixed with beautiful CGI-animated sequences, home-movie footage, and archival footage from that period in time. You can technically call this cheating, since it isn’t purely animated, but in my opinion, it’s animated enough to count. It deserves to exist more so than half the movies on this list. It’s a touching story of Jung’s life as he grows up with his adopted family, and finds his identity in the world. I do have some complaints, like the CGI animation is at times clunky, kid Jung is a punk, and the mother is unlikable as the film goes on. I wasn’t expecting rainbows and lollipops, in fact, it’s probably best that the film doesn’t sugarcoat the actual person’s life, but still. It’s definitely a film that’s not going to appeal to everyone, but it’s a touching story that deserves your attention.

9. Frozen

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I’ll be frank, the reason why this film is in this spot is because Disney milked it to death, and it ruined the charm for me. It’s still a great movie, with likable characters, great dialogue, funny comedy, touching moments, and is overall a fantastic film, but Disney couldn’t let this film be. They squeezed so much cash from this cow that it started to bring out the hipster effect, to where the film got too popular and people started to backlash against it. It does have its faults, like the troll song in the third act, the villain, and the unique fact that this is the first Disney film to be about two sisters and one becomes a queen, but they stay separated for a majority of the film. The ending is also pretty weak, but it’s still great, due to how touching the final moment is and how good the acting was. I still love this movie, but I think a few elements could be better.

8. From Up on Poppy Hill

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I know there is a bit of a split on whether people like this movie or not, but with the exception of the ending, I really enjoyed the story of two kids in a post-World War 2 setting. It really reminds me of the corny, but ultimately charming, Whisper of the Heart. It’s a very laid-back film that has some really great moments between characters, and a rather intriguing mystery on whether the two leads are actually related. Unfortunately, the ending just abruptly happens, and it ends on a whimper. It’s a shame, since the film was directed by Goro Miyazaki and was written by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s still a solid movie, but I wish the ending was better.

7. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

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There is very little surprise as to why this is one of the best reviewed DC-animated films. It’s a well-executed mature film about a “what if” situation focusing on The Flash, and shows the results of one change to the timeline, and how one thing just dominoes into a much different future. The mystery was good, the history changes were intriguing. It was interesting to see some of the dramatic changes, like how Bruce Wayne is killed, and his parents become Batman and The Joker separately, and how essentially, the cataclysmic event of the film was partly started by one of DC’s punching bags, Aquaman. Yeah, I have a few problems that revolve around that, but in the end, that was the one problem I had with this film. It always seems like the writers for the animated stuff had more fun writing for The Flash than any other character. This is one of the few DC animated films that I have seen that I would highly recommend watching on Netflix, or buying a copy if you are curious.

 6. The Painting

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This is essentially Inception with paintings. It is the story of people who live inside paintings that go and search for their creator. This is one of my favorite European-animated films of this decade. I just love the focus, and sincere emotions, and chemistry the characters have for one another. I love the sequences where they jump to and from different paintings that lead them into different worlds and min-sets of said worlds. I adore the great colorful art style that definitely makes this CGI film stand above and beyond a majority of the competition in terms of how good CGi from overseas can look. I do wish there were some sequences explained more, but I can live with that.

5. Wrinkles

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Here is possibly the saddest film on the list. Wrinkles is a film from Spain that follows the life of a retired banker who is slowly going through the states of Alzheimer, voiced by Martin Sheen, as he is moved into a retirement home and becomes roomates/friends with  another old man, voiced by the late George Coe. The story is very mature, and is very much about the relationship between Sheen and Coe’s characters, and how they affect one another. It’s touching, sad, visually fun, humorous, charming, and that last scene. I cried during that last sequence because the words said are so tragic, yet touching. It does have a groaner joke here and there, and I can totally understand if this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I can highly recommend Wrinkles for anyone looking for a mature animated film that isn’t a stoner comedy.

4: A Letter to Momo

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Once you know this was directed by the same guy who did Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, it makes for an interesting contrast between that dark political thriller and this mature, but more light-hearted film. I have reviewed this film as well, as it’s a wonderful slice-of-life drama dealing with the loss of a loved one, and moving on. It has great characters, wonderful comedic animation, and has yet another Ghibli-style mood and atmosphere with how laidback a good chunk of the film is. There are some moments that somewhat annoy me, but they never bothered me enough to ruin the experience. The best characters were very much the three spirits that follow our female lead around. They worked well off each other, were hilarious, and were likable characters by the end of it all. It can be a very odd movie, but I highly recommend checking out A Letter to Momo if you are looking for a good Studio Ghibli-style movie.

3: Ernest & Celestine

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This was the film that got me into loving everything that GKids does, so it should be no surprise that I put it this high on the list. I already did a review of this movie since it was my very first animated film review, but the story of a mouse and bear becoming close friends in a world where that isn’t allowed, won my heart over, and was the film I think should have won Best Animated Feature, but I digress on that. The beautiful watercolor art direction, with some great animation and good timeless physical comedy, combined with some great chemistry among the characters, makes this one of the most appealing animated films to watch and is easily the first one I would recommend watching if you want to get into the GKids library of animated films.

2. The Wind Rises

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This is definitely one of the more controversial animated films of the past few years. The Wind Rises is a romanticized/fictional biographical story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the kamikaze fighter jets. I can definitely understand the raised brows and concerns, but since this is Hayao Miyazaki, they don’t approve or praise what Jiro did. More of the focus is Jiro’s passion of making planes. He even regrets and hates that his beautiful planes and designs were used for such a hateful incident. The rest of the movie is about his journey and life as a plane designer. It has everything you love about Ghibli films with its atmosphere, likable characters, quiet moments, and the whimsy. The voice cast is also fantastic, with Joseph Gordon Levitt doing an amazing job as Jiro. Sure, the love interest played by Emily Blunt might not be in the movie a lot, but she and Jiro, while not having too much time on screen, are adorable. I just loved this movie, and if this was actually Miyazaki’s final film, I would have been happy. It might be long, but The Wind Rises is a fantastic movie.

1. Wolf Children

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Surprise of the century that a Japanese animated film could do a better job at a Pixar/Disney film than Disney and Pixar in 2013! Seriously though, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children is my favorite movie from this year. The story of a widow taking care of her half-human half-wolf kids is right up there with Spirited Away in terms of the best Japanese animated films of all time. It does everything right, in terms of an animated movie. It has likable/endearing characters, a well-paced story, subtle mystical elements that never feel distracting, complex themes of how kids can grow up differently, kid characters who are actually good, top-notch animation, and a fantastic musical score. It’s what you look for in a movie and it’s just a perfect animated film. If you felt like 2013 was bad in terms of animation, I dare you to say that after watching Wolf Children.

The Other Side of Animation 76: Chico & Rita Review

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

Parental heads up: This film does include a few scenes with female nudity. This is not a film aimed at kids. Please be advised about these facts if you choose to watch this with children around. Enjoy the review!

Last year, I really wanted to review this movie, Chico & Rita, because it’s one of the few animated films that I can think of that is a romance. Sure, romance can be seen throughout most animated films, but for the genre of film to be solely romance is rare. Maybe it’s because romance-focused films are hard to do without coming off as schmaltzy and corny, but rarely do you see one in animated form. Chico & Rita, a film made in Spain, directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, and Tono Errando, was brought over in 2012 by GKids, and was one of the animated films nominated for Best Animated Feature. Now then, since it’s February, how good is this romance of jazz and discrimination? Well, let’s find out.

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The main part of the story takes place in the 1940s, and follows the tale of two individuals from Cuba. One of the characters is named Chico, a very talented pianist, and the other is Rita, a beautiful woman with a great singing voice. After encountering each other one night, they are dropped into a story of love, trust, jazz, history, and race that combine into an emotional whirlwind of an experience.

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So, what makes this romance film so much more interesting than many that come out today? To me, the biggest problem with romance films these days comes from a few things. First off, the books on which the films are based are pulpy garbage, where the writer may or may not be aware of how dumb the plot is, or how terrible the characters are. Secondly, the characters may be written or developed as boring placeholders for the readers, or complete idiots or unlikable psychos. Most modern romance films are terrible, because they don’t focus on good characters or stories. Just adapt a book and see what C list actors you can get for them. And yeah, I’m not saying there was a prime time for good romance movies, but still. Now that I’ve gotten this rambling out of the way, what does Chico & Rita do right? It has two characters with a fairly realistic chemistry and romance. They aren’t just the typical romance story couple. They do argue, and can both be very selfish for what they feel like the relationship should be like. As much as everyone would love the perfect, no-problem marriage, for the most part that doesn’t exist. People are flawed, and there are going to be problems. Chico wants the romance to be forever, and more about the music and being together. Rita wants the romance to work, but also wants to make music her career, and that might come at the cost of leaving Chico behind. Chico will get realistically upset, when it does seem like he’s being used for Rita’s gain as the agent character in the film is more interested in getting her a career and not helping out Chico. Romance can definitely be hard, as this was during the 1940s, not an easy time to be someone from Cuba. Racism, discrimination, immigration, love, music, and passion are definitely trials that the two will have to deal with. It helps that Chico and Rita have such good chemistry with each other and the other characters. It’s not a sappy romance story. It might have some of those elements, and I will talk about them later, but the overall romantic experience feels refreshing.

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The animation is fantastic. The entire look of the film reminds me of those murals you would see on the side of buildings. The colors are bright, and I think the movements were done with rotoscope, where they trace over actual people to be more fluid. I know some people have pointed out that rotoscoping can lead to some weird movements and expressions, but it’s done well here. Everyone moves smoothly, and it doesn’t distract from the more serious or comedic moments. Of course, this film would be mediocre if the music wasn’t good, and luckily, the music is impressive. It’s easily one of the highlights of the film, and is the reason you pick up the version of this film with the Latin Grammy-winning soundtrack included. The soundtrack was done by the five-time Grammy-winning Cuban pianist, Bebo Valdes. It captures that period in time perfectly, and I love listening to the soundtrack. The songs range from slow and subdued melodies to jazzy and energized tunes. If you love the soundtrack to films like Chef, then you definitely need to get the soundtrack for this film. Chico & Rita even has cameos and songs from other musicians like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gilespie, Woody Herman, Tito Puente, and Chano Pozo to name just a few of them. If you are a music lover, or love music from this time period, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie.

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I will say the biggest problem I have with the film is Rita’s agent. He’s rather forgettable and one-note, which is sad, since the overall film is really complex and multi-layered. I also have a few nitpicks, like I feel like the film does avoid a majority of the romance movie traps, with the exception of the ending. It will either be romantic or a big cop-out, depending on your mood.

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In terms of animation, Chico & Rita is one of the most unique and original films that I have ever seen. It’s easily one of the most mature films GKids has distributed. Sure, it is English subtitles only, but you will look past that element, because of the great writing and animation. If you love music, and want a romance film that’s different than what you usually see, then by all means go purchase the 3 Disc Special Edition that comes with the soundtrack. Well, now that we have touched upon a musical about romance, how about we talk about a new movie that I love, The LEGO Batman Movie? Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 75: Nerdland Review

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

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This film is full of crass adult humor. Parental Discretion is advised. I Hope you all like the review!

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Well, it’s a new year with new animated films, big and small, to talk about. So, for the start of 2017, I decided to check out an adult animated comedy that got a small release back in 2016, and is now widely available for everyone to see. What grand film am I talking about? Well, I would love to lead you all into a false sense of security, and say I’m reviewing the critically acclaimed film festival winner The Red Turtle, but since this is a written article, and you see the title, we are reviewing Nerdland. This 2D-animated adult comedy is from the minds of writer Andrew-Kevin Walker, the writer of Seven, director Chris Prynoski, the director of Freaknik: The Musical, Motorcity, Megas XLR, and worked on Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, and animation studio Titmouse. It was a film that was pitched multiple different times as a live-action film, shorts, and even a television series. It’s now made, got shown off back in 2016 at some film festivals, and is now available on Demand and DVD/Blu Ray. You can probably see that the film has a rather low rating from most critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but what do I personally think? Let’s find out.

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The film stars two friends, an aspiring actor named John, voiced by Paul Rudd, and an aspiring screenwriter named Elliot, voiced by Patton Oswalt. While trying and failing to become famous, they decided to do whatever it takes and do whatever crazy bit of comedic shenanigans to be had to be Hollywood-famous. The journey might be dangerous and crude, but they are willing to do whatever it takes!

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So, as a raunchy animated comedy aimed at older teens and young adults, how does it hold up? Even as I write this, I don’t hear a lot of people talk about this movie. It’s definitely a comedy that wants to be crude, but have a subtle stab at the Hollywood and entertainment scene. Does it all work? Unfortunately for me, it’s very hit-and-miss. Much of the crass humor falls flat, and while you can find some jokes or references to real-life Los Angeles, and you can tell the world they live in is a very cynically-painted world, it rings hollow, since everyone is already pretty cynical about it. Some of the background jokes and alternative comedic banter between our two leads or the other characters can be very funny, but it’s not consistent enough to get through the slow or unfunny parts. It doesn’t help either that the plot feels like it’s slogging through the down parts, resulting in a partly boring experience when the jokes or gags aren’t onscreen. The cast of characters is also pretty middling. A lot of them are either there to take jabs at society, or to progress the story. It’s a shame, too, because there are many funny people in this movie, Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt, Hannibal Buress, Mike Judge, Reid Scott, Kate Micucci, Riki Lindhome, Cree Summer, and you get the idea. This should be so much better than it actually is.

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Despite it being a middle-of-the-road comedy experience, what do I like about the film? The animation is great. It’s fluid, expressive, rough, and even when you can tell the animation gets clunky, it still looks good. It’s a film with a visual style of its own. I enjoyed the voice cast, because even if the script doesn’t bring in the most consistent laughs, the actors they hired sound like they are having fun. Then again, when you have actors like Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt, you know they are going to do great, even if the end product isn’t the best.

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It’s a shame that I was actually looking forward to this film. It has a great cast and a visual style that stands out. If the comedy and story was more fulfilling, I think I would have enjoyed the movie more. Who knows, maybe if more people see it, they will say how clever all the jokes are, but since no one barely knows about this film anyway, I doubt that will happen. Still, even though the first 2017 animated film is not the best, considering that the first animated film from 2016 was Norm of the North, Nerdland isn’t a bad way to start the year. How about next time, we look at Chico & Rita? Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!