The Other Side of Animation 97: Anomalisa 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 absolutely not for children and includes nudity and a really realistic and awkward sex scene. This film is truly and 100% adult. Do not show this to kids. This is your only warning and if you do any of the things I listed in this warning, you are responsible. Oh, and I’m going to be spoiling elements of the movie, since it’s hard to talk about it without talking about the entire movie. Enjoy the review!

For a while, adult and animation was never a really promising combination. When you hear those two words together, you usually think of the animated shows shown on Fox or Adult Swim like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and you get the idea. It was never really a match made in heaven when it came to animated films. Sure, you had your adult indie animated films, but not much else. For better or for worse, Sausage Party’s success opened the door for more adult-focused animation. Hopefully, they aren’t just stoner comedies, and can be something like today’s review, Anomalisa. Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, and based on a play that he wrote, Anomalisa was a surprise critical hit, and was even nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2015, but lost to Inside Out (big surprise). After its release, I decided to see what people thought about the movie, and while it is definitely a well-received film, I can understand and relate to the detractors who couldn’t get into it. What do I think? Well, let’s take a look and see what we find.

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The story of Anomalisa is about a middle-aged man named Michael Stone, voiced by David Thewlis. He’s an author and customer service expert arriving in Cincinnati for a big speech. Michael is a very miserable individual who doesn’t have a spark for life. Everyone he sees or speaks to all sound similar, have pointless conversations, and have the same faces. That is, until one day after a failed attempt to reconnect with an old fling, he hears a unique voice down the hallway. He ends up meeting this woman named Lisa Hesselman, voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh. After talking a bit, they form a bond. Does Michael have a new view on life, or will be fall right back into his own sad world?

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So, where to begin with this movie? Let’s talk about Michael as a lead character. Something that many may not pick up on the first time watching this movie is the fact that Michael literally sees everyone else around him with the same face and the same voice. His life has no passion. He just goes on business trips, and has a rather middling marriage with his wife and son. I can understand this kind of mentality as sometimes, life will come crashing down and everything will just feel so mundane, and there is nothing there to raise up your spirits. The film also has little tidbits that help expand on his mindset, like the name of the hotel he stays at called Fregoli. The name is based on the Fregoli Delusion, where people think everyone is actually just one person. He doesn’t see the passion in life and everyone sounds and looks the same. It’s rather interesting, because then you mix in his mood and demeanor with the female lead, Lisa. She also has self-esteem issues, and doesn’t see herself as anything amazing, but Michael sees her as this beacon of beauty and rainbows, because she stands out to him. It then helps her arc by the end of the film to feel better about herself, and not fall into the same fate as Michael.

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This film does such a good job at bringing out raw real emotion out of the actors, since that’s really another big part of this film. You might have seen the phrase used in the trailer that essentially says it’s the most human film of 2015 and it doesn’t star real humans. While some could find that kind of comment pompous, I agree with it. The film has subtle realistic movements in the characters, how they talk, interact, walk, and so on. Combine that with our characters, and you have a film that’s mature, and shouldn’t be shrugged off because it’s animated. Let’s just say this, there is a reason why Michael is lonely, and his intentions are definitely not 100% okay.

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Speaking of animation, while not Kubo and the Two Strings level of wow, the animation is really good. Like I said, it has incredible detail in how the characters move, and it’s truly awe-inspiring. You can tell they broke their backs making sure this movie looked good. It even has some creepy surreal moments that play with the fact that they don’t cover up the different face parts of the models. The voice cast is great. For only three people, they found a way for the chemistry to work. David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan all do a great job delivering raw and organic lines, and that’s saying something when Tom Noonan is playing 98% of the cast. Everything feels real, and even though they are all models, and it’s stop-motion, I was never really taken out of the experience.

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If I had to complain about something, I think the film could have been better in a few ways. While I like the idea of this being a smaller story, I wish there were a few more locations instead of just the hotel. I would have liked to have seen Michael and Lisa bond, and go to a few different areas. I found myself enjoying the film’s first two-thirds more than the last third, but I understand that they probably only wanted this to take place in only a few places. Since this was originally a play, it definitely has that Fences vibe, where there wasn’t anything done to adapt it to film, and everything felt like it was meant to be on a stage. It’s not a bad thing, but I wish the world the film takes place in felt bigger.

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While I can definitely understand people being split about this movie, I like it. It’s definitely a film that you need to watch twice to maybe get the overall idea that it’s tossing at you. I wish the third act was handled better, but it’s a unique movie to check out. If you like smaller stories, and an animated film aimed at adults, then definitely check this out. Well, this was fun, but I must get back into talking about more current movies. Next time, let’s talk about the “controversial” film of the century with The Emoji Movie. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

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!

The Other Side of Animation 87: Smurfs: The Lost Village 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!)

There is always a touch of disappointment when a film series starts to get its spirit and identity on track, but then still fumbles and falls off said tracks. For example, today’s review will be of the Smurf’s fourth foray into being translated onto the big screen. Let’s just say that this new movie had one of the biggest hurdles to get over, in terms of being an animated film. How do you succeed after two financially successful, but critically panned live-action ventures? Well, you kind of don’t. While not a huge financial bomb, it’s probably going to be one of the biggest underperforming animated films of 2017.  Well, let’s see what this new animated adventure directed by Kelly Asbury has to offer.

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The story revolves around the single female Smurf among Smurf Village, Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato. She doesn’t feel like she has a purpose, whereas everyone else pretty much does. One day, after hanging out with a few friends, she finds out that there might be a lost village hidden within their world. After getting denied the chance by Papa Smurf, voiced by Mandy Patinkin, to go beyond their village, she decides to go off on her own to find this lost village. She is joined by Hefty Smurf, voiced by Joe Manganiello, Clumsy Smurf, voiced by Jack McBrayer, and Brainy Smurf, voiced by Danny Pudi. On their adventure, they must avoid the grasp of the evil wizard Gargamel, voiced by Rainn Wilson. Can they find this lost village? Who inhabits the village? Was there no real surprise to this film since Sony outright said it was a village of female Smurfs?

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Yeah, that’s probably the biggest problem with this film, there is no real surprise or intrigue to it. It’s like watching an Illumination Entertainment film. It has very pretty visuals and good animation, but the story lacks substance, and seems to rely on its star-studded cast more than actual characters. It doesn’t help that Sony spoiled the surprise, but even then, I think everyone knew what the twist would be. Funny enough, the big twist of the all-female village seems wasted in terms of potential and content. They could explore and wonder what caused this split into bigger detail, or find something very creative to do with such a twist. I think the problem is that it happens in the third act, and then you are introduced to a slew of female Smurfs, which I’m sure were brought in for a possible sequel. It’s a shame, since the characters themselves aren’t terrible, and I sort of like Smurf Willow as this more laid back individual, but you don’t get enough time to flesh them outside of their one character trait. I get that they all have one character trait, but Inside Out had characters who were supposed to be one emotion, but they found ways to expand on said personality traits. Unless you know how to execute simple characters, they come off as bland and forgettable. Even the visuals that they showed off in the trailer, while still very vibrant, get pushed aside. I wanted this film to be more like DreamWorks’ Trolls film, since in that movie, they got to show off super creative creatures, lands, and characters.

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I was also distracted by a ton of the actors they got for the film. It’s another example where they could have either gotten a better voice director or super talented voice actors for the characters, but I get it. You want big names for your film, even though as of right now, no one really went to see your movie. It’s a shame too, since while I think voice actors could have been better choices, and I think Demi Lovato or Meghan Trainor were not needed and come off as pointless, I did enjoy the rest of the cast. Mandy Patinkin does a decent Papa Smurf, Joe Manganiello as Hefty was decent, Danny Pudi was a perfect choice for Brainy, Jack McBrayer, while not doing anything new, is fun as Clumsy, Rainn Wilson actually isn’t bad as Gargamel, though I think Hank Azaria did the voice better in the live-action films. Julia Roberts was good as Smurf Willow, Michelle Rodriguez was basically playing herself as Smurf Storm, Ellie Kemper is maybe a tad too annoying as Smurf Blossom, and Ariel Winter as Smurf Lily is pointless. They are doing their best to be these new characters, and I get that voice acting and acting in general is hard, but I don’t see them as the characters. They also do that thing where they bring in a ton of celebrities to do a line or two, like Gordon Ramsay is Baker Smurf, Tituss Burgess is Vanity Smurf, Gabriel Iglesias is Jokey Smurf, Jeff Dunham is Farmer Smurf, and Kelly Asbury is Nosy Smurf. The only two legit voice actors they hired were Frank Welker as Gargamel’s cat Azrael, and Dee Bradley Baker as Gargamel’s pet vulture, Monty.

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So, did I like anything about the movie? Well, I really enjoyed the animation. I consider this to be the best looking Sony Pictures Animated film to date. I love the colors, how the designs stay close to the original source material, and it’s not too Sony Animation-ish where it’s super hyper and it doesn’t take time to breathe. The colors are very vibrant, and when they are able to show off more of the magical stuff of the world, it’s fun to look at. I wish they could have done more than what we got. Even though the humor is very hit-and-miss with a lot of cop-out jokes, I did like the river scene with Gargamel and the Smurfs. Like I said above, while I was still distracted by all the actors in the film, they did their best. I mean, you are getting paid to be in what is essentially an apology letter for the previous two dumpster fires, so I think you would do your best to be invested within your roles.

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Smurfs the Lost Village is definitely leagues better than the live-action films that came out, and it definitely is creative in the visuals department. If you had to watch one Smurfs film, it’s definitely this one. If the story and pacing were better, along with the writing, I think they really could have had a hidden gem, or one of the better surprises in terms of animation. It needed to be more timeless than pandering to most casual moviegoers to leave a better impact. If this was made in Europe, maybe France, had 2D animation, or it was made in the 80s, I think we could have gotten more of an edge or more bite to the overall experience. Sadly, it’s just another dud that may or may not hurt Sony Pictures Animation if their upcoming Emoji Movie tanks as well. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would definitely wait for a rental. I can see some kids enjoying it, but I don’t know how long-lasting this film’s appeal will be, compared to something like The LEGO Batman Movie or My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea has. Maybe pick it up if you find it for cheap when it comes out, but there is no rush to see this film. In fact, how about we take a look at My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea next time? Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster

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!

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!

The Other Side of Animation 74: Storks Review

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

When The LEGO Movie came out back in 2014, it took the world by storm. It was one of the biggest films of the year, and one of the biggest surprises in movie history. Everyone thought this was going to be a cynical cash-in like Home or Minions, but it ended up being better than what anyone could imagine. The directors and writers put in their all for this one movie, and it paid off with being one of the best animated films of the decade. It also showed that just because you are based on a toy, doesn’t mean you have to be terrible. It was a huge victory for Warner Brothers, and a great start to their new redone animation branch. So, to me, Storks had a lot to live up to. Released back in 2016, Storks was released by Warner Brothers, and while not bombing, it didn’t do as well as The LEGO Movie, and got mixed reviews. You either enjoyed the movie, or you got really irritated with it. Where do I stand on this film from director duo Doug Sweetland and Nicholas Stoller? Well, let’s find out.

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Storks is set in a world where, well, storks don’t deliver babies to households anymore, and are more like a cartoon version of what Amazon wants to do with delivery drones and delivery-packaged goods. The lead or one of the leads is a stork named Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, who is close to being the new boss of the company that is, as of right, now run by a stork named Hunter, voiced by Kelsey Grammar. While Junior may be close to getting the new position of boss, he is told to fire and get rid of the one human that is working there, an orphan named Tulip, voiced by Katie Crown. After some shenanigans, Junior and Tulip end up accidentally turning on the old baby-making machine (literally a machine) and, well, make a baby. It’s then up to them to get it to the family that requested it, while avoiding Hunter, a small pigeon voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, a pack of wolves played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and a stork that went rogue long ago named Jasper, voiced by Danny Trejo.

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So, this is a lot to take in with its comedic set-up, execution, and world. How does it all work? Well, for me at the very least, this is one of those movies that could and should have had a couple of more lookovers to polish it all out. I knew going in, that this movie would be more on the comedic side of things, and that would be okay. I’m fine when a comedy wants to be a comedy, but if you are going to add heart and soul to your comedy, it needs to be balanced out with the funny moments. I mean, think about some of the great comedies of the last two decades or so. Comedies like Hot Fuzz, Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek 2 work because while they are very funny, you still cared about the characters and what they were going through. It was icing on the cake that the movie was gut busting hilarious. At least for me, Storks doesn’t really reach that height of comedy.  I don’t think its two leads, while well-voiced and can work off each other well, have the greatest of character development. You get Tulip’s drive to find her family and to make sure the baby gets to its family, but Junior doesn’t really have the best drive as a character. It doesn’t help either that it goes through a “liar’s reveal” trope, but I can give it credit that it doesn’t daudle too long on that part of the story. It also would have been nice if characters like Jasper and Hunter could have had more time to be fleshed out or be even funnier or more entertaining as characters. Even the family that the baby is supposed to be taken to, with parents played by Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, should be funnier than what you get in the movie. Maybe it’s because they are fairly white bread overworked parents, but when you have those two actors, you can do more with them, and we know they can do more since both have been in fantastic animated films like The Iron Giant and Finding Dory.

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Now then, how is the comedy? Well, like most comedies that can be considered good or entertaining, there are some great jokes that are hilarious when done well, a few amusing jokes that make you chuckle, and some that fall flat. It’s a shame more films don’t take the route that the best comedies have taken, and pick and choose their jokes and not fall onto some of the more popular tropes in comedies. A lot of the visual gags and lines work, due to the animation of the film, but you do hear a groaner here and there, and characters like Pigeon Toady will either be annoying or hilarious depending on whom you are as an individual.

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Now, the film does try to cover up some plot holes by being very meta about it, with characters literally asking why these things exist, and that became fairly distracting. To me, meta humor is starting to slowly hit that point where it’s less about being very funny and clever, and more about using meta humor to hide and ignore that the story has issues. Why is the baby machine still around? Why were there storks delivering babies when there are more…natural ways of having babies? Why did the incident with Tulip shut down everything in terms of baby delivery? Why is the ‘off button’ behind a bunch of razor blades? I know when it comes to cartoon comedies, you have to just go with the flow, but the meta humor rides the line of covering up lazy world-building and writing.

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Now, that is not to say that I hate this movie. I know I just criticized it a whole bunch, but I found Storks to be an incredibly entertaining ride. The animation is great, it’s the right kind of fast, it helps the physical comedy hit it out of the park multiple times, and it’s got great designs. This is the same studio that did Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and it looks so much better than what the studio had to do with in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Seriously, watch that movie and tell me that you see how cheap it looks compared to the original Cloudy film.

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Anyway, the voice cast also does a fantastic job. Sure, you get some pretty solid performances from some of the actors like Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, and a majority of the cast sounds very engaged with their performances. I also give Warner Brothers so much credit for casting an actual honest-to-goodness voice actress for Tulip. Tulips’ actress, Katie Crown, is an actress most known for her role as Izzy from the Total Drama franchise. It’s just so rare that actual voice actors get major roles in animated films. It could have been so easy to just get a bubbly big-name actress to do this role, but they pretty much said “screw that”, and got an honest-to-gravy voice actress. As for a comedic cast, it’s really solid stuff. Andy Samberg, Keegan Michael Keye, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammar, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Danny Trejo, and Katie Crown all work off each other well and have some pretty great chemistry. For the comedy itself, I was laughing at multiple points in the movie, from the introduction of Key and Peele’s wolf characters, to the encounter with the penguins. Storks brings in very much “out there” brands of comedy that you would see in a Looney Toons short. I mean, it is Warner Brothers, they should know how this all works by now. Even the somewhat boring white bread family gets some great lines, but that should be no surprise, due to Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston being used to flexing their comedic muscles before.

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Storks might be a bit clunky in the world-building and story department, but it brings in so many laughs that it pretty much makes for an enjoyable ride. However, do I understand why it didn’t do well in the box office, and why critics were split on the film? Of course I do. I might like the film and recommend it for a good fun animated comedy, but you should be able to understand when someone else couldn’t get into it. Still, if you feel like you are in the mood for a comedy that’s less reliant on raunchy comedy and stock humor, Storks is that comedy. Well then, it’s time we look at films from 2017, and we shall start with Nerdland. Thank you for reading. I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 72: The Secret Life of Pets Review

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

When I made the rules to my reviews, there was a reason why I didn’t put down certain bigger animation studios. I say this, because I’m sure you would be asking why I am looking at one of the most successful animated films from 2016, The Secret Life of Pets from Illumination Entertainment? A relatively new studio, Illumination Entertainment, has made a big name for themselves in the animation scene with their Despicable Me franchise. While they are very well known and have been making a huge amount of bank for Universal, I don’t consider them on the same level as Pixar, Disney, or DreamWorks. It’s not that they don’t have talent or skill behind their films, but they are slowly turning into a studio that is more about the flash of the high quality animation and humor, over a story that’s actually engaging. I know that sounds like I’m looking down on them, but since they are really good at the animation, humor, and over-marketing the heck out of their films, they should be able to make more compelling stories. It’s a problem I have with all of their films, and it’s the same here. So, what do I think overall about The Secret Life of Pets? Well, let’s find out.

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So, you ever wonder what happens to your pets while you are away? Well that is what this film answers. The story follows a dog named Max, voiced by Louis C.K. He lives happily with his owner until one day, she brings back a big new dog named Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet. Of course, the two don’t get along, and Max gets jealous of Duke’s arrival. One day, while being walked by a very bad dog walker, the two get stuck with each other and lost within the big city. This leads to a group of Max’s friends to go on the search for the two. These friends include a snarky cat named Chloe, voiced by Lake Bell, an elderly dog played by Dana Carvey, a fluffy little pomeranian named Gidget, voiced by Jenny Slate, a pug named Mel, voiced by Bobby Moynihan, a dachshund named Buddy voiced by Hannibal Buress, a guinea pig played by Chris Renaud, and a hawk voiced by Albert Brooks. The duo of Max and Duke even run into a group of rogue stray animals led by a bunny named Snowball, voiced by Kevin Hart.

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There is pretty much one word with which I can describe The Secret Life of Pets. That one word is safe. I mean, I have more words to describe it, but safe sums it up pretty nicely. It’s the most harmless, painfully average movie I have seen from 2016. I had no real super- grievance with the film. It wasn’t offensive like Norm of the North, or amazing like Kubo and the Two Strings. If you have ever seen something like Toy Story or any film that puts two polar opposite characters together and they have to go on an adventure together, you’ve seen this movie. It’s quite frankly surprising that they got away with how generic this story is. You know every story moment and every line. It’s a shame too, since the idea of knowing what your pets are doing when you aren’t looking is incredibly relatable. Who doesn’t have a pet and watches this movie, laughing or observing something their own pet does? It’s just all the more of a bummer that the story itself is so ho-hum.

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The film also has way too many characters. You barely get to know about the many characters they introduce, and it becomes annoying when you can’t really invest in anyone. The story also doesn’t take advantage of any of the possible touching or mature story bits. They bring it up, but then don’t let it sit for the audience to take in. It’s something that Illumination has a problem with. I know not everything has to have the emotional maturity of a Pixar or Disney film, but I don’t want to watch just pretty animation. I want to come away feeling something, and yet, I don’t from this film. I can understand if Secret Life of Pets doesn’t want to be mature or deep, but just good animation shouldn’t be the only thing worth going to a movie for.

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So, after I moaned and groaned, what do I like about the movie? Well, the animation is pretty great. It is very detailed, smooth, has solid designs, and it’s good to look at. No matter what bad things I have to say about Illumination, I am very impressed with how good their animation got in such a short span of time. The film’s greatest strength, though, is how the animals act. I am sure anyone who has ever had a bird, cat, dog, fish, or whatever, has watched this movie, and has pointed out or observed something the animals did in the movies that your own pets have done before. It’s a universally relatable thing that anyone can understand. I also enjoyed the cast. While not everyone gets the best character development, everyone had good chemistry, and worked off each other well. Even Kevin Hart, who is usually very annoying in his movies, is actually funny in this film. Maybe he works better as a comedian/voice actor instead of an actual actor. And even though I have been harsh, the film does wrap up all nice and warm, and can be a tad heartfelt.

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As much as I bash this film for it being unoriginal, and being a success when there is nothing super noteworthy about the film, it’s not harmful to anyone. I can understand why it was so big and why so many people saw it. I even feel good an original film is getting a sequel, and was a hit due to how many reboots, remakes, and sequels we got in 2016 that no one asked for. Still, I wish Illumination could get better at what they do. It’s weird, because next time, we look at a film from Illumination that I actually enjoyed with Sing. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time!

Rating: Rent it!