The Other Side of Animation 221: Wish Dragon Review

imageedit_1_8934986070.jpg

Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

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

Sony Pictures Animation has been having quite a renaissance, haven’t they? They went from a studio that people were indifferent to with most people liking Surfs Up, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They then became the most overly hated studio in the world because they *gasp* made The Emoji Movie, which wasn’t even the worst animated film of 2017 or the most cynically-made animated film of all time. Seriously, the hatred this studio got was incredibly petty and I resent anyone who fueled that flame. They then became the messiah of change in the animation scene with their more recent hits like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. With their recent release lineup of animated projects, they seem to be at the forefront of making diverse and distinct animated films that you won’t find from other studios. For example, their next film is quite a delightful experience with Chris Appelhans’ Wish Dragon

Directed by Chris Appelhans and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Tencent Pictures, Base FX, Flagship Entertainment Group, and a few other companies, the film was set to release back in 2019 but then was delayed to 2020. Of course, it was officially released in China on January 15th, 2021, and will be officially released on Netflix on June 11th. It was even produced by Jackie Chan who also provides the voice of the titular dragon in the Mandarin dub. So, how many wishes does it take for this film to be good? Well, let’s find out! 

imageedit_5_2585845656.jpg

The story revolves around a young man named Din, voiced by Jimmy Wong. He’s a hardworking individual who has big dreams but doesn’t have the right background to reach those dreams. His main goal, while being rich and successful, is to reunite with his childhood friend Lina, voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who he hasn’t seen since they were little kids. One day, while out on a delivery, Din obtains a jade teapot that houses a magical wish-granting dragon named Long, voiced by John Cho. If Long can get Din to use up three wishes, Long can journey to the afterlife where he will be welcomed with a big parade and his many “fans”. However, an evil trio of goons wants the magic teapot for their nefarious deeds for a supposed mysterious client. Can Din use the wishes to reconnect with his childhood friend? What are the true mysteries of the teapot and the dragon? Are shrimp chips that delicious? 

imageedit_3_9496969636.jpg

What stands out about this film is the fact that the story is really good! I think the story’s core themes of friendship, class dispute, family, and finding out what’s important to you and your life were heartfelt and compelling stuff! I know some people worried about it being too similar to Aladdin (even though the original story of a wish-granting genie was from Chinese origins), but it is pretty much the absolute opposite in terms of story and themes. I mean, yeah, some parts may be familiar, but it has an entirely different vibe and core message than what you would get out of Disney’s take. First off, the Wish Dragon in question has a more sarcastic and pessimistic personality, but Long never becomes overbearing. Long is his own character and doesn’t try to be like the iconic Robin Williams Genie. The characters all feel important and diverse in their goals and dialogue. You get why they are performing certain actions, and they feel fairly realistic. I also love that it’s not a pure romance flick. Din and Lina just want to become friends and it never turns into anything romantic. I’m so happy it’s a platonic relationship because, at the end of the day, it would be stellar if more studios realized ya didn’t need to have the two characters end up together. Even the “villain” of the film has an understandable reason for wanting to get the teapot. The film is also a real laugh riot. There was a lot of fantastic dialogue and visual gags that while maybe more downplayed than Sony’s recent hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines, I still found myself laughing out loud multiple times during the runtime. Seriously, this has some of the best jokes of the year. 

imageedit_9_5185070554.jpg

Animation-wise, I get that some people may be turned off by the animation. The humans look a little basic, and they do rehash some character models for later purposes and gags, but in general, the animation is quite good. Long gets some of the most expressive animations out of any character this year in animation. I even love the head goon’s leg animation. It might be goofy, but the creativity of him not using his hands for a majority of the film is humorous. The action sequences may have a bit more focus on squash and stretch, but it makes it a lot of fun to watch to see the film use more cartoony physics. The music by Phillip Klein is solid as he’s the composer for The Last Measure and has worked on films like 2019’s Joker and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The voice cast is all pretty good as you have the likes of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng, and Bobby Lee. 

I will say, the one real downside I have for this film outside of the simple human designs is that the villain is a little weak. His leg thing is super creative and fun, but outside of that, he’s the weakest villain of the bunch. I prefer his henchmen over the main villain. Outside of that, I have already mentioned my issue with the human designs and the fact they rehash multiple models for a multitude of roles, and that did drag me out of the experience at points. Not by much, but it happened every once in a while. 

imageedit_7_6230144946.jpg

Wish Dragon is the type of film I love discovering every year. Something not as bombastic as more major releases, but a film I easily prefer to the more mainstream releases of this year and previous years. Something that I wasn’t expecting and ended up loving is always a blast to find every year. I highly recommend watching Wish Dragon, and congrats to the director and his team for making a fun and enjoyable experience. Next time, I will be talking about another screener, but expect it to land soon. 

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




Rating: Go See It! 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 3

imageedit_1_4541312616.jpg

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

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 3 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1 or part 2, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

18 Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves 

imageedit_1_2204141934.jpg

With all of the controversy surrounding this one, I am glad that it was a solid little gem of a fantasy/action/comedy film. Unlike a lot of these fantasy comedies that came out after the wake of Shrek, Red Shoes has a more engaging hook and does have a few good messages and morals in the overarching story. It also helps that the voice cast is pretty solid, and Jim Rash and Patrick Warburton steal every scene they are in. If it had better jokes and a more compelling villain, I think this could have easily been higher on the list, but for now, it’s a solid little oddity from South Korea, and if you can find it for cheap, I recommend checking it out. 



17 Superman: Man of Tomorrow 

imageedit_3_7864320096.png

It feels like it’s been forever since I have truly loved a DC-animated feature, and Superman: Man of Tomorrow is one of those films that I love. It takes a little more time to flesh out Superman in his early days than other films about the hero. The dialogue feels a lot more nuanced and grounded, which makes me fall in love with a character I have been drifting in and out of loving for years now. The new animation style is visually distinct from the previous films. With its use of thick outlines, it’s different enough from the previous films to make it feel fresh. We also finally get a Superman film with a different villain with a three-dimensional take on Parasite. It might have some of the typical DC DTV film clunkiness, and I’m kind of tired of them doing a connected universe thing again, but Man of Tomorrow is a promising start to a hopefully better lineup of films. 





16 No. 7 Cherry Lane 

imageedit_5_2601654180.jpg

Now, this is quite a film experience. An adult animated film that’s not a comedy or raunchy. It’s more of an adult romance that takes place in the 1960s. I know some people have criticized it for its slow pace, but it does make up for it by having some great intimate and personal moments between the lead characters. It also captures a period that I was not fully aware of in China. It might have some flawed CGI animation that isn’t as polished as other features seen on this list, but if you can find a way to watch this film, I highly recommend checking it out. 





15 Animal Crackers 

imageedit_8_7173080693.jpg

It seems like we should have gotten this film years ago, and it was nice to finally get it. While I understand how some people may not gel with this film due to a fairly weak villain, and it could have gone further with being a full-on musical, I had fun with it. It was a very creative film with plenty of laughs and creativity that led to a rather amusing experience. It might not have the most polished animation, but it has such a cartoony look that it will age better than those films and shorts that use hyper-realistic visuals. If you need a low-key family comedy, I recommend this film!







14 Trolls: World Tour 

imageedit_11_2609663790.jpg

Who knew DreamWorks would have a much better track record for sequels than Disney! While it has some story beats that don’t quite match up with the overall commentary that the film is tackling, and some characters regress from the first film, I’m still in awe that they pulled so much out of a sequel to the 2016 original. On top of building upon its vibrant and creative world with more troll races, it takes multiple music genres and creates a rather ambitious commentary about diversity, LGBT elements, cultural appropriation, and commentary about the music industry as well. I just wish the overall film was stronger, but check it out if you haven’t already.






13 SHe

imageedit_13_2304338228.jpg

This is probably one of the two most obscure films I have talked about on this list, and probably the one that’s the most abstract to dive into. Here is what it is, this is a stop-motion film about how men and women are treated in society and the workplace. The catch is that it’s all done in stop-motion and instead of using humans, everyone is represented by shoes! I’m not joking, and this film exists. I saw it back in 2019, and while it may have been the wrong film to play late at night at Animation is Film, it’s a film you never quite forget about. It’s a visual experience full of some of the most distinct stop-motion and darkest visuals you will ever see. I think it’s a touch long, and unless you are paying close attention, you may lose track of the plot at points, but if you want an animated film like no other, well, you can’t go wrong with this film. 





12 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

imageedit_15_6106252019.jpg

While I still prefer the original film, Farmageddon is still an enjoyable and charming romp from Aardman and their flock of sheep. With its more sci-fi elements, it leads to some creative jokes, a better villain, and it puts Shaun in the seat of character growth. I wish the other sheep and the farmer had better story beats, but you still get an overall charming and heartwarming story about family and responsibility. Also, the alien is incredibly adorable, and it’s yet another film that shows that you don’t need dialogue to make a film amusing. You simply need to build your story, visuals, and character movements around it. 




11 The Nose 

imageedit_17_5095936531.jpg

Now, this is the most obscure film I have talked about, and it makes me wish we could get an official US release of it. While it takes a bit for the ball to get rolling and to get the context of the plays this film is based on, this has some of the most unique visuals seen in animated films from this year. It was a rather captivating watch that was easily the best film I was able to fully see at Annecy 2020 Online, and I hope some distributor can pick it up for a US release. 

The Other Side of Animation 214: The Legend of Hei Review

imageedit_17_2681848089.jpg

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

While I have been praising the Chinese animation scene, let’s not forget that the country has had a very fruitful and bountiful scene for decades. It’s not like any of this is new. I know it feels new because of the recent smash hits like Nezha and White Snake, but their history of animation has been around for decades. They have even put out films from back in the day that matched Disney in animation quality. Heck, some of their work even succeeded it with how ambitious their use of watercolor was. Unfortunately, like with most animation history, there were times where the art and products became more propagandistic, and when Disney had their second wind in the 90s, something changed for the worst in Chinese animation. They found themselves crushed between powerhouses like Disney and the increasing popularity of animation from Japan. This led to a lot of lower-quality products and films that were trying to ape off of Disney and other companies. Luckily, with 2015’s The Monkey King: Hero is Back, the animation industry in China decided to bite back against the competition, and it has been putting out films with challenging art styles and distinct stories. This is where The Legend of Hei comes into play.

Directed by Mtjj, this 2D animated film is a prequel to the events that take place before the famous web series. It was shown off at Annecy 2020 Online in the Contrechamp section but lost. Luckily, it got pretty great reviews and was a financial hit in China. Another piece of good news is that the film itself while being at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, will be getting a US release thanks to Shout! Factory in May. So, does this film keep adding to the winning streak Chinese animation has been having? Well, let’s find out! 

imageedit_19_8963305077.jpg

The story follows Hei, a small cat-like spirit that gets forced out of his forest home due to humans. After struggling to find a decent living situation, Hei is picked up by a group of spirits led by an individual named Stormend. After relaxing in his new home, Stormend and his gang are attacked by an individual known as Infinity. After the crew escapes, Hei is left behind with Infinity. Hei then makes a deal between him and Infinity to get off the island and find out where Hei belongs and what exactly is up with Stormend and his crew. 

imageedit_25_7407970170.jpg

I think the coolest aspect about this being yet another film with the morality of humans vs nature commentary is how morally grey this film approaches those themes. I think the stigma of “people hate stories about saving the environment” is that people don’t hate these types of stories, but rather the problem comes down to how black and white they end up being. Yes, humans suck and big corporations are indeed killing our environments, but it always leads to an extremely boring story, which will make the always admirable message of “please for the love of everything, save our forests and oceans and stop killing the wildlife” fall flat due to how predictable the story is. With Hei, the story falls more in the middle. It’s not taking a side because both the humans and spirits with their actions are put under the microscope. It even has an overall hopeful message about the human’s relationship with nature with a few moments of cynical comments. It feels more realistic and will give you vibes with how Princess Mononoke handled its commentary of humans vs nature. Not every story needs to be morally grey or just one-sided, but it makes for a more interesting story when both sides are examined in detail. It all depends on how you execute the story that people won’t mind another story in this range. Luckily, there are strong character dynamics that also carry the themes and commentary. A lot of the film is spent with quiet montages between Hei and Infinity, and they are the two that carry the story. I love that we are seeing stories from China that are full of these strong character-building moments because you will even feel for Stormend and his plight. 

imageedit_29_6032774038.jpg

The animation is gorgeous. This is some of the most fluid 2D animation I have seen from China. The designs are identifiable, they move with a good flow, and that leads to some extremely followable action sequences. I know it’s nothing new to see Chinese animated films have stellar action sequences, but boy howdy are these some of the most intense fights, and it does a great job of making you feel how heavy the strikes are. The music is also very beautiful with some tunes almost coming off like they were composed by Joe Hisaishi. If anyone is curious, there will be a sub and dub version available in May, but I saw the dub version at the New York International Children’s Film Festival. I adored the dub, and while I know there is some debate about how the dub changes the names of the characters, I am not here to talk about that. What I want to do is shout out the cast that includes Aleks Le, Howard Wang, Kaiji Tang, Caleb Yen, and Suzie Yeung. 

imageedit_31_7755771406.jpg

I think my one real problem with this film is how many characters it introduces. I think they show off a few too many and while I get this is a prequel to the web series, they feel like they were placed there more for the fans, and unless you have seen the series, they are going to feel like a flavoring to spice up the world around the viewer. It still doesn’t make it any less awkward when they introduce a ton of new characters, but take it like the side characters you meet in films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. They don’t do much, but they make the world feel more complete. Still, they could have dialed it back at points. 

imageedit_21_2381285047.jpg

Whether you are aware of the web series or if this is your first time jumping into the universe from which this film is set, The Legend of Hei is a fantastic thrill ride. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the year so far, and one of the best animated features that have come out of China. Like I said earlier, Shout! Factory is going to be releasing this film in May on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital, and if you are up for something a bit different, then you should check it out! Well, I need to take a break from festival films, and next time, I will be talking about another Netflix series. I can’t tell you which one, but you will have to find out in the future. 

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




Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 163: Ne Zha Review

imageedit_1_4523794043.jpg

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

It’s been wild to see what the rest of the world has been doing in animation. There is always something happening, some kind of film that’s going to push the boundaries for that country’s animation status quota, and that’s no different from China. This year alone, the US is getting two Chinese CGI features with GKids bringing over White Snake, and Well Go USA Entertainment bringing over the biggest Chinese animated feature right now, Ne Zha. Directed by Jiaozi, as of writing this review, Ne Zha is currently the highest-grossing Chinese-animated feature in the world, and the highest-grossing animated feature in China that isn’t made by the likes of Disney, Pixar and you get the idea. Calling this a hit is an understatement. It’s a monster, but, what did I think about it? Well, let’s find out!

imageedit_3_6635148286.jpg

The story revolves around a young boy named Nezha, voiced by Lu Yanting. He is a young boy who was born with the power of a Demon Pill, the one half of a Chaos Pearl that threatened to destroy the world but was split into two different pieces long ago. For now, though, Nezha lives a complicated life of being feared by the townsfolk for being a supposed demon, his family won’t tell him what’s going on, he encounters a new mysterious friend, and now has to deal with a potential new threat, and his ultimate fate in life. Can Nezha overcome adversity to avoid his fate?

imageedit_13_7595194254.jpg

 Ne Zha is a lot more mature in how it tells its story than most animated films. It’s not that it has no humor or comedic characters/moments, but for the most part, it does focus on the drama and the chemistry between Nezha and the different people he encounters. It has its moments where you, as an audience member can sit back and take in the volatile state of mind Nezha is in. He feels unloved despite both parents loving him. He is told he should become a slayer of monsters and demons, but would that change how people see him? The film is filled with themes of discrimination and most importantly, the idea of fate. It’s another film that tackles how, while you think you already have a predetermined fate, you are the only one that can take charge of your fate.

imageedit_7_5272267431.jpg

It also has a bit of The Boy and the Beast that is thrown into the mix with how Nezha and this mysterious friend of his have different living situations, and how they were treated while growing up. It’s nice to see an animated feature from China feel more focused, and know where the story’s strengths need to be. It doesn’t have an overload of side characters, and the story isn’t thrown into the background for the antics of all of the characters, it’s a coming-of-age drama first and foremost. Well, a drama with some great action sequences.

imageedit_9_8629836924.jpg

Animation-wise, the CGI animation on display is probably the most impressive computer animation from China yet. The designs translate well into CGI, the movements are smooth, and there are no herky-jerky movement issues you see in cheaper CGI films from China. The textures look wonderful, and the film has a better understanding of character movement than previous CGI endeavors that I have seen from the country. It looks like an animated film you would expect to see in theaters.

It’s not Pixar or Disney incredible, but this film shows that China is getting their serious business faces on to show that they can make it look good. Of course, being a film from China, the action sequences are well done. The camera isn’t too close, it’s not too dark to see anything, the camera isn’t moving around like a kid with a heavy dose of sugar injected into his veins, and it feels epic. The action sequences remind me of how Dragon Ball Super: Broly choreographed their fights, as you follow closely to the characters as they trade blows. The visual spectacle alone in this movie will delight people looking forward to some action set pieces in their animation.

imageedit_5_5666810516.png

Ne Zha has so many admirable elements, that it’s all the more frustrating, that it has a lot of the same flaws as most Chinese-animated features! The biggest problem with the film is the tone. It’s not uncommon for animated films to sprinkle in humorous bits into more dramatic moments, but the film can’t hold back on having jokes every few minutes during the more intense scenes. It feels like they don’t ask themselves if the jokes they include add or subtract from the scene, and keep them in there anyway.

A couple of the jokes are fart and piss jokes, and, once again, are the worst jokes in the movie. It’s agonizing because there are some great physical gags and funny dialogue bits. The humor detracts more than it adds, and I’m so annoyed by that. They are so close at getting a consistent vibe, and they fumble it. I think the problem might be, that a lot of the tone and jokes are what Chinese audiences love to see in films, and that’s perfectly fine if they do, but if the filmmakers want to have more widespread love and support, then they need to know that no one likes kiddy gross-out humor.

imageedit_11_2273047212.jpg

Out of all of the Chinese features I have seen so far, which is very minor compared to the overall catalog, this is easily their best effort yet. It’s more cohesive, more polished, and more enjoyable to watch than most of the animated films from that country. It might be going to physical and digital soon after its limited release, so if you can find a theater that is playing it, please go out and support it! (I saw it on an IMAX screen and in 3D!) If you want to support more original features, and want other companies to know that you want more variety in your animation, then please go see Ne Zha. For now, let’s travel back to Japan, and, next time, review one of 2019’s hidden gems with Okko’s Inn.

Thanks for reading my review! I hope you enjoyed it, be sure to share the review with friends and family, and if you would like to help support my work, you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I hope you all have a good day, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 160: Fantastica: A Boonie Bears Adventure Review

imageedit_1_8553818881.jpg

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

As I come close to reaching 200 reviews, something that I have wanted to avoid is now becoming more and more unavoidable, direct-to-video features. I have nothing against filmmakers or animated features from overseas that can only find some ray of light under the sun with being sent directly to video, but unfortunately, that phrase “Direct-to-Video” comes with some big and not very helpful signs of quality. When you hear those three words, it usually means films that were made for cheap, they scrounged up enough for at least one C-list actor, cast the rest with YouTubers looking for a big break, fill out the rest with voice actors, and animation that would be good enough for a TV release back in the late 90s early 2000s. Sure, sometimes you get the films like GKids put out direct-to-video that are way better than the stuff you find on random shelves in grocery stores or bargain bins, but Direct-to-Video doesn’t carry a positive distinction. So, if I was going to tackle something that went directly to store shelves, I might as well pick something that had some cultural weight and has made an impression on the animation culture. This led me to China’s The Boonie Bears. This is a Chinese CGI-animated series starring two bears, Bramble and Briar, who constantly try to stop Logger Vick’s plans to chop down the trees. To say this is a massive show would be an understatement, as it has over 600 episodes, is translated into multiple languages including Mandarin, English, Russian, Spanish, French, and Hindi,  and it has been distributed in over 82 countries. Since this was a popular series by Fantawild Animation, you knew spin-offs and films were going to be a thing. We will be looking at one of the films today. Currently, the franchise has six films released, but today, we will be covering the fourth film, Fantastica: A Boonie Bears Adventure. Directed by Ding Liang, Fantastica, or as the original title is listed, Boonie Bears: Entangled Worlds, was released in China back in 2017, but got a recent US release by Viva Pictures, a distributor that I wish I had more positive things to say about. Anyway, how does this film actually hold up for a US release, and for people who may not know anything about this brand or the distributor? Let’s see what happens!

imageedit_3_8027819532.jpg

The story starts off pretty typically. Logger Vick, dubbed by Paul Rinehart is up to his devilish deeds of trying to chop down the trees. Luckily, Briar and Bramble Bear, dubbed by Mario Lopez and Josh Peck, chase after him. However, Vick ends up running into a robot, dubbed by Siobhan Lumsden, who was part of an archeological team that was ambushed by a group of thieves. The robot ends up being named Coco, and tells Vick and the two bears about an ancient artifact called the Golden Antlers that are in a land called Fantastica. The four end up going on an adventure to find Fantastica and the Antlers while avoiding the group of thieves that works for a tech expert that is also looking for the Antlers. Can they find the Antlers before the baddies do?

imageedit_5_3479191444.jpg

So, let’s mix things up a bit, and talk about the elephant in the room. There are two different dubs for this film. One has the cast from the English dub of the show, and the one we have from Viva Pictures is the one that just adds two celebrities to the title with Mario Lopez and Josh Peck. I watched both side to side, and while the Viva Pictures version might not be a Weinstein-level hatchet job to the film, there’s not a lot that changes, outside of Josh Peck trying to throw out some on-the-spot pop culture references or joke lines when his character’s mouth is not on screen. While I do not approve of just redubbing with two celebrities to have two names on the digital storefront or DVD, I’m at the very least glad they didn’t try to edit the film in any major ways. That’s already making this film way better than 99% of The Weinstein Company’s animation library. Besides, even if this film didn’t get a Weinstein-level hatchet job, you wouldn’t believe me by how the story is told.

imageedit_9_7406544849.jpg

Yeah, while it isn’t butchered to the point of being confusing, a lot of story elements are confusing or not fleshed out enough to make sense. For one, let’s talk about the villains. Apparently, the villains are from a different universe and place in time. I say this, because they look more live-action, but when they enter the Boonie Bears’ universe, they look more cartoonish. Okay, I don’t think they needed this to happen. It’s not like there aren’t human characters. Why did they need to over-complicate their origins? They also don’t flesh out the villains enough, in terms of why they want the Golden Antlers. They try to throw in some kind of backstory for the main bad guy, but then it’s resolved by the end of the movie. Yeah, none of it is satisfying, nor do they make the villains entertaining. They are pretty dime-a-dozen with little to no personality. No matter whom you focus on in this film, and that includes the main characters, it feels undercooked. Vick ends up being this secondary neutral character, but then has an abrupt villain turn, but then becomes the good guy again in the end. Even the two Boonie Bears don’t do much, but react to the situation. They interact and do help out a little, but not enough to matter. They felt like side characters within their own movie, which is always obnoxious. It’s meant to be this big fantastical fantasy adventure, and yet, once we finally get to Fantastica, they rush through it. Even the highly marketed female archer person you see both leads talk about in their videos is bland. Sure, she is a good shot, but that’s about it. It’s a film that, while China is having a serious resurgence in animation, they still have a lot to learn with storytelling. Oh, and the ending is all kinds of abrupt and disappointing.

imageedit_7_9756312180.jpg

So, the story and overall experience is a slightly negative disappointment. Is there anything I do like about the film? Well, while the comedy in the film doesn’t really work and they try too many kinds of jokes, there were a few laughs to be had. The voice cast is mostly annoying, but even if there was no real reason to hire Josh Peck, I think he does the best out of the two celebrities they hired. Seriously though, a few of the actors they obtained for certain characters have some of the most obnoxious voices I have ever heard from fictional characters. I will also give them credit that a part of the fantastical world of, well, Fantastica does look creative. A lot of what you see in this magical land can be rather typical for fantasy land elements, but I was digging the creatures that inhabit the land of Fantastica. It at the very least, leads to some pretty visuals. Animation-wise, it was okay. It’s still not up there with some of China’s recent efforts, and some of the animation is janky, but its way better than something like The Adventures of Panda Warrior.

imageedit_11_6483886882.jpg

Sadly, Fantastica: A Boonie Bears Adventure is another disappointment from China’s animation offerings. I found it odd that Viva Pictures, the notorious distributors of films like Foodfight, Son of Bigfoot, Monster Family, Monkey King: Hero is Back, Gaturro, and Ozzy, decided to pick just one of the films. Though I’m sure it’s not going to do well for them, because it’s not the first film, and barely anyone that I have talked to has ever heard of this franchise. Viva Pictures probably picked it up, because it was cheap, and they don’t have a quality control person to tell them to stop picking up the bargain bin titles. Oh well, maybe one day Viva Pictures will have a film that’s both worth talking about and worth seeing. Now then, let’s get back to the positive vibes and look at what might be 2019’s best animated feature with Dennis Do’s Funan. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 140: Big Fish & Begonia Review

canva-photo-editor (25).png

(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!)

In the span of a few years, China has started to throw its hat into the ring of animation. They have now made it a goal to not just be the country other countries use for their animation, or the creator of a flood of mediocre features. While The Monkey King: Hero is Back was a good first step, I would hardly call it a good movie. The true first step for the country would come in the form of an animated feature that came out back in 2016, but finally got a release here in the states, Big Fish & Begonia. This unique and important title was the passion project behind the directors, Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun. It was based on a Chinese Taoist story called Zhuangzi, but apparently drew from other Chinese classic tales as well. After going through up to over a decade of financial troubles of getting funding, spending it, and lack of animation talent, the film was finally finished. It was picked up by Shout! Factory last year, and was a feature that people payed major attention to during film festivals, including being one of the big features of the Animation is Film Festival. So, was a decade of development worth the hype and final product? Well, let’s check it out.

The story follows Chu, dubbed by Stephanie Sheh. She is a 16 year-old girl who lives in a world that lies on the other side of the human world’s ocean. It’s full of powerful individuals and spirits. Chun has to go through a rite of passage, and venture into the human world as a red dolphin. While in the human world, Chun is smitten by a human male named Kun, dubbed by Todd Haberkorn. After a few days swimming around, Chun gets caught inside a fishing net, and Kun tries to save her. Luckily, he gets her out, but ends up drowning in the process. Feeling guilty as all get-out about Kun dying, Chun ends up going to a place called the Island of Souls to try and bring Kun back. She offers the caretaker, Ling Po, dubbed by JB Blanc, half of her life to bring Kun back. After that, she spends the next chunk of her life taking care of Kun as he grows bigger, and makes sure he can go back to the human world. The bad news is that while Kun is there, the world that she lives in is in major peril. Can she make sure Kun gets back alive? What is she willing to sacrifice to make sure that happens?

canva-photo-editor (27).png

A problem I see with many passion projects that take a good decade or so to fully complete is that the creators try to shove in too much into the film, and never think about cutting certain story elements, or redoing some of the script. Of course, animation can be a huge endeavor, and making changes on the fly can be costly, but you can run the risk of making the film feel too busy, bloated, and or unfocused. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems with Big Fish & Begonia is that there is too much going on. Much of the film is Chun’s relationship with Kun, and her learning about life, death, sacrifice, and the consequences to certain actions, but they shove in a lot of characters, and a lot of time spent with Chun over vast landscapes. I’ll admit, many of the logical issues I keep questioning throughout my time watching the film are probably more of a cultural thing, and how the film wants to be more of a fairy tale. However, how far can you go with those kinds of defenses until they become too distracting? How much homework does one need to do on Chinese culture to fully understand the magical logic used in the film? It shouldn’t turn into a homework project to fully get what’s going on, and who everyone is. I don’t mind learning about the culture, but the film should be explaining to me visually what’s going on. For example, there is this rat woman who is an obvious threat, but you don’t get why she wants to go to the human world, and you don’t see her again after a certain period of time. I mean, yes, you can tell by her design and the way she interacts with everyone, that she is a threat, but why? I also get that having Kun stay in their world brings upon a lot of damage and danger, but why? Why does having a human spirit cause such chaos? The story also goes at a rather fast pace. It’s not a truly horrible thing, but I think the film’s atmosphere and emotional investment would have been stronger if they let some time pass between certain moments. While Studio MiR, the same studio behind Avatar: The Last Airbender and Netflix’s Voltron series, has some breathtaking animation done for Big Fish & Begonia, its use of CGI is definitely distracting. It’s not as bad as, say, Blue Submarine No. 6, but you can always tell when it’s CGI. It becomes more distracting when you see the giant flying whales that look like something out of that Fantasia 2000 short.

canva-photo-editor (28).png

With all that said, Big Fish & Begonia has great elements in its overall package. Like I said above, the animation is gorgeous. The backgrounds are awe inspiring, the designs are whimsical, the movements are fluid, and it’s an incredible visual feast for the eyes. You can tell there was a heavy dose of passion throughout this entire film’s visual presentation. It’s an incredible treat for the eyes that you need to see on the biggest screen you can. I even regret not seeing this one when it came out in my neck of the woods! As for the dub, I have seen both the original with subtitles, and the dub that Funimation helped out with. I think the cast is pretty stellar that includes actors such as Stephanie Sheh, Johnny Yong Bosch, Todd Haberkorn, JB Blanc, Cindy Robinson, Yuri Lowenthal, Greg Chun, Kate Higgins, Kyle Hebert, Erika Ishii, and Cam Clarke. The music by Kiyoshi Yoshida is full of that Chinese flair. It’s fantastical, mystical, and epic when needed. You might have heard of his name and his music if you have seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, where he did the soundtrack for that film. Another strong element is the relationship between Chun, Kun, and Chun’s friend Qui, dubbed by Johnny Yong Bosch. Most of the time you see Chun and Kun together is done with very little dialogue. The visuals tell the story, which, you know, is sort of important in a visual medium like animation.

canva-photo-editor (29).png

Big Fish & Begonia might be a bit of a mess, but it’s an important film for China and the Chinese animation scene. If you watch the trailers or clips, and you think you would like this film, I definitely recommend checking it out. It’s an impressive start, and I hope that means that other 2D animated projects that are going on over in China, can start raising the bar as time goes on. Well, after this, I definitely need something a bit zanier, a bit more focused, and maybe something that can make the night go on forever. Next time, we are going to check out Masaaki Yuasa’s other hit film, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 138: Flavors of Youth Review

flavor1.jpg

(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!)

In general, a problem I keep seeing within the animation scene is that twitch reaction to when something like a film or show hits it big, and then everyone and their long dead grandma wants to jump in on the hype. It leads to a profitable, but artistically limited batch of shows or films that want to be like that one popular thing, but only go so far. Sure, some films or shows break out and form their own bit of popularity and greatness, and this is nothing new, but you would think studios would make sure to play the long game, and keep doing what makes them great. For example, due to the success of Your Name, we are getting a slew of teen romance films with fantastical quirks. We already had A Silent Voice, which was pretty good, Fireworks, which was not, and now we have a studio that pretty much asked the studio that made Your Name to make a movie that is essentially a Makoto Shinkai film, Flavors of Youth. This is a Chinese/Japanese collaboration with the Japanese animation studio, CoMix Wave Films. It was put together by Li Haoling, who was inspired by Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second. It was then distributed by Netflix here in the states recently, but, thanks to Netflix, I don’t really hear anyone talk about it. Let’s see if this anthology rises above as its own thing, or falls flat as it tries to be like Makoto Shinkai’s other work.

flavor2.jpg

The first short is called Rice Noodles, and is directed by Jiaoshou Yi Xiaoxing. It’s about a young man named Xiao Ming, dubbed by Crispin Freeman, who reminisces about his love for a rice noodle dish he would get in his childhood. It brings back loving memories of him and his grandmother, a girl he had a crush on, and his youth.

flavor3.jpg

The second short is called A Little Fashion Show, and is directed by the lone Japanese director of the group, Yoshitaka Takeuchi. It’s about a fashion model named Yi Lin, dubbed by Evan Rachel Wood. She lives with her younger sister, and is going through the typical trials of being a fashion model, like age, personal life ordeals, and the ever-growing competition for younger models.

flavor4.jpg

The final short is directed by Li Haoling, the creator of the overall project, and the story is called Shanghai Love. It follows a young man named Limo, dubbed by Ross Butler. He is moving into a new downtown apartment that is near a couple of old buildings that hold nostalgic memories of his childhood friendship, his crush, and the changing landscape of Shanghai. He does this by listening to some old cassette tapes.

flavor6.jpg

So, what does this anthology get right? Well, I found two out of the three stories to be very interesting. The Rice Noodles story was probably my favorite out of the three, because I think everyone can connect a piece of their childhood to a dish, and how the unfortunate constant movement of time will cause things to change. Sure, not being able to regain that feeling of the past can feel soul crushing, but it’s never truly gone from you. The three stories revolve around a Chinese idiom, that translates to “clothing, food, housing, and transport”. I can definitely see how some of that idiom is used, as in the Rice Noodles short. There are also themes of dealing with regrets, as the second and third short have more plot elements dealing with actions from the past, and somehow making amends with said actions to make a better future. I think there will definitely be something for everyone to connect to within these three stories.

flavor7.jpg

Animation-wise, it looks pretty good from what you can expect from a Chinese/Japanese co-production. I have my issues with certain elements of its appearance, but only because I hold the animation studio, CoMix Waves to a high standard, due to their more recent work being downright beautiful. It still looks good, and has more polish than most anime films. I also enjoyed the music for the three shorts. It was mostly very calming, and set more in the background, but it fit the mood that the three shorts were going for. The dub is a mixed bag, but overall, it’s more good than bad. I liked Crispin Freeman in the first short, and how he captured the somber, but uplifting tone found in the main character during the Rice Noodles short.

flavor8.jpg

I think the biggest problem with Flavors of Youth is that while it can definitely be called its own thing in a lot of areas, like the story and setting, it never got rid of that feeling that this did feel like another Makoto Shinkai film. I get that the chief director/person in charge of this project was inspired by one of Shinkai’s first films, but I didn’t see unique visions. I saw directors trying to copy what Makoto Shinkai does. I know I can dish out some tough criticisms towards Shinkai, but at least when I was watching a film of his, I knew that it was his work. The art also isn’t as good as Shinkai’s other films. Sure, they look prettier than most series, but you get the feeling that they missed out on Shinkai’s little touches and bits of flair. I found the animation to also be stiffer. While the studio’s usual designs were not always the most interesting or memorable, they moved beautifully. The overall feel of the stories felt like they needed some more time to be fleshed out. The middle one with the fashion model feels the longest, due to how bored I got. It was a story with no real twists or turns with some rather generic story bits that come with the storyline. The first short also relies too much on the narration. It makes you wonder if the short would have been better if you didn’t have it, and expressed everything through music and the visuals. I also know that the voice actor, Ross Butler’s first role was in this film in the third story, but I found it to be the worst part of the English dub. He sounds so bored and disinterested. Even in the most emotional moments, he sounded wooden. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and maybe he will improve, but either he wasn’t putting in his all, or the director didn’t tell him that we weren’t in the 90s anime dub scene, and people need to start, well, emoting.

flavor9.jpg

Your enjoyment of Flavors of Youth will probably vary depending on your standards and hype for this animation studio. As a whole, I think it worked, but the hang-ups for me were really distracting. I definitely recommend checking it out, because unless you can catch the smaller animation releases, this will have to do until Small Foot comes out near the end of September. I respect this production, and I hope more projects come from this collaboration, and we get more anthologies with beautiful animation and interesting stories. Speaking of limited releases, I think it’s time to review one of the two Mamoru Hosoda films I have yet to do with Summer Wars. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 121: Have a Nice Day Review

day1

(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 and live-action 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!)

For the last two years, I have seen China start to put their foot down, and really compete with animation. While not a great movie, The Monkey King: Hero is Back was a competent action-adventure flick that raked in millions. Big Fish & Begonia, a decade old 2D-animated film is getting positive reviews, and is coming out this year thanks to Funimation and Shout! Factory.  In general, it’s good to see that they want to put a lot of effort into their future projects, and not just coax by on cheap-animated schlock. Another animated film that I was looking forward to coming out in the states was Have a Nice Day. Directed by Liu Jian, Have a Nice Day made waves in the news when it was pulled from the Annecy Film Festival last year by the Chinese government. This caused a huge controversial backlash toward the country, because not only was China the guest country at the festival, but it was also considered a move of censorship by the country. While it was winning awards around the festival circuit, is Have a Nice Day worth the hype and controversy? Well, kind of. Let’s dive in.

day2

Have a Nice Day is a dark comedy with a mix of social commentary revolving around a cab driver who robs someone of $150 grand in US currency to help his girlfriend in South Korea with her plastic surgery.  Unfortunately for him, that money belonged to a mob boss, and it then turns into this mad dash between multiple characters to get that money from one another.

day3

Let’s talk about the most standout aspect of Have a Nice Day, the animation. Now, usually, I consider animation to be moving drawn pictures, or CGI models moving around. Have a Nice Day really stretches the terms of animation. A lot of the films are in still frames with mouths staying open when they talk. There is some movement, but it’s more like an underground motion comic. I can perfectly understand why this might turn people off. It all looks fine, but it’s as if you took still frames, and took inspiration from the animation philosophy from Adult Swim’s early days. I can understand if this was done on a shoe-string budget, and there wasn’t enough left over for the animation, but this will definitely put people off.  I know I have given the country flack for its bad animation, and while this one was probably more due to artistic decisions or budget limitations, it’s almost not an animated film. I know that sounds sort of gate-keeping to not call it animation, but once you see the trailer for this film, it’s understandable.

day4

So, since the animation is hugely kneecapped, what does this film have to counter-balance for the lack of animation? Thankfully, the best aspect of the movie is the dialogue. While you are definitely looking at a bunch of still frames, the dialogue between characters is interesting. It has a few solid jokes thrown in from time to time that are legit funny. It’s also interesting to see a bunch of the characters, major and minor, talk about money, and how China looks at money. Maybe that’s why it was pulled from the festival, but I personally found nothing offensive about this film, but I’m a white guy from Texas, so what do I know? It reminds me of The Rabbi’s Cat, since that film also had some odd animation, but you were kept invested with the film’s dialogue. The film also has a build-up to an immensely funny punchline at the end, but I won’t spoil it here.

day5

While I did find admiration that this was a mostly one-man job, I think my favorite aspect of the sound design was the music. Yes, there is one really random musical sequence in the film, but my favorite bit of music was the opening song by The Shanghai Restoration Project. It had a nice jazzy blues feel that fit over the decrepit and broken side of China. If anyone is curious, the track is called Dark Horse. While the animation was fairly, um, still, I found the acting to be pretty solid. I won’t say I remember one person being better than the other, but the chemistry between everyone felt cohesive. It was interesting to see how the acting would gel with the limited animation, and I was not all that distracted by it. Then again, I knew going in that this film would live and die by its dialogue and character interaction.

day6

Now then, let’s talk about the downsides. The animation is going to split people so hard down the middle. On one hand, it’s a style, and the director worked within his limitations of budget and time, while using more artistic liberties with what can be considered “animation”. On the other hand, it feels pointless to make this an animated film, because of how limiting the animation is. Sure, you can get the gestures and movements from the simple frames, but at the same time, it’s really pushing the definition of animation. It’s definitely going to distract a lot of people, and whether this was a purposeful decision or not, I did find myself at points being pulled out of the experience. While I love the entire punchline to the film at the end, it is a grind to get there. It’s not a very long movie, but it takes its time slow-burning its way to the finish line. It also does that thing where it cuts off at the end, leaving the ending to be up in the air in terms of what exactly happened after the big climatic sequence. I mean, sure, you can pick up what might have happened, but I think the film would have worked better with more closure. Then again, I know this technique is popular among many filmmakers like Tarantino, so your mileage may vary with the ending.

day7

While I was definitely happy to have a Movie Pass for this film, I’m still very glad I went out and supported it. It’s good to support original films and smaller creators if their films are showing in theaters in your area. I’m happy to see Chinese animation get ambitious with their goals with the medium, and while Have a Nice Day doesn’t check off all the boxes, it’s a way more important and interesting movie that’s out right now than 50 Shades Freed and that pointless Death Wish remake. If you can find a way to watch it, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Just look up the trailer for the film first to see if you might be into it. Well, let’s continue the support of animated films from overseas and look at the Annie Award-winning and Oscar-nominated The Breadwinner. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Rent It!

The Other Side of Animation 79: The Monkey King: Hero is Back

monkey01

(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!)

monkey05

So, if I told you that I found an animated film from China that is pretty solid, would you believe me? I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t believe me. There has always been this stigma of China going for a quantity-over-quality style of filmmaking, and yeah, when you realize just how many animated films they make, it definitely shows how low the quality can be. I’m sure there are plenty of good animated films from China, but since most are never brought over here unless Lionsgate has  another bad spending day, then I won’t know about them. Granted, there are some great looking animated films coming out that are really promising. Today’s review is one of those promising films from China, Monkey King: Hero is Back. This was released in 2015, and has the noteworthy title of being China’s highest grossing animated film of all time. Well, until Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia overtook it, but still. In terms of just China-made animated films, it’s the highest grossing animated film from that country. It’s weird because there were so many movies based on the Monkey King, and they got passable reviews. What about this film specifically made a dent in terms of films based on such a mystical character? Well, let’s find out.

monkey02

The story revolves a young boy who lives with a monk, played by James Hong, after his parents were killed by trolls. One day, the boy’s town is attacked by the same trolls from long ago. The boy does escape them, but ends up falling into a cave and accidentally awakens the imprisoned Monkey King, voiced by Jackie Chan. The Monkey King really doesn’t want anything to do with the kid, but is then forced into a quest of taking down an evil lord, voiced by Feodor Chin. Can the great Monkey King take down the evil force and bond with the young boy?

monkey03

I will start out with the negatives about this film; it might have the worst dub job that I have seen so far. It’s so rushed and poorly synced that it wouldn’t be a shock if they did this dubbing in an afternoon. I mean, it feels like no effort was put into having the voices sync up with the lip movements. The actors also didn’t put in much into their performances. It’s like they knew this was a trainwreck, and that they were going to be in a better animated film together with Kung Fu Panda 3, so they didn’t put too much effort into their roles. Even this annoying comedic side character played by Roger Craig Smith has a, “I really don’t care that I’m here” attitude. Or, maybe they were trying their best, and the individual in charge of the dub wasn’t doing their job! The film is also very annoying in terms of humor, with a lot of pandering fart jokes and other jokes that don’t really work. It’s distracting, and makes the film-going experience tough to sit through, since sitting through a movie with very bad jokes is a massive chore.

monkey04

The animation is also not really impressive. Granted, we are seeing small signs that China is getting better with their animation quality, but the CGI is pretty low level, and the animations are stiff when there aren’t any fight sequences or grand movements on screen. Textures are low quality, but the designs are fine. They aren’t anything amazing, but when you have seen how ugly bad foreign CGI character designs can be, it’s higher-up on the totem pole than most. The story is also very generic. On top of not really explaining how a few incidences in the film happened, it’s a very Hollywoodized version of the Monkey King legend that is apparently the biggest property to make films out of in China. I mean, I get it, since the US has the biggest turn-on for most young adult novels that have no right in being made into movies. The characters are not that interesting either. They were boring, generic, or really annoying. I don’t get the deal behind having an annoying kid team up with the lead character, who is much more interesting. The kid was really grating, and I don’t know if I’m right about this, but I think the creators knew that since there were way too many times in the movie where the kid would have or should have died. They did it just to annoy people. It even takes the weight out of the final climatic fight scene, because they don’t kill the kid in the end. I mean, why would you do that? It’s like when they “killed” Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then teased at the very end that he’s coming back. Like, yeah, now you have ruined that character’s story arc. I don’t get why you would do that. Unless this was some clever Edgar Wright comedy, you shouldn’t ruin something like a death of a major character.

monkey06

So, what is actually good about this movie? Well, out of all the Chinese CGI trainwrecks that I can think of, The Monkey King: Hero is Back (and I still don’t get why they couldn’t fix that weird title) is at the very least watchable. It’s not something like Gods of Egypt or Norm of the North, where watching it is a chore. While it can get annoying, The Monkey King: Hero is Back does at the very least have some tension and investment in taking down the demon lord. The fights are also fun to watch. You can tell a lot of the budget and effort went into these sequences. While they never reach the heights of the Kung Fu Panda series or Kubo and the Two Strings, they are still entertaining enough to get you through the slog of bad jokes and horrible voicework. While the villain wasn’t anything that interesting, I at least enjoyed the campy personality, and the final fight with him and the Monkey King was fun to watch.

monkey07

While I totally get why this film got so much acclaim, I still don’t think it is all that great. It’s just very average. The only real reason to rent this film on any occasion would be because of its legacy and its status. Maybe if you can find this film for $5 or less, I could recommend it, but if you want good kung fu/action in animated form, just get the Kung Fu Panda trilogy or Kubo and the Two Strings. There are a ton of animated films that have much better action sequences and just better overall experiences that you should check out before even putting money down on The Monkey King: Hero is Back. It’s a shame since if the story and animation was better, I would have easily called this film the hidden gem of 2016, but that title goes to Mune: Guardian of the Moon and 25 April. Well, I’ll say this. I would rather watch The Monkey King: Hero is Back much more than what the next review will tackle. I won’t say what it is, but it is quite possibly the biggest flop in terms of animation from 2016. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it.

Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions: Rock Dog

(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!)

Welcome back to Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions! This is where I give my first impressions of upcoming animated films, and point out the good, the bad, and the interesting. In the end, I shall predict if it will be a hit, a miss, or something different altogether.

When I started these editorials talking about upcoming movies, these were never meant to be a set-in-stone prediction. How many times have we seen a movie or played a game that we all thought would be a failure, but then turned out to be amazing, or films that should have been amazing, but then became failures? Anyway, these are just my thoughts and opinions on the upcoming animated films and I am not making instant predictions. Even if the film is just asking for snap judgements like DreamWorks’ Trolls or Lionsgate’s upcoming The Wild Life, which we will talk about at a later date since they are both trainwrecks just asking for snap judgments. With that said, let’s get going with today’s impression of Rock Dog, a CGI animated film collaboration between China and Reel FX studios, the same studio behind The Book of Life. What do I think of this upcoming flick? Well, let’s find out! If you want to form your own opinion, here is a link to the trailer!

Animation/Art Direction

To be frank, this looks a lot better than what you would think of a Chinese-funded animated film, since so many that come out of the country look really bad in terms of theater-quality animation. Rock Dog actually looks pretty solid. The textures and some of the animation seen in the trailer could be better, but the overall presentation looks theater-quality enough to not get the “the animation looks like a made-for-TV/direct to DVD” criticism when it comes out. I think that’s because the two Chinese companies that are making this film, Huayi Brothers and Mandoo Pictures, outsourced the animation to be done by Reel FX, the same studio that made The Book of Life and Free Birds. It’s an interesting situation since most companies would rather outsource their projects to foreign companies to do all the heavy lifting. Anyway, in terms of the art style shown off in the trailer, it appears good. At least it looks different than the DreamWorks and Pixar rip-offs that are coming out.

Humor

Just going off of the first trailer since future trailers love to show off that there are in fact potty humor-style jokes (which are stupid), the humor seems more down to earth. Nothing too lowbrow, but I won’t be surprised if there was one crude joke slipped into the whole film that doesn’t work. It seems like this film is more about telling a story, and not trying to cram in jokes every five minutes. I’m down for a film that wants to be good harmless entertainment in the humor department.

Story

The plot revolves around a Tibetan mastiff named Bodi, voiced by Luke Wilson. After obtaining a radio that fell from the sky, he becomes obsessed with music. This doesn’t go over well with his father, Khampa, voiced by J.K. Simmons who wants Bodi to be the next village guard. Bodi decides to travel to the city to find a super popular artist named Angus Scattergood, voiced by Eddie Izzard. While this is all going on, a wolf named Linnux, voiced by Lewis Black, decides to take advantage of this situation by trying to kidnap Bodi so he can take over Bodi’s home village. Can Bodi realize his musical destiny, or will Linnux win out?

Casting

While not the biggest named cast, the overall list of actors they got for this film is still solid nonetheless. The cast include Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Jorge Garcia, Mae Whitman, Matt Dillon, and Sam Elliot.

Concerns

Well, for one, it seems like it’s going to come out when Illuminations’ SING comes out, which is another animal-oriented movie with a major theme of music. Granted, Rock Dog at least looks less cynical that SING. And yes, I will be talking about SING when another trailer is released, but so far, I’m not impressed. I just worry that Rock Dog is going to be overshadowed by another film that probably won’t be that good in the first place, which has happened to a lot of movies, like Kung Fu Panda 2 and any film from GKIDS. Also, I wonder how people feel about a Chinese-funded film starring a character from Tibet. I don’t know, maybe I’m looking too much into that element.

Prediction: Unknown

I really don’t know where this one will go. I can see it being an honest-to-goodness good movie, or a harmless underwhelming flick. That is more than I can say for what Lionsgate has coming out this year *coughs* The Wild Life *coughs*. Another high point for this film to succeed is that the director, Ash Brannon, has worked on hit movies in the past in different areas of development in films like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Over the Hedge, and was a co-director for Toy Story 2 and Surf’s Up. Who knows, all we can do is wait and see once Rock Dog is released later this year.