Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 3

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

Welcome back! Now, it’s time to get into the films that I enjoyed! This is the long part as we count down from 27 to 11! If you have yet to see the first two parts, make sure to use the tags in this editorial to get to Part 1 and Part 2. Now then, let’s keep counting down!

27. Son of the White Mare

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While this is a film from a few decades ago, it was never fully or officially released in the states until last year and will be coming out on Blu-ray this year. That’s a bloody shame, because this movie is awesome. The visuals are striking; the storytelling is straight-forward, but really, you watch this movie to see the amazing visual experience that it offers. Otherwise, it’s a simple fairy-tale-style story that relies way more on its abstract visuals to comment on certain topics. However, sometimes, you want to sit back and take in a film that offers outstanding visuals and enjoy the ride! I can’t wait until more people see Son of the White Mare.

26. This Magnificent Cake

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I honestly contemplated whether I would include this film on the list. Not because it doesn’t count as one, but I just find it odd that a 45-minute or as it’s called, a mid-length feature, is a film. Still, outside of that personal opinion, this is a very poignant and very dark piece about colonialism in the Congo. It obviously could have used a longer running time for everything to be a bit more impactful, and the ending fizzles out into abstract weirdness that is symbolic and meaningful, but it’s still one of the most unique experiences you can find in animation. I can understand why Barry Jenkins loved this film.

25. Abominable 

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It’s always a gamble nowadays on whether a DreamWorks release will be good or not, and that’s a shame because when they release something like Abominable, it shows why people still support them. Sure, it might not have the strongest characters or the beefiest story, but Jill Culton and her team were able to still bring a solid story with some gorgeous visuals to life with a way more interesting villain and tone that you don’t see a whole lot from the studio. I still have my issues with this studio, but Abominable shows that they still have a better sense of talent and storytelling than most animation studios.

24. Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans

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While I’m not a huge hater on the current iteration of the teen superhero team, I’m starting to get a little tired of it all now. It’s still a delightfully funny experience, the action is decent, and they were able to make the chemistry between the two different versions of the characters work. It’s always funny to see the same voice actor play two different versions of the same character. This iteration of the franchise might be losing its steam now, but if you enjoyed 2018’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, then you will find a lot to enjoy in this one.

23. Aya of Yop City 

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Produced by the director of 2013’s The Rabbi’s Cat, and directed by the creator of the comic series it’s based on, Aya of Yop City is easily one of the hidden gems of foreign animation. Not only is it one of the few animated films I have encountered that star an all African cast of characters, but isn’t about any of the major turmoils that are set in that country in a manipulative way. It’s more of a slice-of-life story, as Aya and her family and friends go through the challenges of relationships, love, jobs, and life. It can be surprisingly funny, endearing, and has a great visual look. It’s a shame that it wasn’t released until this year. Sadly, the story flounders in the end, and Aya herself is not the most interesting character, but people should still really check out this film. Just be ready to experience a film that doesn’t have a traditional story.

22. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines

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It’s rather sad that we finally got a second animated feature after 10 years, but the wait was worth it. The drama between Wonder Woman and one of the villains was compelling, the action was stellar, and it was nice to see a superhero film with a mostly female-lead cast. It’s also a bummer that there are a few moments where you can tell a guy directed the film, and the final act falls into generic action fare, but for a direct-to-video DC animated film, I enjoyed this one!

21. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

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It might be the weakest of the three DreamWorks Dragon films, and it 100% shows that DreamWorks doesn’t know how to handle its side characters, but it’s still a pretty stellar finale with downright stupidly good-looking animation, fantastic scenes with Hiccup and Toothless, and it shows how to somewhat properly cap off an incredible franchise.

20. I Lost My Body

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This shouldn’t be a big shock. Yes, I was not as huge of a fan as everyone else in the world with this multi-festival winning film. I didn’t think the film balanced out both stories well, I found the humans to be the biggest issue with the film, and I felt like other films should have been nominated. With all that said, this is easily one of 2019’s most unique films. It’s ethereal and mesmerizing watching the sequences with the hand and how the story unfolds. It also has a unique visual style that no other film in 2019 can copy. While I do not have the same love and support of it, I still found the experience to be enthralling from beginning to end.

19. Batman versus TMNT

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It seems like that my love for the DC animated films that go direct-to-video always leans to the non-Action 52-style storyline going on right now. I adored the art direction, the action was thrilling, and due to the two properties getting combined into one movie, the story goes bonkers with some sequences. It’s 2019’s Batman Ninja, and I am all here for it.

18. Frozen II

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The first film was lightning in a bottle, and Frozen II was going to have to go through some hurdles to overcome the giant challenge of trying to be as good or better than the first film. To a degree, I do like Frozen II better. I like the songs better, I like the tone, I like the commentary, and the film still does show why Anna and Elsa are great. It’s also a film that feels like the last act got changed due to probably being too dark. I don’t know if I’ll ever know what exactly happened with the third act that rubbed me and others the wrong way, and how Sven got the short end of the stick in terms of plots, but despite the rough spots, I still enjoyed my time with Frozen II.

17. Spies in Disguise

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It’s rather refreshing to sit here and type out the fact that I absolutely loved a Blue Sky Studios film. Seriously, outside of The Peanuts Movie and to an extent Robots and FerdinandSpies in Disguise feels like Blue Sky’s most cohesive film. The animation, the lighting, the designs, the characters, and the themes it tackles with how it handles aggressive and defensive tactics in spy work is rather ambitious for a film from a studio that has a mixed reputation. It doesn’t do it perfectly, and certain casting choices are distracting/bad, but overall, I would absolutely watch Spies in Disguise again in the future.

16. Mai Mai Miracle

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Don’t worry, this is the last of the “we didn’t get this movie until now” films on the list. Honestly, it is shocking that it took until 2019 to get one of the more charming animated features from Japan. It’s very much a film in the same vein as My Neighbor Totoro or the director’s recent work, In This Corner of the World. The story is about two girls from different financial classes enjoying and exploring the countryside post-World-War II. It has the same kind of problem as with the other films listed, where it seems like they had to have some kind of conflict, but if you love films like My Neighbor Totoro, you will love Mai Mai Miracle.

15. Okko’s Inn

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Technically, I saw this film two years ago at Animation is Film, and I still stand by my opinion that it is easily one of 2019’s hidden gems to check out. It’s a delightfully low-key coming-of-age drama that despite having a more simplistic art style, was able to really invest you into Okko’s trials of losing her parents. It also has some set pieces that are a wonder to the eye to see unfold with the power of animation.

14. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

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I perfectly get why people would absolutely be on the fence with this one. It’s another one of those teen dramas that has one of the teens with a deadly disease and, yeah, sometimes it milks it a bit too much, and the film is a touch too long, and the designs aren’t all that memorable. However, In terms of these types of films, it’s easily one of the best versions of it. The animation is great, the characters have actual chemistry, and I was able to be fully sucked into the drama and romance. Your reception to this film will vary, but one thing we can all agree on is that this film costs way too much to purchase, Aniplex! Lower the blu-ray’s price!

13. Penguin Highway

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For a first time directing gig, Penguin Highway is a smart and creative coming-of-age story about a boy going through puberty and wondering about the world around him. Granted, I don’t know if your journey through growing up included a random infestation of penguins, but still. It overstays its welcome a tiny bit, and I can understand people having an issue with the boy’s fixation on an older woman character, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to check out Studio Colorido’s future projects.

12. The LEGO Movie 2

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It’s truly a shame WB decided to burn through too much of the LEGO IP and it’s understandable as to why this film underperformed. I think it deserved to do better because it’s still a fantastic film with a great theme of boy vs girl mentalities, toxic masculinity, and identity. It’s still lighting quick with its wit, highly enjoyable comedy, and the characters are still strong, and I would argue are better than the first film. It might not have that lightning in a bottle hype the first film got, but overall, this film deserved to have done better.

11. Toy Story 4

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While I disagree with its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature due to it being the safest bet of the films nominated, and it runs into the DreamWorks situation of not being able to do anything with its side characters that aren’t the new ones, Toy Story 4 is still a stellar film in probably the most consistently high-quality franchise in animation. It might be an epilogue for Woody’s story, and Buzz gets short-changed, but the story is still strong, the characters are likable, the jokes are funny, and it still has a lot of that Pixar love that people adore about the studio.

Thanks for reading the editorial/list! 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!

The Other Side of Animation 183: Trolls World Tour Review

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

So, we live in a film industry where if your animated movie is a major hit, you, as a studio, will make a TV series, or, at the very least, a sequel. Normally, this sometimes comes off as short-sighted, because depending on how successful it is, you have to take in the context surrounding the film on release. Sometimes, the film was just that good, and sometimes, it was released during a time where there was a lack of competition. From films like The Nut Job 2 to The Secret Life of Pets 2, sometimes, the franchise isn’t strong enough to get people back into the theater to see the next film. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t get good sequels. We get plenty of sequels that are as good as the original or surpass them in a few ways. One of those examples is the sequel to Trolls, Trolls: World Tour.

Directed by Walt Dohrn, this sequel to the 2016 DreamWorks Animation surprise hit is mostly in the news right now for being the first major animated film of 2020 to go directly to digital and on-demand. Onward doesn’t count, since it got a theatrical release. So far, as of writing this, it is getting mostly positive reviews, and from what rental and digital purchase services are saying, it’s doing pretty well financially. So, what do I personally think about this musical sequel? Do I find it superior to the original, or is this another sequel that got greenlit too quickly?

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Our story revolves around our leads from the last film, Queen Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick, and Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake. They find out from Poppy’s dad that there are different kinds of musical races of trolls. These include country, funk, techno, classical, and rock. Sadly, the rock troll, Queen Barb, voiced by Rachel Bloom, is trying to get the six magical strings and rule the world. Can Branch and Poppy find the queen of rock and roll and stop her ways?

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Now, on the surface, and to an extent, this film looks like a lot of the same brightly colored family entertainment, but just like the previous film, there is more under the felt-like look of the world. So, the first film tackled themes about happiness, what does World Tour tackle? Well, for something based on a bunch of rainbow-colored hairy troll dolls, this film deals with themes of colonialism, LGBT elements, cultural appropriation, and plenty of commentary about pop music as a whole. Yeah, for a film that looks so candy-coated sweet, you wouldn’t expect that there would be themes this mature, and yet, here they are. Much of the dialogue in the film gives off these vibes, and the twist in the film also reinforces these topics. It leads to the film running into the same situation as WB’s Smallfoot, where it’s a comedy to a degree, and they do keep a lot of the weird trippy visuals and jokes, but it’s more story-focused. They like focusing on the clashing ideals and what happened to the different races of musical trolls, and I highly commend DreamWorks and the team that made this film for wanting to go a creative and mature route with the story. This is why, even with all of their faults, people still support DreamWorks, because, sometimes, they find a way to take an idea that sounds dumb on face value and run with it. I love it when a studio decides to do this, because it shows that they have an idea about how to make the film work. I’m not going to say other films based on intellectual properties didn’t try, but DreamWorks Animation was able to go the distance to make a more memorable product.

Animation-wise, the film still does look good. It’s doing more of that felt-like fabric that comes right out of Kirby’s Epic Yarn or Yoshi’s Wooly World. It’s even adding in more faux stop-motion movements into certain characters and parts of the world. It’s not going as far as to say, Netflix’s The Willoughbys, but the DreamWorks Trolls series still has one of the more unique looks out of any animated film series. Casting-wise, I’m mixed. On one hand, Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake were fine, and they have decent lines and good chemistry, but I found myself enjoying the other actors more. Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, and Sam Rockwell left more impressions on me than the other major celebrities. I also won’t deny that the celebrity casting was distracting. I get that everyone is enjoying a Kelly Clarkson bonanza, and she probably got on here the same way Gwen Stefani did in the first film by being on The Voice, but I found her distracting as the leader of the Country Trolls. Even minor characters who were played by celebrities were distracting, like the K pop group Red Velvet, the McElroy Brothers popping up all over the place that are only in there because they made some internet campaign to be in the sequel, even if they added nothing to the film, and you get the idea. To be fair, I did like some of the celebrity castings with George Clinton and Mary J Blige as the king and queen Funk Trolls, and Anderson Paak probably gets the best scene in the entire film. It’s a mixed bag for me in terms of the voice cast. The music is mostly cover songs, but they do have more original songs in this film than the last one, and I think if we get a third film, they should do all original songs.

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So, let’s talk about the faults in order of the least problematic to the biggest issue the film has under its belt. First off, this film stuffs in a couple of multi-song sequences, and unless you are a kid, you will find these parts obnoxious. One of those points is meant to be obnoxious, but it doesn’t mean it gets a free pass. When you get past those two moments, everything else is pretty okay pacing-wise. Also, for a film about how our differences make us unique and we should join forces into harmony with those unique traits, they still bash a couple of music genres like smooth jazz and disco. I think that last one, while funny in a cute way, is unfortunate due to the real reason why disco burned out so quickly, which is way darker than I have time to get into with this review. Once again, DreamWorks’ obsession with side characters that don’t do anything or add anything to the story is obnoxious. They have a few trolls from the original that don’t return for some unknown reason, and yet they introduce a new one voiced by Ester Dean, and she does nothing. She doesn’t have a major point to the overall story, and many of the returning troll characters don’t offer substance either. They are there, because they have to be, and I don’t care if they have more personality in the show, because people shouldn’t have to add an eight-season show to their list of shows to watch before this film. While the gaggle of music industry cameos of famous singers and musicians is appropriate here, many of them could have been replaced by voice actors and nothing would be missed.

Now then, let’s get into the real meaty issue with this film, Branch, and Poppy, but mostly Branch. Branch is another male lead in an animated sequel that has absolutely nothing to do. His entire arc was finished by the first film, and what does he get? A flimsy “I gotta tell Poppy how much I love her and I don’t know how to” plot. Yeah, not only does he get the same treatment as Gnomeo in Sherlock Gnomes, Ralph in Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Kristoff in Frozen II, Branch is quite possibly the worst of them. They even regressed his character’s design to be more like how he was in the first film. I don’t get that decision. At least you can talk about some commentary or themes with Kristoff’s Lost in the Woods sequence. Poppy gets a slightly better story, but she teeters on being too unlikable and stubborn. I get it’s the parallel story to Queen Barb, but you have to balance out a story arc with this kind of stubborn character carefully, because she could come off as more unlikable and annoying than anything else.

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While it aims high and doesn’t make the landing, I still enjoyed watching Trolls: World Tour. It’s one of those films that I think people will talk more about as time goes on. Now, this is a unique situation for this film as to how I would recommend it. On one hand, if you have kids, or want to do a watch party, then, yeah, I highly recommend checking it out. It will be worth the $20 asking price for rentals. On the other hand, if you are hesitant to put that much down for a rental, I would wait to buy it or rent it at a lower price point. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I stand by my criticisms, but I still enjoyed watching it. We will have to see if we come back to this world in the future outside of the new animated series going up on NBC’s service Peacock in the future. It’s kind of up to you if you want to support it. Now then, next time, we will be talking about Netflix’s first major animated film of 2020, The Willoughbys.

The Other Side of Animation 167: Abominable Review

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

As a fan of animation, DreamWorks Animation is in a creative and frustrating situation, and that has always been the case since it was founded. It is an animation studio founded upon bitter petty anger and a lineup of films trying to beat out Disney and Pixar at every turn for no other reason than to try and make edgier versions of the former studio’s films. Sure, at around the latter half of the 2000s, they started to course-correct, and now they have a solid lineup of really good movies. Shrek 2, Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, the Kung Fu Panda Trilogy, Captain Underpants, and the How to Train Your Dragon films are all some of the best films that have come out of this studio. Though they have slightly course-corrected, the stench of the bitter anger towards Disney still looms, and you can argue that DreamWorks doesn’t have an identity.

Out of all the studios making feature animation in the US, what makes them different than Illumination, Sony Pictures Animation, and Blue Sky Studios? I mean, you can tell a difference, but that’s only if you know what kind of films each studio makes. To me, DreamWorks was always at their best when they focused on story and character with a dash of comedy thrown in when needed. They do well with smaller character moments, and that’s no different here with their newest film, Abominable. Directed by Jill Culton and co-directed by Todd Wilderman, Abominable is DreamWorks’ first major co-production collaborative effort with a Chinese studio, Pearl Studio. I mean, they used to own this studio until a Chinese company, CMC, bought the stakes and rights to Pearl Studio from Universal. So, with this being the third yeti movie in two years, how is it? Well, let’s find out the mysteries of this zoological wonder.

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Our story revolves around a teen girl named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet. She’s a tough working girl who is still getting over the loss of her father. While taking multiple small jobs, she also enjoys hanging out on the rooftop of her building and playing the violin. One evening, she finds something on top of her home building, and it turns out to be an actual yeti! She then makes it her goal to return the yeti, who she has named Everest, back to his home with the help of her friends Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay, and Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai. This is all the while, avoiding a rich billionaire named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard and a zoologist named Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson.

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So, with a film like this, where most critics seem to think it’s just okay, I try to look at what Abominable does well in terms of a DreamWorks film. The biggest problem most DreamWorks films suffer from is that the overall story is not the best part. That’s pretty much the same here with Abominable, but I found myself being more charmed by the smaller character interactions, like Peng and Everest, Everest with Jin, Peng, and Yi, and Burnish, the stereotypical billionaire has little sequences that give him more depth. The film’s theme is obviously about living life and family, and while that’s nothing new, the interactions during the overall story make the trip worthwhile. It also helps that the other human teen/kid characters end up being likable in their own way. Li is probably the most annoying out of the three, but once he realizes what he has to do with his coming-of-age story arc, he has some of the better jokes in the entire film. While there is a slightly comedic edge to the story, it’s also a much quieter film. Sure, it has its family-friendly antics, and the goons do provide a lot of comedic relief, it’s a film that isn’t afraid to simply stop for a moment and let the characters talk and breathe.

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Animation-wise, the visuals are downright gorgeous. Seriously, while it might not be on the level of Disney and Pixar’s photo-realistic textures, the scenes and locations the gang travel to are beautiful. They remind me of those old travel ads or a Planet Earth-style documentary. Despite having a supposed budget of $75 mil, Abominable is one of the most visually beautiful films of 2019. The lush landscapes, stunning color palette, and wonderful VFX effects are very well-executed.

I might be one of the more supportive fans of this film, but I do have some issues with it. It’s a simple film, and that’s not a bad thing, but there could have been a lot more meat on the bones of the story and themes. It’s a film that could have easily been 30 minutes longer to expand on some of the themes and scenes. While the film has some pretty good comedy, the jokes that they show off in the trailer are still the worst in the film. They don’t pop up like that all of the time, but I would say the first third has the worst jokes of the entire film. Thankfully, they don’t do that Taylor Swift scene that you see in the trailer that was shown in theaters before the main trailer, but there could have been better comedic moments that could replace the blueberry butt joke.

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While it might not hit the emotional points of How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda, I would consider Abominable to be one of the better films in the DreamWorks catalog. I think people will come back to it more than once depending on how everyone feels about Trolls World Tour and The Croods 2 coming out next year. Still, despite having a shaky experience with inconsistent moments of quality, I’m happy DreamWorks is still around, and from time to time, they will come back to making more character-driven experiences. Plus, this is a good sign for Pearl Studios, as they will be releasing Glen Keane’s newest film, Over the Moon, next year for Netflix. To me, this shows that this is another example of China’s current commitment to high-quality animation. Now then, let’s snap our fingers and next time, we will check out The Addam’s Family Movie.

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!

Animation Tidbits: Annecy Part 2

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(Originally written: May 29th: 2019. Sorry for posting this late!)

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

Alrighty, for the final part of this look at Annecy 2019, I decided to combine a bunch of films from different categories. This is because the various categories don’t have enough to warrant talking about in individual articles. At least, that is my opinion on the other categories. The one major change they made was a new category called Contrechamp, a category with animated features that are in competition, but have visuals that challenge the medium of animation. Otherwise, the films on the list will be from the screening events and In Production section of the festival. Let’s get started!

Children of the Sea (Contrechamp)

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story focuses on a girl named Ruka, who saw a ghost in her dad’s aquarium when she was little. She becomes attracted to the aquarium and the appearance of two mysterious boys named Umi and Sora, all the while the adults who work there figure out the mass disappearance of the earth’s fish. In a lot of ways, it’s almost unfair that this film is the perfect representation for the Contrechamp section of the festival. It’s almost unfair how downright jaw-dropping-off-your-face beautiful the film is. Studio 4C has done a lot of great work, but this easily looks like it will be their best. Plus, with GKids now attached to bringing it over to the states this year, I have major hopes it’s going to be at Animation is Film 2019! If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped, Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of the Studio Ghibli classics, is composing the music for this film.

Away (Contrechamp)

Directed by Gints Zilbalodis, Away is about a young man who’s riding a motorcycle, trapped on a mystical island while trying to avoid a shadowy monster chasing him. This is also a film that looks like it will be taking advantage of the Contrechamp title. Sure, it kind of looks like an indie game that’s trying to be the next artistic achievement in gaming, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Plus, this was directed and animated by someone who is 25 years old. That is wildly ambitious and I give him kudos for that. It looks like a visually creative film that I hope does well.

Underdog (Contrechamp)

Directed by Sung-Yoon Oh and Chun Baek Lee, the story revolves around a blue dog that was once a house pet, but ends up back in the wild. He encounters wild dogs, and tries to help them survive and live freely. Generic title aside, I really like the visual look of this film. It reminds me of the work arounds French animation uses in projects like The Painting. It has a super vibrant color palette, and while the CGI may not be Pixar or Disney level at all, it has its own identity and personality to it. I’m happy to see South Korean animation finally making some break-out titles to show that they can make animated features that aren’t tied down to propaganda, and can be watchable by all. Though seeing some of the marketing blurbs say it was more emotionally gripping than Zootopia? Yeah, we will have to see about that.

Ville Neuve (Contrechamp)

Directed by Felix Dufour Laperriere, Ville Neuve focuses on a man named Joseph, who moves into a house with his friend, and tries to get back with his ex-wife, and this is happening with the 1995 Quebec Referendum happening in the background. I like the minimalist approach with its focus on whites, blacks, and grays. It comes off like a more personal and intimate film, and I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this one.

Playmobil (Screening)

Now then, let’s jump in with the first film in the “Screening” category. Directed by Lino DiSalvo, the story focuses on a young woman named Marla, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets pulled into this Playmobil world with her brother Carlie, played by Gabriel Bateman. They get separated, and it’s up to Marla to team up with Rex Dasher, a secret agent voiced by Daniel Radcliffe and Del, a food truck driver voiced by Jim Gaffigan, to get her brother back and avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, played by Adam Lambert. Yeah, this film did not get the warmest impression, being negatively compared to the 2014 The LEGO Movie. I can understand why. It comes off as a bit outdated that there needs to be a reason for the Playmobil world to exist, when people would rather just enjoy the world that they make. Still, the film looks silly and aware about itself, and some of the jokes I saw got a chuckle out of me. Hopefully it can be an entertaining flick once it releases later this year.

The Prince’s Voyage (Screening)

Directed by Jean-Francois Languionie and Xavier Pircard, this is a follow-up to a film Jean Francois did a while back called A Monkey’s Tale, which follows the prince from that film, as he washes up on the shore of an island, and encounters an individual named Young Tom and his two parents, who were exiled scientists. The film itself looks great, but that should be no surprise, because it’s the same guy behind The Painting, but I am curious to see how they make this film work, because who remembers A Monkey’s Tale? It has only gotten an English UK release, and no one in America has probably heard of this guy or his films. Still, the CGI looks stylized, and I’m curious to see how this film does in continuing the story with these characters in a travel diary-style form.

Abominable (Screening)

Finally, we are seeing actual trailers and footage for this film. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, we follow the exploits of a young Chinese woman named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, as she encounters an actual Yeti on the rooftop of her apartment building. It was previously caught by a scientist named Dr. Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson, and an evil rich man named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard. It is up to Yi, her friends Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai, and Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor, to get the Yeti back to his home in the mountains. This is an important film, due to this being DreamWorks first Chinese collaboration with Pearl Studio. As per usual with their non-comedy stuff, Abominable looks visually great, and has some endearing moments, but the jokes and references made in the first trailer and in the recent trailer are iffy. Hopefully, this is more of DreamWorks working at a How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda level, and not Shrek the Third level. Also, what is up with their marketing for this film? Everyone has already seen a trailer for the film for two or so months before the “official” trailer was released last week. What was the point of having two trailers and one of them was already viewable in theaters? Oh well, I hope this is a good movie.

Toy Story 4 (Screening)

Directed by Josh Cooley, we follow our heroes dealing with their new lives and a new encounter with a self-made toy named Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. One day, Forky gets out, and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, sets out to bring Forky back, but also runs into Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Shenanigans then ensue as Woody and the gang try to get Forky back to their new owner Bonnie, and Woody starts to have a crisis of what it means to be a toy. It’s too easy and frankly lazy, to say how this is a “cash grab”, when all films are cash grabs. We didn’t need a 4th one, but if we needed this one to get back on the train of original films starting with next year’s Onward, then so be it. Plus, I have been hearing good early word of mouth, and plus, who doesn’t want to see Keanu Reeves in his first ever voice role? Even if we might “not need it”, I’m glad to go back if the story is good.

Frozen 2 (Screening)

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, our heroes from the first film, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are off on another adventure to go beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. Yeah, there isn’t much known about the film right now, so let’s talk about how incredible the teaser trailer was. This film looks jaw-dropping-off-your-face-and-exploding gorgeous. I’m sure a lot of this is just teaser editing, and the film may not be this serious in tone, but wouldn’t that be awesome if it was? I know there is a bit of Frozen burnout, but I liked the first movie, and I’m excited to see how this new one unfolds.

Weathering With You (WIP)

In the Work in Progress section, we have the newest film from Makoto Shinkai. The story revolves around a young boy who moves to Tokyo alone, and almost becomes broke, until he gets a writing job for an odd occult magazine. His life feels like it’s constant misery, as rain and dark clouds follow him everywhere. One day, he encounters a young girl who has a mysterious power to clear the sky of the clouds and rain. While I have been critical of some of Shinkai’s efforts and directorial touches in the past, this one has me very excited. To no surprise that Shinkai has more drop-dead eye-popping visuals, something about the story feels instantly likable, and GKids recently announced that they will be bringing it over! I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope to see it sometime soon.

Promare (Midnight Special)

Finally, for the Midnight Special, we have Promare. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and animated by Studio Trigger, we follow Galo Thymos and his team, the Burning Rescue Fire Department. Their main goal is to take down a group of evil mutants called BURNISH that emits and can control a special fire that is engulfing the planet. This movie looks so over-the-top, silly, nonsensical, it’s super drenched in its anime identity, and this is why I follow foreign/indie animation. This movie looks crazy in the most positive way possible. Sure, if you know anything about Studio Trigger’s previous work like Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Little Witch Academia, and SSSS Gridman, then you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant Japanese animation around. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope to also see it soon.

And that wraps up what I think looks to be the most promising at the Annecy International Film Festival. Even with these listed, there are truly more interesting features being shown in their completed form or work-in-progress form. Just go check out the site, and see the multitude of animated projects being shown, and find your favorites.

 

 

The Other Side of Animation 151:How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World Review

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

Well, it has happened. I am finally able to review DreamWorks animated movies! Now that they are under Universal’s banner, and not Fox’s banner, I can now talk about today’s film and any of their future projects. It’s fascinating to see the entire history of DreamWorks. The company was founded by Jeffery Katzenberg after a nasty break-up with Disney, and made a name for not really having an identity, making edgier/mostly mediocre films that tried to ape off of what Disney/Pixar were doing at the time. They finally made a name for themselves with hits like Shrek 2, the Kung Fu Panda and How to Train your Dragon films, and then lost so much money after one failed business decision after another, we are now at the current part of the timeline. Once they lost about 500 employees and a couple of double digit millions when their 2014 films failed to bring in the money, they were then bought out by Universal. That’s a fairly rough and compacted history, but this isn’t about the history of DreamWorks, and how they started out to where they are now. I’m not getting paid enough on my Patreon to do something like that (link to my Patreon if you would like to support it). We are here to talk about How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World. Directed and written by Dean DeBlois, The Hidden World wraps up the entire trilogy of one of DreamWorks’ best franchises. It came out near the end of February to critical acclaim and commercial success. So, how is the actual film? Let’s see what unfolds in this hidden world.

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The third film takes place a year after the second film, as Hiccup, voiced once again by Jay Baruchel, is now officially the leader of his people, and has gone on frequent missions to take down and free dragons from people who capture them. Unfortunately, his home and people are at risk of having to find a new land, and come to the realization about the relationship his people have with the dragons. This doesn’t help things when a group of dragon hunters hire a notoriously dangerous individual known as Grimmel the Grisly, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, who wants to kill all of the dragons, especially the Night Fury and Light Fury species. Hiccup then suggests that they find the Hidden World, a place where all the dragons live. Since this is the third film as well, let’s throw in a mysterious Light Fury, a white version of the franchise’s icon Toothless. Can Hiccup save his people and dragons from annihilation?

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Before I talk about the positives, and there are a lot of positives, I wanted to counter against some of the criticisms that have been thrown at this film. The first criticism I see is that it doesn’t tie into the Netflix series at all. To be frank, I’m happy they didn’t. Sure, the Netflix series was able to expand upon the characters and the world with more villages, villains, and other heroes. However, if push comes to shove, I’d rather it stay exclusively within the film world. It’s not really fair to expect everyone going into this third film to have watched the Netflix series, or the series that came out before the second film. I get that even the slightest little easter eggs or cameos would have been nice for fans of the TV series, but at the same time, most people going into this wouldn’t have seen the entire series. The next criticism I see is aimed at how some of the characters are handled. I have a mixed reaction to this part overall. Again, a lot of people pointed out that the TV series was doing a better job at fleshing out these characters. Well, duh. You have a TV series that has multiple episodes and more time to flesh everything out. I think the writing is strong enough that a good chunk of the characters are still true to them and are still great.

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That’s really all I have to disagree with. Now, we talk about the actual criticisms. To me, the How to Train your Dragon franchise runs parallel with DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda franchise. The first film was a surprise hit, and both have really good first films. The second films arguably are better films expanding the world, the story, the characters, and have a better villain. The third films are not as good as the second ones, but are great closers to the franchise, however, they have weaker villains. Yeah, while being voiced well by F. Murray Abraham, Grimmel the Grisly was not as interesting as a villain as other animated film villains. He had a bit of mystery to him, and was a threat with the other warriors and those dragon killers, but he felt underutilized. While I disagree that all of the side characters suffered from being underdeveloped, both Kung Fu Panda and Dragons sure do not give their side protagonists a lot to do. This is especially true for Jonah Hill’s Snotlout. He is just the worst character in this film. While Fishlegs, voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ruffnut and Tuffnut, voiced by Kristen Wiig and Justin Rupple, all have some more focus and things to do in the story, Snotlout never has a good scene, is always the butt of the joke, is constantly trying to hit on Hiccup’s mom for some creepy reason, and if that’s not creepy enough, apparently, Snotlout is worse in the original books. It always comes off like DreamWorks puts in so many characters, because they are banking on a TV series. They also don’t let us, the viewers, spend much time in the Hidden World. I kind of wish there was more time spent on Hiccup, Toothless, the Hidden World, America Ferrera’s Astrid, than focusing on the side characters who don’t have much to them.

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So, what’s amazing about this film? Everything! The animation is beautiful. I’m so blown away at how incredible the franchise’s visuals have become, as even the first film from 2010 still looks pretty darn good! I love the details of the textures used, the slightly aged characters, and the immense amount of detail used in every house, island, dragon, human, and you get the idea. Once again, DreamWorks shows that while the overarching plot might not be the best, it makes up for it with some really good character moments. Throughout the entire film, there will be little moments between two characters that bring this film so much life and personality. Many of the best moments in the previous films were the quiet moments as Hiccup interacted with either Toothless or someone else. This film ups those scenes, as we get the final chapter of Hiccup’s coming-of-age tale of becoming the new tribe leader for his people. One of the most memorable scenes for me was when Hiccup was a kid, and he saw his dad mourn the loss of his wife/Hiccup’s mother, and you just get so much out of that one scene alone. Of course, the chemistry between Toothless and his new love interest is also a hugely entertaining scene, as it involves the least amount of dialogue out of any scene in this movie, and is so adorable and funny that you think it would backfire in some possible way, but it doesn’t. There are quite a few scenes of Toothless and his girlfriend that are all just wonderful to watch.  The film tackles plenty of complex themes, like learning to change, how Hiccup comes to terms with doing what’s best for everyone involved, and learning and working on making your own path through life.

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How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World might have a few flaws under its wings, but it’s another fantastic ride from DreamWorks. I know it’s easy to worry about DreamWorks Animation and their film line-up in the future, but for now, why not enjoy this movie and go see it? I highly recommend that you do so if you haven’t already. It shows that when DreamWorks wants to, they can put out a high quality product. Now then, we shall now move from dragons that you form an emotional bond with, to a film about a magical amusement park that doesn’t quite work. Next time, we shall talk about the notorious and infamous Wonder Park. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed this review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

Should We Worry About The New Academy Award Rule for Animation? (Probably Not)

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

Warning: This entire article is obviously subjective, and my solutions are not the end-all-be-all solution to the problem.

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Recently, the Academy of Motion Pictures put down a new rule for the Best Animated Feature voting, where instead of just the individuals of that branch of the Academy voting, everyone else from the other branches can throw their vote into the ring as well. Obviously, for many animation viewers and lovers, concerns were raised, since now anything is possible in terms of what animated films can get into those five precious spots that are meant for the best of the best from each year. So, should we worry? Why should we be worried? Is there anything truly worth being concerned about? Well, personally, I would say no. Why would I say that? If you will give me some of your time, I shall explain myself.

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So, let’s start with the concerns. People are afraid that this new ruling will allow films that are much weaker, in terms of critical receptions from both film reviewers and movie-goers, to slip on through due to less educated members of the Academy picking and voting through one of those films. I can also understand this fear, due to the film line-up this year. For those that are not paying attention, 2017 is not looking like a strong year for animation. DreamWorks has the recent financial hit, The Boss Baby, and the upcoming Captain Underpants film, Illumination has Despicable ME 3, Pixar has Cars 3 and Coco, Sony Pictures Animation has the underwhelming Smurfs: The Lost Village, The Emoji Movie, and The Star, and Blue Sky Studios has Ferdinand, to name a few. It’s not the greatest line-up from other years, like 2016 or 2015. The other concern is that it will be much harder for indie animated films from companies like GKids, Sony Pictures Classics, and Shout! Factory Kids to break through. “They will get thrown under the bus, because the bigger studios will throw around their budgets for marketing their films for award season, over companies that don’t have those massive budgets”. The possible results for the Oscars in 2018 could be set up like Coco, The Boss Baby, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Spark, and The Nut Job 2.

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Listen, I get it. This may open the floodgates for less knowledgeable people and even more marketing and big studio manipulation into an already flawed system. It could very well turn into a quantity-over-quality set of nominees. I perfectly understand the fear and cynicism. However, should we actually worry? Let’s look at the last couple of years of the Best Animated Features nominees. 2010 had Toy Story 3, How to Train your Dragon, and The Illusionist. 2013 had Frozen, The Wind Rises, Ernest & Celestine, The Croods, and Despicable Me 2. 2014 had Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. 2015 had Inside Out, Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Shaun the Sheep Movie, and When Marnie Was There. And recently, 2016 had Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, and The Red Turtle. While some of the films are odd nominees, what do a lot of those nominees have in common? For the most part, they are critically acclaimed films. I highly doubt, as flawed as the Academy system is, they are going to waste their time with movies that are not getting great reviews. It only takes a Google search to see what films have those nice little Rotten Tomato and IMDB scores. While the scoring systems on those sites are definitely another can of worms to deal with that other people on the net have already done, one can look at those scores, or do a little research as to which indie-animated films on the submission list are getting the most buzz around different critic guilds and word of mouth, and watch those. I doubt there is going to be an individual in the Academy that will say “oh yeah, Spark and The Boss Baby truly deserve it over the upcoming The Girl Without Hands and The Breadwinner.” Even with this new rule, I am not convinced that the organization is going to let the weaker nominees through.

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Now, am I saying we should just sit back, open up a bag of sweet maui onion potato chips, and not worry? Well, I would say yes for 80% of what I have said. If we want smaller indie-animated films to keep on getting nominated from companies like GKids, we are going to have to make an effort to support these films. Sure, you could go to five different viewings of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but you know Marvel and Disney won’t need help to make that film a hit. Instead, if possible, go and find a theater playing some of the smaller releases, like My Entire Highschool Sinking into the Sea. Why not support something like The Breadwinner or The Girl Without Hands instead of wasting your time with a highly regarded bad movie for a bad movie night? If we want to make sure they don’t get swept under the carpet, then we need to start either supporting these smaller releases in theaters, and If you like them, spread the word on social media, or purchase the DVD or rent the film, and spread the word. You can’t complain about the smaller/more original releases when you don’t go out and support them. However, those distributors need to start expanding into more than just specific theaters that show off arthouse/indie films. I get that these things cost money, but sometimes, you have to bite that bullet, and make that investment.

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Listen, I’m not saying what I suggest is going to be correct. As usual, this is a subjective opinion saying that I wouldn’t be too concerned, but still support the smaller releases. I understand the concern, but I don’t think it is as cataclysmic as many people say it is. If the Academy was selecting films like Norm of the North or Strange Magic for Best Animated Feature in previous years, or Gods of Egypt as Best Film, I would be more worried. For the most part, good taste and popular public opinion are going to win over corporate greed and cynicism. Still, if you think you need to put up the good fight and support the smaller releases, then do so. Personally, the only big animated films that are coming out in 2017 that have a chance at making the shortlist are Coco, The LEGO Batman Movie, and possibly The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and Ferdinand, but that last film mentioned is a risk since it’s from Blue Sky Studios. I’m sure GKids has a few spots pinned down for some of their films coming out like The Breadwinner and The Girl without Hands. Who knows, maybe Sony Pictures Classics and Shout! Factory Kids will have something up their sleeve this year. Keep enjoying animation big and small, but only you can make smaller films successful.

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016 Part 2

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

Welcome back, everyone, to part 2 of this very long list. As usual, if you haven’t seen part 1, here is a link to it. I’m counting down the worst-to-the-best animated films that I saw from 2016, and we shall now move onto the films that are middle of the road, disappointing, and at the very least, visually interesting.

27. Monkey King: Hero is Back

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Want an example of one of the worst dubs that I can ever think of? This movie is the prime example of a distributor that didn’t really care about pushing out a good dub for this popular Chinese-animated CGI action flick. It sounds like they were rushing to get this out, and ignored the level of quality. Even then, a good dub wouldn’t have saved the other problems this film has, like its very Hollywoodized version of the legendary folk tale, horrible jokes, the multiple times the kid should have died but didn’t, and the better than most, but still middling animation. The fight scenes are fun to watch, and out of all the Chinese-animation schlock that Lionsgate, for some reason, likes to bring over, Monkey King: Hero is Back is watchable. It’s the most watchable one out of those films, but that doesn’t mean much when the rest isn’t worth sitting through.

26. Justice League vs. Teen Titans

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Man, it was kind of tough to say this was better than The Killing Joke, because I don’t like this one a lot either. Not only is the title misleading, since the Titans don’t fight the actual League members, but rather fight Trigon-possessed version of them, and get floored by them, but it also focuses way too much on quite possibly the worst character in the current DC-animated film universe, Damian Wayne. Yes, I get why he is as he is, and he does get a good fight later on in the film, but they focused way too much on the guy when it wasn’t really his story. This left the film with very underdeveloped characters that I hope get more screen-time in the upcoming Teen Titans: The Judas Contract(spoiler alert: They do.). I do like some of the characters and the scenes in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, but if this was supposed to be the one reason why we got Young Justice season 3, or anything Teen Titans-related, then I feel scammed, because I had to support a bad movie to get good stuff!

25. The Angry Birds Movie

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Talk about a film that had no reason to be anything but terrible, and ended up a rather decent experience. While I don’t think it’s a great movie, it probably had more effort put into its writing and characters, than any of the previous films on this list. For the most part, I still enjoyed the film’s dialogue, the jokes, and Red and his cohorts were fun to watch. Yeah, everything starts to dissolve into terrible film tripe when the pigs show up, the Mighty Eagle played by Peter Dinklage was pointless and easily the worst part of the movie beyond the celebrity cameos, but by the end, I was enjoying myself due to the voice work. While definitely a mediocre film, it’s the best video game adaptation to have come out to put a lot of the video game film adaptations to shame.

24. The Secret Life of Pets

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While I’m fine with this film doing well in the box office, since it shows “original” films can do well, The Secret Life of Pets still feels so painfully average. It doesn’t do anything in its story well, but it’s not bad either in what it does. I can see why people were so upset with this film’s success, due to how unoriginal and bland it can be. It also doesn’t help that it had 100 different characters who had no real personality to them. Everything was well voice acted and animated well, but the writing was weak, and the characters needed more time to either be fleshed out or taken out of the film altogether. While definitely leagues better than most films from 2016, The Secret Life of Pets will be yet another example of Illumination Entertainment having a great idea, but no noteworthy execution of said idea.

23. Trolls

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Honestly, this film was much higher on the list at one time. I loved the art style, the animation, the voice work, and some of the fairytale-style ideas. I also loved the idea of happiness that it attempted to show throughout the film. Because of all this, it rose above such horrible first impressions with that very first teaser trailer. However, as time went on, I kept bumping it down the list. It might have great ideas, but it never takes full advantage of them. About 80% of the characters don’t have any real character to them outside of their celebrity voices, and much of this otherwise-solid movie felt very manufactured. Like, really? Did we need Gwen Stefani as one of the characters, when she barely has a voice or role? Still, it’s an enjoyable watch, but I get why some were not so happy about this film.

22. Belladonna of Sadness

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Yes, this one counts, since it was never released in the states, even though it came out in the 1970s. Belladonna of Sadness was the final film from this adult animated trilogy that was started by the grandfather of all anime creators, Osamu Tezuka. It’s a beautifully abstract animated film, with all the trippy sexual energy you would see in an animated films from the 70s aimed at adults. Unfortunately, due to how limited the actual animation is, and how uncomfortable the beginning of the film is, its sexual themes will probably turn off a lot of people to this film. It’s the one film I can think of where I will agree and disagree at the same time if you love or hate this movie. It’s a bizarre and interesting experience that is definitely worth checking out if you are into film or animation history.

21. Sausage Party

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Just like Trolls, Sausage Party was higher on the list at one point, but as usual, I thought about it and bumped it down a few pegs. It was mostly because while I found the film funny, a lot of its humor was “miss”, since I’m picky about my stoner humor, and of course, the controversy revolving around the abused animators really does bring this film down. It’s a shame, too, because there was a lot of effort put into its themes and writing, it was a hilarious parody of Pixar-style films, and it’s great that this film opened the door for more animated films to be aimed at adults. It’s still a blast to watch, but your mileage may vary depending on who you are, but hey, that’s comedy.

20. Storks

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This was an amusing surprise, and a sad tragedy that this film didn’t do better in terms of box office numbers. I won’t deny that I get why people are split on this film, but at the very least, I sat through the entire film and found it to be a really great comedic watch. Yes, its world-building and characters are not well fleshed out, but it had the best comedy of the comedy-based animated films of the year. It had beautiful, fast-paced animation, a great comedic cast of actors, and it’s an entertaining experience. I wish it was better, since it doesn’t reach The LEGO Movie or Shrek 2, in terms of animated comedy heights, but I’m definitely going to be watching this one again in the future.

19. SING

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Oh, hey, look, another Illumination Entertainment film is low on the list. While I do admire that the studio was branching out in 2016 with two new films that are not Despicable Me-related, it still had plenty of the flaws you would find in these films, with underdeveloped characters, stories, and, once again, a great crowd-pleasing idea that isn’t taken fully advantage of. It was really aggravating, because this film’s advertising was everywhere, to an extremely nauseating degree. Even then, I still had fun watching this movie. The animation was great, the designs are solid, the contestants are relatable and likable, the music is fantastic, the actors did a great job portraying their characters, and it was a film I’m glad was better than what I was thinking it would be. I always like being surprised. I just hope Illumination can step up their game with future films.

That is it for Part 2 of the list, be prepared for part 3 in the future.

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 2

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

Here we are with part two! If you haven’t checked out part 1, then you should, since I may or may not reference the previous films on this list. Here is the link to see part 1, and once you are done reading that list, you can go to this list. These films are the middle ground/”I wouldn’t want to watch again” films with the exception of the 11th film. Let’s begin!

18. The Croods

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Oh my golly gee, two DreamWorks films are in the middle of the list? Yeah, this is easily one of their worst years in terms of movies. The Croods definitely has more to it than Turbo, with some interesting concepts, like the old dealing with the new, adaptation, and evolution via the family and the evolved male they meet. The film also has some amazing visuals that are definitely more…Avatar-inspired, with lush vibrant plant life and animals. However, it unfortunately sticks into the “just okay” category of films, due to how it has some interesting ideas, but goes for a more generic tone of the father vs. the guy who’s crushing on his daughter, and becomes a mostly macho competition as they all avoid the danger of their ever-shifting earth. Some of the designs are neat, but they really oversexualized the daughter in this movie. Like, it’s trying so hard to be pleasing to the eye that it does the opposite. It’s a film that also falls under “great ideas and concept, but bad execution” category, which is something this year’s list of animated films are good at.

17. Alois Nebel

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This is easily one of the more visually impressive films from 2013. Alois Nebel is a Czech drama based on a graphic novel about a train dispatcher in the 1980s. He begins to deal with memories of when he was a young boy during World War II, as well as the problems of today after meeting a mute man at the station where he works. Its rotoscope animation and comic book art style definitely brings a personality to this morose story. It’s an ambitious film that’s unfortunately bogged down by a very slow pace. It can be very atmospheric and touching at times, but those parts are few and far between, due to how “plotless” the story can feel. It also has a bit of cultural history behind it, due to this period of time when this film takes place and the point of the WWII flashbacks. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I honestly had a hard time sitting through this film from beginning to end, but I respect it for doing something different than what we normally get with animation. It might be flawed, but it stands out among the 2013 animated films. Definitely get a copy of this, if it is your type of film.

16. Epic

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This film is infuriating, because there is a good dark fantasy film hidden somewhere in this inconsistently toned “epic” adventure. They didn’t need to make a Ferngully-style story, they should have taken out the stunt casting of Beyonce and Pit Bull since they had no reason to be there, a lot of the modern dialogue was distracting, and the comedy relief was grating. The only stunt casting I didn’t mind was Steven Tyler, and that was because he had some of the better lines in the overarching story. If they had just made it its own dark fantasy adventure film, with a more timeless script, mature story, kept the modern elements out, recast some of the stunt casting, and gotten a director like the Russo Brothers or J.J. Abrams, this would have been easily one of Blue Sky Studios’ best movies. It has a solid script (minus the distracting elements), beautiful animation, and some good action. Sadly, it’s a bunch of wasted potential, with villains with no reason to do what they are doing, and in the end giving the movie-goers a very forgettable time. I can understand why some people like it, but it’s more so a very expensive tech demo to show off how good they have gotten with their designs and animation than anything else.

15. Monster’s University

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Even though I already said this about a lot of films on this list, Monster’s University encapsulates the entire “studio mandated/pointless sequel/prequel/cash grab/wasted potential”-style movie perfectly. Yes, there are touching moments, yes, the voice work is entertaining, yes the moral at the end is rather well done, and yes, seeing the different elements of ‘scaring’ broken down into different categories is creative. However, it’s a purely inconsequential movie. We know what’s going to happen in the end, the characters are forgettable, the jokes were either decent or flat, and it’s yet another college frat movie that you saw a million times during the late 70s early 80s, like Animal House. I would have been fine with this film if they either did something clever, or made fun of those college comedies. There is a reason why I call this film the “film that forced Pixar to take a break”, since they didn’t release a film until 2015’s Inside Out, due to their string of failed movies including Cars 2, Brave, and Monster’s University. It’s harmless, but there could have been much more to this film, but Pixar decided to sleepwalk on it.

14. Superman Unbound

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While I don’t hate Superman, I never found him interesting as a character. This movie, Superman Unbound doesn’t really help the case. My overall thought on the movie is that it’s okay. It has some great action, a cool design for Brainiac, and the overall story is told decently, but the art style is very distracting. Superman, Lois Lane, and a lot of the characters don’t look great, and have these weird body types. Even Brainiac ended up being a bit of an idiot, which is always funny when even with how smart characters can be, they can still make some pretty big mistakes, and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. Still, it was a decent action movie romp, but I would definitely skip this one, and move onto something like Superman vs. The Elite or Superman: Doomsday.

13. The Rabbi’s Cat

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I also reviewed this one in one of my earliest reviews, but I still stand by what I said about it being one of the more interesting, weird movies that I have seen. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable French animated film based off a graphic novel series about a cat that gains the ability to speak like a human after eating a parrot. It’s a slice-of-life-style film, where it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but the dialogue interactions of the characters keep it interesting. I also enjoyed hearing the characters talk about Judaism and their points of view on it. The ending is definitely underwhelming, and the story can be a bit unfocused, but if you are up for something that has a unique art style and a different kind of personality to it, then definitely check this out.

12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

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This is definitely a great and epic way to end one of the better animated comic book adaptations. I still don’t think that The Dark Knight Returns needed to be two parts, since I would rather judge it as a whole, and I don’t like the fact that DC keeps only making 75 minute-long films, but I digress. The second part of the overall story was dark in all the correct ways, I was glued to the screen watching how the story progressed, and while Superman and Batman are definitely older, the fight sequence between the two was intense and epic. I kind of call a stack of bologna on the ending, but it’s comic book stuff. Even then, it’s a great movie. Just try to find a way to get both parts in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition.

 

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this list!

Can Ghost in the Shell Work in Live-Action?

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

Last year, a full trailer was shown off for one of the most controversial upcoming films of 2017, Ghost in the Shell. This live-action adaptation of the popular anime/manga series got a lot of flak, when everyone realized that the lead character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, was going to be played by the lovely Scarlet Johansson. She’s a good actress, but this was the wrong casting decision. There are already a lot of concerns and problems than just the white-washing of the lead, due to how infamously terrible live-action adaptations of anime can be. This led me to think about the film itself. Can Ghost in the Shell work in live-action? Well, yes and no. Now why would I give that answer? Let me explain.

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In a way, Ghost in the Shell is the perfect anime to adapt. Its visuals and looks can easily translate well into live-action, unlike other live-action anime films like Speed Racer, which doesn’t look good at all, or how lazy and terrible Dragonball Z Evolution looks. Of course, this does come down to who’s making the film, but  Ghost in the Shell has similar elements seen in sci-fi films from the past couple of decades. It’s not a super-hard or impossible property to turn live-action. It’s a bleak sci-fi world that’s drab, and has a focus on robots with philosophical quandaries about emotions, what it means to be alive, and what makes you, you. We have seen these types of settings with sci-fi films with complex philosophical ideas done multiple times, with films like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Demolition Man, and many more. Even the aesthetic and how some of the androids/robots/machines are made can be made into successful live-action.

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Sadly, there are elements that keep me from saying that Ghost in the Shell can be a perfect adaptation. For one, and probably my biggest issue with the film, is that it’s live-action. Believe it or not, much of Ghost in the Shell’s legacy does lean on the fact  that for the time it was released in the states, it was mostly about the animation, and due to the fact that no one at that time has ever seen essentially an anime version of Blade Runner. Its animation was gorgeous and detailed, and that’s a shock during that period in time, since I’m sure most anime fans/curious viewers during that period in time never knew there could be something that is on par with Akira in terms of visual presentation. Taking that part out, and making the overall film in live-action makes it look like every other sci-fi dystopian film we have seen. It looks forgettable now, since you can probably find films that look very similar, while watching this movie.

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In terms of casting, I respect the wide variety of actors, but could you really not find a Japanese actress to play the lead? Not even the Japanese actress from Pacific Rim Rinko Kikuchi? I know some people argue that the lead, Motoko’s character is her soul, and not her visual robotic body, and not that she is Japanese, but come on. I love Scarlet in movies like the Marvel series and Her, but still. I barely heard of 90% of the actors in the cast, so I doubt you really needed Scarlet Johansson besides the cynical reasoning being that you probably couldn’t get the film made without getting a big profitable name to be in the movie. I also don’t like how everyone looks. Scarlet looks fine (well, mighty fine if we are being honest), but everyone else looks like they are cosplaying as the characters, which is always distracting when you know the costume or make-up department was either not great, or wasn’t given enough resources to make sure that the characters look accurate. Batou looks like a cosplayer who is trying to look like Batou from the original animated film, Beat Takeshi looks kind of goofy, and the others either look awkward or unintentionally creepy.

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Another concern I have is how the characters are going to be portrayed. Whether you agree with me or not, Ghost in the Shell’s writing is very stiff and clunky. Characters don’t speak like actual people, but rather speak with these long-winded philosophical ramblings, and while you might get something of an actual line that sounds good, it’s rare. I know anime doesn’t have natural dialogue, and anime creators even admit it, but knowing how badly Hollywood has translated anime in the past, they tend to make everyone sound bored or uninterested. What might come off as stoic in the original language oft-times is accidentally sometimes translated to stilted and boring in English, because they don’t get the acting nuances that went into those roles. A lot of credit has to go to the voice actors and their director when they are able to pull off performances with such wonky dialogue.

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Now, with all the concerns and the positives out of the way, can this work? Will it work? Well, I don’t really know. I need to see it for myself. This was all just some thoughts and opinions about why this specific anime might and might not work as a live-action film. I have my doubts it will work and that Hollywood will totally get the themes and philosophy behind the series and make a competent movie from it, but who knows? I could be surprised that it’s good, and the team does a fantastic job adapting it. It’s still too much of a wild card to be sure, but maybe Hollywood will surprise us in a good way. What do you all think? Will Ghost in the Shell do well, or will it be yet another reason why no one adapts anime into live-action?

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 1

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

So, I was thinking while I’m working on a list of the Worst to Best Animated films of 2016, I’m going to, from time to time, make lists tackling films from different years. It’s probably going to be more on the side of the recent years due to how many animation studios there are, and how willing certain companies are in bringing more movies from different countries. So, what year did I decide to tackle first? 2013. Why did I choose this year, specifically? Because it was one of the best years for films that I have ever seen. Actually, that would be a lie, since 2013 was pretty bad. Not that we didn’t get anything great, since the Oscar-nominated films were fantastic, and from time to time, you would get a great movie, but man, no one, or at the very least, not everyone was willing to give their A game. This was the year we got stuff like Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World, After Earth, Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Lone Ranger, The Host, and you get the idea. It wasn’t any better for animation, since Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar decided to go on auto-pilot with a majority of their films in 2013. However, even though it wasn’t a great year for films in general, 2013 was a fantastic year for indie-animated films. So, what are the rules for these types of lists? 1. They had to be released in the states in 2013. I’m not going to add a film to the list unless it came out that year. 2. No straight-to-video schlock. Unless that direct-to-DVD release was worth a hoot, then I’m not counting it. That way, we don’t have to go through the terrifying number of DVD bargain bin nightmares. 3. They are also in order of which ones I would watch again. 4. it’s my list. It’s my opinion on what I thought were the worst to best animated films, and so on. Will you disagree? Maybe, but don’t be malicious towards me if you see that I didn’t like your favorite animated movie on the list.

Now then, let’s begin with one of the biggest corporate blunders of all time!

27. Walking with Dinosaurs

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You know who the biggest victims of this film were? The animators that worked painstakingly hard on getting the movements, textures, and nature of the animals down, only to have it backfire on them by studio execs ruining everything. Instead of letting the film be its own quiet, albeit generic, dinosaur story, they forced voice-overs at the last minute. It ruins any tension in the film, due to there being jokes and comments that ruin the tone. They will even insert a joke that doesn’t fit into a scene where someone horribly dies. I hope the person who thought this was a good idea loved losing over $44 million+ in the box office. It’s one of the biggest financial blunders of all time in terms of CGI-animated films, and there is no reason for anyone to see this movie.

26. The Snow Queen

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Here is the situation for this movie. It was originally released a year before Frozen, but then was brought over to the states a month before Frozen was released. It is based more on the source material than Frozen is, but overall is just a worse movie. The characters are bland and have dead-eye syndrome, the designs were awkward, the pace of the film makes impactful scenes not work, and the animation, while not terrible, is nowhere near the quality it could have been. My only real positive is that it at least tried to be more akin to the source material, but due to how rushed it all feels, it leaves very little for the viewers to take in, and its clunky animation doesn’t help, either. It’s mediocre, but knowing the stuff I have seen this past year, it’s still more watchable than most. I just wouldn’t recommend it.

25. Justin and the Knights of Valor

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The only reason this is on the list is that it got a limited theatrical release, and Antonio Banderas produced it. Funny enough, he is only a really annoying side character in the film. While this animated film might be worse in overall quality compared to the great CGI of Walking with Dinosaurs, Justin and the Knights of Valor was at least presented as intended. It’s yet another Shrek-style fantasy/comedy that doesn’t really understand why Shrek 2 worked, and is constantly not funny. It also has a universe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, due to how knights were replaced by lawyers, but for some reason still have armored men around, and so on. Justin and the Knights of Valour feels like a concept that didn’t get fleshed out enough. However, when the story focuses on Justin, he’s a pretty solid protagonist. The CGI might not be great, but considering what you can usually see with European CGI, it’s upper-tier. A decent protagonist and “good enough” CGI can’t cover up the horrible humor, pointless side characters, weak villains, a mediocre fantasy/comedy setting that isn’t fleshed out enough, and forgettable characters. Still, I’ve seen worse.

24. Free Birds

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I already reviewed this movie, but I’ll keep it short. Free Birds is a decent attempt at a first-time theatrical film for Reel FX, but it’s still super-generic in terms of its story and characters. The jokes aren’t consistently funny enough to make the film enjoyable to sit through, the human characters have no character, and there really isn’t anything worthwhile for older audiences, which is a shame, since there are animated films that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. However, even though it’s not a great experience, I did find myself enjoying Woody Harrelson’s character, and how the time machine was voiced by George Takei, who is always entertaining. Still, if you were to watch one movie from this studio, you are better off overlooking Free Birds, and going directly to The Book of Life.

23. Escape from Planet Earth

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I don’t really remember a whole lot from this film, besides seeing one or two commercials for it on TV when it was coming out, and boy, I can understand why no one might remember this movie. It’s a low-grade CGI family film that had the unfortunate situation of a huge amount of studio exec interference, and well, it really shows. The animation is decent, but the designs are ugly, some of the characters are really grating, it’s yet another “jock vs. the nerd” story, and about half the jokes work. However, I do like the nerdy brother, and how competent he is. I mean, with these types of films, the nerdy individual would be inept at about everything, but in this movie, he isn’t. I also enjoyed some of the jokes, especially when the introductory video in Area 51 was shown. Like I said though, even with some of the positives, this film has no reason to be viewed by anyone unless you are very curious in terms of wanting to check out a financially underwhelming film that was screwed over by stupid executives.

22: Planes

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A lot of films you see on this list are definitely in that realm of “no one was asking for this, but execs wanted another financially lucrative merchandise-selling film, so this is why it exists”. Seriously, after the critical failure of Cars 2, you would think Disney would not touch the franchise ever again. Sadly, we got Planes, and while it isn’t by Pixar, it still feels like a waste of money. It’s cheap-looking for something from Disney, the side characters have one-note personalities, the story is generic, and there is no reason for this film to exist other than to sell toys. Luckily, there are still a few bright spots with the film. I actually like Dane Cook’s performance as the lead character, and some of the flying sequences are nice. They just needed a bit more polish to get to that peak of How to Train your Dragon quality of flying sequences. Some of the character interactions have enough chemistry to pay attention to, but you won’t miss anything by not viewing this cash grab spin-off.

21: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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Speaking of cash grabs, the rushed feeling and cheapness of this sequel is very apparent when you watch it. It had a budget that was $22 mil less than the original, and it shows. While the animation is still better than most films, everyone looks plastic and toy-like in terms of skin textures, the animation is really fast to a nauseating degree, the jokes don’t work all the time, there is a stupid misunderstanding/jerk plot point that no one cares about, a bunch of the side characters don’t have much to do, and it’s easily a really annoying experience. The story feels half-baked (ha), due to how the villain, a Steve Jobs parody, hijacks the film, and you can really tell that his animation didn’t get the most attention due to how clunky and, again, cheap it looks. When the film was about seeing the creative food animal designs, it was pretty decent entertainment. The crazy expressions were fun to look at, and the film was pretty vibrant in the color department. Even some of the food puns were pretty funny. The voice work also gets a thumbs-up, due to the material they had to work with. It’s not great material, but you can tell the actors were doing their best when the story wasn’t rehashing jokes or gags from the first film. It’s a sequel with sequelitis problems, and is definitely not a great movie. Although, I do disagree with people calling it the worst animated film of 2013, or one of the worst sequels of all time. It’s bad, but I can think of worst films from 2013, and worst sequels.

20: Turbo

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Freaking DreamWorks! It’s movies like this that make people not take you seriously. Instead of doing something creative and good, DreamWorks (this is pre-buyout by Universal), in all of their wisdom, made a snail that wants to race against actual formula 1 racers. Like, what focus group test did they run, and who were these people who were like, “yeah, this looks like a great idea!” It isn’t. It’s predictable child-pandering auto-piloted schlock. While Ryan Reynolds is a decent protagonist, the slug posse was the most entertaining element about the cast. They aren’t in the film enough, but they were the best element of the film. It’s overall pretty harmless tripe that’s well-animated, but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s easy to see why this film underperformed in the states.

 19: Despicable Me 2

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Talk about a huge improvement in terms of animation. In just a few short years, Illumination was able to improve their animation quality, and it really shows when you watch both Despicable Me films back-to-back. It’s definitely got a lot of the quality aspects of a good movie, like the two leads are funny, the minions were funny (this was before it was the giant annoying trend that it is now), and there was some heart. It’s unfortunately a film that trades in story for humor, and that’s not a terrible thing, but it once again points out that Illumination need better storywriters. The lead villain is tolerable, but they just don’t do anything with the three little girls, and they feel tacked on to the story. Like, I get they can’t retcon them out of the series, but they didn’t do anything. The female lead played by Kristen Wiig is entertaining, but at times is too hyper, and it distracts from the chemistry that she and the lead character have. It’s entertaining, and a film you can turn your brain off to and enjoy, but it still isn’t that great of an overall movie.

Let’s take a break and I’ll post Part 2 in the near future!