The Other Side of Animation 94: My Life as a Zucchini Review

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

I am very fortunate with my family life. My family is pretty healthy, we have a good life, I am close to everyone, and I wouldn’t want to trade it for the world. Sometimes, it’s good to remember how fortunate you are, if you have a good family situation. Not everyone can get that, and I can’t even begin to understand or imagine myself growing up in a broken home, or as an orphan. I’m never going to relate to it, and I’m not going to try and act like I can. I think that is what’s interesting about today’s review of My Life as a Zucchini. This is a stop-motion animated film from last year, that was directed by Claude Barras, and was distributed here in the states by the always-amazing GKids. It picked up a lot of critical acclaim and award nominations. While only 60 minutes long, you would be amazed at how mature this film can be.

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The story revolves around a young boy named Zucchini. He does have a real name, but he would rather be called Zucchini. After the death of his mother, he is brought to an orphanage by a police officer named Raymond, voiced by Nick Offerman. While there, he befriends the other kids who live there, and gets to learn a bit more about each of them as time goes on. One day though, a young girl moves into the orphanage named Camille, and changes Zucchini’s life.

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So, what’s so amazing for a movie that’s no longer than an episode of Game of Thrones? Well, there is a lot to love about this little movie. It has a laid-back atmosphere, and while the kids can get rowdy, and there are some dramatic moments, the movie is very quiet. It lets the kids be the main focus. It’s definitely a smaller story and is not epic or sweeping, but it doesn’t mean it sacrifices quality storytelling. You get little details, like how Zucchini keeps the memory of his parents in the form of a beer can and a kite, or how while not told specifically what happened to one of the girls, her gestures and outward mood says everything. It’s a film that tackles what these kids probably feel like being parentless. The world is scary, and they don’t really trust anyone, or feel like there is any real hope outside the orphanage. I don’t blame them. The film knows really well how to balance the darker themes of unconditional love, family, being alone, with more positive moments of finding a way to help each other stay optimistic. You get to learn a bit about these kids as the film goes on, and they act like real kids. You know how you watch a family movie or a movie in general where kids are a focus? You know how rare it is to find child characters or child actors who are actually good? In My Life as a Zucchini, they act and talk like little kids. Even how they interact with the adults feels genuine.

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The animation is just beautiful. The stop-motion movements are all gorgeously handled, and while having some interesting designs, they find ways to make the movements fluid, and expressive. The voice work is probably one of GKids’ best dubs. Not only because of the celebrities that they hired, like Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Will Forte, and Amy Sedaris, but the child actors for the English dub do a perfect job. One of the charms of the film is that they had all child characters in the original dub sit in one room to make the interactions with one another realistic. I’m sure trying to work on a dub to do such a thing would be very daunting for child actors who may not have a lot of experience voice acting, but they found a way. The music reminds me of a lazy Sunday afternoon, with a more indie tone to the background music when it pops up.

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If I had to really complain about something, the film probably could have been longer to maybe 80 minutes instead of 60. I loved every moment, and the film does use that time wisely, but I would have liked to have spent some more time during certain areas. Sometimes, there is a comment that doesn’t land, but in general, the run-time is my only major complaint.

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I really loved watching this movie, and if you saw my Worst to Best of 2016, you saw that it was my 4th favorite movie of the year. It’s deceptive in how mature and quiet the film, considering it stars a bunch of kids, and it does a great job tackling what an orphan feels like, along with the sad reality that some children grow up in broken households. I’m happy this film got so much love with the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. If you haven’t seen this movie, then you should. I want to keep this “theme” of family going, as next time, we will review Wolf Children. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 89: Sahara Review

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

When I choose a film to watch, I try not to go directly into the film with a sense of “oh man, I’m going to hate this film”. Who wants to go into a film knowing it’s going to be bad? I said in my previous review that I like to be surprised. If it turns out to be a good or bad movie, that’s up to the film, and what I take away from it. That’s how I go into every film, and it was no different with the newly released Netflix-distributed film, Sahara. I knew about this CGI-animated film from France since the end of last year, but was intrigued when I saw Netflix was going to distribute it. I was a bit concerned when they didn’t really advertise the film, and after watching it, I understand why. Let’s dive into the desert with Sahara.

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The story revolves around a cobra and a scorpion, who feel out of place with the colony of other snakes they live with. The cobra named Ajar, voiced by Robert Naylor, decides to try and fit in with the snakes that live within the oasis on the other side of the valley. Unfortunately for him, the snakes in the oasis are pretty high class, and have a rather strong defense system. He and one of the oasis snakes escape the boundaries of the environment, and end up bonding with one another. That is, for a few seconds, as a snake charmer kidnaps the oasis snake. Ajar, along with the Oasis’s snake’s lazy obnoxious brother, must go save the “love” of his life before she ends up in a worse situation.

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Yeah, as much as I love foreign animation with their focus on story and characters, with different art styles and styles of animation, Sahara definitely doesn’t feel like one of those amazing films I talk about on my site. It becomes very obvious, outside of the rating for this film, that it’s meant for very little kids. Even if this was meant for younger kids, I can’t imagine someone like my niece sitting through this boring film. I don’t think I have ever felt so bored with an animated film from France since forever. None of the characters are very fleshed out, and they end up getting stuck with very basic character traits. Ajar is your generic lead character, Pitt the scorpion is your nervous safety-reliant friend, the female lead has no real character to her, and even the villain isn’t a super terrible guy. He’s not a good guy or anything, but the villain of this film feels forced. That’s also a problem when one of the characters you follow has a very hipster/surfer bro-style of talking that sounds way off from the original French dub of the film. Yeah, that’s another problem, the English dub is terrible. It’s not poorly done, but I feel like they either got the wrong voice director, or the actors weren’t putting their all into it, but a lot of the characters in this film were annoying to listen to. Especially that brother to the lead female, he is by far the most annoying character I have seen so far in 2017. First off, how does he have a blonde wig? Why does he talk like a surfer? Why is he a pot addict? Yes, it’s technically not pot but pollen, but it’s the same thing in terms of context. How do these characters reference things like Batman and Robin when they are snakes in a desert? I made it halfway through the film before I paused, switched to the French dub, and watched it with subtitles. You can tell that the French actors were putting more into their performances than the US cast.

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The film also loves to include a slew of characters that have no real purpose for the film. None of them push the narrative along, they don’t have much in terms of personalities, and sometimes, they are entirely 100% objectively pointless. For example, Pitt gets a scorpion girlfriend. Why? Because they needed a love interest in the last 20 minutes for him. Why? Because heaven forbid, we get any animated films these days that don’t rely on a romance between characters. You have bullies that never show up again, a cult of bugs that don’t show up again, and a family of scorpions that were way too willing to let their daughter go along with Pitt on the adventure that you never see again. And you have these security birds that only appear in the beginning of the film, and I swear one of them probably dies in the desert. I wouldn’t mind all of these pointless and boring main and secondary characters if they had any real chemistry. There is no convincing chemistry and charm between any of the characters. The two leads don’t even have romantic opportunity together; they fall for each other in a matter of seconds. Give Disney some credit, they at the very least, give the leads three or more days to do such a thing. It’s so weak and poorly executed that it’s eye-rolling.

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Did I like anything about this tale of snakes? Well, that’s one thing I can give credit to for this film. It is about an animal that you don’t see as leads in an animated film very often, and are not villains. I also like the animation and designs of the characters. It looks generic by US animation standards, but it looks way better than most foreign CGI fares. Even the humans have good looks to them that remind me of the Illumination Despicable Me look. I also found the movements to be fluid, and maybe that’s because most of the characters are snakes, but I think that’s pretty commendable that they put more detail into the animation. The colors are also very nice, because even though it is the desert, there can still be a lot of different colors, from the vibrant plants to the different skin or scale tones of the animals that live there. It was also nice to see the film was willing to take breaks every now and again to let the characters breathe. It’s nice to see that since a majority of animated films from the states tend to be very hyper and comedy-focused; this one could take its time for viewers to breathe and to slow the plot down. It doesn’t fix any of the issues with the plot, but having some atmosphere is nice.

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I still stand by my opinion that a lot of foreign animation is leagues better than a majority of the films made in the states, but this is one of the few times where I consider this one of their blunders. It’s not the worst animated film from France by any means, but it makes you wonder why the heck Netflix picked it up, and why it was even made. It has nice animation, but nice animation can’t save a film from its lackluster characters and story. If you really want to see this, for the love of animation, please watch it in French with English subtitles. It’s one of the few French-animated films that I have seen that felt like they weren’t even trying. Well, that happens from time to time. Thankfully, Sahara is way more watchable than what is quite possibly my worst animated film of 2017. You will just have to wait to see what that is next time. Thanks for reading!

Rating: Lackluster!

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

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

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

Early Man 

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

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

Wolfwalkers

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

Gatta Cenerentola

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

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

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

Calamity

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

 Icarus

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

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

The Other Side of Animation 71: Phantom Boy Review

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

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Well, since January is pretty much a month in which you stay the heck out of theaters, I decided to use this month to catch up on movies I didn’t get to review last year, and review them for this year. Let’s begin! A while back, I mentioned that the directors of A Cat in Paris were making a new movie called Phantom Boy. The Academy Award nominated directors, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol pretty much stepped up their game with their feature-length action crime thriller. Phantom Boy was released in the states in 2016 by our buddies at GKids, and brought in a solid cast that included Fred Armisen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jared Padalecki, Marcus D’Angelo, Melissa Disney, and Dana Snyder. It’s definitely a bit more ambitious than the directors’ previous film, but does it mean it’s better? Well, let’s just say that it’s in my top 20 of the year for a reason.

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The story revolves around this young boy in New York named Leo, voiced by Marcus D’Angelo. He is currently going through type of treatment, and while doing so, gained the ability to leave his body, and fly around like a phantom. Leo will need to use this ability of his, because while this is going on, a terrorist known as The Face, voiced by Vincent D’Onofrio, is threatening to shut down the entire city and cause chaos. Leo must team up with a young police officer named Alex Tanner voiced by Supernatural star, Jared Padalecki, and stop The Face from taking over the city.

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Like it’s sibling from earlier in 2016, April and the Extraordinary World, Phantom Boy can be summed up with a few words. Those words are “charming, funny, and entertaining”. It’s a film that is easy to get into, since it has a bit of everything. Its premise is interesting, the chemistry between the characters is great, the action is fun, and it can be quite a thrilling ride to watch the clock go down, and observe the two leads deal with The Face as they try to stop his plan. The vibe and mood you get with this film is like a really entertaining 80s family film. It’s dark and atmospheric like in the same vein of a crime thriller, but it has its well-written light-hearted moments. It’s creative, but not hard to grasp in how it works. It’s a movie that doesn’t drag its heels, but it also gives time for the characters to breathe, and have some of the events that are going on, sink in with them.

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The animation is great. It’s essentially the same art style used in A Cat in Paris, and it’s once again beautiful. The scenes where Leo is flying around are whimsical, and a joy to watch. While it might not have inventive scenes like the blackout scene from A Cat in Paris, it trades that in for probably some of the best villain chemistry in any animated film. The Face is a great comedic villain, and his comradery with his two goons and everyone else is one of the best highlights of the film. They even throw in this funny long-running gag where The Face tries to tell his dramatic backstory, and you never get to hear it. It’s like reading a Buzzfeed title, but not getting the actual article. The film even brings back an Easter egg from the director’s previous film, and gives that little fuzzball a lot of screen time.

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If I had to complain about one major problem I have with the film, it’s that it’s once again a rather simple story. On one hand, it should be kept simple, since you don’t want to overcomplicate the setting and make the rules of Leo’s powers super-confusing. On the other hand, I feel like there could have been more done with the powers, like what else could he do, or how did he specifically get the powers? It really seems like there was meant to be more deep themes about Leo leaving his sick body to get away from it, but they didn’t know how to expand on it. I also got confused by the ending. I won’t spoil what happens, but I never understood what exactly happened. It’s hard to explain without spoiling, but I don’t feel like telling you all how it ends. You will have to find a copy of the film and rent it for yourself.

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Still, despite the flaws, I really liked Phantom Boy. It’s creative, and still has a lot of the charm from the director’s previous film. It’s another high quality GKids release that I think everyone should own. It’s a good example of an animated gem that you can find if you choose to follow the indie or smaller animation releases and not just the big releases. Well, we got the good movie out of the way, how about we go into one of the biggest hit animated films from last year with The Secret Life of Pets? 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 69: Snowtime! Review

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

Winter time is here, and this is a film I have wanted to talk about for a while, Snowtime! When I review films, I always want to make sure I review seasonal films around the appropriate time of year. That’s why I really don’t do horror animation unless it’s October, and you get the idea. That’s why I wanted to talk about Snowtime! since it is the holidays now, and everyone should be watching winter-themed or Christmas-related specials and films. Snowtime! is a French/Canadian collaboration directed by Jean-Freancois Pouliot. The film also boasts a couple of big names for the English dub, including Sandra Oh, Ross Lynch, and Angela Galuppo. It’s also on the list of animated films up for the short list for the Oscar’s Best Animated Feature category. So, does this movie deserve to be included with the likes of Zootopia, Moana, Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Long Way North, Only Yesterday, Miss Hokusai, and Kubo and the Two Strings as one of the best animated films of the year? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around a group of kids in a small town who decide to have this epic snowball fight that takes place over the winter break. And, well, that’s pretty much it. The film is attempting to be more intimate in scale and slice-of-life.

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I’m going to mention the good stuff first because once again, I have a lot more to talk about in terms of the negative aspects of the film, but I don’t think it’s entirely terrible. Now then, I really like the art design. The overall animation might be clunky, but the character design really does stand out. It reminds me of a good timeless children’s’ book-style art direction. Granted, some of the kids look like they have similar design choices, but the overall look of the film is pleasant. They even go into these 2D sequences when in a memory of one of the kids. It definitely has a much more interesting look than what you usually get with limited released animated films for families or straight-to-DVD schlock. I also respect that the film wants to be on a smaller scale and laid back. I think that’s pretty neat, since so many films aimed at children and family are loud and fast. I want animation studios to get that not every film needs to be fast and in-your-face with modern references and culture. It’s probably why no matter what I’m going to negatively say about Snowtime!, it will probably hold up better than most animated films.

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Now then, let’s break down why Snowtime! is not that great of a film. As I was watching it, I was thinking it was just okay, and was pretty harmless in terms of animated films of this year. It doesn’t have the grand epic scale or the edge of Kubo or Zootopia, but it’s not as insulting or terrible as Norm of the North and Ice Age: Collision Course. Granted, there are a few fart jokes in there that are distracting, but the overall film is very inoffensive. However, it really doesn’t have a whole lot that’s memorable about it. The kid characters aren’t that interesting and have very basic traits. Some of them get some “depth”, but due to how short the film is at 70 minutes, they don’t pace them enough, or they aren’t fleshed out enough to leave a lasting impression. It made me question why they needed actors like Sandra Oh in it, since having her or the other “big” names they got don’t add a whole lot to the film. I will at least respect that they keep the dialogue very timeless, and don’t try to make it sound modern or hip.

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Now then, let’s talk about the biggest and most glaring problem with this movie. When the film gets into its third act, out of nowhere, it turns into an anti-war film. One of the characters dies and it comes out of the blue and breaks the immersion of the film. You are sitting through this harmless bit of entertainment, and then bam! A character dies and it ends on this anti-war message. My jaw hit the floor, because it doesn’t fit the rest of the movie. Why did a character have to die? What was the point of it? Wasn’t this supposed to be an epic snowball fight? It ruins the movie because you can’t focus on the ending due to that one scene. It’s so hilariously bad that you wonder what the heck was going on when in development. It feels so forced into the movie, and I know this film was based on a book, so it might be just a bad or clunky adaptation, but it’s still so shocking that it happens. Another element that bugs me is, where the heck are the parents in this movie? This isn’t something like Charlie Brown where you know the adults are there, but you don’t see them. You never see them in this movie. It caused me to riff on the film a bit, due to how they don’t appear once in the entire 70-minute running time. Like, was this an unintentional Children of the Corn film?

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I was surprised by the experience I had with Snowtime! It wasn’t a great movie, but it’s also not the worst I have seen. I respect that it wanted to be more laid back and simple, but that last third is way too distracting, and elevates the other problems the film has. I know Shout! Factory Kids is new to this business of bringing over animated films, but they really need to learn from GKids and think of quality over quantity. If you can somehow rent this film or watch it on Netflix, I would do that, but if you want to watch a good Shout! Factory Kids film, you are better off skipping this film, and watching and buying Long Way North. Well, next time, we will look at one of the most infamous franchises in animation in one review. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Rent it

The Other Side of Animation 59: The Wild Life Review

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

Hey everyone, Lionsgate a.k.a #AntiGKids is back again with another nauseating and, to no surprise, horrible movie! Yeah, I know this might be picking on the studio, but they tried to con people out of money for Norm of the North and this movie, The Wild Life. The Wild Life is a French/Belgium collaboration that was originally called Robinson Crusoe. Ironically, this film has very little to do with the actual character, and focuses on the animals instead. It’s directed by Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, which explains a lot if you know about Ben Stassen’s filmography. It was produced by Illuminata Pictures, nWave Pictures, and UFilm. The only film that I can think of that is remotely well known in terms of what these companies and directors worked on was the incredibly mediocre Fly Me To The Moon 3D. Even though it’s not a huge bomb of a film from the other side of the world, it’s one of the biggest flops in terms of first weekend CGI film releases in the states. So, is it as bad as I, and many others, have made it out to be? Well, we shall see.

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The story revolves around this Parrot named Mak/Tuesday, voiced by David Howard Thornton. He tells the story about life on an island with his friends that include a tapir, a goat, a chameleon, a pangolin, an echidna, and what I think is a kingfisher. Believe me when I say that the types of animals are much more interesting than their actual names. One day, they see that a human named Robinson Crusoe, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, has been stranded on the island. Now the animals have to find out if this human is trustworthy, while avoiding the evil cats that sadly came along on the ship Crusoe was aboard.

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Man, this movie is horrible, but why? It looks just as cynical as most mediocre animated films, and it doesn’t look as bad as Norm of the North. So, what’s the problem? Well, I can describe this movie with one word, boring. This film is a chore to sit through, and that’s because of the characters. They are a bore. Each character has one trait, and they milk that more than NBC Universal milks that Illumination advertising budget. The goat is old, and that’s it. The tapir is fat, and that’s it. The pangolin and echidna are pointless characters, and you guessed it, that’s it. No one is worth remembering in this film. Oh, and they are all rather stupid. Like, Norm of the North levels of stupid. Listen, people, stupid characters don’t make a good movie. You can have one well written stupid character, but the entire cast can’t be as dumb as the person who thought Nine Lives was a good idea. In the end, I did not care what happened to anyone, and I was just ready to get off my seat and curse the people who brought this into theaters. It doesn’t help either that the film essentially had about three climaxes, overstayed its welcome, and characters acting inconsistently. Seriously, the kingfisher character wants the human off the island, but then in one scene of the movie, she attempts to ruin Crusoe’s S.O.S signal to keep him on the island. Like, do you want him gone or not?!

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The biggest sin this film has going against it is that it is completely pointless. There was no reason for this film to exist. It’s not smart, clever, funny, interesting, and it is soulless. Heck, it doesn’t even really focus on Crusoe, and granted, some things from the original book they probably couldn’t do, but it’s also another film that had no freaking reason to be in theaters. I seriously question moviegoers, when the great Kubo and the Two Strings has to continually suffer in the box office. I saw no advertising for The Wild Life besides a poster for it a few months back. That’s it. Why does Lionsgate keep thinking that they can bring over any animated film, and people will love it? You know what? We don’t!

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The animation definitely looks better than Norm of the North, but only in terms of textures. It had more money and talented people working on this film than Norm of the North, but the animation is still very robotic. No one moves naturally. Well, maybe the chameleon moves the most naturally due to them already moving like robots, but I digress. The voicework is also annoying. On one hand, they got mostly voice talent for this film. It really doesn’t have big names to back it up (which makes it a mystery why it got to be in theaters in the first place, but still). It’s somewhat nice to see a film not rely on big names to sell its movie. On the other hand, the actors aren’t that great, and you can tell the English dub team wanted bigger names than what they could afford.

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So, out of this incredibly boring and annoying trainwreck, what does this film do well? Well, it only does one thing really well. What is it? It only has one or two really bad stereotypical kids film jokes. Yeah, the rest of the humor is horrible, not funny, and the two butt jokes are lousy excuses for humor, but to their credit, I do have to say that this film stays far away from the modern children animated film joke tropes. I was shocked by this because this was distributed by Lionsgate, which as you all know, released Norm of the North, which they should still be ashamed for making.  Anyway, The Wild Life has bland and boring humor, but it’s not super-condescending and cynical like Norm of the North or Bling. I was actually surprised, since it’s so easy for studios to get the note from higher-ups to put in these “wastes of space” jokes that make kids who have no sense of humor laugh, and adults who were unfortunate enough to take them to see it roll their eyes. I will also give credit that the animation looks decent. It’s still bad, but it’s not immensely mediocre. More Ratchet & Clank, than Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

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Man, I really hated this film. I don’t hate it as much as Norm of the North and Underdogs, but it’s a vapid pointless film that had no reason to be in theaters. The film will be out in a physical format in November, but don’t pick it up. Instead of getting the dvd for this film on November 22nd, go purchase Kubo and the Two Strings on the same day. You will thank me. Now then, this is my 4th worst movie of the year. What is my 3rd worst animated film? Well, stay tuned.

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 55: April and the Extraordinary 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. 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 far, 2016 in animation has been pretty fantastic. It is easily having one of the best years in animation. While there have been a few clunkers like Norm of the North, Ice Age: Collision Course, Batman: The Killing Joke, Ratchet & Clank, and Bling, the huge amount of great movies have outweighed the terrible in spades. I mean, this year’s Oscar race for best film will and should include Zootopia, Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Boy and the Beast, Only Yesterday, The Little Prince, Kubo and the Two Strings, and depending on how good it is, Moana. I also feel like while there have been a lot of great and mature films for this year, I do wish there were a few films that were similar in spirit to films like Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc, The Rocketeer, and those old pulp sci-fi adventure shorts and books. Luckily, GKIDS has our backs yet again with April and the Extraordinary World. This 2D French and Belgium collaboration was directed by Christian Desmarues and Franck Ekinci, and produced by Michel Duthell, Franck Ekinci, and Marc Jousset. It was released back in April (ha ha), and was recently released on DVD and on-demand. So, is this adventure worth your time into an extraordinary world? Or is it a clunker like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?

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The story places us into a world in the early 20th century, where all the scientists in the world are suddenly vanishing. As a result, the world doesn’t get introduced to electricity, and motor engines, and is stuck in this steam punk-like time period, where there are barely any trees or plant-like life left in the world. The story then goes on to focus on a young woman named April Franklin, voiced by Angela Galuppo. When she was a young girl, her parents and grandfather vanished after a chase sequence from the police. She is now living on her own with a talking cat named Darwin, voiced by Tony Hale.  During this time, April has been working on a formula that her parents had been working on before the incident when they vanished. Unfortunately for her, the police detective, Pizoni, voiced by Paul Giamatti, is looking for her and uses the help of a street urchin named Julius, played by Tod Fennell, to keep track of her goings-ons. What happens next is April discovers the serum, and gets chased by an unknown force that is behind the scientist kidnapping. Can she and Julius find her still-alive grandfather, voiced by Tony Robinow, and stop whatever is trying to capture them?

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What I like about this movie is, unlike Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which only captures the look of the setting, but not its characters, is that it captures that penny dreadful/pulp fiction-style story and setting perfectly. You are kept invested with why this evil force is capturing scientists, and why this serum that April’s parents were making is so important to the force. It also leads to characters that, while some could consider them simple, are still very likable. I love April as a female lead, and that the film, like Big Hero 6, shows how science can be a pro rather than a stupid dated joke. The film definitely takes advantage of its setting, and you get a lot of creative and amazing visuals and technology for this world with barely any plant life left. While it might not be “scientifically accurate”, it does remind me of the creativity with the idea of steam punk, like in Steamboy with its massive machines. It also has some good adventurous scenes and chase sequences with the chase at the beginning of the movie easily being one of the best scenes in animation in 2016. It really does capture a The Last Crusade and Rocketeer-style adventure film that you rarely get to see these days.

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The animation is great. It has a lovely French-style comic look to the entire film, and it is smooth in terms of movements. Like most European animations, the physical humor is blended well into the story, and is truly funny and never feels forced. I don’t know why, but with the exception of a few people in Hollywood, European animation has found a way to make humor gel well, and not feel clunky or awkward. Maybe it’s the execution of the jokes, or maybe it’s the writing. I don’t know, but the look and atmosphere brings in elements of films you would see from Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Heck, this entire film reminds me of Castle in the Sky in some ways. It’s a film that will age really well for future viewings and generations. I also enjoyed the voice cast. While I think maybe one or two performances were just okay, I really liked everyone else. They also hired a pretty good cast of actors for this film, like Paul Giamatti, JK Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Tony Hale, and Angela Galuppo.

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Unfortunately, this tale of adventure in a steam punk world is slightly flawed. I think even though it almost has a two-hour running time, they could have maybe made it a bit longer to explain a few elements, or at the very least fix some of the clunky storylines, like the relationship with April and Julius. The conflict at times feels a bit forced with the two, and while I do like the two characters, I think they could have handled the relationship better.

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Still, I really do love this movie. I think it’s easily in my top 10 of the year with its, pardon the pun, extraordinary world, likable characters, creativity, and how fun it is to watch. I would have to think about where I would put it in terms of the best of GKIDS, but I think no matter where I put it, April and the Extraordinary World is still going to be a pretty big recommendation if you like fun adventure movies. Definitely get the Blu ray and DVD combo pack, and lose yourself in a world of steam and adventure.  Let’s keep these positive vibes going with the controversial Sausage Party. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!