2017 in Animation So Far

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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, it’s been over half a year now for 2017, and it’s time to look back at the year so far. I thought it would be interesting, since I don’t really talk about all the big movies until I do my Worst to Best list for every year. I’ll be setting this up differently as well, with the execution of this article. I’ll be doing separate little segments for what were my favorites so far, the biggest surprises so far, the most average films so far, the biggest disappointments so far, and the worst. At the end, I’ll put down some films that I am looking forward to, and hopefully some films that will come out in the states in the near future.

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Best Animated Films (so far)

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea: Trippy, unusual, darkly comedic, and the definition of pure visual LSD, this indie film is the best animated film I have seen this year. With a great voice cast, a fun sense of humor, and a unique experience, I can’t wait to buy this movie for my collection.

LEGO Batman Movie: While I respect the comments that it relies too much on Batman references, and it doesn’t have the full heart of the original film, I went in wanting this to be a fantastic film, and that is what I got. Outside of My Entire High School, I haven’t laughed so much or enjoyed a theater-going experience this year as much as I have enjoyed LEGO Batman. It’s clever, the characters are likable, and I was smiling like a fool from beginning to end. Yeah, I have my issues with the film, but it’s actually good, unlike a lot of films from 2017.

Ethel & Ernest: This is such a simple movie, but it’s so good. It’s nothing super grand, or some characters going on a big adventure, it’s just the life and times of Raymond Brigg’s parents. It feels like such a personal film, and the team that made the movie obviously cared very much about the book the film is based on. With wonderful performances, multiple touching moments, and gorgeous animation, I am impatiently waiting for this film to get a US release.

Ocean Waves: Finally, after what seems like a century, the US finally gets a legit release of the last Studio Ghibli film to be brought over. While it is disappointing that there is no English dub for this film, it definitely has a lot of elements that would have made it hard to translate to English. It’s also a slower-paced and more realistic film about teens growing up during high school. It has its flaws in terms of story pacing and characters, but I still loved watching it, and when it hit it out of the park, it really hit it out of the park.

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Biggest Surprises (so far)

Captain Underpants: Who knew a film everyone was dreading ended up one of the most fun movies of the year? With characters that have charm, great animation, and an obvious amount of passion and soul put into the end product, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Not to say it doesn’t have its problems, but I had more fun watching this than most of the animated films from this year. It knew what it wanted to do, and I respect that.

 Justice League Dark: It’s no surprise that DC has had an amazing year in 2017, and kicked it off with a fun and more mature story of magic, demons, and the return of Matt Ryan as John Constantine. It’s a film that takes advantage of its situation, and while it does have some pacing problems because of the 70-minute runtime, it’s still a blast to watch, and actually see some charm in the drab DC universe.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract: This is pretty much an apology letter for Justice League vs Teen Titans as everything that was so good about this movie should have been in the previous film. Everyone has ample screen-time, the action is good, and I don’t want to strangle any of the characters. The main villain is definitely weak, and there are some predictable story beats, but it’s so much better than I was thinking it was going to be. I’m glad I was surprised.

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Biggest Disappointments (so far)

Cars 3: You would think by the third film, they would know what to do with this cash cow of a franchise. While I was definitely more emotionally invested in this one, and love that they just retconned Cars 2, I wouldn’t call this a great animated film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s definitely more of a sport movie than the previous films, but there is a bit too much going on, and it doesn’t know how to pace itself. The villains were weak, and the ending had some elements that I would call shenanigans on, since they just leave it open to make another Cars movie. While not the worst Pixar film by any means, it’s a shame the film didn’t live up to the extremely false advertising.

Despicable Me 3: Second verse, same as the first. Despicable Me 3 was better in a lot of ways to the previous installments, but was hugely flawed. It once again had way too many plots going on, and none of them get enough time to be fleshed out. It results in a movie that can be entertaining, but completely hollow at the same time. I don’t know how many more films they can make with the current style before people just turn on them. At the very least, Trey Parker’s portrayal as the villain was super entertaining. I’ll have more to say when I review it in the future.

Blame!: Since CGI animation in anime already has a tainted reputation for low quality products, you would hope a film like Blame! could show how to do it well. Sadly, all that you get is a rather boring and sometimes fun sci-fi world builder. The characters are bland, and even the higher quality movements can’t hide the fact that CGI animation in anime can and will be distracting.

 Seoul Station: While not a terrible zombie movie, I have no urge to rewatch this film. It has its moments and its social commentary, but since this film is supposedly connected to the fan favorite Train to Busan, then I think it needs to be more than just where the zombie outbreak started.

Smurfs: The Lost Village: While the trailer for this gave off both a good and bad impression, I was still hopeful that this would be a pretty solid film. Sadly, what we got was a rather predictable and yet again boring film. There is just nothing there for kids or adults. It’s way better than the live-action films, but that’s not saying much for a film that’s not willing to take risks.

The Boss Baby: While I don’t hate this movie, it’s obvious they went with one gimmick and didn’t really do much else. Alec Baldwin is the best part of the movie, but that’s not enough for this film to be good. It has good animation, and I liked a lot of the lines and jokes, but everything else felt so hollow, and lacked substance. We are sadly getting a sequel for some reason, but hopefully, it can be a Madagascar situation where they get better with each sequel.

Sahara: Probably one of the most disappointing films to hit Netflix. I was thinking they got a French animation gem on their hands, but instead, they got a French dud. While the CGI animation is pretty solid, the colors are vibrant, and there are points where the film does slow down, it doesn’t make up for an annoying cast, an English dub that forced me to watch it in French, and a film that’s not really interesting to watch. It definitely could have been a lot better in terms of story and characters.

Rock Dog: This film went through so much political baloney, that it’s hard to really trash this film. It has no focus, tone is an inconsistent wreck, the animation isn’t theatrical quality, and the side characters are pointless. It’s a shame, since it’s not a cynical cash grab, and it tried to be earnest in its intentions. It just didn’t pan out, and all we got was a mediocre film.

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The Worst (So far)

The Emoji Movie: While I know this is everyone’s favorite punching bag, it’s just a forgettable bad movie, people! It’s not super offensive outside of the concept, but it’s not super amazing either. It’s probably the most forgettable bad animated movie of 2017, that got pushed into the limelight because people call it the death to cinema. I’m working on a review of it right now, and I’ll say this, calm down, people!

Leap!: Yes, technically, I should wait to talk about this film when it’s officially released, but on the other hand, since it’s already available in an English format, and The Weinstein Company is simply redubbing and recasting for no reason, I have a right to say this movie is still 100% terrible. It’s an enjoyable type of terrible, since some choices in terms of animation and plot points are insane, but it’s otherwise bland and really forgettable with a terrible sense of humor, and animation that can be rather creepy-looking. I’m sure this had good intentions behind it, and I can’t say it’s the worst movie I have seen this year, but it’s still something I never want to watch again, but I sadly have to, since if I want to be fully fair to this film, I need to watch The Weinstein version.

A Stork’s Journey: I don’t get why this film had to get a limited release. Was anyone asking for this badly animated film? Its mean-spirited characters, bad pacing, and predictable plot also bog down the experience. It has one little scene that works, but that’s about it. Just avoid at all cost.

Spark: a Space Tail: Unlike the film mentioned above, I found nothing redeemable, or enjoyable about this movie. Open Roads didn’t give this film a wide release, and is now considered one of the biggest bombs in the animation scene. Even with that distinction, it has horrible animation, terrible characters, boring action sequences, a bland story, and it has no real reason to exist. Not even Patrick Stewart could save this. Until I say otherwise, this is still the worst animated movie of 2017.

Well, that was a bummer way to end the list, how about we close the editorial up with some movies that are coming out this year that I’m excited for? And yes, a lot of them are GKids films.

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The Remaining Films I’m Looking Forward to Through 2017

Coco: While Cars 3 did not fully deliver, Coco will hopefully be the one Pixar film to be fully satisfying with its themes of Day of the Dead, family, and music with a great art style, and gorgeous animation.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower: GKids recently picked up the rights to this film, and I’m not really surprised. It’s got veteran Studio Ghibli members, and GKids has a great connection with the famed studio. The first movie from Studio Ponoc looks really promising with beautiful animation, awesome character designs, and just a huge amount of creativity. I think this could easily be an Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature.

The Breadwinner: Probably the other Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature is yet another GKids-distributed film, based on the famous book. Cartoon Saloon is once again on a roll with a touching story, great animation, and they are mixing it up this time with two different styles of animation. It looks great, and I trust anything these two companies, GKids and Cartoon Saloon will put out.

The LEGO Ninajgo Movie: Well, so far, the two LEGO Movies we got have been pretty fantastic, can’t see a reason why not to be excited for this one. It’s also nice to see it be a mostly action-focused film, since it seems like we can’t get an action anything in animation these days. While the recent trailer probably showed off too much in terms of jokes, I’m still looking forward to the next LEGO Movie.

The Girl Without Hands: While I’m sort of disappointed this one-man film is not coming to my neck of the woods, I will wait for a DVD release, since I really want to see this visually ambitious and mature animated film. I have talked about it a bit on an Animation Tidbit, so I won’t go into much detail there.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children: I have talked about this dark animated film as well, so if you want to see more of my thoughts about this Spanish-animated film, you can go to the link I put above for The Girl Without Hands, but none the less, I am looking forward to see how this dark tale unfolds.

In This Corner of the World: A big Annecy Film Festival winner about a young girl as she grows up during World War II. It has a luscious watercolor art style, a vibe that feels similar to a Studio Ghibli film, and a sad, but endearing story.

Loving Vincent: Hey look, another film I talked about in an Animation Tidbit editorial. It’s a beautifully abstract film, with a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and tons and tons of paint put into the overall project. I can’t wait for this film to get a wider release in October.

That is it for now, let’s hope more amazing films come out, and I will make a new list in the New Year covering the worst to best of 2017!

The Other Side of Animation 78: Justice League Dark 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!)

As we move into 2017, DC is under a microscope in terms of their movies. To be honest, I’m quite looking forward to Wonder Woman, and hope that Justice League Part 1 will blow everyone out of the water. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that DC went through some rough times in 2016. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to impress everyone, resulting in the film underperforming, and while Suicide Squad was a financial hit, it didn’t fare well with critics and audiences being split with it. Personally, I find both films to just be middle of the road. I’m sure if I thought long and hard, I could explain why they don’t work for me, but this is about animation so how did they do in 2016? Not well either. Besides the amazing Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, their offerings were boring, underwhelming, or terrible. Luckily, if DC’s 2017 offerings are anything like The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, then they are in good hands. Let’s just dive in and see why Justice League Dark is one of the best starts in terms of animated films for 2017.

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All over the world, normal law-abiding citizens are going on murderous rampages killing innocent people in the process. The problem comes into play when the Justice League try to stop them, and they find out the people doing these horrible acts of violence are apparently seeing demons. Batman, voiced by Jason O’Mara, then decides to enlist the help of the more magical/supernatural heroes of the world. These include John Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan, Zatanna, voiced by Camilla Luddington, Boston Brand a.k.a Deadman, voiced by Nicholas Turturro, Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon, voiced by Ray Chase, Black Orchid, voiced by Colleen Villard, and Swamp Thing, voiced by Roger Cross. It’s up to them to find out who is exactly causing all this chaos.

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So, what does DC do right in this Jay Oliva-directed animated film? Well, I can tell you one thing that a majority of DC’s film line-ups didn’t have last year, charm. Justice League Dark probably has one of my favorite casts of characters in terms of DC animation. The way they work off one another makes them very likable and endearing to watch. I’m not fully on the DC hate bandwagon, but I’m not going to lie and say I found a lot of their recent iterations of characters in film form interesting or worth liking. Justice League Dark has a great balance of characters who are engaging and worth investing into. I think the best example of this is a scene early on in the film where John Constantine and Jason Blood are playing poker with The Demons Three. This one scene balances out action, comedy, and personality. Outside of that one scene, there are other points in the overall story, where the characters were engaging, and it helped that there was a good mystery of where the paranormal incidences were coming from. I was hooked in terms of what was happening, the villains behind this whole shebang, and let’s not forget how great the action is.

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The animation is fantastic. While it might be straight-to-DVD quality animation that you normally see in terms of DC’s animated features, and yes, there is a tiny bit of stiff movements, it’s definitely easy to tell that this film had a bigger animation budget than, say, The Killing Joke. Due to this being a story that revolves around magic and demons, you not only get great visuals of the spells, but also action that takes advantage of said magic. It’s why animation is such a great form of entertainment. While you do need to create it, you are not limited by real life physics or limitations. Let’s face it; unless you are Game of Thrones, or you get a really good effects team, TV-grade effects are not going to be that impressive. It’s just so satisfying to watch the action in this movie, and see how creative the spells got.

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The voice actors that were chosen were superb. It was a nice touch that they got Matt Ryan, who played John Constantine in the cancelled-too-soon NBC series as well, for this film. It’s like hearing Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop. If it’s not Steve Blum, then it’s not the same character. The other cast members, in addition to the ones I mentioned above, include Alfred Molina as Destiny, Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust, and Roger Cross as Swamp Thing. They all did a great job at their roles.

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Unfortunately, some of my complaints for this film come from some of the characters. They don’t really do much with Swamp Thing, and he doesn’t appear in the film until the 40-minute mark. He’s not really that interesting, and when he fights the big baddie of the film, he gets taken out rather quickly. I also didn’t care for what they did to Etrigan. Granted, I enjoyed about 80% of his screen-time, but what happens in the last 20% f this film bugs me. I won’t say what happens, but still. Deadman could also get somewhat annoying at times. I get why he couldn’t do much because he’s a soul, but he was very much the comic relief.

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Justice League Dark might be the newest entry in the flawed rebooted DC animated film universe, and it does have its share of problems, but it’s easily the best one since Batman versus Robin. I liked the fighting, the comradery between the characters, the animation, and the story. I wish they were able to flesh out some more characters and not one-shot them, because the team in this film were easily the most endearing and entertaining. If you are a DC fan, and haven’t picked this film up yet, then I highly recommend doing so. Even though it’s early in the year, and I still think after Justice League Dark and The LEGO Batman Movie, this could very well be DC and WB’s year in animation. Well, that was fun, but next time we shall take a look at China’s highest grossing animated film that wasn’t made by other studios with Monkey King: Hero is Back. Yes, it’s spelled like that. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!