The Other Side of Animation 123: Isle of Dogs Review

dog1.jpg

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

I honestly won’t get tired of thinking this, but I’m surprised more directors in Hollywood don’t direct an animated feature. While there are pros and cons doing an animated feature or a live-action feature, one thing that always catches my eye about animation is that you can have literal control over a mass majority of the production. You don’t have to worry about sets, lighting, physical performances, and a lot of elements that plague live-action films. Really, the one major downside is that you then have to make everything from scratch. It’s why I love seeing directors known for their live-action films go into animation and vice versa. It’s fun to see them bring their personality into a new medium of filmmaking, and why today’s review is of Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed Isle of Dogs. Released to the world on March 23rd, 2018, Isle of Dogs gained critical acclaim from film festivals, and won a couple of festival awards before starting its US release. While people did fall in love with this movie for a lot of good reasons, some critics have criticized it for its implementation of Japanese culture. As usual, it’s hard to talk about a movie, when there is some controversy attached to it. I will talk about it, but for now, let’s begin the review. Actually, before we begin, a friend of mine showed me a fun little secret about the title. Say it three times in a row quickly, and the title changes to a wonderful sentiment.

dog2.jpg

Isle of Dogs takes place in Japan 20 or so years in the future. An outbreak of diseases affecting dogs has plagued the country, and the mayor of Nagasaki, played by Kunichi Nomura, has decided to ban all dogs to a trash island. Six months pass, and the dogs live there in small packs, trying to survive on scraps and garbage to get by. One pack includes Chief, voiced by Bryan Cranston, Rex, voiced by Edward Norton, King, voiced by Bob Balaban, Duke, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, and Boss, voiced by Bill Murray. One day, they see a kid named Atari Kobayashi, voiced by Koyu Rankin, crash his plane on the Isle of Dogs, who is there to find his bodyguard dog Spots, voiced by Liev Schreiber. Chief and his gang decide to help him as they try to find Spots, and try to uncover a grand conspiracy plotted by the mayor.

dog5.jpg

Usually, when I love a movie, I want to talk about the positive aspects, because that is what deserves the most attention. I don’t see why I need to change tradition here. The stop-motion animation seen in Isle of Dogs is amazing. I mean, it’s the same studio that made Fantastic Mr. Fox, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was constantly impressed with the animation throughout the entire film. This includes making Trash Island visually interesting. Sure, it’s all garbage, but you would be amazed at how visually creative they got with the locations on the island. There are bright colors, terraformed landscapes, rusted out vehicles and buildings, and you get the idea.  Even down to little details, like how the dogs moved, reacted, their fur gently moving in the breeze, and even having little fleas running around at times shows that they paid very close attention to detail with the animals. I work at an animal shelter, and I see animals twice a week there, and dogs and cats there have their own spirit to them. No one animal is alike. The detail to the dogs is also shared with the humans. While moving like they did in Fantastic Mr. Fox, their animation was also fluid and full of little fun bits that made the artificial look of everything so alive. They even have some cool 2D sequences that are used when showing off characters on a TV screen.

dog4.jpg

I love the characters. I mean, it’s a Wes Anderson film, what do you expect from the characters? They are quirky, they have their own personality traits, and when he decides to drop it on the viewer, can be emotionally engaging. While there are definitely a lot of characters, the bond that holds the entire film together is between Atari and Chief. Their bond is fantastic, and it was fun to see Chief grow fonder of helping Atari when he is shown kindness by the boy. Many of the characters work well off each other, as the entire cast of dogs is stacked with actors who felt very natural with one another. Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Liev Schreiber, and Tilda Swinton all have their memorable moments and, of course, very funny lines. The human characters are also well acted, with Koyu Rankin, Greta Gerwig, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Yakayama, Yoko Ono, Frances McDormand, and Courtney B. Vance. They might have smaller roles, but they do not feel out of place with the overall weird world in which Anderson has put us. No one feels like they are simply playing themselves, and although some have very distinct voices, just because I knew who each character was played by, I was never taken out of the film. The story itself is simple, but it’s all in the execution, as the story carries themes of mass hysteria, government corruption, fear mongering, being outcasts, love, honor, friendship, and being against animal abuse. As in most Wes Anderson productions, the music is fantastic. It’s composed by Alexandre Desplat, who also did the music for Fantastic Mr. Foxand other Wes Anderson productions like The Grand Budapest Hotel, and recently won an award for The Shape of Water. Of course, much  of the music has plenty of Japanese musical flair that you would hear in old samurai flicks (figuratively and literally). The main song, I Won’t Hurt You by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (that’s a mouthful), was quite wonderful.

dog6.jpg

So, let’s talk about that controversy that this film is receiving. Multiple online articles by Asian/Japanese-American critics and online users are calling out the film for using cultural appropriation with Japan and the people of Japan for the backdrop, and the dogs, voiced by white actors, along with Greta’s character, are the heroes. There are other issues, but that seems to be the biggest problem that is causing an issue for some. Now, as I partly jokingly said in my Have a Nice Day Review, I am a white guy from Texas, what do I know? I will never have the full understanding of the pain and anger of seeing my culture misused or taken advantage of (though I wish reality shows would stop making Texas out to be nothing but ranch owners, and saying we all wear ten gallon hats). I can’t pull that card. I understand, to the best of my knowledge, why people are having an issue with it, and to an extent, I agree with some of the issues. However, if I had to look at the whole film from my perspective, I don’t think it’s not as bad as say, Ghost in the Shell or the incident with the Hellboy Reboot from last year. I felt like Wes Anderson did not intentionally set up this film to be punching down on the culture or its people. Even one of the actors who played the mayor was a consultant on the story. He said that he was fine with a lot of it, but did chime in from time to time. I also disagree with the criticism of how the script has the Japanese characters talk. Unless there is a translator nearby, all the Japanese human characters speak Japanese with very little English or subtitles. The issue I see talked about is that they are limited to saying simple, to-the-point lines. I don’t agree with this criticism, because if you aren’t going to be using subtitles 100% of the time, what the characters say needs to be short and to the point. I also feel like that just ties in with Wes Anderson’s style. In the end, I could break it all down from what I have seen, and all I can say is, I don’t fully agree with the backlash this film is getting, but I do understand that Wes Anderson does tow the line in paying respect and tribute in this fantastical setting, because he wanted to make a film that was set in Japan. If you have an issue with how he uses the culture, then by all means, have an issue with it. I do agree with some aspects of the criticism.

dog7.jpg

So, what did I not like about the film? Well, I wish we had more time with the side characters. Chief’s group of friends vanishes at one point, and we don’t see them for a good, maybe 10-15 minutes before we see what happened to them. They could have used a bit more to them outside of certain quirks, like Rex wanting order among the pack, Duke being a lover of gossip, Boss being played by Bill Murray, and so on. They were really fun to be around, and I wish they could have been there more. The female characters are also not handled well. Not terrible, but underdeveloped. Scarlett Johansson is barely in the film, and is set up as this weak pseudo love interest for Chief. Though the one that people and I have an issue with is Greta Gerwig’s character, an American foreign exchange student who kicks the pro-dog rally into overdrive. She’s a strong character, and has her own personality, but I do think there is a problem with her ethnicity. I think a lot of the problems people have with the film would be gone if they didn’t make her American. Maybe instead, they could have made her a Japanese school girl, voiced by Rinko Kikuchi or another young Japanese American actress to play her. Because you can definitely see the whole, “Hey, the American student is brave, while the Japanese people are easily manipulated by their government and afraid to rebel” angle people have with her character.

dog8.jpg

I respect the issues some are having with the film, but they do not detract from my personal enjoyment of the film. I love this movie, and until said otherwise, Isle of Dogs is the best animated film of the year. I loved the animation, the humor, the heart, and everything about it. Once it opens in wide release, please go see this movie. I want more people to see this film and support an original idea. It’s not like anyone here is going to go see Sherlock Gnomes or Duck Duck Goose. You shouldn’t see those, and again, go see Isle of Dogs. Well, speaking of gnomes, next time, before we get to Sherlock Gnomes, we shall look at Gnomeo & Juliet. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Advertisements

The Other Side of Animation 119: Early Man Review

man1

(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!)

man4

There is something always exciting when Aardman makes a new film. While not financially successful here in the states for some sadly understandable/annoying reasons, I always get excited, since it brings something fresh and interesting to the table, even if the films have elements that we have seen before. I make sure to always see their films, because I want to support the studio. That’s no different here, with their newest film, Early Man. Directed by Nick Park, Early Man was his first theatrical directing gig since his Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was released on February 16th, but is not doing well at all in the box office. It is getting positive reviews, but its financial take is discouraging. Granted, when you go against something like the important Black Panther and the decently reviewed Peter Rabbit, you are going to get into some trouble, especially if you are Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment, and you don’t market your movie! I can get into that bit of stupid, but I’ll save that for a different article. For now, let’s review Early Man!

man2

Eddie Redmayne plays our hero Dug, a caveman living with his tribe in a crater that, generations ago, was formed by a meteorite. He’s getting complacent about how his tribe only hunts rabbits. One day, after a successful rabbit hunt, their tribe gets invaded by a more evolved group of humans. This evolved group of individuals is led by a man named Lord Nooth, voiced by Tom Hiddleston. Dug accidentally gets himself “taken” to the new civilization, meets a woman named Goona, voiced by Maisie Williams, and finds out that his entire valley is being mined out for its metal. After interrupting a soccer game (and yes, I am going to call it soccer), Dug challenges Nooth to a soccer game. Unfortunately, Dug and his tribe don’t know how to play soccer. Dug then enlists the help of Goona, and they train to win their valley back!

man3

Let’s talk about the positives.  Since this is Aardman, the animation is fantastic. Each character has a unique design, and they each move beautifully. The sets are also vibrant, lush, and huge. These might even beat out The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Pirates: Band of Misfits. As with most British comedy, it’s well-written, clever, and there are lots of foreground and background jokes. I found myself laughing at multiple points in the movie, along with others in my audience. I think a lot of the jokes flew over the kids in my group’s heads, but they still laughed quite a lot. Much of the humor works because the characters are fun to be around. While some are simple, which is a problem to a degree, I never found myself getting annoyed by them. They were fairly likable. Dug is a kind optimist, the tribe leader played by Timothy Spall is delightfully daft, Nooth is a blast as a villain who seems to enjoy being a villain, Goona is the strong female archetype, and Dug’s tribe all have their own amusing moments. I know the film’s humor is mostly pun-related, but if you can execute them properly, then I don’t mind it. I can understand if it’s not your type of humor, but I loved it. They even stay away from the more modern-style of humor you would see in films from Illumination and Blue Sky Studios. It’s great that they did that, since it makes the film more enjoyable to watch as time goes by. The performances were also really good. Eddie Redmayne captures the hopeful and maybe ignorant optimistic side of Dug, Tom Hiddleston gives Nooth a wonderfully cheesy and not-at-all accurate French accent that leads to many of the film’s best jokes, Maisie Williams does a good job at being a tough individual, and the rest of the cast, including Richard Ayoade, Selina Griffiths, Johnny Vegas, Mark Williams, Gina Yashere, Simon Greenall, Richard Webber, Rob Brydon, Kayvan Novak, Miriam Margoyles, all have humorous performances.

man5

As much as I love Aardman and the fact we got a stop-motion film this year, I am going to criticize this film a bit. The film is, for the most part, hugely entertaining, clever, funny, and well-written. However, it does start to lose steam, when you get to the actual soccer part of the plot. It goes through a few sports clichés and puns that don’t work unless you know the sport, and it goes into sports film territory with the underdogs versus the champions. You can pick up on what’s going to happen very easily during this part. While I love a lot of the tribe members, many of them don’t get much development. About half of them get stuck with a single character trait. That also goes for the champion team that they compete against.  I also felt like the story could have been a bit more complex. I love that Aardman keeps things simple, but sometimes, that hurts them, since some of their stories become predictable. I know I can blame some of this film’s underperformance to Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment, since this should have been a big deal for their animation output, but they treated like it was just another direct-to-video animated film. However, Aardman is also partly to blame for a couple of this film’s problems. I just wonder how much better this film would have been received if they had chosen a more…world-loved sport, since the US doesn’t really care about soccer, or simply stuck with the caveman and Bronze Age civilization meet-up. I didn’t mind it being about soccer, since I caught a lot of the soccer jokes, but I know that won’t be for everyone.

man6

While I think I prefer Shaun the Sheep The Movie and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, I did love Early Man. Personally, it’s the first good animated film of the year, and even if you didn’t fully care about it, you know deep down, it’s going to be better than Sherlock Gnomes.  Early Man is a film that gets better the more I think about it. I definitely recommend checking it out. It’s an original film that’s not based on any pre-existing properties, and if you really want more original films to succeed, then you need to actually go see them. Well, it’s time to get to the 120th review, and I have a lot to say about that movie when we get to it. 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 97: Anomalisa Review

anom01

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

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

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

anom02

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

anom03

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

anom05

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

anom06

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

anom04

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

anom07

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

Rating: Go See It!

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

life01

(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.

life02

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.

life03

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.

life05

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.

life04

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.

life07

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 66: Fantastic Mr. Fox Review

fox01

(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!)

With animation becoming more of a big deal in the film industry, I think it would be cool to see some directors known for their live-action dramas, horror, action, romance, and indie films try to tackle animation. I mean, how cool would it be to see QuentinTarantino make an animated action flick? Or how about James Wan make an animated horror film, or the Duffer Brothers make an animated sci-fi film? When I got more into films, I found an early love for Wes Anderson, for his unique stories and characters. It’s why I was amazed to see that he made an animated film based on the book by Roehl Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox. This stop-motion film was released on October 14th, in 2009, to many an animation fan the best year of animation. It received critical acclaim, was nominated for multiple awards, and is easily one of the best book-to-film adaptations of all time. It might have only made $46 mil on a $40 mil budget, but I’ll say this. This might be my favorite movie from 2009. Why? Well, let’s find out.

fox02

The story is about, well, a fox named, well, Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney. He used to be a bird thief, but after an incident with his wife, Felicity Fox, voiced by Meryl Streep, he retires and settles down with Felicity, and has a child named Ash, voiced by Jason Schwartzman. Mr. Fox decides to move his family to a new home, and discovers that there are three farmers. He starts to get those stealing urges back. After doing a couple of heists from the farmers, Mr. Fox ends up getting his entire family and friends in trouble, due to the farmers creating a plan to destroy them. The story also deals with Mr. Fox essentially going through a mid-life crisis, and his son Ash being jealous of his cousin Kristofferson, voiced by Eric Anderson. Can they make it out alive? Will Mr. Fox learn from this horrifying, albeit hilarious situation?

fox03

Right off the bat, when you watch this movie, the imagery is striking. The animation definitely stands out among anything released in 2009. It has an old-fashioned stop-motion style that has characters with actual fur. Normally with stop-motion, they make everything out of the same material, like in Laika or Aardman-made films. However, the stop-motion in this film is very retro in terms of the visuals. A lot of stop-motion used to have characters with actual fur or fur-like material on them, but it’s something you don’t really see a lot of anymore, unless you look at indie projects. Even with its retro look, the animation is smooth, communicative, and it’s an incredibly gorgeous movie. The entire movie screams the fall season, with its mixtures of browns and oranges. It gives off a calm and cool atmosphere where you can feel the leaves falling around you, and a slightly chilly breeze dances in the air. Wes Anderson also gets the characters and the “quirk” perfectly, since you can clearly get the motivations between the characters. Whenever you see indie films that have a personality, you always hope it feels natural, like in Dope or another Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom.  Being quirky doesn’t necessarily mean a good character. You get why Mr. Fox is having a midlife crisis, or how his son is angry that his cousin is more popular, and how the wife is constantly worried about Mr. Fox’s angsty ambitions.

fox04

Even in this world, you never feel like the combination of stop-motion, humans, and bi-pedal animals wearing clothes are distracting. With Wes Anderson’s signature style and personality, it all gels well, due to how down-to-earth the dialogue comes off. Yes it has its moments of indie quirk, but due to how well defined the characters are, it doesn’t come off as gimmicky. It’s a film that anyone and everyone can get into, which is something animated films should strive to be, instead of “oh, we are just making this for the kids, since kids are dumb and don’t know any better” crowd.

fox05

I enjoyed the voice cast. Usually when you see big names in an animated film, it raises concerns of how into it they will be with their characters. Some studios like Blue Sky Studios don’t get why people hate it when there is “celebrity mugging”. Luckily, everyone who is in this movie really put their all into it. I mean, it should be no surprise when you have actors like George Clooney, Bill Murray, and Meryl Streep, but I never once felt like I was taken out of the experience because an actor was just being themselves. The cast was just perfect, and Wes Anderson usually has an eye for who he wants in his movies. You have, of course, the already mentioned George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray, but the rest of the cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Helen McCrory, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, and some cameos from celebrities like Mario Batali. It’s one of the best casts in animated form that I have reviewed. The movie is also very funny, with some great gags and jokes thrown in that the actors pull off perfectly.

fox06

Now then, what would I say is “bad” or “distracting” that may detract from the film itself? Well, nothing major. I don’t really care if some elements of the book were not put into the movie. I’m not one of those people who think that the book is always better than the movie. To me, I look at all movies based on something as a stand-alone experience. If I happen to know the source material, then I’m going to add that into my judgement of the end product.

fox07

Fantastic Mr. Fox is witty, funny, touching, engaging, and overall, enjoyable. It shows how good Wes Anderson can be, and I wish he could do more animated films like this one. If you haven’t checked this film out, you can either get it on DVD, Blu Ray, or even Criterion. If you like stop-motion films with an indie personality, or want a film that will be timeless, you should definitely check this film out. Well, now that we are heading into the holidays, before we head into the Christmas-themed reviews, let’s get into one of my favorites from 2016, The Boy and the Beast. Thanks for reading. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 57: Rex the Runt Review

rex01

(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!)

rex07

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This series is full of crass adult humor and dry wit. Parental Discretion is advised. I Hope you all like the review!

So, it’s been a little over a year since I started reviewing animated films. I’m feeling proud about that, so I decided to change things up a bit and talk about a TV series. I still plan on reviewing Sherlock Hound, but for now, I’m going to check out a short-lived series by our friends at Aardman. To celebrate their 40th birthday, I decided to write about the obscure series, Rex the Runt. This stop-motion series was directed mostly by Richard Starzak (aka Richard “Golly” Goleszowski) with other directors, including Dan Capozzi, Peter Peake, Christopher Sadler, and Sam Fell. It ran for two seasons from 1998-1999 to 2001, and was on A&E in the states. So, does this show about animated dogs age from back then? Let’s take a look.

rex02

The show revolves around four dogs that live in a house together. You have the lead, Rex, voiced by Andrew Franks in season 1 and Colin Rote in season 2, Bad Bob, voiced by Kevin Wrench in season 1 and Andy Jeffers in season 2, Wendy, the token female voiced by Elisabeth Hadley, and Vince, voiced by Steve Box. The show pretty focuses on them going through creative and surreal British hijinks, while interacting with a quirky cast of characters.

rex03

So, what made this show stand out to me, besides the fact that I barely know anyone who has heard or seen this show? Well, it was one of the few animated shows aimed at adults that dealt with stop-motion. The only other show I can think of that came out around the same time was The PJs. It also had a unique art style to it with the characters all being, for the most part, exaggeratedly flat designs. They even apparently put the characters against a glass sheet in front of the background to help keep that 2D look of the characters in certain sequences. Like most British comedy that I have seen, it’s peculiar and very dry in its execution. However, unlike a lot of British comedy that I have seen, I found a lot of the humor in this show to work. Yeah, you would get a dud of an episode or a few jokes that don’t hit, or to be honest, flew over my head, but I was laughing a lot during the show’s two seasons. The characters themselves are mostly of type, like Wendy is the token girl and Rex is the snarky, quick-witted protagonist, but the two characters of the main leads that stand out are Bad Bob and Vince. As the series went on, I found myself really loving both of these characters the most. Bob is smart, has an eye patch that switches from eye to eye, and carries around a normal-sized revolver, which just happens to look giant compared to him. Vince is the “pet” of the crew, and has a quite frankly hilarious, if underused in season two, disorder called “Random Pavarotti Disease”, where he will spew random opera from his mouth. He also has a habit of speech where he will only say one word or maybe an unfinished sentence for comedic effect. He easily gets the best laughs out of the entire show with how random and wacky he is.

rex04

The animation is solid. For a show with episodes lasting about 10-15 minutes tops, the animation and the style of the characters are still done well. I mean, this is Aardman, so I would be surprised if this was bad animation. It might not be as detailed as Aardman’s bigger projects, but you won’t be distracted by low quality stuff here. The adventures they go on are as well pretty funny, like going to a Home Depot-style gardening center only to be captured by a race of alien plant pots, having to get their house back from an alternate timeline version of themselves, Bob losing weight, traveling into Vince’s head, finding out what is at the center of the earth, and so on. Most of them lead to creative jokes, and are fun to watch.

rex05

However, with all that said, there are a few things you must know about this show. I sometimes felt like the episodes had no focus, or any real urgency to them. It leads to some episodes of the show feeling really boring, or the agency of the situation coming in at the last five or so minutes. The humor, while funny and clever, can be a bit too dry at times. Maybe the jokes flew over my head, or they probably weren’t funny, but some of the jokes were definitely duds. I also found the show to be at times a tad too British for an American viewer, if that makes any sense. I can perfectly see why some people will probably not find this show funny or entertaining. For example, I know the original version of The Office is looked at as a very funny show, I found it to be incredibly boring.

rex06

In the end though, I love Rex the Runt, and I definitely feel like it’s another hit for Aardman. Can I see why it only lasted two seasons? Of course. Can I see why some people might not like the show? Yes. But do I like it? Indeed I do! I even showed it off to a lot of my friends and family friends, and they have great love for the series. You can easily pick up this show on the cheap, and you should check it out when or if you can. Well, now that one year has passed, and I covered my first TV series, it’s time to get back into movies with the promotional prequel film to Final Fantasy XV, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy. Thanks for reading, I hope you like what you saw, and I will see you next time

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 54: Kubo and the Two Strings Review

 

kubo01

(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 passionate about animated movies that don’t get the treatment they deserve. I think it’s obvious everyone would rather watch a great movie and support it than something drummed up from Hollywood that shows they have no idea what they are doing. Still, it’s probably the most infuriating thing when a great movie is drowned out by utter garbage. I think one of the best examples of this was with Kung Fu Panda 2. This 2011 sequel was released around the same week that The Hangover Part 2 was released. What happened? More people went to see the mediocre sequel to a film that wasn’t really that great in the first place, instead of a sequel that did everything right by being not just a great movie, but a great sequel. Kung Fu Panda 2 did well enough, but seeing it get beat out by a mediocre sequel was no short of maddening. I could go into detail about why the public movie-going audience can be a major problem about the movie industry, but I‘ll tackle that another time. Today, I’m going to talk about what is quite possibly the best animated movie of the year, Kubo and the Two Strings. Yes, the masters at Laika have made the best animated movie of the year that tops even the amazing Zootopia and The Little Prince. This film, by director Travis Knight in his first directorial position, wowed me. I mean, why did it wow me? Well, let’s find out.

kubo02

The story follows the adventure of a young boy named Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson. He lives in a mountainside cave with his mother. During the day he performs magical shows with his shamisen bringing origami characters to life, but always returns by nightfall at his mother’s request. One day, Kubo accidentally stays after the sun has set, and encounters two creepy raven-like women named Sisters, both voiced by Rooney Mara. Kubo’s mother comes down to save him, but ends up sending Kubo away. Kubo then wakes up in a snowy part of the world, and is now accompanied by a white monkey, voiced by Charlize Theron. They run into a humanoid beetle-like samurai named, well, Beetle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey. The three set off to find a legendary set of weapons and armor to take down the Moon King, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, the powerful being that has been trying to take Kubo for his own needs. Can Kubo survive and find the weapons to take down the Moon King?

kubo03

Let’s talk about the good, because I have nothing but good things to say about this remarkable movie. The story is perfectly packed with what you want in a good action adventure movie. It has a great male lead. Kubo is one of the best child characters I have ever seen, not only this year, but in animation in general. He cares for his mother, is enjoyable around the people in his town, and has a great realistic child personality. Speaking of great personalities, the film has an impressive cast of side characters. These are some of the most likable secondary characters, with Monkey’s protective and serious persona, and Beetle being a great fighter, but a mostly light-hearted tone to him. The three characters, Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle work so well off each other, and that happens because of a terrific script. The best part about scripts from Laika is the fact that the humor gels well with classic dialogue that, like The Little Prince, is timeless. Everyone sounds like they were from that time period. The film has a great voice cast. While I could argue the tightrope argument of why Laika didn’t cast more Asian actors for the roles, since the two that they hired, George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki are side characters who play no major role of the story, but that’s for another article that I won’t talk about here, because even with that little hiccup, the cast they hired for this movie is perfect. The actors all pull off amazing performances that make you see the characters, and not just actors being actors. I have noticed that recently, many animated films have made sure to get actors that fit the roles, and can immerse themselves within them. Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Brenda Vaccaro, and George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, for as big or small as their roles are, all did amazing jobs. I don’t know whether the person in charge of the performances did a great job, or whether these actors felt super passionate about the project and animation, or both, but give them all A+ on their performances. The movie knows how to pace itself with fights, story, and world-building. While some could argue that they could have added another fight, I am so happy that this film balanced out some really good fights, and how they took their time with developing the characters and the world around them. Too many times do action adventure-oriented films put all their bets on the animation and action, while not having much focus on everything else. Kubo and the Two Strings was just a remarkable movie to be in, and has stakes and sequences that keep you invested and wanting to know what happens until the very end.

kubo04

The animation is beautiful. It’s easily the best stop-motion animation I have ever seen. It’s so fluid, the world and character designs have personality, and look unique. The fight scenes are well-animated, and are choreographed beautifully. It’s some of the best action you will ever see in animation, alongside Kung Fu Panda, Ninja Scroll, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Boy and the Beast, and Read or Die. They take advantage of everything about the film, from the surrounding environment to who the characters are, like Beetle being able to fly and crawl on walls. The music is gorgeous to listen to, with some great tunes from Kubo’s Shamisen sequences to the amazing score by famed composer Dario Marianelli, who also did the soundtrack for Everest, The Boxtrolls, and V for Vendetta. The ending song that plays in the credits, While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Regina Spektor, (which she covers so well, it was originally a Beatles song by George Harrison) is performed on a Shamisen. That is so incredible that this singer went all out with this song in terms of performing the song on the main instrument of the film.

kubo05

I really don’t have major complaints about the movie. I think this is one of those rare perfect movies that even if you could come up with any negative issues, they wouldn’t bring the movie down at all. Actually the biggest problem this film has is being released in August. I am so upset and irritated that Universal decided to release this during the worst part of August, due to the target audience not being able to see it until the weekend because of school starting, and while a mediocre comic book movie is still at number one. That’s another problem. Why would people go see a movie that is flawed, clunky, and had obvious scenes cut out or sloppily edited, instead of a complete, passion-filled animated film that had more effort and creativity put into it than 99% of the films released this year. This is exactly what happened to Kung Fu Panda 2, and that is a crime that the movie-going public doesn’t fully respect animation and think it’s just for kids. That will be an argument for another time. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this movie, and I want it to be doing better than as of 8/24/16.

kubo06

If you couldn’t tell, I love Kubo. I stand by my opinion that this is the best animated film of 2016. I thought nothing would top Zootopia and The Little Prince, but Laika did it.  It’s not only one of the best stop-motion films of all time, it’s one of the best animated films of all time. Seriously, people, go see this movie. It deserves much more of your attention than a remake of a remake nobody asked for. I don’t mean to bash other movies out right now, and I do like a lot of modern/current movies, but people cry and complain that we don’t get to see enough unique and original movies, and then when one comes out and is critically acclaimed, no one sees it because of maddening reasons. If you love original movies, and want to support something that isn’t a big budget disaster, then seriously check out Kubo and the Two Strings. I have felt so satisfied reviewing good movies, and I want to continue that with one of my favorite indie-animated films of 2016, April and the Extraordinary World. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the movie, and see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials!