The Other Side of Animation 97: Anomalisa 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!)

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 66: Fantastic Mr. Fox 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!)

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

The Other Side of Animation 52: The Little Prince 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!)

In the field of animation in terms of animated films, you can always tell when an animated film was made with passion, and when one is made for the bottom dollar. When you watch a film that had love and effort put into it, you hear timeless dialogue, well written jokes, an engaging story, and a film that you want to re-watch multiple times. It’s a film you know you want to buy day one when it hits store shelves. When you see a cynical project, while it might hide behind good animation, and a stellar cast, you can tell through the same elements of story, characters, dialogue, the humor, and so on where you understand that this was made less by a studio of talented animators, and more like a bunch of higher-ups who have no idea what they are doing, and use focus groups to think what would make a good memorable movie. It’s sadly something that is going to take a while to change, but luckily, when a passion-filled project does come out, and you see how much effort and thought was put into it, it makes the experience enjoyable. This is where the recently released The Little Prince fits in. This is an American/French collaboration with the director of the first Kung Fu Panda, Mark Osbourne. It was originally set to be released in theaters in the states March of this year by Paramount, but for one reason or another, they dropped it. Some say it would have been dealing with big releases during that time, but if I have learned anything this year, The Little Prince would have had no competition besides Zootopia and The Jungle Book, due to the Hollywood machine putting out more flops and underperformers of projects no one wanted. Luckily, it was picked up by Netflix and was released on August 5th. So, what do I think of this movie? Let’s check it out!

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While this film is about the book, The Little Prince, it actually has a lot more in common with a film I love, The Fall. Essentially, a small girl, voiced by Mackenzie Foy, lives with her mother, voiced by Rachel McAdams, and a father who is always away at work. While training and getting prepared to be accepted into a high-end academy, the girl ends up befriending an eccentric old man named the Aviator, voiced by Jeff Bridges. Over the course of their friendship, the little girl learns about the story that the Aviator wrote, known as The Little Prince, a story about a young boy with the same name, voiced by Riley Osborne. Will the young girl learn to grow up, but never forget about childhood?

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So, is what’s great and interesting about this film? Well, to the few that may have not have watched this movie, the film is not just about The Little Prince. It actually uses the book itself as a device for the themes of the film. Now, is that a bad thing, like some critics make it out to be? I mean, it is called The Little Prince, and it should be about the book. However, I feel like the critics who can’t get past the fact that this isn’t 100% about the book, and this is probably the only time I’m ever going to say it, they didn’t get it. They were too set on this film being a 100% adaptation of a rather short book. They act like the additions to the story are as bad as the live action Dr. Seuss books. I guess what I and a majority of people who saw this movie are trying to say is, we disagree. For me, like I mentioned above, I saw a film called The Fall, and it essentially has the same set-up, with an older male character telling a story to a little girl, and how it symbolically relates to the real-life situation of the characters. Seriously, there are a lot of ways you can connect the characters from The Little Prince book with what’s going on with the little girl in the real world. It’s quite in-depth and smart for a film aimed at the whole family. I love a bunch of the symbolic elements, like how the Conceited Man, voiced by Ricky Gervais, represents the ideal of becoming something that is constantly applauded. Or how the Businessman can be connected to how the little girl thinks of her father. I know the theme of “forgetting about your childhood and losing your inner child” might not be the biggest topic as of right now, but in a way, it kind of is. In a world where it seems like there is nothing, but dread on the news, inexplicable presidential politics, violence every other week, and so on, I bet it could feel very daunting to be a kid growing up in this world we live in right now. While it is good to grow up and become more developed as a human being, don’t forget about your childhood.

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I hear some people say the CGI animation is not good, but seriously, have you seen how bad European CGI animation can be? Have you seen The Snow Queen or Sir Billie? Heck, on the contrary, The Little Prince looks amazing. The textures look fantastic, the characters move fluidly, and the designs are very Pixarish in the best way possible. So many films try to have that Pixar and DreamWorks look, and this film captures it perfectly. I mean, it is directed by the guy who was in charge of the original Kung Fu Panda. Of course, one of the biggest elements talked about with this movie is its combination of both CGI animation and stop-motion. The stop-motion looks amazing. It looks like paper craft, and the designs of the CGI models translate well to and from the stop-motion. It’s a beautiful movie, with also a great soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, Richard Harvey, and female singer, Camille.

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I really have no problems with this movie. I kept trying to find a major problem, and I honestly couldn’t. Yeah, I wish there were more stop-motion moments, but there are enough to feel special, and don’t overstay their welcome. I guess my only real complaint is that I wish there was going to be a more wide-spread physical release of the film here in the states. Everywhere else in the world it gets one, and I know Netflix has no plans in releasing their own properties onto other viable formats. Still, I wish I could get my hands on a US copy of the film because I want to see how this film was made, with behind-the-scenes features and interviews with the director and voice actors, something we could have gotten if this film was picked up by GKIDS.

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I really freaking love this movie. It has the passion and timeless feel of an animated film that you rarely see these days. Easily one of the top three best animated films of 2016. It’s such a shame that Paramount Pictures decided to drop this flick. Still, if you live in the states and have Netflix, watch this movie. If you live anywhere else in the world and can buy a copy of the film, then go buy it. Well, while I do wish there were more movies like this, next time, we will be looking at a more polarizing film with Belladonna of Sadness. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essential

 

The Other Side of Animation: Hell & Back Review

(If you like what you see, you can go camseyeview.biz to see the rest of my work, where I review video games, write editorials, lists, talk about video game Kickstarters, interview developers, and review animated films. If you want to, you can contribute to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help make running the site easier. Thank you so much for checking out my work, and I hope you like it!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: This film is full of crude adult humor and sexual themes and some nudity. It also has a lot of shock-value jokes that are more offensive than funny. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Do not watch this unless your children are at least 15 or 18. Enjoy the review!

You know what is a really crummy thing about movie trailers these days? No matter what kind of movie it is, the trailer is either way too misleading in terms of what the movie is actually about, shows too much in terms of the best jokes/action sequences, feels cynically produced to think the common moviegoer is stupid, or essentially shows the entire movie. However, sometimes you get a trailer to a movie that had no other choice than to show off what the main product is going to end up as. Today’s movie review had a trailer that was basically, “what you see is what you get. Sorry.” This week, we take a look at the stop-motion film from ShadowMachine films, Hell & Back. This limited release was directed by Tom Gianas and Ross Shuman. It was released back in October 2nd, 2015 to, like I said, a limited release. It had very little marketing, and the critics and individuals who did see it, attacked the movie with mostly negative reviews. Not really that hard to see why this animated film didn’t do much for the movie-going world. Let’s dive in anyway, and see why it might not be worth going to Hell & Back.

The story is about two young guys named Remy, voiced by Nick Swardson, and Augie, voiced by T.J. Miller, as they work at a pretty horrible carnival. One night, with a friend of theirs, Curt Myers, voiced by Rog Riggle, they have Curt sign a blood oath to a satanic book in front of a very specific ride. After breaking said blood oath literally a few seconds after said oath, Curt is sucked into Hell, and it is up to Remy and Augie to go find him before he is sacrificed by the Devil, voiced by Bob Odenkirk. Along the way, the two young dudes meet up with Deema, a half-demon girl, voiced by Mila Kunis, and the legendary Orpheus, voiced by Danny McBride.

Yeah, since this by the same company that used to distribute the hit show, Robot Chicken, you can guess that there will be a lot of raunchy shock humor. While not as shocking as say, South Park or those really bad comedies that go off of shock comedy with no substance (A majority of Comedy Central’s shows), the humor is not really that great. Comedy might be subjective, but good lord, the writers needed to calm the heck down. It felt too busy, and for every joke that had potential, it got run over by five bad jokes. Oh, and this film has a really big fetish with jokes about male molestation, because you know, making jokes about someone getting assaulted/harassed/worse always works! If you couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic! This is why I really can’t stand shows like Drawn Together or the thankfully cancelled Brickleberry. If you have shock humor just to be offensive with no meaning behind said shocking jokes, then don’t be a comedy writer, since you have no idea what you are doing. I wouldn’t mind the raunchy mean-spirited humor if the characters in this movie were worth investing into, but in reality, they really aren’t that great. They are either incredibly unlikable or flat-out boring. I can tell the actors are trying to make the chemistry work, and from time to time, it does, but you have to get through a lot of the tripe the film throws at you to get to them. I also get the idea of “saving your friend from the devil” and all, and the twist is sort of funny, but we have seen it done before with better writers and shows.

The animation is fine, and it is nice to see stop-motion more than just the films from Laika and Aardman Entertainment, but it’s not up-to-par with those two studios. It’s more in line with a higher budgeted episode of Robot Chicken or those stop-motion TV specials that you see from time to time. The movements are just a bit janky, and are not as smooth as the crisp buttery smoothness you see in Laika-made films. I also found the overall look of Hell to be rather unremarkable. The demons look decent, but the overall design of it all is forgettable at best.

With all of this negativity I have for this film, did I personally find something I liked about the movie? Well, I like the voice cast. Even though the script is pretty lousy with jokes and making actual characters, the actors do a decent job in terms of trying to make it all work. The cast includes Nick Swardson, T.J. Miller, Mina Kunis, Danny Mcbride, Bob Odenkirk, Susan Sarandon, Dana Snyder, H. Jon Benjamin, John P. Farley, Michael Pena, Jennifer Coolidge, and Brian Posehn to name a few. I also find Bob Odenkirk entertaining as the devil. Nothing new or anything, but this is a good actor, and he does what he can to put some likability into the Devil himself.

Still, a solid comedic cast can’t save this movie. Besides a few laughs and some performances, I just couldn’t get into it. I know this style of comedy is probably is not for me, but it seems like I’m not alone in calling the script weak and mediocre. There is a reason why there was barely any advertising for this film. It just came and went like most under-marketed/mediocre films. I guess if you like this style of humor, and any of the terrible schlock that tries to be funny, but is just painful to sit through on Comedy Central, and want a raunchy low-brow stop-motion flick, then you might like it. As for me, I would just skip it and get something like Rex the Runt, or any of the other Aardman and Laika films if you want to watch a stop-motion film. Just comes to show that, sometimes, what the marketing gives you is what you get. Well, we are getting close to the 30th review, so how about we talk about a movie that is an interesting bit of animation? Next time, we take a look at Henry & Me. Thanks for reading this article, I hope you liked it, and see you next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation: Shaun the Sheep Movie Review

(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview.biz. Thanks for checking my site out, and I hope you enjoy the article!)

While I do consider myself a movie lover, I tend to enjoy movies that are easier to follow. Not to say that I can’t get into films with complex themes and stories, since one of my favorite movies of 2015 was Anomalisa, but sometimes, it seems like filmmakers or studios want to make a film look and feel complex and deep, but end up being more confusing, hard to follow, and not very good. It’s alright to have a movie that is good simple fun. It’s why I really loved today’s film, Shaun the Sheep Movie. This was a stop-motion film made by Aardman, and was released on August 5th here in the states, and was directed by Richard Starzak and Mark Burton. It was a solid hit with it making over $96 mil of its $25 mil budget. So, how good was this movie to me? Is it truly one of the best animated films of 2015? Maybe you should be like the sheep, and mosey on through the review, and find out.

The movie is about a sheep named Shaun and his flock of sheep friends that live on a farm that is owned by, well, a farmer. After going through the same routine after a number of days, Shaun decides to find a way to get a day off, which results in some shenanigans, resulting with the farmer ending up in the big city. It is up to Shaun and his friends to go into the big city and to save their farmer!

So, what does this stop-motion animated film do so well that it was considered one of the best animated films of 2015 and one of famous game designer Hideo Kojima’s favorite movies? One element it does well is that it has no real dialogue. Yeah, it’s a The Triplets of Belleville kind of situation, where the film relies more on its visual format to actually tell the story and get emotions out of the characters. It’s actually nice to see animated films do this, since it means that the writers and story creators don’t have to lean on lazy writing and pop culture lingo. Now, with that said, there are actors, but the most you will get out of them are grunts and other noises. Still, the choice of having no real words spoken won’t mean anything if the animation isn’t top-notch, and well, it’s Aardman, so it is top-notch animation. The characters move fluently, and the facial expressions are just hilarious to see unfold. Since this is Aardman, the physical humor is sidesplitting. It’s easily some of the best physical comedy you will ever see.

If I had to complain about something, it’s the story. The story is well told, but it is simple, and the villain, while funny, is not very interesting. It’s just a nitpick, but I can see some people for one reason or another not wanting to see this sort of silent film.

Overall, Shaun the Sheep Movie is a simple, charming, kind-hearted, entertaining, and beautifully-executed movie. It rightfully deserves that Oscar nomination and all of the high praise it received. It also makes you wish that Lionsgate, the distributors of the film, could use Shaun the Sheep as a milestone in what good animated films are, and help out other creative studios instead of well, Norm of the freaking North! Seriously, your first good animated family film in forever, and they think a good follow-up is a film where Rob Schneider is a polar bear? However, I’m telling you, if you pick up Shaun the Sheep Movie, for the love of everything that is amazing, skip the previews. It’s nothing but garbage. Well, we got that out of the way. I am feeling up to looking at an anthology film once more, but not just any anthology film, an anthology film based off of Halo. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation: The Boxtrolls Review

(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview.biz. Thanks for checking my site out, and I hope you enjoy the article!)

Before I get officially started, I just wanted to be clear about my editorial on Kubo and the Two Strings. I don’t think there was any intentional racism or anything like that in terms of the casting. I just thought it was a bit weird to see only two Asian actors in a film that was heavily based on Japanese mythology. I don’t think the people at Laika are bad for casting who they did. Heck, if they see this review and my editorial, I would be happy to get in touch with them for an interview about Kubo. It’s honestly my most anticipated animated film of the year. Now then, let’s begin with the actual review for today!

I sort of surprised myself here with this series of reviews. The first surprise is that I haven’t talked about the amazing Studio Ghibli films yet, but I will get to them in good time. The second surprise is that I haven’t really talked about Laika yet. This studio is well known among the animation scene, for being one of the few studios that does the back-breaking work of stop-motion animation and has been very popular among the movie-going audience for their previous hits, Coraline and Paranorman. So, with this series of reviews talking about movies that are lesser known, why am I talking about Laika? Well, I think they are the underrated studio of the animation scene. People might know of their films, but they always seem to be overshadowed by the bigger releases. Since I did an article on their upcoming film, Kubo and the Two Strings, I decided to tackle their most recent film, The Boxtrolls. The Boxtrolls was even better than Big Hero 6. The film was released on September 16th, 2014, and was directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. These two talented individuals have huge experiences within animation and visual effects for films like Hook, The Rocketeer, Paranorman, Back to the Future, Antz, James and the Giant Peach, A Goofy Movie, and video games like Full Throttle, The Dig, Bone: Out of Boneville, and Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent. So, how good is this film with boxes full of trolls, and a governmental organization that has a weird obsession with cheese? Well, get your favorite box and let’s find out!

The Boxtrolls takes place in a place called Cheesebridge. A story goes out that the local monsters known as Boxtrolls have kidnapped a baby and are going to eat it. Luckily, the audience gets to learn that the Boxtrolls have not eaten the child, but instead, have raised it like one of their own. The young boy is named Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright (you know, Bran Stark from Game of Thrones) and once old enough, he learns about the cruel upper world with the villains of the film, the red hats, who were tasked to get rid of all the Boxtrolls. Along this frightful experience, he gets to know the mayor of the town’s daughter named Winnie, voiced by Elle Fanning. Can Eggs save his Boxtroll family, and learn the truth about his past?

While I do have a lot of praise for this film, I do have a few criticisms. If you have seen the advertising and have seen the movie, you know that the film does not have its dark/mature-toned stories that were in Laika’s other work. It has dark imagery, but I remember when I watched Paranorman for the first time, and was surprised at how in-depth the film was with its characters. The story is also a tad predictable, since we have seen some of these story elements in other films like Tarzan, with Eggs being raised by creatures. Normally, I would be a lot harsher on the more predictable story elements, since we should be seeing something done differently with said tropes, but just like in How to Train your Dragon, they are executed well enough to where I don’t care. I also wish the Boxtrolls got a little more development in terms of how they arrived and why they have boxes in the first place.

With those negatives out of the way, let’s gush! This film has some of the best stop-motion animation around, that might even be slightly better than Aardman! I love the art design with the slightly gothic/Victorian look of the world in which they put the characters. While the theme of class disparity is not very subtle, with the white hats and the boxtrolls, it does bring up some pretty entertaining elements to the characters, like how the white hats would rather spend money on cheese than things that would help the community. While Eggs is a decent enough and likable character, the other characters overlap him as the more entertaining individuals. I love Winnie, and how instead of being constantly afraid of the trolls, is headstrong and has a thing about wanting to see the so-called vicious nature of the Boxtrolls. However, the characters that steal the show are the villains. The Red Hats are probably some of the most entertaining villains I have ever seen in a family film. It helps that the casting for the villains are great, and these actors are hardly recognizable as said characters. You have Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, and a hard-to-recognize Tracy Morgan as the goons, but the one who I was surprised by the most was the lead villain, who was played by Ben Kingsley. Kingsley’s character also has elements that have reminded many people of Nightcrawler, where you work so hard to obtain your goal whether or not it ends up killing you. Even though I think the villains have the best lines and characters, the rest of the voice cast does a stellar job at fitting the setting. This is why I praise actors who can pull off voice work. It’s not easy as heck, as Chris Rock made into an infamous joke about how much celebrity mugging there is in animated films. Instead of voice mugging, you get actual actors who care about their job of bringing the characters to life. I also adore that the film doesn’t lean on modern pop culture lingo. It makes the movie more timeless for sticking to normal lingo. In terms of humor, some of the jokes fall flat, but it’s a film that made me laugh a lot.

While The Boxtrolls might be a bit more simple compared to Laika’s previous work, it’s still a very creative and entertaining film. If for some reason you have not picked this film up, you should. It was also filmed in 3D, and not retrofitted, so if you had to pick a version of the film to purchase, get the one that has the 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD combo pack. It’s one of the best animated films I have seen of the 2010s. You know what? I loved getting to talk about stop-motion so much, I want to talk about another recent stop-motion classic. Next time, we will take a look at Shaun the Sheep Movie. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions: Kubo and the Two Strings

(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see the rest of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. Thanks for reading my article! I hope you enjoy it!)

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

Out of all the studios I have yet to talk about, I have surprised myself that I haven’t talked about Laika. I mean, I should since they are the only ones making stop-motion animated films that really do push the envelope of what can go into a film aimed at all ages. Don’t fret though; I will review their work in the near future. For now, let’s talk about what is quite frankly, my most anticipated animated movie of 2016, Kubo and the Two Strings. Let’s get started with the impressions! Oh, and here is a link to the trailer if you want to watch it for yourself!

Animation/Art Direction

There is no doubt in my mind or anyone’s mind that this is one heck of a beautiful-looking movie. I mean, these individuals at Laika have made some visually impressive movies in the past, and they seem to get better and better after each film. The film’s look just hits all of those moods of delightful, ominous, and weird. You can tell how much love and effort Laika put into their movies, which is leagues more than most third-party studios, even studios like Dreamworks.

 

Humor

I will say, and probably say again in the future, that the comedic aspects of Laika films have always been hit-or-miss with me. For every joke that works, there is one that doesn’t. It definitely depends on the film itself, since I found the jokes in Paranorman to work better than the ones in The Boxtrolls, but my point still stands that the humor is not consistent. Of course, I realize that humor is subjective. It seems like the humor is taking more of a backseat in this film, and I am all for it. Granted, you can probably see one of the jokes coming when they introduce George Takei’s character in the trailer, but overall, it seems like the humor will be more subtle or not as heavy in this movie. I do hope I’m right though, I would hate for something this atmospheric and beautiful to be riddled with bad comedy.

 

The story

Kubo is a young boy who lives with his mother in a village. One day, a spirit from the past releases an age-old vendetta, and causes mass chaos with gods and monsters invading the land to get Kubo and his powers. Kubo then sets off on a journey to obtain a magical armor his father wore to save the land.

 

Any concerns?/Casting

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the voice cast. Listen, I can probably guess why they made these casting decisions, but it’s 2016, so this is kind of awkward. With the recent Oscar controversy and the Gods of Egypt casting problems, you would think Hollywood would have been more…cautious with the casting. Not that the actors this film hired are bad, because they aren’t. George Takei, Ralph Fiennes, Charlize Theron, and Matthew McConaughey are not bad actors at all. The problem is that in a film that is heavily inspired by Japanese folklore and mythology, they only hire two Asian actors. I’m sorry, but you can’t tell me this isn’t a bit tone deaf in terms of casting.

Now, with that being said, I can probably understand why they got so many recognizable actors. My guess is that due to stop-motion being a hard sell for some reason, they promised to get some big actors who are popular right now. It’s a shame that Hollywood thinks you can’t make an animated family film in any other form than CGI. I think the acclaim films like Song of the Sea, Ernest & Celestine, and Laika’s other films proven that other animated art forms are still amazing and can lead to great products, but I digress. It just seems like it’s a bummer that they couldn’t find some other great Asian actors that could have fit some of these roles perfectly. Now, of course, if the actors do a good job immersing themselves in their characters, then that is a good thing, but like I said, it is 2016, and to have only two Asian actors in a film that is heavily leaning on themes of Japanese mythology, it’s hard not to notice this.

Another interesting fact is that Laika has made two films in a row with a male lead. Why not make the lead a female? I can understand if by the end, if the main lead isn’t an interesting character, then the gender wouldn’t change anything, but I wonder if they will make another movie with a female lead again, as in Coraline.

 

Prediction: Hit!

Now, whether I think the casting is a big deal or not, I do feel like the film will be a critical hit! To me, Laika hasn’t made a bad movie. Some of their films might have better elements than others, but so far, not one is what I would consider to be an official dud. I think if you have enjoyed their other films, then you should definitely go out and see this movie when it’s released in theaters later this year!