Is The Weinstein Company the Worst Animation Distributor?

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

Last year, I wrote an editorial calling out Lionsgate as the worst animation distributors in Hollywood. I still stand by that opinion that they are one of, if not the worst distributors of the animated film scene. Lionsgate is to animation distribution as Central Park Media was to anime distribution, where they chose quantity over quality, and forever stained their reputation. Sure, both companies might have a bright spot here and there, but 99.9% of the time, there was just pure garbage in their library. However, I have come to realize that there are plenty of bad animation distributors that are terrible in many different ways. Like I said above, Lionsgate is bad because they choose to bring over whatever, without thinking that it might look questionable that they bring over low-budget title after low-budget title without thinking if it’s of any high quality. Today though, we are looking at The Weinstein Company.

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While they may have plenty of high quality live-action films under their belt like Lionsgate does, their presence in the animation scene can be seen as just as bad as Lionsgate, or by some people worse. And to be honest, I agree. Let’s talk about what makes them one of the worst distributors of animated films.

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Since I can’t just retread comparing them to GKids once again, let’s take a look at their history of distributing animated films. Luckily, they have a much smaller library of films than Lionsgate, since they didn’t go for the “let’s buy any cheap animated film we can and shove a bunch of YouTube stars and C list celebrities into them” strategy. Unfortunately, what they have chosen for their small lineup of animated features doesn’t at all scream of quality. Instead of going the route of GKids or Shout! Factory by choosing pristine titles that deserve it, The Weinstein Company does hand-pick their titles, but I wouldn’t call them classics. Their lineup of titles include The Magical Roundabout, or as it’s also known as Doogal, Underdogs, the upcoming Leap!, Arthur and the Land of the Invisibles, Hoodwinked, Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil, TMNT, and Escape from Planet Earth. Yeah, that’s not a stellar lineup. Sure, you could argue films like Hoodwinked, at the very least, had a style and personality to it, and Azur & Asmar: The Prince’s Quest is visually beautiful, but that doesn’t really help or save their lineup.

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So, like a lot of companies, they distributed some terrible movies, but what makes them exactly the worst? I’m sure you guys are wondering that, since I haven’t really brought that up. Well, if you look at the reviews for Underdogs, Escape from Planet Earth, Doogal, and Arthur, you see that they are some of the worst reviewed films, in terms of animation. What exactly happened? The Weinsteins have a very notorious reputation of editing, cutting out, and recasting the films they bring over. You know all of those obnoxious pop culture references, pointless celebrities, and bad jokes in Doogal? Yeah, the original didn’t have a lot of them. Does Arthur and the Land of the Invisibles seem very choppy and annoying? The original wasn’t like that. Why does Leap! have recasted actors for minor or lead roles? Are you catching what I’m throwing right now? Instead of spending money and marketing on the film itself, they tend to hire a bunch of celebrities to redub lines, voice characters who didn’t talk in the original, and taking out any of the charm the original films may have had. It’s like they really didn’t care what they were doing, spent money for changes that didn’t need to be made, and then realized that they invested a bunch of cash into these films, knowing they will not make it back.

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That’s probably the worst part. I always think that they realize that they have yet another project that will not be reviewed well, won’t make them money, and secretly toss it into release date limbo, and then quietly release it onto Netflix without anyone knowing. Luckily, I am one of those people that find out about films like the ones they release, and make sure to remind people that they chose to distribute these films. Why would they go through the trouble of getting the rights, spending money on unnecessary changes, and then pull out and quietly take the loss?

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What would I change about their tactics? I would change everything. If you are going to bring over animated films, bring over ones people actually want to watch. If the film already has an English dub, then don’t recast and waste more money on new actors. If you think about cutting and editing a film for some unknown reason, then take Hayao Miyazaki’s advice when you thought about cutting and editing Princess Mononoke, and don’t. If you honestly don’t want to put it in theaters because it will make you look bad and it won’t perform well, then put it straight to DVD, and people will instantly forget about it. That way, you don’t set off a bunch of red flags and alarm sounds, when you keep moving release dates for the movie. Also, if they aren’t so committed to helping get animation from overseas here in the states, then why bother? Why not just focus on the films you obviously put more effort put into them? It’s obvious that they have never made money on their animated films.

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So, is The Weinstein Company the worst animation distributor? Well, they are really bad, but for entirely different reasons than Lionsgate or Open Road Films. While Lionsgate is bad because they will literally bring over or pick up anything, The Weinstein Company is bad because they will pick up a film, do an insane amount of editing, recasting, redubbing, and so forth to films that end up as worse for wear. Instead of picking the right projects like Sony Pictures Classics and GKids, they pick up films that are already middle-of-the-road or bottom-of-the-barrel, and make them worse. I think the only film I can suggest seeing from their library of animation is Azur & Asmar, but be prepared to watch it in French, and look at some stiff animation. Even then, GKids helped with that film, so I wouldn’t really call it a Weinstein Company film. Who knows how they will handle Leap!, but I am sure if you don’t see it get even a limited release, then they don’t care, and are, once again, ashamed that they put money into such a terrible movie.

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The Other Side of Animation 50: Underdogs Review

(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!)

 

Well, we are here yet again with another GOYA Award winner. I never made it my intention of criticizing/talking about this award system from Spain so much, but yet, it gives me a lot to talk about. When we live in a world where the movie-going individual has found admiration, respect, and love for animated films from overseas, it’s amazing how many clunkers there are that try to essentially be a DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, or any of the riffraff that isn’t those big three. You can definitely find some interesting stories with some of these films, like with today’s target, the Argentina/Spain collaboration, Underdogs. This film, which is also known as The Unbeatables in the UK, and Metegol in Argentina, Underdogs has a very, peculiar history of being brought over to the states. It was fully translated, dubbed by celebrities, and was (and still is) being distributed by The Weinstein Company here in the states. Unfortunately, it kept being pushed back multiple times in 2015, but a week before its actual release, it was pulled from the release schedule and is now on Netflix and is now available on DVD. Boy, doesn’t that sound frightening? It sounded like The Weinstein Company made a very big mistake in investing in this movie, which is why they released it when no one even remembers or cares about it. It kind of screws over the big stars they brought on board for this, like Ariana Grande, Katie Holmes, John Leguizamo, Nicholas Hoult, and Mel Brooks, to name a few. Then again, I haven’t heard one interview where they talked about it. So, did they want to make sure no one saw this for a reason? Is it a huge disaster? Well, let’s see what the damage is.

The story revolves around a young man named Jake, voiced by Matthew Morrison. He lives in a small town where he works at a bar as a busboy. One day he gets into an encounter with the town bully, Ace, voiced by Nicholas Hoult, and challenges him to a foosball game. Jake beats Ace at a game, and humiliates him in front of everyone in the town, and impresses his love interest, Lara, voiced by Ariana Grande. Seven years pass, and Ace returns to the town as one of the biggest soccer players in the world. Ace, being one who doesn’t take losing lightly (even when that loss happened seven years ago!), he decides to buy the town and ruin everyone’s’ lives. Jake falls into despair, and due to the miracle of lazy scriptwriting, a tear falls from his face onto a foosball figure and brings it to life. This horrifying little individual is Captain Skip, voiced by Taran Killam. He decides to help Jake beat Ace at soccer, and save Lara. Can Jake and his team of tiny foosball players (who don’t really do much but provide slapstick comedy and force the humans to do all the work during the actual soccer match) save the day?

To be honest, I can see why this film was, how you say, quietly shown the door. The animation is not very good. Part of that reason is that a lot of the character designs are unappealing and quite frankly ugly-looking. Sometimes, a design doesn’t translate well from paper to CGI. There is a reason why Pixar and Disney have a set style for their characters, because they are appealing to look at. The only times the animation gets decent is during the soccer sequences, and even then, it’s still not impressive in the slightest. It’s like watching an action anime where you know the entire budget went into the action sequences, and what little was left went into making the other elements of the film passable. The resolution of the textures is just painful to look at. The voice acting was also very spotty, where the dub didn’t match the lip movements, and the actors didn’t care that they are getting paid to, you know, act! It’s like they went with a practice take, and didn’t need anything else! It doesn’t help the film either that the plot is not focused. It has boring characters, a romance that isn’t earned, and probably one of the most pathetic villains I have ever seen. Oh yeah, let’s talk about one of the top 5 most pathetic villains in all of cinema. Ace loses a foosball match, leaves for seven years, comes back, and basically ruins the small town because he was humiliated by that one match. How much of a pathetic waste of air do you have to be to have that ruin your entire life? Heck, the logic in this film makes no sense. Why would an entire town be afraid of one punk kid? It’s not like there isn’t a police force there, you see policemen, why didn’t they just billy-club the punk for being a terror of the town, and send him to jail? Why is there a magical tear in this movie? How do the other foosball players come alive when they weren’t hit by a magical plot item? Why was there genetic mutation going on, and yet is never brought up again? This entire film tries to pretzel itself with all these ideas to make sense, but it ends up with a pretzel with too many twist and turns. It’s also overbaked, and sits like a rock inside your belly when you eat it. There is zero satisfaction with watching this film from beginning to end. You just don’t freaking care about anyone, since the film doesn’t take time to develop anyone outside of one-dimensional tropes. It ends with a Rocky-style “the bad guy wins, but everyone loves the underdog!”, but it’s so boring, tired, and again, it doesn’t feel earned, and yes, you don’t even care!

So, was there anything I liked about this movie? Well, I sort of liked the little foosball players. Granted, most of the time, they were annoying, and John Leguizamo, god bless him, was trying, but he came off as grating most of the time. That being said, those little guys were definitely much more interesting than the actual humans. I also liked one joke, but that is not a sign of positivity in a film that isn’t funny or at all watchable.

Funny enough, the biggest piece of praise you can give this film is that it was smart enough to stay straight-to-DVD. They didn’t pull a Norm of the North and shove it into theaters, which I think was the original idea. Luckily for The Weinstein Company, they should know that I knew about the movie, and will make sure they, and everyone else, knows that they released a terrible movie. It’s easily the second worst animated film I have seen in 2016. Again, the only reason it’s not number one with Norm of the North, is because The Weinstein Company knew they would get crucified for releasing this waste of time on the big screens. I don’t get how this became popular, besides it being popular in countries that treat soccer as a religion. This is just pure garbage, and no, this might not have been an American-made film, but saying “I shouldn’t be criticizing this film because it was super popular in other countries” is pure ignorant bullocks. There are so many films from foreign countries that have come out over here, and were and still are amazing. The only reason this film was at all popular was because it is focused around a sport that everyone else treats like it’s the only thing worth living for. Plus, Spain and South America have made amazing animated films, like Boy and the World and Wrinkles, so there is no excuse for “it’s a country not known for animation”, since there have been amazing films that can quite frankly be better than what we make here in the states. Avoid this movie at all cost, and not even for a bad movie night. Just don’t waste your time on this horrendous excuse for animation. You know what? After watching so much schlock, I’m going to do as many positive film reviews as possible, so next time, we look at The Painting. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review, and I hope you don’t buy this movie. See you all next time

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation: Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest 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. Thanks for reading and enjoy the review!)

As you may have noticed, a good chunk of the animation reviews I have written are from the distributor, GKIDS. Well, that’s because more people should know about this company. For many years, they have made sure to show off and help bring over the highest quality of animated films from all over the world. A lot of these films are quite fantastic, and are as good, or even better than the films that Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks release. (Well, depending on the year they are released they are.) If you read my reviews, you should be familiar with some of the films I have covered already, like Ernest & Celestine, Song of the Sea, and The Rabbi’s Cat. That is why I’m going to cover GKIDS’ first official animated film release. Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest was originally released back in 2006 and was finally brought over to the states in 2008 with help from The Weinstein Company. The movie was directed by famous French director, Michel Ocelot, who film junkies should recognize for his other animated films like Tales of the Night, and Kirikou and the Sorceress. Ocelot definitely has a distinct style with a lot of the characters moving like those 2D wooden puppets. While I do think this film is good, I have some complaints about it. For now though, let’s get started with the review of Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest.

The story of Azur and Asmar is an original fairy tale, of course taking some inspirations from 1001 Arabian Tales and what not. The story revolves around two boys named Azur and Asmar. Azur is a blue-eyed blond-haired son of a nobleman, and Asmar is the child of the nurse who takes care of the two boys. While growing up, the nurse that takes care of both of them tells them the story of the Djinn Fairy that is captured inside a mountain. After Azur gets separated from Asmar, Asmar and his mother are banished from the country, while Azur takes multiple studies in the city. After many years, Azur grows up to be a young man and decides to travel across the sea to the country where the Djinn Fairy is being held. Along the way to this country, Azur meets a hermit-like character named Crapoux, who once, many years ago, tried to search for the fairy and failed. Azur eventually meets up with the nurse and Asmar, both of whom have grown older. Together, Azur and Asmar journey across the land hoping to find the Djinn Fairy.

Before we get to the criticisms, how about we talk about the beautiful scenery and colors used in the movie? If this film succeeds in anything, it’s to be one of the most visually striking animated films of all time. So many bright and gorgeous colors are used. You could pause at any point within the movie and make individually framed portraits of the film, it’s that good looking! I also adore the amount of cultural references that are in this movie. For example, when Azur arrives in country that he was going to, a lot of the natives treat him like he is the devil and all because he has blue eyes. I found that to be an odd thing to be afraid of, but I then looked it up, and this is a real cultural thing in some countries. Another example is when Azur is in the market area, and two vendors argue with each other. One spoke French, and the other spoke Arabic. It was rather interesting to see two different languages from the vendors interact with one another. I also like some of the characters. The mother is a rather strong female character who, once she reunites with Azur, is a no-nonsense woman, but she still cares for both her natural son and Azur. Azur and Asmar also have distinct, if not super varied personalities. Azur is the more naïve, but well-educated of the two, and Asmar is the more aggressive individual. Then again, I wouldn’t blame Asmar for being upset at Azur, since Azur’s dad tossed him and his mother out. I also like some of the creativity with how there are two different ways of finding the Djinn Fairy, and that there are some actual risks to get to where they need to be. Granted, the ending kind of messes this all up, but I will talk about that later.

So, where does this film fall flat? Well, despite having some of the best visual flair I have ever seen in an animated film, the actual animation of the CGI models is rather mediocre. They move awkwardly and unnaturally. This isn’t like Tales of the Night, where the clunky animation was meant to look like that since they were mimicking puppets. I also think the lush art style makes the character models look worse, since they visually look cheaply made. I know I harp on Europe for having such bad CGI animation, but it can’t be said enough, since they are either using weaker technology than the rest of the world for the CGI or it’s a rather odd-looking design choice. It’s funny since there are some scenes where the animation looks fluid, but they’re so few and far between. I also found the ending to be cute, but underwhelming. It seems to wrap up way too nicely when there was a lot at stake for either of the two princes to make it to their final destination, and yet, it feels like it didn’t matter in the end. Everybody gets a happy ending!

Despite some of the animation flaws and the overly-happy happy ending, I do like this movie. I can’t say it’s my favorite release from GKIDS so far, but it’s definitely more interesting than what comes out most of the time in theaters. If you can find this film for cheap, I would definitely get it. I would also recommend you skip through the trailers for the other movies since they all look really and I mean really bad. If you are up for some downright amazing visuals, then Azur and Asmar has you covered! You know, I love talking about GKIDS. How about we talk about another film from them? I was thinking next time we talk about A Cat in Paris. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!