The Other Side of Animation 96: Cats Don’t Dance 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 have a complicated relationship with cult films. It should be clear what I’m talking about, but I mean films that didn’t do well at release, but gained a huge and dedicated following later in life, and are now considered fondly memorable films. It’s not that I don’t get the admiration or ironic love for films like The Room, Birdemic, and so on. I just don’t get the idea that these films should be celebrated. We don’t really do this with any other type of media. If the show is bad, we don’t watch it, and let it die after one season. If the food at a restaurant is bad, we don’t go back to that place. Why should movies like the ones mentioned above get praise and enjoyment out of watching them? I know I’m not speaking for everyone, and I do have my own guilty pleasures, but still have no urge to really own those guilty pleasures, or truly watch them. I would rather spend time, money, and praise on something that is amazing, and support it. For me, I would rather invest into cult classic films that are actually good, but maybe came out in the wrong place and the wrong time. Something like Cats Don’t Dance is a good example. Cats Don’t Dance was collaboration between Turner Feature Animation and Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. It was directed by Mark Dindal, and was released on March 26th, 1997. It was unfortunately a massive bomb, and while it got decent reviews, it didn’t help the film make back it’s small $32 mil budget. It only made $3.6 mil back, but then became a cult classic after it was released on video and was shown a lot on channels like Cartoon Network. So, how does the film hold up over time? Let’s get started!

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The story revolves around a cat named Danny, voiced by Scott Bakula. He moves from his hometown to Hollywood to make it big as a star. Unfortunately for him, he finds it harder than he thinks. Thankfully, he ends up meeting a likable cast of characters, including a female cat named Sawyer, voiced by Jasmine Guy, a hippo named Tilly, voiced by Kathy Najimy, a cynical goat named Cranston, voiced by Hal Holbrook, a nervous turtle named T.W., voiced by the late Don Knotts, and a sarcastic fish named Frances Albacore, voiced by the late Betty Lou Gerson. Danny even lands his first role as a cat for a Noah’s Ark film starring a Shirley Temple parody named Darla Dimple, voiced by Ashley Peldon. Sadly, Hollywood decides to chew Danny up and spit him out on the very first day. Can he make it in Hollywood where it’s hard to be an animal starring in films? Can he avoid the menacing grasp of Darla Dimple?

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So, what does this film do right? I mean, it flopped, shouldn’t be that hard to see why it didn’t do well, right? Well, like usual, sometimes bad movies rightfully flop or underperform, and good movies flop or underperform. This is one of those good movies that sadly didn’t do so well. Alright, what’s good about it? While the film can be corny, there is this huge sense of passion that I think floats around the entire film. For example, let’s talk about the commitment to the setting and style of film. It’s obvious to see the tone of the older Hollywood films that your grandparents and parents probably grew up on with the 30/50s Hollywood setup, the references to old-time actors, and the type of characters you would probably see at this point in time. I love the fact the villain is a Shirley Temple parody, since back then, she was one of the biggest stars around. She is so cynical, yet hilarious, since this is the comedic approach everyone should take for an evil child star character. She’s also very expressive, and probably the best part about the movie. She is a blast to watch, and what sets her over-the-top is her butler, Max, voiced by the director himself, Mark Dindal. The way they use Max is always gut-busting hilarious. The way they shoot the angles, the way they portray his giant stature, and how they play with this character is always going to bring out a laugh. That doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t have good chemistry, because they do. This film has a very likable cast of characters, who work well off one another. While not the most defined characters, everyone has a good line, a joke, and a fun moment within the film. The film also has a subtle and not so subtle theme of discrimination, that honestly hits harder today than ever before. While Hollywood has always had really crummy casting decisions, and making it a challenge for non-white actors to get anything done in Hollywood, with the recent white-washing incidences, the discrimination theme in this film is way more current than just another “be yourself” plot point in any other animated film.

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That same spirit can be seen in the animation as well. Everyone is expressive, vibrant, and it shows why Warner Bros. animation is really good. During this period in time, when Warner Bros. was trying to copy the Disney formula, their animation suffered. They were not good at mimicking the emotion of Disney’s animation at the time, and the only good parts to a Warner Bros.-animated film was when it was comedy. I mean, when you are the studio behind Animaniacs and Looney Toons, that should be child’s play. Thankfully, since they wanted to go more for those more “cartoony” live-action comedies from back in the day, the animation, since they have total control of their movements and sequences, can match that speed that they wanted to try and pull off back then. The voice cast is also pretty stellar. I was surprised to see Scott Bakula do such a good job, and to see him be a rather good singer. Everyone felt totally committed to their characters, and I was never taken out of the film by an actor obviously playing themselves.

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If I had to complain about something major in the film, it’s the fact that Danny is not the most interesting character. He’s pretty much blank slate as a character. He’s not a horrible character, but like the female lead, you know how his story arc is going to go. While I also enjoyed the rest of the cast, they didn’t have much to them either. The only ones to feel fully fleshed-out were Woolie and Darla Dimple. I think the film could have also been longer. It’s a comfy 70 minutes, and everything moves at a good pace, but I think they could have slowed it down a little more to expand on the characters. The film probably could have used a few more mil in the budget, because while the animation is great, you can tell at small points in the film where they are just standing still because they couldn’t animate them.

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While the film does have its issues, and we are never going to get nor should we get a sequel or a remake, I enjoyed Cats Don’t Dance. It’s one of the few cult classic films I don’t mind watching from time to time. They recently rereleased this film in widescreen in the Warner Bros. Archive Collection. This is a fun film to watch, and I think anyone can get into it. Well, I love talking about fun cult films that are good for all ages, but next time, we shall look at a film that’s more adult, and while flawed, has my respect with Anomalisa. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Go See It!

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The Other Side of Animation 86: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract 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!)

It’s actually quite refreshing to see DC get back on its feet after the failure that was 2016. So far, it has had two great movies with The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, both being fantastic films that are fun to watch and have a lot of great personality to them. Neither of them feels like they were trying too hard to be edgy or focused on the wrong aspects of the film that completely ruin everything else. So, where does Teen Titans: The Judas Contract stand among the DC fodder of this year? The Judas Contract is a follow-up to 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans, a film that I really despised, and felt like it was wasted, based on the fact that one unlikable character took too much of the main story-time from the other members. So, how good is the follow-up? Is it as fantastic as the 2005 original show, or is it just another dud in the basket of other duds from DC? Let’s find out.

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The story takes place one year after Justice League vs. Teen Titans. The team has gotten bigger with the newest member, Terra, voiced by Christina Ricci, a girl who can control rock. Nightwing, voiced by Sean Maher, has become co-leader of the Titans, along with Starfire. The main driving force and threat of this film centers around Brother Blood, voiced by Gregg Henry, a leader of a cult. He plans on taking the powers and life force from the Titans to ascend into godhood. He won’t be alone in pulling off this plan, as he has the help of Slade/Deathstroke, voiced by the late Miguel Ferrer. Can the Titans stop Brother Blood and Deathstroke? Is Terra a fully trustworthy character? Does this film have similar story beats to the 2000s series?

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Right off the bat, I want to say that this film does everything better than the previous film in every single way. First off, Damian Wayne does not steal the spotlight, as this time, everyone gets shared screen-time. For the most part, everyone gets their own little story arcs, like Blue Beetle and his divisive relationship with his family, Nightwing and Starfire being a couple, and Beast Boy with his relationship with Terra. This is what the first movie should have been instead of Damian Wayne being the worst thing on earth and hogging up what was pretty much Raven’s story. I liked a lot of what was going on between the team members, and found their chemistry to be leagues better than the last film. Even Damian Wayne is toned down in this film, and becomes rather tolerable. I can’t believe that he would be toned down, since the writers adore making him a power fantasy character. Sure, I can see some people not enjoying the pairings or story arcs of what is going on between the different characters, but at the very least, it’s a step up from Damian hogging the spotlight, while everyone else is either poorly written or not fleshed out. This time, it really does feel like a team, and that is what you look for in these types of films. It’s why the Justice League in this film universe really bugged me. It’s because they always acted like they didn’t really like or respect each other, and they seem to be at each other’s throats, and willing to kill each other.

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The animation is the typical direct-to-video DC film quality. It has good animation, even if at times they slow down the framerate, making the movements look iffy. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the film has some fantastic action sequences. Granted, when you have Deathstroke and a bunch of characters that have super powers, you should be able to make the action top-notch. I personally prefer the action in Justice League Dark, but that’s mostly because it’s all magic-based, and you can get away with cool spells and pretty visuals with magic. I also liked that everyone was pretty competent in terms of being able to hold their own. The previous film had some good action, but some characters felt like they got the short end of the stick.  The voice cast is also stellar. Everyone from the previous film reprises their roles, and Terra’s voice actress, Cristina Ricci, and Miguel Ferrer in one of his final roles as Deathstroke do great jobs at their own characters. The rest of the voice cast is decent, like I think Gregg Henry as Brother Blood does a solid job as a creepy cult leader. Oh, and if you are a comic book fan and haven’t seen this film yet, they do keep the creepy Deathstroke and Terra relationship that happened in the comics.

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The only real major complaint I have about the film is that the lead villain, Brother Blood, is not entirely original or unique. I have seen a couple of different versions of him, and each time that I have seen those iterations, he was way more imposing and threatening than this version. This version was simply boring, and he was just another zealous cult leader. Granted, Deathstroke had more of a character arc, alongside his relationship with Terra, but if Brother Blood is supposed to be the bigger threat, they didn’t do a good job. I also felt like the romance plot between Beast Boy and Terra was done way better in the show. Granted, a lot of storylines in films could be done better if they were spread across multiple episodes, but here it felt forced, even though that is what happens in the comics and the TV series. I think it also loses a lot of that emotional weight, because fans of the franchise have seen this story arc before. The only interesting change would be if we see the effect it had on Beast Boy in the next film.

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While I think The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark are better, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract gets my “Redemption from Something Awful Award”, due to how it improves upon everything the first film failed to do. Heck, if Wonder Woman and the future DC-animated films continue to be good, Warner Bros. could have what can be considered their best year in terms of DC films. If you haven’t checked this one out, definitely do so. Well, as I wait for Batman & Harley Quinn to come out, how about we take a look at Smurfs: The Lost Village next time? Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 78: Justice League Dark Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Go see it!

 

The Other Side of Animation 77: The LEGO Batman Movie 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!)

Like I mentioned in my Storks review, The LEGO Movie was a huge worldwide success. It made a lot of money, it was clever, funny, heart-warming, and paved the way for Warner Animation Group to take a stab at the animation market. When it became official that there were going to be more movies based on the colored blocks, it was no surprise, but a tiny bit of hesitation. Could Warner Brothers strike gold twice with more LEGO movies? The true test is definitely in 2017 with the future release of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and the recent release of The LEGO Batman Movie. Usually when spin-offs are announced to big money-making movies that follow side characters, you worry that the film is going to be a cynical cash grab. Luckily, with the directing of Chris McKay, a story done by Seth Grahame-Smith, and a script written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Wittington, this spin-off/next entry of the LEGO universe, The LEGO Batman Movie, was spot on. Why? Let’s build the review brick by brick, and find out.

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Will Arnett returns as the biggest, richest, and most egocentric billionaire man baby, Batman. After stopping yet another heist by the Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, Batman learns that the new police commissioner Barbra Gordon, voiced by Rosario Dawson, wants to hold Batman accountable for his actions, and be able to have the police and Batman work together. After some shenanigans that include all of the villains going to Arkham, Batman unintentionally adopts a young boy named Dick Grayson voiced by Michael Cera. Batman had better learn the meaning of friendship and family, because the Joker might have a sneaky plan.

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So, what makes this movie fantastic, and have such a high grade on Rotten Tomatoes? Well first off, as a LEGO spin-off film, it holds up on its own. Let’s face it. The LEGO Movie was a lightning-in-a-bottle kind of situation, very much like the original Toy Story, Ghostbusters, and Beauty and the Beast. Future films will probably never be that good again, and that should be okay if the end product is still fantastic. Now that we got that out of the way, this is just a good LEGO movie, a good Batman movie, and a good Batman parody movie. Instead of taking from one part of Batman’s history, they take in the entire 80 years or so of history of the character, and shove it into a movie that almost reaches two hours. It shows off the best, the light, the dark, the worst, the funniest, and the weirdest parts of the character and the universe in which Batman lives. I know some people would argue that Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders is a better comedic Batman, but I really disagree. While I love Caped Crusaders, I felt like it limited itself by understandably only reaching for material from the Adam West Batman era. It also ran out of steam in the third act that hurt the overall experience. You don’t get that here. The LEGO Batman Movie is a giant love letter to everything amazing and goofy about Batman. It’s quite shocking to see a good spoof and parody film, since for the longest time, the trend of making good and creative spoof films died in the 90s when all the bad parody films were coming out. Why does this one do parody well? It’s because the people that worked on this film knew what they were doing, and love the property. If you are going to make a parody of something, like the Hot Shot and Airplane films, you have to know what you are making fun of, and love it for that reason. If this was made by the hacks behind current spoof movies today (who really should be blacklisted and fired from Hollywood), The LEGO Batman Movie would be nothing but stupid references, that only acknowledge their existence and nothing more. Luckily, the director knew what he was doing, and made sure to give the film a good story, because the team knew they couldn’t just fly by with just Batman-centric jokes. While Batman is definitely an over-the-top comedic version of himself, they do give him a story arc and personality and drive. The same goes for everyone else. Dick Grayson could have easily been the worst aspect of the film, but due to great writing and a fantastic performance by Michael Cera, Dick becomes one of the highlights of the movie. I also adore all the cameos and references, like how Two-Face is played by Billy Dee Williams, who played Two-Face’s alter ego Harvey Dent in the 1989 Batman movie. Even though I could get a lot of the jokes since I have seen Batman over the years, I feel like casual viewers can easily enjoy this movie. It’s not just made for the fans. Just like The LEGO Movie, I liked that the film does make fun of both incarnations of Batman, but doesn’t pick a side. Let’s be honest, Batman can work both in dark storylines and goofy storylines, and somewhere in the middle, too. Even the more serious Batman storylines have really stupid stuff about them, because when dark Batman is done wrong, it’s really bad and can be even more unintentionally goofy. This is a movie that knew what it wanted to do, and executed it almost perfectly, unlike a lot of DC’s live-action film offerings.

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The animation is once again fantastic. It’s well made CGI that gets all those little details of LEGO blocks down perfectly, and while it does suffer from being too hectic at times on screen, due to everything being made of LEGO blocks, the fact that they cleverly limited the movements of everything to make it look stop-motion is still very impressive. All the characters look great, and the little details and side gags are clever and hilarious. I was at a screening with only a few people, and we all laughed hard. It was almost like an Edgar Wright film where you watch it and get a lot of the jokes, but then watch it a second time and can find more little jokes and details that may have been missed by you during the first viewing. The fight sequences are also creative, since if you can’t take advantage of the limitless possibilities of LEGO and the fact it’s animated, then you have failed as a director. The voice cast is perfect. While I know I support the idea of getting non-Hollywood celebrity actors for more theatrical film roles, when the casting is done right, it’s a wonderful thing. I don’t think I could have picked a better cast with Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Billy Dee Williams, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Adam DeVine, Zach Galifianakis, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jermaine Clement, Ellie Kemper, and you get the idea. It’s a fantastic cast full of actors with big and small roles that just make the overall film fun. I adore the chemistry between Batman and the Joker in a pseudo-romance plot that can only be done with a relationship between Batman and the Joker that isn’t creepy 18+ fanfiction. While Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger are always going to be the best Jokers, animated and live-action, Zach is easily my third favorite Joker. He just brings such a great energy to him.

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If I had to complain about something about this movie, the first 15 or so minutes can be very fast, and then it changes pace abruptly. It’s not distracting, but it’s noticeable, and I can understand if someone found it to be too much at one time. Other than that, the criticisms I have are mostly nitpicks, like some of the jokes don’t land, and sometimes the Batman villains don’t really have enough to them in terms of personality. Still, these weren’t enough to ruin the experience for me.

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While this might not reach the high tier level of The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie is easily the best animated movie of 2017 so far. It’s a love letter, a hilarious spoof of Batman, a great Batman movie in and of itself, and a wonderful entry into the LEGO animated universe. It makes me think that Warner Animation Group is going to become the new DreamWorks, which I will tackle in an article in the future. Now then, go see The LEGO Batman Movie. It might already be beating 50 Shades Darker, because it’s a film that everyone should check out. I’m in the mood for more DC, so how about we talk about Justice League Dark? Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 2

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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!)

Here we are with part two! If you haven’t checked out part 1, then you should, since I may or may not reference the previous films on this list. Here is the link to see part 1, and once you are done reading that list, you can go to this list. These films are the middle ground/”I wouldn’t want to watch again” films with the exception of the 11th film. Let’s begin!

18. The Croods

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Oh my golly gee, two DreamWorks films are in the middle of the list? Yeah, this is easily one of their worst years in terms of movies. The Croods definitely has more to it than Turbo, with some interesting concepts, like the old dealing with the new, adaptation, and evolution via the family and the evolved male they meet. The film also has some amazing visuals that are definitely more…Avatar-inspired, with lush vibrant plant life and animals. However, it unfortunately sticks into the “just okay” category of films, due to how it has some interesting ideas, but goes for a more generic tone of the father vs. the guy who’s crushing on his daughter, and becomes a mostly macho competition as they all avoid the danger of their ever-shifting earth. Some of the designs are neat, but they really oversexualized the daughter in this movie. Like, it’s trying so hard to be pleasing to the eye that it does the opposite. It’s a film that also falls under “great ideas and concept, but bad execution” category, which is something this year’s list of animated films are good at.

17. Alois Nebel

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This is easily one of the more visually impressive films from 2013. Alois Nebel is a Czech drama based on a graphic novel about a train dispatcher in the 1980s. He begins to deal with memories of when he was a young boy during World War II, as well as the problems of today after meeting a mute man at the station where he works. Its rotoscope animation and comic book art style definitely brings a personality to this morose story. It’s an ambitious film that’s unfortunately bogged down by a very slow pace. It can be very atmospheric and touching at times, but those parts are few and far between, due to how “plotless” the story can feel. It also has a bit of cultural history behind it, due to this period of time when this film takes place and the point of the WWII flashbacks. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I honestly had a hard time sitting through this film from beginning to end, but I respect it for doing something different than what we normally get with animation. It might be flawed, but it stands out among the 2013 animated films. Definitely get a copy of this, if it is your type of film.

16. Epic

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This film is infuriating, because there is a good dark fantasy film hidden somewhere in this inconsistently toned “epic” adventure. They didn’t need to make a Ferngully-style story, they should have taken out the stunt casting of Beyonce and Pit Bull since they had no reason to be there, a lot of the modern dialogue was distracting, and the comedy relief was grating. The only stunt casting I didn’t mind was Steven Tyler, and that was because he had some of the better lines in the overarching story. If they had just made it its own dark fantasy adventure film, with a more timeless script, mature story, kept the modern elements out, recast some of the stunt casting, and gotten a director like the Russo Brothers or J.J. Abrams, this would have been easily one of Blue Sky Studios’ best movies. It has a solid script (minus the distracting elements), beautiful animation, and some good action. Sadly, it’s a bunch of wasted potential, with villains with no reason to do what they are doing, and in the end giving the movie-goers a very forgettable time. I can understand why some people like it, but it’s more so a very expensive tech demo to show off how good they have gotten with their designs and animation than anything else.

15. Monster’s University

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Even though I already said this about a lot of films on this list, Monster’s University encapsulates the entire “studio mandated/pointless sequel/prequel/cash grab/wasted potential”-style movie perfectly. Yes, there are touching moments, yes, the voice work is entertaining, yes the moral at the end is rather well done, and yes, seeing the different elements of ‘scaring’ broken down into different categories is creative. However, it’s a purely inconsequential movie. We know what’s going to happen in the end, the characters are forgettable, the jokes were either decent or flat, and it’s yet another college frat movie that you saw a million times during the late 70s early 80s, like Animal House. I would have been fine with this film if they either did something clever, or made fun of those college comedies. There is a reason why I call this film the “film that forced Pixar to take a break”, since they didn’t release a film until 2015’s Inside Out, due to their string of failed movies including Cars 2, Brave, and Monster’s University. It’s harmless, but there could have been much more to this film, but Pixar decided to sleepwalk on it.

14. Superman Unbound

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While I don’t hate Superman, I never found him interesting as a character. This movie, Superman Unbound doesn’t really help the case. My overall thought on the movie is that it’s okay. It has some great action, a cool design for Brainiac, and the overall story is told decently, but the art style is very distracting. Superman, Lois Lane, and a lot of the characters don’t look great, and have these weird body types. Even Brainiac ended up being a bit of an idiot, which is always funny when even with how smart characters can be, they can still make some pretty big mistakes, and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. Still, it was a decent action movie romp, but I would definitely skip this one, and move onto something like Superman vs. The Elite or Superman: Doomsday.

13. The Rabbi’s Cat

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I also reviewed this one in one of my earliest reviews, but I still stand by what I said about it being one of the more interesting, weird movies that I have seen. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable French animated film based off a graphic novel series about a cat that gains the ability to speak like a human after eating a parrot. It’s a slice-of-life-style film, where it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but the dialogue interactions of the characters keep it interesting. I also enjoyed hearing the characters talk about Judaism and their points of view on it. The ending is definitely underwhelming, and the story can be a bit unfocused, but if you are up for something that has a unique art style and a different kind of personality to it, then definitely check this out.

12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

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This is definitely a great and epic way to end one of the better animated comic book adaptations. I still don’t think that The Dark Knight Returns needed to be two parts, since I would rather judge it as a whole, and I don’t like the fact that DC keeps only making 75 minute-long films, but I digress. The second part of the overall story was dark in all the correct ways, I was glued to the screen watching how the story progressed, and while Superman and Batman are definitely older, the fight sequence between the two was intense and epic. I kind of call a stack of bologna on the ending, but it’s comic book stuff. Even then, it’s a great movie. Just try to find a way to get both parts in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition.

 

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this list!

The Other Side of Animation 74: Storks Review

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

When The LEGO Movie came out back in 2014, it took the world by storm. It was one of the biggest films of the year, and one of the biggest surprises in movie history. Everyone thought this was going to be a cynical cash-in like Home or Minions, but it ended up being better than what anyone could imagine. The directors and writers put in their all for this one movie, and it paid off with being one of the best animated films of the decade. It also showed that just because you are based on a toy, doesn’t mean you have to be terrible. It was a huge victory for Warner Brothers, and a great start to their new redone animation branch. So, to me, Storks had a lot to live up to. Released back in 2016, Storks was released by Warner Brothers, and while not bombing, it didn’t do as well as The LEGO Movie, and got mixed reviews. You either enjoyed the movie, or you got really irritated with it. Where do I stand on this film from director duo Doug Sweetland and Nicholas Stoller? Well, let’s find out.

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Storks is set in a world where, well, storks don’t deliver babies to households anymore, and are more like a cartoon version of what Amazon wants to do with delivery drones and delivery-packaged goods. The lead or one of the leads is a stork named Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, who is close to being the new boss of the company that is, as of right, now run by a stork named Hunter, voiced by Kelsey Grammar. While Junior may be close to getting the new position of boss, he is told to fire and get rid of the one human that is working there, an orphan named Tulip, voiced by Katie Crown. After some shenanigans, Junior and Tulip end up accidentally turning on the old baby-making machine (literally a machine) and, well, make a baby. It’s then up to them to get it to the family that requested it, while avoiding Hunter, a small pigeon voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, a pack of wolves played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and a stork that went rogue long ago named Jasper, voiced by Danny Trejo.

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So, this is a lot to take in with its comedic set-up, execution, and world. How does it all work? Well, for me at the very least, this is one of those movies that could and should have had a couple of more lookovers to polish it all out. I knew going in, that this movie would be more on the comedic side of things, and that would be okay. I’m fine when a comedy wants to be a comedy, but if you are going to add heart and soul to your comedy, it needs to be balanced out with the funny moments. I mean, think about some of the great comedies of the last two decades or so. Comedies like Hot Fuzz, Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek 2 work because while they are very funny, you still cared about the characters and what they were going through. It was icing on the cake that the movie was gut busting hilarious. At least for me, Storks doesn’t really reach that height of comedy.  I don’t think its two leads, while well-voiced and can work off each other well, have the greatest of character development. You get Tulip’s drive to find her family and to make sure the baby gets to its family, but Junior doesn’t really have the best drive as a character. It doesn’t help either that it goes through a “liar’s reveal” trope, but I can give it credit that it doesn’t daudle too long on that part of the story. It also would have been nice if characters like Jasper and Hunter could have had more time to be fleshed out or be even funnier or more entertaining as characters. Even the family that the baby is supposed to be taken to, with parents played by Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, should be funnier than what you get in the movie. Maybe it’s because they are fairly white bread overworked parents, but when you have those two actors, you can do more with them, and we know they can do more since both have been in fantastic animated films like The Iron Giant and Finding Dory.

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Now then, how is the comedy? Well, like most comedies that can be considered good or entertaining, there are some great jokes that are hilarious when done well, a few amusing jokes that make you chuckle, and some that fall flat. It’s a shame more films don’t take the route that the best comedies have taken, and pick and choose their jokes and not fall onto some of the more popular tropes in comedies. A lot of the visual gags and lines work, due to the animation of the film, but you do hear a groaner here and there, and characters like Pigeon Toady will either be annoying or hilarious depending on whom you are as an individual.

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Now, the film does try to cover up some plot holes by being very meta about it, with characters literally asking why these things exist, and that became fairly distracting. To me, meta humor is starting to slowly hit that point where it’s less about being very funny and clever, and more about using meta humor to hide and ignore that the story has issues. Why is the baby machine still around? Why were there storks delivering babies when there are more…natural ways of having babies? Why did the incident with Tulip shut down everything in terms of baby delivery? Why is the ‘off button’ behind a bunch of razor blades? I know when it comes to cartoon comedies, you have to just go with the flow, but the meta humor rides the line of covering up lazy world-building and writing.

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Now, that is not to say that I hate this movie. I know I just criticized it a whole bunch, but I found Storks to be an incredibly entertaining ride. The animation is great, it’s the right kind of fast, it helps the physical comedy hit it out of the park multiple times, and it’s got great designs. This is the same studio that did Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and it looks so much better than what the studio had to do with in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Seriously, watch that movie and tell me that you see how cheap it looks compared to the original Cloudy film.

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Anyway, the voice cast also does a fantastic job. Sure, you get some pretty solid performances from some of the actors like Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, and a majority of the cast sounds very engaged with their performances. I also give Warner Brothers so much credit for casting an actual honest-to-goodness voice actress for Tulip. Tulips’ actress, Katie Crown, is an actress most known for her role as Izzy from the Total Drama franchise. It’s just so rare that actual voice actors get major roles in animated films. It could have been so easy to just get a bubbly big-name actress to do this role, but they pretty much said “screw that”, and got an honest-to-gravy voice actress. As for a comedic cast, it’s really solid stuff. Andy Samberg, Keegan Michael Keye, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammar, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Danny Trejo, and Katie Crown all work off each other well and have some pretty great chemistry. For the comedy itself, I was laughing at multiple points in the movie, from the introduction of Key and Peele’s wolf characters, to the encounter with the penguins. Storks brings in very much “out there” brands of comedy that you would see in a Looney Toons short. I mean, it is Warner Brothers, they should know how this all works by now. Even the somewhat boring white bread family gets some great lines, but that should be no surprise, due to Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston being used to flexing their comedic muscles before.

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Storks might be a bit clunky in the world-building and story department, but it brings in so many laughs that it pretty much makes for an enjoyable ride. However, do I understand why it didn’t do well in the box office, and why critics were split on the film? Of course I do. I might like the film and recommend it for a good fun animated comedy, but you should be able to understand when someone else couldn’t get into it. Still, if you feel like you are in the mood for a comedy that’s less reliant on raunchy comedy and stock humor, Storks is that comedy. Well then, it’s time we look at films from 2017, and we shall start with Nerdland. Thank you for reading. I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 36: Justice League vs Teen Titans 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!)

SPOILERS/HEADS UP: I have seen the previous movies and I am going to spoil what happens in this movie. If you have not yet seen this movie, go buy the movie, watch it, and then come back. Plus, this will apparently help make sure we get more Young Justice/Teen Titans-related projects down the pipeline.

If there was one company that is not doing well with their movies and projects based off of their comic book properties, it would have to be DC. Seriously, think about it. Batman Arkham Knight’s PC port was and still is a disaster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is underperforming since Warner Bros. thought it would be a good idea to get Zack Snyder and Davis S. Goyer to be in charge of one of the most hyped superhero movies of all time (it’s not Fantastic 4 from 2015-failing, but it’s not making a profit), and even some of their better avenues with straight-to-DVD films are lacking in consistent quality. And to be honest, it’s a disappointment all around. DC is trying to be dark and gritty in order to try and counteract Marvel, but it is not working all the time. Usually, I think DC’s animated series and straight-to-DVD movies are pretty top-notch, with just one or two exceptions. Sadly, DC and Warner Bros. aren’t flawless with their good stuff either, since they make questionable moves like cancelling Young Justice because the viewership was bigger with female fans than male. Because, you know, apparently shows that cater to either genders or anyone, in fact, can’t be successful. Man, I’m really snarky in this opening bit. Anyway, I decided to check out DC’s newest straight-to-DVD offering with Justice League vs. Teen Titans. This film was released last month in April, 2016, and is in an interesting situation, since if this film does sell well, we could get more Teen Titans, Young Justice, and similar projects including films and TV shows out of this. As you shall soon see, in my personal opinion, I wish this wasn’t the film to be that savior.

The film revolves around Damian Wayne, voiced by Stuart Allan, after the events of Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, and Batman: Bad Blood. After helping out the Justice League take down a group of supervillains, Damian, being the most unlikable human being in that universe (we will get to that), decides to chew out Batman and the Justice League for being not as progressive with their strategies as he is. Essentially, Batman has had enough of Damian’s obnoxious attitude, and with no exaggeration, forces him to join the Teen Titans, a group of teenage superheroes. The Titans include Beast Boy, voiced by Brandon Soo Hoo, Raven, voiced by Taissa Farmiga, Blue Beetle, voiced by Jake T. Austin, and their leader, Starfire, voiced by Kari Wahlgren. While this is all going on, a sinister evil is trying to make his way into the real world, and is known as Trigon, voiced by the Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal. Can the Titans stop the evil from coming to this world?

Let’s get the bad out of the way. Why? Because for the few good things this film does well, it does a lot more wrong than right. Let’s start with the actual title of the film, Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Well, it’s a blatant lie. Sure, the Teen Titans do fight the Justice League, but instead of being a well-executed reason to have such a conflict, in reality, it’s more, “Trigon-possessed Justice League members wiping the floor with the Teen Titans in a very one-sided fight.”  If this was called Teen Titans: Day of Trigon or something that actually had anything remotely close to actually what happens, then it would be fine. It’s just bad marketing. Plus, the fight only lasts about three or four minutes, and that’s it. However, I can forgive the marketing, since it’s not the biggest problem with this movie. No, the biggest problem with this movie is Damian Wayne a.k.a, the newest Robin. He is by far one of the most unlikable, obnoxious, tedious, overpowered male fantasy, cocky, arrogant, and most despicable characters I have ever seen in my time of reviewing. Yeah, you can argue that he is a super-strong character because he is the son of Batman and the grandfather of Ra’s al Ghul, but that doesn’t mean that he’s a good character or that the stories that Damian has been a part of support his horrible traits. He is so incredibly disrespectful towards everyone, and doesn’t really change. I mean, technically he does, but it doesn’t feel rewarding or natural. They don’t do enough story-oriented events to make Damian more humble or have any known character arc. Heck, since he is in the film, he basically takes up 70% of the time that could have been used for the other characters, since they barely get any screen time, and it takes away from the actual lead of the story, Raven. It’s her story, since she is the daughter of Trigon, and yet, she doesn’t get a lot of development because Damian’s story hogs the running time. Over his development of the DC animated films, he has shown to be able to take down villains, and have encounters that overpower groups of heroes. For example, in Son of Batman, he takes down Deathstroke, a.k.a one of the most dangerous assassins in the entire DC universe by himself with no help! He even takes down a bunch of unkillable Trigon demons when the Titans couldn’t take them down by himself. Damian even beats Beast Boy at a DDR-style game that he has never played before on his first try. They show him struggle a little, but in the end, he bests Beast Boy. I just can’t stand this character, and throughout the entire film, I wanted reach through the screen and punch his disrespectful face. He shows no respect towards anyone, and the story keeps supporting his attitude. Even when he gets blasted by Blue Beetle and almost dies, he doesn’t give an apology for how he acted. Nope, he just gives one of those half-baked apologies that you know aren’t really serious. Again, due to how much Damian hogs the movie, in terms of screen time, it leaves everyone else pretty boring and one-dimensional. It’s ironic since the other members of the team are much more likable and interesting than him. Oh, and it’s sad how Starfire is the leader of the team and a pretty likable character in her own way, but is constantly getting the tar kicked out of her. It’s funny that Trigon, the big baddie of the film, played one of the more interesting character actors of recent history, is barely in the movie. When he arrives, it’s basically the last 10 minutes of the film. Really, due to Damian, everything else suffers. And they need to stop trying to push Raven with Damian. He doesn’t deserve her.

The animation is nicely done, and the overall tone of the film is similar to Young Justice, but I think there is a bit too much blur used, and they could have made certain characters not act like punching bags. The voice acting and script are also hindered with a lot of the voices and lines either sounding flat, clunky, forced, or not really interesting. I mean, how do you have all these talented actors and not be able bring out an overall great job? Oh, and check this out, Blue Beetle isn’t even on the cover. Cyborg, who doesn’t have a lot of airtime in the movie, gets a huge slice of the box art. I understand they wanted to bring in the viewers and fans of the original Teen Titans, including the cool Terra Easter egg at the end, but that just seems crummy that you leave out a character on the box.

So, how would I have fixed this movie if I was in charge of it? Easy, make this a stand-alone film, or not part of the current animated DC universe that was started with Justice League War. I would have not added Damian, or at the very least, made a more likable and enjoyable version to watch, give everyone equal time to develop, and probably focus on a different story other than another “rise of Trigon”-style story. I would have also made the film longer than 70 minutes. The biggest problem with this film being connected to the current DC animated universe is that the overall universe has not been that great. It had potential, but due to different story problems and boring characters, it feels like a disappointment in terms of potential.

Okay, so I went on and on about how Damian almost single-handedly takes down this entire film’s story, but what do I like about this movie? Well, even if they don’t get a lot of time to develop, I love the interaction between Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. The two were very interesting, and had decent chemistry. I like this film’s Raven, and even though she could have had more non-forced snark, she was the only character I felt invested in. She was always one of the best characters to get to know in a lot of the projects that have used her. The fight scenes are pretty intense and well animated. And even though Damian almost ruins the story, at least the goals and what happens is clear. You know, unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the logic used in that movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also found some the lines in the movie pretty well done and funny. Especially the little interaction between Cyborg and Batman, where Batman asks where all the food goes when Cyborg eats.

Overall, I’m very disappointed in this project. This should have been a slam dunk, since most everyone loved Teen Titans and Young Justice, but the direction this film takes is 100% wrong. I mean, I think it’s wrong that we have to buy an underwhelming movie to make sure we get more Teen Titans and Young Justice. I might be in the more critical minority, since I’m sure there are people who love this movie, and that’s fine! I just feel like if they weren’t pinning this down as the sole reason for future projects, I would be happier to support it. While it doesn’t hit it out of the park, and has misleading marketing and Damian, there is still some good elements about the film. I can only recommend purchasing this film either because you are A. a hardcore fan of DC or B. wants more Teen Titans and Young Justice-related products. Well, this was underwhelming, and I might recommend purchasing this film with a begrudging shrug, but let’s look at one of the more odd animated films I have seen with Mind Game. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you next time!

 

Rating: Lackluster!