How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Another installment of potentially the best Dreamworks franchise they have going for them. Shrek ended off poorly, Kung Fu Panda 3 ended up being a bit more lackluster than the first two. Will the dragon franchise have the same fate?

To catch us up on the series, The first How to Train Your Dragon I only thought was okay. I was annoyed a major plot point was the refusal of adult characters to listen, despite overwhelming evidence. The second one was a masterpiece in an already strong year for animated movies, I believe I barely put Big Hero 6 above it. I was excited for where the franchise was going and had great ideas and theories, and was willing to wait.

And honestly, from the look of the posters, and various screen grabs (I didn’t see the trailer), I don’t believe How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is going where it could have possibly gone.

I will also note the disappointing title, dropping the 3 and adding a subtitle, seems like a poor move. The Hidden World doesn’t draw me in at all, feeling generic. We shall see though!

Pose
Now if the dragons turn into clowns, we might have a real series!

Set about a year after the events of the second film, we have our new Chieftain Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) trying to do the right thing. The right thing is to find and rescue dragons, bring them back to their home, so they can be free and happy. Dragon raiders are real, and they are kidnapping the dragons and wanting to take them into a dragon army to kill things!

Hiccup still leads his band of youngish riders, all with the same personalities (America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harrington, and Justin Rupple doing the best T.J. Miller impression ever) and his mom (Cate Blanchett) helping him figure out his way.

Their home is getting crowded. They need more space. Can he move his entire people and dragon population to find a suitable home? And if so, what about the potential Hidden World his dad (Gerard Butler) used to talk about, a place where only Dragons could go and live? His dad wanted to put up a wall to protect them, and he wants to just live near it to protect the dragons.

But of course, some other dragon raiders are angry. We got a new bad guy, who is better than the last bad guy, who wants to just kill Toothless, not capture him, and that will let them capture the rest of the dragons for you know, evil reasons. So they have that going against them.

Also starring the voice work of F. Murray Abraham and Craig Ferguson.

Aww
Ohhh, sparkly.

Alright, I can’t get this out of my head. Being a reviewer you are supposed to just judge on what was given, not always on what it could be. But I thought it was really clear what they were going to do with the third movie. I thought it would be darker and deal with harder questions.

Hiccup was gaining power. He had the new most-alpha Dragon, so every dragon would listen to them. He was getting a shit ton of power. They may have their boats and weapons, but they have dragons, nothing will stop them. This would unintentionally make them the new bad guy. Regular communities would probably naturally be frightened by them, since everyone is afraid of dragons, and maybe even rise up to try and bring them down. This would lead to a situation where they realize they need to protect the dragons, without holding them all at their homes, due to the misunderstandings, and let the dragons be free and teach everyone to let them be free. You know, something like that.

But! No, we got a world no one talked about before, barely in the future, and a girl Nightfury for Romance. To be fair, some of the elements were used, about realizing they cannot just live with this giant army of dragons, but in a much safer way.

The way they picked was still pretty good. Most of the characters felt unique and had decent plot elements, except for the Snotlout/Erek one. It was definitely gorgeous and had some pretty intense fight scenes throughout it. And hey, the ending was beautiful in its own right, putting us at a good “end point” to the series, and we got to see Hiccup with a beard. Very important stuff.

Overall, despite my bit of disappointment in some of the plot direction, this is a really solid film. This means this whole thing is a really solid franchise, and is going to be remembered as Dreamworks’ best animated franchise. Not monetarily maybe, but it definitely has surpassed Shrek and Kung Fu Panda in my book.

3 out of 4.

Movie Roundup – Animated 2018

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Animated 2018! Basically, all of the animated movies of 2018 that didn’t get their own review.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Animated 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

First up is the only third film in a franchise in the group, but there are a few unnecessary sequels as well. And in terms of unnecessary things, this is near the top. This film doesn’t relaly have any redeeming qualities. It is very clear right from the get go what a twist would be, so instead of milking it, they give it away early as well.

The real twist is tricking you to give money for this terrible, terrible movie. The ending features a several minute long dance battle, from various artists, and then an even longer Macarena dance party. Yes, that Macarena. Were they paid to have it featured so prominently, has it been too long outside of our pop culture sphere? It seriously had to milk this scene so hard, as each main character needed to be shown doing the dance, and then group shots, and then tons of tourists, and every person everywhere, with extreme body movements to highlight their awkward appearances. It was one of the worst endings of a movie this year, so well done Hotel Transylvania 3. Please stop now.

0 out of 4.

Group

If only Van Helsing was successful hundreds of years ago, none of this would be here today.

Incredibles 2

Next up is a sequel people have actually been wanting forever, and Brad Bird said only when he had a worthy script, and apparently that meant 14 years later. Real time, not the movie time, as it takes place right after the first movie. And I honestly thought he should have waited longer. This film just feels so uninspired by me. I really didn’t need to see moments after they finished the first film, leaving me at the same exact point except we have a baby with changing every power nonsense. I could have used years later, more developed.

This plot feels too similar to the first. Still people are afraid of supers, but instead of the man going out to fight, its now the lady. The plot twist was once again obvious, so it didn’t do much for me. In 2004, Superhero movies were shit, so The Incredibles stood out as a beacon of hope for things to come. Now Superhero films have been able to elevate their game, bring a whole lot more exciting things, and this film more or less stayed the same. My mind checked out by the end, and it felt like too little too late.

2 out of 4.

group

Babies are hard to care for. Hialrious!

Ralph Breaks The Internet

This sequel is a lot sooner after the first film, to maximize off of its success. However, this felt like a rushed piece of movie that relied on current style jokes only to work, which is going to doom it in the long run. This movie is by Disney, who wanted to flex their expansive collection and throw in all of the princesses and more in an internet hub world to make people giddy, almost as counter to Ready Player One , another nostalgia heavy film. Except this one combines nostolgia with extremely current, so we get memes, we get current popular websites, and it is going to do what many modern comedies do: fade into obscurity in a few years.

It is still nice to look at, and the ending is totally weird, but honestly, they made Ralph into such a shit in this movie. In the first film, he was tired of being a bad guy, who tried to do the right thing, but from his good intentions some bad still happened. In this film, he becomes selfish and straight up almost gaslighting Penelope into staying, and going out of his way to be a dick, whcih causes the problems. He felt like an extreme nice guy. “I did all of this for you, and now you want to leave!? Love me!” These are not the traits to be highlighting in our animated heroes, even if he learns his lesson. He still needed to not be such a dick.

2 out of 4.

group

Ha ha ha ha screaming goats ha ha manipulation ha ha ha free will.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

This movie is an awkward one, as it had a small release, not a big studio, and looked like absolute shit. Letting us know it is based on a true dog from World War I doesn’t make this feel any less uncomfortable the whole time. In highlighting what a dog did, with most likely extreme examples that might not have happened, we downplay the hell out of actual soldiers in the war who died. I don’t know if anyone is still alive from that war, but I know they would definitely not like this movie iteration.

It was a terrible war, and not saying we can’t make kid versions about the war. But it didn’t do a good job of really informing the details of the war, so it isn’t really educational. Instead, it is a super pup movie, who has a soldier friend, who saves everybody. It is so soft and basic it just feels like a waste of time. Cool, at least one dog in a war was given the title of sergeant. Please don’t trivialize the war at the same time.

1 out of 4.

group

Yo dawg, just no.

Sherlock Gnomes

For those of you who did not see Gnomeo and Juliet (which I will assume is everybody), it was lawn gnomes, but the Romeo and Juliet story line. And for whatever reason, they got Elton John on board with it, and a lot of his hits were either background, or the tune of his songs with different lyrics. It was uncomfortable. So yeah, let’s do a sequel. But a different story. Completely unrelated, except also being British in nature.

Now, if you are like me, you assumed okay, new story, new hero and will just be gnomes. But no, they think we really like the pair from the previous movie and it is still really about them, with also a mystery and extra characters. And despite the first being a big movie about their romance and getting together, this one is also about how Gnomeo is a shitbag who won’t let his woman do her own things, so he has to be insecure and they should not be a couple. More bad things for kids, really. Also, what the fuck is this Shelock plot line. I haven’t seen Homes & Watson yet, but this has got to be the worst year for that poor detective in hundreds of years. Straight up I will let you know, at some point, Watson is found to be part of the bad guy plot as well, because they want something new. Get out of here.

Oh yeah, and still, Elton John music.

0 out of 4.

group

Here are four characters no one ever has, or will, care about.

Smallfoot

This is one of those movies I had completely dismissed before watching it. It looked like an Illumination movie, and they are generally godawful always. But it isn’t that! It is Warner Bros, who is known for Lego Movies and Storks (and that’s it right now). Knowing Storks, I wasn’t excited either. But strangely enough, Smallfoot had a lot going on for it. It had pretty good lead acting and some fun characters. It dealt with a serious topic about dealing with religious doctrination, from many angles. It didn’t say blindly follow, or screw all of it and get rid of it. There were layers to the plot.

I didn’t know it had songs in it either, so when they started I was a bit turned off, but for the most part they are really great. Even when one had to take the riff from Under Pressure, it completely ran with the premise and made it into something wonderful. Shit, the music was dope. I laughed. Now the ending did have a lot of problems, it got clunky and a bit off. But for the most part, Smallfoot is a solid film and better than most of the animated films this year. I’m looking at you, Disney and Pixar.

3 out of 4.

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Who really has the small feet in this situation, WB, Disney, or Pixar?

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

And finally, we have a movie that came in a summer and I actually heard a lot of good things about. I heard it was hilarious. I heard I didn’t need to watch the show to like. I watched the first Teen Titans a few times, and it seemed quality. The Go version looked like, and maybe even smelled like trash. And it turns out, their movie seems to go with my preconceptions of the show.

Let’s make this clear. I didn’t laugh once. It had a few fart and potty jokes in it. It had a group of five people but it could not at all let them all be the stars, despite it being a team film. Clearly, a movie about Robin wanting a movie about himself will be more about him. Fine. But the other four are barely used. Cyborg is used a lot more, then Beast Boy, and our girls are rarely mentioned or get a line it seems. It is also a surprise musical, with some tunes being nice.

But what makes this movie insufferable is its over reliance on meta humor and current meme standards. We get it. Its a movie about making a super hero movies. We got superheroes in it, and they are hilarious. It just went all these terrible directions and never felt like something I would ever want to watch. It is like an idea someone made on an internet message board, and for whatever reason, a studio executive was drunk and actually listened to it. Yeah, a movie about making movies. But fart humor. And not showcasing all of the members of the team. And repeated jokes. Yes. God awful.

0 out of 4.

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God awful.

Overall, I am not surprised that three of these films got the lowest rating. I am surprised at how much I disliked Teen Titans though, could never imagine that poor of a film. I figured Sgt. Stubb would have been worse. I am surprised at the mediocrity from our big studios and how good Smallfoot ended up being.

Some of these films will make the worst of the year list, none will make the best. If you wanted quality animated films from this year, from America, check out Isle of Dogs and Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“At least the DC animated films are great!” says some internet people when it comes to the great movie comic wars.

And sure, that might have been true. I haven’t seen like any of them. Except The Killing Joke, which apparently was an exception to that rule.

But why not some Marvel animated films finally? Not Marvel Studios, but at least one of their superheroes. Sony has had a lot of terrible ideas lately on what to do with this franchise they own, and they figure, screw it, why not just throw a bunch of Spider-people in a movie and hope it works. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. People not familiar with Spider-man will probably think it is a joke.

A joke eh? Let’s get those joke people to do the movie, they do solid work. You know, The LEGO Movie guys, yeah! Well, at least Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are producers, and that might lead to a solid product.

Basically, this might be the first good move Sony has made besides teaming up with the MCU to get some of that ad money.

Woods
An idea that is maybe crazy enough to work. Like two spiderpeople.

The movie begins with an intro by our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine), who goes over his past decade plus of success. He has a wife, has saved the day countless times, and apparently, he is the same one from the Sam Raimi films. Fun!

But this movie is only a little about him. Really, it is about Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young man who is still in school, with a lot of emotions. He lives in the hood, but goes to a nice school. His dad is a cop, but he wants to be a graffiti artist. His uncle is really cool and helps him, but might have some law problems as well. And he is just extremely emotional and nervous, despite being a smart kid.

Needless to say, he likes Spider-Man too. Everyone does. And Miles gets bit by a different fucked up spider. Not the same one, a different one. One that grants similar, yet different abilities.

And thanks to some villains, they are making a big dimensional portal vortex thing, because they want to mess up the multi-verse. Or change the past. Either way, this brings in a lot of confusion, unwanted death, and some more power/responsibility things.

Featuring other various Spider-men from different dimensions, like SpiderGwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson)!

Also the voices of Zoë Kravitz, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schrieber, Lake Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Mahershala Ali, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Gwen
Two is not enough. We need diversity. Ladies. Cartoons. Animals. Time travel. All of it, damn it.

Hands down, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is one of the better superhero films of the last decade. I didn’t say animated films, I said Super-Hero. That is compared to all of the Marvel movies, to all the Fox, the DC, the other Sony ones. At least decade.

I am not saying it is better than The Dark Knights or the early X-Men films, but it is also better than most of the super hero ones in the 2000s.

Now, sure, that is a bold claim for animated films this year. I don’t know if I like it more than Isle of Dogs, but probably, I’d have to watch it again.

Why is this film great? It is just such a game changer and tries so much. It has emotion (I cried), wall to wall comedy, and fantastic fight scenes. Plenty of character development, especially this serves as Morales’ introduction to movies. I assume a lot of people still were unaware of him before this film, and it is a fabulous introduction.

When I say it tries so much, it is not going the safe route. The animation at first was off putting, very out there, reminding me a bit of the Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that premiered on MTV in 2003. But after a little bit, it was easy to go with the flow, and accept the weirdness of the animation. It was also a nice cross with actual comic books, and really immersed the viewer.

The voice acting was great with the large cast. They have award winning actors in roles that suit them, Cage being the best PI Spider-Man ever created, Mulaney with his regular awkward voice handling the pig, and more. Everyone completely morphs into their role. Even though Moore isn’t as young as Morales, it never felt disjointed and I hope he can voice this character for awhile (and be given more roles in more projects!).

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the gift that keeps on giving. For Spider-fans, you will be blown away. For comic fans, you will appreciate the story and craft. For animated fans, you should be stoked that there is something that isn’t another Disney/Pixar sequel. And for everyone else, well, hopefully you like to laugh.

4 out of 4.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

A few years ago, The Jungle Book remake came out, and people were confused or impressed or didn’t see it. One of the first “live action” remakes (whereas everything is still animated but one character basically) from Disney and it was a good way to test the waters with their technology and realism.

The problem is, there was another Jungle Book movie trying to come out before that one. It was to be directed by Andy Serkis, and yes, also mostly CGI, but also a lot of mocap technology, the same stuff that made Serkis famous. HE wanted to see those famous actors pretending to be animals, really getting into those characters.

And because of the Disney release, they decided to delay this one. Wait a couple of years, and release it fresh with new eyes. But The Jungle Book announced a sequel, which means there will never really be a time when there isn’t a Jungle Book movie coming out, so they just needed to get it out at some point. People rushed things, advertising potential was low, so they instead sold it to Netflix, so that it can hopefully just be successful there.

Poor Serkis, there is no way he wanted his movie to premiere on Netflix. And at some point they changed the title to be Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, because Mowgli apparently wasn’t good enough on its own.

Race
Mowgli and the four realms wolves.

Look, I know and you know, that you are not here for the plot. We know that a boy has his parents get all murdered by a mean tiger (Benedict Cumberbatch), so some wolves take him in and raise him. He is also watched over by a panther (Christian Bale), who is soft or something, and really wants the baby to not die, while also being pretty darn afraid of a tiger.

And occasionally, a bear (Andy Serkis) is around to give advice/teach/protect. The snake? Well the snake (Cate Blanchett) is less evil and more godlike, with a bit of an oracle-sense, she is there to be unnerving, not just looking for a bite to eat.

Anyways, the boy (Rohan Chand) tries to be a good wolf, not realizing he is actually a human, and you know, not die to tigers.

Also starring the voices of Naomie Harris, Jack Reynor, Peter Mullan, and Eddie Marsan. If you want other real people, Matthew Rhys and Freida Pinto are also notable characters who have more than just a voice.

Bath
When bathing, make sure you focus on your bare niceties.

Really, to have two movies based on the same source book around the same time, those movies better be really different. They need a reason to exist and not just because they wanted to see who can do it better.

And regardless of who had the idea first, or how pitch meetings went, this just feels like a competition to try and see who can do it better. I would like to do a big list of comparisons of the two and argue which is better, but I saw The Jungle Book years ago and don’t really want to make that sort of review. This film has more zoomed in looks at the animals faces, probably for mocap reasons as they created animals around acing faces. None of them looked like people creepily, but the mouth movements felt a bit more natural to have human words coming out of them.

But that doesn’t make the graphics better. I am having a hard time to really figure out which one counts as better, so just put the movies as good enough graphics. They are telling the same basic story too, except this one is a bit darker at times. The monkey scene in particular is really frightening, as are some of the chase scenes. The snake scene is more confusing than anything.

However, this film has problems. Namely, when Mowgli gets to the village. That isn’t the end of the movie, but maybe two-thirds of the way through it. Once that happens all momentum is dropped. The movie seemingly comes to a stop and just takes forever to move the hell on. It loses its steam and can never really gain it back, as most people then decide at that time to start checking their watches waiting for it to end.

Voices are fine, graphics are suitable, darkness is less appropriate for a family movie, and holy shit does it take awhile to just end. Easy pass, but since it is on Netflix, you will see it large and around for weeks, and sure, it will probably frighten your kids.

2 out of 4.

The Grinch

The Grinch would be the biggest Dr. Seuss effect on society if it wasn’t for that feline that wore head accessories.

Speaking of the Cat of the Hat, I have still never seen that live action movie. But it was supposedly terrible, so bad that that the Seuss family said no more live action films. Just animated. Which means that eventually we got to have The Lorax from Illumination Entertainment, a company normally on my shitlist, because they make shit to average films.

And despite seemingly having any Seuss thing to work with, they figured they could just do The Grinch again. Why? I don’t know. We have a successful animated 2D version, and a successful 3D live action version, so I guess we need another version, this time animated and 3D.

If it was a better company, I would be annoyed because they could have decided to do One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish instead. Maybe Tim Burton will tackle that one after Dumbo.

Snowman
One way to ruin Christmas is to teach the local youth about jerking someone else off.

Oh yeah, this is the section where I talk about the plot of The Grinch.

So uhhh, there is this place called Whoville, where all these Whooligans live in splendor and wonder. They are overtly happy and cheerful, and for whatever reason, they all enjoy the shit out of Christmas. Decorations, noise, presents, togetherness, food, you name it. Christmas is number one. Celebrations all month long.

But someone doesn’t love Christmas. No, he hates it. The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) lives in a mountain outside of Whoville, alone and bitter, with his dog, Max. He just wants to be left alone, but he has to visit Whoville to buy food occasionally. Normally he hides up all December to avoid the festivities.

This year, however, he has to return and get involved. Because they are putting everything bigger, 3 times bigger at least, and that he cannot stand. He must steal this Christmas from them, to make them feel as sad as he does all the time. That will show those Whos who’s boss.

Also featuring Angela Lansbury, Cameron Seely, Kenan Thompson, Rashida Jones, and Pharrell Williams at the narrator.

Santa
That’s not Santa! Santa Claus is a black man!

There is only really one major point I want to harp on, so I will get to the quicker stuff first. The Grinch doesn’t seem mean, just sad and lame. The film felt too long, and featured what turned out to be an unnecessary reindeer plot to pad the time. And the backstory they gave to him paints the city of Whoville as a terrible place to be with a bunch of assholes, and also sort of makes his behavior completely justifiable. Great.

However, besides all of that, I have a question. Do you think the Whos in Whoville worship Jesus or believe in any sort of god? Because in the last two movies and the book, they have not made any references to Jesus or religion. They celebrate Christmas like Americans, the secular ones at least. Presents, Santa, food, and togetherness.

There are no mangers in Whoville! This is not Earth at all, it is its own planet or city or entity. Shit, maybe it is on a snowflake.

But not in this movie. The first sign was when a choir was singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in what was definitely a minute long and silly scene. It took me out of the movie. They had Angels on trees, which isn’t as bad. But then even later, there was a singing of Silent Night, another very religious song.

These movie makers are so out of touch with the material, that they are getting their own potential Christmas traditions mixed up with Whoville Christmas traditions and that is a problem.

Come on, you know it is true. A fundamental breakdown of this magnitude is either agenda driven, or a lack of intelligence, neither of which should be celebrated.

1 out of 4.

Ready Player One

I probably first heard about the Ready Player One four or so years ago, as a book recommendation from a friend. I figured I would rush right out and read it, due to their very appealing sell, but I also had found out that no, they are going to be making a movie out of it. Eventually.

So I did the right thing, and knowingly did not ready the book, knowing one day, Steven Spielberg was going to make the movie. Years later, it appeared!

Now I did hear eventually a general plot synopsis. And I did get to see parts of the book. Especially cringe worthy scenes of nostalgia for nostalgia sake, or lines that were very transphobic. All of it certainly turned me off from the book, knowing I would probably hate it at this point if it wasn’t very well written.

Sign. Somehow I became a book snob when it comes to prose. Blame Patrick Rothfuss. And let’s get on with the nostalgia.

Tech
Our star is living in a van down by the river?

RPO takes place a few decades in the future, in 2045. Life sucks by now, overpopulation, war, all the reasons you can imagine. People are living in stacks of trailers to get by and deal with the number of people. Columbus, Ohio is one of the central hubs now! Why?

Well, Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Morrow (Simon Pegg) created a game called Oasis. It is a completely VR experience, where a user is transported into a digital world where they can live their fantasies. They can be anyone. They can be tall, short, strong, fat, boy, girl, something more fluid, whatever they want. The way to buy gear and get better is through in game currency, through leveling up. If you die in game you lose all your items and go back to level one.

Anyways, everyone loves Oasis. It helps them escape their bleak miserable worlds. Wade (Tye Sheridan), our hero, is one of the people in the game hoping to find the three hidden keys to unlock and easter egg. Before Halliday died, he inputted a secret competition, so that the best of the best would compete his crazy challenges. The first one to get all three keys would gain a controlling share of the Oasis, money, and worldwide honor and praise.

But one company, IOI, is hoping to find them first, to change the Oasis into a money making ad tool, and also, do this thing with people slaves. Just general bad stuff.

Also starring Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Hannah John-Kamen, Lena Waithe, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, and T.J. Miller.

Oasis
Hello, totally not Kratos thing!

Ready Player One is a CGI-fest film, taken to the next level, and is animated enough to qualify for Best Animated Film, should they want to go that route. It has obvious references to pop culture throughout it, using the fact that the main creator was a very autistic pop culture junkie, who wanted all of the biggest things in his world. Pop Culture knowledge was supposed to be some sort of saving grace for the characters in the movie, but only one example really helped save the day. Or at least, one non common example.

There is a lot of problems with this film. It is going for a pure popcorn flick, so it isn’t really trying hard on certain levels. Acting is never really believable, and they turn Mendelsohn into a cartoon villain, quite literally with his behavior. It just feels so juvenile.

A lot of artifacts are brought up and clearly used later in the film, but one has to wonder why they exist. Why would they put in an item that kills everyone in the game so everyone goes back to level one? Why? Why would someone make special real life suits for you to wear to feel everything that happens? Most people would just feel pain and hurt in the constant warring atmosphere, its popularity doesn’t make sense.

The game makes you wonder who are the real people behind certain avatars, and well, yeah, for the most part they are all average to attractive looking people. No uglies in this VR world, despite their fears. Come on, almost 30 years from now, in a land where most people just play video games all day? Where are the fatties at?!

One thing that Ready Player One had going for it is that it didn’t feel like a 140 minute film. It was relatively interesting to watch, but it is not something that made me very excited or happy or sad while watching. I just felt indifferent. Throwing a quick scene of a character I recognize into a film isn’t going to increase its grade, it is just going to distract me from the story that is relatively weak.

Ready Player One is a convenient movie (one where things just keep lining up nicely), that relies on nostalgia and an average story and flashy effects to sell the tickets. Easily something that can be better watched at home.

2 out of 4.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children will probably be the last animated film I see from 2017. That is, unless some anime film I missed comes out in April or Summer, all late in the United States.

This too was a foreign animated film, based on a graphic novel. It was originally released in Spain (and Spanish), but the version I watched was dubbed.

I knew nothing about the film going in, except that it might be weird. And unfortunately, that too was an understatement.

Others
Yay animals! Time for a cute film!

This film takes place on an Island, far away from other lands. It had a peaceful animal community, that could talk, sure. Things were good, until factories joined their island. Eventually, the factories have an accident and a big blast rips through their island, killing hundreds, destroying the buildings in that area, creating rubble. No good at all.

This leads the land changed. It makes it sad. It makes it just feel, dead.

The families are now bitter. Kids are being non conformists, animals are fighting, animals are killing. And everyone is just rude.

Poor Birdboy, lost his dad, and can´t even get back to his lighthouse home. There are demons in there, and he hasn´t yet mastered how to fly.

He has friends, namely Dinky, a female mouse, are the only ones who care about him. She cares about him a lot. With the help of a fox and a rabbit, the gang plan to escape off of the island in a boat, to get away from this place of dissidence and sadness. But the island does not want them to leave. Its citizens are too bitter to allow a thing such as hope help anyone.

The four are going to struggle and face their fears, which is unfortunate, because in this case their fears are very real and dangerous parts of society.

Featuring the voices of Barbara Goodson, Jon Avner, Sofia Bryant, Dean Flanagan, Marc Diraison, Wayne Grayson, Yuri Lowenthal, Jake Paque, and Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld.

Fly
Learning to fly is also, unfortunately, a dangerous and very consequence heavy fear.

Yeah, Birdboy was weird. It was also terrifying. It was gruesome. It was nothing like I expected.

The only thing I know to compare it to is Heavy Metal, but that is based on my incredibly limited knowledge on this sort of animated film. And Heavy Metal was more sexy. We also had Nerdland recently, that was graphic in its own ways. This one is graphic in that it involves kid animals, in a disgusting world, dealing with entities trying to kill them and kill each other. We have bulging eyes, red veins, abuse, drugs, everything that would negatively affect a society, rolled into one tiny island.

It is definitely not for the light of heart.

It is a sad movie, with not really a happy ending either. Sure, maybe some hope is derived from it, but it is just a movie that will tear at your heart. Not like a romance, but like a horror, tearing at your heart.

And also, it is very, very confusing. I assumed the graphic novel tells the story a bit better. But there are sequences in this movie out of order, not a lot of exposition, and when I left I just felt confused. I did Wikipedia the plot outline, which is thankfully very detailed. I recognized some events and some scenes and could imagine them all working together, but it is not very easy to do that on your first viewing.

I appreciate that Birdboy is incredibly dark. I appreciate that the artistic style really draws you in and spits you out. I also appreciate that it tried to do something new. But in the end, it was not a very coherent plot, hard to follow, and left me feeling more empty than anything at the end.

2 out of 4.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero gets to be the first animated film released in America in 2018! Yay Bilal!

It gets to go up there with the likes of great films like…Norm of the North. Oh goodness, that is not a good list at all.

From the occasional trailer, Bilal looks like the sort of animated film that might actually have a unique and interesting plot. But because it looks so terrible, it also will have no one wanting to go out and see it.

Kid
Still good to have non white people in animated films.

Our story is of course about a kid/grown up dude, named Bilal (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). He wants to be a great and wonderful warrior when he grows up. But for now, he is just a kid, with his sister (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) and mother. And then their little home gets attacked. His mother is killed, and the kids are sold into slavery.

He has to become a hard working slave, getting whipped, growing up with nothing. All of that jazz. Eventually he is sold to the richer trader around, Umayya (Ian McShane), who is of course ruthless and dickish. He has a son that is a similar age who decides that he does not like Bilal having opinions or morals. Every time he stands up for another, Bilal gets knocked down again.

This is based on a real story, meaning it is at least a famous story in some parts of the world. Whether the events are real or not, who knows.

But I think you know that Bilal is going to Gandhi this shit up until everything works out nicely, right?? Right.

Also featuring the voices of Thomas Ian Nicholas and Mick Wingert.

Evil
¨Damn slaves, not just being emotionless obeying robots!”- Him, probably.

I have written a lot about good and bad animated films over the last year, unfortunately more of them have been bad. This is my first look at animated films of 2018 and frankly, it definitely disappointed me on many levels.

Again, this could be an amazing story by giving us different cultures, strong willed characters and not falling into silly tropes. It it is trying to appeal to the family, not just the kid. But it just seemed to drag on and on.

And honestly, the animation style did not help. The film constantly looked like a cut scene of a PS2 game, and it made watching it feel already dated.

This is not the best start animated films in 2018 could have wanted. Not by a long shot.

1 out of 4.

Early Man

By all means, tell me that the movie is done by the people who did Wallace and Gromit. Yes I will watch it every time. I won’t always like it, but I respect it enough to give it the shot it deserves. It’s very weird, very British shot.

So why not Early Man, which is going to combine cave man jokes with very British football jokes. Ones I probably wont even fully understand.

And the best news about it is that the cast only has 3 or 4 recognizable names. They are giving roles to actual voice actors, instead of just laying us down with 40 celebrities, some which probably would have only had five or so lines.

Training
Lava is always a nice bonus, in any movie, regardless of context.

A long time ago, dinosaurs! Also this movie is saying cave people. Let’s let it slide. Meteor wipes them all out, not the people somehow. They find the hot meteor left over that created a giant valley, where it is really hot, so they decide to kick it to each other. They invent the game of football, get really happy, and live their lives in the valley.

Now, some time later, we can meet our new crew of cave people. They don’t know soccer anymore, they are relatively stupid as well. Dug (Eddie Redmayne) is young and a thinker, but the rest of the crew are content. They are content until some mammoths with armor come trampling in, as the rest of the world has decided to stop by and say hello. They are stone age cave people meeting for the first time a bronze age civilization, who is intent on mining out their secret valley for minerals, and letting them die.

Thanks to Dug who infiltrates their society, he learns that they play this game of football on the grand, coliseum like scale. This is their main religion! The only way they can probably get out of their jam and get their home back is by challenging their champions to a game. Dug saw these football paintings on their walls, but they never knew what it meant. But if their ancestors played the game, then they probably can figure it out as well!

Also starring Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Nick Park, Rob Brydon, Johnny Vegas, Selina Griffiths, Simon Greenall, Gina Yashere, and Kayvan Novak.

Soccer
With that much armor, this thing looks a lot more like…football, than football.

Early Man is one of those basic “ragtag team of misfits pull together to do a sport thing better than professionals, due to teamwork, friendship, and shenanigans!” You know the kind. Despite being the type of thing that we have seen before, Early Man still manages to bring something new to the table.

It has a lot of tiny jokes throughout, a lot of puns they worked towards. And yes, there are some modern British football jokes that mostly would have flown over my head. But I got one or two.

The characters are likable. The caveman crew has a lot of complete characters, who have their individual good jokes or moments to shine. I don’t feel like we only have a few supporting people. The whole crew got to feel supporting, always a great thing in a movie like this.

This is not going to be a game changing animated film. But it is still really well done, at points clever, and tells a fun story. Hell, even the final soccer match seems to deviate away from the norm for these sorts of things. Still some surprised out there for everyone.

3 out of 4.

The Breadwinner

It took all year, but I finally found it. I found a great animated film that came out this year, that brought me something new to the genre while also being emotional with a fantastic plot.

This is the sort of things that I would normally save for the ending, but I know you can see the rating up there, I have nothing to hide.

The Breadwinner is a foreign film, about non-American problems, a non average hero, and an above average story. It is the type of film that more people should be hyping, but unfortunately, it is foreign and had a limited theatrical run and most people just want to talk about Coco.

But read on so that you can see what The Breadwinner is all about and get psyched about watching it in the future.

Girl
This relates in no way to some TV show Breadwinners.

Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is a strong independent girl around 12 years old. She knows how to read, she can write, and she wants to be able to do anything she puts her mind to. The only problem is that she lives in Afghanistan, currently under rule by the Taliban, who are getting more and more frequently dickish. They are recruiting younger men, who have a lot of grudges, who are making the area more into a police state. I am not saying early Taliban rule Afghanistan was great, just that it was better than it is now in the film.

Parvana knows all of these things because of her father, Nurullah (Ali Badshah), who lost one of his legs previously in a war. She has a mother, an older sister, and a baby brother, but because she isn’t yet fully “mature”, Parvana can join him at the market and help sell goods to help earn money for the family.

But at some point, a young soldier gets angry at Parvana for having such a free spirit and not being covered “Enough”. This leads to a Taliban raid of their house, where they find forbidden books, so they arrest Nurullah and take him to a prison far away. The family is left defenseless and hungry, given that the next male in line is less than 2 years old, and none of the others are allowed to buy goods, or even leave without a male escourt.

Their family may die poor and alone. But not Parvana. She is resourceful. She chops of her hair, dresses like a boy, and finally gets to feel that sense of freedom she has always longed for. It is up to her to provide food and money for her family, while also figuring out how they might help their father out of prison.

Also featuring the mouth sounds of Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Noorin Gulamgaus, Shaista Latif, and Soma Chhaya.

Boy
To really commit, she should have grown her beard like how all 10 year old boys do.

In The Breadwinner we get a regular story about a girl going above and beyond the call of duty, to protect her family and try to make things right. This isn’t some goddamn princess in her ivory tower discovering how to be good, but a girl who has lived a hard life and still rising above it all. This is set in the real world that has real issues, even if the setting is no longer accurate. This is the type of story that can resonate with the youth of the world regardless of their age while also providing factual knowledge.

And even more importantly, it is not a cookie cutter story. We get violence that might seem a bit extreme for a PG film, even if it is “off camera”. We have a goddamn war zone with people running around with automatic rifles and a high assumed death count. Their entire family is put into realistic peril several times, because that is the world they are living in and it is downright frightening.

It also has a story within a story, giving us a different art style, to sort of break up the main story into sections and give us a parallel to compare things to. A common idea and one that works wonderfully in this film.

But most importantly, the ending really resonated with me. Everything didn’t magically fall into a place and it certainly isn’t a situation where they lived happily ever after. They didn’t somehow cause the Taliban to disappear and run off into the sunset. It gives a realistic enough ending for them, without giving us the picturesque fairy tale finale.

This is an animated film that took some risks and they paid off. And it took Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg to work together apparently to give it to us (not: no middle eastern countries made this movie about Afghanistan). I didn’t know anything actually came out of Luxembourg! But I am excited for whatever they brought to the table because now I have the Luxembourgian tag on my website.

4 out of 4.

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