Klaus

A long time ago, director Sergio Pablos set up an animation studio in Spain, in his homeland. He had worked for Disney in the 90’s, on such films like Hercules and Tarzan as an animator. He believed in 2D animation still, and didn’t want to make CGI movies, so he decided to focus his studio on just that. 2D, hand drawn, animation, but with upgrades from the technical side to make other parts easier.

And from his mad, Amish brained body came the movie Klaus.

They wanted dynamic backgrounds and characters, and not just one or the other. They wanted to capture the magic of animation again and really pour their heart and soul into the picture.

And hey, if you want to capture magic, why not start with a little bit of Santa action?

letter
Pictured: A little bit of Santa action.

Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is a piece of work, I tell you what. He has lived a privileged life, his father in charge of the post offices around the world, and he hasn’t had to do much. So when he is put into the postman program for training, he doesn’t take it seriously and he slacks off. Despite this, his father still decides to send him to Smeerensburg, a tiny island far, far North, away from everything.

Jesper’s goal is handle at least 6,000 letters within a year, in the city or our of the city, and get the post office up and running. It sounds bad, but it is actually worse than he imagined. In this city, very few people are out and about. In fact, they are a town known for holding grudges and fighting.

There are two ruling families, the Ellingboes and the Krums, who have been fighting for decades, and won’t be nice at all. This means they don’t go to school. They don’t do nice things. They don’t frolic down the streets. And they definitely have no need to send any letters.

Well, thanks to circumstances, a child’s picture makes its way to Jesper and the lone woodsman in his cabin (J.K. Simmons), who decides that the picture needs a gift. So he demands that Jesper deliver the child a toy that he has created.

This spreads throughout the village kids, and they also want to make letters for toys. This is a good idea, thinks Jesper, this will get him back home to his luxury.

Also featuring the voices of Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, and Norm MacDonald.

panic
Pictured: Not home in his luxury. 

Klaus blew me away on so many levels.

The first, worthy of talking about, is the animation style. It was a breath of fresh air! Much like how Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse changed the animation game last year, from American movie releases, Klaus is doing the same thing. The traditional 2D animation is so gosh darn full of visual pleasure that every frame feels more than a painting. The backgrounds, the characters, the details, everything is so full.

The story, a re-imagining of the story of Santa, is also a lot more unique. It isn’t a guy just trying to bring toys to kids who banned fun, or whatever those older stop motion cartoons said. It is creative, so despite hearing about Santa all my life, it was refreshing to see a new take on it. A legit, new take.

The voice acting was really well, although Schwartzman sounded liked David Spade at parts of the film (probably just because of MacDonald’s voice to get me in that 90’s SNL mood).

This film had a lot of darker moments early on, and so the transition from dark to gushy Christmas spirit was a nice and welcome one, instead of starting high and Christmas and leaving us sick of it. This feels like a new holiday classic to me. Something that can pair nicely with A Nightmare Before Christmas.

The only way it could be better is if it was a musical as well. Or maybe not. I’ll take it the way it is.

4 out of 4.

The Secret Life of Pets 2

Illumination entertainment keeps putting out movies, and they keep remaining less than stellar and below average, sometimes even bad and horrible. They rose to fame with Minions and forgot that if they want to compete with the big boys they need good stories, not just retreads of old movies.

The first Secret Life of Pets was basically just Toy Story, but with pets, and more violence to make it worse. Fun.

And in between the movies, we had all the bad Louis C.K. stuff, after they already announced The Secret Life of Pets 2! Oh no, will they recast the dog or replace him completely? They went with recasting. And they must have focused entirely on the recasting, because they couldn’t even come up with a single good story for this sequel to exist, with technically limitless possibilities.


Just dogs doing dog things.

Max (Patton Oswalt, a change!) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) are now good pals, living together, being great. But there is going to be a change in the house. An addition??? Yes, a baby. Something that changes their lives, but something Max feels very protective over. And before the kid can go to school, they take the dogs to a farm to hang out? To have a vacation, I don’t remember at all.

While Max learns to be a better dog, he leaves a toy with Gidget (Jenny Slate) who has a whole big adventure with cats because of that.

And also Snowball (Kevin Hart), now a nice happy pet, likes to pretend he is a super hero. And by doing that, he has to help save a white tiger from a mean circus guy, which puts them on the run from these scary wolf guys who want the tiger back.

Also starring Harrison Ford, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress, and Ellie Kemper.


Hey, that’s not a real cat. You’re a phony!

What do I mean when I say no single good story? Because this film needed to have three main stories instead, and loosely (read: Badly) bringing them together at the end to pretend this was a coherent thought.

It started off with our leads, but to be honest, the main story seems to really be about Snowball and the tiger. It is the plot that at least sort of brings everything together.

None of these stories on their own are enough to carry this movie. It keeps switching between plots, and honestly, the Max plot just feels like filler, and the Gidget plot has amusing moments, but not enough to be worth it. Hart’s character was the best part of the first film, and so it makes sense for him to have a bigger role, but he was less confident and exciting than the first film, for whatever reason.

I also complained that there was excessive violence in the first film, or at least violence being the solution to the problems. And well, same here. I also complained that we had too many pets driving vehicle ridiculousness, which was a theme for movies that year, and they only sort of did it this time.

Overall, this movie feels like they wanted to just make it a TV series, but were given a bigger budget and put a few ideas together. Gotta rush out those sequels, or else they might have to make more Despicable Me movies!

0 out of 4.

Abominable

I was not looking forward to Abominable. We all know about Doppelganger films, and it can feel very awkward, but usually the films involved at least come out a few months apart.

Instead this time we got three, and it took almost a whole year. I mean that literally. Smallfoot came out Sept 28, 2018. We had Missing Link come out April 9, 2019, about a very similar topic, but different, sure. And now we have Abominable, coming out Sept 27, 2019. That is literally a year later on the same Friday as Smallfoot!

How many large humanoid animated films do we actually want? Because I assure you, when Smallfoot came out I did not care to see it at all, but despite that ended up liking it. When Missing Link was announced, it felt like such a lame film compared to their last one, Kubo and the Two Strings.

Given this, to me, Abominable just feels dead on arrival, and I can’t even tell you if they tried to advertise this one.


Hopefully they aren’t dead on arrival on this train. That’d be graphic.

Yi (voiced by the very white Chloe Bennet), lives in what I assume is Hong Kong and has her own tragic story. Her father passed away at some point recently, living her to just live with her mom (Michelle Wong) and Nai Nai (Tsai Chin). She has decided to keep busy this summer, working odd jobs all day for money to save up. She has plans to travel around China, to the sites her dad promised to take her.

And nearby, in some crazy secure facility, a yeti escapes! It was owned by Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a rich man who wants to prove to the world that yetis exist, and has spent his life trying to catch one to prove. He has a head zoologist, Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson), who wants to just protect these endangered animals.

Either way! Yeti escapes, finds itself on Yi’s roof, and they bond! Yi is determined to help get him out of the city from the scary helicopters. And maybe she will just join him along the way.

Also starring the voices of Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, and Joseph Izzo.


How many kids could that thing fit in its mouth?

Abominable is not giving us a story we haven’t already seen before. And no, I am not talking about yetis this time.

Youth finds magical creature and has to hide it from those looking to kill it/capture it. Somehow with gumption, luck, and magic, they are able to save the creature and get it home. Ho hum. A lack of originality is not the problem with this movie. Its the lazy writing.

In this movie, the yeti has nature magic. What does that mean? Well, it starts with just can grow things fast. And then becomes whatever the hell they want it to be. It gets “stronger” the closer he is to home, and basically, if they are ever in danger, he can use the magic and the creators write some way to advance the plot. Over and over and over. That’s really shit.

And you know what? I won’t even get into the Chinese propaganda in this movie. There are enough articles online and I am not an expert enough to bring it up and explain it, so it has no effect on the review, but it sounds really shitty.

Definitely a skippable movie.

1 out of 4.

The Angry Birds Movie 2

When The Angry Birds Movie came out a few years ago, I expected to hate it and to trash it and talk more about how many animated movies were crap.

And then I liked it surprisingly enough. Yeah, I don’t get it either. My current theater is that I just like things with Jason Sudeikis attached far more than other people.

So now it is time for a sequel! A great title of The Angry Birds Movie 2, and technically I am not dreading watching it? I now have higher hopes for the sequel instead of zero hopes the first time around, and that will probably change my entire outlook. I still don’t play the game anymore, and thought the sequel game series was terrible.

group think
Ah look, a cast and crew of ragamuffins ready to overcome the odds.

At the end of the first film, Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and friends helped lead an assault on Piggy Island. The pigs, led by Leonard (Bill Hader) had stolen all of their eggs and were gonna eat them. Despite being flightless birds, they were able to use slingshots to fling themselves to the island and destroy the hell out of that place.

This led to modern day. Red is now a hero! He is loved finally and not hated. There is a big prank war going between the two islands but Red is always on the lookout keeping things safe. Until Leonard wants…a truce?

It turns out they are now sacred over a third island, an Icy cold island further away named Eagle island. There, a strange purple bird named Zeta (Leslie Jones) is somehow able to send giant ice balls to their island, with the intent of destroying them so they can move in an rebuild. Once they realize this threat is real, both sides do have to come together and expand their teams in order to infiltrate the base and stop that cannon.

But they need someone smarter, and Chuck has an engineering sister named Silver (Rachel Bloom), who is super smart. Smart enough to be the leader. And being a leader is the only thing that is keeping Red in the limelight, so that will lead to conflict.

Can they save the day before every little piggy and birdy is wiped out by ice fire balls?

Ahem, also starring the wonderful voice work of Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, Eugenio Derbez, Tiffany Haddish, Peter Dinklage, Pete Davidson, Zach Woods, Maya Rudolph, Dove Cameron, JoJo Siwa, Tony Hale, Nicki Minaj, Brooklynn Prince, Lil Rel Howery, Beck Bennett, and Gaten Matarazzo,

ice ice fishy
Fish. Fish is sad.

Again, I fully know that I liked the first film more than others, but this sequel drops so far in quality. If you hate the first film, this one is likely to be one of the worst films of the year for you. Easy. And as someone who liked the first film, I am incredibly disappointed with the sequel.

A large portion of the jokes are just based on current pop culture, which is not a good indicator of comedy. It will date the movie, firmly place it weirdly in 2019, and not age well. A really good joke actually occurred in the movie with Bomb about “taking out the guards” for their mission. It was clever and unexpected. And then the scene went on too long and they added Baby Shark to the mix, completely making it cringey.

Ferdinand was a bad animated movie and the worst part was an extended dance scene in that movie between the heroes and others, and that almost happened in this film as well. A dance off occurred, it just wasn’t as long, and still completely pointless.

The jokes aren’t as funny. The plot doesn’t naturally follow the first film. The entire point of the ice/eagle island is strange. I could ask 20 questions they didn’t explain, and its all just…pointless. The villain is not good, and the mission is not good, and they way the day is saved in the day is really weak. It sure does try to bring back women characters to the 1960’s.

But let’s make one really big irritation clear. At the end of the first film we got to see three tiny blue birds hatch. Those birds are in the game, and are used to help destroy ice structures. Oh hey, this movie involves an island full of ice structures. Clearly they would…NOPE. Those birds aren’t in this movie at all.

THEY TEASED US WITH THE ICE DESTROYING BIRDS, GAVE US A SEQUEL WITH ICE, AND THEY NEVER APPEARED IN THE SEQUEL. What is wrong with the creators? Are they Satan? How could they fall so low??

1 out of 4.

Toy Story 4

Controversially, I did not love Toy Story 3. I thought it was average. I did like it more than Toy Story 2 though, but the first Toy Story was still my favorite.

Oh sure, it made me cry like a sane person, but I didn’t like its main arc with Lotso Bear and it put a damper on the whole thing. But also like everyone else, it felt like a natural end to the series and was happy to see their ending.

Now, then they announced a Toy Story 4. This was terrible news. Not just because of the ending of three, but because Pixar has been splurting out sequels to everything the last few years, very few OC, and they have been average to poor. Toy Story 4 meant the end to their sequels for awhile, but it also felt like it shouldn’t even exist.

The plot had to overcome quite a few hurdles, and couldn’t just be a regular good movie, in order to justify its existence.

forky
Telling a spork about the birds and the bees can take awhile.

The first thing TS4 did was give us a flashback as to what happened to Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Now, in real life, between TS2 and TS3, they just decided to drop Bo Peep because Barbie was on board to lend its brand and that is more powerful. They wanted Barbie for the first movie, and they said no, because why would they give their stuff to an first movie studio?

Anyways, that becomes a very relevant plot to the movie now. Because of course, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and gang are with Bonnie, a young girl, who might have different interests than a cowboy. In fact, in her first day of Kindergarten orientation, she makes a new friend out of trash named Forky (Tony Hale). Surprisingly, this trash creation is somehow able to come alive, but he doesn’t identify as a toy, and this causes a lot of conflict.

Woody takes it on his own to make sure that Forky doesn’t try to kill himself, for the betterment of Bonnie. Because damn it, Woody just wants to make his child happy, even if he isn’t actively played with.

This leads them on an adventure, leads us surprisingly back to Bo Peep, and through a lot of weirder places.

Also featuring the returnees of Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Don Rickles (but barely because he died), Joan Cusack, and Kristen Schaal. But it also features the voices of new toys and people played by Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Kay, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Bonnie Hunt, Carl Weathers, and Madeleine McGraw.


Porcelain dolls have really gained their mobility.

Did Toy Story 4 make me cry? Of course it did. Twice! And that surprised me, because reports from friends had them not crying, but I’ve always been an emotional wreck. But remember, just because I cried does not make it a good movie.

Thankfully, Toy Story 4 is a good movie. It “fixed” the issue that I had with the last installment, in that good and bad characters are able to experience growth and change based on their circumstances. Relatively early in the movie you can sort of tell a few things that will happen by the end, and that is totally okay. You can accept the foregone conclusions early enough about a few of them and go on the ride and brace yourself before the end. Knowing where you will end up is fine, if you don’t know how you will get there. And on the journey to the end, it went plenty of unexpected places with surprises along the way.

And honestly, it feels like a great ending. Most people said after 3 that it was the perfect ending and not to mess with it. And a lot of people are saying that after 4. But I disagree, really it feels like the start of a lot of potential adventures on multiple fronts. Because lets face it, in this franchise with a large ensemble cast (that just gets more and more ensemble-y), many many characters were reduced to just a few lines. In fact, some arguably main tier characters had a few moments, but clearly the focus was on Woody and Bo Peep only. Buzz was humorous side character and Jessie had maybe only a few more lines than Slinky Dog.

I will put that there will be money on a Toy Story 5 in the future. Not just side short films for TV like the Toy Story of Terror event. And this time I will look forward to that. Just give me more original movies first Pixar.

3 out of 4.

Uglydolls

When I first heard about the Uglydolls movie, it was…when I got an invite to see the movie. I honestly had no idea this movie was coming out. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the coming soon community, especially animated films, because I am looking always for the next big thing that will dethrone a Disney or a Pixar. And yeah, this one I knew nothing about.

Sure, it is based on a line of toy dolls I have seen mostly in comic book shops for a decade or so. The actual theme of them is “reject” dolls that would normally be trashed and sold anyways, despite obviously being made that way. Like a fake level of being unique. Okay, that leads to a pretty easy plot to anticipate and follow.

And I also figured out it had to be a musical of some sort, because over half of the main voice cast appears to be a singer. Even some I have never heard of before in my life, but singers nonetheless. A lot more B-talent in terms of voice acting singers, people you don’t see in the biggest movies, so maybe it is their chance to shine?

Really, what I figured from all these glances is that Uglydolls wants to be the next Trolls. Toy line, weird looks, bright colors, and of course, songs to entertain. But honey, this ain’t up to the Trolls level, and Trolls was only average.

Not trolls
Hello group of Not Trolls, whats up? Eating? Cool!
Deep in a toy factory, many dolls are created and sent off to be loved by kids everywhere. Except, sometimes a doll is not molded correctly, for one reason or another. There is a mistake! And that doll is sent away down a series of tunnels to Uglyville. A happy small place with strange looking homes, citizens, and a party every night. Mayor Ox (Blake Shelton) makes sure everyone is having a swell time and living it up.

Now Moxy (Kelly Clarkson)? She is an extreme optimist. She believes that one day, every doll is sent into the big world to be with a “child” when the moment is perfect and right. Destiny will find them together. And every new day is the day where she will be picked!

Everyone else knows it is nonsense, until she finally goes exploring with her band of friends. And sure enough, she finds a bigger area, with a lot of dolls that look like people. They have to go through training before they can hit the real world. They need to be perfect. They need training before they can hit that child’s arms. And hey, are these the dolls to do it?

Also starring the voices of Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Leehom Wang, Jane Lynch, Emma Roberts, Gabriel Iglesias, Wanda Sykes, Ice-T, Pitbull, Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha, and Lizzo. The last few I have confirmed are real people.

judgement
Totally getting judged right now.
Judging really early on in the movie, it was already starting off on the wrong foot. The animation style was a bit safe, nothing to top of the line. It started basically with a song, that also needed to get some exposition and character introduction in, and seemed to go on just a bit too long.

Overall, none of the songs really stood out to me as being great. I didn’t want to go find the soundtrack afterward to hear something again, and that is a real shame. They are all mostly generic.

The plot is really easy to guess/understand for the most part. It is something that a kid will probably follow along and enjoy, but the older folks will be quite bored. It also moves along too quickly. We aren’t able to dwell on anything for too long before it is quickly resolved and moving on to the next moment. One scene similar to the ending of Toy Story 3 was fixed almost instantly and allowed no time for potential sadness to creep in.

Also, let’s be clear. There are dumb components. In the intro, we see all these animals being made for dolls, and then obvious messed up versions being sent away. And so we’d expect diversity when they climb up the tunnels. And instead we get only people looking dolls, perfect and the same, with just different skin tones and hair. How do these dolls accidentally create any of the Uglydolls? They weren’t even trying to make sense.

Uglydolls is a forgettable film, that is safe, and full of generic pop. The message is simple. Ugliness is on the inside. Next.

1 out of 4.

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.

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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.

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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.

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