Shaun the Sheep Movie

MV5BMTQ2OTUwOTY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjAxOTE4NTE@._V1__SX1320_SY564_The idea of a silent film done entirely in stop-motion just makes me feel giddy. As a huge fan of animation, I have a few favourite studios. One of which being Aardman. I’ve watched Aardman’s productions for almost as long as I can remember. Wether it be Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run, or even some of their more recent efforts like The Pirates: Band of Misfits, I’ve always been able to count on the studio’s stellar work. When I heard that their next film was going to rely on purely visual storytelling and humour, I got pretty excited. The film in question is Shaun the Sheep, based off the tv show of the same name. The series is actually a spinoff of Wallace and Gromit, but the character of Shaun has become immensely popular in the UK, so a feature film seemed like a natural progression for the character. Is it another hit for the studio? Let’s find out.

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The best way to describe Shaun the Sheep is “charmingly simple.” (Which is Ironic, considering that the film took 6 years to make.) I’ve only seen a few episodes of the television series that the film was based on, but from what I can tell, the film is practically just an episode stretched out to a feature length, Much like the Mystery science Theatre 3000 movie. Some may be turned off by the film’s almost overly simplistic story, but I found it refreshing. Animated movies geared at children often feel the need to keep their target audiences attention by being loud and obnoxious, but with Shaun the Sheep, it’s much more quiet and subdued, as well as incredibly subtle with it’s humour. I can imagine the film would be more rewarding upon multiple viewings, since there’s so many background and foreground jokes going on the screen at once, that’s near impossible to catch everything in one viewing. Not every joke works, but more often than not the film succeeds with it’s humour. The animation itself is some of Aardman’s best work. It doesn’t take that any risks and it’s not quite as filled with variety as their previous film (The Pirates) but it’s still remarkably well crafted and executed, which is to be expected from the studio that has mastered the stop-motion game for decades.

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What makes the animation even more impressive is the fact that there is no dialogue. At all. Aside from the film’s soundtrack and a few little sound effects from the sheep and humans. The feel of the film is very reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin-esc classic from the 1930’s or 40’s. The recent Minions film was touted for relying on visual storytelling, but that film still had characters who spoke lines of dialogue. Shaun the Sheep however, is the real deal. The only downside with the animation, for me at east, is that the environments (in the city) all seem a little generic and not as imaginative as the locations seen in some of the studio’s other work, like  The Pirates or Wallace and Gromit. This doesn’t bring the film down, but it does make it feel less memorable in comparison to other Aardman products. For fans of the show however, the film does succeed by keeping the style and tone of the series while also expanding the world a bit by bringing the characters to the big city rather than keeping them on the farm.

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Shaun the Sheep is charming and heartwarming, yet I don’t think it’s quite good enough to be considered Aardman’s absolute best work. I dunno, maybe if I was more of an avid watcher of the TV show I would get more of a kick out of it. Even so, while I didn’t think the film was spectacular, it’s still very good, and absolutely worth a watch if your a fan of animation and silent movies. This is a simple, quant and endearing way to end the summer movie season, Despite the fact that the UK got this film back in February…..Lucky punks.

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Fantastic Four

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Oh boy….what can I say about Fantastic Four? The film almost instantly gained a reputation for being one of the most abysmal Comic Book movies ever made thanks to many terrible reviews and is even being compared to the films such as Batman and Robin. For real? Guys, I want to get one thing out of the way. I didn’t think it was THAT bad. Do I think it’s a good movie? Not necessarily. But did I think was a completely awful one with no redeeming values? I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Perhaps it was because I went into this one with such low expectations that practically anything remotely interesting presented by the film would’ve impressed me, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s explore the things that didn’t work, and then move onto some of the positives.

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First and foremost, Fantastic Four should not be “dark and edgy”. I apologize if I come off as a bit of a Marvel fanboy when saying this, but it’s true. Part of the Fantastic Four’s charm is its goofy and colourful and fun. Fox’s “Fant4stic” reboot on the other hand tries too hard to be dark and “serious” that it forgets to have fun with itself. There are sprinkles of humour here and there, but the film tries very hard to be grounded and realistic, which are two things that The Fantastic Four should NOT be. So as a faithful adaptation of the source material, it fails. As a basic superhero origin story though, it’s not nearly as painful as some would lead you to believe. The film feels alot more like a sci-fi horror film than a superhero flick, but that’s fine, because it’s clear that the film’s Director, Josh Trank, was going for more of a “Chronicle” vibe with this movie ( 2012’s Chronicle was his debut and much superior film) and for the most part, it works. that cast if a bit of a mixed bag, as are the special effects. The only two characters I really liked were Ben Grim. (A.K.A The Thing), and Johnny Storm. (A.K.A The Human Torch) Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Johnny is entertaining and provides some light and welcome humour to the film, and his charisma is evident in the role as well. As for Jamie Bell’s performance as The Thing, Umm….i’ll be honest, i’ve always had a real soft spot for this character. To me, the Thing’s always been the heart of the group, and although this movie doesn’t really capture the “family” aspect that makes the team stand out, The Thing still feels like the emotional centre of the piece, and I was always engaged when he was onscreen. (Although I do like the practical effects used to bring him to life in the 2005 and 2007 films a bit more) The rest of the cast ranges from serviceable to completely forgettable. Miles Teller plays a pretty generic Reed Richards (A.K.A Mr. Fantastic) and Kate Mara’s Sue Storm (A.K.A The Invisible Woman) is completely forgettable. Dr. Doom is, sadly, a bit of a letdown as well. It’s frustrating that one of the most iconic Marvel villains has yet to impress on the big screen, and Doom’s appearance in this film is incredibly brief, and only impacts the film in the last 20 minutes. (literally. This film’s main antagonist makes Spider-man 3’s Venom look good.)

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The special effects range from a little uneven to downright cheesy at times. Mr. Fantastic’s stretching abilities look the terribly cartoonish and unbelievable almost 100% of the time, and The CGI flames on the human Torch don’t look much better than they did back in 2007. The Thing looks pretty good for the most part, but sometimes the lip-sync felt a little off. The Invisible Woman looked…fine, I guess? I don’t know how you could really screw up on making a character turning invisible in a big budget film like this, so We’ll just say that she fares out fine as far as the effects are concerned. The film features very little action, and for a summer blockbuster that focuses on four heroes saving the world, that’s a little disappointing. The final fight isn’t even all that impressive. It’s set up, it happens, and it’s over all within a few minutes. As a matter of fact, the film’s third act is where it really falls apart. Characters make completely ludicrous decisions that completely contradict their supposed “smart” nature, and the villain’s motivations remain unclear, and his dialogue is laughably corny. (Dr. Doom: “Oh Reed, so smug. Always thinking you were smarter than me.” Me: Uh…When did he ever imply that he thought he was smarter than you!?) The film’s second act is what really saves this movie from being a total trainwreck. The scenes featuring the characters getting used to their powers for the first time is genuinely creepy and unnerving. The cinematography is also quite nice, but it’s just a shame that a few really nice shots from the trailers got cut. You remember than scene of the thing flying out of the helicopter and landing on that tank? Not even in the movie. The film feels very light on actual action, and feels alot more like it’s just trying to set up for future movies, which leaves the film itself feeling unfulfilling rather than a good stand-alone experience. The film does seem to promise bigger and better things to come, but the top priority should’ve been the film at hand, rather than the sequel that may or may not even be made.

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Yes, I know this was a pretty negative review, but I don’t think the film is quite deserving of all the negativity it’s receiving. It’s clunky, misguided and predictable, but it’s also not completely devoid of good things either. I’m not exactly going to tell you to rush out and see it, but do give the film a chance before you bash it. I know it’s incredibly tempting to jump onto the Fant4stic hate” bandwagon, but at least acknowledge the film’s strengths as well as it’s weaknesses. Having said that, this is still a fairly underwhelming summer blockbuster and I only hope that Fox is learning from their mistakes and has better plans for their oh-so-precious sequel that they’re clearly jazzed about.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission_Impossible_Rogue_Nation You can’t go anywhere these days without seeing ads for movies. What’s more uncommon however, is when you can’t escape ads for just ONE scene in a film. The now famous sequence of Tom Cruise hanging off the side of a flying Airplane has taken the world by storm. I can’t look at a single current film magazine without seeing some sort of coverage on the stunt. Not that I’m complaining though. The stunt itself is an amazing feet, and I never get tired seeing it. It’s still hard to believe that Tom insists on doing these dangerous in every Mission Impossible film, but that’s what makes the films so entertaining. The franchise really found it’s voice with 2011’s Ghost Protocol, so I was eagerly anticipating the latest entry in the series, “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”. How does it hold up? Pretty nicely, though it could’ve used a few more trips to the editing room.

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the main selling point of “Mission: Impossible” is, of course, the action. And the action presented here is handled exceptionally well. Thanks to the minimal use of CGI and the impressive stunt-work preformed by the actors, the action feels engaging and is by far the highlight of the film. The much talked about Airplane sequence is a little shorter than expected, but is nonetheless still one of the most impressive stunts I’ve ever seen pulled off on a film. Both this film and Mad Max Fury Road understand that real actors equals real tension, and Rogue Nation has some of the most nail bitting and intense scenes of any summer blockbuster released this year. The film is smart to balance the tension out with some good humour. The screenplay isn’t exactly stellar, but the comedy is often very funny and a welcome change of pace compared to the more serious tones found in other films of the spy genre. The cast is quite good was well. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character might not be the most interesting lead ever, but he’s serviceable enough, and anytime the character is involved in an action set piece he knocks it out of the park. He and Rebecca ferguson’s character, Ilsa Faust, play off each other pretty well, even if neither of them are the most interesting leads. Simon Pegg is enjoyable as usual, providing the film with some welcomed comic relief. 2015 has been a very good year to Jeremy Renner as well. After impressing me with Hawkeye’s character growth in Age of Ultron, he provides yet another very good performance in this film and I’ve really warmed up to the guy this year.

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The rest of the cast is a little on the bland side. They’re serviceable enough and help keep the plot moving, but aren’t very memorable. The villain’s creepy enough, but his motivations and plans aren’t exactly made very clear, and because of this the film’s story can feel bogged down at times by confusing exposition that makes the story feel very convoluted. The basic premise is simple enough; Ethan Hunt and crew attempting to hunt and take down a secret organization known as the Syndicate. This marks the Syndicate’s first appearance in a mission Impossible film, but for fans of the original tv series, they’ll remember that the Syndicate was the main antagonist, so it’s a pretty nice throwback. It’s not that the story itself is complicated, but the way it’s presented and revealed as the film goes along becomes a little hard to follow. Most average moviegoers should have no trouble following along, but make sure you’re paying attention, otherwise you’ll just be looking at your watch and waiting for the next action scene to kick in. The film moves at a brisk pace for the most part, and is constantly entertaining up until the third act. the main problem with this film’s climax is that it just feels too downplayed and basic compared to the sheer absurdity and fun tone that the film was going for beforehand. The score, on the other hand, is fantastic, boosting some classic memorable themes from the franchise as well as some good new ones that complement the action nicely.

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Rogue Nation isn’t my favourite Mission: Impossible film. That honour still goes to Ghost Protocol. Nevertheless, the film still knows what you want out of a movie like this, and it delivers confidently with some intense action, great humour and a good cast. True, the story could’ve used some work and the villain could’ve been stronger, but overall, It’s a fun time at the movies. If you’re looking for a summer blockbuster that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, then Rogue Nation is the way to go.