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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Pixels

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Yikes…I haven’t seen a film get this panned in a long time. For those who don’t know, Pixels is the latest Adam Sandler comedy and is based off a short film of the same name. The film’s been completely trashed ever since it’s release and there even seems to be a competition going on to see who can write the most scathing review. This wasn’t all that surprising though, seeing as Adam Sandler has found little success in the film industry this past decade. There’ve been a few gems like Hotel Transylvania,  but most of his work recently has consisted of poorly received comedies like Grown Ups, That’s my Boy and…*shudder* Jack and Jill. Despite this, I was really looking forward to Pixels. It had a great premise, some fantastic looking special effects, Chris Columbus in the director’s chair, and the trailer actually did have me laughing. So I walked into Pixels with an open mind and was ready to just kick back and enjoy a big summer movie. What could possibly go wrong?…O….oh…is that the Happy Madison logo?…..oh dear….

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Okay, okay, let me make one thing clear right off the bat. Pixels is not as bad as everyone says it is. Don’t get me wrong, it is bad, but it’s not THAT bad. There are a few funny jokes, a few fun action sequences and some colourful effects, but at the end of the day, Pixels is just another bad Adam Sandler comedy with a bigger budget than normal. That’s all it is. It’s not even the worst movie of the year so far (That honour goes to Jupiter Ascending.) but it’s certainly one of the laziest. This is really frustrating, because the premise just sounds so cool. Aliens see footage of classic arcade video games and think it’s a declaration of war, so they create video game characters to come down and destroy the earth’s cities. It’s a ridiculously fun sounding concept that sounds like a combination of Independence Day and Wreck it Ralph. The main problem with this film is that when there isn’t a flashy effect on the screen, it becomes boring, and this is a very bad sign. Even if a film is special effects heavy, it should still have characters that we can connect with about and a story worth telling. Stupid films can work as long as their funny, but I didn’t find myself laughing all that much either. As I said before, the film at it’s core, is just an Adam Sandler comedy. I hoped it would be more then that, given that Chris Columbus ( the director of the first two Harry Potter and Home Alone films) was directing. I think Chris is a competent filmmaker, but this feels like one of his weaker films.

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There are three fun action sequences to be found. I won’t spoil all of them, but you’ve seen bits and pieces of all three in the trailer. my favourite scene would have to be the Pac-Man chase. the image of a giant Pac-man destroying New York is just as hilarious and cool as it sounds. It’s an energetic and fun sequence that reminds you of just how cool the movie could’ve been. It’s also fun to seek out all the recognizable video game characters in the film such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and even the Duck hunt Dog. (Bonus points if you can spot Mario’s 5 second cameo) Unfortunately, the video game characters are more interesting than the real-life actors present here. Adam Sandler just looks downright tired and bored through the whole movie. I don’t know if this is supposed to be part of his character, but he just looked miserable.  Kevin James basically just plays himself again, although he actually did get a few laughs this time around. Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage, two great actors, are both surprisingly forgettable and underwhelming. (Though Peter has more good lines than Josh) The characters are like cardboard cutouts and the jokes are so cheesy and full of cliches that it feels more like a direct to video film at times. (Unless there’s an impressive looking video game character onscreen)

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Darn it, Pixels! I really wanted to love you. The ten year old gamer in me loved seeing all the classic video game characters take over the world, but I was so bored during the unfunny and uninspired human scenes that i can’t help but feel disappointed. As i said before, there are a few good things to be said about the movie. The effects are great, a few decent jokes here and there, and the soundtrack can even sound nice at times. But overall, Pixels is just another Happy Madison production with a bigger budget. if you’re a die-hard fan of either Adam Sandler or classic video games, then you’ll probably get at least some enjoyment out of it, But for me, Pixels was a bit of a dud.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks

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Last summer’s “Equestria Girls” received mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. The general condenses seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the show, but it wasn’t the train wreck that some were expecting either. I myself was pleasantly surprised by it, and thought it captured the magic (pun intended) and charm that the show had to offer while still being it’s own thing. Despite the better-than-expected reception, there was certainly no outcry or demand for a sequel, at least not anywhere I could see. So when Hasbro and DHX announced Rainbow Rocks, fans were worried all over again. How does it hold up?  Not only do I think it’s a highly entertaining film in it’s own right, I think it exceeds it’s predecessor in nearly every way.

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So what makes Rainbow Rocks the better film? I think the most important and obvious aspect is it’s story. The first movie told a fairly simplistic narrative focusing on Twilight and her friends retrieving her crown. In Rainbow Rocks however, we are given a much more layered storyline that gives each of the characters their own sub-arc. In some cases this might make the story seem a little crowded, but it all flows together nicely. Sunset Shimmer’s story arc (I’m hesitant to call it a subplot, because Sunset really does feel like the main character in this one) Is absolutely brilliant. Friendship is Magic has reformed villains before, but it’s never come off quite as believable or effective as it does here. The events that took place in the first film come back to haunt her, and it’s clear that a majority of the school has not forgiven her actions. Its wonderfully done, and makes Sunset Shimmer the most interesting character in the movie. The story also has a darker tone, thanks to the stakes being raised and the conflicts the main cast has with one another Overall The film’s story is sharply written (save for some of the dialogue) and is a marked improvement over the first film.

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The antagonists (Adagio, Aria and Sonata) are good, if a little on the obvious side. There is nothing subtle about them, it’s it’s clear that they are evil just for the sake of being evil right from the start. What saves them from being generic is their backstory that ties into Equestrian lore, as well as their Fantastic vocal performances and entertaining personalities (for example, Sonata is the cutest and most adorable thing ever and I totally want one.) This movie features a lot of fan service, which consists of an endless supply of background character cameos (as well as the speaking debut of a fan favourite.) Some of the references may fly over newcomers heads, but the hardcore fans will have a field day spotting all the cameos and references in this movie. This may be the most reference filled film I’ve seen since the Lego Movie.

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It probably sounds like I loved this movie, and I did. But it’s not without it’s flaws either, with Some being more major than others. Two of my biggest problems are the writing and the screen time for Spike. Let’s cover the writing first, shall we? The film was written by Meghan McCarthy. The current head of the show and the writer for many episodes (Including  Party of One, Lesson Zero, A Canterlot Wedding, The Crystal Empire and more). I think that Megan is great at coming up with concepts and stories, but her dialogue writing could use a little more work. Another issue I had with the film is the lack of Screentime For Spike. As a fan of the character, I was disappointed to find that he was barely in the movie, Despite the fact that he played a prominent role in the first film. Also, Flash sentry (Sunset Shimmer’s ex-boyfriend and Twilight’s love interest.) once again has little to no impact on the plot, and if you were to remove his character entirely, hardly anything would change.

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Two aspects that I need to cover is the animation and the score. The animation is, in a word, BEAUTIFUL. This is  the best animation the show has seen in a while, and a major step up from the last movie. Everything from the lighting to the facial expressions shows a great attention to detail and the show has never looked better. The soundtrack is also a joy to listen to, featuring some very catchy tunes that stand alongside some of Daniel Ingram’s best work. A perfect example of how good the songs AND the animation are is the climax, which is a truly epic merge of sight and sound.

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Rainbow Rocks is a highly entertaining film for all ages.  Nearly Everything from the first film has been improved. It’s More engaging, darker, the animation’s better, the songs are fantastic and it has heart. Fans of the show owe it to themselves to give this one a watch, and while newcomers might not get the full experience without some knowledge of the source material, I think it will still  prove to be an entertaining and enjoyable ride for them. Oh, and remember to stay after the credits! Not only is there some wickedly cool concept art, but also a extra scene that leads into the next movie. Marvel Studios Style.

22 Jump Street

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If you enjoyed 2012’s “21 Jump Street” then you will love 22 Jump Street. That’s pretty much the verdict of this film. There’s not too much to talk about beyond that, but I’ll try my best. 22 Jump street sees the return of the undercover cop duo Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) teaming up once again to solve another crime at a local collage. Now if that sounds familiar to you, chances are you’ve seen the first film. The writers are clearly aware of the fact that the story is recycled, so the film doesn’t attempt to be anything more then a self-aware summer comedy that has proven to be a hit with audiences.

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Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum continue to have great chemistry with one another. While I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” of either actors beforehand, I cannot deny that the way these two play off each other is brilliant. There’s an undeniable Bromance vibe between the two characters that works entirely in the the movie’s favour. While the entirety of the movie is played for laughs, their friendship feels genuine,and the two of them remain a likeable duo throughout the course of the movie. Ice Cube’s character, Captain Dickson, is definitely my favourite character. Providing some of the film’s most memorable and funny scenes as well as becoming involved in a hilarious plot twist that I won’t dare ruin for you here. The rest of the cast does a serviceable job, although none of the other characters had me laughing quite as much as the leads. The only character that I found totally forgettable was Maya ( Amber Stevens) who also happens to be Schmidt’s love interest. I just found her character boring and forgettable compared to rest of the cast. While the supporting cast failed to leave an impression on me, the leads faired much better.

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As I mentioned before, the film’s story is almost identical to the first, save for a few minor differences. Such as The self-aware humour, and the location change from a high school to a collage. Let’s face it though, chances are your not going to see 22 Jump Street expecting a terribly original story. (Despite the fact that the film’s directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, gave us the delightfully original film “The Lego Movie” earlier this year.) Actually…the more I think about it, I’m realizing that this movie also shares a lot in common with March’s “Muppets most Wanted.” Both films are sequels to successful comedies that were both surprise hits. And on one hand, the story for both films could be seen as lazy and flat, while on the other hand, both of the films style of self referential humour is what prevents them from being just plain bad. Speaking of humour The film’s sense of humour, aside from being self aware, goes for shock value and it didn’t entirely work for me. That’s not a knock against the film itself, in fact, the movie seems to be doing very well among critics and audiences alike. I guess it’s just not my kind of humour.

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22 Jump Street is perfectly serviceable for fans of the franchise, just not for me. I will admit that some parts did make me laugh hard (the end credits montage may very well be the funniest thing I have seen all year, period.) but for the most part, It came off as a little forgettable and full on humour that I just didn’t find as funny. Still, I won’t say it’s a bad movie in general. Like I’ve said time and time again, if you liked the first 21 Jump Street, do yourself a favour and go see this one. Although judging by how late this review is, chances are you probably already have.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson is one of the best kind of directors. The guy is so unapologetically comfortable with his own quirky and awkward style that It’s hard not to get completely immersed in the world’s he creates with his movies. These worlds are enhanced by the fact that the same reliable cast often returns for each of his films, and that fact that Wes writes all of his films as well as directing them. My personal favorite Wes Anderson film would have to be his 2012 picture, “Moonrise Kingdom” for it’s over the top tone, great performances and genuine heart. This year, Anderson and crew returns for his most finically successful live action film to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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One of the most interesting things about The Grand Budapest hotel (I’ll call it GBH from here on out) is the structure of it’s story. It’s not simply a straightforward narrative, but is actually a story within a story, within a book. It’s hard to figure out exactly where the movie is going when it gives you all these plots at once, but it’s quickly established that the main story is the one being told in the 1930’s. The main plot of the movie is beyond engaging and hilarious. The film’s pacing is very quick, and because of this, the movie feels a little short. Having said that, the film still does make the most out of the time that it has. The jokes range from visual to verbal, and all of them are utterly hilarious. Most of it is dark humor, and it’s dark humor at it’s finest. It brings to mind much of the comedy present in Fawlty Towers and Tales From the Crypt. There is a point in the film, about midway through, where pacing gets a little slow, but it picks up again pretty quickly.  Like many of Wes Anderson’s films, the wacky visuals perfectly complement the witty writing, and if one were without the other, the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

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The characters are the highlight of the film, and all of them are quirky and interesting. The best of the bunch by far is Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the Hotel’s concierge, and Zero (Tony Revolori), a lobby boy at the Hotel and a close friend of Gustave’s.  The two share a great chemistry and work well off each-other. Even though much of the movie is played for laughs,there are some genuinely touching moments between these two characters. The rest of the characters make relatively brief appearances, yet leave memorable impressions. I mentioned earlier that Wes Anderson uses the same cast for many of his films, and it’s no different here. Many familiar faces return, including Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson among others. Dafoe’s character, J.G. Jopling in particular, steals every scene he’s in. My favorite character has to be Inspector Henckels (Edward Norton), who is one of many characters chasing after Gustave and Zero throughout the film. He get some of the funniest dialogue.

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Out of all the films Wes Anderson has made, this film is quite possibly his most Wes Anderson-ey film to date. The visual style, music, and overall atmosphere is just dripping with Wes’s charming style. There’s even little bits of animation here and there. If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film before, I’ll try and explain his style. His films often convey a very awkward and over the top tone that stays consistent throughout the course of the entire film. It’s a little hard to explain, but there’s nothing quite like a Wes Anderson film, and his style is as distinct and recognizable (if not more so) then other successful directors like Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg. I honestly can’t tell you if you like this movie, or any Wes Anderson film in general because  it’s a very acquired taste. You either get his style and embrace it, or you don’t. I personally embrace it, but I will tell you that if you are new to his films, it may be a good idea to take a look at his previous work like Fantastic Mr Fox or Moonrise Kingdom to see if it’s your thing, Because GBH really does go all out when it comes to his style of filming.

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Stylistic, charming and delightful are the three words that come to my mind when thinking about this movie.The Grand Budapest Hotel really has everything. It’s writing is humorous and smart. It’s characters are well developed and memorable, It’s intense, it’s touching, And it’s wacky in the ways only Wes Anderson can provide. . If your not a fan of Wes Anderson, then this probably won’t win you over, But if you are a fan, then this is a must see. Moonrise Kingdom is still my favorite of his films, but Grand Budapest Hotel is a close second.

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets-Most-Wanted-Poster There is a moment in Muppets Most Wanted that caught me off guard. Right in the first musical number, the characters state “ We’re doing a sequel, that’s what we do in Hollywood and everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good.” I know that the muppets are all about self-aware humour, but this line,and the opening musical number in general, really does set the tone of the rest of the movie.

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I was a huge fan of the last Muppet movie that came out in 2011. To me,it captured all the wit and charm we’ve come to expect from the Muppets, yet it also had lots of heart. The Muppets was one of my favorite movies of 2011 because of it’s sincerity and respect it gave to the long legacy of the muppets, while still managing to feel fresh and new. With Muppets Most Wanted however, they abandon most of the sentimental moments in favor of an off the wall caper film. In some ways it feels like a step backwards, seeing as how wonderful and creative the last film was, but at the same time, had they tried to re-create the 2011 film too much, it could’ve been alot worse. The plot of this film is nothing special. If you’ve seen the trailers,you’ll know exactly what I mean. The film’s two storylines are the mistaking identity story,and any given heist/caper story. It’s really just an excuse to take the muppets all around the world for two hours, and the film knows it. it doesn’t try to be anything more then what it is, and luckily, what it is is a very fun muppet Film.

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As expected from this franchise, there are celebrity cameos through the roof. I won’t spoil some of the best ones, but keep your eyes peeled, as many of them leave as quickly as they appear. The cameos are all hilarious, if a little brief. Then again, that’s part of the charm. There are three major guest stars in the film that get alot of screentime however. Ricky Gervais plays an accomplice to the film’s main villain. Ty Burrell plays a Pink panther style cop hot on the trail of the antagonists (and he’s even paired up with Sam Eagle ) And finally, we have Tina Fay who plays a strict prison guard that takes a liking to Kermit.

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The Muppets themselves haven’t changed one bit and are all as likable as ever. Walter (an avid fan of the muppets and the main character of the first movie) is the only recurring new character from the first movie, and he remains a welcome addition. Kermit and the gang get much more screentime this time around then they did in the previous movie, so it feels much more like a classic style Muppet adventure, which is great. There is one new face on the seen, and that is Constantine The worlds most dangerous criminal who bares a striking resemblance to Kermit. This character is just fantastic. It really takes something special to make a frog puppet an intimidating and charismatic villain, and Constantine pulls this off flawlessly.

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Of course, I can’t talk about a Muppet Movie without mentioning the soundtrack, now can I? The songs in this installment,in my opinion, are some of the strongest the franchise has ever produced. The opening musical number “We’re doing a sequel” sets the tone for the rest of the film perfectly. Other songs such as “I’m number one” and “The big house” are also delightful to listen to. One thing in particular I find worth noting about the film’s score is Constantine’s main theme. Every time his character gets introduced,we are greeted with some of the most epic themes Ive ever heard for a villain. it harkens back to themes such as Bane’s theme and the imperial march from Star Wars.

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The film does have problems. I feel like it goes on for a little too long (clocking in at JUST under two hours) and the story is nothing to write home about. But other then that, it’s pretty hard to dislike such a energetic and innocent film like Muppets Most Wanted. I think Kermit and Fozzy were right at the beginning of the film when they made the “ the Sequel won’t be quite as good” remark. but despite that, Muppets Most Wanted manages to stand alone as a very enjoyable Muppet movie.

Frozen the Review

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Disney has been doing really well lately. Have you noticed? Ever since the princess and the frog,they’ve been producing hit after hit. You might even say that we are witnessing a new Disney Renaissance!! This year, they managed to make a movie that can not only stand along side the classics, But also a film that feels completely new and inspired. Frozen is one of my favorite movies of the year for a number of reasons, and I’m here to tell you why.

The characters are all fantastic. Anna is a very likable main character for us to follow on this journey, She’s smart,but very youthful. When bad things happen,you can see that all she ever wants to do is make things right. I guess you could argue the fact that she’s also very naive,but honestly, I think nearly anyone can relate to her fascination with true love at least once in their lives. Elsa is almost the exact opposite,but I think she just might be my favorite character in the film. She’s not the villain by any means,she just wants to be alone,and in doing so causes more damage then she actually realizes. Theres alot of depth to this character. We can see the pain that she’s going through when she has to shut people out in order to protect them, and her imperfections and worries make her very relatable too. The moments involving the two sisters interacting with eachother are easily the film’s highlight scenes.

But with that said, it wouldn’t be a true Disney classic without some lovable side characters,now would it? Every character feels important to the story, and are all a joy to watch. Kristoff and his pet reindeer sven are a terrific team. I won’t spoil it by telling you why,but the scenes between the two of them are just hysterical. However, it should come as no surprise (or perhaps a complete surprise,depending on your expectations) When I say that the show stealer is Olaf the Snowman. He is just SO lovable, and SO funny, that I would watch a movie that was just all about him. Olaf may be the comic relief of the film,but he’s also got alot of heart,and provides the movie with some of it’s most memorable scenes. Like I said before,there are MANY other characters in the movie that range from smaller roles to major characters. But I can’t tell you EVERYTHING about this gem of a film, now can I? (P.S you guys let me know in the comments if you want me to edit this review to include spoilers.)

Disney is really at their prime when it comes to their animation. It’s nice to see that their films have remained so reliably wonderful to look at after all these years,and Frozen is no exception. It just looks so looks Gorgeous and colorful,that it’s hard not to fall in love with the style immediately. You might think that a movie that mostly takes place in a very arctic looking environment might get old fast,but just wait until you see the song “Let it go” and what they do with the visual style from that moment on. It’s all so detailed handled with care that,like i said before,It’s hard not to fall in love with the world it creates.

The music,what can I say? It’s BRILLIANT. All the songs hit Bullseye’s. And that’s saying alot,because this movie has at least five different songs in it,and they are all memorable and a joy to listen to. My personal favorites are “For the First time in forever” and “Let it go.” Let it go has my favorite visual’s by far,but First time in forever just has that awesome Disney feeling to it that you really can’t get any place else. The score itself is very well put together, and matches the tone of the film perfectly. The soundtrack was SO good in fact, that I had to go out and buy it as soon as possible!!

You wanna know what impressed me the most about this wonderful piece of art though? The story. While I can’t say too much without giving away some major plot points, I will say this; In the past, Disney would give us some great stories,but they always seemed a little predictable. But with Frozen, it’s anything but. It just has such a modern spin on the classic Disney formula,and nowhere in the film is that more evident then in the film’s climax,which involves a very exiting chase through a snow storm.

Frozen is near perfect. It has everything that makes me love Disney movies. Great story, memorable characters,amazing animation,and epic music and songs. I can not recommend this masterpiece enough. If you haven’t seen it already, GO SEE IT NOW. If you’ve already seen it, SEE IT AGAIN. It’s the least you can do for the talented team that gives us films like this year after year.

(P.S When you go see the film,make sure you see it in 3D. Not only is the film’s use of it spectacular,but the movie is preceded by a very charming and creative short film that blew my mind with it’s effects. Also,it may be one of the only times you’ll hear Walt Disney himself voicing Mickey Mouse in a modern short film. It;s one of those rare times when the 3D will be worth the price of admission.)