Shaun the Sheep

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Aardman return with the charming Shaun the Sheep and show animation fans everywhere, why they’re still the top-dogs.

Its been an exhilarating 12 months for film, specifically for animated cinema and Mark Burton’s and Richard Starzak’s Shaun the Sheep does nothing to change the tempo. Shaun the Sheep harks back to Aardman of old and its impossible to avoid the reminiscences of Wallace and Gromit and this is certainly no bad thing. The whole film is produced without any dialogue and as an audience member, you don’t notice it for a second. The sheep are voiced intelligently, and their grunts and ‘ba’s’ prove amusing, insightful and extremely loveable. Justin Fletcher voices Shaun and cousin Timmy (a sure favourite with younger viewers) and his sheep expertise are far from wooly, as he delivers an appropriate performance. The obvious craft lies with the visual aesthetics; delivered so beautifully by Aardman. The classic Aardman stop-start is a flawless as ever but unlike their earliest work, it now incorporates computer generated support. The attention to detail is astounding, with the majority of the scenes demonstrating intricate interactions between characters, changing of outfits and even an elaborate restaurant scene.

Shaun the Sheep is a film of two halves, the first is set in the idyllic mossybottom and the other in the ‘Big City’ twinned with the amusingly named ‘Grande Ville’. Aardman really show their diversity with this one and prove that they’re capable of animating the spanning yorkshire moors and the grimey metropolis. Shaun… deals with a difficult balance effectively, and because of its varied audience it must appeal to the youngest of viewers, the bigger kids and those younger adults who fancy a slice of nostalgia, not to mention the mums and dads. It’s fair to say that Shaun the Sheep ‘The Movie’ rises to the challenge brilliantly and the classic combination of slapstick and delightful humour make for a great watch, even for the most sheepish amongst us.

FilmFilmFilm watched Shaun The Sheep at Greenwich Picturehouse. Lookout for their Student deals including their weekly Under 24, £4 offer and their £10 student membership (includes 2 Free Tickets!). Find more information at their website, http://www.greenwich.picturehouse.com

Verdict: 7.5/10

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Selma

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I leaned over to my fellow reporter and whispered “this audience seems rowdy, I predict a lot of rustling and grumbling” Within ten minutes of Selma, I was proved utterly wrong as we, and the entire audience, sat in complete admiration for the totality of Selmas magnificent 128 minutes and a further 10 to catch our breath with the credits. Nobody stirred.

Driven by the astonishing performance of David Oyelowo; Selma is one of 2015’s greatest cinema hits and does more than hold its own amongst fellow Oscar nominees Whiplash, Birdman and Theory of Everything. The story of Dr. Martin Luther King’s activist struggle is one of pain, hardship and suffering and Oyelowo serves complete justice to the role. His delivery is breathtaking and his rendition of King’s most famous speeches prove overwhelmingly uplifting, giving Selma a breathless and thoroughly engaging quality. Alongside Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey and Carmen Ejogo produce compelling performances and contribute to a cast t full of depth and raw talent. The themes are dealt with beautifully and it’s apparent that director Ava Duvernay had full intentions to bring Dr. King’s words to life in a manor that rang so appropriately with current racial tensions. Although the civil rights movement is a piece of history that has every right to stand independently as a documented struggle, it was refreshing to witness a piece of cinema that had no objective to be a dusty-documentary; as Selma’s political messages haunt us with an ever-darker relevance in the light of the recent U.S. attacks.

Selma is a political thriller but also a powerful piece of cinema that utilises an extremely talented cast. The fluidity and rhythm is refreshing, there are a series of rallies, demonstrations and marches before constant regrouping to the motivational voice of Dr. King, it makes for a very enjoyable spectacle. It’s about time somebody told Dr. King’s story and with Duvernay’s contemporary and coherent direction, Selma proves to be the surprise film of 2015.

FilmFilmFilm watched Selma at the Greenwich Picturehouse. Lookout for their Student deals including their weekly Under 24, £4 offer and their £10 student membership (includes 2 Free Tickets!). Find more information at their website, http://www.greenwich.picturehouse.com

Verdict: 9.0/10

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Boxtrolls

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Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi combine on their return to cinema, with the wonderful Boxtrolls. This was Stacchi’s first time with stop-start animation but the clever blend of real-time animation, computer generated smoothing and the artistic craft of the directors proved to be an incredibly effective method and launched Boxtrolls towards Bafta and Oscar nominations. ShowMe was invited to a private screening of the film, at Covent Garden Hotel, with the DVD release imminent.

Based on the book by Alan Snow, Here Be Monsters, Boxtroll’s is set in the mythical world of Cheesebridge and tells the story of the towns sewer-dwelling box-trolls and their battle against the gruesome Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley). There are some impressive themes here and alongside the family-fun, Boxtrolls addresses some contemporary issues; proving an engaging watch for all ages. Our hero Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was raised by the Boxtrolls, in Jungle-book style, and quickly proves to be the savour of the community. The grotesque Snatcher, town mayor and all-round bad guy, is the most terrific villain of recent years and his slobbering speech, greasy hair and disgusting Cheese allergy make a sizeable foe for Eggs and the gang.

Boxtroll’s narrative rivals any animation from the last ten years and aesthetically; it’s one of the best looking animated films of all-time. Cheesebridge’s winding streets, the trolls magnificent underground caverns, the charming ball room scene and the seamless interaction of characters are just a few features that pay homage to the artistic craft that’s been applied so lovingly. The people of Cheesebridge resemble Tudor fat-cats and their decadent outfits with pasty skin and pompous accents serve a brilliant contrast to the magical trolls, adding to the films effective escapism. Stacchi and Annable are masters of their craft, and this is high praise with the animation scene expanding and constantly developing, Boxtrolls is like Oliver Twist meeting Monty Python, a modern classic. This film is a typical example of recent family features. The children will enjoy the silliness and slapstick elements, becoming fascinated with Snatcher and his group of goons; whilst the older viewers will notice the themes of social climbing and class division; a clever use of layering by the directors.

Boxtrolls is nominated for the Best Animated Feature Film and it’s clear to see why. Annable worked on Coraline and Paranormon where the merging of stop-start and CG was in its infancy; now it’s taken flight and Boxtrolls has benefited hugely from this. The 3D is crisp and full of depth, offering the films most complete viewing experience, bringing Cheesebridge to life in an almost immersive fashion. The Oscar will be no walk in the park, thanks to extremely tough competition, but the nomination is a milestone achievement and recognises Boxtrolls as a work of art and an impressive fete of storytelling.

Verdict 8.5/10

Big Hero 6

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As I took my seat in Whitechapel’s stylish cinema, Genesis, to watch Disney’s latest release Big Hero 6, I took a moment to reflect on Disney’s colourful past and the spectrum of animated films it’s produced over the years. With each new release; the current Disney production must find its niche within the canon of content and not only be an instant success but stand the test of time, cementing its place in cinema history, successfully achieving the Disney-effect.

Big Hero 6 is certainly a refreshing direction for Disney; an exciting, brilliantly diverse and beautifully satisfying animation that captivates all our expectations and actually surpasses the huge amount of media-hype that surrounded the pre-release. Set in San-Fransokyo (yes, you read that correctly), Big Hero 6 shows a modernised Disney, with brothers Hiro and Tadashi Hamada leading the technology battle against micro-robots. The fictional and almost futuristic world of San-Fransokyo is a genius twist by directors Don Hall and Chris Williams that allows the film’s environment to incorporate heaps of character that combine with elements of technology that have grown to become synonymous with the mention of Tokyo.

The rest of the gang include Baymax (the plus sized robot); a loveable character that fits the bill perfectly for Disney hero; Wasabi the man with the lightening hands and Honey Lemon, Fred and Go Go add to a group of young ‘nerds’ whose underlying dreams are to fight evil, even if they never intended to. I think what’s so fresh about this new-feel Disney is the producer’s ability to accept the times and allow them entry into his narrative and characterisations. There are ‘selfies’, smartphones and even video calls and it’s a sign that Disney’s diversity can stretch into the 21st century, whilst retaining its charm of old.

The story of Baymax and Hiro is a heart-warming one and without spoiling anything, it’s easy to forget that one is a young boy and the other an oversized, inflatable robot. Their quest takes them throughout the streets of San-Fransokyo and sees them face the dangers of micro-robots at every corner, pushing Baymax’s abilities to their limits. The micro-robots, a stolen invention of Hiro’s, are a great piece of creative thinking that provides an ever-changing villain.

The animation is flawless with a real depth of colour, crisp 3D and spotless character interaction. Look out for a scene in Hiro’s garage which uses a time lapse device; the lighting is incredible and demonstrates the full extent of the available budget, proving that Disney can still hold it’s own in a industry that they debatably kick-started.

Above all and perhaps the most striking feature of Big Hero 6 is that there is no clear right or wrong, bad or good and because of this there are some fairly complex ideas that possibly make Big Hero 6 one of the most significant Disney films in history. This is a story of friendship and dealing with loss; powerful themes that are woven seamlessly with adventure, action and most importantly, robots.
Verdict: 9.0/10

I watched Disney’s Big Hero 6 at Genesis cinema.
Find their website at this address:
https://www.genesiscinema.co.uk/films/now-showing/

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Raging Balls of Steel Justice

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Written, directed and voiced by Mike Mort and produced by Rupert Lywood, Raging Balls of Steel Justice is an explosive and brilliantly ridiculous animation, on the adventures of maverick-cop, Chuck Steel. Brought to us by Blue Dolphin Animation, Raging Balls… is an action-packed production, crammed with gun’s, robot sex and you guessed it, balls. Delivered by Mike Mort’s seamless animation and impressive voicing, Raging Balls… is not just laughing matter. There is serious promise here and amongst the outrageous one-liners, old-western clichés and a nod to Wallace and Gromit, Mort may have just created the next big thing.

It’s 1986; Chuck Steel must rescue a captured banker before his balls are kicked out of his nose. A ‘ticking-clock narrative’ see’s Steel and his sex obsessed robot, the appropriately named A55, on a two-man mission to save the banker, protect the Police and prevent the bruising of Mr Steels ego in the process. In such short running time, Mort and his team have achieved where many full-scale producers have faltered and that’s in developing great characters. Although his lines are few, Captain of the Police force Jack Schitt (Lets hope you get that one) proves an amusing contrast to the outlandish Steel. Through his sing-song dialogue and donut-dunking demands, his humorous interactions with Steel are the highlight of the film; throwing lines like “Damn it Steel, you may be the best cop on the force but its not 1985 anymore it’s 1986 and this excessive bullshit force doesn’t cut the mustard with the big cheese”. Think Chief Wiggum meets Cleveland Brown.

Raging Balls of Steel is silly and it’s rude, but it’s never offensive. That’s vital for its success. It’s refreshing to watch a short piece of animated cinema that’s been injected with genuine humour and one that harks back to old-style slapstick; combining it sleekly with a modern brand of quick-fire humour; tapping into the likes of Family Guy and South Park.

Kids will love this, even if they shouldn’t, that’s the point. Mort’s been clever with his direction and I think he knows his target audience. The jokes are crude and at times very funny but it’s that borderline adult-content that will attract the younger viewers. It’s 2014’s Team-America, it’s great to watch as long as you’re parents don’t know. To top it all off, there’s even a reference to Wallace and Gromit, one of ‘Maniacs’ gang members pulls the famous ‘Gromit-Grimace’ a feature that’s sure to be enjoyed by many. Without spoiling anything, I’ll finish on this; “let me hold those for you”.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Captain Steel will return in 2017 with his own feature film; Night of The Trampires.

For more information visit: http://www.chucksteelthemovie.com

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Fury

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RELEASED: November 2014
CERTIFICATE: 18
DIRECTOR: David Ayer
CAST: Bradd Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman
RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes
PLOT: “When greenhorn typist Norman (Lerman) is recruited to the hardened crew of a Sherman tank grinding its way through battle-torn Germany, led by adored but unstable commander Wardaddy (Pitt), he will be confronted by the grim realities of winning a war the hard way.”

Fury is a powerful insight into the brutal nature of WW2, revoking films of old like a Bridge Too Far, and a scrutinised viewpoint on ally war-time behaviour, unlike anything seen to date. Starring the charismatic Brad Pitt and controversial Shia LaBeouf, Fury succeeds in power-housing the audience through a thrill packed ride of sleek cinematics and rousing battle scenes. Set amongst the polarised characters of Pitt and LaBeouf, Logan Lerman succeeds in successfully conveying his ‘evreyday man’ persona, quickly establishing himself as a serious talent. Set in 1945 Germany, Fury establishes its audience emphatically, leaving an entirely submersed audience in the wake of David Ayers creation. The characters are entertaining and although bordering on stock and archetypal, Pitt brings his usual enthusiasm to the table, carrying the narrative. The tank, appropriately named Fury, serves a physical and metaphorical vehicle for the plot, leading the audience through mine-riddled battle ground, small towns and SS battalions; the sub-plots intertwine with the main narrative.

Pitt, is the star of the show here. After personally producing it himself, it’s his craft and steel that will cement Fury as a memorable watch. Despite being problematic on set, LaBeouf proves he can still bring something to a blockbuster feature. Lerman displays maturity in the shallow role he’s given and brings the final piece to the collective gang. An iconic watch, Fury succeeds in what it sets out to do. Admittedly there’s no ground breaking here, but Fury does provide a thought-provoking message to the audience, challenging our pre-conceptions of ally soldiers and their behavior on the front line.
Lermans nickname is a clever feature, after his characterisation is molded into cold-hearted tank gunner, he is dubbed as machine. A strong message from Ayer, provoking thought from the viewer.

A great spectacle.


Verdict: 8/10

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