BEND IT LIKE A CAVEMAN!
There’s been many styles of animation that many powerhouse studios have utilized over the years when crafting a cartoon animated feature film. While 2-D (two-dimensional) was one of the earliest and had the most longevity within the animation genre, 3-D (three-dimensional rendering) through computer animation has been the latest and greatest usage of bring animated characters (and their world) to life through a cartoon motion picture. However, the usage of clay animation (a form of stop-motion animation) has been utilized and proven to be effective in cartoon storytelling. One particular studio of this unique style of animation is Aardman Animations. This British based animation studio has proven to have several clay animated movies, including Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were–Rabbit, and Shaun the Sheep the Movie. Additionally, the company has dabbled into the art of computer-rendering animation with like Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas. For most part, Aardman Animations, while not outpacing animated juggernauts Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks, has still generated mostly positive reviews (on average) for their animated features as well as grossing nearly $ 1 billion dollars revenue for their films (altogether). Now, Aardman Animations (as well as BFI and StudioCanal) and director Nick Park present the newest clay animation project with the movie Early Man. Does this latest stop-motion animation endeavor worth a glance or should it be sent by to the pre-historic stone age? Read more
THE UNTOLD STORY
BEHIND THE BELOVED SONG
With dozens of films genre being released each year, a typical one that gets overlooked by the more popular ones (action, drama, comedy, animation, etc.) is the subgenre category of religious movie. These films (sometimes called “faith-based” features) usually center around the struggles and ideas of a person (or groups) identity of a religious faith, which is, more or less, has a profound event or obstacle to overcome. While not entirely, the most commonplace religious type movies focus on the religion of Christianity, sometimes venturing back into the past in cinematic retelling classic biblical tales, including famed epic films like Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur (the original 1959 version) to some more modern endeavors from Hollywood like Risen and The Young Messiah. Other Christian “faith” films finds a more contemporary setting to tell its story, with some being “based on a true-life account” like the movies Unconditional, Heaven is Real, and Miracles from Heaven, while others might find inspiration from literary novels like The Shack, Unbroken and Same Kind of Different as Me. Regardless, whether finding inspiration from true life, references from the bible, or originality, these movies usually speaks on a person’s faith and the inner struggle he or she has within or one society’s views, spreading a message of belief and the understand of one’s belief. Now, Lionsgate (and Roadside Attractions) and directors Jon and Andrew Erwin present the newest Christian religious drama film with the movie I Can Only Imagine, based on the true story of Bart Millard (the lead singer of the Christian music group MercyMe). Does this feature find its religious stride or does its Christian overtones fail to bring this cinematic tale to light? Read more
SWEET DREAMS ARE “NOT”
MADE OF THIS
Since the company’s inception, Walt Disney Studios has produced a plethora of feature films, with some animated cartoons while others live-action motion pictures. In amongst those two categories, the studio has told some original stories in the cinematic storytelling, but has also derivate many either classic fairy tale source material (i.e. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc.) or adapted from literary novels. Of the latter, Disney has crafted films to entertain its audience viewers by bringing these book stories to life (from page-to-screen). Such perfect examples of this notion are movies like 1954’s 20,000 Under the Sea (based on Julies Verne’s classic) or 1964’s Mary Poppins (loosely based on the novels by P.L. Travers). Disney has continued this “book-to-film” adaptations for many years, including recent endeavors like in 2005’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (based on the beloved children’s book by C.S. Lewis) and 2016’s The BFG (based on the book by Roald Dahl). Now, in the latest installment in adapting popular books into motion pictures, Walt Disney Studios and director Ava DuVernay present the film A Wrinkle in Time, which is based on the Newberry award-winning book by the author Madeleine L’Engle. Does this movie shine bright and reach for the stars or does it get lost within its cosmic understanding of light and dark? Read more
A FLIGHTLESS BIRD
Actress Jennifer Lawrence has definitely made a name for herself in recent Hollywood. Before she became a “household” name in celebrity movie stars, the then unknown Lawrence starred in several TV shows episodes like Cold Cases, Medium, and The Bill Engvall Show. Lawrence eventually landed her role as Raven / Mystique in 2011’s superhero blockbuster X-Men: First Class (a role that she reprised again in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past and 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse), which gave her the recognition within a main lead role. However, her big “break-out” role came in 2012 when she landed the role of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (a four-feature film franchise that was based on the popular teen dystopian bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins). This proved that Lawrence was capable of handling herself in a lead role (she would continue playing the role of Katniss in the sequential Hunger Games sequels) and was offered more leading roles, including the 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook in which she starred alongside actor Bradly Cooper. With this film, Lawrence did win an academy award in the Best Actress category that year, allowing her access into the ranks of the upper echelon of Hollywood. From there, Lawrence appeared in other films like the crime drama American Hustle, the Depression-era drama Serena, the comedy-drama Joy, the sci-fi romance feature Passenger, and her latest endeavor (of writing this review) is the psycho / horror movie Mother!. Now, 20th Century Fox (as well as TSG Entertainment) and director Francis Lawrence present actress Jennifer Lawrence’s newest film with the movie Red Sparrow. Is this espionage thriller another hit for Lawrence in her career or does she flounder within this deadly spy drama? Read more
A BUG’S LIFE THIS AIN’T
Ayy, Milo here, from Stuff And That! Special thanks to Jason for letting run rampant on his lovely site over here once again and, if you enjoyed what I’m producin’, be sure to check my site for more o’ that.
But on with the review…
In the cavern of pretentiousness and self-congratulation that is Oscar season, there are always a few gems to be found and, with Lady Bird being nommed for Best Picture among others, this one wasn’t too tricky to excavate — but it sure is a diamond. Read more
A MEDIOCRE / DECENT
The year of 2017 saw a lot of comedy films being released within its 12-month span. From January to December, comedic feature films were released during their 2017 theatrical run. Some found success like mainstream hits Girls Trip and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, some were big contender for the award season like Lady Bird and The Big Sick, to mediocre sequel spin-offs Pitch Perfect 3 and Bad Moms Christmas, to remake flops like CHiPS and Baywatch, and forgetful duds like Fist Fight and Snatched. These films did a lot for varying different reasons. Some found comedic gold, some found critical praise, and even some found distaste from moviegoers, disappearing into the background of all the 2017 theatrical releases. Now, with the year of 2018 already in full swing, Warner Bros. Pictures (and New Line Cinema) and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein present the first big comedy film of the year with the movie Game Night. Does this comedy-action feature finds its stride or does it fail strike a humorous balance with its viewers? Read more
BIZZARE AND EERIE,
BUT SOLIDLY GREAT AND POIGNANT
The year of 2015 saw a lot of movies being theatrically released. During its 12-month spanned, feature films debuted weekly, ranging from a variety of genres from superhero blockbusters (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man), big-budgeted films (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World), raunchy comedies (Ted 2 and Trainwreck), teen dystopian (The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2), page-to-screen (Fifty Shades of Grey and The Martian), and box office flops (The Fantastic Four and Pixels). In amidst of all these films (and then some), a low-budget sci-fi film titled Ex Machina was released and was considered a “hidden gem” or “sleeper” hit of that year. Directed by Alex Garland (who made his directorial debut) and starred Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina followed the story of a computer programmer (Caleb) who is invited by his CEO (Nathan) to an isolated research facility to administer a “Turing test” to an intelligent humanoid robot named Ava. While the film didn’t have a robust box office success, Ex Machina did receive high praise from critics and moviegoers, praising Garland’s direction (for the movie), it’s sophisticated narrative importance on artificial intelligences, and the film’s small yet incredible cast. The movie also garnished several nominations and awards during the award season, including winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Now, several years since Ex Machina was released, Paramount Pictures (with Skydance Media and DNA films) and director Alex Garland present his newest film Annihilation, which is based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer. Does this ambitious sci-fi tale surpass Ex Machina or is it an ambiguous slippery slope for Garland’s sophomore endeavor? Read more
WE SHALL NEVER SURRENDER.
ANOTHER SIDE, ANOTHER STORY.
Director Joe Wright has always gravitated towards doing historical period pieces for his film projects. Whether guide towards historical events or just the thrill of doing a costumed drama, Wright has brought several notable films to life. Perhaps his most famous one was his directorial debut, with 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, which starred Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadden as the famous literary characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Following his film adaption of the Jane Austen’s beloved book, Wright went on to direct Atonement, which was based on novel of the same name by Ian McEwan and starred Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy in the lead roles. Wright received critical praise for Atonement, which was nominated for seven Academy Award nominations and won in the categories for Best Production Design and Best film. From there, Wright several other films, including 2009’s modern drama The Soloist, 2011’s action thriller Hanna, and his 2012’s cinematic adaptation of Lev Tolstoy Anne Karenina. His last project was back in 2014, with Wright jumping head first into big-budgeted filmmaking and J.M. Barrie’s timeless tale with the movie Pan. Set as fantasy prequel to the original story, Pan, which starred Hugh Jackman, Garett Hedlund, and Rooney Mara, was sadly a critical and financial miss, with many criticizing the film for its formulaic plot, over indulgence of computer generated imagery, and controversial cast decisions. Now, in attempt to bounce back from Pan, director Joe Wright and Focus Features (as well as Working Title) present the film Darkest Hour, a historical biopic on the early years of Winston Churchill as Britain’s Prime Minister. Does Wright newest endeavor find its historical stride or does it fail to translate cinematic revelation from this poignant figure in history? Read more
LONG LIVE THE KING!
In this golden age of superheroes films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe stands tall and proud as a beacon to this blockbuster tentpole of comic book heroes and villains. This shared movie franchise that began back in 2008 has bolstered some of the greatest superheroes that Marvel has in its illustrious comic book history, bringing iconic heroes, villains, gods, and monsters to the big screen. Naturally, the bigger and more popular comic book characters were part of initial release when the MCU first rolled out its “Phase I” saga, seeing Tony Stark / Iron Man, Bruce Banner / Hulk, Steve Rogers / Captain America, and Thor to the grace the silver screen in their own feature films as well as superhero team up ones (i.e. the Avengers films). Over time (and its overwhelming success), the MCU began to expand its own cinematic universe, exploring and examining lesser-known comic book characters to “bring into the fold” of this lucrative film franchise. Thus, Marvel characters like Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy have gotten their own standalone feature film and have been brought into this growing roster of Marvel heroes. Back in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War (the 13th film in the MCU), while many viewers were excited to see the new iteration of Spider-Man (played by actor Tom Holland), the film also introduced the character of T’Challa, the heir apparent to the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and his superhero masked alter-ego…the Black Panther. Interestingly (and not just a cameo), T’Challa, who was played by actor Chadwick Boseman, actually played an important part in Civil War’s narrative, which served as the foundation to introduced the future king of Wakanda within the MCU. Now, the time has come for the character of T’Challa to get his own feature film as Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler present the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Panther. Does this movie find its regal place amongst its superhero MCU brethren or does it fail to impress even the most stalwart comic book fans out there? Read more
TRUE LIFE HEROISM
For years, actor / director Clint Eastwood has made a name for himself in the filmmaking world of Hollywood. Like many within the pantheon of elite and famed people of “tinseltown”, Eastwood started out as an actor, first appearing on the silver screen 1955’s Revenge of the Creature as an “uncredited, minor role. This would continue in several future movie projects, until he landed the lead role in 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars. From there, Eastwood would start becoming more of a “leading man” in feature films, playing title characters in movies like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Dirty Harry, The Beguiled, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino; some of which have become iconic in Hollywood’s great tapestry of cinematic storytelling. In time, Eastwood would step out to play an important role beyond his acting ability by displaying his directorial film credibly. Such films like Invictus, American Sniper, Letters to Iwo Jima, Hereafter, Mystic River, and Flags of Our Fathers, are some of the most notable ones (as well as Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby) as a director. Additionally, Eastwood has also continued his efforts “behind the camera” by being a film producer as well as being a film’s composer, providing the music score for a selection of features. Now, after the successful praise of Sully, his last directorial film project, director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. Pictures (along with Village Roadshow Pictures) present the bio-pic drama film The 15:17 to Paris, based on the true-life events of the 2015 Thalys train attack. Does this movie find its placed amongst Eastwood’s illustrious career or is it a failed “based on a true story” drama that flounders from the get-go? Read more