Aardman Studios return to the big screen in cracking form with another rip-roaring roller coaster of action, smart humour and lovable characters. Shaun The Sheep Movie promises to delight fans of all ages, and long-time aficionados of the studio’s signature claymation style can rest assured they have not lost their magic touch.
This second outing for Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless might take some audience members by surprise. I was a huge fan of the original, which expertly combined smart humour with fantastic visuals and a delightful story about friendship and acceptance. The second film is much darker in tone, set a considerable while after the first film, when dragons and the residents of Berk have formed a co-dependent relationship, while Hiccup and his friends have conquered adolescence and now face young adulthood.
Narratively the film sees our heroes encounter a marauding band of dragon poachers led by the nefarious Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). Hiccup also makes the shocking discovery that his mother isn’t dead after all, but rather raises a menagerie of dragon outcasts under the watchful eye of a monstrous but benevolent ice-breathing behemoth. Voiced by Cate Blanchett, Valka is an inspiring new force in Hiccup’s life, as she shares many of the same passions and idiosyncrasies he does, unlike his marauding father, Chief Stoick (Gerard Butler).
While the animation is as gorgeous as ever, the tone of this second film is far more serious and less inclined towards humour as it is towards poignant emotional catharsis and the harsh realities of growing up, dealing with loss and embracing responsibility. As a result, some younger viewers may struggle with the film, but older audiences should prepare accordingly for a rip-roaring adventure that might also having you shedding the occasional tear.
Set in the period leading up to the 1964 Tokyo Olymipics, From Up On Poppy Hill is a beautifully made and nostalgia-tinged coming of age story, set in a simpler, more traditional and more innocent time in Japanese history. Everything about this film feels right and the story is told with a sympathetic and engaging way. Wonderful and highly recommended.
Disney’s classic tale of beautiful maidens, wicked witches and dashing prince charmings ushered in a new era of animated filmmaking at a time when the entire industry was looking to up ts game and compete with a little invention called television that was taking the world by storm. While the story itself is fairly simple and genetic, the visual style and animation craft on display showcases Disney at the height of its powers. The film is packed full of vibrant imagery, vivid colours and wonderful character designs that earn the film its place in the very top tier of the studio’s work. Maleficent, the iconic villainess of the piece, also lends her name to a live action remake of Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie, which we can expect to see next summer.
I always enjoy checking out these animated DC/Marvel movies, just because I realise how little I know about the wider superhero universe and see them as a nice, handy crash course in familiarising myself with marginal, peripheral characters. What this film does is show you just how violent these stories can be, and how I REALLY don’t know much about these films. Essentially a story focused on The Flash and how he calls upon the rest of the Justice League to help him out when someone else starts running around with his powers causing all kinds of trouble, it really pulls back the curtain on how many players there are to draw from. Fun in its own right, but perhaps not a particularly useful entry point.