Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Chicken Run (2000)

Image is property of Pathe, Aardman Animations, and Dreamworks

Chicken Run – Film Review

Cast: Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Tony Haygarth, Benjamin Whitrow, Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Ferguson

Directors: Nick Park and Peter Lord

Synopsis: When a hot headed rooster seemingly flies into their lives, a desperate group of captive chickens see him as their best chance to escape their captivity…

Review: What is the first thing you think of when you hear the name Aardman Animations? It’s quite likely that one would think of a man, and his faithful canine accomplice. With several Wallace and Gromit shorts enhancing their reputation as the undisputed champs of stop-motion clay animation, the transition to full feature film-making for Aardman was bound to happen sooner or later. Yet the studio’s star duo would have to wait their turn for the full length feature treatment. Instead, a plan was hatched, to take a humorous spoof of The Great Escape, but switch Steve McQueen out for some plasticine chickens, and the end result is poultry perfection.

On a farm run by the cruel Mrs Tweedy and her bumbling husband, dwell a deeply unhappy group of chickens. The birds’ lives are dominated by the fact that the must lay a sufficient amount of eggs, else be taken to meet a rather grim fate. The leader of this flock is Ginger (Sawalha) whose determination isn’t quite matched by her flock of hens as their numerous attempts of escape all end in disappointment. However, when the charismatic Rocky, or Rocky the Rhode Island Red to give him his full title (Gibson) by chance flies into their coop, Ginger realises that the power of flight represents their best shot at seeing their dreams of freedom come to fruition.

Poultry plotting…

Aardman showed to the world what they were capable of with their Wallace and Gromit short films. As such they made a seamless transition into into feature length film-making seamlessly, and their debut feature proved that they are the champs of claymation film-making. With every frame, it’s crystal clear that a considerable amount of care and effort that has gone into the frame’s creation. Each moment of the film has a plethora of detail, serving as a real testament to those animators who help bring these films to life. This in turn, is made all the more impressive, considering the sheer amount of time consuming effort that is required to animate each scene.

Ginger is certainly the star of the show here, but she’s given plenty of support from an array of colourful supporting characters. Ginger’s best friend, (and flying the flag for Scotland) is Mac, who is the brains behind many of the escape attempts. The dim-witted yet lovable Babs definitely utters the film’s more memorable and hilarious lines. Rounding out the core group of hens is Bunty, a hen with a sometimes aggressive streak to her character, who’s not afraid to say what she thinks about the plans to escape. As for the cockerels, there’s Fowler, the coop’s leader who enjoys a good reminisce about his RAF days (what, what!) who is left rather peeved when Rocky, with all of his cockiness and charisma, bursts onto the scene. This can also be said for Ginger, who’s left notably unimpressed by Rocky’s charismatic charms, which by contrast gets all of the other hens in a flap.

The plot is straightforward. However, it’s told in a very entertaining manner and the script gives the core group of hens, roosters, and a lovable pair of crafty rats, considerable depth that you care about each and every one them, and will them to escape the confines of their coop/prison. The film never fails to be consistently hilarious with lots of witty jokes and a handful of really impressive action set pieces with no shortage of fun nods to some cinematic classics of the past. While Aardman have made numerous films since Chicken Run flew into cinemas, it’s a testament to their debut feature, that it remains their most egg-ceptional, as well as still being their most successful film to date.

Exquisite animation, combined with colourful array of characters mixed in with some witty dialogue. A poultry perfect feature film debut for Aardman.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mr Turner (2014)

mr turner

Mr Turner – Film Review

Cast:  Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Marion Bailey, Dorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson

Director:  Mike Leigh

Synopsis: An account of the life of the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner, detailing his final years.

Review: The fine stroke of the paintbrush of a distinguished artist is comparable in some way to the art of making a film. Each shot feels like it needs precision and accuracy to acheieve the perfect moment. Yet like an artist at work, the shots in a film can fall flat, they can feel disjointed, and they can bore certain people. With this biopic of the artist J.M.W. Turner, it feels like a piece of artwork on a canvas being set up ready for viewing, only to see someone come along and ruin it.

The film focus on the final twenty five years of the artist’s life. Timothy Spall certainly brings him to life in a charismatic way, albeit with a considerable amount of grunting. Leigh does an incredible job in which we see scenes of Turner at work. There can be a certain amount of awe as he effortlessly creates a piece of art, sometimes even using his own spit to create an effect. Or in some cases, being tied to a ship to create the perfect piece.  Spall certainly humanises the artist as becomes increasingly eccentric in his later years, and is the stand out performer. Being the titular character, you would expect him to be the most developed and he is, by a considerable distance. The rest of the cast don’t quite match the very high standard that Spall set,  with many actors feeling a bit over the top in their performances.  Furthermore, there are some characters, such as Turner’s first mistress who are left severely under-developed. In spite of this, the film boasts top direction and cinematography.

Yet, the plot feels a bit disjointed. One scene he’s in Margate and another scene he’s back in his home. There are random moments in which he and his housekeeper get intimate, and you’re never really sure what’s going on or why it is happening. With the plot feeling a bit all over the place, there is much to be desired and it feels tedious at times to sit through. In addition with a run time of two and a half hours, you cannot help but feel some parts of the film could have been cut out. Like an artist finishing off a masterpiece there is almost a sense of relief when the credits start to roll. The biopic was presented as a view of the life of a great 19th century artist, and on paper it appears to represent the work of such an artist like turner. Yet at times it feels like a botched attempt to recreate a famous 19th century masterpiece, just ask Elias Garcia Martinez, the woman who brutally failed to restore a famous piece of 19th century art. Leigh’s story is by no means on that scale of horrendous, yet there is not a lot here that is worthy to be put on display.

With a charismatic leading performance by Timothy Spall, the brush strokes of the movie were set for an interesting biopic. However, the framed final piece falls flat with a disjointed somewhat dull plot and underdeveloped characters