REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney

Written by Fernando Andrade

You know that feeling when you walk out of a movie knowing you have witnessed something special, something you have never seen before. That’s the feeling you get walking out of Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse. Even though it’s based off a comic book and this character has been done six times before and we know the basic story of Spider-Man, the people behind this movie found a way to make it fresh and have produced not only the best animated movie this year, but hands down one of the best movies of 2018.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse centers around Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), aka Spider-Man. In Miles’ dimension Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is a hero to the people of New York, stopping crime at every corner and doing it with grace. That is until Parker has a run in with Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and his gang of other notable Spider-Man villains including Green Goblin and The Prowler. They have built a device which causes dimensions to collide in an attempt to bring back Fisk’s wife and son who where killed. In the exchange, Peter Parker is killed, yes killed in an animated PG movie, leaving Miles the one and only Spider-Man – so he thinks. Of course as the promotional material has shown us, several dimensions collide bringing with them other Spider-people with them. We have Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Gleen), and Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) – but from a different dimension. It is up to the 6 of them to come together and defeat Fisk in order to return to their respective worlds.

This movie probably could not have come out at a better time, due to the tragic death of Stan Lee, as it shows the true power of comic books and why people love this character. While yes, on the surface this movie is a standard comic book movie pitting good against evil, heroes against villains, it is so much more than that. This character of Miles Morales is so pure and so easy to connect with. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he loves his family, he wants to make them proud, and he is just kind at heart. Honestly it was a nice change of pace seeing this familial interaction and not one having to do with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. This interpretation of Spider-Man also comes with a bit of a different message, although the presence of “with great power comes great responsibility” is still felt, here we get to see someone figure out that they have the ability to become something great and that you are never alone.

This is beautifully done through the brilliant use of all the other characters. Yes, some are used for more comedic purposes and some of the villains just show up, but they are not the main focus. However, all the characters fit, they all have their moments, and it works seamlessly to help tell Miles’ story. Each of the different Spider-people/animal have their own problem, their own origin story, and so do we as individuals – we all have different paths, which is why it is so easy to relate to this story. Sometimes it can feel very lonely out there, as Miles feels as his relationship with his family begins to dwindle as the piling amount of pressure he has to be a worthy Spider-Man builds. But it is through those same worries in which he finds the power to become who he was meant to be. This story has attempted to be shown in other Spider-Man movies as well, some being more successful than others, but the way it was told in this movie has been the most effective. We get to see a young, half black half Latino kid, dropped to this position where he must learn to face this massive challenge, with some pretty great people to help him along the way.

Not only is Into the Spider-Verse a beautiful story, the technical aspects on display here are some of the greatest ever in animation. This is probably what people felt like watching Toy Story for the first time seeing all those 3D animations, but in animation today all we really see is polished, hyper realistic worlds. It is a wonderful change of pace to see such a unique approach to animation, and it works so well with this story. This could never be reproduced into life action ever, it could only have been done this way.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has come along and made itself known as one of the best movies of 2018, and should be leading the charge at the Oscars for best animated feature. Its a universal story that can be loved by everyone, filled with beautifully touching moments for both comic book and non-comic book fans alike, great laughs, and some pretty great music. This movie really showcases what minds like Steve Ditko and Stan Lee saw in these characters and what they wanted to express; a mask is a mask, but what really matters is who is underneath it – and that could be anyone.

 

Fernando’s Verdict:

4-5

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REVIEW: Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

Directed by: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Alan Tudkyk, Jack McBrayer

Written by Fernando Andrade

After Wreck-It Ralph hit the big screen back in 2012 and introduced us to the arcade world of Ralph and Vanellope, we get the long-awaited sequel which transports our characters to the vast world of the internet. Fully equipped with its product placement, Disney nostalgia, and Easter eggs, Ralph Breaks the Internet delivers much more than just eye candy. It tells a story about friendship, true friendship, one which everyone, young and old, should see.

Ralph Breaks the Internet takes place six years after the events of Wreck-It Ralph. Both Ralph (John C. Rielly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) live rather simple lives in their world, following a pretty strict routine and rarely breaking from it – no pun intended. They see the sunrise, play their game – or as they call it “work”, and then goof off, going into other games, drinking root beer, and then the process repeats. Ralph is more than content doing the same thing over and over again, and so is Vanellope – to an extent. She is vocal about how easy her game has become, shes memorized all the tracks and finds no challenge in it anymore. So when a girl comes into the arcade ready to play her game, Ralph takes it upon himself to make a new track for her to hopefully give her a new sense of joy. When Vanellope starts taking control over the game, the girl playing ends up breaking the steering wheel causing her game to be unplugged. This sets our heroes on a journey through the internet to try and buy the missing part to save Vanellope’s game.

The surprising thing about Ralph Breaks the Internet is how deeply layered it is. The directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, along with their entire team, created a very intelligent movie, one which both children and adults can enjoy – which also happens to be a great sequel. Both Ralph and Vanellope develop as characters from the original movie in a very believable and earned way. A lot of that has to do with the incredible voice talents of John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman who bring these characters to life. Its a true testament to how good both of them are when you are able to have such strong emotions watching a giant hobo and candy princess figure out their friendship while inside the world of the internet.

Speaking of the internet, the way it is portrayed in this movie is also very intelligent, sometimes even for its own good. Unlike other internet inspired movies like the abomination that is The Emoji Movie, Ralph Breaks The Internet does not prioritize the internet as it’s main engagement tool (that is strictly reserved for the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope). If anything the internet is just used as a vessel to get our characters to there ultimate destination, while along the way providing some great moments of comedy that is also extremely relatable (yes the princess scene is absolutely wonderful). It could be argued that the internet is this movies main selling point, as the trailers highlighted in depth, but once the movie transitions into the world wide web, it sticks with its characters every step of the way. That being said, at times the pacing suffers a little in the second act of the film when our heroes are deep within the internet world. At times some references can be really in your face and take you out of the movie, but the directors went about a clever way of trying to reduce that by creating their own websites where the majority of the movie takes place.

Ralph Breaks The Internet is one of the best animated films of the year, providing a very sincere and important message which everyone should witness. While it is littered with references and nods to familiar things, the relationship of Ralph and Vanellope, one that grows from the original movie, is front and center. We see them grow and change as characters which culminate in a very satisfying ending – one that is capable of causing tears, so you have been warned.

Fernando’s Rating:

4

Flavors of Youth

Year: 2018
Directed by: Haoling Li, Yoshitaka Takeuch, Xiaoxing Yi
Cast: Taito Ban, Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Matt Fowler, Dorothy Elias-Fahn

Written by Hunter Williams

After devoting two films to the emotional agony of young love — specifically, an enrapturing story of how time changes people but not love — the tragic series continues with Haoling Li and Yoshitaka Takeuch’s directorial debut Flavors of Youth after Takeuch operated as chief 3D animation artist on Your Name and special effects artist on 5 Centimeters Per Second. But curiously, instead of focusing on the romance alone, the film recounts three different stories of youth set in different cities of china, similar to that of 5 Centimeters per Second.

In the first chapter, “The Rice Noodles,” (take a drink every time “rice noodles” is said in the film) we’re introduced to Xiao Ming, whose nostalgic retelling of eating rice noodles helps him come to terms with the death of his Grandma and who he’s yet to become. The noodles were an integral part of his everyday life: watching his school crush walk home from school, bonding with his grandma and what it means to be happy. But it’s only in the softly animated town he once called home where he can learn how the past informs our future, even in the smallest of ways. In Xiao’s case, it was rice noodles.

Where one of the strengths of the first chapter was reconciling the past and present, chapter two, “A Little Fashion Show,” grapples with the anxiety of the future. Two sisters, one a fashion model and the other an aspiring fashion designer, persist in the aftermath of their father’s death. Unfortunately, the pressure of performing well in competition under the fashion industry threatens not only their way of life but also their relationship. It’s a heartfelt depiction of youth in a world that forgets the old, and especially the dead. And while it’s borderline cliché in its attempt to subvert beauty, it always feels genuine in execution.

Around the one-hour mark, once the healing from previous stories has finished, Flavors of Youth closes with a finale akin to the best moments of 5 Centimeters Per Second. Chapter Three, “Love in Shanghai,” perhaps the best due to the familiarity with the tragic romance, recounts the childhood of a young architect whose long-lost love has slipped away through time. The soft, nostalgic animation turns glossy and sharp, rendering the past as a forgotten corner of the mind that slowly reveals itself the more young Xiao explores his feelings. What’s found is the kind of love that admittedly only works in the movies, but it still hits just as hard. Xiao, whether he rekindles his past relationship, demonstrates the open heart of not only its producer, CoMix Wave Films, but also the directors who are hopefully on their way to making something even better.

Hunter’s Rating

3-5

 

 

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies

Year: 2018
Directed by: Aaron Horvath & Peter Rida Michail
Cast: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Michael Bolton, Nicolas Cage, Greg Davies, Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Lil Yachty

Written by Tom Sheffield

I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this review. Even the hilariously bizarre marketing didn’t prepare me for the weirdest 88 minutes I’ll ever spend on a Sunday morning. I knew we were in for something different when the lights went down in the cinema screen and an animated version of DC’s new intro began to play.

The premise of this little animated caper is that Robin is growing increasingly jealous of all the superheroes getting their own movies in Hollywood, and when he learns that Alfred and the Bat-mobile will be getting one before him he decides it’s time for the Teen Titans to prove themselves worthy by seeking out an arch-nemesis, something all great superheroes have. Robin and the Titans then come face to face with D̶e̶a̶d̶p̶o̶o̶l̶ Slade (aka Deathstroke, although he’s never called that in the film for some reason) and they decide they want him to be their nemesis, but Slade deems them unworthy to waste his time on. The Titans try to help Robin prove he’s worthy with a few catchy musical numbers, a dash of time travel, and a ton of comic book and film easter eggs along the way!

The film boasts an incredibly talented voice cast, with Tara Strong (Raven), Scott Menville (Robin), Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Hynden Walch (Starfire), and Khary Payton (Cyborg) all reprising their respective roles from the Teen Titans TV series. Also along for this ride is Will Arnett, Nicolas Cage (and his son Kal-El), Kristen Bell, Greg Davies, Michael Bolton, and Jimmy Kimmel to name just a few. However, not even Nicolas Cage finally getting to play Superman could top the hilarious cameo from the king of cameos himself, Stan Lee!

The film is full to the brim with pop culture references, comic book nods, and digs at previous DC films. Not even Disney is safe in this film as there’s one particular sequence animated in Disney fashion and puts a twist on the Lion King’s opening sequence. I was constantly scanning the background of each shot for subtle jokes, such as the name of buildings, film posters in the theatre, and characters popping up in the background. I’m pretty sure I missed about 50% of them, so a second viewing is on the cards at some point. These nods and digs were easily the highlight of this film for me, mostly because the majority of the actual dialogue felt like it was targeted to the younger members of the audience (and rightly so I guess!). There’s a joke about pooping that goes on waaaay longer than it needed to, and there are also a few jokes that didn’t manage to get a laugh from any of the audience (the majority of which were young children with their parents).

Poop jokes aside, the musical numbers in this definitely caught me off guard at first, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t toe-tappingly catchy. How could anyone not crack a smile at Michael Bolton singing as an 80’s clad Tiger? In fact, let’s put that to the test. Below is the official clip from the film of the song ‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’. Just let the soothing tones of Michael Bolton’s voice bring you some joy today.

That’s just a taster of the kind of musical numbers this film holds, of which there is a handful. The music is catchy, upbeat, and is accompanied by great scenes in the film. Listening to the soundtrack as I write this, I can’t help but laugh remembering some of the ridiculous stuff that goes on during some of the songs.

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies has the perfect runtime and it doesn’t overstay its welcome (despite Robin’s objections). With only a couple of stinkers, the humor is mostly on point and you can’t help but enjoy yourself whilst watching the film. If you have younger siblings or family members, definitely invite them along for a watch at your local cinema.

Tom’s Rating:

4

Incredibles 2

Year: 2018
Directed by:
Brad Bird
Cast:
Craig T. Nelson , Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L Jackson

Written by Lucy Buglass

It’s safe to say that ‘Incredibles 2′ was my most anticipated film of the year. The original ‘Incredibles’ film ended in a way that left it wide open for a sequel, but that sequel never came until now, 14 years later. Although I was very excited when the sequel was confirmed, I also felt very nervous. What if it wasn’t the same? What if it was forced and uninspired? Too many times we’ve seen film sequels that failed, and I was keeping everything crossed that ‘Incredibles 2′ wouldn’t fall into this category. The original was too good to have a bad sequel!

Thankfully, I thought the film met all my expectations. It’s a direct continuation of the first, picking up where we left off with the Underminer. This made me smile instantly as I was so glad we were getting a resolution there rather than just jumping into an entirely new story. The opening scene is amazing and really sucks you in, reminding you of the first and radiating a wonderfully nostalgic aura. It made me realise just how much I appreciated the first one, whilst still feeling excited about what was to come over the next two hours. The action sequences throughout are particularly stunning, but the first one stood out to me the most as we saw the family fighting together again. Not a lot of time had passed in the cinematic universe, but for us on the outside it had been years since we’d seen them fighting evil together.

This time, Elastigirl / Mrs Incredible takes a much more central role. I thought it was great to explore her abilities more and see how Mr Incredible handles life back home with the kids, contrary to the events of the original film. Whilst Elastigirl is out on a new mission to potentially legalise superheroes again, Mr Incredible has to adopt a more familial role and care for Violet, Dash and Jack Jack. Much like the first, ‘Incredibles 2′ explores how supers balance home life with super life, with hilarious results. Amongst the three children, Jack Jack really steals the spotlight as his powers gradually become known, causing chaos for his dad and siblings, and lots of laughs for the audience. I’m so glad he was explored more in the sequel as his powers were hinted at previously, but never really showcased as much as I would’ve liked. He’s turned into one baby you don’t want to mess with!

The villain in ‘Incredibles 2′ is a great antagonist, and on par with Syndrome in my opinion. It’s difficult for me to fully illustrate why without giving away some big spoilers, but the character’s motivations and abilities really are a joy to watch. They’re the epitome of the term “super villain” and embody everything we’d expect from someone who’d want to bring chaos to the world. But don’t think that makes them generic; they’re an incredibly well-rounded character with lots of depth, something that I have huge amounts of praise for. You have to see it to know what I’m talking about, but I sincerely hope you agree.

As well as the introduction to this new villain, we also meet some new supers with some fun new powers who end up playing big parts in the final act of the film. A lot of work has clearly gone into bringing them to life and giving them all different personalities and powers, which differed from the heroes referenced in the first one. I really am in love with the ‘Incredibles’ universe and everything about it, from the characters to the set design to the soundtrack. Even 14 years on, it felt like we’d never left.

Once again, Brad Bird knew exactly how to balance the right amount of humour with serious moments, without overdoing either. The script has enough to entertain both children and adults alike, and my audience were certainly engrossed no matter how old they were. I’m so glad we were given a well structured, thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining sequel that didn’t exist just to cash in on a franchise name. It was so wonderful to see the Parr family back in action again, and I left the cinema with a huge smile on my face because of it. If the ‘Incredibles 3′ is happening and is good as both predecessors, consider my ticket booked already.

Lucy’s Rating:

5

Mary & the Witch’s Flower

Year: 2017
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Cast (English dub): Ruby Barnhill, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Lynda Baron, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Morwenna Banks, Teresa Gallagher

Written by Sarah Buddery

Now reportedly ceasing to operate, the world is mourning the loss of Japanese animation giants, Studio Ghibli. But fear not anime fans, the spirit of Ghibli lives on, in the newly formed Studio Ponoc. Founded by former Studio Ghibli lead film producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, Studio Ponoc gained the support and allegiance of several Ghibli animators and directors, including the director of their debut movie, ‘Hiromasa Yonebayashi’.

‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ continues that Ghibli tradition of taking a classic (and usually English) children’s book, and giving it their own unique and fantastical spin. Whilst I would normally insist upon watching any anime film in the original language, the English dub of ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ that I saw was perfectly adequate; in fact the quintessentially British tones of national treasures such as Jim Broadbent, totally lend themselves to this type of story.

Whilst it might initially appear to be narratively similar to Ghibli’s classic ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, it does manage to be its own film, whilst still evoking the spirit of everything that makes these Ghibli classics stand out. ‘Mary’ actually owes more of a debt to ‘Harry Potter‘, and indeed the magical school that our protagonist finds herself in is very Hogwarts-esque; it surely can’t be coincidence that the students bear the colours of red, blue, yellow, or green either!

The story itself is quite simplistic, but then again it is for kids, and whilst the charming characters and easy-to-follow story will keep the attention of the kids, the beautiful animation will capture the older viewers as well. Voiced by none other than Spud from ‘Trainspotting’ (aka Ewen Bremner), the groundskeeper Mr Flanagan is an utter delight, and the only shame being that he doesn’t get enough screen-time.

Whilst this is enjoyable fare, it never feels like it has that timeless quality of some of the Ghibli greats. It does feel like a story that has been seen before, and its childlike innocence is pleasant enough not exactly world-changing.

Still, the animation is as stunning as you would expect, and the sense of magic and wonder permeates throughout. It also has adorable cats, and that is pretty much all you could want in any film. Regardless of the quality of the voice cast, watching these films with the English dub is utter sacrilege, so do seek out the Japanese language version for the most authentic and therefore enjoyable experience. ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is enjoyable animated fare, and a great start for the new dawn of Studio Ponoc. Will certainly be watching their future efforts with great interest!

Sarah’s Rating:

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Isle of Dogs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber, Koyu Rankin.

WRITTEN BY RHYS JONES

Wes Anderson’s 9th directorial venture, and his 2nd stop-motion feature, ticks all the boxes of what you’ve come to expect from the extremely unique Texan. You have your perfectly symmetrical shots, you have your whip pans, you have your lateral tracking shots, you have your borderline pretentious dialogue, and you have a cast to end all casts. The cast list above isn’t even half of the voices you hear in ‘Isle of Dogs’, and every character, in true Anderson style, leaves an impression in one way or another.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is set in a dystopian future Japan in which canine flu has infected every dog in the city and threaten to cross the species barrier and infect humans. As such, the dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island, including his ward Atari’s (Rankin) dog, Spots (Schreiber), and Atari takes it upon himself to fly to Trash Island to find and rescue Spots. On the island, he meets a ragtag group of dogs, lead by Bryan Cranston’s Chief, who offer to help Atari find Spots.

Immediately, the film’s stop-motion animation impresses you. In a superb opening credits sequence to the sound of Taiko drumming, as scored by recent Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, you see 3 drummers and the camera whip panning around them, and you realise that every single drum beat was stop-motion. Every time the drumsticks hit the drum, you know a human placed them there. The film is filled to the brim of astonishing animation that borders on arrogance, but stays just the right side of it to be impressive. There is a 2-minute sequence of sushi being sliced and diced, just because they can. Honestly, Isle of Dogs is an amazing feat of animation.

Adding to the stellar animation, the voice cast doesn’t disappoint. Cranston’s voice is impressive in any environment, but his gravitas adds to Chief’s highly defensive nature and proves to be a brilliant leading dog. In his group, Edward Norton’s Rex is the democratic voice of reason, Bill Murray’s Boss is the childlike, enthusiastic dog who at one point fully breaks the fourth wall in a moment of amazement, Jeff Goldblum’s Duke is the dog who, for the ‘Game of Thrones’ fans, is this film’s version of Varys as no rumour or bit of news escapes him, and finally Bob Balaban’s King follows orders as he is told, and is a fervent supporter of Rex, but sadly Balaban is relegated to a bit-part player as he simply doesn’t stand out against the vocal stylings of Cranston, Norton, Murray, and Goldblum.

This main group is the heart of the film, each of them has honestly tragic backstories of where they came from back in Japan, several of them missing the home comforts of dog soap and eating anything other than leftover trash dumped on the island. Anderson and company do a fantastic job on the island of merely showing you how things work without explicitly telling you what you need to know. There is a hierarchy in place – there are areas of the island dedicated to certain clans of dogs, there are rumours of cannibalism on the island, and so on. ‘Isle of Dogs’ does a brilliant job of fleshing out the canine world having been relegated to living in squalor.

It is a shame, though, that the other parts of the film, following Greta Gerwig’s Tracy Walker, a foreign exchange student fighting to bring the dogs back from Trash Island as she attempts to convince the city of a possible cure, aren’t so endearing or interesting. The impressive animation remains, but there is an over-reliance on narration and telling us exactly what’s happening. At the beginning of the film, we are told that the dogs’ barks have been translated into English and the Japanese characters all speak in their native language, crucially without subtitles, and the only translation into English comes through an in-film translator, voiced by Frances McDormand. I noticed this the most in the first third of the film; there is so much information to be given to us before we can get to the main story that it becomes overwhelming. McDormand delivers her tremendously long monologues reliably brilliantly as she translates speeches, but this becomes tiresome as the film progresses. There are sequences of the film where there isn’t any translation and we have to interpret what’s being said through visuals and body language. These scenes are superb as they manage to convey all the key information we need as an audience without explicitly telling us, and it forces us to engage with the film, it’s just a shame these weren’t more common.

‘Isle of Dogs’, by and large, is very good. It’s constantly impressive with its animation and its impeccable set design, and there are sections of the film that rank up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, mainly when the dogs are on screen. As the film progresses, the film focuses more on Chief and Atari’s building relationship and unfortunately forgets about Rex, King, Duke, and Boss which does remove my favourite part of the film which was the relationship and banter among the dogs.

‘Isle of Dogs’ stumbles occasionally when the dogs aren’t on screen, but this doesn’t
diminish the film as an impressive achievement in animation. Most importantly, ‘Isle of ‘Dogs is better than ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’  in my opinion. Yes, I went there.

RHYS’ RATING: 7.8/10

Peter Rabbit

Year: 2018
Directed by: Will Gluck
Starring: Rose Byrne, James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie

Written by Jessica Peña

With an obsession for the cheap laugh and dull dialogue, ‘Peter Rabbit’ fails to capture a lasting impression of a moral lesson. The film is adapted from ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, the children’s book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, which were later adapted into an animated series on the BBC network as ‘The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends’. The story of the peculiar, blue jacket-wearing rabbit has blended itself into British history as a best-selling classic. There’s a comfortable joy in the way the stories taught readers how to dream beyond our own boundaries and take a leap into new adventure. Peter’s treks into Mr. McGregor’s garden boasted an innocent curiosity in his little rabbit world. Heck, the stories even made eating vegetables look so fun! ‘Peter Rabbit’ paints a weak imagination of the classic, mischievous rabbit. If we want to get straight to the point, it is a film targeting children, so it’s hard for that audience not to like it, but the film hops around too many laughs to be compelling for the average viewer.

Domhnall Gleeson is the redeeming villain we can’t help but love. Sure, he’s a little extreme and comical, but it honestly works so well and makes ‘Peter Rabbit’ a little more enjoyable to watch. This young McGregor gets fired from his position as floor manager at Harrods and finds himself staying in the inherited countryside home, living beside the kind hearted Bea (Rose Byrne) and her furry companions. Gleeson’s McGregor is so intent on keeping the animals out of his garden that he pulls out measures like electrical fences and bolted mesh to doors. The rabbits, led by Peter’s self proclaimed “character flaw,” quickly devise ways around it, using very meticulous tricks to scare the young McGregor out of the house and far away from Bea’s affection.

The film brings some charm here and there as the rabbits are mischievous to no end. Peter, voiced by late night host, James Corden, declares some sort of turf war and his siblings reluctantly agree. McGregor faces hysterical misery in the form of bear traps, stepping on rakes, and even electrocutions that kids will get a kick out of. It would be a lie to say its target audience of the young age wouldn’t enjoy the antics. It has inventive, quirky obstacles. They make up the majority of the film, but ultimately find no release. Its sentimental value peeks here and there, but offer little to no redemption for what it’s cast over the legacy of the children’s book.

Rob Lieber and director Will Gluck really try to make these rabbits so human and trendy in mannerisms that it becomes grossly too much. Sony Pictures even received backlash for “allergy bullying” stemming from a scene where Peter slingshots a blackberry into McGregor’s mouth after it’s been revealed he has a serious allergy to those. It has been debatable online, but one thing that’s evident is they could’ve easily done without that bit. In picking out ways to use carrots, other vegetables, and nature itself into play, ‘Peter Rabbit’ tries very hard to barrade the viewer with so much gag laughs that it falls short in carrying emotion all the way through. There’s a whimsical and pure energy that is lacking. The closest to the source tale is probably Rose Byrne’s Bea. She loves her rabbits unconditionally and we really buy into her good nature and how she just wants to have a happy life, possibly with Thomas, but certainly not if her furry friends are being hunted. She’s the fresh air of humanity that helps reel the mayhem back in.

There’s perhaps too much vulgarity in terms of the nature of these animals. The writers thought it’d be tasteful to include a modern edge of pop culture, but it’s honestly flat. It’s not very faithful in the sense of whimsy and proper behavior. Gleeson and Byrne save this film only as much as they can. We can go as far as to say Gleeson is wasting his talent in this. There’s a small payoff in moral that will translate to kids, but it is short lived as the bulk of the film shadows it in cheesy hilarity. ‘Peter Rabbit’ is enjoyable enough to catch our hearts for a moment or two, but is sadly mistaken if it thinks it’s being a clever, modern take on Beatrix Potter’s children’s books.

Jessica’s Rating: 5/10

Early Man

Year: 2018
Directed by: Nick Park
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall.

Written by Sarah Buddery

Any film from beloved stop-motion animation studio, Aardman, will be met with great anticipation. Their films feel so intrinsically part of British culture, and after previous feature-length efforts such as ‘Chicken Run’, ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’, and ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’ delighted audiences almost as much as their fabled ‘Wallace & Gromit’ shorts did, the hope was that their latest offering, ‘Early Man’, would do the same.

Boasting an impressive British voice cast, including Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall, to name but a few, the thumbprints of Aardman are all over this film…in more ways than one! It is impossible not to be charmed by this film, even when the story is perhaps a little sub-par compared to some of their previous offerings. Hapless hero Dug (Redmayne) and his quest to save his valley from the tyrannous Lord Nooth (Hiddleston) by defeating his all-star team in a football match, is a classic underdog story and one which is in the safest of hands with Aardman and director Nick Park.

It follows many of the same beats as other sporting underdog stories, but coupling this tried-and-tested movie blueprint with the quintessential laughs and lovingly crafted characters and sets that Aardman are known for, offers something a little different to the similar sporting movies that have come before.

Its football focus opens up a number of opportunities for great visual gags, and wry humour towards British sports fans in particular. It is an odd combination, and one which perhaps doesn’t always work, but there is a certain charm to it, and the characters make it an easy film to like. Towards the end, it starts to drag a little, and when the conclusion seems pretty inevitable in a film such as this, it does make parts of it feel a little tiresome.

However, the laughs come thick and fast, and every time your attention wanes there’ll be a top-notch visual gag or a wonderfully British double-entendre to bring you right back into it. As with all Aardman films, it is the sort of film that demands a second viewing because there are just so many little background touches and jokes that will be easily missed the first time around.

On the whole, ‘Early Man’ is far from Aardman’s best, but is not without merit and its another “fun for all the family” film to add to their impressive canon. It also features the best (and perhaps only) visual gag involving a giant duck that you will see all year. Charming as always, and full of laughs, ‘Early Man’ just about wins this match.

SARAH’S RATING: 7.5/10

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