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Non-Review Review: Missing Link

Missing Link is yeti ‘nother triumph for stop motion animation studio Laika.

To be fair, Missing Link is a different beast than Kubo and the Two Strings, the last major release from the studio and one of the most striking (and under-appreciated) animated films of the last decade. Kubo and the Two Strings was a lyrical and powerful fairy tale, a surprisingly weighty meditation on big ideas like the stories that people tell and the losses that they carry around with them. Missing Link is a much lighter film than that, a piece of film that is much less consciously mature in the story that it is telling. This is not to suggest that Missing Link is shallow or superficial, or that it ignores big ideas in favour of small delights. However, Missing Link is a film that foregrounds its visceral thrills over its central themes, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that.

Armed and dangerous.

Although Missing Link director Chris Butler co-wrote the script for Kubo and the Two Strings, it is probably more accurate to treat Missing Link as a more mature extension of Butler’s last work for the studio. Missing Link might be seen as a more reflective and introspective take on some of the core ideas of ParaNorman, a similar high-energy romp that meditated upon the relationship that exists between mankind and those things which exist beyond mortal comprehension. Missing Link is sturdily constructed from a narrative perspective, with well-defined characters who are given strong arc and a script that understands both what it is trying to say and how best to say it without tripping over itself. However, the script also understands that it is not the primary draw to Missing Link.

Whereas Kubo and the Two Strings felt like an intricate portrait drawn from the deepest pools of the animators’ imagination, Missing Link is a much more kinetic and dynamic piece. Missing Link is a globe-trotting adventure that spans from the deep blue-green forests of Washington State to the snowy plains of the Hindu Kush. It is the sort of rollicking old-fashioned adventure populated by heroes who spend a lot of time charting train lines and ferry lanes on maps, where obligatory back story is delivered against mesmerising backdrops, and where a variety of energised and imaginative action scenes arrive to a tightly-calculated schedule. Missing Link might lack the complexity of Kubo and the Two Strings, but there’s an infectious dynamism to Missing Link that neatly compensates.

Following their train of thought.

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111. Beauty and the Beast (#248)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guest Andy Melhuish, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise’s Beauty and the Beast.

Once upon a time, a tired traveller came upon an isolated castle. Imprisoned by a foul-humoured beast, the man’s daughter was forced to trade her father’s freedom for her own. However, over time, the young woman comes to realise that there may something human lurking beneath the creature’s monstrous exterior.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 248th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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90. Incredibles 2 – This Just In (#183)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guests Graham Day and Marianne Cassidy, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 183rd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

The best and worst thing that can be said for Beauty and the Beast is that it beautifully recreates the animated source material.

A lot of love and affection went into Beauty and the Beast. The production design is amazing, a truly stylish blend of physical objects and computer-generated imagery to create something that feels like a hybrid between live action and animation. It is a very skillful blending of two different approaches to film making. On a purely technical level, judged as a mechanical adaptation, Beauty and the Beast succeeds triumphantly. It is a live action fantasia recreation of a beloved animated film.

More than that, Beauty and the Beast works largely because it is so effective an adaptation. Beauty and the Beast scores phenomenally well because it so carefully and precisely translates material that has incredible emotional power. There is a case to be made that the original Disney adaptation is one of the best films in the company’s canon, with some of the best songs and the most memorable set pieces. The live action adaptation ensures that very few of these moments get lost in translation, which lends the movie a compelling weight.

Unfortunately, it is also a reminder that a nigh-perfect adaptation of this version of the story already exists. Beauty and the Beast runs a muscular two-hours-and-six minutes to the animated film’s eighty-two minutes, but that statistic is misleading. The additions are pointless at best and distracting at worst. As a whole, Beauty and the Beast makes the animated original look like a more streamlined take on this tale that cuts a lot of the fat, telling the same story in a way that is at once more concentrated and more concise.

Mirror, mirror.

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Non-Review Review: Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Zootropolis is a solidly entertaining family film that strains under the weight of its core premise.

There is a great idea in here, a detective film set in an anthropomorphised world featuring a rabbit and fox who must team up to solve a number of mysterious disappearances. Along the way, writers Jared Bush and Phil Johnston fashion the story into an allegory rich with social commentary about race and class issues in American cities. It helps that the script is light on its feet and packed with enough fast gags that it breezes along without ever getting stuck in the same place for too long.

zootopia4

However, this becomes a problem in and of itself. There is a sense that Zootropolis struggles to do too much in the space afforded to it. The plot covers quite a lot of ground as our plucky heroes embark on their investigation, including extended (and overt) riffs on pop culture standards like The Godfather and Breaking Bad. There are points at which it feels like Zootropolis might be a much stronger film if it slowed down a bit, instead of hopping from one set-up to the next in the style of its rabbit protagonist.

Zootropolis largely works, but it never comes together in the way that the best Disney outings do. There are points at which Zootropolis feels more like a turducken than a chimera.

zootopia5

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Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Scream of the Shalka originally streamed in 2003.

Doctor Who survived its cancellation across a variety of media. There were unofficial videos starring Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. There were audio plays. There were mountains of books. The BBC even came up with the clever idea of offering on-line content, with a series of illustrated audio plays, including the Seventh Doctor story Death Comes to Time and the Sixth Doctor adventure Real Time, as well as an adaptation of the aborted Douglas Adams serial Shada. Most of these were little more than powerpoints with sound playing over them. However, for the show’s fortieth anniversary, the BBC came up with an altogether more ambitious idea – a brand new fully animated adventure starring a new Doctor and promising a wave of new adventures, striving boldly forward into the new century.

The Doctor is in…

You can hear the serial, free, here.

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here and our review of the film here.

I have to admit that I was never a big fan of The Secret of the Unicorn. I know it’s strange, given how much praise and respect the film gets in various critical circles, and near universally high esteem that fans of the series seem hold for the adventure. I don’t hate it, and I don’t dislike it. I am just not especially fond of it, especially compared to some of the adventures around it. While the animated adaptation does make the case for The Secret of the Unicornas a solid Tintin adventure, I do have to be a bit disappointed with the transfer quality on the blu ray disc.

If it ain't broke...

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab With The Golden Claws (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here.

Though the blu ray box set of the animated series includes the episodes in the order of the stories Hergé published, the studio actually produced the adventures in a different order, spread across three seasons. In fact, the first episode we reviewed, Tintin in America, was the last produced. So The Crab With the Golden Claws was actually the first animated adaptation in this particular series. And it makes sense to use this adventure as a good place to start any adaptation of Tintin – indeed, it appears Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson would agree, as this is the first of three stories adapted in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. It has everything you need from a Tintin adventure – a mystery, an exotic locale, international criminals.

Oh, and it also introduces Captain Haddock.

Haddock can't hold his liquor...

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The Adventures of Tintin: King Ottokar’s Sceptre (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here.

In a way, King Ottokar’s Sceptre feels like the end of an era. King Ottokar’s Sceptre is the last adventure in the series that Tintin would spend alone (save for the company of the loyal companion, Snowy). Although Hergé began work on The Land of Black Gold next, the next completed story (The Crab With the Golden Claws) would introduce Captain Haddock, who would follow Tintin for the rest of the series.  It was also the last story that Hergé completed before the outbreak of the Second World War, and the sense of paranoia is palpable. After this story, Hergé would remove a lot of the more overt political commentary from the series, preferring to offer more subtle and biting commentary. I’m delighted to say that the animated adaptation retain pretty much all of the spirit of Heré’s original story, which I was a little worried about given how deeply rooted the story is in the European politics of the thirties.

Keys to the kingdom...

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Batman: The Animated Series – Almost Got ‘Im

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. Given that we looked at Batman: Gotham Knight earlier today, I thought we might take a look at another series of vignettes related to the Batman – this time from the perspective of his bad guys.

Greetings, Batman! You have taken the bait, as I knew you would. Now, prepare to meet your end, within my Aviary of Doom

Aviary of WHAT?

Yeesh, Pengers! How corny can you get?

Fah! Just because you mundane miscreants have no drama in your souls! Anyway, there he was in my av… uh, big birdhouse…

– The Penguin, Poison Ivy and the Joker discuss the state of theatricality amongst modern supervillains

Batman: The Animated Series perhaps represents the best adaptation of the Batman mythos in any medium outside of comics. No other iteration of the character has successfully managed to take in virtually all facets of the Caped Crusader without breaking a sweat – the show can do drama, action, gothic thriller and even comedy. Almost Got ‘Im is a fun little episode which centres around a bunch of supervillains trading stories about that one time that they almost killed the Batman. It’s mostly entertaining just to watch Batman’s eclectic selection of bad guys sitting around and playing cards while talking about business and “you know who”, but each of the schemes is a wacky and crazy death trap straight out of a hokier comic (from a giant dollar coin to exploding pumpkins to laughter-powered electric chair). The episode works because it treats all of this like it’s a regular occurence in Gotham, and these ridiculous plots are just what the villains get up to when there’s nothing better going on.

Card-carrying villains...

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