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130. (ii) Mary and Max (#177)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Andy Hazel, 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 Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max.

Mary Daisy Dinkle is a precocious eight-year-old growing up in the suburbs of Waverley outside Melbourne. One day, on the spur of the moment, she picks a name at random out of a phone book and decides to write to Max Jerry Horovitz, an atheist Jew living in New York City. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that crosses decades, navigating their interwoven lives separated by half the world.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 177th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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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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Non-Review Review: Isle of Dogs

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Isle of Dogs is a beautiful piece of work, in every sense of the word.

The obvious point of comparison is The Fantastic Mister Fox, Wes Anderson’s previous stop-motion adventure. Isle of Dogs and The Fantastic Mister Fox are certainly of a piece with one another even beyond the wonderful production design, featuring meditative canines engaged in existential struggles. However, Isle of Dogs represents an extension and deepening of the work that Anderson did with The Fantastic Mister Fox.

Isle of Dogs reflects the more daring formal experimentation that made Grand Budapest Hotel such a treat, trusting the audience to accept and even embrace Anderson’s consciously hyperstylised approach to storytelling. In a strictly logical or rational manner, almost every major creative decision in Isle of Dogs seems to have been made to remind the audience that they are watching something constructed and crafted, the film consciously and artfully heightened so as to remind the audience of the remove that exists between them and the film they are watching.

Although Anderson has come to be known for this conscious and playful aesthetic, it is not his greatest accomplishment as a director. The most wonderful and beautiful thing about Isle of Dogs is that the film is so lovingly and carefully crafted that repeatedly drawing the audience’s attention to the artifice of it renders it no less real and no less moving.

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Non-Review Review: ParaNorman

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, which was as much of a joy this year as it was last year. If not moreso.

ParaNorman is a charming little film, even if it’s not quite as good as Laika’s other recent stop-motion effort, Coraline. ParaNorman is a charming homage to a variety of classic horror films, clearly crafted with a great deal of affection and love by directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell. It suffers a bit from being a little bit too earnest in attempting to convey its heartfelt moral message, but it is still entertainingly well put-together, drawing solid voice work from a diverse cast and making the most of its horror movie premise.

Nothing out of the Norman here…

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Non-Review Review: Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve always felt that Wes Anderson sees the world through the eyes of child. Events take on a surreal larger-than-life significance, characters are exaggerated, emotional interactions are somewhat simplistic, yet peppered with nuance and hidden depth. To be entirely honest, I’ve found this has a tendency to make Anderson’s adult characters difficult to relate to and his movies difficult to engage with. That’s why I think The Fantastic Mr. Fox worked so well, because it was a childish view of an adult work through the prism of a children’s story.

That’s also why, I think, Moonrise Kingdom works just as well as Anderson’s quirky foray into the world of stop motion animation. While many of Anderson’s films are tragedies about overgrown children living in the bodies of adults, Moonrise Kingdom is more keenly focused on how adults and children interact with one another – giving the movie a depth to complement Anderson’s unique stylistic vision, and heart to go with its cynical wit.

“Well, we know where we’re going…”

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ParaNorman Trailer

Universal just sent on the trailer for ParaNorman, and it’s well worth a look. I’ve been a fan of stop-motion for quite a while, with Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists being one of my favourite films of the year so far. However, the trailer evokes the wonderful work of director Henry Selick, who directed both The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, both superb pieces of work. The film is directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell. While Fell has a history working as a director of family films, Butler served as artistic director on both Coraline and Corpse Bride, and wrote the script here. The cast is phenomenal, featuring John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. I am looking forward to this. Between this, Frankenweenie and Pirates!, it looks like a great year to be a stop motion fan.

Anyway, give the trailer a look below.

Non-Review Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s decidedly quirkily a Wes Anderson film above all else – above being an animated or stop motion film or a Roald Dahl adaptation. There’s the same dialogue and awkward poses and eccentric misunderstood characters at its core. It’s decidedly retro and it won’t win any awards for visual innovation. But – somewhat fittingly for a movie with a moral about being yourself – it is very much its own movie. Still, the suggestion that this isn’t a movie for kids is a little disingenuous. There are, I reckon, a lot of children who will enjoy the movie’s style and story and beauty. However, there will be a quite a few who won’t. But I reckon the same will be true of an adults as well. This is a movie for Wes Anderson fans, of all ages – even those who have never seen a Wes Anderson film before in their lives. But it’s also a film for those who can appreciate cinema in all its forms and with all its different trappings and styles. Those looking for a conventional animated children’s tale, or particularly light entertainment, will likely leave disappointed – but those looking for something with a bit more soul than usual will be right at home.

He's a foxy fella..

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