Thursday, 31 July 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: July - Animated Film Special

Our running feature Monthly Mini-Reviews is back for July - and it's a little more lively than usual. Lively? you ask. Well, imaginary reader, I say, it's lively because this month is dedicated entirely to animated films. So if you're a fan of all things not-real, put your hands together and read on. Although if you are anything like the characters from our first film, you might need to put your hands on first...

The Lego Movie

In the highly successful first cinematic outing for the age-old popular toy franchise, ordinary Lego Man Emmett discovers that he is the prophesied Special, the one who will stop the evil Lord Business from ending the world.
As has been said elsewhere, The Lego Movie is breathless fun. The cameos of favourite characters in Lego form proved to be one of the highlights of the film, everyone from Stars Wars to Superman made an appearance with, in my eyes, Lego Batman even stealing the film. However, The Movie's greatest achievement is surely the fact that it completely makes you forget that you are essentially watching an hour and a half advert for a multi-million dollar corporation by delivering a hilarious adventure with heartfelt themes of imagination and individuality. In other words, it could be said that all the pieces of The Lego Movie come together to form a wholesome family film.


Neil Gaiman's modern classic of a children's novel Coraline - which sees the uniquely-named little girl stumble into the otherworldly lair of the button-eyed Other Mother - could potentially be a hard one to adapt for the big screen: how scary should it be? How kid-friendly? Thankfully, in the hands of Henry Selick (director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach) this stop-motion film is a triumph and should entertain viewers young and old without sacrificing the weird heart of the original story. With all the elements of production working, the voice acting, the music and not least the wonderful animation (stop-motion films have long been a love of mine), Coraline presses all the right buttons and is definitely the finest adaptation of Gaiman's work. Here's hoping Selick and Gaiman team up again some time in the future.


I'm a little late to the party with this one (actually, I'm so late the party's already over and I'm the only one there surrounded by the vestiges of a fun time I never experienced, all alone without - ahem, that's enough with the painful reminiscing). In fact, the only experience I'd had of the once-ubiquitous 'Let It Go' song was this parody version by Doctor Who Arthur Darvill. This month, however, I finally caught up with everyone's new favourite film Frozen - and was left a little cold. I applaud its attempts to - potential spoilers ahead - invert the usual Disney tropes of 'true love' but generally had more fun watching the House of Mouse's last fairy tale effort Tangled (despite Frozen's endearingly chirpy snowman Olaf) and did not get invested in the characters as I much as in my favourite Disneys (The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, if you're wondering). So while many are calling this the Second Disney Renaissance, I'm putting that idea on ice until we see what happens next.

Princess Mononoke

On the exact opposite end of the scale of animated films from the syrupy Frozen we have Hayao Miyazaki's at-times unflinchingly violent Princess Mononoke; while Olaf the Snowman's head may come off I don't recall it doing so with quite the level of viscera displayed here. An epic fantasy in terms of both the scope of the story and the breathtaking visuals, the film is set in feudal Japan as an ancient war is brewing between Gods, Demons and Humans for control of nature -and on the front line is feral child San (to whom the title refers), raised by the Wolf God. While it's long running time results in the occasional loss of momentum, the grand sweep of the film makes for a beautiful spectacle with a serious environmentalist message, leaving Mononoke one of Studio Ghibli's absolute best.

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