David Sproxton

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Shaun the Sheep Movie Review


Even without a single word of spoken dialogue, this film has more charm and energy than most Hollywood blockbusters. But then the voice cast supplies all manner of moans, chuckles, grunts and sighs to let us know what the characters are thinking. And it's great to see this beloved TV character, spun-off from one of Aardman Animation's Wallace & Gromit shorts, back on the big screen where he belongs.

It opens on the rural farm where Shaun (vocalised by Justin Fletcher) is getting tired of the daily routine with his flock, their scatterbrained Farmer and sly sheepdog Blitzer (both voiced by John Sparkes). So one morning Shaun gets the idea to take a day off, plotting a sheepish revolution that goes wildly wrong when the Farmer ends up with amnesia wandering the streets of the nearby Big City. So now the sheep and Blitzer need to stage an elaborate rescue, all while staying out of the clutches of tenacious animal control officer Trumper (Omid Djalili). And as the Farmer has his own hair-raising adventure, his animals need to team up with an ugly stray puppy (Tim Hands) to save the day.

It's amazing how much personality each of these characters has, with noises perfectly complimenting the expressive animation. Since it's actually shot with clay and wool models, everything has a hand-made look that makes the film feel like it's set in the real world, rather than some digitally-rendered fantasy. And Shaun is a terrific hero, a hilariously strong-willed sheep who is fiercely loyal to his flock and always has an idea to get them out of the next mess. Each of the film's set-pieces is impeccably staged, packed with witty touches that will keep the adults chuckling at things the kids won't see until they watch it again. And again.

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The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! Review

Aardman returns to hand-crafted clay-mation for this riotous seafaring romp.

The film is almost too crowded with witty visual and verbal gags to catch on a single viewing. Although it's also too corny to be a real classic.

The Pirate Captain (voiced by Grant) never gets any respect, especially with the Pirate of the Year competition gearing up. But his first mate (Freeman) and rag-tag crew (Tovey, Gleeson and Jenson) are fearlessly loyal. While accumulating plunder to win the award, they accidentally hijack a scientific ship and then travel with Charles Darwin (Tennant) to win a science prize in London. But this means that the crew needs to get dangerously close to venomous pirate-hater Queen Victoria (Staunton).

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Flushed Away Review

As nice as it can be to see movies at press screenings -- nestled in big comfy chairs, away from the masses and ticket prices -- there were benefits to watching Flushed Away in a big ol' auditorium filled to the brim with the 10-and-under crowd. It validated that my finding the movie bland and inspiring didn't just mean I'm outside key demographics. Those kids? They weren't laughing a whole lot either.

Flushed Away is a prototypical anthropomorphic-fish-out-of-water tale, about a pampered pet rat named Roddy St. James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who gets accidentally flushed down the toilet of his owners' posh Kensington flat and ends up out of his element in a rat-sized version of London down in the sewers. His attempts to make his way back up top get him mixed up with a sassy lass, Rita (Kate Winslet), who is on the run from a local crime boss and his thugs. Of course, because this is an animated family film, the boss is an ill-tempered toad and one of the henchmen is an albino former lab rat, but the ideas are universal.

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Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review

There are roughly 255 solid laughs in the full-length animated feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Not that I counted each one, but the movie runs 85 minutes and feels like it crams at least three great gags into every 60-second span. You'll need observant eyes, or multiple viewings, to catch each witty aside weaved through the assorted scenes.

We've come to expect nothing less from Nick Park and his beloved claymation heroes. The innovative animator enjoys a near-perfect Academy Award batting average - three Oscars and four nominations, though in 1991 he was nominated twice in the same category and therefore could only take home one trophy.

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Chicken Run Review

Since the beginning of time (or at least the domestication of animals), the chicken has been man's feathered enigma. Like so many of its feathered friends, it has fallen into the realm of the metaphor (i.e. "He's a chicken."). Unlike so many of its edible counterparts, it has survived the hassles of religious communities unscathed (no one will persecute you for eating a chicken wing). It has found its way into the realm of ontological questions (which came first: the chicken or the egg), as well as into sanguine curiosity (why does a chicken continue running around after you cut its head off?). It has become the basic standard for all foods (tastes like chicken). It has changed with the times, entering the debate about genetic engineering (see the accusations against KFC using frank-n-roosters). It has even, through its progeny, entered into the world of our children (I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am). As long as civilization has existed, the chicken has haunted our collective hubris with its often-charming idiocy.

Amongst both edible entrees and feathered friends, the chicken is the idiot God...

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David Sproxton

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