stop motion

Hell and Back photo
Hell and Back

Red Band Trailer for stop motion comedy Hell and Back is trying way too hard

Aug 21
// Nick Valdez
R rated films are extremely rare films, let alone stop motion animation, so I really wanted this first trailer for Hell and Back to succeed. It's certainly got the pedigree as it's handled by the same animation studio that wo...
Shaun the Sheep photo
Shaun the Sheep

Teaser trailer for Shaun the Sheep the Movie

Where the heck is my Sheep in the Big City movie?
Sep 02
// Nick Valdez
Aardman Animations, the company that brought us Wallace & Gromit and that cute Pirates! Band of Misfits movie, now has a full film adaptation of their Shaun the Sheep shorts. While it has no domestic release date, it's t...
Usagi Yojimbo  photo
Usagi Yojimbo

Watch this stop motion Usagi Yojimbo short, The Last Request

Aug 18
// Nick Valdez
While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is currently overturtlepowering the box office, let's not forget another anthropomorphic comic book hero, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi, a rabbit samurai, once hung out with the turtles...

Laika releases adorable character posters for The Boxtrolls

Jul 18
// Liz Rugg
If you aren't excited about The Boxtrolls, you should be. Laika, the animation studio that's brought us stop-motion gems like Coraline and Paranorman, is currently working on The Boxtrolls, a movie set in the fictional Cheese...


Flix for Short: Butter Ya'Self (NSFW)

A stop motion rap about food
Jun 27
// Liz Rugg
Presenting: Butter Ya'Self, a stop-motion animation of food rapping about food. You're welcome. Butter Ya'Self was created by a bunch of people at CalArts, but specifically by Julian Petschek. The characters are all voiced b...
The Boxtrolls Trailer photo
The Boxtrolls Trailer

First full trailer for Laika's The Boxtrolls is super cute

Let it be September already, please.
Jun 12
// Nick Valdez
We've had a few short teasers for Laika's upcoming adaptation of the Alan Snow novel, Here Be Monsters, here and there but now we have a full trailer dishing out those all important story bits (a group of bad guys want ...

Nick's Flixmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dec 21 // Nick Valdez
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a musical that may or not be give the proper credit where it's due. It's a Tim Burton influenced film, but the majority of the film's greatness comes from its director Henry Selick. He's been sadly drowned out over the years in favor of blanket Burton praise, but it's a good movie.When I was growing up, Nightmare wasn't as big as it is today, so I actually didn't see the film until freshman year of high school. It was right about the time when I was budding into different kinds of movies (before that it was mostly Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Lee, Disney and Godzilla movies because of my dad. It was a weird upbringing) and I was at my friend's house when his mom decided to pop it in.  She asked if I had seen it before, and of course, I pretended I did. So I was all "Uh, yeah I totally have and it's alright." So then actually watching the film, I couldn't really react to it as I pretended I had seen it before. Can you imagine listening and watching the Oogie Boogie Song for the first time and pretending it's not the best thing you've ever seen? It was rough, man. It's also the first time I remember watching a stop motion film that wasn't a Rankin/Bass special. That's why I'm glad Laika is a company that exists. I hope there are kids discovering stop motion for the first time and getting inspired to do things. It's pretty amazing. Sort of like their own "What's This?" musical moment.  There're a bunch of films I couldn't get to, sadly. When compiling my list of 25 movies for Flixmas, there's plenty I thought about but eventually decided against them because, honestly, finding ones on Netflix was easier. For example, I wanted to write about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Lethal Weapon, Batman Begins, Rocky IV, The Santa Clause, Trading Places, Bad Santa, It's A Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. But...I just couldn't find my copies on time. But even after 21 days of this, I don't regret what I've seen, only what I couldn't see. There's only so many days. That being said, I hope these final films scratch an itch, and I truly thank you all for reading along these with me.  Tomorrow? Day 22 (and the fourth day of Nick's Flixmas) is all bout Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 
NF: Nightmare photo
On the fifth day of Flixmas my true Nick gave to me...Five Pumpkin Kings
If you've ever stepped into a Hot Topic or talked to a thirteen year old during their "dark" phase, chances are you've heard of The Nightmare Before Christmas. How and why did it blow up the way it did? It's a great film...

The Boxtrolls Teaser photo
The Boxtrolls Teaser

Teaser Trailer: The Boxtrolls

"Families come in all shapes and sizes. Even rectangles."
Jul 03
// Nick Valdez
Here's a short teaser trailer for Laika's (the team that brought you Corpse Bride, Coraline, and one of the best films of 2012, ParaNorman) upcoming project The Boxtrolls (which is based on the Alan Snow novel Here...

RIP Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

May 07 // Hubert Vigilla
Raymond Frederick Harryhausen Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920 Died: London 7th May 2013. The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations. Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THER VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) which took him three months to film. Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so. Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection. Tributes have been heaped upon Harryhausen for his work by his peers in recent years. “Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS” George Lucas. “THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least” Peter Jackson “In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation” Nick Park "His legacy of course is in good hands because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans." Randy Cook "You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen” Phil Tippett “What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” Terry Gilliam. "His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us." Peter Jackson "Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever." Steven Spielberg "I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are." James Cameron
RIP Ray Harryhausen photo
A fond farewell to one of the legends of movie magic
Ray Harryhausen, the legendary special effects pioneer, stop-motion animator, and creature creator, died today at the age of 92. Harryhausen's work has influenced generations of filmmakers and special effects artists, and hol...


ParaNorman creators to make The Boxtrolls

Not sure what Boxtrolls are, but sure to be awesome
Feb 07
// Matthew Razak
ParaNorman is the movie that should be winning best animated picture awards left and right, but isn't because it had nowhere near as big a budget or marketing push. But everyone who saw it loved it and the fine folks at ...

Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio put on the back burner

Now he'll never become a real boy
Feb 01
// Thor Latham
I suppose the laws of probability would dictate that out of the million or so projects Guillermo Del Toro has on his plate at any given time, at least a couple aren't going to come to fruition. That doesn't excuse how depress...

Jenika's Top 5 Animated Movies of 2012

Jan 04 // Jenika Katz
Honorable mention: The Pirates! Band of Misfits [embed]208839:37988[/embed] I love Aardman films. Really, I do. Stop motion is one of my favorite animation techniques, and Aardman does it so well. Pirates! is a very cute movie, and the animation is great. When it came to making this list, however, it took a while to remember I'd seen it at all. The plot is a bit of a jumble, and actually seeing the movie doesn't feel too different from just watching the trailer. Still, it's a lot of fun, and well worth watching for the chuckles and the art style. Read our review of The Pirates! Band of Misfits here. 5. The Secret World of Arrietty [embed]207065:37834[/embed] Studio Ghibli's first film in a couple of years does not disappoint. Despite some odd voice acting and problems with audio levels, the movie is a big, fun adventure in a tiny, dangerous world. The characters are quirky and interesting, as one might have come to expect from this company, and the world they inhabit feels well-developed and just as big as its residents seem to find it. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, and a beautiful return to traditional 2D. Read our review of The Secret World of Arrietty here. 4. ParaNorman [embed]212494:38726[/embed] At a glance, ParaNorman is an amalgamation of successful money-grabs rolled into one movie. Kid that doesn't fit in? Check. Animation? Check. Zombies? Check. Directly following the success of Coraline, it would have a decent crowd right away. I had my reservations, but the result ended up being so much better than I could have hoped. The story has the same video game-y feel that Coraline gave, from the different environments to the final boss, and a similar sense of horror that's hard to find in an animated film. And the stop motion! Oh man, the stop motion. Stunning, smooth animation on intricate figures with detailed backgrounds. The only thing holding this movie back so far on this list is that section in the middle where Norman has to monologue. Monologuing is such a mood-killer. Read our review of ParaNorman here. 3. Wreck-It Ralph [embed]213488:39061[/embed] Speaking of movies with a video game-y feel to them, Wreck-It Ralph was another movie I was pleasantly surprised by. Cinematic odes to video games can go very poorly, and Sarah Silverman's voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me, but none of that mattered in the end. There's a level of heart in the movie beyond just the gamer nostalgia. Digital animation is so common-place that it almost feels detrimental to an otherwise great animated film, but Ralph escapes that feeling entirely. The real magic is in the little details, from the different ways the characters move to the “Aerith lives” graffitti on the walls of Game Central Station. Even Sarah Silverman couldn't ruin the fun of this movie for me. Read our review of Wreck-It Ralph here. 2. Frankenweenie [embed]211059:38476[/embed] Seriously, I don't know how three different companies released feature-length stop motion films this year, but I'm pretty sure it means that there is a God and he's trying to get in my pants. Frankenweenie was one of those movies I felt had no business being remade, and was adamantly opposed to...until I saw the trailer. Stop motion! Black and white! Burton's original style before he started casting Johnny Depp in everything! Still, it was hard not to be cynical. How could a short film about accepting death possibly reach a wide audience, especially such a young one, without being stripped and simplified? What a joy it was to discover that it was, indeed, possible. Frankenweenie delivered the same story, expanded to fit its original intent, with fantastic models and sets that used just enough technology to help the puppets defy gravity in the way they needed to. Best of all, it didn't shy away from the subject matter, and packed an emotional punch without feeling manipulative. Read our review of Frankenweenie here. 1. Brave [embed]210961:38439[/embed] Oh, Brave. One of the original inspirations for the Princess Review series was noting the lack of strong female characters in both Disney films and princess movies in general. Why couldn't there be a woman who could live life without a man? Why did every heroine need to be rescued and get married? My most anticipated film of 2012 had some lofty goals to meet, and it did not disappoint in the least. It feels like Brave took all the worst aspects of movies aimed at children and said, "Nope, not doing that." Merida is a real person, selfish and flawed, and her journey leads her to self-improvement and familial appreciation. The other characters have personal development and are not solely there to make the main character look better. The comic relief is actually comedic and not detrimental to the rest of the movie. The movie remains grounded in its time period and does not throw in pop culture references for a cheap laugh. It's more than just avoiding mistakes, of course. Brave takes a goal to have a strong female lead and accomplishes it, and does so without sacrificing entertainment or quality in the name of reaching a wider audience. The world is beautiful and the character style fits in well, and all of that is just a cherry on top of the rest of the experience. Read our review of Brave here. Read my Princess Review of Brave here.
5 Best Animations photo
Which movies came out on top in 2012?
In recent years, a lot of animated movies have been formulaic and underwhelming, but 2012 brought us the variety and quality that has been missing in the genre for a while. Sure, Disney brought back Beauty and the Beast, Find...


Two behind the scenes clips from ParaNorman Blu-ray

It releases today! Go buy it!
Nov 27
// Thor Latham
I reviewed ParaNorman back in August and found it to be pretty fantastic, due in no small part to the mind blowingly detailed stop-motion animation. With the Blu-ray/DVD releasing today, a couple of promotional cli...

These new Frankenweenie posters are all vintagey and cute

Oct 01
// Liz Rugg
To help ring in the month of "Monstober," Disney has released six new posters for Tim Burton's recently released stop-motion movie Frankenweenie. The movie's story centers around a young Victor Frankenstein who brings his bel...

Review: Frankenweenie

Sep 27 // Jenika Katz
[embed]211059:38476[/embed] FrankenweenieDirector: Tim BurtonRelease Date: October 5th, 2012Rating: PG  Frankenweenie follows young Victor Frankenstein, a student in the town of New Holland that totally isn't Burbank. Victor doesn't have many friends, but he finds solace in science and his canine companion, Sparky. When Sparky is hit by a car, Victor is devastated. Instead of accepting the passing of his best friend, Victor uses his knowledge of science and the inherent spooky magic of his home town to bring Sparky back to life. When word gets out, the other children in town start to use Victor's newfound technique. Creatures revived from ambition are not the same as those brought back for love, and it's up to Victor and Sparky to keep New Holland safe.  Don't be fooled by the cheerful demeanor of the trailers: while the story has been altered to bring it to a full length, it still follows the general arc as Burton's original short. Sparky dies. They don't dance around it. It is heart-wrenching, and you will most likely cry. If you are a dog owner, you will definitely cry. That isn't to say Frankenweenie is a tragedy, though. The movie is, overall, very positive, and there are plenty of genuinely funny moments. The homages to classic monsters are fantastic, with pretty much every monster you could hope for included in the mix.  Skeptics of Tim Burton's recent work will be relieved to know that neither Jonny Depp nor Helena Bonham-Carter make a vocal appearance. The cast includes some big-name talent from Burton's previous casts of characters, including Catherine O'Hara and Winona Ryder from Beetlejuice. The larger performances were given to fresher faces, and their performances were very solid. Frankenweenie is unique in that one of the most important characters has no voice, and relies entirely on animation to convey emotions. Even without a voice actor, Sparky is a very good boy. The score is fantastic. Danny Elfman returns as one would expect for a Burton movie, but his music is somewhat subdued, enhancing the scenes without stealing the scene. The only questionable choice is a song about the town sung by Winona Ryder's character. The lyrics are hilarious, but Ryder is not exactly a vocal artist. Still, the song works for what it is, and the rest of the music fits perfectly with the offbeat environment. The movie is absolutely gorgeous. Burton's drawing style is stunning, and it comes to life wonderfully in the movie. The characters have a charming sort of creepiness to them, oddly proportioned and standing out against a classic backdrop of fifties suburbia. They are true to Burton's original art style, down to the etched-in pencil lines around their oversized eyes. I adore stop motion, and Frankenweenie is no exception. The animation is amazingly crisp and fluid, and the odd character design makes them defy gravity in every shot. A lot of work was done in post to remove visible rigging, but there's no mistaking that handmade touch. Watching fur move at the brush of an invisible thumb is just as magical as ever, and it's fun to spot the different methods of facial animation that varies from character to character. Generally, I'm not a big fan of seeing post-converted 3D, but Frankenweenie makes the jump very well. There are only a couple of gimmicky, in-your-face effects, and they're pretty minor. The 3D adds depth to the sets and helps with immersion. If you have a few extra bucks to spend on seeing it in 3D, go for it, but you're not missing much if you don't. If you're bringing the kids, be prepared for a long conversation afterward. Even though Sparky is brought back to life, one of the major themes is learning to accept the passing of a friend. It's not an easy topic for anyone, let alone a child, and they might be pretty confused. The movie tries to downplay the scientific aspect of Sparky's revival by mentioning the mystical aspects of the town of New Holland, but I wouldn't be surprised if a very young child still thought plugging a dead hamster into a socket might work. Frankenweenie is well worth seeing in theaters, but make sure to bring the tissues with you. If Tim Burton can keep putting out work like this, there's plenty to look forward to.
Is this Tim Burton's return to form or another Dark Shadows?
Let's be real: Tim Burton hasn't exactly been churning out hits lately. Between Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows, it's hard to have a lot of faith in the man anymore. What seemed to be passion projects seem more and more ...


Behind the scenes video: The faces of ParaNorman

Aug 21
// Liz Rugg
We all know somewhere in the back of our heads that stop motion animation takes an insane amount of work, but it isn't until you see behind the scenes things like the above video that you really begin to understand just how ...

Review: ParaNorman

Aug 17 // Thor Latham
[embed]212494:38726[/embed] ParaNormanDirector: Chris Butler and Sam FellRating: PGRelease Date: August 17, 2012 For someone who sits in his living room watching schlock-y horror movies while talking to his deceased grandmother, Norman is actually a pretty down to earth kid. He has a gift that allows him simply to speak to people who don't see much in the way of conversation anymore. That may be because they're all dead, but to Norman that doesn't make them any less of a person and as he walks down his street to go to school he merrily greets the ghosts and phantasms no differently than any other happy-go-lucky kid would his own neighbors. Of course, to those happening by and who know his reputation, Norman appears to be a It's talking to the living that seems to be the real problem for Norman, or more accurately, it's the living's inability to listen. He isn't ashamed of his gift, and openly proclaims to be able to speak to the departed, because as far as he's concerned, it's not that strange. It's something he's always done, so why should he have to hide it? Of course, we know why he's expected to hide it. Because it's weird, it's different, and weird and different make people uncomfortable and afraid. That's just a rule of society, and poor Norman has to put up with it as he's ostracized by everyone in the town, including his own family. But when the chips are down and an ancient witch's curse begins to raise the dead from their graves, Norman is the only one capable of saving the town and everyone in it.  As far as plot goes, ParaNorman doesn't really blaze any new ground. A motley crew of children and teens most overcome their differences and come together to fight a malevolent force. You have all of your requisite adventure movie kids. There's the muscle bound jock Mitch (Casey Affleck), the valley girl cheerleader Courtney (Anna Kendrick), the dim lit bully who can't even spell his own name Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and the fat and uncharacteristically jovial best friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). And then there's Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who, despite his circumstances, is really just an every-kid trying to do the right thing. As characters they're all tried and true archetypes that don't really do anything unexpected, or I guess I should say that they do do everything that is expected of them. They're all well acted and full of personality, with the exception of Norman, who comes across as just a little too normal and boring for a kid who loves zombie movies and can see dead people. Perhaps in an attempt to make him as easy to relate to as possible the creators faltered and made someone a little to common. He's still likable, and easy to sympathize with, I just wish he was a bit more weird for supposedly being such a strange kid. And just as the characters are a bit on the cliche side, so too are the story beats. Essentially the formula is as follows: joke, plot point, then another joke, some action, a joke, another plot point, etc. This isn't something I think is a problem, especially for a family friendly children's movie, but a few of the gags and jokes fell flat for me, and seemingly even for the children in the audience. Several moments had children laughing out loud, but there were just as many that were obviously meant to be funny that didn't receive any reaction at all. Humor is a fine line to toe, especially across generations, but some of the gags are just unwarranted, especially one at the end of the film involving Mitch and his sexual orientation. That isn't to say the movie isn't funny, because I certainly found myself chuckling throughout. There's one scene in particular that references Friday the 13th that really warmed my cockles, but just as many jokes fail as succeed. While the humor may falter, the movie does shine in it's message. What could have been a simple kid's movie turned out to be willing to go to some dark places. Suffice to say, the story isn't as simple as good overcoming evil, and Norman's journey gives him insight into the persecution of another not unlike himself. With a surprisingly poignant resolution, the film attempts to show the audience the danger of fearing what we don't understand and to do our best to offer empathy to those that are different from ourselves, otherwise we may become the very thing we were afraid of in the first place. It has to be said that as a stop motion animated film, ParaNorman looks absolutely amazing. The amount of detail Laika Studios was able to cram into each scene is awe inspiring, and I hope it galvanizes other studios into appreciating the tried and true forms of traditional animation and practical effects. Anyone who has witnessed the amount of toil that goes into stop motion animation will appreciate the work that must have gone into the film that much more. I'll admit I did not see the movie in 3D, as I'm not a huge fan of the of the technology, but I would assume from my digital screening of the film that it would probably translate very well into a 3D feature. As a paranormal adventure, ParaNorman is fun and exciting in equal measure, with some surprisingly moving moments and a message that should truly be taken to heart. There were even a few instances that brought to mind movies like The Goonies, or a personal favorite from my own childhood, Monster Squad, and while I don't think it quite reaches the status of those two films, it is still a modern animated marvel and an adventure that can be shared with the whole family.

I think there's a point in everyone's childhood where one feels displaced from their surroundings and possibly alienated from their friends and family. It's just a part of growing up and it helps us appreciate ourselves as in...


Trailer: Paranorman

Aug 15
// Nick Valdez
Why isn't Paranorman out yet?!? I know it comes out in two days, but man is it a long wait. This trailer just serves to present more of John Goodman's goodness and the sweet, sweet ear candy of the film's score. It's th...

Brothers Quay retrospective starts at MoMA 8/12

Aug 09
// Hubert Vigilla
For the New Yorkers out there, the Museum of Modern Art begins a massive retrospective on The Brothers Quay starting Sunday, August 12th. You may know The Brothers Quay best for their creepy yet oddly beautiful works of stop-...

Flix for Short: Batman: The Dark Knightfall

Aug 06
// Nick Valdez
Playing with Batman toys has never looked this good. Derek Kwok and Henri Wong of Parabucks, a company that specializes in cool looking visual effects (check some out here), painstakingly took the super detailed Hot Toys Bat...

Watch the hard work it takes to make Paranorman look good

Jul 30
// Nick Valdez
I am unabashedly supportive of Laika's Paranorman. When it comes out in three weeks (August 17th!), I'm wrangling up a huge group of people to see it with me. To further prove that Paranorman will be the greatest thing ...

Kickstart a stop motion Charlie Kaufman film

Jul 11
// Jason Savior
Here's a collection of words I didn't expect to see assembled in this order today but are nonetheless a pleasant sight: Starburns Industries has launched a Kickstarter for a stop motion animated film titled Anomalisa, written...

Watch this cool 360 degree tour of Frankenweenie's sets

Jun 29
// Alex Katz
I always love behind the scenes things for stop motion films. It's so magical for me to have a look at the real scale of these puppets and sets with real people milling about and working in them. Disney has heard my desires f...

8 new posters for Frankenweenie show off characters

Jun 20
// Liz Rugg
While a lot of people nowadays think that Tim Burton has gone a little off his rocker, perhaps returning to stop-motion animation will bring back what we first loved about the ubiquitous director. His upcoming Frankenweenie i...

Guillermo del Toro's will share the helm on his forthcoming 3D stop-motion Pinocchio with Mark Gustafson, it was announced today. Gustafson served as animation director on Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox after Henr...


Flix for Short: The Eagleman Stag

May 10
// Jenika Katz
You know an animated short is awesome when it's racking up awards like no tomorrow. The Eagleman Stag is about an entomologist's experiences when he discovers a new kind of beetle. It's more about the feeling than the actual...

Review: The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

Apr 27 // Xander Markham
[embed]208839:37988[/embed] The Pirates! Band Of MisfitsDirector: Peter Lord, Jeff NewittRating: GRelease Date: April 27th, 2012 The script is amusing by itself, with plenty of joyously ridiculous wordplay, but as ever with Aardman, it's the wordless jokes which earn biggest laughs. For every one which doesn't work - the monkey with subtitle cards is too close to Gromit for comfort, with none of his adorable expressiveness - there are at least three which do. A playful score keeps the tone jolly, although leaving out the brilliant shanty from the trailer (above), or replacing it with a different one, was a serious misstep. The voice cast work hard to keep up with the high calibre of those production values, with Hugh Grant's Pirate Captain swinging between bloody-minded gusto and eye-rolling despair on a turn of a doubloon. It's not far from Grant's usual brand of buffoonish charm, but it's clear the actor is having a ball, and his enthusiasm (allied with the outstanding animation) is passed on to the audience. Imelda Staunton also throws herself into the incessantly apoplectic, historically re-envisioned Queen Victoria, seemingly bursting a blood vessel with every word spoken - two if that word is 'Pirate', delivered time and time again with the whistling fury of a boiled kettle. Her bombast is only overshadowed by an unexpected but cheer-worthy cameo in the shape of a Pirate King, who steals the entire movie in two short scenes. Of the main cast, only Martin Freeman can feel short-changed, playing the usual sensible sidekick as from seemingly every one of his screen outings. David Tennant's stuttery Darwin is a more effective straight man to the Pirate Captain's excesses. If you've seen any of the movie's promotional material, you'll have noticed a number of big names not yet mentioned in this review: Salma Hayek (playing Cutlass Liz, who is nowhere near as badass as our Community Manager Liz), Jeremy Piven and Lenny Henry do indeed feature, but in roles best described as high-profile cameos, largely insignificant to the unfolding of the story. Their characters are reasonably vivid for their short time on-screen, but barely appear outside a single scene in a pub. As much fun as it is to have them part of this world, there's just no room for them. As with many of Aardman's big-screen productions (Chicken Run), there's too much going on, to the extent that it can seem feel like the story only exists to accommodate the extensive background details, rather than the other way around. The plot, for example, is a scatty patchwork of three different stories - an Awards story, a Darwin story, and a Queen Victoria story - providing plentiful silly set-pieces and jokes, but none with the structure to allow them to coalesce into a satisfying whole. What's left is a series of visually gorgeous, often hilarious individual sketches, linked by a common thread (pirates) too thin to hold everything together in a satisfactory manner. The movie's silly charm is an effective disguise, but cannot cover the moment when, upon leaving the auditorium, the feeling sinks in that this was a meal served in a thousand enjoyable morsels, each pleasurable in their own right but nowhere near as filling as the promised feast promised by those magnificent trailers. The lack of a real ending - the movie just stops, cutting to a credits reel that is arguably the movie's most sustained piece of comedy - is indicative of an experience that never quite adds up, feeling more like three stitched together cartoons than a real movie. It's too loveable and accomplished to not be enjoyable, but tragically difficult to wholeheartedly adore.

[This was originally posted under the UK title The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. It has been reposted to coincide with the US release.] Aardman are one of those rare companies almost impossible to dislike: they've...


Tim Burton finds new favorite to write stop-motion script

Apr 10
// Jenika Katz
We don't usually cover gossip here on Flixist, but Tim Burton's love life trumps previous policies. Burton's previous love affair with Johnny Depp has not gone unnoticed, as he casts the man in damn near all of his projects. ...

Flix for Short: The Dark Knight Rises Trailer in LEGO

Mar 30
// Hubert Vigilla
There's been a fine collection of Dark Knight Rises fan trailers and parody trailers over the last few months. There was the Dark Knight Rises/Lion King mash-up, the Sweded Dark Knight Rises trailer, and a really magnificent...

First poster for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie

Feb 24
// Liz Rugg
Here's the first poster for Tim Burton's upcoming Frankenweenie, featuring a scarred Frankentein's Monster-esque dog hiding behind a grave. The stop motion movie is about "Frankenweenie's" owner, a young boy who loses his bel...

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