Thursday Movie Picks #300: Movies About Animals

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… MOVIES ABOUT ANIMALS.

There are SO many to choose from in this category… covering multiple genres, so I’m choosing one that’s live-action, classic hand-drawn animation and stop-motion/claymation, all from 3 different studios.

BABE (1995)

Gentle farmer Arthur Hoggett wins a piglet named Babe at a county fair. Narrowly escaping his fate as Christmas dinner when Farmer Hoggett decides to show him at the next fair, Babe bonds with motherly border collie Fly and discovers that he can herd sheep too.

This movie was released in theaters in 1995, which was the year of the pig. Did you know that Mad Max director George Miller wrote and produced this? It took him ten years to bring the story to the screen was because he was waiting for the special effects technology to catch up with his vision for the film. It ended up winning Best Visual Effects at the Oscars in 1996.

I remember loving it when I first watched it and even to this day I sometimes still quote its most famous line…

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Who doesn’t love an underdog story, farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) believed in the little piglet (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) against all odds. Such a heartwarming story that still gets me teared up, especially this scene!


A Bug’s Life (1998)

A misfit ant, looking for “warriors” to save his colony from greedy grasshoppers, recruits a group of bugs that turn out to be an inept circus troupe.

There are a few really good animal-themed Pixar movies but I chose this one as it’s the first one in that category, right after their smash hit Toy Story. I loooove this movie about ants, filled with so many wonderful characters and the animation itself is just gorgeous! I LOVE Dave Foley‘s voice as Flik, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Princess Atta, and a bunch of rag tag group of adorable bugs (my personal fave is David Hyde Pierce as Slim).

It’s such a brilliant, clever and hilarious movie that I think is still one of Pixar’s all time best. An epic in miniature proportion indeed!


Chicken Run (2000)

When a cockerel apparently flies into a chicken farm, the chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

From the genius minds of Peter Lord & Nick Park of Aardman Studios, this is one of my all time favorite animated movies. It’s just so hysterical, even the shapes of the chicken claymation always makes me giggle!

I absolutely adore the characters, especially Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha, who’s hilarious in Absolutely Fabulous series) and Mel Gibson is inspired choice as the voice of Rocky, the rebellious rooster. There’s even a fun reverence to Braveheart when he yelled FREEEEEEEEEEEEDOM! when he escaped out of the circus, ha!

This movie is just SO much fun and a brilliant homage of The Great Escape (1963), even the music by Harry Gregson-Williams & John Powell sounds similar to the Steve McQueen movie.

To this day I’m still quoting the ‘I don’t want to be a pie’ line! 🥧


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Week in Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie & London Has Fallen

WeekInReview

Happy Monday folks! Boy, in terms of weather, this is gonna be a darn near perfect week for us here in the Twin Cities! Highs in the 50s and 60s every day and it’s only the beginning of March! Well, I ain’t complaining, in fact I’m wearing short sleeves already today.

Well, usually I do a weekend roundup but I figure I should just make it a Week in Review instead so I can include some reviews from the past week. Well, it seems that I saw the BEST new-to-me film of the year, as well as the absolute WORST one. But hey, I hit a TV milestone in that I finally finished Jessica Jones! I’m REALLY s-l-o-w when it comes to tv watching, obviously. I should have my review of season 1 later this month.

So here’s my reviews of the two I saw last week:

ShauntheSheep

I’m a huge fan of Chicken Run, which was created by animators Nick Park & Peter Lord. I hadn’t seen the tv series version of Shaun the Sheep however, but when I saw the trailer for the movie version I knew I had to see it.

Just like Chicken Run‘s female protagonist Ginger, Shaun is a clever sheep who’s the leader of the pack. I LOVE the set up of the movie, how they just wanted a day off from the routine and have some fun… cooking, making juice, watch TV, etc. whilst they let their farmer master sleep in a caravan. Well, things didn’t go according to plan when somehow the van accidentally rolls away and leads the farmer to the Big City with amnesia. So it’s up to Shaun and the gang to rescue him and of course, as soon as they get to the city, hilarity ensues. The stop-motion animation alone is worth a watch, the shape of the sheep makes me laugh instantly and when they all dress up as humans I was on the floor laughing. The restaurant scene had me in stitches, I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. I’m glad I didn’t see this on the big screen with a room full of strangers.

ShauntheSheep2 ShauntheSheep1

But what’s so delightful is the story has so much heart. The relationship between the sheep and the farmer and his dog Bitzer is well-developed that I actually teared up when they’re reunited. I love the plot involving the farmer at a hair salon, it’s just so clever and makes for some really amusing scenes. There’s a pretty funny villain in the form of a ruthless animal control worker and the prison-like shelter have some hilarious throwbacks to some classic films like Cape Fear, Silence of the Lambs, etc. It was unexpected but brilliant!

If you hadn’t seen this, I can’t recommend it enough. The animation style is a lot of fun to watch but it’s the heartwarming story and brilliant humor is one you’ll always remember. Glad that this was one of Oscar’s Best Animated Feature nominees, it’s certainly well-deserved.

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LondonHasFallen

Well, if Shaun the Sheep will likely end up in my best list of the year, London Has Fallen will undoubtedly be in my worst. It is the most idiotic movie ridden with action clichés and cringe-worthy moments. Seriously, it might as well be an episode out of BBC’s Spooks (MI-5) but without the clever writing and the gravitas of Peter Firth & the talented British cast.

There’s really no plot to speak of other than the reason POTUS Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is in London is because he’s attending the British PM’s funeral who died suddenly. So the supposedly ‘most protected event’ on earth is going down with a bunch of world leaders gathering in one spot. It doesn’t take long before all hell break loose, as police and even the members of the royal guards suddenly open fire at people in the middle of the changing guard pageantry at Buckingham Palace. But of course his loyal henchman secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is always there to save the president the only way he can.

It should tell you something when the only positive reaction I had after seeing the movie is this:

In any case, if you get a kick out of seeing London engulfed in flames and Londoners shot to bits, this is a movie for you. The fact that it’s set in London doesn’t really have any bearing on the plot, it could’ve been set in other big European city like Paris or Berlin [oh boy let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend w/ this franchise w/ Paris Has Fallen and so on].

I have to say the SFX is slightly better than in its predecessor Olympus Has Fallen, which is odd as it actually has slightly smaller budget than the first one. It doesn’t matter though clearly there’s no spare left for the writers. I really can’t recommend this even to action fans as even though there are endless shootouts and car chases, none of it is really memorable as it’s been done better (and in a more meaningful way) in other action movies. It’s relentlessly violent and bloody, and the movie somehow made Banning appears even more bloodthirsty than even the Middle Eastern terrorists.

LondonHasFallen1LondonHasFallen2

Some critics have said that this is the perfect movie for Trump’s America and y’know what, I couldn’t help thinking that as I was watching it. There’s a xenophobia vibe in the way Banning cruelly dismantles his enemies. I mean, what else are you supposed to make of lines like “Go back to Fuckheadistan, or wherever the hell you’re from!” At one point, president Asher remarked ‘Is that really necessary?’ after witnessing the brutal way Banning executed one of the terrorists, to which he casually replied, ‘no.’  Is sadistic behavior supposed to be funny? It’s really tough to even sympathize with a character like that. There’s not much we know about the protagonist to begin with, other than the fact that he’s about to be a dad but even the scene of him with his expectant wife has no emotional resonance whatsoever. That whole bit about him wanting to retire from his job and stuff is so corny and irritating because of course he won’t retire because Butler wants to keep this franchise going.

I wish I could say the movie has some redeeming qualities, but really there’s none. Even as good actors like Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett showed up, I kept thinking how much they got paid to keep doing this kind of rubbish. There’s no memorable catchphrases or anything resembling wit or good humor. In fact, the better title for this movie should be ‘Gerard Butler Has Fallen: How Low Can You Go’ [face palm] Suffice to say this will end up in my Worst of the Year list.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

Thursday Movie Picks #49: Animated Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Animated Movies

I grew up watching so many Disney animated movies [mostly those Princess movies] and in the 90s, starting with Pixar’s first movie Toy Story, I quickly became a huge fan of their work as well. But Disney and Pixar films are massively popular so for the purpose of this list, I’m selecting three animated films I love that are made outside of those two studios. There are quite a few out there that are worth exploring, and I’m always astonished at the huge amount of work that go into making animated features.

So here are three that left a big impression to me and worth watching over and over:

Chicken Run (2000)

When a bird “flies” into a chicken farm, the fellow chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

ChickenRun

I saw this Aardman animated feature years ago but I still remember it fondly. It’s such a bonkers idea to sort of remake The Great Escape but with chickens, yet it works brilliantly. Peter Lord and Nick Park’s claymation style is so unique and fun to look at, in fact the shape of the chickens alone are hysterical. I giggle just looking at them! I adore the characters, especially Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) who’s the smartest of the bunch. She and Rocky the circus Rooster (Mel Gibson) didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, but they end up becoming close and believe it or not, their chemistry is so endearing. It’s such a hilarious and action-packed adventure that’s fun to watch over and over. It’s also got some of the funniest lines… “I don’t want to be a pie! I don’t like gravy.” Ha!

….

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

HTTYD

I have to admit the idea of this Dreamworks Animation didn’t immediately appeal to me, so I was so surprised how much I absolutely LOVED it! Of course by the time I saw it on Blu-ray, I kicked myself for not having seen this on the big screen! The flying sequence alone would make the admission price worthwhile. I did see the sequel on the big screen but I still have a fondness for the first movie when Hiccup and Toothless first met.

It’s one of the most memorable depiction of unlikely friendship that’s funny and heartwarming. Visually it’s breathtaking, as I mentioned the flying sequence is a marvel to behold. The music by John Powell has also become my personal favorite amongst a bazillion soundtracks I hear year after year. I re-watched it just before the sequel came out and I still enjoyed it immensely. Who knew a movie about dragons could have so much heart? [read my full review]

Song of the Sea (2014)

Saoirse, a little girl who can turn into a seal, goes on an adventure with her brother to save the spirit world and other magical beings like her.

SongOftheSea

Having just seen this recently, it’s still fresh in my mind [review coming next week]. Made by Cartoon Saloon, an Irish-based animation studio, this is Tomm Moore’s second directorial effort. I immediately wanted to see it after watching The Secret of Kells. Just from the visual standpoint, it’s an amazing work of art, gorgeous and ethereal, and the movie itself has such a mythical quality. The story based on an Irish mythology certainly has a deeper meaning than the typical kids entertainment. In fact, this one might appeal to adults as much as kids.


What do you think of my picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

My Movie Year: The Year 2000

Thanks to Andy for inviting me to My Movie Year blog-a-thon. This is the second time I’ve participated in Fandango Groovers’ blog event since the massively popular Desert Island DVDs. Below is the simple rule for the post:

All you have to do is pick your favourite year for movies and back I up with five classics from that year, no more no less. You can do as much or as little as you want with your selections; a simple list, images and posters, reviews, trailers. Or anything else you can think of.

It’s quite a daunting task as most of the movies I love come from different decades. I actually didn’t see all that many movies back in college, but I pick the year 2000 as this is the year where I moved in to my first ever house after living in one apartment after another in college and shortly after graduation. I didn’t watch a lot of movies on the big screen then either, but it turns out a lot of movies released in 2000 have become one of my all time favorites. So here they are:

Gladiator

I can’t possibly NOT include this movie. I mean, I’ve always LOVED swords and sandals movie ever since Ben-Hur, and this one has such a fantastic story and wonderful performances all around. I even picked this as the subject for the blog-a-thon ‘Movies that makes going to the movies suck‘ because it’s been copied so many times and studios are launching similar type of movies to capitalize on its popularity.

But this often-quoted Ridley Scott masterpiece remains on top in this genre and to this day I’m still enamored with it as the first time I saw it. It’s one of those movies that has the whole package, everything from the story, dialog, set pieces, performances, and even the soundtrack makes up for an epic entertainment.

Russell Crowe gave an iconic performance, even his name Maximus Decimus Meridius is a classic. Equally memorable are Joaquin Phoenix as the despicable incestuous Commodus, and the more I watch this movie the more I appreciate all the character actors that make this movie great, most especially Derek Jacobi with his theatrical line delivery. It’s not as popular as the others, but I pick this line as one of my favorite movie quotes of all time.

Unbreakable

I LOVE this imaginative take of a superhero movie. People tend to mock M. Night Shyamalan’s these days but I’m still willing to give him a pass because he’s made some creative work in the past, especially this one.

An intriguing concept that’s brilliantly executed, Unbreakable is a quiet but suspenseful thriller that’s rich in character development. The astute cinematography adds so much to the eerie and mysterious tone of the film, in many occasion, it even help tells the story in such a breathtaking way. That scene where Elijah falls on the stairs of the train station is such a heart-wrenching scene… it’s as if I could feel his pain as he breaks nearly every bones in his body. It’s also one of those movies where it’s not a simple good vs. evil kind of story, and we can’t help but feel sympathy for the bad guy.

Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here. – Elijah Price

It shows that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson certainly can act if they choose to. Both seem to gravitate more for the action-packed stuff and sure they’re good at it, but I’d love to see them do something more understated like this again.

Oh, and I actually do like the ending, it’s unexpected and definitely made you go ‘whoa’ the first time around. But unlike Sixth Sense, it doesn’t lose its impact even after repeated viewings.

Chicken Run

When I first saw this, I had never seen Wallace & Gromit before but I absolutely adore this Peter Lord and Nick Park’s creation. It’s odd since I’m usually not into claymation, but I think this movie is just so fun and joyful to watch. Inspired by The Great Escape, the chickens led by Ginger rebels against against the evil Mrs. Tweedy’s farm with the help of Rocky the rooster.

Right from the start, I was so enthralled and empathized with the poor ‘imprisoned’ chickens, as they’re depicted as having humanly activities like knitting, dance, bicker with one another, and seemingly having more lively existence than the humans at the farm.  The dialog is sharp and funny, with hilarious yet poignant lines like “I don’t want to be a pie.” or “We’ll either die free chickens or we die trying.” The voice cast are a hoot, especially Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson as Ginger and Rocky.

It’s definitely one of my favorite animated features of all time. I even feel a bit guilty eating chickens for a while after watching this, especially chicken pot pie! 😀

Return to Me

I think I’ve talked about this movie quite often. It’s always on my list of favorite rom-coms, and I even dedicated a whole post for it. This movie doesn’t follow the typical formula of a rom-com, in fact it starts out with a tragedy. But yet it’s a joyful movie despite its poignant subject matter, filled with a wonderful depiction of family live, sincere friendship and a love story between two people who’ve gone through a lot by the time they find each other.

Both David Duchovny and Minnie Driver are wonderful here, they’re not your go-to actors for this genre which is a shame as they’re so natural here. Same with director Bonnie Hunt as she is quite adept with creating wonderful characters and engagingly funny dialog. It’s too bad that this is her only feature film in her resume. Oh, and the soundtrack is wonderful, too!

Check out the trailer below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

X-Men

I readily admit that I have a penchant for superhero movies, and the mythology and the allegory with the reality of our world of the X-Men universe is particularly fascinating to me. I absolutely loved it when it first came out and both my hubby and I were hugely anticipating it. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint and it’s still good after repeated viewing. Bryan Singer made superhero movies not only cool but has something meaningful to say. It’s intelligent AND fun.

The casting is key here, from hiring two British thespians as the two leaders of polar opposites — Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart — to taking a chance with a then-unknown Aussie actor Hugh Jackman as the tormented Wolverine. He may be indestructible but he’s still vulnerable and Jackman’s gruff but soulful portrayal won him many fans and launched his career. He’s got an undeniable chemistry with Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey, which makes their unrequited romance quite irresistible.

It’d be nice if Singer stays on throughout the trilogy, then we’d have three solid movies in this franchise. But the consolation is that he came back, albeit as a producer, in the excellent X-Men: First Class, which has a lot of the great things I love about the original and then some!

Other great movies I like from 2000:

  • Billy Elliot
  • Chocolat
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Memento


My runner-up year: 1995

I almost picked this year because I absolutely adore Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility, plus it’s also got two other dramas I love: Circle of Friends and A Walk in the Clouds. I also like Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Usual Suspects and Se7en a lot, but in the end I feel like I have more affinity for the five movies I picked for 2000.



Thoughts about the movies listed here? Now, what year would YOU pick?

31 Days Movie Meme Day #13: Favorite animated movie

I grew up watching Disney Princesses flicks, so to this day I always have a fondness for animated movies. Well, as I mentioned in my Films That Define Us post, one of the movies that left a lasting impression on me is Sleeping Beauty. But I’ve grown out of the fairy tale love story stuff and have since embraced pretty much everything Pixar has to offer, hence my top five Pixar characters list.

Suffice to say, it’s virtually impossible to pick just ONE favorite animated flick. As rules are meant to be broken, I’m going to list FIVE of them instead, as I shared in Peter’s Gimme 5 post series:

  1. Sleeping Beauty
    Gorgeous visuals, beautiful music (I still hum Once Upon a Dream from time to time), enchanting story, memorable villain. What else would you ask for? Briar Rose remains my favorite Princess to this day. The quintessential Disney masterpiece I can enjoy for years to come.
  2. Chicken Run
    It’s technically a stop-motion animation using clay figures, I adore the look of the movie. Based on the movie The Great Escape set in WWII POW camp, Ginger and her friends are imprisoned in the Tweedys chicken farm. Well-written and witty, this movie is pure fun and heartwarming. It even makes me feel a bit guilty eating a chicken sandwich afterward 🙂
  3. The Little Mermaid
    I LOVE Ariel! As far as princesses go, she’s by far one of the most relatable as she is like a typical teenager, giggly and naive… and who hasn’t had a major crush on a guy so much you’re willing to give up everything to be with him? I actually had a bit of a crush on Eric, too. Yeah I know he’s a cartoon but that’s how good this movie is! 🙂 Plus, there’s that adorable lobster friend Sebastian. Oh, and the music, especially Kiss the Girl and Under the Sea, absolute classic and downright entertaining!
  4. Beauty & The Beast
    A classic story with a timeless appeal. Disney REALLY upped the ante with this movie, too. The production quality and the dramatic camera movement, especially in the dance sequence in the chandelier-ed ballroom, was at the time, quite innovative and breathtaking to behold. As with any Disney flicks, the supporting characters are fun to watch, but never distracts us from the heart of the love story.
    ….
  5. Wall-E
    I never would’ve thought I’d enjoy a story about a mute little robot working in the trash department in a post-apocalyptic world. But Pixar’s genius is in creating such a sympathetic character that my eyes were hardly dry throughout the entire movie. I don’t just like this movie, I LOVE it. There’s a believable and sweet love story in this, too. Trust me, it’s even more affecting than the human version in a lot of those banal rom-coms!

    Honorable mentions:
    Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 3, The Lion King, A Bug’s Life, and all Disney Princesses movies! 🙂

So, what about you? What are some animated movies that tickle your fancy?