Categories
Animation Features Movies

Chicken Run:
Dawn of the Nugget

Director – Sam Fell – Co-Director – Jeff Newitt – 2023 – UK – Cert. PG – 101m

****

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Having escaped the farm for an island paradise, the chickens must break into and wreck a food processing factory masquerading as a holiday camp to lure unwitting chickens to their doom – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th and on Netflix from Friday, December 15th

More than two decades after the original Chicken Run (Nick Park, Peter Lord, 2000), its poultry return. They can hardly escape from the farm again, having established themselves on a secluded island in a lake well away from human beings. So the original’s co-screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick, a veteran of The Rescuers Down Under (1990), James And The Giant Peach (1996), The Little Vampire (2000), Charlotte’s Web (2006), makes use of a number of very clever tricks to have the chickens break in to a facility that endangers chicken lives rather than break out of one.

He effectively redeploys the escapees from the original, but it being over two decades since its production, he races through what would be just over a decade in chicken years if their lifespans were comparable to humans and has the hero Rocky (voice: Zachary Levi) and the heroine Ginger (voice: Thandiwe Newton) get together and produce a family in the form of a daughter, Molly (voice: Bella Ramsey) , who in the opening minutes’ montage grows into a teenager.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tokyo Fist
(東京フィスト)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1995 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 87m

*****

Shinya Tsukamoto ventures outside his Tetsuo trappings to deliver further explorations of the ‘New Flesh’ in boxing movie garb.

On Arrow Channel from Friday, September 22nd.

This review is an amalgam of my reviews for What’s On In London and Manga Mania.

Right from its opening angled camera of gym sparring partners, everything about apparent boxing movie Tokyo Fist is relentless. Apparent because this is the latest highly idiosyncratic offering from Japanese filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto, the crazed genius behind the brilliant if unhinged Tetsuo films. Don’t be fooled by the boxing gloves – this is another round in the director’s ongoing engagement with the ‘New Flesh’, minus the science-fictional surface trappings.

Underpinned by another memorable Chu Ishikawa score, it opens in typically bravura fashion with slanted tracking camera shots of sparring partners in a gym, morphing moments later into a visual wipe in the manner of a knockout punch as a fist hurtles towards the viewer and the images disintegrates via a stop-motion iris constructed of offal.

The plot has an insurance salesman whose career is foundering run into an old school friend who is now a professional boxer.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Junk Head

Director – Takahide Hori – 2021 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

****1/2

A cyborg is dropped from the planet’s surface into its depths by his immortal but impotent masters to investigate the beings who have evolved in the levels below – feature length, stop-frame epic is out in UK cinemas on Monday, April 24th

More, I suspect, by accident than design, Junk Head looks and feels like the wandering little sister of Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021). The latter was made by a top Hollywood stop-frame effects animator as a 34-year, independent, labour of love, the former by a Japanese visionary as a seven-year, independent, labour of love. Hori had worked on puppetry at Tokyo Disneyland and became obsessed with stop-motion, inspired by Motoko Shinkai’s one-man debut 2D animated production Voices of A Distant Star (2002). He made a half hour version Junk Head 1 in 2013, and used it as a building block to this version, which he completed in 2017.

The production mode of stop-frame can be a solitary one involving one person alone in a room with a camera and armatured puppets, the approach typified by Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, the bolexbrothers, Jiri Trnka, Kihachiro Kawamoto, the early David Lynch and many others – a single person or very small number of people producing the work, either complete films or stop-frame effects sequences within live action films.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s
Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Mad God

Director – Phil Tippett – 1987-2021 – US – 83m

*****

A man in a gas mask descends into a dark, dangerous world on a mysterious mission, encountering strange creatures, humanoids and societal constructs along the way – stop-frame epic 34 years in the making as of Tuesday, June 28th, has become the most watched premier of 2022 on Shudder, where it plays in both the UK and the US from Thursday, June 16th; also plays London’s Prince Charles Cinema Tuesday. July 5th to Friday, July 8th and from Monday, December 5th is on Blu-ray, DVD and digital

My immediate reaction after watching this was two-fold. On the one hand, wow!!! On the other, how on earth do I put the experience of watching this into words? Mad God definitely has a structure, yet what’s amazing about it is the visuals, the animation, the effects. Even though I’m familiar with the work of its director Phil Tippett (as one of the heirs apparent to stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen in the world of visual effects – career highlights include RoboCop, 1987; Jurassic Park, 1993, Starship Troopers, 1997) this film is something altogether different (even if its roots can be seen in his VFX work).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Scenes With Beans
(Babfilm)

Director – Ottó Foky – 1976 – Hungary – 12m

*****

A metal space bird approaches the bean planet to observe various aspects of life upon it before being discovered then shot at with a missile in this remarkable stop-frame short – out on MUBI as part of the animated shorts season Fables, Folklore, Futurism: Visionary Hungarian Animations on Monday, September 20th

Framed by a story of a giant alien metal bird observing a planet from space, this is primarily an excuse to create numerous scenarios using animated kidney beans and butter beans to stand in as people in a 3D, model animated world. It’s the sort of film where you constantly marvel at the inventiveness of shooting scenes in a particular style of animation which, were they shots in a live action documentary, would simply appear banal – but in the form here presented prove completely compelling.

A crescent moon resembling nothing so much as a croissant floats past the planet. The approaching giant bird looks like it could have wandered in from the Clangers stop-frame BBC TV series (Oliver Postgate, 1969-72, 1974) except that it’s less a character like that show’s fabled Soup Dragon than a tech-equipped space opera craft with a visual recording device that has a calibrated viewfinder like a camera or a periscope.… Read the rest