Hit Me With Your Best Shot: World of Tomorrow and True Skin

This week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel over at Film Experience has given us a different task. Instead of our normal film watching and picking a great shot, we are asked to look at 2 short films and pick shots. Both shorts are scifi films and I think they are both fine but not my favorite.

True Skin-

This 6 minute short is by Stephan Zlotescu and it has recently been picked up as a series for Amazon and I can see why. It feels like a pitch or pilot for a TV series rather than a stand alone film.

True Skin is about a future society where augmenting our bodies is the norm and only beggars and outsiders have their natural bodies. Our main character has journeyed to Bangkok to get a chip in his eyes and when it is installed he realizes he is going to die. But in the world of this movie it is actually a good thing because he can take the step ‘to live forever’ as a robot.

It does look very impressive and is an intriguing premise but to me that’s all it was is a premise. That leaves me feeling slightly unfulfilled but I’m sure the upcoming series will fill in all the holes and tell the actual story.

For what it is, it’s pretty creative and I’m glad I watched it. I thought this was a pretty cool shot of the lead character just after he installs the new eyes.

true skin best shotWorld of Tomorrow-

I’ve talked about World of Tomorrow a little bit in my reviews of 2015 animated shorts but never given it a complete review. The truth is I never did because I kept waiting to understand why it is as brilliant as I keep hearing. It seems like kind of similar to Watership Down- a book and movie I didn’t get at first but eventually it finally clicked. It could happen with World of Tomorrow but as of my 10th viewing I must be honest- I don’t really get it?

Directed by Don Hertzfeldt, World of Tomorrow,  still seems like a lot of science fiction mumbo-jumbo that is more trying to appear smart rather than actually being smart.

Basically the story is a little girl meets a clone of her future self. She finds out about the new world of cloning and is shown 3 memories from her upcoming life.

The first memory is Emily visiting an exhibit in a museum displaying a male clone named David.

The second memory is of Emily’s first job programming robots. Emily falls in love with a rock and is fired. Then the third memory she falls in love with a clone of David named Simon.  This is after falling in love with a fuel pump.

Emily is hoping to get a memory that only Emily Prime has and warn her about appreciating life because there are only 60 days left on earth.

I don’t know. I guess World of Tomorrow is just smarter than me because I don’t get it. Yes, appreciate the moments of life- how profound…I can learn that from a Hallmark card. I don’t see why this is so brilliant?

If you want to watch something great about memories watch Hirokazu Koreeda’s film After Life or Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life.  Those have much more nuance and subtlety about life, memories and living well. Even Inside Out was much more insightful on this topic with the memory balls and core memories. None of those films are trying so hard to be important like World of Tomorrow is. They are just good stories with characters we get to know, so we care about their memories, the world building and what is happening to them.

I really have tried to love World of Tomorrow. I don’ t hate it but I fail to see what makes it as special as other people seem to think it is. I’ll let you know if on subsequent rewatches it finally clicks for me but for now that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, for my best shot I have the scene where Emily falls in love with the fuel pump just because I thought it was weird.

world of tomorrow

 

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Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Death Becomes Her

You guys might not know but black comedies and I don’t mix very well. No matter the skill involved they nearly always seem more mean-spirited and ugly than funny. The worst movie I’ve ever seen is a black comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous- one of 2 films I have walked out of in my life (on a date no less!). So it is perhaps this reason that kept me away from the 1992 cult classic Death Becomes Her. However, this week it was selected by Nathaniel over at Film Experience as the Hit Me With Your Best Shot pick, and I decided to give it a shot.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Death Becomes Her is a ghost story combined with a critique on Hollywood, celebrity and female body obsession. It stars Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis and Goldie Hawn with Isabella Rossellini adding revealing supporting work.

Meryl Streep is Madeline Ashton, an actress who is obsessed with her image and fading career. Goldie Hawn is Helen Sharp, her wantabe writer rival who is engaged to Bruce Willis’ Ernest Menviille, a plastic surgeon. All of these 3 actors are hamming it up big time from the beginning and there are a lot of good diva lines for Hawn and Streep.

Streep seems to be having a particularly good time playing someone so deliciously narcissistic and vapid. You almost have the feeling she’s known many such women that she is basing the character off of. Madeline ends up stealing Ernest from Helen and the two women play cat and mouse with each other until spoiler alert they both die but only after having drunk an elixir of youth given to them by Rossellini.

It is after the death where we get the body-bending special effects that won an Oscar for the film in 1992. These effects do look a little dated but honestly that is part of its charm- sort of like watching an old movie from the 30s with hokey special effects.

I’m trying to put a finger on why this black comedy worked for me and films like Drop Dead Gorgeous don’t. It could just be Meryl Streep is that good and it could be some genuinely funny writing by Martin Donovan and David Koepp. I’m not sure. Humor is an odd thing in that regard. Sometimes you can’t explain why certain things make you laugh and others don’t.

It’s funny because of all the useless remakes we have gotten over the years (I’m talking to you Ghostbusters and Ben Hur…) Death Becomes Her is screaming for a remake. I kept thinking of all the stuff you could do with reality tv and our image conscious society now that you didn’t have back in 1992. There is so much more the script could poke fun at and of course the special effects could be improved upon.

I should mention that Bruce Willis is very funny in a non-John McClane role we rarely see. He’s been such a lazy actor of late that it was fun to see him trying.

With all the nonsense, the film does have something to say about life and what really makes someone last forever, and I thought that was nice. But when I am picking a best shot I went with the scene that made me laugh the hardest. Ernest has supposedly taken the eternal serum and Streep’s Madeline looks at him and says ‘My God he still looks like Hell…’ That made me laugh so that’s my shot.

death becomes her best shotThis film does have more nudity than I was expecting just to warn my more conservative readers.

Thoughts on X-Men Movies

In the battle of comic book fandom it is usually between the MCU and DC (mainly Batman and Superman). That dynamic usually leaves Fox’s X-men movies as the forgotten cousin of the debate.

Not the case in my world! The X-Men films are actually my favorite comic book franchise by a large margin. Sure they have their misses like all the franchises but even those I’d take over the misses from the other franchises.

The thing I like about the X-Men movies is I think the dynamics of social politics is an interesting layer. When they are discussing mutants rights and the treatment of people that are different it has a heft to it you don’t normally see in the genre.

Also, the casting is first rate. In the X-Men movies we have Oscar nominees/winners like Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page. As well as other strong actors like Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden, and Kelsey Grammer.

Bryan Singer has made pretty much all of the good X-Men movies and he knows how to direct entertaining layered films that look nice and have strong emotion. The X-Men movies have great characters like Magneto, Wolverine, Mystique and Professor Xavier. To me these are more interesting than any other franchise characters.

I know some of you disagree with me but I stand by my belief that X-Men movies have the strongest female superhero characters by far. Characters like Rogue, Mystique, Jean Gray, Shadowcat and even Storm are way better than the token female we get in other movies usually for sex appeal or to be the ‘tough girl’.

Anyway, like I have done with Batman, Superman and Marvel Phase 1 and Phase 2, I will give my thoughts on each of the X-men films except for Deadpool, which I will not be watching. I have also selected my ‘best shot‘ from each film. This is a shot that I think captures my favorite part of the movie. I hope you enjoy my picks and are anxiously looking forward to X-Men Apocalypse like I am!

X-Men

Our first introduction to the X-Men directed by Bryan Singer. This film holds up incredibly well. What makes it strong is we see the beginning of Magneto in the concentration camp and how he was treated. This gives a weight to his choices later on. You understand why he is doing what he is doing and why Professor X disagrees. You also have great emotion between Rogue and Wolverine. They are fighting and trying to understand their mutant powers. Their bond grows in a believable, moving way  and the events of Ellis Island are exciting and emotional. I picked this shot between Rogue and Wolverine because  it was a tender moment especially when you consider Rogue’s fears of human contact. Beautiful. xmen best shotX2

An extremely entertaining second entry in the series with Magneto taking the center stage. Colonel Stryker wants a genocide of all mutants. He drugs Magneto and uses Mystique to manipulate. What’s great about this movie is the good and bad characters are constantly shifting. One moment Magneto is the enemy and then Stryker and others. The idea of the Cerebro is fascinating and beautiful. I love how vulnerable all the mutants are and how each character gets their moment to shine. There many great scenes like Cyclops and Jean Grey fighting or the fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike. You never know who is being controlled or what their motives are.  It keeps you guessing and actually has something to say about faith, friendship and loyalty. Nightcrawler s a great addition to the cast and it’s just overall entertaining. I picked this shot of Jean Grey making her sacrifice because it is beautiful, moving, gripping conclusion to the film.

x2 best shot2X-Men: The Last Stand

A semi-decent premise of a ‘mutant cure’ is hampered by clunky dialogue and cheesy fight sequences. It seems every punch is accompanied by a ‘I’m the wrong guy to play hide and seek with’ or some other lame one-liner. I still think it is better than the bad movies from other franchises. It’s way more watchable than Batman and Robin or Superman 4. It isn’t a bad watch in my opinion if you are just looking for a dopey fun comic book movie. Ian McKellen seems like he is having a blast as Magneto so I picked a shot just before he destroys the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t like the way they messed with Jean Grey after her beautiful moment in X2.

xmen last stand best shotX-Men Origins: Wolverine

Now X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie worth putting at the bottom of the comic book movie barrel. I think it is far worse than Last Stand. Hugh Jackman tries his hardest with the material but it’s a mess. I think a character like The Blob is supposed to be funny but it falls flat and then the film is very violent at times but not in a compelling way. What is most bizarre is how bad the special effects are. You know an Xmen movie is bad if they can’t even get Wolverine’s blades to look good. It’s not fun or silly just boring and dumb. They introduce characters like Deadpool and Gambit but really just to fight with for a few minutes- not any real character development. I picked this shot because it is a semi-decent explosion with Jackman on a motorcycle. That’s really the best this movie has to offer.

best shot origins wolverineX-Men: First Class

I’m not the biggest fan of Matthew Vaughn’s new style to the X-men world. It’s too James Bondish for my tastes and a bit garish with skimpy costumes and stylized action. Also January Jones is very weak as Emma Frost. However, the rest of the casting is outstanding with Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy and more. I really like seeing the evolution of Magneto especially with an actor as good as Fassbender and it is kind of cool to see the X-men as a true team, not divided like the previous films. My best shot shows this sense of teamwork.

first class best shot

The Wolverine

Even though I love Wolverine as a character for some reason I had missed this film, and I’m here to tell you it is way underrated! I really thought it was a great superhero movie. The action by director James Mangold is really well done with a martial arts flare to it. I liked starting at WW2 and Logan’s experience in Japan and then the infection of Viper makes him more vulnerable than in other films. The relationship with Mariko is standard girlfriend superhero stuff so I am willing to forgive that. The dialogue is intense with moments of humor but not as out of place as First Class. Overall it’s very entertaining movie and reminded me a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy the way he combines martial arts style fighting with superhero story. There is a sequence on a train that was amazing so that is where this shot comes. Jackman is totally up for the physicality of this film.

wolverine best shotX-Men: Days of Future Past

I love this movie! Not only does this brilliant film take away most of the damage done in Last Stand and Origins but it combines all the great actors from all of the films. Through the Terminator-like time traveling set-up we get a story that is action packed, full of emotion and also very funny. The plot centers on a sentinel uprising that is wiping out our favorite characters in the future. Using Kitty Pryde’s abilities Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973 where he must gather Xavier and Magneto to convince Mystique to not assassinate the maker of the Sentinels Dr Trask. I love a movie with a message of hope and that’s what you get in the end with Mystique’s decision. She chooses hope for the future over cynicism and it’s very moving. Even Xavier says he has renewed hope. I love all of the actors, script and everything else. Picking a shot is really hard. Do I go with emotion, or dazzle? Emotion is hard to capture in a shot so I’ll go with Dazzle. I love Quicksilver and his scene helping to free Magneto. It’s hilarious with terrific special effects (and music).

dofp best shot2So there you have it my friends. I have finished my dive into superhero movies for the year. Boy what a journey it has been 16 Superman/Batman, 12 MCU  and 7 X-Men movies since Februaryish. 35 superhero movies and there have been highs and lows.  After I see Civil War and X-Men Apocolypse I will do a retrospective on the experience of 37 movies. Craziness… Ha.

I hope you have enjoyed my little efforts and let me know what you think of the X-Men movies and my thoughts/best shots on each film.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Throne of Blood

This week for the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series I got to click a big hole off of my movie-watching bucket list. Up until this time I had never seen a Akira Kurosawa film. I had certainly heard of him but had never gotten around to seeing one of his movies.  Well, this week for Best Shot we were assigned Throne of Blood.  This is perhaps the perfect introduction for me to Kurosawa because it is his telling of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth- a play I love.

I do think going into watching Throne of Blood it helped me greatly to know the basic story of Macbeth.  Otherwise with the subtitles flying by the screen I might have been a little bit confused. Plus, some of the actors look similar and are similarly dressed so it got a little bit confusing.

Luckily I know my Macbeth and so it all basically made sense to me.  It is of course the story of the Lord (this case General) who is given a prophecy that he will be King. With the encouragement of his power hungry wife he then orchestrates events to make sure that prophecy comes true.  He murders the king and then proceeds to reign in a kind of mania of worry that his crimes will be found out.

It’s all basically here in Throne of Blood.  There is a little bit more of the mechanics of battle than you typically see in Macbeth but the basic framework is here.  It was a creative technique having Miki’s ghost haunt him at the banquet before he knows that Miki is dead.

I also thought the scenes with Washizu and his wife Asaji were very strong.  Washizu must declare an heir and is planning on naming Miku’s son but then becomes convinced to not do so when Asaji says she is pregnant.  The baby is stillborn and so he is without an heir and Miku is dead.  Miku’s son, however, escapes and later confronts Washizu and the great final scenes occur.

My best shot this week is from the scene where Washizu finds his wife Asaji washing her hands from the blood of her sins.  It is my favorite scene in Macbeth and they do it very well here. Most of this movie we are kept at a distance from the characters and emotion is portrayed through loud voices and expressions. However, here we can see their faces and I even think the subtitle says a lot.

throne of blood

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Witness

Witness_movieThis week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel has given us a film I have long wanted to watch as it gave Harrison Ford his only Oscar nomination. I’ve always felt that Ford is more than just a popcorn movie actor as certainly movies like Blade Runner and Regarding Henry show, so it is interesting to see the film the academy feels is his best. It is also directed by Peter Weir who has done some wonderful movies including Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show.

So what did I think? I thought it was a pretty good crime thriller and that the entire cast was very strong. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece or anything but a solid well made movie.

In Witness, Ford plays a detective named John Book who is assigned to investigate the murder of a cop in a train station. The only clue to the crime is a little Amish boy (Lukas Haas) who saw everything from a bathroom stall.  It turns out that the entire police force is corrupt and so Book hides out with the Amish including the boy’s mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis). Rachel is a widow and nervously aids Book but the two form a bond in the tense days.  The community also has to deal with Book’s presence as the corrupt officers come closer to finding his location.

Witness is particularly strong in the beginning and end.  The scenes where young Samuel is witnessing the crime are very brutal- even more so because they are seen from a child’s point of view.  Haas is very good as the little boy seeing things he cannot process in any way.

I’ve only seen McGillis in Top Gun but she’s fantastic in this film.  I really liked how well rounded all the Amish characters are portrayed especially Rachel.  It’s easy for Hollywood to take religious characters and turn them into caricatures or make them judgemental, patronizing or stupid.  These men and women are none of those things but just people living life as best as they know how.

The middle section with a barn raising and building romance between Rachel and John wasn’t as compelling as the crime elements but they aren’t bad.  Overall it works and is a good movie.

It does earn it’s R rating for some strong nudity and violence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people have my best shot.  It is from the scene where Lukas is witnessing the murder.  You of course have the image of him peering through the hole in the bathroom stall but to me the full view of his face grasping what he has seen is more powerful.  In fact, it is here that he can’t help but exclaim ‘Ah’ in a gasp almost heard by the criminals.

Overall Grade- B

witness best shot

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: To Kill a Mockingbird

This week Nathaniel over at Film Experience has given me a near impossible task.  I have to pick a favorite shot from either To Kill a Mockingbird or Roman Holiday- 2 of my favorite movies of all time!  I actually saw Roman Holiday on the big screen in December and To Kill a Mockingbird last month so they are fresh on my mind.  They are both near-perfect examples of their genres and that is in no small part because of their tremendous leading man Gregory Peck (he would be 100 this week hence the Sophie’s Choice we are given…).

I have already done a character study of Atticus on this blog where I break down why he is such a compelling character. You can read that here.

I also reviewed Roman Holiday previously on my youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVuSFzTJgVE.

I also reviewed Harper Lee’s follow up novel (basically To Kill a Mockingbird fan fiction written before TKM was published) on my youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyvT8gHmdkQ

Anyway, I decided to go with To Kill a Mockingbird because as great as I think Roman Holiday is, it’s Audrey’s movie.  To Kill a Mockingbird rises on the wings of Gregory Peck’s great performance.  It takes one of the greatest novels and makes one of the greatest movies ever made.

Someone asked me if I could have lunch with a fictional character who would it be?  My answer is Atticus Finch.  The reason is I feel I could learn something about being a better human being from him.  He is such an honorable man and is willing to fight a battle he knows he is going to lose.

But he is also not a martyr to a cause or principle.  He’s just doing the task the world called upon him to do in the best way he knows how.

My best shot comes at the end of the trial.  He has lost and justice has failed.  As he packs up his stuff the black citizens watching in the balcony stand up and the minister sitting with Scout tells her:

‘stand up, your father’s passin’.

For me, one of the great scenes of cinema or literature.  Perfection.

mockingbird best shotWhat is your favorite scene of To Kill a Mockingbird?  Share your thoughts in comments section.  Thanks!

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Atonement

Do you ever have those movies that are well regarded but are hard for you to sit through?  Atonement is such a film for me.  It’s pretty but oh does it annoy the heck out of me.  It’s like a tedious set of Downton Abbey episodes but without any of that show’s soapy fun.  And at least with Downton Abbey I care about the Crawleys.  In Atonement I couldn’t care less about any of these people.

2007-09-10atonement4Atonement is directed by Joe Wright with a lot of empty style and it is based on the novel by Ian McEwan. The film stars Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy and Romola Gerai and Vanessa Redgrave.  They are all good.  It’s just the story that is annoying.

Basically Saoirse plays Briony, a little girl who has a girl’s crush on the servant’s son Robbie.  She see’s 2 scenes with her sister Cecilia and Robbie, one which is innocent and one where they are intimate with each other.  She intercepts some letters and convinces the police that Robbie is responsible for a rape that occurs. Long and short of it this act of a child ruins everyone’s lives.

The problem is we aren’t invested in the couple or the relationship.  We don’t get to see the courtship or really care about them as people. Briony is a horrid little girl and then a flat older woman.  We see the couple so briefly and then rest of the movie we get bland war, bland hospital scenes, bland staring across the room at what might have been.  I’m sorry but one makeout session does not a compelling couple make.

I also found it annoying when the movie tries to be artistic with 4th wall breaks like characters staring directly at the camera for long periods or when we see the same scene from multiple perspectives.  That could be interesting in a book but especially in a movie where a couple is going to be separated for most of the film, I needed more dialogue, more fleshed out characters.  It does not make Briony more interesting because she stares at the camera for long periods.  It makes me the viewer want to punch her in the nose- and not in a gripping way but in a ‘stop staring and tell me something about who you are!’ way.

In the end, it feels like about 20 minutes of story stretched out into 2 hours.  I needed more evidence of why it all mattered. Why is this couple soooo special?  Why does this love matter soooo much?   I get that a man went to prison, but I didn’t know this man and the film doesn’t give me much of a reason to care for him. Maybe if the film had been told from his perspective it might have been more compelling but as it is he just felt flat.

Anyway, Hit Me with Your Best Shot is about picking a favorite shot even in movies we don’t particularly like, and to its credit Atonement does look nice.  There are lots of cool pieces of cinematography but the one that captured my feeling for the film is this:

atonementRobbie is a soldier and he is thinking about that great kiss in the library.  He passes a screen with a movie playing for the soldiers and I can’t help but think- I wish I was watching that instead…

Overall Grade- C- just because it looks nice and the acting is good

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Ghostbusters

ghostbusters-bedI am very excited to inform you guys the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series over at The Film Experience is back up and running with a new season.  This is a super fun blogging series that Nathaniel sets up where he picks a film and then we select a screenshot from the movie that we feel captures it best.

To learn more check out the website http://thefilmexperience.net/blog/tag/hit-me-with-your-best-shot

Here’s the rules

How to play
1. Watch the movie
2. Pick its best shot
3. Post it somewhere online with why you chose it on March 8th
4. Let us know you did so and we link up that Tuesday night!

It’s really fun to see the different choices all the participants come up with.  You can see some of my picks from last year hereghostbusters 1984

GHOSTBUSTERS

This week Nathaniel has chosen the 1984 classic Ghostbusters (he does a good job mixing box office favorites with artistic films).

The last time I saw the film it was in the theaters in 2014 for the 30th anniversary.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself then and had the same experience this weekend.  It’s not a movie I’m overly sentimental about or have a lot of nostalgia for but I think for popcorn movies it is very entertaining.

What makes Ghostbusters work is similar to what makes a lot of blockbusters work- a charismatic cast and a witty script.  It’s pretty much what has made all the Marvel films successful. It’s not like there are great special effects or a complex plot like Inception or something like that to draw people in.  This is personalities and clever writing.

Ghostbusters is a simple story about 4 paranormal activity investigators (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis,  Ernie Hudson) who hunt down and capture ghosts in New York City.   It is directed by Ivan Reitman and the script is written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

The script is very dry and sarcastic with a lot of opportunities for the comics to feed off of each other.  They are also assisted by Sigourney Weaver as a woman who seeks their help and Rick Moranis as her nerdy neighbor.  Everyone involved is likable and funny and makes up for a frankly silly story with special effects that have not aged well.

My favorite character in the film is Peter Venkman played by Bill Murray.  He is very sarcastic and overly-confident but there is something that is likable about him.  Maybe it is his smile or his chemistry with the other actors?  I’m not sure, but I always laugh whenever he is on screen.

This is where I get to my shot.  He has just visited Dana for the first time alone and kind of believes her but is skeptical at the same time.  Either way he wants a date with her:

PETER
And then you’ll say, “Pete Venkman’s a guy who can get things done!”
DANA
Right.
PETER
“I wonder what makes him tick!”
DANA
I wonder!
PETER
“I wonder if he’d be interested in knowing what makes me tick?”
DANA
Right!
PETER
I bet you’re going to be thinking about me after I’m gone.
DANA
I bet I am!
Pushes him out the door. He sticks his face back in.
PETER
No kiss?

That’s when we get this shot of him peering around the door and we all wonder along with Dana ‘I wonder what does make him tick?’

ghostbusters best shotOverall Grade for Ghostbusters B+

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Chicken Run

chicken run2I’ve been eagerly awaiting this week’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot as it is an animated film, and one that I happen to love at that- Aardman animation’s 2000 Chicken Run.

I know this is about chickens instead of turkey but it has become a bit of a Thanksgiving tradition at my house to watch Chicken Run.   It certainly beats Free Birds as a Thanksgiving film and I don’t think there are any other movies about poultry.  Am I wrong?

I watched it again today and was delighted all over again.  This will be more like a traditional review from me since animation is my blog focus but at the bottom I will have my best shot like normal.

If you haven’t seen it, Chicken Run is a claymation, stop motion animation take on a prison escape movie like The Great Escape.

It focuses on Ginger (Minnie Driver), a plucky chicken at Tweedy egg farm who refuses to be satisfied with a life at the farm.  She is really the only intelligent chicken in the lot.  Well, there is the braniac chicken but she’s the only one that seems to understand what they are up against.

The design of the farm is brilliant with hen houses that look like the cabins of the Great Escape. All of Ginger’s attempts to escape feel very reminiscent of those pictures. I like this shot the bunk has 17 on it like Stallag 17, another famous prison war movie.

chicken run9The chickens end up failing in all of their attempts and Farmer Tweedy gets suspicious the “chickens are organizing!” which his wife Mrs Tweedy thinks is insane.  She’s the main villain of the picture and a lot of fun in a Cruella Deville type fashion. Her dream is to turn the chickens into pies and she buys a giant manufacturing machine to make the pies.

chicken run6With the purchase of the new machine Ginger is about to lose hope when a rooster named Rocky comes flying in to the farm.  Ginger knows he is from the circus but thinks he has somehow learned how to fly.  To Ginger this could be their salvation.  Perhaps he can teach them how to fly!  chicken run17Of course what he isn’t telling them is he is shot out of a canon and can’t fly, but he needs to hide out from the circus while they are in town so he plays along and begins training them on how to fly.  This involves a really fun montage of chickens doing pushups and the like.

chicken run20There’s also an amazing sequence where Rocky and Ginger get caught in the pie making machine.  It’s in the spirit of Indiana Jones and adventure movies with all kinds of obstacles to conquer.  It blows my mind when you watch this scene and remember it is all done with moving clay figures inch by inch.

The ending plays out in a fairly predictable way for this genre of movie but Mrs Tweedy is pretty scary, maybe too much for some kids? As is always the case it depends on the child.

chicken run19

Thing that makes this movie special is the writing.  It is funny throughout.  Not just the homages to escape movies but the dialogue is witty and will make you laugh.  Pter Lord and Nick Park bring the same type of humor we got in Wallace and Gromit with perhaps more of a visual component added in.  (Karey Kirkpatrick is the screenwriter with a story by Lord and Park).

All the other aspects are very strong including great music by John Powell and Harry Gregson- Williams.  I particularly like “Flip, Flop, Fly” a great swing number!

Plus, I like the way the chickens look.  I like the smoothness of the skin and the feather collar and feather underneath.  To me it is a pleasing design. All the sets are incredibly detailed and intricate especially when you consider they are all done by hand (stop motion animation is unbelievable).

chicken run10I always say when I judge a comedy the number one factor is- Did it make me laugh?  The answer for Chicken Run is Yes!  I laughed back in 2000 and I laughed today watching it.  It’s a delight in every other way so I can ignore a somewhat predictable story.

For me it is a big win!

Overall Grade- A

BEST SHOT-

Hit Me with Your Best Shot can be difficult because do you pick the shot that gave you the most pleasure or the one that looks the best?  The two are not always the same.

My favorite joke in the movie is when Ginger tells the girls about the pies and Babs (the knitting chicken) says “I don’t want to be a pie.  I don’t even like gravy”.  I don’t’ know why but that cracks me up every time.

But the shot of her saying that line isn’t that great.  I will go with the line just after it and you can see the mayhem on the part of the hens at this news.  I think it is emblematic of the entire film, the claymation style and I love the expressions on the chickens faces.  So great!

chicken run12My youtube review can be found here