Movie Review – Early Man

It’s fittingly ironic that Early Man’s setting predates Aardman Animation’s other works by millions of years – the charm is still there, but their latest is nowhere near as evolved as their best.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Millions of years ago, the meteor that should have wiped dinosaurs off the face of the earth instead crumbles, and lands as a small hot rock resembling a soccer ball, which the local Homo sapiens soon make a game out of. Flash forward a few generations, their descendant Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his tribe of cavemen live peacefully in a valley as rabbit hunters. They’re soon forced out of their home and into the volcanic Badlands by a technologically advanced Bronze Age army led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), who plans to turn their valley into an industrial wasteland. Dug learns that soccer is an enormous attraction in Nooth’s city and challenges their top team to a match to win his tribe back their valley.

It seems as though some of the mightiest animation studios in the world have exposed their Achilles’ heel – the prehistoric. While Blue Sky and Fox hit gold with their Ice Age franchise that they’ve continued to mine (to varying quality), others have failed to match their primitive success. Most notable of these is Pixar, whose The Good Dinosaur ranks as perhaps their most cumbersome film. Fortunately, stop-motion machine Aardman Animations fare better with their ancestral trip in Early Man, but compared to their greatest hits – Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep­ – it’s a small fry.

After a decade’s absence, key Aardman figure Nick Park returns to directing duties, and at the very least he hasn’t lost his touch in bringing lumps of clay to vibrant and colourful life. The stop-motion charm is all there – you can now even make out the fingerprints on the clay in such high definition – and the trademark character models, all wide, toothy grins and beady eyes, are still delightfully endearing.

It’s a bit of a shame then, that for all its animated grandeur, Early Man’s story is dishearteningly standard. Departing from their usual search-and-rescue or break-out and escape genres, Aardman unexpectedly tackles the sports movie formula. Unfortunately, it’s not the inspired twist on this category like Chicken Run was to prison-break films; it simply follows exactly along the lines of a sports film without subverting it in any way. This means we see all the tropes, from the training montages and inspirational speeches, to the bunch of lovable underdogs defying the odds and the antagonist rigging the game in favour of the opposing team. But without any attempt to satirise these, it’s hard not to feel like there’s nothing new to see here.

This subgenre also limits potential for a broad appeal to audiences, particularly children who have little interest in soccer. While sports movies are designed to be accessible to anyone, even those unfamiliar with the game, it’s unlikely in this age where superhero and space blockbusters reign supreme that a kids’ film devoid of adventure will hold the attention of young ones. Outside of some subtle jokes that sports-fans will pick up, the insistence on childish slapstick means there’s not all that much for accompanying adults either.

That being said, there are still enough laughs and charm to be had that prevent Early Man from being a complete dud. The very British vocal talent fare well, particularly Tom Hiddleston as the pompous Lord Nooth, and animation enthusiasts have plenty to ogle at here. Just don’t expect as joyous and triumphant a time with clay we’ve grown accustomed to.

Early Man is available in Australian cinemas from March 29 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal

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Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Feature Films

What Lola Wants

Fast, fun, and ferocious – What Lola Wants may just be Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2015’s boldest and brightest feature.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Celebrity teenager Lola Franklin (Sophie Lowe) has run away from her Beverley Hills lifestyle into the wild, wild west. Believing she has been kidnapped, her parents stamp down a $1 million reward for her safe return. Lola meets rebellious, pickpocketing loner Marlo (Beau Knapp) in a diner, convinced he is the man of her dreams. Marlo, being hunted by Mama (Dale Dickey), is already neck-deep in trouble. The destructive duo heads out on the road, taking down anyone in his or her path. But which reward will Marlo choose – the girl or the money?

What Lola Wants is one of the biggest surprises of 2015. This crime-thriller is the pitch-perfect example of less is more – relying on character and tone over anything else. Australian writer/director Rupert Glasson injects his frenzying style onto every page and frame. Attributing to Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah, every plot-point, twist, and line of dialogue is drenched in pulp and viscera. Told from its lead’s perspective, it’s tough, sexy atmosphere sparks a thrilling pace. Glasson’s latest venture harkens back to some of Hollywood’s biggest middle-finger thrillers like Natural Born Killers and Badlands.

Glasson’s hyperkinetic, frivolous visuals bolster What Lola Wants’ simple-yet-effective narrative. Its lurid cinematography flaunts the American Heartland’s glorious scenic vistas. In addition, its scintillating score pays tribute to the dark, disturbing heart of the western genre. Indeed, touches including an animated credits sequences and comic-book-esque scene transitions deliver multiple surprises. Most importantly, the performances take charge from the outset – with Lowe and Knapp’s chemistry establishing their significant talents.

Bolstered by style and substance, What Lola Wants has more brains, brawn, and heart than anything 2015’s big-budget slate has offered thus far.

Screening:
Sat 11th July, 6:45pm, Luna Leederville


Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites

 Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites, though not for the faint-hearted, is a unique and mind-altering experimental-drama/black-comedy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday 

Teik Kim Pok in Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites

The plot of Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is, inexplicably, more intricate and perplexing than its title. Alvin (Teik Kim Pok) has not left the confines of his one-bedroom apartment for over 18 months. The agoraphobic nobody lives only with bizarre collections of toy pandas, Prince Charles and Princess Diana memorabilia, and vintage flour containers. Human interactions include obnoxious neighbour Virginia (Vashti Hughes) and video chats with his boss Angela (Allis Logan). With work and home-life difficulties building up, Alvin becomes paranoid after brown ooze begins dripping through the ceiling.

Writer/director Platon Theodoris’ feature debut is a unique and nightmarish examination of the Average Joe. His project meddles with several genres, concepts, and themes, with the first-two thirds highlighting the long-standing tedium of Alvin’s decaying existence. Sticking with Alvin inside his claustrophobic abode, the narrative’s repetitiveness and peculiarity illicit a unique physical, mental, and spiritual response. Similarly to David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Theodoris’ writing and directorial ticks put the audience on edge throughout its steady 73-minute run-time.

Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites’ final third becomes a Rubik’s cube-level obstacle course through awe-inspiring visuals and intricate ideas. Delving into Alvin’s baffling subconscious, Theodoris’ project switches valiantly from black comedy to existential angst. Scenic vistas and a stirring score establish the dramedy’s discussion of introspection, loneliness, and voyeurism. Pok, carrying every scene, conveys a bevvy of complex emotions with several key facial expressions.

This drama-thriller/black-comedy is a bizarre yet rewarding trip through Alvin’s dreamscape. Theodoris’ feature debut is set to be the “Did you get it?” flick of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

Screenings:
Thurs 9th July 8:30pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sat 11th July 3:30pm – Luna Leederville


Plague

Here we go again…Plague is yet another exploration of the decisions we may be faced with if the world was to end in a zombie apocalypse.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Chantall Victor

Scene from Plague

Scene from Plague

Directed by Nick Kozakis and Kosta Ouzas, Australian film Plague aims to present itself as a horror film, but comes off as more of a psychological thriller – at least for the first 20 minutes. From then on it’s all downhill as sadly, the film meets its own death, and decays on the screen before the audience’s eyes for the remainder of its runtime.

Evie (Tegan Crowely) is stuck with a group of survivors in an Australian barn when she is confronted with the difficult decision of whether to stay and wait for her husband (Scott Marcus) – who may have been turned into a zombie – or go with the group in search of safety. Of course, true love abides, and she stays behind, only to encounter an unexpected guest.

I always look forward to an Australian made film because I believe the Australian industry has such potential, but unfortunately, this film will have to be an exception to my rule. Although visually pleasing — thanks to the make-up department, and cinematographer Tim Metherall — the film suffers from a lack of character development, and endless plot holes. At times the story becomes so unconvincing that it’s laughable — think the Australian version of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – and so many elements are left unexplained. Overall, the aesthetics are just not enough to save this vague zombie flick.

Screening:
Sat 11th, 8:45pm – Luna Leederville


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Rupert Glasson, Big Name Studios & Burning Ships Productions