Film Review “Early Man”

Directed by: Nick Park
Starring: Eddie Redmayne. Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall
Distributed by: StudioCanal
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 89 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Aardman Animations is probably best known for their characters Wallace and Gromit. This company has been around for nearly 50 years mastering the art of stop-motion clay animation. I absolutely love that format and this company has brought out some great content over the years including “Chicken Run” and “Shaun the Sheep”, unfortunately “Early Man” is not one of their better films. I hate it when I see a trailer for a movie and shriek and say “Oh boy, that’s gonna suck”. In this case, the trailer is 100% right.

“Early Man” takes place in the Stone Age when prehistoric creatures and cavemen roamed the Earth. There is a small tribe of caveman led by Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) and they live in a valley where they hunt rabbits. A young caveman, Dug (Eddie Redmayne), has dreams to do more. Their world is turned upside down when a Bronze Age army led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) take over their land and force them out into the badlands. Dug seeks out a way to get back his home and challenges the Bronze army to a game of soccer finding out that his ancestors discovered the game before his time…and that about sums of the movie, not much else happens here.

Sitting in the theater, I looked over at my wife and she was yawning. I was dozing off myself as this film was barely able to keep our attention…even our 5 year old seemed bored as well. If you have seen the trailer, then you have seen the whole movie. Tom Hiddleston, known best for his work in the Marvel Universe playing Loki, literally was the best part of the whole film as Lord Nooth. He was funny for sure but can’t save the film by himself.

One comment my wife pointed out, which I happened to notice as well, is that the film is very drab and there was really only one color pallet the whole film. In other stop motion films like “Coraline” color is such an important part of the film. I have to give credit to the animators because I love the craft of stop motion animation and you can tell that a lot of work went into this movie. I just wish I could say that I enjoyed it more but it was simply boring (and only at 89 minutes) and lacking any depth whatsoever. Yawn!

 

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DVD Review “Frank Capra: The Early Collection”

Director: Frank Capra
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Number of Discs: 5
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: September 27, 2012
Running Time: 450 Minutes

Our Score: 4 out 5 of stars

Frank Capra is one of Hollywood’s most beloved directors, though many of his earlier films have never been made available on DVD….until now. This release features five key films which showcase his career before he became the legendary director we all knew him as. “The Frank Capra: The Early Collection” is available exclusively through TCM’s online store as part of the TCM Vault Collection. The five films includings includes re-mastered editions of “Rain or Shine” (1930), and four early collaborations with his legendary leading lady Barbara Stanwyck: “Ladies of Leisure” (1930), “The Miracle Woman” (1931), “Forbidden” (1932) and “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” (1933). If you are a fan of Capra’s work, I would HIGHLY recommend this release.

The following are the five films included in Frank Capra: The Early Collection:
“Ladies of Leisure” (1930) – This drama marked Frank Capra’s first collaboration with Barbara Stanwyck. The film tells of a Depression-era romance between a working-class model and a high-society artist, played by Ralph Graves. The film is based on the 1924 play Ladies of the Evening, written by Milton Herbert Gropper.

“Rain or Shine” (1930) – This rollicking comedy-drama follows the ups and downs of a struggling traveling circus. Joe Cook, Louise Fazenda, Joan Peers and William Collier Jr. star in this film, a non-musical version of a Broadway musical of the same name. {Note: The International version of the film is included here}

“The Miracle Woman” (1931) – In this dramatic exposé of religious charlatans, Barbara Stanwyck stars as a female preacher modeled on Aimee Semple McPherson. David Manners co-stars as the blind man who falls in love with her.

“Forbidden (1932)” – This charming, romantic drama depicts the intense relationship between librarian Barbara Stanwyck and a wealthy married man, played by Adolphe Menjou. Ralph Bellamy and Dorothy Peterson co-star.

“The Bitter Tea of General Yen” (1933) – This once-controversial drama depicts an affair between the fiancée of an American missionary, played by Barbara Stanwyck, and a Chinese warlord, played by Nils Asther. Toshia Mori shines as General Yen’s concubine, Mah-Li. The film, which was the first ever to play Radio City Music Hall, also features a memorable dream sequence in which Yen seduces the young missionary. The interracial aspect of the story led the film to be banned in many areas where miscegenation laws were in place.

These films are presented for the first time on DVD and have been restored and remastered. Each film looks equally fantastic, especially for their age.  This release has a lot of love behind it.  It also comes with a nice presentation flip-found case. There are also some decent special features including introductions from Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard on “The Bitter Tea of General Yen”. Ron also intros on “The Miracle Woman” and Michel Gondry intros on “Rain or Shine”.  There is an audio commentary track from Jeanine Basinger on “Forbidden” and Jeremy Arnold on “Ladies of Leisure”.  Each disc also comes with a “Digital Image Gallery” including Scene Stills, Movie Posters, Publicity Stills, Behind the Scenes Photos and Lobby Cards.  There is a “Screen Snapshots” featurette included as well.  Lastly there is a “Frank Capra Biography” on “Ladies of Leisure” and “TCMDb Articles” on each disc as well.