Aardman Movies Ranked

One of the great underrated purveyors of modern family entertainment, Aardman Animations has been comfortably chugging out feature films and shorts over the last 30 years to acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Over the last few years, Aardman’s stop-motion style has been matched in the United States by the Laika studio, with its ambitious storytelling in Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, among others. But this past weekend, Aardman’s newest movie, Early Man, got to take center stage as a form of counter-programming against Black Panther.

With Early Man in theaters, it’s time to look at the whole of Aardman’s feature-length output with this ranking. So, do like Wallace and grab the nearest cheesy snack, and dig in.

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the 15:17 to paris review

When a new movie based on a true story opens, there is an inevitable debate online over whether what’s documented on screen really happened, or if it really happened in the way it’s presented. Films like Selma, Zero Dark Thirty, Dunkirk, and more get scrutinized for fear that creative license has inexorably shifted true events that may seem dramatic enough on their own.

Now, we have a case of the exact opposite, in which the events depicted on screen are almost certainly staged with accuracy because of how many of the real people are involved. Clint Eastwood, with his new film The 15:17 to Paris, has gone out of his way to recreate the foiling of a would-be terrorist attack carefully. Unfortunately, he’s done so in aggressively dull fashion.

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Peter Pan anniversary

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: Peter Pan turns 65 and it’s time to grapple with this popular but problematic classic.)

Few stories have endured throughout the last 100-plus years more than the tale of a boy who could fly and never had to grow up. Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, the upstanding Darling children, Captain Hook, Never Land, and the other details within the iconic yarn weaved by J.M. Barrie have, like pixie dust, lingered in films, TV specials, books, and the Broadway stage literally for generations. The 1904 play led to the 1911 novel, both of which inspired stage musicals, other plays, films and more that directly adapted or were heavily inspired by Barrie’s work.

Today marks the 65th anniversary of arguably the most famous adaptation of Barrie’s eternally young pirate, Disney’s animated take on Peter Pan, a film marked as much by its memorable imagery and music as by its immensely troublesome, retrograde depiction of women and people of color.

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Phantom Thread dressing

At any given moment within Phantom Thread, the newest film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s amazing to consider how far the filmmaker has come in the past 20 years. Earlier this fall, I wrote about Anderson’s masterful, sprawling tragicomic epic Boogie Nights upon its 20th anniversary and how so many of his films focus on the creation of a makeshift family when biological family members simply won’t do. However, while that theme recurs in many of Anderson’s films, it’s utterly remarkable to consider how much he’s pushed himself upon the release of his eighth feature. Phantom Thread is perhaps his most compelling, maddening, entrancing story to date.

The pattern that Anderson’s earlier films, the ones from the late 1990s, seemed to fit within began to evaporate with the release of Punch-Drunk Love in 2002. Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia are all talkier films, the latter two owing visible debts to Anderson’s inspirations, directors like Martin Scorsese and the late Robert Altman. Punch-Drunk Love does have a few aspects that seem to tie it to Anderson’s previous films: a Jon Brion score, a present-day California setting, the appearance of Philip Seymour Hoffman (a PTA regular), and a tie to Altman’s filmography (in the use of a song from Popeye). But Punch-Drunk Love is the start of two notable elements that have recurred in a few other PTA films, including Phantom Thread: implacably mysterious lead characters, and the battles of wills that occur between them and others.

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12 Strong Trailer

Two questions inevitably crop up as a movie based on a true story unfolds. First, how much of what’s happening on screen is actually what happened in real life? Second, how much of what happened in real life can translate into something dramatically interesting? The new war film 12 Strong begins with a compelling enough hook, following a dozen U.S. soldiers who were the first men to attempt to take down the Taliban in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Unfortunately, while the real events indeed seem fascinating, they don’t make for a compelling film.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

‘Breaking Bad’ Was the Last Great Antihero TV Show

Breaking Bad 10th Anniversary

Breaking Bad, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, was far from the first TV drama focusing on an antihero. Bland chemistry teacher-turned-meth chef and eventual kingpin Walter White followed in the footsteps of mobster Tony Soprano, bad cop Vic Mackey, enigmatic ad man Don Draper, and other dark leading characters of television in the 2000s. What makes Breaking Bad so remarkable to consider now, after a decade, is twofold: it’s arguably the best of the antihero dramas and marked the beginning of the end of the subgenre’s heights.

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Paddington 2 Warner Bros

Any film critic worth his or her salt will tell you that January is a pretty rough month for new releases. It’s a month marked by high-profile films from the previous year expanding around the country as they aim to get awards attention. Rare is the January release that rises above the status of being forgettable. But rare too is the sequel that improves upon its predecessor, and yet, here we are with the North American release of the utterly delightful Paddington 2. Bringing together many of the key players from the delightful 2015 original, Paddington 2 doubles down on the previous film’s many charms, introduces a cheeky new villain, and is thoroughly giddy fun.

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2017 character actors

While 2017 has, overall, been a tire fire of a year, it has also been a largely rewarding year for cinema. (It should go without saying, but every year is rewarding for cinema.) Though there have been thematic throughlines in unexpectedly similar films, and unavoidable, sometimes unintentional parallels to real-world events, 2017 in film has been the year of the ubiquitous character actor.

In a strange coincidence (or just a sign of taste from various filmmakers), a handful of character actors have not only appeared in a number of the year’s most notable films, but they’ve each appeared in movies that may well end up with Oscar nominations aplenty next month. Let’s look at four character actors who seemingly showed up in every movie released in 2017: Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tracy Letts, and Bradley Whitford.

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Hank and Spielberg

In such a fraught year as 2017, it’s hard for The Post — about pioneering journalists reporting a shocking truth that the American government wants to keep hidden, starring two of the biggest movie stars on the planet and directed by the most distinguished filmmaker of modern American cinema — not to feel Very Important™. Of course, Very Important™ Movies often feel very stodgy and lifeless, more notable for the well-intentioned people behind the project as well as the subject matter than for being lively and as vital as the subject matter itself.

Steven Spielberg’s The Post has the unique benefit of not only being Very Important™ but also feeling exciting and urgent, a reflection and refraction of our current state that is at once damning and thrilling. It’s also pleasingly familiar, as Spielberg is once again working with Tom Hanks, his go-to acting collaborator when depicting intense periods of 20th-century American history, though in a fresh, somewhat overdue new context.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 80th Anniversary

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out 80 years ago today, so let’s reflect on that.)

Many of the best stories from the Walt Disney Company revolve around a seemingly impossible gamble. (The same goes for newer, less exciting stories, like Disney buying Fox, as well.) It was a major gamble for Walt Disney to create a theme park that was both inspired by some of his films as well as a general sense of adventure, optimism, and futurism. But Disneyland Park has been a massive success for over 60 years, leading to other theme parks and resorts around the world. It was a major gamble for the Walt Disney Company to distribute a fully computer-animated film at a time when such technology was primarily used for brief effects in blockbusters or in TV commercials. But Toy Story was a huge success for Disney, and Pixar has become one of the most influential studios in Hollywood. The original gamble, famously known as Disney’s Folly, was in the same ballpark as Toy Story, yet even more daring at the time: making a feature-length hand-drawn animated film.

Today marks the 80th anniversary of that folly. Some of the oft-considered great films in American cinema did not initially get a warm reception from critics and audiences; movies like Citizen Kane and Vertigo only grew in prominence over time as opposed to being championed by the consensus upon their initial release. But Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has ridden a wave of love almost from the moment it premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, California on December 21, 1937. It is arguably one of the five or six most influential films ever made — though it is not the first animated feature released anywhere in the world, it’s the first American-made animated feature — and was immediately praised as one of the greatest films ever by filmmakers and icons like Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin. But what is the true mark of the influence that Snow White left behind? The state of animation is vastly different now than it was 80 years ago, in ways that are so tangled as to barely see Snow White’s cinematic footprint as being present.

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