Robot Chicken: Star Wars – 7/10

Reboot Chicken? Nope business as usual…

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It may have been tempting for Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich to make something a bit more linear for the new audience these Star Wars specials were likely to attract. Instead of being more focused however, the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials continue the animated sketch show format and the zany humour. Unfortunately the hit and miss nature of Robot Chicken remains as well.

That being said the Star Wars specials are probably Robot Chicken‘s finest hour. It has always been a niche show so it is no surprise that they chose to shine a light on some of Star Wars more minor but still beloved cast members.

The main recurring characters here are Admiral Ackbar, Boba Fett and Emperor Palpatine and nearly every sketch involving that trio lands. A lot of the other stuff is forgettable but the musical numbers surprisingly work really well in a show that has had mixed levels of success in that area.

Robot Chicken has always been a bit of an acquired taste but there is no doubt they are passionate and knowledgeable about all areas of pop culture and it is this warmth for the subject matter that makes the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials a success.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – 7/10

How to make a solid sequel…

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The first How To Train Your Dragon movie was not only a huge commercial success but also a hit with the critics as well (It currently sits at #150 in the IMDB top 250 films of all time after receiving two Oscar nominations).

When making a sequel however Dreamworks had every reason to be wary after rival studio Pixar put out the disappointing Cars 2 and the patchy Monsters University. Luckily Dreamworks made a number of solid decisions with How To Train Your Dragon 2. Keeping the original cast and director on board was important and bringing in Cate Blanchett and Kit ‘you know nothing’ Harrington didn’t hurt either. Secondly the decision to make this second instalment the second part of a trilogy gives director Dean DeBlois breathing space to expand the characters and the world that they
live in.

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The main obstacle then in the face of cautious optimism was the general premise. Baring in mind the dragon training promised in the title was delivered in the first film, it was vitally important that the sequel was not a retread of the first story. This is mostly done successfully with the introduction of a couple of key characters as well as vital plot points ensuring that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is not just a stepping stone to the final film in the trilogy but an enjoyable spectacle in its own right.

Dreamworks will always be viewed as inferior to Pixar but they have still put out some of the most beloved animated films of all time and How To Train Your Dragon 2 sits nicely amongst the Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar franchises.

How To Train Your Dragon – 8.5/10.

Dreamworks jewel in the crown.

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Despite enjoying huge commercial success with the Shrek and Madagascar franchises plus box office hits like Monsters vs. Aliens, Dreamworks animation still has to hide their envious glances towards Pixar as they have have tied massive profits with universal critical acclaim and adoration.

While Shrek is a decent film and there have been a couple of others on the Dreamworks roster that I have enjoyed, How To Train Your Dragon is the first film that I have loved as much as some of Pixar’s output. In Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig and Christopher ‘McLovin’ Mintz-Plasse director Dean DeBlois has assembled some of the finest comic actors currently working today with Gerard Butler adding his gruff, more dramatic voice to sweeten the pot.

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The beauty of Pixar is the emotional attachment they make you feel about futuristic robots or lost clownfish and I can safely say I was with Toothless the dragon all the way through this movie and it’s hard not to root for any character played by Baruchel.

Dreamworks output before and after How To Train Your Dragon has been patchy and inconsistent but this is a film to rival anything that either Disney or Pixar have released. Don’t wait five years to see it like I did.

IMDB TOP 250 #150

Rejected – 8/10

Madness… in every direction.

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Rejected was nominated for best animated short film at the Oscars back in 2000 and it really is a minor work of genius. Equal parts surreal, harrowing and hilarious, Rejected is a series of short cartoons by Don Hertzfeldt that were rejected by various organizations (for obvious reasons). The first five minutes give you a taster of Hertzfeldt’s style but it is the closing five minutes that are really imaginative and set this apart from all the other surreal animated shorts out there. Well worth ten minutes of your time.

Frozen – 3/10

Erm… I have no idea how to describe this plot… Disney on ice?

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There is nothing inherently wrong with Frozen. It ticks all the boxes for a Disney film. A princess, a villain, mild peril, (endless) singing, some cute little creatures (coming to a toy store near you) etc etc. The problem is there is nothing great about it either.

Frozen for me felt like Disney by numbers, no different to countless other films churned out by the famous rodent based company.

Frozen is absolutely a kids film. I don’t want to keep banging this drum but whilst Pixar are producing films that appeal equally to kids and adults, Disney are still making flat out kids movies. That is not really a criticism as surely that is what Disney is for but Pixar has shown there is a lot more to offer than lowest common denominator stuff. But I guess from Disney’s point of view If ain’t broke…

Frozen is probably a decent children’s movie but it is a distinctly average movie in general. Highest grossing animated movie of all time though. Go figure.

Brave – 7/10

Scottish princess rebels against her imminent betrothal with un-bear-able consequences.

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At this point Pixar had just completely stopped giving a fuck about making appealing movies:

‘Unpronounceable movie about a rat becoming a chef in France’

‘Robots fall in love, barely any dialogue for the first twenty minutes’
and now:

‘Film about a country where the people have accents nobody understands, ridiculous and mental plot twist half way through, no recognizable stars’

Fuck you, we are Pixar, we do what we want.

Unfortunately Brave isn’t the unmitigated success that Ratatouille and WALL•E are. That is not to say that it isn’t beautiful in places and actually surprisingly touching throughout (especially the ending *sobs*) and anything involving the marvellous Kelly Macdonald gets my approval.

It remains to be seen whether Cars 2 and Brave are just a dip or the bursting of the bubble at Pixar but there is no doubting they don’t live up to previous releases. When there is still so much humour, fun and imagination on show however, does it really matter? Rob loves Pixar 4 eva.