Song of The Sea Review

I reviewed Song of the Sea for my column on the theology website Think Theology.

The first thing you’ll notice about Song of the Sea is just how beautiful it looks. Dispel in your mind the idea that animation is about making something photo-realistic or slick, the kind you might see in a Pixar film. This is highly stylised, hand-drawn animation, where every frame is carefully thought out and intricately painted. Moore isn’t that interested in showing literal renditions of life, but capturing a feeling through the symmetry or shapes of the image. Sometimes the imagery is abstract, such as a trip underwater that looks like a modernist painting; at other times it looks like an old Celtic knot, where lines are woven together to create frames within frames.

Shaun the Sheep Review

I reviewed Shaun the Sheep for

Is there an institution more British than Aardman? The royalty doesn’t quite claim that title, because the claymation studio responsible for Wallace and Gromit has a much broader appeal, delighting people of every generation and class, and somehow representing them as well, in a strange kind of way. Their latest hero, Shaun, was a secondary character in A Close Shave, but was so beloved that he ended up with his own popular TV show – itself spawning Timmy Time, for the younger kids. Shaun the Sheep the Movie is a spin-off from their flagship series. This isn’t a cynical cash-in, though, as there isn’t a cynical bone in the studio’s body. Aardman has a sunny outlook, the sharpest of wits and a genial, affable nature that feels a little like drinking a cup of tea while watching reruns of Porridge.

Big Hero 6 Review

I reviewed Big Hero 6 for streaming reviews site

Disney is a studio with a reputation for princesses and castles, fairy tales of the most traditional nature. This is, of course, deeply unfair. Of its 52 animated classics, only 11 of them feature canonical Disney Princesses. The studio seems to have forgotten, with good reason, about Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Black Cauldron, both of which feature royal women, too. It’s not all about wisp-waisted waifs for the House of Mouse, and a large amount of its canon is made up of films that have nothing to do with them. For every Beauty and the Beast, there is a Lion King. Currently, the studio seems to be alternating between Princess and non, thus: Tangled to Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen to their latest, Big Hero 6.

Belle Review

I reviewed Belle for VODzilla

Black women are just one group in society whose stories are not being told in cinema, whose perspectives are largely ignored. Think of the black actresses who get leading roles in widely released films and the chances are you can name them all without too much of a problem. One person that should be added to that depressingly short list is Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the brilliant leading lady in Belle. The film follows Dido Belle, a mixed race woman who is adopted by her noble grandparents, and how she tries to work out her place in a society that doesn’t know where she fits. It proves these are stories that deserve to be told and that we can break the cultural homogeneity of genres traditionally dominated by white people – such as the Austen-esque period romance – if we just thought a little more about diversity.

Cinderella Review

I reviewed Disney’s live action version of Cinderella for my column at Think Theology

Amongst my favourite films of last year, I listed some fairly heavyweight films such asLeviathan, a weighty treatise on the church and state in Putin’s Russia, and 12 Years A Slave, a serious, meticulously made film that similarly avoided cheap sentimentality in favour of meaty drama with complex themes. I love films that demand a lot from its audience, that use the art form to explore profound questions about human nature and our role here on earth.

Then, sometimes, I love films like Cinderella.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I wrote about The Tale of Princess Kaguya for Product Magazine

Last year, Studio Ghibli revealed that they didn’t know what was next for them, with rumours of closure thrown around but never confirmed. Hayao Miyazaki, their most famous figure, retired from feature film making and the studio suggested they were wrapping up production, with nothing else in the pipeline. Two films were left to release from their catalogue before a foggy future awaited, the as yet unreleased When Marnie Was There, and this, the possible last film of co-founder Isao Takahata. There’s a sense of wistfulness, of the passing of time and of the new invading the old that runs throughout The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a lament that good things must come to an end, and so Takata’s masterful animation is shot through with melancholic undertones for those who follow the fate of the studio.

Selma Review

I reviewed Selma for my Think Theology column on films and faith

Selma contains two things that often compromise a good story: an important message and a well known true story. Biopics and polemics equally detract from compelling storytelling, because in both you go in feeling like you already know what’s going to be said. What is remarkable about Selma, therefore, is that while portraying one of the most famous figures of the 20th century, and while saying some incredibly important things, it still manages to be a film that grabs the audience and doesn’t let go, never forgetting that it is a work of cinema, not a sermon or documentary