Shaun The Sheep Movie
The mischievous Aardman Animation creation goes on a big-city adventure in his first movie, when “the Farmer, a caravan, and a very steep hill” sends poor Shaun and his flock careening toward the Big City, leaving them to figure out how to get back to the farm.
Though the Shaun The Sheep character first appeared as a new tenant in the 1995 Wallace & Gromit short “A Close Shave,” very young viewers know him as the mischievous star of a popular British spin-off series—which itself was spun off into Timmy Time, a wordless series for the very, very young. For grown-up Aardman fans, the Shaun The Sheep series has been an effective tool for indoctrination into quality stop-motion comedy. Perhaps the film will be, too.
The Shaun The Sheep Movie has been released in the U.K. and Australia to positive reviews—currently riding 100 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes—but the praise has been a little guarded. A typical reservation comes from MaryAnn Johanson, who calls it “charming in that gloriously detailed Aardman way, but with its simple slapstick humor, it’s strictly for the littlest tykes.” Mark Kermode offers the most British remarks on the film, saying he “could feel it scrubbing my soul clean like a cinematic pumice stone.”
Kids (and adults) are used to seeing Shaun in seven-minute bursts, so the pressing question is whether stretching his adventures to 85 minutes can be tolerable. But few thought Paddington had any chance of being a real movie, and it’s still the best children’s film released in 2015.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.2
Unsurprisingly, most of the staff ratings divided sharply along parent vs. non-parent lines, with the kid-having staff averaging in the high 8s and the non-kid-having staff hovering more in the 3s. Clearly we should have let the actual kids vote on this one.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Hey, is there a fondly (albeit vaguely) remembered spy show from the 1960s that hasn’t been turned into a movie yet? Mission: Impossible? Nope, it’s now on its fourth sequel. I Spy? Nope, it was turned into a comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. The Avengers? The Saint? Get Smart? Nope, nope, and nope. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? There’s one, but it’s not for a lack of trying. There’s been talk about a Man From U.N.C.L.E. adaptation since the 1990s, when Quentin Tarantino was briefly attached to the project. And we almost got a big-screen version of the James Bond-inspired top-secret adventures of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin—spies from opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, forced to join forces for the greater good—a few years ago from Steven Soderbergh, possibly starring George Clooney. Now the film, which is set in the 1960s like the show that inspired it, is finally reaching the big screen.
But instead of Soderbergh behind the camera, it’s Guy Ritchie. And instead of George Clooney (or Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, or Michael Fassbender, or any of the other actors who’ve floated in and out of the project over the years), it’s Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. None of those are necessarily red flags. Cavill and Hammer are both still proving themselves as leads, so this might be a good opportunity to show a bit more personality than they got to show in Man Of Steel and The Lone Ranger, respectively.
Nothing yet. The trailer makes the film look like it’s going to be backed with nifty old analog gadgets, classic cars, and cool clothes. Is there a movie underneath all that? TBD.
Which Guy Ritchie will show up? Whatever you think of Ritchie’s lads-with-attitudes movies, he did fine by Sherlock Holmes in his 2009 take on the character, using modern stylistic tricks to get inside the mind of the master detective. But the 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, was kind of a dud, in part because Ritchie went overboard, bringing back the same tricks and piling on a bunch of showy new effects that did little to enhance the story. Can he get the balance right this time?
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.0
Another case of “Two possible directions, staff standing on the fence, waiting to see which way to jump.” But no worries, it’s pretty cozy up here on the fence.
Straight Outta Compton
Born of the fire and chaos of a Los Angeles reeling from Reagan and the War On Drugs, rap group N.W.A. shoved gangsta rap into the cultural mainstream. The group’s incendiary, violent lyrics ruffled feathers with self-appointed moral guardians across the country, and with the LAPD, whose members suspected that the single “Fuck Tha Police” might have been referring to them. This biopic chronicles the group’s rise to stardom and the challenges they faced along the way.
Hip-hop is all about keeping it real, and Straight Outta Compton is as real as they come. How’s this for street cred?: A commercial shoot for the film was interrupted by a drive-by involving Suge Knight. For added authenticity, Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. will portray his father, and director F. Gary Gray has worked with Cube on numerous past projects, including the classic “It Was A Good Day” video. Keith Stanfield, so riveting in Short Term 12, also appears as Snoop Dogg.
The trailer is a mixed dimebag of paint-by-numbers biopic clichés and electrifying footage of racially charged radicalism. We could do without the pregnant footage of a young Ice Cube pondering society’s resistance to that which they could never understand, or stunned recording-booth realizations to the effect of, “Wow, we might really have something special here.” Even so, seeing re-creations of N.W.A.-stoked riots could be tremendously affecting.
The music. N.W.A.’s all-killer, no-filler classic Straight Outta Compton hasn’t aged a day. In a time when murderers in blue dominate the news cycle, the soundtrack to Gray’s biopic could mitigate a slight-to-chronic (ahem) case of biopicitis.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.8
N.W.A. court is about to be in full effect, Judge Dre presiding.