Posted in Reviews

Onward (2020)

Pixar has long been a master of ‘what if?’ worldbuilding. But with Onward the beloved animation studio has come up with its neatest high concept yet: a fantastical planet populated by elves, fauns, centaurs and goblins, who centuries earlier discovered that science offered a much easier and more reliable way to make the realm turn than spellcasting, and modernised itself into a world much like ours today, where the magic has faded.

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The Call of the Wild

They do make ’em like they used to

When Jack London’s adventure novel The Call of the Wild was first published in 1903, a month after its serialisation in The Saturday Evening Post, it became an instant classic. And no wonder – London’s story about Buck, a dog stolen from his well-to-do home and sold into servitude as a sled dog in Canada’s frozen Yukon territory in the 1890s, was based on London’s own year in the region during the gold rush. Yet its authenticity was only part of its charm; it was also a vividly told adventure yarn about the triumph of the canine spirit, and an early example of a form of literature told from an animal’s point of view. The first of many film adaptations arrived in 1923, and now, nearly a century later (with many other versions in between), here’s a brand new film based on London’s legendary novel – and what a cracking movie it is.

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Noelle (2019)

Disney+ has finally arrived in some parts of the world (the service launches in the Uk and Ireland on 31 March 2020), unleashing a slew of original content to complement their popular, perennial classics. Star Wars fans have plenty to look forward to with weekly episodes of The Mandalorian, and kids who love Toy Story can dig into the cute “Forky Asks a Question” shorts.

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Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

Guest reviewer Ahlia Eden-Calcott (age 13) writes…

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Dora the Explorer, Nickelodeon’s cartoon for preschoolers, and maybe you loved it, like I did, when you were younger, but now it seems silly. Now there’s a new live-action movie that brings Dora into an exciting adventure that older kids and even grown ups will love.

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A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)

Shear Entertainment

In the 30 years – 30 years! – since A Grand Day Out, Wallace and Gromit’s first adventure, Aardman Animations has produced some of the most beloved stop-motion movies, including Chicken Run (2000), Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) and Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015), the latter based on their hit CBBC series about a mischievous young sheep and his farmyard pals – though ‘Shaun’ himself first appeared in the Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave, in 1995. Now, Shaun is back in A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, and it really is out of this world.

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The Addams Family (2019)

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, The Addams family.” Now, after their several television series (of which the 1960s version is the most iconic) and some live action films in the 1990s (the first two released in cinemas), the deliciously macabre family – Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch and Cousin It –are back on the big screen in their first animated feature film, with directors Greg Tiernan (Thomas & Friends) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens) demonstrating a clear love for the original character design in Charles Addams’ 1950s New Yorker cartoons.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

In a movie realm dominated by endless remakes, reboots and retellings of familiar fairy tales and folk stories, Disney’s Maleficent (2014) set out to do something different by focusing on the ‘villain’ of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, subject of Disney’s own 1959 animated classic, sidelining Aurora (Elle Fanning) and focusing on the evil antagonist, played by Angelina Jolie. This break with tradition set Maleficent apart, adding some intrigue and appeal that recent cookie-cutter Disney remakes have lacked. Unlike, say, Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, audiences didn’t know what to expect from this alternative take on the nearly 400-year-old tale of Sleeping Beauty, which was particularly welcome as even Disney’s 1959 version is a fairly plotless, predictable fairy tale in need of a refresh. Now, in the original Sleeping Beauty‘s diamond jubilee year, Maleficent is back in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which once again focuses on the villain of the piece, despite her – spoiler alert – redemption at the end of Maleficent.

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Daphne & Velma (2019)

Scooby-Doo, where ARE you?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Scooby-Doo – the first episode of Hanna-Barbera’s spooky cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was aired in 1969 – and the past five decades have seen countless iterations of the Scooby gang’s adventures, including multiple animated shows, direct-to-video animated movies – some under the Lego label – and several live action movies, including two (2002’s Scooby-Doo and 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed) that found their way into cinemas. They’ve met the rock band KISS!, had not one but two adventures with Batman, introduced a new character – Scooby-Doo’s fearless cousin, Scrappy Doo – who did for Scooby-Doo what Poochie did for Itchy and Scratchy, and solved more mysteries than Jessica Fletcher and Mrs Marple put together. But their strangest screen incarnation yet may be the direct-to-video feature film Daphne & Velma, in which the female half of the Scooby gang get their very own live action movie. And as if taking a sisters-doing-it-for-themselves approach wasn’t ‘woke’ enough for 2019, Daphne is played by a mixed-race actress (Sarah Jeffery), making her the first person of colour to be part of the Scooby gang. Right on, Scoob!

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UglyDolls (2019)

The history of films based on toys has been a varied one. Part of Toy Story‘s genius was its inclusion of many real-life toy brands, the Transformers franchise has grossed billions of dollars for Paramount Pictures, and The Lego Movie managed the twin feats of critical and commercial success. (The less said about Playmobil® The Movie, the better – although this website’s epic takedown of the film is worth a read.)

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