Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Directed by
Will Becher, Richard Phelan
Written by John Brown, story by Mark Burton and Nick Park
IMDB Entry
Given the current situation, I’m always looking for light, funny fare to fill the days. I’ve also written several times about various films from Aardman Animations. So I was delighted to find an Aardman film that I had overlooked:  A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.

This is the third time Shaun has appeared in films, starting out with the Wallace and Gromit classic, A Close Shave.* There also was the Shaun the Sheep Movie plus a series of TV cartoons. Shaun is a smart sheep,** who leads both the flock and also – in the background – everything on the farm. All of his appearances have no dialog. Characters speak in very expressive sounds, but no words. All is told by action, much like a silent film.

In the movie, a UFO lands near the village of Mossingham with a little rabbit-like alien in it. Shaun discovers him and helps him out, learning the alien has levitation powers with his long ears. After the alien, dubbed Lu-La, inadvertently creates crop circles, the Farmer decides to cash in by creating a theme park, Farmageddon, to raise money for a new harvester. Meanwhile, Shaun discovers Lu-La is only a child and wants to go back to his parents, while the Ministry of Alien Detection (M.A.D.) is hunting her down.

The movie is a delight a slapstick and visual humor, especially the final sequence where events at Farmageddon become far more alien than even the Farmer imagines.

Part of the fun are references to SF movies and TV shows.  Doctor Who is there in many ways (of course, including a Dalek), and the alert viewer can see references to Close Encounters, the X-Files, Hitchhiker's Guide, 2001, Star Trek, and many others. But these are just icing on the cake: the film itself is wonderfully funny and the expressions of the sheep, the dog Bitzer, and the fantastically oblivious farmer would make it a great film even without those.

For animation fans, it’s a pleasant way to find something to laugh about.
**His name is a delightful pun. After the unnamed sheep has all his wool cut off, Wallace decides to call him Shaun.
**The most dangerous of all animals.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

I Am Not Okay with This (TV)

I Am Not OK with This(2020 – ??)
Created by Jonathan Entwistle, Christie Hall
Starring Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Sofia Bryant, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Richard Ellis, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong
IMDB Entry

In my old age, I find myself watching more teen dramas and comedies.* Maybe it’s because my teenage years were not particularly dramatic. When someone recommended I Am Not OK with This, I decided to give it a shot.

The main character is Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis), teen who is dealing with a complicated life. Her father has committed suicide without leaving a note, and her mother (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is trying to support Sydney and her brother Liam (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong), making her absent most of the day. Sydney’s only close friend is Dina (Sofia Bryant), who does make her life bearable, but Dina is moving away from her in order to date Brad Lewis (Richard Ellis), not noticing what a major jerk he is.

In among all this drama, there’s another twist:  Sydney is developing a superpower.

When she loses her temper due to frustration – a common occurrence – she shows telekinesis, destroying things around her.  Her nerdy neighbor Stanley Barber discovers her secret and works with her to try to control things. But – as the very first shot of the show indicates – things don’t go well.

Sophia Lillis is terrific as Sydney, who’s confused and conflicted and unsure about everything around her. She had a very subdued and cynical personality that’s perfect to portray her troubles. Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley tries hard to be helpful, but really doesn’t understand, while Sofia Bryant** portrays Dina as the one sunny thing in Sydney’s life. And Richard Ellis is terrific as the sleazy Brad, who is able to switch from charming to psychotic at the drop of a hat.

The show only ran seven episodes on Netflix and ended on a major cliffhanger. Hopefully, it will continue so we we can see more of Sydney and what is really going on with her.  But any show that uses a song from Captain Beefheart on the soundtrack is something worth paying attention to.
*For instance, Sex Education
**I wonder if there’s confusion on the set with two main leads with the same name. There was also a recurring role for Sophia Tatum.