It’s a Plunderful Life indeed! The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a fun adventure

I love Aardman Animation Studio!  Wallace and Gromit? Classic.  Chicken Run? Hilarious.  So, I was understandably excited about this film and happily, it did not disappoint.  The Pirates! Band of Misfits is an intelligent, quirky story that will engage kids and yet, keep the adults entertained.  The humor may be very British and not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s funny at some level for everybody.

Stop action claymation is an amazing art form and does not get enough attention, in my opinion.  This is the company’s first 3-D feature and it’s cool.  Co-founder/Producer/Director Peter Lord is back behind the camera (Chicken Run) and is joined by former Aardman animator Jeff Newitt.  Lord has a great sense of timing and storytelling.  There is so much to see that you have to watch it more than once to catch-all the fine details–posters, store fronts, and lots of background gems.

The film is based on the first two books from Gideon Defoe‘s The Pirates! series and Defoe wrote the screenplay.  Honestly, that does explain why it is not as hilarious as the earlier films (writing duo of Peter Lord and Nick Park outshines most though), but it is still extremely enjoyable with plenty of laugh out loud moments.  What’s even cooler is how much depth they’re able to incorporate into these animated characters and how many touching moments there turn out to be.

The voice cast is awesome!  Hugh Grant is unrecognizable as Pirate Captain and perfect.  Martin Freeman is the First Mate and again proves he has incredible comedic timing.  David Tennant is Charles Darwin and delivers some great lines.  And Imelda Staunton‘s Queen Victoria is fantastic.  The whole crew is great!

Yes…yes…you can tell I loved it.  Go out and support this wonderful art form and have a few laughs while you’re at it.   And as one of the pirates says, ” This turned out to be one of our most unexpectedly heart warming adventures yet!”  INDEED!

Edgar Allan Poe as the lead in a Gothic thriller? Sounds good, right? Wrong.

What could have been a creative, unique twist to the common thriller ends up being a typical, predictable and uneven movie.  The Raven fails to impress on every level and just recycles tired themes and plot beats.  There was nothing original in this story except for the use the name of Edgar Allan Poe.

Seems like director James McTeigue is unable to recapture the magic of V for Vendetta and although he is a capable director and there are solid sequences, overall The Raven feels…lackluster.  Also, John Cusack‘s usual charm is lost here.  We have seen this anti-hero before and Cusack plays Poe pretty straight forward and kind of dull.  Wasn’t he suppose to be this mad genius?  The supporting cast is promising on paper, but everyone is just dialing in a performance.

That pretty much sums up all the aspects of this film.  We have seen this premise before.  We seen this gore before (Saw anyone?).  We have seen this villain before.  And it has all been done better before.

The blame must be placed on the screenwriters, Ben Livingston and  Hannah Shakespeare.  Sure, they’re both young, inexperienced writers but still…they should know better.  But, let us remember this is Hollywood.  The land of remakes and recycled ideas.  I can imagine the pitch–“Okay. It’s a period piece. You have a grisly serial killer.  But…get this…the hero is Edgar Allan Poe!!”  Answer?  SOLD!

Alas.  I just hope that Poe’s warning in The Raven does not come to pass…how sad would it be if originality is “Nevermore.”