The Morning After: Nov. 30, 2015

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:


John Crowley’s beautiful film paints a gorgeous portrait of a young Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) as she struggles to find her place in Brooklyn, New York far from the only home and family she’s ever known. It isn’t until she meets and falls in love with the awkward and exuberant young Italian boy (Emory Cohen) that she begins to grow and ease into her new life of passion and independence.

Ronan is astonishing in a quiet, subtle performance that effortlessly conveys Eilis’ fears, sorrows and excitement with gentle facial expressions and demeanor changes suggesting a woman growing older and wiser without growing duller. Her lustrous portrayal is a study in grace and charm, elegant without fault.

Giving her just enough space to grow as a character Cohen is energetic, exciting and charismatic, conveying the simple joys of young love. His ebullient, almost excessive cheerfulness is infectious, giving the audience an easy road to loving him the way that Eilis does. He is a compelling presence, surpassed only by Ronan’s elegance.

Shaun the Sheep Movie

Masters of visual storytelling, Aardman animation bring their latest marvel to the big screen in an adaptation of the ongoing British stop-motion animated series Shaun the Sheep. In this film, Shaun and his fellow sheep want little more than a break from the mundanity of daily existence and trick the farmer into falling asleep. When the trailer in which he rests is accidentally knocked free, Shaun and company must venture into the big city and locate their master and friend before he gets himself in trouble.

Aardman has done such great work with the likes of Wallace and Gromit and their Oscar-winning short films dealing with various creatures that it’s easy to forget that even great studios can put out weak efforts. Shaun the Sheep Movie isn’t a bad movie, it’s quite engaging in places, but the premise is drawn thin and complicated by a dialogue-free running time. While this might make it easier to market in other territories, it puts up an unfortunate stumbling block to audience enjoyment.

That said, it also allows Aardman to do what it excels at, telling its stories without of visual flair, puns and nuance, conveying many emotions with little more than a melodic underscore or a simple facial expression. Its in these moments that Shaun shines. Unfortunately, the plot is light, the depth of the story is sometimes superficial and the jokes aren’t nearly as funny as they deserved to be.

The Good Dinosaur

Speaking of studios that have shown they aren’t above making underwhelming films, Pixar has released the latest in a long string of disappointing features. While they redeemed themselves recently with both Inside Out and Toy Story 3, the likes of Cars 2 and now The Good Dinosaur dull their reputation for perpetually consistent entertainment value.

The Good Dinosaur unveils a simple, cliche-riddled plot that unsuccessfully leverages western tropes into an emotionally relevant, but narratively vacant film. When the youngest child of a family of farming dinosaurs is washed down stream while trying to kill a feral human boy, the two bitter enemies must work together to find their way home. Along the way, they are faced with challenges from various potentially villainous dinosaurs and only through sheer grit, determination and a hell of a lot of luck, they successfully navigate the wilderness towards home while quickly becoming something more akin to family along the way.

While most Pixar films unveil frequent surprises that take the premise in new and inventive directions, each turn of the plot is predictable and many are entirely unrewarding. Pixar still knows how to sell an emotion and this film has a handful of moments where the audience is expected to dab their eyes with tissues, those moments mostly feel calculated and not organic as their past efforts have been. That doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that will touch your heart and sadden your soul, but these come almost in spite of their delivery rather than because of it.

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