Tag Archives: Tom Hiddleston

Interview: Nick Park talks Aardman stop-motion comedy ‘Early Man’

For a movie about cavemen, the new Aardman Animations stop-motion animation feature “Early Man” is, ironically, quite evolved. In technical terms, it’s a far cry from writer-director Nick Park’s early “Wallace & Gromit” shorts from the late 1980s and 1990s, when Park himself shot the stories on film and even had a big hand, so to speak, in making the characters move.

And while digital technology has eased the burden of the ever-so-precise medium of stop-motion filmmaking, Park found himself taking a step backward to create the opening scene of “Early Man.” Beginning in prehistoric times, the opening scene is a tribute to stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen that features dinosaurs appropriately named Ray and Harry.

“The whole movie was shot with digital cameras, so it looked immaculate when we shot the whole dinosaur sequence,” Park said in a recent phone conversation from San Francisco. “The sad thing is, we had to distress the footage to make it look like film shot in 1970. So, ironically, we had to put digital dust and grain on the scene and had to make the colors look a bit more like slightly old Technicolor. It seemed criminal to do that since the scene looked so wonderful at the beginning, but that’s what we needed to do to make it look like a Ray Harryhausen movie.”

“Early Man” tells the story of Dug (voice of Eddie Redmayne), who along with his pet warthog Hognob (Park) and tribe, have their primitive existence interrupted by progress, as the villainous Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and his minions from the Bronze Age City begin to expand his kingdom into the forest. Before he can do so, though, Dug lays down a challenge: If he and his tribe can defeat the Bronze Age City’s formidable soccer club in a match, Nooth must let his primitive neighbors live in peace. The problem is, Dug and company don’t know a thing about soccer, even though his ancestors by happenstance invented the sport.

Dug (voice of Eddie Redmayne) and Hognob (Nick Park) in 'Early Man' (photo Lionsgate

Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Early Man” also stars Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”) as the voice of Goona, a spunky citizen of the Bronze Age City who helps Dug’s tribe find their full potential as soccer players.

Given the lighter tone of previous Aardman hits like “Chicken Run,” the Wallace & Gromit adventure “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” and “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” Park, who has won four Oscars for his stop-motion work, knew he had a great way in to lightening the proceedings of “Early Man.” The story is inspired by the beloved worldwide sport of soccer — better known as football outside of the U.S.

“It just struck me as idea — I’m always waiting for the ‘lighting strikes’ ideas that make me stand up and want to make me make the film,” Park said. “I didn’t want to just make a caveman epic. It had to have some sort of different, off-the-wall idea that makes it a bit quirky and a bit Aardman. That’s when I had the idea of, ‘What if cavemen played sports?’ Then I began to think that maybe playing sports was a way of civilizing insolence. If you think about it, it’s true that primitive aggression is channeled into the tribalism that surrounds a sport like soccer.”

Of course, the aggression we see in the family-friendly “Early Man” is very playful and done in a comedic sort of way, which is a hallmark of every Aardman Animations production to date. Rooted in cheeky British humor, Aardman’s films separate themselves from other stop-motion works not only in tone, but in style, given that the characters are molded from clay (hence the reason the company’s films are often referred to as “claymation”).

“Why I love stop-motion with clay, is that it’s done in this sort of style that has kind of humor and charm that comes with it,” Park said.

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And if Aardman keeps that sense of humor and charm that separates itself from most movies, Park is confident that the art of stop-motion will endure, despite ever-burgeoning technological advancements in the field of computer-generated animation.

“I remember 20, 30 years ago with the rise of CGI, we would think, ‘How many days do we have left?'” Park said. “But today, there’s a great flourishing of stop-motion, still, with studios out there like Laika, and filmmakers like Tim Burton and Wes Anderson — who is getting ready to release another stop-motion film — it’s incredible. As for Aardman, I know our style stands out against all those CG films, and there are some great CG films out there.”

Tim Lammers reviews movies weekly for The KQ92 Morning Show,” “KARE 11 News at 11” (NBC), “The Tom Barnard Podcast” and “The BS Show” with Bob Sansevere.

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Movie review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is (Hulk) smashing great time

VIDEO: See Tim’s review of the film with Adrienne Broaddus on KARE-TV (NBC Minneapolis).

Chris Hemsworth is back and funnier than ever as the God of Thunder in “Thor: Ragnarok,” an action comedy-style adventure that diverts from the path established by the first two “Thor” movies and as a result, thrives through the kaleidoscopic vision of director Taika Waititi.

The film doesn’t waste any time raising the stakes for Thor, who learns while in the capture of the fiery demon Surtur (voice of Clancy Brown) that his home planet of Asgard is facing Ragnarok – the end of days – which he thinks he puts a temporary stop to.

That all changes, though, when his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) warns Thor and his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) that Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) has broken out of her imprisoned existence and is coming to Asgard to wreak havoc. In their first attempt to stop her, both Thor and Loki are cast off to the junk planet of Sakaar, where its savvy ruler Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) features Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in gladiator-style battles to entertain the planet’s inhabitants.

But with his powers restricted after being captured by the bounty hunter, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor must first find a way to convince Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to revert to Bruce Banner to escape from Grandmaster’s clutches to get back to Asgard to face off against Hela, whose powers are growing stronger by the minute.

While the first two Thor films weren’t overly serious, “Thor: Ragnarok” establishes almost from its opening frames that it will be marching to the beat of a different – and very funny – drummer. Yes, serious things do happen in the film, but through Waititi’s lighthearted approach, we’re treated to a fast-moving, neon-infused adventure romp that’s loaded with action, colorful costumes and sets, and hilarious dialogue created largely through the improv skills of the gifted ensemble cast.

All told, Waititi injects a burst of energy that’s so welcome in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And while the previous films in the MCU were hardly lacking, it’s exciting to see a filmmaker take risks and break free from the studio’s other offerings and establish its own identity. While some sequels face the danger of falling into a trap and becoming formulaic with each passing film, that’s never the case with “Thor: Ragnarok.” It’s a (Hulk) smashing great time.

Lammometer: 9 (out of 10)

AUDIO: Hear Tim’s review of “Thor: Ragnarok” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ Morning Show.”

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