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A few reviews

bionicbob

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ROBIN OF SHERWOOD (1984)
http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K2OAC5ISPI[/video]

Even after all these years, Robin of Sherwood, is still my DEFINITIVE VERSION of the Robin Hood legend.  And I am happy to say the series still stands up exceedingly well after all these decades.   The acting has a bigger than life stage quality, but that sort of adds to it's world.   

The show cleverly taps into the various different legends of Robin Hood origins when the lead actor departed the show and was replaced by a new actor in season three.   
The show has also had a tremendous influence on future Robin Hood productions.  As the series created a Muslim character as part of Robin's Merry Men, which as since been copied by other productions like Kevin Costner's version and the newest upcoming release with Jaime Fox.
Needless to say, I love this show and recommend it to everyone. 
Yesterday, I bought the latest release version and was exceptionally disappointed by it.  
Here is the review I posted on Amazon:

This is a review of the most recent release version ( October 2018) put out by a company called CINEDIGM.

This a bare bones release, no extras of any kind, of the complete Robin of Sherwood series, which I knew ahead of time and did not mind since the pricing seemed very reasonable.

What is not reasonable is the horrible video quality! The compression is terrible, the video is loaded with noise. At times the video is out of focus. There is also a very obvious frame rate issue in many/most of the episodes... a slight jitter to the motion... as though the company did not convert the video properly from PAL to NTSC, as this is a Region One release.

This looks worst than if they simply transferred badly encoded VHS to DVD.

Also the dvd cover art is ugly, made up of dull desaturated pics... Not capturing the vibrance of the original series in any fashion. This feels like a simple money grab to ride the back of interest from the newest Robin Hood movie hitting theatres this fall. There is no attention to quality in any respect.

I can not recommend this release version. Avoid it at all costs.

Do yourself a favour and seek out the DVD release by ACORN MEDIA from a few years back. It is superior in every way possible.
 

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I recently went on a 'Tron' binge:

'Tron' [1982] This is a film I keep coming back to every year or so, remembering what I like about it and forgetting what I don't. I feel so nostalgic about the FX that I forget that the story isn't that interesting. I don't recall if I saw it when it first came out, but I suspect I did as the graphics appear to be hot-wired into my brain. Visually, there's nothing like it, which is probably why I feel a need to return to it so often. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is inadvertently zapped into a computer whilst attempting to uncover a file that will prove he is the rightful creator of EnCom's wildly successful video games. Inside the program, he is forced to play games to the death and, you know... that's where I start to get distracted by the pretty colours and start to lose the plot, so to speak. But, whoa, light cycles are cool, right?

'Tron: Betrayal" comic This comic picks up after the events of the first film, setting up points for the sequel. Flynn becomes more distracted as CEO of EnCom, especially with the birth of his son, Sam, and the unexplained death of his wife. In a attempt to juggle both work and home, he creates CLU to run the Grid in his absence. We also witness the birth of the ISOs and the beginning of the resentment CLU feels against them and his Creator. It's an interesting bridge to the film's sequel, likening the story arc to that of Ancient Rome. Little attempt is made to make the characters look anything resembling those from the film, which is odd and distracting.

'Tron: Evolution' video game I watched one of those 'Full Movie' gameplay videos on YouTube. Plot-wise, it covers the continued rise of CLU and the purge of the ISOs. We're introduced to characters later to be seen in 'Legacy' - Quorra and Zuse - and of course there's a lot of disc/light cycle action. I don't have any of the consoles it was released on, but I probably would have enjoyed playing this if I did. Flynn and Quorra head into exile at game's end, segueing nicely into the next film.

'Tron: Legacy' [2010] Kevin Flynn remains missing in the Real World, still in exile in the Grid. His son, Sam, begrudgingly returns to his father's old office beneath Flynn's arcade and is zapped into the program and forced, like his father before him, into playing games to the death. It's not long before he discovers the truth about CLU, the ISOs and his father. There follows a race against time to return to the Real World with his father before CLU crosses over and begins a purge of imperfection on Earth. Visually, this is a much darker film - not so many pretty colours to distract me - yet still looks extraordinary. The blu-ray I watched includes many IMAX scenes, filling the screen (some may be put off by the changing AR; I'm OK with it). Jeff Bridges channels Lebowski, Michael Sheen deserves special mention for his Bowie-esque performance, but the uncanny valley of CLU/young Kevin Flynn took me out of the film too many times. 

'Tron: The Next Day' short film An included bonus on the blu-ray, this covers pre- and post-Legacy stuff in a part-pseudo-documentary style. Ostensibly, it's about a 'Flynn Lives' movement - hackers and activists intent on subverting EnCom's commercialism and reshaping it into the egalitarian principles of Kevin Flynn. It has more Bruce Boxleitner, if that's a selling point for you, and probably some cool Easter Eggs that I missed, but otherwise doesn't add much else.

I didn't rewatch 'Tron: Uprising' TV show this time, but remember liking it a few years back.
 

TM2YC

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^ I remember enjoying 'Tron: Legacy' quite a bit but haven't revisited it since the theatrical run. Maybe I should.

Steamboy (2004)
First time watching this follow up to 'Akira' in it's uncut version, in HD, with the original Japanese 5.1 language track. It's still not quite the equal to Katsuhiro Otomo's earlier film but all the Steam-Punk designs are gorgeous to behold. The lengths the filmmakers have gone to recreate Victorian Britain in every tiny detail is stunning, including the 1866 Crystal Palace Exhibition. Fans of 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' will be delighted with the similar blend of Victorian fact and fiction, Robert Stephenson (inventor of the early "Rocket" locomotive) and a young Scarlett O'Hara (from the movie 'Gone with the Wind') both play central roles. Comparing this now to the US Theatrical Version, I notice large chunks of character development were cut out early on. The closing credits feature a kind of "further adventures of Steamboy" montage, casting him as a Rocketeer-style superhero which I would love to see one day (will never happen).

 

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Narcos, Seasons 1-3 (2015-7)

Netflix-Narcos-Social-Marketing-Campaign-512x325.jpg


Crap like the Bayformers movies and The Great Wall have shown us the downsides of the globalization of the entertainment industry. With Narcos, however, we get something to celebrate: a truly cinematic, big-budget production that's bilingual and international to its core. (Indeed, one could argue that not enough of Narcos is in Spanish, and Netflix US also offers a prior, Columbian-made all-Spanish series for streaming.)

Seasons one and two spotlight Pablo Escobar (the brilliant Wagner Moura) and the DEA and Columbian officials hell-bent on taking him down. Despite a mild over-reliance on Logan's Boyd Holbrook outsider/American perspective, the first season is a total blast. The second season, in which Escobar attempts to rebuild his fractured empire, is a bit lower-key, and Holbrook's character doesn't really go anywhere, but it's still good stuff, thanks in large part to Moura's always-riveting performance. (And, of course, the Colombian location production is always incredible. This is definitely a show to watch projected on your biggest wall if at all possible.)

The post-Escobar season three, however, is easily the best, with the awesome Pedro Pascal (upcoming star of the Star Wars' The Mandalorian), taking center stage. This time around, the Cali Cartel, which had been mostly overlooked during its days as the country's #2 gang, finds itself the prime law enforcement target, and its leaders hatch an ingenious scheme: make a preemptive "surrender" deal with the government, divesting themselves of the drug trade and keeping their ill-got billions. Trouble is, what sounds like a great deal to the leaders doesn't sound so great for the rank and file, and also makes the whole organization a prime target for the smaller gangs always looking out for a way to claw their way to the top. As great as Pascal is, the true star of the season is Spanish-Swedish Matias Varela, playing the Cali Cartel's chief intelligence officer, a peaceful guy whose denial over his involvement and complicity in the horrors of the drug trade finally catches up with him, and all at once. He and Pascal more than make up for Wagner's absence, and the overall storyline is more complex and interesting than Escobar's straightforward rise to/attempt to remain on the top.

Season 1: B+
Season 2: B+
Season 3: A-

... On to the just-released spinoff Narcos: Mexico, starring Michael Peña and Diego Luna!
 

bionicbob

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CREED II

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u22BXhMu4tI[/video]

LOVED IT!!!

Is it pure Rocky formula?  
Absolutely.
And all the better for it.
Despite being completely predictable, the movie is fully engaging from beginning to end and wonderfully UPLIFTING as all Rocky movies are.

It works both on a nostalgic level as a sequel to Rocky IV (and somehow retro-actively elevates that MTV bout lol) and on genuine emotional level as both Adonis Creed and Vicktor Drago come to terms with their father's legacies.   In fact, this movie expertly creates sympathy for both Ivan and Vicktor.  So much so, I would love to see a DRAGO sequel!

There is some amazing sound work in this movie.... the pool sequence and when Creed gets knocked down immediately jump to mind.   And a fantastic use of the heroic Rocky theme in the final round.

There was also a couple of wonderful unexpected cameos that truly gave this movie a Full Circle feel.   If this is the last one, then it ends on a perfect note.

But if they make another sequel, I will be the first in line.  I mean, what's Mr. T up to these days?  :D

9 out of 10 for me.

Nitpick:  If there was one distraction for me in this movie, it was Stallone's hair plugs...  :p
 

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Jurassic Park (1993)
A one-night-only type 25th Anniversary 4K Cinema re-release was not to be missed :).

The few CGI dinosaurs still look decent enough but the shots themselves are jarringly stuck in whatever resolution they were originally rendered at, standing out from the 4K-re-scanned majority of the footage. It's like what jumping back and forth between Blu-Ray and DVD at home would be like. I imagine this wouldn't be a problem if I was watching it in 35mm, with an extra layer of grain and generational loss to disguise the joins (as it was originally intended to be seen).

Luckily there are probably no more than a couple of minutes of shots featuring any CGI elements. None for the first 20-minutes, 4 or 5 shots and then no more 'til were an hour in. Despite the reputation as a computer FX trailblazer, 99% of the dinosaurs are accomplished with amazing in-camera puppets and giant animatronics. I was marveling at the way they were masterfully integrated by the direction and editing. There are no FX whatsoever for the first 15-minutes and I think one brief shot of a puppets eye. Even with today's advances in technology, filmmakers would do well to learn the lesson of keeping the audience grounded in reality until they are fully immersed... only then start showing them magic tricks.

It hardly seems worth mentioning that JP is an all-time action-adventure masterpiece, with a transportive score from John Williams, iconic sound work, diamond-sharp script and a stellar cast.

 

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Sorry I know im lazy but this pretty much sums it up
Thank you @"bionicbob" 

bionicbob said:
CREED II

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u22BXhMu4tI[/video]

LOVED IT!!!

Is it pure Rocky formula?  
Absolutely.
And all the better for it.
Despite being completely predictable, the movie is fully engaging from beginning to end and wonderfully UPLIFTING as all Rocky movies are.

It works both on a nostalgic level as a sequel to Rocky IV (and somehow retro-actively elevates that MTV bout lol) and on genuine emotional level as both Adonis Creed and Vicktor Drago come to terms with their father's legacies.   In fact, this movie expertly creates sympathy for both Ivan and Vicktor.  So much so, I would love to see a DRAGO sequel!

There is some amazing sound work in this movie.... the pool sequence and when Creed gets knocked down immediately jump to mind.   And a fantastic use of the heroic Rocky theme in the final round.

There was also a couple of wonderful unexpected cameos that truly gave this movie a Full Circle feel.   If this is the last one, then it ends on a perfect note.

But if they make another sequel, I will be the first in line.  I mean, what's Mr. T up to these days?  :D

9 out of 10 for me.

Nitpick:  If there was one distraction for me in this movie, it was Stallone's hair plugs...  :p
 

bionicbob

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EXECUTIVE ACTION (1973)
http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzOFfv1QEDc[/video]
(the above is a promotional Making Of doc from the movie)

Long before Oliver Stone's conspiracy masterpiece JFK, there was Executive Action.
I love JFK as a movie (not necessarily as history) but it's fanatical fast paced, convoluted and many times contradictory narrative, makes it a challenge to fit all the pieces together even after multiple viewings over the years.
Executive Action tells the story from the conspirator's view point in a linear and compressible manner, that goes through the conspiracy theory check list in a methodical and thorough manner.   The movie lacks any characterizations and the conspirators motives are shallow.   The movie plays more like tv documentary re-enactment than a theatrical release.  The tv feel is furthered by its obvious low budget, use of popular tv character actors (not too mention some really embarrassing bad acting--the guy playing Jack Ruby is horrific) and most of the cast sporting inappropriate 1970s hair styles and wardrobe.   Despite this, I still found it a very interesting watch and the actual Dealey Plaza sequence very powerful. 
Over 50 years later, and the conspiracy theories continue to grow and evolve.  While this movie does not add anything new, it does present most of the accepted "facts" of the time in an easy to digest manner, unlike Stone's film.  Definitely worth checking out if you have an interest in the subject matter.
7 out of 10 for me.
 

TM2YC

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Matinee (1993)
Delightful comedy love-letter to 50s/60s B-Movie creature-features, set against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis. Explores the oddities around why kids love to be pretend-scared but adults hate being really scared. Director Joe Dante takes the last act a little too far into wacky and unbelievable territory, if I was being picky. I loved the movie-within-a-movie 'Mant!' and it's wonderfully observed bad dialogue. Conforms to the rule that all 90s films shall feature 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' on the soundtrack ;) .

 

TM2YC

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Age of Consent (1969)
Michael Powell's final feature film about a successful yet jaded Australian artist (James Mason) who retreats to a shack on the Great Barrier Reef, hoping to find his inspiration again. A young Helen Mirren plays a wild, determined but innocent local diving girl who becomes his muse. Various vulgar people intrude and threaten to spoil the moment they are trying to capture. The film is totally working when it's the artist lost in the act of creation and the girl running around with a carefree joy but too often it diverts into broad/farcical comedy. It  feels like Powell is trying to say something profound about art/life but never quite manages to say it clearly enough, or decides on a consistent tone. Definitely not up to the standard of Powell's earlier work but worth a watch for the glimpses of romantic genius... and for the glimpses of Helen Mirren in the nip :D .


The newly released Indicator blu-ray has two cuts of the film, with two different scores. I went for the Director-approved, longer and uncensored Australian release version. The disc also includes Powell & Pressburger's final collaboration:

The Boy Who Turned Yellow (1972)
A short film for a children's film series made by Director/Writer/Producer team Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell. Whimsical and charming, child eye-level stuff, both feeling like a Roald Dahl type story and like it was shot by the same person who conceived the psychedelic boat-tunnel sequence from 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'. A boy (our main character John) and all other people and objects in a geographical circle all suddenly turn yellow for no explicable reason (even the boy's blood has turned bright yellow). Then he goes off on adventures with an Electricity-Alien who lives in his TV set, played by the old Knight geezer from the end of 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'. A pleasantly humorus way to spend 55-minutes.


The Mercy (2017)
A retelling of the true-story of amateur sailor and inventor Donald Crowhurst's ill-fated attempt at the 1968 one-man, non-stop, round-the-world boat-race. The dramatic tension is unbearable in the first half watching the lovable face of Colin Firth (as Crowhurst) slowly crumple and drain of colour as he understands he is going to die but must sail off anyway. Once he is alone on the water, the film felt less confident about what to do with the story.


I first became familiar with the Crowhurst story through a 2007 song by the band iLiKETRAiNS:

 

TM2YC

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Early Man (2018)
Nick Park and Aardman's latest stop-motion Comedy, about a Stone-Age tribe challenging Bronze-Age invaders to a Football match. From the premise and trailer I was hoping for Asterix-level history-based humour but there is little of that, mostly it's jokes about Footballing culture... but I happen to hate Football. Lampooning the narrative tropes of generic sports-films, is unfortunately almost the same as making a generic and formulaic sports-film. Certainly not the best Aardman film so far but not without it's comedy moments. The main character's non-verbal pet Wild-Boar 'Hognob' had me laughing my arse off every second he was on screen.

 

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Die Hard (1988)
A 30th Anniversary cinema release and my first time seeing this on the big screen (after countless views on TV over the years). I suspect the fact that 'Die Hard' is such an intensely enjoyable, satisfying and immersive action caper, sometimes obscures just what a masterpiece of film-making it is, on all technical levels.

Director John McTiernan develops character and plot through careful shot composition and camera movement. Michael Kamen subtle score is constantly weaving in touches of 'Ode to Joy' and Christmas instrumentation on an almost subliminal level, taking the listener on a journey toward the moments when these two motifs reach their climax. The studious dedication to mapping the geography of the location, the expert editing and the clarity of character is something you rarely see in frenetic shaky-cam action movies of today... Die Hard 5 for example!

 

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Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
Fascinating yet flawed Documentary insight into the internal world of Kurt Cobain and how his life informed the lyrics and music of Nirvana. Visually exploring his diary entries was a valid idea, cutting up old movies and home videos to fit his audio tapes was a valid idea, animation was a valid idea too, talking-head interviews was an uninspired but viable idea as well... but they should have decided on one style, or perhaps mixed them up a lot more. It is somehow both too vague on biographical structure and yet not abstract enough to work fully as an introspective mood piece. Still, if you like Cobain's music, I'm sure this will give you a few new perspectives on it.

 

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I've been meaning to get my hands on this. I've heard it's the best Cobain documentary. I really just need to watch more documentaries.
 

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Aquaman:

I saw Aquaman today, and I have to be honest, it is the best DCEU film so far. It's fun, not dark and boring, and doesn't have a horrible third act like Wonder Woman. The acting is great, the CGI looks fantastic and you don't have to have watched any of the previous films to understand it (there's a reference or 2 to Justice League and that's it). 

Are there any problems? Yeah. Black Manta is kind of pointless. After his first scene in the submarine, he has no impact on the plot and is just there to provide a land-based action scene (and to set the sequel of course). There's a plot twist later in the movie that's really predictable and why are the general public skeptical about the existence of the atlanteans? They live in the same world where aliens exist! (which is also the problem that Marvel's Inhumans and Iron Fist had). 

But regardless, this movie proves that there is still life in the DCEU (technically the Worlds of DC), and I highly urge you to watch it!
 

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Arthur Christmas (2011)
Watching this totally wonderful Aardman classic every Christmas has become a tradition for me (as has crying at several points). It perfectly captures the feeling of Christmas in the small human details of the inter-generational family relationships but it's also a perfectly paced crazy adventure. Every inch is so stocking-stuffed with little gags that I was still spotting ones I'd missed in previous years. The logistics of how Santa would actually be able to do Christmas are all obsessively explained, making this perfect viewing for kids who are just at that age when they are starting to wonder "Could Santa really deliver presents to every kid in the world?". With a giant supersonic Thunderbirds sleigh... of course he can!

 

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Team Foxcatcher (2016)
Mountains of home video and interviews with all the people involved provide a strong basis for this absorbing Netflix Documentary about the infamous Foxcatcher case. It goes to show that the earlier 2014 Oscar-nominated and almost entirely fictionalised dramatic film 'Foxcatcher' could have stuck to the facts and still told a good story (not that I didn't enjoy that movie). Well done to the filmmaker's for their decision to reproduce the 4:3 videotape at the correct aspect-ratio. It's an irritation of mine when already low-resolution documentary footage is made worse by cropping it for modern 16:9 TVs.


Mary Poppins (1964)
'Mary Poppins' was somehow not something I really watched as a kid, so it never secured one of those nostalgic places in my heart. However, watching it this year, a couple of days before Christmas, while decorating the tree, I'm finally starting to feel the magic. There isn't a flake of snow, or a single jingle of sleigh-bells here but thematically it's 100% a Christmas movie. It's got that "bringing the fractured family back together" and "realising you have a wonderful life" thing that is central to all great Christmas films (and the original Dickens template).

On the blu-ray, the Technicolor images shine out of the screen with texture and vibrancy. There are a few shots mixing live-action, sets and gorgeous matte paintings that must be contenders for being some of the most artful and magical things ever shot. The entire cast is utterly charming and the songs are without exception, infectious and full of joy. To be picky... at 2-hours and 19-minutes it's too long and spends an inordinately long time in the middle not advancing the plot in any way. So it's going to depend on how much you are enjoying yourself, whether this matters. Considering how good the songs are, it probably doesn't matter a jot.

 

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bionicbob said:
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

murder-on-orient-express-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000-720x380.jpg


[...] An excellent new version of a classic tale, and I look forward to Branagh's next work, Murder on the Nile with great excited anticipation.

I also very much enjoyed it. What a stunning-looking movie! Though now that I've read one critic call it "Murder on the Polar Express", I'm not sure I'll be able to think of it any other way. :p  The plot, once fully revealed, is hopelessly silly, and there's a giant dangling loose end, namely:

Who was going to kill Poirot, and why? The Doctor is said to have intentionally only grazed his arm, but then attacks him, saying "Why are you still alive?!", implying someone else was going to off him, even though the original murder was pretty much justified.

Anyhow, And Then There Were None is the better story, with an excellent three-part adaptation available to stream online, but I too now look forward to Branagh's Murder on the Nile, projected to open October 2020.
 

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^ I still need to check that out but it would need to work very hard to top the John Malkovich Poirot that is currently airing on the BBC. I hope the last part doesn't disappoint.




The Green Mile (1999)
I hadn't seen this it came out and I felt it compared somewhat unfavourably to 'The Shawshank Redemption'. It doesn't really add up to much more than a simplistic Christ allegory, when it could have been something more ambiguous, or ambitious. Watching it again, I found it to be a beautifully crafted film, with real emotional power, even if the underlying flaws still remain.


Mowgli (2018)
It's not really fair to compare this to the recent Disney live-action Jungle Book... because that was rubbish and this is far superior. Andy Serkis goes for a much more red-in-tooth-and-claw adaptation and gets all his a-list acting mates from his other mo-cap films to provide an excellent voice cast. While it looks beautifully shot and strikes an artful balance between photo-realism and fantasy there are some moments of genuinely disturbing Horror (parents be warned).


It's a shame UK Netflix doesn't also have it in this Hindi dub (^ above) because the actors sound great and a little more authentic.
 

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TM2YC said:
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Watching this totally wonderful Aardman classic every Christmas has become a tradition for me (as has crying at several points). It perfectly captures the feeling of Christmas in the small human details of the inter-generational family relationships but it's also a perfectly paced crazy adventure. Every inch is so stocking-stuffed with little gags that I was still spotting ones I'd missed in previous years. The logistics of how Santa would actually be able to do Christmas are all obsessively explained, making this perfect viewing for kids who are just at that age when they are starting to wonder "Could Santa really deliver presents to every kid in the world?". With a giant supersonic Thunderbirds sleigh... of course he can!

We watched this for the first time this past weekend, and it was fantastic! We had no idea it even existed, but I grew up with Wallace and Gromit and was happy to try this movie out. Beautiful animation, heart-warming writing, and a great plot supported it through and through. Highly recommended, though now out of season I suppose!
 
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