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FILM by Shane “Dough-Monster” Hnetka

One of the top movies at the July box office is allegedly from the “creator” of Shrek, has made over $200 million in just two weeks, and you haven’t heard of it. It’s a Chinese movie called Monster Hunt and it’s breaking records in its home nation — but it hasn’t come anywhere near North America yet. More in a bit.

Shaun The Sheep

I love the British animation company Aardman and its commitment to stop-motion animation with clay puppets, a technique very few studios use anymore. In fact, it’s pretty much just Aardman and another studio called Laika doing it these days. That’s probably partly because clay animation is a long, painstaking process — everything on the screen is actually made and then filmed, one frame at a time — and partly because audience tastes have shifted to CGI animation, like you see in a Pixar movie. Nothing wrong with Pixar but variety is nice.

Anyway, Aardman released Shaun The Sheep a few months ago, but it’s just arriving in North America now. Sadly, it’s only getting a limited release in theatres even though critics like it. I like the fact Shaun The Sheep, like the TV series it’s based on, contains no dialogue. There’s more than one way to tell a story.

I don’t know why stop-motion movies don’t generate the same interest as their CGI counterparts but it’s too bad.  Shaun The Sheep deserves a wider audience.

Box Office Monster Hunt

Despite what you’ll see on posters and in trailers, Monster Hunt director Raman Hui didn’t create of Shrek. Yes, he’s an animator who worked on the first two Shrek movies and directed the third, but Shrek is based on William Steig’s book Shrek!.

With that out of the way: Hui has a new live-action fantasy film called Monster Hunt (“from the creator of Shrek”) about doughy, friendly looking monsters in ancient China. Seems an evil ruler wants them dead. Just like an evil ruler, ruining everyone’s fun. Monster Hunt looks like a fun adventure film, not least because it’s always interesting to see what wrinkles other cultures bring to genre movies. Also of interest: it’s tearing up the Chinese box office.

World cinema is changing. Expect to see more idiosyncratic movies like Monster Hunt fighting for their piece of the global box-office pie.

Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd who also writes Dog Blog’s weekly “Sunday Matinee” column, at prairiedogmag.com.

2015-08-06