Catching up — sheep and pirates

I'm still catching up on work, unpacking, and game notes after the fun reunion with friends from high school and college a few weeks ago. I've started writing blog posts about the Boston Comic Con, the current season of genre television, and more, but in the meantime, here's a quick report on this past weekend.

On Saturday, 28 April 2012, Janice and I went to Gore Place in Waltham, Massachusetts, for the 25th annual Sheepshearing Festival. I was impressed by the size of the event and the number of attendees. We enjoyed the herding dog demonstration, fair food, craft tents, and bluegrass music. Janice and I also took a brief tour of the early 19th century home of one of Massachusetts' governors.

The next day, we met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. for lunch on Waltham's Moody Street. We ate at Kabab & Tandoor, which is downstairs from an Indian grocer and part of an appetizing food court. We enjoyed the buffet of savory, spicy, and sweet items before going to the Landmark Embassy Cinemas nearby.

We caught a matinee of The Pirates! A Band of Misfits, the latest comedy from Aardman Animation, the studio responsible for Wallace & Gromit, among other things. We enjoyed the movie, which follows a hapless pirate captain (named "Pirate Captain" and voiced by Hugh Grant) in his quest to win the "Pirate of the Year Award."

Aardman Animation's latest comedy

The Pirates!

Along the way, Pirate Captain and his eccentric crew — even for pirates — meet Charles Darwin (voiced by Martin Freeman, also known as Arthur Dent, Dr. Watson, and Bilbo Baggins) and an entirely unamused Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton). Also important to the plot are a dodo, a dirigible, and Darwin's monkey butler.

If this sounds delightfully chaotic, it is. The Pirates! has a lively Anglo-American voice cast, sight gags too numerous to catch in a single viewing, and good use of modern music (the Clash's "London Calling" is most memorable). The movie, which combines stop-motion and computer animation, also alludes to real-world literature and science of the 19th century.

I enjoyed The Pirates! more than the past few Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, and I recommend the movie to anyone who likes animation, comedy, or swashbuckling and steampunk. The Pirates! is rated PG for some crude humor and slapstick violence, but most of the adult jokes will sail right over children's heads. I'd give The Pirates! A Band of Misfits an 8.5 out of 10, a B+/A-, or four stars. This coming weekend is the opening of the much-anticipated Avengers live-action movie….

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