Trailer: Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel

The annual Woody Allen joint for 2017, Wonder Wheel, is a mob story set on Coney Island in the 1950s seemingly in Technicolor. Starring Kate Winslet (in Romance & Cigarettes mode), Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, and a very potbellied Jim Belushi. The film revolves around Ginny (Winslet), the wife of a carousel operator (Belushi), who perks up when she falls for a handsome lifeguard, Mickey (Timberlake). But when her husband’s estranged daughter (Temple) resurfaces and also sets her sights on Mickey, it begins ‘the great unraveling of Ginny. Not as baroque or kooky as Jonathan Demme’s Married To The Mob, but still it looks like Allen stepping a (wee) bit outside his comfort zone here. Once again, Amazon Studios is funding, and while the film will premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 14, it will be seeing a wider release on December 1st.

The eponymous Coney Island Ferris Wheel is no stranger to being on screen, as it is featured in The Taking of Pelham 123, Remo Williams, Angel Heart, underwater in A.I., and in the opening credits of Walter Hill’s iconic, The Warriors.

Trailer: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs

So, well within the vein of Fantastic Mr. Fox, comes Wes Anderson’s Japan-set new stop-motion animated feature. Isle of Dogs was not penned by Roald Dahl, but Anderson and his team certainly made Fantastic Mr. Fox their own when they adapted it for the big screen, and this feels almost like a sequel. Many of the Anderson regulars, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens are here, with some new voices added including Scarlett Johansson (who does a LOT of voice work these days), Greta Gerwig, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston and Liev Schreiber. It looks familiar and great, and really, Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of the best things to happen to feature length animation some time, even if Anderson directed it over the phone from Paris to London.

The film gets a wide release date, March 23, 2018.

Blu-Ray Review: The Boy and the Beast

Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Screenplay: Mamoru Hosoda
Starring: Aoi Miyazaki, Shôta Sometani, Kôji Yakusho
Country: Japan
Running Time: 119 min
Year: 2015
BBFC Certificate: 12


Mamoru Hosoda is a writer and director making a good name for himself in the anime world. After some TV work and a couple of films from TV franchises, he turned heads with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and two of his subsequent films, Summer Wars and Wolf Children, which were all critical and commercial successes (in Japan at least). His latest film, The Boy and the Beast, is no different, attracting mainly positive reviews and becoming the second highest grossing release of 2015 in Japan. Being an anime fan and having enjoyed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars quite a lot (I haven’t seen Wolf Children), it didn’t take much convincing for me to take up an offer of reviewing the film.

The Boy and the Beast sees a young boy, Ren (Aoi Miyazaki), become a runaway, living on the streets of Tokyo after his mother dies and his father (who had previously divorced his mother) doesn’t come forward to look after him. Whilst living rough, Ren bumps into Kumatetsu (Kôji Yakusho), a warrior beast who is looking for a pupil to train. Kumatetsu lives in a secret realm of the beasts, where he is in contention to become the new Lord, as the current Lord is due to leave this world and become a God. Kumatetsu is pig-headed and arrogant though, doing everything alone, and a worthy Lord must be a teacher with an heir as well as a mighty warrior.

Would you like to know more…?

Concept Teaser: Wolfwalkers

After much acclaim for The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, Cartoon Saloon, Ireland’s increasingly high profile animation house founded by Paul Young and Tomm Moore, are working on their fourth feature film, Wolfwalkers. (The third one, The Breadwinner, will be released this year.)

With a signature 2D animation style, and a quite mature, epic sensibility, Cartoon Saloon, is aiming to be the next Laika (which in turn is aiming to be the next Pixar…)

Below is a proof-of-concept teaser which is, in a word, stunning.

In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn, comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mebh, their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transforms her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

Trailer: Studio Ghibli’s The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle

It seems now that Japan’s Studio Ghibli is awaiting auteurs to step up on native soil, they have turned to some international co-productions to keep the lights on. If Dutch director Michaël Dudok de Wit is any indication of this new collaboration arrangement, I am happy to see the direction things go. The Red Turtle looks gorgeous, has a hand animated aesthetic, with a flair for visual and emotional storytelling. The film premiers at Cannes this week. The trailer is below.

Come. It is time to keep your appointment with The Wicker Man.

We do not often post music videos around these parts, but when they are as good as Radiohead’s latest, for their single, “Burn The Witch,” well, we can make an exception. The shadow of Robin Hardy’s 1973 film is a long one, turning up in things as far apart as Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz and Roger Avery’s The Rules of Attraction and Julian Gilbey’s A Lonely Place To Die.

And now here.

Enjoy.

Trailer: Kubo and the Two Strings

As much as Inside Out was a full blown masterpiece for Pixar (and it was), it is clear to me that Laika is the animation house to pay attention to. Their latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings easily made my ‘most anticipated’ list for 2016 on the Cinecast, and this trailer does nothing but confirm my enthusiasm.

Set to a subtle, staying very much in the background, version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and featuring an Interstellar sized tidal wave, E.T. frame-filling full-moons, animated origami bluebirds, warrior witches, and a host of 3D-printed stop-motion wonders, along with voice work from Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara and Art Parkinson. So this is what Rickon Stark has been doing for the past couple seasons of Game of Thrones

Who wants to bother with Pixar’s underwater sequel, Finding Dory, when this is on offer. Kubo and the Two Strings is getting a wide release from Universal Studios on August 19th.

Kubo ekes out a humble living, telling fantastical stories to the people of his seaside town. His relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a mythical spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey and Beetle and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters.

Hayao Miyazaki @ 75

With Japanese auteur, manga artist, animator, and former Studio Ghibli co-chief Hayao Miyazaki celebrating his 75th birthday today, it is worth giving consideration to his influence over the past 50 years. While Ghibli is not the quite the world-wide corporate juggernaut that is Disney, nor is it the household name among children and families, the influence of Miyazaki (and Isao Takahata) on the art and creativity of the animated world is deeply entrenched. Pixar head John Lasseter (who is also the chief of all Disney animated projects) never misses an opportunity to praise Miyazakai-san as one of the key mentors and aspirations in the early days of storytelling at Pixar.

From his early work as an animator at Toei Studios where he worked on projects such as Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Future Boy Conan, Gulliver’s Travels, and significantly, the feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, which almost much as Tin Tin, was a key pre-cursor/analogue to Indiana Jones. From there, he worked with his friend co-worker, Takahata-san, to form Studio Ghibli and translate his sprawling manga, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds into an epic sized feature. Note at the bottom of this post, that several people have noted the similarities between scavenger-warrior-leader Nausicaa and The Force Awakens scavenger-soon-to-be-Jedi, Rey.

After the success of their first feature, Miyazaki and Takahata would go on to make parallel features in their new studio. Miyazaki the all time classic My Neighbor Totoro, perhaps the most universal movie about discovery and play ever made, while Takahata would make one of the greatest (and saddest) anti-war movies in the history of cinema, The Grave of the Fireflies. Miyazaki, for his entire career, ending with the biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, a designer Japanese planes the second World War, would come back again and again to themes of environmentalism, aviation, and the balance between self-reliance and social responsibility. These themes are often tacked in a fantasy setting, but their adult complexities made his animated features rather unique. He almost always had a girl as the protagonist which as exceptionally forwarding thinking in 1984, and was still unusual by the time he won the Animated Feature Oscar with his Alice In Wonderland / Wizard of Oz inspired masterpiece, Spirited Away. The epic adventure Princess Mononoke was the highest grossing movie in Japan until James Cameron’s Titanic.

Although the director only directed 8 animated features over the course of his time running Studio Ghibli, all of them are bonafide classics of animation. And while the future of Ghibli is uncertain after his retirement a few years ago (along with the retirement of Takahata-san a year later), he has left an impressive legacy, including the final Ghibli feature, 2014’s When Marnie Was There which often plays like a ‘grown-up’, melancholic version of My Neighbor Totoro.

Also worth checking out is the 2013 documentary on Miyazaki’s life and his working process, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

Friday One Sheet: Anomalisa

What is likely going to be the Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature for 2015, barring the usual Pixar factor with Inside Out, Charlie Kaufmann & Duke Johnson’s ‘male ennui’ drama, Anomalisa set in a hotel room in Cincinnati, gets this handsome poster that works technically and thematically. One, it it showcases the challenge met to work with stop motion and steam. Two, it shows a middle aged man trying to wipe away the fog of depressed inaction that his life has become. The hand-written title at the top and odd title block just sweeten the look of this one, which handily avoids all the usual poster cliches. Like everything else about the film (our Review is here), it is deeply considered and expertly pulled off.

Trailer: Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa

Easily one of the cinematic highlights of the year, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s animated drama Anomalisa was one of the big sales at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. The first trailer for the film arrives, and the focus is on ‘big question’ profundity, with a hint of intimacy. The humour of the film is not showcased here, but this is likely due to how little nuance and context you can pack into a short trailer. If you, like me, are deeply affected by the dulcet vocal tones of David Thewlis, then this is a small slice of heaven, as is the film.

My review of the film can be found here.

Suffice it to say, when this starts to platform release on December 30th (if you live in the US or Canada), you might want to clear some space in your calendar.

Video Review: Shaun The Sheep

I just sent my children on a plane to their grandparents across the continent for the remainder of the summer. But just because they are not here with me to take in another dose of Aardman Studios’ delightful Shaun The Sheep feature film – and you should, it is the best modern-silent movie since The Artist – allow them three minutes to convince you from their take on the film a few months ago at the TIFF KIDS Film Festival.

Video is embedded below.