Blu-Ray Review: The Red Turtle

Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
Screenplay: Michael Dudok de Wit, Pascale Ferran
Starring: Emmanuel Garijo, Tom Hudson, Baptiste Goy
Country: France, Belgium, Japan
Running Time: 80 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 12

I‘m an absolute sucker for animated films, so watch and enjoy a great deal of them. My favourite director has long been Hayao Miyazaki and the work he does, as well as that of Studio Ghibli, the production company he co-founded, is always classed as ‘must see’ in my household as I consider their output some of the best of the format. Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle is only partly produced by Studio Ghibli, but its strong reviews have kept it firmly at the top of my ‘to watch’ list ever since I became aware of it. I frustratingly missed a couple of opportunities to see it on the big screen, but finally my chance came to watch the film when I was offered a screener to review, so I cranked up my projector and settled down, trying but failing to dampen my expectations in case of disappointment.

The Red Turtle opens with a nameless man struggling to keep hold of a capsized boat during a terrible storm, before later waking up on a desert island, the shattered remnants of his boat largely washed away. He survives as best he can and soon attempts to leave the island, stringing bamboo trunks together to form a small raft. This gets smashed by an unknown force under the water, so he swims back to shore and later tries again. His second raft gets destroyed again by a similar unseen underwater attacker. Then, on his third attempt, he catches his assailant in the act. It’s a large red turtle, who follows the man back to the island. In his anger and frustration, the man takes a large piece of wood and beats the turtle, then flips it on its back to die in the baking sunlight. After a while, the man realises what he’s done though and tries to nurse the animal back to life. Instead what happens takes the film in a fantastical direction, as the turtle turns into a woman. She can’t speak and still has some turtle-like characteristics, but the man falls in love with her and the pair decide to stay put, prompting the film to shift forward in time a couple of years to reveal they now have a young son. We then follow their lives as a family and watch the development of the boy into a man, who sets his sights beyond the island.

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Blu-Ray Review: Song of the Sea

Director: Tomm Moore
Screenplay: William Collins
Based on a Story by: Tomm Moore
Starring: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan, Lucy O’Connell
Country: Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, France
Running Time: 93 min
Year: 2014
BBFC Certificate: PG

Even though Song of the Sea, Tomm Moore’s follow up to The Secret of Kells, got nominated for ‘Best Animated Feature’ at the last Academy Awards ceremony (Kells also got a nomination back in 2010), it wasn’t released in the UK until July of this year. Being a big fan of animated films and having liked Kells quite a bit, I’ve been desperate to catch Song of the Sea after its surprise Oscar nod. It didn’t play for long in my local cinema though, so I missed it, which meant I was incredibly grateful to be offered a chance to review the UK Blu-Ray release recently.

Like a number of classic animated films, Song of the Seaopens with tragedy. Ben (voiced by David Rawle) is left heartbroken by the death of his mother, who dies giving birth to his sister Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell). Because of this, Ben is quite hostile to his little sister, who still hasn’t spoken by her 6th birthday. Their father Conor (Brendan Gleeson) is a shell of a man after the tragedy and the three live a quiet, over-protective existence in a lighthouse on a lonely island. The children’s stubborn old grandma (Fionnula Flanagan) arrives one day, who believes the island is no place for youngsters to grow up and, after a close call when Saoirse is found washed up on the beach, she takes the kids to live with her in the local town.

Ben will have none of this though and runs away to make his way back home. Saoirse secretly escapes too, so he’s forced to have her tag along. There’s more to Saoirse than meets the eye though. In her nighttime escapade in the sea she discovered that she’s actually half selkie, a magical creature that can turn into a seal. By unlocking her powers, she awakens numerous spirits around the area and the two children become embroiled in a mystical quest to free a number of fairy creatures who have been turned to stone by the witch Macha (also voiced by Fionnula Flanagan).

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Soundtrack Of Your Life #12: Transformers The Movie

Beyond good podcasting. Beyond evil podcasting. Beyond your mildest expectations..

Each episode, Corey Pierce welcomes a guest (or guests) onto the show who has chosen a compilation or soundtrack that speaks to a memorable era of their life. The soundtrack will play underneath and serves as a springboard to discussion about the music itself, how it works within the film, and what was going on with their life at the time of its release.

For episode 12, once again Corey welcomes 2 guests. Greg Aikenhead has been a close friend for over 15 years dating back to Sheridan College’s Illustration program and is the foremost robot and yogurt expert in Corey’s wedding party. Also welcome Shaun Hatton, a well known media personality in Toronto who currently runs Nerd Noise Night, and relevant to this episode is Rumble in Tranfromers-based band The Cybertronic Spree. We bring them together to geek out to 1986’s Transformers The Movie, the animated film bridging season 2 and 3 of the still wildly popular franchise. This hard rock and synth-score heavy soundtrack opens up various discussions surrounding nostalgia and toy marketing via childhood trauma.

Follow Corey Pierce on Twitter at – @coreypierceart
Follow Shaun Hatton on Twitter at @megashaun
Follow Greg Aikenhead on Twitter at @Greglactus
Follow Soundtrack of Your Life on Twitter at @thisisyourOST

Blu-Ray Review: Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki (Japanese version) or Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette (English version)
Producer: Toshio Suzuki
Country: Japan
Running Time: 126 min
Year: 2001
BBFC Certificate: PG

I remember being incredibly excited when Spirited Away was released in the UK. I’d discovered the wonders of Hayao Miyazaki’s work a year or two before it was released. I was getting into anime at the time and picked up a copy of Princess Mononoke on DVD and instantly fell in love. I needed to see more, but only that and The Castle of Cagliostro were available. So I’m ashamed to say I bought most of the director’s early work on pirated Chinese DVD’s (don’t judge me – I didn’t have a choice). I loved every title, as well as the other couple of Studio Ghibli films packaged with them (they came as 2 on 1 sets) and Miyazaki became my favourite director. There are plenty of directors I love, but Miyazaki is one of the few, if not the only one that has a perfect scoresheet for me. So, with Spirited Away getting enough mainstream critical praise and awards to grant it a nationwide release, I was incredibly happy to hear I’d be able to watch Miyazaki’s latest on the big screen instead of a ropily subtitled DVD imported from Asia.

When I did go and see it I thought it was great of course. However, after all the hype I’d created for myself, not to mention the insanely positive reviews it was getting, I never ranked it quite as highly as Miyazaki’s three ‘epic adventure’ titles, Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle in the Sky and my all time favourite, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Maybe it was because I was still relatively young (21) and yearned for more action and a grander scale or maybe it was just the fact that his previous films, which in my mind were equally as good if not occasionally better, weren’t gaining the attention that Spirited Away was getting. For whatever reason, even though I thought the film was brilliant, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a little overrated.

And a couple of weeks ago, 11 years on (the film was released in 2003 in the UK), I was offered the chance to review the blu-ray release of the film. God knows why it’s taken so long to bring Spirited Away to high definition in this country, but I was delighted to be one of the first people to get my hands on the disc. It also gave me the chance to re-evaluate the film after not having seen it for around 7 or 8 years.

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VIFF 2014 Review: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya



Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the work of Isao Takahata but he was never a director whose work I make a priority. Yes, Grave of the Fireflies is spectacular but I can only handle so much heartbreak in any given year and in any given festival and the day before The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was supposed to screen, I seriously considered leaving it off my schedule. By some miracle, I went ahead with the screening only to come out the other end completely wowed.

Like many of Takahata’s previous works, Princess Kaguya is a cautionary tale, on the surface a beautiful sort of fairy tale with a message. The story opens in a remote village where a bamboo farmer, living a quiet life with his wife, is blessed for his hard work with a miniature bamboo princess. He takes the creature home to his wife and suddenly the princess disappears and is replaced by a baby girl who begins to grow faster than average children. Much further down the line, the bamboo farmer, now blessed with piles of money he believes he should be using to transform his daughter into a beautiful princess, moves the family to a newly constructed palace in the city where the young girl is slowly transformed, against her will, into a respectable young lady ripe for marriage to any prince.

Takahata’s film isn’t only memorable for the beautiful animation which is unlike anything I’ve seen of late but for the message of its story. Here we have a free spirited young woman who is forced to change who she is to fit society’s version of the ideal woman only to discover that in doing so, she wasted away a large portion of her life. Not satisfied with only one angle, Takahata also explores themes of true love and the often complicated relationships we have with our parents.

The movie lags a little in the middle when the princess sends her potential suitors in search of priceless (and in some cases non-existent) artefacts as a way to prove their love but the scenes also allow for some wonderfully charming moments. Princess Kaguya made me laugh and it made me cry. It also reminded me that animated features can be more than what Disney has to offer and left me wondering why we don’t see more sophisticated animated stories like this one.

It doesn’t end badly but the final scenes of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya might require a little explanation for the little ones more used to Disney’s fairy tale endings. A really wonderful film.

The of the Princess Kaguya opens in limited release on October 17th.

Teaser: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya


The unconventionally animated film from Studio Ghibli, The Tale of Princess Kaguya will very likely be the last feature directed by either of two Studio Ghibli founders, in this case Isao Takahata. (Hayao Miyazaki’s eulogy-like came out last year.)

It played very, very well to Cannes, and will also be playing TIFF, and the couple Ghibli-philes that I know have both declared it a masterpiece. In light of it coming to North American soil, here is the dialogue free teaser-trailer for Anglophones. Have a look.

Review: A Brony Tale


Director: Brent Hodge (What Happens Next? The Dan Mangan Documentary)
Screenplay: Brent Hodge
Producers: Brent Hodge, Lauren Bercovitch
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 79 min.

My first encounter with a Brony came out of, what seemed to me at the time, left field. John de Lancie was on stage at a convention, humorously skirting a question about some technical aspect of an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that he shot 10 years ago, when a guy wearing a black t-shirt that read “I’m 20% Cooler” and a headband with pink fluffy ears walked up to the microphone to ask a question. De Lancie smiled when he looked over at the 20-something and when the guy asked de Lancie about Discord, the actor’s smile widened. The crowd erupted in applause, cheers and whistles and de Lancie went on to answer, at length, about his experience voicing the popular TV character. I looked over at my friend and started a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Ummmmm… Did I miss something?
Her: It’s a “My Little Pony” reference.
Me: Like the TV show I watched when I was a kid?
Her: No no. The new “My Little Pony!”
Me: There’s a new “My Little Pony?”
Her: Yeah! And it has a huge following of grown men.

The Trekkies eventually took over again but my interest had been peaked and I spent a good part of the following Monday getting myself acquainted with a fandom that, until a few days before, I hadn’t even know existed.

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TIFF KIDS Preview (with Son of Mamo!)

Hey Toronto! Formerly Sprockets, but re-dubbed TIFF KIDS, the film festival for children is starting up April 10th and going until April 22nd. Mamo! Matt Brown and Son of Mamo! Max Price give The Substream the lowdown on what to go see: Child Werewolves, Haunted Bubbles, Chimpanzees, Bands of Misfit Pirates and an interactive Funky Forest (no, not the Ishii film) are part of the spread that they lay out before you in the below video; a cinematic picnic if you will.

Cinecast Episode 247 – That’s Just The Kind of Pretentious Twaddle I like!

Here we are a week before Oscars and there is so little to talk about on that front other than that there is so little to talk about. Gamble gives a run-down on the Best Animated Shorts which are always worth a look. Kurt gives a sparkling review of the latest Studio Ghibli animated feature; a Japanese spin on the classic British children’s novel The Borrowers. Re-titled The Secret World of Arrietty, the film is surprisingly adult in tone and theme and worth looking at on the big screen. We spend a tangent-driven span of time grading the homework assignments (criminal clowns) before diving into The Watch List: Wil Wheaton, Elliot Gould, Alain Delon, Brian DePalma, Michelangelo Antonioni, Billy Bob Thorton and Anna Faris! Andrew goes to town on smashing Tiny Furniture. Matt goes to town on pummeling the seven-year-delayed Margaret (and in the pejorative sense thinks Kurt and Rot will love it).

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:

Full show notes are under the seats…
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The Flight Before Christmas

Directors: Michael Hegner & Kari Juusonen
Screenplay: Hannu Tuomainen, Marteinn Thorisson & Mark Hodkinson (additional dialogue)
Starring: Andrew McMahon, Norm MacDonald, Emma Roberts (English version – reviewed)
Producers: Jaana Hovinen, Petteri Pasanen, Hannu Tuomainen, Kristel Tõldsepp
Country: Finland/Denmark/Germany/Ireland
Running Time: 78 min
Year: 2008
BBFC Certificate: U

Largely a Finnish production in terms of talent, but with Danish, German and Irish backing, I’d actually seen the Finnish language version of this a year ago under the title Niko – Lentäjän Poika (Niko, the Pilot’s Son, translated), but now it hits the UK on DVD with an English language soundtrack added. With Christmas just around the corner I thought it would be a perfect time to post a review of this surprisingly good European CGI-animated children’s Christmas film.

Niko is a young reindeer who longs to join the ranks of Santa’s Flying Forces, the crew of aerial masters who pull Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve/Day. The fledgling struggles to get off the ground himself, leaving him stranded with his grounded pack in the forest, miles from Santa’s Fell. However Niko is certain that he has the ability somewhere within himself to fly as he is told that his father, who left before his birth, is a member of the famous troupe. After getting into trouble with his reindeer family after accidentally bringing a pack of wolves back to their patch, Niko heads off to find Santa’s Fell and his father to fulfil his life long dream. In tow is father-figure Julius (a flying squirrel) who tries his best to keep him out of trouble and hot on their trail is the pack of wolves, whose new target are the Flying Forces and Santa himself!

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Cinecast Episode 214 – I Hate that I Know That

We start things off simple. No Kurt. Just some Pirates and Priests. With unpleasantness out of the way, Kurt jumps in with both feet for a indie post-apocalyptic film out of Toronto, a re-evaluation of Inglorious Basterds and Tarantino’s career. Trains and Toni Collette keep the conversation chugging along and with Gamble here, “Game of Thrones” is sort of unavoidable. We all revel in the love for Rip Torn and South Korea before rounding everything out with a talk about sequels that are crazier than a rat in a tin shithouse (ala Caddyshack II and Gremilns II). Nobody dies.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:

Full show notes are under the seats…
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