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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Review: Beauty And The Beast

Director: Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods & Monsters, Dream Girls)
Remake of 1991 Beauty and the Beast
Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay) Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (Tale By)
Producer: David Hoberman
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 129 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 


Something unexpected happens when familiar tales are re-imagined for new audiences. Since much of the story is well-known, it allows those gathered to focus less on the story, and more on the voice doing the telling. Plot and prose take a back seat to cadence and inflection, which can bring new life and luminosity to a well-known story…

…or it can screw up the story entirely.

It’s a tale as old as time.

Once there was a young prince (Dan Stevens) who lived a lush life in a grand castle. One night, as he’s holding a lavish ball when disheveled beggar woman comes calling, he mocks her before turning her away. Seeing the vain and uncaring nature of the prince’s heart, the beggar – actually an enchantress – casts a spell on him, his home, and everyone in it.

He is turned into a hideous beast, and his court all household items. So they will stay until their master can learn to love.

Years later, in the town at the foot of the hill, a young girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is the misfit of her town. While other girls her age pine for marriage, she seeks independence. While others slave over the washing, she invents ways of doing chores faster. While others in town drink and gossip, she only has eyes for the pages of her books…and her loving father (Kevin Klein).

When her father takes his wares to sell, his wagon gets lost on the road. After surviving a wolf attack, he seeks refuge in an isolated castle that seems largely abandoned…but for the roaring fire in the hearth. Inside, he meets what has become of the court; Lumiere, now a candelabra (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth, now a clock (Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts, now a teapot (Emma Thompson)…and the furry and frightening lord of the manor. The Beast doesn’t take kindly to strangers – especially ones who help themselves to roses growing in his garden, so Belle’s father becomes his prisoner.

After fighting off advances from the beefy and smarmy Gaston (Luke Evans), Belle is alerted to her father’s disappearance. When she makes her way to the castle to search for him, she bargains with The Beast to take his place instead.

The Beast agrees, sends father on his way, and holds Belle in his place. The court sees this unfold and wonders aloud if she might be the one to teach their master to love and break the curse?

But who could ever love a beast?

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Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part One)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

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

 

 
 
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Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part Three)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

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

 

 
 
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Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (The Whole Bloody Affair)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

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

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part Two)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

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

 

 
 
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Cinecast Episode 464 – These Violent Delights

Through snow, cold, rain, holidays or malware, The Cinecast finds a way. Yes, despite RowThree being down for cleaning over the past few days, the boys managed to do some catch-up on 2016 movie releases get it all down on virtual tape. This week, Kurt and Andrew get into Todd Solondz’ “awkward comedy” Wiener-Dog and Kurt hits the theater for Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane… maybe wishes he hadn’t. HBO finished up its first season of “Westworld” and the boys dig through that mess of wires and mazes. As always beware of SPOILERS! For The Watch List, Andrew works on catching up on some other 2016 movies that slipped through the cracks including Tom Hanks, Michael Shannon, Seth Rogen and more. Kurt spent his time hitting the big screen versions of some older gems including Meet me in St. Louis and Tampopo. Also Michael Keaton continues to own the twilight years of his career; this time by owning a McDonald’s franchsie. Join us on this joy ride.

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

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

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Trailer: Miss Hokusai

I absolutely adored Keiichi Hara’s quiet and fierce animated portrait of artist Tetsuzo, a.k.a. Hokusai Katsushika, and his grown daughter O-Ei when I caught it at Fantasia in 2015.

Set in 19th century Edo, Japan. Miss Hokusai blends the magical realism sensibility of Studio Ghibli with Ozu Yasujirô-like framing. The film is a father-daughter tale, but really it extends its scope to cover the entire artist and publishing community (and spirit world) in the region at the time. It is as much about the rhythm of a city as it is about the subject insofar as Miss Hokusai is a film that you get so deeply lost in that it is difficult to discern beginning, middle or end. This is a good thing in a genre that is often mocked for its short attention span.

The lovely and sophisticated US Distributor GKIDS (who also brought Boy & The World, Ernest & Celestine, The Secret of Kells and When Marnie Was There in the US) is giving the lovely and sophisticated Miss Hokusai a domestic cinema release in October.

Hot Docs 2016 Review: How To Build A Time Machine

Niosi

The famous Serenity Prayer of american theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is as follows: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Jay Cheel’s beautifully rendered How To Build A Time Machine tells the stories of two men who are on the verge of that wisdom, and in the act of telling, examines line between our boundless imagination and the rigorous nuts and bolts of acquiring the knowledge required to achieve some measure of it.

Shot over five years, the film follows former Pee Wee’s Playhouse animator Rob Niosi who has been building a replica prop of the time machine from George Pal’s 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. What started as a fun 3 month project has, through is own peculiar, yet charming, Sisyphean nature, has blown out to nearly a decade. This is a peak into the psyche of a stop-motion animator whose entire working day might yield only seconds of usable film. Rob’s father took him (and his brother) to see The Time Machine when he was a little boy, where they both became fascinated with the central machine. His father was instrumental in encouraging his son toward a career in animation, providing tools and encouragement and advice along the way. Implicit in Niosi’s recreation of the time machine is to recapture the pure impression he had of that perfect day at the cinema with his family.

The film juxtaposes magnificent montages of Niosi meticulously crafting each brass or mahogany part for the prop replicate together with the academics of Dr. Ronald Mallett, a physicist at the University of Connecticut whose scientific career has been a pursuit of the hard science of time travel.

Significant is the muse that drives these men, completely different relationships with their respective fathers, which gives the movie a surprising emotional resonance. If father-son stuff affects you as much as it does me, you might want to pack some tissue. Mallett lost his father to a heart attack when he was about the same age that Niosi was in rapture watching Morlocks fighting the Eloi at the movies. The core motivation of decades of complex theory and practical experimentation is the dream of the possibility to go back and warn his father of his weak heart, and the young boy, who idolized him, that would be left fatherless at such a young age. And yes, Mallett also idolized a comic book version of H.G. Well’s science fiction story which he believes put him on the circuitous path to a doctorate degree.

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Blu-Ray Review: Waking Life

Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater
Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater
Country: USA
Running Time: 101 min
Year: 2001
BBFC Certificate: 15


Released back in 2001, Waking Life saw indie darling Richard Linklater experiment with using cutting edge digital rotoscoping animation to bring his meandering, talk-heavy style of drama to new life. Rotoscoping (creating animation by tracing over film footage) had been used for years since the early days of animation, but this was the first time anyone had used digital rotoscoping to produce a full feature film. The software used was developed by Bob Sabiston, an animator and computer scientist veteran of the MIT Media Lab, who used it originally to make his award-winning short film “Snack and Drink”.

Waking Life follows an unnamed character (played by Wiley Wiggins) as he drifts through his shifting dreams. Along the way he meets a wide variety of characters who each give their differing theories and philosophies about life and consciousness. And that’s pretty much it. The film is largely just a series of monologues/lectures/discussions with our protagonist not really interacting with the speakers until the final third where the topics lean more heavily towards dreams and reality, and he asks them about his predicament of being trapped in this dream in such a lucid state.

On paper then, this is a film I should hate. I’ve talked in previous reviews about my distaste for films where characters spout philosophy and the experience becomes a lecture rather than an engaging narrative. I think I prefer philosophies to be explained visually or metaphorically (or maybe I’m just stupid), but I find it tedious to listen to an intellectual spouting theories at me. Roughly knowing what to expect from Waking Life before going in to it (this was my first watch), I was fully expecting to hate it, but I’m a big fan of some of Linklater’s work and I’m also a huge animation fan, so I thought I should give it a try.

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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.