Tag Archives: Fantasy

Friday Film Club: The Swan Princess (1994) & Uncut Gems (2019)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether you’re choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick – Swan Princess (1994)

Swan Princess

Based on the ballet Swan Lake, Swan Princess is a 1994 animated musical film which tells the story of Princess Odette who is kidnapped and falls under the curse of a sorcerer Rothbart who wishes to take over her father’s kingdom through marriage. This curse makes her turn into a swan by day and only can turn back into human when she is on the lake and the moonlight touches her. While others have started to stop looking for her, her childhood friend and now prince that she likes hasn’t given up and continues to try to seek out clues. At the same time, Odette makes acquaintance with a turtle called Speed, a frog who believes that he is a prince called Jean-Bob and an Irish puffin called Lieutenant Puffin who wants to help her escape and break the curse by reuniting with Derek. 

Much like many 1990’s animated film, The Swan Princess is something of a fairy tale story. It has a lot of fantasy, comedy, musical elements that center around a love story. While Derek and Odette start off as a set-up pairing by their parents when they are young who are attracted to each other, Odette is a a princess that has a little personality and certain of what she is looking for. Even in the face of her demise, she still tries her best with the help of her hilarious companions that also break the expectations, to escape her situation. While the story itself might seem fairly formulaic, the characters itself are very charming and its a lot of fun to watch with some nice songs to pair.

Its voice actors are not all very known with possibly the most popular being John Cleese doing the voice of JeanBob. The shining elements of the film does go to these three companions who bring a lot of fun comedy as they all bring a lot of quirks especially seeing a turtle called Speed who actually is a fast swimmer, and a puffin who is a little silly despite thinking he is a lieutenant and then JeanBob who thinks he is some French prince and wants to win a kiss from Odette to lift his own curse, playing with a very familiar tale of its own. These three, especially in the escape scene against two hungry alligators, win the scene through it all.

Despite its disappointing box office for its theatrical release due to its release alongside Disney’s much more popular, The Lion King, it did find its audience for its home release. Call it a cult classic or whatnot, but overall, The Swan Princess may not be the most polished movie and did come out under the radar and the love story itself is fairly predictable however, it also is one that is suitable for kids especially as it has some good humor, gives out a good message of courage and has a villain that actually isn’t too scary but actually fairly silly as well. At the end of the day, The Swan Princess does come together pretty well.

Elwood’s Pick – Uncut Gems (2019)

Uncut Gems

While at the most recent Oscars there was certainly a lot of discussion regarding what many felt was the snubbing of Greta Gerwig for a Best Director nomination. At the same time there could be equally as much frustration being felt that Adam Sandler hadn’t been recognized for this film which see him breaking away from his usual diversive comedies for his first serious role since 2002’s Punch Drunk Love.

Here Sandler plays the high end jewelry store owner Howard Ratner who operates his store in New York’s Diamond District dealing with celebrity clients while at the time fueling a gambling habit was his lives his life constantly avoiding his creditors while banking everything on a series of ever more high risk bets as he pursues that one big pay day. However when he acquires a rare black opal he soon finds himself in an ever escalating situation that even a hustler like him won’t be able to walk away from.

Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie whose previous film Good Time proved to be their breakout hit which enabled them to not only secure funding for this film but also caught the attention of Sandler who they had in mind while writing the film. Opening with a Fight Club-esque journey through the compounds of the opal which will soon cause Howard so many of his problems before the journey blends into a colonoscopy which is how we are introduced to Howard though whether the footage is of Sandler’s colon we cannot confirm.One we can confirm though and that Howard is kind of a scumbag. 

While the Safdie’s might prefer to view him as more a lovable rouge, Howard is a difficult character to follow especially with his high risk and self-centred worldview and yet much like Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant we still for some reason want to see him succeed but not before the brothers have put us through the kind of grimy ringer that’s usually reserved for Abel Ferrara’s films who it would seem is certainly amongst their influences when it comes to crafting this world were nobody is exactly a shining example of humanity while the dialogue is thrown at the audience with little space to breathe and punctuated with enough f**ks and c**ksuckers to cement its place as the 3rd most profanity heavy film ever. 

An engaging if grimy experience while it might not have left me rushing out to see the rest of the Safdie’s filmography and certainly I did get the same Oscar vibes as some people did it’s at least great to see Sandler trying something other than another throwaway comedy plus who doesn’t want to see a blinged out Ferbie?

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Movies and Tea #28 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Having made a Western with Ride With The Devil it seemed almost fitting that Ang Lee would choose to follow it up with an Eastern as he pitched the film as Sense and Sensibility with sword fighting as he brought together Wuxia fight scenes and lavish production design in a film which not only revitalised the intrest in Wuxia film but also helped open the door for a revived interest in Asian cinema.

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Friday Film Club: Turbo Kid + Mortal Engines

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Hi folks and welcome to the first 2020 edition of The Friday Film Club where each week both myself and Kim highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick – Turbo Kid (2015)

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After years of making short films as a team now called RKSS for the directing trio, Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoan-Karl Whisell, they release their first full feature debut for Turbo Kid. Original concept is expanded from their submission to ABCs of Death titled “T is for Turbo”. Set in an alternate 1997, Turbo Kid sees the world as a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a scarce water source. There is a powerful overlord that controls the water and runs the area. Orphaned as a child, The Kid fights to survive everything. He forages for items that can be traded for water and food every day and finds joy in aspiring to be his favorite comic book hero, Turbo Rider. When he meets an overly enthusiastic and mysterious girl name Apple who tags along with him every day and ends up in some trouble, he soon realizes that he needs to become a hero. Suitably shot in Quebec’s Thetford Mines which is known as the largest producer of asbestos until 2011, Turbo Kid definitely benefits from the setting.

Turbo Kid is a surprising little independent film. A lot has to do with its well-executed elements and a great script that adds a few twists and turns that give the story a lot of unique creativity and a few unexpected moments. Leading the cast is the hero of the story, The Kid played by Canadian actor Munro Chambers who delivers an outstanding performance. His dialogue and personality both shining through  and adding to the character of The Kid. However, his more reserved and cautious personality in the wastelands is very much contradicted with the brilliantly entertaining role of Laurence Leboeuf whose character physical design and her over the top, over enthusiastic role of Apple gives her both awkward comedy and adds to her mystique, giving the movie a good deal of dark humor. Playing the villain is the very talented Michael Ironside, who has really found his place in independent cinema in the last few years with some great projects. Turbo Kid sees him playing the tyrannical overload Zeus and paired with the wonderfully designed masked henchman Skeletron, they make quite the villainous duo.

There’s a lot to love about RKSS and Turbo Kid. A lot of great ideas and unique script set in the alternate 90s with a post-apocalyptic wasteland background and an outstanding soundtrack to pull the whole movie together. Turbo Kid is a movie that is well worth the watch, especially with its sequel in the works already.

Elwood’s Pick – Mortal Engines (2018)

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The directorial debut of Christian Rivers a regular collaborator / storyboard artist for Peter Jackson who here alongside his regular producers Fran Walsha and Philippa Boyens are on producer duties for this ambitious adaptation of the first book in Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines Quartet which take place in a post-apocalyptic future were humanity has moved into mobile cities scavenging the remaining resources with the largest of these cities being London which is able to consume other cities. It’s here that the Apprentice Librarian and the revenge seeking Hester meet and soon discover a much darker conspiracy at play.

Visually immersive as it is stunning to look at here Rivers lays out an epic steampunk fantasy were huge cities of steam and steel thunder through the landscape, while Hugo Weaving is on incredible form as the charming and dangerous Thaddeus Valentine the head of the historians guild while also harbouring darker plans for the city of London. At the same time the world away from the cities is just as interesting as here the film constantly finds new places and characters to introduce only adding to the fun ride as it builds up to it’s thrilling climax.

Sadly with the film tanking on it’s release leaving this a tantalising prospect of what could have been had the other three films in the series had been adapted. Thankfully it’s self-contained enough to not leave things on a sour note though if you’re like myself it will certainly leave you wanting more.

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

After Hours #9 – Tigers Are Not Afraid

On this episode we discuss the directorial debut of Issa López which not only has seen her draw comparisons to the Guillermo del Toro but also his admiration aswell.

With her debut film she blends fairy tale fantasy against the harsh reality of the Mexican drug wars as a young girl called Estrella returns home to find her mother missing and persumed to have been  kidnapped by the local drugs cartel currently terrorising the city. Now joining  a group of orphaned street kids and empowered  with the gift of three wishes she joins them on their quest for  revenge.

Further Viewing

Pan’s Labyrinth
Devil’s Backbone
Krampus
Coreline
Sicaro
City of God

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

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Friday Film Club: Upside Down (2012) & Night Watch (2004)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick –  Upside Down (2012)

As we start out Season 3 with Sofia Coppola’s filmography, it only seems suitable to talk about a movie with Kirsten Dunst. Upside Down is a 2012 fantasy romance film set in a fictional world where the gravity pulls in opposite directions. The rich live in the Up Top and the poor live in the Down Below. The population from Down Below is illegal to go to Up Top however the people from Up Top can pay big money to enjoy ceiling entertainment in the Down Below as an experience. In comes Adam and Eden who met when they were teens and some misunderstanding pulls them apart. A decade later when Adam soon sees Eden again on a show, he is determined to go to her through finding a position in the offices to easily access the passage to the Up Top. 

In the lead roles is Kirsten Dunst as Eden and Jim Sturgess as Adam who play teen lovers who have been separated and trying to reunite. The charm of any romance is the chemistry between its characters. While the story here is set in a fantasy world, their romance is fairly normal except for the hurdles that blend into the world that this is set in. There’s a lot to love between them because what they have is cute and sweet. In the supporting role is Timothy Spall who plays Bob, who is Adam’s coworker and he is a charming and inspiring character and one of the highlight roles of Upside Down. 

The CGI elements are visually appealing. Sure, there’s some issues with the whole concept and the physics but for a romance story and not one all about science fiction and how it all works, it’s easy to see past the flaws and focus on the point of the film and that is the romance between Adam and Eden and their determination to be together and taking a leap of faith in the name of love. Upside Down hinges a lot on how much you like romance films as well as how willing you are to buy the premise. 

Elwood’s Pick – Night Watch (2004)

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Based on the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko, Timur Bekmambetov’s film adaptation has the distinction of being Russia’s first horror movie. The film set in modern day Moscow see’s the forces of light and dark upholding a fragile truce which has held since Medieval times when it became clear to both sides that neither held a clear advantage over the other. To uphold the truce the forces of light formed the Night Watch while the forces of Darkness formed the Day Watch to ensure that the truce was upheld by both sides. However when a powerful neutral “Other” threatens to upset the balance depending on which side they choose, both sides find themselves in a race to discover who they are.

Shot for a mere $4.2 milion which clearly in Russia goes a lot further as here we are presented with a film which not only looks incredible as epic medievil battles rage on the roofs of tower blocks while building crumble you would think that Bekammbetov is working with the same kind of budget as the Hollywood mainstream. At the same time here he brings to life a world were amidst the urban sprawl of the city vampire lurk in the shadows, witches perform rituals to help jilted lovers get back at their former partners and a nurse’s depression might just responsible for the catastrophic storm raging over her tower block.

Following Night Watch agent Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) a low level mage who spends his nights looking like a city worker much like his fellow agents as they cruise the streets in big yellow trucks and interest contract to the flashy clothes and sports cars of the Day Watch one of which getting to live the live of a famous pop star when she’s not on duty. Certainly it’s a very grounded approach to these fantastical characters and part of what makes the film work so well, more so when it’s combined with a vicious edge which see’s clashes between the two sides not involving sparkly vampires flashing through the air but rather bloody and brutal clashes as we see when Anton is forced to tackle a pair of rogue vampires. That being said anyone who saw Wanted will know that Behammbetov is no slouch when it comes to producing exciting and inventing action scenes and this certainly the case here as well.

On an initial watch the plotting and world can seem alittle complex but certainly this is a film which rewards a second viewing with the mythology expanded further with the problematic sequel Day Watch which thanks to Behammbetov taking on Wanted and seeing the offer to direct the proposed third film Twilight Watch putting him in an artistic rut. As such Day Watch is left feeling like two films edited together as it brings a rushed end to what could have been a fantastic trilogy. Still viewed as a stand alone or as part of a larger saga there is still a lot to enjoy with the film providing the perfect entry point into this world

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Round Up

Quentin Tarantino’s Feature Presentation – A three part mini-series in which Tarantino sits down with film critic Amy Nicholson to discuss five films which impacted him from a diverse selection which includes Point Blank, Valley Girl and Boogie Nights

Visitations – Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah of indie production company SpectreVision visit the homes and workshops of some of their favorite creators in the genre community and beyond, including Taika Waititi

 

After Hours – Love, Death + Robots (Season #1)

Wrapping up season #2 our final bonus episode has us looking at Love, Death + Robots for our first boxset binge.

A project from David Fincher and Tim Miller whose initial plans to
remake Heavy Metal were mophed instead into this anthology of short
animated tales with seemingly limitless scope for the stories which can
be told as we discover from this first season.

So get ready for alternative histories, monsters, shocking twists and of course love, death + robots!!

 

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

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Friday Film Club: Howls Moving Castle + Heavy Metal

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Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick –  Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

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Loosely based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle was Hayao Miyazaki’s follow up to the runaway success of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Telling the story set in a fictional kingdom filled with both magic and technology as well as a bit of steampunk if you look at the Moving Castle creation, it follows the adventures of a common girl called Sophie who encounters a witch that turns her into an old woman. In turn, she encounters Howl, a wizard who is set out on resisting the war that is going on between the kingdoms. This encounter takes her into Howl’s Moving Castle which turns out to not only be a magical place filled with magical creatures like Calcifer, the fire that runs the castle as well as the portal of doors that can go where Howl had set.

Voiced by Christian Bale (Howl), Jean Simmons (old Sophie), Emily Mortimer (young Sophie), Billy Crystal (Calcifer) and Lauren Bacall (Witch of the Waste), Howl’s Moving Castle is packed with some strong Hollywood talent which reflect well through the final outcome of the film as each character becomes endearing and incredibly fun to watch come to life in each of their roles. As usual, Joe Hisaishi is the mastermind behind the moving soundtrack here and manages to capture all the great moments through sweeping orchestral score. Howl’s Moving Castle is an adventure and a love story packed with anti-war themes as well as the depiction of old age. However, it is the balance between the humor and the drama here that gives each of the character depth as we learn more about the magical Howl, both literally and figuratively, and it goes right down to giving a charming sense of life to a ball of fire.

While not laddened with achievements or considered a classic like Miyazaki’s earlier works, Howl’s Moving Castle has a ragtag team that goes on an adventure, each with their own goals and their own stories. However, it still manages to tug at the heartstrings and deliver some funny and charming moments. While one of the more modern titles from Miyazaki, although its already been 15 years since its release, Howl’s Moving Castle is a worthy title that doesn’t always get mentioned as Miyazaki’s great directorial works and should be.

Elwood’s Pick – Heavy Metal (1981)

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For those of you who recently enjoyed the Netflix anthology series Love, Death and Robots and now find yourself eagerly awaiting the recently announced second season you might want to check out this 1981 animated anthology which served as the inspiration with David Fincher and Tim Miller originally setting out to remake it, only for production issues to see them instead reworking their ideas  Love, Death and Robots.

So for those of you not familiar with the mature comic “Heavy Metal” which the film draws its own inspiration from it’s no doubt a publication best known for its focus on fantasy and sci-fi stories which are presented with a healthy dose of nudity, violence, drugs and erotica. It’s also a comic which interestingly is also owned by Kevin Eastman who lets not forget was also responsible for giving the world the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The film itself is a bumper collection of nine tales tied together by a mysterious green orb called the Loc-Nar which also describes itself as “the sum of all evils” and as we soon discover has been responsible for influencing societies throughout time and space while usually bringing misfortune to those who encounter it. Each story has its own distinctive style from the Sin City style noir of the opening story “Harry Canyon” through to the ultra violent barbarian fantasies of “Den” and “Taarna” which makes it an easy film to get into especially as if you don’t like one story its not long till you move onto a new one.

Directed by Gerald Potterton who is no doubt best known for his work as an animator on arguably the best Beatles movie Yellow Submarine here his style is just as experimental incorporating elements of rotoscoping aswell as a distinctive hand drawn animated style which brings to mind the work of Ralph Bakshi. More so when characters frequently can be found engaging in some form of bad or deviant behavior including (but certainly not limited to) a pair of alien pilots snorting mile long lines of coke off the floor of their spaceship.

While the animation style might look a little dated there is still unquestionably a charm to this hand drawn style of animation and it perfectly suits the stories being told much like the voice cast who might be surprising to see attached to this film and no doubt the result of Ivan Reitman being attached as the producer, but they all really play their roles well with John Candy’s voice work in particular really left me wishing that he had done more voice work as here he really shows a talent for it.

Adding to the action is a classic rock soundtrack which thankfully forgoes the usual obvious choices and instead gives us lesser known tracks from the likes of Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad and Sammy Hagar which really is the kind of soundtrack you want when you open your film with a Corvette being driven out of a spaceship and landing on Earth by it’s astronaut driver (or should that be pilot). Still regardless of the setting of each story the soundtrack somehow works well with the onscreen action, though frustratingly one of the stories being cut due to production delays meant that we lost “Time” by Pink Floyd from the soundtrack.

It’s true that due to the voyeuristic style throughout the film which much like its source material is not something that will suit all tastes, but if you liked the brash style of Sin City you will no doubt find this film very much its kindred spirit. Yes it’s rude, foul mouthed and seemingly devoid of even the most base morals but at the same time it’s so much fun that it’s hard to draw too much of an issue with it’s frequently outlandish world view and for fans of adult animation, especially those who came up through the anime boom of the late 80’s and early 90’s will no doubt get a kick out this one.

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Round Up

Simplistic Reviews return from their recent break to discuss what they did on their summer break, which includes hospital visits that lead to an interaction with Michael Keaton, their top 3 episodes of Black Mirror, some of Quincy Jones’ best hits…on fellow celebrities, and how much they would need to get paid to let a female soccer player kick them in the nethers!
Of course if this wasn’t enough Matt has an interview with the producer of The Ranger Heather Buckley

Asian Cinema Film Club check out Park Chan-Wook’s take on the vampire mythos with Thirst as a priest finds himself inheriting vampirism from a blood transfusion. They also discuss Old school anime collecting, Detective Pikachu, Neon Genesis Evangelion and the changing face of fandom.

The Blade Licking Thieves are looking at Highlander: The Search For Vengeance aswell as sharing thier thoughts on Godzilla: King of the Monsters