Short Film Saturday – Marcel, The King of Tervuren

A great short film with a unique animated flair for a number of reasons, most of which are enumerated on BFI’s post about the film.

Similar to The Fly it’s one that’s very enjoyable whether you appreciate all the subtleties or not.

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Mini-Review: Standing Up

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Standing Up

There’s a few oddities at work in Standing Up that work against it in a most unfortunate way. One is that there’s a nearly inappropriate tonal shift in the film. I only read half the book before putting it down so this isn’t fanboydom taking over, but aside from near the end and the inciting incident there is a lack of gravitas in the tale. It, in fact, gets siphoned off far too much. Another odd occurrence is that the further you get away from the protagonists the less natural, and grounded in reality their portrayals are. It can be argued that it’s a byproduct of having the narrator of the story be one of the kids, even still it’s a step too far and has the potential to take the audience out of the moment, as it did me. This is especially evident in what is intended to be a very dramatic moment in the film, one filled with tension as they are uncertain of the intent of one character. However, due to the writing, direction, and performance in the scene it falls flat.

It is difficult to come down against a film that has a firmly anti-bullying message and two great turns from the young leads Chandler Canterbury and Annalise Basso, but much of the production detracts rather than augments what they bring to the film. Furthermore, there’s not a build, or an overwhelmingly solid, memorable redemptive segment to the film; it’s all a bit too inconsistent overall.

5/10

Mini-Review: Breakout

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Breakout

This one is the kind of tale that should work on an escapist, popcorn-movie, silly action film basis but it doesn’t do so. There is a collision course set in motion: criminals on the lam, a man’s family caught in their crosshairs, and a father escaping prison to protect his family from them. This collision is set in motion slowly, too slowly; far too much setting up of each narrative occurs and then when they do collide the edit, the blocking and the action itself are far to stagnant and uninteresting.

The pair of criminals on the lam look more like they’ve been plucked out of a sitcom episode about criminals than who you might expect to see in a action film, meaning they’re not menacing or frightening at all, which drains much of the potential drama and suspense from this title. Nearly every phase of production under-serves a decent concept the score included making this a terribly flaccid, forgettable affair.

2/10

Mini-Review: Kaboom

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Kaboom

This is a film by director Greg Araki that can only be described as one of the strangest I’ve yet seen and in both a good and a bad way. The story is a widening gyre that goes from very real and gritty to incredibly outlandish. It’s a movie that has me torn between opposite extremes whereas I love the audaciousness of it I cannot say I liked it because it just went too crazy. The film does feature a very strong performance by Thomas Dekker.

To try to synopsize the film is a slippery slope which would likely lead to me having to explain everything. It’s not a film for a mainstream audience. There’s adult content all throughout so that whole viewer discretion is advised spiel applies to this film on many levels.

5/10

Mini-Review: To The Wonder

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

To the Wonder

wonder

While this latest offering from Terrence Malick would make an interesting double-feature companion to The Tree of Life, the major differences between the two are in terms of scope and quality. With the prior film there was a dilation of narrative, not unlike an iris opening and closing, that made it so spellbinding; it went from the metaphysical to mental and back again. Here the narrative is all told from the perspective of its characters through a poetical inner-monologue style of narration that allows for the fluid kinetics of the edit to be similar. That more internalized approach in and of itself is not an issue, but when there are five main parts to that equation and one just doesn’t stack up that’s problematic. The film also has a sort of a flat-line mot of the time. Not a great deal of ebb and flow. It’s a title about exploration of faith, relationships and life; however, the journey is not all it could be. When results of the characters’ quests prove mostly inconclusive reaching that point needs to be a slightly more rounded experience to make greater impact.

6/10

Mini-Review: Funeral Kings

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Funeral Kings

In most cases, it takes some fairly brave filmmaking, the kind you usually only find on the indie scene; to get a refreshing and fairly honest coming-of-age style tale. This is not just a question of using profanity and making “kids sound like kids,” but also being unafraid to make the characters fairly complicated; gray, neither black nor white. For in this tale the two main foci Charlie (Alex Maizus) and Andy (Dylan Hartigan) are inclined to make trouble and misbehave, but when backed into a corner they reach the point of maturation, and reveal their true character. The closest thing to a “white” character is Dave (Jordan Puzzo) but even he, as the plot necessitates, shows a little added dimension and isn’t entirely squeaky-clean.

Of course, none of this journey, which is more a life-like domino-effect of events than a standard plot; without very realistic performances from the young actors in question. This leading trio is exceptional. Maizus has before him what can likely be considered as the most daunting task having to juggle streetwise smart-aleckness, Napoleonic complex and a well-guarded sensitivity and excels. However, Hartigan matches Maizus’ worldliness and brings his own brand of alpha to the part. Last, but most certainly not least is the performance most likely to be overlooked, and it oughtn’t be, is Jordan Puzzo. Puzzo has to be earnest and deadpan and absolutely nails all of his dialogue that has to land.

Funeral Kings is very funny, insightful and refreshing take on a coming-of-age tale that put character first and circumstance second even though it sets itself up for potentially sensationalistic scenarios.

8/10

Mini-Review: Ginger & Rosa

Ginger & Rosa

One cannot summarily dismiss this film if only for the performances of Elle Fanning and Alice Englert if nothing else. It starts out on a very visual note, it doesn’t quite persist in that regard. In many ways many of its failings can be perceived through the lens of persisting: persisting in an overly-minimal tale and lacking persistence in narrative progression.

The first act seems most concerned with establishing character, the second with slowly unraveling the superficial and actual causes of angst that Ginger feels. This all builds to very subdued if real climax. It’s a climax that could be earned if there was sufficient forward momentum prior, but there is not.

5/10

Short Movie Saturday -Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

Yes, you read that right. 1888. This is the oldest known surviving film fragment. While the YouTube claims it’s 65 seconds long that’s because of replays and slow-motion replays. It’s actually two seconds long. Sure, that’s not much to go on, but in such a young art something so old is noteworthy. Furthermore, Movies Silently, where I discovered this snippet brings some humor to its brevity:

That’s where the fun really comes in. Put on your best know-it-all voice and proclaim that the second half did not live up to the potential of the first. That you feel the film could have done with tighter editing. That the symbolism of the garden scene strikes at the very meaning of life itself.

Welcome to the in-joke! (And a very important milestone in the history of cinema.)

Enjoy!

Mini-Review: Cody the Robosapien

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Cody the Robosapien

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I previously had occasion to discuss the odd resume of Sean McNamara when Space Warriors was released earlier this year [At the time of this writing]. This the same guy who directed Soul Surfer and that is good, while Space Warriors most certainly is not. Some of it could have to do with the production gathered around the film. Some also invariably has to do with the story being told. I would peg Cody the Robosapien as being somewhere in between the two.

I knew that this was a pre-existing property but it was one I was merely aware of and not one I knew well. Regardless at one point this film was referred to as Robosapien: Rebooted and acts like an origin story so there’s no issue of pre-existing information we don’t have access to.

As a narrative this film is quite the weird one, it barely gets by (if you suspend much disbelief) when looking at the first and third acts in isolation. It’s in act two when the robosapien becomes more Jar Jar Binks-like than the affable, smart-kid prototype he was that issues come in, especially when trying to make it a whole. Yes, there is also filler and lapses, but it’s really the sideshow nature of the comedy, the seemingly unquestioned acceptance of the robot’s existence at school that start the downhill slide and introduces other issues.

As per usual, Bobby Coleman, as the young lead, is fantastic and a standout in this cast. He buoys the title much more than most would deem possible, and more than most actors his age could possibly hope to.

Considering how long this one sat around in the can I don’t know if there’s a future for this property anymore. However, it seems like if the vaudevillian aspect of Cody’s persona was reprogrammed it is a concept that could work.

5/10

Mini-Review: Aliyah

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Aliyah

This film has a very interesting premise: a Parisian man dissatisfied with his life of dealing drugs and bailing his brother out of trouble seeks Aliyah, emigration to Israel, though he’s never been that in touch with his roots; he just seeks a new start. However, what occurs is a fairly bland, opaque character study of a many scarcely changing and hardly facing obstacles to reach what he thinks will be his change. There’s a rather New Wave ethos of seeing scene X then Z, such that you know Y occurred, so why bother watching it? However, that works better when impact is heightened. Here it is lessened. Furthermore, there is a late-film scene where if you haven’t followed the character’s plot his would-be girlfriend literally plots it out in a very thinly-veiled parable trying to keep him in Paris. Worse yet it changes nothing and her sudden head-over-heels passion for him never makes sense. This is a film that keeps one more disengaged than its lead seeks to be and fails because of it.

5/10