As fun, whimsical calling cards go, they don’t come much better than director and editor Fabrice Mathieu‘s seamless editing together of Aardman Animation’s Wallace and Gromit, and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions.
In his delightful mash-up Cheese Trouble, the Minions forgo their usual food of choice, bananas!, in favour of cheese which naturally puts them into competition with Wallace and Gromit, in whose household cheese is, most assuredly, king, queen and every other hierarchical ruling personage.
Stitching together footage from a number of films featuring the two sets of characters – the full list is available at the end of the short film and via Film School Rejects – and music drawn from The Wrong Trousers and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Julian Nott) and The Trouble With Harry (Bernard Herrmann), Mathieu has crafted a delightfully amusing short animated special that plays to the strengths of both sets of characters, a sum that is appreciably greater than its cobbled-together parts.
Much as we like to think we can push and pummel life to fit our preconceived notions, the truth is it has an often perverse way of defying our expectations.
Try as we might, and many of us try pretty hard, usually in our youth when possibilities seem endless and limitations few, the gulf between where we are and where we thought we would be widens to the point where we either accept equanimously that this is the way of things, fight back, or as is the case with Thomas (Thomas Blanchard) and Thomas (Thomas Scimeca), sit somewhere awkwardly inbetween.
Both underemployed actors from Paris who get enough work to continue receiving their social security but not much more, the two friends of ten years standing are in their thirties, butting their heads against stymied career goals, romantic inertia and a general sense that life has shrunk to nothing and passed them by.
Thomas B – initials seem the easiest way to describe the men who are alike in name only – is the least adventurous of the two, a careful soul who restricts his life to an ever decreasing radius, both geographical and aspirational, and who may, or may not be, he is equivocal at best, on this point, in a relationship with the unseen Lisa.
He is convinced by the far more garrulous Thomas S, a man who disagrees with everything he reads and sees but who will give anything a go once (thin raw seal liver for one) to travel to the remote village of Kullorsuaq, an inuit settlement perched on the side of a hill that, at the time of their visit, and you suspect much of the time, is held firmly in the grip of eternal cold and daylight.
It may seem like a quirky place to spend a few weeks, but Thomas B’s father Nathan (François Chattot) has lived here for 20 years (he is far more apt to try new things and go new places than his more conservative son with whom he is not especially close) and now is as good a time as any, reasons Thomas S, to spread their truncated wings and see what lies beyond their increasingly small world in Paris.
This may sound like the set up for an intense drama of self-realisation, great familial changes and the kind of revelatory insight that only a complete change of location can engender, but the truth is that Voyage to Greenland, as prosaic as title as its charmingly uneventful narrative, written and directed by Sébastien Betbeder, is the sort of film where life rarely loosens its pre-arranged stranglehold of been-there, done-that.
It’s oddly perverse given that Kullorsuaq, a town both deeply traditional, where seal and polar bear hunting, usually by the taciturn Martika (Martin Jensen), and riven by incipient change driven by the internet which has shown the youth of the town such as Nukannguaq (Benedikte Eliassen) that there is more to life than the life of their forebears, is a million miles away from the dual Thomases world of failed casting calls and half-baked romance.
But the reality is you can’t really run from yourself – an apt way of describing things given the two friends propensity, driven naturally by Thomas S, for jogging in their heavy parkas across the snowy landscape in an attempt to get fit (to the amusement of the locals) – nor life’s rut-shaped track, and the film ends with neither man having gone through anything like a road to Damascus moment.
That, however, is not really the point.
The trip to see Nathan, which follows the visit of Ole (Ole Eliassen) and Adam (Adam Eskilden) to Paris some years earlier, though replete with community dances where raw seal liver, not alcohol is available in great profusion, and trips to hunt for traditional food such as seals, is really business as usual for the two men who try to push the boundaries of their lives out a little but without any real enthusiasm.
Thomas S, at least tries to sweet talk quiet Nukannguaq into pursuing a holiday romance, but for the most part the friends read, chill and look on askance, though with warmth and a willingness to take part, at the activities of the village.
Nathan may have found his true place of being far away from his old life in Paris, but he is a unique man (harbouring, by the way, some sort of ailment which neither he nor his son, who admits his family is emotionally shutdown, seem inclined to discuss fully or at all) and as the film meanders on its pleasingly-chilled (literal and otherwise) way, you begin to realise that neither Thomas will find themselves experiencing any kind of epiphany here.
Rather, Voyage to Greenland, which begins and ends with helicopter flights, the only way into and out of the remote location, is all about life and its often unnoticed small changes taking place in the quiet moments.
It’s exemplified most beautifully and with much more emotional impact that the exchange itself suggests in the final conversation between father and son where Nathan, as ever unable to fully express exactly how he feels in open and robust terms, suggests to Thomas B that it might be nice if they stay in touch.
In turn, his son, reluctant to leave his father when he’s not sure the man he’s got to know somewhat better over the last few weeks will be there when he returns, if he returns which honestly seems unlikely, asks him to do the same.
It’s a quiet plea to stay close that barely breaks the ice (pun intended) of the relationship between the two but it heralds that while not much may changed outwardly, that there has been a welcome shift of sorts between the two men, the kind of outwardly unseen but inwardly vital change that life is rife with if you are inclined to pay it some notice.
Quiet and filmed with a documentary-style aloofness than is nevertheless charming and emotionally-involving, Voyage to Greenland, does have some sweet moments of humour such as the entire village, or near enough, turns out to see the two Thomases try to get a dial-up connection to the outside world so they can provide their monthly earnings to social security.
It’s adorably funny, a rare moment of goofy levity in a film which is neither grimly realistic nor slapstick silly – there are no great dramatic nadirs nor sequences played for easy laughs, underscoring how nuanced and thoughtful the screenplay is at all times – but absolutely on point about the way we, and the lives, we lead can change even if, at first glance, not much seems to have changed at all.
A deadly new plague linked to a mysterious dust is devastating the countryside around Kabé—the world’s oldest city.
Irezúmi, a Tracker living in the abandoned outskirts of Kabé, is hired by a Merchant of the city’s underground medicine trade to study the dust that has begun falling on the city. Unable to develop a cure for the unusual sickness, Irezumi reluctantly agrees to search for the source in the countryside.
Little is known about the Dust or the illness it causes, but as it continues to consume the countryside Kabé is preparing to shut its gates—denying refuge to anyone outside the walls.
With the city verging on lock-down, the two embark on a dangerous journey into the countryside in search of the source. (synopsis via official Dust Facebook page)
You have to admire the tenacity and creative fire of anyone who would close to 10 years of their life to creating a 25 minute sci-fi film.
That’s a long time to sustain a vision and keep the flame of creative passion alive but the team of filmmakers consisting of Jason Gallaty, Josh Grier and Mike Grier, using $100,000 in crowdfunding money and some epic filming throughout Japan throughout 2011, not only managed but created Dust, a spectacularly immersive short film that will have you mesmerised from start to finish.
Drawing on some familiar dystopian tropes, which they totally make their own, they have gives voice to some very modern issues such as sustainability, the future of our planet and how humanity will respond to our changing home.
While it is, in essence, a sci-fi film, it succeeds in bringing the humanity of its storyline to the fore with well-wrought characters, a taut narrative, brilliantly-succinct, evocative worldbuilding and an embedded message that never subsumes the story itself.
It’s very clever filmmaking on every level, and you can’t help but be moved by its elegant grace and simplicity, and its visual mix of the natural and CGI enhanced settings.
Dust has understandably been a great success at film festivals around the world, an epic story in small runtime that succeeds in getting us to think deeply about where we want to go as a society. For the full story go to Vox.
SNAPSHOT Future Boyfriend, a short film by Bellhouse Productions, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2016. The film, directed by Ben Rock and starring Emily Bell, Ron Morehouse, and 3rd Rock From the Sun’s French Stewart, was adapted into a screenplay by Ularich based on his short play by the same name. The play had numerous productions around the United States, including the first Sci-Fest L.A., during their “Laugh Trek” comedy program. The Sci-Fest production starred Emily Bell and Ron Morehouse, and was directed by Meagen Fay. (synopsis (c) A Vincent Ularich)
The path to true love, delightful, sparkly, wonderful and deliciously overwhelming though it is, is never smooth now is it?
Quite how smooth it often isn’t is beautifully illustrated by this delightful short film, Future Boyfriend, where a charming if slightly odd guy (Ron Moorehouse) from 2078 travels back in time on a one-way ticket to date a woman (Emily Bell) who has taken his fancy in 2016.
To explain how he knows she exists or why is he so smitten with her would be to give away far too much about a film that is all about taking risks, putting your heart on the line and finding out that your dreams may be realised in ways you never expected.
And yes, while it’s true as Gizmodo notes, that future guy is a tad creepy in his approach, ultimately there’s something sweetly charming and appealingly earnest about someone going to all that trouble and giving us much in the pursuit of love sweet chronologically-mixed up love.
A key part of my childhood, they are the stuff of joy and nostalgia, a reassuring touchstone that there are some great and wonderful things in this world that are inherently simple and uncomplicated, and intensely rewarding.
The best part is, if you’re in L.A. now until Saturday 22 April, you can see his work, Storytime 3, up close and enchantingly personal at Gallery1988 (East) and you can even prints of them if you like via the gallery’s website.
Childhood and pop culture mixed together? Sounds a perfect exhibition to me!
The Country Doctor is a deceptively, disarming film.
Directed by Thomas Lilti, who spent 10 years working as a GP in the French health system, and sensibly writes and directs what he knows (he co-wrote the screenplay with Baya Kasmi), the film, at first glance, comes across a gentle rural drama where the much-loved, pillar of the community sole doctor Jean-Pierre Werner (François Cluzet) must grapple with his own mortality and the arrival of his possible replacement Nathalie Delezia (Marianne Denincourt).
So far, so Lifetime movie of the week, you might think.
And while the film does contain undeniable elements of its more pulpy brethren, with some well-telegraphed elements on open display – it is almost a given, for instance, that Jean-Pierre will resist Nathalie’s arrival at first and give her a determinedly hard time until a deeply respectful bond forms – it is also far more nuanced and thoughtful that you might first give it credit for.
It does, for instance, tackle the all too current issue of a dearth of healthcare options for people in rural and remote areas.
While the region in which it is set in northern France is not all that far from Paris in relative terms, it does suffer from many of the ills affecting country regions the world over from declining services as the population ages and the weariness of almost constantly having to fight for the resources you need simply to maintain a basic level of care.
Certainly Jean-Pierre, who openly admits his is a 24/7 calling, a demand on his time so consistent and unyielding that his son Vincent (Félix Moati) became an architect instead, is pulled in about a hundred different directions on any given day.
He is counsellor, social worker, doctor, home maintenance expert and staunch ally to all his patients, who range from farmers on properties, housebound in small surrounding villages and even the ostracised gypsy enclave on the edge of town through to the run of the mill cases of his fellow villagers who suffer from everything from sexual transmitted diseases to unwanted pregnancies.
Nothing too remarkable in one sense, but unlike in city regions where healthcare options are concentrated, the bucks stops with people like Jean-Pierre and nurse Fanny (Géraldine Schitter) who are, as the film’s alternate English title suggests, irreplaceable.
There is simply no one coming in to replace them, and insufficient concern given, even by the local regional council, to the need for a more thoughtful, concerted healthcare approach for the people of the area.
It’s against this backdrop that Jean-Pierre who, for all his gruffness is a deeply caring man who takes the Hippocratic Oath very seriously, going so far as to personally tend above and beyond the call of duty to an ailing 92 year old patient Mr Sorlin (Guy Faucher), is diagnosed with a brain tumour on his left temporal lobe.
Being a medical professional, he is all too aware of what the diagnosis from his friend Dr Norès (Christophe Odent) entails, but he is also human too, something he resists acceding to for much of the film.
While he complies with the chemotherapy, and then chemo/radiation mix that his treatment necessitates, he doesn’t disclose to Nathalie, who of all people has the most need to do since she assumes at first that she is going to be working alongside, not replacing Jean-Pierre, his mother nor any of fellow villagers how gravely ill he is.
Fittingly for a film that is more grounded and authentic than it first appears, this has much to do very real issues of mortality, loss of sense of place and identity, and a deep concern for the ongoing health of his patients who are more than family than anything else.
Thankfully Lilti avoids turns this into mawkish sentiment, opting instead for investing Jean-Pierre with a taciturn stoicness that, whole it does manifest as worry and anxiety if you’re paying attention (most people don’t pick up on it, Nathalie does, aided by some very telling X-rays), is never allowed to overtake the film.
Jean-Pierre is concerned and there are some quiet touching scenes where his vulnerability is on ill-disguised display, including one where he gives his nonplussed mother (Isabelle Sadoyan) a kiss and tells her “I love you”, but The Country Doctor keeps its focus solely on depicting the minutiae of small town life and Nathalie’s attempts to find her place in what is a very well-ordered ecosystem.
At its heart, and for all the avoidance of treacly sentiment, The Country Doctor most certainly has one, the film is the story of one doctor facing his mortality, another setting off her later-in-life journey into practising medicine away from the hospitals and large scale healthcare she dislikes, and how these two people come to find common ground.
In its slow, meandering way, which gets nowhere in a hurry, and yet which covers a huge amount of vitally important ground, social conscience quite prominently in display, the film is rich in detail and emotional authenticity, given us a picture of small town French life and the vital role that medical professionals play in it.
They are the glue that holds these communities together, and while some fun is made of that at one point, it is true to such a large degree that the Jean-Pierre’s potential death is of very real concern.
Well for the audience at least since by and large, with the exception of Nathalie, no one even knows Jean-Pierre is unwell.
The Country Doctor is a sage lesson in not judging a film by its genre trappings – sure it has many elements we might associate with a sweet country drama and truth be told it doesn’t shy away from them since properly observed, they have a real veracity to them; but it also dares to ask some fairly big, serious questions that are more than academic for people grappling with some fairly seismic changes to long-held ways of life.
By turns goofy and sweet, hard-edged and deeply thoughtful, The Country Doctor is insightful and truthful, a film elevated by fine, nuanced performances, an understanding and appreciation for its setting, and a staunch realisation that while we take them for granted, there are many things in our society changing and under threat and we must give serious thought to how we will respond to them, lest we find ourselves, personally and as a whole, all the poorer for their loss.
I think it is pretty much a given that everything in the world is better when it’s LEGO-fied?
The Mona Lisa? Of course. Wandering through the park on a fine summer’s day? It goes without saying? What about saving the universe, for a second time no less? As if you wouldn’t brick-ify that!
Thankfully Huxley Berg Studios recognise the importance of #alltheLEGOS in every aspect of life, and have given us a version of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer that is sure to please every last one of our inner children.
And as IO9 Gizmodo points out,, they have gone to a considerable amount of trouble to create this mini-masterpiece:
“Unlike the Lego movies, which use photo-realistic computer graphics to make it look like the characters and other Lego set pieces were built and animated by hand, Huxley Berg Studios uses traditional stop-motion and photography techniques. The process is painstaking, but the results are charming—and a lot cheaper when you’re not working with a Hollywood-caliber budget.”
In Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok, Thor will arrive in Asgard after hearing about trouble in his home world, and when he arrives he finds Loki’s style of ruling (while impersonating Odin) has led to some lapses in the rules and leads to the freeing of prisoner Hela. Thor and Hela naturally come to blows when they meet, which sees Thor “blasted” to Sakaar, described as “a barbaric planet ruled by the charming but nefarious Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).” There he meets Valkyrie, who is hiding out on the planet, and brings him to the Grandmaster to make him a gladiator, where he meets the most popular competitor in the arena, The Hulk, and loses his trademark hair and hammer.
Thor: Ragnarok will feature the return of Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder himself, with Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Idris Elba as Heimdall and Sir Anthony Hopkins again portraying Odin. Cate Blanchett plays the mysterious and powerful new villain Hela, Jeff Goldblum stars as the eccentric Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson will bring the classic hero Valkyrie to life, and Karl Urban will add his might to the fray as Skurge. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
It will surprise exactly no one that Marvel has made a great success of investing its films with a particular look and feel, and even a relatively set narrative template.
While it does mean you get a reasonably consistent, and often enjoyable, entertainment experience, the downside is that there isn’t deal of variance between the various films, which results in a feeling of relative sameness.
Thankfully, Marvel has begun to experiment of late with Guardians of the Galaxy,Deadpool and Doctor Strange all making merry with the great set-in-stone template and twisting, turning and throwing things around in a great big blender, a trend which has now, to my great delight “infected” the Thor franchise.
Thor: Ragnarok, directed by one of the best directors in the biz, New Zealand’s Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt For the Wilderpeople), a man with an inspired sense of humour and great love of inventive world building, channels much of the spirit, energy and fun of Marvel’s outliers like Deadpool, proving that some deftly used humour goes a long way.
Having said that, there’s some great drama in the trailer, with new villain Hela (hooray Kate Blanchett) ready to lay waste to Asgard, Thor and his beloved hammer, Mjolnir which doesn’t get out of the trailer in one piece alas.
While a trailer does not a movie make, this trailer is a promising start to proceedings, confirming everyone’s confidence that Waititi would bring something fresh, different and engaging to the much-awaited third Thor instalment.
Thor: Ragnarok opens in Australia on 26 October and USA on 3 November.
Not being a die-hard comic books fans myself, I will leave it to Brandon Maggiano to break the trailer down for you …
A ghost (Casey Affleck) silently observes his grieving widow (Rooney Mara) in his beloved home. (official synopsis via Coming Soon)
Losing someone you love is gut-wrenchingly, near world-endingly sad.
There is simply no way, at least at first, to begin to process the enormity of your loss, how you will never ever again enjoy the phsyical presence of that person in your life.
I didn’t truly appreciate that sage truth in its heartstoppingly sad entirety until my father died last year and I came to understand, in a way I hadn’t fully previously, how hard it is to just go on as everyone urges you to do.
Of course, you do, but its criminally hard and David Lowery’s Ghost Story, which star Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a couple cruelly separated by death, looks like it captures that great sadness and loss, using a particularly idiosyncratic device to do so.
As We Got This Covered correctly observes “The natural first reaction is to giggle, as surely the film can’t expect us to take this low effort ghost seriously” but then it hits you, how utterly affecting Affleck’s ghostly presence is, no matter how comical he might first appear.
Ghost Story is grief profound, raw and real, something those who have the film have confirmed with We Got This Covered noting that “critics [are] breathlessly describing it as ‘powerful and sobering,’ ‘poetic’ and ‘fabulous movie-making.'”
It may not be an easy film to watch, especially if you have lost someone neat and dear to you, but it looks like it will be important, meaningful and rewarding to watch, and may help us all get a little bit closer to learning to live with the vagaries of life … and death.
If you are to believe the naysayers, and quite frankly you shouldn’t if you value any sense of fun or inner child-likeness, films like The LEGO Batman Movie are nothing but crass commercial undertakings, barely-disguised toy advertisements that somehow sully the noble art of filmmaking.
The truth is, of course, that while there are commercial considerations at play, as is the case with just about property making it merchandise-heavy way from studio to cinema these days, the latest comedy-fuelled masterpiece from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who gave us the gem that is The LEGO Movie– they acted as producers in this instances, leaving the directing to Chris McKay and the screenplay to a talented team of writers – is far more than just an annoying interruption to Saturday morning cartoons.
What it is in fact is an outrageously, madcap meta-rich romp through not just the mythos of Batman, but superhero films as a whole and the blockbuster oeuvre they all but define these days.
In fact, so eager is the film to launch itself into its pop culture savvy parodying, which it approaches with intelligence, good humour and a knowing sense of insider knowingness, that the film opens with one of those bloated over-the-top spectacles that usually form one of the bigger set pieces well into the film, after the near-obligatory set-up has worn its ponderous way through the first act.
It is a spectacle that is as hilarious as it is illuminating about the current of blockbuster filmmaking where less is despicable, more is worshiped as a god on high, and excess is the catalyst for a whole new religion.
The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), who in a running joke that undergirds the film and turns it, with unveiled glee, into a twisted bad guy/good guy rom-com, is determined to get Batman (Will Arnett in all his gravelly-voiced, over-angsty glory) to admit that he is his greatest criminal enemy, storms into Gotham, unleashing just about baddy who’s ever come against the Caped Crusader on a naturally hubris-laden plan to take over and destroy the city.
A city, it should be added, that has, in some spectacularly poor decision-making left anti-social Batman, who in his alter ego as Bruce Wayne spends his nights alone watching rom-coms like Jerry Maguire and Serendipity, and eating Lobster Thermidor with his cowl still on no less, in charge if keeping it safe from crime.
It’s not the smartest of moves, and is noted as such by the new Police Commissioner, Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) when she takes over from her father James Gordon (Héctor Elizondo) at his retirement ceremony which, naturally enough, is attacked by The Joker in yet another attempt to get Batman to say “I hate you” (the inversion of just about rom-com dialogue trope in the book verges on sheer genius at times).
The thing is Batman never really locks anyone up, or not for long, and so The Joker is able to merrily hijack a plane stacked full of explosives and munitions, which Gotham air traffic control is more than happy to admit to its skies, capture the city’s main power plant and unleash a plan, with the help of, but not limited to, Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Bane (Doug Benson), the Riddler (Conan O’Brien) and yes The Condiment King (who?!), to forever send the metropolis into the eternal abyss.
(We know that that will be the outcome because a TV talking head, who is an expert on dire consequences for Gotham, merrily lays it all out for everyone to see including the bad guys, illustrating that The LEGO Batman Movie does not restrict its merciless skewering to just the entertainment industry.)
When this is foiled by Batman – oh come on, this is not a spoiler as every Batman iteration under the sun, including the loopy ’60s version which is affectionately referenced more than once, has done this before and will do it again – who is so obsessed with the perfection of his abs and his overall greatness that he can’t conceive of something not liking or admiring him, it sets in play an even bigger scheme that, I kid you not, employs the services of the Daleks, the Wicked Witch of the West and the flying monkeys, King Kong and Godzilla, Voldemort, and just about every other pop culture baddy you can think of, and then some.
In between all the gigantic action set pieces that are delivered with gusto, fun and innate sense of their self-satirising ridiculousness, we are given Batman who, despite the best efforts of faithful servant and “substitute father figure” Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and his accidental adopted son Dick Grayson aka Robin (Michael Cera), is obsessed with his own emotional aloneness.
So grimly committed to his orphan martyrdom is he that even when he ends up with a family of sorts, he is too emotionally myopic to see it, with realisation only finally sinking in that he might seem some help, personally and professionally when Gotham is all but wiped off the map.
The LEGO Batman Movie is a delight pretty much any way you slice it (and believe me, The Joker, is his quest for Batman’s monogamous hate, gives it every shot he’s got), kicking off with cinematic observations that are bang on the craft – important movies always start with a black screen and portentous music before having an insane amount of fun parodying every pop culture staple and their various articulations over the years with goofy glee.
Far from being just another cash-in kids’ movie, it is literate, clever, crafted with an eye on the fact that the story it is telling has been told, in its boiled down form anyway, a million times before, but innately aware that there are a great many intelligent laughs to be gained from telling it with a wink, a nudge and some outright silly “dad jokes” that nevertheless land perfectly thanks primarily to Arnett and Galifinakis’s expert comic timing.
You may not want Batman to save you or your city after this romp through the silliness of superhero filmmaking but you sure as hell will want him to try in what is, in all honesty, the cleverest, funniest, most self-aware and well told Batman movie in years.