Mune: Guardian of the Moon (2015)

“Mune: Guardian of the Moon” draws obvious influences from the likes of Studio Ghibli and Laika, and it’s a rather entertaining gem of an animated fantasy that I couldn’t help but enjoy with a wide smile. After “The Emoji Movie,” it’s very calming to know that there are still studios out there trying to deliver quality family animated entertainment. Dubbed over from the original French track, “Mune” translates well for domestic audiences, and I didn’t have a very tough time following what is a pretty nifty premise based around mysticism, nature, and the like. It also sports the classic hero’s journey trope, which isn’t so bad when it’s handled subtly.

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Bloodlands (2017) [FrightFest Glasgow 2017]

An Albanian family with inner turmoil finds itself in the middle of a “blood feud” following a clan reputed to be connected to a mountain witch steals from their business.

Written and directed by Steven Kastrissios, Bloodlands’ story is based in the folklore and traditions of the Balkans with a blood feud creating most of the stress to the characters and conflicts. The film develops as a drama for most of its run time with a few bits and pieces rooted in the horror genre until the epilogue which falls directly and completely in the horror genre. His characters feel rooted in reality while going through hell and back. The family is not perfect, they have issues, they argues, they seem to only by together because they have to or because society says they should at times, which all leads to feeling like a lot of dysfunctional families out there and makes the characters feel real. The father is strong headed while the mother is a gossiper who gets a lot of crap for it. Their kids show interest in leaving their country or at least area which is something most teens/young adults go through. The film shows this family in a true light, with their issues, loving each other warts and all. This family is the root of the film and basically the root of the story in every way possible.

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Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini) (2017) (New York International Children’s Film Festival 2017)

Courgette (Zucchini) is a young boy who has had a tough life.  His father is gone and his bother drinks a lot of beer.  One day, something happens to his mother and he ends up placed in a group home.  Through learning to trust others with the other kids in the home, he also learns to love himself and others.

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My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de courgette) (2016)

I truly, truly hope that when “My Life as a Zucchini” comes to the states that people to come to see it. I want people to seek it out, I want people to take their families, and I want everyone to tell others about what is easily one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. “My Life as a Zucchini” is simple and it’s short, but its rich in human themes, and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with. Rest assured I fell in love with every single character, and understood even the antagonists. “My Life as a Zucchini” isn’t a film that shoehorns in a villain. It’s merely a slice of life about the pitfalls and emotional turmoil that comes with being an orphan in a very cruel, and often difficult world.

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Fireworks (1947)

In post-World War II America, homosexuality was being addressed with various degrees of maturity and artistry in literature and theater – but not in cinema, thanks to the restrictive Production Code censorship that governed Hollywood. Far removed from the movie industry, 17-year-old Kenneth Anger used cinema to consider homoeroticism with the 14-minute “Fireworks,” which was certainly the most daring film of 1947 – and is still among the most astonishing productions ever made.

For this experimental work, Anger cast himself as a young man whose sex-fueled fantasies become a violent reality. From its opening, Anger immediately breaks taboos by suggesting the dream of the youth being held in the arms of a hunky sailor. The youth awakes and it appears that he has an erection – but the pulling back of the blanket reveals he was holding a statuette to simulate his phallic tower. Slipping through a door marked “Gents,” he winds up in a bar where a bodybuilder sailor shows off his muscles – but when the youth offers the sailor a cigarette, the sailor slaps him in the face and twists his arm behind his back. The sailor later lights the youth’s cigarette with a flame burning at the end of a bundle of sticks – or, to be crude, using a faggot to light up a faggot.

Then, more sailors show up, with their leader holding a large chain. They surround the youth, who sinks to the ground. The youth is framed in tight close-up, screaming with blood being splattered across his face, as sailors beat him with chains and cut open his chest to find a gas gauge in his heart. This assault is followed by white liquid being poured on the youth’s face and body. One of the sailors is seen with a lit Roman candle dangling from his fly. But it turns out to have just been a sadomasochistic dream as the youth shares his bed with another man (although this partner’s face is scratched out of the print in a manner that gives his head a cartoonish sunshine glow).

Not unlike many experimental films, there is a degree of artistic wobbling going on – a Christmas tree is trotted out for no clear reason and a few shots are not in focus. But the sheer audacity of the film’s most visceral images and its unapologetic consideration that the orgy of sexual violence was little more than a dream – that ultimate storytelling cliché, played for a big gay laugh here – were far ahead of its time. And, maybe, with its willingness to jettison aesthetic safety for sheer carnal outrageousness, “Fireworks” is also ahead of our time.

Ils (Them) (2007)

themDirectors Moreau and Palud’s “Ils (Them),” is an unnerving and spooky horror entry almost in the vein of “The Strangers,” and “Last House on the Left,” that sets down on the countryside where hooded beings are terrorizing the locals and tourists. Clementine and Lucas go away for the weekend to their country home for holiday, and after a night of dinner and love making learn that they’re being terrorized by an endless group of hooded individuals who engage in a rather horrific game of cat and mouse.

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CJ7 (2008)

CJ7 (2008)I’d like to tell you that “CJ7” is Stephen Chow’s answer to “E.T.” but as we all have come to know, Chow would never be about providing ordinary kids entertainment that we’ve seen before. “CJ7” may have the same formula when you get down to it, but Chow gives his own spin on it and it works. It’s a healthy dose of menace, adult edge, and over the top fantasy that has become a dead art in family films and director Chow takes every chance to flex those elements with his own take on the boy meets alien tale. On the flipside, Chow also tries to tell a genuinely emotional tale about a poor down on their luck and father and son struggling to get by living in a junk yard and eating day old food, while character Dickey’s dad always tries to teach him about life and how there are simply no short cuts. Especially when you’re poor.

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