This is one of the very few animated productions where Studio Ghibli’s fantastic storytelling is given a hint of European flavor. While “The Red Turtle” is branded a Studio Ghibli production it garners much of the same elements from Ghibli’s library including a wide open world, a menacing series of creatures and the overtones of the symbioses of nature and humanity. It’s best to think of “The Red Turtle” as a fairy tale, as the movie relies on a lot of inexplicability to tell its thin narrative. The narrative being thin is by no means a criticism as “The Red Turtle” is a lot about raw events, and simplicity at its finest.
Time seems to be the central theme of the animated shorts for the Oscars this year, as all of the animated shorts have some semblance of the theme of time. Most of the shorts spend their story examining the beauty of the past and the present, while others examine the tragedy of the past, the present, and the future. As with most years at the Oscars, you won’t always find typical animated entries, but this year’s crop have been quite special and incredibly thought provoking. I take a second glance at the shorts this year, and what I am voting to win come February 26th.
Olive Films brings the 1955 Republic movie serial “Panther Girl of the Kongo” to blu-ray form with every episode of the cliff hanger adventures for fans. Phyllis Coates as Jean Evans is the heroine and adventurer who has been taken in to confidence by the African tribe the Utange. There she lives among the natives and begins helping them fend off various threats to their way of life. This includes a mad scientist who uses various monsters and experiments to battle with Evans. He and his cronies will do everything to push the Utange out of their village for the sake of a very valuable diamond mine.
While many science fictions films in the past have confronted the idea of communication with alien species, as well as building a language with said species, no film like “Arrival” has accomplished the examination of the inherent importance of language with other species as a means of keeping peace and preventing disaster. Films like “Prometheus” have tried and failed to tackle the concept of galactic travel to learn about ideas. “Close Encounters” which is typically celebrated for being a film about communication never quite rises to the idea that interplay between species could hinge on peace and total war. When we meet the alien species we can never really be sure what their intent is. When the time comes to meet them face to face, “Arrival” is a world that side steps military interference in exchange for linguistic help.
2014’s “The Lego Movie” surprised fans two fold, not just by being an excellent movie, but by turning Batman in to one of the funniest supporting characters in an animated movie since—well ever. “The Lego Batman Movie” initially had me very skeptical as to how far they could stretch the hilarious side character in to his own feature film, and shocking enough Lego Batman’s spin off is fantastic. It’s laugh out loud funny, very clever, and has a bonafide appeal to both hardcore fans and new audiences looking for a giggle or two. Like the original movie that spawned it, “The Lego Batman Movie” garners a myriad absurdity and off the wall hilarity that will keep many viewers laughing almost non-stop, but the writing team also injects a lot of heart. While Batman is a self confident, obnoxious, egomaniac in love with his own vigilante persona, he’s also a man who doesn’t realize much of it is hollow without a family or someone to lean on.
I would love nothing more to tell you that “The Adventure Club” is a real gem that deserves discovering. But sadly this is a kids‘ movie that even kids might eventually fall asleep during. It’s not that the movie is fundamentally bad it’s just so bland and listless, no matter how many talented character actors that director Geoff Anderson stuffs on screen. And it’s sad because the movie tries its best to utilize greats like Kim Coates, and Billy Zane to account for the fact that the rest of the cast aren’t too good in their roles. I’m all for a film of this ilk, which encourages curiosity, learning, imagination, and wonder. I love movies that carry the aesthetic of a classic serial, but “The Adventure Club” feels like one of the many clones of “The Goonies” we saw throughout the nineties that would often pop up on cable inexplicably.
Ellory Elkayem’s “Eight Legged Freaks” came out during a horrendous time. First it was a limited release, unleashed around the time another Spider oriented movie was breaking box office records, and it was released during a time where audiences were still bruised from 9/11 and weren’t too keen on welcoming horror comedies in to their lives quite yet. It’s a shame since “Eight Legged Freaks” is a pitch perfect horror comedy that celebrates everything from B movies, slasher movies, disaster movies, and the classic monster movies like “Them!” and “Mosquito.” Ellory Elkayem based a lot of “Eight Legged Freaks” on his short film “Larger Than Life,” which is very much in the spirit of what we see on the big screen. It is a black and white ode to the sixties monster movies with Elkayem conjuring up what’s so gross and icky about spiders. I originally saw “Larger than Life” on television in 2000 when it premiered on the short film television series “Exposure” on the Sci-Fi Channel here in America.
Halloween has come early this year! Lionsgate has graced horror fans with a ton of really interesting documentaries from the History Channel and A&E Network in America. For folks that always wanted to know the “Real” story behind “Frankenstein” and “The Wolfman,” well this is where you can turn. Truth be told, the entire double disc DVD set garners an array of forty five minute documentaries, with the Frankenstein topic taking center stage. With all three documentaries clocking in at 178 minutes in length, it’s a treasure trove for individuals that love Frankenstein and Mary Shelly. Featured in the first disc is “In Search of the Real Frankenstein,” “Frankenstein,” and “It’s Alive! The True Story of Frankenstein.” Oddly enough while all three documentaries can sometimes become repetitive, they offer up a unique look at Frankenstein with different angles and approaches.