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Animation Live Action Movies Shorts

Letter to a Pig

Director – Tal Kantor – 2022 – France, Israel – 17m

*****

Under the watchful eye of an authoritarian teacher, as a class of bored teenagers listens to a visiting Holocaust survivor recount his experiences, one of their number daydreams about the pig with which the survivor shared a barn – nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2024 Academy Awards, VoD details below review

A figure (voice: Indra Maharik) with one shoe flees, running through a forest. “Nothing mattered”, says the old man sitting, his hands clasped together on the desk, in front of the schoolroom of bored Israeli teenagers. Haim (voice: Alexander Peleg) is recounting his experiences under the Nazi regime, but the teenagers would rather be somewhere else. Haim tells how he fled to a barn, where the pig there effectively saved his life. The severe teacher (voice: Ayelet Margalit) ejects one of them for remarking, “oink, oink”. Haim, recounting the past, talks about people capable of hate not deserving to live; he has clearly been unable to forgive those who acted on behalf of the Nazi regime.

Drifting off into a reverie, in her mind’s eye, one girl (voice: Moriyah Meerson) sees the SS send a pig to pursue the boy through the forest.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Music

Blue Giant
(BLUE GIANT)

Director – Yuzura Tachikawa – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 120m

*****

Three 18-year-olds form a jazz band with the aim of playing at Tokyo’s top jazz club – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, January 31st and Thursday, February 1st

Before this property was a movie – an animated movie – it was a manga. Which, on one level, is nothing that out of the ordinary in Japan (see, for instance, basketball movie The First Slam Dunk, Takehiko Inoue, 2022) but on another is extraordinary. Blue Giant is about music, specifically jazz, even more specifically teenager Dai Miyamoto (voice: Yuki Yamada; musicianship: Tomoaki Baba) who gives up basketball and decides he wants to be the best tenor sax player in the world. He rehearses intensively by the banks of the river in the city of Sendai where he lives, leaving for Tokyo at age 18 and talking his way into moving in with old pal Shunji Tamada (voice: Amane Okayama; musicianship: Shun Ishikawa).

Unsure where to start, Dai visits a bar named Jazz – Take Two where the friendly Mama-san Akiko (voice: Sayaka Kinoshita), who no longer hosts live jazz gigs there, takes pity on him and plays him selections from her vast wall of jazz LPs.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Eraserhead

Director – David Lynch – 1977 – US – Cert. 15 – 89 mins

*****

A look at where Eraserhead came from – and where its weirdness led. First published in 1996.

The current vogue for Special Editions and Director’s Cuts prompts David Lynch to rerelease Eraserhead with a Dolby Stereo sound remix.

The pre-existing gem of a soundtrack was textured by Lynch and collaborating sound designer Alan Splet to incorporate a host of industrial noises alongside such unforgettable effects as the hero’s girlfriend’s mother gargling during a dinner table fit. Eraserhead remains arguably the most original and innovative vision the last twenty years of American cinema have produced.

Not that film or director came from the mainstream. Abandoning painting as an art student, Lynch began making animation / live action films with the brief loop Six Men Getting Sick (1967) with the four minute The Alphabet (1969) and the half hour The Grandmother (1970) funded by American Film Institute grants. The AFI then funded Eraserhead, which mushroomed to feature length and required completion finance from elsewhere. Reactions to the result vary between boredom, revulsion, or admiration (this writer aligns with the latter).

Invited to his girlfriend Mary’s (Charlotte Stewart) for dinner, “Printer – on vacation” Henry (Lynch regular Jack Nance) learns she is pregnant.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Peasants
(Chłopi)

Directors – DK Welchman, Hugo Welchman – 2023 – Poland, Serbia, Lithuania – Cert. 15 – 114m

****1/2

A rural drama of romance, adultery and inheritance is expressed through the remarkable, foot-in-two-camps medium of live action filmmaking turned into animated painting – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th

A small rural village in the early 20th Century. Young woman Jagna Paczesiówna (Kamila Urzędowska) is in love with Antek Boryna (Robert Gulaczyk). Unfortunately, not only is Antek already married to Hanka (Sonia Mietielica), who is fed up with his philandering, but also the latter’s father Maciej (Mirosław Baka), who is the richest person in the village, is widowed and wants Jagda to marry him – against her will but in line with that of her parents, who know a good thing when they see it. Alas, after the marriage, she carries on with Antek and things slowly go from bad to worse.

It’s gripping if harrowing stuff and would probably work well enough in live action, although it might not look that dissimilar to many other period costume dramas. It can occasionally be hard to keep track of who’s who, which I suspect is down to the script, an adaptation of a 1906 novel originally written as four volumes covering one year through the seasons Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, a trajectory also followed by the screenplay.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Wonka

Director – Paul King – 2023 – US – Cert. PG – 112m

Movie ****

Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa when he eventually appears*****

How the youthful Willy Wonka became the world’s most celebrated maker of chocolate – musical based on one of Roald Dahl’s best-known characters is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th

Willy Wonka is familiar to generations of children through both the book in which he first appeared, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and its two film adaptations Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton, 2005). Rather than remake the novel a third time, Warner Bros. have taken the bold step of creating a Willy Wonka origin story. Who was Wonka before he became the innovative and eccentric chocolate factory owner that book and movie audiences know and love? It’s a great idea for a film.

Paul King, who previously breathed cinematic life into another well-known figure from British children’s literature in his two Paddington movies (2017 and 2014), has, together with Paddington 2 co-screenwriter Simon Farnaby, come up with an original story which feels like a Dahl adaptation – although it isn’t.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Wish

Directors – Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn – 2023 – US – Cert. U – 95m

**

The ruler of a kingdom where wishes can come true, undone by assuming the role of gatekeeper, morphs into a tyrant – latest Disney animated feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 24th

A believer in the idea that wishes can come true, a man trains himself in the art of sorcery and, with his wise and faithful wife at his side, sets himself up as King Magnifico (voice: Chris Pine) of the Mediterranean island of Rosas with his wife Queen Amaya (voice: Angelique Cabral). The king wants to create a land where wishes truly can come true, and to that end he has his subjects hand over their most heartfelt wish for safekeeping on their 18th birthday, after which the wish is erased from the wisher’s mind. He examines the wishes for himself, decides which ones would benefit society, and periodically has ceremonies where a citizen is granted their wish.

It’s a heavy workload, though, and now he’s advertising for a new assistant. Soon to be 18 teenager Asha (voice: Ariana DeBose) applies, although the King is rumoured to be difficult to work with.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Shorts

The Picks that spoiled our film critic!

Jeremy Clarke returns to the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in order to cover the Critics’ Picks section (which is now on its second year); he encounters what’s probably the strongest section of the event

Some people have a fear of flying. I don’t, but dislike of all the bureaucratic paraphernalia that surrounds airports. Not to mention London’s transport system, which is good most of the time, but not so much when it goes wrong. Coming home from the Festival last year, I got caught up in a tube strike. That didn’t happen this year. Indeed, the travel to and from the airport worked better for a number of reasons.

One was that the Festival’s hospitality team were kind enough to book my flights to and from Heathrow. This meant I could use the Elizabeth Line to travel to and from the airport. I currently live on the Victoria Line, which connects directly with three major rail terminals (Kings Cross, Euston, Victoria) but not the Elizabeth Line. The Elizabeth was all a bit too new last year, but Londoners who frequently travel into the centre of town as I do have got rather more used to it, and the Oxford Circus (Victoria Line) to Bond Street (Central Line) to Heathrow (Elizabeth Line) is reasonably easy to navigate.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Pelikan Blue
(Kék Pelikan)

Pelikan Blue (Kék Pelikan)

Director – László Csáki – 2023 – Hungary – Cert. none – 79m

****

How three friends wanting to travel to the West after Hungary opened up in 1985 stumbled onto a lucrative scam forging rail tickets – innovative documentary employing animation premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

This talks about Hungary opening its borders and allowing its citizens to travel beyond the iron curtain for the first time in 1985. The problem was that for most school students and ordinary working people, travel was too expensive. 1987-90 was the best time, says one man. Owing to peculiarities in the exchange rate system, it was possible to change East German marks into West German marks and triple the value of your money.

One man was in a queue at a counter with a man named Atos who had enough to clear out that particular counter, but he took pity on the other punters behind him and only took half what he could have had. Petya and another grateful friend of his in that queue later found themselves on a plane to Berlin, then sharing a hotel room with Atos.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The First
Slam Dunk

Director – Takehiko Inoue – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a tbc – 124m

*****

A high school basketball team sets out to defeat the seemingly unstoppable league champions – plays Annecy International Animation Festival from Wednesday, June 14th: Edinburgh Film Festival from Wednesday, August 22nd-23rd; out in UK and Ireland cinemas on Wednesday, August 30th

The coastal town of Shohoku. 11-year-old Ryota Miyagi (voice: Miyuri Shimabukuro) lives in the shadow of his 14-year-old, elder brother and school basketball star Sota (voice: Gakuto Kajiwara). One evening, Sota takes his younger sibling out for a practice at the local court, playing as hard as he can to push Ryota, which makes the youngster want to push himself harder still. Sota then alienates Ryota by going on a fishing trip with his peer group rather than respond to Ryota’s demand to extend their practice session. When his elder brother is tragically killed at sea, Ryota must both step into both the role of man of the house and prove himself in the school basketball team.

By the time Ryota is 17 (voice: Shugo Nakamura), he is one of the players on the Shohoku school basketball team which itself faces challenges: specifically, if it is to win the national championships, it must defeat the the seemingly unstoppable reigning champions the Sannoh school basketball club and their star player Masashi Kawata (voice: Mitsuaki Kanuka), Ryota’s opposite number (both wear their team’s no.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Puffin Rock
And The
New Friends

Director – Jeremy Purcell – 2022 – US, UK, Ireland, China – Cert. U – 92m

***1/2

The puffin and animal community of Puffin Rock is thrown into crisis by the arrival of a few refugees, the disappearance of a puffin egg and a terrible storm – spinoff feature from preschool children’s animated TV series out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 11th

Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon’s Puffin Rock TV series (2015-2016) has deservedly won awards in the world of preschool children’s television. Narrated by Chris O’Dowd, who acts as a running commentary and offers guidance to the two main characters, it centres around two preschool puffins Oona and her younger brother Baba who live on the isolated, human-free island of Puffin Rock with their kind, protective and loving parents. Through O’Dowd’s voiceover and the introduction of other animal characters, episodes deliver simple facts about natural history in a friendly and informative manner. While this educational is never allowed to get in the way of the storytelling, it’s a welcome extra. The programmes are around six minutes in length. (The series can be found on Netflix in the UK, where three six minute episodes are gathered into twenty minute batches comprising three episodes.)… Read the rest