Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Ninjababy

Director – Ingvild Sve Flikke – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 tbc – 103m

*****

An artist draws constantly, her life punctuated with animated inserts, as she finds she is pregnant with a ninjababy – out in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 10th

Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is the messy one, Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson) is the tidy one. They share a flat. All this is apparent from Rakel’s simple, sketched black lines on white background, animated plan of their flat. That opens this essentially live action film, which is thereafter punctuated by animation either in similar inserts or apparently drawn into the moving live action images e.g. on light areas of wall (this may be a special effect, but it’s an extremely low tech one).

Ingrid thinks something is up with Rakel – the larger breasts, the vast quantities of fruit drink consumed – could Rakel be pregnant? Do a test. Positive. To the abortion clinic. Sorry, 26 weeks and the legal limit is 12. That’s Mos-Aikido (Nader Khademi) off the hook, the sex with him (and it was good) was more recent. The father can only be the self-centred Dick Jesus (Arthur Burning), her one sex partner who didn’t use a condom in that time period.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

The Sparks Brothers

Director – Edgar Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 140m

****

The rollercoaster career of musical duo Sparks with its successful hits and intermittent lapses into obscurity – out in cinemas on Thursday, July 29th

There’s a story about John Lennon phoning Ringo Starr to say, “you won’t believe what’s on television – Marc Bolan doing a song with Adolf Hitler.” This was Sparks’ auspicious debut on BBC music show Top Of The Pops in the early 1970s playing what is probably their best known track, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, a broadcast estimated to have reached some 15 million people. Everyone was talking about this the day after – that’s mentioned here, and it’s something I myself remember from my own school days: the lively energetic singer (Russell Mael) and the suited, almost motionless, keyboard player (Ron Mael) with the slicked back hair and the Hitler moustache. The Hitler appearance may not have been deliberate, but that image of the duo – the extrovert and the introvert – has become the band’s enduring media image over the years.

TOTP 1974

One gets the impression from passing moments in this film that Charlie Chaplin was an equally formative presence for Ron – and though it’s never mentioned, Chaplin made the film The Great Dictator (1940) in which he played a Hitler type despot as well as a Jewish barber unfortunate enough to look like him…but I digress.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Very Hungry Caterpillar And Other Stories

Director – Andrew Goff – 1994 – UK – Cert. U – 35m

*****

VHS tape review from What’s On In London sometime back in the mid-1990s, republished here to coincide with the sad news of writer / illustrator Eric Carle’s death at 91.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories is based on the stories of German writer / illustrator Eric Carle and genuinely manages to make infant learning a fun experience. The title story, for instance, traverses days of the week, basic numeracy and simple sentence structure at the same time (“On Monday, he ate one apple, but he was still hungry. On Tuesday, he ate two pears…”) aided by a Roger McGough voice over that would stand up pretty well as a pre-recorded audio cassette in its own right.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The film has further fun still with the animation medium. The caterpillar is cleverly reconceived as a series of joined-up flat shapes, while the cut-out animation techniques used prove not only the perfect vehicle for Carle’s material, but are imaginatively used which renders them watchable over and over again by adults and children alike.

Other Carle stories featured include The Very Quiet Cricket and I See A Song.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Story Of Mr. Nanguo (Nan Guo Xian Shen, 南郭先生)

Directors – Qian Jiaxin, Wang Borong – 1981 – China – Cert. N/C U – 18m

*****

A man pretends to be a musician in order to profit from the high wages paid to the king’s court pipe players in the Qi period – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Two thousand years ago in the Qi period, the King of Qi is dissatisfied with the court entertainment and demands a grand ensemble of 300 pipe players. Invitations go out throughout the land and one finds its way to hustler Mr. Nanguo who dumps his current cockfighting venture to muscle in on the well paid musicians’ gig. 

At an audition, he impresses with impromptu juggling and claims he can play the pipe. Playing before the king, he is the one person unable to play the tune with the others. First he covers for himself by shooing away some cranes for making the wrong noise, then he stuff beans into his pipes so that no sound will come out when he plays. 

Alas, a bean dislodges and goes down the neck of the player in front.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Golden Conch (Jin Se De Hai Luo, 金色的海)

Director – Wan Guchan – 1963 – China – Cert. N/C U – 36m

*****

A mermaid falls for a poor fisherman and moves in with him arousing the wrath of her sea goddess mother available to rent online from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021

A coral island, drifting mists, drifting faerie maidens. Underwater. Every morning, says the female narrator, a fisherman goes out in his boat and sings to these mermaids. But their mother the sea goddess doesn’t like to be disturbed so she hides the girls from him by increasing layers of blue fog. 

The fisherman goes about his work and his net keeps picking up a conch shell which he keeps throwing back in the water. When he returns home, there is food prepared on his table, which is odd because he lives alone. 

Next day when he’s out, the camera closes in on his simple cottage. Inside there’s an urn, inside the urn floats the golden conch (the image distorted by patterned glass) which lap dissolves into a faerie maiden. She walks round the house, magics a fire alight in his stove and opens the window to marvel at his singing. … Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Fishing Child (Yu Tong, 渔童)

Director – Wan Guchan – 1959 – China – Cert. N/C U – 23m
*****
A Catholic priest attempts with the help of a local official to steal a magic, wealth-producing bowl from a poor fisherman – available to rent online from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021

Animation has long proved effective as a vehicle for mythology, fairy stories, folk tales and suchlike. This little film proves it again. Made using traditional 2D Disney style backgrounds and camerawork augmented with 2D cut-out characters, it’s also a visual marvel in which can also be seen the influences as diverse as Chinese art and UPA cartoons. 

A poor, coastal village is blockaded by foreign (i.e. European) ships preventing the local fishermen from pursuing their livelihood. That doesn’t however stop a local official from tormenting an old fisherman by demanding he pay Fish Tax. The man is flabbergasted since the blockade prevents him from working and therefore earning money, but the official insists, threatening to chop up the man’s boat with his axe if payment is not forthcoming the next day. 

Thinking as the rain pelts down, the understandably worried man decides to go out in the storm as the ships won’t be looking for fishermen and catch fish to pay the tax.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1961 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. U – 85m

*****

Available on Blu-ray/DVD and now on BFI Player too.

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2017 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

Using not only live action but also every form of animation you can imagine, the 1961 Czech fantasy The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (BD/DVD, cert U, 85 mins) puts the infamous teller of tall tales in the company of a rational astronaut he meets on the moon for a series of improbable adventures. It’s a charming and delightful piece of escapism and a visual marvel from start to finish.

Director Karel Zeman has probably come closer than anyone to filming the equivalent of a moving woodcut and the whole thing is highly inventive throughout, challenging the very idea of what a film might look and feel like. Children and adults alike will be entranced. For good measure, the disc includes a documentary in which students try to recreate some of the film’s spectacular special effects.

Trailer here:

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2017 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Invention For Destruction (Vynález Zkázy)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1958 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. U – 82m

*****

Blu-ray/DVD available from Second Run.

Review originally written as an entry for

the Aurum Film Encyclopedia: War (series editor: Phil Hardy).

Sadly, the book was never published.

Vynález Zkázy

aka

Invention For Destruction,

The Invention Of Destruction,

The Deadly Invention,

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961, US version)

KRATKY FILM PRAHA | STUDIO LOUTKOVYCH FILMU GOTTWALDOV

Feature length trickfilm adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel Une Invention Diabolique is less about war itself than its causes – specifically scientists who work without regard for how their experimental research will be used by others. Professor Roche (Navrátil) is kidnapped from a sanitarium and taken by clipper (towed by a prototype submarine invisible from the surface) to the island of Back-Cup where mysterious captor Count Artigas (Holub) invites him to continue his research – a task the childlike scientist is happy to undertake. The professor’s travelling companion, research assistant and the film’s narrator Simon Hart (Tokos) wants by contrast to escape and warn the world of Artigan’s plans to attack using a giant gun.

Zeman shoots his film with an all-encompassing diversity of live action and animated techniques, mixing actors, natural history photography and studio sets (augmented by drawings of set sections matted into his locked-off frame) on the one hand with live action and stop-frame puppetry, animated models, drawings and any other method you care to name.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Journey To The Beginning Of Time (Cesta Do Pravěku)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1955 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. PG – 86m

*****

Blu-ray/DVD available from Second Run.

I’ve written about the pioneering Czech director Karel Zeman in these pages before regarding his 1961 film The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (BD/DVD, cert U, 85 mins). The latest of his works to see a release in a beautifully restored version is 1955’s Journey To The Beginning Of Time (BD/DVD, cert PG, 86 mins) in which four young boys go back in time to find a trilobite and see numerous other prehistoric beasts on the way, realised by an astonishing array of animation and special effects techniques.

The film flows very naturally and has a commendable awe of the created world. The subtitled Czech version is the one to watch first. The disc also includes the surprisingly effective US dubbed version with its different opening sequence at the American Museum Of Natural History and a different closing sequence with stock footage of volcanoes and a gratuitous voice-over about the Genesis creation myth.

Trailer here:

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2019 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.