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Animation Features Movies

Tad The Lost Explorer And The Curse Of The Mummy (Tad The Lost Explorer And The Emerald Tablet; Tadeo Jones 3. La Tabla Esmeralda; Tadeo Jones 3. La Taula Maragda)

Director – Enrique Gato – 2022 – Spain – Cert. U – 90m

****

In Mexico, desperate for recognition as a bona fide archaeologist, our hero unearths an Egyptian sarcophagus and unleashes a mysterious power from an Inca temple – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Gato’s third instalment of the Tad The Lost Explorer franchise is a lot better than it sounds, chiefly because it delivers narrative coherence and picks up and runs with numerous opportunities afforded by character and script where the similarly inventive Minions: The Rise Of Gru (Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val, 2022) failed.

Having agreed with girlfriend Sara not to go public about his previous archaeological discoveries, Tad has with her help got on to the Chicago Museum’s dig in Mexico – as a lowly assistant, even though he seems more clued-up than the three qualified archaeologists in charge. Rashly opening a secret door by pushing a part of a wall frieze, he finds himself in a vast chamber containing an Egyptian sarcophagus, his report of which is pooh-poohed by his three superiors until, after firing him, they discover it for themselves and take the credit.

This rivalry between the ‘amateur’ Tad and qualified but comparatively clueless ‘professionals’ is kept up throughout the narrative, although the professionals remain secondary characters.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Mad God

Director – Phil Tippett – 1987-2021 – US – 83m

*****

A man in a gas mask descends into a dark, dangerous world on a mysterious mission, encountering strange creatures, humanoids and societal constructs along the way – stop-frame epic 34 years in the making as of Tuesday, June 28th, has become the most watched premier of 2022 on Shudder, where it plays in both the UK and the US from Thursday, June 16th; also plays London’s Prince Charles Cinema Tuesday. July 5th to Friday, July 8th

My immediate reaction after watching this was two-fold. On the one hand, wow!!! On the other, how on earth do I put the experience of watching this into words? Mad God definitely has a structure, yet what’s amazing about it is the visuals, the animation, the effects. Even though I’m familiar with the work of its director Phil Tippett (as one of the heirs apparent to stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen in the world of visual effects – career highlights include RoboCop, 1987; Jurassic Park, 1993, Starship Troopers, 1997) this film is something altogether different (even if its roots can be seen in his VFX work).

Following the destruction of a tower resembling Babel in a black cloud, and a lengthy quotation purporting to be from Leviticus 26, a man in gas mask and protective clothing descends into the bowels of the world on a mission, the exact nature of which is never revealed.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Green Knight

Director – David Lowery – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 130m

***1/2

A retelling of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from Arthurian mythology – out in cinemas on Friday, September 24th

This immediately sets out its stall with a woman leading a horse out of a courtyard and Gawain (Dev Patel) being awoken by a bucket of water on Christmas Day thrown by his lover Essel (Alicia Vikander) in a building which may or may not be a brothel. He attends mass with her, then goes back to his mother (Sarita Choudhury) who is going to pass attending the King’s court this Christmas Day.

The colour blind casting here has the good sense to cast Gawain and his mother in a similar ethnicity, which is certainly consistent and avoids the problems it produced in The Personal History Of David Copperfield (Armando Ianucci, 2019).

Whatever expectations of straightforward narrative the unwary moviegoer might have had from watching the trailer have been dashed. Much of the rest of the film is similarly oblique. While there is a basic underlying structure of a quest, what happens in the course of that quest comprises serial events and incidents en route that seemingly bear scant relation to the quest itself.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Underdog (언더독) a.k.a. A Dog’s Courage

Directors – Lee Choon-baek, Oh Sung-yoon – 2018 – South Korea – Cert. U – 102m

****

An abandoned dog falls in with a pack of wild dogs with whom he learns to survive – animated feature plays online from 2pm Friday, November 6th to 2pm Monday, November 9th, book here, from the Animation strand of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

In a genuinely heartbreaking opening, a man drives out to nowhere, tells his dog he’s totally free and leaves him a big bag of dog biscuits. The man throws a tennis ball and while the dog runs to fetch it, he drives away. We pull out to vast landscapes, emphasising the dog is alone.

Before long, the dog Moong-Chi (voice: Do Kyung-soo) runs in to a pack of similarly abandoned dogs who are living in a derelict building which they share with the newcomer. That isn’t going to last though: a digger moves in to demolish it. Moong-chi must be rescued by pack member and small scots terrier Jjang-a (voice: Park Cheol-min) from the hunter, a cruel biker who catches and imprisons dogs for the sole purpose of breeding them for profit. As bitch Ba-mi (voice: Park So-dam, from Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, 2109) puts it, it’s a dog factory.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 201m (263m)

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, August 10th 2020, 263m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 252m version released on DVD 2004.)

This review of the 201m theatrical version was originally published in Third Way.

A much shorter review appeared in What’s On In London.

A pre-screening article on The Lord Of The Rings appeared in Sussed in 2001.

Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings is a labour of love by a brilliant academic obsessed by myth and language better at creating an alternate world than at story construction. Nowhere in the trilogy is this more evident than in The Return Of The King. Frodo’s trip to Mount Doom to unmake Sauron’s One Ring builds up incredibly to a climactic pivotal event running little more than a paragraph. This is followed by another hundred pages or so tying up loose ends, including a sequence in which evil wizard Saruman turns the Shire into a post-industrial dictatorship that’s trivial compared with the geographic enormity of what has gone before.

Jackson and co-writers wisely omit that sequence; indeed, in its last weeks of post-production his The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King has chopped its scenes of Saruman (Christopher Lee) at Isengard – on the grounds that it slowed down the start.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition)

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 (2002) – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 225m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, July 27th 2020, 235m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 225m version released on DVD 2004. Original theatrical cut: 199m)

This always had the problem that it’s the second film in a trilogy. If you think you might want to watch all three, you’ll watch the first movie. If you want to see how the story ends up, you might possibly jump straight in at the last movie (although to be honest, you’d be better watching the first movie The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and then if you like it the other two as well.)

That said, both this second movie The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and the third film The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King deal with the problem of opening the film admirably, in both cases doing so in creative ways. This one leaps back to Gandalf being dragged down a chasm by a Balrog in FOTR and then, once we think we’re getting closer to finding out what happened, has Frodo waken from a dream.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Edition)

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Edition)

Director – Peter Jackson – 2002 (2001) – New Zealand – Cert. PG – 229m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, July 24th 2020, 227m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 218m version released on DVD 2004. Original theatrical cut: 178m)

It’s a very different thing writing about a new movie which you’re watching for the first time and an old movie with which you’re familiar. Even stranger when the movie concerned is an adaptation of a book with which you’re equally familiar. Odder still when the property exists in its original form (which was actually a side project of something else, Professor J.R.R.Tolkien’s Middle-earth project) but also in a highly regarded 13 x 1 hour BBC radio adaptation skilfully adapted by Brian Sibley.

Although it’s Tolkien’s material, for me it’s as if The Lord Of The Rings existed somewhere out there and Tolkien wrote it down in book form (Where does artistic creativity come from? Discuss) after which Sibley successfully wrote it down in radio drama form and Jackson and his two screenwriting collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens turned it into a movie trilogy.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Mosley

Director – Kirby Atkins – 2019 – China, New Zealand – 97m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Mosley (voiced by writer-director Kirby Atkins) is a thoriphant who lives on the small holdings farm of his owner Simon (Curt Cloniger) where he and Bera (Lucy Lawless) have a small boy Rue (voiced by director’s daughter Leah Atkins when little and Scarlett Sills in additional dialogue). The backbreaking work Mosley does for Simon is that of a plough horse. Simon is not a particularly bad man, but sees nothing wrong with pushing Mosley as far as he can with the result that Mosley is often completely exhausted by the end of the day.

He then has to contend with the hyperactive Rue leaping on him and demanding he come out and play. One evening, Rue wants dad to come and see his new hiding place and Bera insists it’s important. Rue talks about what he would do if he had hands, which takes Mosley back somewhat since thoriphants have hooved feet like horses or cows. A trip to Rue’s hideout reveals vast, underground cave paintings of thoriphants walking upright. And they have hands. There’s a long tunnel there too.

Mosley patiently explains that the uprights “are not real.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 201m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas July 2020, 252m version released on DVD 2004)

This review was originally published in What’s On In London.

A much longer review appeared in Third Way.

A pre-screening article on The Lord Of The Rings appeared in Sussed in 2001.

Peter Jackson and co-screenwriters Boyens and Walsh rise admirably to the considerable challenges posed by The Lord of the Rings’ third and last volume. Gandalf comments early on that Saruman no longer has any real power, jettisoning that evil wizard (and Christopher Lee) plus related Scouring Of The Shire plot strand to make Tolkien’s lengthy section following the Mount Doom climax more manageable

However all the book’s requisite material is here, brilliantly condensed. The Mount Doom scene itself – far too quick in Tolkien after the incredible build up preceding it – is expanded and so given the necessary dramatic weight. Liberties taken with The Paths Of The Dead likewise serve the narrative well. Jackson’s opening is as unexpected and stunning as that of The Two Towers, while his finale effectively pictures Tolkien’s closing metaphor for life after death.… Read the rest

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Books Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings

The following article was written for Sussed magazine in 2001 before The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) had been screened to press.

Elsewhere on this site: a short review for What’s On In London and a longer review also discussing TLOTR trilogy for Third Way of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

FANTASY OBSESSIVE: JACKSON DOES TOLKIEN

Jeremy Clarke explores The Lord Of The Rings and the upcoming film’s director Peter Jackson

Harry Potter might be the obvious franchise of the moment, but anyone who knows anything about the fantasy genre knows one book towers above the rest. The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien came out in three volumes: the first The Fellowship of The Ring was published in 1954. The Sunday Times review divided people into those who have read The Lord of The Rings and those who are going to.”

By the sixties, it had become obligatory reading. Most fantasy derives from it, including today’s bestsellers Terry Pratchett and J.K.Rowling. It details the archetypal struggle against good and evil, set in Tolkien’s incredibly detailed world of Middle-earth populated with all manner of original creatures – hobbits, humans, elves, ringwraiths and trolls.… Read the rest