Categories
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

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Scenes With Beans (Babfilm)

Director – Ottó Foky – 1976 – Hungary – 12m

*****

A metal space bird approaches the bean planet to observe various aspects of life upon it before being discovered then shot at with a missile in this remarkable stop-frame short – out on MUBI as part of the animated shorts season Fables, Folklore, Futurism: Visionary Hungarian Animations on Monday, September 20th

Framed by a story of a giant alien metal bird observing a planet from space, this is primarily an excuse to create numerous scenarios using animated kidney beans and butter beans to stand in as people in a 3D, model animated world. It’s the sort of film where you constantly marvel at the inventiveness of shooting scenes in a particular style of animation which, were they shots in a live action documentary, would simply appear banal – but in the form here presented prove completely compelling.

A crescent moon resembling nothing so much as a croissant floats past the planet. The approaching giant bird looks like it could have wandered in from the Clangers stop-frame BBC TV series (Oliver Postgate, 1969-72, 1974) except that it’s less a character like that show’s fabled Soup Dragon than a tech-equipped space opera craft with a visual recording device that has a calibrated viewfinder like a camera or a periscope.… 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 Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Tsukamoto – Killing (斬、) – Haze (ヘイズ) – The Adventures of Denchu Kozo

Killing (Sawamura)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 79m

***

The Adventures of Denchu Kozo (Denchu kozo no boken)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1987 – Japan – 45m

****

Haze

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2005 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 48m

*****

Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest feature, the samurai movie Killing comes to UK Blu-ray in a two-disc edition, along with two fascinating shorts: the Super-8 epic The Adventures of Denchu Kozo and the later masterpiece Haze. All three feature informative audio commentaries by Tom Mes, author of Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto (2005). The director is probably best known for cyberpunk epics Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and its sequel/reboot Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) which concern the fusion of flesh and metal into a new evolutionary human weapon form. His new film similarly explores the samurai and his metal blade becoming as one in a deadly human fighting machine. Read the rest…

Review published in All The Anime.

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.

Categories
Animation Art Books Features Live Action Movies

Harryhausen The Lost Movies

There’s nothing else quite like the filmography of stop-frame animator and special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013). A new book, Harryhausen The Lost Movies, is an undeniable treasure trove for those familiar with his films, which include such gems as Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C. and incorporate fantastical, stop-frame animated creatures and additional bravura special effects into live-action movie narratives.

Compiled by documentary film maker and author John Walsh from over 50,000 items in the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation archive, this coffee-table book sets out to provide an overview of the film maker’s oeuvre through his various unmade projects, lavishly illustrated with photographs and drawings.

I review Harryhausen The Lost Movies for All The Anime.

Categories
Animation Art Features Movies

Kubo And The Two Strings

Director – Travis Knight – 2016 – US – Cert. PG – 101m

*****

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Jeremy Clarke on a Hollywood film inspired by the Far East.

Western cinema in general and animation in particular has long held an interest in all things Oriental. Every so often, a film made in the West pays homage to one aspect or another of Eastern culture. The animated fantasy Kubo And The Two Strings is the latest entry in this curious Western sub-genre. It’s a dark fairytale about the quest of a boy named Kubo for his late father’s long-lost suit of armour to protect himself from the evil spirits of his grandfather and two aunts.

The company behind the production are US stop-frame outfit Laika who previously made Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. All three like Kubo are dark visions far removed from the upbeat fare that constitutes much contemporary Hollywood animation. The thought of the creative force behind such productions making a film inspired by Oriental traditions is therefore an exciting one.

Kubo is set in an unspecified period, ancient Japan populated with samurai warriors, malevolent spirits and gargantuan monsters. Street urchin Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) and other performers gather at the village marketplace to display their wares and earn a crust.… Read the rest