Screen Squinty’s “Mune: Guardian of the Moon” Review.

Mune,_Le_gardien_de_la_lune
(Mune: Guardien of the Moon promotional image, Paramount Pictures, 2014.)

Film: Mune: Guardian of the Moon.

Directed by: Alexandre Heboyan and Benoît Philippon.

Released: 2014.

Running Time: 86 min.

This is a French computer animated fantasy film about a mythical world ruled by the delicate balance that exists between the Sun and Moon which are each watched over and manned by a Sun and Moon Guardian.

During the choice of a new guardian for both celestial bodies, a creature named Mune (Michaël Grégorio and Joshua J. Ballard) is unexpectedly chosen as guardian of the Moon. Untrained and highly naive, his mistakes lead to the theft of the Sun, which leaves both Mune and the guardian of the Sun, Sohone (Omar Sy and Trevor Devall), to get it back and are accompanied by the living candle wax girl Glim (Izïa Higelin and Nicole Provost).

One of the strongest features of the feature is the strong blend of inventive use of mythology archetypes combined with heroes journey poetics we are all familiar with in a very Terry Gilliam influenced construction in the overarching living myths of this place, which is appropriate considering that the writer for the film Benoît Philippon, was inspired by Gilliam’s films which also utilizes a similar use of living mythological worlds with a unique fantastical production style, such as Monty Python’s Holy Grail (1975) and Time Bandits (1981).

Altogether it gives it a very unique yet classic structure, and works as a dominant theme within the film brilliantly well, almost like reading something from an ancient mythology storybook.

The creative use of animation is another point in its favor as the animators utilized the filmatic computer animated paint brush to bring this to life in a visually creative and stunning way, in particular the character designs, done by the renowned Nicolas Marlet (Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon), and the creation of the Sun and Moon temples were a particular favorite.

Mune in particular was adorable, yet his character design didn’t completely overwhelm his identity, his motions were very much akin to his more wild nature, and a nice nod to some classical Greek mythology yet still remaining his own creature.

The only real drawback lies in the character Glim, whose construction is visually pleasing and basic concept as a character who either freezes in complete darkness or melts in the sun provides some interesting possibilities. Unfortunately this is hindered by being rather uninteresting in personality at best, and insulting at worst with her constant dependence on the two protagonists throughout most of the film, and forced as a romantic lead that was completely unneeded at all. not exactly the best female protagonist to introduce to children, and beyond outdated for the adult viewers.

She wasn’t completely horrible throughout the entirety of the film, certainly her actions with the sun in the climax of the film was her strongest moments, at least working with her basic concept to its fullest somewhat; though it’s effectiveness as a memorably dramatic scene that could have saved her character somewhat is undercut by a floating bit of deux ex machina.

The story would have been stronger if it had just been purely Mune and Sohone, leaving more chance to develop their relationship as guardians and as friends, particularly with the added element of Sohone being groomed for the position from the beginning, and Mune a complete novice, chosen over Sohone’s groomed counterpart. This would provide an excellent spring board to develop some prime character interaction, but it was not fully realized.

They are supposed to be a vital symbol of harmony and balance between the Night and the Day, according to the film’s cannon, and was also not given enough emphasis or development to work within present plot. The fact that the two didn’t really do this adventure wholly together, and Sohone himself was just as useless for a prime chunk of the film, only really redeeming himself as a character in the end climax, all took away from what would have been a spectacular story instead of an attractive mythology format.

Overall, despite its flaws this is a creative bit of classical storytelling using a unique style and original world building within the medium of animation done in a professional and visually pleasing style that is easily accessible to a wide variety of ages and audiences (it does have its modest fanart out there), though the weak use of characters, and the lack of really good development between Mune and Sohone, and Glim’s step backwards for female characters undercuts the enjoy-ability.

This is definitely a recommendation for the younger set perhaps who might not be as turned off by the weak character elements as anyone older than 10 might be, and worth a gander at least for the spectacular animation and mythology format.

Trailer:

Screen Squinty Animation Zone: http://screensquintyanimationzone.blogspot.ca/2016/04/screen-squintys-mune-guardian-of-moon.html

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“Felidae” A Review.

 

felidae-1
“Felidae.” Screen Shot, Property of Senator Film Distribution

Film: Felidae.

Directed by: Michael Schaack.

Running time: 82 min.

Released: 1994.

Felidae is a fascinating 1994 German Adult animation based off of a 1989 novel and series of the same name by Akif Pirinçci. It is about a house cat named Francis who recently moves into a new neighborhood and gets caught up in investigating the murders of other felines.

This is not the kind of animated feature that you would stick the kiddies in front of unless they have a great deal of maturity to understand graphic (violent) imagery. This is a story that takes talking animals to a whole different, nitty-gritty level.

The first thing to note is the differences between the original German voice acting and the English dub later developed. You can tell right off when doing a comparison between the two, that the voice acting and the lines is definitely better in the German one, the voice actors matching their characters personalities quite well, with Ulrich Tukar as the voice of Francis and Mario Adorf as Blaubart. The English version cleaned up a lot of the language which actually felt part in setting the tone, particularly of Blaubart, and did have some noticeable differences to wording outside of that which was not to the film’s advantage.

So like with anything else that is done in a language different from your own, if your English, stick to the subtitled version if you want the full effect of the film.

The animation was a rather fascinating mix of the standard, though good, quality of animation during that period, but then you get these moments where it takes a step above itself, particularly in Francis’ dream sequences, and one in particular whose contents won’t be given away, but its style works well with the disturbing and potent imagery you’re not likely to forget.

There is also a sense of environment with this, an idea of the sort of old run down once lofty urban district which is established through the movements of the cats, done particularly well through a really well animated and detailed chase scene between Francis and the cult followers.

The story itself is another highlight, appropriate given the popularity of the books, the narrative flows from one sequence to another well enough, though there are moments that do feel a little rushed, it does weave its mystery in a very engaging way with equally engaging characters, Blaubart being a nice humorously crass counterpoint when it gets a little too heavy at the right times. It actually reads almost like a film noir, with some of the tropes of the genre, but not dominantly so.

One of the things going against it is that there are certain things that do make it dated, and a product of its times, such as a scene or two of less than PC use of homosexuality in a negative connotation, particularly exemplified in the scene between Kong and his crew and Francis and Blaubart in the first half, but that is very brief thankfully, and doesn’t impact with the rest of the film, so it can be skipped.

The other negative perhaps is that while the climatic ending was really well done, the “bad humans and there corruption” message did feel a little forced here, almost shoe horned in with those last words of the antagonist, and then Francis before he passes out. It felt already established and stated by the antagonist’s backstory already, but then again, it is a product of its time, and it didn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the film.

This was a great film that has a really compelling narrative and tone that sucks you in, a great set of characters in Francis and Blaubart, great animation, particularly in the dream sequences, and a gripping action-filled ending, if a little preachy here and there. Definitely a recommended watch for those who enjoy a good horror/mystery, are not squeamish, and like good quality adult animation.

Felidae Trailer (sound is not the best quality but its the best of the lot):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXytNduYSj0

Originally Posted: http://screensquintyanimationzone.blogspot.ca/2016/01/screen-squintys-nostalgic-felidae-review.html

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Screen Squinty’s Little Witch Academia, 1 & 2: A Review.

Film Shorts: Little Witch Academia and Little Witch Academia: Enchanted Parade.
Directed and Created by: Yoh Yoshinari.
Released: 2013, 2015.
Running Time: 26 min and 53 min.

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“Little Witch Academia”, Promotional Artwork, Retrieved from Wikipedia.org, Property of Trigger.

The first installment Little Witch Academia (2013), was a short animation that was produced by Trigger for the 2013 Anime Mirai (a funding project for young animators) about a somewhat inept but enthusiastic girl named Akko who is inspired into becoming a witch by a magical performer called Shiny Chariot, whom she idolizes, and hangs out at her magic school with her friends, Sucy and Lotte.

The second installment, Little Witch Academia: Enchanted Parade (2015)  was a longer sequel partially funded through Kickstarter after the initial release of the first one garnered some modest fanbase. In this one the main character in conflict with her friends as they struggle to create the best parade (a punishment) so they can avoid expulsion.

First off, if you are a viewer who is seriously picky about the quality of their anime, then these shorts are definitely up your ally visually. The animation here is just spectacular! Fluid, malleable, colourful, enduring, and the character designs are unique to each character to aide in strengthening each individual identity.

The animation of the opening of the first installment especially was a real visual treat!

The characters outside their design, are rather likable, and some even funny, though Akko can come across as a little to bratty at times, particularly in the second installment, but in the end she realizes the character flaw, so she works well enough as a main lead, though definite props go to to the sidekicks and background characters.

Sucy is one of the best characters in both of the films, sort of like a cross between Severus Snape from Harry Potter franchise, Raven from Teen Titans. Everything she does and says is almost always funny, her utilization of potions is always fun to watch, with much of the best humour coming from her quarter, and her almost cartoon Dracula-like design is the best of the lot by far!

One of the draw backs of the films is that the pacing of the story of the first one doesn’t match the short time frame, feeling a little rushed. The second film seemed to be trying to rectify that, and it was an improvement in pacing. Despite that though, it did present some interesting elements that I wished could have been flushed out bit more, such as the relationship between the witches and the non-magicals, the hints of gentrification among witch culture, the history behind the Sorcerer’s stone (and yes, if your harry Potter fan you roll your eyes, but to be fair, it wasn’t the first to use that magical prop.)

There are some problems with the characters such as a few of them coming across as a bit to stereotypic such as Diana, the condescending overachiever aristocrat who comes across like a less dickish Draco Malfoy (also from Harry Potter) for example, and the under utilization of the 3 new characters Amanda, Constanze, and Jasminka from the second movie, who each had something very interesting about them, but wasn’t fully explored or utilized, though with time constraints and the focus being the friendship of the main cast, it was likely not a concern.

This is why while they work alright as short films (with the second treading that line very finely I might add)I feel they would be great to watch as both a full length TV series to really flesh out the characters, history, and the story, or even a feature length film, perhaps.

The only other nitpick would be the English dub which was also not overly well done, and can distract from the film, though the actresses for the Japanese version are pretty good, with the exception of Diana, whose voice sounds a little too mature for the age she is supposed to be.

Overall these were very well done anime with its strengths resting in its animation and characters, and felt like a nice little homage to Harry Potter while still maintaining its own identity. I would recommend giving it a watch.

Little Witch Academia “Minotaur Scene”:

 

Both films are also on Netflix.

 

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Wildfire: A Review.

Film Short: Wildfire.
Directed by: Hugues Opter , Pierre Pinon , Nicole Stafford, Valentin Stoll , Arnaud Tribout and Shang Zhang.
Released: 2015.
Running time: 4.04 min.

This bit of slice of life animation from Goeblin’s animation school is about a firefighter named Ena and her growing fascination with the fire she fights gives viewers a fascinating look at the complex relationship of passion.

There are many different types of passion out there. The romantic passion between lovers, the passion for life, the passion of a calling, etc. it’s all a state of sustained want and/or excitement that drives many individuals in many different and unique ways, both good and bad. This short caught my attention because it displays a moment in the complexities of desire, particularly in the moments that shift from one particular desire to another, evolving on the cusp into obsession, that was explored through the protagonist Ena brilliantly.

The narrative is constructed in such a way that we are clearly introduced to two different aspects of the main character: Ena the family woman, and Ena the firefighter.

Her fascination and desire for the wild beauty of the flames as she fights a forest fire was portrayed in beautiful rolls of purple smoke and red gold sparks and flames as she approaches the conflagration with this enthralled look on her face.

The flames act also as a symbol for the excitement of the harsh unpredictability that being a firefighter gives her, and her passion for her calling, while the staid little flames, the constrained and tamed moments of controlled fire in her daily life through her moments of contemplation of her matches, her cigarette, and the flames of her son’s birthday cake reflect her more staid and controlled existence as a family woman.

What makes this dynamic between Ena the mother and wife and Ena the firefighter, is that she does clearly love her family, it’s just the staid and controlled life that they represent which is what we see her drifting away from. The filmmakers here did a good job in not making the two lives completely polar opposing, cut and dried from each other, each part is well balanced and seamlessly transitioned.

Overall this was great animated short that utilized a very mature and sophisticated understanding of desire, had a good utilization of dynamics between Ena’s family life and career, some good poignant moments, and a definite artistic visual appeal.

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Une Noce en Enfer: A Review.

Film Short: Une Noce en Enfer.
Directed by: Yannick Boireau, Pierre Butet, Magali Garnier, and Clémence Maret.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 2.52 min.

This French animated short produced from the ever popular GOBELINS, l’école de l’image, tells the colorful story of a little girl named Rachelle who takes her pretend play a little to drastically, much to the pets despair.

Let’s start with the technical, because the animation is definitely where this film shines. There is a presence of individual style here, a great tell of thought in the character designs, the colour palate is just the right amount of shades and tones to make everything pop perfectly, just the right amount of exaggeration where it was needed with very smooth movement and excellent pace.

The little girl was delightfully grotesque and cute at the same time, and the actress who played Rachelle worked believably well and was able to portray a great deal of boisterousness. The expressions on the aggrieved rodent and cat were also chuckle worthy, and the chicken playing the wedding march was amusing.

The story, as short as it was, worked its humour well, escalating quickly and entertainingly all the way through the end credits. Some people might have issues with some of the violence in regards to the animals, but then again, this is not meant to be an innocent cartoon. Its good if one is even slightly disturbed by the darker humour as slapstick as it comes across, that’s part of the point of it, a little girl taking things too far.

Overall, this was a brilliant little short with obvious talent going into its production. It had a well-paced plot, smooth well designed animation, and some supreme funny moments.

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Textual Analysis: The Batttle of Algiers- Opening Sequence.

This is a textual analysis that relates to the opening of the film The Battle of Algiers directed by Pontecorvo in 1966, or the first 6-7 minutes of the film.

To summarize the film briefly, it is a Italo-Algerian production war film centered around events happening during the Algerian War of 1954-62 of rebellion against the French government in North Africa and has often been considered by many to be an important commentary on urban guerrilla warfare. It’s had a fair amount of sociopolitical controversy, particularly in France where it wasn’t screened for five years until it was later released in 1971.

In the opening of The Battle of Algiers, much like later imagery in the film, inverts the imagery of encirclement by first placing the spectators within the point of view of the French soldiers with their Algerian prisoner, whom they appear to be treating somewhat decently until it is implied that they had been torturing him into revealing the whereabouts of his compatriots, politically positioning the audience on behalf of the colonialists perspective (the French soldiers) leaving the spectators largely indifferent to the fate of the “othered” (the Algerian prisoner) on the opposite end.

The inversion of the political positioning happens when the point of view shot is shifted from the point of view of the soldiers, whom are storming the streets and buildings soon after, to that of the Algerians, particularly poignant when the spectator’s point of view is suddenly squashed, like an invisible participant, among all the gathered Algerians that have been pulled out of their homes and made to stand huddled in the center of the apartment building. Then the point of view shifts back to that of the soldier point of view as the leader of the raid is talking through a wall to some hidden rebels, though before the flashback happens, there is a close up of the rebel’s faces and the sound of the commander talking through the wall at them, putting the spectator back into sympathizing with the Algerians again.

There is a sense of constructed identification in the tail end of the opening before the flashback with particular focus on the fact that the ones hidden in the wall are a family. From an audience that has a cultural stress on the importance and/or sanctity of family, the sympathies of the spectators will lie in that of the Algerians hidden in the wall going into the flashback, though an aberrant reading could be taken from this opening, in that the soldiers have not killed the Algiers, despite the aggressive nature in taking the building. They were seen cleaning a prisoner up and offering him a uniform to protect him from retaliation despite his earlier treatment, and the leader of the unit trying to reason with the rebel in the wall, giving him a chance to surrender and save his family, though perhaps that is a bit of a stretch in interpretation. Still, someone who comes from a culture that might look more favorably on duty above comfort of others might look at this sequence and see it as the French soldiers trying to do their jobs reasonably, though from a Westerner perspective in particular it would not likely be read as such. The fact that the soldiers didn’t kill anyone, just getting the Algiers out of their way while doing their duty, could work against the anti-colonialist agenda somewhat, though the oppressive logic of colonialism (absorb those who are willing to cooperate) is still displayed regardless with the scene in which the prisoner is forced to wear his oppressor’s military uniform.

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The Great Escape (animated short): A Review.

Short: The Great Escape.
Writer and Director: Damian Nenow.
Released: 2006/2012.
Running time: 6.28 min.

This is a Polish computer animated short produced by Plantige Image about a partly sunny weather symbol who wishes to escape the television into the outside world.

This is a very well-constructed animation that utilizes the technical insides of a television into both the prison city-like setting and the hostile inhabitants/guards. There is a good use of slow motion, angle, and shape, as well as a mature understanding of light and shadow.

The character designs themselves are relatively simple in nature on part of partly cloudy, but given what he is, they use just the right amount of light and 3D to flesh him out with out losing the inherent simple nature of his design. The character design of the guards was creative, and merged well as them being part of the environment.

The story has been done before of course, but utilizing it through a weatherman’s symbol as the protagonist was unique, and the plot progressed at a decent pace throughout the short with a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, a great animated short that utilizes its mise-en-scene and characters from the ordinary everyday life living room television with some good animation and enjoyable conclusion and well worth the ganter.

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Screen Squinty’s “Feed” Review.

Short: Feed.
Directed by: Prapas Cholsaranon.
Released: 2014.
Running Time: 4.22 min.

This is an Thai animated short from Workpoint Pictures and Ittirit House that won “Best Animation” from Short Sweet Film Fest 2014 and has since been nominated at other festivals all over. It is about an old woman spending the day feeding an unusual looking pet with strange side-effects.

The animation style is interesting. There is a simpler construction to the character of the old woman and her pet, yet the use of light and shadow, the details of age, like the shaking of the old woman’s fingers, the almost warm pastel hues of the colour, the hints of texture (in the food, and the skin of the woman for example) combined with the character style is rather appealing visually.

The music was a great choice, and brilliantly utilized! This lovely almost melancholic piano piece by Chakapat Lamnoon plays throughout the short and combined with the setting gives it this almost tragic air to it, despite the fact that it is in no way tragic at all, building to this melodic climax in concert with the narrative, then gives you this sudden silence for a moment to realize what just happened before playing again.

The story itself is an excellent example of Incongruity theory. It utilizes all its elements, music, and setting, tone, and very much using these tools to play with the notion of expectation which appears to be the overall driving force of the animation.

This is an excellent animated short that utilized all its cinematic elements to provide the viewer with something unexpectedly unique and Highly recommended for both children and adults alike.

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Blindsight: A Review.

Short: Blindsight.
Created by: Florian Puchois.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 2.39 min.

This is a computer animated short about a person who creates the world around him visually, using a contraption that creates Polaroid brail pictures.

This was a lovely animation that puts an interesting turn on the construction of perception. It utilized elements and time splendidly to express its theme, and the Polaroid brail as a means was an innovative touch, including the element of artificial aides into the theme.

The music was a good choice, keeping it upbeat, the colour palate was visually appealing, and the character design was a nice simple utilization for the theme.

A great animated short as an example of exploring the theme of perception, keep up the good work!

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Screen Squinty “La Luna” Review.

Short: La Luna.
Made by: Pixar.
Released: 2011.
Running time: 7 min.

This is a computer animated short directed and written by Enrico Casarosa that premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France and was later paired with Brave (2012). It is about three generations of laborers who clean stars off the moon.

The animation style was very much like the illustrations from a child’s book with simple lines, yet unique characteristics as well as colourful and eye-catching. The use of gibberish dialogue forces the viewer to perceive the dynamic between the three characters strictly by action, which was well utilized in this short. The use of objects such as the hat and cleaning tools was a clever way to express the arguments and resolution.

This is more a story of the arguments of two generations (grandfather and father) trying to raise another generation, the son, in different ways that they both think to be the better, with the son eventually finding his own way of interpreting tradition. Working the theme of next generational contention though a child-like contemporary folktale worked well with the moral being expressed.

A great little animation that kids and adults can appreciate.

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*La Luna can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzNio77XA8k