April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

April and the Extraordinary World Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

April and the Extraordinary World Movie Review

April and the Extraordinary World is a 2015 steampunk science fiction animated film from France. It is a visually astounding, but ultimately disappointing in storytelling film.

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I don’t need anyone.

You’re just saying that because you’re afraid to meet someone and then lose them

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April and the Extraordinary World Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

Yes, this film is just gorgeous to look at. The animation is absolutely spectacular and one of the year’s finest for sure. This is the further proof of French craftsmanship at hand-drawn animation and they really perfected this particular style. And yes, even though it does look like most French animated films do, it is still authentic because it employs a very interesting style to it, a style that is pleasantly reminiscent of comic strips. I loved that about it. The character designs are good, the scenery is great and the entire film just scream comics, but those of the better variety as this is so well drawn and I would even call it artistic.

But as I said, April and the Extraordinary World never matches that great animation with a great story because the plot here is just so run of the mill. I’ve seen this countless times before and although the beginning with the scientists was interesting and the premise does sound intriguing, the plot eventually becomes too unoriginal and I didn’t like its spectacle third act with too much action and some disappointing plot points (lizards).

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April and the Extraordinary World Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

April is a very disappointing protagonist as she is never particularly likable or well realized. The others are a bit better, but also aren’t memorable. The only memorable character is Darwin and I really liked him. The relationship between the two was great and he was quite a solid cat sidekick.

The movie succeeds as a steampunk sci-fi because its style is great and it is meticulous in detail. But I have to say that that meticulousness was a two-edged sword for me as the plot at times was burdened by too many developments, characters and it just felt too convoluted. The main problem of the movie lies in its action. It is just too action oriented and the third act in particular is just action scene after action scene and that was boring to me. It sacrificed true plot and character progression in favor of action.

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April and the Extraordinary World Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

The voice cast did a good job and April and the Extraordinary World is certainly well directed, animated and mostly well edited. The tone is a bit too serious, but it does have its pleasantly light moments too. The dialogue is very good and the film is quite sophisticated. I liked how mature it was too and it is something that adults can watch easily. More so, I would say it is much more suited for adults given its convoluted sci-fi nature. Some parts are emotional, but the film is otherwise too cold for the most part and that I would have changed. The film is original at first, but eventually succumbs into basic territory. The score is solid and the sound effects are great. But I just wish that the film was great in substance and not just in its technical aspects. Overall, it is a solid, but very disappointing movie that is ultimately one of the weaker winners of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Stylistically fantastic, well crafted, meticulous in detail and gorgeously animated with such an authentic look to it, April and the Extraordinary World surely is technically brilliant, but it’s a shame that the plot just doesn’t match and the characters are forgettable. The story starts promising, but eventually becomes unoriginal, way too convoluted and the movie becomes burdened with too much action. It is ultimately a solid, yet certainly a very disappointing movie.

My Rating – 3.5

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Mon Oncle (1958)

Mon Oncle Movie Review

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Mon Oncle Movie Review

Mon Oncle is a 1958 comedy film directed by Jacques Tati. It is an interesting, but mostly overrated film.

The plot is the major problem. This movie has simply put no plot. None to be had. It relies on visual and auditory storytelling instead which is fine, but because it isn’t particularly strong in those areas as well, it ends up being such a dull, really so-so experiment. Yes, I really respect Tati for what he did with sound effects as that was really unique, but only a couple of scenes benefit from this approach unfortunately and the film still needed a stronger plot to carry it through.

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Mon Oncle Movie Review

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The characters are also underdeveloped and basically non-entities. Monsieur Hulot in particular is very disappointing, but the women do deliver in terms of comedy. The acting is okay, but not particularly demanding as there aren’t many lines to be had here.

The only thing that I really liked in Mon Oncle is its humor. The film is never hilarious and most of it is boring and not funny, but some moments are definitely funny and those moments happen in the first half as the second one is inferior. The parody of consumerism and modern architecture in particular produced some quality comedic sequences and the scenes where they show off to the neighbors are easily the highlights as they are so funny, but also truthful and relevant.

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Mon Oncle Movie Review

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But Mon Oncle again falls flat because that parody at the center of the film is ultimately disappointing. It does lead to some great and funny scenes, but it is for the most part just there and never really impactful. Also, you can really do so much with this premise until going into repetitive and dull territory which is exactly what happened here.

The film is badly paced and quite overlong, especially for a comedy. The acting is okay in the English-language version that I’ve watched. The dialogue is sparingly used, but some lines are pretty good and funny. Its message is non-existent which is unfortunate as the movie sorely needed it. The tone is sometimes too light and comedic. It would have been fine if it was funny throughout the whole running time, but it just wasn’t. And sometimes it is too silly in its tone.

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Mon Oncle Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the visuals. Mon Oncle’s strongest point has to be its set design. It is magnificent. The entire house and especially its yard is so phenomenally put together and you can say that it is the main character of the movie. The grass, the paths, the interiors and of course that sprinkler in the fountain. Everything here is just marvelous to look at and so ridiculous, but ultimately funny in its inefficiency and uselessness. It is also very original as rarely have I seen something like this. It is one of the movies that benefit most from its set design a lot and that was interesting to witness.

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Mon Oncle Movie Review

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The score is also one of the highlights. That theme is so good and so wonderful that its eventual overly extended usage can be forgiven. The film is technically quite good, but it is still mostly a failure in terms of characterization, plot and meaning. It received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and undeservedly so in a very weak year for foreign flicks.

Mon Oncle’s highlights are fantastic set designs, great score and some quite funny scenes. But because those are the only really great things about it, the film is mostly a failed experiment due to repetitive nature and its parody not being as powerful as it should have been with a lack of message or any characterization or plot to it whatsoever. It is unique and somewhat interesting, but ultimately dull and overrated.

My Rating – 3

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Dheepan (2015)

Dheepan

Dheepan Review

Dheepan is a 2015 crime drama film directed by Jacques Audiard and starring Antonythasan Jesuthasan and Kalieswari Srinivasan. It is such a well crafted movie that is the year’s finest foreign film.

It follows the three Tamil refugees who flee from their war-ravaged Sri Lanka and come to France to start over. This film works as a great, important drama. By showing you their coping and adapting to a new country, the film becomes really powerful and also quite emotional. I loved its realistic approach as well. It shows how France may be open to accepting refugees, but the society isn’t and that scene where the child is rejected in school by her classmates is the best one as it perfectly demonstrates that.

But I loved how the two adults try to adapt to living in France and to the new people they meet. The film wonderfully shows you all of that, but in subtle ways which I appreciated immensely. The film has such a great direction and script. However, there is one thing that bothered me and that is its crime aspect. The film is a drama in the first half, but becomes a crime flick in the third act. And I disliked its tendency to go into basically third person shooter action territory as everything that came before it was quite the opposite – smart and subdued. And that shift in tone that the film makes is most certainly jarring.

That is a flaw, but the reason why I still did not hate that aspect is because how well executed it was. It follows the action from the protagonist’s point of view with some superb camera movements and the action is so well executed with some really clever choices being made. I really liked those scenes and I really think that they were extremely well handled, but still not necessary for the overall story.

The characters are really well realized due to some strong characterization. Dheepan is really well depicted, but I felt Yalini to be the stronger and more memorable character. She is so likable in some scenes, but also unlikable in other ones. She is realistic and very well developed. The acting is absolutely terrific. Antonythasan Jesuthasan did such a good job in his role, but it is Kalieswari Srinivasan who is the highlight in a more difficult role. She did such a great job and gave one of the year’s finest female performances.

The humor in Dheepan is very good. Yes, the fact that this movie even has humor is unexpected, but it is a positive thing to me as it made the characters more real and more relatable and led to a better tone. The humor is so good and so observant (as is the entire movie) that I laughed many times and I found those scenes to be very charming as well. It truly does have such a great screenplay.

Dheepan is very well directed and the direction from Jacques Audiard is so good and professional that it just might be the film’s finest aspect. The entire film is incredibly well crafted. It is the kind of movie that is important because of its subject matter, but is admirably never slow or preachy or too crime-oriented which I loved. And the attention to detail is so great as the movie is wonderfully sophisticated and observant and looks at the scenario from different angles. The dialogue is also really good and the film has a big heart. It has some very emotional scenes, but it is also quite effervescent from time to time which I did not expect. And it is also quite well edited and paced. Dheepan is such a great movie that it is to me the finest foreign film of the year and it undoubtedly deserved its Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Dheepan is such a great movie. The directing is so good here, the acting is superb and the characterization is terrific. Its third person shooter aspect near the end is definitely troublesome, but it is still very well executed. It is great as an observant and sophisticated drama that is also quite important and emotional to see. It is even charming at times with a surprisingly good humor. It is above all such a well crafted movie on all levels and without a doubt the year’s finest foreign film.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Little Prince (2015)

The Little Prince

The Little Prince Review

The Little Prince is a 2015 French animated drama fantasy film directed by Mark Osborne and with the voice cast consisting of Jeff Bridges and Rachel McAdams. It is a heartwarming, albeit flawed movie.

The movie is based on the 1943 classic book of the same name, but uses it as a subplot rather than the whole story. It follows an extremely smart young girl who befriends an elderly author of the book while her mother disapproves of her friendship. The plot itself is very good, but still disappointing in some areas. First, I will talk about the flaws. What bothered me in particular is the second half of the film. I found it to be incredibly disappointing when compared to the previous amazing half. The action was particularly flawed and I somehow never felt it to be as magical as it should have been when it entered the full fantasy mode. It is also somewhat ambiguous at first and I really found the whole second act to be very lacking when compared to the other two.

But the rest of the movie is gorgeous. I loved the beginning as it wonderfully makes you invested in the story and it gets you know the characters very well. And the plot progression was very slow and moved natural which I loved as it made the friendship between the old man and the girl more impactful and also grounded in reality. The ending is also naturally heartwarming and so beautiful and the whole journey is emotionally satisfying. My favorite scenes are the scene where the girl first goes to the old man’s backyard, the scene where they watch the stars, the ending at the hospital and many sequences with the story which is told wonderfully through stop-motion animation.

The characters are very well developed. The little girl is a great protagonist and, as I said, her behavioral change is achieved realistically and her character is really likable. The aviator is fantastic as this mysterious, childlike old man and you believe that he is the author of the tale. Although their relationship was at times rushed and he was a bit too mysterious, they are still great together and the two share the film’s best and most moving moments. The mother is also fantastic and the conflict between the two is well depicted. And all of the characters from the book itself are well imagined, even if I found the Prince’s character to be somewhat disappointing.

The animation in The Little Prince is mesmerizing and one of the film’s highlights. The CGI is really good and it has some absolutely wonderful imagery with the aviator’s backyard and house being the highlights. But the use of stop-motion in the tale sequences are amazing and undoubtedly achieve the poetic quality of the novella. It looks not only beautiful, but also inventive and so appropriate for this material. And the character design is phenomenal with the stop-motion characters being simply fantastic in their top-notch, detailed depiction.

The acting is terrific with Jeff Bridges and McAdams being the standout actors here. But Mackenzie Foy did a good job as well. Mark Osborne directed the movie wonderfully and the film is quite well paced. But my problem definitely lies in its running time as it is a bit overlong in my opinion and some sequences should have been shorter. The score in The Little Prince is admittedly amazing and it accompanies some incredibly moving scenes. And although it should have been even more emotional and dramatic, I still found it to be a great adaptation of the source material as it wonderfully incorporates the well-known tale into a coherent new story thus making it suitable for today’s audiences. It has excellent attention to detail and I loved the use of the drawings in telling its story. As for the dialogue, it is sometimes taken too directly from the book, but is overall pretty good. The tone is also deft and the message and its themes ring true and are so impactful. The movie did disappoint me as I had such humongous expectations from it, but it is still a very well crafted flick and finally an adaptation of this famous novella done right.

The Little Prince has its flaws including the prolonged running time and the fantasy sequences which are not as great as the rest of the film, but this is still a moving and wonderfully crafted picture done right with amazing mix of CGI and stop-motion animation, great acting, well developed characters and it is a unique adaptation approached with evident care and style.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from The Little Prince

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The Rules of the Game (1939)

 The Rules of the Game is the famous, classic French film directed by masterful Jean Renoir. It is commonly regarded as one of the best French as well as overall films of all time and while I can see that in some ways, particularly in its comple

The Rules of the Game Review

The Rules of the Game is a famous, classic French film directed by masterful Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion) . It is commonly regarded as one of the best French as well as overall films of all time and while I can see that in some ways, particularly in its complex theme, I still found it disappointing on multiple levels.

The biggest problem I have with the film is character development which is so-so. That is mostly due to its large, too big ensemble cast composed of way too many characters thus giving little room for genuine characterization. It gets better afterwards, particularly near the end, but it is still one of the major flaws that definitely hurts the film.

The plot is good, it is difficult to follow early on, but it again gets better as it progresses with an excellent last act which lifts the whole movie to higher levels. It shows the complex themes wonderfully and it concludes the story perfectly with a very satisfying and very well crafted ending. The theme is the one of moral callousness of the upper class just before the war. It is an important theme and it is easy to see why audiences unfortunately had trouble with it when it was originally released. And although it is not apparent and well executed earlier, the second half sees its realization in a great way and it is undoubtedly the finest aspect of the movie. And the whole finale is powerful because it shows how jealousy and confusion can have deadly consequences for the persons involved.

The film is a comedy of manners while also being a drama and there lies a problem. While it has some funny moments, there definitely should have been more of them as well as dramatic moments in the first half. The second half saves the film because it is dramatic, but the first half remains troubling indeed. And the pacing is problematic with the whole hunting scenes regularly interrupting the story flow, but those sequences nevertheless show how some can kill with ease and with no apparent reason which is an unmistakable allegory of the war that was impending upon the film’s release.

My biggest problem here is, after the characterization, the constant gossip and yelling of the characters and the never-ending noise they produce. It shows their attitude towards one another and how things can escalate, but it is just too much. Thankfully the third act saved the movie with its quieter approach and with better character development as well. The soundtrack is nowhere to be found, but that is okay given the yelling and music playing thus perfectly fitting the story and situation. But the direction is splendid and of course the cinematography is stunning, very advanced for its time and it definitely brings the polished, more sophisticated look to an already complex film.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that it is very memorable, especially the hunting sequences and the ending. All those scenes stay in your memory which is great. The acting is also excellent, all of the cast gave respectable performances. The tone is also wonderfully handled, shifting from genre to genre with ease. And the approach is very grounded lending itself to evident realism. It is also evidently smart with a wonderful message and theme with superb dialogue all around.

All in all, The Rules of the Game has wonderful themes, terrific direction, amazing cinematography, great tone and acting, memorable scenes and a great allegory with a fantastic third act, but it suffers from so-so character development, constant noise and a failure to capture its complex themes to the full extent, thus making it a solid, but very disappointing movie.

My Rating – 3,5

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Grand Illusion (1937)

Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion Review

Directed by Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Gameand starring Jean Gabin and Erich von Stroheim, Grand Illusion is a 1937 war drama film that is cited as one of the best French as well as overall movies of all time.

It follows a group of prisoners of war plotting an escape during WWI. In terms of storytelling, this is not that strong a movie in my honest opinion. It was done before and after better. And the first half is rather boring and quite repetitive at times. But the second half is much better and the whole third act is brilliant. Thematically speaking, this is an excellent movie. It wonderfully explores the class relations during war along with the end of aristocracy. But what is the best thing about it is how beautifully open-minded it is with a great unbiased look at different nations and from different sides. And it has a strong anti-war statement which is terrific and highly needed as many war movies do not have that approach unfortunately. I absolutely adored the part with the German woman protecting the protagonists and hiding them in her house. Those scenes are what drive Grand Illusion. It is filled with humanism and evident hatred towards war.

The character development here is quite good, but not great. The two officers who manage to escape are definitely the standouts and, as I mentioned before, the German woman is great and very endearing. Those characters are definitely phenomenal, but the rest of the characters needed more work and fail to make a lasting impression.

As for the acting, it is magnificent. Jean Gabin and Dita Parlo are highlights, but all of the actors did a phenomenal job with their performances. But what I was not a fan of is the humor and constant odd behavior and yelling between the men. I thought the movie should have been more dramatic and the comedy route, even a parody of sorts, is not particularly well done and well suited for this kind of story. But the directing is great and there are many memorable scenes, especially the ending which is very satisfying. The editing is mediocre as some scenes definitely drag and sometimes the movie is repetitive, most notably in the first half. And the tone is too comedic, as I stated before. But the cinematography is wonderful as is the acting and the emotionally compelling and thematically rich approach. The movie is also smart with a sophisticated dialogue and it is visually appealing with some memorable imagery.

Grand Illusion has a thematically rich and emotionally satisfying approach, excellent directing from Jean Renoir, phenomenal performances and some very memorable scenes and imagery, but it is sometimes quite boring and repetitive, especially in the first half which is inferior to the second one, the character development could have been better and the film should have been less comedic and more dramatic. It is not as great as critics say in my opinion, but it is still a very good film especially for its wonderfully unbiased look at different nations and people from all sides and its humanist and anti-war message.

My Rating – 4

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Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (2014)

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart  Review

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a 2014 French animated fantasy movie directed by Stephane Berla and it tells the story of a boy who, thanks to his clock for a heart, has to never experience love in order to prevent death.

This is an extremely flawed movie which is a shame because it has a couple of strengths which are really fantastic. First off, the story. It is unfortunately too reminiscent of ‘Pinocchio’ in its concept and somewhat execution. It never feels as fresh as it should have been. However, what makes it interesting is its tone which is very mature and even dark at times and certainly not for children. And the romance is solid, if never as emotional as was necessary. But the mature tone helps this movie a lot for sure making it quite watchable for adults.

As for the characters, they are okay, but never as interesting or as well developed as the script demanded. The acting is good and the characters are definitely not thin, but they are also not particularly well developed as well which is really troublesome. But what is great is its wide plethora of different and unique supporting characters helping the world-building in the process as well.

The animation is by far the movie’s biggest strength. It is way too reminiscent of the style of Tim Burton, especially in the character design, which means it is never particularly fresh, but it is remarkable nonetheless because it is very stylish with evident attention to detail and great world-building and memorable imagery. I particularly loved the different styles that went into production, especially during the singing sequences as those were the finest here. The colors are also great and it very well uses its dark scenery and color palette creating the dark mood which fits perfectly within this dark world, story and mature tone.

What hurts the picture the most besides so-so characterization and unoriginal plot is certainly the music which is uninspired and quite frankly bland and dull. The songs here are so instantly forgettable and unremarkable that it really starts to bother you quickly because they get much of the running time which was a very unfortunate choice. It somehow never belonged to this world as well and the tunes are never catchy or memorable. They should have gotten rid of them for sure and the movie would have been much better.

It is technically a splendid film. The directing is solid as is the voice acting. The pacing is okay and the tone is excellent of course along with the memorable imagery and artistic animation which are the highlights. It is visually great, but emotionally it is quite shallow and distant which is extremely problematic given the film’s story which demanded much emotion. The heart is missing here and one of the major reasons why I never connected with the movie’s characters.

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart has excellent mature tone and dark feel, it is well made and above all visually stunning with terrific imagery and outstanding, artistic and very stylish animation, but that animation is also too reminiscent to the style of Tim Burton, especially in the character design, the characterization is so-so, the movie is emotionally distant, the plot is similar to Pinocchio’s sometimes too much and the songs are very bland and forgettable. It is an interesting experience, but unfortunately a very flawed movie which is a shame because it had a lot of potential.

My Rating – 3 

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