THE RED TURTLE*** Great Animation


“THE RED TURTLE” is the new animation movie from the famous Ghibli studio. It’s the first non-Japanese film produced by this studio and was directed by Dutchman, Michael Dudok de Wit.

Executed in a clean simple style that reminded me of the “Tin Tin” books it tells the fable of a shipwrecked man who is washed ashore having miraculously survived the pounding of a terrifying storm. The castwaway finds himself stranded on a lonely desert island; a place animated only by the winds that rattle its bamboos, the screeches of the birds – themselves symbols of freedom- that mock his landlocked incarceration and by the occasional downpours that rumble in like thundering threats. It is a place he must escape from. But every attempt – in large meticulously constructed bamboo rafts – watched over by a chorus of skittish crabs, ends in failure. Some unseen monster of the deep keeps, literally, upsetting his plans. The monster turns out to be a large red turtle which the shipwrecked man is moved to kill, as though the creature’s death could open the door to his freedom. But the turtle is less an animal, more a mysterious being, perhaps an incarnation of the synergy between nature and fate or destiny. Harm one and woe be unto you. And maybe the island itself represents the solitude of the self, from which the only escape can be in one’s dreams and fantasies.

As you’d expect from this studio, the animation (using only six animators) and an extraordinary sound design, is stunning. The entire movie, (especially with its incredible renderings of water – from the sea, both clam and furious to glassy reflecting ponds and lashing rain) is really a visual nature poem. The humans who ‘carry’ what little there is of the (entirely wordless) story are often insignificant specks…mere playthings of the elements which operate, like the ancient animist gods, on their own moral code.
And yet, there’s something slightly unsatisfying about the movie. For all its brilliant animation (and it’s worth seeing if only for this), the story feels muddled and unresolved. Perhaps in its inconclusive ending, there’s a zen dimension at work here: life ends without any real finality; even though there is death, nature simply rolls on in its implacable way.

Perhaps

 

THE RED TURTLE. Dir: Michael Dudok de Wit. Writers: Michael Dudok de Wit and Pascale Ferran. Animation Supervisor: Jean-Christophe Lie. Sound Editor: Alexandre Fleurant

 

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UNLOCKED **Earnest


The plot of “Unlocked” has so many holes and is so complicated, it’ll take far too many words to untangle. Needless to say, there’s nasty double dealing that goes all the way to the top (of the CIA). But, though silly, it’s quite enjoyable…a piece of comfort food in a Bourne-deprived world.

Noomi Rapace (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) channeling her inner ‘Lisbeth Salander, is an emotionally distraught CIA interrogator, biding her time as a work centre counselor in London. She finds herself called back into action, and pretty soon realizes that all isn’t as it seems.

The arc of the movie then follows her as she tries to thwart a supposed jihadi cell, armed with a more virulent version of Ebola, even as she tries to figure out the source of internal CIA sabotage.

The story-line follows a fairly well trodden “find your mole” path. But the riveting and convincing presence of Rapace as the more-brain-than-brawn agent and her MI5 allay, played by Toni Collette (looking like an Annie Lennox’ gun toting doppelgänger) gives the whole enterprise a pleasant freshness. (It also passes the Bechdel test…which asks whether a movie features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man or boy). The A-list ensemble (Michael Douglas, Orlando Bloom and John Malkovich) add classiness to a clunky script and earnest if lackluster directing…

which is supplied by veteran director, Michael Apted. Apted started off his career directing “Coronation Street” fifty years ago, and has given us the magnificent “Gorillas in the Mist” and even a (mediocre) Bond, “The World is not Enough”. His directing in “Unlocked” is, if uninspired and entirely lacking in tension, at least brisk, functional and keeps the pace rattling along.

The movie ends in such a way that clearly suggests (and I’m sure the producers are desperately hoping) that this is the first of a multi-series franchise. And, though it really doesn’t aspire to be much more than pop movie entertainment (writer Peter O’Brien’s biggest script so far has been for “Halo: Reach”), the twin themes of weaponized plague and secret conspiracies touch on such ever present threats that “Unlocked” offers some semblance of reality.

UNLOCKED. Dir: Michael Apted. With: Noomi Rapace, Toni Collette. John Malkovich, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas. Cinematographer: George Richmond (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”)

 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2** For that space between the ears


SO, IF YOU liked “Guardians of the Galaxy I”, here’s version 2. It’s pretty much the same, but louder and much, much dumber. In 2, the pleasant shock of quirkiness is gone; the idea has become self conscious and laboured. The ironic wit has been replaced by scatology, plot has been left behind somewhere in the other galaxy and George Michael’s bouffant hairstyle has been repurposed to fit Kurt Russell who is Ego, the ‘dad’ of Chris Pratt (who, if there’s justice on the universe, should still be hiding under a rock after “Passengers”).

As expected, there are running gags. Zoey Saldana’s character, Gamora, now has a sister, Nebula (Karen Gillian). She keeps trying to eat some sort of (forbidden?) fruit. Gamora keeps her away from it on the ‘ruse’ that it’s not ripe.  Finally, Nebula grabs hold of the fruit, bites into it and exclaims, “it’s not ripe”. It took ten writers to come up with this gag.

People found this funny.

If you also do, director James Gunn (who also directed the first one), has a BIG treat for you.

If you don’t find this funny and if you aren’t waiting with baited breath to see a cameo with Sylvester Stallone, ’twere best you did something better with your time

 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2. Dir: James Gunn. With: Chris Pratt; Zoe Saldana; Dave Bautista; Vin Deisel; Bradley Cooper; Karen Gillan; Sylverter Stallone; Kurt Russell. Production Designer: Scott Chambers (“Tomorrowland”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”)

 

 

SO, IF YOU liked “Guardians of the Galaxy I”, here’s version 2. It’s pretty much the same, but louder and much, much dumber. In 2, the pleasant shock of quirkiness is gone, the idea has become self conscious and labored. The ironic wit has been replaced by scatology, plot has been left behind somewhere in the other galaxy and George Michael’s bouffant hairstyle has been repurposed to fit Kurt Russell who is Ego, the dad of Chris Pratt (who, if there’s justice on the universe, should still be hiding under a rock after “Passengers”).
As expected, there are running gags. Zoey Saldana’s character, Gamora, now has a sister, Nebula (Karen Gillian). She keeps trying to eat some sort of (forbidden?) fruit. Gamora keeps her away from it on the ‘ruse’ that it’s not ripe.  Finally, Nebula grabs hold of the fruit, bites into it and exclaims, “it’s not ripe”.

People found this funny.

If you also do, director James Gunn (who also directed the first one), has a biiiiig treat for you.
If you don’t find this funny and if you aren’t waiting with baited breath to see a cameo with Sylvester Stallone, ’twere best you did something better with your time