Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Shaun the Sheep movie: Farmageddon (2019) directed by Richard Phelan and Will Becher

This is not the first Shaun the Sheep movie but it is the first I've seen. I do catch theTV show time to time and that is pretty great. If you are not a fan of Aardman animation, well there is something seriously wrong with you. Wallace and Grommit are classic shorts and films and pretty much all their projects are awesome. Except for the misfortune of casting Mel Gibson in "Chicken Run" they have a pretty much unsullied reputation for great animated story telling. This film will not disappoint you. 

Shaun and his fellow sheep are up to to their usual antics of annoying the farmer and his dog when Shaun finds a space creature in the barn. Sure, there are ALL the tropes from ET, Close Encounters, 2001 etc but by are they funny and still surprising here! 

The stop motion is the top notch and still has a hand made look about it that is totally charming. There is no real dialogue spoken thought so it transfers to anyone speaking any language. Some of the newspaper headline sin my version were in german for some reason but that did not cause any confusion. It's not complicated - just lots of fun! 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Color Out of Space (2019) directed and co-written by Richard Stanley

Based on the story by H.P. lovecraft, this film follows the events after a meteorite crashes into the front yard of Nicolas Cage's family home. It's a slow burn with much of the really crazy cosmic horror bursting into the films last ½ hour. The fallen object emits a colour that no one can describe and it begins to infect and transform everything around it, especially the water supply.

The director, who hasn't done a film since he was fired from "Island of Dr. Moreau" in 1996. (Yes the version with the "incredible hum-animals!) has given us a really beautifully, overly colourful treat to watch. I can't say I found it scary, there were too many tropes but that doesn't mean it was void of creepiness and tension. Cage is not over the top, for once, and it's really the daughter's journey we follow. Lovecraft easter eggs and references are everywhere and a little distracting if you know his work well, but fun to research later if you don't. There are elements of the "Reanimator" and "From Beyond" older Lovecraft inspired films that were dripping in body horror and gore. It's not too heavy on the gore but it has a nice helping of body horror that's better seen than described. 

The whole thing gets pretty trippy but never falls into camp and it was smart enough to leave many things ambiguous and unexplained. It follows the original story to a certain extent but adds elements that take those ideas and moves them into a more modern context and make it and the family more relatable. It certainly managed to hold my attention and I would say the poster (pictured above) does represent what you are in for if you watch it! 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Onward 2020 directed by Dan Scanlon

 This Pixar offering supposes that it's world was populated by mythical creatures and magic until technology came along which was much easier to control and learn than magic. Over time the magic was basically forgotten and pushed aside. 

The film follows the adventures of Ian and his brother who receive a wizard's staff and a not from their dead dad which states it can be used to bring him back, for one day only. The spell goes awry and only the lower half of papa returns and they are off to find a magic stone to bring the rest of him back before the sun sets the next day. 

The story is a bit off the beaten track, which to me is its strongest asset. Like most Pixar films there are wonderful details and beautiful animation along with some fun Dungeon and Dragons references. 

At 200 million dollars and box office of only 114 million this could be a rare Pixar failure but I have hard time seeing it in that light. The film is far from a dud in any way shape or form and while not the strongest of their films, it's entertaining and has plenty of legit emotion coming from the characters. It was released just before the COVID shutdown worldwide, so it's amazing it made even ½ its money back, considering. If it was up to me, I would consider a re-release when things go back to normal and see how it goes. It could easily find a larger audience if given the chance. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

RKO Production 601: The Making of 'Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World' (2005)

Made in 2005 as a companion documentary for the 2005 re-release fo the original film, this film covers just about anything you might want to know about the making of the classic film from conception, to filming to reception as well as it's importance in the world of cinema. The interviews are top notch people and full of interesting information. I did get a little annoyed at the repetition of the idea that Kong was the first giant monster movie... it's not. Willis O'Brien the effects creator of the film had already done a monster on the loose in his version of "The Lost World" but Kong was definitely the first time we felt for the beast crushing the city he is stuck in. He moved the needle of effects works to a new level that still stands up today and showed that a completely artificially create character could be on par, or even outdo its real life human actors. A worthy documentary of the one of the world's best loved films. See the entire thing in the YouTube link above. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

I Am Divine (2013) Directed by Jeffrey Schwartz


This is a sweet documentary covering the life of Glen Milstead, better known as the outrageous drag artist Divine who died tragically of a heart attack the day before starting a role on the immensely popular "Married with Children" TV. It was to have been a huge turning point to a career as a more serious character actor. 

Pretty much all of Divine's friends and family were tapped for interviews and while the documentary covers all the bases you would expect, it does come off as a little sanitized after reading director's John Water's biographies like "Shock Value". Well, as sanitized as any film about Divine could be. I really appreciated the look into Glen's family life and his relationship with his parents. I was surprised there seemed to be no mention of Cookie Mueller but the other "Dreamland Studios" pals were at least given a mention. 

What really comes across is the affection and respect every around Milstead had for him and what a talented performer he was whose life was cut short after years of working towards a shot at more publicly accessible roles. He would have done even greater things and this is a good history and homage to a legend. 

Cask of Amontillado Selected for a festival you all can watch online!

 So the SF indie fest/Another Hole in the Head has selected my animation "Cask of Amontillado" for their online Mr. Holehead's Warped Dimension Film Fest

The festival is the 24th-29th of September 2020 and films will be streamed to a registered Zoom audience. I may also be there in a window for a post screening Q&A live in ZOOM. The link about will have all the pertinent information if I miss posting anything here.

Tickets are now available! Click to see the link and buy tickets. My movie is being shown  on Saturday, September 26 9 a.m. PDT. It costs 10$ for a day pass to the festival so you cna see other things as well! Which is noon eastern Standard time - I think. 

My trailer for the festival:

Cask of Amontillado trailer from Vincent-louis Apruzzese on Vimeo.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Kill Your Darlings (2013) Directed by John Krokidas

A biographical piece about the early college days of the earliest members of the beat generation with a great cast, editing and well done screenplay that manages to keep us interested in, to be honest, are not very likeable people overall. The story does give much sympathy to it's protagonist, Alan Ginsberg played by Daniel Radcliffe, but many of his friends seem to be no more than pretentious college kids who are all in some way or another living off other people, be it their family, girlfriend... whomever. The central conflict is the killing god professor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) in a stabbing incident. The professor seems to be obsessed with Lucien, write his papers for him for sexual favours (according the screenplay - a fact disputed by the real Lucien. There are a couple points where the story loops back on itself, showing us something and going back to what led up to it then on from there and it really works. William S. Burroughs is played by Ben Foster, a role I would not even him taking as Burroughs is so well known it would be hard not to let your performance slip into parody. But  he doesn't and after seeing him in the roles a few minutes, I found him very convincing. 

The film is not full of action as you might imagine and all the better for it. The interplay among the characters, unlikeable as students they may be at times, never feels forced and it's these interactions that get you through the film. Radcliffe is great as is everyone else. Hall manages to be both stalker and sympathetic at times and the early beat scene is portrayed well without over dramatizing or exaggerating it. 

The film did very poorly in release, costing 6 million with a box office of only about 2 million and I wonder if it had been made more recently if it might have ended up a hit on a streaming platform as it seems well suited for that format which as of this writing seems to have a larger audience for a drama like than we are likely to see in cinemas again anytime soon, if ever. It deserves to be seen and bravo for those who put it together. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Circus of Books (2019) directed by Rachel Mason

Karen and Barry Mason were having trouble making ends meet when they decided to take a chance distributing  Hustler fro Larry Flint, a decision which led to them distributing even more x-rated magazines and that in turn led them to becoming owners of a gay porn bookstore, something the couple hid from friends and even their own children for years. To them is was a business decision and they ran the business well for decades until the internet and online free porn caught up with them and they had to close the business down. 

The director is the couple's own daughter and despite some pretty tough reluctance from her her mother i particular, she tells a very personal story of two people who get involved in a business they had no interest in but ended up being an inspirations to 1000s as they not only pushed to stay open during the reason years but dealt head on with the AIDS crisis and finally their own issues when they discover one of the children is gay. 

This is not a high budget film which I think helps keep it on subject and real. Mason keeps the story on her family while all the time showing the events and political world changing over the 3 decades of the store's existence. While her parents are great people, they are not perfect and are not presented as perfect which makes the whole thing very relatable. Brave to Netflix for bringing this to us, I wish it was around when some of my earlier documentaries were made. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Fury (1978) Directed by Brian De Palma

I am not the biggest fans of Brian De Palma but this follow up to Carrie is under rated in my opinion. 

Based on the 1976 novel by John Farris, who also wrote the screenplay, it is the story of two young people - psychic twins in a way- who are wanted by an ill defined government agency for ill defined reasons.  The book goes into more details and has a lot more sex, something the movie only touches lightly on. In the book there is more time spent on what is going on with the two teenagers played in the movie by Andrew Stevens and Amy Irving, expelling how Steven's Character Robin is being controlled by sex with an older woman as she helps develop his powers and Irving's Gillian is in a more nurturing environment in a school  for gifted children sort fo set up. Robin's powers are more pronounced and he needs an enormous amount of calories to keep going, which was a nice detail. The movies skips over most of that and maybe for the best as it it sort of split between a spy/thriller beginning that evolves more into a supernatural horror film as the two main characters discover that their abilities range from seeing the future to making people feels from every pore in tier bodies.  John Cassavetes plays the defect villain and gets his due in a truly violent, explosive (out intended) way. 

De Palma does a great job with the actors and Kirk Douglas is a little overdone I though but he does give the role a little humour which might be missing otherwise. Irving is great, though here end scene is less affective than it might have been for some reason. She just doesn't "exude" the power she is supposed to have. Stevens, whose character shares a preference for being shirtless like his father, on the other hand is terrifying as he devolves into a true monster as his talents increase in strength and his murder of the lover that betrayed him is pretty horrifying due to his ability to sell the supernatural part so well. 

The real star of this movie is the music by John Williams... it's pretty awesome from the theme to the incidental music and adds to every scene in away a less composer would not be able to. 

The cinematography and editing is very well done and even the the convention of the time like the camera zooms and camera pans back and forth don't distract from what is going on and and for the most work well as part of the story telling. 

If you have never heard of this move, check it out. It's very violent but stands up all these decades later as an affective horror/thriller. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (1918) directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman

Every once and long while a film comes up with something truly new and innovative and this movie is 100% in that category. The story of the Mile Morals version of Spiderman from the comic book series is integrated with several other versions of Spiderman in a truly engaging and exciting story filled with humour and a good share of drama. Spider dies at the start of the films, murdered by the Kingpin, which pretty shocking for an animated film but he is far from the only killing by the end of this story. 

Story really is front and centre in this production, but it also outshines pretty much any other modern animated project in the visuals. It is hard to describe the look of this movie except to say it's a comic book come to life. That doesn't nearly cover it though. The animation is far beyond just mimicking a comic book style... it's layered approach and combination of both CGI and 2D to achieve its unique presentation of the material is revolutionary and will change how you look at "cartoons" forever more. Every shot, the lighting the movement is stunning to look at and it's in total service to the top notch story telling and performances. 

Marvel knew the Miles Morals story needed to be told on the big screen and came up with a way to do that and not step on the toes of the I've action films. The movie literally references the comics it's drawing from as plot point, including the bizarre, Peter Porker - the amazing Spiderham. As wild and weird as it it is this film has real heart behind it and matches that with technical brilliance.