Disneynature’s seventh feature, Born in China, doesn’t stray from the formula (anthropomorphizing, cuteness galore), but next to previous entries, it inches closer to the darkness of the animal kingdom.
Narrated competently by John Krasinski (he is no Samuel L. Jackson, but who is it?), Born in China has plenty of leads: A family of snow leopards; an overprotective mama panda and her free-spirited cub; a golden snub-nosed monkey with abandonment issues; and a number of personality-free cranes and antelopes.
The heart of the movie lies with the snow leopards, a female and her two cubs. Through the course of the film, the felines go from ruling the mountain to fighting to survive. Historically, Disneynature has avoided showing animal violence. This particular storyline is not the exception, but certain information voids in the narrative are somehow more unsettling.
The cinematography is extraordinary even for Disneynature’s high standards. The snow leopard hunting sequences (involving sharp cliffs and pugnacious would-be pray) are spectacular. The making-of snippets during the credits are particularly enlightening this time around.
While I understand the series targets younger audiences, the narrative arcs are feeling repetitive (this series appeals more to family than The Fast and the Furious) and the editing stitches are showing. It’s undoubtedly a pickle moving forward, but it’s an interesting one. 3/5 planets.
Born in China opens tomorrow Friday, April 21st, everywhere.
In 1957 a group of astronauts, Commander Dr. Eldon Galbraithe (Nelson Leigh), engineer Henry Jaffe (Christopher Dark), radioman Herbert Ellis (Rod Taylor) and scientist John Borden (Hugh Marlowe), are travelling back to Earth after taking their rocket ship out for a test run around Mars.
Upon returning to Earth the ship suddenly accelerates and knocks the crew unconscious. When they awake they discover that the ship has crash landed on Earth into a snow covered mountain. Confused the crew try to figure out what has happened. Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: World Without End”
“The Story of a Man Who Murdered Himself and Lived to Regret It!!!”
One of the problems of movies being in public domain is that the physical condition of the film tends to fall into poor disarray. If you want to watch a copy of the film odds are the version you are watching is going to look like crap. Not always but more often than not.
A slow-burning documentary by Nettie Wild, Koneline: Our Land Beautiful depicts the simmering tensions in northern British Columbia between a population in a symbiotic relationship with nature and the disruptive force of mining companies.
While the impending conflict is a great motivator, Nettie Wild takes her time to show how mine construction upsets every activity in Tahltan territory. Even something supposedly benign as the power grid reaching further up the northwest is seen as harbinger of doom. “When people comes, wildlife disappears”, assess a hunting impresario accurately.
Most of Koneline’s interviewees are part of the community. In most cases, their livelihoods are at stake. Tahltan’s elders have organized a blockage, but there is dissension in the ranks and the strategy is not sustainable in time. The area is believed a world class gold deposit and mining startups are already punching holes all around.
The director makes two smart decisions in approaching the subject: Finds a sturdy narrative and allows it to unfold organically, even at expense of a traditional ending (to this day, the situation remains in flux). Also, the fact documentaries are visual constructs is never far from Nettie Wild’s mind. Eye-popping sequences like horses crossing a treacherous river populate the film and drive the message home.
It’s never in doubt on whose side the film is on. The government of British Columbia and Imperial Metals don’t do themselves any favors, the former by being noncommittal and the latter by showing an off-putting sense of entitlement (“we paid a significant amount of money” says an executive on camera, annoyed by the blockage). Without a decisive victory for one or the other side, it seems the conflict will go on, nature losing ground one transmission tower at the time. 3.5/5 planets.
Koneline: Our Land Beautiful opens this Friday 6th at the Roxy Theatre. On Wednesday the 12th, Nettie Wild will be doing a Q&A via Skype following the 7 pm screening.
The crappy Americanized remake/live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell has hit theatres with a thud. So today’s Sunday Matinee is the original animated movie from 1995.
Based on Masamune Shirow’s 1989 comic book, the 1995 animated movie was a streamlined adaptation of it following the adventures of Major Motoko Kusanagi and her squad of troubleshooting specialists of Section 9. Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: Ghost In The Shell”
British filmmaker Ben Wheatley is making his mark not only through his nihilistic movies, but by influencing some of his collaborators. Chief of them all is Alice Lowe. The female lead in Wheatley’s most “accessible” film, Sightseers, Lowe does it all -writes, directs, stars- in Prevenge, a pitch black comedy that pushes the envelope further than you could possibly imagine.
Lowe is Ruth, a pregnant woman on her third trimester who goes on a killing spree. The targets are very specific (we slowly learn why), and Ruth is more or less methodical in her approach. She seems to be getting orders from her unborn baby, who despite having been surrounded by amniotic fluid since her conception, is very judgemental.
Prevenge moves at brisk pace, and allows plenty of humor among the carnage, mostly from the contrast between the presumably vulnerable Ruth and her actions. In spite of her doings, the protagonist remains sympathetic, as if her life wasn’t her own. Repeatedly, we get back to Ruth’s doctor who -unaware of her patient’s homicidal tendencies- pushes her to wrestle control back from the unborn baby.
While there is a clear method to the madness, Prevenge resolution is a notch underwhelming. That said, Lowe dots her I’s and crosses her T’s. The overall thoughtfulness indicates there is a future for the multi-hyphenate artist behind the camera. Three prairie dogs.
Prevenge starts streaming in Shudder on March 24th.
After The Land That Time Forgot’s success, Amicus Studios re-teamed director Kevin Connor with actor Doug McClure for an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Victorian-set novel At the Earth’s Core. To class things up a bit, Peter Cushing was added to the cast as the scientist Dr. Abner Perry. In At The Earth’s Core, Perry, along with David Innes (McClure) test the Iron Mole — a giant drilling machine capable of digging to the centre of the Earth. Little do they suspect they’re about to discover the mysterious underground realm Pellucidar and its strange, often hostile inhabitants. Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: At The Earth’s Core”
So I seem to still be on a Lost World kick and I realize I’ve never written about the entertaining 1969 movie The Valley of Gwangi. Let’s fix that.
Set in the early 1900s, The Valley of Gwangi follows a travelling cowboy show run by T.J. Breckenridge (Gila Golan) that performs in Mexico. T.J.’s ex-boyfriend, Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus), has come back to buy her out. T.J. refuses—she’s got a new attraction that will be bring in the money: a miniature horse. But when Tuck shows Professor Bromley (Laurence Naismith) the tiny thing, Bromley claims it’s an extinct Eohippus. Whoa. Could there be other prehistoric wonders out there? Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: The Valley Of Gwangi”