On the streets of Cape Town narrative fiction and real life collide in beautiful spectacles of musical expression with the seemingly endless range of the unassuming penny whistle making a king out of a boy named Felix who has mastered the ability to exude pure joy through the simple instrument without formal training. Some play percussion on refuse washed ashore on the crowded beach, surrounded by the vibrant colors of the discarded and forgotten, creating spontaneous jazz for the sheer joy of expression. Felix’s mother lovingly peels potatoes at their humble home, smiling to herself with the knowledge that Felix has been accepted into a private school that will give him opportunities that his deceased father never had, but priggish snobbery has survived the death of apartheid even amongst black Africans who have found affluence in their newfound opportunities but look down upon Felix for his lack of wealth and bright green backpack.
Uruguay’s Anina is a stunning and rich animate film that circumvents the overused Disney models of animation, instead creating worlds of depth and texture that leaves the rust on automobiles but enraptures the viewer with stunning frames of light passing through droplets of rain. It tells a simple story of growth, understanding, and tolerance but does so with tremendous imagination as we see the world through Anina’s eyes, the titular character that doesn’t know why she has to have a name that is a palindrome as this gives her much grief on the playground, a proving ground for the kids of many cultures where one faux pas can dictate your reputation for the rest of the year. We see a world that is a little scary at times but also filled with unfathomable beauty, dandelion seeds drifting through the breeze become magical and the teacher with the sour demeanor we all had in grade school appears seven feet tall and larger than life when seen through the eyes of a child.
Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is an adventurous romp through the labyrinthine passageways of an old castle that has been turned into some sort of Ayn Rand’ian boot camp for mischievous youths, telling us a story from the perspective of the precocious duo, Zip and Zap, and offering a commentary on the shifting modes of thought on child discipline. The harsh disciplinary tactics of the reactionary parents of yesterday have been outmoded through the reevaluation of priorities and objectives by a new generation that lives in a globalized world and has instant access to information. Wikipedia likely has volumes on unsuccessful parenting tactics that overemphasize discipline to foolishly attempt to impose lockstep idealogical conformity. Unfortunately for our titular duo, the “Hope Reeducation Center” hasn’t received the memo and the sacred right of childhood summer fun isn’t going to be easy with the facility’s harsh discipline and cruel administrators.
Rio 2 does what few sequels are able to do: equal the original. It in no way surpasses the original, which was a good but unremarkable film in and of itself and that’s just what the sequel is. It’s brightly colored, well humored, charming and utterly predictable.
The story picks up not long after the first one lets off, with Blu (Jessie Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) living in a Brazilian wildlife preserve with their children under the auspice they are the last Spix’s macaws in existence. Then, they see a newscast featuring Linda (Leslie Mann) (who was Blu’s owner from Minnesota in the first film) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) (who runs the facility and married Linda) from the rainforest stating that they may have found an entire colony of Spix’s macaws in the wild. This gives Jewel the idea of packing up the family and taking them to the Amazon to help Linda and Tulio locate the colony so the area can be preserved and protected from illegal logging operations.
“Fuck you” make for fitting first words in a film as fundamentally angry—in subject, if not sensibility—as Apollonian Story. They’re directed at the rock hewn by sexagenarian Nissim Kahlon, who continues to carve the house he first cut in the cliffs along Israel’s northern coastline decades priot. It’s the kind of film to benefit from a blurb read in advance; the unwitting observer’s eyes will be slowly drawn to the ornate detail of every inch, the beautiful mosaics on which the movie never deigns to linger. That’s primarily, perhaps, because it’s more concerned with Nissim’s residence as a home than a house; if it’s a unique architecture that drew directors Ilan Moscovitch and Dan Bronfeld to make this film, it’s the human structure they found within it that kept them there.
There must have been enormous pressure on James Bobin after the success of The Muppets (2011). After all, he made the best Muppet movie since The Muppet Movie (1978) and trying to come up with a follow-up would be as difficult as it must have been for Jim Henson. What Henson came up with was The Great Muppet Caper (1981), which placed the Muppets in England attempting to stop the theft of the baseball diamond from a gallery. Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller (who also co-wrote the 2011 feature with Jason Segal) came up with Muppets Most Wanted, in which the Muppets wind up in England and end up involved in a heist of the crown jewels. Both films even start with self-referential songs, Caper opens with ‘Hey, It’s a Movie’ while Most Wanted opens with ‘It’s a Sequel’.
Muppet movies have always been problematic. While many moments are good, the films struggle to maintain the zany attitude that the television show established. Somehow the translation to a long-form format always missed, sometimes just slightly and other times widely, off the mark. That changed with The Muppets (2011), possibly because co-writers Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller approached the screenplay with the irreverence that permeated the series and utilized the trademark Muppet self-reference and breaking of “the fourth wall” to draw people in and keep the plot afloat.
It’s a road movie. It’s a crime-caper. It’s a musical comedy. It’s a prison break comedy (no drama allowed). It’s Muppets Most Wanted, the second entry in the newly rebooted, Jim Henson-created, Disney-owned Muppets franchise that once, not that long ago (as in 2010), seemed like its days of drawing family-friendly moviegoers to multiplexes were well behind it. But 2011 changed everything – well, at least for the time being. With multi-hyphenate Jason Segal co-starring and co-writing (with Nicholas Stoller), Amy Adams as his love interest, and an irresistibly catchy Oscar-winning song written by Bret “Flight of the Conchords” McKenzie, the return of the Muppets to the big screen wasn’t just for nostalgia buffs. It was a fresh, invigorating – not to mention reinvigorating – return to what the Muppets do best: Entertain audiences with a clever mix of pun-filled skits, self-aware songs, and classic comedy shtick. What wasn’t there to love about The Muppets? Short answer: Not much.
It might take the lovely little nod of a background poster for some viewers to notice that Ernest & Célestine comes courtesy of the manic minds behind the bizarre Belgian brilliance of A Town Called Panic, yet for all the movies’ many stylistic divergences, there’s a sublime shared sensibility here of awe in animated abandon. But if the delirious delight of Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s approach is key to this new movie’s enormous appeal, it’s no more so than the less-is-more ingenuity of new co-director Benjamin Renner, whose Oscar-nominated silhouette short A Mouse’s Tale is just as engrained in the vibrant visual heritage of this cartoon collaboration. Here is a film that’s, simply, too beautiful to be described.
I was incredibly skeptical when I saw the first trailer for Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I’ve been a fan of that segment of Jay Ward’s classic Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends since I was a kid (no, I didn’t see it in the first run, they were repeated a lot in the early and mid-80s). The trailer seemed to make look stupid, dumbed down for modern audiences but when I sat in the theater with my son and my wife, the film that ran was smart, witty and made jokes based on history and literature that if you aren’t well versed in both the jokes won’t make a lot of sense.
The story is of Mr. Peabody (voiced by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell), a hyper-genius dog and his pet boy, I mean adopted son, Sherman (voiced by Max Charles). Mr. Peabody has achieved many great honors and invented countless things, but the greatest invention was the WABAC Machine (in the original, it was made for Sherman as a birthday present, but in the film it was constructed earlier). The WABAC Machine is a time machine which takes Mr. Peabody and Sherman back in time to educate Sherman on real history first hand.