LIFE, ANIMATED

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGLIFE, ANIMATED

A documentary by: Roger Ross Williams

Editor: David Teague

Cinematographer: Tom Bergmann

Composer: Dylan Stark, T. Griffin

Original Animation: Mac Guff

Based on a book by: Ron Suskind

Starring: The Suskind Family: Owen, Cornelia, Walter and Ron.

LIFE, ANIMATION is a documentary based on a book written by Ron Suskind, father of Owen who at age 3 was diagnosed with autism.

This is a story about Owen’s journey from childhood, to his devastating withdrawal at age 3, to his diagnosis of the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, through to miraculously living on his own in assisted residential care. All due to the Suskind family’s persistence and recognition of Owen’s ability to communicate through his understanding of the exaggerated emotional cues shown in Disney films.

Owen’s father, Ron, has used his journalistic skill in portraying the difficulties of autism: the constant overstimulation (due to lack of filtering of the external environment), the loss of understanding of words and the determination to release him from his autism prison.

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

Not only a remarkable insight into autism, I found myself constantly smiling.

The Suskinds are just such a loving, supportive family, that every triumph is experienced right there with them. And Owen himself is a genuinely lovely guy. It’s such a pleasure to see him open up and become a young man.

Yes, there are difficulties, and I shed a few tears through-out the film, because that’s life.

I could relate to Owen’s difficulties, the falls we all take. And I could admire his tenacity to keep getting up and keep fighting the good fight: the losing of his voice and then finding it again.

This is a heart-felt story that is shown so well by the directing. And the soundtrack is perfect: there to amplify the moments without becoming intrusive. What amazed me the most was the original animation created by Mac Guff to depict Owen’s own imagined stories.

I could sense the amount of time and care put into this film and I have to say, it has really paid off. The film is a seamless journey, shown with emotion that is real and made relatable to everyone.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

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Storks

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: GStorks

Written and Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Directed by: Doug Sweetland

Starring: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Chris Smith, Awkwafina, Ike Barinholtz, Jorma Taccone; Amanda Lund.

Storks is a story about families written for families.  About a young boy who wants a brother, an orphan girl without family making the best of a world where she doesn’t belong and an ambitious stork not realising how much he’s missing out – all those warm family hugs.

Director and writer Nicholas Stoller has nailed that warm fuzzy family feeling, basing the story on his own life experience of being the father of two girls.

Synopsis:

After the unfortunate incident of Jasper the stork (Danny Trejo) losing the beacon used to deliver his package/baby, Tulip (the human orphan) lives at what is no longer a Baby Factory but a global internet retail giant called Cornerstore.com.  Far easier for the storks to deliver purchased packages than babies.

Now Junior (Andy Samberg) is set to become boss, unless something goes wrong, like the accidental creation of another baby for the storks to deliver, immediately, before the CEO finds out.

Thoughts:

Don’t ask me why but birds, particularly chickens, crack me up.  It may have something to do with my sister being chased by chooks when we were young, and then being terrified of feathered animals ever since…  And is there nothing funnier than seeing someone being swooped by a magpie?  As long as they don’t go and swoop you too?  Anyway, the bird humour in Storks certainly had me clucking, I mean chuckling; an understated humour, that surprised and provoked laugh out loud moments.

Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), green and complete with a mop of strawberry blonde hair was a bit hit and miss for me, but when he hit, he was hilarious.

I did wonder how kids watching the film would feel about the confusing concept of storks delivery babies.  Seeing the film at a family screening, there were plenty of kids in the audience and what I heard a lot of was tiny voices exclaiming, Baby!  So I don’t think the kids really cared about the concept, it was all about the cuteness.  Leave it to the parents to explain the birds and the bees, I guess!

There was a bit of a slow start.  I didn’t really invest until the wolves were introduced.  But after that, I was pretty well suckered.

In Conclusion:

Storks is for all the family with parents and kids alike having their hearts melted by the cuteness of these animated babies.  For me, I appreciated the humour.

But be warned: may induce cluckiness.

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Blair Witch

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA+Blair Witch

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Written by: Simon Barrett

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson; Valorie Curry.

The creators of the original film, The Blair Witch Project (1999), and now executive producers of Blair Witch, Myrick, Sanchez and Hale wanted the sequel to be true to the 18th century myth of Elly Kedward – the woman accused by the children of Blair of being a witch.

Left to die of exposure in the woods of Maryland, Elly disappears without a trace. When the people of the town begin to disappear, starting with the children who made the accusation, the killing, the missing, the myth of the Blair Witch begins.

No-one can accuse director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, V/H/S and V/H/S2) and writer Simon Barrett (once again collaborating with Wingard on their 9th feature film, including V/H/S and V/H/S/2) of wavering from the original concept. Blair Witch, like the original Blair Witch Project, is also made up of video and images from the found footage of missing documentary makers.

James (James Allen McCune) is the brother of Heather, who is one of the three characters who go missing in the original. Heading back to the Black Hills Forest, James sets off with his good friends and documentors, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) to try to find his sister.

Does James really believe that his sister is still alive? This question amongst many other red herrings go unanswered.

Yes, there are some very weird happenings, but the characters don’t seem to notice or question. To the point where the only explanation could be characters in shock.  There’s definite skimming over some scary moments that could have evoked real terror with greater exploration.

It’s difficult to review Blair Witch without comparison to the original. It’s also another ‘lost in the woods’ scenario where the darkness, rain and the weird noises of the woods seem determined to make the search for James’ sister difficult.

A noted difference is the addition of two locals, Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry, who you’ll recognize from The Following) giving the film another dimension. I was never sure what they were going to do. And in this respect the tension was allowed space to develop.

The quality of the camera work is far better and easier to watch here.

But I felt there was a lack of imagination, a lost opportunity to really ramp up the terror by giving meaning to the scary bits rather than just the shock factor: the terror didn’t resonate.

The original had the benefit of surprise as the concept of basing a film on ‘found footage’ hadn’t been done before. Here, I was expecting more of the myth so was disappointed as the scary bits weren’t enough.

Honestly, the 2nd Blair Witch, Book of Shadows (2000), had a better story-line.

For those who haven’t seen the original, Blair Witch could easily be watched without need of introduction. And the house was scary and the camera work was well done.

But I think this was a superficial scare with a lost opportunity to really ramp up the depth of terror.

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SULLY

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director/Producer: Clint EastwoodSully

Screenwriter: Todd Komarnicki

Based on the book written by: Chesley “SULLY” Sullenberger, Jeffrey Zaslow.

Director of Photography: Tom Stern

Composers: Christian Jacob and The Tierney Sutton Band

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart; Laura Linney.

“I’ve got 40 years in the air, but in the end I’m gonna be judged on 208 seconds.”

SULLY is the story of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, where pilot Captain Chesley ‘SULLY’ Sullenberger makes an emergency landing with 155 people on board onto the Hudson River in New York.

I remember hearing about the incident on the news back in 2009 and was amazed, along with the rest of the world, by the bravery of such a decision and the skill to actually land without a single soul lost.

But good deeds don’t go unpunished.

What I didn’t realise was the scrutiny Sully experienced by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the nightmares and distress experienced by the pilot, Sully, and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart).

SULLY was a brilliantly cast film with the resemblance to the real-life crew unmistakable. The lead role, Captain Sullenberger, played by Hanks, called for a calm character who showed honesty and strength, which Hanks, of course, plays very well.

But like the character, the film was also dry and calm; the control held firmly in the hands of director Clint Eastwood.

As Hanks states, ‘Sometimes you read something that is so stirring and at the same time so simple, such a perfect blend of behaviour and procedure.’

The film focuses on the aftermath and the technicalities undertaken for the emergency landing. And there was such restraint used that even the dramatic event of the landing also had an overriding feeling of calm. So the film felt a little too even for my taste. Certainly, no-one can accuse Eastwood of over-dramatising!

There was also the element that we all know what’s coming; how it’s all going to end. It was more about the fleshing out of the story.

SULLY is an amazing story with great acting. I loved that the film makers recruited many of the people who were there that day to reenact what happened.

I just wasn’t blown away.

This is a story of a 40 year veteran who had seconds to make a life or death decision for 155 people. And he did his job. That’s the tone of the movie. A truthful re-telling without too many dramatics.

The story was played out with clever devices like dream sequences made real, personal perspectives from the passengers and flash-backs to build the suspense, but as stated before, we already know what’s going to happen!

If you’re interested in the story, this is a great film; if you’re looking for a lot of action, you’ll be disappointed.

I’m somewhere in-between: a solid movie but no real surprises.

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Mountain Cry

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MMountain Cry

Directed by: Larry Yang

Adapted Screenplay: Larry Yang

Music by: Nicolas Errèra

Cinematography by: Patrick Murguia

Starring: Yueting Lang, Ziyi Wang, Taishen Cheng, Ailei Yu, Jin Guo, Caigen Xu, Chendong Zhao; Siying Li.

Language: Chinese Mandarin

Subtitle Language: English

Based on: Lu Xun Literary Prize recipient novel of the same name written by Ge Shuiping.

Mountain Cry is a Chinese tale of a mute girl, Hong Xia (Yueting Lang), who moves to a remote rural village with her abusive husband, La Hong (Yu Ailei), and two children.

After her husband is killed by a detonation used in a badger trap set in the woods, a young villager, Han Chong (Ziyi Wang) is blamed for the accident.  The village council then forces Han to look after the young widow and her children until the debt is paid for killing her husband.

Mountain Cry has been beautifully adapted to the screen with director and screenwriter Larry Yang relating this amazing story of Chinese village life and the two main characters slowly falling in love.  But this film is so much more than a romance, there’s crime here and mystery.

The characters show more of themselves with each action, with each scene adding weight to the adage, show don’t tell.  There was such a gentle touch here with tragedy and longing, freedom given and taken away, responsibility and loyalty and love all revealed like leaves slowly falling.

When novels are adapted to the screen there can be the feeling of parts missing or the story being rushed or glossed over, but Mountain Cry was a complicated story given depth, revealed slowly allowing the audience to become absorbed by the mystery of Hong Xia’s life.  Not surprising that the film won Shanghai International Film Festival Media Award Best Director Award and Shanghai International Film Festival Media Award Best Scriptwriter Award.

Although set in 1984, there was a classic feel to the story: old fashioned tools used for farming, handmade paper and painted writing, and the echoing sound of voices and drums like the heartbeat of the vast mountains.

The scenery was captured beautifully by cinematographer, Patrick Murguia.  And the soundtrack a fitting accompaniment (Nicolas Errèra) to this classic Chinese tale.  But it was the characters who were the focus, and their relationships.

Although a tragedy, the story was lifted by the simple warmth of Han Chong and his ginger kitten, but you need a quiet mood for this one.  And I have to say the film was slow at times.  But by the end, I was completely absorbed and pleasantly surprised by the mystery and beauty of the story.

A slow reveal but well worth the journey.

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