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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 22.Aug.21

Around the World in 80 Days   Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
Around the World in 80 Days
dir Samuel Tourneux
scr Gerry Swallow, David Michel
prd Zoe Carrera Allaix, Cecile Lauritano, David Michel
voices Rob Tinkler, Cory Doran, Katie Griffin, Heather Bambrick, Shoshana Sperling, Juan Chioran, Brandon McGibbon, Jaime Watson, Deven Mack, Stephany Seki
release Fr 4.Aug.21,
UK 20.Aug.21
21/France StudioCanal 1h22

Is it streaming?

phileas and passepartout
This nutty French-Belgian animated adaptation of the Jules Verne classic is clearly designed for children, but there's just enough deranged humour and witty design work to keep older audiences entertained. The quality of the imagery is above average, sending tiny characters on an epic journey that's enjoyably bonkers. It's also refreshingly simple, never trying to do anything to terribly deep or complicated. So younger kids particularly will enjoy it.

Teen marmoset Passepartout (Doran) dreams of travelling the world, escaping from the shrimp colony where he lives with his wildly over-protective mother (Sperling). Then surfing frog conman Phileas (Tinkler) turns up boasting of his travels and wagering that he can circle the globe in 80 days. When the town calls his bluff, he reluctantly agrees to take Passepartout with him. But the tenacious Agent Fix (Bambrick) is on Phileas' trail, sparking a series of scrapes in outrageous settings. And along the way they meet sassy frog princess Aouda (Griffin) who claims she can fly.
Wildly silly slapstick keeps things moving, often throwing in sideways references to other films, such as a Mad Max-style desert gang of scorpions. There's intrigue in a colourful North African market town, and adventure in a lush jungle where Aouda is about to be sacrificed to a volcano by a tribe of bugs led by a snooty snail (Doran again). Add in snowy mountains, an insane aerial chase and goofy twists on international landmarks. Along the way, the filmmakers also play around with other styles of imagery.

The character animation and voice work are entertaining, providing big personalities and some surprisingly involving adventures. Passepartout and Phileas make a snappy duo: an overly hopeful diminutive marmoset nerd working with a lanky fast-talking cool-dude frog. Aouda adds some snarky humour to their dynamic, while Fix's ongoing efforts to catch them have a strong whiff of Wile E Coyote-style futility that fuels a number of wacky set-pieces.

Even if the script gets us to cheer for a thief, there are some enjoyable themes holding things together, including simple messages about the importance of curiosity, education and honesty. There's also a nice meet-your-hero moment and a corny villainous twist to the plot. Plus a pointed throwaway joke about plastic-straw pollution and cliched dance sequences. It's not a deeply textured film by any means, but there's rather a lot of absurd fun to have along the way. And no, they don't skip the dance.

cert pg themes, language, violence 15.Aug.21

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
dir-scr Neill Blomkamp
prd Neill Blomkamp , Mike Blomkamp, Stuart Ford, Linda McDonough
with Carly Pope, Chris William Martin, Michael J Rogers, Nathalie Boltt, Terry Chen, Kandyse McClure, Jason Tremblay, Quinton Boisclair, Derek Versteeg, Chris Froese
release US 20.Aug.21,
UK 26.Aug.21
21/Canada 1h45

frightfest london

Is it streaming?

Mixing old-school horror moviemaking with high-tech whizzery, writer-director Neill Blomkamp scales down from his previous big-scale blockbusters. Visually inventive, the film features the usual churning underscore and freak-out moments, quickly letting us know that it's the kind of movie we can't trust. So as Blomkamp deliberately blurs lines between reality and visions, the plot begins to run out of steam. But it does ramp up for a big finish.
While working to put her past behind her, Carly (Pope) reluctantly agrees to meet her old friend Martin (Martin), who informs her that her estranged mother Angela (Boltt) is in a coma. Angela's doctors (Rogers and Chen) explain that she is locked-in but aware, able to interact in a digital simulation. So they send Carly in to talk to her. Carly uses this to express her deep-seated bitterness, but Angela warns her to run. And as this seeps into Carly's real world, it becomes apparent that a demon (Boisclair) is prowling for her soul.
The virtual space looks very cool indeed, with shimmering edges highlighted by beams of hard light. These sequences sit alongside Carly's haunting ongoing nightmares, as both reveal the chasm between mother and daughter, including details of Angela's horrific crime. But Blomkamp also deploys genre cliches like power outages, an abandoned sanatorium with a sinister history and a demon with a bird-like deathmask. And there's also the hook of three childhood friends confronting an awful experience by returning to the scene decades later.

Performances are nicely understated, which helps pull the audience into the story's nastier elements. Pope's earthy approach makes Carly very easy to identify with, as she struggles against a process that's bringing out long-suppressed memories. Martin is solid in the thankless role as the guy who has to explain everything because he's spent years researching this demon. At least the likeable McClure has some fun as another old friend who shares Carly's past and present. And both Rogers and Chen are superb as doctors who are clearly up to something.

The script merely skims across the surface of its premise, but it finds some engaging depth in the relationships, especially as Carly revisits her connection to Angela. This helps sustain interest through the talky, repetitive bits, although when everyone starts arming themselves to the teeth to confront a supernatural demon, things do begin feeling rather silly. Blomkamp takes a fresh approach to the narrative that's more gritty than gothic. But he can't resist diving fully into a jolt-happy, hyperviolent finale.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 18.Aug.21

The Pebble and the Boy  
Review by Rich Cline | 2/5  
The Pebble and the Boy
dir-scr Chris Green
prd Michael Knowles, Jo Mifsud
with Patrick McNamee, Sacha Parkinson, Max Boast, Christine Tremarco, Patsy Kensit, Ricci Harnett, Stuart Wolfenden, Mark Sheals, Emma Stansfield, Jesse Birdsall, Brian Croucher, Gary 'Mani' Mounfield
release UK 27.Aug.21
21/UK 1h41

Is it streaming?

Infused with the groovy vibes of Mod culture, this warm British drama sends a young maen on a journey that echoes with nostalgia for his late father's life. Filmmaker Chris Green's script balances some pushy plotting with offhanded dialog that's nicely delivered by the cast. Despite eye-catching cinematography, the film never builds much narrative momentum. But several moments have an earthy emotionality that will resonate with the audience.
When his father dies, 19-year-old John (McNamee) inherits his beloved Lambretta scooter, which is decked out with all the Mod extras. So he decides to take dad's ashes to the Mods' spiritual home in Brighton, riding there from Manchester on the scooter. But he'll need to stop along the way for help. And he's joined by Nicki (Parkinson), daughter of his dad's friend Geoff (Wolfenden). And later they collect Logan (Boast), the surly son of their fathers' friends Ronnie and Sonia (Harnett and Kensit). Then when they reaches Brighton, John has some soul-searching to do.
John has been raised in his father's house, which is like a shrine to his glory days in the Mod era, echoing with the music of Paul Weller. These make their appearances on the soundtrack, while quite a bit of Mod history is related through newspaper clippings in scrapbooks and the occasional first-person anecdote. But details about the characters remain vague, which means that feelings feel forced. This also makes the interaction so uneven that it's difficult for us to connect with either the narrative or the characters.

These people are rather simplistically defined by a main characteristic, and the actors thankfully stir in some additional complexity. McNamee has a soulfulness that makes John endearing, even though he's rather bland. For example, he never seems particularly interested in all of these new stories he's hearing about his dad. And he only tangentially connects with the people around him, which is perhaps understandable for someone who's grieving. Other characters add some colour around the edges, including a few scene-stealing moments.

As the story continues, Green ramps up the emotion with some sentimental conversations and naive plot points. But because there's so little that cracks the surface, everything feels oddly contrived, especially arguments that flare up without much context. The story hinges around a conflict from the past involving a biker (Birdsall), who finally fills in a few of the missing puzzle pieces. But that isn't enough to give the film a payoff, except perhaps for those who are watching through their own Mod-coloured nostalgia.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 18.Jul.21

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