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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 23.Aug.23

Ernest & Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia   Le Voyage en Charabïe
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia
dir Jean-Christophe Roger, Julien Chheng
scr Guillaume Mautalent, Sebastien Oursel
prd Damien Brunner, Didier Brunner, Stephan Roelants
voices Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner, Michel Lerousseau, Celine Ronte, Levanah Solomon, Jean-Marc Pannetier, Christophe Lemoine, Georges Caudron, Jean-Philippe Puymartin, Charlotte Hennequin, Igor Chometowski, Xavier Fagnon
release Fr 14.Dec.22,
US 1.Sep.23
22/France StudioCanal 1h19

See also:
Ernest & Celesting (2012)

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hush, mavka and lucas
Opening with a blast of musical energy, this gorgeously animated film sends the bear and mouse buddies on a wild new adventure. The imagery looks like a children's book come to life, and the story includes riotous elements of peril, emotion and anarchy that viewers of all ages will engage with. There are big ideas woven through this lively, twisty narrative, offering powerful insight amid the thrillingly goofy antics.
To earn a living, mouse Celestine (Brunner) plays music in the street with sleepy bear Ernest (Wilson). But she inadvertently breaks his Stradibearius violin, and its maker (Pannetier) lives far away in Gibberitia. So they make the epic journey over the mountains. In this bear land, a new law prohibits instruments that play more than one note, so birds are a crime. And a mouse is unthinkable. Ernest reunites with his doctor mother (Ronte), judge father (Lerousseau) and sparky sister Mila (Solomon). Then as they discover the underground musical resistance, the police roll in.
Celestine is continually interrupting Ernest's naps, and he sleeps almost all the time. It's quickly clear that Ernest left home because his father insists that he become a judge when his passion is for music, plus of course sleep and food. It's this tension within Ernest that drives the plot, as he struggles against his father's expectations while Celestine urges him to do what's right. And even the smaller side characters are bursting with personality.

Witty touches are scattered through each scene, while the story traverses a range of beautifully rendered landscapes including vertiginous cliffs and snowy peaks before arriving in the lush, bustling Gibberitia, which has lots of offbeat rules to go with its national motto: "That's just how it is". Adventures along the way include Ernest getting arrested for playing an accordion. Ernest's parents live in a house that is literally split in two. And the secret musical hideout is gloriously colourful.

There's a grim acceptance of the way things are now in Gibberitia, where all joy has been drained from life. But rebels tenaciously challenge the system, leading to a snappy action climax that overflows with bouncy energy and music. Most important is how all of this will resonate with children and grown-ups who will recognise different parallels in their respective worlds. So while it may all be rather absurdly ridiculous, it has a terrific thematic depth. And it's also a lot of fun.

cert u themes, violence 30.Aug.23

The First Slam Dunk  
Review by Rich Cline | 5/5   MUST must see SEE

The First Slam Dunk
dir-scr Takehiko Inoue
prd Toshiyuki Matsui
voices Shugo Nakamura, Jun Kasama, Shinichiro Kamio, Subaru Kimura, Kenta Miyake, Katsuhisa Hoki, Asami Seto, Maaya Sakamoto, Ryota Iwasaki, Chikahiro Kobayashi, Masafumi Kobatake, Kenichiro Matsuda
release Jpn 3.Dec.22,
US 28.Jul.23, UK 1.Sep.23
22/Japan 2h04

43rd Shadows Awards

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Manga artist Takehiko Inoue adapts his series for the big screen, using an eye-catching style of animation that maintains a comic-book aesthetic while looking astonishingly realistic. Mixing hand-drawn art with digital trickery, the characters have real weight and presence on-screen, and the story is structured like a beefy biopic. Framed with a single epic basketball match, this film cleverly traces young men who are in search of a breakthrough.
In Okinawa, Ryota (Nakamura) shows basketball talent from an early age, inspired by his older brother. As a preteen he developed skills despite his short stature, and since he'll never be as good as his brother, he develops a cocksure, scrappy personality. But he focusses on getting even better. Then at Shohoku high school, his determination lands him on a strong team that takes on Japan's championship school, but he feels inadequate against these tall, aggressive opponents. And each of his teammates will need to dig deep if they hope to come from behind.
Wonderful rhythms of action and drama bring this story to life. The basketball sequences are rendered with a vivid sense of energy and weight that's thrilling to watch, as if shot by cameras that are floating in the middle of the players, then edited to their heartbeats. And off the court, Ryota faces intense pressure from within to prove himself, watching carefully and hearing every harsh word that comes his way. No wonder people think of him as aloof. Character insights are inventively depicted with different styles of animation and amusing side riffs.

While the central perspective remains with Ryota, there are also insights into the internal journeys of his teammates: long-shooter Hisashi (Kasama), fiercely determined Kaede (Kamio), swaggering flame-haired genius Hanamichi (Kimura) and towering meathead Takenori (Miyake). Watching each find his groove is hugely engaging, and Ryota's story plays out with even more nuance and insight, finding underlying motivations in a complex protagonist who doesn't always do the right thing. His emotional cries for help are absolutely wrenching.

This is bold, sophisticated storytelling in a film that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in animation. By keeping the main plot so unusually grounded, then using visual flourishes to broaden and deepen everything, Inoue has created a powerful exploration of that youthful yearning to know your place in the world. There may be rather a lot of basketball in this movie, but it's flat-out beautiful to watch, and the story is also thrilling, thoughtful and powerfully moving, right to the final heart-stopping swish.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 28.Aug.23

Warrior King  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Warrior King
dir Lu Qi
scr Wang Yunsheng, Lu Wunan
prd Lu Wunan, Xi Xiaotang, Qi Ziyu, Duan Shiwen, Chen Zhiquo, Peng Jin, Yin Dongming
voices Brandon Hunt, Katie Leigh, Marisa Blake, Blake Talley, Olivia Springer, Richard Epcar, Ron Whittemore, Ian Russell, Jimmie Yamaguchi, Adam New, Grant Corvin, Madison Garris
release US 25.Aug.23
23/China 1h54

Now streaming...

Warrior King
Based on the Tibetan legend of King Gesar, passed down through a thousand years of oral tradition, literature, poems and plays, this Chinese animated epic has a distinct visual style inspired by scroll paintings. Textures, colours and details have a robust quality that holds the interest, especially when mythical creatures emerge, which helps make up for the choppy and too-brisk plotting plus rather bland voices in the English dub.
Punished for breaking rules, pregnant widow Gogza (Blake) gives birth to her son on a snowy mountainside. A prophesied child, Chori (Leigh) grows up with dreams of becoming a hero, but gets in trouble for taking on monsters. So his Uncle Trothung (Talley) angrily banishes Gogza and Chori from the snowy community. Living in the mountains, Chori bravely takes on demon warriors, then he trains with Guru Padma (Whittemore). Later as a young man, Chori (now Hunt) reunites with Brugmo (Springer), a girl from his village, And as Gesar he works to unite the tribes.
Icy mountains create thrilling settings, even if they are sometimes over-worked for dramatic or comical intent. And the action scenes have a remarkably gritty edge. Combined with all of the other eye-catching imagery and some big character beats, there's plenty to enjoy as the story charges through scenes that feel both rushed and far too busy. Occasional songs offer moments of respite. But the narrative is overcomplicated with talky dialog, feuds that don't quite resonate and a blinding array of outrageously interesting but ill-defined side roles.

Characters aren't particularly well-developed, remaining very straightforward through the heroics, villainy, slapstick, romance and so forth. The bare-chested men all have ripped physiques, and the beautiful women can also hold their own in a fight. Costumes are elaborate, with spectacular colours, layers and textures. And the various mythical creatures are especially stunning, providing all kinds of spark to the frequent action sequences.

Chori is continually told that his trials are part of his destiny, so he never seems particularly put off by whatever mind-boggling challenge arrives next. The political machinations around him are extreme, with long-held grudges and loyalties creating a situation that isn't always each to follow. But there's never any question about who's good and who's evil, with nature firmly on the side of the heroes. All of this gives the animators plenty to work with. And even if it gets rather violent, kids will enjoy both the imaginative action and the adventure.

cert 12 themes, violence 22.Aug.23

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