NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Frank & Zed [2020]

It will end in the Orgy of Blood! Centuries ago in a small kingdom ravaged by evil wizard The Moroi, a king made a pact with the God of Death to usher in what he believed was his only chance at peace. By giving them cursed weapons with the power to vanquish their foe, Death also bestowed a prophecy that foretold an orgy of blood fated to take tenfold the blood spilled by the king’s hand the moment his royal line is ended. And it worked. The wizard was destroyed…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Wolfwalkers [2020]

Half wolf, half witch, half people. The woodsmen are clearing out the forest to expand Kilkenny, Ireland’s farmland circa 1650 under orders of Lord Protector Cromwell (Simon McBurney)—an Englishman. He and the British crown see these Irish folk as a people in need of taming so it’s only fitting that he try his hand at ridding the countryside of wolves first. This is something these peasants can get behind because they fear what those beasts might do if left unchecked. They clamor for the soldiers to protect them. They willingly…

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REVIEW: Onward [2020]

Be Like Dad. It’s Ian Lightfoot’s (Tom Holland) sixteenth birthday and he’s hoping to make it count. He’s not about to go on a rager with friends, though. He’s way too introverted for that. Ian therefore merely seeks to conquer a few baby steps towards mild extroversion by putting on his late father’s college sweatshirt to boost confidence and check off some boxes on a list he wrote to change himself into the man he wishes he might become. That means standing up for himself when others treat him like…

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REVIEW: Playdate with Destiny [2020]

If you didn’t know Disney bought Fox yet, you will after watching Playdate with Destiny—a new Simpsons short playing before Pixar’s latest, Onward. The bookends are overt brand management with a “Disney presents” at the start and a silhouette of Mickey sitting amongst Gracie Film’s usual patrons during its post-credits bumper. It’s an undeniably smart move to pair properties in such a visible fashion and I have to imagine it won’t be the last time it happens (just wait until Simpsons characters become Easter eggs alongside the usual stable of…

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REVIEW: Klaus [2019]

A true act of good will always sparks another. For a figure as ubiquitous as Santa Claus, the myriad ways in which his origin can be reborn, refashioned, and retrofitted seem infinite. Those seeking a new direction generally take the old and filter it through a contemporary generational lens wherein the jolly man’s title is passed down the line either by magic (The Santa Clause) or birthright (Arthur Christmas). Those choosing to start from scratch instead have therefore become a fascinating subsection of the Christmas genre simply by ensuring nothing…

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REVIEW: Mémorable [Memorable] [2019]

Don’t let go of me. Animation allows an artist so much more room to breathe than live action—especially when confronted by issues we can’t see with the naked eye. Bruno Collet‘s topic is dementia and his short film Mémorable [Memorable] depicts it with a stunning beauty via post-modern styles. As Louis’ (André Wilms) falls further behind reality, his view of the world gradually degrades into visions of melting objects (surrealism), disfigured visages (cubism), and a decrease in detail until he himself becomes smoothed out along the edges (impressionism). He begins…

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REVIEW: Dcera [Daughter] [2019]

Our lives are full of regret. Sometimes we possess the strength to overcome it. Sometimes we don’t try until the opportunity is already lost. This risk is present at the heart of Daria Kashcheeva‘s Dcera [Daughter] and its father/daughter duo quietly at odds while he lies in a hospital bed. Neither is willing to break the silence and we’re unsure why until a crash is heard and a bird found beneath a broken window. It jogs both characters into a state of remembrance: the daughter recalling a moment where her…

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REVIEW: Sister [2019]

She was an annoying little baby. Looking back on a life growing up with a sister four years the lead’s junior, Siqi Song‘s animated short Sister starts off with a wonderful comedic streak. She lets the character’s imagination run away with his memories so that the crying baby who stole his toys can become a giant consuming them with a giggle. There’s the more authentically drawn cause and effect of sibling chaos sometimes confusing a parent into punishing the wrong child and the silly adventures undertaken when both are too…

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REVIEW: Kitbull [2019]

It’s always wild to see a Pixar production that isn’t rendered in three-dimensional computer graphics, but I guess that’s kind of the point of the Disney+ showcase entitled SparkShorts. A collection of work from Pixar artists that feels like a venue for unique voices and experimental aesthetics, it’s no surprise that one would find its way onto the nomination list for an Animated Short Oscar. That it comes from a woman shouldn’t be undersold either since the studio is notorious for being slow on both the gender and race parity…

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REVIEW: Hair Love [2019]

A little bit of work and a whole lotta love. The producer list for Matthew A. Cherry‘s short film Hair Love is insane. Jordan Peele. Peter Ramsey. Gabourey Sidibe. Gabrielle Union. Dwayne Wade. And those are just the ones I recognize. With hundreds of Kickstarter backers and co-directors Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith also attached, the project would ultimately land at Sony, garner huge buzz online, and earn an Oscar nomination. That’s quite the journey for a children’s book that only dropped in May itself. With Vashti Harrison‘s…

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REVIEW: プロメア [Puromea] [Promare] [2019]

Oil and water as one! Its mechs vs. monsters storyline starts pretty straightforward. The latter are born from a mysterious mutation that gives a select percentage of the Earth’s population combustion powers that they simply couldn’t control at the time of the “Great World Blaze” en route to causing a mass genocide it’s taken three decades to overcome. The former are the creation of a new scientific law enforcement entity that goes by the name Foundation. With popular billionaire Kray Foresight (Masato Sakai) as its CEO, newly crafted high-tech resources…

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