Classic French Animations: “Fantastic Planet” (1973) and “The King & The Mockingbird” (1980)

La Planete Sauvage Poster Fantastic Planet (La Planete Sauvage) (1973)   

Once in awhile comes one animation which is so powerful in its message and so unusual in its presentation, it becomes quite unforgettable. “Fantastic Planet” is precisely such adult-themed animation, co-produced between France and Czechoslovakia. A winner of the Cannes Special Prize in 1973, this French-language animation has even been named one of the greatest (Rolling Stone). In its presentation, “Fantastic Planet” is highly imaginative, inspired by some psychedelic art and, as some commentators put it, by “cut-outs from Soviet science magazines” (CinePassion). Based on Stefan Wul’s 1957 science-fiction novel, Oms en série, the animation is about blue-skinned giants, the Draags, who keep as pets a human race of Oms on the planet Ygam. The animation may be a tad too disturbing in its content, but, because the world it creates is so fascinatingly strange, and because its concept of the fight to have freedom is so relatable, it is well worth all the attention and praise.

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“The Handmaid’s Tale” Series Review

Handmaid's Tale Poster The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) 

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” (Atwood, 1985:34) 

Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing what people can get used to as long as there are a few compensations.” (Atwood, 1985:283) 

The 2017 dystopian web TV series is based on an award -winning novel of the same name written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. It is about a young woman, Offred, who recounts her time living under the totalitarian regime of Gilead, where women have few rights and their main function is to reproduce in a controlled environment. Pronounced “a TV sensation” overnight, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had 10 episodes (although there is still Season II to come!), and starred such recognisable names as Elisabeth Moss (“The Square” (2017)) and Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)). I will review the series paying special attention to its faithfulness to the original novel and to the philosophical ideas behind the story.       

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The Time Travel Blogathon: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of TomorrowSilver Screenings and Wide Screen World are co-hosting the Time Travel Blogathon, and my contribution is the review of “Edge of Tomorrow“, a fantastic science-fiction film directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. Relying on the now fabled “Groundhog Day” concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is about a Major (Cruise) who is doomed to relive one particular day of the invasion battle with aliens until he is forced to find a solution to the infinite time loop and save the humankind from the destructive alien force. 

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) 

The empires of the future will be empires of the mind (Winston Churchill).

What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).  

Edge of Tomorrow” is based on a 2004 Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. In near future, as Earth is being invaded by aliens, William Cage (Cruise), a Major with no combat experience, is ordered to go to fight the enemy as part of a landing operation in France. Cage is killed during the battle, but, surprisingly, finds himself again alive and well back on the day before the battle. The time loop then repeats itself, and every time Cage is killed, he again starts the day of the battle anew. Trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Cage makes an acquaintance with a Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski or the Angel of Verdun (Blunt). Together they try to piece together the time conundrum and devise a method to defeat the enemy. As a time-travel movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is simply great and it is fascinating to watch Cage waking up each day with the hope to make that particular day the one where he will be able to vanquish the aliens.  

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“Downsizing” Review

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Downsizing (2017)

Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” has the recipe to become one of a kind movie – thought-provoking, funny and engaging. In the film, Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) are a couple who decide to undergo a revolutionary “downsizing” procedure to become four inches’ tall people and, from then on, not only instant millionaires, but also the ones contributing to making environment better by reducing their carbon footprint. This fascinating concept and such stars as Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Kristen Wiig all promise a cerebral, astute social satire. What “Downsizing” ends up being? A disappointment. Strangely deviating from its own fascinating concept of small people, the second half of the film shouts bewildering environmental and political messages befitting more a climate or migration documentary, rather than a quality comedy/science-fiction film.

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“Marjorie Prime” Review

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Marjorie Prime (2017)

Based on an acclaimed play by Jordan Harrison “Marjorie Prime”, the film of the same name is a science-fiction/drama film directed by Michael Almereyda (“Experimenter” (2015) and starring Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. It tells of a woman in her 80s, Marjorie, who spends her time with a programme which simulates the younger version of her late husband, Walter. Marjorie’s immediate family at first becomes concerned about her close interactions with such a true-to-life replica of Marjorie’s late husband, but they all soon too succumb to the charms of the new technology. Despite the fascinating premise of the film, and a wide range of thought-provoking questions it raises, the film fails to live up to any expectations. This is probably the instance where a material is best to be enjoyed as a play only, because, as a film, it is both dragging and far from being compelling.

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“Blade Runner 2049” Review

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

**SPOILER ALERT**

Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” is already gaining the reputation of being a film which breaks new grounds in terms of creating visual splendour on screen, and its plot is a mix of cerebral reflections, unexpected turns of events and low-key, but effective action. While faithful to the world of the original film of 1982, “Blade Runner 2049” is really a film which is one of a kind, and in almost every respect. Here, it has been thirty years since Deckard’s adventures in “Blade Runner” (1982), and now planet Earth is even more depleted of its natural resources. The use of replicants on Earth increased, and now K (Gosling), a replicant police officer, is on the hunt “to retire” the older versions of replicants. However, one of his routine calls “to retire” has yielded important clues which may endanger the calm societal state whereby replicants and humans coexist relatively orderly. His adventure then becomes the one which involves the search for truth, and, like the original film, the preoccupation here is the issue of identity and the correct identification of false and true memories.

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“Blade Runner” Review

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Blade Runner (1982)

“A humanoid robot is like any other machine; it can fluctuate between being a benefit and a hazard very rapidly. As a benefit, it’s not our problem” (Rick Deckard in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”).

Since its release in 1982, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” has achieved a classic cult status, and is deemed by many to be the most influential science-fiction film ever made, just behind2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). It is loosely based on a book by Philip K. Dick and stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. In the film, set in a distant future, Rick Deckard (Ford), an officer at the special police “Blade-Runner” unit is on the mission to hunt down and “retire” (kill) a number of replicants (or androids) who escaped newly-colonised Mars and now wreak havoc on Earth. The film’s superior attention to detail is undeniable; its visuals are original and mind-blowing; and its “minimalist”, “slow-burning” narrative is also admirable, with Ford and Hauer commanding the screen. However, when it comes to comparing the film to the book by Philip K. Dick, “Blade Runner” falls short of being a philosophical, character-focused and narratively-engaging film it aspires to be.

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