BIG BAD WOLVES
I was hardly prepared for the visceral punch of this brutal, involving, shocking, bloody, tortuous, disturbing, slick, tense, challenging, twisty, taunting, unpredictable, thrilling, horrific, rewarding and violent revenge story from Israel about the hunt and torture of a religious studies teacher assumed to be a serial child killer as carried out by the by the father of a murdered child.
Numerous and unsettling moral questions arise as the story unfolds, mainly about the law, grace, mercy, guilt, justice, evil and the very recognizable extremes of human behavior. But you will be hard pressed to consider them for any length of time because you will be pressed against the back of your seat trying hard to just breathe. One question that did stay in the forefront for me: Is there ever a situation or case that justifies inflicting pain on another? Maybe. Is this film from Israel elevated torture porn? Not quite. Unless extended by demand, this film is only showing through March 20 at Cinemas Palme d’Or.
From the makers of TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILE, comes this utterly engaging and charming old-fashioned animation about Celestine, who happens to be an artist mouse, and Ernest, a singing bear. This unlikely relationship, really a bond, between above and underground dwellers has earned numerous awards and even standing ovations. The water color-like animation has a human touch that jumps off the screen and gives the emotional story an authenticity that works. Based on the classic Belgian series of children’s books by Gabrielle Vincent, this heartwarming story touches on how a friendship between two individuals from opposite communities is tested — in this case between bear-fearing and mouse-eating communities. The comic timing is classic as is the surprising chemistry between the leads. Highest recommendation. Now playing at Cinemas Palme d’Or.
Also still showing and worth seeing: BETHLEHEM and AFTERMATH.
NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
Disney’s great looking but conservative and predictable adaptation of a Hans Christian Anderson story has already earned over a billion dollars worldwide, so nothing I say here will impact it one way or another. Released theatrically in a striking 3D version, the Blu-ray disc is state-of-the-art in picture and sound but there’s no extra dimension on the disc. No, that’s likely saved for Christmas when Disney hopes to double-dip on this tile. The movie is probably not aimed at my demographic and frankly, its success left me a little baffled and emotionally unmoved. The music struck me as nothing special, including the Oscar winning “Let It Go.”
What at first looks like a very early, hand-drawn, black and white Mickey Mouse cartoon from the Disney vault suddenly becomes colorfully wild and crazy when the characters literally step out of the screen and onto the stage of the “theater” in which the “old” cartoon is being projected.
The story involves a vintage skinny legged Mickey (vintage recordings of Walt Disney are used for Mickey’s voice) and his girl friend (?) Minnie and their barnyard pals Horace Horsecollar and Clarabell Cow as they enjoy a musical wagon ride. That is, until Peg-Leg Pete shows up and runs them off the road.
The hallucinogenic mayhem borders on a dangerous acid trip. This is the best piece of animation to come from the Disney’s cartoon factory in decades and bodes well for a core group that still reveres innovation and imagination. Many people still insist the old looking cartoon elements are authentic and have been manipulated by contemporary animators. Not so. It’s all new! In 3D, this short is unhinged in the best way and is a must see for animation buffs –- too bad home viewers can’t see this until they buy the next “Special Edition” of FROZEN. Blu-ray. Disney.
LAST DAYS ON MARS
What starts out with great promise on wonderful Jordanian locations and with terrific full-scale rover, quickly spirals into a B-movie devoid of freshness and intelligence. The plot about finding evidence of bacterial life on the Red Planet soon deflates into infighting, infection and a Martian zombification scenario. Such a wasted opportunity here with a storyline that does not engage, provoke or entertain. Blu-ray. Magnet.