Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review, London Film Festival 2020

Wolfwalkers (2020)

Image is property of Cartoon Saloon, WildCard Productions and Apple TV+

Wolfwalkers – Film Review

Cast: Honor Kneafsey, Sean Bean, Eva Whittaker, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan

Directors: Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Synopsis: After moving from England to Ireland with her father, a young girl discovers a remarkable secret when she meets a fierce girl who lives in the woods with a pack of wolves…

Review: There are animated studios that everyone will likely instinctively think of when it comes to producing wonderful works of animated magic. With animation being an art form that offers endless possibilities of worlds to explore, and characters to create, many studios have had numerous decades to cement their reputations as animated movie maestros. However, one name that may not be as familiar to many, but have been consistently producing some absolutely marvellous films, is that of Cartoon Saloon. With what is only their fourth animated feature, the studio are continuing to enhance their reputation as the next big name in feature film animation, as well as being the Irish answer to Studio Ghibli.

Robyn Goodfellowe (Kneafsey) is a fiercely independent girl living with her father Bill (Bean) in 17th century Ireland. Her father works as a hunter tasked with hunting down a pack of wolves living in the nearby forest, that have the town’s residents in a panic. Her curious nature, and desire to become a hunter like her father, leads her to the forest. By chance, she meets and befriends a free-spirited girl Mebh (Whittaker) who lives with the wolves in question. As the two build up a friendship, Robyn uncovers a revelatory secret about a rumoured extraordinary ability that Mebh possesses, which will change the way Robyn views the world forever.

In an era that sees many studios use fully enhanced computer animation to make their films, it is wonderfully refreshing and endearing to see a studio opt for the more traditional, pencil drawn style of animation, which Cartoon Saloon have mastered. This wonderfully unique story is a vibrant combination of a fairytale, spliced together with a Celtic myth, with the added element of a tale that’s akin to The Legend of Zelda. It is clear that the filmmakers have put in considerable amounts of effort into establishing the historical setting of 17th Century Ireland, which adds considerable levels of authenticity to the animation. By marrying this up with the more fascinating and mystical elements of this wonderful story, that are equally stunning and detailed, it creates something truly unique. Every single aspect of the animation is breath-taking to watch and visually mesmerising.

With excellent and sincere voice work across the board, the characters are all extremely well-rounded and developed. Robyn is an immensely likeable heroine, and Kneafsay’s excellent performance gives her a fierce and independent streak. This helps her to connect with Mebh who’s even more fierce than Robyn, and Whittaker’s voice work is equally impressive. The mutual desire between these two like-minded young people to forge their own destinies in life helps to solidify that strong bond between the two of them. This strong bond, that beats at the heart of this magical adventure, only goes from strength to strength as the film progresses. Though this desire to not want to conform to what would be expected of women, puts Robyn into a difficult situation, with her stern, but loving father. Sean Bean’s familiar voice helps to lend an Eddard Stark-esque fatherly presence to Bill, a man who is also fiercely protective of his daughter.

Yet, as Bill works to protect his beloved daughter, it gets in the way of his work, putting him at odds with the town’s dastardly ruler Lord Protector, voiced with fittingly evil menace by Simon McBurney. While comparisons between this film and a certain Pixar adventure may well be drawn, there’s more than enough meat on its bones that enables Wolfwalkers to stand tall on its own paws. The wonderfully magical nature of this adventure will help the film to connect with audiences of all ages. Furthermore, with the perfect use of Aurora’s soaring vocals, this marvellously captivating tale lets its imagination, and the wolves run wild, and the end result is, simply put, perfection.

Packed with glowing, gorgeous animation and a vibrant exciting story, this enchanting and affectionate tale will charm and delight you, before howling its way into your heart.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Martian (2015)

the martian
Image rights belong to Scott Free Productions, Kinberg Genre and 20th Century Fox

The Martian – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kata Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: An astronaut is presumed dead after a deadly storm separates him from the rest of his crew. Yet after surviving the storm, he is alone on Mars and must use all the resources he can find to get back to Earth.

Review: The thought of being the only person on an alien world, with seemingly no means of getting off, and being one hundred and forty million miles from home, is one that would probably send most people in that situation absolutely bonkers, and give them a complete sense of hopelessness with very little chance of survival, and result in them frittering away the remainder of their days on the Red Planet. However, this is not applicable in the case of Mark Watney, who instead of that aforementioned feeling of impending doom, after he has been abandoned by his crew as he is presumed dead during a deadly storm, opts for one of upbeat and positive. In turn providing an extremely entertaining space adventure that fuses comedy and some intense moments brilliantly.

With his fourth entry into the science fiction genre, director Ridley Scott has produced a much needed return to form somewhat after his most recent run of films have been met with a less than positive response, namely Prometheus, Exodus and The Counselor.  The likes of Alien and Blade Runner showed that Scott knows the genre and knows how to pull it off in some style, and in what is almost a blend of Gravity and Interstellar produces a third another enthralling space adventure in as many years. Interestingly enough (spoiler alert for Interstellar!) Matt Damon who had a surprise cameo in the aforementioned film is back in a very similar situation to the one he found himself in Interstellar, but this time he is the man we’re rooting for, and he brings charisma and great humour to this role, so much so that you cannot help but want him to succeed and find his way home. With his situation looking increasingly bleak, he has to use his intelligence and his botanist skills to ensure his survival.

While The Martian battles to stay alive on the Red Planet, the focus alternates between the team at NASA who are working to try and bring him home alive, whilst dealing with the PR disaster that a man was left behind on a hostile world. Whilst at the same time, going back and forth with his crew mates who are solemnly making their way back to Earth, contemplating their supposedly fallen friend’s fate. The cast is quite extensive and filled with some big Hollywood names, with the likes of Jessica Chastain as the captain of the Mars mission, Jeff Daniels as NASA’s CEO, Chiwetel Ejiofor with his expert knowledge of the Red Planet and Sean Bean as a flight director. It’s a big scramble for these guys to get the materials they need to ensure that whatever they can do to get Mark Watney home, they will do it, but not without some bickering and disagreement along the way.

It takes some bravery to take a story like this in which one man is almost certainly staring death in the face and make it uniquely entertaining, but this film managed to do it and do it perfectly, thus props must go to screen writer Drew Goddard for that. Matt Damon effortlessly brings his unique brand of humour and charisma to the role, whilst using his ingenuity and remarkable intelligence to try and survive. Yet it is far from sunshine and rainbows all the time, as there are more than a few intense moments where our leading man is put in some more than perilous, potentially fatal situations.

The Mars scenery is beautifully recreated and the direction, as is more often than not the case with Scott, is excellent. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is tremendous and adds plenty of suspense and drama along the way. The film does drag in places and could have maybe been cut down in parts, but nevertheless, it is a pleasure to see Scott truly back on top form and for Damon to once again remind us of his remarkable talent.

With a terrific (and large) ensemble cast, filled with the cream of the Hollywood crop, with a superb and humorous lead performance from Damon, to go along with a very witty screenplay, this is Scott’s best picture in some years.

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