FNC 2019: J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J'ai Perdu Mon corps

Director (and co-screenplay): Jeremy Clapin

Voice Cast: Hakim Faris, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick D’Assumcao

A story of Naoufel, a young man who is in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again. – IMDB

French animated features always seem to have a darkness to its overall premise. In this case, this upcoming Netflix France Original film (according to this poster is set to release in the end of November) follows two sides of a story. The first is the story of Nafouel, a pizza delivery boy having a bad day that ends up having a random conversation with a girl through a building intercom during a rain storm outside and is intrigued by this stranger and finds a way to approach her while on the other side, it follows a severed hand trying to go through the city to reunite with the body it belongs to. Its easy to see that these two stories are linked together and who this severed hand belongs to and yet, alternating between the two and having it converge at the end gives this film so much charm. Perhaps of the timeline jumping back and forth between the two that the story sometimes does have moments of disjointedness.

Somehow French animated films have such good grasp hitting those bizarre themes and finding just the right balance of humor to make it work. J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is a fine example of this. While Naoufel’s side of the story feels a bit awkward and maybe a tad sketchy if you think about the almost stalker-ish way he chooses to approach this girl. At the same time, he is somewhat of a rather unpleasant character or simply flawed and fairly shallow which is where this film falls short slightly. It all depends on how his character is viewed although there are some believable moments of clumsiness and his trying to work hard to get her attention and some missteps that he does which makes some funny moments. As I always like to mention, flawed characters to begin with makes for the better development characters as they have so much more room to grow and that definitely applies in this story.

Where it does shine right from the beginning is starting with how the severed hand is introduced and the moments of how it goes from location to location. There’s a lot of dark humor to be had, especially as it meets all kinds of things and dangers along the way and is essentially defenceless. Some come out with mostly unexpected outcomes and that just makes each step of its way back to the body that it belongs to even more rewarding in the end.

Overall, J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is exactly as its title hints at. The winning factor here is how it uses the whole concept of a severed hand and can create a rather charming and humorous story out of it. It fits into the whole charm of French animation that is a tad odd but still works out overall to have those dramatic moments as well. As a feature-length directorial debut for Jeremy Clapin, its definitely one that lands very well and has a unique premise.

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps will be hitting theatres for a limited release in US (November 15) and UK (November 22) and also hitting Netflix (for most countries) on November 29th (all based on research on the Internet, so please check or correct me in the comments if you have other more accurate info).

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Double Feature: Mary Poppins Returns (2018) & Tall Girl (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE

The last double feature before the horror month is this one! As I try to work through some of the Disney movies on Netflix before it leaves, I managed to get in Mary Poppins Returns and then paired it up with something that I ended up watching as a multitasking film and it was the rather new Netflix Originals, Tall Girl.

Let’s check it out!

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

mary poppins returns

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davis, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives. – IMDB

Arguably, a lot of the Disney remakes or sequels feels unnecessary and the same goes for Mary Poppins Returns. However, while it is unnecessary, Mary Poppins Returns still achieves quite a fun family adventure. It follows a lot of the same formula as the original in terms of the events and even using some of the same lines in reference. It all helps link the two together even if the setting is decades apart and Mary Poppins isn’t the same actress and the children in the original are all grown up and the children in this one are the children of Michael Banks of the original. In all those elements, it does build a good bridge between the two and holds a lot of the essence of the original even if it still doesn’t have the same charm as the first one.

What does change in this one are the songs. All the songs are different from start to finish even if say what used to be the Chim Chimeree song is another sequence with streetlight leeries (is that what its called?) and they do the big dance number also . Then the bird lady is replaced by the balloon lady portrayed as cameo by Angela Lansbury. Dick Van Dyke comes back not as his original role but as another cameo role as well. Not to mention, Colin Firth comes in as a supporting role as well. Some of the other changes is adding in a bit of romance for its characters. Of course, the biggest change is Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins which was always a question of how it would change. While she doesn’t have quite the same charm as Julie Andrews, she does hold up her own. In fact, this role is so different from other roles she’s done (that I’ve seen) that it actually surprised me in a good way and I really enjoyed her take of Mary Poppins plus they still gave her some sharp dialogue and replies.

Mary Poppins Returns might not be necessary but its still a fun family film with some decent music and characters that I wouldn’t mind watching a few times (not hard since I’ve already watched it one more time afterwards). All in all, a pleasant surprise!

Tall Girl (2019)

Tall Girl

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Cast: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, Paris Berelc, Luke Eisner, Clara Wilsey, Angela Kinsey, Steve Zahn, Rico Paris, Bria Condon

Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall. – IMDB

Netflix Originals teen movies are usually a big bet to take. So far, I’ve really only liked the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and was alright with Sierra Burgess is a Loser (which really doesn’t hold us as much when you think more about it). In many ways, the issues with Sierra Burgess are pretty much the same ones that apply here. Teen romances have that really big issue with making girls always question their own self-confidence when they want to get the attention of a guy they like when they should be confident about themselves and their physical appearances, in this case, its her height, which constantly gets mocked by the people in school.

In the case of Tall Girl, the characters go through a weird character arc that everyone ends up going through this segment in their story where they are very hard to root for and somehow find their way back, of course whether its too late is the question for whatever situation they are tackling. While Tall Girl does have a few okay things and the better ones is how it chooses to end and the more inspirational speech that the main character Jodi talks about as she embraces her confidence and feels confident with her height.

Tall Girl just feels shallow and hollow. All the characters aren’t too deep and the story is rather formulaic and predictable. Its a story about finding your self-confidence and facing your feelings sort of deal, which is pretty basic but has a few good messages to share. What its trying to share has good intentions but just the execution and the script and some of the acting left a lot to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns and/or Tall Girl?

Fantasia Festival 2019: White Snake (2019)

White Snake (2019)

White Snake

Director: Amp Wong & Ji Zhao

Voice cast: Xiaoxi Tang, Tianxing Yang, Zhe Zhang

White Snake is a 2019 Chinese fantasy animated film about a thousand year old white snake spirit who loses her memory and falls in love with a boy from a snake-catcher village.

White Snake is the first made in China animated film by Warner Bros. in collaboration with Beijing animation studio Light Chaser. It retells the story of the Legend of the White Snake, one of the most popular stories that have been adapted into many forms of art and entertainment from TV series to movies to opera, so on so forth. What makes White Snake stand out is that it is somewhat of an origin story for the White Snake spirit and how her love story came to be.

In fact, the story starts off with the White Snake spirit called Blanca sent from her snake clan to defeat the evil General who wants to absorb the vitality and souls of snake spirits so that he can have black magic and use it to achieve immortality and fails in the process. Being saved from Xuan and brought to the snake-catcher village, her amnesia makes her believe that she is human, discovering her powers and finding her memories back gradually. Caught between her sister Verta who has promised to bring her back, the snake clan who believes that she has betrayed them and the General hunting her down for her thousand year soul, her feelings for Xuan grows stronger but at the same time, she is faced with having to fulfill her duties for her “species”. White Snake ends where most White Snake retellings would start.

The White Snake story is familiar territory for those who know Chinese folklore. However, the animation world of China isn’t. This is where White Snake truly shines: in its visually stunning animation paired up with its use of traditional Chinese music. The details from every dandelion fuzz flying through the air of the movement of its nature and especially in the outstanding movements of its characters, their expressions and even more so, the impressive action sequences makes White Snake an exercise of art. It adds in some Chinese painting elements in the opening scenes and the backdrop that resembles the landscape of Chinese paintings for example. Its stylistic and beautiful.

The story doesn’t take the easy path either, despite its frequent retelling. Those familiar with the story will definitely see where the romance scenes will go and the torturous love between them, however while the film spends a lot of time between Blanca and Xuan, its more of a natural progression of their knowledge of each other (for the most part) and a quest to find her memory. At the same time, its more about the General’s evil ambitions as well as the usual stereotypes of breaking the barriers between whether being a spirit, most often seen as evil is different depending on their nature. At the heart of it, the romance isn’t forced and connects easily. While these two main leads are the heart of the story, its hard to not feel that the standout characters are comedic relief, Xuan’s dog who is given talking abilities called Dudou as well as the sly fox spirit who runs the Precious Jade who is literally two-faced in her design, reflective of the image of the cunning and attractive nature in fox spirits in Chinese folklore. Plus, there are a lot of creative iterations of creatures to give it an extra boost in uniqueness.

White Snake is a spectacular animated film. It has a lot of elements that make it great form visuals to creative retellings while still doing justice to the origin story of how Blanca meets Xuan and finally leads to the more normal telling of The Legend of the White Snake. Its not only an animated film but a creative way to share Chinese folklore to the rest of the world in a charming way.

Fantasia 2019: The Wonderland (2019)

The Wonderland (Birthday Wonderland, 2019)

Birthday Wonderland

Director: Keiichi Hara

Voice Cast: Mayu Matsuoka, Anne Watanabe, Kumiko Aso, Masachika Ichimura, Nao Toyama, Keiji Fujiwara, Akiko Yajima

The Wonderland, originally titled Birthday Wonderland, is a 2019 Japanese animated film about a girl who goes to pick up her birthday gift at her aunt’s store and ends up unlocking the portal to the world beyond and is tasked with being the savior of this mirror world.

Right from its beginning, The Wonderful is all about its vibrant and colorful background and its relaxing everyday. Akane’s biggest problem was being accepted at school by her classmates doing the most mundane things like wearing a hairpin. For her, this made her life difficult and everyone else’s hard. Its a good way to start the movie especially as this foundation takes us into the mirror world called World Beyond and she has now been adorned with a Momentum Anchor that makes her move forward even when she doesn’t want to and seen as the Goddess of the Green Wind, the person rumored decades ago that will save them from a major crisis by curing the Prince.

Japanese animation has always seem to flourish when it takes the environmental elements into their stories. For a film that focuses on the world beyond losing color as their main danger due to the lack of water, it still manages to keep it colorful and cute. To emphasize it, there are contrasts of dangerous enemies with dull metallic armor and black clothing with the bright colors used for everything surrounding the group heading towards the castle. While others have buffalo stampedes, The Wonderland has stampedes of huge fluffy sheep and then a scene of Akane and her aunt Chii, who joins into the journey, lying on them (a parallel of My Neighbor Totoro perhaps), and the journey continues into different environments that they go through filled with shades of red, pink, orange and many other colorful elements. There are so many details here and the little magical elements also add into the charm of the visuals especially in the landscape.

The characters also are quite charming, if not still pretty familiar in design. Akane and her aunt Chii create a contrast as well. While Akane needs the Momentum Anchor to move her forward to be more courageous facing different situations, Chii is more about embracing the adventure and being prepared and taking chances. Its this contrast that makes it funny and rather inspiring to watch as over the almost 2 hour film, Akane finds her strength and also embraces her ability to try and save the world because of seeing the beauty between this mirror world that had kept a more old-fashioned way of living in comparison to her reality of modern advanced technology. These two may bring a lot of joy to the film. In fact, the movie definitely falls into the cute elements more especially as the sidekicks are little humans who are a little silly but also very adorable.

Filled with talking cats, underwater aquariums and colorful environments all around, The Wonderland is exactly as its title implies. Even with the crisis that the world faces, it still manages to keep it light-hearted. The visuals and a sweeping soundtrack that sometimes matches to the sounds in the scene and other times, creating the environment for the scene adds a lot to a fairly generic story. Running at 115 minutes, it does feel like it drags a little in the middle part despite all the charming locations giving it a boost. The story could have been better executed as a whole but its cute and colorful and its hard to be a little enamored by it.

Sunday Lists: Hayao Miyazaki, Directed Films Ranked

Hayao Miyazaki List

January 5th marked the 78th birthday of one of the best Japanese animator and filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki. I don’t watch a lot of Japanese stuff in general but I grew up with Studio Ghibli films so some of these hold very close to my heart. There is this fantastic magical and fantasy world that he manages to create.

With that said, there is no better way than to kick off this year’s first Sunday Lists with a list of Hayao Miyazaki’s Directed Films ranked from what I think is the best to the the not so great ones, because lets be honest, there is no worst. Even the last choice here wasn’t a bad film just didn’t execute as well as the others or connect as well with me.

There are a few films not seen yet. The list will be updated over time.

*Only full feature animated films DIRECTED by Hayao Miyazaki has been included here*

1. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

my neighbor totoro

My first Miyazaki film in my memory is My Neighbor Totoro and it has never stopped being my favorite. I know the movie almost by heart, the Cantonese dubbed version dialogue almost all memorized. Its about family and its charming. The little girls are adorable and the Totoro super cute. There are some heartwarming moments and some hilarious ones as well. It balances light-hearted and heartbreaking moments. Its cute and serious in equal measures. Plus, how do you beat a CatBus? You just can’t!

2. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

kiki's delivery service

I love cats and witches. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a well-rounded film as well. I remember there was a phase in the early stages when I had some crappy blogging server somewhere that I had used Kiki has my name. Watching this one when I was a kid was a ride for sure. Witches weren’t evil, they were nice and helpful. This one is  fun little trip full of charm whether its the people that Kiki meets on her deliveries or her learning how to be independent.

3. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

howl's moving castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is based on a children’s novel which actually diverts quite far from its source material a fair bit especially when interpreting Howl’s character. However, maybe it has to do with this being the first Miyazaki film that I saw in theatres and the enchantment that comes from the big screen but this is one film that I love watching over and over again. Because of that, this film is filled with charm. It does get a tad dark and scary here and there but its so magical as well.

4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

nausicaa

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind that makes me think about how Miyazaki is quite before his time in story telling as you can see how this film set the bar for his career, whether its the female characters he uses or the world that he creates. At the heart of it all, Nausicaa is about a world that has fallen apart environmentally and Nausicaa is trying to find a way to revive it while at the same time, nature has revolted in an unexpected way and she needs to find a way to solve the mystery of what happened. Its such a beautiful film. The only reason its placed lower is because its one that took me a second or third viewing when I was older to fully appreciate its message and its story.

5. Spirited Away (2001)

spirited away

Spirited Away is what put Miyazaki on the map along with Studio Ghibli. Its quite a feat when we think about it. In fact, there is so much to love here. I like this one a lot also. It has dragons and fantastical creatures and some pretty hilarious moments intertwined with a story about reuniting family, gluttony and life in general. Its colorful and beautiful and there are such charming array of characters wrapped up in this one story.

6. Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

laputa castle in the sky

I know a lot of people who would put Laputa really high up or even consider this one their favorite Miyazaki film. I don’t disagree with that at all. Laputa: Castle in the Sky is beautiful, especially once we arrive at the castle in the sky and all the events that happen from there on out.  It has a cast of silly bandits and a gentle robot and the castle design itself is so detailed and intricate. The only deal is that I’ve never been prone to watch this one a lot but I always enjoyed it whenever someone puts it on.

7. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

castle of cagliostro

I saw The Castle of Cagliostro because of a blogathon a few years back when it was looking at a debut of a director. I always thought Miyazaki started out his career with Nausicaa but before the existence of Studio Ghibli, he had created The Castle of Cagliostro adapted/based on the Japanese manga Lupin III. Its crime and comedy mixed together for this film and boy is it an adventure. The debut of Miyazaki is a fine start. There are its flaws with this one in terms of storytelling and pacing but there is still a ton of heart and charm.

8. Ponyo (2008)

ponyo

Ponyo is something like Miyazaki’s version of The Little Mermaid fairy tale story which takes a little fish girl who becomes human and meets a little boy. Its so adorable and imaginative. It takes this angle of making the creative angle of the tsunami and then links the whole story together. It is actually quite clever.

9. The Wind Rises (2013)

the wind rises

I saw the premiere of The Wind Rises at TIFF a few years back, the same year that Miyazaki announced his retirement in 2013 (of course, now we know that he has decided to not retire and is working on his next film). Putting aside the ridiculous couple next to me who sobbed the entire movie from start to finish who was incredibly annoying, The Wind Rises is a passion project of  Miyazaki’s and you can see it by the subject he chooses to take as he tells the story of World War II engineer who designs the fighter aircraft. His love for aircrafts and his country and his admiration for Jiro Horikoshi is all highly visible in his work. My issue here is that I don’t share the same admiration and for that, the story falls a little short of what I liked. Its not a bad film in any means because the animation, the visuals, the character designs and the music all work well. I just failed to connect with it but that is the risk of making a passion project film.

Not Seen or Can’t Remember

Conan The Future Boy: The Big Giant Robot’s Ressurrection (1984)
Porco Rosso (1992)
Princess Mononoke (1997)

How would you rank Hayao Miyazaki’s film?
Which one of his directed feature films is your fave?

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Mirai (2018)

Mirai (2018)

mirai

Director (and writer): Mamoru Hosoda

Voice cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Masaharu Fukuyama

A young boy encounters a magical garden which enables him to travel through time and meet his relatives from different eras, with guidance by his younger sister from the future. – IMDB

Every festival I like to add in an animated film in the middle. Call it the desire to cut through the depth in a lot of indie films or just to have a fun little family friendly experience. Mirai was my pick for this festival. I don’t watch a lot of Japanese animation outside of festivals (except for rewatching classic Studio Ghibli films). Mirai is a cute and funny one. Its charm is in its story which talks about a little boy and his inner conflict of accepting his little sister’s birth and how her existence suddenly means sharing his parents’ attention and patience and love. However, it is wrapped up in a cute adventure that values siblings and family as a whole as he finds his way through imaginative sequences from different past family members that helps him understand how to be a big brother.

The imagination here is grounded in a magical world because it reflects the idea of a family tree and how its roots affects how Kun is now. As we dive into the stories of the other members of his family, there is a reality to his little trips like past characters or younger or older selves taking him for a trip like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol. It reflect directly to the challenges and each of these bring us closer to his meeting with the future Mirai who strives for his acceptance as well to prove that she is worthy of their sibling love and the importance of it all while also teaching him a lesson on being understanding of his parents as well. And the scenes of parents and their pressures set in some scenes filled with familiar parental turmoil.

For the execution and colorful appearance and cute and funny ideas packed with a little drama and positivity, Mirai is a fun movie experience for both adults and kids. It has an imaginative and magical aspect that reflects into an familiar reality for both parents and kids and siblings.

Double Feature: Minions (2015) & Monster Trucks (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature!

I feels like a while since I’ve actually done one of these. If you’ve seen my What’s Up, I’ve actually seen quite a few films just never seemed to get time to write one up. Either way, I needed something light and fluffy so I went to the Family and Children part of Netflix and chose these two on two separate days. Maybe the stress and brain deadness helped me enjoy them more than I would normally would which puts it in a class of their own.

Either way, Minions and Monster Trucks were both movies on my list that I wanted to check out and I did. Let’s go!

Minions (2015)

Minions

Director: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin

Voice cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carrell, Pierre Coffin

Minions Stuart, Kevin, and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a supervillain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world. – IMDB

Minions have definitely made a name for themselves as the silly sidekicks in the Despicable Me movies. The biggest question when this movie was announced was whether they were able to carry a movie by themselves with their random gibberish talk and unknown past. Of course, Minions focuses on this point and gives them an origin story. Why not, right? Everyone is doing it and it seems that they are well-deserved especially since Penguins from Madagascar also got their own film just before (I think..don’t quote me on timeline of movie releases). With that said, while the origin story of Minions does feel a little odd and generic, they are still them. They offer a kind of entertainment that comes with the family entertainment category and works in the world of villains as they represent their group to find a worthy villain to follow and end up at Villain Con.

Minions

Its hard to not like Minions. To be honest, I started the movie without a lot of expectations. However, it did offer the entertainment I wanted but with a few surprises along the way such as the excellent voice cast they had for the other characters from Sandra Bullock’s Scarlet Overkill to her husband, Herb voiced by Jon Hamm. While I believe I had learned about those before the movie and I only remembered it when they appeared as they are the main villainous roles here, the big surprise for me was the voices of the Nelsons, a family of robbers that give them a lift to Villain Con where it was voiced by Allison Janney and Michael Keaton. They have such distinctive voices, especially Allison Janney that I knew right away it was her and just loved it. Since we’re on the topic of voice acting, Minions having their own film does highlight their mesh of languages from moments of French to Spanish and probably other ones that we personally don’t know.

Overall, Minions was an entertaining movie to say the least. Was it necessary? Probably not. I still like them more as the Despicable Me sidekicks characters. However, this movie did have a great voice cast for its other characters which gave it a fun touch which worked in its favor a whole bunch. But then, it could be because I like Sandra Bullock and Allison Janney a ton.

Monster Trucks (2016)

Monster Trucks

Director: Chris Wedge

Cast: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Amy Ryan, Holt McCallany

A young man working at a small town junkyard discovers and befriends a creature which feeds on oil being sought by a fracking company. – IMDB

Cheesy family entertainment is really what Monster Trucks is. Its pretty dumb when I think about it now but somehow, it still was a pretty fun little flick. Perhaps its because Jane Levy is pretty cool and I’ve enjoyed her films from Evil Dead (review) to Don’t Breathe (review) and its nice to see her not in something horrifying. The story in Monster Trucks is very simple and basic so great for some brain shut off time while keeping very much to the family entertainment as there isn’t any vulgar language or even a lot of romance for that part. The main focus was really on the creature here, simply named Creech by Lucas Till’s character, Tripp. Creech is something of an odd creature that flew out of a fracking operation as they discovered some oil-feeding creatures. There are your normal set of cast of characters as the big bad corporation sends out their meanest hencemen to hunt down Creech so to keep their operations going. There’s the scientist who has had enough of the crappy ways and wants to do good for these creatures. And of course, a little bit of teen romance as Jane Levy’s smart nerdy girl role, Meredith bonds with Tripp over the many adventures with Creech as they hide him out in the broken truck and he runs it with his many tentacles.

Monster Trucks

Among the action and chase sequences and over the top moments, the true treasure that I loved the best was definitely Creech. It was dorky and hilarious. While it couldn’t talk, it had so many expressions. It reminded me a lot of something like Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. The toothy smile and the fascination for doing adrenaline rush things along with its crazy stunts and having so much enjoyment out of it while scaring the heck out of Tripp. The movie was never in the control of Tripp or Meredith, it was all Creech’s show and its that unpredictability that makes this rather generic film have a little heart and quite a few laughs. Its always fun to learn about new creatures and their designs and that is what gives Monster Trucks its uniqueness.

Overall, no, Monster Trucks is not a masterpiece or maybe not even good in many aspects especially in its generic storyline. However, its creature Creech is the star of the show and along with some cute and clueless moments between some of the characters, it makes some harmless family entertainment with some laughs and simplicity.

That’s it for this week’s family themed double feature!
Have you seen Minions or Monster Trucks? Thoughts?