April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

Netflix A-Z reviews will be taking a break as I review the movies that I saw on my flights to and from Vancouver. The selection was pretty decent.

The first that caught my eye was an animated film I wanted to see earlier this year called April and the Extraordinary World, which is originally a French-Belgian-Canadian animated movie and the main character is voiced by Marion Cotillard in its orginal French version. That is definitely a highlight. Plus, French animated films tend to have this dark tone but adds a hint of dark humor that works for me. Perfect example would be one of my faves, Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (review) or The Suicide Shop (review). Still, they hold a unique touch that many animated films don’t often have nowadays.

April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

April and the Extraordinary World

Director: Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci

Original French  Voice Cast: Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Jean Rochefort, Olivier Gourmet, Marc-André Grondin, Bouli Lanners,

English Voice Cast: Angela Galuppo, Tony Hale, Tony Robinow, Mark Camacho, Tod Fennell, Paul Giamatti

1941. France asleep in the nineteenth century, governed by steam and Napoleon V, where scientists vanish mysteriously. Avril, a teenage girl, goes in search of her missing scientist parents. – IMDB

April and the Extraordinary World is hard to explain. I don’t mean the plot because they did a great job telling the story and injecting some humor into it. However, despite some silly characters that make them enjoyable and break the serious tone, this animated film is set in a dystopian steampunk world. April has lost her parents and lives by herself with her talking cat. She continues her parents’ and grandfather’s chemistry work to make a serum that will cure illnesses. There somehow holds a strong message about playing God and its consequences.

April and the Extraordinary World

The characters themselves are well done. However, they are as expected. April amd her talking cat, her parents who hold diverging perspectives on their dedication towards the science they are making and their family’s safety. There is the eccentric grandfather who is actually not as crazy and lost as it seems. However this character’s silliness, while at times a little expected and predictable is a joy to watch. And of course, there is a police officer obsessed with chasing them down because the world has banned scientists and its one of the reasons April and her parents got separated. However, this detective is also quite comedic. On top of that, there is a boy that enters the picture as a kind of mole but then becomes tangled into the mess that April discovers. However, the best character is April’s companion, her cat. He is overly dramatic at times, but also thoughtful and intelligent and the dialogue he is given is done well to make him a simple and genuine character to love.

April and the Extraordinary World

Another aspect about April and the Extraordinary World is the world creation. The gadgets in this steampunk future gives it a unique touch. From the flying devices to the tone of the France they have created, it is like a depressing yet enchanting experience. The music itself is pretty good. The animation itself and art style of the entire film is unique especially when most animated films have computer graphics influences. This one looks hand drawn and brings us back to a comic book sort of feeling. Its simple but still very nice in the choices in the artistic touches.

April and the Extraordinary World

Here’s where I’m a little hesitant in saying that April and the Extraordinary World is an outstanding movie. Rotten Tomatoes rates this at 98% fresh. I agree that a lot of the film is done right however, there was a hint of familiarity in this film that seems to pay tribute to a lot of Studio Ghibli films. After some thought, that isn’t a bad thing because they do it great justice especially choosing the steampunk world they did. It helps to create a  more unique experience and as always the dialogue is what creates the difference between this perhaps only being influenced by Studio Ghibli but still keeping it its own piece.

All in all, April and the Extraordinary World is a fine animated film. It has many elements that are done right. While it gives off hints of inspiration by a few Studio Ghibli films, it still manages to stay unique with its world and tone. The characters are enchanting and the story engaging enough. It does drag in various parts but the film is a decent length which works in its favor to keep the plot moving forward.

Have you seen April and the Extraordinary World?

Cub (2014)

As some of you know, I’ve been going to Fantasia for the last two years.  Last year, there wasn’t a lot of movies that I didn’t get to fit in my schedule but this Belgian horror movie called Cub did.  I don’t know anything about Belgian movies but Cub’s trailer looked great and the poster looked absolutely compelling.  Not to mention, probably one or two of the horror focused sites had covered it and it was all pretty awesome that I couldn’t wait to see it.  I finally did!

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Cub (2014)

Cub

Director (and co-writer): Jonas Govaerts

Cast: Maurice Luijten, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Evelien Bosmans, Gill Eeckelaert, Jan Hammenecker

Over-imaginative 12 year-old Sam heads off to the woods to summer scout camp with his pack convinced he will encounter a monster…and he does.-IMDB

I can’t say I fully agree with the IMDB description but its close enough without spilling too much about the story.  Cub is one of the better horror movies I’ve seen in a while.  I’m not a seasoned horror fan like many of you but I do enjoy watching horror now and again and Cub is not exactly slow burning but it managed to build quite the atmosphere.  It doesn’t even try to hide what we’re dealing with.  In the first scenes before even the title pops up, we’re thrown into a chase scene and our monster is revealed. It might reminisce a little on the reveals of some classic horror movies (at least I think I remember it that way). It reveals the monster before we even get into our main characters.

Cub

 While Cub is about a bunch of scout boys going to camp with their two counsellors/camp leaders and the one camp cook (the girl above), the story is focused mainly around the two leaders Kris and Peter, the cook Jasmijn, the boy Sam and a few snapshots go to the scouts group leader and Sam’s friend.  In most camping movies, there’s always some adventurous character that makes some weird choices and Sam already starts off as a peculiar kid.  He’s a little quiet and doesn’t really get along with the group and we start to know more about his background and how he ended up joining the scouts but then that still doesn’t explain why he would go exploring for Kai, the suspected werewolf lurking in the forest. Fact is, Sam gets bullied a lot and we start to sympathize for him and maybe even connect with his character.  He is a child after all and helpful but also quite smart. I guess he suffers the horror syndrome of being at the wrong place at the wrong time for most issues that occur.

Cub

In terms of counsellor, we have something of a good and bad cop situation.  Kris is a much more caring character than Peter who comes along with his aggressive dog.  He’s somewhat of the bully here and we quickly will feel that he’s not exactly suitable as a counsellor but Kris is there to balance the spectrum a little. He can somewhat keep Peter under control for the most part.  Each of these characters create a balance in the camp.  Its hard to say whether they were crucial to the development of the story but they definitely added a bridge for Sam’s character in how he reacts to them.  If anything, the friction truly comes in the only girl at camp, Jasmijn. Was she a problem or the person that might cause and alleviate the situation? Its hard to say.

Cub

Its hard to talk about Cub mostly because the story does build.  There isn’t exactly a twist that pulls the carpet under your feet but it builds to piece the story together.  It was definitely a refreshing and compelling watch.  There are flaws and most characters other than Sam aren’t exactly meaningful enough to care about them but there is still a lot to like in this one.  The beginning pulls the audience right in to sitting up the stage of what we are dealing with and the ending is rather smart.  While the middle is a lot of setting up the stage, Cub isn’t a long film and that gives it a more decent pacing which helps it a lot. Its worth a watch.

Have you seen Cub? What did you think about it?