Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Director: Yusuke Hirota

English voice cast: Tony Hale, Antonio Raul Corbo, Stephen Root, Misty Leek Hasan Minhaj, Greg Chun, Ray Chase, James Mathis III

A factory town is covered by chimney smoke, and as the townspeople haven’t see the sky in centuries, they no longer believe that stars exist. A chimney sweep and a friendly monster named Poupelle decide to prove that stars are real. – IMDB

Mostly known for his role as computer graphics animator, director Yusuke Hirota has his directorial debut with this colorful adaptation of Akihiro Nishino’s children picture book of the same name, Poupelle of Chimney Town, who also writes the screenplay. Poupelle of Chimney Town is a family fantasy animated film set on an island which is covered in chimney smoke with no knowledge of anything outside of their world. Carrying his disappeared father’s story in his mind, Lubicchi works as a chimney sweep to be closer to the sky in hopes of seeing the elusive stars that his father constantly talked about until he meets a monster that everyone called Garbage Man and he names Poupelle (nice play on the French world poubelle for garbage). As their friendship flourishes and he tries to hide Poupelle with a little help, they soon realize that Poupelle might not be just a monster while the constant doubt of the outside world and even the resistance of these ideas.

Poupelle of Chimney Town is pretty family friendly. In fact, it does play like a children’s book. The screenplay being written by the author of the source material definitely does fill in some of those boxes (although I have never read the source material itself). However, the story does flow relatively well. There are some parts that feel a little disjointed or the English dub dialogue might feel like it jumps into the next scene a little awkwardly. However, the concept of the whole story is there. As an animated film, the world itself being covered in chimney smoke doesn’t stop the actual film to be very colorful in appearance which brings the entire Chimney Town setting to life. The film also uses different angles for various sequences which almost plays out like a movie but at times like a video game scene and even a few musical scenes. It may feel a little odd, mostly fun but does add a little uniqueness to the whole execution.

The story is the main focus as the characters are pretty simple and easy to understand. There are some rather witty characters that pop in and out, much like any children’s book someone who poses as resistance and others that are bullies. Whether we look at Poupelle or Lubicchi who are primarily the main focus of the whole story, their goal is still pretty simple. The story talks about friendship, family, and most importantly, belief. The whole end game is to see whether there are stars in the sky and prove that Lubicchi’s dad wasn’t lying about this and being shamed for it. As the government gets in the way posing as the main resistance and others trying to stop life from the norm, the whole story unfolds both in adventure and drama, sometimes the tone does also jump around a little abruptly. It does all come to a rather satisfying and slightly emotional revelation. It seems a little far-fetched but if you do get immersed into the story about those living in this Chimney Town, the whole idea of seeing the miraculous sky is pretty cool.

Overall, Poupelle of Chimney Town is a decent family friendly animated film. There are a few darker moments and a tad bit of violence but the story itself is pretty straight forward and does feel rather magical and colorful, making it also visually appealing. It looks like a story book that comes to life for the most part in its art style. There are some fun characters and some cool adventures. Sure, the story feels like it has a little disjointedness whether in tone or story progression at times but the main message and story does carry forward well enough.

*Poupelle of Chimney Town opened in theatres across North America on January 7, 2022*

*Screener provided by Prise Media Group*

Book Tour: The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice by Fred Yu

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice
(The Red Crest Series #1)

Expected Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Genre: Asian Fantasy/Epic Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

He was born of prophecy. If he can’t embrace his destiny in time, his country is doomed.

Ancient China. Spoiled and overconfident, eighteen-year-old Mu Feng relishes life as the son of an honored general. But when his sister is abducted and his friends slaughtered, he flees home. He soon discovers the mystical birthmark on his body has attracted an enormous price on his head.

Pursued across the Middle Kingdom, Feng finds allies in two fierce warriors and a beautiful assassin. When he learns his ultimate enemy plans an incursion with advanced weaponry, he must call on his friends and his own budding military genius to defend his country. His plan is desperate, and the enemy outnumbers him twenty-five to one…

Can Feng fulfill a duty he didn’t know he had and unite the empire against a terrifying force?

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REVIEW

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice is an Asian epic fantasy novel set in Ancient China. Being Chinese, its actually the first English novel of this type that I’ve read. However, for those unfamiliar to the genre, its a great way to be introduced to a Chinese epic fantasy. It has a lot of elements and themes commonly seen in a lot of other Asian epic fantasies like the concept of sworn brothers or the war and politics or the world itself with its martial arts and the different techniques that might rule over the different sects. Its an expansive world and being the first novel, it does set up the characters and the world building pretty well. The story itself has a little bit of everything you’d imagine to see in sort of novel from fight sequences, secrets, betrayal and plotting and some romance as well.

Looking at the array of characters, much in the spirit of epics, there are a lot of characters that gets introduced. The core characters all having their fundamental part in the whole story as their characters get developed through the different conversations and their actions. If there was something to criticize here lightly would be that the main focus is on the main character Mu Feng who ends up having the most exposure as a character in this journey and also the most development. There is a well-constructed idea of the boy to man as he goes through his ordeals unlike the other characters which have more of a snippet of their backgrounds but feel a little more one dimensional. This isn’t a huge issue as the main character is the key element here as it is his journey. Hopefully in future novels, the other characters will have more detail added.

There’s a lot to like about The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice. For one, it did have its own view of the genre. It still feels fairly well-constructed and at this point, there are lots of classics who have thread this territory and a mountain of TV dramas that have also been released so to create this world is hard to be create something completely unique. Yet, it is still an engaging read throughout as Mu Feng is an interesting sort of character. What does stand out the most is the use of descriptions to make the action sequences and different ordeals that happen very vivid. Overall, as the starting point, this is a great take on an Asian epic fantasy.

Available on October 5th on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a lifelong student of martial arts, and growing up watching martial arts flicks in the 80s and 90s, Yu decided early on that he would write in this genre. Inspired by George RR Martin’s work, he decided he would write a series in English in this centuries-old Asian genre. Yu has written three previous novels, The Legend of Snow Wolf, Haute Tea Cuisine and Yin Yang Blades. Yu has a BFA Film and Television from NYU Tisch School of Arts. He was born in Guangzhou, China, but presently lives in New York City.

GIVEAWAY

International Giveaway: Paperback copy of the book
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BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

October 4th
Reads & Reels (Spotlight)
@swimming.in.books (Review)
@ofmoviesandbooks (Review)
MacroMicroCosm (Review)
Bunny’s Reviews (Review)

October 5th
@tiny.bibliophile (Review)
@jypsylynn (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@dreaminginpages (Review)
B is for Book Review (Spotlight)

October 6th
@NerdyFoxReads (Review) 
Rambling Mads (Review)
PoptheButterfly (Spotlight)
Auto.Erraticism (Spotlight)

October 7th
Balancing Books & Beauties (Review)
@happily_undignified (Review) 
Lecari’s Live Journal (Review)
Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Bri’s Book Nook (Review)
Behind the Pages (Review) 
Tranquil Dreams (Review)

October 8th
@hoardingbooks.herdingcats (Review)
@acourtof_plants_and_books (Review)
@loveleighreading (Review)
Sophril Reads (Review) 
Stine Writing (Spotlight)
MacroMicroCosm (Podcast Interview)

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Hello! Tapir (2020)

Hello! Tapir (2020)

Director (and writer): Kethsvin Chee

Cast: Run-Yin Bai, Lee-zen Lee, Hsueh Feng Lu, Charlie Yeung

8-year-old Ah Keat sets off in search of the mythical nightmare-eating creature in the forest, hoping it will bring his father back to life. – IMDB

Hello! Tapir is a 2020 Taiwanese fantasy drama that also happens to be Taiwan’s first live action animated film. Films that tackle young children tackling family trauma or grief and loss with their imagination is a wonderful premise. It reminded of another Taiwanese film adaptation called Starry Starry Night but if above anything, this film actually draws a lot of parallels to My Neighbor Totoro both in premise and even some of the shots are set up. Tapirs are actual animals that exist however, the fact that they use this in a story that spans from a father’s childhood encounter with the magical tapir living deep in their town’s forest that extends to a promise between a child and their father as the little boy Ah Keat waits for his father to come home while the adults, mostly his mother and his grandmother also have their own side of dealing with this family loss while trying to keep it a secret from Ah Keat without realizing that he actually is dealing with it in his own way.

The execution of the film overall is really great as the structure of the film is presented as a fragmented storyline or perhaps more as a parallel. The present is shown moving forward in time starting from the day that the father was lost at sea and the night before in his last few conversations with his family. The whole structure builds up the father’s character and his relationship with those around him but most importantly, also builds up Ah Keat’s character and why he insists on finding the Tapir. With that said, the cast does a great job. Ah Keat is played by Run-Yin Bai who captures the childhood innocence for a little boy really well but also giving those dramatic parts very good as well, carrying through the loss and confusion that he is feeling as well towards the situation. Playing his mother who comes to help from Taipei after the situation is Charlie Yeung, a rather famous Hong Kong actress who captures her role as she deals with this whole thing while trying to draw a little closer to her son, much like the distance between her and her ex-mother-in-law is very obvious as well while still hiding the loss of her ex-husband and has hit her hard as well as she stays strong for the family. The grandmother and father role, played respectively by Hsueh Feng Lu and Lee-zen Lee also are great performances. A part of it is that they are a great cast but also that these characters are scripted really well. All their dialogue contributes in the every detail to make them draw closer together or build them up.

This magical Tapir is also well-designed as its exterior is fantasy-like in itself as it has the body of a pig, ears of a horse, the trunk of an elephant and feet like rhinoceros. Anywhere with the Tapir, there is no danger and it wanders the streets of the town after everyone has fallen asleep to eat their nightmares. Its essentially a protector of the town. One that protects people from their bad thoughts. The interaction with the Tapir and Ah Keat is truly cute and heartwarming. The childhood innocence in Ah Keat and the motions of this magical world with illuminated bubbles floating around filled with all sorts of nightmares which also link to the characters in the film like Ah Keat’s best friends who follow his suit to think up silly ways to create enough glowing light to attract the tapir together. Plus, there’s a big Tapir and a baby Tapir which is almost a little reflection of the parent and child relationship focused in this story.

There’s honestly a lot to love about Hello! Tapir. The script is fantastic and builds such wonderful characters to a beautifully crafted magical beast. The whole idea feels almost healing to watch. Despite its heartstrings tugging moments where certain details get unveiled as the story unfolds whether its promises seemingly unfulfilled between father and son or the family structure or even facing this grief and loss together and learning to let it go and live with it, there is a lot of positivity that the concept of a magical creature like the Tapir brings. It brings forth the many worries in the world from the news headlines that are narrated as the dream bubbles float right down to the little adventures and simple hope that kids believe in. Not to mention the little fantasy-like score/song that plays when the Tapir shows up that makes it all the more magical. Sure, the story is about family, grief and loss but it also balances the fantasy and adventure plus childhood innocence so well that the ending makes it all the more heartwarming.

Being a fan of live-action animation films and stories like My Neighbor Totoro, this film was like a homage but at the same time also created a beautiful little fantasy tale also that was both emotional and heartwarming. Everything was done with such detail in its script to how the beautiful shots are framed to the very fun little conversations that all call back to each other from the past to the present in context that its really hard to not praise the cinematography, the script and the overall direction of Hello! Tapir!

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: All The Moons (2021)

All The Moons (Todas Las Lunas, 2021)

Director (and co-writer): Igor Legarreta

Cast: Haizea Carneros, Josean Bengoetxea, Itziar Ituno

All The Moons is a 2021 Spanish fantasy drama that tells the story of a little orphan girl who gets saved during the 3rd Carlist War in 1876 by a woman that see believes is an angel. The woman takes her in and tells her that she cannot be in daylight and at night, they must follow the orange light in the distance. Shortly after, when they get attacked and are separated, the little girl has to learn to survive with all of the unknowns in her life.

All The Moons is a vampire film unlike others as it hooks onto the fantasy and drama elements and not a horror element. In fact, it never even uses the term of a vampire at any time, perhaps because its set in an ancient time before anyone has coined the term as what she is seems foreign to those that she crosses path with when they notice her differences to them. However, the journey is more of a character-driven one as the girl remains nameless for the a good part of the film going through many moons on her own. While moons usually refer to werewolves, this one is about the nights as vampires are nocturnal until she actually learns to live with sunlight, the process probably one of the most memorable scenes in the film.

All The Moons is pretty much held up with a fantastic performance by young actress Haizea Carneros who truly delivers. Paired with an outstanding script, the journey of her life is all about fear and loneliness at the start. A fear of not having lived long enough to slowly realize that life is more than walking the earth but also in the process of feeling pain and death. The immortality element that makes her life “lifeless”, a term she uses at the end. While surrounded by a few other characters, father figure, church and society, a friend, her journey is pretty subtle overall but the injustices or the bitterness builds up over time to make the final act very impactful.

Set in a beautiful backdrop with rolling hills and beautiful landscape, All The Moons also has a charming soundtrack. All the Moon is a drama so a little more slow in terms of pacing but it is very much about the meaningful script and the message behind what the girl learns through this unexpected and unknown she gets given as a gift which turns out to be more like a curse. The journey that she goes through is very thought provoking as it navigates through strong themes of life and death, loneliness and love carried by a fantastic performance going through something like 60 years in the past Spain as it overlaps two wars. All The Moons is a lot more than more than the common vampire films and is a hidden gem in this festival.

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: On The 3rd Day (2021)

On the 3rd Day (Al Tercer Día, 2021)

Director: Daniel De La Vega

Cast: Mariana Anghileri, Diego Cremonesi, Lautaro Delgado Tymruk, Osmar Nunez, Gerardo Romano, Osvaldo Santoro

Cecilia and her son Martín have a car accident. On the third day after the crash, she wanders by herself on a lonely route and there is no clue of her son. She can’t remember what happened during this time and she is desperately looking for her son. On her quest she finds coincidences with her case and other police files, which seem to be acts of a brutal hunting. The circles goes round and Cecilia will end up facing a religious man, who is the responsible of this slaughter. For her, he is a lunatic. For him, Cecilia is the enemy. – IMDB

On The 3rd Day is an Argentinian fantasy horror thriller that tells the story of a mother who reappears three days after an accident with no memory of what happened during that time and sets off to find her missing son. Argentinian horror is definitely on an up at the festival especially with last year’s The Funeral Home (review) recently landing on Shudder. The credit for its plot is greatly towards its creativity and execution. For many who frequent here, my greatest issue with thrillers (which I do love to watch) is with execution as the whole mystery needs to be paced really well to make the final end game or plot twist land effectively and logically. On that level, On The 3rd Day does a fantastic job.

At first glance, its easy to feel a little bit of “been there done that” in its first act whether its an accident or amnesia or even the creepy sort of hospital moments right down to the overuse of sound cues to create this sense of constant suspense and tension which tends to overstay its welcome fairly quickly. However, the film has some great visual elements that also build up the environment and atmosphere whether from the mysterious things that the main character, Cecilia starts seeing around her. At the same time, there’s an incredible use of symmetry in its cinematography which is greatly accented by the emphasis on mirrors. In certain scenes, through doorways and such, it almost feels like there’s a reflection of the room (although I’m not quite sure if that’s deliberate or not). It does create some uneasiness although in one scene (and I’m slightly nitpicking), where the cars park facing each other on the street which is a bit contradictory to the dialogue between two character from the previous scene. Little details, of course.

The story isn’t just about the mother and child but also has a parallel storyline which shows the other person that was part of the accident who seem to have a secret task where he is carrying a wooden box or casket around and does these very odd sort of rituals playing almost like there’s something that he is trying to hide. This part of the story line starts building up the mystery more as the horror elements start expanding into a possibility of the other subgenres that could be involved and what the box holds that makes this character so on edge but builds up on the unknown of what his goal is, which only starts having answers as the two plotlines converges in the final act.

It might sound like I’m being incredibly obscure with the plot here however its reasonably done. While On The 3rd Day does a lot of things right especially with cinematography and plot lines, what makes this film stand out is the well-executed ending that truly does pack a wonderful punch that wraps up all the mystery and suspense and is truly thrilling to watch unfold as the pieces fall in place. There’s a lot to love here especially as it touches on a biblical interpretation of resurrection but also uses that element in such a clever way. As a final note, remember to watch through the credits as there is an after credits scene.

Double Feature: Monster Hunter (2020) & The Witches (2020)

Welcome to the next double feature! Its been a while since we’ve done one of these! This time, I’m going to talk about two movie rentals that I’ve watch lately of 2020 movies. The first is Monster Hunter, a 2020’s video game adaptation directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and the second is The Witches a 2020’s Roald Dahl adaptation of a novel of the same name. Thinking about these two movies, I feel like they do pair up well as its two directors with films that really fall in line with the style of films that they are known for. Let’s check it out!

Monster Hunter (2020)

Director (and writer): Paul W.S. Anderson

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Ron Perlman, T.I., Diego Boneta, Meagan Good, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Hirona Yamazaki

When Lt. Artemis and her loyal soldiers are transported to a new world, they engage in a desperate battle for survival against enormous enemies with incredible powers. Feature film based on the video game by Capcom. – IMDB

At this point, whether for better or worse, Paul W.S. Anderson is known for his video game adaptations. Of course, mostly everyone remembers Resident Evil series in particular. He has however done a few other ones and never shies away from adapting video games that he loves but Anderson is much more than Resident Evil and has shown that he has his own directorial style and trademarks. How do I know? Well..an entire season of Movies and Tea Podcast as a retrospective on his work would do it. How about that, eh? A shameless plug for another project where you can check out HERE. With that said, being relatively supportive of Anderson’s work despite his shortcomings and being absolutely unfamiliar with Monster Hunter games in general, I decided to give Monster Hunter a shot and if you are familiar with Anderson’s work, it pretty much will be fairly enjoyable.

Starting with some positives as a complete newbie to this world. Monster Hunter does create a wonderful visual element for this dangerous world that the soldiers end up where every surface has its own monsters hidden from plain sight. Being a creature feature fan, monsters are pretty much a fun element of any movie when well-designed. That makes this world building and creature design all the more engaging to be watching especially with the bird’s eye view shots that Anderson is especially known for and being able to showcase architecture really well which definitely comes into play here with the surroundings. Being fans of Milla Jovovich and Ron Perlman, this was also quite the treat. Plus, a few other supporting characters which were fairly smaller characters. However, the character developed on all fronts were pretty thin overall.

With that said, the shortcomings of the film are fairly more apparent. From the action standpoint, a lot of the fighting choreography cuts away quite a lot so its not too engaging to watch. As mentioned before, the main plot is pretty thin. That does have to do maybe with the whole open world game that it adapts itself from so the story is straightforward but feels somewhat bland, which leads to my previous point about the characters also being poorly written as well.

With that said, the film is pretty below average. As a one time watch and turn off your brain sort of video game adaptation, its still fairly enjoyable since I do enjoy the world building in movies and visually, the world is shown so very nice. However, in substance, its rather lacking overall. The one takeaway I did have from this is that I’d really like to try out a Monster Hunter game soon.

The Witches (2020)

Director (and screenplay co-writer): Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, Jahzir Bruno, Brian Bovell, Josette Simon

A young boy and his grandmother have a run-in with a coven of witches and their leader. – IMDB

I’ve read some Roald Dahl when I was younger and while I feel like I’ve read The Witches, I can’t exactly be sure so we’re going into this pretty much saying that I haven’t read the novel or have seen the first adaptation back in the 90s. Robert Zemeckis is a great director to be adapting a film like The Witches. The story itself and the fantasy elements all make some wonderful fun but with a little darker twist. Plus, the CGI work here is on point which of course can all be expected with past directorial works by Robert Zemeckis.

The Witches is a really cool story about witches versus humans to a certain extent. Well, its more about the witches despise towards children and wanting to execute a huge plot to change them all into rodents. Why rodents? Because they are hated by humans as well and probably will be killed anyways. At least that’s my interpretation from the whole thing. When a grandmother and his grandson tries to run away to a hotel to get away from the witch they believe are bothering them, they end up realizing they are staying in the exact location of a disguised witch coven meeting. When the grandson gets caught, he gets turned into a mouse along with another English kid and then realizes his pet mouse is also one of the witches’ victims. All three of them with the help of their grandma try to stop this plot. The story is so fun to play out especially as every element is done so well especially with the design of the witch as their masked human appearances get reveal to their true form and that’s where the CGI comes into play to make the appearance a tad creepy but still having some silly moments to keep it in line as a family film (or at least I think its a family film. Correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, okay?)

A lot of what makes this movie is fun is the cast. The Witch Leader is played by Anne Hathaway which is pretty fun overall as she captures the character in an entertaining way. It does feel like she loses the accent in some parts of the dialogue but overall, she carries it well enough. The grandmother is played by Octavia Spencer who is one of my favorite actresses ever since seeing her in The Help and then every role she does is just so amazing, no matter what it is. The film overall is narrated by Chris Rock as the older version of the grandson as he recounts the story of his encounter with the witches. Stanley Tucci appears also in supporting role but personally, I love seeing him appear in random roles in so many movies. He is such an underrated actor especially with the diversity of roles he has portrayed over the years. The kids are pretty good as well but the core of their role is in voice acting when they get turned into mice and the whole thing is pretty exciting with a little bit of tension.

The Witches is a fun little family children romp. Its not for very young children, I’d think as the witches are pretty creepy in appearance even if some of it for adults might come off as being silly. The film is done pretty well and has its exciting bits and the CGI is done so well that its pretty cool overall.

TV Binge: Carnival Row (Season 1, 2019)

Carnival Row (Season 1, 2019)

Creators: Travis Beacham & Rene Echevarria

Cast: Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Tamzin Merchant, David Gyasi, Simon McBurney, Andrew Gower, Karla Crome, Arty Froushan, Indira Varma, Jared Harris, Jamie Harris, Alice Krige, Maeve Dermody

A human detective and a fairy rekindle a dangerous affair in a Victorian fantasy world, where the city’s uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster. – IMDB

I still remember the first time I saw the trailer pop up for Carnival Row and I thought that this was right up my alley. Dark fantasy settings are usually my jam. Adding that I haven’t seen Cara Delevingne in a whole lot of movies and Orlando Bloom doesn’t ring a bell to me other than Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean, I thought they looked pretty good in the roles.

With all that said, Carnival Row is pretty good especially with the setting. Plus it builds a decent foundation for its characters, giving them enough backstory to understand them but also enough mystery to want to learn more about them and this world. The first 2-3 episodes is more of a foundation building so feels a little slower to get into but the whole parallel is done pretty well and the atmosphere plus the whole world-building is pretty fascinating especially when it comes to how its a pretty much a world of humans and creatures. The creatures have some variety and isn’t just about the faes. Not to mention, the creature designs which is mostly an appearance difference from facial features or body part difference to humans is done pretty well. It feels like its only a quick glimpse into this world as there is pretty much only a few types of creatures introduced throughout the show’s 8 episodes however enough to grasp the different creatures that could come into play. The effects are done really well. The werewolf segment wasn’t too long but that transformation was done well even if its probably one of the fastest transformations that I’ve seen, much like the fauns which have a fantastic design. For a show revolving a lot around the faeries, the animation on those wings looks really good. All the above are things I do love since it helps with being more immersed into the world which is often the first step to enjoying these series.

Carnival Row has a few plot lines in terms of the relationships and humans versus creatures conflicts which creates the divide and perhaps their bond, whichever applies. On that level, its not completely unique from other ones but executed fairly well. It has to do with having a cast that does work here especially when it comes to some of the humans who have a lot of hate and how they choose to act on it. Of course, there are also love relationships. The central one between the main leads, Vignette (Cara Delevingne) and Rycroft (Orlando Bloom) who struggle through their love, hate and lies. The secondary one is more about a change in views towards creatures as the characters of elite and proud Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) face their faun neighbor Agreus (David Gyasi), as it starts as an alliance to each win from the situation on a social level but ends up being a different result. These characters are strengthened by these connections.

With that said, the chemistry between Vignette and Rycroft is pretty good. They go through a lot of the change but the emotional struggle between them when they meet again goes the length of the season. It shows their change and the effects that the human and creature relationship could bring on a lot more problems for both of them. But then, there’s always a little more to the situation and that brings out the mystery elements about who is involved in the murders going on. The mystery is executed incredibly well. The progression of clues and discovery makes it so intriguing as answers bring on more questions and the big mystery really being who is behind all this with a master plan and the purpose/motive of all of it.

Overall, the mystery side of the story does stand out a lot more. The balance between that and the relationship between Vignette and Rycroft works out pretty well to give the show enough foundation to build on for future seasons but keeping things relatively simple as well to make it intriguing to learn about this world gradually through the other plot lines by introducing a general idea of all of the moving parts in this world from the humans and different creatures to the political structure to the hidden societies to the main characters and their back stories before pushing it to a rather good turning point as a big finale to build up for a second season.

TV Binge: Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020)

Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020)

Creators: Lee Eung-bok, Hong So-ri, jan Young-woo, Kim Hyeong-min, Park So-hyeon

Cast: Song Kang, Lee Jin-uk, Lee Si-young, Lee Do-hyun, Kim Nam-hee, Ko Min-si, Park Kyo-young, Go Youn-jung, Kim Gap-soo, Kim Sang-ho

Following the death of his family in an accident, loner Cha Hyun Soo moves to a new apartment. His quiet life is soon disturbed by strange incidents that start occurring in his new building. As people turn into monsters, Hyun Soo and other residents try to survive. – MyDramaList

Based on the webtoon of the same name, Sweet Home takes place as the world heads into an apocalypse where humans are turning into monsters. In an apartment building, the residents suddenly are locked in and soon realize why. As they hatch their plans of defense, its not whats outside but what is trapped inside that is their concern as well as who is infected and will turn. Being at a well-paced 10 episodes, the series moves through the characters foundation and the main characters slowly have their own story unravel whether in flashbacks or in conversation. The story also progresses in the sense that survival brings out the best and worst of people, making them at times the real danger as is the desires turning into these monsters. It makes you wonder whether its based a little on Buddhism and the concept of desire making someone unable to achieve happiness and in this sense, the infected will turn into monsters, some lethal and some harmless. With that said, there are two elements at least to look at Sweet Home: the characters and the monster design.

Sweet Home’s monsters are rather varied. There isn’t an expansive understanding of how someone gets infected but the symptoms are outlined fairly clearly. The change can be rather subtle unless someone is sitting around when someone’s nose fountains with a huge nosebleed. The monsters are rather varied and at one part, it stems from desire so there are many different types of monsters whether its one that is super fast with centaur legs or a giant eye or a gooey monster or a spider looking creature and so on so forth. They all are done fairly well. There are obvious moments of CGI use and its not as smooth as it should be but overall, it does look pretty nice. The only issue I had was one of the monsters was meant to be hulking and giant with this sinister grin and to me, it felt rather hilarious. Probably not the effect that the series was looking for but the monster itself was scary for its strength and relentlessness.

There are quite a few characters in Sweet Home. A decent bunch of ragtag supporting characters which bring some comedic relief and add some uselessness that usually causes more problems plus adds to the potential body count. The few main characters go more to Hyun-so, an eighteen year old that lives alone as a playtester and constantly thinks about suicide, a medical school student brother Eun-hyeok and an aspiring ballet dancer with a foot injury sister Eun-Yoo who is in disagreement with each other, a firefighter lady Yi-Kyeong, a musician girl Ji-soo and a mystery man with burnt scars on his face Jin-wook. The story revolves around these characters as their backstories get revealed one by one. What works well here is that these characters do slowly grow as they start to differ and show their worth as the situation gets more and more dire.

Sweet Home is an interesting first season to say the least. While I have little issues with the computer effects, the monster design, the atmosphere and especially those awesome fight scenes paired with “Warrior” by Imagine Dragons really does it all great favors. At the same time, the cast of characters and their development does work really well as they form their alliances and friendships and it all comes to a decent twist by the end. If there was any issue, its that the first season sets up for a second season and yet, if it doesn’t happen, that ending might be quite a pity. Fingers crossed that it will get a second season!

FNC 2020: The Book of Vision (2020)

The Book of Vision (2020)

The Book of Vision

Director (and co-writer): Carlo Hintermann

Cast: Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek, Sverrir Gudnason

Eva, a mysterious doctor, searches for an answer to her urgent dilemma as she unravels Dr. Anmuth’s Book of Vision. Stellan gets involved in her life and is forced to confront his own nature, as Eva faces the biggest decision of her life. – IMDB

The Book of Vision feels like its a movie to ponder upon a little especially in terms of life. Its told in two storylines. The first is the present with Eva (Lotte Verbeek), a doctor who decides to leave the practical elements to study the history of medicine in hopes of solving her own illness. It leads her to meet a man, Stellan (Sverrir Gudnason) who leads her to look at Dr. Anmuth’s Book of Vision, a book that explores his experiences with medicine. This is where the second storyline comes in as it bounces between the happenings of Anmuth’s past as a physician as he gets phased out of his profession with newer views and practices in medicine. The two come to this blend as the two stories start to blend together much further propelled by the characters in past and present both leading different roles but existing together, leading to perhaps a theme of how perhaps life doesn’t exactly end when it does but exists in another form while others move on to some sort of reincarnation or something. I can’t truly say that I understand the complete depth of the film but at least that’s my takeaway from it.

There’s something so beautiful of The Book of Vision though. Its the cinematography mostly that shows this incredibly elegant and sophisticated air. The 18th century Book of Vision bits focus around this sense of belief in the concrete or whether some superstitions exist outside of what feels like a harder to believe realm of fantasy. The design of that element is breathtaking and mysterious all at the same time and yet, the imagination and creativity feels beautiful to look at. The outfit and the tone all coming together in those 18th century scenes so well. In the reality, there is another feeling as it focuses around not only the mystery but the gradual connection and relationship between Eva and Stellan and there’s a different feeling to the scenes using the lights and the work they explore. One of the most beautiful elements are when the more fantastical elements where the past leads to the present and the characters fall into each other’s world. Its these little subtle details. A little hard to understand what it all means but the way its put together is really quite the spectacle.

The Book of Vision is Carlo Hintermann’s narrative feature film debut after having done previously four documentaries. This one dives into a part costume drama, part romance drama and bringing in a creative dose of medicine, life and fantasy. Its not a piece to digest on the first viewing perhaps of the deeper connections and meanings. While that usually isn’t exactly the best selling point, there’s something so mesmerizing about how its portrayed and the beautiful cinematography plus the wonderful performance of this connection between these three characters paralleled in the past and present between Anmuth, Eva/Elizabeth and Stellan played by Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek and Sverrir Gudnason respectively, that all makes it well worth a watch.

Fantasia Festival 2020: A Mermaid in Paris (Une Sirène à Paris, 2020)

A Mermaid in Paris (Une Sirène à Paris, 2020)

a mermaid in paris

Director (and co-writer): Mathias Malzieu

Cast: Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marilyn Lima, Rossy de Palma, Tcheky Karyo, Romane Bohringer, Alexis Michalik

A man rescues a mermaid in Paris and slowly falls in love with her. – IMDB

Being a huge fan of Mathias Malzieu debut feature film Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (review), A Mermaid in Paris was a must-watch. It would be interesting to see how Mathias Malzieu would approach doing a live-action film knowing the imagination that he is capable of. This fantasy romantic melodrama is an outstanding effort by Malzieu once again proving that his unique eye for the visuals as well as the use of an older era of fashion and fantastical color palette all blends incredibly well together with his creative imagination that all comes to life in such an appealing way.

A Mermaid in Paris

Being a musician before stepping into the director’s chair, Malzieu also uses soundtrack in a strong way to build up the character of the film. He injects Piaf’s song as well as other song choices to pair with the times. In this case, he also plays on the mermaids and the myth of the mesmerizingly deadly songs of the sirens. This builds up the romantic storyline of Gaspard, a man who falls in love easily and has had his heart broken so much he feels that he has no more love to give and struggling to hold onto his family’s business that holds memories of his mother and a place for performances, who saves a mermaid Lula (Marilyn Lima) who he is immune to her song. Their romantic connection grows gradually throughout the film and Lula becomes a character that wants to get back to sea soon but also has the fish out of water story element, that I’m a big fan of as it brings in a comedic element. The chemistry between Gaspard and Lula is undeniably beautiful.

A Mermaid in Paris

The comedic element is enhanced by a stellar performance of Rossy de Palma playing Gaspard’s neighbor Rossy in a second collaboration with Malzieu. Rossy is a unique character who guides both of them in her rather whacky ways but also plays as an assist. All the happy things here with romance and comedy has to be paired with some drama and adding in a threat to balance out all of this is a revenge story from the girlfriend of one of Lula’s victims. If there’s anything, this character Milena is a bit frustrating at times however she has her purpose.

A Mermaid in Paris is a cinematic treat. The rich color palette paired with the fantasy elements; the mermaid myth playing along on the romantic infatuation that creeps up between them to a surprising twist; the wonderful performances from the cast and the colorful characters: all comes together to create this beautiful experience. On top of that, Malzieu doesn’t even forget to give a nod to the animation style using the characters in this previous film in one of the scenes as a background element. There’s so much to love with Malzieu’s filming style and his seemingly love for telling stories about the life-threatening dangers of falling in love. Its a unique way of telling love stories and its this vision paired with his imagination that makes his films so fun to dive into.