Reflecting back, it maybe played well for what it did, because it produced something based on danger and loss, but did it in this animated way that was easier to digest. I can imagine children being a bit saddened, before the magic of the end produces a happy ending, but they will not be overly frightened or threatened by it. My toddler understood the importance of Stick Man's family, and why his situation was bad, but she didn't get upset or bored by it - in this way I think the balance was good and the film's tone carried it off well. Not one of these films that I'll come back to loads, but an interesting change from the other BBC/Donaldson animations.
This opening period is a good start for the film, and is instantly recognizable as an only slightly exaggerated version of light entertainment from the period. The cast deliver it in the style of the period, and it is only the lead character (Tim) who seems not to totally fit in. The shift in tone when the duplicates start to arrive, is well handled (and occurs with a shift in ratio and appearance), but it is the brief period of trapped horror from Purnell that makes it really engaging (she is great throughout). It then gives way into a fairly disappointing conclusion, but its brevity and shock value help it. Enjoyable for what it was, although I wanted more of Purnell in the middle, and for a stronger third act.
The animation matches the style of the book well, and looks great - Zog himself is a nice character and none of these dragons will cause bad dreams. The plot ends with a positive message which applies to everyone, but in particular leans into the female character for its delivery. It is a very positive message and it was only the cynic in me that rankled a bit at how clunky it was played out - very direct. Of course then I remember I was watching a children's film based on a children's book, so probably it deserves a pass. The voice cast feels overly starry; they do well but some of them feel almost like distractions - they are cast for this film as an 'event', which I suppose is fine as they do work.
Like most of the Donaldson animated films, not the deepest or most impacting film, but enjoyable, accessible, and with a nice easy message.
This movement between characters and plots is part of the season's several problems. The messiness of it means it doesn't have the strength in through-line that it needed. Related to this is the usual problem that 13 hours is just too long for the content. This produces the feeling that it is being drawn out in some ways, but has the bigger impact of the drama feeling like a 'lull' ahead of the next action scene - where really it needed to be building towards them, not just waiting for them. The action is good though, not consistently unfortunately - and it does get its best scenes delivered early in the season. At its best the brutality brings real impact to the action, but later it too often feels like it is wallowing in its morbidity, or doing it in lieu of anything else.
The cast put in good work. Bernthal is a strong lead, and able to do more when asked. A lot is on Barnes this season, and although the script doesn't help him all the time, he does well. Stewart is enjoyable as an addition, although it feels like he is off in his own thing doing a character disconnected from everything else for the majority of the season. Revah is better in this season. Whigham and Lima are okay, but the plot asks them to sell quite a lot. Production standards are high, and everything looks good, but it is the writing and being asked to run longer than it should have done that makes it a weaker season. The good bits make the whole 'okay', but as with season 1, it is only consistently that, and not more.
The actual horror plays out in a familiar way, with the unseen, the half-seen, the suggested, and then of course the sudden fast-moving appearances. It is well done though, and I liked how the film used the old technology to produce an old style ghost story for the most part. The chills are well done, and they make the jump scares seem less cheaply bought than some recent big films. Nothing earth shatteringly new, but worth a look for what it does well.
It is this material that works best because it gave me something I could relate to, and the technology only made some differences, but not core differences. The tension of the 'seen' message, the thrill of the glimpse of skin, the fear of the irl contact - all of it is recognizable and connects, even if I didn't own a smart phone until I was in my late 30's. The film does run too long though, and spends too long constructing its delivery route (I didn't need quite so much "general" stuff in there, nor some subplots that seem unnecessary) but at its best it is well done due to how relatable it is.
Once Charlie's involvement is clear, and dovetails in with the other threads, the story improves. It has an urgency and relevance to it then, and more connected with me as a viewer. The story picked up a lot as a result, although it did still have that slightly "important" feel to it that I'm not sure it totally deserved, or that it committed to. The final half of the episodes are strong though, and make for balanced and engaging television. The cast have quality in depth, although I confess I was not a massive fan of Pugh - which is not ideal for the lead role, but she was better as the episodes settled in.
It has its tonal and pacing problems, but it picks up, and the quality of the production carries it in the meantime.
In watching it, the lack of commentary is very obvious. We do get talking heads, and of course the makers have their political opinion, but it doesn't have anyone pushing a bigger political point. Of course it feels like it is very much leaning one way - but I think that is less politics, and more humanity coming through. I confess at the start I was ready to play devil's advocate on the bigger picture, and be annoyed at any simplistic suggestion that everyone should be allowed to travel to Europe for a better life - and I do doubt this is the solution; however what the film does well is to force the viewer to say that in the faces of young men and women fleeing slavery, abuse, and mistreatment - all in a place where even those not facing those things don't have a great time of it.
I imagine the film will annoy those that come from a place further to the right of me on the spectrum, but really the film is balanced. It is hard to watch because it puts you on the boats and it does a good job of simply saying "okay, tomorrow we'll fix world poverty and replace unchecked dictatorships, but in the meantime, what do we gain by leaving these people to drown?"
This very obvious approach/goal put me off and did stop me buying into the two characters. This being associated with Pixar makes that a surprise since they have a long record of making me emotionally connect to all manner of objects and characters who are not real but yet give me the feels. Here though it was a bit much, even if I did like the animation style.
That job is producing plenty of enjoyable action and funny moments, and does so for most viewers of most ages. The lack of darkness helps this slickness, and the 1960's vision of the future design adds to the sense of fun with its nostalgic references and look. The voice cast are all solid, even if several of them are essentially doing what they are famous for (Jackson, Odenkirk). As a whole there is much to enjoy in terms of spectacle and laughs, but it doesn't run much deeper than that, making it a lesser film, but probably one good enough that you'll not feel the impact of that till you reflect back on it.
This opening is well filmed in a very observational and distant style, and the performances are really brilliant in how natural and well-observed they are. The rest of the film fills in the blanks with fairly straightforward footage of the subculture, but it fleshes out the picture by showing how accessible 'normal' life is while also showing it so far away. It is convincingly made throughout and is all the more chilling for it.
This third film certainly continues the scale of the previous films, and the impressive animation and technology behind it. Battle sequences, flight sequences, the design of the world and creatures, all look and sound great. The plot at a high level is also pretty good - a relationship/maturity step-change for both of our main characters, and a conclusion that is responsible but yet doesn't come over too hard for younger viewers. The problem with the film is that it doesn't perform well below that sweeping level, or outside of the impressive moments. The plot feels too familiar in its "dragons in danger from dragon-killing-supervillain" content, and it isn't helped that the food critic from Ratatouille isn't a patch on the alpha villain from the second one, nor that the sense of peril isn't there either. I was also surprised how few moments touched me or made me laugh - and Jonsi's voice alone normally gets me at least a little. Only a few moments drew a laugh from the cinema audience, although there were a few more moments where it was silent and maybe a bit upset.
A bit too obvious in what it does then, and not as good as the second film, but probably its technical strengths and audience investment in the characters and world help it work better than the writing deserves. In all a solid conclusion but not the stepup that I hoped following the second film doing just that on the first.
Gee leads the cast well, and brings more to the film than is on paper, but the script doesn't help him enough. Instead it focuses on the mechanics of the scene and leaves him to do the work. He does okay but I wanted more at the core - more conflict of the man who is confronted by a world he is both trying to leave, and was part of creating. It is well made, and the location is well used, but it is too simple in its writing and doesn't play to the strength in character or actor that it has.
There is a lot of The Office in here, particularly the UK version, because it is cringe but with a flawed person at its core - so we feel awful for the situation, hate him, but at the same time understand him as a person and feel a bit for that. I've seen some suggest that the lead character here is brave for not following the touchy-feely norm of the room, but personally I took him to be unable to do so. He is detached from the group from the very start, and is essentially rolling his eyes as people say personal and heartfelt things out loud. When his turn comes and he plays a game with it, it is funny in the moment, and cringe-inducing to see the consequences, but I enjoyed knowing that it came from a real place and it did inform on his character. So rather than cheer him for his bravery, or hate him for his mockery, I felt for him and the mess he created - all of it being funny at the same time. Its not quite David Brent at his finest, but it is of that ilk.
There is a nice emotional core to this film and it plays out best in the first half where the two actresses work with less. Whether it be unexplained stress of one, or the moment of realization that takes one from chirpy to tearful, it is well done and the two leads play it out with few words but good direction. Curse be the writing then, because when the dialogue really starts, it offers less to the viewer. Too much is spelt out in big letters, and the limits of the actors becomes more apparent as both struggle to sound natural and real. It is a shame because it limits what it was doing, making it end a lesser film that it may otherwise have been.
This tone carries it, because there aren't big laughs or an engaging plot, just that creeping sense of an unhealthy relationship and a guy stuck with it. It runs a little long for that to be the whole show, but it still works in what it does. The cast sell it, with all three being effective in different ways, and director Magee holds the film right on the point where the writers seem to have put it. Not a perfect short, but enjoyably comedic and creepy.
This short is based in a barbed, cynical dislike for the LA scene, and for the first half it gets its digs in as it shows the main character losing it over simple things. This is nicely sharp but yet not destructively so. On first watch I wanted it to go harder on this, but actually it gets the balance just right, because the second half embraces the clichés and excesses, producing an action movie that delivers all the tropes of the genre while also sending them up. As a result it loses some sharpness in the comedy, but is still enjoyably excessive in what it then does. It also feels a little self-indulgent, but the comedy and edge help it carry that off and produce an enjoyable enough short film.
The thrust of the season is driven by the characters. The most obvious one of course is the titular Saul, who is more evident than ever in this season. I don't think it is about Saul Goodman being created, but more about that part of Jimmy becoming more evident to us, those around him, and to himself. The journey is delicate and very well played by Odenkirk; his performance is great, with endless understanding of his character. The delivery of the show around him only helps this with the way it is written, and the way in which flashbacks are structured to show past and future. Related to this, I felt a lot more for Kim this season, and really enjoyed how much Seehorn's performance added to the understanding of the character of Jimmy. Nacho's thread seemed much more functional than I would have liked, although it keeps the violence and drug-life in the frame. Similarly, I'm not sure Mike as a character moved too much, although our experience of him thus far maybe did; again the excavation etc project did feel much more functional than the main threads with Jimmy.
Functional or not, all the threads work very well, and as before the season is incredibly strong in the writing and performances. The technical delivery remains smart and sharp, and the whole thing has emotional weight and insight that only makes the action and style mean that much more.
The performances and the quality of the casting is a big part of this. They all bring a lot to their roles, and they make the material feel better by virtue of what they do. This creates the problem that the material is actually not that strong; it is still a genre film and it plays like one when you get below the surface - which reminds us why this genre is popular while also exposing weakness in this film. The reason most of these type of things are played a bit over the top, or as a caper, is that the spectacle or fun of it means the viewer allows it silliness in the plot; here though the events of the film didn't get that forgiveness because it told me it was being more serious and real. Related to this a little is the feeling that the film tries to cram too much in regarding characters and threads - so most supporting elements feel rushed or crammed in.
It is still a good watch though, with McQueen's approach adding value in the same way as the heavyweight cast all do; however I'm not sure the quality links to the film as a whole, and I came away from it feeling that in any given moment the film was being better than it actually was. An interesting problem though.
Without any dialogue, it tells us a lot about the parents, about the conditions and feelings in both homes, and informs how the boy is stuck with it. The choice of music, the man-cave aspect of the father's new home, the walk of the pickup/dropoff all contain detail which add to the viewing experience and make for a better film. The dream sequences and the structure of the film convey the sense of being in the moment with the boy very well, so even if it is not something you have experienced, it is still very clear and easy to follow.
The second factor is that Karlsen is terrific in the lead role. She is utterly convincing and natural throughout, which is important at every stage. The film plays very 'real' but the conclusion turns into this even more than it had, presenting more information which then throws the whole film into a different light. This ending is impacting because of how well the film had played out in the lead up. Sometimes this sort of twist can cheapen a film, by making you feel that it had tricked you to approaching it in one way when really it could be taken another; in the case of V this is not true, and instead the conclusion strengthens it.
Interesting, engaging, and fresh short film, very much worth checking out.
However it will be 'few' and not many, because the majority of viewers are just viewers, and this film is not for viewers, it is for itself and whatever festivals etc cater to such films. It is very deliberate in what it does, and in all ways it looks for the stylish but the obtuse, the visual but the 'challenging'. The narrative such as it is, manages to be both beyond me (on the overall picture) but yet also overly simplistic (in the 'food chain' element to the ending). The NSFW opening also pushes away by how out of context graphic it is - striking in its imagery perhaps, but it does still open the title with a creampie - dressed up as 'art' of course, but again the only reason I saw for how graphic it was, was that it had impact and shock value to a market that values those things over narrative substance.
It is just about worth a glance if you are a fan of experimental shorts that push to break norms, however if you are looking for anything more than this then you'll find that the film is not only not for you, but that it is makes deliberate efforts to be that way.
It does this by showing us the opposite of what we saw in the first half. Where we saw devil-may-care-loner, now we see a boy alone in his own house, disturbed by noises he doesn't know. Most tellingly, the TV playing static and porn, which seems to spook him by virtue of being on by itself, is a very accurate representation of what it is like to come face-to-face with graphic pornography when previously you though you knew it all because you touched a boob once. This is very well done because it is clear as day, but yet belongs very much in the horror setting. It is well played, stripped down, and effective - perhaps not the most accessible, but it worked well for me.