The Battery

By: Addison WylieTheBatteryposter

Jeremy Gardner’s slow burn horror The Battery has earned crowds of cheers reaching back to its early film festival days from genre movie goers.  Even though I wasn’t sold on this flabby flick, that’s great news for the filmmaker.  It’s a zombie movie that hardly shows you any of the walking dead.  That’s a tough sell!

You see limited amounts of zombies because Gardner wants to set his sights more on the dynamic between his two abandoned leads.  Ben and Mickey (played by Gardner and Adam Cronheim) are two former baseball players who have a hard time meshing with each other.  They run out each other’s patience and have mannerisms that act as pet peeves to one another.

However, as much as they are getting fed up with their company, they realize they need each other for survival.  They can usually find each other on the same wavelength during a game of catch or scavenging through this new post-apocalyptic life. Continue reading

Wylie Writes @ TIFF KIDS 2014: The House of Magic

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By: Addison Wylie

The House of Magic is an abundantly likeable film, and will certainly be a memorable pick at this year’s TIFF Kids.  On the surface, the bouncy flick has all the ingredients for a smiling good time at the theatre.  There’s an adorable cat, whimsical magic, and stunning animation paired with incredible use of 3D technology.

It’s to be warned that Jérémie Degruson and Ben Stassen’s film isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the first few scenes.  The House of Magic follows older Disney fodder by introducing furry feline Thunder to the audience in an unfortunate way.  He’s abandoned and unwanted by nearly everybody, which instantly has us vying to see some sort of affection towards him.

The film steps into its own circuit when The House of Magic puts the audience into the small-scale perspective from Thunder.  These point-of-view shots basically turns Degruson and Stassen’s movie into a video game, but The House of Magic doesn’t feel as gimmicky as you’d expect.

Moviegoers get plenty of objects and animals that jut out of the screen with the well executed 3D, but these chase sequences only sometimes call attention to the in-your-face imersiveness.  The film is usually more interested in showcasing breezy excitement instead of flaunting its technical achievements.

The vocal cast has been assigned admirably, with each actor being able to flawlessly step into their animated roles.  The House of Magic originates from Belgium and the lack of gratuitous top tier American names is actually kind of nice.  It shows that the production is confident and content with its talent.  The filmmakers’ humbleness is especially appreciated in an age where animated flicks feel the need to fly in special guests to gain some sort of clout.

Some older patrons may find themselves catching hints of Casper and Mouse Hunt as they watch this clan of unlikely creatures and mechanical wingnuts defend their house from a crooked real estate agent.  But , the film – of course – is made for young children.  That crowd will have a blast watching The House of Magic.  It’s energetic and the story is easy to follow.  Degruson and Stassen also invite a number of cute and funny side characters that will have young moviegoers beaming.

There are a couple of things I wish the film swayed away from in order for it to feel more original.  It further proved that animated films will never have a docile chihuahua, and that characters will always bust-a-move during those final moments of the movie.  The villainous agent, however, does bring a loaded shotgun into play when he’s on his last nerve – that’s something I didn’t expect.  But, this surprise may also turn some parents off from an otherwise good chase.

The House of Magic is an affable family film.  It may not stand next to films flowing out of Pixar or Dreamworks, but it’s peppy radiance is enough to earn its way into your good books.

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Catch The House of Magic at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on:

Saturday, April 19 at 5:00 p.m. (with a post-screening Q&A with co-director Ben Stassen)

Sunday, April 20 at 1:00 p.m.

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.

Visit the official TIFF Kids webpage here!

Visit the official TIFF webpage here!

Other TIFF Kids Coverage:

Read my review of Knight Rusty here!
Read my review of The Numberlys here!

Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:

TIFF: @TIFF_NET
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

The Nut Job

By: Addison Wyliethenutjobposter

I have a theory about animated films aimed towards children that are headlined by The Weinstein Company.  And, The Nut Job gives me more material to work with.

The Nut Job further solidifies my opinion that: the Weinsteins are severely out of touch with the youth of today, they think your children are dolts who will lap up anything animated, and they think you – the parent – are nothing more than a money tree who will have to shell out moolah in order to keep your kids happy.

It’ll sound like I’m being cynical on something that should be deemed as innocent child fare, but I’ve had enough. Continue reading

Journey to the West

By: Addison WylieJTTWposter

As times change, a filmmaker is faced with the potential to grow within their craft.  I haven’t seen or heard from writer/director Stephen Chow since 2004′s fantastically insane Kung Fu Hustle, so I suppose I forgot that he would have to face this fork-in-the-road in his career if he continued to make movies.

I see that advancement in his latest effort Journey to the West, but it’s not in the film’s tone.  He hasn’t lost his surge of childlike energy and imagination when putting together awing action and absurd characters.  This is still a film where masters in the martial arts punch someone to slowly and hilariously reveal that they’re a repugnant swine in disguise.

That growth is within the punchy characters and the film’s script.  Chow, co-director Derek Kwok, and a team of co-writers have strung together an adapted classic that brings philosophies and genuine perseverance into development while alternately forming a crazier version of Ghostbusters. Continue reading

Algonquin

By: Addison WylieAlgonquinPoster

For better or for worse, Algonquin is unpredictable.  What starts as Canada’s independent answer to last year’s Academy Award nominee Nebraska finds unique footing after a detour in its narrative.

I suppose any film related site listing the synopsis for Jonathan Hayes’ feature film debut would give away this major turn.  Because I certainly didn’t see it coming, I’ll back away from that specific spoiler.  It’s an example of how Hayes isn’t afraid of making a big move to progress his script in a direction that challenges his characters.  Especially when the pivotal crisis involves an absentee father and his bitter son.

Nicholas Campbell plays the distracted father Leif with a kind of charm that’s charismatic, funny, and understandably discouraging to anyone who’s been stiffed by him.  Jake (played by Mark Rendall) feels like one of these suckers after being abandoned by Leif at a young age and invited back into his life years later to help co-write a new book his Dad is cooking up.  Leif proposes that the book is written in Algonquin Park- where the Roulette family had a cabin. Continue reading

Wylie Writes @ TIFF KIDS 2014: The Numberlys

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By: Addison Wylie

William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg return to TIFF Kids.  This time, they’re not here to make me blubber like a baby (see: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore).  The filmmakers are here to make me laugh and impress me with wit.

Based on an iTunes app also called The Numberlys, the short film features five employees who are fed up with creating the same boring numbers at their factory job.  One night after work, the builders stay behind to create a new hybrid series of symbols – the alphabet.

The Numberlys has been produced with a black-and-white template to represent how drab the conformity is.  The film is also presented in a very slim aspect ratio.  This either is supposed to represent how shallow their existence is, or to recreate the feel of playing an app.  Either way, people are going to like the look, or detest it. Continue reading

CrowdFUNding: James Evans’ DIY Shakespeare

 

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By: Addison Wylie

I’ve always seen a bright future for actor James Evans.  James and I attended the same high school and we were fortunate to take part in a few stage productions together.  He’s  a really sharp and talented guy who – to my memory – does a spot-on Don Knotts.

Where James and I differ is with Shakespeare.  I’ve always had a difficult time grasping onto William Shakespeare’s writing.  Evans not only understands the work, but cherishes it and uses it to forward his aspirations.

The classic writing has inspired him to make DIY Shakespeare, a studio that is “dedicated to bringing key works of Shakespeare to the screen in a short film format”. Continue reading

Oculus

By: Addison WylieOculusPoster

Mike Flanagan’s off-shoot elaboration of his short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan turns into a movie where things happen.  Things that aren’t really interesting or thrilling.  Just a lot of stuff that may or may not be real.  This is because Oculus is a horror film with no tension.

Oculus is a movie that makes me appreciate Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.  It’s a sequel that unfairly gets frowned upon and shoved aside too easily.  Book of Shadows was about a group of hardcore fans of The Blair Witch Project who then ventured into the woods to get a taste of the spookiness.  Slowly, the woods become a puzzle and the troupe turns cuckoo on each other.

It’s a film that plays with the mind and proposes that a supernatural force can alter your perspective of reality without you knowing it.  Book of Shadows problematically runs its sense of paranoia into the ground, but if you go for the ride, you believe that an embroiling evil exists in the story.

Oculus takes similar scary subject matter and works it in reverse.  Flanagan lays all his cards on the table, and starts giving away too much too soon. Continue reading

Mistaken for Strangers

By: Addison WylieMFSposter

There’s this strange little number named Mistaken for Strangers that has me all around impressed.  The documentary is a peculiar one because it plops the audience in a position that automatically has us feeling very skeptical moments out of the gate.

We’re quickly introduced to the film’s focus – the rock and roll band The National - and shown the key element all five musicians have in common.  Each member has a brother.  There are two brothers in the band and two other musicians are twins.  This leaves the band’s lead singer Matt Berninger.  Berninger explains that he has a brother, but he’s more of the “metal type”.

Mistaken for Strangers is directed by Matt’s wayward brother, Tom.  Tom’s been asked to ride along with the band to work backstage for live shows.  Tom – being a filmmaker who dabbles in slasher horrors and looking for something exciting – brings along his camera in hopes of making a documentary about the life of a roadie. Continue reading

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

By: Addison WylieTGAposter

Documentarians Daniel Geller and Danya Goldfine have a fascinating story on their hands with The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden.  It’s a real-life murder mystery that took place in the 1930′s within the secluded collection of islands located near Ecuador.

In the late 20′s, a couple seeking independence and an escape from civilization took to Floreana to start a new life.  Surrounded by tortoises and iguanas, Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch were antsy but content with their new home which some would define as paradise.  However, Floreana grows with unexpected visitors forming a diverse small community.  Even more enigmatic results ensued resulting in a final cryptic twist.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden sounds neat, doesn’t it?  It did to me once I watched the trailer and read up about the doc.  The idea of never being able to get away from a communal setting was enticing, and the overall mystery surrounding the story had me interested.  Geller and Goldfine can sense that, so why did they try and drive my fascination away with belaboured filmmaking? Continue reading