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Movie: Horses Of God (2012)
Rating: ** out of *****
Notes: In 2003, terrorist suicide bombers killed 45 people in the deadliest attacks in Morocco's history. "Horses Of God" presents a fictionalized assumptive account of the lives of a quartet of assailants that led up to the event. Despite the chill of watching the movie the day before the 2015 Paris attacks, the film retreads the same footsteps of many previous entries of the past decade-plus which, while remaining topical, presents no new material. Approaching the subject as a coming-of-age in all the wrong ways, it dwells on the uninteresting personal and trivial life events, and subsequently on the mundane procedural tasks that lead to a suicide bombing, ultimately shying away from the act itself and any shocking aftermath. What results is a Middle Eastern "Stand By Me" for the terrorist set, lacking teeth or energy, and waving the same flag we've already seen in this parade. Despite all this, it was submitted by Morocco to the 2014 Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category. There are better and more affecting examples of this genre.

Movie: Aftermath (2012)
Rating: *** out of *****
Notes: Also titled in Polish as "Poklosie," this fictional film examining a lesser-known crime of World War 2 behaves as an atypical thriller. A man returns to Poland for the summer to visit his hostile brother after their father dies, only to become embroiled in a discovery that has turned the village against his remaining family. While slow at times, it behaves like an investigatory detective story with the threat of the town's torches and pitchforks hanging over them at all times. Whereas revelations in this type of film tend to be the usual romantic conflict or supernatural animosity, the factual historical basis for the wrongs committed make for a more believable plot. The residents of the town themselves fare a bit worse, behaving as little more than stereotypical creepy rural folk, and their ultimate crime at the end is met with only a whimper of closure. Still, it's directed with a tension that turns a potentially dull tale into an above average one.

Movie: The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****
Notes: After much public agonizing over whether Blue Sky Studios - responsible for middling animated fare such as the Ice Age sequels, Epic, and Rio - could accomplish the rare feat of faithfully transposing a period cartoon strip to contemporary animation, I can happily report that they haven't let us down. "The Peanuts Movie" is a surprisingly enjoyable feature with few flaws, and takes great pains to adhere to the unwritten rules that imbued the characters' world with such nostalgia today. For the first third, it's mostly a barely-contextual string of homages and parodies of well-worn gags. Eventually, it blends in the origin tales of everything from the little red-haired girl to Snoopy's Red Baron-related escapades. For the most part, the voices are eerily spot-on, or easy to get comfortable with, right down to the slightly-slurred script readings expected of small children. Sally's, in particular, is dead to rights, and Snoopy's and Woodstock's vocals are actual recordings from the late Bill Melendez who spoke for them in the original movies. The animation is surprisingly adaptable, probably because it emulates the old 2D style as finely as possible, right down to the occasional stuttery framerate and frequent incorporation of 2D inking. Tonally, it's entirely non-threatening as the G-rating indicates, most reminiscent of the similarly relaxing "Shaun The Sheep" in terms of keeping your pulse rate low. The humor is very broad, sticking to the basics with a minimum of pop culture and no scatology, leveraging the characters' own recipes. It both utilizes familiar iconic musical scores and adds in only marginally distracting contemporary pieces. About 1/4 of the film is dedicated to Snoopy's WW1 dogfights which, while visually impressive, are excessively overproduced for 3D and contrast starkly with the rest of the feature. This is only a small ding in an otherwise exemplary resurfacing of a classic concept. If you have any fondness whatsoever for the Peanuts gang, you owe it to yourself to see this landmark film in theaters.

Next: Snowpiercer, A Most Wanted Man, Neighbors


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
I do want to see Peanuts, yes. This might finally be Blue Sky managing to show what they're really capable of, in a way they haven't really found again since their early short, Bunny - if you're not familiar with it, I'd recommend digging it up. It's only something like six minutes long, and whilst rhe character design does show evidence of the future caricaturistic stylings of Ice Age, the storytelling is gentle, and quite lovely, if inevitably bittersweet, depending on perspective.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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