In Bruges (Netflix Review)

18 – 106mins – 2008


 

NOOKS AND CRANNIES

“How can a fucking fairy-tale NOT be someone’s cup of tea?!”

Rejoice, CR@B fans, for I am back! Did you miss me?

What do you mean you didn’t even know I had gone?! Well, as my none-too-subtle choice of film illuminates, I have just got back from a glorious mini-break in the medieval, alcove-ridden Belgium market town of Bruges (or Brugge to the locals). Of course I ate my body weight at the numerous chocolatiers and drank the local brewery dry, but I also climbed the 300+ steps to the apex of the clock tower, which features prominently in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s blackly-comic BAFTA-winning crime drama, which recently made its Netflix debut (what timing!).

… Keep Scuttling!

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Paddington 2 (Cinema Review)

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PG – 103mins – 2017


 

PADDINGTON DOES PORRIDGE

With so many childhood favourites from yesteryear being made (and remade in the case of The BFG and Pete’s Dragon) for the big screen, it is easy to look on these twenty-first century interpretations with caution. Be they originally books, films or TV shows, to fans of the beloved originals, a glitzy, modern angle could be deemed… improper. However, 2014’s Paddington – which saw Michael Bond’s marmalade-loving bear cub move from the jungles of Peru into the Brown family’s London residence – proved that new doesn’t always equal inferior.

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In the Heart of the Sea (DVD Review)

12 – 117mins – 2015


 

THE ONLY WHALER IS ESSEX

“How does a man come to know the unknowable?”

The answer to that question is to hound another man until he eventually relents and spills his darkest secret. This is the questionable journalistic technique Moby-Dick author Herman Melville (here portrayed by Ben Whishaw) employed to gain insightful knowledge on a nautical nightmare from haunted former Essex cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), who survived a whale attack – and 90 days thereafter stranded at sea – between 1820-1.

“The courage to go where one does not want to go.”

Based upon Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 non-fiction biographical book of the same name, Ron Howard’s sumptuous maritime epic recounts the “cursed” whaleship’s woes, from their departure from Halifax dock to their sanity-straining post-disaster survival ordeal.

“Going fishing, are we?”

Benjamin Walker plays the Essex’s inexperienced-but-well heeled captain, George Pollard, who shares a fraught relationship with his “landsman” first mate, Owen Chase (Chris “The Huntsman” Hemsworth). Incompetent and fearful of being belittled by a lower rank – and class – Pollard blames Chase for the listing and eventual capsizing of their flame-engulfed vessel, dividing the crew when they must unite to stay alive on the Atlantic Ocean aboard mere rowboats.

There is a darkly humorous irony that the men who happily harpooned, gutted and physically crawled inside the head of a bull sperm whale in order to take home 2,000 barrels of whale oil, later find an albino of the same species getting inside their heads – albeit metaphorically – so convinced are they that the ”vengeful” whale is following them. If Jaws: The Revenge was set a century earlier…

“Where knowledge ended, speculation began…”

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard coats the screen in an aquatic grey/green sheen, delivering the requisite grit and grime of a less refined age, but overlaid with a misty-eyed gloss which distances the audience from the tension of immediacy. I can only presume that this often dizzying, foggy lens was a stylistic choice due to Thomas Nickerson’s storytelling aspect of the narrative.

Nevertheless, the portrayal of the giant “white devil” and the damage this majestic sea-beast bestows upon the ship and crew is breathtakingly realised, even if all along you know at least one member of the crew survives to tell Melville this inspirational story. As hunger and desperation overtake morality, the remaining crewmen have to make an unthinkable decision – and while this is implied rather than depicted (as it was in the BBC’s 2013 Martin Sheen-starring adaptation of the same book), their desperation is palpable, as is the castaway’s relief upon returning home to Nantucket after such a harrowing living hell on high water.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

Song of the Sea (DVD Review)


PG – 93mins – 2014


THE OTHER CROWD

Every bit as heartfelt and evocative as his striking debut, The Secret of Kells (2009), director Tomm Moore returns with another spellbinding animated feature richly steeped in Irish folklore and legend.

Young Ben (David Rawle) blames his mute little sister, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell), for the disappearance of their mother six years ago, following Saoirse’s birth. But when Saoirse discovers a mysterious coat which pulls her into the sea to swim with the seals, their Granny (Fionnula Flanagan) demands the children leave their island home and live with her in the city. But separated from the coat, Saoirse becomes sick, and it is up to the siblings to band together and journey across Ireland to return home and reunite Saoirse with her white seal-skin coat and find her voice.

Like her mother, Saoirse is a Selkie; a seal-child. The last of her kind, in fact, and her enchanting song of the sea can release all magical brethren from their earthly binds and return them to their spiritual home. It is hard to call this supernatural revelation a twist because it is revealed so early on (and mentioned on the back of the DVD), but Song of the Sea doesn’t need to trick us to treat us, and the effortless story is still brimming with surprises as the children’s quest leads to encounters with will o’ the wisps, lyrical faeries, over-protective witches, armies of owls and heartbroken giants – many of which cleverly parallel Ben and Saoirse’s situation.

Like the story, the animation is deceptively simple. The blocky, two-dimensional style is actually stunning beautiful, with shadows, texture and depth bringing life to the line drawings. The landscapes are almost painterly in their depiction, with brushstrokes still evident and the use of patterns evoking a tapestry-like quality.

The choice of colours is also rich and evocative, with drab normality doused in lifeless grey, while the sea is painted in sparkling aquatic blues and greens. The cosy comfort of home is warm with deep oranges and many of the fantastical elements are highlighted with a dazzling, otherworldly white.

The visuals are complemented by a soft, almost mournful score by Bruno Coulais and Kila which makes heavy use of folk strings to create a sweet, poetic lullaby with a Gaelic lilt. When this can’t be heard, wind, waves and the far-off caw of a seagull are almost ever-present aids to the ambience.

There were scenes with strong comparisons to genre giants Studio Ghibli, which is a huge compliment to Moore’s fledging production company Cartoon Saloon. Macha the Owl Witch greatly reminded me of a gestalt approximation of the Witch of the Waste and the 90year-old Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), while sheepdog Cu’s twilight flight back to the lighthouse with Ben and Saoirse on his back had echoes of the iconic cat bus from My Neighbour Totoro (1989).

In a CR@B Shell: Whimsical and wondrous, director Tomm has once Moore delivered a bold, touching, inventive and attractive animation imbued with family values and a strong moral underpinning. I heartily recommend you take a dip into this enchanting Sea.
5 stars