Film Review: PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES (Canada, Animation)

  This bright and startlingly unique two minute Canadian Animation is filled with strong visuals and symbolism. The story is incredibly simple, yet undeniably compelling- our hero, the cool alley Cat simply retells his life know musician ‘Ol Man Blues.

Although we never get the details, there is an unmistakable undertone that Blues and Ally Cat are rough and tumble, hijinks creating machines. The audience only ever gets the cliff notes of what was sure to be a long and laughter-filled friendship.

PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES leaves you wanting more- because you know there is more to be told. Like getting a piece of chocolate when you want the whole bar, this film is sweet enough to enjoy at it’s length- but just interesting enough for you to want more. A fantastical piece indeed.



Short Film played at the ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival in December 2017

Review by Kierston Drier

PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES, 2min., Canada, Animation
Directed by Susan ShulmanCool alley cat meets old blues musician and they tour together

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Film Review: ONCE AND DONE (USA, Animation/Documentary)

 At times funny and often shocking, ONCE AND DONE is the story of one man’s run in with the law and his troubled and traumatic time in prison. With honesty and good-humor our hero recounts his horrors but also his lessons learned.

Although our subject has a clearly troubled past and has had issues with the law, he is undeniably loveable. Perhaps it is the natural tendency we have to love a reformed-anti-hero, or because our subject is so clearly dedicated to making a better life for himself.

ONCE AND DONE is a delightful film- because it shows the slice-of-life of an every-man who made a handful of bad choices and is ready to learn from them.
It’s an important demographic to give voice to- and his voice is worth hearing.

ONE AND DONE will make you laugh, make you feel and might just even make you think about how everyone deserves redemption.


Short Film played at the ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival in December 2017

Review by Kierston Drier

ONCE AND DONE, 3min, USA, Animation/Documentary
Directed by Jacob PettitThis is the true story of Jeff as told by Jeff, who faces the repercussions of his choices, and learns from his mistakes.

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Film Review: PINK BUBBLES (Taiwan, Animation)

 A film with a deep and intrinsic stillness and beauty, held up by an emotional and powerful score, PINK BUBBLES is a visually alluring and moving film. Our gentle whale protagonist is lured towards the beautiful pink bubbles floating in the water towards it.

Believing them to be the whale music similar to other whales they’ve seen in the area, our hero rushes towards it- only to discover a dark and terrible secret.

The most powerful films are simple. PINK BUBBLES does not need intense dialogue or raucous music or mind-boggling stunts to be a captivating piece. It is visually fluid, beautifully composed, gorgeously rendered and profoundly meaningful. A short, simple and heart wrenching piece. A short not to miss.


Short Film played at the ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival in December 2017

Review by Kierston Drier

PINK BUBBLES, 3min., Taiwan, Animation 
Directed by Pei Yao Pink Bubbles is a short 3D animation about a lonely whale looking for a companionship. Diving underwater, this whale has been ignored by other whales because their calls are on different frequencies. As he is a fighter, he never gives up on finding someone who can understand him. His longing leads him to a tragic end.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Film Review: CACOPHONY (USA) Animation/Drama

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

CACOPHONY, 2min, USA, Animation/Drama

Directed by AiHsuan Shih

Through the eyes and ears of a young girl, the viewer can escape the harsh sounds of the urban environment and find solace in a serene inner world.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Coming to us by Melody Shih, Cacophony is hard to look away from. Filled with bright colors, high contrast, rich textures and expertly crafted blend of artistic styles, this is a movie to capture the soul of an artist.


Our hero, an introvert in a crowded metropolis, deals with the high-octane, high-stimulus noise and visual clutter around her. Sounds pop, honk and tweet incessantly and synesthetically in every direction. Somehow, despite the vibrancy and high-color world outside her, we find our way inside her. Whether we are seeing her mind’s eye, or her metaphorical spirit it is left for the viewer to decide. Regardless, the effect is masterful. The internal world of our hero is serenely still, with contrasting dark undertones against brilliant, effervescently bright simple designs. Like music made visual, like liquid made light, our hero reverts into themselves before the hum of the outside world draws her out to real life.


If you appreciate art or experimental cinema, find a way to see Melody Shih’s Cacophony, a beautiful tribute to the people who may see the world differently- as energy, as sound and light and texture. And if you do not love experimental film, see this anyway, as it may change your mind.


Film Review: TOWER (USA 2016) ****

tower_.jpgTOWER (USA 2016) ****
Directed by Keith Maitland

Starring: Violett Beane, Louie Arnette, Blair Jackson

Review by Gilbert Seah

TOWER is an animated mixed archive footage reaction of one of the most chilling incidents in American history. On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand.

This is the first of America’s mass shootings. The film explores this untold history through the first-person stories of seven specific characters: two students who were shot that day, the two police officers who ended the siege, two civilians who inserted themselves into the story to provide aid to victims and police, and the radio reporter who broadcast live from the scene for more than an hour and a half, and whose broadcast was picked up nationally, bringing the events in Austin to listeners around the nation.

Once the film goes into first person, the audience is immediately immersed in the current situation looking at it from the person’s objective. Being animated, distractions are a minimum. The exact reactions and emotions, as realized by the animator can be most effectively conveyed. The identity of the shooter is clearly omitted, thus creating a more mysterious, chilling feel.

The film’s listenable soundtrack of hit tunes of the 60’s most effectively creates the feel of the 1966 film’s setting, aided by the arrival footage of vintage cars and people walking in 60’s garb. Maitland also uses the classic “Claire de Lune” (clearly his favourite music piece) during the siege and closing credits of the film,

One can also consider the film to be short stories of the different victims. The first victim is 18-year old Claire Wilson. She is first shot and she is revisited as she recounts her story – a sad one. Claire says: “All of a sudden I felt like I’d stepped on a live wire, like I’d been electrocuted.” Her boyfriend Tom reaches down to help her and he is struck down as well. For over an hour of the siege, Claire remains exposed to the shooter, conscious and steadily losing blood. Claire knows that her boyfriend has been killed and that she’s lost her baby too. “After some time, a really lovely young woman with red hair ran up to me and said, “Please, let me help you.” I told her to get down so she wouldn’t attract attention, and she lay down next to me. She stayed with me for at least an hour. It was a beautiful, selfless act.”

Some stories are more effective than others. Claire’s is the most touching. Halfway through Maitalnd’s film, a shiver would surely be sent down ones spin as one admires the heroes who sacrifice being shot while aiding the wounded victims. The film is also intersperses with the talking heads of actors of the real heroes, now aged since 1966, but their presence makes a marked impact to the story.

Maitland’s approach to documenting the tower shooting incident is no doubt novel and one may question why not enactment by real actors. A valid question, no doubt but this approach has produced a successful account, just as a live re-enactment might have achieved the same purpose. It helps tremendously that Maitland has worked close to the material, obtaining all the facts – from interviews of the surviving victims and then animating the action.



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FINDING DORY (USA 2016) ***1/2 – Movie Review

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finding_dory.jpg FINDING DORY (USA 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson, Eugene Levy, Dominic West, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader

Review by Gilbert Seah

FINDING DORY is the sequel to the highly successful 2003 animated FINDING NEMO. Though director Andrew Stanton swore at that time: “no sequels”, FINDING DORY arrives more than 13 years after. Though several identical characters from the first film appear in the sequel, the story is quite different and can stand alone on itself, despite the fact that the story takes place 6 months after the first film ended.

The film opens with water flowing from the sea, demonstrating how advanced animation technology has become. Water and fire were almost impossible to animate a decade ago.

Dory (spritely voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is a little Pacific regal blue tang who suffers from short term memory loss. She tries, comically to remember events the best she can, but she is most afraid of losing her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). This she does. With the help of new friends Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence) and his father Marlin (Albert Brooks), she sets out to find her parents. The adventures take them to the Marine Life Institute where she meets other characters like a white beluga whale called Bailey (Ty Burrell) and Hank (Ed O’Neill), the octopus.

FINDING DORA would definitely not be recommended for smaller children. For one, I do remember as a child my biggest fear being the death of my parents or even just my father. Where would I be without money or someone to look after me? The film’s story of little Dory losing her parents, fearing at one point the death of both her parents and also the loss of her two good friends would be enough to scare children into having nightmares for months.

The film is annoying, especially in the first third with lots of noise made by the aquatic characters. When a few speak, some do too fast that quite a lot of dialogue ends up too gibberish for the children to make out.

A film about sea creatures allows the screen to be filled with gorgeous colour. Stanton clearly realizes this potential as he fills the screen with countless colourful images.

The switch from a male protagonist in FINDING NEMO to a female one in Dory is also a welcome change. The balance of male and female characters add to the political correctness tied in to other issues like animal rights, which thankfully is subtly brought across in the film. The film also contains the much talked-about brief LGBT scene in which 2 women find their stroller occupied by an octopus. Full credit to Disney for being so progressive.

The film’s change of ending that caused a delay in the film’s release is well worth it. It is great to see all the fish freed from the truck back into the ocean, thus re-enforcing the fact that amusement sea-worlds like Marineland should not keep fish and sea-mammals in captivity,

As an animated feature FINDING Dory does not disappoint. But from Disney, one always expects more, but the film unfortunately provides only more of the same. Stay for the song “Unforgettable” by Australian singer Sia Furler, performed during the end credits.


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Movie Review: The Boy and the Beast (Japan 2015) ***1/2

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the_boy_and_the_beast.jpgTHE BOY AND THE BEAST (Japan 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Starring: Bryn Apprill, Kumiko Asô, Morgan Berry

Review by Gilbert Seah

When his mother dies, the nine year-old boy, Ren (voiced by Aoi Miyazaki) runs away from his relatives in modern day Tokyo and stumbles into a parallel realm inhabited by anthropomorphic beasts. There he becomes the apprentice to bear-like Kumatetsu (Koji Yakusho) who trains him in martial arts. Kumatetsu is a grumpy sort and the boy is feisty – so there is non-stop bickering back and forth. When the boy turns 17 (Shota Sometani), a darkness descends, putting the bond between him and Kumatetsu to the ultimate test. Ren re-enters the human world to search for his missing dad and halts the martial-arts training.

THE BOY AND THE BEAST is not entirely original in its story. It has taken bits from other animated features. The mixing of two worlds the beast and the human, and the crossings from one to the other is similar to what occurred in Hayao Miyazaki Studio Ghibli’s animated SPIRITED AWAY where the spirit and human worlds were crossed. The mouse like creature in the film is also similar to he furry balls in Miyazaki’s HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. (Hosoda initially worked on that film before taken off by the studio.) But Hosoda’s film takes premises one step further. He bonds both worlds. What initially seems strange as the beast walks in the human world becomes natural by the film’s end. The training of apprentice and master is also given a good turnaround. Hosoda’s Master in the film has lots to learn unlike other films where the Master is perfect. As he trains his rebellious apprentice, both learn from each other and fine tune their techniques. Ionically, this is what happens with Hosoda. As he learns the techniques from other films, he does not merely copy but takes each film ahead, changing the rules and fascinating the audience.

Hosoda started his apprenticeship at the famous Toei Studios before starting his own Studio Chizu in which BOY AND THE BEAST is its second film.

As the film progresses, what initially appears as a predictable tale turns out to be a unique story full of wonder and surprise. The humour and lightness the of the film are never lost as important messages are subtly wound into the story.

Excepting the mousy creature, Hosoda refrains from cutesy bits, typical in Disney and other animated features aimed at kids. THE BOY AND THE BEAST thus has a more universal appeal despite it being targeted as a family film.

A key component in the majority of Miyazaki’s film is the love element. There is always a love story and one involving first love. In Hosoda’s film, Young Ren falls in love for the first time when he returns to the human world though it occurs at the half way point of the story.

The soundtrack of piano playing scores is very pleasant covering the darker nature of the story. Hosoda’s hand drawn animation is top-notch.

THE BOYS AND THE BEAST turns out surprisingly entertaining. It was a box-office smash in Japan and should do well in Norther American given its universal appeal.

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Movie Review: BOY & THE WORLD (2015) Directed by Alê Abreu

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boy_and_the_worldBOY AND THE WORLD (O Menino e o Mundo) (Brazil 2013) ***1/2
Directed by Alê Abreu

Review by Gilbert Seah

As in last year’s SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE, BOY AND THE WORLD is a wordless animated feature though gibberish Portuguese can be heard occasionally in the film’s soundtrack. Thus, this Brazilian import, has a more universal appeal, as it can be understood by people in countries speaking different languages.

The story is also a universal one. Being wordless, one must concentrate a bit more to put together the film’s narrative. The story concerns the boy of the film’s title, one who journeys to the big city, to see what is both fascinating and frightening. All this is captured by the film’s colourful visuals.

The film begins with the boy (animated as a stick figure with huge round Charlie Brown head with black slit eyes and no mouth) looking at a coloured rock. The patterns turn out to be inside other patterns as the camera weaves in and put different colours and patterns. All this is very mesmerizing and captivating. The boy then jumps onto a cloud and after jumps into the waters of a stream and runs into the woods.

The story involves the boy leaving for the city (that looks like Rio de Janeiro) in search of his father. He has various adventures including getting a dog, meeting mechanized workers (looking like THE WALL) and facing police oppression. The film also has abstract moments like the symbolic fight between good and evil as seen by the fight between a black bird and colourful phoenix.

The film contains beautiful moments such as the one emphasizing the importance of family, in which the boy eats bread with a melon dip with his mother and father. But the film has an overall bleak look as director Abreu lays his views on world pollution of lumber and oil, as well as the slow destruction of natural resources.

The visuals are amazing – simple and colourful being the two words best used to describe it – just like the kaleidoscope toy the boy looks and plays with. The segment of the tankers carrying colourful containers, all rectangular in shape filling the screen makes one of the more memorable moments. But just as amazing as the visuals is the film’s soundtrack that is made up of instruments like the flute, and Brazilian music like the samba and hip-hop.

The film has the feel of METROPOLIS and is at times, just as intense. To Abreu’s credit, the film is without dialogue and thus has to be more cinematic. Though the film is animated and about a boy, children might find the film difficult to understand. But the film has a total Brazilian feel about it – from the characters to the background.

BOY AND THE WORLD is welcome, very original adult animation so different from what other studios like Disney, Ghibli and Aardman provide. The film is unique and has won over 40 film festival awards so far.

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