|FILM REVIEWBUSAN 2019REVIEW|
The Oscar-winning effects maestro behind 'Star Wars,' 'Jurassic Park' and other blockbusters over five decades is the star of this French-made documentary.
Given the sheer amount of money, megabytes and human resources invested in Hollywood fantasy and sci-fi flicks nowadays — the new Star Wars being the latest in a long line of blockbusters dating back to, well, the first Star Wars — it's hard to imagine there was once a time when such films consisted of a bunch of guys building and shooting stuff in their workshops, trying to conjure up movie magic.
In Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters, the new documentary from French behind-the-scenes specialists Gilles Penso and Alexandre Poncet Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex, we get to meet one of these guys up close, learning how Tippett's artsy obsession with stop-motion animation evolved into an Oscar-winning practice and several billion-dollar tentpoles for five decades and counting.
Packed with details, anecdotes and enough figurines to please technicians and Comic Con buffs alike, this informative piece of fanboy fodder has so far played a handful of festivals, including Mill Valley and the Paris Fantastic Fest. A bit too specific for the general public, it could nonetheless reach its target audience via online streaming services.
With credits on a handful of the Star Wars movies, the first two RoboCop films, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, The Twilight Saga and Starship Troopers, Tippett's long and prosperous career includes some of the biggest Hollywood franchises of all time.
Born in Berkeley, CA, the young Tippett saw Ray Harryhausen's groundbreaking work on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and decided he wanted to be an effects wizard himself. He began making stop-motion animation films and eventually landed a job at a studio in Los Angeles, working on commercials like the claymated Pillsbury Doughboy ads.
Tippett got his big break when Dennis Muren, the VFX supervisor at George Lucas' nascent Industrial Light & Magic, brought him on to animate the extraterrestrial chess set in the first Star Wars movie. That memorable scene would kickstart a career that spanned several other films in the franchise — Tippett animated the Tauntaun lizards and AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back — and then a host of other '80s and '90s blockbusters, from RoboCop to the Jurassic Park movies.
For the former, director Paul Verhoeven details Tippett's exemplary work animating the ED-209 armed robot, working with full-size models that felt very much like the real thing. Indeed, Tippett's specialty was making his monsters and robots seem as lifelike as possible on the big screen, giving them their own individual personalities. Each animated character acted and moved in a particular way, like full-blooded performers, which is why many of Tippett's creations remain so memorable to...
Emerging mainland filmmaker Sun Aoqian makes his feature debut with a coming-of-age drama starring young actor Yu Kunjie.
A gregarious, imaginative 11-year-old Chinese boy in a provincial city collides with, rather than grows into, adulthood in Sun Aoqian's Over the Sea, an understated examination of how youthful exuberance and imaginative pleasures are wrenched away and innocence is lost to the ebbs and flows of modern China. Pivoting on a deceivingly effective performance by young actor Yu Kunjie, debuting director Sun's minor-key drama about disillusionment should get scooped up by Asia-focused festivals and arthouse streamers following its Busan premiere.
One of the film's greatest strengths is Sun's command of images and cinematographer Zhou Cong's ability to execute Sun and co-writer An Jier's vision. Though there's only the loosest concept of time is this a weekend? A month?, the mother ocean imagery is a bit on the nose and a tangent regarding a family history is slightly muddled, Over the Sea's smooth long takes and dreamy flights of fancy make the central character's dilemma seem both sad and inevitable.
In the cold open, a young mother feeds her baby and puts him down for a nap before hopping on a motorbike, presumably with her partner, and riding away, leaving the infant boy behind. A short while later, Xiaojie Yu is a boisterous schoolboy fixated on the ocean the Chinese title translates roughly to “the young man and the sea” and on a mission to create a fantastic project for class. He lives with his uncle and cousin, Old Sun Sun Xinfu and Birdy Rebecca Li, helping out around the motel and restaurant they run in northeastern Yingkou. He's a cheeky little thing, often referred to by regular customers as a “little monkey” but generally well liked. He's also a bit of a troublemaker, preferring to swipe leeks from the neighbor's garden and stomp all over their fresh concrete rather than just buy what Old Sun asks for.
Sun and Zhou efficiently relay just who Xiaojie is in a fleet, vibrant, seven-minute-long shot as he cycles home from school, his ocean project on his mind. He sings. He's loud. He talks to strangers. He's vivacious and possessed of a youthful, carefree spirit that's infectious. His biggest concern is purchasing an ocean life encyclopedia with which to complete his project, and which Birdy promises to buy for him on the weekend.
But those plans evaporate along with Xiaojie's innocence when a son of a local big shot comes into the restaurant, gets handsy with Birdy and gets promptly turfed by Old Sun. That humiliation results in Old Sun's retaliatory beatdown at the hands of the thug's buddies and an accidental car crash that puts the old man in the hospital, racking up some expensive medical bills. The only way to cover the debts is to either marry...
SPOILER ALERT: If you are among the few who haven’t actually watched Netflix’s Tiger King docuseries, this review contains a lot of details about what goes down in the sad big cat saga.
With Netflix poised in the coming days to cash in and crank the base up a notch with more Tiger King, it's time to come out and say it: I hate the Red State porn that is the crash and burn of Joe Exotic
The initial seven episodes of this septic and shallow patchwork of trademark infringement, sex, guns, labor exploitation, song, drugs, mullets, betrayal, animal activism, revenge, and a lot of big cats may be much binged over these weeks of coronavirus lockdown, but that doesn't mean it's actually worth watching.
Now, I get it, I sound like I'm just a dour critic who hates anything that isn't prestige premium cable or aspirational. C'mon man, you want to say, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is just so unbelievable, I can't look away.
I respectfully disagree, and in fact, propose Tiger King isn't just bad, but dangerous in a divided America persistently looking to reduce the other side to caricature.
In a presently ailing nation where TV is more voluminous and vital than ever, the truth is the March 20 launched Tiger King is a clawed white trash misery index. Gawking at some clearly fragile and damaged people like would-be reality TV star Exotic and their below the Mason-Dixon line antics, the series subsequently provides a cultural circus for those smug bicoastals under stay at home orders and screaming to rise up in moral superiority.
Essentially, the tale of big cat collector, self-styled Oklahoma zoo proprietor and 2016 Presidential candidate Exotic AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage and his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to have rival Carole Baskin knocked off by a hitman hired for $3,000, Tiger King is in that context more a zero-sum game, literally and figuratively, than hitting the zeitgeist.
Obviously, Netflix are pretty damn good at gauging and dragging the public mood over the years, as the likes of the then phenomenon of 2015's Making A Murderer or 2018’s Wild Wild Country prove. Yet, for all the attention it has drawn, this unfocused murder for hire exploration of sorts emerges as a bastard child of Cops, a million Dateline segments from the 1990s and Fox’s short-lived Murder in Small Town X reality show from 2001.
Not exactly the prestige product that the home of Roma, The Irishman and American Factory likes to brag about at award shows. Then again, with the knowledge that the Romans sold out the Colosseum every night feeding Christians to the lions, the bottom line based House of Hastings surely loves the subscription sign up that the currently incarcerated Maldonado-Passage and the accompanying motley gaggle of...