Five Big Summer Blockbusters — Part One

Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer movie season of big blockbuster hits featuring super-size budgets, big name actors and huge spectacles.  This summer audiences can look forward to super heroes, sequels in 3D, and thundering soundtracks.  Geared toward the younger audience, many of whom are just getting out of school for the summer, this year, the “tent pole” films started almost a month before Memorial Day with “Oblivion” (April 18) and “Iron Man 3” (May 1), to take advantage of those anticipated summer dollars.

Sadly, “Oblivion” had little chance to garner an audience before “Iron Man 3” dominated the screens (a full 10 screens in San Francisco on it’s opening weekend!) and then each weekend featured another huge opening: whiz, bang, dazzle, here’s “The Great Gatsby”, zoom, careen, crash, here’s “Star Trek: Into the Darkness” and if you’re in one of the 75 cities chosen, there’s the 50th Anniversary of  “Cleopatra”, restored and released to the trumpets of triumph after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2013.

3D, or not to 3D; that is the question…  And the answer is as personal as the film you choose to see.  Do you enjoy roller-coaster rides, play video games or crave a more immersive film experience?  Then 3D is a good choice.  With the advances in 3D glasses (and IMAX as well), there is a wonderful experience to be had if the film was crafted with the purpose of screening in 3D.  Do you get headaches easily, seasickness keeps you off small boats and you like your films uncluttered by the bells and whistles that can distract from the story?  Well then…stay away from 3D!   iI you find it’s the only available option, sit in the far back center where you’ll be less distracted by the 3D-effects.

Here’s my experience of two of the summer kick-off films; “Cleopatra” and “The Great Gatsby”.  Part Two will discuss the science fiction/fantasy films; “Star Trek”, “Iron Man” and “Oblivion”.

bilde“Cleopatra” — 1963, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Yes, even “Cleopatra” can be considered a summer blockbuster!  Not only does it feature an astronomical budget of $44 million (equivalent to $330 million by today’s standards), there’s the big stars and of course, the studio was desperate for the audiences to be enthralled with the spectacle in hopes of recouping their losses.

http://www.theday.com/article/20130524/ENT09/305249989/1044

There were at least 20 people at the matinee screening I attended, mainly older couples with a few young gay couples and a smattering of single men and women.  Once the lights dimmed and the music began, there was an uncomfortable wait;  there was no picture screening–just the soundtrack!  But no one left their seats and the film finally began.  Given that it’s a four-hour extravaganza, it’s good that there was a fifteen minute intermission!  Still, many people came and went throughout the screening.   I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the audience returned after the intermission.

The costumes and sets are amazing and the set pieces: war ships in the harbor and Cleopatra’s grand entrance to Rome, are astounding!  Particularly when you know they aren’t “CGI” but were filmed with thousands of extras, all in costume.  There is one amusing gaff:  in an opening scene of Richard Burton surveying the battlefield, one of the “dead” soldiers looks away from the camera and many of the “fallen” are clearly clutching the spears they’ve been “stabbed with” — between their arms and their sides!

Even now, 50 years later, Elizabeth Taylor’s star power can be felt eminating from the screen.  Her costumes are intricate layers of fabric and jewels with headpieces and sashes that look cumbersome and heavy yet she moves with grace.   Even rolling from a rug on her backside, she rises like a queen.  If the battle scenes and political power mongering grow tedious, there is always another grand scene to fascinate.  Roddy McDowell is a delight in his role as simpering, power-mad Octavian and it’s amazing to think of his 50+ years in Hollywood.   Would “Cleopatra” fascinate the youth of today?  I think not.  It’s too long and the acting and fake scenery are dated — but it is nice to have a film with a strong female leader!  Cleopatra may die in the end, but she does so at her own hand  — and with the grace and regal authority she deserves.

Rating: 1 glasse of Greek wine

“The Great Gatsby” — Director: Baz Luhrmann Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton

In a summer of sequels (this is the Summer of “3” : Hangover 3, Iron Man 3, even “Before Midnight” is the third in a series!), comic book movies, and science fiction and fantasy, Baz Luhrmann gifts us with this glittery Art Deco jewel of “The Great Gatsby”.  Here is an opulent tale of obsessive love, outlandish parties and the young man who fascinated them all.  The film opens as the  camera drifts across the water through the falling snow into a room.  It’s a sanitarium where the soul-sick alcoholic, Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, sits looking ragged and distraught.  This is a departure from the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel but having Nick narrate the story makes sense —  he’s the one  writing the book about Jay Gatsby.  Starting slowly with this interview scene gives us a chance to get to know Nick.  Tobey Maguire has sad expressive eyes, but he’s not believable as the brilliant young man who falls sway to the money speculation of New York in the 1920’s.  He seems like an outsider which fits the role but brilliant enough to teach himself the stock market?  Boyish, yes, but brilliant?  It’s too much of a stretch.

Another misstep in this otherwise charming retelling of Gatsby’s story, is the introduction of our star, the dewy, delightful Daisy.  Baz Luhrmann has the camera follow Nick through the Buchanan mansion and it’s as if he’s joined a choreographed dance: butlers whisk open doors, waiters march through with gleaming trays, Tom (Joel Edgerton) hurls a football — and then himself — at Nick.  As the doors crash open, long drapes envelope Nick in a sea of white.  The curtains billow in and out, revealing an arm languidly raised and Daisy (Carey Mullligan) dreamily looks coquettishly over the couch.  Nick, drowned out by the soundtrack and obscured by the drapes, describes how everyone in town is pining for her company.   Another figure rises sharply from the couch, briskly straightening her clothes.  In what feels like an erotic glance toward Daisy, Jordan (Elizabeth Debicki) lights her cigarette.  Her character is clearly coded as lesbian with her interest in sports, masculine-cut attire and short hair and Nick claims to be afraid of her.  Then the room is once again enveloped in billowing curtains.  Like many scenes in the film, it’s lovely to look at but distances the audience from the characters–in this case, literally.  It’s distracting and feels like a lead-up to a song and dance number that never materializes.  We haven’t met Gatsby yet, and already we’re both distracted and distanced.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a wonderful Gatsby.  The Golden Boy who throws the lavish parties hoping to entice his love to his home, Leonardo DiCaprio plays him with equal parts swagger, charm and boyish neediness.  One moment his relationship with Nick is one of boasting as he dazzles him with his deceit.  In the next moment, he’s sitting like a schoolboy fretting over his hair in Nick’s tiny living room, grief-stricken that Daisy will never come to tea.  Isla Fisher is also a stand-out in her role as Tom Buchanan’s lover.  Her brazen performance is bawdy.  She’s brassy and bossy, but with an underlying desperation.   She looks out the window in despair as Tom drives off;  abandoning her to her illness and her mad husband.  Isla Fischer’s performance gives the tragedy of the story’s ending a deeper resonance.

Much has been made of Baz Luhrmann choice of modern music over some of the scenes, and certainly, the soundtrack is a major part of the film.  “The Great Gatsby” is almost a musical; there are multiple scenes of performers singing and dancing, our leads dance together, and when Gatsby drives his long yellow car, it seems choreographed to the music.   More distracting than the type of music used however, is the volume of the soundtrack in the scenes.  From music drowning out the dialogue, to a party that seems to have had it’s party music on mute, the sound mixing is all over the place.  The costumes are amazing, the sets glamorous and though Tobey Maguire seems an odd choice for Nick, the rest of the acting is top-notch.  “The Great Gatsby” is not only great fun; it also captures that wistful feeling from the book; a bittersweet nostalgia for a another time and another world.

Rating: 3 glasses of champagne

Five Summer Blockbusters — Take Two

One of the pluses of summer blockbuster season is that studios take chances on science fiction films.  These are often big-budget thrillers like “Aliens” but there are also comedies like “Men In Black” and occasionally even films using science fiction to look at perceptions of identity, personal responsibility and other lofty aspirations.  Films like “Moon”, “Solaris” and “Another Earth” might be in this category.  Films that use science fiction as a way to look at human nature in another (possibly alien) light. “Oblivion” is one good example.MV5BMTQwMDY0MTA4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzI3MDgxOQ@@._V1_SX214_“Oblivion” — Director, Joseph Kosinski  Starring: Tom Cruise, Andrea Risebotough, Olga Kurylenko  Running Time: 124 minutes (a good 10 minutes longer than it needed to be!)

“Oblivion” is the rare film that gets better as it goes along.  Our narrator introduces us to the apocalyptic Earth; destroyed by an alien race, but as Tom Cruise’s character, Jack, tells us, “We won”.  Humans now reside on a moon of Jupiter and the energy to power this world is supplied by the ocean power stations on the now abandoned Earth.  Almost abandoned.  For he and his partner are stationed there manning the droids that protect the power sources.

Yet something is not right.  Though their tour of duty is soon ending, Jack is having disturbing dreams and droids are being destroyed.  Not only does Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) dress like she’s going to a corporate meeting, she also appears to not share Jack’s fascination with Earth but is, instead, focused on getting home.

Jack and Victoria share a sleek cantilevered house, complete with a glass-enclosed lap pool and landing pad for the helio-plane that looks like a big dragonfly.  Details like meal preparation, communication consoles and fun “nostalgic” touches like a bobble-head doll and NY Yankees cap bring the future and the past together and present a picture of routine; both domestic and work-related.  There are moments in the film that recall other sci-fi films (even “WALL-E” with the plant in a can) but they only add to the feelings of deja-vu that Jack is experiencing.

The middle of the film has Jack repairing droids, going on patrols and then being captured by the “Scavs”.  The “Scavs” or scavengers, we begin to suspect, are less alien than Jack has been lead to believe.  But things don’t really start to get intriguing till Julia (Olga Kurylenko) arrives. Why is the woman from Jack’s dreams in a sleep pod crashing to Earth that has been called by the “Scavs”?  Now the race to discover the truth of this tale begins to unfold.  There are some interesting twists and then as Victoria appeals to their commander for help…well, she gets an interesting reply.

“Oblivion” takes time to unfold and there are a few romantic scenes and a couple of fun chase scenes (reminding me of “Star Wars”) but the nicest surprise is a story that is more complex than a teen fantasy.  It’s only later that you may find the major plot hole that makes the story fall apart but then you’ll realize…hey, I’m still thinking about that movie!

Rating: 3 cold brewskis from a baseball stadium

ironman3

“Iron Man 3” — Director: Shane Black  Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley  Running Time: 130 minutes (10 minutes of explosions could have easily been jettisoned!)

Nothing will top the the inventiveness of the first film but this is a fun entry in the Iron Man series.  Robert Downey, Jr’s Tony Stark is weary and wise-cracking.  Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper gets to rescue Iron Man a few times even if she must do it in her sports bra…at least it’s not in high heels like the last film!  Don Cheadle is given little to do but be humiliated as the straight man but we have two comic foils in this film…three if you count the wise-cracking kid (Ty Simpkins) who adds a certain joy to the film.  There are two main set pieces that bookcase the film and they  both seemed created to showcase the 3D effects.  Comparing the two versions, the 2D is definitely less exciting, particularly in the battle of the Iron Men.

Guy Pearce, as the unattractive geek who morphs into a power-mad scientist and the scientist played by Rebecca Hall, make their roles nuanced while the actors assigned as President and Vice President are completely bland.  Ben Kingsley is delightful as the scenery-chewing bad guy.  The story isn’t very inventive but the fired-from-within soldiers are cool and, if the ending is a lot of fireworks and not much substance, it does give Robert Downey Jr plenty of room for wisecracks.  He even asks Pepper, “why can’t you dress like that at home?” as she saves him wearing pieces of his Iron Man suit and her sports bra!

Rating: 3 martinis served by a robot butler named Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany!)

MV5BMTk2NzczOTgxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQ5ODczOQ@@._V1_SX214_

“Star Trek: Into Darkness” — Director: J.J. Abrams  Starring: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto  Running Time: 132 minutes (edit out some of the running around inside the Enterprise!)

This film feels like the biggest blockbuster of the summer…certainly at 132 minutes, it may be the longest.  But you do get the most bang for your buck!  “Star Trek”–aught 2 of the re-imagining of the series, opens with a chase, goes for a big reveal (an underwater Enterprise!) and then a daring rescue and a volcano explosion!  The film is like a roller coaster ride: a tense battle and explosions…a little exposition, time for a little interpersonal drama, then more explosions or a chase…and then, well, you get the picture.  It’s fun, if a bit exhausting particularly if you’re watching it in 3D.

Chris Pine has matured since his first outing as Captain James T Kirk.  He seems to inhabit the character more fully and is bulkier.  He even seems to have a deeper, more masculine voice.  But this film belongs to Zachary Quinto as Spock and to our outstanding villain, Benedict Cumerbatch.  Both characters get considerable screen time and emotional trajectories–even the Vulcan!  There is a romantic squabble that is used for some emotional resonance but otherwise, Zoe Saldana’s character is given little to do.  Even with the long running time, each character is given what seem like cameos.

There’s a little pandering to the fan boys, especially near the end with a military  gathering that ends in a ponderous speech recommitting the Enterprise crew to “Boldly Go…”  But this film seems to now have established the characters and the new direction for “Star Trek”.  If the franchise is going, I’m sure the audiences will follow!

Rating: 4 shots of whatever is being served at the Starfleet Academy Bar

“Fill The Void” — An Unorthodox Solution?

FEEL THE VOID, STORIA D'AMORE TRA EBREI ULTRA ORTODOSSIA moving portrayal of grief and family — of obligation and choice for one young woman; an Orthodox Hassidic Jew in Israel.  This film is a window into a world of religious customs, family dynamics and matchmaking that feels so real that the audience may feel privileged to share this intimate portrait.  Rama Burshtein’s “Fill The Void” is a beautiful vision that seems like a Renaissance painting with cinematography that begs for freeze-frame!  Each tableau of family drama features velvety blacks in the clothing and furred hats of the men, rich reds  like those of the gleaming accordion and glowing whites, especially in the child-like, virginal garments of our young lead, Shira (Hada Yaron).

Asaf Sudry, the cinematographer, takes us into this private world with overhead shots peering down on the proceedings of a bris and taking us in close to see the face of Yochay (Yiftach Klein) as his feelings for his son’s caretaker subtly shift as he rocks in a hammock cradling the sleeping infant.  The film is full of quiet scenes of intimate discussion and prayer.  There is not much suspense as the outcome is foretold by the film’s poster but watching Shira’s journey from stunned grief to acceptance of family duty reveals a rich tradition of faith and a glimpse into a world not often seen in films.

All of the actors give wonderful performances that feel like portraits of real people; as if the film is a documentary that is somehow made with a hidden camera.  Hadas Yaron, in her first lead in a feature film, won a Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 but it’s Yiftach Klein who is the soul of the film and the actors who play her parents: Irit Sheleg and Chaim Sharir who give the story it’s gravity and dignity.  Rama Burshtein made this, her first feature film, to share her vision of life as an Orthodox Jew.  In creating a film that juxtaposes scenes of women walking in the streets, waiting for a bus and grocery shopping with intimate shots of men singing at the dinner table, the family gathered in mourning, and religious ceremonies inside the temple, Rama Burshtein has crafted a loving portrait of a religious community in a modern world.  “Fill The Void” is a film about love and family that can be enjoyed by anyone from any religious or cultural background.

Rating: 3 glasses of red wine

TINY: A Story About Living Small

Daniela Rible (SFGFF), "Tiny" filmmakers, Rachal Caplan (SFGFF)

Daniela Rible (SFGFF), “Tiny” filmmakers, Rachal Caplan (SFGFF)

Solar-powered outdoor screening

Solar-powered outdoor screening

Rachal Caplan, SFGFF director w/Tiny film directors

Rachal Caplan, SFGFF director w/Tiny film directors

It was a wonderful kick-off to the 3rd Annual San Francisco Green Film Festival!  An outdoor, solar-powered screening of “TINY – A Story About Living Small” was enjoyed by a shivering crowd of environmental enthusiasts.  The simple plot,  one man’s quest to build a small house on wheels, is interspersed with interviews with Tiny House builders and urban planners. The film takes the personal and makes it political by inspiring others to follow the filmmaker’s lead in living off the grid.  “Tiny” is suspenseful and beautifully shot.  The entertaining film was followed by a Q & A with the filmmakers, Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller.  They were later joined by Jay Shafer, interviewed in the film, who drove down from Sonoma County and Chaz Peling from Sol Solutions who  provided the solar power for the film.  It was a chilly San Francisco evening but judging by the eager questions from the audience, it was clear that reducing our footprint is of much interest, and that many people were already pursuing similar changes in their own lives!

http://www.fourlightshouses.com/

http://www.tiny-themovie.com

Rating: 4 pints of sustainable, organic beer–locally-sourced, of course!

Movie Theater madness: Who let these people into my screening?!

Two films in two days.  Two theater chains.  Two loud Hollywood films.  And two theater experiences that were far from optimal!  Yet, even in this film loving city of San Francisco, I’m sad to report that this is probably the norm rather than an exception!

Century San Francisco Centre for a Saturday matinee of “Great Gatsby”.  There isn’t a 3D screening available for our time slot.  Well, probably good since it’s going to be a film full of sensory overload.  It’s a large theater and nicely filled, surprisingly full considering that it’s a rare warm weekend day!  The lights dim and commercials start.  This is a relatively-new annoyance: 2 commercials for Mazda (well-done but TWO), previews for television shows (sigh) and then 6 previews.

I’m a big fan of previews.  I once dreamed of a career creating trailers (Trailer Trash as a company name) but it’s now an onslaught of too many previews revealing too much of the plot.  Why bother to see the new Ron Howard film when the entire plot is there in the trailer for “Rush”?  This is also the second time where I’ve witnessed the audience burst into spontaneous laughter at the audacious, over-the-top preview of the newest “Fast and Furious”!

Finally, the feature is about to begin.   What is that?  Oh, no.  There are lights on either side of the theater flickering.  Sigh.  Oh good, that got taken care of.  Now settling into the story.  First party scene.  No, it can’t be.  The surround sound isn’t working!  The dialogue is fine but the soundtrack for the music is muted.  The party is music is so low that it’s a wonder anyone is dancing up there on screen.    Do I stand up in the middle of the theater and walk out to find someone to fix the projection?  Argh, no, I’ll just wait it out.  Mistake.  The movie is just not the same.

Sunday night, AMC Metreon 16.  There are 3 screens playing “Iron Man”, 5 screens of “Star Trek”,  I should be safe in the single screening of “Oblivion”.  It’s in a tiny raked theater next to the IMAX theater and I make my way up to the top center.    Three young men in front of me, all on their phones.  An older man sits directly in front of me.  I think he’s brought snacks for the boys but no, it’s ALL for him!  He’s got a large soda and popcorn balanced on a tray with an ice cream bar, box of candy and a water!  I’m so glad he remembered the water!  As he leans back to settle his tray better, the seats cracks against my knees.  “Ouch!”, I say as I stand up to move to the left.  He apologizes.  But really, it’s not his fault.  It’s the lack of space between seats; it feels like sitting in an airline seat as the person in front of you reclines right into your lap!

Five minutes to screen time and it’s clear that some of the other screenings must have  sold out as the patrons begin to stream in looking for seats in the small theater.  A very large man needs to squeeze past me to join his girlfriend on the other side which requires standing and moving my bag and blocking the screen as previews end.  The final insult is the last minute seating of a man wearing patchouli cologne 2 rows in front of me.

Oddly, there are even more trailers in this off-the-beaten-path theater!  Two trailers are for Asian films and one screens without any subtitles.  Interesting.  Then 7 trailers for upcoming features and finally, more than 15 minutes past the screening time, “Oblivion” fills the screen. Thankfully, it’s screened in Digital Projection (D-AV) and the sound and picture are wonderful.  Soon I’m transported away from the sounds of crunching and munching, cramped seating and funky smells to the spend time with Tom Cruise on our destroyed planet.  Ahhhh.  Time well-spent.

Is there a solution?  Do you experience projection issues at your local cineplex?  My answer is to see as many films as possible at my local single screen theater or patronize Landmark Theatres where I can count on getting my fix of art-house fare projected correctly in a comfortable cinema.

See you at the movies!

San Francisco International Film Festival 56: Four Fun Features!

Staff BadgeA film festivals is like a river.  Where you “ford” the river; where you step into the stream, is unique.  Your experience of the same events will often differ drastically from everyone around you.

Are you anticipating a film because you’re familiar with the director’s previous work?  Do you adore the lead actor and are you excited to spend some quality time in their presence?  Did you have to stand in the cold in a long line before you were admitted into the theater or was it nearly impossible to find parking? All of these personal concerns and anticipations will color your view.

For me, having worked in this field for so long, film festivals are almost like coming home.  I know the staff, I’ve worked the venues, and I love the thrill of seeing a film with filmmakers present!  My film-going experience is bound to be a positive one.  This year at SFIFF 56, I worked more than usual, both at the theaters and away from them.  So I had very limited opportunities to actually watch films.  Fortunately, the four features I did manage to see, were all very good.

“What Maisie Knew” — Divorce, Hollywood-style

SFIFF opened with this tale of self-centered parents battling for their child’s affections.  Based on a short story by Henry James penned 100 years ago, the damage inflicted by neglect is brought to life by the marvelous performance of the young lead, Onata Aprile.  As the pawn fought over by Julianne Moore’s aging rock star mother and the traveling philandering father, played by Steve Coogan, Onata is refreshingly open in her natural reactions.  Her joy at spending time with the actors who play her surrogate parents is a delight.  Alexander Skarsgard elevates every scene he’s in as the party boy who becomes the affectionate companion.  The story stretches credability and reason at points, (even wealthy people can’t get away with this level of neglect) and the ending is pure fairytale but there’s a level of charm here that’s hard to deny.  Rating: 3 glasses of expensive red wine

“Cutie and the Boxer” — Eccentric and Wonderful

Zachary Heinzerling’s directorial debut is the winning documentary about an eccentric painter and sculptor, Ushio Shinohara and his supportive wife and fellow artist, Noriko Shinohara.  This intimate portrait of two talented Japanese artists struggling to find an audience (and buyers!) for their creations: towering papier mache motorcycles, paintings created by “boxing” the canvas and graphic novels depicting their own troubled relationship, is both tender and finely-crafted.  Rating: 3 shots of sake

“Byzantium”–Irish Goth with some serious teeth

In one week, I found myself viewing two vampire films!  Both closer in spirit to “The Hunger” or “Let The Right One In” than “Buffy” or “Twilight”; “Kiss of the Damned” is a campy affair by a first-time filmmaker but “Byzantium” is a classy, Gothic drama helmed by Neil Jordan.  Outstanding performances by the female leads, the beautiful and very sexy, Gemma Arterton and the other-worldly, wiser-than-her-years, Saoirse Ronan bring this British Turn of the Century vampire tale to life.

Period costumes, a unique creation story and the always excellent, Sam Riley, add to this dark story of teen angst.  What to do when your mother turns your home into a house of ill repute  to support you?  When your boyfriend already looks like a vampire (Caleb Landry Jones) but your writing teacher suspects that your creative writing assignment might cut too close to the truth?  Rating: 4 glasses of red, red wine

“Ernest et Celestine”–Can a Bear and a Mouse be friends?

This delightful French 2-D animation has lovely water-color painted backdrops and a sweet story of two unlikely friends trying to survive in a world where creatures  keep to their own kind.  A small misstep in an over-long central bit spent in the mouse dental office but the drawings are so charming that it’s easily forgiven.  One of my favorite films of the festival, “Ernest et Celestine” is a charming film suited for all ages.

Rating: 4 cups of cocoa

“Le Tableau” — It’s not paint by numbers

tableau_002THE PAINTING (LE TABLEAU)
Animation, Jean-Francois Laguionie, France/Japan, 2012, 78 minutes
In English or in French with English subtitles

The award-winning animated film, “Le Tableau”, is a lovely creation with a bland story the belies the colorful setting — the world inside a painting!  Even at 78 minutes, the story seems drawn-out and the transition from hand-drawn to computer animation, to the final scene;  a mix of live-action plus animation, is inventive but tiresome.

There’s a great message hidden among the sketches: the importance of self- acceptance, the corruption of power, and the evils of discrimination.  Claire, the young girl, an almost-completed painting called a Halfsie, can be considered the one empowered character.  She leads the others in the path of discovery.  The focus shifts from the character’s journey of self-discovery to focus on the actual journey: that of painted characters traveling from painting to painting.  So, like the Sketchies, Claire’s story is blurred and loses it’s prominence in the shifting story lines.

If you’re going to see a charming French animated film, consider saving your money for the superior “Ernest and Celestine”.

Rating: 1 wee dram of French liquer