The Breadwinner

It took all year, but I finally found it. I found a great animated film that came out this year, that brought me something new to the genre while also being emotional with a fantastic plot.

This is the sort of things that I would normally save for the ending, but I know you can see the rating up there, I have nothing to hide.

The Breadwinner is a foreign film, about non-American problems, a non average hero, and an above average story. It is the type of film that more people should be hyping, but unfortunately, it is foreign and had a limited theatrical run and most people just want to talk about Coco.

But read on so that you can see what The Breadwinner is all about and get psyched about watching it in the future.

Girl
This relates in no way to some TV show Breadwinners.

Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is a strong independent girl around 12 years old. She knows how to read, she can write, and she wants to be able to do anything she puts her mind to. The only problem is that she lives in Afghanistan, currently under rule by the Taliban, who are getting more and more frequently dickish. They are recruiting younger men, who have a lot of grudges, who are making the area more into a police state. I am not saying early Taliban rule Afghanistan was great, just that it was better than it is now in the film.

Parvana knows all of these things because of her father, Nurullah (Ali Badshah), who lost one of his legs previously in a war. She has a mother, an older sister, and a baby brother, but because she isn’t yet fully “mature”, Parvana can join him at the market and help sell goods to help earn money for the family.

But at some point, a young soldier gets angry at Parvana for having such a free spirit and not being covered “Enough”. This leads to a Taliban raid of their house, where they find forbidden books, so they arrest Nurullah and take him to a prison far away. The family is left defenseless and hungry, given that the next male in line is less than 2 years old, and none of the others are allowed to buy goods, or even leave without a male escourt.

Their family may die poor and alone. But not Parvana. She is resourceful. She chops of her hair, dresses like a boy, and finally gets to feel that sense of freedom she has always longed for. It is up to her to provide food and money for her family, while also figuring out how they might help their father out of prison.

Also featuring the mouth sounds of Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Noorin Gulamgaus, Shaista Latif, and Soma Chhaya.

Boy
To really commit, she should have grown her beard like how all 10 year old boys do.

In The Breadwinner we get a regular story about a girl going above and beyond the call of duty, to protect her family and try to make things right. This isn’t some goddamn princess in her ivory tower discovering how to be good, but a girl who has lived a hard life and still rising above it all. This is set in the real world that has real issues, even if the setting is no longer accurate. This is the type of story that can resonate with the youth of the world regardless of their age while also providing factual knowledge.

And even more importantly, it is not a cookie cutter story. We get violence that might seem a bit extreme for a PG film, even if it is “off camera”. We have a goddamn war zone with people running around with automatic rifles and a high assumed death count. Their entire family is put into realistic peril several times, because that is the world they are living in and it is downright frightening.

It also has a story within a story, giving us a different art style, to sort of break up the main story into sections and give us a parallel to compare things to. A common idea and one that works wonderfully in this film.

But most importantly, the ending really resonated with me. Everything didn’t magically fall into a place and it certainly isn’t a situation where they lived happily ever after. They didn’t somehow cause the Taliban to disappear and run off into the sunset. It gives a realistic enough ending for them, without giving us the picturesque fairy tale finale.

This is an animated film that took some risks and they paid off. And it took Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg to work together apparently to give it to us (not: no middle eastern countries made this movie about Afghanistan). I didn’t know anything actually came out of Luxembourg! But I am excited for whatever they brought to the table because now I have the Luxembourgian tag on my website.

4 out of 4.

Sing Street

Originally, 2016 was looking to be a poor year for musical films. We would have movies about music, sure, but not enough musicals. Most of them are coming later in the year, up to this point I would say we have exactly 0 for the entire year.

But let’s take a step back and talk about John Carney. When I first saw Once I was disappointed, because it was hyped up as this wonderful musical, so I expected synchronized dancing and ridiculous situations. But it was raw and realistic. On later viewings, I understood it better, but still cannot fully appreciate it. Begin Again I have still only seen once, but thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a very different film, going from indie to main stream, both in theme and reality.

And now we have Sing Street. Another movie about people who just want to play music and make a living off of it. And hey, this one has street in the title, so you know this time the singing on streets is expected and not just a bonus. This time he is returning back to his indie roots and writing a whole lot more music. But this one isn’t about adults. Screw adults. This is about a boy making a band to impress a girl, which is how most bands ever got their starts.

Band
And clearly they are the funkiest teenage group in Dublin!

Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is just a teenage kid, the youngest in his family, and his parents (Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) are going through a tough time. Hell, this is 1985 Ireland, everyone is going through a tough time. Jobs are getting lost and many Irish youth are flocking to London for work and leaving their homes in a worst state. And now due to their financial state, Conor is transferring schools to a much cheaper Catholic school, where the boys are rough.

And now Conor gets bullied by Barry (Ian Kenny) and the head priest, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). But then he sees her. Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a girl who looks like she belongs in on film, with wild hair and jewelry. She says she is a model, so Conor asks her to be in a music video. After hearing him sing a bit, she agrees once they figure out the details. Great, now he just needs to get a band together.

He gets Darren (Ben Carolan), our little ginger kid who knows people, to be their manager/producer/camera man and introduce him to other musical kids. Conor knows how to play the guitar a bit and sing, but they need more than that. They are introduced to Eamon (Mark McKenna), who plays basically every instrument and owns them all, because his dad is in a wedding cover band. They get Ngig (Percy Chamburuka), Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice) to complete the rest of the band.

Great, he has a band! And now, with the help of his older stay at home stoner brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), he can write some songs, so they can make the music video and maybe win the heart of a mysterious model. You know, while all the other problems are going down. Also featuring Kelly Thornton as his older sister, Ann.

Stoop
Stoop girl afraid to leave stoop?

Feelings, this film is full of feelings, how can I express these, with a sonnnng?

Sing Street was good. It was really good. Carney is some musical directing genius, that is the only way all of this makes sense. I was extremely skeptical going into this film. Based on the description, I took the film to its most basic parts, and all of his movies just sounded the same. I wondered how long he could make similar movies before we stopped caring. Well, after watching Sing Street, I could easily take at least another half dozen of these, as long as the lyrics remain original with a different overall plot.

As advertised, this film is about a boy just trying to impress a girl by starting a band. But the film is more than that. Just like it is more than a comedy. It is certainly more comedy than drama, but it deals with some serious issues involving divorce, infidelity, abuse (sexual and physical), giving up and following your dreams. I technically only cried one and a half times, but I had another half cry on the way home from the film just thinking about some of the plot.

Perhaps the strongest subplot in it is the brotherly bond between Conor and Brendan. Reynor does an incredible job as his pseudo role model while they both live in a house with parents who just don’t understand. Reynor is a complete scene stealer and you can see all of the deeper issues he is working with, culminating with not just one but two powerful emotional climaxes. If it sounds sexy that is because it WAS sexy. Reynor, I judged you badly for Transformers: Age of Extinction, now I want you to become Han Solo and win a supporting actor award for this film.

Reynor
Heh. I said climax.

Ahem. Sorry. The acting from our lead was also good from Walsh-Peelo. In fact, basically the entire band and manager were all first time movie actors. Walsh-Peelo and McKenna were the main two that mattered, but the other boys held their own pretty good. Seeing the transformation of Walsh-Peelo as he learned about new bands was amusing and how he eventually coped with the failing home and school life that made up his current reality.

And finally, the soundtrack for this movie is just a blast. Both the original songs by our boy group and the 80’s music that inspires them create an overwhelmingly nostalgic experience. I have already listened to most of the original songs 3-4 times since watching the movie, thanks to YouTube. My favorite song is called “Up” and you should check it out if you are unsure if you will like the music in the movie.

Thank you Carney, you have given me a great pseudo-musical to give hope to this dry musical year.

4 out of 4.

Song of the Sea

Ah-ha! The elusive Song of the Sea! I have found it at last.

I tried to get all five of the animated picture movies ahead of the Aademy Awards, but I only reached four. Damn foreign flicks. And the only reason I got to see it finally was because of its DVD release. I can’t feel the least bit special about this, outside of completing them all.c

I don’t think I have ever seen a movie from Ireland/Wales. So this is a big first one for me! Outside of the ones with the fancy footwork. This means I am a bit excited to see what I assume will be fancy footwork in animated form.

Unless the Leprechaun movies count. Then I have seen too many from Ireland/Wales. They should stop having movies at this point.

Hair
“You guys have Rapunzel? Fuck your Rapunzel. We got /this/ guy!”

This film, like any good animated film, starts with the death of a parent. Parents! Who needs ’em!

Ben (David Rawle) lives in a lighthouse, with his dog, Co, his father (Brendan Gleeson), and his mother (Lisa Hannigan). The mom is pregnant, and they want to finish the painting of the selkie, a Celtic myth.

PLOT TWIST. Pregnancy is a bit bad. Comes early. Mom dies. Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) is born. And it is not pronounced the way it looks. Six years later, Saoirse still can’t talk. She just doesn’t like it. And after a few close calls with the ocean, their granny (Fionnula Flanagan) takes them back to the city to live away from the sea and their life and their dog.

Well, Ben says fuck that. He is going to run away and escape back to his dog and his life. Screw the city. And I guess his sister can come too, as long as she listens to him. Oh yeah, she also found a magical cloak that can turn her into a seal. Totes cool. And a magical conch shell. And like, fairies and owls and other crazy shit.

I am trying to say Saoirse is a selke.

Also featuring Colm O’Snodaigh, Liam Hourican, and Kevin Swierszcz, which is the hardest last name I’ve ever had to type. I am in no way confident it is spelled right.
in

Clothes
Lord of the Dance prepared me zero for this shapechanging shenanigans.

Well, first of all, I am happy to announce that the pictures above do not do this film justice. This film is pretty. Prettier than a cat in a shark costume. Was it prettier than Big Hero 6, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, How To Train Your Dragon 2, or The Boxtrolls? Well, maybe one of them. I won’t say too. Because basically everything was pretty in their own unique way. And it has its charm and simplicity that goes along with it.

Also, the main characters were cute as well. Going on their adventure, solving problems. Sure, the girl is a selke, so she has a huge important role. But Ben does his fair share of problem solving along with Saoirse. They are pretty equal. And of course the Dog.

There is only like one song, but it is decently catchy. Wish there was more.

But if I had any problem with it, it seemed to move too slowly at times. If you could imagine a person telling a story, and that person keeps getting distracted and rambling every once in awhile? That is what it felt like watching this movie. Just every once in awhile. Kind of just hoped it would hurry up and move on. Not losing complete interest, just a little bit.

I can see why this one was nominated, but also, I definitely don’t think it was the best overall.

3 out of 4.

What If

What if I told you that sometimes movies are called different things in different countries. That wouldn’t surprise you in the slightest. You knew that.

After all, it is Gojira in Japan, and Godzilla in America. “Hey that doesn’t count, that is just another different language!”

Alright fucker. How about Frozen? We got the clever/unique title, while countries in Europe got stuck with the generic The Snow Queen, which the movie is “based upon” (aka, both have a woman with ice powers and…?). “Well, that one changed its name to appeal to different cultures where The Snow Queen story originated, to get more money!” Okay. Well, I don’t blame them for that I guess. I do blame them for saying it has anything to do with The Snow Queen, but I digress.

That leaves us with the movie for the day, What If. No question mark. It’s original title in Ireland/Canada was The F Word, and for whatever reason that title was found to be too risque or something for American audiences, so we get a much more romantic comedy-esque name to maybe get the ladies in? I don’t know. It is fucking stupid. If I hear it was the MPAA’s fault for alluding to maybe the word Fuck, I will be angry though.

Relationship
See, there isn’t even any fucking in this scene. That would be impossible for them in their positions.

Relationships are hard. Just ask Wallace (Daniel Radcliff), who is finally getting over his ex girlfriend Megan after like, 3 years. So he is going to Allan’s (Adam Driver) party, his best friend. That is where he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), Allan’s cousin. They have some intense conversations, both of them a bit awkward, but it is nice.

Also, Chantry has a long term boyfriend of course, Ben (Rafe Spall), which throws Wallace off guard. Normally that information is given earlier in a conversation. But he is fine with being friends. She believes a man and a woman can be friends with no hidden motives. And you know what? Wallace is fine with that too. Fuck it.

Basically, this is a retelling of The Wedding Singer. Chantry even has a sister (Megan Park) interested in Wallace. Wallace is heartbroken after a long relationship ended. Chantry things she is in a relationship forever, but one that might start having issues. And there is at least one wedding occurring, when Allan hits it off hard with Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).

It just has a lot less music and singing and no Broadway musical adaption yet. I say yet, because we all know Mr. Radcliffe loves Broadway.

Diner
He also loves diners, if you look at every poster for this movie.

This isn’t your grandmothers romantic comedy. This is a a romantic comedy for a more realistic newly mature movie watching crowd. Wait. It is only PG-13? Hmm. I figured it was R, but now looking back, I guess no real cursing or other adult stuff happened.

I say realistic, but in the end, this is similar to a lot of other romantic comedies, just with slightly different approaches. After all, the F word in questions ends up either being “Friendship” or “Friendzone” depending on how you look at the movie. Friendzone is a rather ugly word now, because it is pretty sexist in most cases, and used by people who think that being nice to the sex they are attracted to should eventually lead to a relationship and of course sex. Because not every relationship starts with friendship, a lot start romantically first. Unless its the movies.

So should I punish the movie for going the technically same cliche route of friendship with the intention of friendship leading to something more? Or should I ignore it and enjoy the acting, the chemistry, the comedy, and the ridiculousness of it all?

I like the ridiculousness route. Woo romcoms! Woo What If! A bit of it seemed forced, but I loved how uncomfortable everyone acted when they were forced into slightly romantic situations. I literally live off of awkwardness, and this movie may have extended my life at least 4 days.

3 out of 4.

Calvary

Brendan Gleeson is one of those actors who took a really long time to get noticed. He had nice dramatic roles and a sweet Irish accent, but lets face it. His looks probably held him back. But now that he has a distinguished old guy look, his talents are more noticed and he is getting leading roles.

A few years ago, he got The Guard, and now he gets the movie Calvary. Both black comedies / dramas in a way too. I guess it is okay to have a genre niche.

Butcher
I am surprised the “Movies With Scenes In A Meat Locker” genre hasn’t taken off more fully, either.

Let’s pretend you are Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson). You are an old man, running a small Irish Catholic church in a tiny community. There are only a few other priests in the area, like Father Leary (David Wilmot). That means a lot of soul saving falls on one man.

During mass on a Sunday, in confessional time, a person says that they were abused by a Catholic priest when they were younger and goes into great detail. The priest has since died, but the man is still angry. He wants to get back at the Catholic Church, and to do that, he wants to kill a good priest to send a strong message. He wants to kill Father James Lavelle. In exactly one week he will come back to kill him, in order to get his affairs in order. Then he leaves.

Huh. That is terrifying. There are only a few people in the area, so it can only be a few people. But who?

Here is a vague list of actor names of characters, instead of talking about all of them individually. I even threw in a woman, too. (Chris O’ Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankole, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson, Marie-Josee Croze).

Oh yeah. Let’s not forget that he also has a daughter, Fiona Lavelle (Kelly Reilly), as part of his marriage before he became a priest.

As the story gets closer and closer to Sunday, more and more sinful activities seem to take place in his town, as if the whole world is going to Hell, and there is nothing the Father can do about it.

Family
In true Irish fashion, his daughter of course is a ginger.

Despite the similar genres, The Guard and Calvary aren’t very similar. This film is much heavier on the drama and symbolism, while The Guard has more comedy, lewd behavior, and shooting of guns.

Gleeson puts on a heck of a show though, and even though I recognize his face in plenty of sinful characters from the past, I feel like it fits the best in a Catholic suit garb. Whatever those robes are called. He fit the character really well, including the few times in the movie where he broke down and did non Priesty things.

The supporting cast was especially up there for me, especially Dowd and Moran. Moran in general was just impressive with his character, and Dowd was impressive being in a more dramatic role which is rare for him. I have only seen Gillen in Game of Thrones, but his character is also pretty great. It is also nice to see Reilly in a controversial role after her last terrible role in Heaven Is For Real.

Overall, this is a really great and powerful movie. It might be pretty easy to get lost in some of the symbolism, or really figuring out where it is all going. I know I didn’t understand the whole thing without some additional research (and some of that research feels bullshit). Definitely a movie you might have to watch more than once to get the full impact of it.

3 out of 4.

A Shine Of Rainbows

Another Irish movie! But this time I didn’t know it was Irish. I mean. I could have guessed it from the title. A Shine of Rainbows? Rainbows make you two things, gold pots/leprechauns, or gay people. Image association at its finest. But I didn’t even think of the title, just wanted to try something different.

Because I care, damn it.

cHARMS
I mean, those kids brutally beat up and trap poor Lucky and steal his damn cereal. What is that shit? How can he live in a world like that? Hey. Lucky. It might not get better.

The movie is about a poor orphan boy played by John Bell. He is picked on by the other orphans, because he is smaller, even more of a ginger, has a kind of stutter, and you know. Isn’t manly yet. But that doesn’t stop that crazy lady, played by Connie Nielsen. After a lot of research she picks him to adopt, and quickly whisks him on a boat to Ireland. Hooray Ireland. Now he is a small town boy from the big city. Well, a familyless big city.

Things are bound to get better right? Yes.

Because his mom is awesome. She wears pretty clothes, wants to show him the whole world, and help him have the best life he could possibly have. But the dad, played by Aidan Quinn. He is disappointed, thinking she brought home the runt of the litter. He also has a bit of problem connecting with him, since he is just a kid and not his own son.

This is potentially a spoiler? But it also happens like halfway through the story, so I deem it necessary.

The mom ends up dying about halfway through the story, leaving the boy an obvious wreck. What am I talking about. The dad was more of a wreck, he knew her a lot longer, the boy only a few months, if that. But he is in a strange place, with a man who he thinks hates him. The dad is left with a “son” who would never have been his first pick, and seen more as a thing his wife wanted to help out with.

Can they become a family? CAN THEY?

Otter
There is also a few scenes with a sick Otter, which is not pictured, because I suck.

I thought the movie was both pretty sad and pretty wonderful. It has such a good message throughout it, and is very well acted. The kid is going to be in Battleship and that Hobbit thing, so apparently other people like him too. Definitely was a great “Random pick up”.

3 out of 4

The Guard

This review was technically a request, but when it was requested, it had not come out yet. I had to quickly remind them that sure, I would review, but not for them! For myself, since I try to watch all new releases. Damn it. Besides, The Guard is the most interesting looking movie to me that is coming out soon. The rest are dirty no good horrors.

mad eye moody
The only creepy thing about this movie is that it has Mad-Eye Moody, but without the Mad Eye.

The Guard is about a police officer in a small Irish town, played by Brendan Gleeson. I think that they call them Guards there, and not in a mean way. Since police officers in the US tend to be different than (security) guards. He is trying to just live a simple life, hating the city folk, and being an unconventional cop. He also loves himself some prostitutes. Loves em!

Eventually an American (from America!) in the form of Don Cheadle comes to their area, trying to stop an international cocaine drug ring. He is from the FBI, but no one seems to care in Ireland, despite a possible half a billion pounds of product on the line. He ends up teaming up with Gleeson, to try and stop and find the criminals.

Feel like that is a very vague outline, but honestly that is all it is about. Them two. There are other important characters too, but fuck them.

arty rock
See what I did there?

I laughed a bunch in this movie. Sure, parts can be hard to understand, given the accents, but a lot of jokes stem from that as well. Lot of subtle humor too. Not much in the way of slapstick. Also some great “cultural misunderstandings” humor, especially Gleeson and his thoughts on who normally deal drugs in America.

The ending was interesting, and not as sure what happened there. Vague stuff is vague. The ending also seemed weirdly placed considering the rest of the movie, so there was that too.

Oh well, overall it is still pretty damn good.

3 out of 4.