Qalupalik Review

Preface

During one of my first year university projects I had to research different ancient myths and stories. During my various searches I came across the Inuit legend of Qalupalik, a creature that lives in the sea and would take away children that would not obey their parents. I did some further reading and found there was a short film based on the legend, so I watched it and decided it was a fun one to review.

Review

Qalupalik (pronounced Ka-lu-pa-lik) stars Sam Tutatunak and is written, animated and directed by Ame Papatsie. The film follows a young Inuit boy named Angutii, who doesn’t help out around the camp. One day he is taken by the Qalupalik whilst playing on the shoreline.

Qalupalik is a traditional stop-motion film, and it’s art style is visually striking. The director Ame Papatsie (who is also the sole animator on the film) swaps between very bright blues, browns and whites for the human world and dark blacks and blues for the Qalupalik’s underwater world. It’s a very distinct change in the scenery but never feels jarring.

The animation is achieved through various techniques, sometimes small cut-outs are used to create a character while other times entire sections of cloth are used to be the underwater sea. These changing methods, while seeming odd the first time they are used together add to the odd quality of the Qalupalik’s surroundings and the wide open spaces of the Arctic Circle.

The main characters Angutii and his father have no facial features, each one is just a plain cut-out shape. The only character that has any definition is Qalupalik, with blood-red eyes, a pimpled face and large fangs, it highlights her grotesque features by giving none of the other characters any particular look. While the fact that we have no real connection with Angutti or his father because they are just a bland shell, it’s a perfect way for the film to say “This is Qalupalik’s film, we are going to focus on her.”

The sound design also helps characterise Qalupalik as a fabled monster. Whenever the film lingers on her, we hear a sound of wind chimes or a constant clinking, similar to Predator in… well, the film Predator. It’s creepy and unnerving to hear an unfamiliar sound being used as the call of a movie monster and is stays with you long after the film has ended. In conjunction with the sound design, the music that accompanies the film is spectacular. Inuit chanting is used at the beginning and the end of the film, making the film and the story feel much like a special ceremony that we get to look in on. Elsewhere, heavy bass drums and wooden sticks help build tension as the Qalupalik swims through the sea, and wind pipes play whenever Angutii looks out across the shore, highlighting his increased loneliness once he has been taken by the Qalupalik.

The narration, by Sam Tutatunak is a great addition to the film. Tutatunak’s deep bass voice adds to the feeling that this is a cautionary tale, told by elders to the young people of the tribe so that they are not taken by the Qalupalik. It’s got a nice ethereal quality, which also heightens the otherworldliness of the Qalupalik. The only real downside with this is that Tutaunak’s narration doesn’t contain any emotion, but it fits the story as a retelling of past events rather than a running commentary.

In conclusion, Qalupalik looks unlike any other film I’ve seen. It’s an interesting way to tell a story we’ve all heard a version of a thousand times before and has a great sense of knowing how to visually create a brilliantly grotesque monster.

Score: 7/10 Definitely one to watch if you’re interested in art or animation.

The link to the film is down below.

https://www.nfb.ca/film/nunavut_animation_lab_qalupalik

Advertisements

Whiplash Review

Take the premise of High School Musical, who’s script has been written by Quentin Tarantino crossed with the boot camp parts of Full Metal Jacket and you’ll get an idea of the film you’re about to watch: Whiplash.

Whiplash (which is also the name of the main accompanying song by Hank Levy) is about a drummer named Andrew (played by Miles Teller), who after catching the eye of Terrence Fletcher (played by JK Simmons) the possibly psychotic band leader of the music college Andrew goes to, becomes the main drummer of the band.

That’s where the connection High School Musical ends. What we now get is one and a half hours of JK Simmons using every single cuss word under the sun against Miles Teller, with nothing off the cards. Ethnic slurs are used; f-bombs are dropped and family members are being verbally disrespected. That’s the Tarantino script. Now for Full Metal Jacket. During the first band practice after getting the timing wrong for what seems to be the hundredth time, Fletcher finally throws a chair at Andrew’s head, before slapping him repeatedly in the face to teach him about timing. That isn’t the first use of violence against our lead and it won’t be the last. Welcome to class.

JK Simmons is one of those actors that everyone knows from somewhere. Be it J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films or Ellen Page’s father in Juno, everyone has that film that they’ve seen him in before. But Whiplash has to be the film that will win him an Oscar. The ferocity that Simmons brings lends him an air of menace which can be seen in every scene that he appears. Whenever he walks into a room, everyone falls completely silent, to the point you would be able to hear a pin drop. That coupled with his use of snatching the air when there is a single imperfection within his band makes us feel like the man is a single break away from total psychosis. Simmons ferocity is only levelled by Miles Teller’s determination to prove he is the best drummer of the band, to the point where Teller’s real blood is being spilled on the drum kit. But it all comes to fruition, just like JK Simmons Fletcher has planned, since we get to bear witness not just the best drum solos ever put to film but some of the best musical performances, with a nine minute drum solo near the end of the film being the crowning achievement. It’s the first time I have come away from a film and been genuinely exhausted after watching it

The film is akin to Hollywood blockbuster, with the story merely a device to bring the next big musical set piece along (the music is front and centre in the film) yet it differs enough from Hollywood narrative to give some flourish to the story. While some scenes might seem daft in other films (one scene where Andrew pulls himself from a car crash, covered in blood and still wanting to play the drums at a concert springs to mind) we the audience buy into it in Whiplash, as the sense of dedication that Teller brings to Andrew makes us believe that the character would do something that drastic.

The only real problem I had with the film was a romantic sub-plot which is set up early on in the film, which apart from two more scenes in the film doesn’t really pay off. It would have been fine to cut this from the film as it doesn’t add anything more to the story.

In conclusion, this film definitely isn’t for everyone. If you are sensitive to foul language or are not a fan of music then I’m not sure that this is the film for you. However, if you’ve ever had a teacher akin to the Demon Headmaster and need something cathartic or if you’re a fan of jazz music, then go see Whiplash, it is well worth your time.

Score: 9/10 An exhausting tour-de-force that never lets up.

Big Hero 6 Review

Despite being part of The Walt Disney Company for just about half a decade, this is the first time (that I can recall at least) Disney has set about creating a feature film using Marvel characters in Disney’s visual style. And, as usual Disney has knocked it right out of the park.

Big Hero 6 is based on the Marvel comic of the same name, but after doing some research it seems that the adaptation is as loose as….well, other superhero films (although those will be getting closer to original source material now that Disney has the rights to the major characters.). The story in BH6 is about a young boy called Hiro, voiced by Ryan Potter, who at age fourteen is already constructing small robots that would rival the stuff being built by scientists who spend their entire lives dedicated to the craft. After a terrible accident (no spoilers in here) Hiro finds himself in possession of a robot called Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit, a machine designed specifically for nursing. But when Hiro finds clues that connect both the aforementioned accident to a science project that he was previously working on which is now being used by a super-villain, Hiro sets of with a War Machine-esque Baymax and a collection of diverse nerds-turned-superhero friends to stop the bad guy.

But even with a set up as basic as it gets (Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne anyone?) Disney gets to give us one of what will be a year of great films. The big action set pieces are given their part to play in the film (brilliant as they are) but it’s the dialogue-heavy parts of the story that give the story some weight, with a confused Baymax trying to help an emotionally distraught Hiro because it’s in his programming to not stop until the patient in his care is back to their usual self. The film doesn’t shy away from the two big M’s in storytelling either, morality and mortality, with the former being an integral part of the end of the first major action set piece.

The supporting cast are characterised well, even if they do not have as much screen time as our two leads. Comedians Damon Wayans Jr. and TJ Miller fill out supporting roles Of Wasabi and Fred respectively, with the latter being a superhero geek with a room full of superhero memorabilia. Disney once again nails the balance of humorous and annoyance (see Olaf from Frozen) with these two, without either dropping into Jar Jar Binks levels of irritation. These two characters, along with Genesis Rodriquez’s manic science girl Honey Lemon, offer the films consistent laughs, however as with many jokes in Disney films, a fair few will be going over the younger viewer’s heads and straight for the adults accompanying them, with an extended “drunk” sequence involving Baymax being a highlight of the film.

Even with these well defined characters, the stand out secondary of the film is Jamie Chung’s GoGo, a woman of few words apart from the occasional cry of “Woman Up!” is essentially a Disney-fied version of Chung’s Miho in Sin City 2. The real meat of the film though is Hiro and Baymax, whose conversations and interactions feel like a blossoming friendship, with conversations taking place in the latter part of the film nearly reducing me to tears.

My only complaint with the film is its length. Unlike the slow-moving Baymax, the film hurtles towards the conclusion of the story like a freight train, leaving me, while thoroughly entertained, feeling like I had missed out on what could have been some brilliant additional scenes. I wanted to see the cast use their superpowers more, I wanted to see the gang working at school, as well as more of the city called San Fransokyo, a depiction of San Francisco by way of Japan. Hopefully Disney will add these in two the definitive sequel, but it would have been nice to see them here.

As with all Disney films, this one comes with its own short film, titled Feast, which is about a human romance from the view of a pet dog, who is obsessed with food. This little film joins other gems such as Paper Man and The Blue Umbrella in being a sweet story that you’ll want to watch again. And as with all Marvel films, this one comes with a cameo of Stan Lee himself, which veteran Marvel viewers will get a kick out of.

In conclusion, Big Hero 6 is well worth your time. Whether you are a child, teenager or accompanying adult, there is a range of jokes and story points that will resonate with people on every level.

Score: 9/10, A solid Disney superhero film, who’s only fault is not lasting long enough.