Red Cow – Fragments Festival Review

Sexuality and repression go hand in hand. There have been many movies that express how a religious upbringing could impact the mental-health and becoming of an LGBT youth. Even adults in films such as Disobedience struggle with sexual identity following strict religious views. It is perhaps a sad tale as old as time where many are repressed by their families and their puritan views.

This is explored in Red Cow.

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Directed by Tsivia Barkai Yacov, Red Cow is set in East Jerusalem and revolves around young Benny. Guided by her devout Dad who leads a group of Israeli extremists who are raising the sacred titular heifer which’ll bring forth a new age for Jews. Confined to prayer and study, Benny comes across the beautiful and mature Yael. The pair have an instant connection but in a world that sees them as secondary to men and families who are unable to accept love outside a man and woman marriage, there is a dark realisation that their love affair may not survive.

Yacov does wonders at capturing a natural energy of this film. Conveying the conflict within the main three, the director fleshes out the intense struggle of everyone involved whilst framing the film with a dusty yet striking landscape.

What’s more, Yacov tackles with great detail the blossoming sexuality between the young girls. Captured almost effortlessly by Avigayil Koevary (Benny) and Moran Rosenblatt (Yael) – two brilliant and upcoming Israeli actresses – the film is an intimate and satisfying depiction of life and love from repressed youth. That feeling of secrecy and forbidden lust is well-handled and utterly compelling. There is a beauty within this film, even though it is shrouded by the repression and Yacov gloriously encapsulates this with the help of the young leads.

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Gal Toren is equally riveting as Benny’s father Yehoshua. It’s easy to compartmentalise him as this antagonist – an extremist and a devout Jewish man, he falls into religious pitfalls as he struggles to cope with his daughter’s growth. Giving that he could’ve been. But in similar ways to how Alessandro Nivola’s Dovid in Disobedience is painted beyond that of a comic villain, so is Toren’s stunning depiction of Yehoshua. Here is a father who simply doesn’t understand and instead of acceptance – he turns away in conflict. However, Yacov and Toren work together with this story and flesh out the character greatly with his love for his daughter.

Red Cow is a stirring watch. It may tackle a familiar subject but it does so in a timely and satisfying way.

Red Cow is part of Fragments Film Festival
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How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World

The How to Train Your Dragon series has been delighting audiences since Viking Hiccup first captured, then befriended, his Night Fury dragon Toothless back in 2010. The story of Vikings first fighting, then living with the franchise’s brilliant selection of dragons, proved to be the stuff of childhood dreams. We again visited Hiccup in the film’s sequel that saw Toothless become the dragon Alpha and Berk home to even more lost dragons.

Now, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World revisits the films characters as they look to the future between dragons and their riders. With Cressida Cowell’s book series beginning with Hiccup as an old man in a dragon-less world, the film fills in this change. The third and finale of the Dragon series is a sweet, heartfelt goodbye to its characters.

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A year after the events of the second film, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is chief of Berk and Toothless is the Alpha and protector of the Islands Dragons. The riders have taken to saving captured Dragons and bringing them back to a now overcrowded Berk. With the rider’s efforts making their Island home a target for trappers, Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) seek to move their tribe to the lost hidden world. A dragon haven where their friends can be safe. But with hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) aiming to take control of their dragons and the appearance of a female Fury mate for Toothless, can the Vikings and dragons still create their utopia?

The Hidden World is once again written and directed by Dean DeBois. Based on the book series of the same name by Cressida Cowell, the film has taken the characters and premise but created its own story. The original voice cast return here with the addition of Abraham as Grimmel and a guest appearance from Gerard Butler as the now deceased Viking Stoick.

The film follows a similar narrative to the previous film. It throws the audience straight into the action with a daring dragon rescue. Returning to the Island which is now overcrowded and constantly fighting off trappers. Chief Hiccup suggest leaving their Island and looking for the dragon’s true home to share. We meet the trappers aiming to take the Island who have enlisted the help of Grimmel. The film takes us into danger, changing relationships and the dragon, human flights that the series is famed for; great pace and love of the characters carry you through to the films final battle.

The only area where the film falls down, is its villain. Like Dragon 2, the films villain is menacing but lacking in any development or real motive. The series’ best villain remains the giant beast, Red Death from the first film.

Once again, the franchise proves to be the strongest animation DreamWorks has produced. Fully rivalling Pixar in terms of visuals and, of course, it’s the flying sequences that stand out. Featuring rides between the boy and his Night Fury, the Berkians and their dragons but now also the Night and Light Fury. The dragons fly through clouds and across an incredible Northern Lights sequence in a feat of animated glory. The dragons themselves are again a brilliant feat in appearance but also their ability to convey emotion without words.

The film series has also done once again what few animations have done, it has aged and altered its characters. The change may not be as dramatic as between the first and second film but they have matured in appearance and character.

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Early reactions to Baruchel as Hiccup may have been against his Canadian accent, in a supposedly Scottish set film, but its now hard to imagine anyone else voicing the boy Viking. Passionate and energetic, his relationships with his father, girlfriend and his dragon are still the films heart. His character has matured but must face his biggest challenge, the potential of living without his best friend.

America Ferrera voices warrior Astrid, partner of Hiccup. The second film saw a few missteps with her strong character being used as a plot devise but here she returns as the fearless girl wonder that made her such a joy to watch.

The film fails to deliver a worthy villain, but The Hidden World is a beautifully animated, heartfelt goodbye to the characters we know and love. The flying sequences will amaze all but it’s the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless that makes this franchise a firm favourite for it’s loyal fans.

Long live dragons!

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Green Book – Review

Green Book is definitely one of those movies that will take you entirely by surprise. The film’s premise and trailer, indeed, set up this white saviour reverse Driving Miss Daisy. Whilst the movie certainly has elements of this, it also goes beyond this. That’s because of the core real-life friendship at the centre of it.

Directed by Peter Farrelly, who created Dumb and Dumber and Shallow Hal alongside his brother Bobby, Green Book revolves around the very true story of Tony Lip and pianist Don Shirley. Don hires tough bounce Tony to drive him around concert halls in the deep south following the guidelines of the titular book; a guide for black Americans in navigating safe spaces for them. Despite being at odds at first, Tony and Don grow a fondness whilst they also face severe violence and prejudice.

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Co-written by Tony’s son Nick Vallelonga, who heard his stories from both his father and Don Shirley growing up, there’s an air of authenticity to the film that imbues the story with a loveliness. It’s apt at writing the conflict that Don Shirley suffered at the hands of deep-seated racism in Southern America.

Green Book greatly develops this relationship in an intimate and understanding way. The pair are at odds at first – the film doesn’t skirt over Tony’s own racist views and Don Shirley ruminates quietly to themselves. Through overlong drives and battling the awful prejudice they receive,) the two men find a warmth between them. The natural progression of companionship feels realistic and brings a lovely energy to this unexpectedly charming road movie.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali really take charge with these roles and it’s through these two actors that a spirituous alliance comes forth. Piling on the pounds for his role as wise-quipping, thick fisted Tony, Mortensen evolves Tony gradually. At the beginning, the film is honest about Tony’s racial views and does not skirt over them. However, it also shows that a man can overcome his ignorance. Tony sees a fellow with Don and whilst it takes time for them to evolve together, Tony does learn. Mortensen is great in this brash yet sentimental role, proving again that he can dig deep into characters such as Lip.

It really is Mahershala Ali who defines an outward grace masking a quiet rage in this impeccably cast role. Through mannerism and the way he positions himself (plus some amazing costuming,) Ali transforms and balances all the different emotions buried inside Shirley. Since his work on Moonlight and Daredevil, Ali has proven that he is one of greatest actors working today. This is clear with the performance his does in Green Book.

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The two actors have a genius rapport together and their chemistry carries this movie. It’s pitch-perfect casting with the leads who are having fun uncovering this tale.

Green Book is a great film that is helped by its two lead actors. The pair are absolutely incredible together telling a tender story that courses through troubled times. Whilst there is something quite naïve in the moral message of the story, it is still sweet and lovely to see. That there is growth and love and understanding out there and we should embrace it when we can. Green Book is a handbook of niceness from Peter Farrelly.

Note: Green Book showcases some impressive food scenes that’ll make you absolutely starving.

Green Book is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!