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THE SPINE OF NIGHT | An Ultra-Violent, High-Fantasy Epic!

This animated fantasy-horror flick is guaranteed to melt your face off!

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The Spine of Night is an ultra-violent, high-fantasy epic adventure that is reminiscent of sword and sorcery classics. Features mind-bending sequences thanks to its elements of dark magic and the film becomes a visual treat courtesy of its full-on brutality. Within the first moments, The Spine of Night grabs you by surprise as the rotoscope animation is pure artistry. And in the vein of Heavy Metal, the film pushes all the boundaries as it showcases visual storytelling at its best.

The Spine of Night takes the viewer through the centuries and to a medieval hinterland where fantasy fables. The story focuses on the thirst for knowledge, the lust for power, and ultimately the blaze of both. When an earthly dark power- a mysterious blue flower known as “the bloom” is stolen from its rightful caretakers, all of the mankind slip into an unending world of strife and darkness as the flower can create great abundance or be used to destroy. It’s up to a group of heroes from different eras and cultures to stop the one responsible and bring back balance to nature and mankind.

The Spine of Night functions somewhat as an anthology, we see a series of tales tied together by a common thread and told hauntingly and beautifully from the perspective of Tzod, a centuries-old swamp witch voiced by Lucy Lawless, her character naked with barely primitive clothing and gear braves this barbaric high fantasy by climbing through frigid conditions whilst ascending a mountaintop to speak to the flower’s guardian voiced beautifully by Richard E. Grant. What ensues is exchanging tales centred on betrayal, slaughter, and oppression. This gives the audience a deeper understanding of this universe and its capricious gods. Tzod uses the blue flower to perform hallucinatory rituals for her tribe, but its power is stolen by lord Pyrantin (Patton Oswalt), who has an army at his disposal and megalomaniacal ambitions. However, both are screwed over by a scheming necromancer who wants to take over the world until the flower itself begins to drive him mad. what begins as a simple desire for power becomes a genocidal crusade for death and destruction. Directors Morgan Galen King and Philip Gelatt deliver something spectacular.

The film doesn’t mess around when it comes to its depiction of sex and violence, the film at its best is full-on brutal with full-on nudity and graphic carnage. People are sliced and diced in some visceral sequences. The violence jumps out of the screen thanks to its exceptionally detailed, rotoscope animation. The backdrops are glorious as each sequence switches up its colour palette. Characters are brought to life through the rotoscoping technique with painstaking expressive detail. The filmmakers have achieved in making this world feel like a nightmare and have succeeded in indulging all the tropes such as fantasy, surrealism, imagination to make a fantasy epic, a first in adult animation. 

The Spine of Night is available on Shudder from March 24th.

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Kung Fu Panda 4 Review: Po and Co are Back to Pack Hilarious Punches.

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I’ve seen too many great animation franchises deliver diminishing returns with more and more sequels. To name some recent examples one could include How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Cars, etc. Kung Fu Panda is another franchise that unfortunately falls in this category. The threequel that released in 2016, was most people’s choice for the weakest entry in the beloved franchise. So that made me pretty skeptical whether the world was ready for this franchise to return and gave us good cause not to have expectations set too high, especially given the weak marketing campaign and smaller production budget. To make things worse, it was being reported that the furious five would not be a part of the story.

So I went in with my expectations in check but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s been 8 years since the last Kung Fu Panda movie, but the characters are somehow still fresh and fun. One of the best things that the makers are able to do is remind the viewers what makes Po such a darling and why we love him so much. Jack Black is such a natural fit for his voice and makes this character special with his wit and wisdom in this latest entry. 

This entry is notably structured in a very different way from the other 3 entries. This one focuses on Po’s search for a successor and his ascension to the Master of Peace. The main characters are split up pretty early in the movie and are sent on separate adventures in a sort of buddy-cop-style scenario. On one side we have Po and Awkwafina’s Zhen, and on the other, we have Bryan Cranston and James Hong as Po’s dads. These two duos are a lot of fun in their own ways.

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po and Xen have more of a good boy-bad boy dynamic, while the dads have more of a light-hearted brotherhood between them. Both pairs of misfits deliver a string of humorously entertaining sequences that will have you laughing your heart out. The humor here works for most parts apart from one or two instances and the dialogue in particular is very smartly written. The story, on the other hand, is where the movie is at its weakest.

The structuring is pretty generic with a very cliche twist at the beginning of the second half and the script mostly fails to provide significantly fresh plot points. But credit to it for executing the successor plotline better than a lot of movies that have tried it, especially Cars 3. The writers make sure to put their entire focus on humor and entertainment value, but they do come up with a couple of charming moments and some subplots that come full circle.

The animation here is surprisingly really good, especially given the significantly lower budget. The trailers didn’t get too many people encouraged about the quality of animation, but I can tell you that even though it’s not DreamWorks’ best, it’s still really well done. The background score also hits the right spot where it’s able to compliment the scene and lift it at the same time. The voice work here is also pretty solid. Jack Black is amazing as always and Awkwafina Ke Huy Quan are welcome additions.

(Center) Chameleon (Viola Davis) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Apart from Po, the best part of the movie is Li and Ping. They are the heart of this movie. The two of them have incredible chemistry and Mike Mitchell finds a way to bring out the best from the both of them. They play off of each other in the most silly, but whimsical manner which is just a joy to watch. We could do with a spin-off of them. Ian McShane’s return as Tai Lung is another highlight here. He is nicely integrated and fits well into the story being told. On the other hand, Viola Davis’ Chameleon is somewhat of a disappointment. For a villain that has the powers of all the previous villains, she was a rather tame antagonist.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda 4 is a return to form for the beloved franchise. It has a lot of elements that made the franchise successful and is a much-needed reminder of how much we love these characters and in particular, Po. Jack Black knocks it out of the park with Bryan Cranston and James Hong emerging as surprise standouts. It lacks the emotional depth of the first two entries and has a disappointingly tame villain. But it is a major improvement from the last entry and unsurprisingly very very entertaining.

Kung Fu Panda 4 releases in cinemas on March 8.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_inKs4eeHiI&pp=ygUXa3VuZyBmdSBwYW5kYSA0IHRyYWlsZXI%3D

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Animation

Marvel Animation’s X-Men ’97 | Official Trailer — Disney +

Continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

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Genre:

Animation, Action, Adventure

Release Date:

March 20, 2024

Director:

Disney +

Cast:

Jennifer Hale, Ray Chase, Lenore Zann

Post Summary:

Continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

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Animation

Despicable Me 4 | Official Trailer — Universal Pictures

Plot unknown. Fourth installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise.

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Despicable Me 4 [credit: Universal Pictures]

Genre:

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

July 3, 2024

Director:

Chris Renaud, Patrick Delage

Cast:

Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wig, Sofía Vergara

Plot Summary:

Plot unknown. Fourth installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise.

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