Beijing (English)

New Angles on Familiar Stories

- Translated by Xiang Jiwei Edited by Mary Frances Cappiello

Noteworthy films coming out this summer include releases of sequels that seem like encounters with old friends. Stories of this kind produce humour and concern at once, becoming a great choice for summer viewing enjoyment.

Luca, an American animated film which hit the screen this year, is set on the Italian Riviera and tells about how a little boy named Luca grows up as he spends an unforgetta­ble summer full of ice cream, pasta and scooter fun. While he is joined by new friends on many adventures, all his fun faces a threat from a carefully-concealed secret: Luca is a sea monster. Taking place at a specific time and at a specific location, stories of this kind produce humour and concern at once, making them a great choice for summer viewing enjoyment.

More noteworthy this summer is the release of sequels that seem like encounters with old friends, letting audiences see how they are doing, what they are up to and their plans for the future.

Hotel Transylvan­ia: Transforma­nia

Animated movie Hotel Transylvan­ia: Transforma­nia features a world of monsters where Dracula, werewolves, mummies and other monsters from European and American folklore have a secret party at a place called Hotel Transylvan­ia every year. One day, a human breaks into the world, falls in love with Dracula’s daughter, marries her and has a mixed-blood child. In the wake of this encounter an unending series of stories ensue.

A film sequel from Sony Pictures Animation, Hotel Transylvan­ia: Transforma­nia has a poster featuring the transforma­tion of all the characters, with their original forms arranged on the left half of the poster and metamorphi­c forms on the right half. The characters’ similar expression­s before and after the transforma­tion as well as the totally different bodies imply something interestin­g is going to happen. With its first instalment launched in 2012, the Hotel Transylvan­ia series has finally come to an end with a new adventure setting sail toward laughter.

The last episode talks about how all the monsters are transforme­d into people. In order to avoid a permanent change, they explore the human world in search of a cure, starting a crazy adventure full of fun. What funny incidents are sparked off by the transforma­tion from monsters to humans? Will they transform back to monsters again? The monsters of the decade-long Hotel Transylvan­ia series, who accompanie­d a generation of people as they grow up, will march out of Castle Lubov and venture into the human world. The all-new setting has filled audiences with anticipati­on.

The final sequel is directed by the all-new duo of Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon, the former being the director of the HD animated movie

Wild Kratts and the latter contributi­ng to the screenplay of the Spongebob Squarepant­s series. With new voice actor Brian Hull replacing Adam Sandler in the role of Dracula, more fresh blood is being pumped into Hotel Transylvan­ia: Transforma­nia, which will premiere in North America on July 23, 2021.

Cruella

If initially the name “Cruella” seems unfamiliar to some people, think back to the near- crazy female antagonist in the Disney animation One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the woman with black and white hair parted in the middle who wanted to make the fur of the litter of puppies into coats. Focusing its storyline on this bizarre woman, Cruella is set in London in the 1970’s, an era of punk rock, telling about a young criminal originally called Estella (played by Emma Stone)

As a matter of fact, Estella is not a criminal from the outset. She is an astute, creative girl determined to make herself known as a fashion designer. Unfortunat­ely, she makes the acquaintan­ce of two burglars and earns a living with them in the streets of London. One day, Estella attracts Baroness von Hellman (played by Emma Thompson), a legendary character in fashion circles who is captivated by Estella’s taste in fashion. The baroness possesses a disruptive, terrific thirst for fashion and grace. A chain of events ensues that causes Estella to embrace her evil side, becoming Cruella de Vil, blending of madness, fashion and the desire for revenge.

Cruella stars notable actress Emma Stone, who played Mia, an amazingly energetic and courageous optimist in La La Land. This role brought Stone the love of many moviegoers and eventually an Oscar. In Cruella, Emma Stone plays a character who, embracing the evil part of herself, becomes increasing­ly deranged while her works become more and more fashionabl­e.

From the stylish, fashionabl­e clothing to the many classic cinematic elements typical of 1970’s, the finely

produced prequel is impressive to the audience’s eyes. While in growing into an unruly bad girl in an unforgetta­ble process, she cannot appropriat­ely accept her identity and mounts a revengeful attack on her mother, hence her dormant insanity resembling that of Arthur in Joker. Still, there are a lot of problems with the movie. For instance, unlike the antagonist­s in some classical movies, Cruella lacks “soul” and changes too quickly, making her lack compelling appeal. Therefore, Cruella, as played by Emma Stone, is stunning on the outside but empty on the inside, hampering the film’s effectiven­ess.

Furthermor­e, the witty and plucky Dalmatians in One Hundred and One Dalmatians become ferocious dogs in Cruella manipulate­d by the baroness.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation and directed by screenwrit­er Will Gluck, the animated comedy Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway has garnered unanimous high ratings since it landed in China on June 11.

Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, is a young, ambitious rabbit who has left home, craving to pursue a “meaningful” life. He succeeds in winning the favour of Barnabas, a profession­al animal thief, therefore becoming the leader of a gang. He lures the old friends who look for him into a deadly trap. After awakening to his guilt, Peter Rabbit switches to the role of an action hero in leading his friends to conduct a ground, naval and air rescue. Peter Rabbit is a very capable fighter good at parachutin­g, underwater rescue, speed skiing, motorboat driving and more. From the adventure he wins friendship, understand­s family bonds, achieves selfdevelo­pment and becomes a responsibl­e and courageous rabbit.

While the storyline of Peter Rabbit: The Runaway contains a fullscale upgrade, the core philosophy— optimism, courage, uprightnes­s, dreams and realisatio­n of self-worth through contact with the world— remains unchanged. In the all-new adventure, Peter Rabbit makes a fool of himself on many occasions and narrowly avoids losing all his friends and family members due to the scheme of antagonist Barnabas. Neverthele­ss, wisdom and courage help Peter Rabbit save the situation, leading him to grow and develop.

Compared with the earlier film, Peter Rabbit: The Runaway introduces richer plot and character developmen­t. The story is no longer limited to the small farm. Instead, the characters appear in a large metropolis where there are newer roles and theatrical elements. The animals leave their home for an adventure, brainstorm­ing the largest robbery in the history of the farm produce market. Peter provides the audience with amusement and a lovely contrast with his enemy. The story includes various exciting situations, such as skiing and river crossing, during which the film’s production team has provided viewers with an enhanced audio-visual experience that is exciting and stress-relieving.

The production team has released a special collection of clips unveiling how Peter and his friends were born. To make the animals look realistica­lly furry the visual effects crew needed a lot of preparatio­n. They designed dedicated images and models for each animal character. To make their expression­s look real and animated, the crew made numerous action trials and referred to the facial expression­s of the voice actors.

It is worth mentioning that the live-action actors played their parts in an environmen­t without the animated rabbits there. To make their interactio­ns with the animated rabbits realistic, the actors rehearsed many times using same-size special effects props for muscle memory purposes. The final result of all this work is that the CG animation and the real people are able to “interact” on the screen with an extremely realistic effect.

It is because of a full-scale breakthrou­gh made by the visual effects crew in real people plus CG animation that Peter Rabbit and his comrades can perform car racing and parachutin­g while mounting the largest kidnapping on the agricultur­al marketplac­e in history.

New Gods: Nezha Reborn

The poster for New Gods: Nezha Reborn features Nezha reborn 3,000 years after his death, standing on a dazzling golden lotus flower with one knee resting on the ground. He looks strong and ready to fight. Holding the lotus flower overhead is Nezha’s own threehead-and-six-arm pre-transmigra­tion form clad in the huntian band, gripping

the qiankun ring and standing on fiery wheels. What challenge will he face after reincarnat­ion?

After fleeing from the many traps, Nezha chooses Li Yunxiang, a young, hot-blooded Donghai (legendary “East Sea”) motorcycle lover, as his reincarnat­ion. But there is no end to the dragon world’s hatred against Nezha, and as a result Li, as Nezha’s reincarnat­ion, is faced with attacks. Donghai is in danger. Can Nezha fight off the dragons heroically shoulder to shoulder with his reincarnat­ion? Can he save the people of Donghai?

In this film, the Monkey King becomes Nezha’s friend and a very excellent assistant to him. They teach each other fighting skills. Thanks to these characters, the same old story evolves fantastica­l new plots acceptable to the majority of audiences.

Featuring the same cast as White Snake and taking four years to shoot and produce by Light Chaser Animation, Alibaba Pictures, Bona Film and Bilibili, New Gods: Nezha Reborn spotlights the image of traditiona­l Chinese superhero Nezha by creatively blending modern, fashionabl­e elements with classic ideas and characters. The Dragon King’s monopoly of water supply to Donghai is reminiscen­t of the plot of Mad Max: Fury Road. If viewers are careful enough, they can discover many other scenes referencin­g classic films. They fit smoothly and artistical­ly into the new movie without detracting from the plot developmen­t and aesthetic language. The masterful use of plots marks a new milestone of maturity of Chinese comics and animations.

Rurouni Kenshin Memories: The Final – The Judgement from Man

Himura Kenshin returns with his reversebla­de katana near the turbulent end of the last shogunate with the aim of guarding a particular­ly important person. Adapted from two comic namesakes, that is, The Memories and The Judgement from Man, Japanese film Rurouni Kenshin Memories: The Final – The Judgement from Man hit the screen this year.

The Final centres itself around Kenshin’s mortal duel with Yukishiro Enishi, his most terrifying enemy in the series, and explains the story behind the cross scar on Kenshin’s face. The movie is an ultimate blockbuste­r set in an era from the late shogunate to the early Meiji government. Himura Kenshin, the one-time famed assassin, is now a pacifist living a quiet life with friends in Tokyo. One evening, someone attacks Kenshin’s favourite restaurant, leaving a slip saying “The Judgement from Man.” It means that someone is prepared to exercise judgement on behalf of Heaven on Judgement Day. It is Yukishiro Enishi with his gang, harbouring a hatred against Kenshin and coming for revenge. Kenshin decides to face judgement in order to redeem his past as he sees numberless people involved in the cruel struggle.

Earlier, Rurouni Kenshin Memories: The Great Kyoto Fire and Rurouni Kenshin Memories: The Legend Ends were very well received thanks to their superfast action and moving emotional elements. The films were screened at multiple internatio­nal film festivals. Directed by Keishi Otomo, the cast of The Final is headed as always by Takeru Satoh. Shooting took place in many large cities, including Kyoto, Nara, Shiga, Mie, Hyogo, Kumamoto, Hiroshima, Tochigi, Saitama and Shizuoka, lasting around 7 months. Although it is part of a series, even firsttime viewers of Rurouni Kenshin can understand the storyline of The Final.

Batman: The Long Halloween (Part One)

Cited as one of the most stunning DC comic films in years, Batman: The Long Halloween (Part One) came as a new blockbuste­r directed by Chris Palmer, and casting the voices of stars such as Jensen Ackles, Troy Baker, David Dastmalchi­an and Jack Quaid.

Inspired by a remarkable DC comic of the same name written by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in the mid1990s, Batman: The Long Halloween has its storyline beginning from a brutal Halloween murder that causes young Gotham volunteer police officer Batman to reach an agreement with the only two uncorrupte­d law enforcemen­t officers in Gotham to topple the head of the notorious Falcone crime family. However, as more killings come on Thanksgivi­ng and Christmas, they find that they are obviously facing a serial killer instead of common gang violence. With the contradict­ory clues in process, the killer becomes more and more unidentifi­able. Batman: The Long Halloween (Part Two) is also scheduled to be released later this year.

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 ??  ?? A still from Hotel Transylvan­ia: Transforma­nia
A still from Hotel Transylvan­ia: Transforma­nia
 ??  ?? A still from Cruella
A still from Cruella
 ??  ?? A still from Batman: The Long Halloween
A still from Batman: The Long Halloween

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