Out in cinemas this week: Two slightly dark foreign-made films: A sinister dystopia created by advertising, and a bunch of stop-motion toys have a strange adventure in the attic.
This dark and surreal Russian-produced dystopian thriller explores the not-especially-novel, but still potentially terrifying, idea of corporate greed and its ubiquitous iconography as an insidious threat to cultural and individual sanity, identity, and freedom, told with brio by writer-directors who are also ex-marketing executives. Branded has been getting limited publicity but much word of mouth, including during Comic-Con and the like, so it could end up being a sleeper hit. Check out the trailer on the video page below and see for yourself.
AKA: The original title was The Mad Cow. I can see why they changed it, but the replacement is pretty generic.
The story: Set in a dystopian future where corporate brands have created a disillusioned population, one man's effort to unlock the truth behind the conspiracy will lead to an epic battle with hidden forces that control the world.
Starring: Anna Abonisimova, Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Dubcek), Mariya Ignatova (Host), Andrei Kaikov (Pavel), John Laskowski (Fast Food Executive), Leelee Sobieski (Abby Gibbons), Atanas Srebrev (Jon), Emma Stickgold (TV Correspondent), Ed Stoppard (Misha Galkin), Jeffrey Tambor (Bob Gibbons), Max von Sydow.
Directed by: Jamie Bradshaw and Alexander Doulerain.
Toys in the Attic (2009)
The internationally acclaimed Czech stop-motion feature, with claymation and other techniques added in, exploits both the charm and the potentially sinister edge of toys coming to life while reveling in the potency of practical animation. The English-language dub, a recent development, premiered at festivals earlier this year. (Fun footnote: in the English version, Cary Elwes reunites with Buttercup! In a manner of speaking.)
AKA: The original Czech-language film was released as Na pude aneb Kdo ma dneska narozeniny? (In the Attic: Who Has a Birthday Today?), sometimes shortened to In the Attic.
The story: In an attic full of discarded junk, a pretty doll called Buttercup lives in an old trunk together with her friends, the marionette Sir Handsome, the lovable Teddy Bear, a Mechanical Mouse and the plasticine creature, Laurent. When Buttercup is snatched and taken off to the Land of Evil, her pals set out on a wondrous and daring adventure to rescue her from the all-powerful Head of State.
Starring: Forest Whitaker (Teddy), Joan Cusack (Madam Curie), Cary Elwes (Sir Handsome), Vivian Schilling (Buttercup), Marcelo Tubert (Laurent), Douglas Urbanski (The Head), Emily Hahn (Andrejka), Sandy Holt (Mrs. Nemachkova), Joy Ellison (Rosie), Rico Simonini (Black Cat), Roy Vongtama (School Boy & Monkey).
Directed by: Jiri Barta; screenwriter-novelist Vivian Schilling wrote and directed the English adaptation. If the name sounds familiar (she wrote and starred in the MST3K favorite Soultaker), well, how many low-budget horror thrillers did you write when you were 22?