SCI-FI/ANIMATION BATTLE FOR TERRA 3D (PG) 78min ●●●●●
Having festered on the shelf since its April 2009 US release, Battle For Terra 3D arrives in our cinemas to cash in on the current wave of enthusiasm for three-dimensional cinema, and specifically Avatar, although Canadian director Aristomenis Tsirbas evidently put in considerably less time and effort than James Cameron.
Like Avatar, Battle for Terra concerns a war fought for the resources of a far-off planet between greedy, warlike humans and peaceful aliens. Space soldier Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson) crash-lands on Terra, only to form a bond with Mala (Rachel Evan Wood). Jim soon learns to love the alien and takes her side against the genocide perpetrated by the earthlings. Idly wondering exactly how Jim and
the tadpole-shaped Mala might consummate their burgeoning romance just about passes the time while Battle For Terra’s convoluted and dumb plot is briskly but blandly unfolded. Yet, while the 3D animation is as pretty and headache-inducing as usual, the slavishly-copied narrative eventually yields naive charm that recalls cheesy Star Wars knock-offs The Humanoid and Battle Beyond The Stars. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 12 Feb.
DOCUMENTARY FOOD INC (PG) 93min ●●●●●
Robert Kenner’s Oscar-nominated documentary seeks to lift the veil surrounding the food industry in America, and to reveal, in the director’s own words, ‘the truth about what we are eating’ – cheap food, it transpires, comes with some heavy costs. Don’t be fooled by the polished visual surface of Food Inc, because this is a film prepared to dismantle some cherished myths about the agrarian American way of life.
Kenner’s broad thesis, which draws heavily on the works of interviewees Eric Fast Food Nation Schlosser and Michael Pollan (An Omnivore’s Dilemma and Defence of Food) is that agriculture in America has undergone a radical transformation in recent decades. A handful of multinational corporations control how produce is planted, grown, distributed and sold. Productivity, efficiency and above all profit-making are the goals of these industrial-sized farming operations, which rely heavily for labour on non-unionised illegal immigrants. Corn, which now appears as an additive in many processed foodstuffs, has become the dominant commodity crop, and is heavily subsidised by the authorities. Meanwhile the mechanisation processes throughout the system ensure further dependence on imported oil supplies.
The problems in this shift to assembly line production methods are manifold. Leaving aside the appalling
conditions endured by animals prior to slaughter (which are glimpsed here on hidden cameras), there’s the deleterious impact on the health of humans. Diabetes and obesity levels, especially amongst low- income groups, are rocketing, and the E coli virus (which is transmitted from contaminated cattle) – is now infecting thousands of people each year. The artificial cheapness of American harvests destroys the livelihoods of farmers in less prosperous countries. And those who dare to speak out against the practices of agri-businesses are threatened with lawsuits, and the regulatory agencies show little inclination to protect individual consumers in their quest to find out what actually goes into what they eat. Tellingly no representatives from the major food
producers were prepared to contribute to Food Inc, yet this persuasive film is not without practical solutions, for it champions the alternatives provided by local and organic providers. Most heartening is the example of the philosophical Virginian Joel Salatin, who demonstrates that it is possible to run a commercially successful and environmentally sustainable livestock farm. (Tom Dawson) ■ GFT, Glasgow from Tue 16-Thu 18 Feb. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 12-Thu 18 Feb (on Wed 17 Feb, there will be a Q&A session hosted by Frieda Morrison of The Soil Association. Before the 6pm screening on Thu 18 Feb a guest speaker from the British Science Association will present an introductory talk).
FANTASY/ANIMATION PONYO (GAKE NO UE NO PONYO) (U) 101min ●●●●●
An animated feature about a five-year-old boy who falls for a goldfish princess may not sound like a hot ticket, but the delightful content of Ponyo will be no surprise to anyone already in thrall to the Studio Ghibli brand. After Hayao Miyazaki’s groundbreaking Spirited Away, neither Howl’s Moving Castle or his son Goro’s Tales from Earthsea repeated the same trick for Ghibli, but Ponyo signals that the old charm is back. Mop-headed scamp Sosuke lives on a cliff, he meets Ponyo, who transforms
into a girl and becomes Sosuke’s playmate. Verbalised by Liam Neeson and resembling David Bowie in Labyrinth, Ponyo’s King Neptune-like father Fujimoto is angered by Ponyo’s defection from his undersea kingdom and takes revenge. Benefitting from stunning hand-drawn animation, the underwater scenes in Ponyo draw directly in style from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but with most of the action set on dry land, Ponyo offers the same warm and wonderful view of friendship that made 1988’s My Neighbour Totoro a cult classic. Ponyo is funny, charming and original enough to keep adults entertained, but where it really scores is Miyazaki’s ability to understand what a child sees; like its goldfish heroine, Ponyo may seem like a slight and slivery proposition, but it dives to uncharted depths. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 12 Feb.
4–18 Feb 2010 THE LIST 47