A Town Called Panic is an animated film from France that uses plastic figures that stand on tiny plastic surfaces, like the ones your parents use to play with when they were kids, but one doesn’t see as often anymore. The main figures are a horse and the cowboy and Indian who live in his house. The inciting incident happens when the cowboy and Indian order bricks to build a barbeque for the horse’s birthday and instead of ordering 50, accidentally order 50 million (hey, it happens). After that, it’s one non-sequitorial sequence after another. I have to be honest. At first this feature went right over my head. I had no idea why it was suppose to be funny or what the jokes were. Part of this may be because I didn’t understand what a cowboy and Indian were doing living in a small French village or why the French would find that tres amusement. There were times I was wondering if the humor was a result of one of those great cultural divides. But about half way through when the three characters are trapped in a gigantic metal penguin by mad scientists who are creating humongous snowballs to throw at random targets, I started getting into it, realizing there really wasn’t anything to get into. It was just suppose to be funny because it was funny. It didn’t have to make sense in the same way Monty Python or The Family Guy don’t have to make sense. At the same time, I did feel the whole thing was stretched out a bit too long and so thought it would work better as a series of shorts in which the cowboy and Indian were always causing problems the horse had to solve. I wasn’t surprised then to discover it was based on a TV series (the writers and directors of that, Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, also did the movie) and each episode was very short (four minutes or so). When I found that out, then it all really started to make sense.
District 13 Ultimatum is the sequel to District B13, a French action film about life in the future in a walled off section of Paris where all the poor and criminal elements are segregated. District B13 was exciting and fresh (in spite of being produced and co-written by Luc Besson) with non-stop Parkour action sequences (for those unfamiliar with Parkour, it’s a type of fighting and chase and pursuit scenes in which the participants are extremely acrobatic and use actual locations as part of the sequence—sort of the same thing that Jackie Chan does, but exaggerated and with more attitude, if that’s possible). The sequel is also exciting and still somewhat fresh (in spite of being written by Luc Besson) with non-stop Parkour action sequences. The plot in many ways is the same. Someone wants to blow up District 13 (is the area destined to become the new Tokyo which still gets destroyed periodically by various gigantic monsters). The motives have been updated; in this one the head of national security and head of the secret police are manipulating the President of France (who is totally innocent here; it’s one thing to go to the brink, it’s another to jump into it) to blow up the area so a business called Harriburton (not too subtle, but neither is the movie) can build skyscrapers (or as much of skyscraper can be built in France since no building can be taller than the Eiffel Tower). All the various gangs have to join forces to put a stop to what is going on; France’s honor is saved by those who have been most dishonored by their country (how French). The same heroes are back: Cyril Raffaelli is the honest cop and David Belle is the honest crook. There’s a great opening sequence where Raffaelli dressed as a stripper with chains in his butt crack (you had to be there) has to save a Van Gogh while taking out a drug lord; the plot doesn’t let up after that. If you liked District B13, I can’t imagine you not liking this. If you didn’t like District B13, well, that’s your problem.