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LA VIE EN ROSE (2007) (****)

Before I heard of this film, I must admit I knew very little about Edith Piaf, one of the most beloved French singers in history. I had heard her work, which is featured many films, but I knew nothing of her dramatic life. Olivier Dahan's biopic does what all great biopics should do — get inside who the person was and share with us what they did that made them special. As I finished watching this film, I was transformed from a Piaf novice into a Piaf fan.

Edith Piaf, played as an adult by Marion Cotillard (LOVE ME IF YOU DARE), in her 47 years on Earth lived the lives of 10 people. Raised in poverty with her fledging singer mother, she was taken by her father, on leave from WWI, to live with her grandmother, a madam at a brothel. There she fell under the loving care of a prostitute named Titine (Emmanuelle Seigner, FRANTIC). When Edith falls ill and almost goes blind, Titine takes her to the shrine of Saint Therese to pray. When the war is over, Edith's father takes her from the only stable home she has known to travel with him in the circus. Later, her father strikes out on his own, but finds that his solo contortionist act is less of a draw then the powerful vocal skills of his young daughter.

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SUPERBAD (2007) (***1/2)

Raunchy and often juvenile, but also hilarious, SUPERBAD takes the freedom of crude humor from AMERICAN PIE and filters it through the honest sentiment of a John Hughes film. This vibe has become the branded style of director Judd Apatow and he brings the same to this film, which he produced. Director Greg Mottola, who has worked on TV series such as UNDECLARED and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT after making his directing/writing debut on the indie comedy THE DAYTRIPPERS, plays the material straight, bringing an unforced authenticity to both the comedy and serious moments.

Seth (Jonah Hill, KNOCKED UP) and Evan (Michael Cera, JUNO) have been inseparable since they were eight years old. Now it's the closing days of their senior year and both are heading off to different colleges. Both hope to hook up with a girl for a brief summer fling. Evan has his eyes set on Becca (Martha MacIsaac, ICE PRINCESS), who Seth does not like for his own private reasons, and the heavy Seth has his eyes on any girl who's drunk enough to sleep with him. During Home Ec, he gets partnered with the pretty Jules (Emma Stone, TV's DRIVE), who later asks him to secure some booze for her party. Desperate, Seth and Evan have to rely on geeky Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has bought a dubious fake ID with the solo name McLovin on it, to get them the needed party supplies. As things in movies go, the plans do not turn out as planned. Seth and Evan end up at a shady party of rowdy brawlers, while McLovin deals with hapless police officers Slater (Bill Hader, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) and Michaels (Seth Rogen, KNOCKED UP).

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COMMANDO (1985) (*1/2)

Made only a year after Arnold Schwarzenegger made THE TERMINATOR, COMMANDO is the future Governator's first attempt at handling comedy. Violent action is mixed with one liners set against a standard rescue plot. On every level from the acting to the production value to directing, the production reeks of cheese. One might be able to have a laugh at how bad it all is for a while, but like eating too much Velvetta you start getting a stomachache before too long.

John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) is a former military commander who helped run a revolution in South America before retiring to a cabin in the woods with his young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano, TV's CHARMED). After having Matrix's men murdered, the ousted dictator Arius (Dan Hedaya, THE HURRICANE) kidnaps Jenny in an effort to force Matrix to murder the new leader he helped put in power. After offing a few bad guys, Matrix gets a flight attendant named Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong, QUEST FOR FIRE) wrapped up in his desperate search for his little girl before the villains, including his former teammate Bennett (Vernon Wells, ROAD WARRIOR), discover he is not on a plane to South America.

Blogs

Enchanted 'House'?

By Joe Strike | Saturday, December 22, 2007 at 5:26pm

Disney is deservedly getting good notices and making some nice money (it will probably crack the $100mm mark this weekend) off ‘Enchanted.’ Everyone agrees that part of the film’s charm – beyond its winning performances and the half 2D/half CGI chipmunk Pip – is how it tweaks the Disney canon, but in the most affectionate manner.

But I have news, people – it’s not like it’s never been done before. In fact, it’s not even like Disney has never done it before.

House of Mouse ran Saturday mornings on ABC from 2001 through ’04. The show’s premise was not unlike the early 1960’s primetime Bugs Bunny Show. For those of you younger than myself and Jerry Beck, in BBS the Oscar®-winning rabbit hosted a stage show featuring the Warner Brothers characters. New wraparound footage wrapped around shorts from the WB vaults (with an occasional newbie created for the show), often bridging directly into them (in far-from-seamless transitions), while providing a narrative to tie the half-hour together.

Blogs

HOW TO HOOK UP YOUR HOME THEATER (2007) (***1/2)

Attached to the release of NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS is a nice surprise for animation fans. Walt Disney Pictures is theatrically releasing a new 2D Goofy short inspired by the classic "How To" shorts from the Golden Age of animation. Frustrated with his puny set, Goofy heads out the Shiny Things mega store to hook himself up with a gigantic home theater system. But as often happens to Goofy, his big plans to watch the big game on a nice new TV don't turn out as planned.

Capturing a classic retro feel, HOW TO HOOK UP YOUR HOME THEATER is a funny confection that is full of joy. Directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers bring the same vibe and style to this short that made the series so beloved. Despite a few recycled gags, many of the jokes take poignant pokes at our obsession with bigger and better gadgets. The animators breathe life into our favorite clumsy canine with an understanding of who the character has always been. It's Goofy's enthusiasm that makes us love him not his skill. With several more animated shorts in the pipeline at Disney, this short is a promising start to a new era at the studio, as well as the future of 2D animation.

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Fantasy for Adults

I apologize for the lateness of the lineup for This Weekend's Film Festival this week. The rush of the impending Christmas vacation is flooding over me and I'm swamped. But I had to get out this edition of This Weekend's Film Festival because it is a great one. Knowing STARDUST was arriving on DVD this week, I've planned for a while to dedicate the lineup to adult fantasy. Though many of these films can be viewed by the whole family, these are films that adults will get the most out of. This is a fun and entertaining collection of films perfect for the long holiday weekend. Hope you enjoy.

The first film in the lineup is the best adult fantasy film ever made. Jean Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a magnificent rendition of the classic fairy tale brought to the screen with unmatched visual originality. The amazing set design and beautiful black & white cinematography still remain fresh after more than 60 years. As I said in my original review, "The original fairy tale is a universal love story and Cocteau breathes life into it with visual style and engaging characters. Entertainment and art collide to a great degree in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST." But do not think this is a film for the art house crowd only. Even in French and more than a half century old, this remains an accessible classic that any film viewer can embrace and fall in love with. As Cocteau warns the audience before the film begins, the viewer must believe, as a child, in magic for this production. And you will come to believe.

Blogs

HAIRY PONIES and Friends by Sandra Jones and Jamie Badminton

The Perfect Gift for All Of Your Horse Loving Friends

When I met Jamie Badminton at the Annecy International Animation Festival several years ago, the first thing that he did was to pull out his sketch book and show me the characters that he had created for a book that he planned to write and illustrate. At Annecy the following year, I was surprised and delighted when he presented me with a copy of HAIRY PONIES and FRIENDS: A Day at the Races, the first of a proposed series of stories based on the adventures of a young pony named Star and his friends on Hazel House Farm.



HAIRY PONIES is a comedy-adventure book for both boys and girls with plenty of illustrations so that tiny tots and pre-schoolers will want their parents to read it to them over and over. I myself thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about the adventures of Star and his friends.As they developed the story, Jamie and his writing partner, Sandra Jones enlisted the editorial assistance of Paloma Mills, daughter of animators Joanna Quinn and Les Mills. Paloma is an avid equestrian and horse lover, and she gave the two authors knowledgeable feedback from the younger viewpoint.
Blogs

THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) (****)

Equal parts comedy and action, THE PRINCESS BRIDE is unique in that it skewers its genre while firmly being a great edition to the genre. The comedy is as slyly subtle as director Rob Reiner's other great comedy THIS IS SPINAL TAP. Based on his own novel, William Goldman's script balances the elements of fantasy, romance and comedy so deftly that each element fits perfectly together and work often equally in the same scene. With only a single Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, the Academy has a blight on its record; for this classic tale is one of the best of all time in so many genres it seems unfair to other films.

Starting with a modern framework, a grandfather (Peter Falk, TV's COLUMBO) reads the fantasy story to his sick grandson (Fred Savage, TV's THE WONDER YEARS). The young boy is reluctant about the story at first because he believes it will be a kissing book, but as the adventure covers kidnappings, sword play, giants, poisoning, screaming eels, deadly forests, albinos, pits of despair, magicians and much more, he begins to warm to the tale. The story begins with the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn, FORREST GUMP) ordering around the farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes, SAW), who responds to her every request with "as you wish." Soon the handsome duo fall in love, but Buttercup is devastated when she hears the news that Westley was murdered at the hands of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Blogs

PERSEPOLIS (2007) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 12:01am

It is a rare thing to have two animated features in one year as good as RATATOUILLE and PERSEPOLIS. For animation fans 2007 is a great year. Not since 1999, when THE IRON GIANT and TOY STORY 2 were released, have we been this blessed. Even more adult than Pixar's ode to the culinary arts, PERSEPOLIS is a stark black & white portrait of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution then turning into a tale of an immigrant who feels like an alien in a land that is not hers. But where do you call home when you return to the place of your birth to find something just as alien?

Based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel, Marjane was nine-years-old when the revolution to overthrow the Shah began. Her parents and grandmother were progressive. But soon the joy of the revolution is damped when fundamentalists take control, forcing women to wear veils and imprisoning thousands. Marjane is devastated when her favorite uncle Anouche (Francois Jerosme) is thrown in prison. As bombs fall on Tehran, Marjane secretly obtains Western music, make-up and clothes. Her outspoken nature scares her mother Tadji (Catherine Deneuve, BELLE DE JOUR) and father Ebi (Simon Abkarian, CASINO ROYALE), who decide to send her to live with relatives in Vienna. But life as a foreigner and a teenager will not be easy for Marjane either. In her 20s, she returns to Iran, but the changes only make her fall into a deep depression.

Blogs

Another Christmas Bumper from the Past




Here is another Christmas bumper we did as part of a package of holiday bumpers....long ago. The Currier and Ives look was achieved by our art director/ B.G. artist, Michael Lowery. These were early in his career and Michael always did a terrific job of translating into color some of our wacky ideas.

By the way...that final shot trucks out from a 10 field to a 23 field on the Christmas bulb.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!!

Blogs

ANIMATION AND SUN AT THE ESPINHO 2007 INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION

I am back home in Gent after my odyssey across Europe that took me to festivals in Espinho, Portugal; Bradford, England; Tallinn, Estonia and Rome, Italy. I was also lucky enough to visit major animation studios in Riga, Latvia and invited to give workshops in Riga, Rome, and Bournemouth, England. I flew back and forth across my home country Belgium four times before finally landing again in Brussels.

While my stalwart husband Nik worked away composing music in cold and sleety Gent, I spent 5 through 11 November in Espinho, Portugal. Espinho is a charming fishing town located on the Atlantic Ocean, with long sandy beaches and plenty of sun. As my good friend, Russian animator Leon Estrin once told me “Sometimes it happens, several days could give you years of memories”, and this festival has certainly given me that. Evenings spent with Leon, Jimmy Murakami, and Ginger Gibbons sitting at a beachfront café drinking and talking, or basking in the sun watching the from the little fisherman’s bar at the far end of the beach the sardine boats come in. These are memories that will never fade. One very late night as Leon was walking me back to my hotel, we happened upon the young festival staff members playing football on the beach, and their sheer joy and enthusiasm was contagious as we sat on the beach wall and watched the game. All of the festival guests took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy traditional three and four hour lunches and dinners of the exquisite Portuguese cuisine and to heartily drink the delicious and inexpensive red wine.

Blogs

As Requested...Here is the two-legged character demo from way back and MY Christmas List of Best Animation

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ec_C3ksw31U" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Here is My Christmas list of My Favorite Holiday Animation....enjoy...

Peace on Earth by MGM's Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising (1939) nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Cosmic Christmas by Nelvanna directed by Frank Nissen

A Wish for Wings that Work (1991) Universal TV Animation, director Skip Jones

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Chuck Jones

A Peanuts Christmas by Charles Schulz Produced by Bill Melendez

Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Disney Studios,1983, directed by Burny Mattinson

Ziggy’s Gift directed by Richard Williams (1982)

Blogs

SWEENEY TODD - THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2007) (****)

Sometimes a great film comes from the melding of the right content with the right artist, and with SWEENEY TODD this is the case. I can't think of a better director to bring Stephen Sondheim's classic dark musical to the screen than Tim Burton. Having never seen a stage production, I cannot comment on changes, but what is brought to the screen is magnificent. This is the kind of big entertainment that puts excites an audience's faces, making them remember how fun going to movies can be. Some may get hung up on the copious amount of blood, but I think it's all bloody brilliant.

After years in exile, barber Benjamin Barker returns to London as the bitter and vengeful Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS). His dark view of the city is in contrast to the wide-eyed optimism of young sailor Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower), who befriends Todd on their sea voyage together. Returning to his old flat, Todd finds the pie maker Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter, HOWARDS END) ready to assist the blood thirsty barber in his revenge against Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman, SENSE & SENSIBILITY) and his lackey Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall, SECRETS & LIES) for wrongly impressing him, which lead to Todd losing his wife and child, Johanna (Jayne Wisener), who is now the teenage ward of the vile judge. Along this campaign of revenge, Todd will face various obstacles including rival barber Signor Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen, BORAT), who abuses his young assistant Tobias (Ed Sanders).

Blogs

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (2006) (***1/2)

The fiction films of Terry Zwigoff have all had a dark satirical bent to them that I love. What makes the comedy so special is the honesty that lies underneath. From GHOST WORLD's look at high school grads entering the "real world" to BAD SANTA's skewering of Christmas greed, there is a bite to his work that stings as only hard truths can. Now with ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, Zwigoff, reteaming with his GHOST WORLD screenwriter Daniel Clowes, takes a stab at art education and the larger modern art world in general.

Jerome (Max Minghella, SYRIANA) has lived in his art this whole life. He dreams of gaining fame and fortune through his paintings. But harsh realities set in when he arrives at college. His teacher Prof. Sandiford (John Malkovich, DANGEROUS LIASON) is a struggling painter himself, trying desperately to get a new show off the ground at every moment of the day. He tells Jerome that it has taken him 25 years to reach his current triangle period. Perpetual dropout Bardo (DODGEBALL) shows Jerome the collection of art school stereotypes from art chicks to hippies to butt kissers. Jerome's view of his own future only gets dimmer when he meets former art school grad Jimmy (Jim Broadbent, IRIS), who now wallows his life away drunk in his filthy rent controlled apartment in the ghetto. The only bright spot for Jerome is Audrey (Sophia Myles, TRISTAN & ISOLDE), a beautiful daughter of a popular artist who poses nude for the aspiring artists. However, the world seems to spiral out of control as a serial murderer stalks campus and Audrey and the rest of the university fall in love with the crude paintings of pretty boy Jonah (Matt Keeslar, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN).

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MY FAIR LADY (1964) (****)

The first time I say MY FAIR LADY I did not like it. Henry Higgins pretentious snobbery infuriated me. I felt that the film was as elitist as he was. The parts that I enjoyed were the ones where Eliza fought back. Later I would read Roger Ebert's Great Movie review of the film and he made a key point that made me want to rewatch the film. The point is — Eliza chooses to better herself. She wants the finer things in life and is willing to take Henry's abuse to achieve it. Since reading his review I have seen the 1938 adaptation of PYGAMALION, which is the George Bernard Shaw play that MY FAIR LADY is based on. And now that I have seen the musical a second time, I see the brilliance of MY FAIR LADY more fully.

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EVE'S BAYOU (1997) (***1/2)

Set in the bayous of Louisiana in 1962, the film launches with a voice over about memory and murder. The whole film is the reflection of a grown up Eve on her life as a ten-year-old girl — the year she killed her father. This admission sets the tone simmering with family secrets woven together by sex and violence. Just like her confession though, nothing is simple in this family drama, because the truth lies somewhere between various points of view and is clouded by the haze of time.

Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett, ROLL BOUNCE) was named after a slave who saved her master's life and then gave him 16 children. Her family has lived on a vast plantation for decades since. Her father Louis (Samuel L. Jackson, PULP FICTION) is a doctor, who makes house calls to the lonely women in town. Eve is jealous of the way her father favors her teenage sister Cisely (Megan Good, WASTE DEEP). Louis' philandering creates a volatile storm with his beautiful wife Roz (Lynn Whitfield, THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY), who is good friends with her husband's sister Mozelle Delacroix (Debbi Morgan, COACH CARTER), who has the gift to see the future, however it has never worked for her, whose three husbands have all died tragically. The way Lenny Mereaux (Roger Guenveur Smith, DO THE RIGHT THING) discovers that his wife Matty (Lisa Nicole Carson, TV's ALLY MCBEAL) has been sleeping with Louis will change the family forever.

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ATONEMENT (2007) (****)

With seven Golden Globe nominations leading the pack of films, this grand adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel is on the road to Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress and possibly Best Actor. Surprisingly, this romance is more intellectual than emotional, and often quite funny. The core theme is regret and how we react to it. Like the central idea of CACHE, what responsibility does an adult have for their wrong doings as a child, when those wrong doings have ruined the lives of others?

Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) comes from wealth and fashions herself a great writer. She looks up to her beautiful, older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE) and has a crush on the gardener Robbie Turner (James McAvoy, THE KING OF SCOTLAND). Cecilia's father paid for Robbie's education, but though they were good friends as children, Cecilia barely spoke to Robbie while they attended the same school. On the day of her brother's return home, Briony sees something between her sister and Robbie at a fountain that she doesn't understand, and will play a devastatingly key role in a series of events that will forever change all three of their lives.

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WATER (2006) (***)

Set in 1938, WATER chronicles the plight of widows in India, where they are forced to live exiled from the general public, begging for their existence. Some of them only children when they're husbands die are doomed to a life on the outskirts of society with no real chance of bettering their situation. While their lives may seem grim, this hopeful film from director Deepa Mehta wishes for a better life and finds joy in simply living. For the filmmaker who endured years of government shut downs and death threats from Hindu extremists for making this film, its nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at last year's Oscars is a glorious recognition of her determination and sacrifice.

At the age of eight, Chuyia (Sarala) is a widow sent to live in a home with other widows, which is only one of three options for her — the other two being throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre or marry his younger brother. At the melancholy ashram, the young girl's boundless energy disrupts the structured lives of the widows. She quickly befriends the beautiful 20-something Kalyani (Lisa Ray, BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD), who was widowed at about the same age as Chuyia. The rotund Madhumati (Manorama, DEVI) rules over the women, taking the best food and pimping Kalyani out to men of a higher caste. Shakuntala (Seema Biswas, BANDIT QUEEN) is a sad, devout Hindu, who runs the day-to-day operations of the ashram. Patiraji aka Auntie (Dr. Vidula Javalgekar) is a kind old woman who longs for sweets she had at her wedding. One day Kalyani meets Narayana (John Abraham), a handsome young lawyer, who wants to change the conditions for widows in his country inspired by the teachings of the ever-growingly popular leader Gandhi.

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A Pencil Test from the TONY seq. of OUR WORLD

This is a pencil test of the TONY sequence from the animated film OUR WORLD. It was not included in the final because we had enough sequences between longer pieces of animation. If OUR WORLD is an ongoing project- then it will be added later...

All of my animation was shot in FLIPBOOK software by Digicel.

This is RUFF animation and the timing was changed in certain areas after this test...see if you can find what we changed...

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Harry Potter

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 4:02pm

With the fifth installment of the HARRY POTTER series hitting DVD this week, it seems like as good as any time to have a Hogwarts marathon. You know you were going to do it anyway, but I'll give you some things to think about when you do it. If you hadn't intended to fill your weekend with the boy who lived then you need to consider sitting back and letting me lead you through what is turning out to be the most consistently well done franchise in movie history. If you don't believe that statement then read on and let me convince (and entertain) you.

As a kid I always wondered what my favorite characters would do if they grew up. Cartoon characters especially. One of my favorite TV series was THE WONDER YEARS, which brilliantly chronicled the innocent trials and tribulations of sixth grade up to more mature problems of one's late teens. I grew up along with those characters. The new generation gets to grow up with Harry Potter from more innocent adventures up till the life and death final battle into adulthood. In chronicling the entire adolescence of its characters (and it's actors), the series is accomplishing something that few feature film series have ever done. Each new film is a new adventure to enjoy, but the honest and accurate maturing of the characters is what makes this series special.

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Freddy's Christmas

Sometime last century, a small animation studio on the outskirts of Washington D.C. was a hub of activity. This animated clip motivated their entire process. It was the first animation produced by the Animation House, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia.

The staff grew from 1 to 6 in about three weeks and on to about 40 artists. keep in mind this was back in the animation stone age when animation was draw by pencil in hand, those drawings inked onto cels and those cels with their beautiful hand-painted backgrounds shot under a camera stand one frame at a time....ahhhhhhhhhh, the good old days.

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Raul O Leary, filmmaker

Here is a cartoon sketch of a filmmaker friend of mine Raul O Leary. We first worked together on the North/South of Ireland project ANIMAGIC! The idea of ANIMAGIC spawned from the CINEMAGIC Film Festival in Belfast and Derry (known as Londonderry to some folks.)

Anyhow, Raul was instrumental to the animation that appeared between the animated sequences. Raul was GREAT! He never complained and just did his work.

The cartoon sketch here depicts him in his new role from his new live-action project IN SEARCH OF OSAMA.

Hopefully, I can get a hold of some footage and place it on the site or give a link to his site.

Raul spent three years on his quest, it is ALL shot POV (point of view).

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JUNO (2007) (****)

Here is a fun and enjoyable holiday present for movie fans. Directed by Jason Reitman (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING) and Hollywood screenwriter de jour Diablo Cody, this film delivers a miracle — a comedy with equal doses of edge and heart. Unlike so many wannabe hip indie comedies, this pop culture infused production creates characters that we can believe in — they don't just feel like slick constructions of a screenwriter. It's the multilayered characters — brought to life by a special cast — that makes this one of the premiere films of 2007.

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page, HARD CANDY) discovers a one-night hook up with her longtime friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera, SUPERBAD) has resulted in a pregnancy. After an unsettling trip to the clinic, she decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. Her father Mac (J.K. Simmons, SPIDER-MAN) and stepmother Bren (Allison Janney, THE HOURS) are supportive, but would have rather had an expulsion from school than this news. Juno finds a nice looking yuppie couple named Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner, TV's ALIAS, & Jason Bateman, TV's ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) in the Pick-N-Save advertising for a baby. Over the course of the pregnancy, Juno will have to deal with many issues that are "way above her maturity level."

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TIN MAN (2007) (***)

This six-hour SCI FI Channel miniseries reworks L. Frank Baum's WIZARD OF OZ into a darker adult adventure, which transports a young woman into the mysterious Outer Zone known as the O.Z. Overcoming some clunky moments, the story clips along on good performances and the inherent desire of the audience to see how the next element of the OZ world will be reworked.

DG (Zooey Deschanel, THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY) is a bored 19-year-old girl who dreams of something bigger in life than living on her parents' farm and working at the local diner. However, unbeknownst to her, she holds a key role in the future of the O.Z., where Sorceress Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson, BEVERLY HILLS 90210) is trying to locate a powerful emerald, which will give her the ability to plunge the realm into complete darkness. After a storm transports DG into the O.Z., she befriends Glitch (Alan Cummings, X2), the former advisory to the queen, whose brain was removed for knowing too much. Along the way, she will also meet Cain (Neal McDonough, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS), a former Tin Man (aka the police of the O.Z.) and Raw (Raoul Trujillo, APOCALYPTO), a lion-like psychic whose overly kind heart makes him very fearful. As DG tries to uncover the secrets of her past, the foursome must find the emerald before Azkadellia.

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This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Films of Survival

Last week I built This Weekend's Film Festival's lineup around some of the best films of 2007, which I caught first on DVD. Having recently seen Paul Verhoeven's BLACK BOOK, I saw a theme build around another of 2007's best, RESCUE DAWN. Both films tell harrowing tales of survival during war. So I searched the archives and found three other great films that chronicle the trials and tribulations of enduring a war. Two films follow Jews trying to survive the Nazi plague. Another film looks at WWII from a child's point of view, as well as Japan. The other film is a futuristic survival tale, which also revolves around children. Some of these films will thrill, while others could leave you emotionally transformed.

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