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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.


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.


THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007) (**1/2)

"It's just a little cut," said the studio execs as they prepared their screen adaptation of the award-winning novel THE GOLDEN COMPASS. However, with the removal of the core theological debate in Philip Pullman's amazing book, the film is left without a soul. Those devout folks wanting to protest the release of this film should not fear that little children would be converted to atheism after watching this production, because the little tikes will not have time to think about anything as the film rushes from one action set piece to the next.

Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards, feature film debut) is a tomboy who lives at Jordon College under the care of the scholars. In her world, a person's soul lives on the outside of their bodies in the form of an animal called a daemon. Lyra's daemon is Pan (Freddie Highmore, FINDING NEVERLAND), who shape-shifts from an ermine to a cat to a bird and back again. Her uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig, CASINO ROYALE) comes to the school to secure funding for his experiments with the North Lights, which serve as a portal into other dimensions. However, the all-powerful Magisterium, an organization set up to control the lives of all the citizens of this world, finds Lord Asriel's work very threatening, because it will expose the organization's lies and undermine their own measures to control the influence of mystical Dust on the people.


BLACK BOOK (2007) (***1/2)

Comparing director Paul Verhoeven's Dutch films with his Hollywood films is like comparing the work of different directors. His 1973 film, TURKISH DELIGHT, is an underrated masterpiece. His English language films range from violent sci-fi like ROBOCOP and TOTAL RECALL and tawdry sexploitation flicks like BASIC INSTINCT and SHOWGIRLS. For BLACK BOOK, he goes back to Dutch, making a WWII set thriller that captures some of the dramatic power of his early work along with the sexual vibrancy he has become notorious for.

Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) was a singer before the war broke out. Now she is shuffling from hiding spot to hiding spot across the Netherlands. After surviving several tragedies, Rachel changes her name to Ellis and hooks up with the Dutch resistance, which is organized by businessman Gerben Kuipers (Derek de Lint, DEEP IMPACT) and doctor Hans Akkermans (Thom Hoffman, DOGVILLE). Rachel becomes a dedicated member of the resistance with her willingness to do what must be done, even if that is sleeping with the head of the Gestapo, Ludwig Muntze (Sebastian Koch, THE LIVES OF OTHERS). She even endures working closely with the vile Nazi officer Gunther Franken (Waldemar Kobus), who murders and steals from rich Jews.



When I heard from more than one person that this film was better than the original DIE HARD, I couldn't believe it. When I heard a few critics say it was the best sequel, I thought that was a more reasonable assessment. Now after actually seeing the film, my only suggestion is that all those above people go back and see the original film, because they have forgotten what makes an action movie good.

This time around John McClane is an over-protective father spying on his college-aged daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, SKY HIGH). After a cyber attack on the federal government, local police departments are asked to bring in suspect hackers. McClane is asked to pick up Matthew Farrell (Justin Long, DODGEBALL) and bring him to Washington D.C. But as things are for John McClane, an easy task is never easy. He must first save Farrell from assassins and a bomb in the young man's apartment. But the killers won't stop. Led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant, HITMAN), the bad guys have used hackers to shut down the U.S. infrastructure and financial records. Farrell knows too much and they want him dead. McClane makes the fight personal, so Gabriel follows suit by kidnapping Lucy.


THE HOST (2007) (**1/2)

Much like Takashi Miike's ICHI THE KILLER, Joon-ho Bong's THE HOST combines varying styles into one production. However, where Miike makes his dark humor feel part of the same film, Bong never finds a proper balance between his slapstick humor, horror chills and political points. There is a good monster movie within, but the humor is awkward and the political satire fells arbitrary.

Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) works at the snack stand of his father Hie-bong (Byeon Hie-bong). He's a classic slacker, but tries to provide for his tween-aged daughter Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-sung), even if it means squirreling away loose change to buy her a new cell phone. His sister Nam-joo (Bae Du-na) is a champion archer who has a problem with delaying too long before taking her shot. His brother Nam-il (Park Hae-il) is a young businessman, but also a drunk. When American scientists force their employees to dump chemicals into the Han River, a monster rises from the waters to gobble up picnickers and kidnap Hyun-seo. In an effort to cover up the monster, the government starts a fake SARS-like disease scare, which prevents Gang-du and his family from finding his daughter.


Lordy save us from true believers

By Joe Strike | Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 5:28am

At this moment TCM is blessing Saturday morning viewers who don't care for cartoons or warmed-over news, with Byron Haskin's From the Earth to the Moon (1958). Last time I'd seen this I was a kid on The Late Show (back when the Late Show meant local movies & not David Letterman cracking wise).

I'd forgotten what a turkey this sucker was, as Joe Cotten invents 'Power X' just after the Civil War and uses it to power a moon rocket. (Its design looks swiped from Melies). Haskin did far better work for George Pal (War of the Worlds, anyone? The Power?) not to mention a half dozen episodes of the 1960's Outer Limits, but it's stiff city here, with head-on camera set-ups, cheez-o-rama spfx & dialog that sounds like it was cut 'n pasted straight out of Jules Verne's century+ old novel.


NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) (****)

It's hard to believe my next statement is true. This is the best film the Coen Bros. have ever made. With brilliant films like BLOOD SIMPLE and FARGO in their resume, it's strange to see a new film from master filmmakers and know it's their best work to date. I mean you don't expect Martin Scorsese to make another GOODFELLAS, but then you probably wouldn't have expected something equal or better than TAXI DRIVER after that film either. It's invigorating to see established filmmakers better their own high marks.

Setting a somber contemplative tone is a voice over from Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones, THE FUGITIVE), who tells a tale of killer who knows he's going to hell and doesn't care. Bell has seen a great deal of violence during his career and it is making less and less sense to him. Soon he will be swept up in a manhunt pitting a quiet laborer against a heartless professional killer.



I've heard Ridley Scott's new gangster tale described as SERPICO meets SUPERFLY. The former applies more than the later though. This is because Denzel Washington's Frank Lucas hates flashy pimp-dressing hustlers, but, like SUPERFLY's Youngblood Priest, Lucas is making his way selling drugs for it’s a very tempting opportunity for a poor black man in the 1970s. AMERICAN GANGSTER actually reminded me most of Michel Mann's HEAT, which also told the parallel stories of criminal and cop.

After his mentor dies, Lucas fights for control of the Harlem drug trade. To take an upper hand, he travels to Asia to buy his product directly from the supplier and uses the war in Vietnam to help smuggle heroin into the States. Dressed in nice, but not flashy, suits, Lucas runs his illegal business like a legitimate business. With his connections in Asia, he is able to sell a more pure product for half the price, putting his competition out of business or coming to him as a wholesaler. He even guards the image of his Blue Magic brand from two-bit hustlers like Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding Jr., JERRY MAGUIRE). He takes pointers from the Italian mafia by enlisting his family, because they are the only ones he can truly trust. But he isn't afraid to threaten to kill his brother Huey (Chwetel Ejiofor, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS) when his younger sibling starts to bring too much attention to himself. Even though he is involved in a violent business, his family life is sound, buying a huge house for his mother (Ruby Dee, THE STAND) and developing a tender relationship with his beauty queen wife, Eva (Lymari Nadal, TV's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA).


An Answer to a Question about Cute Little Girls characters

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This the answer to an email I received today regarding the construction and design of Cute Little Girl Characters.

The request wanted a simple character that could be made into a CG character.

As always I began with 3D type construction to breakdown the character into simple forms and then "play" from there.

Besides the sketch I drew for the demo- I added a few more ideas...

It came at a good time for me so I jumped right in and there you go...


Sitting in the Underground

Cafes and Coffeehouses!

I really enjoy a good cafe or coffeehouse - not particularly for the beverages - but for the scene. They are great places to people watch and to sketch people. With practice, it is easy to glance at someone- get their attitude or pose or face and transfer that via pen and waterbrush to a sketch book.

Here are a couple pages from the UNDERGROUND coffeehouse (on Main and Coffee Streets) in Greenville, SC.

The Underground IS underground. A wonderful basement level cafe with tables and chairs and couches and a stage for night-time events, films  and performances...and they are expanding!

It is a great place to draw!

More to come...still animated!


HAIRSPRAY (2007) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 5:30pm

This energetic adaptation of the Broadway musical based on the John Waters film bounces off the screen with lively performances, sly wit and catchy tunes. Making her big screen debut, lead Nikki Blonsky has an amazingly expressive face, which draws us in and wins us over. She is supported by great work from many of her fellow cast members, but she is truly the star of the show even when in scenes with A-listers like John Travolta and Christopher Walken.

Tracy Turnbald (Blonsky), a bubbly overweight teen, is a devoted fan of the local Baltimore '60s dance show hosted by Corny Collins (James Marsden, THE NOTEBOOK). When one of the regular girls must take a leave of absence for nine months, Tracy drags her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes, SHE'S THE MAN) down to the studio to audition. But station manager Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer, STARDUST) won't let any plump freaks dance near her reining Miss Hairspray daughter Amber (Brittany Snow, JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE). Disappointed Tracy gets no support from her mother Edna (Travolta), who is ashamed of her own size and hasn't left the house in a decade. Her father Wilbur (Walken) on the other hand wants her to keep reaching for the stars, so when she learns some new steps from Seaweed (Elijah Kelley, 28 DAYS), whose mother Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah, CHICAGO) hosts "Negro Day" on the Corny Collins Show, Tracy shows up at a hop and knocks the socks off Corny Collins, as well as Amber's boyfriend Link Larkin (Zac Efron, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL). Now with Tracy on the show, Velma plots to stop Turnbald mania, which begins to take over Baltimore.


RESCUE DAWN (2007) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 5:25pm

Director Werner Herzog has been so inspired by the story of pilot Dieter Dengler that he has made two films about the true story — the 1997 documentary LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY and now this dramatization starring Christian Bale as Dieter. The new film is a simple story of perseverance and survival. Lt. Dieter Dengler was German born and immigrated to the U.S. for the sole purpose of being able to fly jets. He never lost sight of that when his plane was shot down over Laos, was taken prisoner and struggled to survive in the jungle.

Bale plays Denglar with a matter of fact optimism, as if there were no other alternative. After enduring torture, the man still thinks first of escaping the jungle-based prison he is taken to. There he meets other soldiers whose hope has vanished after being incarcerated, starved and abused for more than a year. Duane Martin (Steve Zahn, HAPPY, TEXAS) is one of those soldiers, who only wishes to keep his head down and endure. The slight crazed Gene McBroom (Jeremy Davies, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) is vehemently convinced that a full-fledged war will not break out and that they will be let go soon. However, with the bombings of Laos still classified as top secret, there are not rescue parties coming.


OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (2007) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 5:20pm

If this film were not part of the OCEAN'S franchise, it would be just an average, plot-heavy, slightly absurd heist comedy. With great stars and some of the familiar wit of the first two installments, the film does entertain, but it's a franchise that's truly showing its age. The motivation for the caper was promising, but it never hits home, because the details of the fantastic caper take up way too much time. With the screenplay taking up minute after minute explaining just how high tech the new casino is and how difficult it will be to pull off the job, all those details are just smoke and mirrors to obscure the same old tricks from before.

Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould, THE LONG GOODBYE) has gotten into business with heavy hitter hotel entrepreneur Willie Bank (Al Pacino, HEAT). Once Bank gets what he needs from Tishoff, he cuts him out of the deal, leaving the old-timer penniless and bed ridden due to a heart attack. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) hears of the tragedy and calls the old crew back together to avenge their friend. They set out to rig it so the casino's games pay out big on opening night, thus bankrupting Bank. But when problems arise, they ask for help from their old adversary Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia, THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS), who demands that they also steal Bank's prized diamond necklaces, which are extremely well protected. The new wrinkle needs someone to get close to Bank's right hand Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin, THE BIG EASY) and Linus (Matt Damon, THE BOURNE IDENTITY) takes on the mission of a love con. Meanwhile, the crew's opponent from the second film, Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel, EASTERN PROMISES), keeps popping up around town.


More Art from the Holiday

Our holiday was very relaxing and it gave me a chance to enjoy "being lazy" and having some fun with my sketching...

everything from ink and watercolors to different types of pencils.
Here are a few more....

The blue thumbnail in the upper right corner is now a Christmas Card.

Another sketch that turned into a Ty B. Bear Christmas card

More art later...


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Five of the Best Films of 2007

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 12:01am

Because I don't get a chance to see all the films I want in theaters, I get a treat when some of the better films in a year arrive on DVD. So I decided to circle back and highlight some of my recent discoveries on DVD, which I feel represent some of the best films of 2007. Due to the hectic holidays, I'm behind in several reviews, so I picked the five films that are out on DVD that I have already reviewed and gave three-and-a-half to four stars to. Keep an eye out for my upcoming reviews of RESCUE DAWN and HAIRSPRAY, which also could have made the cut. Three of the films are very good, but probably won't make my top 25 when the year comes to a close. The other two films are likely to make my top 10. So you're in for a treat.


Thanksgiving Holiday in the Mountains

The second part of the trip was to Greenville, SC. We stayed at a hotel and reserved tickets for the national traveling troupe of MY FAIR LADY at the Peace Center. Greenville is such a beautiful town- with a natural waterfall downtown and then there are the cafes, shops and galleries strewn about the city. The town featured an old fashioned Christmas Market and a Festival of Trees (decorated Christmas trees throughout the city). It was a great way to ease into Christmas Holidays.

More art on the way!


This Weekend's Film Festival Contemplates How Certain Films Make Us Think of Our Loved Ones

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 12:02am

For This Weekend's Film Festival, the lineup has a personal spin to it; however, the discussion I hope to create is universal. Various elements of cinema remind us of our loved ones for different reasons. As it is Thanksgiving this week and some of you will be spending it with family, I felt it was a fun idea to think about what films make you think of the people you are close to. Why do those films make you think of the person? The five selections this week remind me of my wife, who I am very thankful for. For readers, read on to see some of the various details that conjure thoughts of our friends and family. For viewers, this lineup is just a group of fun films to check out over the holiday weekend.


ENCHANTED (2007) (***)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 12:01am

Disney's attempt to Shrek itself, ENCHANTED benefits from the serendipity of a perfect cast. Flat material and story problems are quickly forgotten in light of lively and humorous musical numbers and a feel good theme that finds a way to be sugary sweet without threatening tooth decay. Oscar nominee Amy Adams carries the film, as well the audience, with a performance that couldn't be better.

In a 2D animated opening sequence, the fair maiden Giselle (Adams, JUNEBUG) sings of finding love's true kiss when she literally falls for Prince Edward (James Marsden, X-MEN). Fearful that her stepson's marriage will lead to her losing her crown, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon, DEAD MAN WALKING) tricks Giselle into a portal that sends her to New York City, where her animated self is transformed into a real human. Desperately looking for Edward, Giselle is kindly taken in by divorce lawyer Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey, TV's GREY ANATOMY), who has a six-year-old daughter named Megan (Rachel Covey, DUANE HOPWOOD). After Edward, along with the chipmunk Pip, heads to NYC to rescue Giselle, Narissa sends her devoted henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall, SECRETS & LIES) to Earth to kill Giselle with poison apples. Meanwhile, Giselle's endlessly chipper attitude doesn't mesh with modern urban life, putting a kink in Robert's life, especially with his girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel, RENT).


Happy Thanksgiving Day to Everyone!

My warmest wishes to everyone for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Here is my latest painting - just completed a couple of days ago... two more in the hopper and more on the way. The Thanksgiving break will give me more time to be with family and to draw...

While living in Ireland we had to go to the butchers, choose a bird (hanging in the window) with feathers and the parts still on...have it plucked, gutted, cleaned and dressed.

We would ALWAYS have Irish friends and students over to celebrate our American Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your Turkey Day!


BEOWULF (2007) (***1/2)

"Don't judge a film by its trailer," my mother always said. Well, she didn't really say that, but in one of the nth alternative timelines of my life I'm sure she would say it. This statement fits this film perfectly, for the trailer made the film seem like a soulless videogame, while the actual film is a digital hyper-real alternative reality that brings new life to the ancient tale of BEOWULF.

In the film, the vice ridden king Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) has his kingdom plagued by the demon Grendel (Crispin Glover, BACK TO THE FUTURE). The king calls for a hero to kill the beast and the cocky Beowulf (Ray Winstone, THE DEPARTED) arrives to do the job. The king's chief adviser Unferth (John Malkovich, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) questions Beowulf's accomplishments, which seem exaggerated. Beowulf's right hand man Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson, BRAVEHEART) knows his boss is a braggart, but he believes in him unconditionally. Along his journey, Beowulf will be tempted by many women, including the king's beautiful wife Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn, FORREST GUMP), as well as Grendel's shape-shifting mother (Angelina Jolie, TOMB RAIDER).


THE HOAX (2007) (***1/2)

Director Lasse Hallstrom is a filmmaker that I look forward to seeing new work from, because he made two of my favorite films, MY LIFE AS A DOG and WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?, and I'm a great admirer of his ONCE AROUND. Though flawed, his best film since GRAPE was THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, which was released back in 1999. He's been making safe films ever since. Now with the release of THE HOAX, he has something meatier to deal with that delivers.

The film is based on the true story of Clifford Irving (Richard Gere, CHICAGO), a struggling writer who sells a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes to publisher McGraw-Hill. In weaving his deception, Irving enlists his friend Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina, FRIDA) to serve as his researcher. Irving fakes handwritten notes from Hughes that fool experts. Along with Suskind, they listen to congressional testimony to get down the reclusive millionaire's speech patterns. The more money that begins changing hands, the more scrutiny Irving comes under, which makes his story more and more outlandish. When he says Hughes wants $1 million for the book, he gets it. Soon his painter wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden, POLLACK) gets wrapped up in the scam.


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates 2007's Sequels That Were Better Left As Singles

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 1:00am

This summer was surely the summer of sequels, three-quels and in some cases quad-quels. I don't have any particular objection to sequels, especially in the action/adventure category, because you set good heroes on new adventures. As long as the story doesn't spin its wheels then it can still be fun. Look at the James Bond series. Last year's CASINO ROYALE is one of the best Bond films ever made.

However, this summer we got a lot of passable to poor sequels. Just peruse this list SPIDER-MAN 3, 28 WEEKS LATER, SHREK THE THIRD, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END, HOSTEL PART II, OCEAN'S THIRTEEN, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, EVAN ALMIGHTY, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, DADDY DAY CAMP and RUSH HOUR 3. One could also add remakes like THE INVASION (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) and HALLOWEEN to this déjà vu cinema experience as well. Is this a sign of the lack of new ideas in Hollywood or the lack of nerve to film new ideas in Hollywood?



Youngsters might find this picture amusing, but it's not for the whole family. The tired premise isn't given much new to stand on except for some snazzy visual effects. The humor is of the simple slack stick variety, which goes for the lowest common denominator over and over again. It's a harmless piece of confection, but tastes quite stale.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, DODGEBALL) tries hard, but he fails at everything he attempts. His son Nick (Jake Cherry, TV's DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES) is embarrassed with his father's unstable life, and his ex Erica (Kim Raver, TV's 24) doesn't think Nick should be around him until he gets his life together. In order to keep close to his son, Larry takes the night watchmen job at the Natural History Museum. Cecil (Dick Van Dyke) and his fellow old-timers Gus (Mickey Rooney) and Reginald (Bill Cobbs, AIR BUD) show him the ropes, giving him a list of specific tasks he must perform each night. However, when the museum closes down, Larry is on the run as the exhibits come to life. With the aid of a wax version of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, PATCH ADAMS), Larry must put everything back in place and make sure nothing escapes.


THE CONVERSATION (1974) (****)

THE CONVERSATION is a film that I have seen twice. I wasn't all that impressed with it the first time I saw it, but considering its reputation I decided to give it a second viewing. For whatever reason sometimes certain films don't hit you the first time, but then startle you the second time around. This is the same experience I had with DR. STRANGELOVE (now one of my favorite films) and David Gordon Green's GEORGE WASHINGTON. I believe the pacing of Francis Ford Coppola's thriller is part of why this happened. I think upon my first viewing, I was beguiled by the slow build and missed the point of the ending. Upon seeing it again, I was beguiled by the unique anti-hero unlike any seen elsewhere on screen and an ending that blew me away with its depth and style.