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Blogs HOLLYWOODLAND (2006) (***1/2)

This is an interesting crime drama in that it presents various scenarios for its main crime, doesn't confirm positively any one of them, yet still finds closure for its overall story. It does this by paralleling the tales of its lead character and its lead subject.

Louis Simo (Adrien Brody, THE PIANIST) is a two-bit private eye, who mainly works cheating spouse cases. He gets a tip that Helen Bessolo (Lois Smith, THE MINORITY REPORT) wants to hire someone to look deeper into the death of her son — SUPERMAN actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING). The police are ruling it a suicide, but rumors point to foul play.

As Simo investigates the crime, we get flashbacks into Reeves life. Before he hit it big, he started an affair with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane, UNFAITHFUL), the wife of Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins, MONA LISA), the general manager of MGM. Because Eddie has his own flings, the affair is not an issue… or was it. When Reeves lands the role of Superman, his agent Art Weissman (Jeffrey DeMunn, THE GREEN MILE) tells him to just take the paycheck, because no one will ever see it. But that wasn't the case — Reeves became type cast as the superhero, which in those days was a joke. As Reeves struggles for legitimacy, he grows apart from Toni and falls for the sexy younger woman Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney, TV's PRISON BREAK). This devastates Toni.

Blogs A SCANNER DARKLY (2006) (**1/2)

Director Richard Linklater goes back to the animated rotoscope effect, where animated graphics are applied over live-action performances, which he used on his film, WAKING LIFE. The choice seems both stylistically geared toward the drug-fueled material and also practical in that it was a cheaper way to do the sci-fi tale rather than in live-action with visual effects. The result is a hit or miss affair, which is more a story problem than a stylistic one.

Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves, THE MATRIX) is an undercover drug cop who is trying to find the top supplier of the deadly and highly addictive drug called Substance D. Two druggies named James Barris (Robert Downey Jr., CHAPLIN) and Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson, NATURAL BORN KILLERS) live with him and ramble on and on about their paranoid theories. Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder, DRACULA) is Arctor's supplier, but he has fallen for her, yet she refuses to sleep with him. Their friend Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane, DAZED AND CONFUSED) is completely gone on Substance D, suffering from delusions. When Arctor is at the police headquarters, he wears what is called a scramble suit, which covers this body with shifting images of various humans thus covering his identity. Outside of the police doctors, no one else on the force knows what he looks like. So when Barris turns Arctor in, how will they know that he's really a cop?

Blogs LAND GIRLS (1998) (**)

LAND GIRLS commits the greatest crime that any romance can commit — it makes us root against the intended lovers. The title is a reference to the British Land Army, which was comprised of women who went to work jobs that were vacated by the men when they went off to fight in WWII.

The story begins with Stella (Catherine McCormack, DANGEROUS BEAUTY), Ag (Rachel Weisz, THE CONSTANT GARDENER) and Prue (Anna Friel, GOAL!) arriving on a farm in Dorset, where the farmer John Lawrence (Tom Georgeson, NOTES ON A SCANDAL) believes it’s a lark to send women out to do men's work. Turns out the young women have been trained quite well and take to their work very quickly, leaving ample time for them to set eyes on the farmer's son Joe (Steven Mackintosh, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION), who dreams of being a pilot. Prue is the first to set out and shag Joe, followed by Ag, who doesn't want to be a virgin when she gets married. Stella, who is engaged to the rich sailor Philip (Paul Bettany, A BEAUTIFUL MIND), watches Joe from a distance, trying to hold back her feelings for him. I mean, he wants to fly and she wants to fly… so they must be destined to be together.

Blogs BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (2007) (***1/2)

Do not go by the ads and trailer for this film; it's not a CHRONICLES OF NARNIA wanna-be. If you're familiar with Katherine Paterson's award-winning young adult book, then you know the story is a coming-of-age tale about friendship, which happens to include some fantasy elements. It's more akin to MY GIRL than NARNIA.

Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson, ZATHURA) is a tween whose family is very poor. He's subjected to not only the ridicule of having to wear hand-me-down sneakers, but having to wear hand-me-down sneakers from his older sister. Jesse is a bit scared of his imposing and gruff father (Robert Patrick, TERMINATOR 2), who seems to treat Jesse's youngest sister May Belle (Bailee Madison) with more friendliness and kindness.

Blogs THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (2006) (***1/2)

Another addition to the superior group of films about the plight of Africa, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND is a social drama with the tension of a thriller and is capped with a tour de force performance from Forest Whitaker. This historical biopic puts a fictional protagonist in the center of real life dramas surrounding the rise and fall of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA) is a recent medical school grad who doesn't want to stay in Scotland and go into boring family practice like his father. So he heads off to Uganda to make a difference as well as have some fun. General Idi Amin (Whitaker, THE CRYING GAME) has just come to power and his pro-poor rhetoric is quickly making him a national hero. Nicholas couldn't imagine the poverty and need that he encounters when he comes to serve at the rural hospital with Dr. Merrit (Adam Kotz) and his wife Sarah (Gillian Anderson, TV's X-FILES).

Blogs OPEN SEASON (2006) (***)

Overcoming some clunky moments, Sony's first foray into fully animated features is charming and fun due to its likeable central characters and beautiful visuals. Boog (Martin Lawrence, BAD BOYS) is a performing bear who was rescued as a cub by forest ranger Beth (Debra Messing, TV's WILL & GRACE). One day Boog helps free Elliot the deer (Ashton Kutcher, TV's THAT '70S SHOW) from hunter Shaw (Gary Sinise, FORREST GUMP), which sets in motion a series of incidents that ends in Beth deciding to return Boog to the woods. With little natural survival skills, Boog enlists Elliot to take him back to town before open hunting season begins. Along the way Boog and Elliot will have run-ins with Scottish warrior squirrel McSquizzy (Billy Connolly, MRS. BROWN) and alpha male buck Ian (Patrick Warburton, TV's SEINFELD) along with a host of other woodland creatures.

Blogs HALF NELSON (2006) (****)

Combining the inspirational inner city teacher tale with a drug abuse story, HALF NELSON bucks all the stereotypes of the similar tales that came before. The film is brought to life with complete dedication by the central performers Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps.

Gosling (THE NOTEBOOK) plays Dan Dunne, a middle school teacher in the inner city, who also happens to be a semi-functional drug addict. He coaches the girls' basketball team, which includes Drey (Epps). Dunne is an unconventional teacher, who strives to make his students think rather than sticking to the school board approved material. His passion for teaching is one of the traits that attracts fellow teacher Isabel (Monique Curnen, LADY IN THE WATER) to him. However, when his now clean ex Rachel (Tina Holmes, TV's SIX FEET UNDER) shows up, it's the start of Dunne's downward spiral, which begins with Drey discovering him smoking crack.

Blogs Winners of the 1st Annual RFP Overlooked Awards

Welcome to the 1st annual Overlooked Awards. This is a chance to recognize those films, performances, directors, screenplays and animated shorts, which are all worthy of award recognition, but didn't received nominations at the big awards. Even though its one of those categories that the typical fan dreads to pick for polls, I'm privileged to see many of the wonderful short animated films that are made each year. So I thought it was my duty to recognize the shorts that I felt deserved nods as well.

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Winner: LITTLE CHILDREN
Only second to PAN'S LABYRINTH on my top 25 of 2006 list, LITTLE CHILDREN is a masterful step forward for Todd Field, who was earlier nominated for IN THE BEDROOM as a producer. Early buzz had this film in the running for the Oscars, but it just never gained traction. Its tongue-in-cheek voice-over is the best and most original use of voice-over I've seen in years. It's nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay was extremely well deserved. Field pulled career best performances from his entire cast, including Oscar nominees Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley as well as Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich and Phyllis Somerville. Field poetically realizes his screenplay, which he adapted with the original book's author Tom Perrotta. It tackles delicate topics with intelligence and open-mindedness. This is one of the few masterpieces of the year and needs to be seen from everyone.

Blogs Oscar Tour Wraps Up at Sony and CAA

By Dan Sarto | Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 12:54pm

When it came time for the Q&A, many of the Sony artists had some of the same questions as the other studios like whether Geza Toth’s single camera move was intended from the start, which it was, and how Roger and Don Hahn convinced Disney to go with the sad ending on Little Matchgirl, which was by waiting until Michael Eisner had left the studio.

Blogs Ron’s Pics from DreamWorks, Fox, the Academy, Disney & ICM

By Dan Sarto | Friday, February 23, 2007 at 3:40pm

Here it is the long awaited gallery of select pics from Ron’s camera from the Oscar Showcase tour’s swing by DreamWorks, Fox, the Academy, Disney and ICM. There’s also a couple special pics at the end courtesy of No Time for Nuts director Mike Thurmeier.

Blogs Canadians, William Morris & the AWN/Acme Filmworks Oscar Party

By Dan Sarto | Friday, February 23, 2007 at 1:46pm

I’ve been to two previous Oscar functions at the Canadian consulate general’s beautiful house in Hancock Park and couldn’t pass up the chance to go again. The luncheon took place in the lovely courtyard in back by the pool. They were prepared for the rain and had tents and heaters set up, making it comfortable on the rainy L.A. day.

Blogs Katzenberg, Fox Lot, Mirren: Another Whirlwind Day on the Oscar Tour

By Dan Sarto | Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 9:22pm

As we arrived back at The Little Theater for the screening, Ron introduced all the nominees to Vanessa Morrison, the new president of Fox Animation. It seems to me this screening will be hard to top. Tomorrow is yet another busy day with a screening at Disney and our first agency screening at ICM, which will be very interesting.

Blogs MAQUETTES

 First with drawing, we would explore very simple basic structure with basic shapes (although we really meant forms – more of a 3D approach) and then build upon these forms. Next, a drawn model sheet was created and from that the participants had to take their characters to 3D in the form of MAQUETTES.

The goal was to see what happened when 2D was translated into 3D.

Many students put a extraordinary amount of effort into their characters. They began with a base, built a wire armature, layered the supper sculpey around and there worked on the details and smoothing - before baking it in their ovens.

 

This endeavor was an excellent exercise for them since most were headed into 3D CG animation.

 

At a later time, I will show some layouts and model sheets.

 

Keep Animated!

Blogs Nominee Valentine’s Dinner Minus Four

By Dan Sarto | Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 9:55pm

In talking about the making of the film, Mike told us that the home entertainment department at Fox funded No Time for Nuts as supplemental material for the Ice Age 2 DVD. Mike’s use of the term “noise” succinctly summed up the home entertainment division’s thoughts on supplemental material.

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