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OVER THE HEDGE (2006) (***)

For the most part, DreamWorks animated features have been well animated and fun films, if not a bit disposable at times. OVER THE HEDGE keeps with that tradition.

RJ (Bruce Willis, LOOK WHO’S TALKING) is a raccoon who accidentally destroys Vincent the bear’s stash of food while in the process of trying to steal it. In the process, RJ wakes Vincent (Nick Nolte, THE HULK) from his hibernation. Vincent wants to kill RJ, however when the raccoon promises to replace at the food, the burly bear only gives him till the full moon to accomplish the task, which is about a week.

Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling, IT’S THE GARRY SHANDLING SHOW) has just awoken from hibernation with his family of various animals, which includes hyped-up squirrel Hammy (Steve Carell, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), skunk Stella (Wanda Sykes, MONSTER-IN-LAW), older, dramatic possum Ozzie (William Shatner, STAR TREK), Ozzie’s teenage daughter Heather (singer Avril Lavigne), Canadian porcupine couple Lou (Eugene Levy, AMERICAN PIE) and Penny (Catherine O’Hara, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN) and their three tech savvy sons Bucky (Sami Kirkpatrick), Spike (Shane Baumel, THE ANT BULLY) and Quillo (Madison Davenport). The mixed family of animals discovers that while they were asleep a huge strange object that stretches as far as the eye can see has popped up in their forest.


2007 Nominee Don Hahn Talks About Oscars

By Dan Sarto | Friday, February 9, 2007 at 10:07pm

As a precursor to the tour, I had a chance to talk with Little Matchgirl producer Don Hahn about what the Oscar experience has been like thus far. He’s not an Oscar newbie by any stretch, having been nominated for producing Beauty and the Beast and the animated short Lorenzo. He was also behind mega-hits such as The Lion King and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.


THE KING (2006) (***1/2)

This tragic drama is part character piece, part revenge tale, part redemption story. How those parts weave together and the directions in which they go is what makes this film so fascinating and original.

Elvis Valderez (Gael Garcia Bernal, Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN) comes to Corpus Christi, Texas after he is discharged from the military. He finds preacher David Sandow (William Hurt, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) and introduces himself in so many words as his illegitimate son that he has never met. The pastor, who now has a new family and life, doesn’t want anything to do with Elvis. The young man then goes about seducing his half sister Malerie (Pell James, BROKEN FLOWERS) and ultimately bringing ruin to David’s family, which includes his wife Twyla (Laura Harring, MULHOLLAND DR.) and 17-year-old son Paul (Paul Dano, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), who is pressed into being the dedicated gung-ho Christian when he seems to have more secular musical aspirations.


SHERRYBABY (2006) (***)

After you watch this film, you’ll wish there were a better way for the Academy to choose who gets nominated for the acting Oscars. Maggie Gyllenhaal (WORLD TRADE CENTER) elevates a fairly straight-forward drug drama to another level.

Sherry Swanson (Gyllenhaal) has just been released from prison where she was serving time for theft, which she committed to buy drugs. She moves into a halfway house and quickly gets in contact with her brother Bobby (Brad William Henke, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW), who has been taking care of her young daughter Alexis (Ryan Simpkins, TV’s WONDER SHOWZEN). Bobby’s wife, Lynette (Bridget Barkan), who has become very close to Alexis, is reluctant to let recovering addict Sherry jump right back into her daughter’s life. Other key characters include Sherry’s dad (Sam Bottoms, THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES), Sherry’s tough parole officer Hernandez (Giancarlo Esposito, DO THE RIGHT THING) and Dean Walker (Danny Trejo, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN), who Sherry meets at AA.



When any character is standing – an imaginary line runs vertically through to the feet. (fig. 1)

Because they are standing with their weight

equally on their two feet, the character is

centered or balanced

on those two feet.

The CENTER OF GRAVITY is that point that is also the center of the character’s weight. Most of the time the hips (or pelvis area ) usually carries the greatest amount of weight. (fig. 2)

Obviously, that CENTER point can be located either higher or lower in the character- depending on the body type. (fig. 3)

Notice above the differing center points on the body types.


GREY GARDENS (1975) (***1/2)

Albert and David Maysles, who directed the poignant Rolling Stones documentary GIMME SHELTER, were asked to make a documentary about the two Bouvier sisters, Jacqueline Onassis and Lee Radziwell. While in the process of experimenting with the idea, they discovered the Bouvier’s aunt Edith Bouvier Beale and cousin Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, who were living in a dilapidated mansion in East Hampton, New York. Vastly more interesting than the socialite Bouviers, the Maysles brothers found two fascinating eccentrics that live life uniquely.

Along with directors Ellen Hoyde and Muffie Meyer, the Maysles brothers virtually moved into the crumbling mansion, which has holes in the walls, no running water and raccoons living throughout the house. In the opening of the film, we see newspaper reports of the Beales fighting with the local government and neighbors over health code violations and the unkempt look of their property, which sits in the middle of other beautiful estates. The filmmakers just watch as the two women tell the tales about their lives and feelings — often bickering about every detail. It’s amazing to see photos of them when they were younger and lived life closer to the norm.


The Most Talented, Animated New Member of the Family

I just received this by email today.

This the new music site of Michelle Armstrong Lauria aka MI, a singer/ songwriter with unlimited possibilities. Michelle is our daughter-in-law, she and our son Matt were married in Laguna Beach this summer (2006).

What an event! Forget that MTV reality TV show - the wedding was beautiful and we had a blast the entire week. Daily parties, beach volleyball and body surfing...and art, were the order of the day.

MI is an amazing singer/songwriter and a wonderful person!

Here is a link to some of her music and a few music videos.


Always Animated!


Here we go!

I have waiting for this for a while- Now, I can do everything I have wanted to do for years. Somehow I have finally found a place to merge with technology.

The four areas I will concentrate on is: animation and artwork, commentary, animation lessons and workshops and last not but least a place reflect on my projects past an present.

I am playing around with a new banner for Larry's Toon Institute. The Institute is evolving as we speak and that in itself is pretty amazing...I will elaborate on that later...much later.

In the mean time, hereare few images from my next film CROSSING THE LINE

Always Animated!


THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006) (***1/2)

A tamer female version of SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, this film looks at the world of fashion with an insider's eye that looks at the pros and cons of the industry. Mainly the cons. The solid script is best served by a wonderful cast, who bring life to characters that in the hands of less skilled performers could have turned into ridiculous caricatures.

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway, THE PRINCESS DIARIES) is a smart journalism graduate who gets an interview at RUNWAY, the premier fashion magazine in the world. In her less than fashionable attire and complete lack of knowledge about the industry, she seems quite out of her league interviewing as the second assistant to editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep, ADAPTATION), who is a legend in the business. Miranda's first assistant Emily (Emily Blunt, MY SUMMER OF LOVE) thinks Andy is a joke, but Miranda hires her anyway, because the last two girls Emily picked her idiots.


CURSE OF THE DEMON (1957) (***1/2)

I'm quite a fan of classic horror films because they are often tales of terror that play on the mind more so than making our bodies jerk from being assaulted via "boo" moments and crashes on the soundtrack. My attention was brought to this film when a few years back TOTAL FILM magazine included it on their 50 best horror films of all time list. Because I'm a list junkie, I had to check it out and learning that it was directed by Jacques Tourneur (I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, CAT PEOPLE) only made it more interesting.

Released in the U.K. in a longer version as NIGHT OF THE DEMON, the story follows American Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews, LAURA) as he travels to London for a conference on paranormal activity. Upon arriving he learns that his colleague Prof. Henry Harrington (Maurice Denham, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL) has died in a bizarre accident, which we know may have been caused by a giant demon summoned by the mysterious Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis, LUST FOR LIFE). Upon meeting Harrington's niece Joanna (Peggy Cummins), Holden begins to look deeper into what really happened to the professor.


ADVENTURE TIME (2007) (****)

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This is one of the most original and funny productions I've seen in a long, long time. Made for Nickelodeon’s RANDOM CARTOONS shorts program, this Annie nominated short film is slyly satirical as well as subversive. If this does go to series, I’m going to put myself out there and say it has the potential to be as monumental as REN & STIMPY. It’s that different and it’s that good.

The story begins with 12-year-old Penn asking his best friend Jake (who happens to be a dog who can download things from the Internet with his mind) heading off to find out why Princess Bubblegum’s rain-icorn is crying. Turns out the Ice King has kidnapped Princess Bubblegum and is holding her prisoner in his castle in the Ice Kingdom, where Penn and Jake will have to get past several monsters in order to save the day.


HAVEN (2006) (***)

Set in the Caymen Island, this crime yarn jumps on the typical trend of weaving the stories of various characters together. However, the editing courses create a narrative that takes too long in developing its main characters, result in a style that is more distracting than clever.

The film opens with a brief scene with main characters Shy (Orlando Bloom, ELIZABETHTOWN) and Andrea (Zoe Saldana, THE TERMINAL) in an embrace in the ocean. Then we jump to the tale of corrupt businessman Carl Ripley (Bill Paxton, FRALITY), who must flee to the Caymens with his daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner, BLUE CAR), who is furious that they are moving again. She meets local small time hustler Fritz (Victor Rasuk, RAISING VICTOR VARGAS), who takes her to a party at the house of thug Richie Rich (Razaaq Adoti, BLACK HAWK DOWN), who Fritz owes money to. After Pippa and Fritz’s story comes to a climax, we move back to Shy’s story and learn that he works for Andrea’s rich father (Robert Wisdom, STORYTELLING), who doesn’t approve of her relationship with the older white boy. So does her brother Hammer (Anthony Mackie, MILLION DOLLAR BABY) who hangs with Richie Rich and thinks of himself as a gangster.


L'ENFANT (2006) (****)

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival twice for their effortlessly natural dramas. I loved their ROSETTA and THE SON and nothing has changed with L'ENFANT. They are filmmakers in which I look forward to their next production. Similar to their previous Cannes winner, ROSETTA, L'ENFANT chronicles poor young adults as they try to find ways to survive.

Bruno (Jeremie Renier, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF) is a street hustler who has just had a baby with his girlfriend Sonia (Deborah Francois). We watch as Sonia finds out that Bruno has subletted her apartment for a few nights and that they will have to spend the first night with the baby at the shelter. Bruno and Sonia are clearly in love, but they are still children themselves, often goofing off like kids and acting recklessly and impulsively. Bruno has younger kids steal for him to make money. When Sonia thinks she can get him a handyman job, he says regular work is for losers. While the baby seems to bring Sonia closer to Bruno, he looks at the child as just a burden and makes the decision on his own to sell the child. When Sonia finds out, Bruno sets out to bring back their son.


THE OMEN (2006) (**1/2)

The rash of recent horror remakes has failed to produce anything of quality. Though it may be the best of the recent remakes, THE OMEN redux still begs the question — why do it in the first place if there isn’t anything new to say with the story?

The plot, which is nearly identical to the original, finds U.S. deputy ambassador to Italy Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber, SCREAM) accepting a proposition from a mysterious priest to replace his dead newborn with an orphaned boy without telling his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles, MONA LISA SMILE). Soon after the ambassador is made the new ambassador to England, he dies in a tragic accident, making Robert the youngest ambassador ever. As their son Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) grows up, Katherine begins to notice that he isn’t like other children. Then following their nanny committing suicide at Damien’s birthday party, Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow, ROSEMARY’S BABY) comes to work for the Thorns, seeming to be able to connect with the boy more so than his mother, who begins to slip into a deep depression. In the meantime, Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER) comes to visit Robert and warns him that his son is the anti-Christ. Later, a photographer Keith Jennings (David Thewlis, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN) shows Robert some photographic proof that something strange is really going on.


THREE TIMES (2006) (****)

Hsiao-hsien Hou is a Taiwanese director whose work has been celebrated at festivals all around the world, but has had little exposure inside the U.S. The Weinstein Company's release of THREE TIMES marks the first time one of his films has been released theatrically in the States. We have been missing out.

This anthology film tells three tales set in three different years — 1966, 1911 and 2005. The first tale titled "A Time for Love" follows as a young soldier named Chen (Chen Chang, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) meets a pretty pool hall hostess named May (Qi Shu, THE TRANSPORTER) the night before he is to go off to base. Quietly as they play pool, we notice them sneak glances at each other and at the end of the night Chen promises to write. However, when he returns on leave, he discovers that May has moved on to a new job. The sequence has little dialogue; this story of love is told via actions and reactions. It's quiet and beautiful.


FLOATING WEEDS (1959) (****)

It has taken me some time to get to the work of Yasujiro Ozu, one of the most lauded filmmakers of all time. His TOKYO STORY appears on many best of all time lists. His style was completely original in its time and influences can be seen in many current Asian filmmakers' work as well as Jonathan Demme.

Leisurely the story begins establishing the small Japanese fishing village setting. A traveling kabuki troupe arrives in town, which is going through a heat streak. Soon troupe leader Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura, KWAIDAN) emerges as our central character. The beginning reminded me of how in a Robert Altman film we take peeks into the lives of various characters. Turns out that Komajuro had an affair with teahouse worker Oyoshi (Haruko Sugimura, RED BEARD) and their son Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi, THE GREAT WALL) believes that his father is his uncle, who he hasn’t seen in 12 years. When the troupe’s lead actress and Komajuro’s mistress, Sumiko (Machiko Kyo, UGETSU), finds out, she is furious and plots to have pretty young actress Kayo (Ayako Wakao, AN ACTOR'S REVENGE) seduce Kiyoshi.


THE COVENANT (2006) (*1/2)

I kind of suspected this to be bad going in, but I was surprised that it was bad for reasons that I didn't think of. This really isn't a self-contained feature film, but a TV pilot for a bad BUFFY rip-off. Worst line ever contender would have to be — I'm gonna make you my weotch. Sebastian Stan needs to find a new agent.

The story goes as follows: the first born male descendents of the Ipswich colony in Massachusetts begin to develop magical "witch-like" powers when they turn 13, growing in strength until they ascend to full strength at the moment they turn 18. I like how supernatural forces are kind enough to adhere to arbitrary society constructed distinctions of when someone becomes an adult. It makes full strength weotches perfect for military recruitment, but I digress. However, there is a problem — if one uses their powers too much they will become addicted and their body will rapidly age.


MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988) (****)

How can a movie with so little conflict be so compelling? How can a movie whose target audience is preschoolers be so captivating to adults? How can an animated movie that amounts to a slice of life story become one of the most beloved family films on the planet? The short answer to all these questions is director Hayao Miyazaki.

The story is simple — two young girls — Satsuki and 4-year-old Mei — arrive at their new home with their father. Their mother is ill and has been moved to a hospital close by. Upon their arrival at their new home, the girls excitedly investigate every nook and cranny, discovering dust sprites living in the dark rooms. The little balls of fuzz are far more scared of the little girls then the girls are of them. As the family settles in, they meet their elderly neighbor Nanny and Satsuki's classmate Kanta, who is embarrassed to have little girls move in next door. When Satsuki goes off to school, Mei wonders into the forest and meets the giant magical creature called Totoro.


THE NIGHT LISTENER (2006) (***1/2)

In reading other reviews of this film, it seems that many were looking for something more visceral than what the film delivered. I find this ridiculous when the fascinating thing about the story is that its mysteries are rooted in its characters and not trumped up drama. The film ends in a satisfying way that stays true to the characters and doesn’t rely on typical thriller histrionics.

In little over 80 minutes, the film develops three solid characters. Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM) is a radio performer who reads tales on air gleaned from his life. He’s miserable due to the recent break up of his relationship with the younger Jess (Bobby Cannavale, THE STATION AGENT), who wants to embrace life more fully after a recent reprieve from his AIDS. Then publisher Ashe (Joe Morton, TERMINATOR 2) brings a manuscript to Gabriel to read. It’s a harrowing true tale of abuse written by 14-year-old Pete Logand (Rory Culkin, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME). Gabriel is so moved by the boy’s tale that he calls him and begins a close phone relationship with Pete and his blind adoptive mother Donna (Toni Collette, THE SIXTH SENSE). Then one day Jess hears Pete’s voice and questions whether Pete and Donna are not one in the same. As his housekeeper Anna (Sandra Oh, SIDEWAYS) helps him look for proof of Pete’s existence, Gabriel tries to hold on to hope that he hasn’t been duped. An eventual visit to see Pete in person begins to reveal the ramifications of Donna’s own problems.


THE LAST KISS (2006) (***)

Despite some narrative flaws, the core characters are so well written and performed that the film takes on an honest emotional pull. Michael (Zach Braff, TV’s SCRUBS) is a 29-year-old successful professional who is about to have a baby with his long-term girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett, LADDER 49). He’s still friends will the same three guys he was friends with in pre-school. Chris (Casey Affleck, OCEAN’S ELEVEN) is already married with a kid. However, having a child has only made his wife Lisa (Lauren Lee Smith, TV’s THE L WORD) angrier with him. Izzy (Michael Weston, GARDEN STATE) was recently dumped by his high school sweetheart Arianna (Marley Shelton, AMERICAN DREAMZ). Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen, CELLULAR) is a bartender, who is content with sleeping with a different girl each night.


IDLEWILD (2006) (***)

Here is a rare example where style saves the content from failing. Despite a typical story, music that doesn’t pop as much as it should and some awkward moments, the film is still entertaining, mainly do to a fun whimsical style and the charm of its cast.

Mixing Prohibition-era jazz with hip-hop, this musical follows piano player Percival (Andre Benjamin, FOUR BROTHERS) as he begrudgingly works at the family mortuary with his father (Ben Vereen, ALL THAT JAZZ) and spends his nights playing the ivory at a speakeasy called the Church where his best friend, Rooster (Antwan A. Patton, ATL) works. After cold gangster Trumpy (Terrence Howard, HUSTLE & FLOW) murders Church owner Ace (Faizon Love, ELF) and gangster boss Spats (Ving Rhames, BABY BOY), Rooster inherits the speakeasy, but also inherits its debts, which Trumpy immediately wants to collect. While Rooster deals with Trumpy and his disgruntled wife Zora (Malinda Williams, TV’s SOUL FOOD), Percival starts a relationship with the pretty, but insecure, singer Angel Davenport (Paula Patton, DEJA VU). The all-star cast also includes Cicely Tyson, Macy Gray, Patti LaBelle and Bill Nunn.