Search form

AWN Blogs


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) (****)

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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.


SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006) (**1/2)

This film's incredible fan-generated buzz and subsequent box office fizzle has taught Hollywood an important lesson — even if they number in the millions, teens on the Internet with too much free time on their hands do not guarantee you a box office smash. It seems that a good portion of the folks who built fansites around this film months before it came out, where actually too young to go see this campy R-rated horror film in theaters. Leaving only a smaller audience of drunken college students left to buy tickets. You may be wondering why I bring this up and what it all has to do with the quality of the film. The unprecedented Internet chatter surrounding this film allowed the makers to go back and add more of what fans were calling for. So just because a teenager wants to see a snake latch onto a man's penis, do we need to give it to them?


BREATHLESS (1960) (****)

This landmark film is considered by many as the first picture of the French New Wave. For director Jean-Luc Godard — a critic turned director — this film was his feature debut and marked such a revolution in content and style that it was actually band for four years in Finland.

The story is simple — two-bit car thief Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo, MISSISSIPPI MERMAID) is pulled over in a stolen automobile, panics and shoots the police officer. He flees to Paris where he tries to collect some cash as well as hang low until the heat cools down. He meets up with his girl Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg, AIRPORT), an American who works part-time selling newspapers as well as a little reporting while she waits to be accepted into the Sorbonne. As police inspector Vital (Daniel Boulanger, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER) doggedly searches for Michel, we follow the thuggish-looking killer as he follows around the beautiful Patricia. During the course of the story, we will learn a lot about the young lovers' relationship, which is modern and unconventional compared to the traditional screen romance.


VOLVER (2006) (***1/2)

Pedro Almodóvar has been writing and directing films since the 1970s. He has a distinct style, mixing melodrama with humor and just a small dash of camp and fantastic realism. I began watching his work with the Oscar winner ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. For me he's a filmmaker that turns out high quality productions every time out, yet hasn't blown me away. With that said though, the body of his work affects you. There is no doubt he is a master filmmaker and VOLVER is my favorite since MOTHER.

Raimunda (Penelope Cruz, VANILLA SKY) is a working class mother, who is married to the lazy Paco (Antonio de la Torre). Along with her teenage daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) and her sister Sole (Lola Duenas, THE SEA INSIDE), she visits the grave of her mother Irene (Carmen Maura, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN) and her father, who died in a house fire. On the way home, they stop by to visit their aunt Tia (Chus Lampreave, TALK TO HER) and begin to worry when the old woman talks as if their mother is living with her. But this might not be so crazy. Their friend Agustina (Blanca Portillo, upcoming GOYA'S GHOSTS) tells them that many in the superstitious village claim to have seen the ghost of Irene. After tragedy strikes more than once, Sole actually finds her mother in the trunk of her car. As the story moves along, many family secrets will be revealed.


THE ILLUSIONIST (2006) (***)

Is this the best period piece thriller about magicians of 2006? That is up for debate, because of the other period piece thriller about magicians released in 2006 — THE PRESTIGE. Both are equally entertaining, however PRESTIGE is darker and delves into fantasy while ILLUSIONIST is a romance and has a more emotionally engaging through line. Both films have twists that any observant film watcher will have figured out way before the end. It is a credit to both films that they still work nonetheless. I actually believe that the twist gets less in the way of the story in THE ILLUSIONIST.

As a teen, magician Eisenheim (Edward Norton, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLINT) fell in love with the rich girl Sophie (Jessica Biel, BLADE TRINITY), who was forbidden to see him. After this, he disappeared and later reemerged in turn-of-the-century Vienna as a master illusionist. One night Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell, DARK CITY) attends his performance and volunteers his lady friend to participate in the final act. Eisenheim is shocked when it's his long lost love Sophie. Soon their romance is rekindled, but chief inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti, SIDEWAYS) is watching Sophie's every move. The news of the romance won't make the crown prince happy at all.


NOTES ON A SCANDAL (2006) (***1/2)

NOTES ON A SCANDAL is FATAL ATTRACTION for the art house crowd. Yet, I wouldn't want one to believe that the film is a typical stalker thriller or a boring artsy fartsy affair. It's a compelling character study that's literate and witty as well as tense.

Barbara Covett (Judi Dench, MRS. BROWN) is a veteran high school teacher, who has developed a pretty cynical outlook on what she can accomplish as an educator. She lives alone with her cats and writes volumes in her diary, observing the world from a distance with droll, dark humor. Then Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett, THE AVIATOR) joins the school as the new Art teacher. Barbara quickly becomes infatuated with the beautiful free-spirited woman. But when Barbara discovers that Sheba is having an affair with her 15-year-old student Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson, SONG FOR A RAGGY BOY), she doesn't turn Sheba in, instead uses the information to get closer to the woman. Barbara wants Sheba all for herself.


THE PAINTED VEIL (2006) (***1/2)

Based on W. Somerset Maugham's classic novel, the film is a first-rate melodrama, which sets a tortured romance against an exotic backdrop filled with turmoil. Director John Curran (WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE) brings the story to life with great production design and stellar lead performances.

Kitty (Naomi Watts, KING KONG) is the daughter of a wealthy family, who is getting a bit old to be living off her mother and father. Due to the pressures of her family, she hastily agrees to marry stiff civil servant Walter Fane (Edward Norton, THE 25TH HOUR), who works as a scientist for the British government in Shanghai. Kitty quickly becomes bored with life in China where parties and games come far and few.


LADY VENGEANCE (2006) (****)

Chan-wook Park is a director who makes violent morality plays, which combine pitch black humor with intelligent commentary on the human condition along with startling twists and turns. His films push the boundaries of cinema. His work may not be for everyone, but those more adventurous will find originality in scores in his pictures.

Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee, JOINT SECURITY AREA) has just been released after serving 13 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. For that time, she has been developing a complex plan of vengeance, recruiting many of her fellow inmates to help her. She skillfully presents herself as a kind-hearted woman, but that's just a front. She is looking for revenge. Part of the joy of the film is its surprises so I will not reveal too much more outside the fact that nothing is as it seems. The other important characters include: substitute teacher Mr. Baek (Min-sik Choi, OLDBOY), young adopted girl Jenny (Yea-young Kwon, film debut), police detective Choi (Il-woo Nam), baker Mr. Chang (Oh Dal-su, OLDBOY), teenage bakery worker Geun-shik (Kim Si-hu) and fellow inmate Park Yi-jeong (Lee Seung-shin, OLDBOY).


THE BLACK DAHLIA (2006) (**)

Brian DePalma's adaptation of James Ellroy's famed crime novel perfectly displays why the complex story has taken so long to reach the screen, because so much has to be crammed into two hours. The characters suffer from too many emotional leaps as well as an ending that tells the solution of the mystery instead of showing us.

Officer Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (Josh Hartnett, SIN CITY) is an ambitious young cop and we know this because he tells us in voice over. The L.A. police department needs a funding bill passed, so they stage a benefit boxing fight between Bucky, a former pro, and fellow officer and former pro fighter Leland "Lee" Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING). This raises the two cops up in the ranks of the department. Now as partners, they quickly become good friends. Bucky even gets close to Lee's girl Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson, MATCH POINT). Lee is always out for the top collar, but he drops everything when the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner, TV's THE L WORD) is found in a vacant lot.


MRS. HARRIS (2006) (**1/2)

This TV movie chronicles the murder of Dr. Herman “Hy” Tarnower (Ben Kingsley, GANDHI), author of the bestselling Scarsdale Diet book. In the 1980s, the case was a tabloid sensation as the story came out that Tarnower’s spurned lover Jean Harris (Annette Bening, AMERICAN BEAUTY) shot him several times in a failed attempted to commit suicide. At least that was Jean’s version of the story.

The film begins with shooting from Jean’s point of view. We often jump between the murder, the trial and Jean and Herman’s relationship. Director/writer Phyllis Nagy also injects interviews with friends and family of Jean and Herman. We see from the start that Tarnower is a controlling man, who is both proud and self-conscience of his wealth and Jewish heritage. Hy and Jean’s first sex scene is a highlight. However, he can be charming and we understand why Jean agrees to marry him. But it doesn’t take long before we can see that Tarnower is getting cold feet. However, at this point, Jean is attached and Hy is afraid to commit, but also afraid to let Jean go. Over the years, Jean desperately clings to Hy, trying to win his affection even though she knows he is having an affair with his nurse, Lynne Tryforos (Chloe Sevigny, SHATTERED GLASS).