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LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE (2010) (***)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 3:38pm

Zack Snyder puts his unique stamp on this animated adventure. Based on Kathryn Lasky's young adult book series, the film is like LORD OF THE RINGS performed by owls via photoreal animation. The straightforward narrative is made more compelling simply through the visual originality.

Blogs

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE (2010) (***)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 3:37pm

Zack Snyder puts his unique stamp on this animated adventure. Based on Kathryn Lasky's young adult book series, the film is like LORD OF THE RINGS performed by owls via photoreal animation. The straightforward narrative is made more compelling simply through the visual originality.

The story begins with the young owl Soren (Jim Sturgess, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE) telling his little sister Eglantine (Adrienne DeFaria) the tales about the great battles of the Guardians. His brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten, TV's TRUE BLOOD) is tried of hearing about these old myths. Excited following their first flying lessons, the two brothers sneak out of the nest to practice without parental supervision. By accident they fall to the forest floor where they are kidnapped by agents of St. Aegolius, an orphanage that brainwashes its young owlets into being soldiers for the Pure Ones, led by Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton, THE SQUARE) and his bride Nyra (Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN). If the owlets are not the right breed or refuse to conform, they are hypnotized by the moon and forced to pick out metal flecks from the pellets owl cough up.

Blogs

Movie Review: 'Legend of the Guardians': '300' with Feathers

By Joe Strike | Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 8:51am

You’ve probably heard about the Uncanny Valley: not a geographical location, but the precipitous drop in peoples’ comfort level when they come across something that’s almost human… but not quite (like the replicants in Zemeckis’ mocap movies). Well, in Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians you’ve got owls – dozens and hundreds of owls who look almost like real life owls… but not quite. It’s that quest for the absolutely perfect replication of wind rippling the tiniest hairs in their feathers or the way light glints and reflects off their wide eyes: Guardians achieves it – at the expense of the audience they’ve just tossed into the Valley.

Time Blogs

Four Keys to Creative Transformation: The Results of a Prototype Test in China

By Robin King | Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 5:16pm

Creative transformation means doing it differently! This post describes a two year experiment in designing and implementing a training school based on four key principles that enhance the learning process. Based on core competencies, it used a range of novel methods to motivate and develop professionally related skills in an accelerated system of feedback loops and rapid iteration.

Blogs

Idiots’ Diary #10: Street Team

Part of my campaign to build up the crowd enthusiasm for my Idiots & Angels premier in NYC is getting the animation students involved. I've planned a number of school visits to help spread the word to my most hard-core audience. Yesterday, I visited Marty Abrahams' class at The School of Visual Arts here in NYC.

Blogs

Fireflies West Ride Shines Light on Cancer Research & Treatment

Our industry is often focused on producing entertaining media to help sell products, so when I heard about members of our community coming together for the Fireflies West fundraising cycling ride for cancer I was moved – no persuasion needed – to write about this amazing endeavor.

Blogs

Blu-ray Buzz – Charades & Oscar Winners Are Blu

This is a lighter week leading up to some packed weeks to come. The Pick of the Week is the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed. Two Oscar winners and two interesting new releases are also here.

Pick of the Week
Charade
Stanley Donen's thriller is what many have called the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never directed. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn star in this thriller that surrounds Hepburn's dead husband, stolen money and hidden identities. The repartee between the leads with the sharp dialogue is a highlight of the pure joy of this picture. The stars are stalked by James Bond-esque villains, played by James Coburn, George Kennedy and Dominique Minot. Additionally, Walter Matthau plays a CIA agent who keeps us in tune with how dangerous the situation is getting. The plot keeps the audience guessing what is really going on right up until the fantastic conclusion. In preparing this week's column, I ran over an interesting trivia fact about the film too. Universal Pictures mistakenly did not include a copyright at the end of the credits and therefore the film fell into public domain immediately on release due to the pre-1978 U.S. copyright law. Now that's a serious oops.

Blogs

THE LOSERS (2010) (**1/2)

Based on the Vertigo comic book series, the film is the better A-TEAM movie released in 2010. The backstabbed black ops team tale doesn't blaze new ground, but unlike the other A-TEAM film of 2010, it mixes violence, humor and some over-the-top action with a dash of character motivation.

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, WATCHMEN) leads his black ops team into Bolivia to hit a high profile target. But in the midst of the action, the team discovers children at the compound. They decide to rescue the kids, but discover no one, even the team, was to survive the mission. The operation was being run by Max (Jason Patric, THE LOST BOYS), a powerful government spy who ruthlessly makes deals to defend America and his own self interests — the latter is his chief objective.

Blogs

PETER AND VANDY (2009) (**1/2)

There are a lot of well-written scenes in this indie romance, but they don't quite add up to a fully fleshed out film. Writer/director Jay DiPietro has a good ear for the way people really talk and how arguments in relationships tend to center around mundane things like ordering food. He shows us many episodes like this in a relationship that starts passionately and descends into ugliness. These episodes jump through time to juxtapose the good and the bad. There is good and bad in this approach.

We first meet Peter (Jason Ritter, MUMFORD) and Vandy (Jess Weixler, TEETH) during a romantic picnic looking out at the Statue of Liberty. The idyllic scene doesn't end as romantic as either hoped for. They met on a park bench during lunch as Peter tells Vandy that the Chinese restaurant she order from will make a chicken salad instead of the fattening fried rice. An awkward meet cute for sure. Vandy is dating someone, but Peter impresses her with a sweet gesture. Soon enough they are dating and hurling insults at each other over how to make a peanut butter sandwich.

Blogs

THE TOWN (2010) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 11:19am

As the film tells us at the start, the Charlestown section of Boston is the bank robbery capital of the U.S.  It also gives a quote from a Charlestown resident stating that the town was a great place to grow up, but it ruined his life. The characters are products of this environment. It defines them whether they like it or not.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING) is the brains of a bank robbery crew. It's sort of the family business; his father Stephen (Chris Cooper, AMERICAN BEAUTY) is serving time for robbery. During the latest heist, his best friend James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, THE HURT LOCKER) takes an unnecessary hostage in petrified assistant bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA). Doug feels bad about the whole thing, so he follows Claire to make sure that she is okay. It also doesn't hurt to know what she knows.

Blogs

CATFISH (2010) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:52pm

Serendipity often plays a huge part in some of the greatest documentaries ever made. Like Errol Morris with THE THIN BLUE LINE or Ross McElwee with SHERMAN'S MARCH, filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman had their cameras ready when a story presented itself. They began filming before they really knew what they had. When they started there is no way they could have imagined how crazy the journey to the end would be.

Ariel's brother Nev is a professional photographer. He often shoots dancers. After one of his pictures appeared in the newspaper, he received a painting of the photograph from Abby, an eight year old living in Michigan. The paintings show talent. Over time he develops a pen pal relationship with the young girl. Her mother Angela says that her daughter's paintings have sold for upwards of $7,000. Nev becomes friends with them on Facebook and starts chatting up Abby's older sister Megan, a singer and wannabe model. They talk on the phone and Nev certainly is falling for the pretty girl. His brother and Joost thought they were filming a story of how technology affects modern romance. They got that and so much more.

Foreman Blogs

Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 18

This week on the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum: a big announcement, time-travel, and special guest filmaker/animator/object-manipulator/shadow-hugger Janie Geiser. Join Joel, Alan, Sam Olschan, and Computer as they discuss with Janie the finer points of puppet-performance, the gallery vs. the theater, funding your personal art, and how to fix your apartment or life with gaff tape.

Blogs

NEVER LET ME GO (2010) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 4:23pm

Due to its subject matter, this film should be called sci-fi. But its tone is far closer to a somber period piece. Mark Romanek, whose only other feature film was the sad thriller ONE HOUR PHOTO, has kept the same straightforward tone of the book from Kazuo Ishiguro, whose novel REMAINS OF THE DAY was adapted into a somber film as well. Romanek never sensationalizes the material into some kind of conspiracy thriller. He asks one philosophical question and spends the film answering that question in an emotionally powerful way.

Blogs

NEVER LET ME GO (2010) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 4:20pm

Due to its subject matter, this film should be called sci-fi. But its tone is far closer to a somber period piece. Mark Romanek, whose only other feature film was the sad thriller ONE HOUR PHOTO, has kept the same straightforward tone of the book from Kazuo Ishiguro, whose novel REMAINS OF THE DAY was adapted into a somber film as well. Romanek never sensationalizes the material into some kind of conspiracy thriller. He asks one philosophical question and spends the film answering that question in an emotionally powerful way.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION), Tommy (Andrew Garfield, RED RIDING TRILOGY) and Ruth (Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE) have grown up together at the highly controlled boarding school Hailsham. The headmistress Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling, SWIMMING POOL) does not stand for anyone breaking the rules. The children were told stories that if they left the grounds even for a second they might be savagely murdered. They wear wristbands to make sure they are all accounted for. The new teacher Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY) begins to question the morality of how the children are being treated, but her views are seen as subversion.

Animation Blogs

THE BLACK CAULDRON (1985) (**1/2)

Many critics put this as one of the lowest, if not the lowest point, in Disney Feature Animation history. While it's not as big a failure as a film as so many say, its financial disaster has put an extra pall over its history. Getting crushed by THE CARE BEAR MOVIE at the box office will do that. The straightforward fantasy adventure is undercut by weak characters mainly.

Blogs

THE BLACK CAULDRON (1985) (**1/2)

Many critics put this as one of the lowest, if not the lowest point, in Disney Feature Animation history. While it's not as big a failure as a film as so many say, its financial disaster has put an extra pall over its history. Getting crushed by THE CARE BEAR MOVIE at the box office will do that. The straightforward fantasy adventure is undercut by weak characters mainly.

Based on Lloyd Alexander's CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN book series, the LORD OF THE RINGS-like adventure with a coming of age twist seemed like a perfect story for the Disney animators to tackle. Taran (Grant Bardsley) is an assistant pig farmer who dreams of becoming a great warrior. His mentor Dallben (Freddie Jones, DUNE) is really an enchanter who is protecting the mystical pig Hen Wen from falling into the clutches of The Horned King (John Hurt, THE ELEPHANT MAN), who wants to use the swine to locate the Black Cauldron, which could allow him to raise an army of the undead and take over the world.

Blogs

CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) (**)

When I was five, there were two films that completely captured by imagination — STAR WARS and CLASH OF THE TITANS. The original is a campy classic epic adventure punctuated by Ray Harryhausen's awesome special effects. In this remake, I looked forward to seeing some of the plot hiccups reworked and combined with modern visual effects. All I got was more plot hiccups that ultimately render the modern visual effects less than thrilling.

Zeus (Liam Neeson, TAKEN) and the gods need the prayers of humans to retain their power. When humans challenge the gods, they seek revenge. King Acrisius (Jason Flemyng, KICK-ASS) challenges the gods' rule, so Zeus rapes his wife, impregnating her. In defiance, Acrisius nails his wife and bastard son Perseus in a coffin and plans to drop them into the sea. Right when he's about to carry out the deed, he is struck by lightning. Disfigured, he changes his name to Calibos and goes into hiding. The coffin is recovered by a fisherman named Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), who finds Perseus alive and adopts the boy.

Blogs

Blu-ray Buzz – One Flew to Blu-ray

This is a full week. Classics and cult flicks abound on Blu-ray. The Buzzed About section is full of interesting indie titles arriving on DVD only. So let the list begin.

Pick of the Week
One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest
Milos Forman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's classic novel is one of the best films of the 1970s. The film earned Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, Forman, and Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Best Picture. Nominations went to Brad Dourif for Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Score. Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy is an archetype of the '70s antihero. He manipulates himself into getting institutionalized instead of going to jail. His rebellion against the petty and pointless rules of Nurse Ratched (Fletcher) only verifies his insanity to the powers that be. In addition to Nicholson, Fletcher and Dourif, the cast includes Scatman Crothers, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli. Will Sampson made an impression as the iconic mute Native American named Chief. Funny and heartbreaking, this is one of my favorite films.

Blogs

FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (****)

In the 1950s, science fiction began to step out of kid adventure mode and deal with more adult themes. This coy sci-fi adventure dealt with the secret thoughts that lurk within us all. Its influence on the genre is endless, most notably inspiring the tone and psychological themes of STAR TREK.

Inspired by Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, the story follows Commander J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen, NAKED GUN) as he leads an expedition to the distant planet of Altair IV where a previous expedition has gone missing. When they arrive at the planet, the only surviving member of the last crew, Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon, MADAME CURIE), warns them to turn around and go home. Adams ignores the warning and lands to find that the previous crew was wiped out by an unseen entity. Dr. Morbius has utilized the highly advanced technology of the previous inhabitants of the planet, the Krell, to build an advanced robot named Robby (Marvin Miller, M*A*S*H). What he's less willing to reveal is his beautiful daughter Altaria (Anne Francis, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE). How Lt. "Doc" Ostrow (Warren Stevens, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA) and Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly, TV's MAVERICK) react to her, he might have legitimate concerns.

Blogs

THX 1138 (1971) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 4:07pm

Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope was supposed to be a haven for young San Francisco filmmakers. But Warner Bros. backed away from its deal with the company before it really got started. However, this wasn't before a young George Lucas had the chance to do a feature length version of his short from USC. This low-budget sci-fi film set the groundwork for Lucas to get the funding for STAR WARS. Yet this film is a starkly different kind of sci-fi than the Flash Gordon serial adventure that came in 1977.

In the 25th century, humans live in a highly controlled underground society. They are feed drugs to dampen their emotions. Physical sex is outlawed and roommates are simply assigned. One deity called OMM 0910 has been approved to worship. (He looks a lot like Hans Memling's Christ.) Androids police the human population.

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