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Blogs IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (2007) (***1/2)

This documentary tells the story of the Apollo missions from the mouths of the men who went to the moon. But what makes the film special is that it doesn’t chronicle every detail of every mission, but instead talks with the astronauts about what it felt like to go to the moon. This intimacy is often moving, as well as thought provoking.

Director David Sington blends the missions together starting with the selection of the men moving to the preparation for the launch. We find out from the men what riding a rocket is like. We learn the awe-inspiring experience of making it into space, seeing the Earth shrink behind them and the moon grow in front of them. We feel the rush of a successful landings and the anxiousness that one feels about the return home. On Apollo 11, President Nixon pre-recorded a message in case the moon lander wouldn’t take off, stranding Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren on the surface of the moon. There was pressure in being an astronaut before launch, but that status as a hero never left any of them for the rest of their lives. Armstrong declined to participate in the documentary, having always been uneasy with his historical status.

Blogs THE ART OF THE STEAL (2010) (***1/2)

What if you paid the best lawyers to write your will and let say you gave your estate to a charity to help needy students. Then after your death the trustees of your will decide to give the money to your sworn enemies so they can fund some reality show on the rich and famous throwing parties. But be assured its all to make more money for your estate and some students might watch the show. That’s about what happened to Dr. Albert C. Barnes – only he had $30 billion worth of artwork that the rich wanted.

Dr. Barnes’ first accomplishment was to discover a cure for VDs. He took his fortune and bought art, amassing a collection of more than 9,000 pieces, which includes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modiglianis and seven van Goghs. Some of the paintings are so unique that putting a price tag on them is impossible. But at the time he bought his collection, the Philadelphia Museum of Art believed his selections to be trash. Now any museum in the world would die to have a few of the paintings in the Barnes Foundation collection.

Blogs THE OTHER GUYS (2010) (***)

I have mixed feelings about this buddy cop comedy. I went in hoping for a satire of outlandish cop flicks. For the most part that's what I got. Then the film hints at something more, dealing with desk cops doing "boring" police work to catch the biggest thieves like Bernie Madoff. I really wish this area had been developed deeper instead of focusing on unconnected and very broad character moments. Then again some of those moments are really funny. But then again some of them aren't.

P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson, PULP FICTION) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson, GET SMART) are NYC's celebrity cops. They engage in all sorts of reckless chases and stunts, destroying more than they save and yet they are still touted as heroes. Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell, ANCHORMAN) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg, THE DEPARTED are the other guys. Gamble gleefully does the paperwork for cocky Highsmith and Danson. Hoitz is riding a desk not because he wants to, but because of an accidental shooting, which has made him the pariah of the city. Hoitz taunts Gamble into taking more dangerous cases, but Gamble is more interested in a scaffolding violation involving businessman David Ershon (Steve Coogan, TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY).

Blogs Idiots' Diary #3: I’ve Decided to Self Distribute 'Idiots & Angels'

So I've decided to self distribute Idiots & Angels. The biggest hurdle is finding a cinema in NYC. There are a whole lot of films looking for cinemas and not a whole lot of cinemas, so the trick is the find one that suites my audience. Animation fans.

Blogs CHLOE (2010) (***1/2)

Atom Egoyan has made a career out telling tales with strange sexual undercurrents. This story deals with how sex changes in relationships as those in the relationship change. Unspoken issues develop calluses, but become sensitive to touch. The resulting pain makes one act in uncharacteristic ways.

Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT) is a successful gynecologist who is married to the busy professor David (Liam Neeson, KINSEY). She has planned a big surprise party for his birthday, but he doesn’t show up after he misses his plan back from a speaking engagement. When he sees a picture message from one of the students, she is convinced that he had an affair. Catherine finds the call girl Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, TV's BIG LOVE) and makes plans for her to secretly seduce her husband in order to catch him in an affair. This action will reveal things about their relationship that Catherine never expected. Moreover, she never expected what it reveals about herself.

Blogs Idiots' Diary #2: Indie Distribution is not Self Distribution

Many people think that if you can't get the Weinsteins or Sony Picture Classics to distribute your film then it must be crap. Perhaps for some films that may be the case, but let me talk about the differences between indie distribution and self distribution.

Blogs Idiots' Diary #1: The Ongoing Travails of Distributing my Feature, 'Idiots & Angels'

A lot of you people have been following my travails with Idiots & Angels. First, making the film, then in distributing the film. In fact, I always say there are 3 major steps in the success of a film.

Blogs PromaxBDA's Microsite Highlights Industry Thought-Leaders

I’ve already professed an interest in industry conferences, and often wish that I could have more time with featured speakers at events I attend. So when the team at Wiredrive said they were creating a custom microsite (http://promaxbdatheconference2010.com,)for PromaxBDA with interviews featuring design, marketing and branding luminaries I was excited.

Blogs JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996) (***)

Based on the Roald Dahl’s book, director Henry Selick made this project his follow-up to the successful NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Bookended by a live-action opening and closing, this stop-motion feature is generally an episodic adventure following a classic tale of a young boy dreaming beyond his circumstances.

After the death of his parents, James Trotter (Paul Terry) becomes a virtual slave to his ghoulish aunts Spiker (Joanna Lumley, TV’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS) and Sponge (Miriam Margolyes, BABE). One day he meets a wandering old man (Pete Postlewaite, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), who gives him magic worms that he claims will help him attain his dream of getting from England to New York City. Spilling the worms on the ground, James sets off a series of events that grows a giant peach on a barren tree where human-sized bugs come to live.

Blogs Blu-ray: JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996)

Read my review of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH

Henry Selick's children's film is dark in both its tone and look. That is translated over into the new 1080p release from Disney. The color palette is muted, so one doesn't get the pop that animation often brings to Blu-ray. The images don't have the same depth as other animated films on Blu-ray do as well. I believe this is certainly more to do with the source than the transfer. Just looking at the standard definition trailer you can see a huge improvement. The picture is much clearer than the murky DVD transfer. There is noise throughout, especially in the live-action sequences, but no artifacting or banding. I'm not convinced this is the best the film could look, but it's the best available for home viewing to date by far.

Blogs Blu-ray Buzz – Prophetic Week for Blu-ray

This is one awesome week for Blu-ray. The best film released in 2010 thus far arrives. Four other titles appear in the Queue Qualified section for films I highly recommend. And the Buzzed About section has three films I've been eagerly awaiting their arrival.

Pick of the Week
A Prophet
While this was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film last year, this French film didn’t get a release until February of this year. I haven’t seen a better film released in 2010. When I thought there can’t be a new twist on the gangster flick, this film came along and proved me wrong. Malik (Tahar Rahim) is a smart, but naïve teen that is thrown in jail seemingly because he is an Arab. The scrappy kid draws the attention of Corsican gang boss Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup), who enlists him quickly and he has to develop a killer’s spirit under fire. The film underlines how people don’t get rehabilitated in prison; they only become better criminals. Watching Malik learn is an impressive and frightening thing.

Blogs Blu-ray: JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996)

Henry Selick's children's film is dark in both its tone and look. That is translated over into the new 1080p release from Disney. The color palette is muted, so one doesn't get the pop that animation often brings to Blu-ray. The images don't have the same depth as other animated films on Blu-ray do as well. I believe this is certainly more to do with the source than the transfer. Just looking at the standard definition trailer you can see a huge improvement. The picture is much clearer than the murky DVD transfer. There is noise throughout, especially in the live-action sequences, but no artifacting or banding. I'm not convinced this is the best the film could look, but it's the best available for home viewing to date by far.

Blogs JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996) (***)

Based on the Roald Dahl’s book, director Henry Selick made this project his follow-up to the successful NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Bookended by a live-action opening and closing, this stop-motion feature is generally an episodic adventure following a classic tale of a young boy dreaming beyond his circumstances.

Blogs Please Touch at the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery

By Dan Sarto | Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 2:21pm

The 2010 SIGGRAPH Art Gallery has done away with the old phrase “look but don’t touch.”

The 14 juried pieces exhibited this year absolutely require human interaction with a focus on haptics (touch). Richard Elaver from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne has taken the cross disciplinary theme of Leonardo and applied it to the selection process for the exhibits on display. Leonardo is a journal that has a philosophy of combining science, technology and art. Leonardo can be explored at www.leonardo.info.

Blogs SIGGRAPH: Peace, Love and Computer Graphics

ACM stands for Association of Computing Machinery, a group brought together by the advent of, well, computing machinery. And by computing machinery, I mean the Wild West of computer machinery. Computer’s the size of large rooms, punch hole language, rogue code writers with amazing ideas about what computing could do. ACM has a subgroup of Special Interest Groups, called SIGs.

Blogs A chance for your idea: Billboard offering live pitches for Mobile concepts

Billboard offering live pitches for Mobile concepts Billboard says the opportunity will allow companies to present their new technology, product or service in front of a crowd of senior execs from the telco and entertainment worlds. Hurry though, the deadline for submissions is August 3rd.

Blogs Highlights from the SIGGRAPH 2010 Electronic Theatre

By Dan Sarto | Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 12:05am

At the end of the two hour presentation my viewing partner kept muttering to me about “sensory overload” as we shuffled out the door. It’s one of the dangers of today’s world. The big Hollywood movie was well represented by The Last Airbender, Iron Man 2, Alice in Wonderland, 2012 and Avatar. The digital work on these films is, of course, excellent but overwrought compared to the smaller films and shorts. Simple stories told using the computer took the day.

Blogs DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (2010) (***)

Steve Carell really kicked off his big screen career with the awkward innocent in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. Now he plays another awkward innocent, however Barry makes VIRGIN’s Andy look world weary. This mouse taxidermist might be the most clueless character to arrive in theaters since DUMB AND DUMBER.

Barry becomes the perfect idiot for Tim (Paul Rudd, ROLE MODELS), an eager analyst at an equity firm. He’s hoping for a big promotion and his boss Lance (Bruce Greenwood, STAR TREK) has invited him to a big wigs’ dinner where each person must bring the biggest misfit they can find so that they can make fun of them. Tim desperately wants to get the promotion so he can impress his successful art curator girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA). But Julie thinks the whole idea of this “dinner for winners” is cruel.

Blogs ORPHAN (2009) (***1/2)

This orphan from hell flick is one of the best killer kids movies I’ve ever seen. It takes its premise and genuinely develops its characters in compelling ways. It begins down clichés of this type of film, but does so with creepiness and real dread thanks to the time spent making us care for the characters. Then it delivers a whopper of a twist that is simply fabulous trash.

Kate (Vera Farmiga, UP IN THE AIR) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard, AN EDUCATION) have a stillborn child. The tragedy hits Kate particularly hard. We jump forward in time and Kate and John have decided to adopt. They go to an orphanage where they meet the smart, talented Russian girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman, HOUNDDOG). She's a bit of an outsider, dressed in clothes out of the American Girl catalog. The Colemans’ son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett, STAR TREK) gets jealous of the attention his parents give the strange new girl in their house, but their deaf-mute daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) finds a new friend.

Blogs Emerging from SIGGRAPH's Emerging Technology

By Dan Sarto | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 4:11pm

Preston Smith began with SIGGRAPH as a volunteer 15 years ago and is the current Chair of the Emerging Technologies section. Preston is a network administrator. When he graduated from college, he thought seriously about getting involved in CG. The more he watched what the kids in this industry were doing with technology, the more he became interested in supporting that technology. Today, Preston is the Linux administrator at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research. He supports the fMRI, or function Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine.

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