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Blogs 17th INTERNATIONAL TRICKFILM FESTIVAL OF ANIMATED FILM Stuttgart, Germany May 4 through 9 2010

The 17th edition of the International Trickfilm Festival of Animated Film, May 4 through 9 in Stuttgart, Germany was definitely bigger and better than ever.  The only problem I had was that there was so much to see and do that I had to make some difficult choices.

In addition to the five short film competition screenings there were four Tricks For Kids programs, four Young Animation presentations, four Panorama screenings, feature films, and a bevy of guests.

A rare appearance by the legendary Bruce Bickford was a special treat.  Bruce, an animation veteran of 40 years, introduced two of his films, the 45 minute Cas’l and Prometheus’ Garden.  He also answered numerous questions from the sold out audience.  In a separate program Monster Road, Brett Ingram’s 2004 film about the life and work of Bickford gave an intimate glimpse into the life and work of the self taught Claymation maste who spent 6½ years working with Frank Zappa to create such films as Baby Snakes and Dub Room Special.

Blogs Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 08

This week on the Frenzer Forman Animation Forum, Alan grills Joel about cheese, shoots the shot about pickles, and reveals his own unique down-home bathing technique. Joel blurts out starts to thoughts, pauses dramatically to think of what to say next, and concludes non-sequitarily. Then special guest, fan, animation motion maker, and high-seas adventurer, Sam Olschan, enlightens the discussion as she loquaciously elucidates on animation teaching philosophy, production practice, dance-fighting, the implausibility of Scrooge McDuck, Narwal Quick-Fire Challenges, and flirting with the FFAF Computer. Six-year-old animation entrepreneur Isaac Short then visits the studio to seek advice about his next very very very traditional stop-motion masterpiece.

Blogs Blu-ray Buzz – The Road to Blu-ray

The week is another light week, but features a quad of great releases. A great new literary adaptation makes its journey to home entertainment. Two must-see classics are arriving on Blu-ray. Additionally, Blu-ray sees a new Criterion anthology of shorts from one of the most influential experimental filmmakers in history.

Pick of the Week
The Road
John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's modern classic novel is a harrowing tale about the fears and hopes of parents. In a post-apocalyptic America, where cannibals roam the landscape, a father, played brilliantly and tenderly by Viggo Mortensen, travels toward warmer weather with his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The father knows the hardships of the world while his son remains innocent. While the film doesn't quite capture the scope of the novel (few two hour films can), the film version still retains the emotional weight of its main characters. Great supporting work also comes from Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Michael K. Williams. A challenging, harsh drama, but one of the best films of last year.

Blogs THE MESSENGER (2009) (***1/2)

Nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay, this psychological look at the effects of war understands what we feel and what others believe we should feel are completely different sometimes. Returning soldiers deal with this more acutely. Soldiers at war deal with death directly and sometimes often, while civilians see it at a distance until it hits them personally. So how does it feel to be the soldier that has to tell the next of kin about their loved one's death?

Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster, 3:10 TO YUMA) is a returning soldier from Iraq and a decorated war hero. The military has assigned the recovering soldier to deliver death notices for the remainder of his enlistment. He is partnered with Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLINT), a recovering alcoholic who served in the first Gulf War. Stone's single-mindedly adheres to the military manual on giving notice. He doesn't want any confusion like the time a solider told a next of kin, or NOK, that their son was no longer with us and his mother thought he had defected.

Blogs SHREK FOREVER AFTER (2010) (**)

In my review for SHREK THE THIRD, I said, "[it] doesn’t walk the edge like the other films, but there are still enough flares of that same good ol’ SHREK that you remember why you were friends in the first place." Three years later those flares have completely burned out. This "what if Shrek were never born" fantasy is the kind of desperate plot that tired sitcoms resort to.

Shrek (Mike Myers, AUSTIN POWERS) has given up his kingdom to settle down in the swamp with Fiona (Cameron Diaz, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) and the kids. The only problem is his repetitive and safe domestic life doesn't sit well with the ogre who can no longer scare a child. So when Rumpelstiltskin (Watt Dohrn) makes Shrek a deal to trade one day from his childhood for one more day as a real ogre, the big green dummy signs on the dotted line.

Blogs SHREK FOREVER AFTER (2010) (**)

In my review for SHREK THE THIRD, I said, "[it] doesn’t walk the edge like the other films, but there are still enough flares of that same good ol’ SHREK that you remember why you were friends in the first place." Three years later those flares have completely burned out. This "what if Shrek were never born" fantasy is the kind of desperate plot that tired sitcoms resort to.

Blogs Blu-ray: INVICTUS (2009)

Read my original INVICTUS review here!

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings Clint Eastwood's Nelson Mandela tale to Blu-ray in a 1080p/VC-1 edition. While the picture quality isn't blow-your-mind, the transfer keeps the integrity of the original source. Film grain is presented evenly across the entire film. This is not a title that has the three-dimensional pop to it. Color balance is nicely done across the board with the richest moments coming during the final rugby match between South Africa in the green and gold and New Zealand in their stark white and black. Cinematographer Tom Stern doesn't go for flashy camera work and this transfer keeps true to his realistic visual approach.

Blogs 'How to Train Your Dragon' Opens to Critical Acclaim in China

Chinese film industry observers expect that How to Train Your Dragon’s opening will kick IMAX movie viewing into high gear. From the advanced press reviews from China, and response from the first day of screenings in China, the critics and audience absolutely LOVED this movie.

Blogs Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 07

New, from the makers of the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum, it's the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum's Lucky Sevens Sunday Sweep-week Spectacular! Starring Joel Frenzer and Alan Foreman! You'll be wowed by Joel's magical grievance genius! Thrilled by Alan's private area! And swept away by a beautiful wind! Your heart will soar as special guest Carolyn London waxes poetic about life as a soon-to-be mother, life as an independent filmmaker, and the future of inter-galactic voyeurism! But that's not all! If you listen now, you'll receive another Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum Super Saver Bonus Feature bringing you another highlight from the 2009 Ottawa International Animation Festival Animator's Picnic with special guest appearances by Robert Anderson, Gene Fowler, and the 32nd President of the United States of America... Franklin Delano Roosevelt!

Blogs Blu-ray Buzz – Inspiring Rugby, Walkabouts & Real Sex

One of the very best films of last year has arrived on Bu-ray and DVD this week. We'll also take a look at two solid films that are coming to Blu-ray. There are also Buzzed About films that have me very excited to check out.

Pick of the Week
Clint Eastwood's INVICTUS chronicles Nelson Mandela's attempt to reunite South Africa after apartheid. Mandela used the national rugby team as a common bond between blacks and whites. Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as rugby captain Francois Pienaar were both nominated for the Academy Award. If any inspirational sports film should have been nominated for Best Picture, this should have been the one. Sorry BLIND SIDE. Mandela's story is remarkable and in taking this one part of his life the film captures the great man's spirit as a whole.