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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
Invictus
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.

Blogs BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL - NEW ORLEANS (2009) (***1/2)

Like me, director Werner Herzog has never seen the original BAD LIEUTENANT, starring Harvey Keitel and directed by Abel Ferrara. So he took this project on as an original. That's of course how I had to go into watching it. It seems like the perfect project for Herzog, following a larger than life character with an obsession.

This character is Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage, LEAVING LAS VEGAS), a police detective in New Orleans. Before the waters have receded he and his partner Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer, TOMBSTONE) stumble upon a prisoner still locked away in a cell as the water rises. The detectives contemplate leaving him to die (Terence doesn't want to ruin his expensive underwear), but he decides to jump in anyway. In the process he injuries his back severely and will suffer pain the rest of his life.

Blogs SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) (***)

Coming from Guy Ritchie, the director of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, it's not surprising that this Sherlock Holmes is a more physical chap. But what is surprising is how it is handled. While this film has a contemporary vibe, it stays true to the spirit of the famed character. He is a detective and a skeptic and those qualities drive him and this film.

To start Holmes (Robert Downey Jr., IRON MAN) and his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law, A.I.) are on a desperate chase to stop Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong, STARDUST) from committing another ritual murder. Blackwood is caught and sentenced to hang. On the night of his execution he warns Holmes that he will be back to kill again. Soon ritual murders begin again and Blackwood's tomb is broken out of from the inside. As London descends into a panic over the supernatural, Holmes is determined to discover the Earthly truth behind the mystery.

Blogs BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY (2009) (*1/2)

Roger Ebert said it best, "BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY is an idiotic ode to macho horseshite." The original was an entertaining edition to the stylistic actioners of the late '90s such as EL MARIACHI and John Woo's flicks. The film did poorly in a very small release, but gained cult status on DVD. Director Troy Duffy's quick rise to a production deal at Miramax was unflatteringly captured in the doc OVERNIGHT from his former friends Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith. He comes off as a drunken egotist. Kind of explains this film.

Following the events of the first film, Conner, Murphy and Noah MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Billy Connolly, respectively) fled to Ireland to hide out. Good idea after being part of bloody massacres. Then a priest is murdered in Boston in the style of the MacManuses. So the brothers Conner and Murphy head back to the States to see what's up. On their way they meet Mexican fighter Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr., CAPOTE) who recognizes them as the infamous Saints and is desperate to be their new partner. They become convinced that the son of their target in the first film, Concezio Yakavetta (Judd Nelson, BREAKFAST CLUB), is behind the killing as a way to lure them out.

Blogs ROBIN HOOD (2010) (**1/2)

Robin Hood and his Merry Men fight for justice for the little man. They live as outlaws in Sherwood Forest. They steal from the rich and give to the poor in opposition to Prince John's oppression and taxation of the people while King Richard is away on the Third Crusade. These are the conventions one might expect from a Robin Hood film. Don't expect any of them from this Robin Hood film.

Blogs ROBIN HOOD (2010) (**1/2)

Robin Hood and his Merry Men fight for justice for the little man. They live as outlaws in Sherwood Forest. They steal from the rich and give to the poor in opposition to Prince John's oppression and taxation of the people while King Richard is away on the Third Crusade. These are the conventions one might expect from a Robin Hood film. Don't expect any of them from this Robin Hood film.

In this version there is a Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge, VANITY FAIR), but he is not Robin Hood. In this version Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe, GLADIATOR), an archer in the army of King Richard (Danny Huston, EDGE OF DARKNESS), becomes the outlaw of legend. This version is the story of how he became that legend. While fighting in France, Robin is challenged by the king to tell him the truth about the crusade. Robin's answer ends him in the stockades. As fate would have it, King Richard dies on the battlefield and Sir Loxley is assigned the task of taking his crown home. On the way, he is ambushed by English double agent Godfrey (Mark Strong, SHERLOCK HOLMES), who is looking to assassinate King Richard for France. Now free Robin and his friends come upon the plot and run off Godfrey. He takes a vow to Loxley to return Loxley's family sword to his father Sir Walter (Max von Sydow, THE EXORCIST).

Blogs Blu-ray: AVATAR (2009)

Read my original AVATAR review!

I could end this review with one simple statement — This release is the reason you own or should own a Blu-ray player. The detail of the image is rich and nuanced from real-life human faces to the blue-skinned CG Na'vi. The colors, often luminescent, just pop off the screen. From the lush greens, purples and blues of the forest to the cold military colors of the base, it's simply gorgeous to watch. The canvas is so rich that I didn't miss the stereoscopic 3-D from the theater one bit. This Blu-ray only reconfirms the technical leap forward this film made. The lightning is natural and integration of CG and real human actors in impeccable. This disc shows off all of this because no detail is lost in the conversion — no noise, no compression problems. Visually the Blu-ray is perfect.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track equals the film's picture in quality. The attack on Hometree is all the more devastating because of the massive soundscape. Bass booming explosions and the painful cracking of wood definitely create the sense of shock and awe that was intended. The digital forest is alive with alien creatures filling all the speakers. It truly makes the viewer feel like they are there in the action. Elements like helicopters and lizard banshees zoom across the soundscape flawlessly. James Horner's score complements the epic scope of the story as well. All the elements from the dialogue to the music to the sound effects are mixed perfectly in service of the narrative.

There is not a single special feature on this release, which was put out in time for Earth Day. A four-disc special edition, which will feature the extended cut that hits theaters in August, will arrive in November. Considering that this is the fastest selling title in a release's first three weeks ever, I guess fans couldn't wait. As a barebones edition, this Blu-ray couldn't be better.


Blogs THE BLIND SIDE (2009) (***)

For years to come this film will be known as the film that won Sandra Bullock an Academy Award. Whether she deserved it over her competition is up for debate, but it does mark her best screen performance to date. While the story is billed as the amazing true-life tale of professional football player Michael Oher, the film quickly becomes a showcase for Bullock's Leigh Anne Tuohy, a real-life Southern spitfire who did an extraordinary thing for Oher, which transformed his life forever.

Oher (Quinton Aaron, BE KIND REWIND) had bounced around foster homes and friends' houses for his entire life. His mother Denise (Adriane Lenox, BLACK SNAKE MOAN) was a drug addict and had multiple kids with multiple men. He starts attending a mainly white private Christian high school when he is brought to the attention of Coach Burt Cotton (Ray McKinnon, TV's DEADWOOD). He lives at a Laundromat and eats leftover popcorn from school sporting events to survive. Then one night walking home in the cold with shorts and a t-shirt on, he has a fateful run-in with the Tuohys. Leigh Ann decides to invite him to stay at their home.

Blogs EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010) (***)

Coming out a year after Liam Neeson's TAKEN, this film seemed like just another dad on a revenge mission flick. The only big difference seemed that it marked the return of Mel Gibson after a seven-year hiatus from acting. But Martin Campbell's tale of a grieving father is far more compelling than TAKEN's attempt to be a BOURNE clone.

Based on the 1980s British miniseries of the same name, Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston cop, who is pleased to have his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic, DRAG ME TO HELL) home on an unexpected visit. However, she becomes violently ill and as he goes to take her to the hospital, she is gunned down by a masked man. The police department believes that the killer was targeting Thomas, but as he digs deeper, Emma's friends are petrified of her bosses at the high-tech company, Northmoor.

Blogs Blu-ray Buzz – M Murders Blu-ray

This is a light week, but definitely some quality stuff to check out, especially for Blu-ray fans. A classic, an underrated gem, a solid new thriller, an '80s classic and a Western box set mark this week column.

Pick of the Week

M
Criterion Collection had previously released Fritz Lang's seminal thriller M on DVD and now they're bringing it to Blu-ray. Lang's clever crime classic follows the hunt for a child killer, played with creepy menace by the master of creepy menace, Peter Lorre. From the brilliant visual storytelling to the nuanced subject matter to the dark irony, this classic is a must see. I haven't seen any black & white films on Blu-ray yet, so I'm excited to catch this one soon.

Blogs Blu-Ray: EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010)

Read my review of EDGE OF DARKNESS

This dark thriller is filled with shadow and muted colors and the Blu-ray edition keeps true to that feel. Cinematographer Phil Meheux doesn’t do anything fancy with the look of the film, giving the photography a filmed 1970s vibe just like the story represents. The details and color balance is good, especially the dark range, which suits the film well. Natural film grain is present, but not distracting. Depth of field isn’t eye-popping, but that’s the nature of the film. It’s funny that an alternative scene on a golf course, which was part of the special features, contained the most attention grabbing color and three-dimensionality. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is decently immersive for a film that doesn’t rely on heavy action or orchestration. There isn’t a great reliance on the rear speakers or the LFE, but they come into play at key moments of intense violence throughout the film and help create the dynamic effect the director Martin Campbell was going for. Howard Shore’s score is a subtle presence throughout the film, acting as a supporting character and never drawing too much attention to itself. For this kind of gritty straight-forward thriller, the picture and audio presentation are pretty first class.

Blogs M (1931) (****)

Fritz Lang’s seminal German masterpiece is extremely filmic sophisticated for an early sound film. The dark thriller induced the cinematic world to Peter Lorre. Many of the innovations it introduced have become standards in filmmaking. From its precise plotting to its psychological depth to its cutting irony, the film has more in common with modern cinema than the films of its era.

Children sing a song about a child killer on the prowl. Mrs. Beckman (Ellen Widmann) awaits the arrival of her daughter home from school. Cut to: a mysterious man buying her daughter Elsie (Inge Landgust) a balloon from a blind vendor (Georg John, DAS TESTAMENT DES DR. MABUSE). Soon we see that same balloon tangled in electric wires. Lang takes his time setting the emotional state of this German town where the citizens are on edge, wanting to string up anyone who even talks to a child.

Blogs Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 06

On this week's episode of the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum, Alan gives Joel a sneak peek at his decades-old experimental energy sleep activity cycle! Then, the most impressively twinned pair of animation super-star multi-makers Fran and Will Krause ride into the forum on their tandem bike to discuss making things, breaking things, and their high-octane bacon-powered recipe for dancin' dancin' dancin'.

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