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Article Type: Review

Blogs DUMBO (1941) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 9:29am

The economy of storytelling is the most impressive element of this slight animated feature. Following the poor performances of PINOCCHIO, BAMBI and FANTASIA, the lavish production values were toned down. Less spectacle but not less character. This story of an elephant with jumbo ears fills the big top with emotion in only 64 minutes.

Blogs Review: ANIMATORS How Did You Do That?

By Dan Sarto | Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 8:03am

If you have ever watched an animated film and wondered “How did they do that?” then Tobias Wengert’s ANIMATORS how did they do that? is the book for you. Wengert has transcribed in print his conversations with twelve diverse members of the Stuttgart, Germany animation community who reveal the secret techniques behind the magical images they create.

Blogs DRIVE (2011) (****)

Albert Brooks' character was once a movie producer. He describes his films as action-filled and sexy. Once a critic described them as European, he says. I'd call this intense actioner European as well, but not for the same reasons. The action is precisely planned in bursts in an otherwise quiet film. The tone never shifts but depending on what is going on it can be ominous or romantic. It's artful and bloody. It's visceral and elegant.

Blogs INCENDIES (2011) (****)

What if upon your mother's death you learned that your father was still alive and that you had a brother you never knew about? Then you were asked to find them. Through the process you learn shocking details of your mother's past. What if the woman that always seemed a little weird was actually a legend in her native country?

Blogs Blu-ray: INCENDIES (2011)

Mostly filmed using natural light, this Oscar nominated film benefits greatly from the detail of this 1080p transfer. Andre Turpin's cinematography could have come off dim and murky in a bad transfer or heaven forbid DVD, but this first rate job has keep its visual integrity. The color palette is natural and the black levels are solid. The natural lighting does dampen the crispness of the image, but that doesn’t mean details don’t pop.

Blogs Review: The Lion King in 3D

By Joe Strike | Monday, September 12, 2011 at 5:02pm

Saturday morning at the movies, watching a cartoon – what could be more reminiscent of the joys of childhood? Well, the cartoon this particular Saturday morning (September 10, 2011) was not exactly the kind of matinee I used attend back in Brooklyn when the theaters had ‘matrons’ who kept the kiddie section in line. Today I’m wearing polarized lenses and watching Disney’s upcoming 3D re-release of The Lion King.

Blogs Blu-ray: IN A BETTER WORLD (2011)

This Blu-ray looks amazing. Sony's AVC encoded 1080p transfer is as flawless as you can get. The colors are vibrant and evocative. Toward the end of the film the picture takes on a warm glow, which is fitting in context. There isn't a single digital anomaly due to compression anywhere to be seen. Details are crisp. Even dust kicked up by trucks in the African sequences have nuance. Beautiful is the most fitting way to describe the picture quality. Cinematographer Morten Søborg should be enthralled with the way his film looks.

Blogs IN A BETTER WORLD (2011) (***1/2)

The original Danish title is directly translated as "The Revenge." I feel the American title is more fitting in that it encapsulates the humanistic ideals the film portrays. However, the original title reflects the real world that we live in. Director Susanne Bier puts her main character's ideals up against the harsh realities that he is forced to deal with.

Blogs DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (2011) (**1/2)

This remake of a 1973 TV movie has all the classic haunted house qualities. Gothic location. Creaking doors. Dark halls. Secret rooms. Ominous help. Benevolent creatures living aside a family. By putting the youngest of the family at the center of the story, the film develops an inherent tension. The issue is how long can you buy this little girl in peril?

Blogs HOODWINKED TOO!: HOOD VS. EVIL (2011) (*1/2)

Narratively the original HOODWINKED was a mess, but there were moments of general inspiration within cliché and tired routines. The sequel is just cliché and tired routines. The original was done independently on the cheap and looked it, but this one feels cheaper because it has no purpose other than to cash in on the surprise success of the original.

Blogs RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011) (***1/2)

This reboot of the venerable sci-fi franchise doesn't try to remake the original classic like the Tim Burton film tried. It takes a page from CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and starts the story with the rebellion of the apes against man, only without the time paradox element. The last part of that statement is for fans of the series, who will find great joy in this new installment. Like the original this is a film based around characters and ideas.

Blogs Blu-ray: RIO (2011)

Whatever your opinion of the film is, there is no doubt the quality of this Blu-ray release. I liked the film in its theatrical release, but this AVC encoded 1080p transfer made me appreciate it a bit more. The vibrant color palette just radiates. The picture is gorgeous with detail and no signs anywhere of digital compression issues of any sort. You can make out the individual feathers on these CG birds. No aliasing, even in lively action sequences in lush jungles, was witnessed by me. I was thoroughly impressed.

Blogs THE SMURFS (2011) (**)

I watched the animated SMURFS TV series religiously as a child. I was like many kids who grew up in the 1980s. Outside of the general facts – they’re blue, they’re names match their personalities, there is only one girl in the whole village – I don’t remember their adventures at all. For this live-action/animation feature, I wasn't expecting much going in and I didn't get much coming out. Like the TV series, I won't remember much about this film either.

Blogs COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011) (***1/2)

In all honesty it's surprising this wasn't been done sooner. Beginning with STAR WARS, the sci-fi genre has been borrowing Western motifs. Jon Favreau's comic book adaptation puts sci-fi smack dab into a Western. Even the sci-fi has a Western tingle to it. The heart of this film is in the Wild West and most importantly with its characters.

Blogs CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. (2011) (***)

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the directors of the Jim Carrey comedy I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, have tackled an ambitious romantic comedy for their second directional effort. The story attempts three multigenerational love stories. Because of it, the film never delves deep under the surface. What the story lacks in depth, though, Dan Fogelman's script certainly makes up for in craft. How all the pieces come together is crazy.

Blogs ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) (****)

Joe Cornish's film begins with a group of teens, predominately black, mugging a white woman. Then they witness something fall from the sky and when they go to investigate are attacked by a horrible alien creature. In a lesser film like this one, those black kids would be dead before the title card popped up. But that's not what happens in Cornish's spitfire horror sci-fi comedy. You know right from the start that this film is working on a different level.

Blogs CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) (***)

Steve Rogers is a 90 lbs weakling, but he has the heart and guts of a warrior. He keeps getting rejected at recruitment centers trying to join the fight in World War II. Chris Evans, who has experience playing superheroes, as he was the Human Torch in the FANTASTIC FOUR films, is an excellent choice to play this hero in the making before and after a super serum is injected into his veins to turn him into Captain America.

Blogs Blu-ray: LIMITLESS (2011)

Neil Burger's smart drug thriller comes to Blu-ray is a sharp AVC encoded 1080p transfer. As the main character goes from loser to genius, the color palette changes and the disc never misses the mark. Whether it's the desaturated world of the character off the drug or the bright vibrant world of him on the drug, the colors are always spot on, even black level stay consistent over the style change. Details pop throughout the film, especially in the "on the drug" moments, which is perfectly suited for the subject matter where the drug enhances the user's perception. Some minor aliasing is the only problem I witnessed, but like I said it was minor and pops up in the usual kinds of places.

Blogs LIMITLESS (2011) (**1/2)

What if you could take a pill and it unlocked the vast potential of your mind? That’s what this film purposes. The problem is that writers not on the drug have a hard time representing what a person with a four digit IQ is really like. I highly doubt that someone that smart would end up in a thriller, but that’s what the film is.

Blogs HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (2011) (***1/2)

When I reviewed PART 1, I said that it wasn't a complete film and that everyone needed to check back to see how I really liked it when I'd seen the whole film. I'm happy to report that the conclusion of the HARRY POTTER series is epic and ultimately satisfying. And unlike PART 1 it works as a stand-alone film too.

Blogs TABLOID (2011) (***1/2)

Before this film I had never heard of Joyce McKinney and her bizarre headline grabbing life. It's a fitting statement of her bizarre story, one that grabs attention and fizzles out as the next sensational tale takes hold of the headlines of magazines and newspapers at the check-out line. It's got it all -- a former beauty queen, a Mormon missionary, violence and kinky sex.

Blogs WINNIE THE POOH (2011) (***1/2)

This might be the gutsiest release of the summer. Theatrical films geared toward the preschool and slightly above set are rarely made today. They usually dwell in the land of direct-to-video. Pooh is Disney's biggest merchandising producer. Every preschooler has something Pooh related in their room. But once the kid hits school, is Pooh cool? That's why this is a difficult sell. But those who buy a ticket will be transported into a simple timeless production filled with wit and whimsy.

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