Tag Archives: animation

Trailer Tidbits #2 (September 2012)

Today, I take a closer look at the recent ‘Lincoln’ trailer, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Also the latest Walt Disney animated feature – ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and the highly anticipated ‘Looper’ – boasting Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.

‘Lincoln’ – Dir. Steven Spielberg

After the backing out of Liam Neeson, another capable British thesp in the form of Daniel Day-Lewis features as the most popular President in the history of The United States. This first trailer, giving us an insight into Abraham Lincoln’s turbulent few months during the Civil War. Speculated to be a massive hit – the trailer itself is played for drama, focussing on debating parties and briefly glimpsing at a troubled Lincoln. Interspersed with imagery from the Civil War, the plight of slaves and Lincoln’s allies rallying in support.  For me, this really feels boxed-in for Spielberg movie. I feel no overwhelming desire to take heed or even wonder at the prospect of seeing this film. It’s something I’ve never experienced before with this director. I sincerely hope I am proven wrong.

‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – Dir. Rich Moore

Another hotly tipped movie, this time coming from the animation studios of Disney. ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ may be on paper a basic story of redemption, or ‘doing that bit more’. But it looks like a lot of fun with its endless video game character cameos that we’ve seen from the first trailer as well as this latest one. It’s a familiar plot outline, but executed in a way we haven’t seen before. Keep an eye out – I’m looking forward to this one.

‘Looper’ – Dir. Rian Johnson

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe Simmons, a mafia hitman and a ‘Looper’ that is tasked to travel back in time in order to kill an agent on the condition that all targets must never escape. But, after realising that the target is a future version of himself, played by Bruce Willis. Shit conveniently hits the fan. Already receiving encouraging reviews, ‘Looper’ is said to be the best sci-fi film since Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’ and one of the best overall of the year so far. Teeming with some striking visual flair and a host of tense action sequences. This is certainly one of the best trailers I’ve seen for some time.


#18 ‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009)

"....Bugger!"

Oooh… Christmas…. I hate it.

Let’s get this over and done with…

Cast:-

* Jim Carrey

* Gary Oldman

* Colin Firth

Director:- Robert Zemeckis

As an extremely opinionated and devoted Atheist, Christmas is a time of year that tugs various emotional strings for me. The demand, the marketing exploitation, the kids, St Nick himself, and of course… the films.  Though admittedly, I have always held a great admiration for Charles Dicken’s tale ‘A Christmas Carol’. The setting is pointless, it’s the story, the journey that made it such a great, entertaining read, and its message is timeless. So, I’ve taken this ‘Seasonal opportunity’ to review the latest adaptation (Muppets being my favourite). And this is going to be a straight review… No exposition or filler shite.

2009′s take of Dicken’s classic tale is a motion capture feature, directed by Bob Zemeckis (Back To The Future, The Polar Express). Jim Carrey is cast in multiples roles, but of course most notably as Ebeneezer Scrooge – the selfish, unappreciative miser of whom the story is centered, from a youth all the way up to big nosed greedy pensioner, humbug!

Additionally Carrey portrays the 3 Christmas apparitions that Scrooge encounters, and co-star Gary Oldman takes up the mantles of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim (performance only). This is one of the film’s most striking flaws. In short, Carrey is particularly annoying. The comedic mainstay, though his Scrooge is delightfully wicked, is excruciatingly frustrating as the Ghosts (of Past and Present, Yet to Come does not speak, only motions to Scrooge) . ‘Past’, represented faithfully as an androgynous human/candle – has Carrey delivering lines in a hushed Irish dialect with a tone that is often incoherent, and spends most of the time on-screen in nauseating flying sequences. What’s more absurd, is an obvious ad-libbed moment of sarcastic spooky dancing by the apparition. It’s totally boggling and a moment of total madness…. Ghost of Christmas Present, a burly bearded fellow wearing a flowing robe, again abuses the gift of voice by the overbearing of Carrey’s extroverted performance. Understandably, the character is traditionally depicted as a ‘jolly’ man, however the abnormality of his constant chortling and loud laughter made me itching for the remote – it just soured as the scenes progressed.

These two roles, as integral as they are, are played out as a vehicle for Carrey’s comedic repertoire and knack for ‘rubberfaces’. In hindsight they come off as mere shadows, fantastical and whimsical, as opposed to the haunting spectres of home truths that I’ve come to know them as. I can’t really find a distinguishable issue with the dialogue from either of the characters, as it’s true to the original. There are a few bits here and there left out or replaced – but it would be a serious nitpick (and I love that word, so much), and it wouldn’t bode well for further reading. Simply put, Jim Carrey just didn’t do it for me here.

As Scrooge, Mr Carrey is impressive through most of his scenes as the older version of the character. Nailing down those familiar mannerisms and expressions that we have all come to know and love to hate about Ebeneezer - additionally marking out his dialogue with a hint of sarcastic humour and smugness that Carrey pulls off so well. A particular scene where this comes to mind is his encounter with the Ghost of Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), it’s a scene worth You Tubing at least. A great fun-poking few minutes from our Jim.

Good ol’ Gary Oldman has a fairly good outing as Scrooge’s long-suffering assistant, Bob Cratchit. A man, loyal, dedicated and faithful to his superior, even through his constant mistreatment and persistent nagging from his impoverished family to stand up to Scrooge and demand a more handsome wage for his efforts. Oldman’s CG character is one of the more obscure that the film has – doesn’t really look much like Oldman, but it’s certainly that delicious East End accent there that he is known for. It’s a great fitting to one of Dickens’ most famous characters. Oldman delivers a modest performance overall with the material provided, but the role is so minimal it’s almost forgettable in a heartbeat.

Visually, Bob Zemeckis’ movies have a penchant for looking from amazing to incredible, A Christmas Carol fits neatly somewhere among those. The CG motion capture is, of course, breathtaking – yet another masterstroke from Zemeckis. It’s worth noting that the difference between this standard from what we saw from the highly entertaining The Polar Express is miles ahead. The facial captures have been altered to dramatically enhance certain stand out features of characters, which in turn makes them more ‘caricature-like’, such as Scrooge’s crooked nose and pointed chin, Cratchit’s boulder-shaped bonce, and Fezziwig’s rotund tummy (A perfect little cameo from Bob Hoskins). It does adhere well to such a story with extrovert characters such as Scrooge, the Ghosts and even Jacob Marley in his declaration of warning to his old business partner (a unnerving performance from Oldman). The setting of Victorian London is perfectly depicted with a murky, washed-out tone throughout, and a series of sequences of a bustling neighbourhood that broadly entices the audience into the heart of the film – brilliantly complimented by Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri’s joyous score. It’s a festive delight to behold and to listen to.

Mr Zemeckis and his ImageMovers Studios have carved an instantly recognisable visual pattern with their work, and here’s hoping under Universal Studios they will continue to thrive and showcase such unique and unforgettable animations for years to come. As much as I genuinely did enjoy this adaptation, it’s the multiple role castings for Oldman and Carrey and his cringeworthy moments of madness that just made this film fall short of a more favourable summary. But, it’s a faithful adaptation nonetheless.

 

7/10

 


#7 ‘An American Tail’ (1986)

Mousel tov!

Cast:-

*Phillip Glasser

*Dom DeLuise

Director:- Don Bluth

*MINOR SPOILERS*

Back in the late 80′s, early 90′s. Don Bluth was the shit.

From ‘The Land Before Time’ to ‘The Secret of NIMH’ all the way to his work on the ‘Dragon’s Lair’ game franchise – He was undoubtedly my favourite filmmaker. Though I didn’t know who he was in all honesty. But hell, the movies – were awesome! Emotional, hard-hitting, gritty and realistic. All that, with some inspiring and beautiful animation that still stand the test of time today against the likes of Pixar.

An American Tail – set in 1895 - is a story of survival. It also plays out as an ‘all’s not lost if you have hope’ piece of narrative, which is probably some of the best, of this particular nature, that I’ve seen.

 The film’s lead, is a young Russian-Jewish mouse, Fievel, voiced by Phillip Glasser. Who, after being forced to leave their shack under a family home in Russia with his Father, Mother and two siblings – is swept away during a frightening sea storm en route to New York City – Their potential new home. Fievel is washed up ashore in New York, and is befriended by a French pidgeon, Henri. Who, willingly gives him a bubble bath in the near-constructed Statue of Liberty (the scene is crushingly funny and so heart-warming at the same time it almost seems impossible), and encourages him to look for his family – Who believe that their son perished during the storm.

Now, watching this almost 20 years after I last had the VHS tape, it’s really a completely different movie altogether. As a kid, I’d often pick up more on the ‘humour’ and the songs (Especially ‘Somewhere Out There’ – that one is a killer). But maturity and age allowed me to broaden those horizons and read between the pages - to find that this film is truly a classic piece of animated cinema.

In places – it does get rather depressing, Fievel is taunted constantly by the loss of his family – though with companions at his side throughout, he’s never truly alone. But there are constant reminders and teases that his family are closer than he thinks. It actually becomes excruciating to see how often it happens – all for Fievel just to wind up disappointed.

To be fair, it’s pretty heartbreaking. But Bluth’s knack for delivering such human emotion and characterisation to rodents(?) is quite the feat. There’s laughs, there are tears, joy, sorrow, anger, resentment – All thrown in this little bag. The negatives, in this respect, outweigh the positives, however the conclusion is very endearing and totally worth the anticipation.

An American Tail is probably not your average kids flick. It’s abundant with adult-overtones. Such as war, immigration, cruelty, mass genocide and a host of others. I did find a lot of similarity between this and Christian Bale’s plight in ‘Empire of The Sun’. Obviously his character’s situation was in the middle of full-scale war, however both himself and Fievel’s vulnerability and innocence are the heart of the two films. It’s what keeps you transfixed on the events to come, and encourages you to encourage THEM to get back to where they need to be.

There’s an amazing charm to Fievel, as well as his family. His oversized red jumper, his dopey tongue expressions, his dancing to his father’s violin-playing – Effective and simple. There’s not that much around these days. Where are you, Bluth? There’s a lot of support characters in the film, the villainous ‘Warren T. Rat’, which is an amazing villain name. And ‘Honest John’, a reliable but often inebriated mouse politician living in the New York, to name a few. But it’s Dom DeLuise as ‘Tiger’, the vegan cat – who steals the show in his few minutes on-screen. Channelling The Cowardly Lion character from The Wizard of Oz, DeLuise delivers some wise-cracking wit as the cat who befriends Fievel during his search. Capped off with a lovely bit of toe-tapping duet stylings from Glasser and DeLuise.

In closing – it’s definitive animated excellence – However some wishing to show it to children will find the content of the film slightly over the mark.

Very slightly.

8/10


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