“Like” if you like!
Pera-perahang Lata (Penny from the Tin Can)
Aninag (Light’s Play)
“Like” if you like!
Pera-perahang Lata (Penny from the Tin Can)
Aninag (Light’s Play)
Like the first two films, Toy Story 3 simply captures you with emotional magic in film form. Entertaining, well-crafted, and emotional, this third film of the historical animated film franchise is powered by fun, fueled by intellect, and driven by heart. It is a fitting finale for a Pixar animated trilogy perfected in tone, delivery, timing, humor, and drama. Its charm goes to infinity and beyond.
This film can bring you back the old memories of your toys and literally wonder where they are now. Whether tears come out from your spectator eyes or not, its ending offers an undoubtedly heart-wrenching moment that grabs the child in you. And this can simply be described as “cinematic magic.” By taking a bunch of animated toys teaching people about the mystery of human lives and struggling through it, Toy Story 3 becomes a sentimental journey with a heartfelt mix of sugar and spice. Every scene is delightfully engaging and there is so much to be absorbed without straining its theme and story. The gags are all set in the right places until the film wraps up with an enchanting finale.
The well-embraced Pixar tradition of a short film preceding the main feature attraction is nothing but clever and enchanting. Day and Night directed by Teddy Newton, also the voice behind the toy character Chatter Telephone, is a masterpiece on its own and it perfectly complements Toy Story 3.
This third motion picture from the franchise comes full circle. It’s a rare sequel that clearly endures the test of time. Like its theme and story, it mixes joy and sweet sadness for the complicated choices about staying in the comfort zone and embracing change. It emphasizes the relationship between toys and a child’s imagination. It’s about the inevitable moments of having to leave some things behind. It’s about the feeling of abandonment that comes with age and passage of time. And it’s about accepting how changes in life can sometimes be harsh and unfavorable.
Toy Story 3 has a basic plot and a simple, straightforward story orientation. What makes it stand out from the rest? The filmmakers know what they want, they know what they’re doing, and they know how to do things with utmost sincerity. It has such a simple formula, yet the delicate combination of the various aspects of film production goes beyond being objective and quantitative. The challenge in reaching such level of cinematic marvel requires careful choices and bull’s-eye decisions for the script, choice of shots, animation requirements, audio requirements, and voice performances. It’s a candid story that delves about living life, feeling outdated, getting misunderstood, and facing things beyond your control. It answers the question about what happens when “playtime” is over in a figurative and emotional way that is surprising, self-realizing, and considerably hurting while still being gently comforting.
While it celebrates consumerism with its many brands and product placements, the genius in Pixar impressively manages to keep the film’s innocent pleasures of imagination. Toy Story 3 succeeds beyond its glossy and gleaming pixels both in 2D and 3D. It has a valuable script with animated characters as real as a child’s sense of wonder. It balances rollicking adventure, wrenching pathos, and brilliant humor in an exceptional package. Exuding with enough emotional resonance, it creatively ties up the first two films at a very suitable time: without having to rush things as how the mainstream filmmaking bible dictates it (think of how studios rush sequels for the sake of commercialism). It took years and years until the new technology now enables 3D films and how this era showcases a new age of toys to add up to the Toy Story collection. Even the actual voice behind the little Andy character of the past now renders his voice as a grown up young adult himself.
This third worthy installment kicks off with a brief playful sequence of breathtaking mastery, evocative detail, wonderful camera work, all aptly resolved in a true little boy’s eyes. It impressively opens up with a scene that reminds people of what Toy Story really offered more than a decade ago. And as the fun treats of the film progresses, it carefully blends the moments of sadness and ache that come along as life shifts towards another direction. On a lighter note, there is an appreciation for Pixar’s brilliance in making a nice, long gag reel side by side its closing credits. Aside from bringing a satisfyingly intelligent but fun resolution to the movie, it offers additional time to wipe away those tears before the screening finishes.
Pixar’s now trademark of “ingenuous storytelling” serves up yet another exceptional animated treat that doesn’t surpass its predecessors, but simply continues its virtuous tradition. The studio simply knows how to tell a brilliant story in an animated movie format without resorting to brainless gimmicks and cheap sentiments. It winds up its way gently towards its serious themes without grabbing desperately on them.
With inspired homage to jailbreak movies, director Lee Unkrich presents a thoughtful story about regret for the past and fear of the future. It’s nothing but worthy to mention much of the people behind this masterwork: writers Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; producer Darla K. Anderson and executive producer John Lasseter; music composer Randy Newman; and the very long list of animators, production artists, and film crew who made the film what it is. As a clever piece of storytelling magic, this family-friendly movie illustrates a natural progression melding with ease in many levels of thematic resplendence.
On the technical side, Toy Story 3 lives up to the expectations. The characters design and animation are spectacularly detailed and well rendered. From Barbie and Ken’s robotic moves to the almost palpable strawberry smell of Lotso as how this gets established in the film, this emotional cinematic treat employs technical wizardry in par with its storytelling. The cinematography and production design are so vivid and fitting in every sequence and scene.
The vocal performances coming from a mix of the old cast and the newcomers create such powerfully emotional characters. Whether a major or minor role, each one really brings his/her character to life. Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear lead the pack of toy characters with such brilliance. Buzz’s Spanish mode is a hysterically fun treat. Aside from these two best buddies of the franchise, the audience shall remember such iconic performances from the many human and toy characters. To mention some: John Morris as Andy; Joan Cusack as Jessie; Ned Beatty as Lotso; Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head; Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head; Jodi Benson as Barbie; Michael Keaton as Ken; Wallace Shawn as Rex; John Ratzenberger as Hamm; Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants; Jeff Pidgeon as Aliens; Blake Clark as Slinky Dog; Emily Hahn as Bonnie; Jeff Garlin as Buttercup; Bonnie Hunt as Dolly; John Cygan as Twitch; Whoopi Goldberg as Stretch; Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s Mom; Bud Luckey as Chuckles; Beatrice Miller as Molly; Javier Fernandez Pena as the Spanish Buzz; and Lori Alan as Bonnie’s Mom.
There is so much to absorb in this animated opus for a viewer of any age. Watching it over and over again further makes a strong bond between the film and its viewer. Best advice: Buy the Toy Story Blu-ray collection once it hits the market. Such a release is truly worthy of anyone’s collection. It doesn’t sell just with merely crappy marketing materials and bonus features. It’s the actual film that hits every button from laughter to tears, from adventure to realizations, from audio-visual flair to earnestness. It’s “magically deep, sweet, painful, and real.”
Like its characters, the Toy Story films are to be treasured forever.July 8th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | 3D, Animation, Children's/Family, Classic, Comedy, Epic/Adventure, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Hollywood Films | no comments
The Karate Kid featuring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan starts off with a considerably sincere showcase of what the movie is all about. From the pop music in its opening credits to the kind of shots it utilizes early on, it’s clearly meant for the young crowd who likes hearty stories and happy endings. This commercially entertaining remake works well for its audience while not being an entire rip-off of the 1984 original. It keeps its spirit alive, except for one disappointing aspect: The Karate Kid is actually The Kung Fu Kid.
The biggest cinematic sin committed here is its misnamed title that sets it somewhere in between an appealing popcorn flick and a big cinematic blasphemy.
The story of Dre migrating to China with his mother, along with his learning of kung fu, renders a fine mainstream treat. But sadly, this movie rides too much on the name of the classic Karate Kid film that it practically uses its franchise just to maximize all the hype and good branding. While making a remake of an old movie is something acceptable, this new martial arts flick for kids could have been more respectful of the film’s legacy by either living up with it (within the karate world) or deviating from its original title to keep up with the new, updated plot. In so doing, it wouldn’t look and sound so funny, questionable, and dumb that it’s a Karate Kid movie using kung fu. In fact, they can even use the original movie’s title as a “sub-title” if they really want to use the brand and recuperate on the most likely huge amount they paid to use the franchise.
The Karate Kid remains a feel good story that works. It succeeds as a crowd-pleasing treat that captures the general charm and humanity of the 1984 original. While it doesn’t surpass what its predecessor has already etched in film history, it takes the same old story and feeds it back with some change in scenery and targeted demographic. It radiates the light-hearted buoyancy of the original with Jaden Smith now stepping in as the new Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan as the new Pat Morita.
When disregarding its title’s ultimate booboo, what makes the movie succeed in its own terms is that, amidst its clichéd plot, it manages to earn that same winning spirit of the influential classic. This formulaic but savvy reboot makes a good family movie.
While it is totally predictable, it proves that the formula still has life as this new one captures the good emotional beats of the original. From the simple emotional good-bye scene between Dre’s Detroit friend who gives him the skateboard to the gripping fight scene in the end, the movie pays enough respect to the tradition and nostalgia of the first Karate Kid. It may not be as good as the old one, but it reasonably engages with enough heart.
The bountiful travelogue opportunities in China also add to its button-pushing crowd-pleaser demeanor. Director Harald Zwart features historic Chinese ancient structures sitting right next to new architectural wonders. The panoramic vistas and well-choreographed fight scenes reinterpret Karate Kid without straying too far from what the original offered during its time.
The fight scenes make a good playground to its characters. The climactic showdown works in the same fashion as the 1984 movie where the face-off between the bully and the bullied feels predictable, but it interestingly doesn’t feel calculated. It gets the general audience’s attention for an emotional investment until the underdog reigns supreme. Even the simple cliché moments surprisingly validates the kung fu showdown, complete with a deciding slow-motion kick. The choice of shots and emotional bearing on the characters works well for the story. The direction, acting, production design and cinematography become the saving graces of this blasphemously titled movie.
Working together in the spirit of kung fu, Dre and Mr. Han embody naturally good chemistry. They carry the movie well: a brash American boy trying to fit in Beijing and a queerly reserved Chinese maintenance man seemingly living a lonely life on his own.
The two main characters ground the movie in between the drama, action, and comedy. While they don’t exactly match the depth and fortuitous rapport of Macchio and Morita, their partnership brings a heart-filled depiction of their own.
Smith impresses with his small frame sculpted with martial arts training. He looks very natural on screen and his charm carries the movie all the way towards a pleasing end. Amidst the frequently annoying awareness on Jackie Chan’s struggle to get rid of his Americanized tongue to speak Chinese without any English twang, he still generally works well as Mr. Han. He brings good depth to his inner struggle as a character where his emotional baggage fills up to the brim in the car drama sequence. At some point, he seems to go overboard, but the direction and editing effectively handles his breakdown with emotional shots showing him heads down on the steering wheel.
The characterizations of the other roles are not given enough value. Dre’s mother played by Taraji Henson is completely two-dimensional and flat like the rest, with the exception of the bullying boys who get their change of heart by the movie’s end. The humanity between Dre and Mr. Han is fine, but the movie could have benefited more if at least, there’s a simple establishment of Dre investing in one emotional bonding scene with his mother, instead of just mere comic elements brought to their scenes together. His potential love interest Meiying played by Wen Wen Han makes a good addition to the puppy love angle of the story. Dre’s kung fu opponent delivers a fine performance to keep the other side of the story’s spectrum a well-rendered aspect of the movie as well.June 22nd, 2010 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Asian Films, Children's/Family, Film Review, Films, Flicks, Hollywood Films | no comments
Ogre Forever After
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Shrek Forever After is technically fine, but it’s only mildly entertaining. While the pleasant nostalgia is a given that it renders something familiarly successful, the monstrously good fun has already faded for this fourth and last installment of the Shrek franchise. In comparison, it goes “far, far away” from the first two of the now four Shrek movies. It is not exactly “cat-astrophic nor ri-donke-lous,” at the least. Its saving graces are the solid performances for the movie’s bankable characters that breathe life into this commercially mandated and creatively bankrupt effort.
The quick wit and pop-culture referencing that made Shrek a fun movie doesn’t feel the same anymore after a decade down the line. It falls flat when it comes to the supposed one-liners and adorable critters. It still maintains some appeal, but the fun and energy feels kind of forced already.
Director Mike Mitchell and scriptwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke are all new to the franchise, yet the movie looks so derivative. There are only simple and minimal changes on a distinctly surface level (primarily a darker mise-en-scéne), but deep down, it’s just a tired offer.
Shrek Forever After is very much a recycled treat that bases everything about it for the fad on 3D technology. As a last dance for the profitable green ogre, this one last hit for the marketable business franchise is clearly a cash cow product. Yet, it has undoubtedly captured a steady audience after establishing an impressive past and setting a new trend in mainstream animated films during its heyday. Now, after almost a decade, it keeps its general charm and viability amidst being narratively overcooked and comically undernourished. While this final attempt to profit on the Shrek motion picture fame is a rather modest affair that barely exerts an independent quality and charm for itself, the characters viewers have learned to love through the years keep this movie hanging. Add up the expensive tickets from 3D theaters and everything really goes into the Dreamworks cash register.
Interestingly, after three movies aimed at children and adolescents, this final Shrek movie is aimed more or less at middle-aged men than attracting new younger recruits. Perhaps, Shrek Forever After is really aimed just for its “grown-up followers” (both the grown up kid and adult fans from the past films, but with more focus on the middle-aged adults). Its theme even centers on adult issues and concerns more than trivial children stuff. With this part of the film, it works in the sense that it allows adult viewers to relate to Shrek’s own midlife crisis, Puss’ obesity, among other things.
Mike Myers and company pull the interest to it when scenes fall flat in the other departments.
With a business kind of thinking, Shrek Forever After is a pretty good deal. After the box office profit, it has a very good market in home video sales together with the rest of the Shrek movies. Indeed, for a Shrek collection with four films to boost, it can live a long and prosperous life for the general collection of most households, and it is expected to be one of those movies meant for babysitting the kids inside the homes.June 4th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | 3D, Children's/Family, Comedy, Fantasy, Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Love Story | no comments
Shrek the Third Movie Review: The Slapstick Third
The Shrek franchise comes up with its third installment quite inferior to the first two. Shrek the Third tries to do its best to bring out some laugh-inducing slapstick from the can. At the least, it has the very humor that Shrek fans have come to expect.
Shrek Forever After Movie Review: Happily Ogre After?
For its long-time followers, Shrek Forever After is passable entertainment. It’s for those who have grown with the franchise’s predecessors and not the type that can add any new toddler fans.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Movie Review: Masterful, Moody, and Magnificent
This sixth installment in the Harry Potter film franchise is of the right mix for the specific needs of the story. It is never dumb and yet it is not pretentiously profound. It is smart as it is honest. It is dark as it is funny.
Alice in Wonderland Movie Review: Overwhelming Visuals, Underwhelming Storytelling
Tim Burton’s individual stamp of masterful storytelling doesn’t seem to register here. And with its wavering tone, Burton and company should really dig a lot deeper if they soon decide to make a sequel.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Movie Review: A Dark, Adolescent Potter Film
Darker, a little more mature, and a little less magical, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire deals primarily with rejection and hormones as Harry and his friends struggle through the transition from childhood to young adulthood.
Corpse Bride Movie Review: A Charming Grave Fairy Tale
Behind its eerie theme, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is fun, genial, expressive and charming. This semi-musical stop-motion animation celluloid baby is set at death’s door and salutes the liberating power of true love and sacrifice.
Sky High Movie Review: Soaring High School Heroes and Sidekicks
If you think Hogwarts is the only secret school for extraordinary kids, well there’s also the heroic children’s world of Sky High.
The Pacifier Movie Review: A Pacifying Time at the Theater
After a long, stressful and tiring day from work, watching The Pacifier is a great way to relax and be entertained.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Movie Review: A Slick and Solid Family Slapstick
This eye-popping and mouth-watering film cooks up a veritable buffet of the bland and the bizarre, the sweet and the sour, and all other tastes generously offered on screen. It serves up a riot of glee, color, and absurdity.
Dawn of the Dinosaurs Movie Review: The Dino-Ice Adventure
And as an adventure-packed ride, it provides an astoundingly eye-catching animation built on the fun foundation given by the old characters. Some scenes may feel repetitive, but for the needed surface-level fluff, this kiddie flick generally works.
The Top 5 Worst 3D Movies List
There are actually many movies (both animation and live action offers) that are made into 3D flicks for the heck. And not all stories or film style or cinematic treatment are best suited for the 3D medium.
I am a big, big, big fan of Tim Burton. And “Alice in Wonderland” is one movie I’ve looked forward to for all these months. In as much as I totally love the dark, Expressionist Burton trademark (which is one of my top reasons of falling in love with the filmmaking spirit of Mr. Burton), “Alice” is a pretty disappointment.
Stylish but dispirited, style over substance, great visuals but lacking story, a feast for the eyes but not for the heart, teeming with marvelous sights but hollow at its core, overwhelming visuals but underwhelming storytelling, great canvas but not a great film… whatever I call it, this Disney movie is definitely not the masterpiece I hoped for. It looks more like a coffeetable book showcasing CGI greatness than cinematic storytelling at its finest. It’s not within the caliber of “Edward Scissorhands” nor “Big Fish.”
A Tim Burton interpretation of the Lewis Carroll classic is something intriguing and exciting. But shockingly, it just doesn’t work. It lacks the energy and emotional power to create the story more than just a vision inside the filmmaker’s head. Maybe it’s because of the pressure from the producers having to live up with that Disney or maybe mainstream mark that Burton loses his authentic touch to it. Interestingly, Burton is one of the producers as well. Needless to say, those shelling out the big bucks are the ones on top control, of course.
It’s still a feat given the visual effects, production design and art direction. The visual splendor is there. The other departments turn out mediocre. Generally, the dialogue can’t live up to the films look. Empty, atmospheric and lacking a soul, some individual pieces actually work at times, but it never works as a whole.
I appreciate Burton’s love for the character designs as he expresses them with such creative wizardry. The amazing offbeat aesthetics as individual pieces are whimsically great in its own dark and bizarre fashion. Ken Ralston’s visual effects are pleasantly surreal; Robert Stromberg’s production design is dazzling and fun. Dariusz Wolski’s photography is wonderfully magical. Yet all these can’t cover up the screenplay’s loopholes. It has its moments, but everything doesn’t fall into one coherent piece. Danny Elfman’s musical score has some magical parts, but it doesn’t transcend to wonderful heights. Chris Lebenzon’s cutting is considerably fine, but it doesn’t reflect the supposed marriage of a Burton vision and a Carroll story.
The performances are sometimes spot on, sometimes out of range. Overall, they don’t translate into a firm grip to let the audience relate to and sympathize with the characters. The film falls short in engaging with the motivation needed to drive the character arcs. From frequent Burton collaborators including Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, to first-time Burton collaborators Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, they provide characters that work more on solo flights.
About its 3D version, unlike with a movie such as “Avatar,” this film doesn’t really work well for that immersive 3D experience. It seems to follow the path of “Up” (though “Up” is a very emotional, honest, and almost perfect film unlike this shallow visual feast) which is unable to give enough on the 3D aspect of it. It works at its best in 2D. And this could be attributed to the utilizing of the film language by all the film collaborators set to what they’ve been accustomed to way before the sudden demand for 3D stereoscopic productions. In the same way, this is another aspect to look into when considering the possible reasons why “Alice in Wonderland” is not able to go beyond the mere provision for atmosphere and visual splendor. It lacks that captivating spirit in 3D maybe because this format requires a specific sub-culture of storytelling standards to live up to its own immersive film sub-language. And to add to this is the fact that the technical requirements for filming in 3D is not entirely the same as the conventional filmmaking process done in 2D. The 3D here doesn’t look absorbing enough to recreate a new mythmaking factor for the film.
Burton’s individual stamp of masterful storytelling really doesn’t seem to register here. And with its wavering tone that is as uncertain as Alice’s decision-making, Burton and company should really dig a lot deeper if they soon decide to make a sequel.March 12th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | 3D, Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Children's/Family, Epic/Adventure, Film Noir/Expressionism, Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films | no comments
Posted using ShareThisFebruary 5th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | Children's/Family, Comedy, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Hollywood Films | no comments
A Slick and Solid Family Slapstick
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Catch colorful candies and marshmallows from the sky. Play around ice cream snowballs. Hop around nacho cheese fountains. Slide onto a giant gumball hill. Go gaga with a palace of Jell-O. Get endless supply of jellybeans. Then there comes the massive pancakes, tornados of pasta, pools of nacho cheese, hailstorm of jellybeans, ice cream blizzard, pizza flurries, and deadly gummy bears… Suddenly, it’s raining steak and gumballs! It’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”
The story is engagingly ridiculous. And it’s fun. And it works.
This eye-popping and mouth-watering film cooks up a veritable buffet of the bland and the bizarre, the sweet and the sour, and all other tastes generously offered on screen. It serves up a riot of glee, color, and absurdity. And it actually looks fresh and witty beyond the expectation for it.
With a solid gag ratio and a pretty good animation, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” serves as a commentary on the potential perils of genetically engineered food and the downside of “overabundance.” It makes a social point about how people now have too much of what they need. It’s a culture of excess where wastefulness seems next to coolness.
This impressive film from Sony Pictures is a downright odd family flick with exuberant animation, quirky humor, and plucky characters. It’s a slick and solid slapstick made with technical sophistication and engaging storytelling. This animated venture from writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have utilized the popular children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett into a nice movie feature.
The filmmakers know how to play with their food. And at the same time, they capitalize well on the universal compulsion for stomach-filling delight. As a computer-animated 3D extravaganza, it provides entertaining food fights and pleasurable food trips. It amusingly expands the book for the big screen. It provides whimsical detail through: increasingly surreal weather activities, in a way that climate change in the real world suggests a call for action; and a hunger for more when everything is too much already, in a way that capitalism and consumerism in the real world becomes an alarming concern for every nation.
From the gloriously surreal buffet of predatory giant chickens to the psychopathic gummy bears fighting to death, things are quite weird but really wonderful. Mutated food isn’t that far from the reality of junk food and some unwholesome fast food stuff. And all these are actually best seen in 3D splendor. Technically, this 3D food adventure makes terrific use of the format. Things really look stunning, but that doesn’t mean that its conventional 2D counterpart is of no good value. In fact, the film is a good DVD collectible. It’s just that, dining on 3D is another cool treat. It looks natural for the format and it enhances the story. And it’s good to know that the excellent animation is a veritable feast for the eyes and doesn’t overwhelm the storytelling.
As a computer-animated flick, it is bright, cheery, and at times flat-out hilarious as it provides winsome sight gags involving giant food, references to disaster film clichés (including “Independence Day” and “Twilight Zone”), and endearing characters that vividly come to life. The running gags are pretty neat clichés. It’s mostly slapstick yes, but it’s a pretty charming kind of slapstick that works well for its intended commercial value.
The sophisticated presentation doesn’t look pretentious, and it doesn’t sweat the message. As a family-friendly movie, it provides a frenetically tasty offer. It’s insanely funny and at times wonderfully weird. Things work well with the gastronomically hilarious pace and tone of the comedy. It’s visually inventive and can be swallowed very easily while serving some serious food for thought on the side.
Unlike most children movies being insipid and lowbrow, this film doesn’t insult its audiences. It’s light on its feet and it’s quick-witted. It is silly and surprisingly enjoyable – not to mention, a little trippy. It bursts with random sight gags that boast intricate design and goofy humor. It has some grown-up gags to keep the adults amused as well. The characters are likeable amidst the fact that in terms of character development, they don’t render something of the caliber of Pixar’s “Up.” Yet, this movie really assures the audience with such a tasty adventure.
As a hyperbolic exposé of human greed, abusive behavior, and environmental destruction, this food revolting spin of the 30-page children’s book into a 90-minute bountiful big screen buffet is something that the general viewer won’t regret sinking his/her teeth into. Its delicious and imaginative concept takes flight with a real tasty family delight. And while it rains big food, it also rains big laughs and sheer fun.February 5th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | 3D, Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Animation, Children's/Family, Classic, Comedy, Environmental, Film Review, Films, Films I Like, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Sci Fi/Cyberspace | no comments
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is a disappointing second installment from the Chipmunks franchise. Well, it becomes at the least commercially watchable (for some laughs) with its light campy touch of comic fun. Thanks to the endearing CGI characters – these singing-and-dancing rodents become really charming in this seamless blend of CGI and live-action elements. It is predictable, terribly acted especially by the live action guys, and heavily reliant on slapstick humor, but it has some entertaining moments nonetheless.
Featuring these rodents in cool outfits while shaking their tushes as they cover a number of danceable pop songs, this Chipmunk squeakquel delivers pretty much the bare minimum: a peppy, brightly colored, tune-filled scenes just enough to meet the low standards of watching merely for some laughs. Its high school rom-com style has no much effort to even mask its predictability. Indeed, the Chipmunks, along with the featured Chipettes, are as cute as ever here, but the plot is almost insultingly predictable, even for the younger viewers.
Amidst the not so engaging plot and flat jokes, the major upside to the movie is still the song and dance numbers. For the most, director Betty Thomas maintains the world famous singing pre-teen chipmunk trio as an appealing pop culture sensation in the big screen. And this time around, they contend with the pressures of school, fame, and a rival female group known as The Chipettes.
Trading on children’s endless appetite for talking animals is really a buy. Yes, there are some slapstick action and catchy soundtrack to enjoy and it can be counted as a family-friendly flick. However, a movie being aimed at children isn’t an excuse for it to be too simple-minded and trivial. In fact, all the more that quality should matter so that even the pre-kindergarten core audience can benefit on a good story. Talk about films like “Up” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” now those are awesome films for the kids (and even adults).
The Chipmunks Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (voiced by Jesse McCartney) are still as appealing as the first movie. The addition of the Chipettes Brittany (voiced by Christina Applegate), Jeanette (voiced by Anna Faris), and Eleanor (voiced by Amy Poehler) add to the delight for these performing CGI animals. However, I just wonder, instead of paying for just celebrity voices that are actually unrecognizable and dispensable, why not pay for better writers to make the quality of the story in par with the charm of these adorable computer-generated talking animals?
As Alvin, Simon, and Theodore deal the pressures of high school, Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor provide two additional things: a reason to get more appeal to those who enjoy pop tunes; and more importantly, the chance to include female pop hits on the cute roster of performances. It is a given that these high-pitched boy and girl pop routines provide the bulk of the enjoyment for the movie. It is interesting to note that the Filipina singing sensation Charice Pempengco actually did a cameo performance here. As always, she’s got that impressive voice to back her up!
And given the circumstances, you could expect an inevitable Threequel for this movie.January 6th, 2010 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Animation, Children's/Family, Comedy, Dance/Musical, Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films | no comments
Pixar’s “Up” further strengthens its impressive track record of making noteworthy animated films. This must-have DVD provides a symphonic balance of touching silence and witty dialogue where the flight of fancy is carefully crafted through a wildly creative fantasy, inner childhood, and rediscovery.
As an emotional and heartfelt story with various levels of relationships and sense of belongingness, this high-altitude exploration about love and loss and letting go makes a beautifully balanced effort – propelling the viewers up, up and away with its colorful balloons of cinematic adventure.
“Up” is a family film that doesn’t pander. The audience’s suspension of disbelief especially for some of its preposterous elements never insists itself as a negative issue. In fact, the cleverness and originality the film exudes through it becomes considerably boundless. Highly supported by visual wonder and worthwhile story investment, the theme of this exquisitely cinematic work tweaks the common elements of a grownup tale and rejuvenates the storytelling with much spark and pop.
From belly-laugh humor to tear-in-the-eye despair, it never becomes anything less than incredibly touching and entertaining. Alternately funny and touching, and exciting often all at once, this tale about unfulfilled dreams and fulfilling promises is punctuated by gentle whimsy and tender human values. Through its intimate character study about rediscovering the soul, or surviving the worst and making the most of it, the film’s creative synergy of sharp, funny, and tear-jerking elements delivers both a thrillingly fantastic adventure and a devastatingly poignant piece of realism.
What makes “Up” more special is how its animation efforts are utilized for maximum value. It combines the basic filmmaking requirement of imaginative and sincere storytelling with dazzling and dreamlike visuals on a level that can work best on animated films – creating an experience that is a special characteristic of animation – at once utterly convincing and completely impossible, but all in all, lovingly acceptable for its kind of medium.
This swashbuckling romp starts slowly, but classy. Then it picks up helium and soars into a continent-hopping adventure and an understated, nuanced psychodrama with an end as inspiring as its title. For children, it’s an adventure movie; for adults, it’s an adventure on a whole different level. “Up” is a breezy kid’s fun yarn embedded in a sentimental grownup tale with serious consideration on love, death, and lives left behind. The “visual wow factor” can resonate more powerfully to the kids while the amusing brilliance as a sweet, gentle, and imaginative tale about grief and regret, purposes lost and rediscovered can resound more to the adults.
The opening sequence sits in silence, telling the story of young Carl and Ellie filled with emotions and alleviated by Michael Giacchino’s magnificent music transporting the viewers to a make-believe place. Tears fall at the end of this beginning to cast a spell over the willing audience. It hits the right notes as the musical score becomes practically a character in the film itself. The contemplative montage taking Carl from childhood to widowhood truly makes imaginations take flight. Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson, along with all the talented people from Pixar, create such a palpable story while maintaining itself as a piece of expertly-rendered and artful type of entertainment.
Colors match the emotions seen on screen. Shapes and sizes in every frame promote such valuable storytelling subtexts like: the character design of Carl being very edgy while the designs of Ellie and Russel being full of curves.
The various characters balance the thrills and tenderness to make a truly beautiful and compelling work. The gruffy old widower Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) ties thousands of balloons to his home and sets out to fulfill the lifelong dream initiated by his already departed wife Ellie (with the young Ellie heard in the film voiced by Elie Docter) to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, becomes a stow away on the trip. And as he finds himself reluctantly sharing his ride with the short-attention-spanned kid, he embraces the jungle adventure with more and more characters coming their way including the colorful, sweet-toothed bird Kevin, the talking dog Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson), and his childhood idol, the adventurer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer) with his pack of dogs led by Alpha (voiced by Bob Peterson).
“Up” has a genuine warmth of a true classic. It orchestrates itself into one truly unforgettable piece of animated film for all ages.August 2nd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Animation, Children's/Family, Classic, Comedy, Epic/Adventure, Fantasy, Film Review, Films, Films I Like, Hollywood Films | no comments
HP 6: Masterful, Moody, and Magnificent
By Rianne Hill Soriano
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is by far the best of the series in so many ways. This sixth installment in the “Harry Potter” film franchise is of the right mix for the specific needs of the story. It is never dumb and yet it is not pretentiously profound. It is smart as it is honest. It is dark as it is funny. It is angsty as it is fun. It is gloomy as it is magical. And above all, it is sincerely the most human.
The film is a masterful work helmed by director David Yates who proves that the Potter franchise and J. K. Rowling’s story are in very good hands indeed. The mounting of the film is at its most spellbinding with his genuine craftsmanship. He knows his shots and doesn’t waste any moment from them. He is aware of its moody demands. He acknowledges what is to be magnificent and what is to be harsh.
The “Half-Blood Prince” is the purest example of virtuoso storytelling. It provides a satisfying visualization of the Rowling cosmos. This emotional and involving installment plays around the fantastic elements and introduces contrasting and playful human experiences set in the realm of magic. Dazzlingly well made and perhaps deliberately less fanciful than the previous entries, the film is a bubbling cauldron of hormonal angst, romance and heartbreak, and a genuine tone of a settling adult gloominess.
Impressively, this book-to-film translation doesn’t feel rushed. And it can stand on its own as a cinematic masterpiece. The film opens and closes well. It invests enough time to tell the story. With a few exceptions, the major plot points from the book have been significantly considered. More than the magic being played, the characters whom the people have come to know and love for more than half-a-decade now is well understood in this sixth film. As the latest one, it is closer to palpable human experiences than any of the others and is quite effective as such. And as a more human affair than its predecessors, it effectively offers flashes of darkness and pleasure to become such an immersive film faithful in capturing the texture and richness of its origin book.
Playing out in a series of both rough and gentle interludes, the film’s darkness lingers around the teen romance and humor. It is funny, moving, honest, sad, and sweet. The acting has improved greatly. The direction is solid. The effects are wonderful, but not overdone, and above all, it is seamless to the story. Its motifs on loss of innocence, the lashings on teen tension, and all the raging young adult hormones stir the story’s fine potion on magic and adventure. The predominantly downbeat mood is carefully utilized in between fun moments and aggressive behavior.
Helming the final four films of the franchise, Yates makes this second HP stint under his belt as dark and brooding while the intricate details of its fantasy aspect become extraordinary in various ways. Visually, this is definitely a solid HP entry, having impressive sets and effects. It has a wondrous physicality led by production designer Stuart Craig. The cinematography courtesy of Bruno Delbonnel completely shifts to a darker, more frightful style that greatly matches the story. The script is witty and steadfast in the hands of screenwriter Steve Kloves who introduces this latest film entry to the saga with a splendid mix of storytelling strokes, primarily through the friendship of the central trio who remains to be the very key to the film’s magically genuine appeal. The editing by Mark Day lives up to increasingly gravitate the matters of the heart and the hormones for the coming-of-age moments of the three major characters and their schoolmates. The original music from Nicholas Hooper mesmerizes the audience accordingly. Indeed, for this film adaptation of “Harry Potter Book 6,” the production team has really worked wonders to make it how it is.
The concerns of Rowling’s characters provide a more mature route for the story. And impressively, it has a strong sense of purpose and ambition that provides hope to countless worthless franchise offers these days. The film bravely leaves its own childhood behind and welcomes a more fiery and aggressive right-of-passage moment for itself. Most film sequels could be wheezing their ways to become shameful cashcow offers; but this latest chapter for the legendary HP franchise is definitely on the rightfully more reliable track.
This more mature installment is quite strong. It has concrete plotting, pacing, visuals, acting, and direction to keep up with the story’s fun, adventure, romance, and thrills. The film’s experienced team gives way to vigorous storytelling while marking due moments in preparation for the final battle between the light and the dark. The individual scenes generally work through well-founded staging. The challenging weaving of sequences carry out clear messages and emotions at most times. The story is not dependent on effects nor dialogues – it’s the overall mounting of each shot, from the framing to the subject, that makes it work.
So many actors shine in so many ways. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter has truly grown up. More than merely getting taller, he delivers such a commendable acting as demanded by his character. Emma Watson continuously validates her strength and charm as Hermione Granger. Rupert Grint as Ron Weasey exudes an equally impressive performance as well. Overall, the acting was superb. Everybody works admirably: Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore; Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape; Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy; Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley; Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn; Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange; Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Frank Dillane as Tom Riddle; Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood; Helen McCrory as Narcissa Malfoy; Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown; David Thewlis as Remus Lupin; Timothy Spall as Wormtail; Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall; and all the rest of the many characters who have made this “Harry Potter” offer a success.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is an impressive film that stands out as the new dark jewel in the “Potter” kingdom. For fans of both the films and the books, this is indeed an elegant addition to the canon – a fantastic magical ride of a movie highly recommended to both teenagers and adults. It can also be regarded as one of the most remarkable series in cinematic history. This film really sets up the stage for the last two installments – the seventh and final follow-up book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” will be divided into two films to cap off this esteemed franchise.
Let’s hope for the best that the last two films also give justice to the final “Harry Potter” book.July 23rd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Children's/Family, Epic/Adventure, European Films, Fantasy, Film Noir/Expressionism, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Youth/Teenybopper | no comments
The dino-ice adventure
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Looks like the Ice Age series is not yet too close to extinction. Since the trailers of this third offer of the franchise, there is no doubt that Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs has that appealing energy based on the film’s overall charm. It has well-paced comic moments enhanced by 3D effects. And as an adventure-packed ride, it provides an astoundingly eye-catching animation built on the fun foundation given by the old characters. Some scenes may feel repetitive, but for the needed surface-level fluff, this kiddie flick generally works.
The story revolves around the discovery of a crack in the ice which grants the characters access to a more primitive age of tropical weather, green grass, extensive foliage, and dangerous giants. This takes the central characters from their wintry, ice-packed habitat to a cavernous underground world of danger where carnivorous dinosaurs roam. On a mission to rescue Sid, the old gang travels into a mysterious underground world where they encounter a whole new world of flora and fauna.
For a 3D offer, this third installment of the Ice Age franchise doesn’t overdo the 3D part. Many entertaining elements make the viewers laugh. The novelty of its extra dimension, its eye-candy visuals, and the overall comic fun of its characters enhance the storytelling as well as its offer for spectacle. Director Carlos Saldanha and co-director Mike Thurmeier envision nifty camera tricks, funny character antics, and charmingly mounted moments to keep up with the film’s box office requirements. Scenes like the laughing gas adventure and even the overly familiar trailers of Scrat’s initial meeting with Scratte and Sid’s milking of a bull all provide good laughs for the general audience. Scrat’s dialogue-free scenes are punctuated by music and all things heart-shaped work as usual. His pursuit of the elusive acorn is as fervent as his quest to win the eye-fluttering Scratte which alters his nut hunting priority.
Amidst the sureshot enjoyment for this offer, it is not of the top caliber level as compared to the best Pixar animated classics, mainly becomes it merely relies on the formulaic elements to make it a fun family ride. Moreover, the playful bantering between characters could have been more creatively done. There are some forced dialogues and some phoned-in voice acting around. Nevertheless, this new sequel from the popular animated movie is clearly targeted at the kiddie crowd and it still works as an entertainment pastime for the family.
As expected, Ice Age 3 promotes a cutesy end to both the old and new characters’ sub-stories. Aside from the old gang, it features some snappy new characters including Buck and the loads of dinosaurs around. Parenthood becomes the hot topic for Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) who are awaiting the birth of their mini-mammoth. There is something lacking on their side of the story in terms of characterization; but when their baby comes out, things just become real adorable with the cute little mammoth out. The goofy sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) is a considerably convincing character here—as a friend who feels abandoned and adopts three baby dinosaurs to nurse as a new surrogate mother. The flurry and scurry squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge) is still awesome with his wanderings motivated by that iconic acorn. But this time, he gets company in trying to nab that ever-elusive nut with his newfound hottie frenemy conveniently named as Scratte (Karen Disher). The saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) doesn’t quite render enough emotional attachment here. His issues of growing too soft hanging with his tamed pals and his goal to leave the herd to prove himself on his own don’t quite get that much message across. The twin opossums Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck) generally work on their pratfalls and fart jokes amidst their stereotype antics. The relentless, vine-swinging and dino-hunting weasel Buck (Simon Pegg) is a comical and lively one-eyed warrior who guides the “Ice Age” friends through the underground prehistoric habitat of the hungry dinosaurs in order to save Sid. With his conventional but steadily working jokes, he puts fun in the adventure of the characters as they traverse the Chasm of Death, the Plates of Woe, and the treacherous Lava Falls.
Overall, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs brings visual cuteness, action, and frivolity for the audience to enjoy. It puts the usual requirements on moral elements for the typical family movie getaway—with the story centering around the importance of family and friends. The movie is a surefire hit with the kids. And the 3D version will definitely have an additional appeal.July 12th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Animation, Children's/Family, Epic/Adventure, Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films | no comments
My second 35mm film “Aninag” (Light’s Play), 15 mins., 2005May 26th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Children's/Family, Dance/Musical, Epic/Adventure, Fantasy, Film Noir/Expressionism, Film Review, Films, Independent Films, Melodrama, My Films, Pinoy Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Surreal | no comments
May 22nd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Children's/Family, Dance/Musical, Epic/Adventure, Fantasy, Film Noir/Expressionism, Films, Independent Films, Melodrama, My Films, Personal/Expression, Pinoy Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Surreal | no comments
A Family’s 3D Homage
“Monsters vs. Aliens” is an affectionate spoof of 1950’s sci-fi and monster flicks with the ambitious visual texture of what the 3D technology of the today can offer. It works if you merely enjoy it’s 3D glory and not overthink… This family-friendly animated offer captures both the thrills for the kids and the nods of parents feeling the nostalgia for alien invasion movies through its fine homage to a number of flicks of the past. And it has enough color, motion, and mayhem to keep the willing viewers entertained.
“Monsters vs. Aliens” aims to entertain every demographic in the audience. It contains much of the formula; but the occasional gross-out jokes and way-cool beasties and robots work pretty good enough. As an industry breakthrough for 3D animation, it uses the newfangled 3D effects quite nicely. And as an example of a mainstream studio blockbuster done in a generally acceptable manner, the cool stuff are balanced with enough humor and action, visuals and sounds, and relative fun and amazement for both the children and the parents (especially when seen in IMAX). Directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon mainly utilizes solid gags and superb technical sophistication to create the required appeal to showcase a bride-to-be-turned-50-foot-tall-superheroine and a ragtag group of monsters for fun alien battles around the city.
This Dreamworks animated funhouse uses the “Shrek” formula to incorporate grotesquely charming characters with mature and memorable themes. With its crisp and sparkling 3D look, bigger-than-life treatment, and classic movie creatures getting a high-tech makeover, the movie ably disguises its conventional family fare premise into a clever satire. However, it actually doesn’t quite live up to the top potential of its premise due to some lines falling flat and overused and a treatment losing some needed emotional punch for the sake of technological show-offs. It could have been much better if the filmmakers were able to put that kind of passion on the storytelling as they were with the audio-visual spectacle. Indeed, despite dazzling visuals and sporadic thrills, the film lacks the consistency, inventiveness, wit, and big-heartedness found in superior and unforgettable animation classics.
“MvA” uses ironic, sometimes sardonic, language to satirize just about everyone. This tale about a plus-plus-sized lady taking on extraterrestrial enemies with the help of some equally oddball friends allows for a decent family entertainment. With the viewers cheering for the “female superhero” and her mosterrific companions, it’s a lightweight picture of embracing the inner superpowered 50-foot-tall monster inside her. And it interestingly becomes a tale on female empowerment and male comeuppance as it asserts a dumped woman’s reestablishing of herself from her egomaniacal fiancé.
The computer artisans and voice actors who bring the story to life serve the film well. The slyly voice performances are quite a deal in making the film work. Offering their voices for the film are Reese Witherspoon as Susan Murphy/Ginormica, Seth Rogen as B.O.B., Hugh Laurie as Dr. Cockroach Ph.D., Will Arnett as The Missing Link, Kiefer Sutherland as General W.R. Monger, Rainn Wilson as Gallaxhar, Stephen Colbert as President Hathaway, Paul Rudd as Derek, Julie White as Wendy Murphy, Jeffrey Tambor as Carl Murphy, Renée Zellweger as Katie, Amy Poehler as the Computer, among others. The funniest characters amongst them are Rogen as the animated blue blob and Colbert stealing the scenes as the US president.
“Monsters vs. Aliens” doesn’t have a lot of emotional depth, but it’s a well-designed crowd-pleaser for audiences of all ages. It just falls short on the fact that if you take away the 3D, half of what’s left is your generic family flick.April 7th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Animation, Children's/Family, Fantasy, Film Review, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Hollywood Films, Sci Fi/Cyberspace | no comments
Scenic Fantasy Less the Connection
“The Secret of Moon Acre” is whimsically lovely to look at, but never reaches the level of magic and enchantment it needs to succeed. It still falls short on wielding magic to its storytelling that the plot seems to get totally mangled with the technical priorities of the film. With a dull screenplay, ploddy direction, patchy editing, and wooden performances, and without a coherent central tone, this children’s tale on the big screen still hardly brings the needed fantasy to life. If not for its eye candy looks, it is nothing but uninvolving.
Adapted from Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Little White Horse,” “The Secret of Moon Acre” is clearly meant for family audiences. The story revolves around Dakota Blue Richards’ character as Maria Merryweather who discovers upon her father’s death that he was a notorious debtor. Orphaned, homeless, and bequeathed a single possession, a leather-bound book, she is shuttled to the strange and mysterious Moonacre country estate which is presided over by her rigid uncle, Sir Benjamin (Ioan Gruffudd). There, she learns that her family has been entangled in an ancient blood feud with the De Noir clan over possession of magical pearls. And she, the last moon princess, is the only hope for their clans’ salvation.
“The Secret of Moon Acre” truly features the beauty of its scenic European locations. The costumes are beautiful. The sets and props are gorgeous. Indeed, the lush production design makes for great opportunities in cinematography work, which then gives the viewers a real plenty for the eye. The effects are not on top, but they still considerably render well to the film’s requirements. The technical aspect of the film is generally commendable. Hungarian director Gabor Csupo (“The Bridge to Terabithia”), along with his team including cinematographer David Eggby, production designer Sophie Becher, art directors Bill Crutcher, Mónika Esztán, and Gary Jopling, set decorators Zoltán Horváth and Kay McGlone, and costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor, gets to utilize a visual illustration of moonlit visual splendor and the greed, tension and lust over objects of desire. Yet, the film can’t hide the fact that it is poorly written, badly acted, and drained by a stagnant narrative line. It may employ strong animation techniques and special effects for evocative visual intentions, but it never stakes out its very identity to establish such a fantastical story. The music is within the bounds of the fantasy genre, but it never takes itself away from the mainstream conventions and it overdoes itself most of the time. And with its sluggish blend of humor, disengaged characters, and dizzying narrative line, it fails to connect on cinematic and emotional levels.
The film’s performances, pacing, and rhythm are never synchronized that the picture doesn’t give the necessary depth, insight, and imagination; thus, denying it the beguiling wonder it needs. These fracture the main story, a derivative of the typical “Romeo and Juliet” love story, to the point that the individual moments also get drained of much filmic insights and imagination. The intention to rise and take flights of fancy is there, but with how the story is weaved, the film remains resolutely earthbound. With the director being a talented animator as well, he truly makes the film physically wonderful to look at. However, he seems quite uncomfortable with actors that the cast looks quite vague with their rendered performances.
The appeal of “The Golden Compass” star Dakota Blue Richards is generally fine for her whimsical character. However, just like with the rest of the cast falling prey to merely animated tight/reaction shots in the film most of the time, this pulls down not just the individual goodness of what the acting performances can offer but the whole film being nailed down and not effectively living up to the cinematic medium. Natascha McElhone as Loveday is generally fine, but the slow-moving affair hampers her characterization just like everybody else. Gruffudd is too wooden that all he really has to do for most times is to look brooding. Juliet Stevenson as Maria’s overprotective governess Miss Heliotrope mostly gets the comedy part, but her overacting and too animated characterization often detract her comic turns away from the more resonant storyline. Tim Curry as Coeur De Noir is too broad and unfixed. Andy Linden as the manor’s undersized, magical, and mercurial chef Marmaduke Scarlet seems to merely phone in a performance. Augustus Prew as Robin seems like he just came out from a set of a Tim Burton film. As an acting talent, he considerably looks fresh the way he handles himself on screen, but he still can’t muster any enthusiasm for such a sluggish narrative that throws around pearls of blandness like moondust.
“The Secret Of Moonacre” lacks action, adventure, and magic. This dull children’s fantasy adventure for family audiences never soars or completely takes hold of the imagination. It feels like it drifts all over the place with undermined treatment and execution. Perhaps, people can opt to watch it just for how lovely it is to look at – not for the plot, the characters, nor the story.April 7th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Children's/Family, Fantasy, Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
Heartwarming chews, sentimental bites
“Marley and Me” is a sentimental tale hitting the right emotional notes. When it’s comic, it strikes the funny bone right. When it’s dramatic, it goes straight to the heart. Bringing both much laughter and much tears, its large sentimental streak makes it a more valuable picture than expected.
An adaptation of John Grogan’s sentimental bestseller, this touching story about the profound love between an American family and their adorable but naughty and neurotic dog shows a poignant, touching, family-friendly portrait of a marriage, advancing careers, and a growing family as it changes over time. It provides a surprisingly moving chronicle about a writer couple struggling to discover their strengths and fulfill their dreams – a family’s journey taking shape around a pet. Interestingly, it doesn’t have to force any of its sentiments because all the film’s emotional moments springing from an honest assessment of how wonderful, upsetting, frustrating, and surprising life can be. The film paints a deep concern with its characters and their setting. It has no artistic pretensions. And as a film not exactly meant towards the artsy route, this one truly delivers in its own clear bearing as a form of entertainment with substance and genuine emotion. It clearly knows where it stands and what it should exude – making the viewer feel like his/her heart is caving in while watching the family evolve and how their silly dog becomes a very important part of the family.
Nicely done and has its values right, this family canine flick has such an emotional ending that allows the audience feel deft touches of alternately sweet, sad, and sentimental moments. It strikes a surprisingly delicate balance between wacky humor and a more heartfelt look at how a mischievously charming dog becomes part of the happy messiness of family life.
A comedy-drama about a wild, rambunctious, playful, and unruly yellow Labrador who brings joy and color to the family, “Marley and Me” is filled with canned situations, but there is heart in this tale’s fact-based story that makes it work well in tugging the heartstrings. This perky, episodic film may be as broad and obvious as it could be, but it successfully carries itself in its own terms. As the story unfolds with the Grogan’s careers and family getting wonderfully attached to their pet, people cheer, laugh, and cry with them. It can evoke the right emotions out of an audience and most viewers who love dogs will probably sob their hearts out while watching. Guaranteed to send most people out of the theater with red eyes and wet cheeks, the film is a satisfying, heart-tugging surprise after a low expectation for it – basing it from its quite typical trailer.
The sparky chemistry between its sunny blond stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as the Florida couple Josh and Jennifer Grogan gives the film unexpected weight and charm. Portrayed by a series of dog talents, the emotional range of Marley, the family pet who can’t resist chewing and doing both appealing and menacing stints, makes the film swept up by affection. It delivers a good, family-oriented message that dogs, like children and marriages, require commitment and work. The supporting and minor roles also render good backing to the film’s organic sentiments. From Eric Dane as Sebastian to Alan Arkin as Arnie Klein to the Grogan kids growing up from adorable newborns to lovable toddlers, the tale leaves behind a light and breezy fun first act and goes to a second act that is intended to be deeper, darker, and more dramatic.
Director David Frankel knows how to mount emotions well from the shots to the blocking to the acting performances. He directs with a modesty and restraint that favors the people over the situations – and this becomes the film’s major strength. In capturing the chemistry of a beloved Labrador to its loving family, the people watching don’t have to be a dog lover to be touched to tears, they only need to be human to get touched by this sentimental tearjerker-comic fun film mix.
Families looking for an old fashioned, all-purpose comedy with a heart will flock to this sweepingly emotional cinematic offer. It’s a touchingly-crafted film guaranteed to appeal to tender-hearted people especially with its life lessons and impassioned moments intact.February 4th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Children's/Family, Comedy, Film Review, Films I Like, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Love Story, Melodrama | no comments
Another Touch of Hope for Pinoy Animation
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
“Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elemantalia”
Directed by: Robert Quilao
Starring: Nash Aguas, Katrina Michelle Legaspi, Michael V., Peque Gallaga, Pokwang, Laurice Guillen, Johnny Delgado, Noel Trinidad, Nova Villa
Regal Films’ spine-tingling offering, ‘Pamahiin’Touted as the Philippines’ first all-digital, full-length animated movie, “Dayo” (Filipino word for foreigner or visitor) is a fantasy story based on Philippine folklore, mythical creatures, pop culture, and contemporary Pinoy slang. It succeeds in incorporating local flavor to the film while combining traditional and digital technologies in animation. It may not be executed to make a critically-acclaimed Filipino digital animation film primarily because of its obvious limitations on production budget and time, but this project makes up for a good start – a spark of hope for what Filipino talents can do no matter how challenging animated film production could be.
Produced by Cutting Edge Productions and directed by Robert Quilao, “Dayo” brings to life contemporary characterizations from familial, student, and neighborhood relationships to mythical creatures living like their human counterparts. Perhaps, they have chosen this route to make the film easier to relate to for its main target market – the children audience. It tries to catch how the masses think and what they reckon would click to the bigger market in terms of commercial and entertainment values. However, on the part of the filmmakers’ aim to let the film join film festivals abroad, the film could have elevated its cinematic quality more than just merely focusing on the mainstream/commercial aspects.
The major mark of the film is that it has very Filipino elements. It showcases typical Filipino traits, Pinoy modern culture, and popular Philippine landmarks. It utilizes Philippine folklore and explores an animistic realm of the otherworldly – the “manananggal, enkanto, bruha, fairy, aswang, kapre, nuno sa punso, tikbalang, sirena, tiyanak, and alitaptap-tutubi/alitubi.” While the story’s take on local mythology and folklore through the world of Elementalia seems pegged on Disney classics, the background and theme look very Filipino. There are the animated versions of the typical barrio, school, and city including Pinoy-looking elements such as the jeepney, forest, malls, buildings, and billboards (including the many understandable animated advertisements which become a little too much in their screen times and placements – to the point that they start turning out as annoying). The many elements including the last supper painting, wooden sofa and lamesita, windows with capiz shells, Catholic altar, school parks, sari-sari store, and sub-urban apartment and house architecture maintain that very Pinoy touch.
“Dayo” unfolds like a typical underdog story. The plot is very basic – a quest involving a bullied schoolboy who needs to save his grandparents from a vengeful elemental. A dreamer who wants to soar the sky, he meets a pre-teen “manananggal” and teams up with other new friends including a “tikbalang” and adult “manananggals” as a “dayo” in the land of Elementalia, a mysterious and magical land that is home to popular creatures of Philippine mythology. He needs to complete a series of tasks tp fight off the evil abductor of his grandparents.
“Dayo” has its own share of shortcomings both in its thematic and technical sides. As the scenes get stitched together, there are a couple of glitches in the animation process primarily visible to those who understand the animation and filmmaking processes and some regular viewers who are very keen observers on the audio-visual (both technical and creative) aspects of films. Some parts look flat. Some characters are too separated from the background. There are some kinks that still need a lot of work especially with the movements, the lighting, and the shadows. Inconsistencies in the drawings, shadings, composition, and rendering are also apparent. And there are some minor problems with the synchronization of the lip movements from the voices. A number of shots seem compromised just to make sure the film gets finished before its playdate. Sadly, the film’s overall quality greatly affects the translation of the emotions from the images and sound to the audience. Nevertheless, being knowledgeable enough on the animation and filming processes, I am confident to say that it’s not a mere problem with talent, skill, and creativity, but a limitation on time and money that has made the film fall short on its technical and creative aspects. It is readily noticeable which parts are given more time and effort and which parts are rushed to beat the Metro Manila Film Festival deadline.
As a child-friendly offer, “Dayo” gives a number of moral lessons from friendship, to family relationships, to believing in oneself, to environmental issues. Clearly the treatment rather chose the route of Pinoy pop culture to make the masses relate to it easier. This is backed up with the kind of Filipino humor injected in the story. However, the overall characterization in the film has loopholes and too much gaps. Some elements and subjects inserted are not that necessary. At the same time, the filmmakers seem to forget to close some loose ends in the story.
“Dayo” is formatted in Dolby. The soundtrack and musical score provides additional treat to the common ears that are used to the typical stereo mix of Filipino films. World-class Filipino talent Lea Salonga offers her perfect voice for the film’s theme song entitled “Lipad.” Another arrangement courtesy of Roots of Nature is performed as a more upbeat version of the song in one of the scenes as well. The music of Jessie Lasaten and the lyrics of Temi Abad Jr. also take advantage of a full orchestra under the baton of Gerard Salonga. The orchestral score is also accompanied by ethnic Pinoy musical instruments courtesy of Joey Ayala.
The voice acting from the star-studded cast consists of Nash Aguas as the “dayo” Bubuy, Katrina “Hopia” Legaspi as the young, “sosi” “manananggal” Anna, Noel Trinidad as Lolo Meong, Nova Villa as Lola Nita, Johnny Delgado as Anna’s father and Elementalia’s “manananggol” Carpio, Michael V as the narcissistic “tikbalang” Narsi, Pokwang as Anna’s “yayananggal” Vicky, Laurice Guillen as “diwata/bruha” and “kapre,” Peque Gallaga as “nuno,” and lots of other talents who lent their voices for the film.
The country has a lot of talented and creative artists. This is proven by the fact that a number of local animation companies thrive because of outsourced work from abroad, including US and Japan, the major forces in the animation industry. In Hollywood alone, Filipino talents are seen in productions of Disney, Pixar, Warner, Hanna Barbera, and lots of other film and TV animated works. Add up those who work for comics and similar art industries, then all these keep up to the fact that there are many Filipinos who are skilled, talented, and passionate in this craft. Again and again, the major challenge is to go beyond the complications in financing original Filipino projects. And with the efforts made by “Urduja” a few months ago and “Dayo” now (plus a number of independent short films made by independent animators and filmmakers), there is really hope for our own local animated film content no matter how tough the kind of work could be. It may entail sacrifices and risks… but we are definitely getting there. It should clearly be a combination of passion for the art form and making compromises with the business side of things as a starting ground.
This film project proves how far local talents and production houses have come in a time when the global film industry, particularly Hollywood, dominates the world of cinematic entertainment. There may be a number of flaws and limitations for the country’s initial efforts, but it is definitely an inspiring start still. Let’s keep in mind how we can bring our own identity to our films while playing around our technical shortcomings due to limited budget and time constraints. Come to think of it, creativity is not totally dependent on money and high technology. Passion is the ultimate driving force to fuel things, and as long as there are available resources, no matter how scarce they can be, there is always a way to keep up to the challenge.January 9th, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Animation, Children's/Family, Epic/Adventure, Fantasy, Film Review, Flicks, Heroes/Superheroes, Pinoy Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
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