It’s almost time for the pitch for our initial plans for our shorts. This includes the story, treatment and other key aspects of the production. Here’s my synopsis for the initial pitch…
“Project Bernardo Carpio” Synopsis:
Bernardo struggles to free himself from his chains, while he also duels with the powerful entity who led him to his demise under the mountains of Montalban. This character-driven story depicts a rivalry that unveils an account of Bernardo’s life and the story behind “The Legend of Bernardo Carpio.”
With many, many, many months of production to go, of course, it is not impossible to have certain changes as the project develops. But here’s to chronicling how those developments progress…
About the film’s title, still on the works… suggestions/recommendations/advice are welcome!!
Tuldok Recruitment Video for the Folktales Animated Project:
Yup! This trailer is talking to you!
After a successful completion and launch of our second project, “Pasintabi” and “Lines to Life” educational series, we are now opening membership to anyone who is willing and wants to help create an Original Philippine Animation Industry.
Only registered members with approved application forms will have access to the exclusive forums to exchange ideas, submit concept art, and contribute in their own special way.
See you at the Tambayan!
-Tuldok Animation Studios Team
Tuldok Animation Studios is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to bring Filipino Artists together to create an Original Filipino Animation Industry.
We are a virtual studio and our previous projects have been built up using community driven efforts inspired by our local custom of “Bayanihan”.
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 franchisecomes 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 Story3 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.
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. Read More
Director: Rianne Hill Soriano
Producers: Ayeen Pineda and Benedict Carandang
Writers: Che Bello, Benedict Carandang, Ayeen Pineda, Pats Santiago and Rianne Hill Soriano
Director of Photography: Wowie Hao
Editor: Marco Dan Solas
Musical Scorer: Philip Arvin Jarilla
Graphics Artist: Princess Fernandez
Libingan (animated short film)
Director: Ramon del Prado
Producers: Ayeen Pineda and Benedict Carandang
Editor: Frank Aldana
Musical Scorer: Pepe Manikan
Sound Engineer: Philip Arvin Jarilla Read More
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. Read More
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.
The Chipmunks’ Charm vs. the Squeakquel’s Predictability
By Rianne Hill Soriano
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
The “Force” to reckon with By: Rianne Hill Soriano
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
Starring: Voices of Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Dee Bradley Baker
Directed by: Dave Filoni
The way Master Yoda would probably say it, “To primarily exist as a feature-length attraction to the animated TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars seems.”
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a film that ignited imaginations of humans all over the world… But wait, there’s more…
“The Clone Wars” is like a big marketing project working as a cinematic pilot for the upcoming TV series and video game tie-in of one of the most famous sci-fi franchise in film history. As an escapist entertainment primarily aimed at the “Star Wars” fans, this computer-animated movie (with a story happening in between Episodes 1 and 2) explores some new corners of the “Star Wars” universe with Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, along with the new character Ahsoka Tano, on the spotlight. It doesn’t have the grandiose narrative structure of the six live-action releases. And what it mainly features is the utilizing of the new medium for it – animation – while exploring another day in the lives of the Jedi knights and the politics of the Republic. Indeed, there is no attempt for any high end plotting for much cinematic fancy, just an extended TV episode-like story with the essential elements sustaining the boundaries of the canon.
With regards to this new “Star Wars” endeavor’s standing as a film offer, there could be two forces opposite each other. First, the frustrated viewers who feel that George Lucas and company have totally fallen to the dark side of the force by degenerating the “Star Wars” saga into a direct-to-DVD shrug projected onto the big screen. These are the ones who expect much more than a mechanical attempt to milk them with a stiff, flimsy, and generic clone of the past “Star Wars” films by filling in some prequel blanks that could have been better left empty. Some would see it having a less than engaging storyline with paint-by-number combat sequences – making them feel like the legendary “Star Wars” really happened a long time ago in a theater far, far away. Second, the die-hard fans who always get the high energy and nostalgia for the “Star Wars” intergalactic battles, alien landscapes, and the Jedi knights with biases and enough toleration on the weak things seen on whatever is offered on the big screen. These are the ones who are up for just about any visually busy action sequences that are kinetic enough to hold their eyes while seeing their favorite “Star Wars” characters for another escapist treat.
The CG animation style of this movie promotes a slick look that is detailed enough. The animated reality provides certain kinds of action stunts not that possible with live action – just like with scenes with Anakin, who, in a whim, gets to hop from one giant droid to the next while in battle. However, there are parts that still have mechanical quality rendering some of the characters’ movements a little clunky.
By now, Lucas’ esteemed sci fi saga is undoubtedly of grand and historical scale – surviving to become an interminable franchise with the charm of a cash machine. Its wonderfully universal appeal proves of his immeasurable contribution to the science fiction filmmaking realm. Looks like “the force” truly exists…
Overall, this new offer is not that terrible by any means, but it lacks that grand sense of cinematic adventure the six films have considerably offered. As a legend that has already gone to the top, there is that empty space that needs to be filled up by a certain sense of amazement. And yet, its solid followers prove its undying potential. Until now, the entire “Star Wars” catalogue is still growing with fans from all generations.
This CGI “Star Wars” movie/TV series pilot is clearly a brand extension capitalized with a mildly entertaining approximation of what the cinematic saga embodies. As a kid-friendly epic with a videogame watchability, it is also interesting to note how DVD collections, merchandising goods, and various kinds of collectibles are still raking big money in so many ways. And even though it is flawed and is only a partially functional cinema endeavor being a mere marketing film effort as it is, it still has that charm of being a “Star Wars” creation.
The heart of the “Star Wars” franchise is that it has always been fun and filled with literal “star wars” through various intergalactic fights and lightsaber combats. And this offer delivers on these. “The Clone Wars” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it really proves how the power of the “force” moves on and on.
A Robot’s Heart By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
For the nth time, Pixar creates an animated masterpiece pushing the limits of computer animation and storytelling possibilities. By now, it’s safe to say that its creative genius appears to have no boundaries – from the vastness of the sea to the nooks and cranny of the kitchen to the galaxy far, far away… Wistful and whimsical, this visionary robotic romance is a moving parable of what humans waste and what they should treasure – wrapped around in a romance so touching and engaging courtesy of its pair of robots in the main roles.
Another groundbreaking work from the makers of the now classic animated films “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” and “Ratatouille,” “WALL•E” is one of the best love stories ever told in the big screen. This animated masterpiece about a robot’s journey as he travels the vastness of the universe to be with his beloved robot wins the heart of the human audience as it leaps beyond its mechanical pieces to convey emotions of true love. It is very simple on many aspects, but at the same time, it is pure of movie magic. It is a rare picture of hope, wonder, and joy. Its every deft little touch brings complex, heartfelt circuitry to the characters – transporting the viewers to a cosmic place filled with the future’s “what if’s” through the main character WALL•E being a poetic figure of a robot drawn to human splendor.
So far and yet so near… The story primarily showcases robots and humans enslaved by technology. And this archetypal fable about loneliness and love is both simple and deep. The filmmakers have extended the parameters of the art form to create a whole new universe of pure emotional content amidst the film’s very superficial blueprint and physicality. The genuinely heartwarming story may happen hundreds or thousands of years and light-years away with machines programmed to do specific physical works and humans who don’t even know what touching a fellow human being is like, but there is an amazing amount of life and humanity all throughout. Indeed, the wit, invention, and sheer charm of a wonderful story told well can never lose its touch regardless of the kind of character and mise-en-scene used.
Withstanding the pitfalls of human existence as a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class robot, “WALL•E” is an utterly adorable character with a welcome surge of honesty, impishness, introspection, humor, determination, and sentimentality. This humanly mechanical hero supplies such surprising and engaging moments with his earnest robot reverie. He is built with such emotion, brains, and humor that the heart of the story revolve around his whirring tones and binocular eyes. And amidst his mechanized clunks and beeps, he moves like a true human character holding on to his dreams. His fantastic journey on a never-before-imagined vision of the future is deeply moving and fun. His irresistible rattles and eye rolls keep up with his ingenious sight gags needing no words for them to work. And for the most part, this considerably silent comedy reveals a lot of personality with its robots – more than its human characters who seem to have actually lost the true humanity in them.
This computer-animated cosmic comedy is nothing short of magical. At the same time, it is an endearing post-apocalyptic romantic adventure that is as fresh as it is funny, as heartwarming as it is innovative. “WALL•E” never feels preachy or pushy. Its animation is spectacular without being a mere show-off. While the film’s social message comes through loud and clear, it never detracts the heart of the film – especially the unlikely romance between the knick-knack collector Wall•E and the sleek search robot EVE. It works in recreating such an intricate world that is moving too fast and changing too rapidly. It gives serious moments to pause and reflect on what makes life valuable to live without losing its sense of wonder. It has a social and moral conscience without pushing too hard. It promotes an ecologically minded message with an artful nod for its modestly profound portrait of loneliness, duty, and desire for reciprocated attention. And this film saves the world through the “power of holding hands.”
On a personal note, what makes “WALL•E” even more striking to me is how it successfully pays homage to one of my best-loved films “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick. From the music to the visuals to the aspect of the story where the computer tries to outwit the human and vice versa, this film gives justice to paying homage to the work of a master. It also has a Charlie Chaplin feel to it especially with its almost comedic splendor for its non-talking scenes.
Academy Award-winning writer-director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”) and his crew incorporate surprising elements that mix vintage sci-fi with old musicals, armageddon environment, and a futuristic rendering of man’s complete dependence on technology. “WALL•E” is in full battery – powered up as it makes a massive leap in technological talent with its textural, tactile quality pushing CGI and 3D animation into uncharted artistic heights. With its technical aspect as artful as it is state of the art, and its approach being committed to a touching robot romance, it validates how animation is capable of much more than talking animals and fairy tale characters. Along with its fantastic and hearty visual value through the innovation of its Pixar talents in film and animation, it also provides a marvel of sound design and music courtesy of Ben Burtt and Thomas Newman. Indeed, this film illustrates Pixar’s downright heroic commitment to the craft by combining the wonder of art and fantastic entertainment value for the audience. Add up its continuing take on featuring a short animated film as a worthy prologue for its every feature film and things just become even more wonderful. Pixar really lets the witty storytelling and expressive animation transport the viewers into a whole new but touchingly familiar world.
Central to its serious, thoughtful, and vital messages about the environment and humanity, “WALL•E” is a smart, heartwarming, and savvy story about love, loneliness, perseverance, and triumph. And it hits its pro-green, anti-consumerist points remarkably as well. It truly shows the transformational power of love in such a beautiful, energetic, intelligent, and satirical way.
Joining WALL•E and EVE is a hilarious cast of a heroic team of malfunctioning misfit robots, a pet cockroach, “evolutionized” human beings, and a “pasaway” computer. The film’s visions of a ravaged, abandoned Earth of the future and a mechanized, corporately controlled space ark/pleasure cruiser vs. a small waste collecting robot doing his job in the barren planet makes up an exciting and imaginative adventure. WALL•E’s determined courtship to the completely indifferent EVE has as much truth about humanity’s sweetness and struggle as any piece of story with real human characters. Take note, the central characters merely show affection with their overall body movements, the rolling of eyes, and the mechanical sound they make. Everything just works so stunningly. And with WALL•E chasing EVE across the galaxy – against all odds – the story validates the human need to find a partner and friends with whom they can share their life experiences.
“WALL•E” is a rare and precious gem in cinema. It’s a great work of art. It’s a sci-fi funhouse and a romantic animated feature film for all ages. It draws the moviegoers with a close encounter with an enduring classic.
“Urduja” is the second film to feature local animation for commercial screening in our local theaters. And knowing how much resources and efforts are needed to come up with an animated film in a “Pinoy budget,” this film is a pretty good effort that can hopefully start a true spark for original Filipino animated content.
The storytelling works in catering to commercial moviegoers. It can also peak the interest of some film buffs and more demanding or curious viewers, particularly the more technical ones who know animation and graphics well. “Urduja” may not be something technically great (like its shortcomings in compositing and trying to play safe by minimizing details and character design to speed up production), but in some way, the storytelling (for such requirements and resources) saves it. If it were a live action film, of course, it could have been a rather different ballgame. But for a local animated effort for now, it’s considerably a good start already. Yet, the film could have been way much better with its storytelling if it weren’t founded with a totally formulaic treatment and too clichéd script.
There are a number of good backgrounds for the film. I really commend the artists who made them. There is the combination of both hand-drawn and computer-generated animation; but overall, traditional animation is much used for the film. Technically, there are shortcomings like some parts looking like a flat cartoon while other parts looking impressive enough for such a start for a Pinoy animated film venture. There are some apparent glitches. The lighting aspect is quite a miss especially with the need for more refinement with the light falling into the subjects/elements and more detailed shadows for them. There is a bit of roughness in the edges of some movements and drawings. But some are quite good really considering the kind of production and resources the film has. The lowered frame rate to save on more time and effort is understandable enough amidst the fact that some scenes tend to become too choppy and rushed, while some become extremely detailed. Nevertheless, the basic precepts of mainstream storytelling still become a committed effort which makes the film a still entertaining venture.
The technical issues of the film are quite forgivable for our market. And yet, it should be reiterated that it’s not a problem with the talent, it’s a problem with the budget. The time constraints, lack of resources, and minimal funding (animation demands a stable financing to meet its technical needs) limit the film amidst the fact that Filipino animators and artists are really very talented. Pinoy talents have been seen around Hollywood productions for the longest time. Some are credited, most are not. Sad but true. And Filipino artists are not just present in such filmmaking projects – think comicbooks, animated shows from various TV channels, corporate projects from many local and international companies… name it… Filipinos have been really excelling for all these years. However, the talent is just not enough to come up with a good film. The financial resources have a lot to say every time…
With regards to the concept of the film, I can quite understand why they chose the iconic character Urduja for it. However, on a personal note, I kind of feel betrayed how the warrior princess Urduja is featured in the film. Urduja is a woman warrior. Amidst working with fiction, I feel like the major things that should never be left out with stories or films about her would be: that she leads a group of Amazons and she will only marry the man who can beat her in combat. However, the film just uses the iconic factor of Urduja and makes a typical story with overused premise: girl-meets-boy and boy-saves-the-damsel-in-distress while the two struggle for their forbidden love. Even her clothes exude more of “Mulan” and “Pocahontas”-inspired costumes and not giving any well-researched depiction for the kind of Urduja that true writings and studies about her say. This point makes me really disappointed. Moreover, I do understand that creating battle scenes and more intricate character and costume designs would entail so much time and cost. But the thing is, why can’t we just try risking just a bit further for a better story from a new or a future iconic character that could fit the needs of the animated project – both financially and artistically – instead of trying to use “Urduja” as a brand name to sell the movie? Something more original that we can be prouder in terms of coming up with a fresh but wonderful new story – with a concept that can really fit the budget and the technical resources available for the production. We don’t need to try hard if we know for a fact that shortcomings are inevitable. We just have to be good storytellers even with minimal resources.
I have nothing about playing around with a fictional story about Urduja and the rest of the other characters. I just wonder why they have to feature Sumakwel as the bad guy against the Chinese pirate Limahong. With Limahong, it’s fine to feature him as a good guy then. No problem with it. However, with Sumakwel, who seems to come from the notes of history about the very wise Datu Sumakwel of the Visayas, is depicted as a totally black character. Yes, this may be a work of fiction; but even works of fiction could pay respect to history, in this case especially because we are talking about our “own” history. Why not just come up with a new name for the treacherous Sumakwel character than use a noble and valiant name of one of our historical datus? So now, there are chances of people, especially children, remembering the image of Sumakwel (who, I think, uses the “kampilan” sword like the one used by Lapulapu) as the cruel and coward traitor instead of being said to be one of the wisest datus of the Visayas. I think the film falls really short on their social responsibility if I may call it that… or perhaps historical responsibility… Doing a work of fiction is not a scapegoat in not doing good research on things that need value. Like I always say, film, like any other form of media, is a very powerful tool for the people.
For the other fictional aspects of the film like having a love triangle (which are not said in historical writings the way it is in the story) is considerably fine. Even getting rid of the concept that the Philippines have been highly matriarchal during the pre-Hispanic era is still okay. However, the writers and filmmakers should have been more careful in depicting the ways and means of getting married during that time similar to our history for the sake of a true concern and a more accurate depiction of the dynamics of pre-colonial life – for the sake of the viewers – than just keeping up with the movie’s commercial value. Actually, in doing so, I still don’t think it would make the story go against the flow for what they already planned then.
The sound production is relatively okay. There are parts that are good (those ones that seem to have been allotted more time working on them), there are parts that need more work (especially the lack of some ambient sounds on a few scenes as if there isn’t enough time to perfect them anymore). I personally like the ethnic music used. But definitely, the singing into ballads trying to catch up with the Disney way of doing it is a real turn off. With it, “Urduja” becomes a typical, boring, and inappropriate romance flick – and in the process, the art of storytelling is compromised. If they want to stick to the formula of putting song and musical numbers still, it should fit the mood and tone of the movie and not just merely making pegs from a number of Disney movies and overdoing and ripping off like “Lion King’s” “Hakuna Matata” for the rat and tarsier scene. The telanovela feel of these parts is really not a good way of making the film level itself better as one of the pioneer efforts in Pinoy animated filmmaking.
I also believe that the treatment of jumping to and fro between mangled English and Tagalog is very annoying. They could still reach out to the modern-day audience without using that much slang words and expressions making the movie look much more cheap. It’s not a very good idea to spurn the language like that especially peppering it with the Pinoy slang and the so-called “English carabao” you mostly hear during noontime TV. Such swinging between old poetic Tagalog and colloquial terms from pop culture doesn’t work like how the “Shrek” franchise does it… Well, “Shrek” is not really based from history. And it’s not even a period film to begin with.
The production follows the idea of a number of Hollywood animated film projects where the celebrities offering their voices for the characters kind of look like their animated character counterparts. This is quite fine, but making the animal characters more cute especially the rat and the tarsier (plus maybe adding a little more Filipino touch to their design/costumes) could have been better for a more charming effect. Their comic relief and antics are like the laugh-out-loud fun misadventures we watch on TV. It makes us laugh… but a more filmic effort in playing with the dialogues could have elevated it further.
Overall, “Urduja” is a valiant effort of obvious painstaking labor and big dreams for Filipino original animated content. It’s a good try. It may not be a full showcase of what the Filipino talents can really do, but it’s a pretty decent effort already. And hopefully, the next efforts for local animated film production would further improve. And more importantly, they should always take note that making a film entails having good research, playing around with a realistic production considering the budget, making valuable use of the film language, and keeping up with some social and historical responsibilities with the story and treatment. Let’s start depicting our original stories with a Filipino mark and not just always having to imitate what Hollywood mainstream does for their own projects. It’s about time…
The Unlikely Hero’s Destiny By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Starring: the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, David Cross
Fast, light, and easy-to-love, “Kung Fu Panda” would probably elevate the panda to the penguin’s cinematic status. Convincingly, the panda here makes movie magic. And the film succeeds in its playfulness.
Cinematically charming and ingenious, this animated cross between the elements of movies like “Forbidden Kingdom” and the premise of the likes of “Karate Kid” is definitely sweeter than expected. It actually shows more heart than you might think. The film is loaded with fun experience of comedy and action while keeping itself as a solid family film material through that black-and-white face of cuteness.
Without much expectation given its typical commercial disposition plus the fact that most movies similar to it (regardless of how many big-named stars are billed for voice services) become big disappointments, “”Kung Fu Panda” is such a pleasant surprise. If the initial assumption is that this animated comedy is slapstick, mediocre, or potty, it actually turns out to be a snappy, good-looking, and delightful cinematic offer that draws smiles for the whole family, the film buffs, and even the animators who would greatly appreciate the kind of animation and the heart that binds the elements together. More than starring a bunch of cute, highly-merchandisable animals, “Kung Fu Panda” has a genuine kung fu love that permeates the film to shine for anyone who is a fan of top-notch animated filmmaking, as well as those followers of the comedy and martial arts genres.
“Kung Fu Panda” is about an unlikely hero’s journey to fulfill his dreams of becoming a kung fu master. Po is a plump, drowsy, huggable black-and-white bear who has one, and only one, aspiration in life – to become an expert in a martial art that relies on agility, mental prowess, and lightning-fast reflexes. With his paunchy punching bag looks, he figure-atively throws his weight around and becomes an accidental fighter and subsequent Dragon Warrior – elevating his self-esteem and panda potential into kung fu heights.
With its inventive visuals, wonderful animation, tasteful music, appealing characters, and genuine story execution, this animated film stands apart from what has become a trend – making something different from the other recent animated films. It may be an unoriginal variant on the misfit-with-a-dream movie, but this action-packed kung fu animation respectful of the genre presents its refreshingly simple tale with dynamic animation and slapstick humor to compensate for the story’s lack of originality. It benefits from a buffet of Asian cinema influences while finding the right mixture of comic playfulness, satire, and affection to bring out the best of the material. What it lacks in surprises, it makes up for in its whimsical fun.
This family friendly fare is simple and lighthearted. It is slick, energetic, and entertaining enough to separate it from most of the heavily formulaic DreamWorks animation entries that depend on pop-culture references. While its storyline might seem familiar, there’s enough invention to make the film feel fresh within the bounds of the studio’s pen. From the cuddly slapstick to the Chinese wisdom, “Kung Fu Panda” clearly utilizes an age-old fable and comes up with a timeless family entertainment movie. Sticking to a tried-and-true formula about the hapless underdog discovering he is the “Chosen One,” this film still proves effective by keeping up with its snappy pace, fun spoofs, unpretentious sweetness, and striking visuals.
More than just the classic beauty of the animation, another draw comes close with its IMAX-big visuals compensating its colorful locale and battles, cool fight choreography, superb facial expressions, and well-rendered movements. The animators have clearly invested some time in studying and gleaning ideas from kung fu classics. Gorgeously animated and done with expert timing, the kung fu scenes show crisp, thrilling, and funny moments that whiz by in its one and a half hour run time.
This film’s hero’s journey story embraces humor that plays well across age groups and nationalities. As an amusingly witty family comedy, it promotes kids with a fairly respectable mix of action, amazement, and amusement. It’s noodle-long fun stints are seen all over that the children of all ages, including the grown up ones, will undoubtedly love its surprisingly smart and tender moments, its morality tale, and its audio-visual charm.
The image of a face-stuffing panda who loves to eat – transforming into a kung fu master – is touching enough through the characterization of lead talent Jack Black and the geniuses of its filmmakers. The animators are able to capture the mood and tone requirements of the story. The film primarily bases its humor in its voice performances. While being another celebrity-voiced animal adventure, it stands out from the crowd of similar films with its witty and charming celebrity voice performances. Jack Black as the chubby misfit-hero seems to really pour himself completely into his role. He inhabits the animated panda Po and he gives the audiences a double dose of his comic persona through it. With the rest of the stars doing the voice essentials (including Dustin Hoffman as Shifu, Randall Duk Kim as Oogway, Ian McShane as Tai Lung, Angelina Jolie as Tigress, Jackie Chan as Monkey, Seth Rogen as Mantis, Lucy Liu as Viper, David Cross as Crane, James Hong as Mr. Ping, among others), the signature whimsy of the film is realized.
It is also interesting to know that the young Filipino recording artist Sam Concepcion sings the film’s theme song “Kung Fu Fighting” during the closing credits of the “Kung Fu Panda” Philippine screenings – and the said cut is a part of the film’s album offer also available for the Filipino audience.
The adorability quotient of “Kung Fu Panda” definitely buoys this DreamWorks animated romp as a great source of movie entertainment. With its well-written script and its messages “To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special” and “Be your own hero” may best be proven by the existence of this unpretentious and more than bear-able crowd-pleaser. As a solid family flick and soon to become an addition to the roster of good-natured animated classics, this welcome animated treat is no less than a real charmer.
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
Starring: Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett
With many film adaptations from a book falling flat,
This new Horton ‘toon deserves a big clap.
With such warmth of tale and size of heart,
This sing-songy animation makes a delightful spark.
“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” captures the Seussian visuals without squishing the emotions of the book’s simple charms. Faithful to the spirit of the Dr. Seuss book, this computer-animated “Horton” film is largely funny and good-natured to make the family crowd lining up for a joyous and kind-hearted romp inside the movie theater. Wacky and wondrous, it fills out the original adventure without losing sight of its simple but significant messages. It provides bountiful fun for the little heads while it keeps the adults entertained as well. It is a funny, elevating ride to beguile the young and keep their older siblings, their parents, and grandparents enthralled, too. Indeed, it makes such a great family film that won’t dull the wits of the people watching it.
This film finally gets a Dr. Seuss creation right for adaptation. This cinematic adaptation blends the charming Seussical brand of wit and wisdom with animated thrills offered by the technology of these times. It adequately evokes the warmhearted eccentricity of the late author and artist Theodor Seuss Geisel’s classic children’s books. Brimming with colorful, elastic characters and bountiful wit, the crisp CG animations, innovative storytelling, and virtuous messages are enough to make this film a classic animated delight most children and adults.
“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” translates the book in a way that a film of this magnitude should be. It strikes an amiable balance between honoring the text and keeping up with cinematic requirements of contemporary animation. Generally faithful to the spirit of the beloved children’s classic, it sticks pretty close to the charming text, rhythmic syntax, considerate spirit, and sparkling tone of the book – and it is faithful enough to earn its just reward within its heart-warming story about the faithful and caring elephant who rescues the world living in a little speck. Just like the book’s rhymes and drawings, the loopy poetry has been nicely rendered into a computer-animated work that explores the innate values of keeping up with one’s convictions and doing the right thing no matter what the odds are. It is a good metaphor for faith. With such a refreshing approach to the sweet, funny spirit of its source when paying attention to all the possibilities of this planet and beyond, it raises the universal issues about how worlds are, no matter how big or small. And given the brevity of the book, it maintains a good focus on the perennially powerful theme at the heart of the Seuss tale: ‘a person’s a person, no matter how small.’
Directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino keeps a keen eye in bringing Dr. Seuss’ whimsical drawings and humanistic messages into CG life. Warm, playful and inventive, the characters and worlds generally feel remarkably life-like both with its metrical writing and its animation style. It makes such a charming fable about the rights of all beings, no matter their size or shape, to the basic freedoms of life and liberty. The film actually starts a little loose, but as it moves on by its initial turning point, the wide-eyed enthusiasm for it begins to craft an essentially sweet story that is smart, stimulating, and fun. And while it caters to the sometimes questioned tastes of big film outfits putting in elements for a hard-core mainstream stance, it doesn’t fall short with the overall demand for a good family fare with nice and sweet production values.
The voice performers and the animators imbue the animated characters with resilience and oddball grace. Jim Carrey does a great job in bringing the character of Horton to life without being completely over the top. Steve Carell makes a touching role as the beleaguered Mayor of Whoville. And the rest of the voice performances including Carol Burnett as Kangaroo, Will Arnett as Vlad, Seth Rogen as Morton, Isla Fisher as Dr. Mary Lou Larue, Jesse McCartney as JoJo, Charles Osgood as the narrator, among others bring to life with pure intent the Dr. Seuss characters with a sweet and quirky heart.
“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” is lovable, embraceable and touchingly funny. Indeed, it is a worthy feature adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book.
Directed by: Tim Hill
Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Justin Long
If you are in for a light, nostalgic, and escapist fun time, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ provides a lively and charming family comedy courtesy of its spritely mischievous and cuddly endearing little creatures Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.
Based on the cartoon series about a music group of chipmunks comprised of the cool and rascal leader Alvin, tall and quiet Simon, and chubby and impressionable Theodore, the CGI versions of these three famous and furry nut-gathering mammals cheering people up through their charismatic singing and antics turn out to be really merry and cutesy even after 50 years of existence. Indeed, they are rendered very well and gracefully upgraded into their 3D film incarnations. From the fun musical numbers to the cartoonish humor, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ manages to entertain both the children and the adults (and the children inside the adults). Alvin and his band of little beasties are reasonably realistic and cute in their CG forms. And in this film, these three squeaky-voiced squirrels are convincingly turned into pop superstars.
With its thin plot and trite story about the animated singing rodents and how fame and fortune get the better of them, this family comedy is still a good provider of light-hearted fun. Don’t expect an artsy film, just a light pop sensation story with the fulfillment of having a loving family – both for kids and for their parents who may most likely get hooked by the nostalgia brought by these classic characters. The film is filled with slapstick and bathroom humor. It has the one solid idea of the chipmunks talking and singing – the same concept that fueled novelty recordings and two cartoon series for ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ decades ago. The bright and energetic fun really makes these chipmunks way so cute and charming that the film makes you smile – and you may even sing along with it at times.
Director Tim Hill is able to bring back good memories that veer into the formulaic Disney territory. The nostalgia really counts. And the musical numbers are generally appealing with the close harmonies and smart foot stepping to the likes of ‘Funkytown.’ Truly, the film becomes successful in maximizing the old television properties of ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ with a slick updating for such a musical-cartoon franchise.
Targeting the family audience with some satiric flavor, the script leans heavily on the pranks and big-eyed cuteness of the li’l guys, along with the slapstick offer for the young viewers and Dave’s amiable frustration as the trio’s surrogate dad being something the parent viewers can relate to. ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ provides family values and a shallow anti-exploitation message about the two sides of the music industry and showbiz as a whole. You see Alvin and the ‘Munks singing novelties, recurrent hits, and boy band stuff in their chipmunk signature voicing.
There are some fumbling parts that are just too obvious. You may get to see Alvin, Simon, and Theodore lovingly rendered as huggable CG stars, apparently sapping much of the movie’s budget to the point that such things as continuity and art direction have gone out the window. You see wretched actors clearly pretending to know what’s going on as the CG effects take place beside and around them. One example is at the after-performance party scene where Uncle Ian directly talks to Alvin – Uncle Ian’s line of sight clearly doesn’t match what he is supposed to look at. The discontinuity on Simon’s glasses is also quite obvious. Right after Uncle Ian replaces his old glasses with a new one that doesn’t really help Simon see better, you see him wearing his old glasses on the next scenes – without any problem with his sense of sight at all. And then, a few more sequences after, there goes Simon’s scene with him searching for his old glasses and happily finding it – and he finally gets back his clearer eyesight with it.
Jason Lee as Dave Seville and David Cross as Uncle Ian contribute to the building up of the chipmunks’ characters, although they don’t get to flesh out more with the treatment for their considerably cardboard roles. Alvin, voiced by Justin Long, Simon, voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler, and Theodore, voiced by Jesse McCartney, are given life with such CGI inherent cuteness that make them look like living plush toys.
‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ is an endearing effort appealing to its viewers with its animated characters of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore – all still very much lovable until now as they’ve been decades ago.
The 3D version of ‘The Polar Express’ graces SM Mall of Asia’s IMAX theater this Yuletide season. This is director Robert Zemeckis’ first IMAX 3D offer preceding the recently showed ‘Beowulf.’ The rare sensation delivered by its 3D look has paved way to two major pronouncements about the film: captivatingly fresh and interesting with its 3D-generated roller-coaster thrills; and the somewhat creepy and unnatural look and feel of the dead-eyed and wax-like characters with their eyes missing their sparkles. Overall, it really depends on one’s taste. But, one thing is for sure, seeing this film in IMAX is a rare treat as there are only a handful of 3D cinematic offers, and so far, only one meant specifically for this Christmas season…
‘The Polar Express’ is a major technical exercise of the new technology. In terms of being an awesome spectacle, the movie delivers as a complete package of a surreal, hallucinogenic adventure adapted from Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas classic about one of the great enduring mysteries of Christmas – Santa Claus. Zemeckis transforms the story into an animated tale brought to surreal life. It has moments where the audience gazes through gorgeous landscapes and swashbuckling journeys that involve them all along – with a certain feeling of being part of the character’s vertiginous rides and daringly fun times.
As a result of maximizing what the new technology can offer, this technical-savvy 3D piece is such a holiday oddity that becomes an exhibit of what works and what doesn’t in the process. Just like any kind of new technological advancement, the system still needs improvement. On this note, it is nice to know that both the good and not so good sides of the film contribute to the betterment of the IMAX animated spectacles of the future. For this film, to help the viewers accept the creepily lifelike and still quite superficial qualities of the animated characters, the film’s backgrounds are backed up by beautifully illustrated vistas, dark and mysterious snow fields – pretty much resembling the original paintings from Van Allsburg’s book. Moreover, the 3D wonder thrills from the amazing photographic tricks of this new process of computer-generated animation are worth the try at the IMAX.
The performance/motion capture animation technique utilized for the replication of human movements through the performances of live actors provides considerably good deliverables. However, the characters still seem to lack the communicative power of genuine human expression. The animation still falls short in fully capturing the subtlety of facial expressions to fabricate sympathetic, evocative figures. And at times, they even look quite creepy. But overall, the process still works for its freshness. And Tom Hanks and the rest of the performers enter into the spirit of the whole thing with gusto through their captured performances and their voice acting skills.
The greatest strength of ‘The Polar Express’ is its ability to dazzle with roller-coaster-like rides inside and outside the express train that roars across various landscapes and making wild leaps and turns – all the while thrilling the audience with a Yuletide sense of North Pole adventure. The exhilarating ride achieves some genuine enchantment supported by the busy background score and sprightly song tunes. And most parents and children will be enthralled and enchanted by the positive themes the story promotes.
‘The Polar Express’ is a brilliant effort in 3D animation that will evoke the Christmas spirit into the audience – with its bell ringing for those who believe. It is a rich feast to bring out the child-like wonder in every viewer – opening up possibilities of getting swept away by magical gifts and proving how childhood becomes such a magical time. Indeed, this film constitutes a technological breakthrough that is exciting, a little scary, and rather sweet at times.
Traditional Meets Postmodern Enchantment By Rianne Hill Soriano
Disney’s ‘Enchanted’ is the best postmodernist fairy tale I have seen to date. And I am confident to say that it is bound to become a classic. This shimmering pastiche is obvious but inescapable: ‘Enchanted’ is as good as its name.
How refreshing it is to be able to gently make fun of Disney tradition while upholding it at the same time – no cheap or vulgar jokes or any treacle of whatever kind. Under director Kevin Lima’s inspired helm, this heart-winning musical comedy is a new breed of fairy tale that pokes fun at Disney’s animated classics without any hurting. ‘Enchanted’ maintains a delicate balance between the magic of traditional fairy tale and the deconstructionist approach to the princess genre. As a sweet, lighthearted antithesis to what is commonly shown in cinemas nowadays, this sardonic fairy tale unites animation and live action, fantasy and realism, practicality and dreaminess, and CG effects and hand drawn elements all suitable for kids and adults alike. Essentially postmodern and deconstructionist, the film indulges in all the dreams of fairy tale romance while making some 21st-century adjustments. It equally sprinkles fairy dust to its world of traditional fairy tale animation and its contemporary New York counterpart. As an expert blend of comedy, romance, and adventure, it proves that a motion picture can be light and frothy and yet still be intelligent and emotionally rewarding.
‘Enchanted’ takes its enchanting premise and prances away with it, and in turn, holds the audience happily captive. An irresistible blend of screwball comedy and fairy tale musical, it manages a warm, charming story that makes itself much more than a simple satire. It successfully recasts the traditional, sugar-spun Disney fairy tales into a winning, modern-day opus spinning its story with the needed puffiness as provided by its sharp and clever script, enchanting direction, and charming performances. This witty romantic fantasy romp playfully spoofs animated-fantasy formula with unabashedly romantic goofiness and clever winks – delightfully reworking the many old Disney favorites while incorporating fresh twists of its own as it commutes between Disney’s patented cartoon universe and the real world all with cleverness and grace. This surprisingly sophisticated riff on animated fairy tale movie clichés is one of those rare pieces that will actually work for all ages: not only kid-friendly but a guilty pleasure for adults as well. In short, it provides an all out entertainment for the whole family.
Disney really goes ‘meta’ in this witty, exuberant musical comedy with classic Disney set pieces, splashy production values, and freshly deconstructionist approach to what the Disney canon has offered for all these decades. From its real world fairy tale premise, its parody of its own is notable for how its heroine makes us realize how far a bit of innocence and optimism can uplift the people’s outlook in today’s untrusting world. While keeping its wish-fulfillment fantasy aspect in tact, it recognizes the idea that the world inhabited by its audience is filled with disappointment as well as with joy. And its pastiche and nostalgia serve as a sweet and affecting romance with fluffiness surviving the needs of its postmodernist attack.
The situations in this cinematic charmer are funny. It feels effortlessly fun. As a hugely clever and comic story of a fairy tale heroine who finds herself in real-life New York City, Princess Giselle’s happily ever after views on life and love changes after meeting a handsome and pragmatic lawyer from the Big Apple. What is even more impressive is how the film’s postmodernist outlook effectively tries to touch on both sides of the world’s duality: the traditional and the modern as seen from the plot to the production design; the happily ever after concept of love and the realistic pains and happiness of loving; the damsel/prince charming in distress and the damsel/prince charming fighting and saving her/his true love; the lover who fights for his love and the lover who loves unconditionally to the point of doing the ultimate sacrifice; the sweet and adorable animals on children’s stories and the sweet and not so sweet animals found in the big cities; and the storybook romance and the complicated situations in the real world of love and relationships. There are simple and yet commendable symbolisms all throughout the film. And it gets its message across and makes us think of what are the Andalasias and New Yorks in our own lives.
Cinematography, production design, visual effects, editing, sound design, and music are pretty tight in contributing to the film’s acceptable musicality, fluffiness, and puffiness to the point that some may even want to sing all the way home and make some clothes out of the favorite curtains.
Anchored by an entrancing performance by the lead performer Amy Adams, along with the strong ensemble cast, the film is sensationally fueled. To begin with, watching Amy Adams’ thoroughly captivating acting as Princess Giselle is worth the price of admission. Her genuine comical charm weaves some serious movie magic as she keeps up with her role as a ‘Disney heroine come-to-life.’ Truly magical and cartoonish in the right dose of it, she looks and sounds as if she really emerges from a fairy tale land. This bewitchingly good actress is every Disney princess in one ebullient package. The sight of her gliding and beaming and chirping in this film is nothing but a magical cinematic fair. She brews up her most transfixing expressions and sings great fairy tale songs that absolutely complement her vivacious performance. She does something akin to what Johnny Depp has in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise where an adorably inventive performance is what it takes to push the film over the top. Patrick Dempsey as Robert Philip is terrific for his role as the representation of the postmodernist-deconstructionist thrust of love and life. James Marsden as Prince Edward makes a wonderful version of the storybook Prince Charming with a comic touch to it. Susan Sarandon’s wicked Queen Narissa blends with the ensemble even though her real-life version tends to look more like a drag queen than the typical dark, evil queen and witch with a traditionally classy but menacing beauty. The rest of the ensemble makes the film nothing but a true delight to the eyes, ears, and heart. This includes Rachel Covey as the cute, sweet, and street-smart little girl Morgan Philip, Idina Menzel as the modern woman with a soft side Nancy Tremaine, Timothy Spall as the loyal servant and guilty struggler Nathaniel, among others. Most people will adore the slapstick performers as well – including a prominently featured CGI chipmunk. Indeed, all of them contribute to a musical comedy so affectionate with the conventions it spoofs and the message it brings.
Disney returns to its roots while embracing the manhole covers of actuality and modernism in this rare musical comedy that will appeal to the whole family. ‘Enchanted’ may not be a perfect film, but it is so thoroughly delightful that the audience can’t go wrong with its lightly and sprightly demeanor. It’s silly and sweet, but never cloyingly so – bringing sheer movie bliss to its audience. A great family film that entertains both the kids and adults, ‘Enchanted’ hits every high note it sings… and it more than lives up to its title.