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3D movies are actually older than most people think. Way before the latest 3D craze of our times, a number of 3D flicks during the 80’s were already hitting the box office. In fact, the 50’s and even decades earlier all became witnesses to a number of 3D movie offerings. The catch of these older movies (mainly using the anaglyph-style 3D via those red and blue glasses) was how they tend to amaze the viewers with that so-called “jump of the screen” effects.

Now, in the era of IMAX 3D, Real 3D, and Dolby Digital 3D, this best 3D movies list rekindles the long-gone hype of what 3D technology can offer to the big screen.

Since the resurgence of 3D movies from the mid-2000’s to March 2010, I have been personally hoping to catch the old 3D movies of yesteryears, then have them compared with what the modern times offer. But for now, these films from the new era of 3D filmmaking (using 3D stereoscopic technology) are my best picks for the Top 5 Best 3D Movies List as of March 2010:

1. “Avatar”
Year: 2009
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Joel Moore, Giovanni Ribisi, and Michelle Rodriguez
Plot: After the sudden death of his twin brother, the paraplegic war veteran Jake takes his place in a mission to infiltrate the Na’vi, a humanoid race from the distant world Pandora, through the use of an avatar. In exchange for the spinal surgery to fix his legs, he submits to the instructions of the military authorities and corporate executives, only to find himself torn between the greed of his own race and the need and value of an alien civilization that he begins to embrace.

This bold 3D eco-opus examining technological wonders and morality is totally jaw-dropping in stereoscopic 3D. Period.

2. “U2 3D”
Year: 2007
Director: Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington
Cast: U2 as themselves (Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and The Edge)
Plot: With everything entirely shot with more than a dozen 3D cameras, U2 3D offers a groundbreaking concert movie featuring the legendary band U2’s 2006 “Vertigo” tour.

This rock documentary provides a perfect marriage of surround sound and 3D visuals that it felt like attending a real concert. At the IMAX theater, I and the rest of the viewers were standing, singing, holding up concert stuff, and jumping from our places with an energy like that from a real concert.

3. “Deep Sea 3D”
Year: 2006
Director: John Hall
Voice Narration: Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp
Plot: As a 3D nature documentary exploring the awe-inspiring depths of the oceans around the world and their marvelous creatures, this film becomes a spectacular journey around the homes of the many aquatic wonders of the planet.

This visually enticing 40-minute film offers a worthwhile 3D experience. It is breathtaking, educational, and so full of life. From the stunning and colorful species to the grotesque and weird sea creatures, it allows the audience to really feel the valuable presence of all these life forms and how significant they are in a world that humans should fairly share with them. How engrossing this short but meaningful movie is? Many of us inside the theater ended up personally touching mid air for several times to feel those majestic fishes that were seemingly right in front of us.

4. “Coraline”
Year: 2009
Director: Henry Selick
Voice Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David, and Ian McShane
Plot: Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, this 3D stop-motion animation project offer tells the story of the little girl Coraline who moves to an old house and discovers an alternate version of her life there. Feeling bored and neglected by her parents, she finds solace on the parallel reality of this other version of her world (where everybody has buttons instead of eyes). She initially finds it way much better than her real life. However, her adventure gradually turns into danger and she struggles to find her way home to save her real family.

This animated offering sets a significant template on how 3D films should be. It provides great storytelling, just enough “jump-out-at-you” moments, and a fantastical vision though its dark fantasy treatment. It effectively envelops the audience with an immersive adventure the way Coraline experiences it. The 3D imagery is utilized for the best of the film instead of becoming a mere 3D cash-cow gimmick.

5. “Beowulf”
Year: 2007
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Robin Wright Penn, Crispin Glover, and Angelina Jolie
Plot: The Danish king Hrothgar succumbs to the havoc initiated by the monstrous troll Grendel. He offers rewards for his death and the great warrior Beowulf lives up to the task. He soon becomes king. However, his darkest secret gets back at him decades after when Grendel’s evil mother, whom Beowulf had a life-enduring bargain with before, brings to his kingdom its worst nightmare.

Zemeckis’ foray into the world of actor-based computer animation turns this classic literary tale into a different kind of sensory experience in 3D animation format. It blends CGI, motion capture, and 3D sterescopic technologies to bring a level of 3D appeal that has become a pioneer for its time.

Top 5 Best 3D Movies List 2010
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This concert documentary offers an immersive experience simulating a front-row view and beyond of a U2 concert.

“U2 3D” is a spectacular, musically and visually superb experience simulating a front row view and beyond of a U2 concert, probably the closest you can get to the real thing at this point of time.

This concert film features cutting-edge technology that gives the viewers a better-than-front-row seat experiences as it establishes an uncommonly intimate and occasionally surreal bond between the legendary band and the audience.

Every development in the history of cinema has always been about making the experience more realistic, fun, and amazing. And for over a quarter-century, U2 has been recognized not only for their musical innovation, but for their incomparable gift on reaching to millions of fans through new technology; while keeping up with the band’s decades-spanning catalog of great music.

As the next best thing to attending a real concert with a ticket costing about ten or even a hundred times less, this 85 minutes of closely replicating the feeling of a live gig through 3D glory makes a solid rock experience that’s still quite new to the general film audience. Now, if you could just pipe in the smell of sweat, cigarette, pot, and beer, it would then be like going to a real concert with the bonus of meeting and seeing Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and The Edge performing upfront. Then, you go behind them or on top of them at the most impossible angles.

From the breathtaking close-ups and panoramas to the convincing nature of the latest 3D technology, you get to watch the band members playing from a vantage point 4 feet above their heads. You get to see them face to face while reaching out to the crowd. And you get to see a wave of rocking concert-goers moving in unison inside a massive stadium lit by thousands of cellphones. Add up the 3D shots of multiple band members at the same frame with the final cut with as many as five 3D layers: this dazzling concert film exudes the true spirit of a U2 show.

The 3D visuals and multi-layering effects envelop you with a drift that fuses with the band’s surround-sound rapture. With a sound quality that is no less than impeccable, it creates a full-scale sensory high with the pleasure of its showmanship.

The immersive marvel of the music and sound mix are electrifying. Truly, it transforms a great rock spectacle into something intimate as you become similarly immersed like the crowds filling the South American stadiums of U2’s 2007 Vertigo Tour as they go absolutely mad for U2 music. Their wildly infectious enthusiasm is very much apparent with their hands waving to the every beat. Indeed, marrying advanced 3D imagery and 5.1 Surround Sound with the unique excitement of a live U2 concert makes “U2 3D” such an incredible performance captured in a medium that attains unique aesthetics of immediacy and humanity from the powerful rock quartet. And all these make this 3D film the next best thing to actually being in a live concert as of today.

Directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, “U2 3D” makes the project more than just a nifty 3D experiment. It elevates itself into a rock solid redefinition of 3D live-action filmmaking. For now, it captures the premier band’s live shows in a way that no other medium could. And it boasts of a truly immersive experience that shows the undubbed and purely live recording performances of one of the greatest rock bands, together with several of the greatest rock audiences of the world.

Shot on a number of stage acts of U2 shows mainly in Latin America, the production employs the greatest number of 3D cameras ever used for a single project. It is the first digital 3D, multi-camera, and real-time production reflecting the band’s longstanding embrace to technology. Produced by 3ality Digital Entertainment, the film comprises footages from seven different concert performances. A massive undertaking, the filmmakers create live-motion collages emphasizing constant, overlapping, and evanescent dissolves as the curving runways allow Bono, Adam, Larry, and The Edge to move far out into the crowd and make more accessible angles for their various movements.

The 3D effects inclusive of the new trick of layering the visuals to simulate shifting your focus from foreground to background is successful in making you feel that Bono and the crew are within arm’s reach. While also offering plenty of footages of the rapturous crowd in a sight of a hundred thousand stoked fans, you get so close that you swoop towards Bono’s face and his outstretched hand surging through the screen and seizing your own. And to keep the 3D engagement for more than an hour of fun movie experience, the filmmakers also add animated versions of U2’s backdrop videos while capturing the ecstatic joy of a massive rock show (most notably a series of icons suggesting that the world’s major religions are one and presenting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

In some ways, this 3D concert film is considerably superior to a real concert. This may vary in many aspects and points of view of people. But what mainly makes this a better option is how the sound is perfected in post-production that what you hear from your seat is the best surround sound you can really get. Moreover, you get even closer to the band and even get on stage and beyond as the 3D images bring you to the most impossible angles and the best view of the performers that even the most pricey concert ticket wouldn’t be able to provide. Furthermore, you don’t have to put up with the rowdy drunks who may block your view or you can simply avoid hysterically sweaty and smoking crowds. For those safety points, there would also be less probability of mobs, stampedes, fights, and annoying crowd members in dope and alcohol. And amidst all these, “U2 3D” makes you feel like you’re there in the crowd. And at the same time, you’re as close as you can get to being on stage with U2.

Personally, the strangers on my left while watching the film at IMAX were really enjoying the concert experience with their waving hands holding on to their lit toys and cellphones. And they were standing and moving to every beat while the visuals allow every person watching to see the band floating above the fans and riding their energy. And I found myself singing and shouting like I would probably do in a concert as well!

“U2 3D” is a world-class live act in its finest as of its release. Taking viewers in an extraordinary cinematic journey beyond the traditional concert film experience, it has a top potential in revolutionizing digital 3D technology. The 3D format may go a long way just like how technology has developed the 2D film as of today. And with the living legend U2 pioneering on this new kind of film experience, the epic nature of the U2 songs and stage acts blend them perfectly to this larger-than-life treatment for a band composed of masterful rock performers in their top form.

‘U2 3D’ Film Review: A concert experience for the price of an IMAX ticket
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