To all of our readers, have a safe and happy Halloween!
Friday, October 31, 2008
In honor of Halloween, here is James P.'s review of the classic comedy Ghostbusters. It is not rated out of stars, because we all know it's a great movie!
Release Date June 8th, 1984
Ivan Reitman (dir.)
Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
Dan Akroyd as Dr. Raymond Stants
Harold Ramis as Dr. Egon Spengler
Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett
Rick Moranis as Louis Tully
Review By John C.
On Halloween night, you could watch one of the many classic horror movies that have become part of the October syndication, or you could watch the classic supernatural comedy Ghostbusters. It’s got some cool special-effects, including a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man and a ghost named Slimer, and an intelligent story that actually makes you laugh (you can’t say that about a lot of comedies these days, can you?). It’s also got a lot of Canadian content, which is just more proof that some of the best comedy comes from Canada. There is almost no point of going into the story of three unemployed professors who go into the ghost removal service, or about the haunting of the apartment owned by Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), by a creature named Zuul. If you get the collectors edition gift set of the DVD, you not only get the original classic, but also the sequel which is cleverly named Ghostbusters 2, also included with the two classics is a cool little scrapbook that has some insight into the making of the first film. Definitely worth having for any comedy fan, and also, you wouldn’t want to not know what to say if someone said to you “Who you gonna call?” Ghostbusters!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Release Date July 21th, 2006
Rated PG for scary images and sequences, thematic elements, some crude humor and brief language.
Gil Kenan (dir.)
Mitcgel Musso as DJ (Voice)
Sam Lerner as Chowder (Voice)
Spencer Locke as Jenny (Voice)
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Zee (Voice)
Jon Heder as Reginal ‘Skull’ Skulinski (Voice)
Steve Buscemi as Nebbercracker (Voice)
Kethleeen Turner as Constance (Voice)
Jason Lee as Bones (Voice)
Catherine O’Hara as Mom (Voice)
Fred Willard as Dad (Voice)
Monster House Review By John C.
**** (out of four)
Monster House is technically and visually stunning, a feast for the eyes and the imagination. The story is packed with humor and excitement, which makes it a timeless Halloween classic. Even though it is animated I would not recommend it to anyone under at least 10, maybe older. But, what will likely scare young kids, is certainly going to mesmerize older ones. It is filmed using the method of Motion-Capture (Mo-Cap for short), in which they actually recorded the movements of live actors as a base for animation, and to make the characters movements more real and life like. It is by no means cheating in the medium of animation, because they still have to animate the backgrounds, and animate over the wire models that are created from the captured movements of the actors. Everything you see in this world is animated. The voice cast is perfect, including Maggie Gyllenhaal as the baby-sitter, and Jon Heder as an obsessed video game and comic book geek. Jason Lee is also there as the baby-sitter’s drunk boyfriend, and last but not least, Steve Buscemi as the old man named Nebbercracker, who owns the mysterious house across the street. The story is very interesting and compelling, and the three kids are actually believable in their roles. Director Gil Kenan was only 29 when he made this, and his newest feature City of Ember is also spectacular. I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Written By E. Corrado
When did you find out that you were scoring City of Ember, and how did it compare to when you found out about scoring other movies?
I got hired end of June, early July. City of Ember had a tight deadline, since it had a predetermined release date. With Journey to the Centre of the Earth, I had six months, so it varies.
What was it like working on this movie, and where did you draw your inspiration?
I read the book 1-2 years ago, I’m a huge fan of the book, and loved the idea of coming from a dark place, and going to a lighter one. In the music I tried to emanate that and I tried to make the back canvas a glimmer of hope. Lina, in the movie, is like the glimmer of hope who is going in a different direction then everyone else and ends up believing in something better, so I wanted to make her theme very uplifting and hopeful. Even before I had come on board, they had hired an orchestra, so I knew that there would be a choir, and quiet themes that would tell the story. It would start out dark, and become a sense of accomplishment and victory.
When you look back at other movies you have done, such as Saint Ralph, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, how does ‘Ember’ compare?
Every movie is definitely different. What I loved about Ember is that it had a mix of action and real emotion, almost religious at times. You can find another emotional depth, which is multilayered, as opposed to two-dimensional.
When did you know that you wanted to be a composer?
Earlier on, I had three things that I wanted to be. A composer, an architect, or an airplane pilot. Now I know that I made the right choice by choosing composer. I had been composing since I was young. I was in a highschool band, but the band broke up, around the time that applications for university were due. I realized that I really liked movie music because the emotion for the movie develops over a period of time, and it is nice to be able to develop an idea over a period of 90 minutes, rather then 2 or 3.
Where did you study music?
Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo ON.
When composing music, do you use a keyboard and computer to mix the tracks electronically, before it’s played by the orchestra?
I use Logic Audio, and make Midi mockups. The studios want to know how it will sound when it’s done. In the old days, you would write the piece on piano, play it for them, and then be telling the studio execs, ‘this here will be oboe, here french horns, and here timpani’, which would leave a lot to the imagination. I like doing scores because orchestra productions are so expensive, movie studios are some of the last places that have the money for that.
Are there any scores that you’ve done that you aren’t happy with and think you could have done better?
No thankfully, but there is always that fear of not doing it as well as you could have, then sitting in front of the orchestra and thinking, I could have done that better’, or ‘I should have done those eight bars differently’. But I think that is more like a kind of quality control.
What was your favorite part of doing the music for ‘Ember’?
Lina. I liked her character development. I wanted her strength and determination to parallel the story in music, since on screen she sometimes comes across as more quiet, and humble.
What was your favorite movie to write music for, and why?
It is hard to choose since they are all so different, but when I had the opportunity to listen to clips of them, I have to say, Saint Ralph, Touch of Pink, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and City of Ember.
In City of Ember how did you come up with the theme that is played throughout the movie? (The one that comes through fully at the end, and on the last track of the soundtrack.)
I actually wrote it on an airplane flying back from a meeting with the director. I always carry manuscript paper with me, because I sometimes get an idea that I want to write down. I couldn’t get the theme just right, until finally I fixed that be changing it to 6/4 time.
How are the titles chosen for the soundtrack?
For City of Ember there was 80 minutes of music, and the soundtrack has 71. Some of the shorter cues become tracks combined in a suite. One thing I try to keep are the titles making sense in reference to that part of the movie for people who have seen it, while not giving too much away to those who have bought the soundtrack, but not seen the movie yet. Sometimes the titles are determined by the director, although I like to try to keep the original names.
Before the tracks have names, how are they referred to for the orchestra?
A lot of movies still have film on reels, and there will be 5-6 reels for the film, and about 15-20 minutes on each reel. They are numbered like 1-M-6, with the first number being the reel number, and the second number being the cue. So 1-M-6 would mean first reel, cue number 6. If there are only 6 cues on reel one, then the next reel would start at 2-M-7. When the second reel starts, the second number continues on where it is left off going from 6 to 7.
The reason for this is that sometimes they will rebalance the film, and make it be on five longer reels, instead if six. This way the musical cues always keep the same number association, even if the reel number changes.
When composing, do you have to watch, and make sure that you don’t have music running through the reel breaks?
That’s a good question. As time goes on and more movies go digital, it doesn’t matter. Some composers have started composing without the reel breaks now, but there are still many film theatres out there. I never play music through reel breaks, because at the theatre they will slice a few frames off of the reels, especially as they start to get beaten up at the reel breaks. I make it a point of having just over 2 seconds, before the end of the reel, and when it starts again about 1/2 second without music. This way the music doesn't get cut off for a second.
Since City of Ember was based on the first book in a set of four, if sequels are made, would you be doing, or willing to do, the music for them as well?
I would absolutely do all four. They have a magnificent story, and I was writing a theme that could evolve. At the end, it is the same melody, but a different incarnation. I would love to explore that further.
Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects that you are working on?
One Week, which opens in March 2009, and was at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The City of Ember soundtrack will be available in store November 4th, 2008, and was released October 21st, 2008 on iTunes.
Written by John C.
In animation, anything is possible. In 2006, Pixar animation studios brilliantly brought cars to life in their film Cars, one year later in Ratatouille, the same studio believably made a rat cook in a kitchen. Dreamwork’s has created the lovable and believable ogre, Shrek, and also made a tale of a Kung Fu Fightin’ panda. All of this proves that in animation, anything is possible. Take the newly released clip (link below) of Disney’s upcoming CGI film Bolt for example. It seamlessly creates what is easily one of the years best chase scenes.
Soon, almost all CGI movies will be projected in 3D, including Bolt, and all Pixar films starting with next years Up, and all Dreamwork’s movies starting with next years Monsters VS Aliens. The chase scene in itself is amazing in 1080p on the computer, but think just how awesome it will be in stunning 3D.
Surf’s up was created in the style of a surfing documentary, and the water was stunningly realistic. Other movies like Igor, are created in their own style. They aren’t trying for realistic. Both those movies have nothing in common, and shouldn’t be compared just because they’re animated.
Bolt, (opens November 21), from what I have seen, will have amazing action scenes, including The Chase. It was a smart move on Disney’s part to release that clip, because I know it’s going to get a lot of people excited. But still, it shouldn’t be compared to, say the upcoming Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa for example, just because their both animated. It could be compared to other chase scenes, and it is definitely one of the coolest.
I am looking forward to both Bolt and the Madagascar sequel. While I think Bolt will be better technically, I enjoyed the first Madagascar and I think the sequel will be at least as much fun.
As promised, here is a link to the amazing new clip of Bolt, entitled The Chase. Please watch it, and go see the movie on November 21.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Wizard of Oz
Release Date August 25th, 1939
Victor Fleming (dir.)
Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale
Mararet Hamilton as Wicked Witch of the West
Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow
Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion
Jack Haley as The Tin Man
Frank Morgan as The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz Review By John C.
**** (out of four)
The Wizard of Oz has stood the test of time. While the special effects were excellent for the time, they now seem a bit outdated. But, it still stands up as one of the best family films of all time, that every kid should see. It has become a classic that gets rapid play on TV stations around this time every year, in honor of Halloween, but you should really get a DVD so you can enjoy it fully restored and without commercials. If you have kids, you should really let them see it if they haven’t already. If you’re worried about it being too scary, What kid doesn't have fond memories about being freaked out by the flying monkeys? Besides, the singing Munchkins should be enough of a redemption.
October 17th, 2008
Rated 14A Language may offend, disturbing content.
Gina Prince-Bythwood (dir.)
Dakota Fanning as Lily Owens
Queen Latifah as August Boatwright
Jennifer Hudson as Rosaleen Daise
Alicia Keys as June Boatwright
Sophie Okonedo as May Boatwright
Paul Bettany as T. Ray Owens
Hilarie Burton as Deborah Owens
Tristan Wilds as Zach Taylor
Nate Parker as Neil
Our reviews below:
The Secret Life of Bees Review By John C.
*** (out of four)
The Secret Life of Bees is a powerful and emotional story of friendship brought together by solid acting from the entire cast. The story revolves around 14 year-old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) who holds a terrible secret and still feels guilty about something that happened ten years prior when she was 4. We find out what happened in flashbacks during the movie, as we are led on a journey rounded out by well-played characters. She eventually ends up finding the Boatwright sisters who are nice enough to let Lily and her caregiver Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) stay for a while. The Boatwright sisters are in the honey business, and their bright pink house would be pretty hard to miss. Soon, the past that she left behind comes back to haunt her, and she starts to feel as if she's just making everyone else's lives worse.
Some of the lines are a little silly, and if you don’t like a deeply emotional drama, then it’s probably not for you, but if you loved the book (which I am now interested to read having seen the movie) you will probably like it.
The acting is great, and is probably one of the best things about the movie. The story is compelling, and keeps you interested in the characters lives. I would recommend people see it, even if only on DVD. But, if you are looking for something dramatic, but still uplifting to see at the theatres, then you should go see it.
The Secret Life of Bees Review By Erin V.
***1/2 (out of four)
The Secret Life of Bees is based on the book of the same title by Sue Monk Kidd. Although I didn’t read the book before seeing the movie, I am interested in reading it now. From what I know of the book, this movie seems to be close to it. I would have preferred to read the book first, like I had with City of Ember, since then I can review based on the comparisons. Unfortunately, I have only read the first six pages thus far, since that is all that you can preview on amazon.com. I will have to read the book to know for sure, but it seems like a good adaptation.
The story is about Lily Owens, (Dakota Fanning), a 14 year old girl in 1964 who has always been haunted by the memory of a tragic event when she was four. She lives with her abusive father T. Ray, (Paul Bettany), who with the help of hired hand Rosaleen, (Jennifer Hudson), takes care of her. Rosaleen wants to register to vote, since the Civil Rights Act has just been passed. She takes Lily into town with her, where they are faced with a group of bigots who attack them. Eventually these events lead up to Lily running away with Rosaleen. With no idea where to go, they stop so that Lily can buy them something to eat. At the store she notices jars of honey with a picture of a African American representation of the Madonna on them. She asks the store owner about them, and he tells her where to find August Boatwright, (Queen Latifah), the woman who runs the honey business. When Rosaleen, and Lily show up at August’s door, they meet her two sisters, May, (Sophie Okonedo), and June, (Alicia Keys). Eventually, Lily convinces them to let her and Rosaleen stay for a little while, since they have nowhere else to go.
I enjoyed this movie. It had a compelling enough story line to keep me interested, and it really felt like it was in the sixties. This movie is a drama about acceptance, of both yourself and others. It was well done, and especially with the talented cast of actors, this movie worked and is well worth seeing. _____________________________________________
The Secret Life of Bees Review By Nicole
*** (out of four)
It is a rare treat to have a drama about strong female characters, which is the case with The Secret Life of Bees. The movie starts out with a flashback to when Lily is 4. She witnesses a fight between her parents, which results in the accidental death of her mother, leaving Lily with her cruel, abusive father. The movie then flashes forward 10 years to 1964, when Lily is 14. The South Carolina civil liberties act is now coming into effect, which will allow African American people to vote. The family maid, Rosaleen, is going into town to register to vote, and she takes Lily along with her. But after Rosaleen gets beaten and arrested, and Lily’s father won’t help, Lily breaks out Rosaleen and they decide to run away to a honey farm. There they meet the Boatwright sisters, May, June, and August, three African American women who run their own honey business. Lily and Rosaleen fit right into the Boatwright home, and they practically become part of the family. Lily feels at home in her new community, and even has a tender young romance with a neighboring boy named Zach, who works on the honey farm. But discrimination against African Americans still abounds, which results in tragedy. But even through hard times, Lily, Rosaleen, and the Boatwright’s have faith, and their family is stronger then ever. This is a wonderful movie about faith, family, and not giving up. A tearjerker at times, but nonetheless a nice, feel good movie about friendship.
The Secret Life of Bees Review By Maureen
*** (out of four)
‘Secret Life of Bees’ is a compelling drama based on an adaptation of a book by the same name by Sue Monk Kidd. The story is set in 1964 Southern Carolina at a time when the civil rights act was being passed and African Americans were given the right to vote.
The movie opens with a dramatic flashback scene ten years earlier involving main character Lily Owens, (Dakota Fanning), and then moves to 1964 with Lily about to turn 14. Events unfold and Lily and her African American housekeeper Rosaleen, (Jennifer Hudson), run away to escape abuse and racial violence. They make their way towards Tiburon, South Carolina and the Boatwright Sisters’ Bee Farm and their bright pink house. There we meet the Boatwright sisters, August, June, and May. They take Lily and Rosaleen in and the relationship between the five lead female characters takes shape.
This is a mature drama with scenes of physical abuse, racial violence and suicide. It’s saving grace is the joy and laughter and many touching moments that take place between the five women at the pink house, and through their work on the bee farm. All five lead female actors give believable and strong performances. Dakota Fanning in particular gives a solid, mature performance. The story line has strong messages about tolerance, love and support, and strength through prayer, in particular devotion to the Virgin Mary. Overall, the good far outweighs the heavy subject matter in this movie making it a very watchable story.
If you can’t make it to the theatre to see this one, make sure to catch it on DVD once it’s released. It would also be worth checking out the book. I intend to read it. Keep in mind that the movie rating of 14A is appropriate. I wouldn’t show this one to children. When you do watch it, keep the tissues handy. You’ll likely need them.
The Secret Life of Bees Review By Tony
*** (out of four)
The Secret Life of Bees is set in rural South Carolina in 1964, just as the Civil Rights Bill is coming into effect. There is tension right from the opening scene, a hazy ten year flashback where the four year old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning), having been awakened by a violent quarrel between her parents, had picked up a gun and accidentally killed her mother. As a young teenager, Lily is miserable on the peach farm of her mean embittered father (Paul Bettany). Lily and her servant Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) run away after Rosaleen is beaten for defying a group of local bigots on her way to register to vote. They are taken in by the three Boatwright sisters, August, May & June (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, & Alicia Keys), who have a successful honey business. The Boatwrights and other local women revere a black Madonna figure salvaged from a shipwreck, which gives them comfort and inspiration. Eventually, as life goes on in this welcoming environment, Lily is able to deal with her past.
I enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, a good film with an excellent cast all around, though I occasionally found the dialect hard to understand above the background noise. The loving feminist atmosphere of the Boatwright farm contrasts sharply with the civil rights struggle going on around it. In one memorable scene, Lily goes to a movie with the hired hand Zach (Tristan Wilds), who has to go in by the “Colored” door since the “White” door is still [now illegally] being guarded by more stick-toting bigots. Sitting together inside, Lily and Zach are subject to disapproving stares, mainly from blacks. It isn’t long before Zach is beaten and dragged out by the white “guards” as the local police look the other way.
Consensus: Based on the book The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, this is a compelling and emotional drama that successfully brings you into the story, especially thanks to the well rounded cast of actors. *** (out of four)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Written By E. Corrado
Animation is prominent in movies now more then ever. And not just in animated films. As is now well known, CGI graphics are used commonly in live action films as well for special effects. In fact the first ever fully animated character as part of a special effects effort was the Stained Glass Knight in 1985, which took over four months to create at Industrial, Light and Magic, for Young Sherlock Holmes.
Since then, the field of using animation as a means to special effects has skyrocketed. The majority of action films use at least some element of CGI to do things that would be otherwise too difficult, or dangerous. Some movies are taking this to a new extreme. Speed Racer which came out last May was, amazingly, human actors in a completely CGI world. The effect is very cartoonish and futuristic, yet interesting in a way.
Another debate in the world of animation is whether or not Motion Capture technology is ‘cheating’. I honestly don’t think so. CGI uses Key Frame Animation filling in the frames that would have been otherwise drawn by hand. Motion Capture captures the movements of the actors, and then transfers that data into the computer. The textures, and backgrounds are added in later through animation. The animators can also modify some of the data that is put in, i.e. to change movements, if they so wish. I consider Motion Capture to be an extension of the medium, and a kind of blend between live action and animation. It’s something that can reap benefits from both.
Claymation, or other elements of Stop-Motion techniques, are also forms of animation, and not any lesser forms. Stop-Motion can be done simply with a camera on a tripod, taking consecutive pictures of an object that is being moved one step at a time, or can be used for a full movie such as the brilliant Chicken Run, or Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, both made by Aardman. These were both traditionally Stop-Motion animated through Claymation, although Flushed Away, their latest feature-length film, was done with CGI instead. The thing is, that the CGI was done in such a way that it appeared to be Claymation, complete with fingerprints.
Animation is universal, and is used universally in all kinds of ways. It doesn't matter how it’s done, so long as it benefits the story. As is the origins of the word animation, it comes from the Latin animatio(n-), from animare; ‘instill with life’. And that should be the goal of all movies - to present a story that is full of life, and presents itself as such to the viewer.
Want to read my last installment from two weeks ago? Click here.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Release Date October 7th, 2005
Nick Park and Steve Box (dir.)
Peter Sallis as Wallace (voice)
Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Tottington (voice)
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Victor Quartermaine (voice)
Nicholas Smith as Rev. Clement Hedges (voice)
Liz Smith as Mrs. Mulch (voice)
Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review By John C.
**** (out of four)
Since their small screen debut in 1989, audiences have loved the crazy inventions of Wallace and the sense and sensibility of his dog Gromit. In Curse of the Were-Rabbit, their big screen debut, none of the charm of the original short films is lost. It tells the story of Wallace & Gromit’s newest business venture, Anti-Pesto Humane Pest Control. They capture bunnies out of people's gardens so the pesky rabbits don’t eat their crops of giant vegetables, which they grow every year for a harvest festival in hopes of taking home the top prize of the 24 karat-carrot. But, when something goes wrong, they end up with an even bigger problem on their hands. A giant Were-Rabbit starts to ravage their crops, and this time it’s proving to be too big a job for Anti-Pesto. It is worth multiple viewings, so even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth seeing again.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Chosen by: John C.
The Iron Giant
Release Date August 6th, 1999
Rated PG For Fantasy Action And Mild Language
Brad Bird (dir.)
Hogarth Hughes as Eli Marienthal (voice)
Annie Hughes as Jennifer Aniston (voice)
Dean McCoppin as Harry Connick Jr. (voice)
Iron Giant as Vin Diesel (voice)
Kent Mansley as Christopher McDonald (voice)
John Mahoney Gen. as Rogard(voice)
The Iron Giant Review By John C.
**** (out of four)
The Iron Giant is probably one of the most special animated movies ever made. When it was released in 1999, it met with rave reviews, but nobody went to see it. If it had come out now, after Director Brad Bird has become famous for his equally brilliant Pixar films The Incredibles and Ratatouille, It probably would have been a smash hit. The story focuses on the young Hogarth Hughes growing up with his single mother in the late 1950’s. One night he finds a giant iron robot who he tries to keep under the radar of the government, who like most of society was worried about the threat of a cold war. The visuals are stunning and the story feels authentic to the time. By the end you will probably have tears in your eyes. A great movie that stands out in the world of animation.
October 10th, 2008
Rated PG for mild peril and some thematic elements.
Gil Kenan (dir.)
Saoirse Ronan as Lina Mayfleet
Harry Treadaway as Doon Harrow
Tim Robbins as Lorris Harrow
Bill Murray as Mayor Cole
Martin Landau as Sul
Barton Snode as Toby Jones
Mackenzie Crook as Looper
Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Clary
Our reviews below:
City of Ember Review By John C.
***1/2 (out of four)
The city of Ember was built to last only 200 years. All the supplies they would need were stored in a warehouse underneath the city. Instructions on how to leave the city were left in a box that was to be passed down from Mayor to Mayor. But, over the years the box got lost and over 200 hundred years later, supplies are running seriously low.
In Ember, when you finish school you are given an “Assignment”, which will be your day job and commitment to the city. Lina Mayfleet gets the job of Pipe works Laborer, and Doon Harrow gets the job of Messenger. The problem is, Lina wanted Messenger, because she loves to run, and Doon wanted Pipe works to be closer to the failing generator. They switch jobs, and both get what they wanted, but as the days go on the end for Ember becomes closer. The rest of the story follows on with suspense, and some pretty cool special effects, as the kids try to find a way out.
Bill Murray is perfectly cast as the Mayor, and there is solid acting from the two leads Harry Treadaway, who plays Doon, and Saoirse Ronan, (who was nominated for an Academy Award for last year’s Atonement), who plays Lina. Their is also a good supporting cast including, Martin Landau as an eccentric old man who works in the pipes, and Tim Robbins as Doon’s father.
The first scene showing the box getting passed along is really well done, and the last few scenes are perfect and could not have been done better. The story is really interesting, but still easy enough to understand, and the suspense is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. It is amazingly inventive and looks absolutely great. It is really just a lot of fun. What more needs to be said?
City of Ember Review By Erin V.
***1/2 (out of four)
What if mankind went to live in an underground city, and the box holding the most important document was forgotten after over 200 years? And so it is in City of Ember. Built by the ‘Builders’ over 200 years prior to the date of the movie, Ember is an underground city built to preserve mankind. In the opening scene, we see the Builders take the box, and set it’s timer for 200 years. The box is then entrusted to the first Mayor of Ember, to be passed to the next, until it’s time comes to click open. As part of the opening scene, we see the box being passed from Mayor to Mayor, it’s time slowly ticking by, until the seventh Mayor, who drops dead. This results in the box being shoved away in the back of a closet, where is finishes it’s countdown.
In present day Ember, it is Assignment day. On this day, the graduating class of Ember will choose their jobs for life, through a random draw. Student Lina Mayfleet, (Saoirse Ronan), is racing towards the graduation, knowing she is late. Lina hopes to be a Messenger, but gets Pipeworks Laborer. Her friend Doon Harrow, (Harry Treadaway), wants Electrician’s Helper, so that he can try to fix the failing generator that powers the city. Instead, he gets Messenger. Seeing Messenger as a waste of time, since without the generator there is no city, he asks Lina if she will switch, since the Pipeworks are close to the generator. Lina agrees since Messenger was the job that she wanted in the first place.
As the generator contines to fail, escape seems to be the only option to save the city. Not only are the lights threatening to go out for good, but food, and other basic supplies are running dangerously low. When Lina finds the box, already clicked open, she and Doon wonder if it is the answer that they need.
City of Ember is an amazing adaptation of Jeanne DuPrau’s book of the same name. I read the book before the movie, and despite minor changes, it is one of the closer movie adaptations I’ve seen, and I really appreciated the way that it was done. An interesting thing about this movie, is that the whole City of Ember was built in the warehouse that was used to build the Titanic. This was effective in giving a feel of this whole city, especially in the scenes where the kids are running from one end to the other of it.
I found the musical score, composed by Andrew Lockington, was perfect for the film. One thing that I felt kept the right mood is the lack of a ‘pop’ song over the end credits. While fine in other movies, this would have changed the mood too much in this particular film. I liked the orchestral score that was used throughout the film the way it was, especially the recurring ‘Ember’ theme.
I really enjoyed City of Ember, and it is definitely worth seeing. The right amount of suspense is kept throughout, and the feeling of the need for escape is definitely there. This was a really well done movie, with good acting in all of the respective roles. It is a great film for all ages from around eight and up.
City of Ember Review By Nicole
***1/2 (out of four)
Built as an underground shelter to save mankind from itself, Ember is designed to have artificial light and electricity for 200 years. A secret box, with instructions on how to evacuate when the light goes out, is supposed to be passed down to each subsequent mayor. But when the 7th mayor died, the box was forgotten in a closet for over 100 years.
People have been down in Ember for so long, that they can no longer think for themselves. The children go to school for a few years, then are assigned jobs by the mayor when they are still kids. But two kids, Lina, a messenger, and Doon, a pipeworker, feel that there must be somewhere outside of Ember. So when Lina accidentally finds the box, she and Doon try to find a way out of Ember, before the light goes out, despite the fact that the mayor doesn’t believe them and wants to stop them. This movie has some religious undertones in that the citizens of Ember have faith in the artificial light, but they have forgotten the real light, and the fact that there even is a sky above them.
City of Ember is a fun, family friendly adventure film, with no swearing, violence, or sexual innuendoes. This movie has a valuable message about thinking independently, having faith, and standing up for what you believe in. A great family movie that everyone will enjoy.
City of Ember Review By Maureen
*** (out of four)
City of Ember is a suspense filled, science fiction type adventure for both older children and adults. I’m sometimes wary when a movie is adapted from a novel meant for children. However I found the story line and degree of suspense kept me interested for the entire time.
The story takes place in the underground City of Ember. The citizens of Ember have never known any other life. They struggle to survive with limited resources and a light source that is dying. The two main characters Lina and Doon uncover secrets that might save them all. The physical setting of the entire movie is dark, dull and dreary but the adventures and suspense are definitely not. There is solid acting from the two young leads, Doon, (Harry Treadaway), and Lina, (Saoirse Ronan), yet they never overshadow the story. The city has an interesting assortment of odd and eccentric characters. The few laughs in the movie come from the scenes with Mayor Cole. Bill Murray is perfect as the corrupt Mayor Cole, never overplaying his role.
I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end. If families are looking for a good adventure film that the whole family, (except the under 8 crowd), can share this would be a good choice. Thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to bring the family to see City of Ember.
City of Ember Review By Tony
*** (out of four)
For the selected survivors of some unnamed apocalypse, the Builders constructed Ember, a subterranean village powered by a huge electrical generator with enough provisions to last for 200 years. Passed on from mayor to mayor, a box with a doomsday clock would pop open after this time with the key and instructions to return to the surface. Unfortunately, with some forty or so years left, the mayor dropped dead and the box was forgotten. Some years past the best before date, as everything is breaking down, the open box is discovered in the home of the mayor’s descendent Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan). With the help of the box, Lina and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway), the son of inventor Loris (Tim Robbins), have to find the escape route while at the same time evading capture by the corrupt mayor (Bill Murray) and his minions, as well as a giant mutant mole moving through the tunnels.
From a series of books by Jeanne DuPrau, City of Ember is a fine film, particularly for kids but also for adults. Aside from the principals, the supporting cast is good, including Martin Landau as a narcoleptic pipefitter, Toby Jones and MacKenzie Crook (sort of a next-generation Steve Buscemi, in a creepy way) as the minions, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as the greenhouse keeper. The set for Ember was constructed entirely within the huge former shipyard in Belfast where the Titanic was built. It has the look of a rundown early-to-mid 20th century British town also captured in films like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and even Flushed Away. In this era, technology was mainly electro-mechanical, with big wires, pipes, and moving parts, largely hidden nowadays inside our miniaturized digital devices. The opening of the film is particularly well done. After the box is sealed by the Builders, it is seen passed on from one pair of hands to the next as its surface condition deteriorates and its clock counts down the years–until the last person holding it falls back dead.
The suspense inherent in an escape film like this is enhanced by a good symphonic score recorded by the fine studio musicians at Abbey Road, in this case appropriately reminiscent of period composers like Elgar and Vaughn-Williams. Typically, our appreciation of this music was not shared–as the lights came up at the end of the credits we as usual found ourselves alone in the theatre, the others (even critics) having left in droves after the last fadeout.
Consensus: The adaptation of Jeanne DuPrau’s book City of Ember to the silver screen, results in a well made adventure movie that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. ***1/2 (out of four)
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Written by John C.
Today, there are always new animated movies coming out, so we kind of take them for granted. But, in the golden age of Disney and animation as a whole, it was something special. “The Golden Age”, which is often thought of as the late 1930’s to mid-1960’s, saw the release of classics Disney features and the dawn of classic cartoons like Looney Tunes. After the death of Walt Disney, and the dawn of Hannah Barbara, the medium became known as simply “children's entertainment”, only to be mostly revived in the mid-to-late 1980’s.
Throughout this time, we witnessed the birth of the legendary Pixar Animation Studios, a revival of Disney, and the release of Groundbreaking classics like Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In 1990 Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture. Even though it lost to The Silence of the Lambs, it still proved that animation could be taken just as seriously as any other films. In 1993, was the release of the groundbreaking classic Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and in 1995, Pixar made cinematic history with the release of Toy Story, the first ever animated movie made entirely on computers. The rest is history.
The three films that I have always considered to be the biggest ground breakers in the world of modern animation, are Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which amazingly and realistically combined live actors with hand-drawn animation, and also proved that not everything that uses animation is for kids. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, was brought to life in the painstaking process of stop-motion animation, and again, it is definitely not for little kids. The third film is Toy Story, even though the animation is by today’s terms slightly outdated, the story still holds up. Toy Story was also the dawn of CGI, which right now is going through it’s “Golden Age”.
Even with the release of those three very different films, two of which are really for adults, animation has not been able to shake the persona of “the children’s genre”. So yes, we are in the middle of another “Golden Age”, but the scars of the cheap TV cartoons that came in the mid-to-late 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s, are still hurting the reputation of many animated films.
To Be Continued...
Monday, October 6, 2008
Starting Monday, October 6, every Monday in October we will be profiling one of four fall movies.
Release Date February 19th, 1999
Rated PG for language, brief teen sensuality and alcohol use, and for some thematic elements.
Joe Johnston (dir.)
Jake Gyllenhaal as Homer Hickam
Chris Cooper as John Hickam
Laura Dern as Miss Riley
Chris Owen as Quentin
William Lee Scott as Roy Lee
Chad Lindberg as O'Dell
October Sky Review By John C.
**** (out of four)
October Sky tells the inspiring true story of “The Rocket Boys”, a group of teenagers from Coalwood, West Virginia. It takes place in 1957, around the launch of Sputnik. Homer Hickam would look up at the October sky, and see the satellite fly by. He becomes inspired and starts building model rockets, with the help of his three friends and the encouragement of his teacher (Laura Dern). Great performances by the entire cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal’s breakout performance, make this a classic movie that's worth watching again and again. The mix of drama and comedy is perfect, and the ending is inspiring. Go watch it if you haven't already seen it, and if you have, its worth watching again.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
George Lucas’ animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series has its Canadian premiere tonight at 7:00 PM (EST) on CTV. It will be repeated at the same time on the Space channel this Friday. It is only 30 minutes, and should be worth checking out.
Friday, October 3, 2008
October 3rd, 2008
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Marc Abraham (dir.)
Aaron Zigman (music)
Greg Kinnear as Bob Kearns
Lauren Graham as Phyllis Kearns
Dermot Mulroney as Gil Privick
Alan Alda as Gregory Lawson
Our reviews below:
Flash of Genius Review By John C.
***1/2 (out of four)
Flash of Genius tells the story of one man’s fight for ownership of his invention. The invention? Intermittent windshield wipers. All Robert Kearns wanted was Ford motors to acknowledge him for his work. What he got was a battle that cost him over 12 years of his life. His fight for the truth brings him farther from his wife, kids and sane mind. He almost becomes a stranger to himself and those around him.
Greg Kinnear plays him really well as someone who lets his work take over his life, but you still never stop cheering him on. It’s interesting that Greg Kinnear who has been really funny in comedies like Stuck on You, Little Miss Sunshine and the recent Ghost Town, is also really good in this low-key drama.
It is a drama, but it’s not depressing. There are even some laugh-out-loud moments. What makes it even more interesting, is that it’s based on a true story. I’m not going to say that it’s perfect, their could have been some improvements, but it’s still one of the better movies this year.
The closest things it could be compared to are October Sky and The Astronaut Farmer, two other movies about dreamers, who will stop at nothing to fulfill their dreams.
The question everyone will probably be asking is will it go up for any Oscars? The answer? Probably not Best Picture, but Greg Kinnear could easily get a best actor nomination.
Flash of Genius Review By Erin V.
**** (out of four)
The movie Flash of Genius is based on the true story of Robert Kearns - the inventor of the Intermittent Windshield Wiper. After reading the original article*, (written by John Seabrook for The New Yorker), that it was based on, I found that it was fairly close to reality. Robert Kearns, played in the movie by Greg Kinnear, has an idea for a ‘blinking eye wiper’. After his wiper design is stolen by the Ford Motor Corporation, he is determined to keep going with lawsuits to try to prove that they infringed on his patents. Unlike his invention that pauses, (blinks), every few seconds, Bob Kearns doesn’t take a break in thinking about his blinking eye wipers that Ford stole.
I really enjoyed this movie, which I found was very interesting to watch. (It is probably the best movie about windshield wipers that I have seen to date.) I had been waiting awhile to see this movie, and I’m glad that it met my expectations. After seeing the trailer a few months ago, this story had me hooked, and I knew that I would enjoy it even before I went in. Although I have no idea why, I had never actually looked up Robert Kearns’ name even after seeing the ‘based on a true story’ in the trailer. It was not until after the movie that I googled for the article that was mentioned in the credits. And I am glad that I didn’t check before, because it was more fun reading the article afterwards. It was after the movie that I really wanted to know more about this man and his wipers.
Watching this movie, I understood why this man would feel this way. Not only was his invention stolen from him, but no one else could understand why it mattered in the way that it did. It mattered, not because of the money involved, but because of the idea of right and wrong. His reasoning was that his rights as an inventor were denied, and Ford was wrong. He didn’t just want their money, he wanted them to admit that it was his invention. Interestingly enough, The New Yorker article really gives you a sense of both side’s points of view. Nobody wants to be wrong, or admit that they have done something they shouldn’t have, even Ford. Judging from the article, the real reason why big companies didn’t like this case is because once one person realizes that they can fight for their patents, everyone will want to. And today, in the 21st century, way more people can, (and do), fight and win these cases. Big companies don’t like that kind of thing. I guess in a way it frightens them, because they can’t just violate the patents and pay people off like they used to.
Overall, some people may find that this movie is at a bit of a slow pace, because it is. But nevertheless, I found it to be a good length, (approx. 2 hours), and at the best pace for the story. On a side note, the credits were going in and out focus, which was slightly strange, but overall this movie was well done.
Flash of Genius Review By Nicole
***1/2 (out of four)
Flash of Genius is based on the inspiring true story of Professor Bob Kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. The movie opens with a scene in which a despondent Kearns clutching a kite on a Greyhound bus while in his pyjamas. We wonder what he is doing here, and then the movie flashes back to a scene in which Kearns, driving home from church in the rain, realizes how inefficient the manuel wipers on his windshield really are. So, being an engineer and inventor, Kearns designs a new kind of windshield wiper that moves intermittently, and automatically. His family is proud of his accomplishment, and very supportive of his work. But when the windshield wiper is presented to Ford Motors, Ford claims the design as their own. The movie then moves through several years of Kearns’ unrelenting determination to try to claim back his ownership of the intermittent wiper blade. Kearns’ zeal to fight for what is right, as well as his refusal to give up, make Kearns a likable character for whom you will root for till the end. This is an inspirational movie about family, not giving up, and standing up for what is right.
Flash of Genius Review By Maureen
*** (out of four)
Flash of Genius is an intelligent, interesting movie. The fact that it was based on a true story made the movie all that more compelling for me.
It was interesting watching inventor Dr. Robert Kearns grow increasingly fixated and driven to fight the big automakers and be recognized as the original inventor of the intermittent wiper blade. Even when faced with his own mental health crisis and the disruption to his family, Dr. Kearns’ determination to stand up to what most would consider an undefeatable opponent was admirable.
Greg Kinnear’s portrayal of this unique, single-focused, black and white thinking man was excellent. It never felt like Kinnear was playing a caricature. Throughout the movie I truly cared about Dr. Robert Kearns and was always hopeful all his efforts would be worth it in the end. For the most part the movie moves along at a good pace and wisely keeps the focus mainly on Dr. Kearns. The best scenes in this movie take place in the courtroom with Dr. Kearns acting as his own legal counsel.
This is a story about standing up for yourself and what you perceive as right and never giving up. It left me thinking how many of us don’t do enough of that. Overall this was an enjoyable, thought-provoking film. It’s worth seeing.
Flash of Genius Review By Tony
*** (out of four)
In the 1960s Bob Kearns, a Detroit engineer, patented the simple electronic circuit that controls intermittent windshield wipers. With the help of his large family, he hoped to manufacture and sell it to automakers. Ford contracted to introduce it as an option, but they backed out once they had a look at his drawings. Months later, Kearns discovered that his circuit was being used in some Ford cars, and eventually in vehicles from all the auto companies, without recognizing his contribution. With the help of family members, Kearns, acting as his own lawyer, devoted the rest of his life to suing Ford and other companies for patent infringement, refusing on principle to ever settle out of court. Flash of Genius, based on a 1993 New Yorker article by John Seabrook, essentially follows this story with minor changes, shortening timelines and changing names.
As explained at length in the New Yorker article, Henry Ford hated paying royalties to patent holders that just sat back while he actually produced the goods, reminiscent of today’s patents on some RIM software. Ford preferred to buy ideas outright, which is why square hole Robertson screws are still almost unknown in the U.S. Robertson would not sell out to Ford, who then went over to Phillips with his inferior cross head. Ford always preferred in house production to outside suppliers, making their own steel and glass, for example. The control circuit for wipers was so simple in hindsight that Ford tried to argue that anyone could have come up with it.
The film opens with a disheveled and confused Kearns being escorted off a bus by police. It then flashes back three years. Kearns is taking the collection in his church with his large family looking on. Driving home through a light rain, he wonders why wipers need to stay on all the time. That night he starts tinkering with a solution. The next day he introduces himself to a new class of engineering students with a message on ethics. The rest of the story plays out as above.
Greg Kinnear does a solid job bringing out the stress on Kearns and his family as the years of obsessive litigation go on. Alan Alda is fine as a patent lawyer who starts out on the inventor’s side but is dumped by Kearns when he advocates an out of court settlement instead of years of litigation. Despite sleazy Ford executives and a fixer who keeps showing up with increasing offers, Kearns is never threatened physically, so any sense of danger, such as in films like Michael Clayton, is never present.
Having myself been born in Hamilton and an engineering student in Toronto in the 60s & 70s, I enjoyed recognizing the local scenes that passed for Detroit, notably the Toronto City Hall standing in for Ford headquarters. Though cars were contemporary, the heavies smoked and styles of dress such as eyeglasses changed for major characters as years went on, there were some anachronisms. The engineering class scene showed females in a minority–in fact in the 60s they would have been all but nonexistent. Phyllis Kearns, the long suffering wife played by Lauren Graham, hardly seemed to age at all. As a final irritant, the closing credits, perhaps to evoke a wet windshield, kept going in and out of focus.
Consensus: Good story with excellent acting by Greg Kinnear. ***1/2 (out of four)
Flash of Genius is based on The New Yorker Article Flash of Genius by: John Seabrook
*By googling the name Robert Kearns you get all kinds of results. One of the most interesting is the article that the movie was based on. It’s from The New Yorker and is written by John Seabrook. Here’s the link.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Written By E. Corrado
In recent years I have heard more and more people comparing the latest DreamWorks movie to the latest Pixar movie. Take this year for instance. If someone asked me, which do you like better, Kung Fu Panda or WALL•E, I would think to myself, (and probably ask them), why they are being compared. One is a martial arts/action movie, and the other is an action/adventure/love story between two robots. What connection could they possibly have? The answer - animation.
Since the medium began, people have been comparing one animated movie to the next as though it is a genre. It is not - it is a medium. If you saw two acrylic paintings in a museum, one a landscape and the other a representational wildlife painting, would you compare them? Or, would you compare the landscape to another landscape, acrylic or not, and the wildlife to another of it’s genre? Most likely, you would compare each to the one most similar. Of course, you may of your own preference prefer one over the other, but to compare them for their medium is different from that. It can be done, but it is a different kind of judging. It is judging by medium, not genre.
Animation, like any other art form, is a medium that transcends all genres. It can do anything that you want it to do. Just as you can paint a picture of a sunset with the same kind of paint that you painted a picture of a cat with, you can do an animated drama just as easily as a comedy.
It is not a children’s medium either. While it may often appeal to kids, it can just as easily bore them. They have to be interested in the story, unless you have used such bright, hypnotizing colours that they are just sitting dazed in front of whatever it is they are watching. A movie like Toy Story is loved by children and adults alike. Not just because of the medium, but because of the story. Toy Story is still enjoyed to this day, even though the animation is considered, by today’s standards, outdated. Even back in 1995, that was Pixar’s goal - to make a movie that would stand the test of time, because they knew that the medium would continue to get better. While the animation was the best of it’s day, the story was what counted. It was for the story that people loved the movie, and it is for the story that they still watch it again and again almost 13 years later.
The movies with good stories will be remembered years later, while the ones without them will be lost with all the other movies with weak stories. Whether animated or otherwise, story is key because without it you have nothing but images moving across a screen. Animation is not a genre, because it’s the story that decides the genre, not the medium.
(Remember to bookmark the site and come back next Wednesday for Part 2 written by James P..)