Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Film Review: "Arthur Christmas" (2011).

"Ever wonder how 2 Billion presents get delivered all in 1 night?" Arthur Christmas will answer that. This British-American 3D computer-animated Christmas comedy film co-directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, written by Smith and Peter Baynham, and produced by Aardman Animations. The film reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: 'So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But at the center of the film is a story about a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero, Arthur, with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.

In 2007, the project was announced, under the title Operation Rudolph, and would be the first collaboration between Aardman and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Aardman spent eighteen months on pre-production on the story and design in the UK before relocating to Sony's Culver City, US, for another eighteen months of production. In late April 2009, it was reported that production had begun with Aardman and Sony Pictures Imageworks working together on animation.

The film features the voice talents of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Rhys Darby, Jane Horrocks, Andy Serkis, and Dominic West. Aiding the movie greatly is its excellent voice casting, especially from McAvoy, Laurie, Nighy, Broadbant, and Stauton.

Clever and appealing for both children and adults, Arthur Christmas marks a successful entry into digital animated features for Aardman Animations. As directed by Smith and Cook, first-time feature helmers with long-term Aardman affiliations, the film boasts undeniably smart and eye-catching qualities that are significantly diluted by the relentlessly frantic and overbearing behavior of most characters; someone is always loudly imposing himself upon another, to diminishing returns of enjoyment. The film lacks the action-contraption dottiness of a Wallace and Gromit adventure, but it hits its own sweet spot of demented delight. It's better than 80% of the animated fare of the last few years. It's refreshing not to have to qualify the movie's appeal by appending the words, 'for the kids'. Despite the efforts of five writers and Aardman's trademark puppets, with their malleable eyebrows and cheeks bulging like those of a mumps sufferer, none of these characters are particularly endearing. Aardman's first computer-generated cartoon, does away with the clay but leaves the craft and emotion intact, resulting in a film that earns its place among the Aardman classics. The short attention spans of directors Smith and Cook are mostly forgivable because the movie is filled with so many entertaining characters. Most of the fun is in the deft characterizations, the zippy banter, and the joyous sight gags. The result is a movie that has glossier and more elaborately designed backgrounds while retaining the traditional values of storytelling and performance -- and, of course, talking animals. Nice action, fun animation, good voice acting, mediocre to dull story. In the end it all balances out.

Simon says Arthur Christmas receives:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

SpecialFilm Review: NZSO Presents "Metropolis" (1927) Featuring Live Orchestra (2011)

Quotes such as "There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator", are embedded into our minds forever and whenever it is mentioned, we think of Metropolis. This 1927 German Expressionist, Science-Fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. Seet in a futuristic urban dystopian city in the year 2026, it explores the social crisis between workers and owners inherent in capitalism, as expressed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class, who live in poor conditions but are the basic force for the city's work, and the upper class, which is mainly integrated by the city planners and their families, two persons from each class fall in love with each other. One of them is a working class prohet, a woman who gives hope to the city's workers. She predicts the coming of a savior, a savior who will mediate the differences between the social groups and give the city the start of new era. The other is the son of the city's mastermind. But the prophet is kidnapped by a crazy inventor, who wants to use her to make a robot work. The robot is given the same physical appearence the prophet has. Following orders from the crazy inventor, the robot creates a lot of problems for the working class. The son of the city's mastermind and the prophet will have to stop the robot and its crazy inventor for creating more problems for Metropolis, and achieve the goal of making Metropolis an harmonius place.

Metropolis was conceived by writer and collaborator Thea von Harbou during the Weimar Period in Germany. Originally it serialized as a novel in Illustriertes Blatt, for the purpose to sell it as a film up to its release, before ultimately released as a book and thus written as a screenplay. The novel in turn drew inspiration from H. G. Wells, Shelley and Villiers d'Isle Adam's works and other German dramas. Harbou and Lang collaborated on the screenplay derived from the novel, and several plot points and thematic elements — including most of the references to magic and occultism present in the novel — were dropped. The screenplay itself went through many re-writes, and at one point featured an ending where Freder would have flown to the stars; this plot element later became the basis for Lang's Woman in the Moon (1929). Principle photography for Metropolis was delayed again and again due to budgetary and economical factors. Filming ultimately began in May 1925 with a reported budget of five million Reichsmarks (U.S. $200 million today). Which made it the most expensive film at that time. Shooting took place at Babelsberg Studios outside of Berlin. Shooting lasted for seventeen months, and was finally completed in October 1926. Metropolis had its premiere at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin on January 10th 1927, where the audience reacted to several of the film's most spectacular scenes with "spontaneous applause". But was ultimately met with mixed reviews from critics. Who were all willing to bet that in 20 years time that it would not become a major success. Lang even commented with his displeasure of the film "The main thesis was Mrs. Von Harbou's, but I am at least 50 percent responsible because I did it. I was not so politically minded in those days as I am now. You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that's a fairy tale – definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn't like the picture – thought it was silly and stupid – then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine? It's very hard to talk about pictures—should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination comes true, when I detested it after it was finished?"


Since its release, Metropolis has become one of the most influential films of all time. As it was the last German Expressionist film to come out of the hyperinflation period of the Weimar Republic. Inaddition, it has since become a cult classic and inspired films such as George Lucas' THX-1138 (1971) and Star Wars (1977), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990) and his Batman films (1989 and 1992), and Alex Proyas' The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998). The character of the robot inspired the iconic design of C-3PO and the character of Edward Scissorhands, and the aesthetic of the cityscapes in the film inspired the various cities ranging from Blade Runner to Dark City. During the years since the first release, Metropolis existed as a bizarrely fragmented and mangled version of the original work. But in 2008, it was painstakingly restored with additional footage from the New Zealand Film Archive. The film's music was recreated by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frank Strobel.


Metropolis is extraordinary with its congested-megalopolis sets and is a visionary sci-fi movie that has its own look that can't be ignored – it has its place in film history. Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Fritz Lang's mysterious, sci-fi has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece. When I watched the film, with its live orchestral performance by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Auckland Town Hall, I felt that I had a sensational night at the movies, and the picture was only 84 years old. It proves still that it is a technical marvel. One of the great achievements of the silent era and German cinema, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made. Each frame of this classic is drop-dead stunning. One of the last examples of the imaginative -- but often monstrous -- grandeur of the Golden Period of the German film, it is a spectacular example of Expressionist design.

Simon says Metropolis receives:

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Film Review: "Fright Night" (2011).

"You can't run from evil when it lives next door." Welcome to Fright Night (2011). This horror comedy film directed by Craig Gillespie, and written by Marti Noxon. It is a remake of Tom Holland's 1985 horror classic Fright Night. The film centres on Charley, a high-school senior who's in with the "in" crowd and is dating Amy, the most sought-after gal on campus. But trouble enters his world in the form of Jerry Dandridge, a charismatic new neighbour. After witnessing some unusual activity next door, Charley concludes that Jerry is a vampire. Of course, no one believes him. After seeking advice from illusionist Peter Vincent, Charley sets out to destroy Jerry himself.

By late July 2010, Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Dave Franco, Reid Ewing, and Lisa Loeb were cast. In early stages of development, Heath Ledger was considered for the role of Jerry, but he passed away in January of 2008. Farrell said that he took the role of Jerry because he liked Gillespie's work on Lars and the Real Girl (2007). However, Farrell expressed concern that his character was too much of a sexual predator and asked for script changes. No such changes were made. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early October. Filming took place in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Steven Spielberg provided a great deal of input in the making of the film, such as storyboarding scenes and assistance with editing.

The film stars Yelchin, Farrell, Mintz-Plasse, Tennant, Poots, Collette, Franco, Ewing, and Loeb. Solid performances were given by the cast, especially to Yelchin, Farrell, and Tennant. Farrell is terrific as the vampire, quite affable and debonair until his fingernails start to grow and his eyes get that glow.

Like the original, it deftly combines thrills and humor in this ghostly tale about a man living next to a vampire. The violence is somewhat excessive, but rarely feels cheap because the tone is so knowing. The film is not a distinguished one, but it has a lot of fun being undistinguished. nastier, more playful, and just as good if not better than the original film. Chilrazor-sharp and exquisitely gruesome toy story. is the perfect horror movie remake and should now serve as a prime example of what others should do. While not as subversive as Holland's cult classic, Gillespie's polished version is a delightfully vicious ode to its campy origins, proving that a remake can be worthwhile if made with enough creativity and a current social awareness. It's highly entertaining and tons of fun, and I say that as a huge fan of the original. I think they made a lot of good reasons for this remake to exist. A fantastic ride of a movie. This is a different Fright Night, and the era it is in is just appropriate. The film is entertaining and solid enough to stand on its own, with fun kills and a great cast.

Simon says Fright Night (2011) receives:

Film Review: "Footloose" (2011).

The film's tagline reads "There comes a time to cut loose", and everything does go loose in Footloose. This musical dance film directed by Craig Brewer. It is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. The film follows a young man who moves from Boston to a small southern town and protests the town's ban against dancing.

In October 2008, Kenny Ortega was announced as director but left the project a year later after differences with Paramount and the production budget. Peter Sollett was also hired to write the script. Dylan Sellers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan served as producer; Zadan having produced the original Footloose. In 2010, Craig Brewercame on to re-write the script after Crawford and Ortega left the project and also served as director. The writer of the original film, Dean Pitchford, also co-wrote the screenplay. In July 2007, Zac Efron was cast as Ren McCormack, but he left the project in March 2009. Two months later, it was reported that Chace Crawford would replace Efron, but he later had to back out due to scheduling conflicts. Thomas Dekker was a "top candidate" for the role but in June 2010, Entertainment Weekly reported that Kenny Wormald had secured the lead role as McCormack. Former Dancing with the Stars ballroom-dance professional Julianne Hough was cast as Ariel, Dennis Quaid as Reverend Shaw Moore, and Miles Teller as Willard Hewitt. In August 2010, Andie MacDowell joined the cast as Quaid's wife. During an interview on The Howard Stern Show, Kevin Bacon said he declined a cameo appearance in the film as he did not like the role he was offered. The role was playing Ren McCormack's deadbeat dad. Though Bacon passed on the role, he gave Brewer his blessing. Unlike the original, set in the fictional town of Bomont, Utah, the remake is set in fictional Bomont, Georgia. On a budget of $24 million, principal photographybegan in September 2010 in and around metro Atlanta, and wrapped two months later in November.

The film stars Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie McDowell, Miles Teller and Kim Dickens. Despite not living up to the performances of the original cast, the cast in this film brought their own unique sensibilities to the roles that update them for a modern audience.

A lot of craft and slickness lurks beneath the modern sexy choreography in Footloose. The point, however, is not the plot but the energy. Without somebody like Kenny Wormald at the heart of the movie, it might fall flat, but everybody works at his level of edginess. This film is a little less innocent than what Herbert Ross would have made it. It is one of the most entertaining movie adaptation of a stage musical so far. The movie is a great big sloppy kiss of entertainment for audiences weary of explosions, CGI effects and sequels, sequels, sequels. However it's intermittently tasty, if a little too frantically eager to please. Despite its edginess, this version stays remarkably true to the spirit of the original.

Simon says Footloose receives: