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|Monday, January 31st, 2011|
|What were the best animated films of 2010?
The next episode of my podcast is going to be dedicated to recent animated films, and with that in mind I want to find out people's opinions on animation in the past 12 months.First
: please leave a comment with your favourite animated films from the past year. You can rank as many as you want, or just mention your one favourite. I'll tally them all in a method of spurious scientific accuracy to try and come up with a Top 5 or 10 of the year. To jog your memory, the animated films released theatrically in Australia in 2010 were:
- Beauty and the Beast 3D
- Despicable Me
- Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance
- Fantastic Mr Fox
- How to Train your Dragon
- The Illusionist
- King of Thorns
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
- The Princess and the Frog
- Shrek Forever After
- Summer Wars
- Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue
- Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D
- Toy Story 3
Now a few of these are technically 2009 movies (The Princess and the Frog, Fantastic Mr Fox
), but were only released in Australia in early 2010. Additionally, Tangled
was actually released here in January 2011, but was released in the USA in 2010, so I've included it here. There are almost certainly one or two minor animated films that I've missed - feel free to put in a write-in vote.Second:
I'd love it if you wanted to give me a one to three sentence review of any of these films - what you loved, what you hated, special observations, etc. Please note I will probably read the more interesting ones out on the podcast, so tell me if you don't want your name included.
All comments and responses will be screened to preserve a pointless sense of mystery and allure.
|Monday, January 24th, 2011|
|More on Season 18.
I've finished watching "The Leisure Hive", and have now started watching "Meglos". One of the bits I've jotted down is this:
The surreality of an English accountant being held prisoner by space pirates is nothing compared to Meglos himself. He is the last of the Zolfa Thurans, and a diabolical genius, and has a grand master plan to take over the universe. He is also a cactus.
Just to clarify: he is not a humanoid alien with arms, legs and a head covered in little spiny thorns. He is a talking cactus. A relatively inanimate object. He sits in the middle of his gleaming white control room like an angry but talkative houseplant. He doesn’t seem to have a mouth, so goodness knows how he actually talks. Goodness knows how he does anything, unless he has secret telekinetic powers that we never get to see.
The very concept of making the villain a talking, evil cactus is so deeply odd, and completely ridiculous, that one can’t imagine it was done for any reason other than to win a bet. It brings to mind images of John Flanagan and Andrew McCullough sitting drunk in a study, one writer daring the other to type ‘talking cactus’ and mail the script off to the BBC.
It's certainly a much pacier, more entertaining story by far.
|Thursday, January 20th, 2011|
|Movies for 2011, Part #2.
I watch a lot of movies each year. How do I watch so many? Basically there are three elements in play. Firstly, Sonia and I will often watch a movie in the evening - it's cheaper than going out, less exhausting if one of you has MS and less stressful if one of you (OK, me) is generally awkward about social situations and will do anything to avoid going where there are other people he might not know. Secondly, I tend to watch movies over a couple of evenings late at night in bed. Finally, I convert DVDs to video formats that I can watch on my Sony PSP and then watch movies on public transport to and from work. I may not do this third one as much this year since I'm finding this third method means I read far fewer books.
A pleasing yet unexceptional Walt Disney animated feature. It has a solid story, a good sense of humour and is about the most Pixar-esque film Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced. (7/10)
A ridiculous sword and sorcery epic, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is the best actor. Let's ponder that one for a moment. Yes, Bridgette Nielsen is that bad as Red Sonja. Silly, slight, but lots of fun if you're aware of how silly, slight and badly acted it is. (3/10)
Masters of the Universe
A similarly ridiculous epic, this time directed by a guy who'd never directed a film before - but did design rollercoasters for a living. Strangely, when they made this film no one told the designers or Frank Langella that it was a cheap cash-in of an action figure line, and they instead produced wonderful sets and props, and a genuinely good performance by Langella as Skeletor. (5/10)
Nowhere near as good as Jaws. It's embarrassing: people are an inch away from being eaten by a great white shark, and it feels boring. Roy Scheider performs with dignity, but it's a sinking ship he's standing on. (3/10)
I finally caught up with this one nearly two years late. Absolutely stunning. Laugh-out loud funny, clever, inventive, and occassionally quite genuinely emotional and touching. But mostly laugh-out-loud funny. (8/10)
Deep Blue Sea
This is the problem with Jaws: see one great shark-based thriller, and suddenly I have a hankering to watch anything with a shark in it. This is a bad film, but for the most part it's a knowingly bad film. It's worth watching just for Samuel L. Jackson's one big scene. (4/10)
|Wednesday, January 19th, 2011|
BBC Video have finally released "Meglos", oddly one of my favourite Doctor Who
stories, and it made me realise that Season 18 is finally complete on DVD. I have an enormous affection for Season 18, because while my first memory of Doctor Who
is Romana being hassled by Daleks in "Destiny of the Daleks", Season 18 was the earliest point at which I was actively and obsessively watching the series. So I've been watching the whole season, episode by episode, late at night. I've also been writing copious notes and then expanding on them early in the morning or when I've just returned home from work. I've been writing stuff like this for a while now. It means I can throw something up onto a blog in the middle of the day in the space of 2 1/2 minutes, because everything's been pre-written.
So my Season 18 thoughts may get blogged, or I may wait and fanzine them if they're lengthy enough. Tonight I was writing about "The Leisure Hive". For example:
The design of the Argolins is relatively unusual for Doctor Who. Basically, before the advent of inexpensive computer generated images (CGI) there were two approaches to representing aliens in science fiction television: the Doctor Who approach, and the Star Trek approach. The Doctor Who approach is to make your aliens genuinely alien. You create them using complicated rubber masks, elaborate costumes or even rudimentary puppetry. The Star Trek approach is to use prosthetic make-up to turn a human actor into something a little less human, but still not so different that you lose the actor’s face. The Star Trek approach allows for a more engaging performance. The Doctor Who approach allows for a more engaging imagination. The Star Trek approach results in the Klingons. The Doctor Who approach results in the Daleks.
The reason I bring this comparison up is because the Argolins look as if they belong in Star Trek. They don’t look like proper Doctor Who aliens. Now Doctor Who does experiment with human-like aliens from time to time – the Drahvins in “Galaxy 4”, for example, or the Badger-haired Peladonians in “The Monster of Peladon” – but it experiments with them rarely enough that when they do pop up they still seem oddly out of place. Consider, for example, that the main villain of the preceding serial was a minotaur, and the villain of the subsequent one will be a talking cactus.
Anyone else have fond memories of Season 18? (To save time for the non-obsessive, it was Tom Baker's last year, wrote out Romana and K9, wrote in Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, and featured the stories "The Leisure Hive", "Meglos", "Full Circle", "State of Decay", "Warriors' Gate", "The Keeper of Traken" and "Logopolis".
|Sunday, January 16th, 2011|
|Movies for 2011, Part #1.
OK, this year I'm not just going to list films, I'm going to endeavour to at least briefly review each of them and give them a score. The scores are for people without enough time to read three sentences: remember, in the tradition of Edge
(the greatest magazine on the planet), an average score is 5/10. A really good film would be 7/10. A masterful one 9/10. A movie rated 10/10 would be among the greatest movies ever made.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
There are a few shaky moments, and an overriding desire by the filmmakers to be more like Tolkien and less like Lewis, but overall I still really dig The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's got a solid, appealing cast, particularly James MacAvoy as Mr Tumnus and Tilda Swinton as the White Witch. Conversely, William Moseley (Peter) is oddly dreadful. (6/10)
This Ivan Reitman comedy hits a lot of appealing notes for me. First of all, it has a cast full of actors I always tend to enjoy: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames and Frank Langella. Secondly, it's got a nice light-hearted screenplay that's tight, effective and uncomplicated. Finally, it's based around the US Presidency, which is almost always a guarantee of making an interesting story. (7/10)
Close to Home
This is an exceptional low-budget drama from Israel, which follows two 18 year-old women as they undertake conscripted work for Jerusalem's border security. It has a very political edge lurking around the background (what film about Israel and Palestine could avoid it?), but at its heart this is a stunningly well-written and acted film about realistic women in a profoundly affecting environment. (8/10)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
This was the second time I had watched Prince Caspian, and while I enjoyed it considerably more the second time than the first, it remains a bizarre string of poor choices and creative mistakes. Check out the oddly misplaced and boring castle battle, or the momentary re-appearance by Tilda Swinton - both promise so much and deliver so little. (5/10)
This is an exceptional example of carefully lining up a massive row of dominos for an hour, and then flicking the first one over at the 60 minute mark. It is a near-faultless action blockbuster, with inventive action sequences, appealing characters and brilliant visual effects. Thanks to a clever combination of animatronic puppets and CGI, the visual effects of this movie are still yet to date that much. Plus it has Bob Peck in it, who - if he were still alive today - would be about as famous to moviegoers and acclaimed by critics as Anthony Hopkins or Ian McKellen. (9/10)
Shaun of the Dead
Every time I watch this combination of Romero-style zombie action, parody of the same, and British romantic comedy, I am surprised all over again at how remarkably effective it all is. I particularly love how, despite its ridiculous premise and mostly ridiculous tone, it still finds moments of genuine emotion and confronting horror. (8/10)
Walt Disney Animation's 50th feature-length animation has a big legacy to live up to, and I was overjoyed to find that it more than matches most of its predecessors. A smart script is combined with good voice acting, great characters and the best CGI interpretation of tradional cel-animated character design and movement I have ever seen. This is the best childrens film I have seen since... well, since The Princess and the Frog, actually. (9/10)
Withnail & I
Quite simply one of the most quotable movies ever written, combined with career-best performances from Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths. If you have never seen this movie, you should track it down as soon as humanly possible, correct your unintentionally embarrassing oversight, and I shall prepare myself to forgive you. (10/10)
All of the ingredients of this film are exceptional, except for the screenplay. Sadly this drags the whole affair down beneath mediocrity and into that awful region where the film becomes kind of boring. Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford are great. Sadly the screenplay doesn't seem to know it wants the story to be about, and so their performances suffer. Diane Keaton has it even worse. Either half her material was left on the cutting room floor, or she really isn't being too choosy with her material any more. (4/10)
Knight and Day
Less effective the second-time around, but still enjoyable. Part of the appeal the first time around was uncertainty over a particular character's allegiances. Once those allegiances are known, the movie suddenly becomes a whole lot less complicated and accordingly less intriguing. (6/10)
Conan the Destroyer
More fun that Conan the Barbarian, but an inferior film at the same time. It is what it is: a fairly silly fantasy B-movie that does what you'd expect it to do. That's never a bad thing. This was Grace Jones' first big onscreen role, and I do enjoy watching her wide-eyed glares and bizarre scenery-chewing antics. (5/10)
Quite simply one of the absolute best motion pictures ever made. Tight, effective, restrained, frightening, funny, and just about every other adjective and accolade I could write. No matter how many times I see it, it never gets boring. At its centre, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw deliver wonderful performances in beautifully-written characters. Shaw's delivery of Quint's Indianapolis speech is one of the best monologues in the history of cinema. (10/10)
|Friday, January 7th, 2011|
|Where to find me online.
I didn't posted to this Livejournal much last year, all things considered. I will probably post to it even less in 2011. I am still writing away online, however, so if you want to see what I'm doing or thinking, check out:
- Eiga: Asian Cinema, for my news and reviews on Asian cinema (primarily Hong Kong and China, but also Japan and South Korea, and occasionally Thailand, Indonesia and other nations).
- Bad Film Diaries, my movie podcast. 14 episodes available so far, a 15th due some time this weekend.
- The Angriest, my original blog from way back in the way back day, now regenerated and restarted from the beginning. This is where I'll be posting the most I suspect. At the moment it's got a review of a 1976 children's TV show about Aztecs on it, because that is the way I roll.
|Wednesday, January 5th, 2011|
|Monday, January 3rd, 2011|
|Movies for 2010, Part #38.
30 DecemberGamera: Guardian of the Universe
A full analysis of what I watched this year, with comparisons to 2009 and pretty nerd graphs, will come in a day or two.
|Tuesday, December 28th, 2010|
|Movies for 2010, Part #37.
19 DecemberSolomon Kane
20 DecemberThe Hunchback of Notre Dame
21 DecemberTron Legacy
22 DecemberLove Actually
23 DecemberThe Muppet Christmas Carol
26 DecemberThe King's Speech
|Monday, December 27th, 2010|
|Saturday, December 18th, 2010|
|Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010|
|Monday, November 22nd, 2010|
|Sunday, November 21st, 2010|
|Movies for 2010, Part #35
16 NovemberJackass 3D
17 NovemberDante's Peak
19 NovemberPulp Fiction
20 NovemberDark City
One big note this week: the director's cut of Dark City
is, like the best director's cuts, a massive improvement over the 1998 original.
|Sunday, November 14th, 2010|
|Movies for 2010, Part #34.
6 NovemberRob Roy
9 NovemberHard Rain
Clear and Present Danger
10 NovemberWyatt Earp
13 NovemberAdventures in Babysitting
The Sum of All Fears
Bodyguards and Assassins
|Friday, November 5th, 2010|
|Wednesday, October 13th, 2010|
|Movies for 2010, Part #32.
26 SeptemberBack to the Future
27 SeptemberBack to the Future Part II
28 SeptemberThe Restless
Back to the Future Part III
The Quick and the Dead
30 SeptemberThe Addams Family
1 OctoberAddams Family Values
3 OctoberGhostbusters II
6 OctoberThe Warrior and the Wolf
9 OctoberTenacious D and the Pick of Destiny
10 OctoberIron Man 2
11 OctoberBad Santa
|Friday, October 1st, 2010|
|Sunday, September 26th, 2010|
|Movies for 2010, Part #31.
16 SeptemberThe Beach
19 SeptemberE.T. the Extraterrestrial
21 SeptemberSurvive Style 5+
22 SeptemberCrossing Hennessy
Angels & Demons
24 SeptemberIn the Dust of Stars
26 SeptemberQuantum of Solace
|Saturday, September 25th, 2010|
While we're talking Sesame Street
, the South African edition of the series - Takalani Sesame
- is famous and widely acclaimed for Kami, a HIV positive Muppet. Here she is with one of Sesame Street
's highest profile guest stars.