Archive for the ‘Past 3-D releases’ Category

Active 3-D’s Award Ceremony for 2010

January 3, 2011

Whilst donning my tuxedo, I must apologise for my absence of the last few months, sadly necessitated by the restructuring of my company. Let us, however, consider last year’s 3-D releases, blow some raspberries, and dish out out some trophies, shall we? Shhh… the lights are dimming…
[Some random dancing is followed by a respectful hush as the announcer is tracked to centre stage by a follow-spot. He isn’t famous, but that’s a budgetary issue… He begins with the evening’s announcements:]

First up, is the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for the 3-D film that was:


Tron: Legacy – it was heartening to see original stars Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return for the sequel, and the film contained some eye-ticklingly fanciful virtual environments – and a strong, driving soundtrack by Daft Punk. Its storyline wasn’t up to much, however, and its premise – that software should be available to all at no cost – flies brutally in the face of the film studios’ fight against piracy. Uncle Walt would’ve been horrified.

"And this pedal here accelerates box office receipts..."


That wasn’t as classy as one had expected.

Here, then, the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for the 3-D film that was:


A tie, ladies and gentlemen:

Piranha 3-D – sadly, it wasn’t the tongue-in-cheek tribute to animal horror flicks that I had expected, but its crass attempts to please the older teen market at all costs were frequently laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Unintentionally so, of course. Richard Dreyfuss makes a funny cameo upfront which has all the movie buffs commenting that “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, and its gasp-inducing, outrageous and counter-intuitive last few seconds were worth the price of admission alone!

Shrek Forever After was an entertaining-enough romp. I really believed that it didn’t deserve the vilification it received from so many loyal Shrek fans, despite the fact that its plot premise – of Shrek’s midlife crisis – was a bit heavy for junior audiences, and probably a bit depressing for the parents that took their kids to see the film.



With some trepidation, we approach the

Active 3-D 2010 Award for THE CURSE OF 2010

Without a shadow of doubt, this goes to Post-production 2-D to 3-D conversion, which plagued titles such as Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender. These were veritable crimes against humanity, whose stereoscopic cruelty was matched only by their godawful scripts and woeful performances.


Moving on to the …

Active 3-D 2010 Award for THE WORST 3-D MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Where do I begin? Jackass 3-D for its relentlessly juvenile celebration of bodily functions? It’s tempting, but then I’d be overlooking some other, even more depressing, screen-time wasters…

I’d love to choose the re-release (with additional yawn-inducing footage!) of Avatar, but I’ve already roundly slagged off that release (at length) in this blog.

Could it be that disappointing animated effort, Alpha and Omega? Close… but no cigar. Nope; the winner is a tie between… the envelope, please… The Last Airbender and The Clash of the Titans. Finding the biggest offender between them is akin to having to choose between Tuberculosis and Hepatitus…

Please insert brain here. (The Last Airbender)


And now… the big one; the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for  THE BEST 3-D MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Without a doubt, Toy Story 3-D. This funny, moving and highly engaging franchise-closer was not only the best 3-D movie of the year, in this reviewer’s opinion, but it was one of the finest movies of the year, in whatever dimensional package!

To add to the thrill of it all, its release was preceded by reworked, now-3-D versions of Toy Story 1 and 2. Unlike post-production 3-D conversions of live-action 2-D movies, computer-generated animated movies are easy to convert into comfortably-viewed 3-D releases, as they are originated within a 3-D environment.

Toy Story 3-D beat out other strong contenders, such as the charming How to Train Your Dragon, the moving, very funny and stereoscopically exciting Despicable Me, and the dramatically sound Megamind 3-D.


Men Who Stare at Ghosts: A Christmas Carol

November 5, 2009

A Christmas Carol_reduced

Season's Greed-ings... cute tagline!

An Active3D Movie Review

Rating (out of 5 stars): * * * *

When I tell you that this is the darkest, scariest movie ever to have emerged from the Disney Studios, you’d better believe it. It opens with the close-up of a corpse (that of Jacob Marley), and gets creepier from there…

If it’s a family film, then it’s one for families in which the children are either over ten years of age, or have sturdy constitutions. The film carries a “Mature Accompaniment for Under-Tens” rating in South Africa. (Does this mean that kids younger than ten should cart along an ageing pianist?)

Director Robert Zemeckis and his team have endeavoured to remain faithful to Charles Dickens’ original short story, so Jim Carrey doesn’t trot out his customary ad-libs – which would’ve shattered the credibility of this serious, old-time morality tale. By the end of the movie, Dicken’s ‘message’ (i.e. of compassion toward the less fortunate) is made manifest in the least subtle way, with nothing being spared in the way of stereoscopic and other effects work.

Zemeckis appears to be wed to the ‘motion capture’ technique of animation (as witness his previous animated 3-D movies, the execrable Beowulf and the delightful Polar Express). This system employs hundreds of electronic sensors which are attached to actors’ bodies and faces, which inform the movement and performance of their animated counterparts. I’m not crazy about this technique, as, in its present incarnation, it lacks the ability of either live performances or other types of animation to completely engage and persuade me. These ‘virtual actors’ come across as rather rigid – and squint-eyed – to my disconcerted eye.

The film’s idealised, three-dimensional realisation of old-time London, however, is quite the visual treat. And when the ghosts start appearing, it’s a runaway festival of ghoulish thrills

As the tight-wadded Ebenezer Scrooge, Jim Carrey (or, at least, his animated avatar) is nastier than he’s even been, yet gradually reveals more of his humanity and vulnerability as the tale unfolds and his long-buried compassion is brought to the fore.

The film’s loaded with Christmas carols, although it has a greater, more humanistic appeal which should also access those of us who don’t celebrate this religious holiday. (Forget about those ridiculous councillors in the UK who believe that non-Christians will be offended at the mere sight of a Christmas tree in a shopping mall.) By staying away, you would not only be behaving like a churlish old Scrooge, but missing out on a hair-raisingly wild and unfettered 3-D adventure. Tat Wolfen

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (opens in SA on Friday October 16th 2009)

October 19, 2009
“Well, I’ll be burgered!”  Much as tasty grub descends from the skies in this entertaining family show, cash showered upon Sony/Columbia pictures, as the film stayed top of the US’s box office menu for two weeks.

“Well, I’ll be burgered!” Much as tasty grub descends from the skies in this entertaining family show, cash showered upon Sony/Columbia pictures, as the 3-D film topped the US’s box office menu for two weeks.

An Active3D Movie Review

Rating (out of 5 stars): * * * *

Disney and Dreamworks have already established themselves in the sphere of stereoscopic 3-D animation, and now, finally, Sony’s animation division joins that noble club – with a debut feature that looks set to establish Sony as a serious player. The film’s stereoscopic imagery is clean, crisp and impressive – while never overstaying its welcome by endlessly and gratuitously thrusting and tossing objects into our faces.

The film tells of a drab, grey island-town, the whole economy of which is based upon its sardine industry. Needless to say, these greasy little fish aren’t quite the thing upon which to build a robust and glamorous future for a community.

Meet then, a young boy called Flint who’s hell-bent on inventing devices that will improve humankind’s lot. Unfortunately, all he’s achieved thus far is to drive his long-suffering parents dotty. When he comes up with a machine that can turn water into food, he’s convinced that he’s found the mother lode. Said device zooms off unexpectedly into the heavens, however, and… well, it isn’t difficult to work out from there where the movie derives its quirky title…

Factor into the drama, perky Sam Sparks, an ambitious young TV weathergirl from the Big City who’s sent out – on her first big location assignment – to cover the island’s peculiar, edible meteorological phenomena. This is an interesting character from whose notebook young girls in the audience might constructively tear a page or two. You see, she’s actually an intelligent lass, but hides the fact behind a bimbo exterior, in order to be come across as cool and contemporary. Of course, she will learn the error of her ways before the closing credits roll.

Let’s also not forget the pompous mayor, who sees this wondrous airborne device not as a means to potentially end world starvation, but as a windfall that will increase his wealth and influence. Here in South Africa, we have no shortage of such self-serving politicians, so this power-drunk twit struck a very responsive chord.

Being that Hollywood scriptwriters had a hand in this tale, which was based upon a popular children’s book, there are probably “messages” tucked in here about runaway consumerism and messing with ecosystems. But I was already in too good a mood to be fussed by such politically correct considerations!

The script is a wry, dry, witty affair that adults will relish, while there is plenty of extraordinary and eccentric action on the screen to keep people of all ages utterly hooked. There is a remarkable scene in the film of an ice-cream landscape – yes, ice cream as far as the eye can three-dimensionally see – that held me in breathless awe; both on a ‘yum-yum’ as well as aesthetic level. Later, darker and more catastrophic scenes unfold, though there is nothing that keeps the film out of the reach of the entire familyTat Wolfen

[One of the Harry Potter movies (who can remember which of the many?) was the first film in South Africa to be released in three theatrical formats simultaneously (those being 35mm, IMAX, and Digital). And now this is the first time that a film’s opened in SA in 35mm, IMAX, and 3-D Digital simultaneously. Congratulations to the distributors, Ster-Kinekor. Will SA’s IMAX theatres ever go 3-D? Watch this space. We’re bound to be the first to know…]

The Final Destination (opens in SA on Friday October 2nd 2009)

October 2, 2009
Death by Killer Escalator is but one of the film's dubious delights...

Death by Killer Escalator is one of the film's dubious highlights...

An Active3D Movie Review

Rating (out of 5 stars): * *

One of a wide selection of poster taglines for the film reckons that “Death Saved the Best for 3-D”. Well, not really. Firstly, the previous chapter of this franchise was also shot in 3-D, but, because there were few suitably equipped theatres around the States (and the world) at the time of its release, it wasn’t very widely seen in this format. Most importantly, however, the tagline rings false as I’m prepared to bet that few punters would agree upon this being the best film in the quadrilogy.

As is the case with most movie franchises, the quality progressively tails off with each new sequel, and one’s ‘star rating’ tends to move in inverse proportion to the number the end of the title.

The film’s 3-D cinematography is good – let’s give credit where it’s due. Also, it isn’t often that we get to see a live-action 3-D movie these days. The opening scene, at a speedway race, packs a bunch of visceral thrills. The 3-D effect is rather laboured throughout the film, however, so you can look forward to having dangerous debris fly, bounce and shoot out at you… it’s a veritable assault course.

Them wuz the days! The guilty pleasures of wildly gratuitous '80s 3-D...

Them wuz the days! The guilty pleasures of wildly gratuitous '80s 3-D...

The Final Destination doesn’t, however, steal the in-your-eye trophies hoisted by the leaders of gratuitous 3-D: Comin’ at Ya (1981), Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983) and Friday the 13th 3-D (1982) – pretty much in that order. In a franchise of this nature, the fun invariably lies in the pivotal plot device of the original film. In the case of this series: teens cheat Death, so Death angrily pursues them, and dispatches the survivors, one by one, in a grisly fashion.

This, the latest (and hopefully, last) of the Final Destination films, adds absolutely nothing new to the oeuvre – such as it is. And, as I remember, it contains one joke – an in-joke which references the original film. If your idea of entertainment is seeing projectiles and sharp beams and girders blast through unsuspecting victims to poke bloodily in your face, then you’re in for a treat. Happily for me, the gore isn’t quite as nauseating and sustained as it was in that awful recent film, Scar 3-D. It’s still inappropriate viewing for young kids, however, or for people looking for something to (even delicately) engage their brain cells. Tat Wolfen

‘The Final Destination’ Trumps Tarantino

September 5, 2009

Final Destination 4_speech bubble 2

The latest in the Final Destination horror series has trounced Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort, to achieve Number One slot at the U.S. box office. Many industry observers are saying that, “it’s the 3-D wot dun it”.

I’m not a fan of senseless gorefests, but Final Destination (the first one) had a wry sense of humour about it, and wasn’t too shabby. Essentially, it’s about a group of teens who “cheat death” by getting off a ‘plane moments before it takes off and explodes in mid-air. Death, however, is offended by this travesty of justice, so he pursues each kid in turn, in order to claim the lives that he feels he’s due. Naturally, a spectacular series of supernatural kills follows…

Like so many movies of its genre, Final Destination was spun out into more sequels than its material deserved, and, in the great tradition of franchises such as Jaws and Friday the 13th, the third movie in the Final Destination series (which opened in 2006) was made in 3-D. At that time, however, there were few 3-D cinemas around the world, so the 3-D version slipped by largely unnoticed outside of the States.

Now along comes the fourth part, which has been released in America as The Final Destination. (So they put a “The” in front of the original title, and that’s supposed to clear up any confusion?) In the three years since the release of Part Three, 3-D cinemas have proliferated internationally (SA included), so this time the 3-D won’t go to waste. As for the script, I’m not making any promises…  The film will apparently be released locally under the title of The Final Destination 4: 3-D.

[The Final Destination 4: 3-D opens in South Africa on October 2nd 2009. Please note that numerous gory sequences render it unsuitable for younger viewers.]

‘Up’ Due to Land in SA

September 3, 2009

up-3d stillI’ve just seen Disney/Pixar’s ‘Up’ in 3-D (it opens in SA on September 11th). Bearing in mind that it’s easy to be disappointed with anything that’s seen this much hype, I was absolutely blown away.

Pixar has hit us with all the goods: we have high adventure, dastardly villains, cliffhanging suspense (often quite literally so), frantic comedy – and, most importantly, moments of drama that are so moving that only the coldest of hearts will fail to be moved.

The 3-D effects are interestingly quite underplayed – to the degree that I frequently forgot that I was watching a 3-D movie. Undoubtedly, the 3-D brings with it the underlying psychological effect of added realism – without resorting to showy, in-your-face effects.

The scriptwriters dealt with subjects – such as death – that aren’t frequently visited in Disney movies. As such, its one of the more “adult” family movies on the block.

I might be shot down by my peers for calling it “uplifting“, but it’s just that – one of the most sublime cinematic experiences you’ll have this year!

‘Avatar’ Hype Continues Unabated

September 1, 2009

avatar_promo_artworkThe USA’s AMC cinema chain has decided to start accepting bookings for their December 8th midnight premieres of James Cameron’s sci-fi spectacular Avatar – on the basis of the excitement that accompanied the recent public screenings of snippets from the film.

In the meantime, some mischievous YouTube wit has taken footage from the German drama Downfall (in which Adolf Hitler berates his men), and added new, ‘improved’ subtitles, which have the dictator rant on about James Cameron’s lack of judgement in making Avatar. (This same film clip has already been used numerous times, for various wags’ satirical purposes.)

Some journalists have asked whether such ridicule will bring the film into disrepute, thereby damaging its chances at the box office. I seriously doubt that, however. All it willl do, in my opinion, is add to the dense cloud of hype that’s already gathering around the movie.

As Oscar Wilde was apparently alleged to have said (though apparently didn’t), “The only thing worse than being spoken about is *not* being spoken about…”

MJ’s Swansong Goes Out in 2-D

September 1, 2009

Michael's 3-D footage stays under wraps

Michael's 3-D footage stays under wraps

Shortly after Michael Jackson’s passing, word went out from the Sony camp that they had footage of Michael rehearsing for his big This Is It tour of Europe. Tantalisingly, we were informed that much of it was shot using the latest 3-D technologies.

Somewhere between the promise and reality, however, fortune has burped – and left *us* with the after-taste. Fans of the King of Pop will undoubtedly still be storming the box office for tickets, although the 3-D geeks amongst us will be left nursing bruised hopes.

This Is It releases on October 28th in the States, and on October 30th in South Africa. 3-D fans will hopefully find consolation in the fact that The Christmas Carol (starring Jim Carrey) opens in SA the following week in 3-D. This is about the 15th time that the Dickens classic has been made into a film – if one considers variations such as the Muppets take on this timeless story. It is, however, the famed morality tale’s debut in three dimensions. I have, if you’ll pardon the awful Dickensian joke, great expectations…

[P.S. Disappointed fans who’d looked forward to seeing MJ brought back to life, so to speak, in 3-D, will be pleased to know that Captain EO, the spectacular 17-minute 3-D attraction that had wowed DisneyWorld visitors in the late ’80s, is going to be brought back by the theme park. And knowing the Disney organisation, which has always been in the forefront of technical innovation and quality (thanks to the lead of Uncle Walt), the film will probably be digitally tweaked and restored before its re-release, in order to bring it in line with current standards.]

The ‘Avatar’ teaser, revealed

August 21, 2009
Eyeing December's box office...

Eyeing December’s box office…

Finally, James Cameron’s much-vaunted teaser for his upcoming sci-fi spectacular, Avatar, has been unleashed! I can’t say that I’ve ever been a huge fan of this director’s work, but – quite obviously – I am a 3-D fan.  I’m also aware of the time, money, effort, and cutting-edge 3-D technology that’s been poured into this epic affair. The movie’s being shrewdly marketed – as witness the Mxit cellphone campaign that has attracted hordes of young ‘uns to the teaser screenings held throughout the country this evening.

The show begins with a mercifully brief intro by Cameron, who introduces himself as “Jim Cameron” (so we’re on casual terms, now!). Wisely, he allows the snippets that follow to do most of the ‘talking’.

What’s the movie about, you ask? Who cares? We caught snippets of the storyline, though I suspect that this film will offer little to engage our minds. You can be sure, however, that every technical detail will be beautifully seen to. Cameron, we must not forget, is a kindred spirit (i.e. 3-D geek of note), so there’ll be much on the screen (and off it and behind it!) to keep us enthralled.

Think Jurassic Park and Journey to the Centre of the Earth (the recent 3-D version), and you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect; just that there are heaps more dinosaurs and other prehistoric gnashers stomping about these steamy jungles in full stereoscopic glory. Throw in some cliffhangers (quite literally) and the scene is set for a grand-scale sci-fi romp that I’m almost certain I’ll enjoy – even if I pay no attention to the storyline whatsoever. And if you think that you’ll ever be able to replicate this mammoth adventure in your home theatre, I have bad news indeed for you.

Ice Sets the World on Fire

August 19, 2009

Ice Age 3-DThe second Ice Age sequel, known as Ice Age 3 or Dawn of the Dinosaurs, has, to date, clocked up more than $600 million in overseas (i.e. outside North America) box office. The Los Angeles Times notes that it’s the most ever earned by an animated film abroad, and further observes that, in some markets, it’s become the biggest-grossing film since 1997’s Titanic.

The newspaper goes on to say that part of the movie’s success comes from the fact that 40% of its take comes from “premium-priced” (i.e. higher priced) tickets at theaters that are showing the movie in 3-D. It’s a fair call that the tickets should be costlier, as the cost of upgrading cinemas to digital 3-D isn’t to be sneezed at. And then there’s the additional cost of the high-quality 3-D spex dished out to the audience members…

The good news is that, in SA, the cost of the eyewear is largely absorbed by the distributor and exhibitor.

For South African audiences, attending a 3-D movie costs a fraction of what it would cost in the UK or US. And the quality of our 3-D theatres is up there with the best the world can offer. In SA, a ticket for a 3-D movie will cost you between R30 (US$3.75, at today’s rates) and R65 (US$8.15), whereas, for example, in the States, the same experience will set you back between R105 (about US$13) and R160 (US$20)!