Posts Tagged ‘Cars’

Worth Shelling Out For

August 30, 2013

ImageAn Active3D Movie Review
Movie: Turbo
Rating: **** (out of 5)

My biggest reservation with movies such as Cars and Planes, is that the protagonists lack arms and hands. This tends to limit their expressiveness – as any Mediterranean will confirm. It also prevents one from doing much in the way of work – which I suspect that most Mediterraneans would find desirable… 😉   

And here we find ourselves with a bunch of snails; armless, of course (and no Cockney puns, please). The prognosis isn’t good, but it’s any reviewer’s job to put quibbles aside where possible, and this is what I do. And who knew it; it seems that forelimbs are not entirely necessary: the animators at Dreamworks have assembled a charming and funny ensemble of expressive escargots.

A wee snail called Theo has an obsession with car racing and fancies himself as quite the speed king – in snail terms; which, as you can imagine, doesn’t amount to much. He’s a dreamer, and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the snail community, that leads a dull, 9-to-5 lifestyle. Theo’s brother is always defending him, but even he is starting to lose patience with his younger sibling’s starry-eyed world view. And then it happens: Theo gets momentarily trapped within the turbo system of a souped-up drag-racing car, and finds himself blessed with that very quality he’d so long sought; speed. And thus, a snail legend rises; Turbo! This could lead him, and those around to him, to fame and prosperity, or it could propel him into great danger. The scene is thus set for Dreamwork’s latest 3-D family funfest. 

Car racing fiends will love the climactic scenes set within the Indianapolis Speedway; yup, the home of the Indy 500. Even though I’m no car fanatic, the race scene, in which the animators weave our hero – and therefore us – between, over and under the cars, extracts IMAX-like thrills from even the smallest theatre screen. And there’s more for the speed geeks; racing legend Mario Andretti has two brief voice cameos; one as a fast food customer, and the other as a race official. As for the main audio cast, your ears will keep bumping into familiar voices; some of which you’ll recognise immediately, and some of which will have you muttering, “I *know* that voice… don’t tell me… don’t tell me!” For me, the most recognisable pipes in the line-up belonged to Samuel L Jackson, Luis Guzman, Paul Giamatti, and Richard Jenkins (whose animated avatar even bears a strong resemblance to him).

The cliché-mongers will be calling it “high octane family entertainment”, and I’m happy to report that I’m unable to top that description.

‘Plane’ and Simple

August 8, 2013

Planes_Altitude

An Active3D movie review

Movie: Planes

Rating: **½ (out of 5)

This poor wee project has been in the incubator for years. First it was a Pixar project, and then we heard that Pixar dropped the option – which made punters nervous. Then we heard that Disney animation was picking it up, and then still, that it was being passed on to DisneyToons – which understandably made us quake yet again, as this is the Disney division that creates content destined largely for straight-to-disc (or the occasional theatrical exposure – think the dire Tinkerbell movies). It appears to have been a pet project of John Lasseter’s, who, despite his involvement in Pixar, kept his oar in as some kind of executive producer.

Applying anthropomorphic qualities to animals is relatively easy, and we’ve never quibbled with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck’s arms and hands; and the way these semi-human appendages enhance these creatures’ performances. When we get to mechanical devices such as cars, however, the animators’ creative toolbox is severely restricted; particularly seeing as the artists at Disney decided not to give them little arms and hands. And this is one of the main reasons, I believe, for Pixar’s Cars movies falling below par. As for Cars 2… let’s just say that the scriptwriters should’ve put away their James Bond fantasies, and concentrated on making a Pixar movie.

Planes is all about a little crop-dusting aeroplane with ambitions of competing in an international air race, so it’s essentially a ‘Little Engine That Could’ movie, with wings. The intercontinental nature of the featured air race gives the studio the opportunity to introduce a multinational voice cast, which includes Bollywood beauty Priyanka Chopra and everybody’s favourite Brit, John Cleese (who will soon, I expect, start snap,-crackle-and-popping up in breakfast cereal commercials). This tale of undaunted determination will possibly inspire young children by informing them that no one should clip his or her wings according to the expectations of others. But *sigh*, it brings nothing new to the table.

On the plus side – and this should be stressed, as a tribute to the animators – the mechanical denizens of this world are quite endearing, despite their physical limitations. This is, I believe, largely due to the incredible range of emotion reflected in the characters’ eyes. So, kudos to the animators, who gave the story its soul, despite its so-so subject matter.

Partially successful; Pixar’s ‘Brave’ new departure

July 29, 2012
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‘Arrow ‘arrow – what’s goin’ on ‘ere?

An Active 3-D review: Brave

Rating: ***½ (out of 5)

This Disney/Pixar adventure is such a departure from what we’ve been seeing from Pixar, that it knocked me completely off-guard. For starters, gone are the smooth, clean, plastic shapes, and clearly delineated edges, of characters such as those in Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Here, it’s gritty and rough – and the setting is grand, sweeping and mountainous. We even have a female director running the show, so this is fresh turf on so many levels.

The story’s set in Scotland during those far-off agrarian times when each of the various clans held sway over its region. Our heroine, the young Princess Merida, whose bountiful, tousled mop of red hair is – I dare guess – a motif for her fiery, independent spirit, lives with her parents (King Fergus and Queen Elinor) and her little triplet brothers. Merida’s voiced – quite appropriately – by Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald.

Our olden-day-yet-new-age princess discovers early in the tale that she’s about to be married off. It’s tradition, so there’s little room for discussion. Merida’s a self-possessed lass – and, incidentally, a dab hand with a bow and arrow – and she’s not about to be farmed out to the first kilted hopeful who comes along. Therein lies our drama.

Although the Scottish accents have obviously been reigned in, they’re still a tad tough to follow at times, and I’ve always thought that I had quite an ear for Britain’s range of linguistic quirks. (Which led me to wonder how our American cousins have coped…)

I found Brave to be a relentlessly loud film – although that may well be because we previewed the movie at Montecasino’s Il Grande cinema – where the lads were eager to show off their new Dolby Digital 7.1 sound system.

It should be noted that the Disney tag doesn’t automatically mean that the film’s appropriate for the littlies. It has elements that I found to be startlingly dramatic, such as a great big grizzly bear that crops up in the film much as the crocodile had done in the Disney classic, Peter Pan. It could be argued that my formative years established unreasonable expectations within me, but, if I see a bear in a Disney movie, I expect it to be cuddlesome. Yet, by my oath, there’s nothing huggable about this bear (even if one’s embrace could indeed encompass its furry girth). Again, this is quite possibly the ‘fault’ of the wonderful Il Grande cinema, which now boasts an even larger, post-revamp screen. So big screen, big sound, big bear; it definitely doesn’t add up to entertainment for the wee ones, who are bound to be terrified.

For the adults, there’s enough to relish, including the top-notch voice cast, from Billy Connolly (voicing Merida’s mountainous but loveable dad) and Emma Thompson (as the mom, Elinor), to Robbie Coltrane to John Ratzenberger (whose talented tones appear to have become a staple in Pixar productions). Having said that, the film’s feminism is a touch on the strident side, and the disarming charm of the bulk of Pixar’s earlier features is largely absent. I suppose that we can’t always expect Pixar to tick all of the boxes. I believe that this beloved animation studio let the side down with the Cars movies (yes; both of them), and this film, too. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, but it doesn’t punch through as one of the studio’s greats.

In fact, the highlight, for me, was the delightful, European-style Pixar cartoon, La Luna that precedes the feature.

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You’ll Warm to This: Ice Age 4

June 27, 2012

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An Active3D Review: Ice Age 4 3-D: Continental Drift
Rating: **** (out of 5)

The guys at Fox Animation are really giving Dreamworks’ animators a good run for their money, with a franchise to run neck-and-neck with the Madagascar movies. The Pixar team should also be looking over their shoulders, even though the Ice Age series fails to deliver the emotional meat of most Pixar movies (and here I exclude Pixar’s Cars films, which I believe come in well below that studio’s standards).

Prepare yourself for dramatic continental drift, avalanches, and rising and falling land masses, as the continents as we know them today are formed before our very eyes. (How the process is triggered, I shan’t reveal.) Through all of this geographical upheaval, a group of animals struggles to keep together and stay alive. Cue heaps of comic action, thrown in with some inter-‘personal’ dynamics (i.e. a daddy mammoth who’s having difficulty accepting the fact that his daughter has grown into a young lady, plus the unrequited love of a furry little burrowing creature).

Then we have the crowd favourite, Scrat, who is, as always, in the pathetic pursuit of the ultimate acorn high. Into this crazily uneven mix, the creators of this wild adventure have also tossed a bizarre helping of Greek mythology, which is bound to thrill the academics… and possibly puzzle those who haven’t stopped over at Greek mythology 101. Those amongst us whose cultural references are somewhat more lowbrow, can look forward to an amusing little homage to that overrated, kilt-infested Mel Gibson epic, Braveheart.

The prehistoric escapades are rounded off with a tragicomic moral fable that left me quite stunned – impressive and surprisingly dramatic; though I’m not quite sure how it sits with the accompanying insanity. (But I’m not giving anything away!)

Special mention needs to be given to Wanda Sykes for her lively and endearing vocal performance of a granny sloth who becomes the prima buffo of the piece. She finds herself in the company of other fine actors, such as Peter Dinklage, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, and John Leguizamo.

Ice Age 4’s overall entertainment value and likeable ensemble cast largely override its somewhat patchy conceptualisation. Really; it’s a fun ride.

AND HERE’S A BONUS: the film is preceded by a hilarious and heart-warming 3-D Simpsons cartoon, which stars a largely overlooked character; Maggie, the youngest member of that celebrated TV family. This pre-feature surprise is worth the price of admission alone!

Disney’s 3-D Slate

September 12, 2009
Jim Carrey in Disney's 'A Christmas Carol'

Jim Carrey in Disney's 'A Christmas Carol'

You wanted the most up-to-date listing of Disney’s coming 3-D releases, and we have ’em right here, on the blog for South Africa’s 3-D faithful.

First up is A Christmas Carol, which opens toward the end of the year. Although it’s in 3-D, it features four dimensions of Jim Carrey – i.e. he plays Ebenezer Scrooge in addition to the triad of Yuletide spooks.

Some will moan that this is overindulgence on the part of Carrey, but I would argue that the three Ghosts of Christmas are actually projections of the Scrooge character – or parallel-universe possibilities of the same man, to express it in another way. It therefore makes absolute sense that one actor should play Scrooge and all of the ghosts. (And, given the current economic climate, I daresay that the studio saved millions in additional star salaries…)

Then, early in 2010, the original Toy Story and its sequel are being released in 3-D reincarnations. That way, the studio gets to milk even more box office out of titles that have already been fat cash cows on both theatrical and DVD release. These stereoptifications will further serve as a teaser for Toy Story 3, which opens shortly thereafter – in 3-D, of course. Would I miss any of these screenings? Don’t be daft!

Due to open here early in April, Disney’s 2010 take on Lewis Carroll’s trippy classic, Alice in Wonderland: 3-D, directed by Tim Burton, stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee and Timothy Spall. If that doesn’t sound like cinematic Nirvana to you, I’m afraid you’ve probably been watching too many WWF reruns to recognise a good thing…

The splendid Beauty and the Beast (arguably one of the best Disney animated movies to be made after Uncle Walt’s passing), underwent an image format conversion for its IMAX release a few years ago, and is now also being revamped for Digital 3-D release. For that happy day, I’ll go out and buy a suit.

In case you’re concerned about the possibility of the hallowed art of Disney-style ‘cel animation’ perishing in this brave (yet counter-traditional) new digital age, fear no more. For the past few decades, Uncle Walt’s nephew (and Disney Vice Chairman) Roy Disney, has fought off the “modernisers” by insisting upon the preservation of his uncle’s style of animation. More recently, Pixar/Disney’s Big Guy John Lasseter has added his considerable muscle to this lobby.

The result of their campaigning can be witnessed in Disney’s new 2-D, “hand-animated” film, The Princess and the Frog, which releases in SA on January 29th 2010. (Yes, this is a blog for the 3-D geek, but I’m a Disney devotee, so I trust that you’ll pardon this small digression…)

Those who enjoyed the Pixar title Cars will have to wait until 2012 until they can clamp eyes on the sequel, which will be in 3-D, of course. And finally, fans of the sci-fi author Philip K Dick (whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? inspired Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner), are busting a spleen in anticipation of Disney’s King of the Elves. It will be a good two years-plus before they can sample the Disney Studio’s adaptation of this short story of Dick’s.

Disney 3-D Slate with Anticipated South African Release Dates:

A Christmas Carol 3-D – November 6th 2009

Toy Story: 3-D (The original, reworked into 3D) – January 1st to February 26th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Toy Story 2: 3-D (The original, reworked into 3D) – January 15th to March 12th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Alice in Wonderland3-D – March 5th to April 2nd 2010

Beauty and the Beast3-D – May 28th [* This release date has been put on hold by the Disney organisation.  I’m pretty sure that the movie will still be released – just no longer sure when, at this stage… *]

Toy Story 3: 3-D : 3-D– August 6th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Rapunzel: 3-D – November 26th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Tron: Legacy3-D – December 17th 2010 [This title added September 16th 2009]

Newt3-D – Winter 2011

The Bear and the Bow3-D – December 2011/January 2012

Cars 23-D – Winter 2012

King of Elves3-D – December 2012/January 2013