Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Carol’

Good intentions, but Disney dips

April 27, 2011

An Active3D Movie Review: MARS NEEDS MOMS 3-D

Rating (out of 5 stars): **

Smart tagline; you gotta hand it to them.

The premise is entertaining enough: a young lad, Milo, who lives with his mum, is bratty and lippy. After a heated exchange with his mother (who has bust him for trying to avoid eating his broccoli by feeding it to the family cat) he expresses the wish – as petulant kids often do – that he didn’t have a mom. Unbeknownst to him, however, planet Mars is on a mission to harvest earth moms with good child-rearing skills. It’s a long story, and I’ll leave the film to bore you with those details, but the long and short of it is that the evil Martians abduct his mother that very night. Milo manages to stow away aboard the aliens’ spacecraft, and an adventure is born. Needless to say, the boy will soon regret his harsh words – and prove his love for his mom.

Although it bears the Disney badge, this tale, based upon the children’s book by Berkeley Breathed, is the product of a Robert Zemeckis outfit, ImageMovers Digital. And therein lies one of its biggest problems. Mr Zemeckis – much as I’ve loved his movies over the years – appears to be irretrievably welded to a technology known as motion capture, in which actors have computer sensors dotted all over their faces and bodies which inform the behaviour of computer-animated characters. He used the technology in A Christmas Carol, the animated 3-D movie which starred Jim Carrey. In that film, most of the characters appeared squint to me. In this film, emotions and expressions still seem trapped within the rigid, computer-animated faces. If you’re going to depend so heavily on the actual actors for facial expressions and body movements, then for goodness’ sake, just use the actors as they are, and place them, if necessary, within a computer-generated environment – as happens in Tron Legacy and Thor.

The sentiments expressed in the film are noble ones, and are quite appropriate to the Disney brand, but I couldn’t get over the bloodless 50-yard stares of these motion-capture avatars. The technology is honestly not worth pursuing. If you’re going to use sensors to (try and) replicate the facial expressions and body language of the characters, then why not cut out the middle man and use the real thing? The whole point of animation, as I understand it, is to stylise and exaggerate, in such as way as reality can’t. Motion capture technology is merely robbing animators of their powers, and I truly believe that Uncle Walt would be mortified to have his name attached to such endeavours.


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

‘Yellow Submarine’ to Resurface in 3-D

September 5, 2009

Yellow SubmarineRobert “Back to the Future”  Zemeckis is currently engaging with the folks at Disney regarding a 3-D remake of The Beatles’ animated psychedelic fantasy, Yellow Submarine .

It doesn’t sound like the worst of ideas, given that the story’s trippy nature is ideally suited to the medium of 3-D. One can only hope, however, that the original’s Swingin’ Sixties graphic style is preserved. If they go for a completely different look-and-feel, then why not go for a different story and band altogether? (Were Tim Burton, for example, to make an animated musical featuring a British band’s music, it wouldn’t surprise us if he chose The Smiths…)

Zemeckis is one of the prominent poster-boys of the current 3-D revival, and this feature will be his fourth crack at 3-D; his first having been 2004’s The Polar Express, which we didn’t see locally in 3-D as the 3-D version was only released in a handful of IMAX 3-D venues around the world.

The popular director’s second 3-D movie was the dreadful Beowulf, which we had the dubious honour of catching at local 3-D theatres. Zemeckis’s third 3-D effort is the Jim Carrey vehicle, A Christmas Carol, which opens in 3-D (and 2-D, for those who care) on November 6th 2009 – in the US, UK and SA simultaneously.

The producers are hoping that their Yellow Submarine remake will be ready to open in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Don’t get me started on the projects (a rapid rail system in particular) that the South African government promised to have ready and in place in time for the 2010 World Soccer cup in South Africa. A Hollywood studio, however, I’m more likely to believe than a bunch of bloated politicos…