Posts Tagged ‘Jock of the Bushveld’

Dino-snore time

February 8, 2013
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“Help – it’s a Low Budget-osaurus!”

An Active3D movie review

Movie: Dino-Time 3-D (a.k.a. Dino-Mom)

Rating: ** (out of 5)

A little boy and his spoilsport sister end up at the home of one of their peers whose dad is a  less-than-successful inventor. The trio end up messing about in the inventor’s time-machine, which, up until that point, hadn’t been working. Of course, they manage to activate it, and the device, conveniently shaped like a large dinosaur egg, rockets them back into the Jurassic age. A large pink Tyranno-something immediately assumes that they are her offspring (despite the fact that they look nothing like baby dinosaurs) and starts to lick them as a dog would groom her puppies. Yes, this is, indeed, silly, and there’s very little evidence of tongue in cheek to make the journey more palatable for adults in the audience.

This South Korean/American effort tries to legitimise itself by using a cast of well-known American actors (such as Jane ‘Glee’ Lynch, Melanie Griffith, and two available Baldwin brothers), but the very audience who might recognise these names is alienated by a script that lacks nuance or wit.

The computer-animated feature film genre is dominated by the likes of Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and Fox, and these studios have huge budgets and resources, so it strikes me as insanity to try and compete in this field. The lack of sophistication in, for example, the character’s facial movements, is obvious. The Hollywood studios also have teams of sharp writers who hone the storylines and dialogue, thus engaging audiences in a complex fashion. If the film had been made as a ten-minute ride attraction, for showing in “4-D theatres”, such as the one at Gold Reef City, I believe it would have found its niche – and enjoyed a longer exhibition life, to boot.  In its defence, this naive romp is far superior to the first South African 3-D animated movie, Jock of the Bushveld, although that’s like saying that the sensation of sea sand in one’s shoes is more pleasant than having one’s knees vigorously sandpapered… The stereoscopic work is dodgy, and backgrounds sometimes pop forward unintentionally, as was often the case in the South African movie.

The film’s heart is in the right place, however, and I suspect that there is enough racing, chasing and general action to engage Grade Ones, but that it will prove a trial for parents taking their children out for a Saturday morning treat.

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Tops ‘n Tails of 2011

January 31, 2012

OK, so I haven’t been living up to the ACTIVE in my blog’s name, and I apologise profusely. It was a very busy silly season… Here then, without any further ado (because goodness knows there’s been a lot of ado already…), my critical glance over the past year’s 3-D releases:

The worst 3-D release of 2011:

Jock of the Bushveld – without a doubt.  Some folk in the local film industry complained that the film struggled against low budgets, and had overworked staff doubling up their duties, etc, etc. The bottom line is: if you can’t compete with the Dreamworks of this world, then don’t put yourself in the same arena. Make an interesting short film, or another style of film that isn’t as labour-intensive. Yes, we know that the big American animated features utilise cheap labour in the East. Well, do the same, then, but don’t turn out something of such low quality and punt it as a “South African first”, because it isn’t a “South African first” of which to be terribly proud…

Fourth, Third and Second Best Movies of 2011:

In Fourth Place comes the Sony Pictures/Aardman co-production, Arthur Christmas. A neat, funny, adventurous and sometimes quite moving tale of family politics, it finally clarifies just how Santa manages to deliver quite so many prezzies in one night!

In Third Place, the Shrek spin-off, Puss in Boots. I really hadn’t been looking forward to this, but its satirical take on the western genre and Hispanic melodrama was consistently laugh-out-loud hilarious.

It was a close call between this one and the movie with which I eventually crowned the list. That said, Second Place goes to Rio. A domesticated male parrot meets – and falls beak-over-tail for – a female parrot from the wilds of Brazil. They’re both targeted by cruel animal-smugglers, but after much colour, adventure and mayhem, all ends happily.

And the 3-D Movie of The Year for 2011…

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

We waited a long time for this Spielberg motion-capture epic, and hardcore Tintin fans were worried that the essence of our Belgian boy-hero would be lost in a big Hollywood budget. I’m happy to say that the director and his creative team have shown nothing but the highest respect for the source material (that is so inextricably woven into the fabric of so many of our childhoods).

I had worried about the use of motion-capture, as, in films such as Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol, this nascent technology made most of the protagonists look cross-eyed. This time around, however, the eyes work just fine, and make for meaningful interaction between the characters. Going by the closing credits, it looks as if teams of people were kept busy with that task alone; keeping the characters’ eyes realistic.

That concern having been tucked away, I could concentrate on enjoying the film, which lovingly and faithfully resurrects all those colourful folks one remembers from the Tintin comics. The extrapolation from creator Hergé’s two-dimensional cartoons to three-dimensional computer images is largely successful, although, curiously, Tintin himself is the one who takes the most getting-used-to, as his computer-animated manifestation is the furthest from the books, I thought. But it’s no biggie, and I soon settled in to it… Climb in and enjoy the short-tempered, booze-addled Captain Haddock, the twittish Thompson twins, Haddock’s butler, and assorted villains – and let’s not forget the formidable opera diva,  Bianca Castafiore! They’re all there, as we’ve treasured them in the vaults of childhood memory, and their exploits are packed with action and derring-do (to the degree that I’d suggest the film might be too frightening for those under schoolgoing age – who shouldn’t be seeing 3-D movies anyway, for the sake of their ocular health). The gun-play is quite realistic, which startled me at first, but let’s not quibble:

Spielberg’s Tintin was everything I’d hoped it might be, right from the opening title sequence which pays a three-dimensional homage to the story’s two-dimensional comic-book origins by expanding the 2-D planes (as had been done in Captain America’s closing title sequences, if memory serves…). Now; roll on the sequel!

Joke of the Bushveld

July 26, 2011

An Active3D Movie Review:

Jock of the Bushveld 3-D (a.k.a. Jock, in the US)

Rating (out of 5 stars): zero

South African entertainment journalists have been hearing all about this movie for at least two years; South Africa’s first animated 3-D feature film. Yet, as we exited the preview theatre, having witnessed this much-touted product, we looked like a bunch of relatives forlornly shuffling out of a funeral. Why? Because, sad to say, the film fails in every conceivable department.

Firstly, the story bears only the slightest, vaguest, passing, fleeting resemblance to Percy Fitzpatrick’s beautiful book about the bond between a man and his dog. All the real, gritty heart of the book has been ripped out, and the scriptwriters have, instead, installed a trivial narrative around Jock and his jolly band of animal friends. So, immediately, the filmmakers thrust themselves into the same arena dominated by experienced Hollywood studios with their teams of sharp writers and hordes of cutting-edge animators. It was a battle they were destined to lose even if they had made a sturdy effort – which they haven’t. When a sexy French poodle was introduced to the story, you could hear the reviewers’ jaws clatter to the ground, as one. If you’re going to take such a beautiful book, and alter – and trivialise it – to such a degree, then at least have the decency to change your title, and, if you really have to credit the source, say something such as “loosely based upon..” or “loosely based upon characters in…”

Then we have the voice performances, which were probably recorded single voice by single voice, around the world – and certainly sound that way. There is no interaction or performance in the voices, and each character appears to be musing out loud to him or herself. The international voice cast is quite impressive for a homegrown product: Donald Sutherland, Helen Hunt, Mandy Patinkin, and Ted Danson; all headed up by Canadian singer, Bryan Adams, who takes the titular role. Amongst the South African voices used are Theo Landey, Sylvaine Strike, Anthony Bishop – and even the distinctive tones of Desmond Tutu! All amounting to nothing.

There is a woodenness about the animation in this film, the textures of the animals’ coats don’t make the grade, and the human characters float about the landscape as if they’ve been pumped with helium, and are about to take off. In other words, the animation is leagues behind what we’re accustomed to seeing on our screens.

Finally – and most crucially for this blog – even the technical wheels have fallen off this production. There are a number of shots in which the stereo image is reversed (i.e. the left-eye image gets fed to your right eye, and vice versa). This can cause visual distress by reversing depth cues, and is absolutely inexcusable! Didn’t the production team watch the final product with their 3-D glasses on – or did they just have faith that the 3-D would work out in the end?

I hadn’t been expecting Pixar, but this was nonetheless a huge disappointment. It’s all very well having a PR team to create buzz and pre-publicity around your film, but when the lights dim and the projector turns on, your finished product needs to speak eloquently for itself! Unfortunately, however, this is indicative of a typically South African syndrome: a bunch of guys have a little knowledge, and they immediately assume that they can ‘pee with the big boys’, so to speak. Why didn’t the producers of this film start off by making some short cartoons which could’ve been exhibited locally, and also been put up for critical scrutiny by film reviewers, other animators, and other players in the movie business? The team clearly needed to do some walking, before attempting to run.

If poor Percy Fitzpatrick is aware – in some ghoulish, afterlife fashion – of what’s been done to his book, he’ll be spinning rapidly, in all three dimensions, in his grave…