Posts Tagged ‘review’

African Safari 3-D

October 5, 2014
Not a postcard, not a trunk call... nothing! Our hosts get (fortunately) overlooked in this close call in 'African Safari 3-D'.

Not a postcard, not a trunk call… nothing!
Our hosts get (fortunately) overlooked in this dramatically close encounter in ‘African Safari 3-D’.

An Active3D review
Film: African Safari 3-D
Rating: (out of 5)

Experience Africa’s wildlife up-close – really up-close – without risking life and limb, without getting sweaty, and without getting nasty bugs in your hair. That’s the appeal of this 3-D documentary, and on that level, it delivers unfailingly.

The film’s director, Ben Stassen, has involved himself largely with the production and direction of whizz-bang animated shorts for exhibition in “4-D” motion-enhanced fairground rides (such as those that South Africans have experienced at Gold Reef City’s theme park).

In later years, he and his Belgian production outfit, nWave, have expanded into animated theatrical features, but he returns here to a subject that he covered in a 2005 short film; the safari.

This feature-length trek into the wilderness kicks off in the sand dunes of Namibia, meanders through Botswana, stops off at a couple of spots in Zambia, and finally makes quite a meal of Tanzania, which seems to be a haven for wildlifers. Our hosts are the South African “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson and the Kenyan-born Mara Douglas Hamilton, whose field of expertise is the African elephant. The duo also provides the film’s voice-over narration and general chit-chat, and this is the project’s weakest area. Much as I have nothing but the hugest respect for Richardson and his work, movie narration will never be his thing, and he should never have been thrust into that role.  His flattened vowels convert “wildlife” to “warldlarf”, and the accent is quite disconcerting for this South African who has always tried his level best to respect the Queen’s English and avoid the pitfalls of Sarth-Efrikan-speak. Maybe audiences in other countries will find it charming or quaint, but I found it distressing to have our boere-brogue thrust at us from the big screen. The banter that he and his co-host enjoy throughout the film is also banal, off-putting, and sometimes unintentionally comical.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I think that both of these people have taken gigantic strides in increasing our understanding of Africa’s wild animals, and directing international attempts at wildlife preservation. It’s just that the producers should’ve found stronger scriptwriters (well, someone such as yours truly, for example), and given the task of narration to someone with authority and masterful diction (Jeremy Irons, perhaps?).

That said, the film’s 3-D visuals are truly spectacular, and it’s safe to say that you’ll probably never get this close to wild animals without (a) losing life or limb, or (b) soiling your smalls.

Lions brush past the 3-D camera, so close that you’ll believe you can smell the sand on their coats, and – in one particularly showy sequence, an elephant thrusts his (or her) trunk way out of the screen frame and deep into cinema-space.

Some shots in hyperstereo (i.e. with the Left and Right-Eye cameras placed unusually far from one another) are quite distracting and unrealistic. A recurring such shot, for example, is one taken from the front of the safari vehicle, showing our two adventurers.  The 3-D here is horribly exaggerated, as is the opening shot, in which a computer graphic of the earth makes our planet bulge towards us like the long end of an egg. Finally, in the bad egg department, the film embarrasses itself with some “climate change” prattle (hopefully not lots of it) that will even look silly in the near future, which is where it casts its predictions.

That said, this is an eye-filling document of probably the only decent thing that our sorry continent has to offer; its majestic wild animals; creatures that we need to treasure and protect.  The film doesn’t linger long on any one topic or animal, and is thus short on detailed information. It is, however, a good overall picture (and a stereoscopic one at that) of the majesty that roams upon African soil. Which makes a damn pleasant change from the tyranny that rules it.


3-D Blu-ray review: The Nightmare Before Christmas

June 29, 2012

[Released on 3-D Blu-ray in South Africa by Disney/Ster-Kinekor]

Rating: ***½ (out of 5)

Bonus features rating: *****

This 1993 stop-frame animation feature (converted – in 2008, I believe – to 3-D) tells of Jack Skellington from Halloween Land, who covets the conventions of Christmas (decorations, presents, Santa, etc) and inspires his peers to hijack Christmas. The trigger for this story came to its creator, Tim Burton, whilst he was watching a department store change their window display from a Halloween to a Christmas theme. The sight of this conceptual crossover prompted Burton to write a poem – a send-up of the beloved ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (‘Twas The Night Before Christmas). Next was the movie (see Bonus Feature # 2, below].

Although this is widely regarded to be “a Tim Burton movie” and is undeniably his brainchild, Burton was very busy with other projects at the time, so the director’s duties were handed to Henry Selick, who more recently gave us that superior stop-frame animated 3-D movie, Coraline. The project couldn’t have been put in safer hands.

Nightmare is a musical; a bizarre crossover between Sondheim and Gilbert & Sullivan, with songs by Danny Elfman, who’s perhaps best known for the theme of the TV show The Simpsons, though he’s also provided magical scores for numerous A-list Hollywood movies. He has almost exclusively scored Burton’s movies, and I would venture that these films would’ve been diminished without Elfman’s whimsical, eccentric input. And here’s a bit of trivia: the head you see inside the street band’s double bass is modelled upon Elfman – oh, and Elfman also provided Jack Skellington’s singing voice, as Chris Sarandon, who voiced the lead character, wasn’t confident with the singing.

The Disney company had initially released The Nightmare Before Christmas under their more adult Touchstone banner – understandable, as I wouldn’t recommend this gothic tale for the wee ones. This wicked, difficult-to-pigeonhole conceit is certainly entertaining, and it’s unique enough to warrant collecting, even though it doesn’t, in my book, make the ‘classic’ league.

Bonus features: These accompany the 2-D Blu-ray version of the film on the second disc of this set:

1) Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour
Every year from mid-October to January, DisneyLand’s Haunted Mansion ride gets Nightmare Before Christmas-themed. This extra gives you two options; the “On Track” (i.e the ride as seen from your ride buggy) and “Off Track”, which is a 37-minute documentary on the Nightmare Before Christmas-reboot of the ride; something that, as a Disney purist, I’m not wild about, incidentally. The “On Track” option allows for selectable trivia subtitles.

2) Tim Burton’s Original Poem
Read by the horror legend Christopher Lee, and accompanied by Burton’s original concept art. Well worth a visit.

3) Selectable Audio Commentary by Tim Burton, Henry Selick and Danny Elfman 

4) Selectable On-Screen Introduction by Tim Burton
This is no more than a sentence, during which Burton reassures us that this high-definition rendition of the film captures the artists’ every nuance.

5) Frankenweenie
Burton’s half-hour-long 1984 black & white short. It could be said that Burton was propelled him into the world of feature filmmaking on the reputation of this film. Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall play the parents of a boy who decides to resurrect his beloved dead dog, Sparky. Naturally, their surname is Frankenstein… This silly yet still quite stirring little Frankenstein homage is worth the price of the disc alone.
Look out for Burton’s feature-length, stop-frame reboot of Frankenweenie – in 3-D yet – later this year.

6) Vincent
A wildly expressionistic 1982 black and white cartoon by Tim Burton, about a young lad called Vincent Malloy who has macabre fantasies about being like the horror legend Vincent Price. Naturally, it’s narrated by Vincent Price himself…

7) Deleted Storyboard Sequences

8) Deleted Animated Sequences
Some interesting material here.

9)  The Making of Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
A 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

10) The World of Tim Burton’s  ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
a) Concept artwork on Halloween Town, Christmas Town and The Real World (within the movie, that is!),
b) A storyboard-to-film comparison sequence,
c) Posters and trailers. 

Soundtrack options: 
English 7.1 Dolby True HD
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
English 2.0 Dolby Surround Audio Descriptive
French 5.1 DTS-HD HR
Italian 5.1 DTS
German 5.1 DTS-HD HR
Spanish 5.1 DTS