Posts Tagged ‘Zemeckis’

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!

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.