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Monday, August 31, 2009

Cinematography For Directors Book Review

Cinematography For Directors

Published By Michael Wiese Productions

Released August 1st, 2009

Page count: 277 pages

Cinematography For Directors

By Jacqueline B. Frost



Cinematography For Directors Book Review By Erin V.

This book has a nice balance between handy tips, examples (with pictures) from commonly known films, as well as technical information on camera types. And that’s what really works about this book. The information is presented in a retainable way, for both those versed and not yet versed in the language of cinematography.

In order to read this book though, you would have to have at least some interest in how films are made. If so, this is a good starting book with loads of information. I personally find the subject matter fascinating, and the book layout fresh and easily readable.

This is a valuable book for both professional cinematographers and directors, as well as for beginners/those looking to see if they want to get into the cinematography field.


To find out more about Cinematography For Directors, and other books, visit Michael Wiese Production's website here.

The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Book Review

Released July 1st, 2009

Page count: 272 pages

Size: 11 x 9

The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Films

(Text) By Frank Parisi and Gary Scheppke

Introduction By Dave Filoni

Foreword By George Lucas

Published By Chronicle Books, July 2009

Distributed by Raincoast Books in Canada




The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Book Review By John C.

Released in theatres a year ago this past month (August 15th), Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a film that I enjoyed. The animation was not as smooth as it could have been, but this companion book to the film makes you appreciate the character and set design, even if the final animation wasn’t as great as it could have been.

The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is written by Frank Parisi and Gary Sheppke with a forward by George Lucas and an introduction by Clone Wars director Dave Filoni. This is a must have for fans of the Clone Wars movie, TV series, or just fans of Star Wars in general.


The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Book Review By Erin V.

The comic book style visuals of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, lends itself particularly well to a book like this one. While the movie got mixed reviews from critics, the television series has been fairly well received, (complete first season coming on DVD November 2nd of this year), and there is a fan base that would definitely want this book in their collection.

With a foreword by George Lucas and an introduction by Dave Filoni, this 272 page book is filled with hundreds of pictures of concept art from various stages of development - (including a few pieces from the original Star Wars films) - as well as loads of information just waiting to be memorized by fans. Because like all of these art books, it is the fans who will want to delve further into the world of the films they love.

All in all, from an art perspective, this book is worth having, and from a Star Wars fan perspective, this is an essential book for their collection.


To find out more about The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, see here, (USA Amazon page). You can read our selective reviews of the film here, and an interview with the musical score composer here, and a review of the film's score here.

[UPDATE] Special Announcement: Disney to acquire Marvel Entertainment

Disney is in final negotiations to acquire Marvel Entertainment, as was reported in a press release this morning, for a stock and cash transaction worth about $4 billion. Read the full press release here.

What I am curious to know is how this will affect the Marvel Entertainment movies, which are all already set up at different studios. (X-Men at 20th Century Fox, Iron Man at Paramount and Spider-man at Sony). Those three studios all have movies with those characters in various stages of development. I don't think they will change distributors, but they will likely have to pay character royalties to Disney.

[UPDATE] Well, it looks like I have my answer. According to an article recently published on Tribute.ca, Marvel's deals with different film companies will continue to be valid.

-John C.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Report from "Tron Legacy" panel at Fan Expo, plus Q & A with co-producer Justin Springer

By John C.

I just got back from Fan Expo at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, where I attended the Tron Legacy panel. The presentation started with an introduction by the Space channel’s Ajay Fry. Then the co-producer of Tron Legacy, Justin Springer, came out and spoke about the upcoming film, and showed a slide show of concept art, which included 2 slow motion videos of the martial artists who provided the stunts for the disc fight scenes. He also unveiled an exclusive clip where Sam Flynn (Garett Hedlund) goes into an old arcade and finds the Tron game. After that they showed the Light Cycle test sequence which can be viewed online here, but was very cool to see on a big screen. He also took questions from the audience. All in all, this looks like it will be an awesome film. All press attending the event also received a very nice promotional Tron Legacy t-shirt. (Pictured to the right)

Here is the brief interview that I did with Justin Springer afterwards:

My first question is, what is the estimated budget for the film?

We definitely don’t talk about budgets for the movie, so I definitely can’t give you that answer. Sorry.

Will there be a re-release of the original Tron?

Disney will definitely do something with it, I don’t really know what they’re planning marketing wise, whether it will be a theatrical release or a DVD re-release, I’m not exactly sure. But I think they’ll definitely do something with the original film.

How do you think this compares to another big, anticipated film like Avatar which also has a lot of special effects and CG?

I’m really excited to see Avatar - I think it will be pretty tremendous. We used a lot of similar technologies, there are certain things that they did in their movie, that we’re doing in our movie. They’re both shot in 3D, there are a lot of similarities in the technological process for both movies. But I don’t know, I’m independently excited to see both movies.

So am I... So what is the exact release date of Tron Legacy?

The movie hasn’t been dated yet, so it’s up in the air, hopefully we’ll know that soon. We're hoping it will be released at the end of 2010.

Okay, ‘cause you kept saying 16-18 months from now.

Yeah. Which is around then. We’re just putting it out there.

I look forward to it. Thanks!


On the main floor of Fan Expo, they have a very cool model of the Light Cycle which rotates on a turntable. Trust me, it’s the best thing in the whole exposition:

Pictured below is the program book for Fan Expo, the posters I got from E1’s booth, the very cool flashing Green Lantern ring I got from the DC Comics' booth, and the 9 postcards from Alliances’ booth.

Fan Expo started today, and runs through Saturday and Sunday. You can get more information here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Duplicity DVD Review

Duplicity - A Universal Pictures Release


On DVD: August 25th, 2009

Rated G

Running time: 125 minutes

Tony Gilroy (dir.)

Tony Gilroy (writer)

James Newton Howard (music)

Clive Owen as Ray Koval

Julia Roberts as Claire Stenwick

Tom Wilkinson as Howard Tully

Paul Giamatti as Richard Garsik

Our reviews below:


Duplicity DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Tony Gilroy’s second film, after Michael Clayton, is a smart and cool spy vs. spy romantic-comedy. The Best Picture nominated Michael Clayton was a brilliant masterwork, but also very different than this film. It was a thriller, while Duplicity never has any real sense of danger. The mood is always light and fun.

It’s a story of corporate espionage, that travels the globe and is told in flashbacks. Paul Giamatti is hilarious as the head of Equikrom, and Tom Wilkinson is perfectly cast as the head of Burkett Randle. The two rival companies are spying on each other, with Equikrom trying to steal Burkett Randle's secret new product. The spies are played by Clive Owen (Equikrom), and Julia Roberts (Burkett Randle). What makes it more complicated is that they're in love with each other.

The film is at times confusing, but it’s all part of the fun. The dialogue is very smart, the cinematography is excellent, and it’s just so much fun to see Clive Owen and Julia Roberts playing off each other. The big twists are unpredictable and very cool.

The sole bonus feature on the DVD is audio commentary by writer/director Tony Gilroy and co-producer/editor John Gilroy.


Duplicity DVD Review By Erin V.

***3/4 (out of 4)

In Duplicity, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play a former CIA, and a former MI6 agent, (respectively), who go undercover in a great game of corporate espionage for two companies - Equikrom, and Burkett•Randle. The head of Equikrom, played perfectly by Paul Giamatti is trying to find out whatever Burkett•Randle’s secret project is. Tom Wilkinson plays the head of that company. This leads to everyone suspecting everyone else, and trusting no one. The thing is, even our two former spies have their own agenda. All very confusing on the first viewing and almost impossible to explain without giving too much away, it turns into a lot of intelligent, convoluted fun.

The actors are all wonderfully cast in this movie, with all of the well known stars turning in great performances. The music by James Newton Howard is just great and really sets the mood with it’s theme based variations. The story is just complex enough to confuse, yet still able to be followed, (albeit carefully). As this is my second viewing, I was pleased to see that I had just as much fun, (if not more), watching it again, despite already knowing the ending. I would definitely recommend getting this one - it is a lot of fun.


Duplicity DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Duplicity is a fun and exciting comedy about two ex-spies in a corporate battle over a health care product. Ray, a former MI6 agent, works for Equikrom. Clare, a former CIA agent, works as a double agent for Equikrom, and rival company Burkett-Randle. Their relationship together leads them on a hilarious quest to steal a secret personal care product from Burkett-Randall, and sell it to a Swiss dealer. The movie builds up to an exciting climax, where as the title suggests, things aren’t always what they seem!

I really liked Duplicity. The acting is great, the story is clever and full of surprises, and the score by James Newton Howard is really fun.

The DVD contains a commentary track with director

Duplicity is a fun romantic spy comedy that is worth owning on DVD.


Duplicity DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Duplicity is a fast-paced, intelligent, very entertaining tale of corporate espionage and “spy vs. spy” romance.

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are wonderful to watch as corporate spies, Claire and Ray. The energy and quick wit between them is exciting and believable.

Duplicity is the kind of movie where you really need to pay attention if you want to stay on top of who is double crossing whom. It’s hard to describe the plot-line without giving away too much and spoiling the many twists and turns. Suffice to say that this is about a corporate war between two rival companies, Burkett-Randle and Equikrom. The ending of “Duplicity” is really good.

If you like romantic, spy movies “Duplicity” is a fun choice. Renting it would be fine, but owning it means it can be watched more than once. This one’s a classic.


Duplicity DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Known mainly as the screenwriter for the Bourne trilogy, Tony Gilroy wrote and also directed Michael Clayton and Duplicity. Doing research for the Bourne films, he noted how rapidly government agents were being hired away after only a few years of service to feed the growth in industrial espionage. Duplicity treats this subject with a light touch free of the life and death foreboding of Michael Clayton. Ray (Clive Owen) works for Equikrom, which is trying to steal a secret formula from arch-rival Burkett & Randle, in which Claire (Julia Roberts) is an Equikrom mole. They hope to grab it for themselves and retire together.

The film is full of witty dialogue, not only for the principals but also the rest of the strong cast, particularly Tom Wilkinson as the serene B.&R. boss and Paul Giamatti as his sleazy paranoid arch-rival. Excellent camera work with some of the best uses of split-screen since the original Thomas Crown Affair and a brilliant score from James Newton Howard help make Duplicity a joy to watch.


Consensus: ***1/2 (Out of 4)

Sunshine Cleaning DVD Review

Sunshine Cleaning - An E1 Films Release


On DVD: August 25th, 2009

Rated 14A for disturbing content and coarse language

Running time: 91 minutes

Christine Jeffs (dir.)

Megan Holley (writer)

Michael Penn (music)

Amy Adams as Rose Lorkowski

Emily Blunt as Norah Lorkowski

Alan Arkin as Joe Lorkowski

Jason Spevack as Oscar Lorkowski

Steve Zahn as Mac

Jason Spevack, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin in Sunshine Cleaning

- An E1 Films Release

Our reviews below:


Sunshine Cleaning DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Sunshine Cleaning is the story of two sisters, Rose and Norah Lorkowski (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt), who start their own business in the field of crime scene cleanup. Rose used to be a popular cheerleader, but now has a son and is still sleeping with her old high school boyfriend. Norah is a slacker. They get into the business of post-crime cleanup only because they need the money.

If you can get past the gore of the crime scenes, which is depicted in a few sequences, the overall film really is an uplifting and very moving experience. As the movie progresses it stops being so much about the crime scenes as it is about the two sisters reaching out to the victims of the tragedies. And through this, they are able to come to terms with something tragic that happened in their past.

The scenes between Rose’s son Oscar (Jason Spevack), and his grandpa (Alan Arkin), are very sweet. And the actors/characters are, for the most part, genuinely likable. I found it to have undertones of the excellent Is Anybody There?, and the way they start to reach out to the victims reminded me a bit of the Japanese masterpiece Departures. Although in comparison, it’s not as solid a film. Sunshine Cleaning may not be perfect, but it’s redeeming qualities far out weigh any of it’s problems. I really liked this movie a lot.

The DVD includes audio commentary featuring writer Megan Holley and producer Glenn Williamson, and the featurette “A Fresh Look at a Dirty Business”.


Sunshine Cleaning DVD Review By Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

In Sunshine Cleaning, Rose, (Amy Adams), is a single mom who works as a maid in order to earn enough money to look after her 8 year old special needs son. When her former highschool boyfriend, who is a cop, suggests that she could make far more money cleaning up crime scenes, she reluctantly starts the new business, ‘Sunshine Cleaning’, with her younger sister, who’s also in need of work.

Due to the nature of scenes in which characters clean up crime scenes, (even though it’s after the bodies have already been removed), these scenes are quite disgusting. Despite this, the movie does have heart and the rest of the storyline is nice to watch unfold. Particularly nice are the scenes between Rose’s son, and his grandfather, who’s played by Alan Arkin.

The acting is solid throughout this ‘kind of quirky’ film. If you can get past the slightly disgusting scenes, this movie is worth watching. Luckily, it is fairly easy to gauge when those scenes are coming.


Sunshine Cleaning DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Review Coming Soon!


Consensus: *** (Out of 4)

Trouble The Water DVD Review

Trouble The Water - An E1 Films Release


On DVD: August 25th, 2009

Rated PG disturbing content and mature theme

Running time: 96 minutes

Carl Deal (dir.)

Tia Lessin (dir.)

Our reviews below:


Trouble The Water DVD Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

24-year old Kimberly Roberts wasn’t able to evacuate New Orleans before hurricane Katrina hit. So she went out with a camcorder and starting recording footage of the destruction caused by the storm, and interviewed people about how it affected them. What this film achieves is being able to show the human side of the situation, and how their faith, and support for one another were able to get them through.

This isn’t a documentary made by outsiders, it’s filmed by people who were actually affected by the situation. This is a fascinating documentary that held my attention from beginning to end. It’s moving and very powerful.

The DVD includes deleted and extended scenes, and interviews with the directors, subjects, executive producer Danny Glover, and film critic Richard Roeper. It also has the featurette “Trouble The Water at the 2008 Democratic National Convention” and the films theatrical trailer.


Trouble The Water DVD Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

When Hurricane Katrina struck in late August 2005, while many were able to evacuate, many others could not. Those without vehicles had no real means of getting out, and were effectively stranded. That’s the situation Kimberly Roberts found herself in. Armed with a video camera, she captured the moments just before, during, and after the storm on camera.

As a person actually going through the catastrophe of Katrina, filming people’s reactions right then and there, Kimberly has a great advantage in showing us what actually went down. When the National Guard was there - and when they were not...

At the beginning especially, and throughout the film, the camera is shaky. Obviously, when parts of this were starting to be filmed, she could never have known that such a big event was being captured, nor that the footage would end up in a Oscar nominated documentary three years later. I really admire what was made here - which is a very powerful film. This being said, Trouble the Water is definitely worth seeing.


Trouble The Water DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Trouble The Water is a thought provoking film about Hurricane Katrina, and how one of the worst natural disasters in history affected individual lives. One resident, 24 year old Kimberly Roberts, is stranded along with her husband Scott, as she “doesn’t have a set of wheels”. Kimberly decides to make lemons out of lemonade, by filming her and her neighbours’ adventure through this terrible event. We discover that, while some of the more affluent people get support, others, particularly poor African American families, received almost no government support.* However, despite the tragedies we see in this documentary, Trouble The Water is also very uplifting. We see how Katrina brought out the the best in people. Neighbours would invite people into their boats, trucks, cars, and even invite people into their homes. I especially liked Kimberly, a strong positive person, who despite her difficult past, maintains a powerful faith in God.

While some of the strong language in Trouble The Water may make it unsuitable for a classroom, Trouble The Water is a powerful documentary film, that will stay with you forever. This is one film that definitely should be added to your collection.

*A year after Katrina, the richest mainly white downtown neighbourhoods were fixed up, while the poor, suburban and predominately black neighbourhoods were left in ruins.


Trouble The Water DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

It’s no surprise that this is an award winning documentary. Trouble The Water is a powerful, raw and personal look at the terrifying experience of living through Hurricane Katrina and then desperately trying to navigate the bureaucracy that will allow people to rebuild their lives.

The home video footage by Kimberly Roberts of her experience of being trapped in her attic with her family is amazing to watch. This documentary then follows Kimberly and her husband as they try to rebuild their lives.

The strength of Trouble The Water is Kimberly Roberts. Her tough-talking but but extremely positive spirit are what make Trouble The Water compelling to watch. Her faith in God and her instincts as a survivor move her forward in an amazing way. A high point for me was watching her sing her rap song “Amazing”, a story of her troubled youth.

As hard as a lot of this was to watch, it was harder not to watch. There is so much to learn from Trouble The Water. This DVD is definitely worth checking out. Trouble The Water includes conversations with the directors, executive producer Danny Glover and the films subjects.


Trouble The Water DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Review Coming Soon!


Consensus: ***3/4 (Out of 4)

Waterlife DVD Review

Waterlife - A Mongrel Media Release


On DVD: August 25th, 2009

Rated G

Running time: 109 minutes

Kevin McMahon (dir.)

Narrated by Gord Downie

Our reviews below:


Waterlife DVD Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Waterlife is a documentary about the 5 great lakes and how they are all connected and flow into each other. It’s a mildly interesting documentary, but there are just too many negatives and not enough positives. And at 109 minutes, it goes on far too long. Everything the film touches on is very valid, but it’s hard to retain that much information, because there’s just so much stuff all thrown together.

Some of the images in Waterlife are beautiful, but there isn’t enough focus on them. The images of people splashing water on themselves in slow motion just seemed self-indulgent, and they go on for far too long. As do the scenes of animated floating molecules. The technical stuff at the water filtration plants is interesting, but there’s just too much of it.

The DVD includes the theatrical trailer for Waterlife, and the wonderful NFB short film Paddle to the Sea. The 28-minute short is what really makes the disc worth checking out.


Waterlife DVD Review By Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

Waterlife is a documentary about the last great supply of freshwater in the world - the Great Lakes. This film opens with a shot of water in the St. Lawrence river, where a Beluga whale is swimming. The narration by Gord Downie informs us that these great big whales are dieing from cancer, caused by pollutants that have travelled through the water system. In order to find out where they are coming from, we go all the way back through the system to start in Lake Superior, the biggest of the Great Lakes.

From Lake Superior, where the water is still fairly clear, we go next to Lake Michigan, the only Great Lake owned wholly by the USA. At each lake, we stop at factories and small towns along the way, and see where more and more pollutants are added to the once fresh water. On to Lake Huron and Lake Erie, the film continues in it’s same pattern of interviews with the people who live by the lake, and looks at the factory towns. Last, we are shown Lake Ontario. Now, living literally right by Lake Ontario I wanted to see what was said about this lake. Unfortunately, the film which had already gone on a bit too long practically just gave Lake Ontario a few minutes as an afterthought.

While parts of this documentary are certainly interesting, more time is spent on how we have messed up the water system then how we can fix it. Also, the use of slow motion images of people playing in water seems to become excessive by the end. I did like a lot of the underwater shots, and seeing all whales and fish in the water though. One fun scene in the film was when they were releasing captive fish into the lake via a big reverse vacuum tube. It was quite strange to watch, especially since I was unsure what they were doing at first...

Overall, I would recommend Waterlife to check out, although it follows the kind of bland documentary format that is overused nowadays. Maybe a bit too long, but interesting nonetheless. An added bonus is that the disc includes the wonderful short film Paddle to the Sea. I find the disc worth it even just for that feature alone.


Waterlife DVD Review By Nicole

**3/4 (out of 4)

Waterlife is an average documentary about the Great Lakes. The documentary begins by showing a beautiful shot of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River. We then see a man shoot at them with a dart gun to harmlessly take blubber samples. We then are told that a lot of these sensitive creatures are dying of cancer.

We then are brought throughout the Great Lakes, starting at Lake Superior, then heading down into the rest of the Great Lakes. We find out where the various pollutants in the Great Lakes come from, and how they affect each one of us.

We see some fun things, such as seeing live fish being stocked into a lake through a series of tubes, as a Ministry of Natural Resources official scares away the gulls with paint balls. We also meet an Aboriginal woman, who, to raise awareness of the plight of the Great Lakes, carries a bucket of Lake Superior’s water around all the Great Lakes.

Some of the scenes, such as closeups of sewage, or of (dead) fish being cleaned, are not for those who are squeamish.

While a lot of this film is good, it is too slow moving, too technical, and too negative at times to keep engaged. I would have liked to see more of the beauty of the Great Lakes, as well as ways to help the Great Lakes recover. I also would have liked to have seen more of the Canadian side, in particular Lake Ontario, which I can see from my house.

The only bonus feature on this DVD is the excellent NFB short film Paddle to the Sea. Based on the children’s book by Holling C. Holling, this story of a toy canoe that travels from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean is a NFB children’s classic.

Waterlife is worth renting or buying, particularly for Paddle to the Sea.


Waterlife DVD Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

"Waterlife" is an impassioned look at the five Great Lakes and the danger they are in as a result of mankind’s neglect.

There’s a lot of beautiful imagery in this documentary that gives the viewer the sense the Great Lakes are worth protecting. The documentary would have been more compelling had there been more of the underwater and on land footage.

With so much time spent on slow-motion, lingering shots of children playing in sprinklers, people bathing, and close-ups of water drops, it felt like there were two different documentaries happening in the same film. I would have preferred the focus remain on the nature aspect.

This isn’t a bad documentary, just a little too long and distracted at times. I enjoyed the scenery, liked the interviews with aboriginal people and found the music really nice to listen to.

If seeing "Waterlife" makes people think more about protecting the Great Lakes then that’s a good thing. The fact that this DVD includes the classic NFB tale about a little canoe’s travels through the Great Lakes “Paddle to the Sea’ makes it worth checking out.


Waterlife DVD Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Review Coming Soon!


Consensus: **2/3 (Out of 4)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Report From "Avatar Day" in Toronto

By John C.

I just got back from Avatar Day at the Toronto Scotiabank theatre, where I viewed 16-minutes of specially selected footage from the upcoming film, in IMAX 3D. The turnout was good, and the audience was receptive and seemed to really enjoy the footage.

The footage started with an intro from James Cameron. Then we were treated to six scenes from the film. The first one was a scene where the army general (Stephen Lang) was warning his troops of the dangers of the Na’vi. The second showed Jake (Sam Worthington) getting his brain scanned and “becoming” a Na’vi. The third was Jake getting chased through the jungle by an alien creature. The fourth saw Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) fighting off some creatures that were attacking Jake. The fifth was a sort of night time run through the jungle. The sixth one showed Jake taming a dragon-like creature so that he could ride it.

The CGI animation is amazing, and the 3D effect is excellent. The sense of depth is very believable. The backgrounds are extremely realistic, and the way Pandora glows at night is certainly beautiful. As for the Na’vi and other creatures, they have more of an animated look to them. They aren't exactly as photo realistic as I had heard they would be. The dialogue is not always the most believable, but I don’t think that really matters in this type of film.

I have to say, this will certainly be a great film in terms of special effects. I just hope that it doesn’t turn into too much of a good thing. Especially if the rumoured 3-hour plus running time is true. The fanboys are certainly already sold on this, but the bigger question is, how will this appeal to mainstream audiences? One thing’s for sure, the way to view this film will be in IMAX 3D.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story


Release Date: August 21st, 2009 at the AMC Yonge & Dundas

Rated PG for mild thematic elements, smoking images and brief language

Running time: 101 minutes

Gregg V. Sherman (dir.)

Jeff C. Sherman (dir.)

(LtoR) Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and Walt Disney © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Our reviews below:


The Boys Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

Walt Disney once said that for every laugh there should be a tear. While there may be more tears than laughs in The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story, that saying still rings very true. This true story of the brothers close collaboration, but eventual social separation, is very heartbreaking. But it’s also very uplifting considering all the songs they have written. The Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert, were famous for writing some of the most beloved Disney songs of all time. They wrote everything for Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, The New York Worlds Fair theme song It’s a Small World After All, and the list goes on and on.

Anyone who’s deterred from seeing the film thinking it will be a boring documentary comprised only of interviews, need not fear. The film is very well made, and never drags. I was captivated from the beginning right through to the end. The camera work is smooth, never shaky, and it’s beautifully edited and put together. Anyone who’s a fan of classic Disney will enjoy seeing the footage from so many classic films and the archival footage of many Disney legends. What makes it even better is that it’s all set to a score of the classic Sherman brothers’ songs.

The documentary is incredibly touching and moving, and anyone who sees it will no longer be able to listen to any of their songs in quite the same way. You will always remember the artists behind them, and a lot of the songs even take on a deeper meaning and feelings of sadness. Their relationship was strained because they had to work together, but if they hadn’t worked together, these songs may have never been written. And those songs were truly a gift to the world.

It’s more than a documentary, it’s an emotional masterwork that moved me to tears. And it’s one of the best movies of the year. You shouldn’t see this film, you have to see it.


The Boys Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

It is a rare occurrence (I find) to see a documentary this well put together, clear of where it is coming from emotionally, and enjoyable to watch. The Boys succeeded on every level for me. Directed by Jeff Sherman (Robert’s son) and Gregg Sherman (Richard’s son), it is clear that this project was a labour of love for them to make about their fathers'/uncles'.

We are taken through the lives of the Sherman brothers’ sequentially, starting with their father when they were kids. This part is told through interviews with the Sherman brothers’ themselves and old photographs. As the film progresses through their life, it is interesting to hear accounts of the same events through the very different eyes of the two brothers. We see how they came to work together so famously for Walt Disney, but also what happened afterwards. Because of their different personalities, while they worked well musically together, they had trouble getting along at times outside of the studio. As we are taken through their lives, we get a glimpse of who they really are.

While The Boys is a very emotional and moving film, it is also funny at times. Overall, unlike some documentaries with interview after interview of people sitting there discussing something with no real thread holding it all together, this actually follows a storyline - their life. I cared about what I was watching, enjoyed hearing the classic songs and seeing snippets of the movies again, and all around had a good time. This is one documentary that anyone who fondly remembers the Sherman brothers’ songs, or is just into music, should definitely see. I recommend it all the way.


The Boys Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

The Boys is a well made, and fascinating documentary about Disney’s best known song writing duo, the Sherman Brothers. Not only did I get to hear many songs that I so fondly remember, I also enjoyed hearing the story of Robert and Richard Sherman.

We see them in their younger years, find out about how they started their career in music, meet each of their families, and most of all, get a sense of who Richard and Robert really are. Robert Sherman is more shy and sensitive, where as Richard Sherman is more hyperactive and out going. The brother’s different personalities shine through and bring them together musically, but causes them and their families to slowly drift apart outside of the business context.

As an artist coming from a creative family, I found it interesting to see how these two brothers work together as artists. The interviews with the Sherman Brothers are very interesting, and often hilarious, as we get to hear each brother’s account as to what happened in their lives. If you are into music, or the arts in general, then The Boys is a documentary that you will definitely want to see.


The Boys Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

The Boys” is a heartwarming and heartfelt documentary about the legendary songwriting pair, brothers Robert and Richard Sherman. It’s obvious that this film was a labor of love for Robert’s son, Jeff, and Richard’s son Gregg.

The Boys’ chronicles the brothers’ lives right from childhood. With their father Al Sherman being a popular songwriter in the 1930’s it is no surprise that musical talent was in their genes. It was interesting to see how the brothers were so similar in terms of talent yet so different in temperament. It was that difference that ultimately distanced them in latter years. I found it sad to watch how both physically and emotionally frail older brother, Robert seemed compared to his younger brother, Richard with both men being in their eighties.

The documentary goes back an forth between the two brothers each giving their own account of events. There are also many interviews with family members and people in the industry who worked with them. It was delightful seeing individuals such as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke reminisce about “Mary Poppins and other films.

What I loved was the trip down memory lane seeing clips of old and more recent Disney films and hearing the wonderful classic songs that many of us will never forget. If you have ever been a fan of the Sherman brothers work, or a big Disney fan “The Boys” is a must see.


The Boys Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

The Boys is a documentary on the Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard, produced by Robert’s son Jeff and Richard’s son Gregg. For about sixty years they have written many unforgettable songs for films, mainly for the Disney studio, including Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh, as well as the ultimate earworm “It’s a small world after all” written for the 1964 World’s Fair. Beginning a century ago with the immigration from the Ukraine to the U.S. of their father Al Sherman, who was also a successful songwriter, the film follows their lives from birth (Bob in 1925 and Dick in 1928) to the present day.

The Boys is truly a labour of love, with years of preparation brought together by brilliant editing. In a hundred minutes it moves seamlessly back and forth between past and present, with reminiscences of the brothers seen together in previous documentaries and now far apart–Robert living alone in London and Richard with his family in Beverly Hills. Generous film clips and interviews with dozens of colleagues and admirers come exactly where you would want to see them, resulting in a continuous narrative that is never boring. What mainly drives the story is the differences between the brothers that privately kept them and their families apart. Remarkably, though living just a few blocks apart, the cousins Jeff and Gregg didn’t really know each other until they met at the 2002 London premiere of a stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and decided no longer after some forty years to ignore each others’ families.

As some suggested, the way their different personalities complemented each other is what made them successful. Robert was the introverted wordsmith, never the same physically or emotionally after seeing action and Holocaust in the war in which his brother was too young to serve. Robert would sit back and suggest changes to the constant flood of ideas coming out of his extroverted musician brother as he pounded away at the piano. During staged joint public appearances, their personal differences were always hidden by an air of jovial banter. As we go back and forth between current interview segments filmed separately in extreme closeup, their conflicting memories of the same events are at times amusing, but at other times as they are brought to tears we can feel the love between them as brothers never left them even though they couldn’t stand each other.

As a bonus, the mystery of a half century is solved–the role of Roy, the big guy (lampooned by John Candy in an SCTV sketch) who popped up with Jimmy Dodd as the only other adult on the old Mickey Mouse Club.

(LtoR) Richard M. Sherman, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Robert B. Sherman on the set of “Mary Poppins” © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.


Consensus: An extremely well made documentary that is worth going out to see, especially if you love classic Disney. **** (Out of 4)


(LtoR) Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.




Release Date: August 21st, 2009

Rated PG for crude content, not recommended for young children.

Running time: 89 minutes

Robert Rodriguez (dir.)

Robert Rodriguez, and Elizaveth Avellán (prod.)

Robert Rodriguez (Screenwriter)

Robert Rodriguez, Carl Thiel, and George Oldziey (music)

Jimmy Bennett as Toe Thompson

Jake Short as Nose Noseworthy

Kat Dennings as Stacey Thompson

Trevor Gagnon as Loogie

Devon Gearlart as Cole Black

Jolie Vanier as Helvetica Black

Revle Rodriguez as Lug

Leo Howard as Laser

Leslie Mann as Mom

Jon Cryer as Dad Thompson

William H. Macy as Dr. Noseworthy

James Spader as Mr. Black

Angela Lanza as Teacher

Alejandro Rose-Garcia as John/Boyfriend

Cambell Westmoreland as Blinker #1

Zoe Webb as Blinker #2

Chris Orf as Goofy Host

Tina Rodriguez as Female Employee

Jack Hurst as Male Employee

Jonathan Breck as Security Guard

Racer Rodriguez as Bully #1

Rocket Rodriguez as Bully #2

Elizaveth Avellán as Voice of the Baby

and Bianca Rodriguez as the Baby


(L-r) JOLIE VANIER as Helvetica Black, DEVON GEARHART as Cole Black, JIMMY

BENNETT as Toe Thompson, RACER RODRIGUEZ as Bully #1 and ROCKET

RODRIGUEZ as Bully #2 in Warner Bros. Pictures’ magical fantasy adventure

“Shorts.” Photo by Van Redin

Our reviews below:


Shorts Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

After the excellent first two Spy Kids films and the alright, but not as good, third Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lavagirl, Robert Rodriguez blasts back into action with Shorts. Like his other films for all audiences, this one is also imaginative, inventive and totally original. I thought it was about as good as the first two parts of the Spy Kids trilogy, and that’s really saying something. Especially considering that I didn’t walk in expecting all that much.

Shorts takes place in the made-up town of Black Falls Community, where everyone works for the Black Box company, which manufactures black cubes that can transform into pretty much any gadget you need. Three brothers (Laser, Lug and Loogie) find a mysterious rock at the end of a rainbow that can grant any wish they want. The wishing rock subsequently ends up in the hands of Tobey Thompson (Jimmy Bennet), who is always being picked on by the school bullies, Cole and Helvetica Black (Devon Gearhart and Jolie Vanier), who are the kids of Carbon Black (James Spader) who heads the Black Box Corporation. The many different story lines are all connected in some way or another by the mysterious rock.

The story is told in 6 out of order parts. The fractured narrative is done very well, and will only be confusing to younger kids and those not paying attention. The way each segment connects with the previous one is very clever and inventive. The movie plays as part kids fantasy-adventure and part technological satire. It’s smart entertainment for both kids and adults. The scenes at The Black Box Corporation are especially great.

There have been some really good live-action films this summer that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, this is definitely one of them, along with G-Force. Robert Rodriguez has once again created a fun, fantasy world where literally anything can happen. Take the whole family to see Shorts in theatres. It’s a great way to end the summer.


Shorts Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Shorts: The Adventures of the Wishing Rock - called Shorts for short - this is a fun family film told out of sequence in a series of shorts, hence the title.

Narrated by lead character, Toby (Toe) Thompson, this method is not at all confusing if you watch along carefully. It follows the adventures of the residents of Black Falls community. In Black Falls, everyone works for Mr. Carbon Black, the maker of the Black Box - which is a small electronic device that is everything from a calculator to a toaster... The scene in the office of Mr. Black, featuring the rival purple triangle and silver cylinder, (see picture below), is one of my favorites.

When three brothers in the community find a wishing rock at the beginning of a rainbow, they inadvertently misuse it’s powers before their baby sister informs them that they should throw it away. Unfortunately, it keeps on turning up again, in the hands of various members of the community. When Toby finds it, he uses it to try to make his life better, as he is bullied at school a lot, by the daughter and son of Mr. Black himself. The problem is, a wishing rock like this can easily end up in the wrong hands... But who’s hands are the right ones anyway?

Shorts is a great family adventure. It is loads of fun, and despite how silly it gets at times, in the community of Black Falls and all of it’s eccentric people, we can actually believe that it makes sense. This is the kind of movie that is a fun treat to end the Summer with. The acting is good from the whole cast, the music is a lot of fun, and the special effects are quite cool, considering the production size. Robert Rodriguez once again displays his master at storytelling by leading us to not only believe, (in a sense), but follow along with this partially ‘out of sequence’, yet quite clever story. Gather up the whole family and go see this one in theatres.


Shorts Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Once again, Robert Rodriguez has created a fun, quirky little gem that is great for the entire family. This film takes place in an imaginary suburb named Black Falls, so named because everyone works for the company Black Box Unlimited Worldwide Industries Incorporated. This company creates an electronic device that that can turn into whatever electronic thing you need.

Things start to get interesting when a rainbow coloured rock falls from the sky. One of the residents, 11 year old Toby (Toe) Thompson finds the rock. The rock is actually a wishing rock, found at the beginning of the rainbow. Toby wishes for friends, to defend him from the bullies at school. He ends up with tiny aliens, who know martial arts. Through a series of short flashback segments, narrated by Toby, we see all the quirky things that happen when each of the Black Falls residents get hold of the rock. There are crocodiles that can walk like people, a giant booger monster, a wise baby, as well as Toby;s parents getting stuck together. But disaster strikes when the bullies, son and daughter of Black Box Inc.’s president Carbon Black, get hold of the rock. Once the rock gets in the hands of their father, watch out! Can the kids restore things before the adults ruin everything?

I really enjoyed Shorts. The acting is good, and the characters are all really funny. The storyline, while totally off the wall, is well written, fun, and very original. The way that all the little details come together is just brilliant. Everything about this film worked for me. I liked the underlying messages too, about overuse of technology, increasing self centredness, and the importance of family and community. With no objectionable content, and no frightening scenes, this movie is nothing but pure, manic fun for the whole family.


Shorts Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

What happens when Robert Rodriguez gets hold of a magical wishing rock? He gets the kind of movie any filmmaker would wish for. “Shorts - Adventures of the Wishing Rock” is an energetic, full of fun, family fantasy adventure movie. In short, it’s really good.

The story is told in a series of out of sequence shorts narrated by the lead character, 11 year old Toby (Toe) Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). Toby lives in Black Falls with his older sister and his parents who are employed at Black Box Industries. Toby is the constant target of bullies and his life starts to get really interesting once he finds a rainbow coloured wishing rock. The rock ends up changing hands throughout the movie with one wish leading to another and all kinds of crazy things happening including mini-aliens, flying crocodiles and a booger monster.

The nice thing about Shorts is that the fast -pace and far, out adventures all connect well and keep the story making sense. The ending message about working together being more powerful than wishing alone makes this a good family choice.

Both kids and adults will enjoy all the special effects. The acting is good all around and the score that Robert Rodriguez composed worked really well to keep the sense of fun and adventure going.

If you like high energy, fun movies, go see ‘Shorts

This one’s a winner for the whole family.


Shorts Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based in Austin TX, over the past two decades Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellán have produced a number of successful films, and six kids. Along with violent cult films such as the El Mariachi trilogy, Sin City and Grindhouse, the last with his friend Quentin Tarentino, Robert Rodriguez has directed several family features to amuse and involve his own growing family–the Spy Kids trilogy and The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lavagirl in 3-D, the latter based on ideas from his son Racer. He has also written many of his films and served as chief cameraman and composer. With extensive use of digital technology and CGI, he has a good track record for efficiency and thrift which attracts talent that will work for less than usual, knowing that for a modest time commitment including perhaps some babysitting they will have fun and come out with something good. Shorts departs from the Latino character of previous films without Rodriguez regulars like Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo.

The first two Spy Kids films were brilliant, rich with images that were at once sophisticated and childlike, that delighted kids and their parents alike. As an adult I didn’t care as much for the two 3-D kids films that followed, and based on the three trailers available on Apple.com I thought that Shorts might also have an appeal limited to pre-teens. We were pleasantly surprised. In some ways Shorts may be the best of the lot. The title refers to the way the film is divided into episodes that are shown out of sequence–0,2,1,4,3,5–that some may find confusing but make sense when you see it.

The discovery of a rainbow-covered rock that grants wishes to anyone holding it changes the lives of a company town where the ruthless Mr. Black (James Spader) produces handheld black devices that can transform into everything useful. Main character and narrator Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) is being bullied by Cole Black (Devon Gearhart) and his sister Helvetica (Hel for short, played by Jolie Vanier). Toe has a teenage sister (Kat Dennings) and parents (Jon Cryer & Leslie Mann) who find themselves on rival development teams for the new Black do-all device–the loser facing immediate dismissal and banishment. Others who come into brief possession of the wishing rock include three brothers (with an all-wise telepathic baby sister played by the youngest Rodriguez) and the top Black researcher (William H. Macy), a germophobe who lives with his son in a house sealed up in plastic.

It may all sound silly but is dazzling in its imagination and effects. Adults will be delighted by the satirical undertone. For example, the large X promoting the new black box reminded me of both a gaming device and a rival’s operating system and countless handheld apps. Even at home Toe’s parents communicate by texting each other, until an inadvertent wish brings them together like Siamese twins.



JAMES SPADER as Mr. Black in Warner Bros. Pictures’ magical fantasy adventure “Shorts.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


Consensus: Another great family movie from the director of Spy Kids, Robert Rodriguez. Shorts is a lot of fun, and would make for a great end of Summer movie to see with the family in theatres. ***1/2 (Out of 4)



Lug (REBEL RODRIGUEZ, left) and Laser (LEO HOWARD, right) watch as Loogie

(TREVOR GAGNON) closes his eyes to make a wish on the Rainbow Rock in Warner Bros. Pictures’ magical fantasy adventure “Shorts.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures