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Sunday, January 31, 2010

IFMCA Announces its Nominees

With the Grammy's tonight, many people are thinking about music. But the Grammy's are for all kinds of music - not just film. For those with an interest in film music in particular, you might be interested in this:


The IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association) announced their nominees on Friday. You can read them at their site here: http://filmmusiccritics.org/


Who has the most nominations?


By a long shot Michael Giacchino. With the most nominations for a single composer in a given year since the awards began, he is nominated this year 9 times, in 7 categories, for Star Trek, Up, TV show Lost, and the documentary, Earth Days. Like at the Grammy's, Star Trek and Up once again have to compete for two awards. The two categories in question are the top prize of Film Score of the Year, and Film Composition of the Year, where both the pieces "Enterprising Young Men" from Star Trek, and "Married Life" from Up are nominated - these are both exceptional pieces for sure.


The five film scores in the running for "Film Score of the Year" are:


Avatar

Drag Me To Hell

Star Trek

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Up


The nominees for:


"Film Composer of the Year" are; Alexandre Desplat, Michael Giacchino, James Horner, Brian Tyler, and Christopher Young.


"Breakout Composer of the Year" are; Henry Jackman, Abel Korzeniowski, James Peterson, Clinton Shorter, and Austin Wintory.


"Best Original Score for an Animated Feature" are; Alan Silvestri, Bruno Coulais, Alexandre Desplat, Randy Newman, and Michael Giacchino.


The winners will be announced at the 6th annual awards on February 26th, 2010. To read about the rest of the nominations, please go here.


- E. Corrado

Announcement - Grammy Award Winners For Film

Since there are so many award categories, many of the Grammy Award winners were announced online earlier today in the pre-televised portion - the broadcasted awards are running right now on CBS.


Read below if you would like to know what the film winners are now! (Winners are in bold)

For: Field 20 - Film/TV/Visual Media:


Category 81 - Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media


Cadillac Records

Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds

Slumdog Millionaire

True Blood

Twilight


Category 82 - Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media


The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Disc 1) - Alexandre Desplat, composer

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince - Nicholas Hooper, composer

Milk - Danny Elfman, composer

Star Trek - Michael Giacchino, composer

Up - Michael Giacchino, composer


Category 83 - Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media


The Climb (From Hannah Montana: The Movie)

Decode (From Twilight)

Jai Ho (From Slumdog Millionaire)

Once In A Lifetime (From Cadillac Records)

The Wrestler (From The Wrestler)


And then, in ‘Field 21 - Composing/Arranging’, Michael Giacchino had two nominations. Here's how he faired there:


In "Category 84 - Best Instrumental Composition", the track Married Life from Up won it's nomination, although in "Category 85 - Best Instrumental Arrangement", Up With End Credits, ended up being beaten by the West Side Story Medley from Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson.


So, to sum it up, both Up, and Slumdog Millionaire took home two awards for their music. I'm also glad to see that Michael Giacchino didn't cancel himself out being nominated twice in the best score soundtrack album category.


You can read the full list of nominees and winners here, and you can read my original thoughts on the nominations here.


-E. Corrado

The Art of The Princess and the Frog - Book Review

Released December 2009

Page count: 160 pages

Size: 9” x 12”


The Art of The Princess and the Frog

(Text) By Jeff Kurtti

Preface By John Lasseter

Foreword By Directors John Musker and Ron Clements

Published By Raincoast Books


www.raincoast.com


- This review is in a series running this week and next, leading up to the Oscar nominations on Feb. 2nd. The series includes a profile of 8 books relating to past and present films, as well as the filmmaking process. Check out these titles to get a better understanding of what goes into the art of film.

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The Art of The Princess and the Frog Book Review By John C.

The Art of The Princess and the Frog is a gorgeous visual companion to Disney’s beautiful 2D animated film. It includes concept art for the characters, showing how they created the right look for each one, and talks about how they captured the look of New Orleans during the jazz era.


One of my favourite parts of the book has to be the section on the Bayou. Where they talk about how they got the perfect look for probably my favourite character - the jazz-playing alligator, Louis.


The “Art of” books are always nice to look through, but are especially worth it for animated films, when they are able to supply an abundance of concept art. The Art of The Princess and the Frog is a beautiful book that’s worth adding to your collection.

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The Art of The Princess and the Frog Book Review By Erin V.

Disney’s return to the classic 2D style of animation this past December was a success in my mind. The Princess and the Frog was a gorgeous film, with a great soundtrack and fun storyline. The film is nominated at the Annie (animation) Awards, which take place next Saturday, in multiple categories. Also, come Tuesday, the film will probably garner at least a nomination in the Best Animated category at the Oscars.


But what makes this film so special to watch? The answer is the love and care put into the beautiful animation. The art and visual style designed for the film is captured wonderfully here in this collection of pieces from the production stages.


The simple and fluid way that the frogs move, is rooted in their design. The simplicity makes them easier to animate, since they have to be drawn by several people again and again, and allows them to move more smoothly. An interesting study in this for other creatures, is the character Louis. An alligator doesn’t lend itself to a fluid line drawing all that easily, but Eric Goldberg, who worked on his design, masterfully made it work.


Certainly, this book will be enjoyed by fans of classic Disney, as well as artists - especially those wishing to get started in 2D animation. It is filled with great concept pieces from the design of the characters, to the stunning background environments created to envision the feeling of being in the Bayou. This is definitely a book to add to your collection.

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To find out more about The Art of The Princess and the Frog, or other books, visit Raincoast’s website here.

The Art of Avatar: James Cameron’s Epic Adventure - Book Review

Released November 2009

Page count: 108 pages

Size: 12” x 10”


The Art of Avatar: James Cameron’s Epic Adventure

(Text) By Lisa Fitzpatrick

Preface By Peter Jackson

Foreword By Jon Landau

Epilogue By James Cameron

Published By Abrams Books


www.abramsbooks.com


- This review is in a series running this week and next, leading up to the Oscar nominations on Feb. 2nd. The series includes a profile of 8 books relating to past and present films, as well as the filmmaking process. Check out these titles to get a better understanding of what goes into the art of film.

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The Art of Avatar Book Review By John C.

The Art of Avatar is a beautiful visual companion to the film that everyone’s talking about. With full-page concept photos, and descriptions of each of the creatures, this make for a very interesting read, no matter what level of obsession you have for the film.


It’s very interesting to see how the look of all the creatures, including the Na’Vi, has changed to finally become what we see on-screen. It also gives us a very nice insight into the groundbreaking special effects.

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The Art of Avatar Book Review By Erin V.

James Cameron’s Avatar is breaking box office records, and looks to be on it’s way to several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, this Tuesday morning. Whether or not it deserves to win the grand prize has been debated by many, but the one thing that most can agree on, is that the film is visually stunning and would deserve a design award.


The world of Pandora created for the film is certainly a visual achievement, one that is accentuated in The Art of Avatar. What I really found amazing about the film, was not so much the animation process, nor the 3D, both of which were astounding, but rather, the design process. A fantasy film like this, if not designed properly, will fail. Had the designs for the moon Pandora not been done with such precisional trial and error, I don’t think the film would have succeeded like it did. You see, the story of Avatar in itself is fairly classic in it’s nature - it is for the visuals that we are captivated largely into this world.


The use of colour and translucency here is what really makes it so visually appealing. That, and the creatures and plants in the world are both new and familiar at the same time - another fine balance a film like this must find. As this book shows us the design process from early concept sketches to almost finished computer renderings, we can really come to appreciate what the graphic artists have done for this film. This is definitely a book that anyone into Avatar, or the art and graphic design world, will enjoy immensely.

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To find out more about The Art of Avatar, or other books, visit Abrams Books’ website here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Movie Review: When in Rome

When in Rome - A Touchstone Pictures Release

http://touchstone.movies.go.com/wheninrome/

Release Date: January 29th, 2009

Rated PG language may offend

Running time: 85 minutes


Mark Steven Johnson (dir.)


David Diamond (writer)

David Weissman (novel)


Christopher Young (music)


Kristen Bell as Beth

Josh Duhamel as Nick

Anjelica Huston as Celeste

Will Arnett as Antonio

Jon Heder as Lance

Dax Shepard as Gale


(l to r) Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel in When in Rome

Photo: Myles Aronowitz SMPSP "© Touchstone Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved."


Our reviews below:

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When in Rome Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

When Beth goes from New York to Rome for her little sisters wedding, she falls for a friend of the groom, Nick, who just happens to be a sports writer from New York. When she thinks she sees him kissing someone else, she drunkenly grabs 4 coins and a poker chip from the Fontana di Amore. Which, according to legend, causes the five guys who threw in the coins to automatically start stalking whoever pulled them out. Naturally, every coin that she pulled out belongs to a tourist from New York.


The movie stars Kirsten Bell and Josh Duhamel, two leads that will likely draw in huge revenues of ticket sales. The side characters are played by Will Arnett, Dax Shepard and Danny Devito. Jon Heder is also in the film as a street magician, and as an added touch, “Pedro” has a cameo as well. They all play as well as they can with the material they’re given, clearly having fun with the roles.


Most surprising about When in Rome is that it’s actually alright. It’s pure ridiculousness makes it by no means great, but surprisingly more interesting than some other films in the romantic-comedy genre. This isn’t a great rom-com, but I’ve definitely seen worse.


Though the “bouncing vase” may have been slightly amusing the first time I saw it, it’s been played to death so many times in the oft seen trailers, that it was already stale by the time I saw the movie. If you’ve seen the trailers enough times, than you’ll know when some of the lines are coming.


Though some of the slapstick is pretty stupid, and the story is predictable, When in Rome succeeds on the level of a lighthearted date-movie, that supplies for some mild entertainment. And as an added bonus, no wedding cakes fall victim to destruction.

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When In Rome Review By Erin V.

*** (out of four)

When in Rome is a fun romantic comedy that comes out in perfect time for Valentine’s Day. What I really liked is that this is a genuinely nice, lighthearted, romantic comedy, that is neither cynical, nor rude.


When Beth (Kristen Bell), a workaholic, goes to Rome for little sister’s wedding, she feels that she is too busy to fall in love. There though, she meets the best man, Nick (Josh Duhamel), and starts to have feelings for him. Believing he already has a girlfriend though, she finds herself randomly picking up coins in the Fontana di Amore, that various men have thrown in to wish for love. Thinking nothing of taking a few coins, she returns to New York City, only to find that the owners of these coins have all now fallen madly in love with her, and won’t leave her alone.


Sure, the premise sounds as silly as the trailers make it look, but on a whole I found the movie, though silly, was put together well enough to work far better than I had expected. It has a very classic rom-com feel, that makes it a fun date movie. There is not really any overly sexual content either, so younger and older alike should have a fine time at this one. If you don’t go to see it in theatres for Valentine’s, this is definitely worth a rental once it’s out if you’re into fun, romance flicks.

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When In Rome Review By Nicole

*** (out of four)

When in Rome is a delightfully silly and funny movie. In the style of a Disney fairy tale, this is the story of a woman literally chased by love. Elizabeth, an art gallery curator, feels too busy for love. But when she attends her sister’s wedding in Rome, she falls for one of the groom’s friends, Nick. Nick likes her too, but when Elizabeth catches Nick kissing another woman, Elizabeth drowns her sorrows in champagne, while sitting by an old fountain. Now drunk, Elizabeth takes out four coins, and a poker chip out of the water. the next day, not only is Elizabeth pursued by Nick, but four eccentric men: a magician, a model, an artist, and a sausage salesman. This leads to several hilarious moments.


Some of the funniest scenes involve Jon Heder as the magician. Anyone who has seen Napoleon Dynamite will like seeing “Napoleon” and “Pedro” together again.


When in Rome is a sweet movie. Despite some occasional language, this movie has little in the way of objectional content, so it can be enjoyed by older children and seniors. When in Rome is a fun movie to bring a date, your family, or your grandmother to for Valentine’s Day.

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When In Rome Review By Maureen

*** (out of four)

Have you ever wondered what happens to the coins you throw in a fountain? When in Rome is a light-hearted romantic comedy about the crazy things that can happen when someone removes five coins and their love wishes from the fountain of love in Rome.


Elizabeth (Kristen Bell) is a hard-working art curator who flies to Rome to attend her younger sister’s wedding. When Elizabeth meets the man who could be her perfect lovematch, sports writer, Nick (Josh Duhemal) and she thinks he is involved with someone else she goes to the fountain of love and removes five coins. The result is five quirky individuals all madly in love with the woman who removed their coins and wishes.


Back in New York, Elizabeth is pursued by five men, a magician, an artist, a male model, a sausage tycoon, and the man of her dreams, Nick. The situations that take place as she meets each of these men are full of slapstick, comic moments. Much of the comedy is silly, but also very sweet. What makes all of this work is the excellent cast. It was especially fun seeing Jon Heder of Napolean Dynamite fame as the love-sick magician and his sidekick, Juan (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) in a cameo appearance. Everyone of the characters is likeable in When in Rome.


The story gets sorted out with the help of a little yellow Vespa car in a manic drive through New York streets to the Guggenheim art museum. The ending is satisfying and sweet. True love wins out and the movie wraps up in Rome.


Overall, this is a silly but sweet romantic-comedy that young and old can enjoy together. When in Rome is good clean fun. Check it out before Valentine’s Day. If not, it will play out well on DVD.

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When in Rome Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

When In Rome is a light romantic comedy from Disney Touchstone. Petite workaholic Guggenheim curator Beth (Kristen Bell) attends her little sister’s wedding in Rome to a former Italian exchange student. Attracted to his best man Nick (Josh Duhamel), a sports journalist also based in New York, Beth is disillusioned after seeing Nick with another woman and she grabs five coins out of the Fontana di Amore, which according to legend gets the five guys who had tossed in the coins literally chasing after her. These include a sausage king (Danny DeVito), an obnoxious narcissistic model (Dax Shepard), a painter (Will Arnett, channelling Roberto Benigni), and a street magician (Jon Heder, aided in a welcome unbilled cameo by Efren Ramirez, better known as Pedro). Back home, Beth and Nick get together after he explains that the woman in Rome was just an affectionate family member. However, their romance is threatened when Beth realizes that the fifth token from the fountain was one of Nick’s poker chips. To break the spells cast on her suitors, Beth has to return the coins to each of them, which leads to some interesting twists before the inevitable happy ending.


Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, When In Rome has just enough going for it to justify a rental. However, based mainly in New York, it does nothing for the title city except perpetuate stereotypes bad even by Disney Standards. After some weak opening scenes, unfortunately overexposed in the trailers, it does get a lot better by the end, and at an hour and a half is just about the right length.

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Kristen Bell in When in Rome

"Photo: Philippe Antonello" "© Touchstone Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved."

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Consensus: When in Rome is a surprisingly enjoyable romantic-comedy, with enough silliness to make it entertaining for audience members of all ages. *** (Out of 4)

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(l to r) Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Will Arnett, Danny DeVito in When in Rome

Photo: Kerry Hayes SMPSP "© Touchstone Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

(Contest Now Closed) Contest: Win a Copy of Mary and Max on DVD!

Adam Elliot’s claymation film for adults about Asperger’s syndrome and friendship, Mary and Max, is now available on DVD. You can read our reviews here. We have one copy to give away to a lucky reader. Good luck!


To enter, simply email your full name and an email address where you can be contacted to contests@onemoviefiveviews.com, with “Win a copy of Mary and Max on DVD” in the subject line. The contest ends on Wednesday, February 10th, when a random draw will be held. Contest is open to Ontario residents only. Must be 14 years or older to enter. Full rules and regulations here.


(UPDATE - As of February 10th) This contest is now closed. Big thank you to everyone who entered. Check back soon to see who won!


-John C.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with Coraline composer Bruno Coulais

By E. Corrado


The music of last year’s animated masterpiece, Coraline was one of the elements that really helped make the film work as well as it did. I had the pleasure of speaking with the composer of the music, Bruno Coulais, just over a week ago. The music of Coraline is nominated for Best Score at upcoming Annie Awards - winners will be announced February 6th.


In the interview, we spoke about everything from the collaboration process on films, to working with animation. Enjoy reading it below.

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When did you find out that you would be composing the score for Coraline? It was one year before the shooting. The director, Henry Selick, tried many different types of music, and I composed for Winged Migration and he found that it worked. I was very happy.


Have you done other animated movies? Yes, I did an animation in French, I don’t know exactly the English title, but it’s really a beautiful movie.


What was it like watching this film come together? I love animated movies. You have time to work on it, and change different things. On Coraline, I had about one year. First of all I started to find melodies and after that, I recorded some of them and my work was in progress.


Did you get to see part of the animation process? Yes that was very important. I came twice or three times. It was really interesting for me, since I worked a lot of time in Paris. This was not a big problem, I worked very closely with Henry. I would send via internet the clips and it was a very strange, but very close relationship. He would say what he wanted, what he would prefer in each sequence and I would work on it.


How late in the project did you finish - you did the orchestration as well, right? I remember the real shootings finished very late and it was so important to see the light of the movie - the atmosphere. Regarding the orchestration, I’m writing my own, waiting until the last moment, two weeks or one week before the movie was called.


When did you know that you wanted to compose music? When I was very young - I have a real patience for music. My mother and father played piano. I have a good ear, and started very, very early. I couldn't imagine a life without music. When I was 18, I recorded my first music for a film about Mexico in French - it was called México Mágico. It was by François Reichenbach, who was a very interesting director. I started with the documentaries and try to bring in more fiction, but for documentaries, Winged Migration was a very good one.


What do you find you like about a fiction like Coraline? I think it's very interesting doing music for Henry Selick. I’m really very happy to work on such a movie from France. I'm very lucky to work on a lot of French movies that are very realistic, but with Selick and Coraline, a fantasy, I could write very strange music, so that was very interesting, very freeing.


What were some of the instruments that you used in particular for Coraline? Actually the harp, and I used a lot of different big orchestral pieces, as well as a string quartet, stranger ethnic instruments, and synth, so it's a mix of those, and also voices are used.


What instruments do you play? I play violin and I play piano, but my main occupation is to write music.


Where did you learn to write music? I worked and I learned classical from very young. I started to compose for movies, and I went to a very good school. Very early I opted to write for orchestra. I had the classical education from a very good school in Paris for piano - very famous.


What are your favourite types of film to write for? I love the fantasies. I think it's good for music - I'm not too found of too realistic, not so gifted for comedy... I love the mysteries, very free to write for.


What was Henry Selick like as a director to work with? I think that he is a very good director, and the fantasy stories he tells, like Nightmare Before Christmas are very good. Since the beginning with all of the movie, he knew exactly what he wanted, but left me very free to write. Really, it’s kind of like the music of Henry, he very much knew the sounds that he wanted.


What are your thoughts on your Annie award nomination? Yes, those awards are at the beginning of February. I'm very proud of it, and this is an important movie in my life as a professional writer.


Have you seen any of the other films nominated there? Just Up, which is beautiful too, but I don’t think that I’ve seen any the others yet.


What is the composing process like for you? For me when I think about the melodies in my head, it always begins with the sound of the instruments - I am unable to imagine an abstract song, so the process of the orchestration in the beginning is an idea. It's very close to an instrument.


Do you have any instruments that you like to write with a lot? Maybe I think I like to write strings. I think it’s important to play violin if you are going to be writing for strings, since there are a lot of ways to play with the bow, and it’s good to play piano, since it's important for the harmonies. When I'm composing I am composing in my head, because if I compose at the piano, I always do the same thing, like my fingers are doing the composing. For me, I have to imagine the music in my head, and write the music from there.


Do you use the computer to do the writing? I use Finale - it's very useful. If I write for music on there when there’s anything to change, it's easier to change the orchestration. And for the demo’s, I use Logic Pro and I think that it's very great because you can record good demo’s, which are precious for the director, because it gives a real idea of the definite music. It’s like real instruments there, kind of.


What was the collaborative process for Coraline like? Yes, when I would send in the demo’s, very firstly he answered me, and it was magic for me because we were so far apart in distance and the relations were so close. So sometimes he asked me to change some details. First of all, I remember I sent to Henry all of the main melodies and after it was easier to work off of. I worked with the themes, and the music for the movie is different at the beginning, since little by little the movie answers the music as it gets a little scary at the end.


Where was the music recorded? In different places. First we started with the France children's choir in Paris, then we did all the soloists in Budapest and the orchestra, and we mixed it for the film at the Skywalker studio in L.A. - it was an amazing experience.


When did you first see the music really with the film? It was at Skywalker, reel by reel, and after really the first time was for the premiere. That was the first time I had the distance.


What is it like to be seeing a film with your music in it? I try to focus, but it's my music. But, the two mixes of the thing was so good that I focused very quickly. It was very fascinating to be seen with the new colour of the 3D. It was new as I had not seen a movie like that. And I think when you would work a long time on a film, it's only when you watch it with an audience that you really see it.


Do you use clips of the scenes when you are composing for them? Yes, for example if I am working on a sequence, I watch a long time the sequence and then try to forget it and compose from memory. I imagine when I write something, then I re-watch the sequence and change something and then record the demo. It's important to write with the memory of the sequence. When you are composing the music, sometimes I think the memory is stronger and more important than actually seeing.


Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up today? I was pleased to talk with you. For the last time, I think that Coraline was a great, great experience and I will have very many good memories of it.


Thank you to Bruno Coulais for taking the time to speak with me today. The Coraline soundtrack is available in stores, as is the DVD. You can read our reviews of the film here. The Annie Awards, where Bruno Coulais is nominated for Coraline’s score, take place on Saturday, February 6th, 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DVD Review: Mary and Max

Mary and Max - A Mongrel Media Release

http://www.maryandmax.com/

Release Date: November 20th, 2009

DVD Release Date: January 26th, 2010

Rated G

Running time: 96 minutes


Adam Elliot (dir.)

Adam Elliot (writer)


Dale Cornelius (music)


Toni Collette as Mary Daisy Dinkle (voice)

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max Jerry Horovitz (voice)

Eric Bana as Damien (voice)

Barry Humphries as Narrator (voice)


Our reviews below:

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Mary and Max DVD Review John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Mary and Max is the story of an unlikely friendship. An 8-year old girl in Australia, Mary Daisy Dinkle, rips a page from the phone book, and sends a letter to Max Jerry Horowitz. A 44-year old man living with Asperger's syndrome in New York City.


The friendship that ensues is tender and touching. As they unexpectedly change each other’s lives, we come to realise that having one long distance friend can be more meaningful to some than being surrounded by face to face social. The last scene of the film could only be described as bittersweet, heartbreaking and beautiful.


It’s a story that could only exist in the pre-internet age. A time when you would take time and care to write a letter, praying that the recipient would respond. You would actually spend time thinking about what to say, and could include a chocolate bar in the package as well.


Though I could have done without some of the darker, almost sadistic humour, Mary and Max is an excellent piece of adult animation. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s voice work as Max is spot on, and the writing gives an accurate insight into the mind of a certain type of Aspie.


It should be noted that, despite the G-rating, this film could have gotten away with a 14A. The DVD includes no bonus features, though it could have included some of Adam Elliot’s short films.

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Mary and Max DVD Review By Erin V.

*** (out of four)

Mary and Max is about the penpal relationship between a girl in Australia by the name of Mary (who writes one day to someone random in the US), and Max, a middle-age man with Aspergers’ syndrome.


The film is interesting, and Max’s thought process is very accurate to how an individual on the autism spectrum might think. (This being said though, people on the autism spectrum are all individuals, and just because some may think in that manner, many others do not.) Overall, I found their writing relationship to be done well, and never had a ‘weird vibe’ despite the fact that they were so different in age. They developed a very nice and believable friendship that they both really needed.


As for the film itself, there were parts of it that I liked more than others. I did find the film to be rated quite low, (according to the package a G), and could have done with as high as a 14A, for various content reasons. This is definitely not a film for children. Some of the content, I found went a bit overboard, and I might have liked the film a bit better without as much of it, but the storyline on a whole was well executed.


The animation style, while interesting, is not visually pleasing to look at, unlike something like Coraline. Still, don’t get me wrong, I did like the film. I found it to be a good effort, and worth seeing for those interested in either autism, or animation.

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Mary and Max DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Mary and Max is a charming and touching story about an unusual friendship. Mary Daisy Dinkle is a lonely Australian girl who lives with her eccentric father and alcoholic mother. Max Jerry Horowitz is a middle age man with Asperger’s syndrome, whose only friends are either imaginary, furry, feathered or finned.


One day while at the library, Mary comes across an American phone book. She only gets to “H” before she is suddenly forced to leave. She writes down the first name she sees, and proceeds to write her new “friend”. Max responds by writing a very long letter about himself. Over time, the correspondence between the two impacts each other in unexpected ways. The pen pal friendship spans 20 years. During the correspondence, both Mary and Max learn acceptance, forgiveness, and what it means to be human.


Mary and Max is a very unique animated film. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is perfectly cast as Max. The animation style is very original, in that despite being claymation does not have the look of Aardman. Instead, the characters are mostly shot in grey, with only a few reds for contrast.


Max’s portrayal of Asperger’s syndrome and panic disorder is fairly accurate, considering Max’s age, and the fact that this movie takes place in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. It should be noted that while Max is more challenged socially, many Aspies today can lead more fulfilling lives, thanks to community improvement. What I really liked about Mary and Max is the acceptance of people’s differences, as opposed to pushing for a “cure”.


Although the fact that this film is about a child, this movie is for teenagers and adults only. This film, despite it’s ludicrous G rating, should be rated 14A due to its stark depictions of alcoholism and historically correct portrayals of how people with developmental delays were treated.


Mary and Max is funny, sad at times, and very sweet. Their friendship never feels creepy, but innocent and real. This film deals with death, life, family problems and the beacon of hope that a simple friendship can bring.

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Mary and Max DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Mary and Max is a quirky, claymation gem of a tale about an unlikely friendship between two very different people. Mary (voiced by Toni Collette) is 8 years old and lives in Australia. Max (voiced by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is 44, lives in new York City and has Asperger’s syndrome. Mary instigates a pen pal correspondence that lasts 20 years and provides unique insight and friendship for both of them.


On the surface, Mary and Max is a dark depressing story. Visually this is a somewhat ugly film. The animation is done in shades of grey and brown with splashes of red for contrast. Yet despite the dark look and tone, Mary and Max has a tender and charming overall feel to the story. Writer/director Adam Elliot has given viewers a touching and accurate glimpse into the challenges and struggles of Asperger’s syndrome and a wonderful lesson in friendship. Even when friendships are unorthodox, friends make a difference.


For animation fans, or individuals interested in the topic of Asperger’s syndrome, Mary and Max is a must-see.

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Mary and Max DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Mary & Max is the first feature from Australian self-titled “Clayographer” Adam Elliot, who won an Oscar for the 2003 short Harvie Krumpet. The story spans 22 years in the lives of Mary in suburban Australia and Max in urban New York, from the ages of 8 & 44 respectively. Having picked his name at random from a directory, Mary starts up a correspondence with Max. Despite their differences, they discover the common bond of Asperger Syndrome which has shaped both their lives.


Among the recent crop of films about ‘Aspies”, Mary & Max treats its subjects with sensitivity, celebrating their joys as well as dealing with their challenges though its crude humour and grotesque characters are not for small children.

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Consensus: A very good piece of adult animation, with a tender storyline and interesting visuals. Mary and Max gives an interesting and accurate look at Asperger’s syndrome and friendship. ***1/2 (Out of 4)

DVD Review: Whip It

Whip It - A Fox Searchlight Release

http://www.foxsearchlight.com/whipit/

Release Date: October 2nd, 2009

DVD Release Date: January 26th, 2010

Rated PG for language, not recommended for young children

Running time: 111 minutes


Drew Barrymore (dir.)

Shauna Cross (writer)

Shauna Cross (novel - Derby Girl)


The Section Quartet (music)


Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar

Marcia Gay Harden as Brooke Cavendar

Jimmy Fallon as ‘Hot Tub' Johnny Rocket

Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem

Drew Barrymore as Smashley Simpson


Our reviews below:

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Whip It DVD Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Whip It is an alright sports comedy from first time director Drew Barrymore. The story follows a curved path, predictable at every smooth turn and never getting any where unique or special.


This film doesn’t understand teenagers as much as it understands a certain type of teenager. And it knows it’s audience very well. If it weren’t for the big names, it would have been tailor made for DVD. This is a Searchlight film that didn’t need their saving, and would have fit in the bargain bin just fine.


I didn’t care for any of the characters, and the film has more than enough mean spirited moments. There’s even a contrived romance that’s just thrown in for some added teen girl appeal.


Whip It is worth checking out, I was entertained, but I also can’t say that I really liked it. It’s by no means a bad movie, it’s just not that great. The high end of average is still average.


The DVD includes about 16-minutes of deleted scenes, including an alternate opening. The Blu-Ray also includes an interview with writer Shauna Cross, and a digital copy.

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Whip It DVD Review By Erin V.

**1/2 (out of four)

Whip It is about a 17 year old girl, Bliss Cavender (Ellen Page), who is tired of just doing the beauty pageants that mean so much to her mother, but little to her. When she attends a roller derby event, she ends up putting her name down for tryouts, (faking her age in order to be eligible), and getting selected to play as part of the team.


I guess the film is about ‘girl power’, and the fact that even something like roller derby’s can be really rough and tough sports - which judging by this film, they are. Unfortunately, I found some of the film to be not all that interesting to me, and I never really felt for any of the characters - the connections between them on screen just didn’t seem to transfer to the audience. There were also a few scenes that kind of bugged me. I never saw the point of a food fight for example, and find it kind of a waste of time to watch one - but maybe that’s just me.


While the potential may have been there, this one just didn’t quite cut it for me to be anything more than worth a rental. It was entertaining enough while I watched it - but not one to watch again and again. _____________________________________________

Whip It DVD Review By Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

Whip It is an entertaining film about the rough and tumble sport of roller skate derby. Bliss, played by Canadian actress Ellen Page, is a rebellious teenager, whose mother has groomed for beauty pageants. Bliss, in an act of defiance, decides to sneak off with her best friend to join a roller derby team. Bliss, without her parents knowledge, becomes “Babe Ruthless”, an extremely fast skater on the track. But what will Bliss do when one of the matches interferes with a beauty pageant?


Whip It should appeal to teenage girls who want to see more of a tomboy character. This one is worth owning or renting, if only to see Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut.

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Whip It DVD Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Fans of Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, and roller derby will be entertained by this high energy tale of beauty pageant winner turned roller derby poster girl.


When Bliss Cavender (Ellen Page) gets tired of being pushed by her mother to enter beauty pageants she rebels by trying out for a local roller derby team, The Hurl Scouts. It turns out Bliss is a really fast skater and really good scoring points with the “whip it” move.


While skating with The Hurl Scouts, Bliss/Babe Ruthless manages to hold her own and bond with the other tough girl skaters such as Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore).


Whip It is very much a story about teenage rebellion, female bonding and of course, roller derby.


While the acting is good all around, the story is rather predictable and if you like watching roller derby, entertaining enough. What it seemed to lack was character development. I found it hard to care one way or another for any of the characters.


Still, Whip It is worth at least a rental to check out Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut and Ellen Page’s acting.

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Whip It DVD Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Whip It tells a predictable story about a small town Texas girl (Ellen Page), groomed by her former beauty queen mother (Martia Gay Harden) to follow in her footsteps, who finds her true calling with a local roller blading team, which her parents eventually come to accept.


I was able to enjoy The Wrestler, The Blind Side, and Invictus though I would never sit through a match in any of the sports depicted, Though not in the same league as any of those films, Whip It had a good enough cast and just enough roller blading footage to keep my interest in a sport that I may never watch again, with characters that I wouldn’t really want to know.

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Consensus: Whip It is an alright sports comedy from first time director Drew Barrymore. Though a fine effort, the film just ends up feeling average, and none of the characters are that likable. **1/2 (Out of 4)

DVD Review: Little Ashes

Little Ashes - An E1 Films’ Release

http://www.littleashes-themovie.com/

Release Date: May 22nd, 2009

DVD Release Date: January 26th, 2010

Rated 18A for coarse language, nudity and sexual content

Running time: 112 minutes


Paul Morrison (dir.)

Philippa Goslett (writer)


Miguel Mera (music)


Javier Beltrán as Federico García Lorca

Robert Pattinson as Salvador Dalí

Matthew McNulty as Luis Buñuel

Marina Gatell as Magdalena


Our reviews below:

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Little Ashes DVD Review By John C.

* (out of 4)

If Stephenie Meyer had never stuck pen to paper and written that vampire love saga, than this piece o’ junk would have never been seen outside of Spain.


This is a story of forbidden love and art. It’s a bio-pic of three people, Salvador Dali, Fredirico Garcia Lorca and Louis Buenel, trying to express themselves in the only way they can, and the people who are trying to prevent them. The filmmakers behind Little Ashes have forbidden love and art, and somebody should have prevented them.


The first time we see Robert Pattinson in Little Ashes, he is wearing a wig that looks like one of Johnny Depp’s leftovers from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is only the first time you will howl with laughter.


There are so many moments of inadvertent hilarity in this sloppy melodrama, that it’s hard to decide which one’s the funniest. In one of the film’s stand-out sequences, Lorca and his girlfriend “hop on the good foot and do the bad thing”, while Dali watches pleasurably from the corner. Was this meant to be erotic? I’m not sure. But it certainly gave me a good laugh.


Sensitive viewers may want to look away as they show the infamous “cutting the eyeball” scene from Luis Bunuel’s 1929 avante garde film Un Chein Andalou. All viewers may want to look away during the entire movie. Or better yet, just skip it all together.


I’m disappointed that I didn’t see this film in time to give it proper due on my 2009 worst list, but I’m also glad that I never wasted my time seeing it at a theatre.


Perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh on this film, but you know what? I was bored and just couldn’t take it seriously. I’m not entirely sure how to say “bad movie” in Spanish, so I’ll just finish by quoting what Yoda might say: “Sucks this movie does”.


If you wish to make your viewing experience even longer, the DVD includes interviews with the director and 3 of the stars, excluding Pattinson.

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Little Ashes DVD Review By Erin V.

*1/2 (out of four)

I really didn’t enjoy the film Little Ashes all that much. I found it to be very poorly executed, and the storyline did not flow. I never felt any connection to the characters, and instead felt as though I were watching a kind of badly acted stage play. Make that a stage play where the only acting training the lead ever had, was in mime facial expressions.


Unlike how a good biopic would be, you don’t really learn anything much about Dali here. Unless you’ve read up on him beforehand, it doesn’t really give you any idea. It just sort of plays through from start to finish with no point.


I know that he is popular to many, but I have not seen a very wide range of acting from Robert Pattinson - ever. This is actually the film where he has the widest range of emotions, and while some of his facial expressions are inadvertently hilarious, they really did not work. Except maybe to provide some comedy in an otherwise not very watchable film.


The scenes with unintentional comedy here are the first scene where Pattinson as Dali is revealed - using a camera shot much like the reveal of the woman in The Naked Gun where she had two sets of knees. It takes such a long time to reveal him from bottom to top, that when we finally do see the expression on his face, we can’t help but laugh. Another scene of note, is the last scene when he flings the cape over his shoulder. The only thing I can say about this film is that some of the facial expressions he uses are priceless. That, and his hop, skip and jumping tactic that he uses while following people through the streets...

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Little Ashes DVD Review By Nicole

*1/2 (out of 4)

Little Ashes is a boring (and occasionally, but unintentionally funny), film about Salvador Dali. How pathetic that such an interesting story could be done so badly. Even teens who love Rob Pattinson will be disappointed as he plays the worst (but funniest role) of Salvador Dali.


However his “Hubert the Cat” dance, and the final scene are good for a laugh. But if you want to see a movie that is equally awful, but with even more unintentional laughs watch Angel, the only movie that i have seen that is funnier and worse.

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Little Ashes DVD Review By Maureen

* (out of 4)

Salvador Dali’s life and story are no doubt interesting. It’s too bad Little Ashes seemed more like a caricature and comedy than a serious bio-pic. The acting, writing were completely uninspirng. Only die-hard Robert Pattinson fans could possibly find this interesting. Skip it.

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Little Ashes DVD Review By Tony

** (out of 4)

Little Ashes dramatizes the early careers of three avant garde artists studying together in 1920s Madrid. Andalucian poet Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and future filmmaker Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty) have already been in college for several years when the outrageous Catalan artist Salvador Dalí (Robert Pattinson) arrives as a freshman. Along with Lorca’s sometime girlfriend Magdalena (Marina Gatell), a young writer who dresses like a flapper, the artists live a decadent lifestyle in a Madrid bound in tradition and quickly coming under Fascist control. Dalí and Lorca have a passionate affair, while the homophobic Buñuel moves to Paris to make films. Eventually Dalí moves to Paris to make two films with Buñuel and take up with the married woman Gala. Suspicions about Lorca’s gay affair and his revolutionary poetry lead to his execution at the hands of the Fascists.


Despite its good intentions, Little Ashes could have been a lot better. For those not familiar with the period, it appeared disjointed and hard to follow at times, since the few brief references to historical context could easily be missed among the noise. A lot of the film suffered from a pretentious arthouse atmosphere, such as the gay nighttime underwater sequence under a strange Pandoran blue light. Javier Beltrán’s performance outclassed the others, not least because he is a native Spanish speaker. Unfortunately, his beautiful rendering of Lorca’s poetry in Spanish was drowned out by a simultaneous oral English translation rather than subtitles. Teen heartthrob Pattinson was appropriately weird as Dalí, though we found ourselves laughing at him more than we probably should have–not a good sign.

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Consensus: Not as good as it could or should have been, Little Ashes just ends up feeling like a parody of itself. It’s never a good sign when you’re laughing, and not sure if it was intended to be funny. *1/2 (Out of 4)

WWII in HD on Blu-Ray Today

Compiled from over three thousand hours of colour footage, this documentary series, made for The History Channel, gives a unique and fascinating look into to what it would have been like to actually live through the war.


Though it was illegal for U.S. soldiers to carry diaries, many of them still wrote down their experiences. The filmmakers used these written records, as well as on location, around the world full-colour footage to create this series to be as close as possible to what it was like for the twelve American soldiers that it follows.


There have been many excellent films made about the war, but this is one of the first times you can get a real, and shocking look at what it may have actually been like to serve in those battles.


Through the use of this documentary series we can remember the many men who gave up their lives to fight these battles, and experience the Second World War as we never have before.


The two-disc Blu-Ray set, WWII in HD, is distributed by E1 Films.


-John C.