I caught quite an enjoyable little movie on DSTV this evening, a locally produced 2009 film by director Neal Sundstrom going under the title “Finding Lenny”.
Starring Barry Hilton in the main role of Lenny Vincent, we get introduced to a man who starts his day on what should be a very auspicious morning – after all, it is his 50th birthday! However, things couldn’t possibly get worse on this particular day as Lenny is about to find out – in one foul swoop he will lose his job, lose his wife, get robbed, hijacked and then dumped in the middle of nowhere!
But this could all have happened for a reason. Lenny is about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime in which he will help coach a village football team, reunite warring brothers and attempt to save a tribe’s land – oh and perhaps even learn a little more about himself as well what is really important in this thing called life.
As a film, Finding Lenny isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, it is about an underdog taking on a giant through the medium of sport (in this case soccer) and in that respect the movie doesn’t hold anything new about it. However, the sheer local feel to the story, the fantastic South African scenery, and the great acting from guys like comic legend Barry Hilton, Russel Savadier, Yule Masiteng, and Ron Smerczak for example, bring this fun feel good drama, with a heavy splash of comedic elements, to life and will leave you smiling to yourself as it slowly wraps itself neatly up and spits out the ending credits.
It is well shot, features a great soundtrack and is really one of those “local is lekker” productions, meaning that there really isn’t a reason to skip it if you are a South African and looking for some good South African on-screen talent. Catch it on DSTV this month if you can – it really is well worth it! :)
Related Link: http://www.findinglenny.co.za/
It was pretty enjoyable.
I went to see Date Night with Chantelle the other night, and despite not being entirely what I expected (I expected a bit of a pointless movie with loads of laughs right the way through), I ended up quite enjoying it – this movie with a main, well built storyline focussing on the problems facing long term married couples with kids which then kind of gets mixed up with this completely improbable and mixed up scenario which is so action-packed and dripping with comedy that you just can’t help but enjoy it!
The movie tells the tale married with kids couple Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) who are in a bit of a rut in terms of their marriage but who still make the effort to go on “date nights” in order to keep their relationship alive.
On one particular evening though, Phil decides to try and go that extra mile and so they hit one of Manhattan’s most popular and hippest seafood restaurants at the moment to see if they’ll be lucky and get a table for dinner. But as could have been expected, the place is jam packed and the chances of them getting a cancellation is looking pretty slim – until Phil decides to hijack a reservation of a couple who obviously has decided not to show.
The dinner is fantastic, but the consequences of having hijacked that reservation is not – two armed thugs appear and take them for a walk, asking about a very specific little flashdrive – and under the complete impression that the Forsters are now the Triplehorns. What follows on from here is a madcap chase and adventure in which Phil and Claire need to stay one step ahead of the gun-toting thugs and attempt to catch up to the real Triplehorns in order to clear up this whole mess – though the only problem is that this little story is a lot more higher connected than anyone could possible imagine!
Both Tina Fey and Steve Carell are absolutely fantastic in this movie. They manage to capture that real world feel of a married couple and both have that wonderfully sharp and sarcastic wit that really works well off one another is an absolute barrel of laughs to see on screen. And as a comedy duo they just absolutely work (see the pole dancing sequence if you don’t believe me! :P). Outside of that we get great little performances from Ray Liotta of all people, Mark Wahlberg who appears allergic to shirts and William Fichtner of Prison Break fame.
In a nutshell, while not the necessary brainless and hilarious comedy I expected, Date Night is a fantastic fun movie that should be seen by married couples and fans of Steve Carell’s brand of humour. The chemistry between the lead actors is fantastic and there is actually quite a sweet story driving this madcap laugh a minute story, making Date Night well worth shelling your hard earned bucks out on!
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_Night
Just in case you were wondering, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic is a direct to DVD animated movie spin-off of EA Games’ Dante Inferno 2010 video game release. Now you know.
This week’s Screenshot Saturday takes a look at the birth of the Hell-crusading Dante who charges in after the shadow form Lucifer stole Beatrice’s soul and whisked it away with him through the Gates of Hell.
Unable to break through Hell’s Gates after they closed right before him, an anguished Dante falls to his knees in despair, but this state does not last long as terrifying demonic hands break free from the ground behind him and snatch him up, binding him with blood red ribbon which then gets sewn into his flesh. The ribbon contains endless moving montages of his transgressions committed during his time out on the Crusades and also acts as his eternal source of power as the constant reminder of what he has done and how he is truly the reason behind Beatrice’s awful fate.
However, with the enigmatic poet Virgil at his side, Dante finds renewed strength in his quest to save his beloved and manages to break his way into Hell’s inferno – though this proves to only be the start of his long, torturous and bloody journey that will see him go on and face the very might of Lucifer himself!
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante’s_Inferno:_An_Animated_Epic
I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it.
How to Train Your Dragon is the latest computer animated film from DreamWorks Animation and tells the story of young Hiccup, a rather useless viking (but good at thinking boy) that aspires to follow in his tribe’s (and more importantly his father’s) tradition of becoming a dragon slayer, seeing how these pest continuously raid their small seaside hamlet. However, a chance encounter and an improbably scenario where one of his many gadgets actually worked, Hiccup actually manages to capture his first dragon, a rare Night Fury which he names Toothless, and over time manages to befriend it to a point where he no longer wishes for his tribe’s acceptance nor has the desire to kill dragons but rather save them.
It really is the perfect kids’ story with more than enough content for us big kids to enjoy as well. Loads of fantastic, humorous character designs (and great bushy beards!) and a coming of age story to match, How to Train Your Dragon hits all those right spots of a little tension, lots of humour and a brilliant sense of wonderment and amazement as you get taken through what is a really enjoyable and not entirely predictable story.
The voice casting proves to be perfect with Jay Baruchel capably filling the shoes of the likeable viking wannabe Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and Gerard Butler as his long suffering father, the great Stoick the Vast, chieftain of the tribe. Even Ugly Betty star America Ferrera gets to ditch her Betty persona for a while, filling out the feisty character of Astrid Hofferson with great affect.
The animation is beautiful behold and the sense of movement and action is well captured on screen. At the same time, the very clever design of Toothless must be lauded, as the design team has managed to capture a remarkably likeable and friendly visage for this almost cat-inspired creature (you can seriously see that both the directors was behind Disney’s Lilo & Stitch though!) and one really struggles not to find this little black beast absolutely adorable! :)
So yes, I absolutely love this kids tale from those masters over at DreamWorks Animation. It’s a great, friendly story that drips with action, laughs and just a little drama as required by all good movies. It is animated in an extremely accesible style which looks good and flows well and to boot, it even sounds great.
It’s impossible not to like and so if you haven’t taken your kids to see it yet, what the heck are you waiting for!?
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_(film)
It’s the movie that won an Oscar award for best Actress for Sandra Bullock in case you didn’t know, and tells the story of current Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher – taking you through his rise towards the big time from his rather squalid and impoverished beginnings – all thanks to a generous, helping hand given to him out of the blue by a conservative white Southern American family, led by a particularly strong-willed and stubborn mother, with a heart of solid gold.
In terms of acting, they really had the perfect cast for each and every role throughout the movie. Quinton Aaron impresses as the silent giant and country singer Tim McGraw pulls off the “long suffering” husband with great charm and likability. Kathy Bates weighs in well as the tutor while young Jae Head must be said to capture the young comedic foil to the story to perfection, injecting some great laughs into what otherwise is a pretty serious tale.
And then there is of course Sandra Bullock, who you’ll hardly recognise with her blonde locks and strong Southern accent, but who slips into her role so superbly and comes across so perfect as the ultimate strong-willed, but loving mother that will do anything for her children and who won’t take nonsense from anyone, that it’s hardly a surprise that she scooped film’s greatest award for this particular role.
Although American football is the focus of this story there is surprisingly little screen time afforded to it and the movie instead chooses to focus on the family, friends, social and school interactions around Michael Oher and this is what in the end makes this such an enjoyable human-driven story.
And it is a feel-good story, make no mistake of that.
Everyone who has seen this movie appears to absolutely love it, the women have all shed a tear or two throughout, and even I must admit it is well worth the watch.
However, I do feel that the emotional impact of the story is scuttled a little by poor pacing in places and not necessarily heaping enough emotional sledgehammer hits onto those all important heartstring-tugging moments that are so important to making this movie a success – and this made me feel a little ambivalent at the end of everything when the credits finally began to roll as to whether or not I truly enjoyed this movie.
The point is, that for me, it didn’t make any particular strong emotional connection and thus I get to make an opinon and say that it is well, an okay movie at best. It is well shot, features a good music selection and stars a great cast of actors, but for me is just missing that extra emotional sledgehammer that is needed to make this sad but feel-good movie really, really work.
Still, go see it for yourself and make up your own mind. Like I’ve said, almost everyone else that has seen it so far has loved it – and my wife thinks there is something wrong with me for saying it needs some more emotional impact. Go figure! :P
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blind_Side_(film)
15th century Sweden and the Church still holds most of the populace in its ironclad grip. Hope is the beautiful daughter of a powerful mercenary lord named Matthias, who is forever conscripting men into his ever swelling army in order to fight the good fight. However, a chance encounter reveals Matthias for who he really is, the demon king Lucifer, and as he transports himself back to his Hellish domain, Hope is left to the mercy of the populace.
Incarcerated and then burnt at the stake, Hope has no other choice but to repeat the incantation she overheard and summon two winged demons who rip her free from this mortal coil and take her straight to hell, her father’s dominion.
However, his plan to subjugate her to his will and force her to rule alongside him fails as she rejects his corruption and in so doing is cast out of his palace, left to fend for herself should she survive the long fall.
But survive she does and after a glimpse of the terrible birthright power that she wields, the cast-out master blacksmith known as Cremator befriends her and together they forge an alliance that will see them challenge the status quo of Hell, gather an army and overthrow Lucifer himself!
Lady Death is a comic franchise born from the minds of Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes, making her first appearance back in 1991 in Eternity Comics’ Evil Ernie #1. Bankruptcy saw her published by three different publishers over the years and in 1994 A.D. Vision (ADV) saw it fit to craft a straight to DVD feature length movie based on the comic book character. It is directed by Andy Orjuela and runs through a Carl Macek scribed story adapted by Brian Pulido for the screenplay.
It’s important to note that there are some fundamental differences between the movie version and the comic version of Lady Death, the most notable being the character motivations itself. In the comics, Lady Death seeks to circumvent a Lucifer-placed curse that bars her from returning to Earth while a living human still walks on it by wiping out all life on Earth – in the movie they give her a more heroic slant as she seeks to topple the tyrant that is Lucifer and his demon generals.
As a story, Lady Death doesn’t really have all that much and it is a pretty rushed plot that basically shows us the origin of the character, throws her in hell, and then for the next hour trains her up at light speed, lets her fight for a weapon and then gives us the challenge to Lucifer as the final fight.
It’s pretty shallow and because the plot is so rushed you don’t get a great sense of character development as progressions are just kind of taken for granted at times. We literally rush through from start to finish, making the whole thing seem nothing more than an excuse for the final battle sequence – which unfortunately is not exactly all that earth shattering either.
There really isn’t much more there. No humour, no real drama, no real horror – and that’s just really because the of the sub par artwork believe it or not! Even the action feels very stilted and tempered, and so as a whole, Lady Death: The Movie really doesn’t offer much of a motivation to see it.
In terms of animation artwork, I’m afraid that the use of pretty standard Saturday morning cartoon stock hurts the experience pretty badly as the background artwork is particularly sparse and boring, the demons are ridiculously… well stupid with seemingly little thought or time given to their design or presentation and the action sequences end up looking pretty run of the mill, even silly at times! Of course Lady Death does get a little more attention paid to her than the other character designs, but not even her antagonist Lucifer gets a decent art treatment.
The animation works, but it really isn’t great and definitely doesn’t capture the feel or mood of the movie correctly, which is of course a big visual letdown. It looks budget and I suppose since this is a budget release, a person really shouldn’t expect anything better, but still, even on a tight budget you expect something like a movie to be just that little bit better or perhaps made with just that little more love for the product. Thankfully though not all is lost because at least we get a decent(ish) soundtrack from Bill Brown and voice acting from Christine M. Auten, Mike Kleinhenz and the rest of the usual ADV voice acting crew.
It’s not particularly polished and it is most definitely a budget title, with a weak rushed story and pretty generic visuals. There really is no reason I can think of to urge you to watch it and as such, please feel free to give this one a skip and walk on by without looking back. It really will be a waste of your precious time!
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Death:_The_Movie
EA Games recently released Dante’s Inferno, a re-imagining of the original epic poem sharing the same name, and a game that borrows much from the hack and slash classics that is God of War. Of course, in an attempt to cash in on the big release, EA has seen it fit to commission the creation of Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic – basically a straight to DVD, feature length film created from the stitched together work originating from a number of animation houses, much in the vein of The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight.
But here’s the kicker. It’s actually a stitched together movie that’s got the formula right!
The story follows Dante, a knight returned from the Crusades only to find his beloved Beatrice dead, slain at the hands of one who steals her very soul and transports it straight to hell. Realizing that it is his fault and with nothing else but the salvation of his beloved on his mind, Dante charges after the dark figure and attempts to break into Hell as a living mortal, though this is initially denied to him. However, be it divine or demonic intervention, his sins get sewn upon his body and his renewed spirit, together with the unexpected council from the long dead poet Virgil, allows him to break down the doors and so his descent through the various levels of Hell begins as he tracks down Beatrice’s soul in an effort to free her and deal with the Dark One responsible for her capture.
Limbo. Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Anger. Heresy. Violence. Fraud. Treachery. Dante and his Hellish scythe must cleave the way through these all and in the process confront his own trespasses if he is ever to save the pureness that is Beatrice from the clutches of pure evil!
In fairness, borrowing only the smallest of elements from Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece, Dante’s Inferno, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic is written by Joe Goyette and was released in February 2010, featuring segments from six different animation studios, including Film Roman (Dead Space: Downfall), Manglobe (Samurai Champloo), Dongwoo Animation, JM Animation and Production I.G., and is delivered through the eyes of six different directors, including Shuko Murase (Ergo Proxy) and Yasoumi Umetsu (Kite: Liberator).
As mentioned above, the story is pretty much one way traffic in that you basically have Dante starting at point one and hacking and slashing his way through to the final encounter at point b. However, along the way things get interesting as with each new level of Hell comes a bit of backstory which then slowly sheds light on as to how this situation did eventually arise as well as Dante’s rather less than innocent involvement in this whole matter. Of course, the big thing for this sewn together movie is the various realizations of hell and as such, the story manages to get this one nailed down pretty tightly as you are taken on a truly harrowing journey through the underworld. Of course, not all plot ends are explained nor followed fully to their end for that matter, but for the most part by the end of the movie you can be satisfied that a full story has been told, left possible room for a sequel and at that you haven’t just sat through an hour and a half of mindless violence without something to show for it.
In terms of visuals, for the most part Dante’s Inferno really impresses. Film Roman gets things going with some great animated sequences and their particular vision of the demonic hands sewing up Dante is a thing to behold. Manglobe as can be expected churn out some stellar action sequences and stylish backdrops and this is complemented by Production I.G. segment at the end. Unfortunately the character design from the two Korean studios don’t exactly meet my approval, but their capturing of the action as well as the visual look for their respective circles of hell are certainly well worth the look.
As a whole, the film manages to make Hell as repulsive and harrowing as what you can imagine, throwing some disturbing imagery at you whenever it can. The animation remains tight and fluid and as a whole, the whole thing is pretty nicely choreographed, though you do have to make a conscious effort to make the mental leap each time Dante and Virgil take the character design shuffle with each new animation studio crossing. Of course bloodshed and gore are central to the whole Dante’s Inferno experience and as such you need to go into this expecting plenty of blood, severed body parts and spilled guts literally littering the screen – which they do I’ll have you know.
Oh, and do realize that there are plenty of biblical and demonic references to take in. Showing this at a Sunday School camp may not necessarily be a good idea.
Quite frankly, I don’t like the multiple studios handling a movie gig but I will grudgingly admit that Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic had got the formula right. The segments are tightly bound together and form a coherent and single story that is quite enjoyable to sit through. It is a polished release with some great audio in terms of soundtrack and voice acting, some hellishly rendered, effective animation and manages to suck you in and make you sit down and watch from start to finish.
If you love your animation brutal, bloody, stylish and full of fight (with just a tinge of disturbed), you can’t go wrong with Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante%27s_Inferno:_An_Animated_Epic
It’s Complicated is actually quite a great little comedy movie making the rounds on the cinema circuit at the moment and as you might have expected, Chantelle did drag me along to see it – and I actually quite enjoyed it.
The story revolves around a woman (Meryl Streep) who has now been divorced from her husband for well over ten years, with him leaving her for a much younger woman and eventually going ahead and having a child with her. The last of her three kids have now finally made it to college age, meaning Meryl now finds herself free from the day to day activities that go along with bringing up children, but as is to be expected, this newfound freedom brings a lot of soul searching opportunity with it. On the other side of the picture, her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) finds himself increasingly dissatisfied with his younger wife and their demanding child, and slowly but surely begins to miss and long after the life he had with his ex-wife and his children so long ago.
A forced family reunion in celebration of the eldest’ college graduation sees Alec seize his chance and begin an extra-marital affair with Meryl, the very woman he cheated on ten years ago in the first place. Although hesitant at first, Meryl does eventually take to it and slowly allows it to grow, though there is only one small little problem attached to all of this – she also kind of happens to be falling for this withdrawn architect who is currently tasked with renovating her house, a role taken on by the ever young Steve Martin.
What follows is a fantastically woven story that examines divorce and the effect on the parents and children involved, the emotions involved and how one moves past that, while at the same time building up a great little love story that really could go either way.
The dialogue is witty, there are plenty of comedic moments to be had, there is the expected fair share of drama, romance and tales from the heart and in the end you are left with a wonderful, engaging, polished package that isn’t silly, delivers a great story (covering ground not usually covered in big Hollywood releases) and is surprisingly feel good in the end, even if the movie does NOT opt for that sickly sweet romantic comedy ending that big screen releases usually go for.
Obviously having stars of the caliber of Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin works wonders for bringing this story to life and making it as enjoyable and engaging as it is, and under the masterful hand of director Nancy Meyers, the audience gets treated to a really great and fun movie experience.
Honestly, it really isn’t the type of movie I normally enjoy, but this time around I really liked it, had some great laughs and chuckles, and even let a tear or two silently trickle down during those appropriate mushy sequences when no one was looking.
It’s a good movie, well worth watching with your loved one if you have one those in your life! :P
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It’s_Complicated_(film)
According to the legend of the Shangaan people, white lions are the messengers of the gods and the presence of one means peace and prosperity for all in the valley. But white lions have now been a thing of legend for so long that most have forgotten their existence already, which is exactly why a young Shangaan named Gisani, son of the tribe’s witch doctor, can scarcely believe his luck when his path crosses with that of a white lion cub named Letsatsi.
Gisani appoints himself watcher and guardian for the little cub and Letsatsi sets out in the world in order to find his own way – but that way is often fraught with danger, the worst of all being the sought after prize of the most dangerous predator of them all…
The locally produced White Lion comes to us from director Michael Swan and after seeing it with Chantelle a week or two ago at the cinema, I can’t fully understand why they took the gamble to release this film as a feature film at the movie houses. Yes, there are some beautiful environment shots and a lot of brilliant wildlife videography, all tied together with some very clever editing that puts a lot of animals into a particular scene even though it is quite apparent that this would most likely not have been the case in real life, but as a film the story just feels incredibly weak and plods along with seemingly little to tell other than the daily life of a white lion, interspersed with some human to human interactions, of which there is very little until right at the end where everything comes to a rapid head and then ends with a rather well, silly and unfinished ending.
Don’t get me wrong though because White Lion is certainly not a badly made film. The actors all work fairly well given the small screen time that they receive and there are some wonderful quirky musical compositions to be had throughout the film Similarly, the lions and other creatures that are used throughout are brilliantly trained and captured and as a whole, everyone seems to do their job pretty competently.
But like I said, this just doesn’t seem like a big screen movie and plods along, dragging its heels for what seems like ages and really bores you when you run out of popcorn, which is not a position any feature film ever wants to be in. Rather, I can’t help but feel that this is a perfect little title to sell to Wildlife or National Geographic, and will do quite fine on SABC’s homegrown showings.
In summary, if you are looking to be entertained, look further than White Lion because it quite simply isn’t going to do the job, not unless you really, really love lions and their particularly cute pups, or you have a young daughter who simply can’t get enough of big cats.
Related Link: http://www.whitelionthemovie.com/