30 June 2009

Animation Projects

It's time again to review number of animation projects coming our way in the near future.


First project is new film from the acclaimed director Sylvain Chomet, that broke into fame with his short film The Old Lady and the Pigeons, and later delivered to us another award winning full length feature The Triplets of Belleville. In the age of 3D computer animation he is still using traditional hand drawn animation techniques, and his grotesque visual style on the edge of surreal creates very strong emotional response, at least for me.
Last few years he has been working on the new film called The Illusionist (L'Illusionniste). Very interesting thing about this movie, is that the screenplay was written by Jacques Tati in 1956, which makes this film even more intriguing. As Tati, Chomet also likes more silent style, emphasizing the visual side and physical body language and mime of the characters over dialogs and language use. Tati was very good in that part, and Chomet already proved that he can do interesting things with just lines and color.

The story is about struggling magician, that as entertainer can no longer appeal with his show to the young generation, which prefers popular rock n' roll bands instead. The illusionist then travels to more remote places, seemingly untouched by the modern influences, and in one of such places he meets young girl who is convinced he is a real magician.
Tati, that also starred in his own films, wrote the story for himself and his own daughter, planning to make it live action movie, but passed away before making it. His daughter suggested to Chomet to adapt the screenplay into animated film, because she didn't want an actor to play the role of her father. Who who can possibly play Tati anyway.
So great Jacques Tati will live once again as animated character in The Illusionist, directed by Chomet, and I don't think enough people realize how incredible it is.
The film is in latest stages of post-production right now, with plans to be released this year. Here is number of pictures taken from it. Click for a larger view.

Read more about the move in The Guardian and The Times articles.


Next is 3D animation from Russia.
Started in 2002 as a loose adaptation of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by Hoffmann, and designated for kids, it slowly turned out to be even more loose adaptation of the tale for much older audience, with slow motion action, explosions and even a bit of sex appeal. The story also changed from more classic direction to current times, with all modern characters that live modern life.
The film was advertised as first Russian 3D animation and was suppose to be released in October of 2007. But the release was postponed. Since then, other movie took the "first Russian 3D animation" title away from it, and the name of the film was changed as well, from original Krakatuk it became to be Our Masha In Strawberry Land.
New release date - unknown right now, and with each day bigger the chances that the movie is simply doomed, which is strange because it was pretty much completed. And all signs point to that direction - official website was closed, the title no longer appear on the production company site, and since 2007 no new material is available. So what you see here is the promotional stuff for the never happened 2007 release, including the following trailer.

The story is about magical nut Krakatuk, that can fulfill any wish but only one, that accidentally arrives to Earth. Found by a teenager Masha, it transports her and her toys to the magical land of berries, which controlled by an evil Rat Emperor. The toys become humans, and together with Masha and Emperor's brother they will participate in adventure, that will be a tale of friendship and love, of good and evil.

More info and screenshots can be found here.


Speaking of Hoffmann, another Russian animated film is trying to adapt his works. This time the approach is quite different - no CGI and no computer graphics. Instead we are talking about puppets and old school stop motion animation, produced by the oldest and most famous Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm.

The film will be called Gofmaniada and "will be based around three of Hoffmann's tales (Klein Zaches, The Golden Pot and The Sandman), with the main character being Hoffmann himself. In particular, it will focus on the duality between the imaginative universe of his writings and his real-life profession as a government clerk which will be based on his letters and journals".

The film is in production from 2001 and it's future looks brighter than the one above. Maybe because the studio receives support from the government. During the production, various articles with updates were published in Russian press, indicating 2009 as possible year of release. One of such reports is video segment shown in the news broadcast, showing actual footage from the film.

Some photos are available as well. Press here to download collection of images and concept art from the film.


And the last one is project that is well known by now and much anticipated, but I'll post it as an update anyway.
It is Serbian animated film Technotise: Edit & I, which looks absolutely stunning. Visually this animation is on the highest level and not falling far from any major Japanese anime, it was in process of making for 8 years. Written and directed by comics artist Aleksa Gajić, the film is based on his Technotise graphic novel and will be released in September this year.

The plot is set in 2074 Belgrade. The main character is Edit, a female psychology student. After failing the same university exam for the sixth time, she decides to visit a dealer on the black market who installs a stolen military chip in her to help her pass. To her surprise, the chip affords her abilities greater than she ever imagined. And, needless to say, the government/military is intent on getting back the chip. From that moment, her life changes and unusual things start happening to her.

Check out two video clips from this amazing sci-fi flick.

Visit official website, and there is also nice article (in English) about the film.

Interesting Pics

Ever wondered what it will be like when a superhero grows old? Well, here is your answer. Italian artist Donald Soffritti created bunch of these disturbingly funny images, poking fun at fan favorite superheroes. See more similar images here.


Did you see the videos when Mentos mints are dropped into the bottle of cola and it starts foaming like hell? Well, some imaginative people thought about this cool trick, which can be great fun when you do it to your guests at the party.


Skynet should really start controlling his terminators better, look what the bastards are doing when there are no humans around to kill. And isn't it considered gay sex? More pictures here.


I have no idea what these two are doing, but they are very high.


Whatever excuse he has, this is just wrong.


I love these vintage old computers. What is LCD screen?


A little bit of divorce humor. Life's too short indeed.


George Lucas - Now and Then.


Beside being very amusing picture, this is really great composition.


These crazy alligator molesters just can't be stopped.

28 June 2009

Fun with Binoculars

What's more interesting about this video from 80's, besides being very funny, is the appearance of young Takeshi "Beat" Kitano when he was still screwing around on TV.

I Can See Your Insides

This is probably the weirdest movie coming out this year, and I have to post another trailer for it. This is so over the top I can help myself but laugh. Simply hilarious.


Movies - Last Seen

Lesbian Vampire Killers, UK (2009)

Maybe I am too old for that kind of humor, or maybe it's a cultural thing, but this movie is just not funny.
Mathew Horne and James Corden can run a hip comedy show on TV, with obvious appeal to young people, but when it comes to making a movie - they both suck. One is too boring the other is too annoying.
The movie is only pleasant to watch due to impressive female cast, and by impressive I mean their cup sizes, but as a solid film experience it is not moving beyond vulgar sex joke. Sexy lesbian vampires is the only gimmick, out of many others, that actually works all the way, nothing else. Not complete waste of time, but more suitable for college dorm entertainment.


Sheitan, France (2006)

Starts so familiar - a group of young people arrive to isolated place with bunch of freaks living there, and they are slowly understanding that something wrong with that place. But when they do, it's already too late.
Instead of typical slasher with minimal build up of the characters and then straight to the gore, this film takes its time with the introduction and plot development. And it's very well made. The characters seem real, the situation is disturbing and interesting, the acting is very good.
Sheitan is filled with symbolism and hints, the story and the setup is the main thing here, not the violence and blood. The film is not for people who want to see chainsaws cutting legs, axes splitting heads and knifes cutting flesh. It is smart, disturbing and sensational with number of great scenes and one unrecognizable Vincent Cassel. Must be watched at least twice to fully appreciate it.


Russia 88, Russia (2009) [Official website]

This movie already made a small history by getting banned in Russia. Of course the meaning of "banned" is not the same as it was before, there is no prosecution of the filmmakers nor burning the negatives. It's just not allowed to get screenings in theaters and will not be screened on TV as well, but people will be able to buy it in video stores. I heard it is already a hit among fake DVD sellers.
The film is a mockumentary about Nazi underground movement in Russia, the skinheads. You know, fascist swastika, quotes from Mein Kampf, Nazi salutes, hunting and beating "others" on the streets, training camps in the forest, lots of cursing, the usual.
The story is told through the video camera, filming "real" people and events, and following group of young working class punks in Moscow in their racist and violent life. Of course all of it was staged, but the documentary quality of the film successfully creates unpleasant sensation and involves the viewer in the watching experience. And it is very disturbing, some scenes are truly stunning in their rough and gritty feeling. Of course, you can't hold feature film without some kind of a plot, without protagonist and some kitchen sink drama. So it is there as well, but dramatic subplot is really the weakest part of the film, resulting in ridiculous and over dramatic ending, spoiling the overall impression. I guess lack of experience of the director is to blame in that case
I won't be surprised if some film critic will write a big academic article or a book, analyzing the political, cultural and cinematic sides of Russia 88. It is possible to write many pages, reviewing this film from all angles, and there are many things to discuss about this film. Recommended, but don't expect too much.

You can find and download this film with English subtitles through various file sharing networks, I don't think international DVD will be available anytime soon.


The International, USA/Germany/UK (2009)

Very suspenseful and interesting to watch, but absolutely pointless and completely forgettable. The movie runs for almost two hours, but it seems twice shorter. You start watching it, and just like that it's over. One hour later and you completely forget what was that all about, one day later and you don't remember you ever saw it.
The worst thing about The International, is that it has no beginning and no ending, just the middle. I felt like I saw a small part of the story, same as if you open the book in the center and read one chapter out of it. I understand why it was made this way, but it just doesn't work.
What a shame, what a waste.


Gran Torino, USA (2008)

You can take the Cowboy out of the Wild West, but you can’t take the Wild West out of the Cowboy.
Using the similar patterns of classic Western, old cowboy Clint Eastwood is trying to tell a story of a suburban reality, where different mixture of ethnic groups creates tension and complex relationships. The good guys are being harassed by the bad guys, and the lonely gunman, suddenly arriving on his horse from the horizon, seems to have the solution, and such solution can be only violence.
But as in case with Unforgiven, Eastwood is testing the limits and rules of the genre here as well, reversing some and breaking other. The lonely gunman is the one who was living in the town all along, and it is the others who arrive from far away, bringing their customs and problems to him. It’s the cars instead of the horses, it’s the suburban environment instead of the dusty desert town, it’s even imaginary gun instead of a real one. There are no quick draws and face to face duels, no brothels, no drunken fights and no cabaret dancers. Instead there is an old man that finds complete strangers to be closer to him than his real family, and when they are threatened by the bad guys he finds the solution, which can be only violence.
The movie is an old man’s look at the young generation and it feels exactly like that. And while the plot is simple and predictable and the characters are stereotypical, the film is really pleasant to watch just because the Western basics in it are so deep and so familiar.
Gran Torino is generally overrated and too simple as a film, but it is very polished and well directed, it is great watching experience, probably because of its simplicity.


Yes Man, USA (2008)

Somebody needs to tell Jim Carrey that slapstick comedy and facial grimaces are so 90's.
In the age of Apatow style comedy, when the use of language, and not the body, is the main emphasis, when the comedies are much more sophisticated and the stories deal with serious issues, Jim Carrey is still making faces, twisting his body and never goes above the level of a fart joke.
An attempt to give the characters some sort of a depth fails miserably, they are bunch of walking cliches. And somebody please explain to me why Zooey Deschanel still getting roles. The girl simply can't act, and by the way, she can't sing too, all she has is big eyeballs on silly face covered by stupid haircut. I guess she is a proof that people can achieve a lot just because they have pretty eyes.
Anyway, this awful romantic comedy is an insult to intelligence and to common sense, although rarely there is some nice humor and Mr Carrey has his moments after all. Terence Stamp in a small role steals the show and generally very helpful.


12 Rounds, USA (2009)

This is not a movie, it is a giant plot hole capable of being center of a huge galaxy. There is no point of asking why, what or how, this abomination doesn't make any sense, at least not according to my logic.
Except of kidnapped wife element, this is direct rip off of Die Hard 3. And I mean exact copy of it, only without Bruce Willis and without a single drop of intelligence. And so it won't be too obvious, they ripped off some other movies as well.
The result is very tiresome and exhausting, too much pyrotechnics and no brains, exactly like Cena's previous movie The Marine.
People that think wrestling is for real might really like it.


K-20: Legend of the Mask, Japan (2008)

Big mess with good intentions. A bit of steampunk, some social commentary and some anime influences making this movie bearable to watch, but silly and childish story is not a way to make it right.
Too much talking and too much drama involving annoying and shallow characters. Not enough action and not enough entertainment, although some moments are very well made. Kids are the target audience of this fairytale, it will be hard for adults to find anything worthy in it.

6/10, for the effort.

Push, USA (2009)

Really good idea with lots of potential, but the execution is not that great. It feels like a pilot for TV series, with the aesthetics of a sci-fi TV show.
Overall nicely done, but not without flaws and the story is mostly confusing, so it's better not to think about it. Mindless and mildly entertaining.


Kwaidan, Japan (1964)

Visually amazing collection of folklore ghost stories and example of classic Japanese cinema.
It is indeed an art film on highest level, with very impressive filming techniques and psychedelic set designs. The movie is three hours long, mostly slow paced, but the watching experience is very hypnotic and completely satisfying.
Definitely not for people with short attention span that cannot focus for more than three minutes.