Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Film Review: Finding Nemo

From a pride of lions in the plains of Africa to a baby deer in a wooded forest; Disney has given much acknowledgment to the animal kingdom. When Disney merged with Pixar Animation in 1995, the concept of animals as characters were long but forgotten. In the year 2003, Disney Pixar turned to the sea as inspiration for their next major animated film. The motion picture Finding Nemo was released and became the world’s highest grossing animated film of all time (Pixar).

Pixar is a studio that specializes in computer animation for short and feature films. “Pixar's objective is to combine proprietary technology and world-class creative talent to develop computer-animated feature films with memorable characters and heartwarming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages”(Pixar). One unusual challenge was setting the story in the ocean. It posed problems with lighting, texture, scenery and movement. The Pixar animation team overcame these problems with outstanding results. Finding Nemo’s intricate animation will make it stand out for years to come.

Finding Nemo, directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, is the story of a clown fish, Marlin (voice by Albert Brooks) and his wife and proud mother to be, Coral (Elizabeth Perkins). The two are setting up a family and a life in a new coral reef. Since Finding Nemo is Disney movie, of course there has to be coping with the loss of a parent. Before the first scene has even ended, a barracuda fish attacks Coral and Marlin’s new home eating Coral and all but one of the little clown fish eggs. Though Marlin is spared, he’s heartbroken and vows to "never let anything happen" to his only child named Nemo by Coral. Nemo is forced into a sheltered childhood because of Marlin’s fears of the cruelty of the outside world. When Nemo is finally allowed to go to school he decides to rebel against Marlin’s paranoia by swimming out into open water. Through this act, Nemo ends up being kidnapped by a scuba diver and learns that sometimes father really does know best. A frantic Marlin fears for his child, the only thing he has left in his life, and sets off to do what any other parent would; to find Nemo. Marlin sets off on his long journey and is joined by another fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). Dory is well intended though she suffers short term memory loss and Marlin who is frustrated and desperate has to deal with constantly reminding Dory of simple details. Together they travel an epic journey in which they encounter many other interesting sea creatures who help the duo along the way. While Marlin is faithfully searching the whole ocean for his child, Nemo has been taken to a fish tank located in an Australian dental office. Little Nemo befriends the other odd fish in the tank but wants nothing more than to return to his dad in the ocean.

Finding Nemo is a surprisingly compelling and funny story of the lost and the found that will make any person young or old feel warm and fuzzy by the end.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Film Journal: Critique the Critic

I recently saw the movie Juno. I thought the movie was brilliant and I wanted to find a review that shared the same opinion. I chose a review by James Berardinelli who is writing for, a movie critic showcase. Berardinelli’s enthusiasm about this “little film that could” (Berardinelli, par. 1) really reflected my feelings about Juno. The film first appeared at a Film Festival in September and from there it moved on to bigger theaters and larger sell-out size of crowds. Directed by Jason Rietman, Juno is definitely not a movie that you would want to miss.
A quick-tounged 16-year-old, Juno MacGruff (Ellen Page), isn’t fazed by much - until she realizes that she’s pregnant. After taking three take-home pregnancy tests, it’s confirmed. Juno’s best friend Pauli, played by Michael Cera, is an avid track runner and now a soon-to-be father. Juno’s initial reaction is to have an abortion. Between the clinic receptionist telling Juno how much she loves blueberry flavored condoms and being told that her baby has fingernails, Juno decides that abortion is not the best choice. Juno finds a seemingly perfect couple, Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) looking to adopt in a newspaper and contacts them. As the story goes on we fall more in love with Juno’s quirky personality and the challenges that she faces.
Berardinelli is extremely accurate in the way he lovingly describes Juno. “Juno isn't one of those "laugh riots" that will have audience members rolling in the aisles, getting fake popcorn butter and spilled soda all over their clothing. Instead, it's funny in a sassy way - the kind of humor that causes a lot of smiles and chuckles to go along with the occasional stomach-jiggling laugh.” (Berardinelli, par. 4)
Juno makes you realize the simple happinesses that you have in life. It’s a movie about growing up and realizing that not all things go as planned. Even with everything that Juno could look badly upon, she always seems to have a smart comment that brightens the sensitive subjects. “Almost everything that Juno says is worth listening to” (Berardinelli, par. 4)
He compares Juno to movies such as Little Miss Sunshine and Knocked Up. He also makes comparison to Superbad. I really disagree with this comparison because I think that Superbad lacks the smart, thoughtful humor that Juno strives on.
Berardinelli’s review is very complementary to both the actors and the director. Jason Rietman has also directed Thank You for Smoking, another film with an Indie vibe. I’ve tried to watch this movie twice though I haven’t gotten farther than 30 minutes through into it. Michael Cera is one of my favorite actors from the show Arrested Development (Jason Bateman who plays Mark also stars in Arrested Development). “Cera creates the kind of genuine, timid guy who's too rarely seen in teen films” (Berardinelli, par. 5).
Juno is the kind of the film where a viewer almost needs to look for a reason to dislike it for it not to work. It's charming without being saccharine. It's funny without being rude or dishonest. It's smart without being smart-assed. And it's got enough heart to keep the comedic elements in check.” (Berardinelli, par. 6). I think that this statement is a “pea in the pod” when it comes to Juno. "4 1/2 stars out of 5" (Berardinelli)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Video Embedding

This clip is from Audrey Hepburn's "Breakfast at Tiffany's". The clip is of the final scene in the movie where Paul tells Holly that her Brazilian finacee is no longer interested in marriage. Around the 2:30 mark, the director uses a close-up on Holly to emphasize her emotions. The shot of Holly's face that turns from a once bright expression to a distrought look of hopelessness makes viewers sympathetic for the character's situation. In the last shot of the scene the director uses a camera on a crane to go from a medium shot of Holly and Paul to a high angle shot showing the streets and the buildings surrounding them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Across the Universe

One of my favorite movies, besides The Lion King, is Across the Universe. (Photo credit: Lost Forest After Dark)

Across the Universe is my favorite movie because I love the way it incorporates the Beatles' most influential songs into a movie that recognizes the struggles of the Revolutions during the Vitenam War. The story line keeps you interested and the cinematography is extremely unique. Evan Rachel Wood, who also starred in Thirteen, is one of my favorite acrtresses. The reniditions of the Beatles' songs are well constructed and gives rightful credit to the songs original artists.

Across the Universe is a movie musical that uses a score of some of the Beatles greatest hits. The movie is set in the 1960's and is about a British dock worker, Jude, who travels to America to find his father. While he's there, he meets Max, a wealthy college drop-out but it's Max's little sister, Lucy that changes Jude fancies. The three of them move to New York with an aspiring singer Sadie (Janis Joplin-like figure), and her guitarist and love interest, Jojo (Jimi Hendrix-like figure). They live in a time of the revolution during the Vietnam War. Lucy's boyfriend is killed in combat and Max is relucantly drafted to fight on the frontlines in Vietnam. Jude and Lucy fall in love and together they journey to find something they truely believe in. Lucy joins a anti-war student activists group that publishes articles and pictures with anti-war messages. Lucy also attends some anti-war protests. Jude makes it very clear to Lucy that he dissaproves the protests and during a riot that Lucy helps organize, Jude is arrested and deported back to England. They now had an ocean between them but since "all you need is love" Jude eventually returns to New York once again and into Lucy's arms.

Though overall the critics' scores were average, some of the biggest newpapers gave Across the Universe high scores. The New York Times says "Across the Universe will capture your heart" and the Chicago Sun-Tribune calls it "bold, beautiful, and visually enchanting". Like all movies, there were reviews that found Across the Universe a dud. There were some that were actually really nasty. The Chicago Reader stated "if the bullet hadn't killed John Lennon, this Beatles-scored musical might have". Most readers rated the movie either a 10 or 1. So for most, Across the Universe is a hit or it's miss.