Saturday, 14 November 2009


Dir: Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt
Year: 2007

Borman's animation badunza (don't look it up - I just made it up) continues with Ratatouille from Pixar. Brad Bird brought us The Incredibles and The Iron Giant and this... the man's a ledge(nd).

Out of those three - not that there's any need to compare them, but I will do for the sake of you small minded people - Ratatouille is by far my favourite. I felt a great kinship with Remi and his love of food. I'm sure Dodge would too but he refuses to watch anything that has rats in it. The snob.

Narry B finds that animation films drawn him more than 'real' films. You would think it would be the opposite, but I can't help shouting at the TV when the bad guy gets the upper hand, or there's a near miss with a grenade in a Disney film.

The plot goes a bit middle ground about half way through after an amazing start, and resorts to predictable Disney formula towards the end, which is why it goes down to Top Work instead of Genius. But it's got all the makings of a classic with a cheeky sense of humour and enough action to have you biting your fingerbones.

Top Wok!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Coraline (Smaltz Review)

Dir: Henry Selick
Starring: Teri Hatcher, French and Saunders, Lovejoy

Coraline is the first cinema film seen in 3d at home. The DVD kindly includes both versions so when you don’t want mild sea sickness you can watch it in 2d (how 20th century of you). The film itself has pedigree coming from the director of The Nightmare before Christmas and left me wondering what he has done between the two?

That aside Coraline (not Caroline) and her family have relocated and she’s not particularly happy about it, nor the fact that her parents are too busy to have time for her. Bored and inquisitive she finds the passage to an alternate life with her other mother and father. This is a world filled with everything she wants, her mother making sure everything is just right. When the time comes to offer her the chance to stay in this version of her world forever it becomes apparent how wrong it is.

Smaltzy Baby was surprised how good this was. I’d read the reviews and heard how like most animated films these days it’s dark and scary for adults too, but in this case it’s true. I found myself genuinely tense (dare I say scared) for our hero’s well being. The reason for this is that (like The Spiderwick Chronicles) it follows horror film conventions and is made by talented people.

The look of the film is wonderful, in fact moments of it are visually stunning. The story has a Studio Ghibli like feel to it as does its pacing. The cast is filled with eccentric characters and creatures, and there are 'nuff funny moments. The music is equally eclectic. The 3d works well enough to make it worth watching, and some scenes in particular really stand out. Honestly I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s charming but not quaintly so, definitely ideal for children but never childish.

Overall it’s very, very good indeed. Very.

Top Work!

The Aristocats

Dir: Wolfgang Rheitherman
Starring: Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers
Year: 1970

"Abraham De Lacy, Giuseppe Casey, Thomas O'Malley, O'Malley the Alley Cat!" There's something cool about cats. Much more than dogs. Dogs bark and stink. Cats eat and sleep, and sometimes hunt. Also they have jazz bands and get their photograph taken.

Aristocats captures the coolness of cats perfectly. Or should that be purrfectly? No, no it shouldn't. A mother and her three kittens get lost in the outskirts of Paris, having been taken from their home by a wily butler. Fortuantely, the smooth talking Giudeseppe De Lacy is around to help them get back home and win the mother's heart.

Along the way they meet Scatcat, aka Scatman Crothers, who also played Hong Kong Phooey (thanks, Wikipedia), and have some highjinks in 1920s Paris. What a riot!

This is golden era Disney. Some quality choons, legendary characters (especially Uncle Waldo who clearly deserves his own feature film) and ticklingly humourish.

Top Work!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Wolverine: X-Men Oranges (Smaltz Review)

Dir: Gavin 'in da' Hood

Starring: Hugh Jass, man! Will.I.Am

Part two of this Smaltz-review-a-thon is, in a way, the most intriguing. Not the film itself necessarily but the stories of studio interference, on set re-writes and it then being leaked at only 75% complete.

This, followed by very mixed reviews from cinema goers and comic book fans, left Smaltz a little unsure what to expect. The opening sequences of the film do little to rectify this. Flashy action sequences (though technically very good) do little to draw the viewer (namely, SMALTZ!) in.

Thankfully this is setup is to contrast with Logan’s desire for a quiet life which is filled with gorgeous Canadian scenery. Obviously this doesn’t last very long and soon he’s growling at his brother, his former commander and an oriental chap with guns.

Surprisingly the romantic interest that drives him to this is moving and handled well with Mr Jackman making sure you care what happens to him. In fact he carries the film on those burley shoulders very commendably and is undoubtedly the main reason to keep watching, he really does seem to care for this character and it shows.

The main complaint for comic book fans seems to be the interpretation of Deadpool and the many abilities he shouldn’t have. Smaltz knows nothing of this but has an interest in these sorts of films so it’s an interesting place to be watching from. The character certainly provides a menacing adversary but as with many super hero films there are a lot of characters that aren’t given enough screen time and he is one of them.

Another is fan favourite Gambit, it’s a good piece of casting but only for about 20 minutes screen time.

All in all Smaltz was pleasantly surprised. The film is quite tidy with spectacular stunts although some post-production effects are less convincing. The central character is as appealing as ever and it all just about puts everything in place for the original X-Men films, albeit in a sometimes contrived way. If you like the earlier films then this is worth a look although it does lack the weight that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen brought to the series.


Last King of Scotland (Smaltz Review)

Dir: Kevin Mcdonald
Starring: Forrest Whitaker, James McAvoy
Year: 2006

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story it has nothing to do with the Highlands or Highlander (fortunately). This is a dramatised story of Idi Armin’s rule of Uganda, a man curiously obsessed with England’s northern cousin so as to name himself the Last King of Scotland.

Smaltzy don't waste no time: this is a tremendous film. Forrest Whitaker’s performance in the lead role is one that will be looked back on as classic for a long time.

The story follows Nicholas Garrigan, a naieve and fun-loving
Scottish physician. The characters are so well judged and portrayed that we are drawn in by the charismatic Armin just as Nicholas is. He begins by accepting the role of his personal physician and is eventually called his closest advisor.

Each step closer to Amin is filled with tension until the horrendous acts committed under his rule are impossible to ignore. This first half is an exciting look at an exotic country of the brink of change but the second is pure political thriller.

The chilling turning point comes when Nicholas wants to get out only to find his house ram sacked and a new Ugandan passport waiting for him, effectively trapping him in the country.

There are some disturbing images but only occasionally as the filmmakers show great restraint which makes the whole thing more frightening. Be assured this film is top notch!

Smaltz-o-meter: Top Work

Toy Story

Dir: John Lassetter
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
Year: 1995

Has it been almost 15 years already?! I remember the release of Toy Story like it was yesterday, but in Narry Borman's 724 year-long life (and counting), 15 years is a mere blip.

NB's going through something of a Disney phase right now. I find it it purifying. Animation (generally) doesn't disturb you, but it does entertain you. In particular, the works of Ghibli and Disney are obvious but unbeatable selections in the world of cartoon creations.

Anyway, Toy Story is probably about the biggest/most popular Disney film ever (or is that The Lion King? tough call). This is my first viewing since I saw it on release.

Generally, it's held up well, although massive advances in computer graphics technology have left Toy Story looking a bit ropy in places (especially when compared with last week's film, Wall-E).

The story and script also had a few dated 90's moments but still makes you laugh and, yes, cry (that's you, Smaltz, you crybaby), and it certainly hasn't lost that indefinable Disney magic.

NB's taste tends to verge towards the handdrawn animation of Disney rather than the computer generated stuff, which is comparitively lacking in soul if you ask me. All the same, Toy Story is...