While driving through the
127 Hours (20th Century Fox) Harrowing true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco, in another fine turn), an extreme outdoorsman who finds himself trapped in a remote Utah canyon, his arm pinned between two boulders, with no help nearby, no communication to the outside world, and dim prospects for survival, to say the least. Director Danny Boyle manages to prove again that he’s one of the finest filmmakers working today by making a subject that is seemingly uncinematic a true example of pure cinema. Inventive, breathtaking, funny, and horrifying, often all at once. Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara make a memorable, brief appearance as hikers who connect with Ralston during his journey. Also available on Blu-ray disc. Bonuses: Commentary by Boyle, producer Christian Colson, co-writer Simon Beaufoy; Deleted scenes; Featurettes. Widescreen. Dolby and DTS-hd 5.1 surround.
Amarcord (Criterion) Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning, autobiographical classic might
First is Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, the first feature-length film starring the goofy and amusing VeggieTales gang lead by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. As the name implies, the film will retell the story of Jonah and the Whale with a comedic twist as only VeggieTales can deliver.
On a more serious note is The Miracle Maker, the popular clay animation starring the voices of Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1), William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk), Miranda Richardson (Fred Claus) and Alfred Molina (The Sorcerer's Apprentice). The Miracle Maker tells the story of Christ and will feature over three-and-a-half hours of bonus features.
I'll pass along cover art and Amazon pre-order links for each title as they become available.
Following 2002's theatrical feature Jonah plus innumerable direct-to-video offerings and a TV series, Pirates scores with adventure, humor and a morality tale rather than a standard biblical message. Cannily riding the wave of Disney's blockbuster pirate trilogy, and borrowing heavily as well from Baum's The Wizard of Oz and others, this briskly paced voyage should bring the pre-tween set aboard.
Like Jonah, the new film is framed by a contemporary story, but the framing is more polished than that first feature six years ago. Set "somewhere in the 17th century," we meet Prince Alexander and Princess Eloise, just as their ship is attacked by their jealous, peg-legged uncle Robert the Terrible and his pirates. A feisty Alexander is kidnapped, and, interestingly, he is held captive -- and contributes virtually nothing -- for the remainder of the story.
It is Eloise, with her Franklin Pangborn-like butler-sidekick Willory, who propels the entire action. Via a magic ball, three dinner-theater waiters in the present-day are plopped into the past to assist Eloise: timid Elliot (played by VeggieTales regular Larry the Cucumber), lazy Sedgewick (VeggieTales' gourd, Mr. Lunt) and unsung family man George (Pa Grape).
The five battle obstacles -- including the Island of Walking Rocks -- and encounter a few energetic musical interludes (the B-52's' "Rock Lobster" becomes a rousing closing-credits bonus video, "Rock Monster").
The crew features the usual Big Idea names. This time, co-founders Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer produce (with Paula Marcus), Nawrocki directed and Vischer scripted. Each man provides at least a half-dozen of the lead voices. Computer animation and tech credits overall are excellent.
THE PIRATES WHO DON'T DO ANYTHING: A VEGGIETALES MOVIE
Big Idea/Entertainment Rights Group
Director: Mike Nawrocki
Screenwriter: Phil Vischer
Producers: Paula Marcus, Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, David Pitts
Executive Producers: Mike Heap, Jane Smith, Terry Pefanis
Production designer: Charles Vollmer
Music: Kurt Heinecke
Editor: John Wahba
George, Sedgewick, Willory, Sir Frederick, Mr. Hibbing, Bob the Tomato, Pirate Spy, Pirate Philippe Pea: Phil Vischer
Elliot, Pirate Jean Claude Pea, Theater Foe, Pirate Spy Sidekick, Pirate With Dummy, Rock Monster Father: Mike Nawrocki
Robert the Terrible, the King: Cam Clarke
Running time -- 84 minutes
MPAA rating: G
Framing the age-old biblical tale of Jonah in the whale with a contemporary story works well. A van full of Veggies are eagerly on their way to a concert by Twippo, apparently a hugely popular children's entertainer in this very veggie world. As they harmonize, a distracted driver, Bob the Tomato, accidentally runs off the road.
Stranded at a rural seafood restaurant and awaiting a tow, the Veggies, which include Dad Asparagus and the bickering Junior Asparagus and Laura Carrot, meet a lazy trio of scalawag waiters, the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything (and are proud of it). But it seems there was one instance, eons ago, when they did help a fellow named Jonah.
The film now turns back centuries to tell the tale of Jonah and the whale. Described in song as a special kind of mailman, a prophet spreading the word of God, Jonah is happily ensconced in the ancient Near Eastern land of Joppa, as we deduce from the catchy ditty "Message From the Lord", which includes the incredibly prescient verse "Don't do drugs; stay in school."
The principal conflict of the film comes down to the fact that Jonah is very content in his homeland, but when instructed from above to travel to Nineveh, a notoriously vile den of cheats and liars, he wavers. Jonah talks the pirates into setting sail for a far-off destination in the opposite direction. Divine intervention brings on nightmares and a churning storm, sending Jonah (and Khalil, a half-worm/half-caterpillar sidekick he has met on board) into the sea ... and the mouth of a gigantic whale.
Three days and nights of contemplation inside the whale cause Jonah to begin to see things the Lord's way. Eventually, he gets the message across to the Ninevites, even if he has not quite yet grasped the importance of forgiveness and mercy.
Computer animation is vivid and sharp, with rich colors compensating for the limited expressiveness artists faced when dealing with big-eyed vegetables. Particularly nice is the sepialike quality of the scene in which Jonah literally hops onto a map of the Mediterranean/Arabia region, providing young viewers with a handy biblical geography lesson.
"Jonah" is full of fun anachronisms that one now expects from children's animation, and this parable does not take itself so seriously as to have no sense of humor. If anything, the shtick flies fast and furious. The songs (composed by a combination of co-writer/directors Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, plus Kurt Heinecke and David Mullen) are more than adequate for the youngsters in a homily sort of way, though the finale (led by the children's star, Twippo) underwhelms for all its glitz, with rather weak lyrics.
JONAH: A VEGGIETALES MOVIE
FHE Pictures in association with Big Idea Prods.
Screenwriter-directors: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki
Producer: Ameake Owens
Executive producers: Phil Vischer, Terry Botwick, Dan Philips
Music: Kurt Heinecke, Phil Vischer
Songs: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Kurt Heinecke, David Mullen
Art director/concept supervisor: Joe Sapulich
Director of animation: Marc Vulcano
Supervising editor: John Wahba
Voices: Jonah/Twippo/Archibald Asparagus/Bob the Tomato/Mr. Lunt/Pirate Lunt: Phil Vischer
Larry the Cucumber/Pirate Larry: Mike Nawrocki
Khalil: Tim Hodge
Junior Asparagus: Lisa Vischer
Dad Asparagus: Dan Anderson
Laura Carrot: Kristin Blegen
Running time -- 83 minutes
MPAA rating: G
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