Wednesday, 09 August 2017 16:50

The Third Slow Death of 3-D film

According to recent reports, IMAX will reduce the amount of 3-D films shown in their theaters. With second quarter earnings down a significant percentage from a prior-year period IMAX executives will restructure the way they present tent pole flagship Hollywood films.  

 

In a conference call with The Wrap, CEO of IMAX, Greg Foster said:

 

“We’re looking forward to playing fewer 3-D versions of films and more 2-D versions … which customers have shown a strong preference for (2-D),” Foster added, mentioning that Warner Bros. “Blade Runner 2049” will be shown in 2-D exclusively at IMAX theaters when it opens in October weekend.”

 

That’s all well and good. But does it really mean that 3-D is dying, or dead?

 

Probably. More directors are shooting on the 70mm IMAX cameras and if the company itself is dropping 3-D in favor of 2-D then, yes, I would say there is a strong possibility that 3-D is going the way of the dodo.

 

I for one, am happy to hear this. I know you will be able to find plenty of love for 3-D, usually in today’s youth. And I will admit to watching a 3-D movie, from time to time -- but only once by choice. A couple of times someone bought me a ticket for a 3-D movie. I thanked them and watched said film in 3-D.

 

A couple of times I read movietickets.com wrong and didn’t realize I was showing up for a 3-D version and decided to see it so as not to wait for the next 2-D showing at a much later time.

 

I felt, much as the way you probably do -- for the added cost of the ticket price the 3-D experience is not worth it. The movies are too dark. Frenetic, hyper-edited action sequences become even more of a negative ADD experience.

 

The only movie I actively bought a 3-D ticket for was James Cameron’s, Avatar.  I’ll get to that later.

 

But first ...

 

Just where did this obnoxious 3-D crap come from?

 

From wikipedia:

 

“The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D film process. In his patent, two films were projected side by side on screen (one meant for the left eye to view, one meant for the right eye to view). The viewer looked through a stereoscope to converge the two images. Because of the obtrusive mechanics behind this method, theatrical use was not practical.”

 

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting 3-D to have been around in 1890.  Though, it really wasn’t until the 1920’s when a few directors and cinematographers tried to make the process marketable for a then modern audience. Three 3-D films from the twenties - The Men from M.A.R.S., The Power of Love and The Ship of Souls had limited runs. Nothing really peaked audience interest.

 

The thirties and forties showed little additional interest in 3-D films with each era producing only a handful of 3-D films. Even the arrival of Technicolor didn’t help. A few 3-D films were shot and printed in Technicolor but none of them screened in color and the use of color printing was only to help achieve the red / cyan (blue) 3-D coding effect.

 

In the early thirties polarized filters (which reduce glare) hit the market as a commercial product. This really helped with the 3-D process but again, wasn’t enough to peak audience interest.

 

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that 3-D exploded and the time between 1952-1954 was known as the “golden era” of the process. It all began late 1952 with the hit, Bwana Devil -- a drama based on the real life Tsavo Man-Eaters -- a pair of man eating lions responsible for the deaths of a number of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway from March through December 1898.

 

From wikipedia:

 

“As with practically all of the features made during this boom, Bwana Devil was projected dual-strip, with Polaroid filters. During the 1950s, the familiar disposable anaglyph glasses made of cardboard were mainly used for comic books ...

 

Because the features utilized two projectors, a capacity limit of film being loaded onto each projector (about 6,000 feet, or an hour's worth of film) meant that an intermission was necessary for every feature-length film. Quite often, intermission points were written into the script at a major plot point.”

 

To make a long story short -- 3-D suddenly boomed. In 1953, House of Wax, landed in the year’s top ten at the box office, the first time ever for a 3-D film. House of Wax also catapulted and forever typecast legendary actor, Vincent Price into the role of creepy horror film guy.

 

Alas, the “golden era” was short lived. Endless problems occurred with 3-D technology, the prints, and the time management to run the films. A few of the issues:

 

  • The silver projection screen was directional and caused sideline seating to be unusable.

  • The prints had to project simultaneously and remain exactly alike after repair or sync would be lost. If sync was off by even a single frame -- the picture was unwatchable.

  • Oftentimes theaters had to have two projectionist keep sync.

  • Mandatory intermission meant less features could be shown daily which resulted in lowered profit for all involved.

 

By 1955, 3-D films were gone from theaters.

 

Thankfully 3-D went away forever, never to return!

 

Ugh. I wish. There was an explosion of 3-D in the eighties and suddenly, horror films thought all “third” films should be 3-D -- Jaws 3-D, Amityville Horror 3-D, Friday the 13th 3 in 3-D -- you get the picture.

 

Disney caught on and released Magic Journey and Captain EO (starring Michael Jackson and directed by Francis Ford Coppola) in special venues at their theme parks. In the mid eighties IMAX began producing non-fiction films in their 70mm format and pushed as a key point for their 3-D films vs. traditional 3-D -- the IMAX process, then and now, emphasized mathematical correctness of the 3-D rendition and thus largely eliminated the eye fatigue that resulted from the approximate geometries of previous 3-D incarnations.

 

3-D was back and it was here to stay!

 

Except, no -- it wasn’t.

 

3-D, like the tide, waxed and waned all throughout the decade but for the most part had faded from mainstream use by the nineties. It’s true that 3-D stayed alive through special attractions throughout the entire nineties but just as the fifties, it mostly faded from mainstream cinema.

 

The next resurgence of 3-D began in 2003, with the release of James Cameron’s, Ghosts of the Abyss released as the first full-length 3-D Disney / IMAX feature and filmed with the Reality Camera System. This camera system, built by Cameron and Vince Pace used the latest HD video cameras, not film to produce the 3-D effect.

 

The film joined James Cameron, actor Bill Paxton and a team of the world’s foremost historical and marine experts as they journey underwater to the site of wrecked ship, the Titanic. The film was a colossal critical and commercial success.

 

And suddenly studios were interested in 3-D. Again. Studios began experimenting in releasing both a 2-D print and a 3-D print for their high profile products. The Polar Express (2005) was the first feature length animated film released in both prints with the 3-D version pulling in about 25% of the films total box office. Which was enough to raise 3-D interest from other studios.

 

Over the course of the next decade studios went 3-D crazy. Selected large budget films were released in both 2-D and 3-D, old films were re-released with a post production 3-D process and handful of films were specifically shot in 3-D cameras.

 

Which brings me to …

 

James Cameron’s, “Avatar.”

 

Much has been written about the herculean effort Cameron put into Avatar. Entire books, movies, documentaries and short films can be found. I offer only a few tidbits for context:

 

James Cameron spent twelve years developing technology improving 3-D cameras in order to shoot Avatar. He is the only director who seems to fully understand that the 3-D process makes your film darker. And so what did he do?

 

Well, he spent six months working with botanists, creating an ecologically accurate planet to set his story in. A planet that has glowing flora. So even when the 3-D process darkened his film for all those nights scenes the entire film is still brightly lit do to the glowing plants all over the planet!

 

I want to make that last point clear. He didn’t just want glowing plants all over the planet -- because that would be easy to accomplish. He wanted his planet to work. And so he spent months working with scientists to make sure the plants he showed would be one hundred percent ecologically accurate. He wanted the planet to be able to survive -- if it had been a real planet.

 

Which is amazing and it’s only a few of the reasons that Cameron’s Avatar remains one of the monumental directing achievements in all of world cinema.

 

Not that it’s without flaws. I’ll be the first person to admit that I think the script to Avatar is awful and the acting, for the most part, is adequate to incompetent. That being said, the film was a must see movie event in 2009. But you had to see it in 3-D. Cameron spent so long working in 3-D that he just seems to be the only working American filmmaker to just -- get it.  

 

In fact, of all the movies that have gone on to gross a billion dollars only one of them is an original story idea -- James Cameron’s Avatar. All the other movies in the billion plus club are sequels and franchise films.

 

Which says something (probably that Cameron was the first and only person to knock the novelty 3-D process out of the park).

 

Which brings us to today …

 

The “Avatar” resurgence has faded. 3-D is dying. Again.

 

It had a good run. But IMAX is right. Consumers, by and large, greatly prefer 2-D movie events. 3-D comes and goes and comes and goes and it never amounts to anything more than a novelty. 3-D was huge in the early fifties but, because it was a novelty, was gone in two years. 3-D had a resurgence in the eighties but, because it was a novelty, was gone in several years. 3-D had a second resurgence with Cameron’s technology achievement in the early 2000’s but, because it’s a novelty, has faded and will probably be gone in another three or five years.

 

Novelties, it seems, make a lot of money in short bursts but audiences quickly get tired of them. 3-D may be fading but if history repeats itself (again), I can almost guarantee you we’ll see another resurgence of 3-D -- oh-- somewhere around 2040.

 

For better or worse.

 

 

Published in News & Information

Back when I sat on the edge of my theater seat with clenched fists for almost two hours during Life, I tweeted immediately after that the film was the Alien of a new generation. I Tweeted that because like the original Alien film, the beauty of Life is that you don’t see much of the alien. It’s thrilling because the alien is growing quickly, and you don’t know what to expect the next time you see it. Neither do the characters, which better allows their fear to infect you.

GCN’s resident movie critic, Charles Karel Bouley, called Life an Alien “ripoff,” and I agree wholeheartedly. But I appreciate that the makers of Life utilized the successes of Alien and those suspenseful thrillers before it. But what I appreciate most about Life is that it’s at least a partially original story, with motivated plot and character arcs and an original, twisted ending that utilizes parallel editing pretty well. Life is an Alien movie with a new alien, just as Alien was Jaws with a new shark, and Jaws the Psycho with a new psycho.

It’s just too bad Alien: Covenant did its best to ruin Life’s opening weekend and gross earnings. Life has made just under $80 million worldwide, while Covenant moved up its release date, forcing Life into a crowded month and weekend. Logan and Get Out were both R-rated films still pulling strong numbers, and that’s two too many. Covenant did $4.2 million in Thursday night preview screenings at about 3,000 locations. As of this writing, Life is currently rated five points lower than Covenant on the Tomatometer and audience score.

So there’s another Alien movie. That’s six if you don’t count Alien vs. Predator. But you can tell Covenant is not a true Alien movie by simply comparing the trailers. Remember the Alien trailer? Well, I guess I don’t either. It was before my time, but I do remember watching effective trailers in film school, including that of Alien. It’s an effective trailer because the alien is never revealed. They start with the suspense right out of the gate and leave you wanting -- no -- needing to go to the theater to see that damn alien!

Covenant attempts to build suspense with its trailer but throws it all down the drain with the last shot. Sure they wait until the very end of the trailer to reveal the alien, but I’d argue they never needed that final shot of the alien. Almost everyone knows what the alien looks like by now, but the revelation used to be reserved for those who paid for a movie ticket. Now Hollywood just puts the revelation on the poster like a brand, but the art of making a great trailer has gone by the wayside as well.

Karel said Covenant doesn’t offer us anything new regarding suspense, “but it goes back to the same cinematography, the same type score, the same lighting that the original did oh so many years ago. BUT that had things we had not seen before.”

So Life can’t be an Alien ripoff with a mostly original story, villain and ending, and things we haven’t seen, but we can remake the same damn movie over and over as long as it shares part of the name of the original film? I might be in the minority, but I’d rather see someone attempt a film that’s even partially original than see the same film with the same shots and same music I saw 20 years ago with better computer graphics. Speaking of exactly the same...

The trailer for Life is almost an exact replica of the Alien trailer and is equally suspenseful. You never see the alien in its grown form -- only the faces of its victims -- which is plenty. The trailer doesn’t give too much away, and neither does the poster. The last time I was that excited to see a film (besides 2017’s Get Out for obvious reasons) was Dark Knight Rises five years earlier (and that’s because I’m a Batman freak). I just had to see that alien! And I am in no way comparing Life to either Get Out or Dark Knight Rises. I’m merely commenting that the feeling of excitement I had going into the film was piqued thanks to the trailer and movie poster. I was sold, and the people responsible for creating those marketing materials should get mad props.

As a fan of film and not necessarily of the Alien franchise, I appreciated what Ridley Scott did with the Alien prequel, Prometheus. He made it like the first Alien movie. The Xenomorph in Alien had just four minutes of screen time and didn’t appear until an hour into the film. That’s how you build suspense. The only horror or thriller villain to win an Academy Award spent 20 minutes onscreen. That’s all the role required thanks to Anthony Hopkins.

The Prometheus trailer never reveals the alien and neither does the poster. If you had never seen an Alien film you could have gone to the theater not even realizing you were going to see an Alien film. Then, after the most gruesome, on-screen c-section ever, that newborn alien just sits in that locked room. You almost forget about it while waiting for the big payoff -- the fight with the “engineer.” And when those doors open, the alien does not disappoint. It’s suspenseful more than it’s scary, and suspense is better.

But moviegoers have made things easier on filmmakers these days by turning out in droves for horror flicks and action movies that aren’t nearly as dedicated to cinematic and thematic quality as thrillers and dramas. I mean, a handheld-shot, horror movie made nearly $250 million. And while Covenant looks to be on its way to good payday, it’s also surrounded with the likes of a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, a third animated movie about talking Cars, a sequel to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and a remake of The Mummy with Tom Cruise (which I find to be incredibly disturbing).

My point is the standards of moviegoers have fallen tremendously, likely due to the lack of originality and variety available at movie theaters these days. Hollywood is getting away with it and will continue to do so until people stop paying exorbitant amounts of money to see bad films.

“Ridley knows how to terrorize us...but when Scott discovers that we can be terrorized again with less, instead of more, and when the writers can innovate instead of capitalize, the next great horror film will be made,” Karel said.

I would venture to say horror isn’t a genre that lends itself to originality, and if writers want to innovate, they wouldn’t write horror or action. They’d write suspenseful thrillers, which require new monsters and new stories like Life has given us. I so hope there's a sequel called After Life and a sequel to the sequel called Life After Life. Given the ending of Life, I'd say the future of the franchise is brighter than the box office numbers indicate.

I have no problem with the Alien franchise continuing. It’s a fantastic story and now a fantastic pre-story. But if you’re going to make an Alien movie, make an Alien movie -- trailer, poster and all. Leave some wiggle room for the imagination to fantasize prior to throwing the alien in our face. That’s what made Alien so great, and while Life and Prometheus are contrived by design, at least they stayed true to the inspiration. If Alien: Covenant stays true to its inspiration, it’ll be contrived from the sci-fi, action movie Aliens, which, by design, means it can’t be as cinematically or thematically entertaining as Life or any of its predecessors.

Editor’s Note: An update will follow with my review of Alien: Covenant.

Editor's Note: I finally watched Alien: Covenant, and since it's been almost four months since this was originally published, you are right to assume that I didn't see it in a theater. I'm glad I didn't, because the latest Alien movie isn't even worth renting. While I'll appreciate the franchise continuing tradition and making a woman the film's strongest character, that's about the only thing I like about it besides Daniel McBride's performance. Michael Fassbender returns as David and also plays Walter -- an updated version of David. But Walter is duller, too, and for good reason. The humans don't want him to create anything for fear of what he's capable. This doesn't allow Fassbender to carry the screen like he did with David in Prometheus, but the film does do a good job illustrating the potential hazards of artificial intelligence, leaving you wondering for how long you'll be atop the food chain -- and not because of the aliens.

The plot is oh so predictable from beginning to end. Upon introductions of the Covenant crew, I knew exactly who would live and who would die. But even their deaths weren't especially entertaining or creative, with one crew member slipping on blood and injuring her leg to make things easy for the newborn alien. The biggest problem I had with the film was how almost everyone panics (and unrealistically at that) the moment something goes wrong. It might be just a colonizing mission, but they're in outer freaking space. If this crew had any training whatsoever, most didn't show it. And whether or not you're aware aliens exist, you must assume aliens exist, and have a plan in case you make contact. Apparently, NASA doesn't have a protocol for dealing with aliens, either, but that's because they're not even close to getting far enough from Earth to find any. Covenant, however, is en route to a planet that could sustain human life, and therefore other life, and the crew awakes seven years from their destination. I'm sorry, but anyone who boards a spaceship and falls asleep for a decade while roaming outer space and awakes with the assumption they're still the only intelligent life in the vicinity is either incredibly vain or incredibly stupid, or both. Alien: Covenant is equally as stupid. The entire film exists because Prometheus was so good and revived the franchise. They certainly didn't need Ridley Scott to make and sell this garbage. Prometheus did that. Life, however, is a fresh take on the alien story and far more entertaining than Covenant. It might not be as introspective and thought-provoking, but Life is more suspenseful, offers believable performances, and has a much better ending because I didn't see it coming when the movie started. The only thing I was wrong about is Covenant wasn't as scary as Life.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge

Published in News & Information

A man in Texas is suing his date for texting during Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. The man is looking to be reimbursed for the price of his ticket: $17.31. I know, that’s way too much to pay for a movie, but it was in 3D afterall, which is generally a waste of money. The only good 3D movie I’ve ever seen is Harold and Kumar’s Very 3D Christmas.

Anyways, if we wanted to pay even more to see a movie, we could adapt a program where cell phones are locked up by the movie theater staff and can be picked up anytime during or after the movie. But since that’s not happening we all have to put up with people who don’t understand that the use of their phone bothers moviegoers because in a nearly pitch-black theater, a cell phone is like a road flare.

For me, as a film graduate, I find cell phone use during the feature completely disrespectful not only to your fellow moviegoers but to the filmmakers as well. If you’re not going to consider your fellow moviegoers as neighbors who are taking this visual and auditory adventure with you, consider how many people worked hard to bring you this entertainment you pay $17.31 to enjoy and escape your miserable life.

You millennials out there who are connected to your phone like an Army Ranger is to her rifle could benefit from powering down every once in awhile. Why would you want to indulge in your miserable life when the one on screen is so much more interesting? In the words of Tyler Durden, “You are not special. You are not beautiful or unique snowflakes. You are the same decaying, organic matter as everything else. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.” So make like the rest of the courteous crap and shut off your damn cell phone during the film!

People texting during the feature brings me flashes of that scene from God Bless America where a man with nothing to lose and a high school girl with nothing to do shoot everyone being annoying during a movie and leave the person who wasn’t with, “Thanks for not talking during the feature. Thanks for turning off your cell phone.”

Now I’m not about to pull a Dark Knight premiere on people using their cell phones during a movie, but I will sternly ask them to shut off their cell phone immediately. If they continue to use their cell phone or talk during the feature, I will ask the usher to remove them and give me a refund for having to leave the theater during the movie for which I just paid $17.31.

If the usher isn’t willing to do either, I’ll speak with a manager who will. While movie theater owners don’t want to lose the millennials who think seeing a movie is a social event, they’d rather lose customers who aren’t interested enough in the film to turn off their cell phones than a regular moviegoer who is. It’s imperative that you let the manager know they’ll lose you as a customer if cell phone use during the movie isn’t addressed with no tolerance.

If I had it my way, I’d make it illegal to use cell phones or any technological device in a theater, and issue an insane fine, so if people do it once they never do it again. Actually, instead of a fine, make those people sacrifice a day of their lives to see what filmmakers go through to make the movies they disrespect. That could be up to 17 hours. My film school had to enact guidelines limiting the length of shooting days to 12 hours because one of my classmates was killed in a car accident after working 16 hours on a shoot. He fell asleep at the wheel, and they called it “12 hours on, 12 hours off,” meaning for every 12 hours on set or location you need 12 hours off set or location to rest. That’s not the case on most films.

There are few products that require the work of as many people as a feature film, and if you’re watching a film in English, there’s a good chance you’re supporting 1.9 million American jobs. So if you feel you need to message your friend during the feature like the Texas man’s date, I hope you get more than a lawsuit. I hope you’re never allowed in a theater again.

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If you like this you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: Americanuck Radio, The Daren Streblow Comedy Show, Free Talk Live, Erskine Overnight, The Debbie Nigro Show, Flow of Wisdom, The Karel Show, The Tech Night Owl Live, What’s On Your Mind

Published in News & Information

So many movies. So little time.

 

Some of these movies are a bit obscure, either ruined by a single test audience or poorly marketed by the studio. A couple of them were pretty big movies in their time. At least one of them might be considered a modern day classic. But it occurred to me, in creating this list, some movies that I consider a “everyone must have seen that, right?” are --- well -- old. One of the movies on the list came out in 1959 and the few that came out in the eighties are still thirty years aged!  

 

Thirty years? Time flies, my friend.  But anyway, if you have a ten or a twelve year old it’s very possible your kid has not seen a thirty year old film from the eighties. Even if that film was really popular at the time. So, a couple of the films might be a bit of a stretch to claim your children have, “never heard of it." And the term, “family film,” kind of implies that all the movies are designed for everyone in the family. That’s not entirely the case. But I try and point some appropriate ages in a few of the mini reviews below. Some will be more enjoyed by the young, some by pre-teens, some by kids who like to be scared, others for kids who do not like to be scared at all.

 

You get the drift.

 

Anyway, yes, some of the movies are old, thankfully nostalgic cinephiles, such as myself, adore clinging to the past! I rattled the ol' memory cage around and kicked out some bolts, some rust and a list of ten great family movies. And I took it very seriously. Very seriously, indeed. You see, I was always struck by a quote from late film critic Roger Ebert in his 1995 review for, “A Little Princess,” -- “Unlike the insipid devices of most family films ... (“A Little Princess”) ... understands that children take stories very seriously indeed, and that all stories are really about the uncertain place of the child in the mysterious world of adults.”

 

Well said, Mr. Ebert. Thank you for all the reviews and all the words. Your writing is missed.  And so, I tried to put together a list of stories about the uncertain place of the child in the mysterious world of adults. And now, my list of great family movies, presented alphabetically:

 

  • A Little Princess (1995): A Little Princess tells the story of young Sara Crewe who lives with her father in India. When her father feels duty bound to enlist with the British to fight in WWI, Sara is consigned to a servant’s life at the very same New York City boarding school her late mother attended. The film effectively juggles light fantasy with harsh realities such as poverty, abuse and parental loss. The movie is smart and refuses to pander to the audience, taking itself, and the young heroine -- as Ebert notes in the above quote -- very seriously. As a side note, the director of the film, Alfonso Cuarón, goes on to make the only great Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban as well as the exceptional (for adults) sci-fi drama, Children of Men.

 

  • Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Based on the Kavanagh book, Darby O’Gill and the Good People, wily old Irish codger Darby O’Gill matches his considerable wit against that of the leprechaun king. This is one of Disney’s under appreciated gems! The movie holds up surprisingly well given its age. Sure, the subplot is hooky -- a romance between a young Sean Connery & Janet Munro plays like a particularly bad Irish soap commercial. The pure delight of the film comes from the rivalry and game play of clever Darby and sly King Brian of the leprechauns. A personal project of Walt Disney and a technical marvel for it’s time.

 

  • Duma (2005): Duma is the greatest family adventure film you’ve never seen. No, seriously. Xan, a young South African boy, befriends an orphaned cheetah. When family trouble arises, Xan must return Duma to the wild. Let the adventure begin! The film uses live cheetah’s and zero CGI, which gives the movie an authentic richness. Guaranteed to make you and your family want to have a pet cheetah. Duma is a really lovely movie and it’s based on a true story. A note about the director, Carroll Ballard. He also made, The Black Stallion. another great movie exploring the relationship between animals and people.

     

  • Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989): A quaintly atmospheric and delightful movie for pre-teens, especially girls. Young Kiki, a promising good witch, strikes out on her own and lands in a fun little French(ish) town on the coast. But the townsfolk have a strict, “No witches allowed!” policy. What’s a young witch to do? A charming coming of age tale about a girl realizing her own power, not as a witch, but as a person.

      

  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988): Families of all ages can enjoy this but it’s created for young kids. My Neighbor Totoro is about sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to an old house to be closer to their ailing mother. The girls quickly discover their new country home is in a magical forest inhabited by spirits called Totoros. Together they go on unbelievably cute adventures. And I mean, unbelievably cute! Like, seriously, cute!   

     

  • Paperhouse (1988): Young Anna Madden, while suffering from severe mono, draws a house on a blank sheet of paper. In her feverish dreams she finds herself visiting the house and talking to the disabled boy who lives within. As her fever gets worse and worse she has a hard time waking up and the dreams get darker and darker. The film handles childhood loneliness and feelings of isolation extremely well but the dark elements and the bleak landscape created in the dream world might be too intense for youngsters. This is one of my favorite films from that decade.

 

  • The Iron Giant (1999): Oh, this magnificent film is nothing more than a story about a boy -- and his super awesome robot. His super awesome giant robot! Set in the red panic induced fifties, Brad Bird's first animated film warms him up for his genius, The Incredible, for Pixar. The Iron Giant has tremendous heart and emotion. It also happens to be exceptionally funny. I know many have seen it but it never had the popularity of a Pixar or Studio Ghibli film so I included it here just in case you have not yet had the pleasure. Everyone in the family will love it.

      

  • The Last Starfighter (1984): Oh, man. A movie about an arcade game that, if you get really, really good at, will whisk you away to have super awesome alien adventures?  Sign me up! Young kids will love this movie. Older kids might be turned off by the dated special effects. If it means anything, every kid I grew up with has seen this movie, like, a dozen times. Because it’s great! Sadly, a modern day big budget remake looks to be out of the question. Screenwriter, Jonathan R. Betuel somehow maintained the rights to the film and refuses anyone to remake it. Even cinema giant Steven Spielberg was turned down.

 

  • The Secret of Kells (2009): Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. He is beckoned to adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. This animated fantasy adventure is heavily rooted in Celtic mythology and based on the story of the origin of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin and it’s a really great story telling mixture of fact and fantasy.

 

  • The Witches (1990): A little boy and his kindly grandmother battle a coven of witches who want to rid Britain of children by turning them into mice. What a great plot! This movie is a forgotten cult gem. I think it was misunderstood when marketed. Parents thought it might be either too childish or too scary and stayed away. But a few fantastic performances, especially by Anjelica Huston; and a really sharp script push this to the top of my, “you really should witch this” list. Critics adored The Witches but audiences stayed home. Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name. It should be noted, that, Mr. Dahl, ummm, was not a fan of the film, calling it, “appalling.” I think that was mainly because the film alters the end of the book. Well, the book is unread by me but I like the ending of the movie just fine.

 

  • A Little Princess (1995). Director: Alfonso Cuarón. Writing Credit: Elizabeth Chandler, Richard LaGravenese (screenplay). Frances Hodgson Burnett (novel).

  • Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Director: Robert Stevenson. Writing Credit: Lawrence Edward Watkin (screenplay, H.T. Kavanagh based on the “Darby O’Gill” stories).

  • Duma (2005): Director: Carroll Ballard. Writing Credit: Karen Janszen, Mark St. Germain (screenplay). Carol Flint, Karen Janszen (story). Carol Cawthra Hopcraft, Xan Hopcraft (the book, How It Was with Dooms, the true story of a young boy's friendship with an orphaned cheetah on the family's game ranch in Kenya).

  • Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989). Director / Writing Credit: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay). Eiko Kadono (novel).

  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Director / Writer: Hayao Miyazaki.

  • Paperhouse (1988). Director: Bernard Rose. Writing Credit: Matthew Jacobs (screenplay). Catherine Storr (novel, “Marianne Dreams”).

  • The Iron Giant (1999). Director: Brad Bird. Writing Credit: Tim McCanlies (screenplay). Brad Bird (story). Ted Hughes (novel, “The Iron Man”).

  • The Last Starfighter (1984). Director: Nick Castle. Writing Credit: Jonathan R. Betuel

  • The Secret of Kells (2009). Director: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey. Writing Credit: Fabrice Ziolkowski (screenplay), Tomm Moore (original story).

  • The Witches (1990). Director: Nicolas Roeg. Writing Credit: Allan Scott (screenplay). Roald Dahl (novel).

 

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