Film A Week 16: Pete’s Dragon (1977)

Before we go on, I like to say that we have reached the end of the month long look at the wonders of animation in all its form. I like to thank the guest writers who came aboard to help out with this magnificent albeit short month and for you Film A Week readers giving them a chance. More writers may pop by in the future for more collaborative views on film. Yet, for this review, I will be ridin’ solo.

Now, onto the review.

Imaginary friends as children always seemed to be a strange case. A couple of friends will give a funny look as one chats away with a nonexistent being and others will come by and play along as to not make it seem awkward. Imagination is a powerful thing, but even those who think that someone just has imaginary may be blown away by just how real they are.
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Pete’s Dragon tells the tale of a young orphan boy named, well, Pete who loves to play with his dragon (stop snickering) named Elliot. Fortanatley, the dragon is all the boy has as he tries to escape the reigns of his previous foster family of nothing but rednecks. Pete soon ends up in Passamacracker? Passamytoejam? Wait, Passamaquoddy, Maine to hide out. Having arrive, they enter their world with a drunk Mickey Rooney, a snake oil con man, and Helen Reddy doing what she was born to do: singing her ass off.

The film is particuliar unique as one of the main characters is fully animated in the lush Disney animation style blending 2D animation with the live action footage. Sadly, the kinks were still being worked out at the time so the live action interaction do not mesh as well as they should. The scene at the start with Pete and Elliot eating apples is a heartwarming scene, but the lines where both meet are as clear as day to see. Luckily, Elliot is a lovable and well designed character, due in part to being animated by animation master Don Bluth.
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The performances in the film are an odd collection of classic legends and scenary chewing. Helen Reddy as Nora is the typical den mother role, but achieves much more than that. Her fragile nature over the loss of the man she loves shines through in the powerhouse ‘Candle in the Water’ with Reddy giving it her all. Reddy seemed to have a blast her role. Not bad for someone known mostly for being a pop star in the disco laden 70s. Mickey Rooney as Lampie, Nora’s father, is played with warmth and heart despite mostly being a drunkard in scenes. He comes off as a believable father figure that when it comes time to adopt Pete, it seems filled with real admiration for Pete.
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Jim Dale and Red Buttons as Dr. Terminus and Hoagy respectively are, pardon my language, fuckin’ hysterical. Dale’s performance delivers all the wonders of a classic jerkass Disney villian, but whip smart insults and clever moments of humor like a villian you want to just hang out with. Red Buttons as Hoagy could not have been a better choice as Buttons always hits the right marks when it comes to humor, be it through his expressions or his ability to deliver a dry joke. The Gogans, lead by Shelly Winters, are also a hoot with Grover and Willie (Gary Morgan and Jeff Conaway) getting into constant traps, slapstick moments that the Stooges would praise and even fighting one another just for the hell of it. Sean Marshall as Pete was also quite well by playing the innocence of Pete to a tee and capturing the essence of a Dickensian orphan type.

The music of the movie is quite hit and miss. The tunes ‘Passamaqouddy’, ‘Candle on the Water’, ‘I Saw A Dragon’ and ‘There’s Room for Everyone’ are quite the true highlights of the entire film. ‘Passamaqouddy’ captures the pure idiocy of Termenius and shows the humor that he can dish out alongside the rousing number ‘I Saw A Dragon’ giving our first impression of Lampie’s drunken haze. ‘Candle on the Water’, like mentioned before, is a powerhouse and filled with heartbreak from Reddy. ‘There’s Room for Everyone’ feels like a number straight from previous Disney musical Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks and is just as fantastic. Other songs fall a bit flat and seem to lead the viewer to want more. Saying that about a musical is not usually the best compliment in the world.
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With that said, the film is just okay. I certainly see why it is a classic, but compared to other Disney efforts, it seems to be too much of a mediocre version of those features. The fault is in the story being done to death with constant films about orphans and friends which Disney is guilty of beating to the ground. Twists are telegraphed from miles away and it seems to overstay its welcome near the mid point where the true plot gets started. Yet, I recommend it for those who have yet to see it, but do not expect this to completely sell you. If it does, you are a better person than I.

Next week, Film A Week heads into the summer movie season by covering films of the summer. How to kick it off you say? By covering one of the biggest summer film box office bombs in recent memories that deserves more love. We head to Toronto to take a look at the precious little life Scott Pilgrim has after meeting his dream girl Ramona Flowers. What can possibly go wrong? Oh, yea, having to go toe to toe with all her exes. Scott Pilgrim is going to get it together and take on the world.

Film A Week 17: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
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Saturday, May 4th.
Part of Take Back the Summer Cinema Month

Untitled Poem #1

Lost in thought, lost in time,
Was there ever a reason to the rhyme?
I lose myself in another dance of romance
Only to end in a trance.

The selfish need that harbors my insides
Plauging my heart as it hides
Underneath the tissue fragile and worn,
Made up of pieces formerly torn.

The many nights I spent with Russian, Manhattan, and Goose
Luckily, I never gave into the noose.
Too much potential according to them would have gone to waste
If only, if only, they knew my personal taste.

A seductress of raven hair and curves
Wraps me up in her lustful swerves.
We danced all night and swung in a sensual daze
I gave up on myself and wounded up in a haze.

Years I ponder at the bridge under the stars
And yet, I see someone so clear nestled in the headlights of cars.
I was picked up by them and taken to my hive
Where they kept me inside steering clear of my attempted killing dive.

I slept for hours and hours on end
Trying to reassure myself if it was my heart that was on the mend.
And when I awoke, I saw the sky bright and clear
No longer afraid of what I used to fear.

A glimmer of hope hit me square in the face
I had to finally figure out where the universe had put me in space.
And I climbed the mountains and ran through the trees
To find a stronger doppelganger to help the old me flee.

The journey is though, long and winded
And I rest in an area soft and kindred
Still on way to find what I need the most
To make the shadow of my former self a mere pitiful ghost

Film a Week 15: Coraline (2009) Guest Writer Erik Luna of theeastsiderla.com

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Erik Luna is a contributing writer to The Eastsider LA and online editor and staff writer for the award-winning East Los Angeles College Campus News. Follow him on Twitter @ErikLuna814, read some of his stories at theeastsiderla.com and elaccampusnews.com, or follow on Instagram @thefake_erik

From the seemingly messed up mind of Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare before Christmas, comes the story of a blue-haired, annoyingly stubborn little girl named Coraline. Coraline was based off of Neil Gaiman’s 2002 horrific fantasy novella of the same name. Although Tim Burton didn’t contribute anything to this wonderfully filmed stop-motion picture, there are various Burton-esque qualities to the film. For example, Selick’s use of twisted trees and misshaped characters are straight from the Burton playbook. Despite it’s overall sinister feel to it, like the beginning credits showing some weird hand-like contraction that’s made out of sewing needles making a doll, the film has a heartfelt theme of not taking someone you love for granted.

The story starts off as Coraline, voiced by “Don’t call her North or South” Dakota Fanning, and her family move to the sinister looking old Pink Palace apartments. Coraline, having the spirit of adventure, decides to wander off into the foggy woods in search of an old well. At this point the character of Wybie is introduced. Wybie probably has one of the saddest back-stories for his name in animated film history. Coraline befriends this young man, but acts more like a bully towards him, which brings on the old adage “with friends like that, who needs enemies.” One day while her mother, voiced by Lois La… I mean Teri Hatcher, and father, voiced by John Hodgman, are busy working as botany writing specialists, Coraline decides to explore the 150-year-old house. It’s during this exploration that the young girl discovers a hidden door in the living room, but is disappointed to see that it has been blocked off by bricks.

During the night Coraline is awakened by some mice. They lead her downstairs to the door, but to Coraline’s surprise, the bricks that were behind the door are no longer there. She steps through onto what looks like the inside of a giant glowing caterpillar and onto a parallel world. In this world all the people have buttons for eyes and are extremely good cooks. Which by the way if Coraline was so hungry before having gone into the parallel world, why did she only eat one bite of that glorious looking turkey “other mother,” made? Ugh. Selick you bastard, let the girl eat. Yet, while in this other world Coraline realizes that everything is not what is made out to be and must face off with the evil that is Teri Hatcher – umm I mean “other mother,” or Beldam as she is later called.

The film uses stop-motion to an utmost perfection. Selick mixes in more adult scenes with this animated film to give it a more bizarre twist. Most notably the almost full frontal nudity of one of the characters in the Pink Palace apartments, yes, big – and I mean humongous – breasts were almost fully exposed. Woo, good thing this movie got that PG rating – wait – PG? Oh, Selick you lovable bastard, what will you do next? It’s really a great film with astonishing stop-motion graphics and wonderfully acted voiceovers. It’s dark humor and elaborate scenes are tantamount to its soundtrack, which adds on to the movies constant state of spine-chilling storyline. Scary, yet, adorable. Freaky, yet, loving.

Serg Beret’s Thoughts on Coraline“When I first saw Coraline, I did not know what to expect. I was sent into a world where wonder and madness intertwined and never did I get bored. The transformation of the Other Mother shifts the movie into dark territory as the world Coraline sought as her ‘perfect world’ gradually deteriorates before her eyes. Henry Slick’s direction along with Gaiman’s source material created a perfect blend and left me stunned”

Next week, Serg Beret is back to write for the end our month of animation with the mix of live action and animation fields by going back to the quote unquote masters of that blend, Disney. When a young boy named Pete stumbles upon a dragon named Elliot, the two become fast friends in the heartwarming musical Pete’s Dragon.

Film A Week 16: Pete’s Dragon (1977)- Saturday, April 27

Critically acclaimed ‘Transformers: The Ride-3D’ Attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood Captures Esteemed Awards from the Themed Entertainment Association and the International 3D Society

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Universal Studios Hollywood’s “Transformers™: The Ride-3D,” heralded as the iconic theme park’s most ambitious ride ever, was honored for “Outstanding Achievement” in the “Attraction” category by the industry’s highly regarded Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) during the recent 19th Annual Thea Awards. The Thea Award follows the ride’s recognition for “Distinguished Achievement” from the International 3D Society as “Best Themed Attraction” earlier this year – the second consecutive year the honor was bestowed upon Universal Studios Hollywood and the first-ever multi-year win for a theme park.  

The prestigious Thea Award ceremony recognizes “breakthrough innovations” among theme parks worldwide. Respectively, the International 3D Society’s awards span the entertainment industry, including feature films. Universal Studios Hollywood’s previous International 3D Society win was for “King Kong 360 3-D,” a signature attraction on the world famous Studio Tour created by Oscar®-winning director Peter Jackson and featuring imagery re-imagined from the film in breathtaking 3D technology. Proclaimed by critics as a “state of the art marvel” and among the “best rides in the world,” “Transformers: The Ride-3D” has been met with rave reviews since opening at Universal Studios Hollywood in May 2012.

“‘Transformers: The Ride-3D’ has not only won over experts in the theme park industry, but has amazed our guests from around the world and is now our most popular attraction,” said Larry Kurzweil, President, Universal Studios Hollywood. “Bringing movies to life in the form of rides, shows and attractions is what we do best, so each time we’re recognized for delivering outstanding next-generation entertainment experiences, it’s a testament to our best-in-class creative team and to all of the talented people at Universal Studios Hollywood.”

“Transformers: The Ride-3D,” celebrated for its multi-generational appeal, inventive storyline, spectacular action sequences and amazing special effects, is based on the iconic brand from Hasbro and globally electrifying film franchise, directed by Michael Bay, who served as Creative Consultant for the immersive themed attraction.  The award-winning thrill ride tells a new “TRANSFORMERS” story using original, photo-realistic 3D-HD media, sophisticated special effects masterminded by Industrial Light & Magic, and one of the most elaborate roaming flight simulator ride systems ever created.  Fusing high-tech elements with an epic new “TRANSFORMERS” tale, “Transformers:  The Ride-3D” set a new standard in the world of theme park attractions, stretching the medium’s potential as an immersive and powerful storytelling vehicle.

The TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) is an international nonprofit alliance founded in 1991 and based in Burbank, Calif. TEA represents some 7,000 creative specialists, from architects to designers, technical specialists to master planners, scenic fabricators to artists, and builders to feasibility analysts working in more than 680 firms in 39 different countries. TEA presents the annual Thea Awards and the TEA Summit and hosts the annual SATE conferences (Story, Architecture, Technology, Experience). TEA also produces a variety of print and electronic publications, including the TEA/AECOM Theme Index, TEA Project Development Guidelines, and TEA Annual & Directory. The International 3D Society is an organization of professionals devoted to the innovation of art and technologies of stereoscopic 3-D content. The Society provides individuals with opportunities for artistic display, acknowledging accomplishment and encouraging creative development in the art of 3-D.

Universal Studios Hollywood, The Entertainment Capital of L.A., includes a full-day, movie-based theme park and Studio Tour; the CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex, the Universal CityWalk Cinemas, the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue, and the Gibson Amphitheatre concert and special event arena.  World-class rides and attractions include the critically-acclaimed and award-winning mega-attraction, “Transformers™: The Ride-3D,” the intense, award-winning ride, “King Kong 360 3-D” on the famed behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, “The Simpsons RideTM,” “Revenge of the MummySM -The Ride” indoor roller coaster and “Jurassic Park® -The Ride.”

Current Reviews: Evil Dead (2013)

(Originally Published in ELAC Campus News Spring 2013, Issue 17, April 17th, 2013)

The book of the dead is ready to rise again in the highly anticipated remake of the horror cult classic ‘Evil Dead’ with gore galore and shocking fun.

The story focused around a group of friend ready to help out David, played by Shiloh Fernandez, with an intervention for his junkie sister Mia, played by Jane Levy, at their former summer cabin.

As the intervention and withdrawals symptoms come to play, the group finds a book in the basement, which is littered with dead cats.

Unfortunately, one of the friends opens the book and after reading a few words from the book all hell breaks loose with demonic possession, voices from beyond and cringe-inducing moments of pain and utter torment.

“Evil Dead” plays to the strength of its horror roots by delivering some terrifying imagery. Scenes such as possessed Mia splitting her tongue with a box cutter to pulling out nails from one’s skin lead to squirms from audiences yet seems to not turn up an actual scare.

The film relies more on the spectacle rather than the reaction of fright and terror from the audience.

The expectations for the film were at an all time high after months of marketing itself as “the most terrifying film you will ever experience,” as it reads on the poster for the movie, and for a film like this to fall short on actual scares it is disappointing.

That should not truly deter from the experience as the spectacle is just as good as the cult classic sets-up. The simple beginning is handled with care and structure, delving deep into what is going on, leaving the audience to wonder what is really going on and what does the mysterious book discovered behold.

The imagery is beautifully gruesome. The heavy use of practical effects make every painful moment realistic with believable moments of blood spewing from flesh and numerous creative death scene.

The story although entertaining seems to drag on at certain points seeming it could come to a close or scenes just need a definitive end. This is only a minor problem as the film is relatively short at 90 minutes and manages its time well.

“Evil Dead” may not break any new ground or deliver on a heavy number of good jump scares, but still manages to be an entertaining ride in horror.

“Evil Dead” is in theaters now and is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.

A Light

A light through the balcony door
This was a light I had seen before
Yet so different it was from the rest
It put my poor brain to the test
The rays shone upon a girl at bay
Reading and writing, studying away
She turns the pages over and over
Beside me as I sink lower and lower
Into a poem to express my admiration
For a woman bent on determination
The silence it grows between
As the sun shows off the last of its gleam
I sit and sigh as my mind wanders
What is with the woman who ponders
Am I attracted to the smarts she possesses
Or am I a fool in like without progress?
She writes as I write
And she smiles at I
She twinkles her toes underneath the looming dark skies
Yet I say nothing for I may be deemed uncool
To her potentials and her rule
But I do not worry because I try
To be the light to brighten her sky

Film A Week Week 14: Rio (2011) Guest Writer Jesus Figueroa of iwatchmike.com and thisfunktional.com

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Jesus Figueroa is an Arts Editor for East Los Angeles College and contributor to iwatchmike.com. Figueroa recently launched his own site, thisfunktional.com, that focus on the arts and entertainment with insight and delightful commentary. Follow him on Twitter @thisfunktional.

The colorful world of Rio Di Janeiro brings exciting celebrations. No celebration is more know than Carnival. Carnival attracts many people world wide and can bring people from all corners of the world. Along with the excitement and glamour that comes along with Carnival comes an underhanded side of Rio Di Janeiro that can get masked by all the colorful celebration. With an country that’s not as well off as others, Brazil, has a side to it that lies under the surface.

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The animated comedy “Rio” puts one of the most colorful characters from Rio Di Janeiro in the middle of underground animal trafficking. Jesse Eisenberg voices main the blue macaw main character Blu who due to being smuggled out of Rio to the United States, accidentally dropped on a road in Moose lake, Minnesota and being raised by an over protective girl named Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann. Blu grows up to be a domesticated, intelligent bird who has never flown. Brazilian ornithologist Tulio, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, visits Linda and explains that Blu is the last male blue macaw. Back in Rio a female blue macaw, named Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway, awaits him.

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Linda is invited to bring Blu to Rio, so along with Jewel, they can save their species. They travel to Rio where Blu and Jewel meet in a large cage in the institute where Tulio works. Smugglers break in and steal the two blue macaws. Linda and Tulio look everywhere for Blu, who is chained to Jewel and hidden in a slum. Jewel and Blu end up escaping from their captors and befriend a group of birds that help them to get rid of their chains.It is Carnival and the group of smugglers and mean cockatoo, Nigel, do not intend to give up Blu and Jewel. They chase the birds through the crowded streets encountering few obstacles.

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Blu and Jewel encounter monkeys that try and capture them. The long journey comes to an end and both macaws have come to learn more about each other and themselves in the process.

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The film is completely adorable. Both macaws have their conflicting attitudes and bicker like an old married couple. It’s like they have been together for much too long. The emotion is definitely there but they way they express it towards each other comes through a bit on the aggressive side. Will.I.Am is one of the most interesting colorful characters in the film as Pedro and paired up along side Jaime Foxx as Nico the duo are spectacular and hilarious. Although they probably steal every scene their characters are in. The entire film is colorful, so colorful. It’s intense and quite bright. Even the night in this animated film seems too colorful to be dark. Linda, the librarian or nerd of the story seems to transform with just the change of outfit. Even though she always quite perky and cute for an animated character, she changes outfits and becomes a totally different character. At the end of the day, Rio is a delight from start to finish.

Next week, Online Editor of the East Los Angeles College Erik Luna will come in to cover the stopmotion feature that is as beautiful as it is terrifying to watch with Coraline.

Film A Week Week 15: Coroline (2007)
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Saturday, April 20th

Film A Week Week 13: The Prince of Egypt (1998) With Special Guest Jenni Chante from a-freakin-dorable-animation.tumblr.com

Editor’s Note: Deeply sorry about the delays to this post of Film A Week. I had a hectic week due to Spring Break and events I had to host and attend. I will be on my ‘A’ game more in the near future.

Animation is known for being another form of storytelling that knows no bounds and can be use as advantage at achieving ideas few directors can ever dream of either using the delicate use of pen and paper, typing a few codes on a keyboard or simply sculpting puppets to photograph frame by frame to make a few seconds spring to life. Some animated films challenge the way we think of what is known as ‘kiddie cartoons’ to become true art that is hailed yet sometimes these bright spots get overlooked in later years and forgotten. Films that take on a hard to swallow subject and turn it into an experience everyone must witness. This month, we are celebrating animation in its various forms. First off is Dreamworks’ forgotten masterpiece of animation, 1998’s The Prince of Egypt.

The Prince of Egypt is a stunning film that takes on the Old Testament story of Moses  previously adapted in the Cecil B. Demille’s classic The Ten Commandments in a Disney-esque musical feature that takes on the heavy subject matter with ease. The sense of corruption, greed, betrayal and even imminent death are still present alongside an A List cast with Val Kilmer as Moses and Ralph Finnes as Rameses. I am going to forgo the plot of the feature since this story is as well known as the fairy tales and mythologies read as children and taught in middle school.

BUT FOR THOSE NOT IN THE KNOW!
Moses was sent rolling on the river and brought into royalty alongside his stepbrother Rameses, who is kind of a douche. One day, Moses meets his sister on the street who says ‘Hey, you are adopted!” causing Moses to go “Rameses, why the flip are my Hebrews suffering?” Rameses does not give a flying turd, so Moses says “Let’s Schindler’s List this” and heads to help the Hebrews on the outskirts and meets up with God in the form of burning bush, which I believe only happens when you are burning some bush. God says “Save my people” with Moses going “Well, I got nothing better to do.” Moses comes back and says “Let my people go” and Rameses, now an insanely powerful pharaoh  says “Nah, I need slave labor”. Moses has enough of his crap, brings down plagues of famine, locusts and child death because God is insane as hell and convinces the Pharaoh to let them go. They jet, leave, part the Red Sea (complete with whales in the sea) and make it to the promise land.

The animation in this film is beyond stellar making the old story new again by combining the efforts of both CGI and traditional animation to create these spectacle sequences such as the parting of the Red Sea.

This sequence alone brings out the best of what Dreamworks traditional animation department can do bringing out the wrath of God and Moses against the fearsome power that is Rameses. The style is reminiscent of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics in order to give a more unique look while having some characteristics of the style of rival Disney animation. The designs and care that went into each frame is more astounding then the next. Dreamworks probably took inspiration from a previous animated effort from Disney.

The only way to truly grasp the nature of the story, Dreamworks saw what Disney did with Hunchback and decided to take on the task by hiring Stephen Schwartz as both lyricist and composer opposed to Disney having the mainstay Alan Menken team up with him. The team-up had mixed results with that feature (looking at you, ‘A Guy Like You’), but Schwartz took on Prince of Egypt by himself and wound up with epics like ‘The Plagues’ and the climatic beauty that is ‘When You Believe’.

Schwartz built the foundation of a musical animated epic to build tensions and move the story along rather than just shove random songs in their for the sake of making a mediocre run of the mill animated venture. The script is tight knit and paid with good attention by delivering both the light hearted tone before Moses’ discovery to the horror that is yet to come as Egypt is practically ready to be destroyed and burned to the ground. The performances delivered by Val Kilmer and Ralph Finnes is the finest voice work in any Dreamworks animated feature with Finnes as Rameses being the highlight. He is smart and fierce as a villain, yet remains scared and unsure of himself in the quieter moments next to his brother Moses. Even at the end, Rameses does not give up, but knows that he has failed. Finnes drives the film alongside Kilmer’s calm and collective Moses who becomes the everyman and leader.

For another perspective on this feature, let me toss it over to my sister and runner of a-freakin-dorable-disney.tumblr.com, Jenni Chante.

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“The Prince of Egypt is one of my favorite DreamWorks film ever. I’ve seen the original Ten Commandments and I swear it bored me to tears. This one, on the other hand, was spectacular. I love how they get more in depth with Moses and Ramses relationship. It did not have the feeling of “oh, they’re not really brothers, so who cares?,” but with this film it makes you understand where Moses is coming from. He had to grow up with someone who wasn’t really his brother, yet he cares for him. As the plagues brought on by the power of God happen, you can feel the heartbreak Moses is feeling. He loves his brother, but he has to do this to save the Hebrews. He chooses his true identity over his former life of royalty and someone he had called brother all this life. To me, having that focus gave the film more power because it is not someone just saving Hebrews, it is about a man going against someone he grow up with in order to save his people.”

If one has not checked out this masterpiece of cinema, I strongly suggest you look at it and judge for yourself. This week’s Film A Week was short and sweet, but next time, we will be right back on track.

Next time, I will be gone in Sacramento to compete in a journalism competition and I hate to disappoint many avid readers of Film A Week, but fear not because I have a personal pal of mine coming in to take on the task for our month devoted to animation. Contributing writer Jesus Figueroa of iwatchmike.com and thisfunktional.com steps up to take on the Blue Sky Studios feature that knock Pixar’s Newt out of production, the colorful and vibrant Rio.

Film A Week Week 14: Rio (2011) with Guest Writer Jesus Figueroa of iwatchmike.com and thisfunktional.com

Saturday, April 13th

The Balcony is Closed: Rest In Peace Roger Ebert 1942-2013

On April 4th, 2013, the world of critical review and pop culture lost the legend and icon that was Roger Ebert. As a budding film critic myself, both here on this site and in my college paper, reading the news of Ebert’s passing came as a great shock. My heart dropped and I was crushed. A man I looked up to and admired for his passion of cinema was gone.

My first exposure to Ebert was through the legendary quote him and his lifelong friend Gene Siskel gave to movies they considered good or even great. The immortal words of ‘Two Thumbs Up!’ always sprang to mind movie recommendations and got my young mind amped to see a movie gave the Godlike rating to. Some were hits and some were misses in my eyes, but as a young kid, I took their word for it. I watched ‘Siskel & Ebert at the Movies’ throughout my childhood and was hooked on their words of love for cinema. Sure, they had their moments of bickering, but through that, they respected one another’s opinion and built a bond not only between themselves, but the home audience watching these two on the classic syndicated program.Sadly in 1999, Gene Siskel passed due to complications of a second surgery to remove the cancer he had been fighting for so long. It was one of the major deaths alongside Princess Diana of my childhood I could never forget and a shock.

Roger Ebert kept on going, continuing the show with a bevy of co-hosts before settling on Richard Roeper to take Siskel’s seat right next to him. In 2006, Roger Ebert contracted thyroid cancer and left the show to focus on his illness yet never stopped writing. In his second sugery, Roger lost his voice and his jaw and was on put on feedin tubes. Luckily, doctors reconstructed his jaw in 2008 after a third surgery and Roger was back in businesss by continuing to write and meet his fans, still running his Ebertfest Film Festival and making a rebooted version of At the Movies with new critics.

Roger never gave up. The man lost his voice, a colleague and still kept on going. The man was smart, sophisticated and even controversial with his stance on slasher films being the equivalent of porn and video games not being art or in the same league of cinema. I personally disagreed with his statements, but even then, I did not lose admiration for him. He inspired me to review and to write both in the fiction and non-fiction realms. Ebert once said that if you gave him something fresh and new, he will be delighted or something along those lines. Ebert loved film and treated every genre and form of storytellin in the same league. Ebert was one of the few critics back then to hail animation in the same league of award winning features (i.e. his review of Beauty and the Beast).

Ebert passed away a day after his cancer returned and promised he would continue in a ‘leave of prescence’. He would be out of the spotligt, but still write on occassion and work on new social media ventures, even on including gamers to review. I am heartbroken as many of us are at the sudden loss of a true legend in the written world and someone who taught many of us to appreciate the good and the bad of cinema, to take a risk on the new and grow a great love for the classics.

For now, the balcony is closed.
Rest in peace, Roger. I give you two thumbs up.

I and the world are going to miss you.

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Open Casting Call Audtions for Studio Tour Both English and Bilingual

Avid readers of From the Mind of Serg Beret and the Film a Week series, an important announcement for you aspiring actors and movie lovers,

Universal Studios Hollywood is Hiring!

Universal Studios Hollywood Holds Open Call Auditions for English, Bilingual Spanish and Mandarin Speaking Studio Tour Guides as Theme Park Recruits Ambassadors for its

Popular Behind-the-Scenes ‘Studio Tour’ and Enhanced ‘VIP Experience’ In Preparation for an Exciting Summer

 

What Is The Job?

Universal Studios Hollywood is hiring Studio Tour guides for its signature “Studio Tour”attraction, which provides behind-the-scenes access to a working production studio, movie set backlot and one-of-a-kind special effects attractions, including the award-winning “King Kong 360-3D” created by Peter Jackson, the world’s largest, most intense 3D experience.

Selected Studio Tour Guides will join a roster of seasoned professionals, many of whom will transition to roles of coveted “VIP Experience” guides.  The enhanced “VIP Experience” puts the illustrious world of movie-making magic within arm’s reach of guests visiting from across the globe.  It features an exclusive guided theme park visit and Studio Tour with unlimited front-of-line ride privileges, unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to movie and television sets, including the legendary prop house and a gourmet lunch prepared by Universal’s award-winning executive chef.

As Universal Studios Hollywood ambassadors, the Studio Tour guides join a dynamic program offering employees access to Hollywood-insider perks unavailable anywhere else in the entertainment industry. Highlights include:  intimate group symposiums with prestigious industry professionals, free professional acting classes, auditions for top industry casting directors, and free private screenings of Universal films, to name a few.

To be considered, candidates must be enthusiastic and charismatic, have a performance and / or public speaking background, be knowledgeable of film and television, have an engaging stage presence, be friendly, outgoing, and be at least 18 years of age.

Who are they looking for? 

Hundreds of English, bilingual Spanish and bilingual Mandarin speaking job-seeker and aspiring Hollywood hopefuls

Where is It?

Universal Studios Hollywood – “VIP Experience” Lounge, located to right of park’s main entrance (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608)

 WHEN?
Monday, April 8, 2013- 2-4pm: Studio Tour guide — open casting call