Walt Disney animation’s first foray into 3D ‘toon making isn’t just a technical triumph it thankfully also tells the clever story of Bolt (John Travolta). He’s a superstar TV canine who believes the superpowers he displays weekly on his series are for real --especially when it comes to the protection of his master and co-star Penny (Miley Cyrus). One day however the dog is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City. Lost alone and confused on the streets of the Big Apple Bolt is still living the show vowing to get to Penny who he believes has been kidnapped by the “green-eyed man.” And so he embarks on a cross-country journey to L.A. to save Penny. Along the way he is joined by an abandoned wily housecat Mittens (Susie Essman) and a TV-loving hamster Rhino (Mark Walton) who believes everything he sees on the tube is ALSO real. Of course Bolt is in for rude awakening when he finds out he is just a regular dog but he still needs to get to Penny -- even if it means she might not be there for him when he returns. Disney is not a studio that generally depends on superstar voices for their animated films but in casting Travolta and tween queen Cyrus they have scored a bullseye. Travolta’s Bolt is a delightful cross between the self-assured superstar and a pooch in denial. The actor doesn’t phone it in but instead creates an original and loveable dog that stands proudly in Disney’s large canon of canine greats. The action scenes created for Bolt’s TV series are lots of fun and the interactions with his traveling companions are choice. As Penny Cyrus is sympathetic sincere and she even gets to sing a duet with Travolta “I Thought I Lost You ” which she co-wrote. The show is nearly stolen though by comedian Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Mittens -- a smart determined and emotionally wounded pet cat abandoned by her owners and forced to wander the streets alone. And by Mark Walton as the hilarious Rhino the obsessive fanboy hamster who rolls around in his ball. Walton is actually an animator in real life who happened to be so good at voicing Rhino during tests they just gave him the job. Disney vets Chris Williams and Byron Howard capably usher the venerable Disney label into the brave new world of 3D animation and the results are promising -- putting the audience right in the center of Bolt’s universe. The TV series action set pieces are particularly effective in using the technology. It’s not even necessary to see the film in 3D because the whole CG process has come a long way in a few short years and Bolt is one of the best looking most accomplished animated films in memory -- glasses or no glasses. Williams and Howard expertly blend humor pathos and blockbuster-style action scenes effortlessly giving “Bolt” an appeal beyond just the target kid demo.
The animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has all the great adventure of the story wrapped up in a sappy little package for the kiddies. Taken from the ancient tales of the Arabian Nights Sinbad is a rogue who cares only about what is in his and his crew's best interest--and little else. As the film begins he unsuccessfully tries to steal the Book of Peace--which keeps order in the world--from his childhood best friend Proteus the Prince of Syracuse who is sailing to the city to return the sacred book. Although the two are estranged it's clear they still have a kinship. When the Book of Peace is actually stolen by Eris the goddess of chaos she frames Sinbad for the theft. Proteus stands up for his friend and makes the council give Sinbad one chance to find and return the precious book or Proteus will die on his behalf. Disbelieving the threat the pirate decides to blow the whole thing off but Proteus' beautiful betrothed Marina who has stowed away on Sinbad's ship has other plans. Marina has Sinbad's crew on her side and it could turn mutinous if the guy doesn't fulfill the mission. OK so he'll go get the book. Eris doesn't make it easy for our reluctant hero--dispatching both monstrous creatures and the elements to do battle along the way. But ultimately the brave Sinbad learns a few life lessons falls in love and wins out by following his heart. Aww!
See what a little success in the animated world can get you? These days an animated film can demand the attention of any A-list actor to provide the voices not just your occasional Robin Williams. We have Finding Nemo with the voices of Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres and now Sinbad which attracted huge names such as Brad Pitt (Sinbad) Catherine Zeta-Jones (Marina) Michelle Pfeiffer (Eris) and Joseph Fiennes (Proteus). It could also be the fact DreamWorks' animation king Jeffrey Katzenberg has the clout to rope them all in. Pitt as Sinbad is roguishly clever infusing the pirate with the requisite amount mischievousness and rebellion while Zeta-Jones provides the adventurous Marina with the right amount of bravado and vulnerability. Fiennes as the stiff but honorable Proteus is fine but you can tell right away who has the most fun with her character; Pfeiffer's Eris is a pure delight in sound as well as sight. She is able to take her Catwoman persona from Batman Returns and elevate it to a well celestial level. In the supporting roles Dennis Haysbert does a nice job as Sinbad's right-hand man Kale as does Adriano Giannini the son of legendary actor Giancarlo Giannini as the ship's lookout Rat. Kudos all around for a job well done.
As a self-proclaimed fan of those cheesy 1970s Sinbad movies including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger--where the stop-motion special effects of wizard Ray Harryhausen made it all worthwhile--the idea of an animated version of Sinbad seems perfectly fitted for the genre. Now the mythical creatures could be fully realized in vivid Technicolor where the DreamWorks' animators spare no expense in providing their own visions of things such as sirens sea monsters and giant birds of prey. The artwork for Eris is a particular stroke of genius with the flowing black hair and beautifully evil features; the film definitely comes alive when she is onscreen. As well the action sequences are as exciting as any car chase or gun battle you'll see in a live-action film. The drawback for the adults is the film's slightly schmaltzy story about friendship and of course true love. It's not entirely clear why computer-animated films such as Shrek and Finding Nemo are now becoming the only animated films that appeal to everyone adults and kids alike. It used to be traditional hand-drawn classics such as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King did the trick but now it seems animated films need only provide spectacular visuals--without a great story and snappy dialogue to back them up.
The Eagles, Billy Joel, No Doubt, Eddie Vedder and the Dixie Chicks are just some of the music artists demanding better relationships with record labels. To that end, those artists will be performing at four concerts in Los Angeles with proceeds to benefit the two-year-old Recording Artists Coalition, which wants to be a watchdog agency for all musicians and was founded by Eagles frontman Don Henley.
Hollywood.com has learned that the bloated recording industry establishment hired Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman to be its spokesman. In his first act as spokesman, Neuman told reporters: "What, me worry?"
King of Pop Michael Jackson won't be performing at the Grammys, although he made plans to do so last month. Despite the fact he refused to perform at the American Music Awards in January so he would be allowed to perform at the upcoming Grammys, the awards show sponsor--the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences--confirmed Jackson won't be among the entertainers. No word is forthcoming from Jackson's Neverland compound, but we think the King of Pop is still pouting after Bubbles told Jackson he likes Macaulay Culkin better.
Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf the Wizard from Lord of the Rings) told BBC TV Monday that his "money is absolutely on Lord of the Rings" to win the Academy Award for best picture. It's rumored that evil Sauron the Dark Lord has bet all his money on his vision for Middle-earth: Moulin Rouge.
From the world of second, third and fourth chances, self-destructive Robert Downey Jr. is set to star in The Singing Detective, a Mel Gibson-produced film based on the BBC series of the same name. Michael Gambon originally starred as the title protagonist, who has a high fever that destroys his perception of reality. Downey should be perfect for this part: He knows all about altered mental states.
Director James Cameron (Spider-Man) is joining other celebs in the annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, which benefits a program for a children's hospital in Long Beach and Orange County. Frankly, after what happened in Titanic, we're surprised Toyota would let Cameron pilot anything bigger than a tricycle.
First Matthew McConaughey gets hitched, and now he's about to be ditched. The co-star of The Wedding Planner is in negotiations to return to romantic comedy, as McConaughey is up to star opposite Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The movie Hollywood.com really wants to see made is, of course, How to Lose Your Mother-in-Law in 10 Days--now that would be a box office hit.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth is celebrating 50 years of rule, and England's throwing a big concert in her honor: two of them, in fact. Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Paul McCartney and opera star Kiri Te Kanawa are just some of the headliners set to fete the Queen for her Golden Jubilee with two open-air concerts in June. Hollywood.com is sad to report that Britain's own Herman's Hermits isn't on the list of performers.
West Wing producer Aaron Sorkin told The New Yorker magazine that "The media is waving pom-poms, and the entire public is being polite" with regard to President Bush, as the media have laid off "the bubblehead jokes" long enough.
A spokesman for Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek insists that it was a migraine, and not a salary dispute, that caused Kaczmarek to walk off the set of the Fox hit show two weeks ago. Kaczmarek has since returned to the set..
The personal writings of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain have been purchased by the Riverhead publishing label for close to $4 million. The 23 notebooks contain close to 800 pages of Cobain's notes, and fans hope there's some clue as to why the popular singer committed suicide in 1994 at the age of 27. (As if waking up next to Courtney Love each morning isn't enough to send most men over the edge.)
Fred Durst, lead singer for band Limp Bizkit, has agreed to testify--either by written statements or via satellite video--at the Australia inquest of a 15-year-old girl who suffered a heart attack during a stage rush at a Bizkit concert in Sydney and died five days later. Durst said he was too busy to attend in person.
Diva Celine Dion's self-proclaimed retirement is at an end. The Canadian singer will perform at L.A.'s Kodak Theater this Sunday as part of a CBS TV special, along with Destiny's Child. Dion also signed a reported $100 million contract to perform at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace five nights a week for three years. Looks like Wayne Newton will be facing some stiff competition.
Being a Hollywood star doesn't mean much in London, but being ex-President Clinton's daughter seems to count much more. Chelsea Clinton, 21, was the hit of the The Shipping News premiere Monday night, outshining some of Tinseltown's luminaries. Clinton signed autographs and chatted with fans. (Hollywood.com has learned that some female fans really talked to Chelsea only to get her dad's mobile phone number.)
Johnny Cash is nearly 70, but is feeling better than he has in a while. "I've felt really good these last few months, better than I've felt in the last three years," Cash told the AP. Cash is currently working on finishing an album, American IV.
Warning: "ER" Spoiler
If they're such good doctors, how come people keep dying? PageSix.com is reporting that Dr. Mark Greene's (Anthony Edwards) exit from ER will be occasioned by his passing due to a recurrence of his brain tumor. Greene isn't the first major character to be killed off: Med student Lucy Knight was brutally stabbed to death a few years ago. Edwards' departure leaves Noah Wyle the sole remaining original cast member who's been on the show continuously since day one.