All of 45 pages in length and darkly foreboding in its warning of impending ecological catastrophe The Lorax Dr. Seuss’ 1971 environmental fable is hardly good grist for a modern blockbuster. To broaden its appeal – and its merchandising potential – Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda co-directors of Imagine Entertainment’s 3D-animated adaptation have taken generous liberties with the source text. Their efforts more than adequately satisfy the dictates of commercial family entertainment but they will undoubtedly earn the ire of Seuss purists should any still remain after the 2003 Cat in the Hat tragedy.
Fans of the book will at least recognize the essential elements in the film. We still have the Once-ler (Ed Helms) chopping down precious Truffula trees to make his thneeds and we still have the orange-maned Lorax (Danny DeVito) begging him to stop. But now the former has been refashioned into a guitar-toting go-getter with entrepreneurial zeal and a sympathetic backstory while the latter is given a group of adorably incompetent sidekicks. Meanwhile Seuss’ youthful audience surrogate silent and unnamed in the book has become Ted (Zac Efron of course) a sassy adolescent with a pretty crush (Taylor Swift) a snowboarding grandma (Betty White) and a destiny of his own to fulfill replete with its very own villain (Rob Riggle). Oh and there are now musical numbers as well.
The film’s environmental message is considerably less strident than Seuss’ original story which essentially cast industry and nature as adversaries in a zero-sum death match. Seuss’ ominous exhortation “unless” becomes less a plea to stem capitalism’s inexorable advance than a polite suggestion to plant a tree – which I think even the most ardent global warming deniers would agree is worthwhile. The animation which uses Seuss’ original artwork merely as a jumping-off point is absolutely gorgeous even if it probably betrays the author’s minimalist ethos. The new narrative bells and whistles on the other hand are considerably less appealing and seem too conspicuously designed to connect with younger audiences – and to provide a pretext for some ostentatious chase sequences. The Lorax speaks for the trees; Zac Efron speaks for the vital 12-to-18-year-old demographic.
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Hollywood has had lots to say about the American school system as of late and whether you choose to believe the information presented to you via eye-opening documentaries like Waiting For Superman or fictional phenomenon’s like Fox’s Glee it’s clear that our educational institutions are out-of whack at best broken at worst. No one has been able to depict this disheartening downward spiral quite like director Tony Kaye with his new film Detachment. In it the reclusive auteur focuses on just a few weeks in the life of Henry Barthes a substitute teacher who gets more than he bargained for when he takes a job at a fledgling high school and in the process gives parents professors and kids a much-needed wake-up call.
In this short period of time Kaye dissects the contemporary classroom with unflinching realism. The grainy worn film stock he uses for his verite’ photography coupled with topical subject matter ranging from child prostitution and teen suicide to parental negligence makes the movie appear to be more a documentary than a narrative feature but that’s where Carl Lund’s poetic screenplay comes in. His prose is simultaneously beautiful and brutal effortlessly supplying existential excerpts for star Adrien Brody darkly comic bits for fellow teacher James Caan and up-to-the-minute slanguage for the teenage students. He also uses this star-studded stage (the ensemble includes Marcia Gay Harden Tim Blake Nelson and Christina Hendricks among many others) to touch upon the larger sociopolitical issues effecting our schools and children lashing out at numerous initiatives/establishments like “No Child Left Behind” that we’re led to believe have been implemented to increase residential property values instead of grades. Though the script begins to sound like a sermon at times it’s not intrusive enough to become distasteful. Quite simply it’s brazenly truthful.
However excessive exposition can often hurt a film’s momentum and Kaye gets unnecessarily sidetracked with the painful back-stories of his characters. Brody’s Barthes is our central protagonist so the sub-plot involving his aging ailing grandfather is essential in defining him but the filmmaker forces insight into the lives of almost every teacher (and a few of the students) down our throats. Individually each vignette is heartrending but distracting; the majority of them have little connection to the main narrative. Collectively they illustrate many of the problems that contemporary families face and more importantly create an emotional crescendo leading into the inevitably tragic conclusion.
The brilliance of this casual buildup to the film’s climax is a nod to Kaye’s storytelling aptitude. I found him utilizing the kind of in-your-face filmmaking tactics that Spike Lee made commonplace in his early movies most noticeably with close-ups on a few actors who irritably address the camera head-on (like in Do The Right Thing). In addition he intensifies the action with quick cuts and aggressive push-ins that elaborate on each character’s crisis. Perfection clearly isn't his strong point; Kaye frames his shots sloppily at times and doesn't attempt anything groundbreaking but maximizes the potential of tried-and-true lo-fi techniques. His stylistic abilities are second only to Brody’s performance which is subtle sad and sweet all at once. We take an emotional and psychological plunge with the native New Yorker as he navigates a teenage wasteland of sex drugs violence and depression but it’s all just another day at school to America’s urban youth.
Long absent since his freshman feature American History X Detachment is a welcome return for Tony Kaye whose commitment to the integrity of this story is marked by unrelenting bleakness in its tone and uncensored cynicism regarding the state of our schools. He doesn’t portray every educator as a saint or every student as a sinner; through Brody he imparts on us the uneasy truth about the direct correlation between our failure as parents and the failure our children: we're one and the same. The true genius in his film is not represented in the text of his commentary but in his ability to forge an explanatory mosaic from his characters’ varying but related points of view. Because of this there are multiple mini-narratives that run through Detachment and all of them are worthy of your attention.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star admitted earlier this week (begs22Nov10) she was convinced the intense training for the series was what she needed to take her mind off her separation from DJ Jeremy Healy in April (10).
She revealed, "This whole Strictly experience has been such an amazing diversion from my life. I would advise anyone to try it.
"If you've had a rough time, go to a dance class because it does lift your spirits. It's turned out to be just what I needed."
But British viewers were unimpressed with Kensit's tango on Saturday night (27Nov10), and she was kicked off the show on Sunday (28Nov10).
However the actress has vowed to carry on dancing, telling host Tess Daly, "I've had the most incredible time. It's been the most beautiful experience. To my two beautiful boys at home, you've got your mum back now! I'll be dancing while making your tea."
Kensit is mum to two sons; 17-year-old James, by rocker Jim Kerr, and Lennon, 11, by Liam Gallagher.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star split from her fourth husband, DJ Jeremy Healy, in April (10) and has previously admitted the break-up hit her hard, revealing she ballooned in weight after gorging on junk food.
She accepted an offer to appear on the U.K. dancing show over the summer (10), and she's convinced the intense training is just what she needed to take her mind off her "rough" marriage separation.
Kensit tells Britain's Daily Mirror, "I was glad to be asked this year. This whole Strictly experience has been such an amazing diversion from my life. I would advise anyone to try it.
"If you've had a rough time, go to a dance class because it does lift your spirits. It's turned out to be just what I needed."
Kensit was previously wed to Big Audio Dynamite keyboardist Dan Donovan, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr, and Oasis star Liam Gallagher.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star was set to lift the lid on her marriages to rockers Liam Gallagher, Jim Kerr and Dan Donovan in the book, but the release was mysteriously cancelled.
Kensit has now revealed she scrapped the project because of her latest love split with fourth husband, DJ Jeremy Healy, who she married last year (09).
She says, "I was writing it, but I'm not now. I gave the money back and decided it was not appropriate after this year."
And Kensit also admits she pulled out for the sake of her kids, adding: "There are some things that you just don't need to talk about. And I have to think of my children."
Kensit has a 17-year-old son, James, with Kerr, and Lennon, 11, with Gallagher.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star split from DJ Jeremy Healy in April (10) and admits the break-up hit her hard.
She sometimes failed to shower or wash her hair and admits she looked like a "bag lady" - but pulled herself out of her gloom for the sake of her two sons.
Kensit tells Britain's Buzz magazine, "In the early days I didn't want to get out from under the duvet. Was I depressed? Oh God yes, absolutely. (My marriage) had failed and it wasn't even a year. But I couldn't hide under the covers for long because I had to show my kids that when something like this happens, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, hold your head up and go.
"If I had gone under, what kind of mum would I be?... I was eating a box of doughnuts a day... Of course I blame myself for everything. I look back on all my marriages and think I should have done things differently."
Kensit was previously wed to Big Audio Dynamite frontman Dan Donovan, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr and Oasis star Liam Gallagher.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star was plunged into a deep depression after separating from DJ Jeremy Healy in April (10), admitting she felt "foolish and ashamed" of the break-up.
And after four failed unions, Kensit has sworn off ever settling down again.
She tells She magazine, "This year has been truly, truly awful. I lost my confidence and ballooned from eight stone to 11. But I'm looking forward now, with one million per cent conviction, that I definitely won't be getting married again."
"I also felt I'd put myself first before my kids and I didn't want that. It's embarrassing, humiliating, all those terrible emotions that make you want to run away and hide. I can't tell you how foolish and ashamed I feel."
Kensit previously wed Big Audio Dynamite frontman Dan Donovan, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr and Oasis star Liam Gallagher.
Non-traditional heroes have become a staple of animated films in recent years supplanting anthropomorphic rodents and zoo animals as the protagonists du jour. Pubescent Vikings crotchety old men lonely robots and giant green ogres may not be much of a draw in the live-action realm but in the animated world they’re freaking gold. You can add to those prestigious ranks Gru the lead character in Despicable Me a terrific 3D-animated flick directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and based on a story by Sergio Pablos.
An enterprising arch-fiend with a yen for stealing prominent tourist landmarks like the Times Square jumbo-tron and the Statue of Liberty (the Vegas version) Gru (Steve Carell) thinks he’s at the top of his malevolent game but his contented suburban existence is upended when he receives news that a youthful rival named Vector (Jason Segel) has managed to steal an entire Egyptian pyramid — a feat that renders his own audacious heists pedestrian in comparison.
His delicate villain ego badly bruised Gru aspires to take back the spotlight by stealing the Moon but before he can pull it off Vector sabotages his efforts by swiping a device essential to Gru’s scheme which triggers a duel of ever-escalating firepower reminiscent of the old Spy vs. Spy cartoons featured in Mad Magazine (with weapons straight out of the Acme design lab). Continually stymied by his ubernerd nemesis Gru is about to give up when he uncovers a fatal weakness: Vector is absolutely mad for the cookies sold door-to-door by a trio of impossibly adorable orphan girls Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Eying the children as the key to infiltrating Vector’s lair and succeeding with his moon-stealing scheme Gru agrees to adopt them. Little does he know however that they've unleashed on him a particularly virulent strain of cuteness that is already making its way toward his heart.
As the voice of Gru Carell speaks with a husky Russian-sounding (his true ethnicity is never revealed) accent that drips with exasperation and disdain for the naive simpletons that populate his idyllic suburban neighborhood. At first the idea of casting the Office star in the role seems counter-intuitive: Why go to the effort and expense of hiring one of the most popular comedy actors working today as the lead in your $100+ million (estimated) film only to conceal him in a voice nearly unrecognizable to his millions of fans?
Shortly into Despicable Me the answer becomes clear: because Coffin and Renaud idealistic young fools that they are hired Carell for his talent and not for his star power. And it’s a good thing they did. The same incomparable pathos that turned incompetent corporate stooge Michael Scott into perhaps the best-loved sitcom character ever works its magic on Gru making the story of his transformation from brooding misanthrope to dedicated father as emotionally engaging as it is funny.
A simple story told exceptionally well: It’s the modus operandi for today’s successful animation studios and it’s expertly carried out in Despicable Me. The plot thins out at certain points and at times borders on predictable but its wit and warmth and vibrant animation (the film's colorful gothic aesthetic was inspired by artists Charles Addams and Edward Gorey) — rendered in actual 3D not the fake variety so popular these days with audience-raping studio profiteers — carry it through those brief creative lulls.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star, whose fourth marriage to DJ Jeremy Healy fell apart in February (10), had put pen to paper for the tome to document her colourful life.
But Kensit has cancelled plans to release the book for the sake of her 10-year-old son Lennon, by Oasis star Gallagher, according to Britain's Mail on Sunday.
A source tells the publication, "The publishers wanted all the juicy details about their marriage and why it broke down and Liam said he didn’t think it was right that Lennon should have to read that when he’s older.
"Patsy had high hopes for the book and it was a real warts-and-all account, but she has agreed to shelve it for the time being."
Kensit has enjoyed a series of rock 'n' roll husbands - she married Gallagher at the height of his Oasis fame in 1997, after her failed marriages to Big Audio Dynamite star Donovan and Simple Minds singer Kerr. She also has a teenage son, James, 16, with Kerr.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star, whose fourth marriage to DJ Jeremy Healy fell apart in February (10), is in negotiations with publisher Harper Collins to release an autobiography documenting her colourful life, according to Britain's News of the World.
A source tells the publication, "It promises to be explosive stuff. Failing a miraculous reconciliation with Jeremy, he can expect to find it painful reading.
"A lot of people will be very nervous about what she has to say."
Kensit has enjoyed a series of rock 'n' roll husbands - she married Gallagher at the height of his Oasis fame in 1997, after her failed marriages to Big Audio Dynamite frontman Donovan and Simple Minds singer Kerr.