Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
Fall has quite a few animated, family friendly offerings. Of course, they might not all be your cup of tea. And while the kiddos will probably make it extremely easy to tell which movies they want to see, it couldn’t hurt to have a handle on these non-live-action flicks before the tykes start squealing endlessly about their favorites. And you know, just because a movie is family-friendly, that doesn’t mean you have to have kids or cousins or nieces and nephews to enjoy it. Luckily, we’ve made it easy for you to figure out which animated flick is right up your alley. Finding Nemo 3D Release Date: Sept. 14 Rating: G You should see it if: You’re the sort of person who sees every Disney movie no matter what. The thought of Nemo reuniting with his dad after an hour-and-a-half of sea adventurers makes your heart flutter and you secretly wish you could experience life as a tropical fish. Hotel Transylvania Release Date: Sept. 28 Rating: PG You should see it if: You take no issue with Adam Sandler’s interesting Transylvanian accent. You’re the sort of person who has trouble understanding that folks like Frankenstein and Dracula don’t actually exist, which makes you wonder, "What do those scary people do when they’re tired of being so scary?" And then answer yourself like so: "Clearly, they go to get a little R&R at a monsters-only hotel." This movie is for you. Frankenweenie Release Date: Sept. 20 Rating: PG You should see it if: You saw the original Frankenweenie, also from Tim Burton, and thought, “Man, this would be so much cooler in stop-motion animation.” Or, you really miss hearing Christopher Lee’s signature spooky timbre and you’re a sucker for a movie poster with a dog as the focus. (Marley and Me got the rest of us too, okay?) Wreck-It Ralph Release Date: Nov. 2 Rating: Not Yet Rated You should see it if: You will drop every last quarter you can scrounge up when you come across an arcade game like Pac-Man or Rampage. You have a “vintage” Atari... and you actually play it. You scoff every time you see guide books and cheat cheat codes for a video game (and heavily judge the lazy person holding them). Rise of the Guardians Release Date: Nov. 21 Rating: Not Yet Rated You should see it if: You’re the sort of person who goes all out for Christmas decorations - even your dish soap bears a label covered in sparkly snowflakes come Dec. 1. You should especially see this if you’re so holiday-oriented, you decorate for every possible occasion — you probably even have George Washington window decals for President’s Day. Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credits: Disney (2)] More:Why 'Finding Nemo' Needs a 3D Re-Release Adam Sandler Calls 'Hotel Transylvania' Character "Just Me in High School" 'Wreck it Ralph' Trailer: So Great It Will Recall Your Childhood Memories
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Why hello there, Community episode we've all been waiting for: It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. As a loyal fan with a "Troy and Abed in the Morning" mug currently warming my frigid-as-usual hands, even I had my doubts when this very special show's most recent offerings were … tepid, at best. And after a fall that boasted one of the greatest half hours of comedy I've ever witnessed -- I'm talking, of course, about "Remedial Chaos Theory" -- some (Err, Chevy Chase) began to wonder if Dan Harmon's recent writing would ever top the early days of Greendale glory.
For me, tonight put those doubts to rest. Community is a show that prides itself on its one-of-a-kind "special episodes" — from the paintball to the Dungeons and Dragons to the spoof on a traditional television "bottle episode" — the show is often at its best when it's taking on genres and generally pushing the crazytown envelope. And boy, did "Pillows and Blankets" deliver.
The basic set-up was a war between two beloved best friends, presented in the style of a Ken Burns PBS documentary. Everyone, of course, took on a traditional war-doc role: Troy and Abed were the respective feuding leaders of Blanketsburg and Pillowtown, Annie became the Florence Nightingale of Greendale (focusing mainly on testicular injuries), and Shirley let loose as a merciless pillow-killer. Jeff, of course, flip-flopped to serve his own agenda, Pierce stayed Pierce, and Britta hilariously tried to be a Tim Hetherington-esque war documentarian. Oops — Britta'd it.
When we left Troy and Abed last week, the battle had just begun — the first shot had been fired by Lord knows who (Starburns), and the cracks in their formerly solid friendship had begun to form. And when we re-entered Greendale tonight, the scene was more Walking Dead than Animal House: Abandoned halls and flying feathers suggested that irreparable damage had already been done. (This opener actually reminded me of the similarly post-apocalyptic world Jeff woke to after the first paintball cornucopia in "Modern Warfare.")
"It was awesome," Troy mused to the narrator. "But also, it wasn't?" Yes, we could tell right away that it wasn't — Dean Pelton had enlisted a typically ambivalent Jeffrey's help to bring the former BFFs together, but even the ultimate peace offering (an invisible friendship hat) couldn't mend their fences. Diplomacy simply wasn't on the table today — Troy and Abed insisted on their respective "All Tomatoes" (ultimatums) being met in a timely matter. They were two Cersei Lannisters, without a reasonable Tyrion to make sense of it all.
So the two men returned to their fort(resses), for what should have been a night of peaceful cease-fire. Instead, the residents of Pillowtown were invaded by a gang of feverish Blanketsburgers, in a frenetic scene that I hope will be mirrored in the upcoming film World War Z. Great book. You guys should read it.
And the battle raged on — of course, Britta Hetherington tried to heroically capture all of the action, but unfortunately, "Just because something is in black and white, doesn't mean it's good." (Does anyone else think that Britta has finally found her stride as the insufferable liberal arts student that everybody hates? Is it bad that my brother and my cousins call me Britta? No?)
Jeff tried to use the escalating situation to his own advantage, providing anti-violence, anti-Braveheart speeches to both sides in a poorly disguised "Ferris Buellerian attempt to delay schoolwork." He got away with it in the eyes of the wartorn masses, but not with the only one who ever seemed to matter: The age-inappropriate Annie Edison, who started ignoring his text messages as a sign of disappointed defiance. "Your words don't mean anything," she said when they finally met in person. "They're just things you say to get what you want." When he defended his actions, she replied with "Maybe you should just shut up," making her my official soul sister of the week. Hey, manipulative liars: MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST SHUT UP.
Finally, the battle hit way too close to emotional friendship home for Troy and Abed (And for us, their devoted viewers) when Abed sent out a devastating email to his entire team, selfishly highlighting Troy's weaknesses: "Loud noises, the color red, smooth jazz, shiny things, food smells, music boxes, bell bottoms, boobs, barking dogs, and anyone saying 'Look over there!'" Sadly, it got worse: "He's insecure about his level of intelligence. His greatest vulnerability of all is his emotional frailty. It's incredibly easy to make him cry, and he's incredibly ashamed of that fact."
Now, I know the commonly accepted diagnoses for Abed is Asperger's Syndrome (Which greatly hinders one's social skills), but coming from a recapper with Asperger's in the family, that was way harsh, Tai. Troy responded with an equally hurtful, friendship-slandering text message, and it started to seem as if John Goodman's Vice Dean had finally won -- the greatest friendship Greendale had ever seen was soon to be no more, leaving Troy with no choice but to accept his fate as a legendary Air Conditioning Repairman. The roomies even agreed that the loser of the pillowfight would move out of the apartment, giving up all rights to the Dreamatorium.
But at the end of the day, Jeff — of all people — was able to bring the duo back together. After a battle that the Guinness World Records guy called "the world's biggest mistake," the rest of the campus retreated, leaving Troy and Abed to hit each other with pillows all by their lonesome. Jeff realized that their inability to pull themselves away from each other meant that the friendship still had a chance, so he again offered the magical friendship hats they had rejected once before. "You left the magical friendship hats at the Dean's office," Abed said with a smirk. Troy shook his head in a sign of amused solidarity, then eagerly accepted his peace token once Jeff returned with the previously abandoned hats. They did the secret handshake, and off to the Dreamatorium they went (I assume).
In an equally sentimental turn, Annie told the camera crew that she was proud of Jeff for leaving for an extended amount of time to make Troy and Abed believe that he had actually gone all the way to the Dean's office to retrieve the hats. A Jeff voiceover and some found footage proved that Jeff actually DID enter the Dean's office, and he handled those hats with utmost care. For the first time ever, Jeff was playing along.
All in all, a fantastic episode. Harmon and co. not only provided a thrilling documentary that should be shown on PBS -- they packed an emotional punch and advanced Jeff's character in a way that didn't seem forced or cheesy. They did NOT Britta this one.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
'Community' recap: Troy and Abed Go To War'Community' Feud: Is Chevy Chase Leaving the Show? Chevy Chase's 'Community' Boss Apologizes For His "Unclassy Move"
I have one question: WHY? Disney is gearing up to take the beloved Toy Story duo, Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, and plop them into another movie inspired by a ride at Disneyland. The Jungle Cruise has also got R.H. Shulman (Shrek, Jungle Book 2) on board as a writer and the duo who produced The Fighter are behind the film as well.
Hanks and Allen work well together and Shulman wrote Shrek, so maybe it will be a good time, but probably not. There are a million other stories they could tell, do they have to keep going back to the Disneyland well? Not to mention the fact that there are a ton of other rides that would be ten times better as a jumping off point for a movie. Big Thunder Railroad? Space Mountain? The river raft to Tom Sawyer Island? The Toon Town Trolley? The Carousel of Progress? The Mickey Mouse stroller I pushed my three year old cousin around that time I took her to visit?
Do you want to know why people love the Jungle Cruise (all fifteen of them, with 12 of those being me and my cousins)? Because we grew up with it. I'm pretty sure most people ride the Jungle Cruise because it offers shade and a guaranteed wait of less than 15 minutes which is theme park gold. No one is clamoring to see the rubbery animatronic animals go clack-clack-clack, or hear jokes about how the fake lions are just guarding that sleeping (dead) zebra, or to marvel at the glory and the wonder of the BACKSIDE OF WATER! (Google it.) It's nostalgia, shade, or nothing. Sure, an adventure on a boat in the jungle could be fun (unless it's in Anaconda), but why does it have to be directly connected to the ride? Why can't they just put their own Disney spin on a jungle movie with some killer original characters instead of leaning on an ancient ride whose jokes are only good because we already know them? Do you know what Toy Story was based off of? CHILDHOOD, not the Disneyland Emporium full of heaps and heaps of toys or some twisted connection to It's a Small World. Why? Because the theme was strong enough. They didn't need to connect it to a ride in hopes of creating a cash cow. And, you know what? Last time I checked that little flick did pretty well.
Lastly, just because Hanks and Allen pair well in Toy Story doesn't mean they pair well in everything. The last thing I enjoyed seeing Tim Allen in (not just hearing his voice) was The Santa Claus and that's because it was Christmastime and I love Christmas. The reason they work so well in Toy Story comes back to the element of character; Woody and Buzz and fantastic characters. We don't love them just because of the stars who do the voices, we love the stars more because they voice the characters. It's not enough to have great voices or big stars and easily recognizable title. (Case and point: The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy.) This film will probably do just fine at the box office if and when it gets off the ground, but that doesn't mean it will be good. And every time Disney makes more half-assed movies because they make enough money, my heart breaks a little bit.