WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to judge several top independent movies as part of the jury for a London film festival. The on-the-run whistleblower will have DVDs of films vying for the awards at this year's (13) Radiance Film Festival delivered to him at Ecuador's embassy in London, where he is currently in hiding.
Radiance founder Elliot Grove tells the BBC, "We choose our jurors because they are interesting people... I think five or 10 years from now, if you are studying anything to do with social media, the WikiLeaks story will be a test case of how to manage that... Julian, like many of the film makers and judges, will be unable to attend... Fortunately he has a residence not far from where we are sitting to which we will drop off the DVDs."
Other judges at the festival, which takes place from 25 September to 06 October (13), include British actor Jason Flemyng, Portishead singer Beth Gibbons, and author Robert Rankin.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy after his appeal against extradition to Sweden for questioning on accusations of sex crimes was rejected. He is wanted in the U.S. for publishing thousands of top secret military documents on his website.
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]
Open Season follows a few different tired and true scenarios. There’s the fish-out-of-water setup: A 900-pound tamed grizzly bear named Boog (Martin Lawrence) is inadvertently released back into the wild—and has no idea how to wing it. See he was living a pleasant domesticated life with Ranger Beth (Debra Messing) who rescued him as cub. But when he meets Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) a wild mule deer with one antler and helps him escape off the hood of a truck belonging to the very evil hunter Shaw (Gary Sinise) one thing leads to another and Boog finds himself stranded in the woods right at the beginning of hunting season with an annoying Elliot by his side. The other woodland creatures aren’t much help either. Then suddenly Open Season turns into an us-against-them situation as a group of the potentially hunted led by Boog and Elliot decide to unite and fight back. It all gels rather hilariously. Like Laurel and Hardy Boog and Elliot are the classic big guy/little guy comedy duo. Works like a charm and Lawrence and Kutcher yuck it up with the best of them. Sinise’s voice is somewhat unrecognizable as the rotten-to-the-core Shaw while Messing is her kooky self as the do-gooder park ranger. Even Georgia Engel--sweet Georgette from The Mary Tyler Moore Show--lends her distinctive voice as a talkative camper. But what really makes Open Season zing is all the idiosyncratic side characters: Scottish squirrel McSquizzy (Billy Connolly) who gets all Braveheart on those he doesn’t like; a New Jersey-type construction beaver named Reilly (Jon Favreau); Buck Ian (Patrick Warburton) the arrogant leader of the deer herd; sassy Latina skunks (Michelle Murdocca and Nika Futterman); a sad but creepy porcupine (Matt Taylor); and a duck (Danny Mann) suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Then there are the rabbits a panicky bunch who never say anything but are always around by the thousands. They stick to things too if you throw them. Out of the glut of CGI-animated comedies this year Over the Hedge and Open Season are the true stand outs. Why? Maybe it’s because they are both created by comic-strip cartoonists (Over the Hedge is based on the comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis) who by the very nature of their jobs have a certain wry outlook on life. Cartoonist Steve Moore (of In the Bleachers fame) thought of Open Season after reading stories about domesticated animals living in mountain communities who eventually outstay their welcome and are sent out into the wilderness. How would they survive? According to Open Season not very well. Obviously incorporating creative forces from outside the box gives Open Season a refreshing comical edge. It’s still hard to top the reigning kings Pixar and DreamWorks but the new kids on the block Sony Pictures Animation whose only other credit so far is Monster House (another standout for the year) are showing some mettle.