October 17, 2012

A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures (2010)

AFTER HIS LACKLUSTER ANIMATED FILM Fly Me to The Moon in 2008, director Ben Stassen knew he had to step up his game for his next effort.

And while his follow-up A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures is no masterpiece, it’s lightyears better than Moon. (See what I did there? Lightyears? Moon? It’s a space joke, people.)

A Turtle’s Tale follows the journey of Sammy (voiced by Ben 10’s Yuri Lowenthal), a sea turtle who leaves the beach where he was born and spends the next 50 years exploring the world's oceans -- all while trying to find his first love, a female turtle named Shelly (Gemma Arterton).

Comparisons between A Turtle’s Tale and Finding Nemo are unavoidable and numerous – a sea creature searching the oceans for a missing loved one, meeting all walks (and swims) of life, encountering danger from both sea and man…yet there’s one area for comparison that is in A Turtle’s Tale’s favor: the animation. Stassen’s team has done a superior job of creating an underwater world that’s rich in colors, extremely fluid, and intricately detailed.

Despite this deep, lush world of CGI animation, the themes and characters in A Turtle’s Tale are ironically two-dimensional. All attempts at emotion or depth seem flat and uninspired, Sammy’s many adventures across the sea are less compelling than they should be, and when he finally finds Shelly (what, you thought he wouldn’t?), it’s one of the more anticlimactic reunions between two lost loves in recent memory, turtle or otherwise.

Another turn-off is the heavy-handed environmental message. In addition to fighting foes in the ocean, Sammy battles oil spills, plastic bags, trees being felled in a rain forest, pollution dumped in the ocean, and humans trying to harpoon whales. He even gets a peace sign painted on his shell by a family of neo-hippies he meets in his travels.

In addition to Lowenthal and Arterton, A Turtle’s Tale features celebrity voices by Anthony Anderson as Sammy’s best friend (and fellow turtle) Ray, Tim Curry as a mischievous cat, and Kathy Griffin as a wisecracking mama turtle.

A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures is a simple story of one little turtle’s journey through life. Unfortunately, its simplicity is also its downfall. It’s sweet but not sensational, nice but not awesome, watchable but far from a classic.

Not that any of that stopped Stassen: He released A Turtle's Tale 2 earlier this year.


What did FilmBoy think?
He gave it 3 stars, saying it was a good movie…but he couldn’t think of anything specifically good about it.

Is it suitable for your kids?
A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures is rated PG for mild peril. Baby turtles are in danger of being picked off by seagulls during their dash from the beach to the ocean; Sammy and Shelly face random perils via a bald eagle, the blades of a tanker, and various predator fish; and whalers attempt to spear a humpback whale. There’s also ongoing discussion of finding a perfect mate, but nothing inappropriate for grade-school kids. Maybe proceed with caution with preschoolers and younger.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
She’ll probably find A Turtle’s Tale cute and harmless, but otherwise unmemorable.

Owwww…getitoff, getitoff, GETITOFF!!

A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures
* Director: Ben Stassen
* Screenwriters: Ben Stassen, Dominic Paris
* Stars: Yuri Lowenthal, Anthony Anderson, Gemma Arterton, Melanie Griffith, Isabelle Fuhrman, Sydney Hope Banner, Ed Begley Jr., Kathy Griffin, Tim Curry, Jenny McCarthy
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures from Netflix >>

October 9, 2012

A Cat in Paris (2010)

THE 2012 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEES for Best Animated Feature were an odd lot. Odd in the sense that they were not another predictable batch of contenders from Pixar and DreamWorks (and maybe a token nominee from a third studio who had no chance of winning).

No, 2012’s nominees included only two from DreamWorks (Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2) and none from Pixar (thanks to their horrible misfire Cars 2). The remaining nods were given to the Spanish-language Chico & Rita, the deserving winner Rango, and the French film A Cat in Paris.

Co-directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, A Cat in Paris follows the double life of Dino the cat, a family pet by day and assistant to crafty cat burglar Nico (Steve Blum) by night. Dino’s human family – daughter Zoe (Lauren Weintraub) and policewoman mother Jeanne (Marcia Gay Hayden) – are grieving the death of their dad/husband, a policeman killed by mobster Victor Costa (J.B. Blanc). Zoe’s been mute since the incident, but finds comfort in Dino and the “presents” he brings her: dead rodents and reptiles. But soon, Dino’s two lives intersect, putting Nico at risk of being arrested and Zoe’s life at risk from seeing too much of Costa’s world.

The hand-drawn animation is the first thing that sets A Cat in Paris apart from other recent animated films. It’s an abstract, art deco style, full of shadows and vibrant colors, that makes it feel like a classic children’s storybook come to life. Felicioli and Gagnol (working from a clever, often humorous script by Gagnol and Jacques-Rémy Girerd) create great empathy for Zoe and Jeanne, and even have us hoping Nico doesn’t get caught despite the large amount of valuables he’s stolen.

Once Dino’s two worlds cross paths, A Cat in Paris really picks up (accompanied by Serge Besset’s pulse-pounding score) – taking us from foot and car pursuits, to a chase across the rooftops of Paris, to a final showdown atop the Notre Dame cathedral.

At a trim 62 minutes, A Cat in Paris is a welcome detour from what we encounter (and expect) from the big animation studios. Oscar-worthy? That’s debatable. What’s not debatable is that it’s definitely worth watching.

French, with dubbing/subtitles.


What did FilmBoy think?
He enjoyed A Cat in Paris very much – eating up Dino’s antics, rooting for the good guys, and cursing the bad guys.

 Is it suitable for your kids?
A Cat in Paris is rated PG for “mild violence and action, and some thematic material.”
Thematic material: Zoe and her mom are sometimes sad over her dad’s death; Nico steals valuable items and money from homes and museums (he is a cat burglar, after all). There's champagne and wine at a dinner scene, and one character smokes a cigarette.
Language: Costa says he scared one of his cronies so much, “you nearly wet your undies!” He also calls one of his thugs an “idiot.” A minor character says, “You sneaky son of a -” (not finishing the phrase)
Violence/Scariness: Costa slaps one of his men, fires warning shots at another, kidnaps Zoe, chokes Jeanne, and fights Nico, knocking out one of his teeth. (He’s also depicted in a dream sequence as a large, creepy octopus, which may scare young children.) Elsewhere, Dino scratches a person's leg, which briefly bleeds; Nico takes a policeman's gun and holds it on him and Jeanne; detectives shoot guns at a firing range; Dino bloodlessly kills a lizard; and a major character falls to their death.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
A cat. Paris. The value and importance of family. Something tells me she may enjoy it.

"Um, little help?"

A Cat in Paris
* Directors: Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol
* Screenwriters: Alain Gagnol, Jacques-Rémy Girerd
* Stars: Marcia Gay Harden, Steve Blum, J.B. Blanc, Lauren Weintraub, Matthew Modine
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent A Cat in Paris from Netflix >>

October 2, 2012

Win a Dark Shadows Blu-ray Combo Pack!

New to home video today is director Tim Burton's Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp. And you could win your very own Dark Shadows Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack!

Synopsis: Barnabas Collins (Depp) has been trapped for two centuries by an evil witch (Eva Green) who just happens to be an ex-lover. Barnabas now has to struggle with the ever-changing 1970s and save his family's business! With an all-star cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz, and more.

How to Enter:
Comment on this post by October 12, 2012. I will then pick one comment at random and post the winner soon after. (The winner will have to e-mail me their mailing address to receive their prize.)

  • You must have a link to your e-mail address on your Blogger profile page. If not, you must provide your e-mail address in your comment.
  • Prize is available to United States mailing addresses only. (No P.O. Boxes, please.)

After you comment, be sure to try the Dark Shadows App, featuring:
  • Are You Creepy Enough? - Do your friends refer to you as a Child of the Night, or do you shiver at the thought of a Creepy-Crawly? Take the Are You Creepy Enough? quiz to find out.
  • Barnabas’ Terror Trivia - Are you a Barnabas buff? Take this "3 truths and a lie" trivia all about Barnabas Collins and unlock clips and downloads from Dark Shadows. 
  • Dark Shadows Horror-Scope - Whether you're a Virgo Vampire or a Transylvanian Taurus, you can get your custom hauntified Horror-Scope.


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