The Losers (2010) – in your face, over the top

As long as there are comic books that haven’t been adapted (or adapted successfully) to big screen, we’ll be regularly¬† assaulted with over-the-top, self-aware, tongue-in-cheek, archetypal, good vs. evil, paper-thin stories. Most of comic book culture revolves around fallen heroes, and every once in a while a movie is made that perfectly translates that comic book tone into a film. Everything is life or death, everyone has a specific role, nothing is as it seems and almost nothing has any consequence or logic. On a rare occasion, an action film can successfully subvert tired cliches. The Loses manages to do that, keep a straight face with its characterization, and still look good in the process. It’s just fun to watch.

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Tim Burton has done it again – a visual marvel of a film, a pretty close adaptation of a timeless classic book, great performances (although a little too heavy on screen time for Depp and Bonham Carter), and a lovely, rebellious Alice. What more do you need to know in order to run into theaters? It’s in 3D, which actually works.
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Best TV shows of all time

This is a strange time for top-ten lists – usually people do them around the holidays. But here’s yet another list for your pleasure. Britain’s Empire magazine has chosen the 50 best TV shows ever made. Many good, respectable shows listed here, and a few gems completely shunned. We’ll post links to similar lists shortly. What do you think are the best TV shows?
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Ratatouille (2007)

A computer-animated cartoon about a cooking rat who’s trying to make it big in a swanky Paris culinary industry? Wow, how high were the people who came up with this ridiculous idea? And how brave were the producers who green-lighted this project, and put up resources for this film? And then, when time came to promote and market the movie, just how much fighting went on behind the scenes over the title of the movie – Ratatouille? These things I need to know. An unusual concept, an expensive project, and an awkward title – so many things that can easily sink a film, and yet nobody budged. Nobody dumbed down the idea or changed the main characters from rats to … maybe dogs. I assume there are dogs in Paris, some maybe are aspiring chefs, but a rat… It took a lot of balls to see a project like that through, and I admire the person who stuck to it.
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Happy Feet (2006)

What is it about environment-conscious movies that immediately receives the wrath of (unabashedly biased or handsomely paid) critics? Whether it’s a politically-charged documentary from Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth), a sci-fi whaf-if blockbuster from Wolfgang Peterson (The Day After Tomorrow), or an earnest kid-friendly film about cute penguins – any time the dire state of environment is mentioned — it immediately gets discarded as lies, filthy lies and bogus opinions? First of all, there’s so much more in these films besides an ecology message. But just the dismissal itself is unbelievably frustrating – exactly what kind of money is being thrown on so-called critics to make anything environment-oriented go away? And why do we keep believing these “reviews”? I didn’t see Happy Feet precisely because of that negative publicity. I heard one too many angry outbursts about the movie’s eco-friendly message, and skipped it over the holidays. As you might expect, the movie is so much more than that, and it’s a shame people are being scared away from theaters because a movie might contain an unpopular (in what circles) theme. A real shame.
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Corpse Bride (2005)

First it was Wallace and Gromit, and now – Corpse Bride? Wow, two claymation films in one year, better yet, released within a month? This is very nice indeed – the big studios are looking at the animation a little closer, despite Disney’s troubles and closures. I wonder if those two just happened to be finished at the same time, or it was a strategically planned release, to position new animation studios as the future entertainment sources (as opposed to lousy Disney flicks)? After all, only Dreamworks (Shrek series, Madagascar) and Pixar (anything from them is a gem, really) can release cartoons that actually make money. But enough of cynicism – it was a film from Tim Burton, it was not a typical hand-drawn or tired computer-animated product, it was unusual. And as far as I’m concerned, unusual is good. It’s memorable.

Corpse Bride follows James and The Giant Peach and Nightmare Before Christmas – in style and many themes. It’s very dark, painstakingly shot frame by frame, does feature songs (unlike W&G), and it’s aimed at kids, despite its subject matter. W&G had plenty of grown-up references and humour in it – which is why the theater was roaring with laughter – adult laughter, and that can be a bad thing for a cartoon. If kids don’t get a grown-up joke, they won’t tell everyone in their class to come see it next weekend. Whereas adults are too busy promoting serious films to their friends, rather than “that odd toon I saw with my kids yesterday”. Which is a shame, really – because Corpse Bride is very, very entertaining. It’s just not going to get the word-of-mouth it deserves.
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