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Movie Reviews

Think Like a Man



Men and women have been trying to go beyond the “hook up” and create a long-lasting bond since the days of Adam and Eve.

Now, here comes another spin to the web that women weave in order to catch a “good”man. Based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, the movie Think Like a Man puts these words into action.

It seeks to set the record straight on the type of men out there: the player, the mama’s boy, the dreamer, the non-committal, the divorce guy, and the married man.

In this tale, a group of guys are on the prowl and each seeks to find someone special. The women are ready for the hunt and show up armed with the shield from “the book”.

It’s a cute, whimsical, and hard-hitting tale, as these couples find out that love cannot be found with a roadmap or formula, but has to be an odyssey of vulnerability and self discovery.

A good movie, but should be not be a date movie. It would only add pressure to the typically high first date “standards”.

As a single guy, it also adds to the complexity of trying to fit the ideal mold of the perfect man. I am way beyond perfect and hence my relationship status is best described as “complicated”.  That word really is what sums up relationships between men and women.

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Movie Reviews

Small Wonders – The Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts



Adam Tawfik

Adam Tawfik brings us his rundown of the Best Animated Short nominees before the Academy Awards this Sunday!

The short film categories at the Academy Awards are the equivalent of say, a yodeling category at the Grammys. Let’s suppose that one of these lucky recipients spotted a hot piece of booty and used as their pick-up line, “Hey babe, I’m an Oscar winner!” That sexy hypothetical person would probably perk up and ask, “What for?” Still invigorated by the enthusiasm, our winner would reply “For my animated short.”  The fizzle’s gone! Outside of a few art house venues—like the Cable Car which is presenting 2013’s Oscar nominated animated shorts this week—and (theoretically) the Academy voters, these films don’t get much attention.

Granted, this is my first time watching Oscar nominated animated shorts (so I have no frame of reference really), but on the whole, I must confess that I felt underwhelmed by the choices. Out of those nominees, only the UK-produced stop-motion Head Over Heels was stellar. The film, which is about a middle-aged couple who have a strange predicament with gravity, is equally adept in conveying the humorous misadventures and ultimate poignancy of their situation. I must also commend filmmakers Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly for their use of puppets whose presence in animation is sadly diminishing; indeed this art form provided the husband and the wife a great range of expressiveness (particularly around the eyes) that the characters in the other films lacked.

Somewhat surprisingly, the other film I liked was also stop-motion, a form I usually find to be unwieldy. Fresh Guacamole by PES, has a very simple premise. In two minutes, it simply presents the act of preparing guacamole, but does it with a surrealistic flair, substituting the ingredients with such objects as grenades (for avocadoes), red die (for peppers), and white die (for garlic). Although not quite the cinematic achievement of Head Over Heels, Fresh Guacamole does at least have some quirky charm.

Charm is something of which the other three have none. Some might think they have charm, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re simply laden in sentimentality. Maggie Simpson in the Longest Daycare, the least crappy of the three, starts off strong with an acerbic backbone (a la The Simpsons), but quickly veers into soppiness when it becomes about Maggie’s efforts to save a caterpillar from the clutches of a serial insect-killing bully.

Adam and Dog and Paperman, however, were disasters from the onset, although one of these two most is likely to win the Oscarbecause of their big-name backers. Adam and Dog, which was about a wild dog’s bonding with humans, at least tried to tell an existentially profound story, but unlike Head Over Heels, it did not have a strong sense of character and was bogged down by several dull intervals. Its 2D frames are gorgeous like a Japanese landscape, but the 3D drawings leave little to be desired.

Paperman, however, is the real train wreck. Telling the story of two city office workers who fall in love at first sight at the train station, and get reunited via magical paper airplanes. Paperman was a dreary, gooey mess, an archetypal Disney narrative really, from the beginning to end. I was amazed by the lackluster animation, especially considering this was produced by Disney, yet it seems to me to reek of the stodgy Pixar drawing style.

This program also contained three bonus award-winning animated shorts. Just as I was about to claim that Europeans made more sophisticated and intelligent animations, the UK-made The Gruffalo’s Child proved me dead wrong. For twenty-something mind numbingly dull minutes, we follow a Gruffalo child (voiced by underrated character actress Shirley Henderson), a mythical creature that looks like a cross between a mammoth and a buffalo,  go on a soul-searching (theoretically) quest in the dead of winter to find the Big Bad Mouse. To be fair, I must commend the animators for their richly detailed, lifelike rendering of snow, but that’s all the praise I have for this mawkish trifle. It’s certainly not enough to recompense the grave injustice done to the cast, who are arguably some of the best thespians Britain has to offer right now. Helena Bonham Carter’s excellent voice is completely wasted in the sizable, but superfluous role of the mother of the frightened squirrels who narrates the stories, while several of the other actors like Rob Broyden and Robbie Coltraine don’t have the chance to make an impression in small and unmemorable parts.

Abiogenesis, a New-Zealand production, is one that I admire more than like. Made on a low budget with a tiny crew, it shows us a strange machine which looks like a mishmash of C3PO, R2D2, and Lightsabers from Star Wars, inhabiting a barren planet, beautifying it with vegetation. It had an innovative use of sound and evocatively austere animation, yet somehow, the film as a whole left me cold.

A significant part of my disappointment with the nominees stems from the fact that the non-Oscar nominated film blew those five flicks, in terms of animation and narrative, out of the park. Dripped, a seven-minute triumphal French production, directed by Leo Verrier is pure artistic genius both in terms of narrative and animation. Beginning with a noirish vista of Paris, we are introduced to our protagonist, a middle aged Parisian art thief (paintings specifically), whose latest heist at a museum exhibition on Cubism. The film evokes (and more importantly maintains) a blissfully anarchic tone, as we witness the thief both figuratively and literally consume and inhabit the masterpieces he steals, in some excellently conceived montages like when the art thief, seemingly trapped on all sides by the police, ingeniously transforms himself into a Cubist spider who crawls up the wall of the building.  Quite frankly, Dripped provides one of the most intelligent and humorous visual renderings of several of the most influential European art movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries which propel a humorous and droll narrative. I feel compelled to also praise Pablo Pico, the maestro of the jazzy score which played a large role in enhancing the absurdity, chicness, and Frenchness of the film (every other film in this line up had that same generic pseudo-classical score with a chorus of flutes predictably popping up every few minutes or so). Dripped is worth the price of admission alone.







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Movie Reviews

Monster of the Sky



Sci-Fi Filmmaker Mixes It Up with Puppets, Pixels and Poetry

What could throw a proverbial wrench in the works of an elegant Clockwork Universe? Love can. And not just any love, but a forbidden love. Can mechanical, predictable worlds survive the chaos of romance and betrayal brought on by two young lovers?

In the new short film Monster of the Sky, award-winning filmmaker Sam Koji Hale explores the theme of forbidden love, betrayal and revenge in a futuristic universe of enslaved humans on a massive clockwork world, while paradoxically drawing inspiration from the 19th-Century Lord Byron poem “Manfred.”

What makes this story more curious is the actors we see onscreen aren’t human at all but 20-inch beautifully sculpted and exquisitely costumed puppets. These aren’t your momma’s Muppets but more the descendants of classic Japanese theater or Bunraku. The modern twist is they are shot on greenscreen and the puppeteers, sometimes upwards of 4-5 per puppet, are removed in post-production. Adding an extra layer of realism, the lifeless puppet faces are animated with eye blinks and other expressions in the computer using real-time motion-capture data from the voice actors.

One could describe Monster as Dark Crystal and Spirited Away meets Count of Monte Cristo.
Sam’s previous film Yamasong was called “visually stunning, this combination of puppetry and digital wizardry has to be seen to be believed. Think Monkey’s Journey to the West meets The Dark Crystal.” (Animation Ideas website, Sydney, Austrailia).

There’s a nostalgic connection to the classic Henson epic puppet film, and comparison is not too far-fetched. Yamasong actually opened for Dark Crystal at the Puppets On Film Festival in Brooklyn in 2011. “It was a high honor to be paired with that film!” says Sam, “One thing I’m doing with puppetry is telling dynamic, thrilling stories of fantasy and adventure while exploring the technology horizon, inspired by Jim Henson at the height of his career.”

For many puppeteers, the name of that beloved bearded film and TV trickster draws a smile and a sigh, and for Sam it hits even closer to home. His boss is Heather Henson, youngest of the Henson children and founder of IBEX Puppetry, where Sam works to promote puppet films. His own short film for IBEX, Yamasong, won both Best Fantasy Short and Best Animated Film at Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival in 2010.
To learn more about Monster of the Sky, visit its Kickstarter page at:

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Movie Reviews

Movie Review: No Soliciting (2013)



Dan Wood (Ryan Lewis) is living the dream.  Working in a cubical world, dating his true love, and getting all the support from his adoring mother, then… It comes crashing down around him.  He loses the job, loses the girl, and moves in with his mother.

Dan Wood is that ‘don’t make waves’ guy that seeks to rediscover his purpose and find his grove.

Dan gets a job as a door to door salesman and is forced to move out of his comfort zone and not be afraid to go for it. With a support group of office mates Tommy Pendergrass (Grant McGowan),  Harry Lutz (Will Dove), and Gerald Fitzgerald (Rahmell Peebles). Grant’s character, Tommy, is that oh so cool guy that has all the luck with the ladies.

This movie is witty and touching, it features a cast of young talent. Writing by Will Dove and co-produced with Grant McGowan, No Soliciting is a great break out film that is fun and a true to life story.

It is has a few unexpected twist and turns that makes No Soliciting a tale of finding your place in the modern fast pace world.

Check out the trailer:  or

No Soliciting is scheduled for a one week run at the historic Plaza Theatre starting  January 18th-24th.

For more information on No Soliciting or twitter @justkeepknockin


Follow Dr. Wilson Trivino on Twitter @T4Vista

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