Sneak Peek: HOP coming April 1, 2011

Hi there!

I found this today… News about an animated movie I hadn’t heard of from the makers of Despicable Me (which we loved) that merges CGI and live action about… the Easter Bunny!?! Hop evidently opens on April 1st, 2011 just in time for Easter season.

Now I have to say I’m leery of the animated/live action crossover… The last time I felt it really worked was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so I don’t have high hopes. But I know as soon as my daughters see the trailer, we’ll be planning a trip to the theater.

Directed by Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks and TV’s Spongebob Squarepants), Hop has a great cast with James Marsden (X-Men, Superman Returns), Russell Brand (as the voice of the Easter Bunny) (Get Him to the Greek), Kaley Cuoco (TV’s Big Bang Theory), Hank Azaria (TV’s Simpsons, The Birdcage), David Hasselhoff, Chelsea Handler and Hugh Laurie (TV’s House).

Here’s the synopsis:

Blending state of the art animation with live action, Hop is a comedy about E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny. On the eve of taking over the family business, E.B. leaves for Hollywood in pursuit of his dream of becoming a drummer. He encounters Fred (James Marsden), an out-of-work slacker with his own lofty goals, who accidentally hits E.B. with his car. Feigning injury, E.B. manipulates Fred into providing him shelter, and Fred finds himself with the world’s worst houseguest.

Here are a few pics from the production:

And you can find the new trailer here at Apple.

Question: What do you think of this? Something you’d want to go see?

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Open Season 3

Hey all…

What is it that causes a movie or television studio to keep a series alive when it should really just fade away quietly? Any combination of properties can cause a property’s downfall – from a poor story to shifting actors, from lackluster animation and effects to just flat jokes… Any of these  might start the slide, but when all of them appear in a movie at the same time, it’s time to just go home.

The Open Season animated movie series is about Boog, a domesticated grizzly bear (originally voiced by Martin Lawrence), and his best friend Elliot, a deer (originally voiced by Ashton Kutcher), as they have adventures in the woods with their crazy friends. The first movie (2006) focused on how the pair found each other and formed a lasting friendship in a forest populated by sassy skunks and Scottish squirrels. And honestly it was a lot of fun to see a domesticated bear (Boog) try to survive during hunting season as the forest critters turned the tables on the hunters.

The sequel, Open Season 2 (2008) continued the trend with Elliot (now voiced by Joel McHale) falling in love with Giselle (Jane Krakowski) and getting a bit lost on the way to the altar. Boog (now Mike Epps) and the gang become entangled in a plot involving an insane poodle Fifi (Crispin Glover) and wiener dog Mr. Weenie (Cody Cameron) as they try Mission Impossible-style to get Mr. Weenie home to his owners.

Each of the first two movies had great sight gags and fun characters to keep the plot moving forward, with enough bits to entertain kids and parents along the way. Unfortunately, that brings me to Open Season 3, which was released on DVD in late January 2011. Somehow all the life that was in the first two was sucked out of this one.

Now in Open Season 3, Boog (now voiced by Matthew J. Munn) is prepping for his “guy’s trip” and discovers that all the other guys in the forest seem to have something else to do – working on the house, watching the kids, or simply spending time with their spouses. Even Elliot bails out on his best friend. As a result, Boog heads off to the woods by himself and stumbles on a traveling circus with two grizzly bears! One of them – Doug – offers to switch places with Boog so he could spend time with another bear. Once inside, he meets and falls in love with Ursa (Melissa Sturm) – a dancing female grizzly. When Boog discovers the circus is heading back to Russia, can Elliot and his friends save him in time?

The film for me never came together, though it was cute. It just seemed thin, focused almost entirely on Boog’s adventures in the circus and leaving Elliot to deal with his three kids while his wife was out of town. The most entertaining parts of the film were in the background – such as the feline orchestra at the circus who appeared regularly and Serge (Danny Mann), a llama with a spit control problem. And of course Mr. Weenie’s owners were back, first on a quest for bigfoot and later on a quest for UFOs in a lovely homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The animation was very disappointing and looked like something from a video game with the quality turned way down. From other reviews I’ve seen on the net, it appears that this production lacked budget and they did what they could with the money they had. Compared to the last two movies the shading, depth, and background detail simply weren’t there.

In addition to the movie, the DVD also includes a game – the Runaway RV Game – and a progression reel that shows the work going from storyboards to the final shots in the film. It’s always interesting to peek behind the curtain on one of these productions, but there wasn’t much there.

Honestly, Open Season 3 was a bust for us. I think my daughters enjoyed it, but my wife and I found ourselves distracted by our cell phones and rarely entertained. Unless you’re looking for a $1 Redbox rental for your kids, I’d let this one slide.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up the other Open Season films on DVD and Blu-ray below…

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DVD Review: Merlin: The Complete Second Season

Hello!

The myths and legends surrounding King Arthur have always fascinated me. Tales of honor, friendship, love, betrayal, swords and magic are woven into a tapestry filled with shiny knights, wizards who age backwards, and a sense of adventure. From Le Morte d’Arthur (Sir Thomas Mallory) and The Once and Future King (T.H. White) to The Sword in the Stone (Disney), Monty Python and the Holy Grail and even Camelot (the musical from Alan Jay Lerner & Federick Loewe), the stories have been told and retold through the ages.

So back in 2009 when Merlin was announced and started to air on NBC (after airing on the BBC), I was planted in front of my television and it didn’t take long for the rest of my family to join me. We were all drawn in by the antics of A young Merlin (Colin Morgan) working as a manservant for Prince Arthur (Bradley James) in a Camelot ruled by Arthur’s strict father King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head, Giles from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer). In another interesting twist, Guinevere (Angel Coulby) works as a maid to Morgana (Katie McGrath), the King’s ward. As we’re dealing with a Smallville-style revisiting of the Arthur myths, Merlin has a couple of mentors along the way – the wise old court physician Gaius (Richard Wilson) and the Great Dragon (voiced by John Hurt, Hellboy).

We tuned in regularly to see what kinds of trouble these characters would get into and how the writers would reinvent a younger Camelot. I was particularly interested in how we’d see characters from the older stories like Lancelot, Mordred, Morgause and Nimue show up as they inevitably would. And honestly I was quite surprised. The production crew did a great job of breathing new life into these stories.

When the first season ended, we were obviously hoping that the show would be renewed. And though NBC didn’t air it directly, season 2 aired on the Syfy Channel last year. Due to insane schedules last spring, we only watched the first few episodes and never got back to see how it ended up. As a result, we were very happy to see Merlin: The Complete Second Season appear on DVD at the beginning of 2011!

Picking right up where the first season left off, the second season starts out with Merlin almost losing his job as Arthur’s manservant to a thief and ends with Merlin saving the day and giving Arthur all the credit, which is a recurring theme on the show. Another recurring theme is the concept of destiny and Merlin’s fate being linked to Arthur’s. It’s something brought up by many shows of this style – from Smallville to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Is a person’s fate decided or can the path change?

It ultimately comes down to the character’s decisions – their choices between what’s right and wrong – that shape their destinies. But like life, not every decision is easy and all have consequences that may ripple far into the future.

What I really loved about season 2 is that these characters are starting to come into their own. Sure, Arthur’s a Prince and supposed to do what his daddy the King says, but we start to see him rebelling a bit against policies he doesn’t believe in. He goes off against orders to rescue Gwen in one episode and on a quest in another episode to find the last remaining Dragonlord because it’s what’s right for Camelot even if it goes against the King’s wishes.

The other relationships really mature and change as well. Where there was a definite class boundary between Merlin and Arthur in the first season, we start to see them become more like best friends or brothers by the end. And the love triangle between Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera), Arthur, and Gwen starts to form. Arthur is recognizing the feelings he has for Gwen, but struggles with them because a relationship between a noble and a servant could never be. That really starts to come into question when he sees the budding feelings between Lancelot and Gwen. And finally we see the Great Dragon really push Merlin to release him as he agreed to. But when Merlin gets a glimpse of what the future could be like when the dragon is freed, does he really want to?

As with the first season, there are serious moments intermixed with some comedic moments. The difference in the second season however is the distance between the light and the dark. As Morgana begins her slide to the dark side, there are many tough choices for Merlin to make – but that makes the lighthearted banter between Merlin and Arthur that much more important to keep things from being bogged down in darkness too often.

All thirteen episodes of the second season are included on the first four DVDs of this five DVD set. The last DVD is a collection of great extras. Without question, the BBC has done an amazing job gathering a set of “Behind the Scenes” features for the season. Every episode has a thirteen minute look at the work that goes into filming, producing, and acting each show, which gives you something more concrete to watch than a longer feature that covers the entire season at once. In addition, there’s an introduction to the new season from the cast and crew, audio commentaries, a collection of photos, and a Making of Merlin documentary that covers the entire season. If you have a PC, you also have access to a set of Wallpapers you can use as background images.

If you were a fan of Merlin as it aired on the BBC, NBC, or Syfy networks, Merlin: The Complete Second Season is definitely a DVD set worthy of your collection. It’s been fun catching up on all the action in Camelot as Season 3 gets in full swing on Syfy!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up both seasons of Merlin on DVD below!

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