Sneak Peek: Hanna Behind the Scenes

Hi all…

Hanna has been one of the films I’d read about and seen bits and pieces on over the last few months, but hadn’t made up my mind about. The premise is interesting. An intelligence asset (Eric Bana) raises his daughter (Saoirse Ronan) on the run and in harsh conditions above the Arctic Circle so that they can presumably get revenge on the CIA agent (Cate Blanchett) who made them run in the first place… I’m sure I’m oversimplifying that, but it wasn’t the backstory that made it interesting for me. The concept of raising a child in isolation to be a survivor, but also a killer almost has a twister fairy tale aspect to it.

Here’s the synopsis:

Award-winning director Joe Wright creates a boldly original suspense thriller with HANNA, starring Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement) in the title role.

Raised by her father (Eric Bana of Star Trek), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.

And here’s the behind the scenes clip, which features some interviews with director Joe Wright and stars Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.

Question: What do you think? Is this one you’ll go and see when it hits theaters on April 8, 2011?

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies

Hey all…

Yes, I’m a cartoon junkie at times. But not the cartoons you might think. Case in point is the recent release of Bugs Bunny‘s Easter Funnies on DVD. I’m a huge Bugs Bunny fan and have loved all of the classic cartoon characters from the 1940s and 1950s, even though I grew up in the 1970s – Bugs, Sylvester, Tweety, Granny, Pepe Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, and all the rest. But starting in the 1970s, the cartoons I saw were compilations of bits and pieces from those earlier classics mixed with bridging clips for continuity of a particular story or theme.

As a kid, I didn’t catch on that the studios were doing this and I just enjoyed the shows. But as I got older, I noticed that the voices weren’t the same for the characters in some places or that the animation style was slightly different here and there. And to see Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies on DVD after all this time, it really drives home how weird those bridging segments really were in a few places. (It originally aired in 1977, which makes me feel really old!)

This collection is focused around the Easter Bunny, who is sick and can’t deliver eggs to all the good little boys and girls who expect such things on Easter morning. EB calls Granny, who tries to find a suitable replacement. Bugs of course comes to mind, but he’s required by contract to finish a few cartoons and won’t be free in time to help. But together, Bugs and Granny hunt for someone else who might work. Daffy Duck of course thinks he’s the best replacement and eventually steals the job (though Granny and Bugs know it’s him), but along the way they watch several cartoons from other possibilities.

So if you were a fan of some of these collected shows, I apologize. This one is tough to complain about because it includes segments from some of my favorite WB cartoons of the classic era.

Sylvester and Tweety appear in a clip from “Birds Anonymous,” which features Sylvester trying to go “on the wagon” and swear off our fine feathered friends. Obviously that doesn’t go very well and Sylvester tries to eat Tweety. And when Sylvester’s friend from Birds Anonymous tries to help but falls off the wagon just as quickly. This short won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject in 1957.

“Knighty Knight Bugs” sends Bugs Bunny on a quest for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to retrieve the stolen “Singing Sword” from the Black Knight (Yosemite Sam) and his vicious dragon. Though Sam puts up a valiant fight, in the end Bugs saves the sword and sends his foe to the moon. This short also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject in 1959.

Also included were clips from “Robin Hood Daffy” where Daffy Duck pretends to be Robin Hood and Porky Pig as Friar Tuck laughs uproariously at his antics. Even today, I still laugh when Daffy tries to use his “dollar and a quarter” quarter staff to protect himself. His “ho haha guard turn parry dodge spin ha thrust…” where he smacks himself in the head with the staff makes me giggle just to think about it.

Also included are clips from “For Scent-imental Reasons,” “Sahara Hare,” Rabbit of Seville,” “Hillbilly Hare,” “Tweety’s Circus,” and “Little Boy Boo.” And you get a bonus short – “His Hare-Raising Tale” – and a set of interactive puzzles on the DVD.

Now if the DVD just included each of those classics in their entirety, I would have called this a great bargain. But you only get snippets of each pasted together with this forced plot of finding a replacement for the Easter Bunny.

However, if you have kids, Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies isn’t a bad way to have them spend about 50 minutes to have a good time. I know my two daughters enjoyed it and they hadn’t seen it before. Look for it at your favorite rental or retail store. But if you’re looking for the full versions of these classic cartoons, I’d look for the Looney Tunes DVD collections on DVD.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up some of these great Bugs Bunny shows on DVD!

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DVD Review: DisneyNature: Earth

Hi there!

On September 1, 2009, Walt Disney Studios released Earth on DVD. Originally released on big screens this past April 2009 on Earth Day, this is a wildlife documentary in movie theaters the likes of which has never been seen before. And that may be a good thing now that there’s a race against time as world climate changes threaten habitats around the globe. We have entered an age where documentary filmmakers have unprecedented technology at their disposal that grants us never-before seen close-up footage of animals in the wild. And this is a great time for Disney to get back into the nature documentary game.

[amazon-product]B001UV4XW4[/amazon-product]Earth paired filmmakers Alastair Fothergill (The Blue Planet) and Mark Linfield (Planet Earth) with the latest camera equipment to bring stories of polar bears, humpback whales, elephants, and more to the big screen. Add to that the fact that Disney had James Earl Jones narrate this 90-minute feature and you make compelling visuals that much more compelling to viewers. DisneyNature is a new motion picture label that follows in the footsteps of past Academy award-winning movie series True Life Adventures from Disney such as The Living Desert (Best Documentary, Features, 1953) and The Vanishing Prairie (Best Documentary, Features; 1954).

We wanted to see this when it was at the theater, but schedules never worked out to get there. As such, my family and I were excited to see this movie on DVD. And it didn’t disappoint.

The filmmakers did a remarkable job of getting footage from multiple continents and oceans to bring us a complete story with some simply shocking video. When you see a Great White Shark leap from the ocean to nearly swallow a seal whole – not once, but twice – it leaves a lasting impression. So does the footage of the cheetah streaking across the African savanah after a young antelope. And the stories of the animals involved in daily life-and-death struggles are absolutely compelling.

The stories told focus on a polar bear mother and her cubs, a humpbacked whale and her baby, and a group of elephants. The distances these animals have to go to survive is simply astounding, as are some of the environmental difficulties they now face. With global warming, the Arctic ice pack disappears faster and faster each year, forcing polar bears to go to great lengths to find food to eat for themselves and their young. The whales traversed 4,000 miles from the tropics to their feeding grounds near Antarctica. And the elephants navigating across the Kalahari Desert in the dry season to finally arrive at the Okavango Delta and the seasonal flood that turns the area green and teeming with life.

These aren’t the only stories in the film, just the main threads through which everything else is woven. My daughters also loved the footage of the mandarin ducklings falling from a great height to land safely in the leaves on the forest floor and the baboon troupe moving across the flooded plains of the Okavango.

As with all Disney documentaries, they do their best to avoid showing actual bloodshed. As such, you see the cheetah catch the antelope and sink her teeth into its throat as the footage ends. And you see a group of lions surround and attack an elephant, but don’t see the brutal end except for a few drops of blood on the ground in the morning sun. This is a documentary meant for family consumption and I think even Walt Disney himself would have been proud of how it turned out.

In addition to the 90-minute movie itself, there is also the “Earth Diaries: The Making Of earth The Movie” feature. Here you get to hear the tales from the filmmakers themselves – from the cameraman who had an appendicitis emergency while filming in the Antarctic to the cameraman who had a new high-speed high-definition camera at his disposal to capture a cheetah on the attack and Great Whites leaping off the shore of South Africa. These dedicated men and women risked their lives to capture the footage for the film and deserve some serious recognition for their efforts.

Overall, DisneyNature: Earth is an amazing acomplishment. I can’t wait until Earth Day 2010 when we see DisneyNature: Oceans hit the big screens! If you are looking for a great nature documentary to share with your family, DisneyNature: Earth is a perfect way to spend an evening. Look for it at your favorite retailer!

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to pick up this and other nature documentaries from Amazon below!

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