Rise Of The Guardians Is A Wondrous Ode To Childhood Wonder

guardians posterDreamworks Animation’s latest animated release Rise Of The Guardians could very well be one of their greatest films though vastly underrated and dismissed by general audiences. That’s a shame because unlike recent animated efforts from Dreamworks’ main rival, Rise Of The Guardians has a surprising amount of depth and heart.

Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians Of Childhood series of books, Rise Of The Guardians is directed by Peter Ramsey and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro and Joyce. One thing perspective viewers should note is that the film isn’t a comedy and is more of a fantasy adventure film and it’s a refreshing change for Dreamworks. Unlike their other films, Rise Of The Guardians doesn’t have any crude toilet humor aimed at kids, topical references or annoying modern songs that break a film’s narrative flow.

The film centers on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) who was once human and turned into the mythical character after drowning. Though he enjoys his role of bringing frigid weather and playing one-jack frostsided with children (they are unable to see him) he longs for human contact or just to be noticed. At the same time, Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), who is Russian, notices that Pitch Black (Jude Law) a.k.a. the Boogeyman is preparing to return to the world and spread nightmares to children everywhere. Santa summons the other Guardians to the North Pole to combat Pitch. The motley crew is composed of a buffed-up, Australian Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman (who doesn’t speak in the film) and their tasks as Guardians are to protect the children of the world from evil, in the film’s case, nightmares. The newest Guardian to be recruited is Jack Frost who naturally doesn’t want to get involved in the conflict. See, he’s more of a party dude but he surprisingly relates to children better than the other characters since he alone actually plays with them. And that could be the best advantage he and the others have against Pitch and his growing army of darkness.

Rise Of The Guardians is beautifully animated and storyboarded. Many sequences bring out a sense of wonder and joy and even brought tears to my eyes. It’s a celebration of childhood and all the thrills of being a child who still believes in fantastical beings like Santa Claus. The characters are superbly executed, very relatable, engaging and surprisingly hip without going overboard. For example, the Easter Bunny is a tough dude who clashes often with Jack, but he has a tender passion for children and wants to bring a sense of hope with Easter. Santa Claus is a loud, boisterous man who sports tattoos on his forearms and drives a super-detailed sleigh that traverses through pitchthese wormhole-type constructs. While the Guardians are colorful and bright, Pitch is dark and monochromatic  and a startling contrast to them. The black-sand army of mares that he uses are terrifying and reflect violent storms to the Sandman’s graceful, golden sandy constructs like unicorns and dolphins. The light and dark clashes Pitch and the Guardians have are very spectacular.

But the center of the film is and should be Jack Frost. In many ways, he’s the one character we the audience can relate to the most. His journey was the best part of Rise Of The Guardians and he is a true hero with a surprising amount of depth.

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It’s hard to say what will and will not be considered a classic in the future. Hopefully, whether in theaters or on DVD, people will discover this unexpected gem and enjoy this exciting and exceptional film. But do try to see this eye popper on the big screen this holiday season, it’s something to be cherished.

Annette DeForrester

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Forget Summer 2011, Bring on Next Summer’s Films!

Well the summer 2011 movie season is drawing to a close. Yes, August isn’t even here yet, but almost all of the big guns from the studios have been fired. There are just a handful of anticipated, genre flicks that haven’t been released yet. They include Rise of the Planet of the ApesConan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Final Destination 5. With this year’s Comic-Con, all the buzz is still about next year’s, and more specifically, next summer’s film releases. Here’s a list of what to look forward to:

May 2012

May 4–The Avengers–What better way to kick off the summer movie season (and Free Comic Book Day) than with a Marvel superhero film? Continuing a years’-long tradition, Marvel Studios is releasing its most anticipated film that teams up its A-list superheroes; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. Plus, it’s directed by fan favorite Joss Whedon so expect it to make some moolah.

May 11–Dark Shadows–Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp (again!) in this remake of the popular 1960s soap opera about the vampire Barnabas Collins which predates True Blood, Twilight and all the other hot vampire shows and films.

May 18–Battleship–The Internet’s been percolating with a newly released teaser trailer. At first people were scratching their heads over the idea that Universal Studios canceled Ron Howard’s production of The Dark Tower saga in lieu of this reportedly $200 million sci-fi film directed by Peter Berg (who’s last film Hancock didn’t exactly thrill audiences). But the sight of U.S. Navy ships getting ready to square off against Transformer-like alien ships won over many doubters.

May 25–Men In Black III–Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld reteam for the third outing of Earth-based illegal alien hunting agents. Little is known about the film, only that it involves time travel which is impossible according to some scientists in Hong Kong.

June 2012

June 1–Snow White and the Huntsman–Starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, this reimaging of the classic fairy tale is supposedly more action packed and darker. Already people are clamoring for it or dismissing this as another Twilight clone. Given Stewart’s popularity with Twihards it may do well at the box office.

June 8–Prometheus–Perhaps the most anticipated sci-fi film of 2012 as Ridley Scott returns to the director’s chair to helm this prequel (?) to the Alien franchise. Little has been revealed about this film that might be about the alien space jockey whose skeleton was seen in the first Alien film. This veil of secrecy hasn’t been seen in a film for a while and its whipping up interest among fans burned out by the awful Aliens vs. Predators films.

June 8–Madagascar 3–Dreamworks Animation’s big offering for the summer brings us the further adventures of Alex the lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo as they try yet again to find their way back to New York’s Central Park Zoo. Reportedly the gang winds up in Europe and a traveling circus; the kids already can’t wait!

June 15–Jack the Giant Killer–Bryan Singer directs this fantasy epic about a young farmhand who battles against a race of giants. Described as an adult take of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale this film features Ewan MacGregor and Stanley Tucci.

June 22-Brave–Pixar’s latest film has many firsts for the acclaimed animation studio; its first fairy tale, its first film directed by a woman and the first one to feature a girl protagonist. Its appeal to young girls who favor Disney films and Pixar’s brand for putting out animated masterpieces  should make a killing at the box office.  

June 22-Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter–Based on the popular novel of the same name it’s directed by  Timur Bekmambetov (his last film was the action-packed Wanted). It’s an interesting alternative for moviegoers who may not be into the month’s fairy tale releases.

June 29–G.I. Joe 2–The first film wasn’t exactly beloved even by those who swear by the Transformers films. But it made enough money to warrant a sequel. The question is how will it hold up to the heavy hitters released around the same time? It has got to have a killer trailer or word of mouth to get some momentum.

July 2012

July 3–The Amazing Spider-Man–Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man film series has many Spider-fans torn over the need for a re-imaging so recently after Sam Raimi’s flicks. Yet again maybe the studio wants to get rid of the ill will the last film generated. Still no matter what critics say about Andrew Garfield looking like an emo, he does resemble Peter Parker and the mechanical web shooters will be used!

July 13–Ice Age: Continental Drift–The prehistoric mammals (featuring a wooly mammoth, a saber-tooth cat and a ground sloth) from the kid-friendly movie series return in this story that has them trapped on an iceberg and off on a seagoing adventure.

July 13–TedFamily Guy’s Seth MacFarlane makes his live-action directorial debut about a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood teddy bear that comes to life. Sounds like a combo of Harvey and the recent TV show Wilfred. If Mike Judge could make the live-action transition then so could MacFarlane.

July 20–The Dark Knight Rises–OK hands down this is the BIG ONE for moviegoers. Whether or not you are a Batman fan you can’t deny the phenomenon of the last Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film. Touted as his last film and with Catwoman and Bane as the villains it might be the year’s biggest hit. In fact it’s expected to be so successful that it seems as if the rest of the summer season is drawing to a close afterwards.

August 2012

August 3–Total Recall–Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston star in the remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie that was based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Farrell stated recently that the film, like the original, will differ from the author’s tale.

August 17–ParaNorman–A stop-motion animated film that takes place in a town besieged by zombies. The citizens then call upon the services of a boy who is a sort of zombie whisperer to take care of the problem.

Of course, these release dates are subject to change and will most likely do so. Already, the new Star Trek film that was scheduled for the summer has been pushed back, so it won’t be surprising to learn that one of the above films has been removed from the schedule or another will join the list. No matter what, it’s good to know that there are plenty of films to choose from for next summer.

José Soto