Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ten Lessons Learned from ’70s TV Theme Songs

Five Reasons Why Metallica Will Doom Bonnaroo Forever

If you like the Bonnaroo music festival, don't read this story. As history shows, Metallica's about to ruin everything.

By Jason Notte

Bonnaroo, it was nice knowing you.

We'll miss your gray market economy, with Frisbee-chucking weirdos selling burritos, beer and mystery balloons from the back of Econoline vans. We'll miss the way you blended hippie jam bands like Rusted Root with indie rock bands like Death Cab for Cutie and the resultant nine-car social pile up that ensued. Hell, we'll even miss the sunstroke and smell of the non-VIP camping area.

But it's all over now. You could have had yourself a nice little time with David Cross in the comedy tent, dozens of stoners mesmerized by “The Big Lebowski” and maybe a nice Phil Lesh/Lupe Fiasco duet, but no. You got greedy. You wanted a big-time name near the top of the bill. You had to go cock things up and get Metallica.

Let there be no question: Metallica will kill Bonnaroo. When they're done, Manchester, Tenn. will be a post-apocalyptic swath of scorched farmland, burned out VW Microbuses and tufts of shredded hair yanked from hipster beards. Why, you ask? Because this band is like Rogue from the X-Men, it kills everything it touches. Here are five solid examples to ponder before the special brownies kick in.

1. They killed Lollapalooza.

Patti Ouderkirk/

OK, so maybe a festival that included Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails and Public Enemy on its rosters wasn't the feel-good touring franchise of the century. But before Metallica played in 1996, the biggest problem facing this festival of dancing Shaolin Monks, adult jungle gyms and piercing stations was Billy Corgan getting pissed off because people liked the Beastie Boys better than his band. Once big daddy Perry Farrell left, though, the wheels came off the cart. An event that once featured teens crying over the loss of Kurt Cobain now reverberated with the sound of pizza delivering high school dropouts chanting “Die, Die, Die” as Lars Ulrich and company laid into their Passover-themed crowd favorite “Creeping Death.” The next year, Lolla tried to save face by putting on a Prodigy/Orbital-fueled rave, but it was too late. The whole thing went on hiatus until 2003, when the tour limped to an unmerciful end -- relegated to one-off, stiflingly hot summer shows in Chicago's Grant Park. One of Metallica's lesser offenses, they may not have ultimately kicked the chair, but they certainly helped secure the noose.

2. They killed hair metal.

Ron Galella, Ltd./

The average long-haired, black-shirted true believer wasn't altogether pleased when The Black Album went platinum and “Enter Sandman” was all over MTV, but at least this gave Metallica a chance to knock the world on its ass with some thrash metal, no? Wrong, fucko. After Sandman's success, they cut their hair short. Then singer James Hetfield, who inspired the band's nickname "Alcoholica," got sober. Finally, the band released Load, which will go down in history as one of the greatest adult contemporary albums ever released -- easily equaling anything released by Carly Simon or Bread. To pour rock salt into the wound, a year later, the band released the equally pitiful and decidedly unmetal ReLoad, then followed that with an album of Bob Seeger, Thin Lizzie and Blue Oyster Cult covers called Garage Inc., and punctuated the whole mess with symphonic recordings of several of their songs in 1999. With metal's flagbearers out of the picture, metal became the punchline to a cultural joke: Pat Boone recorded an album of metal covers, Ozzy's reality TV show turned him into America's Sweetheart, and Sebastian Bach ended up on The Gilmore Girls.

3. They killed Woodstock '99.

Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Newscom

A carpet of garbage litters the field after Metallica performed on the main stage of Woodstock 99. The next night, things really got out of hand, but the chaos began with Metallica.

Some would argue that Woodstock as a franchise needed to be killed (which is true) and that the mayhem that erupted at the 1999 edition was Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine's fault (which is slightly false). That's like saying Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc were the driving forces behind the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Professional wet fart Fred Durst and fair-weather activist Zach de la Rocha (our feelings on that here) may have fanned the flames, but the inclusion of Metallica in the lineup made the presence of those bands possible in the first place. Organizers rolled the dice with Metallica once at Woodstock '94 and got lucky. Not this time. There's oppressive heat, overcommericialization and $4 water at nearly all such events, but Hetfield & Co. lit the fuse. You know, it takes a special breed of asshole to see how unhappy the crowds were and still crank out “Fight Fire With Fire” while beer-fueled idiots tear the place apart and then act stunned when there are four rapes and the place is torched a night later. Welcome to the peace festival, motherfuckers!

4. They killed Napster.

Remember this? Back in 2000, "Napster Baaad!" became one of the Web's first viral videos.

There's a reason many of your friends' CD collections come to an abrupt halt in the mid-'90s. It was called Napster, and it was good. Labels and artists cried that it stole their livelihood, but made the same argument about blank cassette tapes years ago. So they adjusted, right? Well, no. Ulrich and several other millionaires called a press conference in 2000 to rat out more than 300,000 fans that downloaded music "illegally." (Technically, it wasn't illegal yet.) Lars singlehandedly saved the music industry and kept CD sales flourishing while labels and artists alike came up with new and innovative ways to get their music to listeners and still earn a profit. At least that's what he'll tell you. Today, the music industry is on deathwatch and the only people who got rich off legal downloads seem to work at Apple. The rest of us still download music illegally, only it's more difficult, stealing songs from Hype Machine and that one guy at work who downloaded every album ever made from Napster eight years ago.

5. They killed Jason Newsted.

Marty Temme/

The death of original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton in tour bus accident was a tragic and senseless accident. But what they did to poor Jason Newsted makes the shit that goes on at Guantanamo look like a visit to Six Flags. Listen to the ...And Justice For All album sometime and point out the bass parts. If you can't, you're not alone, as Newsted says he was elbowed out as part of Hetfield and Ulrich's little frat-boy hazing ritual that only intensified over time. Sure, they threw Newsted's belongings out hotel windows, jarred him awake at 4 a.m. and tricked him into eating wasabi just for laughs, but how bad did it get? Consider this excerpt from a January 2001 interview in Playboy:

PLAYBOY: Did you know they were telling people you were gay?

NEWSTED: No. I mean, dude, there was so much, that's like a minor detail.

Flogged like an unwanted stepbrother for much of his time with the band, his departure was foreshadowed when Hetfield told him “Jason, you're too metal for your own fucking good, man” during a concert in Mexico City recorded for the band's Live Shit: Binge and Purge boxed set in 1993. Ten years later, as Hetfield and Ulrich had their group hug during the Monster therapy sessions, Newsted was working on a side project. Feeling threatened by Newsted's other venture, Metallica got pissed and Newsted finally had his Tina Turner moment, calling the band's therapy adventure, “really fucking lame and weak.” Newsted's in some band called Voivod now, which is the metal equivalent of the witness protection program.

Original here

Judge rejects music industry's promo CD copyright claim

In a major pushback against music industry efforts to expand copyright control at the expense of consumers, a California judge has ruled that recipients of promotional CDs are free to do with them as they please. In other words, what would seem obvious to the layman, in this case also happens to be the law.

However, during a long-running legal battle that shut down an eBay seller, Universal Music Group had argued that it retained licensing rights and could prohibit such resale despite the fact that its promo CDs are distributed willy-nilly to thousands of music industry insiders who neither ask for them nor are not expected to return them.

Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero is meaningful not merely because it protects an income stream for CD resellers, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but primarily because it affirms the so-called "first sale" doctrine. From the EFF's press release:

"This is a very important ruling for consumers, and not just those who buy or sell used CDs," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "The right of first sale also protects libraries, used bookstores, and businesses that rent movies and videogames. This ruling affirms and protects the traditional balance between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the public."

"It was clear to the court that these CDs were the property of (the eBay merchant), and therefore he had the right to resell them," said Joseph C. Gratz, attorney with Keker & Van Nest. "Copyright holders can't strip consumers of their first sale rights just by sticking a 'Not for Sale' label on a CD."

The bottom line from the judge:

"The promo CDs are unordered merchandise," Otero writes in his order (PDF). " ... By sending the promo CDs to music industry insiders, UMG transferred title to those insiders and the promo CDs are subject to the First Sale Doctrine."

When I first wrote about this issue two months ago, EFF intellectual property attorney Fred von Lohmann answered a number of questions regarding the nitty-gritty of the case in an interview you can read here.

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent Buzzblog items. And, if you'd like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here's where to sign up. is down ... really down.

Can early tornado warnings create Darwin Award winners?

The REAL sticking point between Microsoft and Yahoo!

Worst of the lot for two years running: PCMall and PCConnection.

Times breaks out xkcd-to-English translator.

This Year's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries.

Top 10 Buzzblog posts for '07: Verizon's there, of course, along with Gates, Wikipedia and the guy who lost a girlfriend to Blackberry's blackout.

8 can't-miss tech predictions ... for 1998

Original here

Metallica "ear spanks" management, reinstates online reviews

"Once we re-surfaced on Tuesday after a few weeks on tour in Europe, we were informed that someone at Q Prime (our managers) had made the error of asking a few publications to take down reviews of the rough mixes from the new record that were posted on their sites," they wrote. "Our response was 'WHY?!!! Why take down mostly positive reviews of the new material and prevent people from getting psyched about the next record... that makes no sense to us!'"

And if something "makes no sense" to Metallica, there's a pretty good chance it's not a real coherent idea. So, after a good "ear spank" of its management, the band posted links to the reviews in question.

The Quietus, a new music blog that had initially covered the album, was pleased by the news. "Because of their magnanimous behaviour we'd like to apologize for suggesting that they were insane and for claiming that they hadn't done a good album since the tragic death of Cliff Burton—arrant nonsense by anyone's standards, let alone our own."

Original story

Given all that Metallica has done, said, and been through in the last 20 years, what could they still do that would lead bloggers to ask, "What the hell is wrong with Metallica?" In this case, the answer is fairly pedestrian but still dumb: censor bloggers.

Here's the scenario: internationally known heavy metal band with long history in the business invites music critics in London to listen to six tracks off the band's forthcoming album. Those critics then write reviews based on what they've heard. Despite the total lack of any non-disclosure agreements and the fact that the band must have known what it was doing, its management then contacted the blogs in question and asked them to take down the reviews.

Rock. On.

Actually, "asked" may be a polite way of putting it. The music blog Blinded by the Hype contacted The Quietus, one of the blogs that had run a review, wondering what had happened to the piece. The answer, from editor Luke Turner, was clear. "The Quietus kept our article up the longest and, as no nondisclosure agreement had been signed," he wrote, "[we were] not prepared to remove it merely due to the demands of Metallica's management. We only removed the article earlier today to protect the professional interests of the writer concerned."

Metallica's management and PR team knew who the (anonymous) writer of the piece was, as they invited him; if they chose to do so, they could probably make his livelihood more difficult to earn in the future. The Quietus decided to pull the review and replace it with a cheeky note and an old interview with the band. Wired's Listening Post blog, which has followed the story, notes that this isn't just about being jerks; management claims that the tracks in question were a rough mix that weren't ready for prime time, which perfectly explains why they invited journalists to come hear them.

Metallica has acquired a reputation for hating the Internet, which isn't really true—the band does have a website and it did finally come to iTunes—but the band invited derision from fans with its stance against Napster back in the day. (As a metal band, Metallica of course has long stood up for the principles of fair play, buying your music at retail prices, and not being a rebel.)

Surely, the band's handlers know that these sorts of things have long shelf lives, as evidenced in the new press coverage (Metallica's stance against Napster was mentioned every time), so it's pretty mysterious why they would continue to perpetuate the image of Metallica as the cranky curmudgeons of pre-Internet rock.

...unless this is all a genius move to keep Metallica's name in the news and drum up buzz for a new album that I, for one, had no idea was even in the works.

Original here

Confirmed: Captain America Cut Out Of Hulk To Protect Your Kids

Marvel Studios has made no secret out of the fact that they’re angling for the broadest possible appeal with their superhero movies. When you’re trying to make your movie all things to everyone there will be, inevitably, casualties. In the case of The Incredible Hulk, it’s meant 70 minutes of casualties. As we told you in our story here, there are a full 70 minutes missing from the movie which will make it onto the DVD.

We speculated earlier that those missing 70 minutes might contain the Captain America cameo director Louis Letterier promised (watch him tease it right here). Well consider that confirmed. Speaking to the site Judao, Letterier says: “There’s a point when Bruce Banner gives up on his quest for the cure and decide to kill himself. So he travels far North and reaches the Arctic Circle. You might have seen bits of it in some of the promos.” Sounds like an interesting scene, but having watched the movie on Monday I can tell you there’s nothing even remotely like it in there anywhere. The reason for that? Louis says, “The result was a very dark and strong scene, which Marvel, me and everyone else’s considered to be too hard to young audiences to take, so we’ve cut it.” The Incredible Hulk is after all, a kids movie. It’s practically a Pixar flick, right?

Anyway, in that missing scene was Cap’s meeting with Bruce Banner. Letterier confirms, “…when Bruce arrives at his destination he meets up with Captain America!” So the cameo he’s been running around all week promising us isn’t in the movie, and it sounds like it never was. It’s on the DVD. Letterier also makes a vague promise that they’ll also have it on the internet some time this week. Of course he also told us that it would be in the movie just a few days ago, and that didn’t pan out.

So to sum up: No Captain America in The Incredible Hulk, but it’s completely safe to take your kids to see a movie about a guy who gets mad, turns green, and beats the shit out of anyone and everything around him. Marvel is all about family entertainment.

Original here

From Woody to WALL-E: Top 10 CGI Animated Movies Ever

by Tom Burns

Who knew back in 1982 while we were geeking out over the light-cycle races in Tron that, one day, computer-generated imagery would completely transform Hollywood filmmaking and, in particular, the world of feature film animation? During the '80s, all we knew computers were good for was Global Thermonuclear War or a nice game of chess, but CGI technology soon revolutionized the world of special FX and opened up a whole new world of 3D animation that quickly (and, some would argue, sadly) began replacing traditional 2D hand-drawn animation as the preferred medium for big-screen animated features. In 1995, the first full-length, completely CGI-animated movie was released - an obscure little cult movie called Toy Story - and, since then, Hollywood has never looked back.

And, in the thirteen years following Toy Story, we've seen some entirely mind-blowing achievements in the world of theatrical CGI as well as, let's be honest, a whole lot of crap. While the earliest CGI features, regardless of their content, captured audiences' attention with their "how'd they do that" visual verve, after CG became more common-place and people began realizing that they could animate their own episodes of Jimmy Neutron with 600 bucks worth of equipment from BestBuy, the honeymoon was over. CGI movies became just like any other movies and found themselves judged not only by their visuals, but also on their effectiveness as films on a whole. Gorgeously computer-animated features could be ignored due to their inane stories and humorless tone (looking at you, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), and weak children's movies with lame plots couldn't save themselves by simply investing in some kid-friendly CGI (looking at you, Chicken Little and Ant Bully). CGI animation has become just another medium for cinematic storytelling, which, to be honest, is probably the best thing that could've happened for both the animators and audiences alike.

In honor of the upcoming release of WALL-E, the highly-anticipated new feature from Pixar, the unparalleled and unquestioned kings of CGI filmmaking, The Deadbolt has assembled a list of our ten all-time favorite CGI animated movies - ten films that truly bring together fantastic big-screen storytelling with some of the most kick-ass computer wizardry this side of the Master Control Program.


10. Shrek

Just to get this out of the way - no, we don't think that Shrek deserved to win the very first Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in 2001, particularly since it was up against the far-superior Monsters, Inc. And, yeah, Shrek the Third was pretty disposable. But, even if you're a Dreamworks-hater, you can't deny the cultural impact of the big green ogre on Hollywood. Not only is Shrek a pretty damn good comedy, but Shrek himself is arguably one of the most memorable and recognizable film characters of the past twenty years. We love Pixar here at the 'Bolt, but, aside from Buzz and Woody, there aren't any individual Pixar characters that could probably win a popularity contest against Shrek and Donkey. They've become icons for children around the globe and, even if it annoys you that Mike Myers is just doing his same Scottish accent AGAIN, you can't deny that Shrek is one of CGI's first A-list celebrities. And, to quickly note the movie's technical achievements, the facial animation in Shrek is so flawlessly rendered that each character is nicely imbued with the respective personalities of their vocal counterparts, giving the movie a tremendous helping of charm and character that so many CG movies lack. (Once again, looking at you and your dead-faced leads, Final Fantasy.)

9. Beowulf

Unlike the Academy, we at The Deadbolt don't discriminate between "pure" CGI and motion-capture CGI. In our eyes, animation is animation, and it'd be a shame to discuss the history of CG filmmaking without being able to address certain films like the surprisingly bad-ass Beowulf. Let's hope that that no misinformed soccer moms took their seven-year-olds to see Beowulf in IMAX simply because it was created by the "makers of The Polar Express." If they did, those unwitting tykes witnessed more gore, action, and sexual innuendo than Santa is normally comfortable with. Robert Zemeckis' great achievement with Beowulf - aside from the film's gorgeous visuals - is that it essentially stands as the first "adult" CGI movie. Granted, like Shrek, it deals with legends and myths of old, but it doesn't add in any farting donkeys or singing gargoyles to soften the tale for young eyes. The original Old English poem is one of the most beautifully brutal stories in the history of literature (heck, it's one of the FIRST stories in the history of literature), and Zemeckis gave the story its proper respect by staying true to the tone of the original material and hiring two amazingly literate screenwriters (Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman) to bring it to the big-screen. One of the coolest aspects of CGI animation is that it gives filmmakers an unlimited visual canvas to work with. Zemeckis proved in Beowulf that this canvas can be used to turn some of the greatest and most expansive works of world literature into cracking good films, regardless of whether or not they'd make a good ride at Disneyland.

8. The Polar Express

And landing completely on the other end of the literary spectrum from Beowulf, we have The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's classic children's picture book. Before you say anything, yes, the dead-eyed little Amtrak passengers totally freaked us out upon our first viewing, but grab any five-year-old in America, mention the movie, and watch their eyes light up as they run to grab you their Polar Express DVD, train set, and pop-up book, all while screaming "Hot Chocolate, oh, Hot Chocolate!" to the high heavens. And the occasional moments of dead-eye oddness can be excused since this stands as the first CGI movie to be filmed completely with performance capture technology - meaning that Tom Hanks really did perform all of those roles (while wearing a ping-pong-ball-covered wet suit) while animators painted over his CGI-captured movements. And those captured performances really do add a vibrant pulse to the movie, creating a tremendous bond between the voices and the final character animation. The film itself is surprisingly fun and moody, standing as an extremely rewatchable Christmas staple, and it acts as a beautiful representation of Van Allsburg's painted layouts in his picture book. Probably the coolest aspect of Polar Express is that it really does look like a picture book brought to life with the animators creating a visual universe that matches with the sensibilities of the original book almost perfectly. Borrow one of your nephew's five copies of the DVD and enjoy.

7. Antz

Ah, Antz. The red-headed stepchild of Dreamworks Animation. Even though it predated Shrek by three years and stands as Dreamworks' first completely CGI feature, you never see the 'Works touting Antz as part of their catalog like they do Madagascar, Over the Hedge, or even the terrible Shark Tale. And that's a huge mistake, because Antz, frankly, rocks. OK, fine, it did get involved with an Armageddon/Deep Impact release battle with Pixar's A Bug's Life, but - even though Bug's Life is a terrifically fun kid's adventure - Antz is (and it pains us to say this) probably the better of the two films. Aside from being the first CGI animated movie to really wow us with their casting - Woody Allen? Gene Hackman? A Dan Aykroyd/Jane Curtin reunion? Stallone? Walken? - it stands with Beowulf as one of the most sophisticated and strangely adult CGI movies ever made. At its heart, this is a movie about self-worth, social rebellion, and genetic cleansing... all told with cute little ants. Antz is a gorgeously subversive little film that features probably Woody Allen's best performance since Hannah and Her Sisters. Releasing Antz as their response to Pixar's Toy Story was a brave choice by Dreamworks, even though, history seems to have proven that, in terms of legacy, it simply couldn't compete with the Pixar powerhouse and the far more accessible Bug's Life. (We've heard conflicting reports over who started work on their "bug" feature first, but nothing conclusive.) Regardless, there's more than enough room in animation history for two bug-based features, so let's finally give Antz its due.

6. Monster House

Beowulf and Monster House are probably the only two movies on this list that certain pundits might characterize as "flops" - both failed to make back their production budgets with their domestic gross, though they more than covered it when you add in the international box office - but neither deserve to be seen that way, especially Monster House. If you were a child of the 1980s, this movie was made for you. It's a brilliant callback to the heady days of Amblin Entertainment, when Steven Spielberg had a hardwired connection into the brains of teens and pre-teens around the world and, as a tribute, gave them darkly hilarious adventures like Goonies, Gremlins, and Innerspace. Director Gil Kenan taps right into that subcurrent of tween coolness with Monster House, delivering a story that could've come straight from the subconscious of any suburban twelve-year-old in America. Monster House succeeds where some other CGI films have failed because it isn't afraid to creep into some dark places and also spends just as much time developing its characters as it did playing with its deliciously high-concept idea. Lastly - and Kenan doesn't get nearly enough credit for this - but the visuals in Monster House are beyond beautiful, vastly trumping anything you saw in Polar Express, and the experience of seeing Monster House in REAL D Digital 3D was magical. THIS is how digital 3D is supposed to look.

5. Ratatouille

We've reached the first Pixar film on our list and, be warned, it's going to be just Pixar from here on out. Why? Because nobody in the world puts more care into every single aspect of creating CGI animated features than Pixar. Not only has Pixar created, unquestionably, THE most visually arresting and skillfully crafted computer-generated images in the history of the medium, but they also bring that same attention to detail to their storytelling as well. Technicians can create photo-realistic CG images, but Pixar employs artists who work to blend both the visuals and narratives of their films into one symbiotic entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Basically, that's the fruitiest way possible to say they make hardcore kick-ass cartoons, and they kick holy ass better than anyone else in Hollywood. 'Nuff said. Ratatouille, a Best Animated Oscar winner, is one of their finest, and it stands as a great example of how unwilling Pixar is to accept mediocrity. Watching Ratatouille, there are about four or five different places where anyone familiar with traditional Hollywood storytelling would say to themselves, "Oh, I know how this is going to end..." and, in almost every case, they'd be wrong. This is a story that zigs when it should zag, and Brad Bird does an amazing job of keeping audiences on their feet by refusing to succumb to stereotypes and clichés, all while still delivering an emotionally honest and gimmick-free story. A story about a rat wanting to be a chef should either be a). trite or b). gross, but Ratatouille is neither. It's completely original, and that's why we love it.

4. The Incredibles

Forget Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2, Iron Man, Richard Donner's Superman, or the two or three other "good" superhero movies. Prepare to get your knickers in a twist, fanboys, because The Incredibles is THE greatest superhero movie ever made. Yeah, yeah, nerds may gripe about the similarities between The Incredibles and the Fantastic Four (thanks to the stretching and invisibleness and whatnot), but place Brad Bird's movie and Tim Story's FF movie next to each other, and you tell me which one is the better film. The Incredibles works so well because it brings together the family dynamics and comedy of a high concept Hollywood comedy with groundbreaking action that could make Jim Cameron weep tears of joy. Aside from being a reverent and hilarious dissection of the superhero genre, The Incredibles stands as probably the first CGI animated action movie. Other CG movies have used action as a set dressing (like Shrek's escape from the dragon), but The Incredibles is perhaps the first to really work the pulse-pounding energy of action flicks like Lethal Weapon or Terminator 2 into their plot in an organic (and awesome) way. In fact, the "100 Mile Dash" sequence (in which the young speedster takes down some red-shirted bad guys) stands as one of the coolest action scenes of the past twenty years. From the tremendous voice work by Craig T. Nelson and Jason Lee to Michael Giacchino's kick-butt score, The Incredibles is best thing to happen to superheroes since bad guys started monologuing.

3. Monsters, Inc.

Lots of people love Monsters, Inc., but not enough people give the movie credit it deserves for the originality of its concept. Look at Pixar's other movies - "Hey, what if your toys could talk? Or what about fish, bugs, rats, cars, superheroes, etc..." And then here comes Monsters Inc. out of left field with a buddy movie about two middle-class monsters, working in a factory devoted to scaring the bejeezus out of kids, who find themselves saddled with a lost little girl, a chameleon-esque adversary, and a world-wide energy crisis riding on their backs. It sounds bizarre as hell, but it might be one of Pixar's most universally accessible and beloved movies thanks to the brilliant execution of its key themes of friendship, empathy, and the power of laughter. Plus it needs to be said that Monsters Inc. features some of the most inspired character design - particularly Sulley and Mike Wazowski - since Jim Henson first sketched out Grover and Oscar the Grouch. Like the Muppets, Monsters, Inc. works on multiple levels, appealing to kids with its slapstick and good humor, while offering adults one of the funniest buddy comedies since Midnight Run. This is a movie filled with so many ideas that it almost bursts at the seams, and that kind of visionary fun just has to be applauded. (It also doesn't hurt that it's the funniest movie Billy Crystal's been associated with since Princess Bride.)

2. Toy Story/Toy Story 2

The grand-daddy of the CGI animated genre, Toy Story deserves all of the praise it gets. Director John Lasseter did so much right in bringing Toy Story to the big screen, but perhaps his most significant contribution to feature animation as a whole was proving, with Toy Story, that CGI animation could build worlds just as skillfully as Walt Disney and his nine old men, if it was used in the right hands, that is. And, apparently, Lasseter has the hands of a surgeon, because Toy Story is about as flawless as they come, both in terms of visuals and storytelling. The concept is one of those ideas that you can hardly believe had never been made into a movie before - what if your toys came to life every time you left the room? - but, after watching Toy Story, it's hard to imagine that story set anywhere but within the CGI boundaries of Andy's bedroom. Lasseter turned what could've become a lame gimmick comedy (looking at you, Small Soldiers) into a hilarious comedy of manners with the hierarchy of the bedroom, led by the kindly cowboy Woody, secure in his position as the favorite toy, completely turned on its ear by the arrival of the new hi-tech toy of the year, Buzz Lightyear. Granted, there are some choice "toy jokes" sprinkled throughout (Don Rickles' Mr. Potato Head is beyond inspired), but the core of the story is the interaction between Buzz and Woody, a relationship that Lasseter develops as well as any previous opposites-attract pairing in film history. In the end, Toy Story achieves two amazing (and strangely contradictory) accomplishments - it makes you believe that the CGI characters are as real as any human and it convinces you that CGI is the only way this story ever could've been told. And we're also including Toy Story 2 because a). it's a great continuation of the story, b). many regard it as superior to the first one, and c). it allows us to cheat and sneak another Pixar movie into this list.

1. Finding Nemo

Lots of parents wince at any mention of Finding Nemo because children so revere the film and everything about it that many households are stuck playing the movie on a continuous 24-hour loop, feeding their kids a constant supply of Nemo in the same way that heroin addicts require methadone. And do you know why children love Nemo so much? Because they have good taste. Finding Nemo stands as the apex of Pixar's cinematic output, existing as probably the most perfectly balanced film the studio has ever produced. There is, simply, something for everyone in Nemo - comedy, drama, tragedy, a breathtaking visual palette, an eclectic cast of engaging characters, action, adventure, family, and, first and foremost, a damn good story. While we might have small quibbles with other Pixar films, moments we preferred over others, it's almost impossible to find a place where director Andrew Stanton's film could've been improved. So much more than a talking fish movie, Finding Nemo takes the world-building that John Lasseter originated in Toy Story and applies it to an ocean of the most fully developed characters in animation history. While Pixar's other movies have all been memorable, Stanton's perfectly tuned balance of comedy and truly moving family tragedy in Finding Nemo really does elevate the film into the pantheon of such eternally beloved animated classics as Bambi, Dumbo, and Pinocchio. There's a brilliant emotional depth to Nemo that audiences have connected with, both young and old alike, and thanks to that resonance, some beautiful visuals, and a little Albert Brooks hilarity, Finding Nemo remains as perhaps Pixar's - and CGI animation's - finest achievement to date. The fact that Stanton is finally returning to the big screen with this summer's WALL-E is something to be very, very excited about.

-- Tom Burns

Original here

New ‘Smurfs’ Movie Will Be Live Action. Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.

Evil Smurfs in what could possibly happen in the upcoming movieIs nothing from our childhoods sacred?

The prospect of a movie based on the ancient and well-regarded cartoon The Smurfs was hardly something that had filled us with joy.

It made hecklerspray let out a trademark sigh as we looked forward to another summer of movies single-handedly decimating the best years of our lives.

But this week the news suddenly became plain ridiculous, when it was revealed the upcoming Smurfs movie, apparently still in the works even though everyone had forgotten about it, will be - wait for it - live action.

Live action with sprinklings of CGI!!! Like the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.

Oh dear!!! Apparently, as Variety reports, David Stern and David Weiss, the authors behind the last two installments of Shrek, are in talks to write the screenplay.

So far, there is no word on who will direct it, when it will be released and what it will be about. But that is almost comforting.

Now, you know we at the ’spray aren’t ones to bitch - far from it.

In fact, we’re positive guiding lights of glory in the world today. But this has to rank among some of the most insane ideas ever. What in the (literal) blue hell are they going to do with it?

Have tiny CGI Smurfs invading a human-populated locale? Are they going to use midgets? Is Lindsay Lohan going to put on a blue costume and slut it up with all the other blue horndogs?

Time will tell.

You see, what was originally meant to be a cartoon remake has turned into a live action, CGI affair. Both of these options are welcome when reviving a beloved creation, as long as due care and attention is paid to the source material.

But part-CGI, part-live action smacks of either pending incredible failure or the chance to terrify a whole new generation.

Tiny blue computer-generated men (and a girl) hanging around with people? Or just, well, blue people? The thought is too much for fragile minds to take on board.

But at least it cannot be as terrifying as this, no matter how tight the Papa Smurf costume may be.

Original here