Ted and Wahlberg – thunder buddies for life!

ted parkIs ted a romantic comedy? I found myself pondering this the other night after watching Seth Macfarlane’s creation. I suppose this question sprang to mind because, at the heart of this film, lies love and maturity.

The crossroads of dilemma are looming for John (Mark Wahlberg). He’s split between love for his childhood best friend, ted (Seth Macfarlane) – a bear brought to life with a Christmas wish – and long-term girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis).

All sweetness and light when you’re a kid with a teddy bear for a best friend. Not so much when you’re 35 in a dead-end job, getting stoned with your bad influence, fuzzy best bud.

ted dinnerBromance vs romance
Understandably, most girlfriends in this situation would issue you with an ultimatum, which Lori duly does. Choose your girl and become a man, or choose the bear and stay a kid. Essentially this film is romance versus bromance – and John has to decide what matters most.

It’s not ground-breaking in terms of tales, but it’s told with a sweet nature and despite ted’s hedonistic tendancies – hookers and pot mostly – he comes across as extremely likeable. Macfarlane giving him warmth and humour with a wicked streak. Reminded me a little of Seth Rogen’s alien Paul.

Macfarlane’s graduation
In terms of transition from animation to film, Macfarlane’s vision has paid off and he’s made the switch well. If you’re a Family Guy fan, you’ll spot lots of little nods, mannerisms and style taken from the show. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get past ted sounding like Peter Griffin, but there was no need. Whilst the voices are similar, ted is very much his own bear.

ted in the parkSome things you sense Macfarlane will keep coming back to throughout his career. For example, the man knows how to choreograph a balls-out, ridiculous fight sequence. John and ted attacking each other in a hotel room immediately put me in mind of the recurring ‘chicken fight‘ sequences in Family Guy.

That said, this film isn’t Family Guy on screen. It’s more subtle, restrained and good-natured. Although some of the celebrity cameos are unnecessary – Ryan Reynolds and Norah Jones?! – but some are quite inspired. Sam Jones (aka Flash Gordon) as himself is a rather brilliant inclusion. Who wouldn’t want to do shots at a house party with Flash Gordon?

To add a little dramatic spice to the film’s final act, Giovanni Ribisi also pops up as sleazy stalker Donny, a man obsessed with ted. Donny sexy dancing to 80s pop is a sight to behold.

thunder buddiesGrab your thunder buddy…
At just over an hour and a half it’s a relatively short, sweet, heart-warming film, packed with Macfarlane’s trademark humour and a great motion-capture performance by Macfarlane as ted.

We’re also treated to another stand-out turn by Wahlberg, proving he’s fast becoming one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. He’s so much better at well-scripted comedy and solid drama (The Departed, The Fighter), rather than bland, predictable action (Max Payne, Shooter).

Kunis has less to do than Wahlberg but plays her part well, continuing to demonstrate she’s not just a stunningly beautiful face – but has comedy chops to match. Plus you cannot go wrong with Patrick Stewart as narrator. If you missed ted at the cinema, be sure to see it on DVD – a Christmas gift for all the family!

Top 10 thinking man’s actresses

Hello my film-loving friends. Today I wish to share with you my list of a thinking man’s top actresses. Ladies that have a certain allure in terms of intelligence, physical beauty, acting prowess and – to avoid using an overused French phrase – an indefinable something.

With each actress I’ve also mentioned the films that first made me fall in love with them. Now you may disagree and say some of these ladies are just a pretty face and nothing else – that’s fine. Hopefully I can state my case and change your mind.

  1. Natalie Portman – Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta
    It’s no secret I hold this actress in high regard and I’ve previously discussed her top performances in another posting. So I’ll just say she makes my top spot by being a perfect blend of intelligence, beauty and vulnerability – a winning combination.
  2. Eva Green – The Dreamers, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows
    Hypnotic, alluring, sensual – she got her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The DreamersThe Director described her as ‘So beautiful, it’s indecent‘. It’s not the world’s best film in terms of plot, but if you want to truly appreciate the appeal of this actress I highly recommend it.
  3. Anne HathawayLove and Other Drugs
    In this film I’ve mentioned she plays a character who has early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Some of her scenes – particularly in the third act – are heartbreaking and put her firmly in third place. Even without Catwoman in The Dark Knight she’d still be here, she’s that good in this film. If you’ve not seen it here’s a nice little clip.
  4. Amanda SeyfriedChloe, Alpha Dog, Dear John, Jennifer’s Body
    An actress with the biggest, most beautiful eyes in Hollywood. You have to love the internet, a quick search turned up a site dedicated to her eyes! That aside, she’s been in an interesting and varied bunch of films that slowly but surely convinced me of her inclusion. Out of them all I recommend you see Chloe.
  5. amber heardAmber Heard – The Rum Diary
    She’s the kind of actress that exudes an old-school Hollywood charm and mystique. But who am I to say these things you ask? Well if you don’t believe me listen to Johnny Depp – he compared her to Veronica Lake and other old Hollywood beauties, she clearly had quite an impact.
  6. Jennifer LawrenceWinter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook
    I heard a story once that Ms Lawrence was walking down the corridor in a Hollywood studio when a bearded guy in a cap stopped her saying ‘Are you the Jennifer Lawrence?’ Turns out this was Steven Spielberg. He’d seen Winter’s Bone and been captivated by her performance, as many of us were seeing her for the first time.
  7. beth albatrossJessica Brown Findlay – Albatross,
    Black Mirror, Misfits, Labyrinth

    If you only know Miss Findlay from Downton Abbey then you’ve missed a trick. I loved her in Albatross, where she plays a bit of a sexy troublemaker, seducing her best friend’s dad. She gives the character warmth, depth and vulnerability – with a sharp, sassy nature to boot.
  8. Marion CotillardPublic Enemies, Inception, Dark Knight Rises
    She won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf  in La Vie En Rose and I’m excited to see her forthcoming film Rust and Bone, where she plays a killer whale trainer. She was fantastic in Inception – intense, vulnerable and mesmerising. Watch the ‘waiting for a train’ scene.
  9. Mila KunisForgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends with Benefits, Ted
    I struggle with Kunis. She’s still Meg from Family Guy – a problem when she’s clearly stunning and likes to play quite fiesty, yet down-to-earth characters. The perfect girl-next-door, if you happen to live in Hollywood. There’s a rumour she might play Anastasia Steele in the forthcoming Fifty Shades film, an enticing prospect.
  10. Felicity JonesCemetery Junction, Albatross, Like Crazy
    Ah Ms Jones, great up-and-coming actress. She comes across as really sweet and genuine. Like Crazy cleaned up at the Sundance film festival in 2011 with her performance getting compared to Carey Mulligan’s in An Education. Emotional and heartfelt, watch the trailer.

So there’s my list. As ever I was ruthless with the cut – there’s probably a lot more that could have made my top 10 but there you go. I hope you enjoy this selection, until next time.

Andy Serkis and the case for motion capture

Ok, ok, I know it’s been done, but I want to present my case for the use of motion capture. I suppose the reason for this is I recently saw two films which I felt, really help its case: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn. Both good.

The case for: Andy Serkis
Simple as that. If it wasn’t for Mr Serkis and his excellent work we’d quite possibly never have had the following characters: Gollum (Lord of the Rings), Kong (King Kong), Captain Haddock (Tin Tin), Caesar (Planet of the Apes).

Now perhaps another actor could have stepped into the void, but sometimes it just takes a unique individual to achieve the type of performances he achieved.

I’ve read articles where Serkis has spoken about how other actors he’s spoken to in the past thought that what he did was voiceover, like animation. You speak into a microphone with no movement – at least none that gets recorded, then the ape or whatever it may be gets animated in afterwards. These are big A-list actors that thought this way.

Admittedly this was a few years ago, perhaps perceptions have changed. Although if you take IMDb for example, it shows his credit on the first Lord of the Rings as ‘Gollum (voice)’, which goes to show there’s still a way to go. Or maybe IMDb just need to update their website.

It’s also worth noting that motion capture is different to live actors on a digital background, think Sin City or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

angelina jolie beowulfThe case against: dead eyes
The two biggest problems in the early days have been summed up well in this article, which argues that Tin Tin is the last shot for motion capture. It argues the two main issues were a) dead eyes and b) making the world feel believable, especially how the characters move.

For me, films like The Polar Express (2004), King Kong (2005) and Beowulf (2007) laid the foundations for what followed. They could not have been expected to get it right first time.

King Kong at the time seemed an impressive stride forward. It didn’t have to be as intimate as Beowulf, which was hit and miss in terms of drawing you into a believable world. Angelina Jolie was relatively easy to capture, because she’s beautiful. Ray Winstone as a fit, young warrior, not so much.

The blue revolution
Avatar (2009) pushed things forward. The Director, James Cameron, went to great lengths to achieve realistic movements of the actors, including showing us the emotion contained in their eyes. Considering Avatar came out just two years after Beowulf, this was a phenomenal achievement.

Yet even Avatar wasn’t as intimate as say, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). In terms of realistic movement and the range of emotion in the ape Caesar’s eyes, it was truly impressive. Serkis popping up yet again.

tin tin andy serkisThen what we had were two giants of modern cinema and storytelling come together – Spielberg and Jackson – to give us the next step, Tin Tin (2011). Initially, within the first five minutes of watching this film, I was unsure. It seemed quite glossy to me. Then I realised that wasn’t an error, it was how they had designed Tin Tin’s world.

After that, I was lost in a good way! The story was classic Spielberg, a standout character, perhaps, was Snowy the dog. Although Serkis (again!) as Captain Haddock gave a captivating performance. Watch his eyes when memories about his past begin to resurface.

The furry revolution
So after apes, blue creatures and comic-book Belgian detectives, next came a teddy bear, Ted (2012). Again, pushing motion capture further than before. Seth Macfarlane voiced and performed. Not only does the bear seem to ‘fit’ into the real world perfectly, but it’s also the first time motion capture has been used in a comedy film. A critically well received comedy film too.

Again, like with all technology – particularly 3D in the last few years – we’re bound to get a lot of studios and Directors jumping on the bandwagon, churning out any old rubbish. For now, we’re mostly getting decent, solid stories (Tin Tin) and exciting action (Planet of the Apes), and now comedy (Ted).

So the future of motion capture is looking bright. As Andy Serkis describes it, ‘photography didn’t replace painting, it’s just another medium’.

Let’s finish with the adult trailer for Ted (you have to log in to You Tube to view this one, worth it though). Love Wahlberg’s quick-fire delivery of a list of white trash female names. Nothing to do with motion capture, just funny.