Dr. Seuss’ THE LORAX

Dr. Seuss’ THE LORAX

Dr. Seuss books are synonymous with childhood.  In fact, the idea of any child growing up without Dr. Seuss is nearly unimaginable.  Nowadays, movie studios are always on the lookout for the next big box office hit and what better place is there to go than children’s books?  They have a built in audience in the kids of today, as well as the parents, who grew up with these stories and passed them along to their kids.

There have been many attempts to convert children’s books into full-length movies with few successes and many failures.  Dr. Seuss books are not immune to being box office duds.  Just look at The Cat In The Hat with Mike Meyers…funny actor, great book, bad movie!  In general, I believe that live-action movies made from animated stories are a bad recipe.  But when you stay true to the genre, animation from animation, there are far less compromises made, which allow for a truer telling and depiction of the story.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax, has a decidedly eco-friendly message.  It warns us about the dangers of taking things for granted, how our actions affect things and others around us, and most importantly, to respect and take care of the environment.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical as to how well the book would translate into a movie.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that nothing was lost from its message!  In fact, I was shocked at how good The Lorax movie actually was!

Featured in the film are the voices of  Zac Effron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Ed Helms, Rob Rigggle and Danny DeVito as The Lorax, himself.

Despite my not being a fan of 3-D movies, The Lorax blew me away with its depth, vibrant colors and rich textures.  The songs were exceptionally written and performed, driving home the message of environmental consciousness throughout the entire movie, without coming off as preachy or lecturing to the audience.

The film was wildly entertaining and fun for the whole family.  The best gauge for how good the movie truly is came from the kids sitting throughout the theatre, making commentaries to one another.  The Lorax had the kids in the theatre talking to their neighbors about not only what was happening, but also about what they thought should be done, right vs. wrong, and what they were going to do if they found themselves in a similar situation.

What do you get when you put all of these elements together: a great story, a great message, wonderfully written songs, spectacular animation and effects, along with audience interaction?  The result is a movie that I highly recommend for the entire family!

It is an exceptional rarity when a children’s book makes the transition from the written page to the silver screen successfully.  The Lorax is definitely one of those exceptions.  In the world of Dr. Seuss, The Lorax is a must read!  And now, thanks to Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Hop),  The Lorax is a must see!

Interview w/ Sir Anthony Hopkins – Jan. 21, 2011

 Interview by Dennis Brown

THE RIGHT ROLE FOR “THE RITE

Considered one the greatest living actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins is perhaps best known for his role as Hannibal Lecter, in the film ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ for which he received the Academy Award for Best Actor. Other prominent film credits include A Bridge Too Far, The Elephant Man, The Bounty, The Remains of the Day, The Road to Wellville, Legends of the Fall, Nixon, Amistad, The Mask of Zorro, Meet Joe Black, Titus, Hannibal, Red Dragon and The World’s Fastest Indian, to name a few.

Hopkins newest film, “The Rite,” is a supernatural thriller that explores the mysteries of exorcism through the eyes of an expert and a novice. It uncovers the Devil’s reach into one of the holiest places on Earth. Although “The Rite” is related to the 1973 film The Exorcist, it is by no means a prequel, sequel, remake or in any sense a direct offspring of that film. “The Rite” is a unique film unto itself and does not rely on typical horror film tricks, such as excessive blood, guts, gore and computer generated special effects. What makes this film truly scary is the story itself, the direction, and of course, the acting.

Inspired by true events, the film follows seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Wearing his deep skepticism like armor, Michael challenges his superiors to look to psychiatry, rather than demons, in treating the possessed.

Only when he’s sent to apprentice with the unorthodox Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins)—a legendary priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms—does Michael’s armor begin to fall. As he is drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas’s skill, he begins to glimpse a phenomenon science can’t explain or control…and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

I had a chance to sit down with Sir Anthony Hopkins this past weekend and ask him about his most recent film, and this is what he had to say:

db – When you can pick and choose any project you wish to work on, why did you choose this role?

SAH – “This role was perhaps the most interesting I’ve been involved with since ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ I play a wide range within this one movie. It stretched me as an actor. I had a wonderful time making it. I look back on the time spent on this movie with great nostalgia. It’s the best time I’ve had in a long, long time.”

db – How long did it take you to prepare for this role and how did you do it?

SAH – “About two minutes. I don’t get into character. I learn the lines and I make sure I get the text and the script.  I work very hard at memorizing my lines. Whatever is called for in a particular scene or day of filming, I’ll mark it off (that part of the script) and I go over and over and over that speech or that scene until I know it so well, that I can relax and go on to the next scene the next day. So, I work very hard, but it’s not hard work. But I just go over and over it.”

“And then I had to learn Latin and Italian, so I took the same process, I go over it, and sometimes I feel a bit crazy. Then after awhile, I think, ‘…okay, I know it.’ Then I show up on location and talk to the director, and he says ‘OK, are you ready?,’ and then we go (film the scene) and that’s it. That’s what I do.”

“It becomes real (to me), it becomes fluent. With acting the part of the priest, I learned the lines, showed up on set and then I feel free to improvise.

Before we started the movie, I was really interested in this guy, Father Lucas. He was very close to me in a way, not that I’m a priest, but he reminded me of my father. He was always rather impatient…and that’s me, very much like me. I’ve got a lot of energy. “

db – Do you believe that demons really exist?

SAH – “There’s a scene where I tell (young seminary student Michael Kovak) about my loss of faith. That, some days I don’t know if I believe in God, Santa Claus or Tinkerbell. And I say I’m a weak man, I have no power. That is what I believe in my own personal life, because I’m not an atheist. I’m not an agnostic, although I used to be when I was much younger, because I thought I was clever.”

“But time goes by, you look around, and I’ve been through crises in my own life and there is something that runs my life and it’s a power greater than myself and I call it God. It is the power of life. It’s a total mystery. Human consciousness is a mystery. So I keep an open mind about it. I don’t argue, I don’t judge anybody and that’s it. Who knows? I don’t know! When people become so obsessed with something, they can become possessed by it, whatever it is, such as depression, negative or positive thinking”

“We had a priest with us, Father Gary Thomas, who is Jesuit and performs exorcisms himself in America. I asked him if he really believes that the Devil is a physical creature? He believes It is real. It is an entity that can get into people.”

db – During filming and production, were there any instances of unexplained phenomenon or unusual precautions taken that you either witnessed or were made aware of?

SAH – “To be honest, when you’re making something like this that is so mysterious, we’d say there’s something numinous about it. Anything that is spiritual and mysterious is called numinous. Something deep and impenetrable. We had Father Gary Thomas, who served as a consultant on the film. He said there was nothing to worry about. I asked if he ever got scared and he said ‘No.’  I asked him if he knew what the Devil was and he said ‘No, but you should say a lot of prayers.’ Aside from that, I’m not aware of anything in particular one way or another.”

db – What do you think or hope that audiences will take away with them after seeing this film?

SAH – “The director and myself, both think that perhaps the best film ever made in this genre is ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ A wonderful movie with wonderful performances. It’s takes place here in New York. It’s very real and really scary.

The world is a very scary place. The director wanted to keep this film very real and I think his style of filming lent itself to that. To do otherwise would have cheapened it.

Is it the devil or is it mental disturbance? That’s the debate that’s in film and probably in the world. Because nobody knows, it gives a semblance of humanity to someone who says they don’t know.”

“The truth? Look at the trouble that got us into over the last thousand years. Hitler knew the truth. So did Stalin. So did a lot of people. They all knew the truth, and that caused such horror. Certainty is the enemy. It’s like anyone saying, ‘The debate is over.’ Who says it’s over? Human beings? We know nothing.”

 

 

 

 

 

TIS THE SEASON TO BE FURRY!

When I think of places that are kid friendly and fun for the whole family, there are a few tried and true examples that come to mind. One my family’s favorite is Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, which is a little less than 1½ drive from NYC.

The only problem with these family fun destinations is that they’re operational abilities and availability to the public are subject to and at the whim of the weather.  Spring and summer are open season for families from hundreds of miles around to come and have a good time.  But the moment the temperatures drop, it seems like everyone shutters their doors and close up shop until the next year.

So, what are we to do when Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us and our kids are bouncing off the walls?  Some go skiing, while others go to Florida or the Caribbean.  Unfortunately, not everyone can afford these options or have the patience to execute such plans.  I, along with innumerable others, fall into this last category…those without the time, money or patience to attempt or accomplish such endeavors.

Luckily, someone has stepped in to offer a solution to this dilemma.  It is not only time and cost effective, it is also familiar and guaranteed to please even the pickiest of family members. The answer is Sesame Place!

Sesame Place recently stepped up its game by opening its doors for the holiday season, despite the cold, to offer families across the region a shining beacon of hope during this otherwise desolate landscape of family oriented destinations.

As always, Sesame Place is full of friendly faces and all of your favorite characters, rides, shopping and attractions.  But what sets it apart is the way they have incorporated the holiday theme into all these previously mentioned things that they already do so well.  Sesame Place has dubbed it “A Very Furry Christmas.”

From the moment you enter the park, the spirit, sights and sounds of the holidays surround you. A magnificent Christmas tree greets you in the center of the entryway and is the focal point of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” one of the many scheduled shows throughout the park and the day.

You can sit in on the taping of a special holiday themed “Elmo’s World,” in which Elmo explores Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza with the help of his good friends Dorothy and Mr. Noodles. Elsewhere, you can join in the fun as Abby Cadabby learns about the meaning of Christmas from all of her Sesame Place friends.

One of the highlights of the day was the holiday parade, which stretched along the entire length of Sesame Street and included every Sesame Place character along with tons of dancers, performers and wonderful music.  My family, along with every other one as far as the eye could see, thoroughly enjoyed the day and evening spent at Sesame Place.

It was a welcomed addition to the normal holiday fair available at this time of year, but most importantly, it filled an immense void in the normal offerings available and was as close to a guaranteed good time for all as you could ever hope for!

For more information about Sesame Place and their holiday offerings, visit SesamePlace.com.  I know you and your family will be glad you did!

 

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