Lincoln Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Lincoln (2012)

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and David Strathairn

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Don’t let the period costumes in the trailers fool you, Lincoln is no ordinary biopic. In point of fact, this film is not a biopic at all, but rather a snapshot of a final heroic act of politicking by one of the smartest  politicians to ever grace monetary currency.  The film opens as Lincoln is re-elected to a second term and the Civil War is dragging on towards its foregone conclusion.  Political intrigue and legal maneuvering are the order of the day as the president races to codify his maybe not so legally binding Emancipation Proclamation in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution  – the abolition of slavery.

You won’t get to see how Abraham went from log cabin to the White House, or why his election in 1860 caused rich plantation owners who didn’t vote for him to rise up and secede from the Union (I’m looking at you @realDonaldTrump).  Rather, Lincoln is a movie about the vision and tenacity that makes a great leader and stands in marked contrast to the recent US Election Sideshow.  One hopes newly re-elected President Obama watches this film for useful political instruction STAT.  Actually one hopes the Republican backroom boys head out en masse as a timely reminder that political leadership is not the same thing as good business management and maybe, just maybe, Karl Rove’s heart will grow two sizes as he is reminded what being a Republican has meant to his country. I digress.

Masterful filmmaking meets THE acting performance of the Millennium (to date) as director Steven Spielberg and lead actor Daniel Day Lewis pull back the curtain on a dramatic, violent, emotional period where a pragmatic, rational, but no less visionary man used every trick in the book to successfully perform a political sword dance that safe guarded basic principles of democracy while still maintaining the sanctity of the law (even if it had to be bent to achieve the former).

It is not every day that a film comes along that everyone must see, but this is that film. See it tonight. Skyfall can wait! (Ed – Skyfall can’t wait, see both!)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Blu-Ray

Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell and Jimmi Simpson

Written by Seth Grahame-Smith

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Now out on Blu-Ray and DVD from Fox Home Entertainment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the teaming up of writer Seth Grahame-Smith, Producer/Director Bekmambetov and Producer Tim Burton, to bring the first of Grahame-Smith’s books to home screens. With its over-the-top visuals and absurdist premise, will Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter be among this year’s most fun purchases for your home theater or will it be this year’s Jonah Hex?

We first meet Abraham as a child as he interferes with the beating of a local black child, Will, and ends ups getting part of the beating himself. After his father and mother interfere on his behest, Abe’s parents are fired and their debt is collected in the form of a vampire attack resulting in the death of his mother. An adult Abe (Walker) goes after the man who killed his mother, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), after his father’s passing. Upon shooting Barts Abe discovers that he is indeed a Vampire and is summarily beaten to a pulp until a mysterious figure interferes on his behalf. Abe wakens to discover that his savior, Henry Sturgess (Cooper), is well versed in the vampire nation and has been fighting them since he lost his own family to them.

Henry takes Abe on as his apprentice, we get the obligatory training montage as Henry teaches Abe to focus his power and passes on the pertinent vamp killing info (in this tale silver can be used to strike down vampires), and it becomes clear that Abe’s skill doesn’t lie with firearms but with his trusty axe. Abe is sent off to New Salem in order to rid it of a vampire infestation hit man style with Henry assigning him targets. It’s here Abe meets Speed (Simpson), a local shopkeeper, the adult version of Will (Mackie) and the woman he would marry Mary Todd (Winstead). Things progress until Abe get the assignment he’s been waiting for in Barts. Soon after Abe’s successful destruction of Barts, he puts away his axe to focus on his political aspirations, but fate will intervene again many years later.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is one of the most ludicrous and insanely over-the-top films I’ve seen all year, and watching it again at home did not change the fact that I loved every minute of it. Bekmambetov plays out the entire movie with tongue planted firmly in cheek as the film never loses sight of what it really is, a goofy romp where nothing is out of bounds. The script is ludicrous in most parts, yet actually incorporates numerous real situations and events in Lincoln’s life, with the vampire slant of course. Thankfully everyone in the film seems to be in on the joke as well. Walker’s Lincoln is a straight laced proper gentleman but always has a mischievous look or smile not too far away; he is clearly having a good time. Cooper’s Henry Sturgess is a boozy vagabond with a troubled past, yet is never far away from a quick one-liner. Winstead’s Mary Todd is pretty much the one character played straight up, which is good as it reminds us that Abe’s actions will have consequences and grounds the film enough so that it doesn’t become so ridiculous that it’s unwatchable. Another standout is Sewell as the main villain. The effects work here is non-photorealistic, over-the-top and insane, but this adds to the overall tone and feeling of the film.

The Blu-Ray comes loaded with a feature length documentary on the making of the film that is informative and entertaining. We get a feature length commentary from writer Seth Grahame-Smith and a music video. Last but not least there was a fantastically executed special short film/motion graphic novel The Great Calamity.

So the question remains, is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter worth the purchase price or are you better of paying a rental price? For all its goofiness it is also packed with charm and wit, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a solid buy recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Abraham Lincoln Re-Animated – Nimit Malavia and Matt Whelan discuss their short film The Great Calamity

Abraham Lincoln Re-Animated – Nimit Malavia and Matt Whelan discuss their short film The Great Calamity

Hello All. Kirk, aka Movie Junkie TO, here again with another interview. This time with Nimit and Matt, two of the guys behind the new animated short/motion graphic novel The Great Calamity. The short film is from the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter DVD/Blu-Ray out this week from 20th Century Fox. Nimit is the Key Concept Artist/Illustrator and Matthew is the Animation Director. At the time of the interview recording I had not been able to see the film, but I have been able to catch up with it now and can say the animation is fantastic. Enjoy!

Movie Junkie (MJ) – Hey guys, glad we could get to talk today. So how did you guys end up on this project?

Nimit Malavia (NM) – Back in September 2011 I was contacted by our director, Javier Soto, and asked if I would be interested in designing some concept designs and environments for this animated short. He had seen a piece of my work online and reached out to get in touch with me to ask if I had any interest. I was very interested by what I heard and that was how I got involved.

Matthew Whelan (MW) – I was contacted in January 2012 through House of Cool studios where I work, and got involved on the tech side. The script was already fully formed and Nimit had a direct style in terms of what we were trying to achieve.

MJ – So what is the concept/story behind your motion graphic novel?

NW – Well the film could be more accurately described as an animated short. Fox is going with a motion graphic term but animated short applies just as well.  It’s an elaboration on the novel and tells the story of younger Abe when he still a Congressman. He was building up to the main events of the film and still hunting lower level vamps. In our story we focus on his relationship with Edgar Allan Poe and a discussion they have on the origin of vampires in America.

MJ – Great, that’s aspect of the novel that the film doesn’t really address at all. It seems like it’s ripe with opportunity.

MW – Javier was really excited to expand that part of the story and Poe is such an interesting character that it seemed like an obvious fit.

MJ – Great! So what style of animation have you guys chosen to utilize? Is it hand drawn or more CG based?

MW – That was one of the big challenges from our end. Javier wanted everything to look 2D. But the thing about the 2D, and one of the reason’s I’m shy about calling it a motion graphic/animated graphic novel,  is that historically these are done with moving drawings. We pushed hard for everything to be in 3D so even when there are paintings in the film we mapped them on the geometry and all of the characters have Nimit’s drawings over top. We actually had Nimit fly down from Ottawa to work on this with us and had him drawing right on the computer to really push his 2D style even though it’s a 3D piece. I think you’ll see if you pick up the Blu-Ray on Oct 23rd that any individual frame in the short hopefully looks more like a drawing that a standard 3D animated character.

MJ– So then how long were you down there working with them, Nimit?

NM – I was down for about 4 or 5 days working in the studio and learning the technology. Matt was showing me exactly what they were doing and what things they needed my touch on. I also followed up with some work from my home studio and shared in the back and forth on any additional designs.

MJ – So was the script a collaborative effort?

NM – It was all written by Javier Soto. Javier wrote a great treatment and it came fully formed to me as it had gone to Matt. When we were developing the concepts and characters, Javier sent me the script and I read it over. It was really well written and the characters really came through so it made my job finding the look really easy.

MJ – Were you guys presented with any test footage from the film for reference?

MW – Javier actually went down and recorded with Benjamin and made sure to record all the takes needed for our piece. So we had that reference of seeing him actually performing parts from our script.

NM– And on my end, Javier provided me with a lot of production still and shots of all the different characters from the movie. The main thing was that he was emphasizing that he wanted us to make this our own so he provided all the reference and sort of gave an idea of the world the short would live in. It not exactly the same as the film’s and it’s not exactly close to the real Abraham looked like, but it exists somewhere in between the two.

MJ – That sounds fun. Thanks a lot for sitting down with me today guys, tell me what you guys have coming up next?

NM – I have a few projects coming up, mostly graphic novels, and I do a lot of gallery shows throughout the US. I have a  few lined up in San Francisco, and a few more I can’t talk about right now, but that and  some freelance illustration.

MW – For me what’s coming out next is Silent Hill: Revelations which I CG supervised on and moving forward I am working on more commercials.

MJ – Thanks again guys.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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