Friday, May 06, 2011

Of Bouncing Cats and a lot of other fun stuff

There are many things that make the Atlanta Film Festival 365 a thoroughly fun experience, but its international offerings each year may be the very best one.

This year, the focus has been on Africa (with other movies from all around the world, too), and after the engrossing documentary "An African Election," I followed that up last night with "Bouncing Cats," a genuinely unique movie experience.

The flick's title comes from the words that Ugandan kids use to make a beat when they have no music to dance to (try it, "bouncing cats, bou-bouncing cats"), and it chronicles the work of Breakdance Project Uganda. And though it never shies away from depicting how tough life is in the war-torn country, it's truly uplifting to see the joy these kids get from simply dancing (and they're really good, too.)

The hero here is Abramz Tekya, who started the group and travels the country spreading his b-boy gospel. As the movie begins, he brings breakdancer extraordinaire Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon of the Rock Steady Crew to tour the country and teach the kids some new steps. Along the way, you meet several of them and hear their stories, and its often as moving as it is simply infectiously fun.

My only real beef was the sometimes blatant product placement (the movie was financed at least in part by Red Bull, something I've never had the need to try), but director Nabil Elderkin's movie nonetheless pulses with the beat that drives these kids (and as a plus, it also features great African music by K'naan, Amadou and Miriam, and others), and even manages to capture a few genuine moments of grace in a land that sorely needs some. Highly recommended if you can ever find this at a film festival or surely soon on DVD. Enjoy the trailer, and then stick around for what else caught my eye this morning in movie news.

Bouncing Cats Trailer from Bouncing Cats on Vimeo.

OK, now on to what I found on the interwebs this morning, starting with the fact that it's good to be either lucky or good, but best of all both. "The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal had already been at work on a movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden before, well, we all know what happened last Sunday.

So, with that rather fortuitous development, they're of course going to change the ending, and Australian actor Joel Edgerton has just signed on to play one of the special ops soldiers who carried out the operation. The only downside to all this (well, there could be several, but let's just stay positive here), is what is apparently the working title: "Kill Bin Laden."

Really? Sheesh. I suppose "Slay the Bastard" must have been taken.

And in better news, as a fan of stop-motion animation and an even bigger one of Aardman's version of it, this news about the studio rising, quite literally, from the ashes is just all-around excellent.

The company's Bristol, England, main studio was destroyed by fire in 2005, but now, with help from Sony Pictures Animation, company co-founder Peter Lord (co-director of "Chicken Run," too) is going to direct a stop-motion flick titled "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," set for release in March 2012.

So, what's it about? Here goes, per Aardman.

Hugh Grant provides the voice of Pirate Captain – a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey and Ashley Jensen), and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. It’s a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure!

Sounds incredibly silly, but hopefully really fun, too, and any news about the studio that created Wallace and Gromit coming back to life in grand form is just nothing but great to hear.

OK, I had some more planned today, but I'm gonna try and catch "Thor" this morning (yes, it's great to be on vacation), so I'll just close with a couple of videos. First up comes a trailer of sorts for "X-Men: First Class" which shows us some more about Hank McCoy/Beast, being played by Nicholas Hoult of the UK "Skins" fame. And yes, it also features Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme/Mystique, and as anyone who's been here before knows, I never consider that a bad thing. Enjoy, and of course, keep an eye out for Matthew Vaughn's flick June 3.

And finally, in a definite case of saving the very best for last, this is the first trailer I know of for "The Trip," a new flick from Michael Winterbottom starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as, well, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon being, as usual, very funny. The movie, being released in at least a few theaters by IFC on June 10 and then quickly to VOD on June 22, pretty much just follows the two of them on a tour of posh eateries as they discuss their careers, impersonate just about every actor they can think of, and just generally just give each other a lot of good-natured hell. Sounds like exactly my kind of thing. Enjoy the trailer, keep an eye out for this if you can find it, and have a great weekend. Peace out..

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