REPOST: Movie review: ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ cooks up crazy fun

Flint and Sam are back and this time, they have foodimals with them. sums up how crazy fun ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ is.

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I have no idea what effect foodimals will have on the ecosystem, and I do worry. But the 3-D animated movie mash-up that creates such exotic species as taco-diles, shrim-panzees, banan-ostriches and, my favorite, fla-mangoes makes for some pretty delicious family fun in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

There are definitely fewer carbs this time around. Whether charges of insensitivity to childhood obesity issues hurled at the first film are the reason, “Cloudy 2” is overwhelmingly fruit- and veggie-centric. And honestly, anyone who can pull off a running joke about leeks that does not make you gag, and is in fact a silly delight, deserves props.

That team involves prolific voice actor Cody Cameron and animator Kris Pearn, plucked from the trenches of “Cloudy” and plopped into co-directors’ chairs for “2” — sharing nicely, I’m sure, since the sequel’s all about getting along. Further extending the weird science first popularized by Judi and Ron Barrett’s children’s book, the screenplay is by Erica Rivinoja, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

When last we left the Atlantic island of Swallow Falls, aspiring inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) was destroying his greatest achievement, the Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, to save the world from a devastating spaghetti and meatball storm.

“Cloudy 2” picks up with the island’s evacuation for cleanup. Its good citizens relocate to the big city of San Franjose — Silicon Valley with a few hills. It’s a place of high-tech glass towers and neutral-toned minimalism controlled by a single conglomerate, Live Corp. The company is in the business of the “betterment of mankind,” so you know right away its eccentric owner, Chester V (Will Forte), is up to no good. Ever by his side is new assistant Barb (Kristen Schaal), an orangutan outfitted with a human brain and fighting for a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t. It’s an issue.

In Flint’s camp, in case you need reminding, is Anna Faris’ TV weathercaster Sam Sparks, still swooning over Flint. Manny’s behind the camera, and Benjamin Bratt‘s behind him. James Caan is Flint’s outdoorsy dad, completely tapped into his sensitive side now and hoping to bond with his boy over manly things. In the long minute or so that separates the two films’ time frame, Andy Samberg‘s Brent has become a mogul; his Chick-N-Sushi joints are a hit. Earl (Terry Crews), Swallow Falls cop, has turned in his badge and turned foodie. And Neil Patrick Harris‘ scamp, Steve the Monkey, is more essential and up to even more mischief.

Though the movie will go into great detail, all you need to know is that Chester V’s designs on world domination involve getting his hands on Flint’s food replicating machine. You didn’t really think it was destroyed, did you?

It hasn’t merely survived, it’s gone mad — churning out mountains, and rivers, and swamps, and jungles, and deserts overrun with 39 different varieties of misbegotten new species.

The animation and 3-D effects of this hybrid world are simply stunning, and a much-needed jolt after San Franjose and Live Corp.’s uniformity. The color is scrumptious and the human characters, with their expressive Pinocchio-esque eyes, are enchanting. But it is the inventive design of the many creatures that feels so fresh. The detail is so rich, and so dense, that you wish some of the frames would freeze so you had more time for savoring.

They are an eclectic bunch of interlopers. But the best — as always — are the more organic mash-ups like those fla-mangoes, where the fruit fits the shape of the bird quite nicely. The completely zany creations, like the cheeseburger bully that scurries around on spider legs made of French fries, are more of a stretch. And that screaming, lettuce-spitting taco-dile is slightly scary.

But even if Flint can find and stop his machine, what is to be done with this bounty of new breeds?

It’s a pickle.

Because like the tribe of briny bruisers that roam the land, foodimals are sweet once you get to know them. Conflict is definitely on the menu as it should be. It’s the sides that drag things down. There are more secondary story lines than marshmallow fellows, who replicate at rabbit speed.

It’s all very murky what might happen if the machine fell into the wrong hands (those would be Chester V’s). More worrisome is the way even bigger questions are completely ignored. Like what happens when food becomes our friend — literally. What do we eat? What do they eat? No clue.

But perhaps the only question that matters is whether parents will care if the plot is undercooked as long as their little munchkins are giggling. I think we can hazard a guess on that one.

Samantha Pouls is a high school junior who lives in Gladwyne, PA. She spends her time indulging her love for films.  See similar articles here


REPOST: Stephenie Meyer looks back on a decade of ‘Twilight’

Famous vampire romance writer Stephanie Meyer tells of her 10-year journey as the creator of the best-selling Twilight series in an article for

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Stephenie Meyer first had the idea for the ‘Twilight’ saga in 2003. / GANNETT

A decade ago, it all began with a dream.

As the story goes on her official website, it was June 2, 2003, when Stephenie Meyer, then a stay-at-home mother of three, had a dream that she couldn’t shake. Writing in the evenings, three months later she had completed “Twilight.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Meyer’s four-book teen vampire romance saga has sold more than 100 million copies since the publication of the first book in 2005 and launched a hit film franchise.

Now the producer of the film version of friend Shannon Hale’s comedic novel “Austenland,” Meyer reflected on the 10-year journey “Twilight” has taken her on.

“It feels like I’m super, super old,” said Meyer, 39. “Like 10 years? Oh, my gosh, I don’t know where it went. But it’s amazing to stop and think back to my life 10 years ago and how drastically it has changed. I just wouldn’t have seen any of it coming. If you had told me back then, ‘Ten years from now you’ll be promoting a movie you produced,’ I’d have been like, ‘What drugs are you taking?’ It’s so bizarre.”

The massive success of “Twilight” led Meyer to the world of film production. Through her company Fickle Fish Films, she produced the two-part adaptation of “The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn” in 2011 and 2012, and earlier this year released the film version of her novel “The Host.”

“They’re so different,” Meyer said of the film and literature worlds. “I feel like it’s a completely different kind of artistic outlet. Writing is so solitary and so much in your own head. You have to enjoy being a hermit, which I very much do.

“Film is a chance to be creative with a big group of people and work with other people’s ideas and kind of see how people do things and learn from that. And so in a way, doing the movies that I’ve done has been a lot like taking a couple of semesters of college, it’s my own little film school. And I love learning new things, so I’ve really enjoyed that.”

There’s been some talk of a ghost story or a mermaid tale from the author in the future, but Meyer remained mum on the subject of her next written work.

“See, back in the early days I used to tell people about all of the ideas that I had floating in my head that I assumed would become books at some point,” she said. “But then, people have the expectation that it will be out in six months, and so I really don’t talk about what I’m working on anymore because it changes a lot.

“I’ll be working on something and then another idea will drag me away. I guess that’s really my problem, committing to one idea and sticking with it. And so I’m not going to talk about what I’m working on right now.”

In the years since the initial success of “Twilight,” plenty of folks have been busy making jokes at the franchise’s expense. What’s Meyer’s take on the “Twilight” parodies and mockery?

“Oh, I think it’s fun,” she said. “I think my favorite is probably the ‘South Park’ episode that was ‘Twilight’ related, that one was hysterical. As long as something makes me laugh, I’m all for it.”

Looking up to renowned writers such as Stephanie Meyer, junior high school student Samantha Pouls seeks to pursue a career in writing and filmmaking in the future. Learn about her interests on this Facebook page.

World War Z: Of Brad Pitt and soda ad cameos

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Apocalyptic films are just that—apocalyptic.  Most of the time they just share the same plot: a world in chaos with a super human phenomenon—it could be a tumultuous war against a megalomaniac dictator, an invasion of a monarchy of aliens who sees the Earth as a potential colony, or any violent upheaval that makes light matter of humanity’s well-developed technologies.  But what if the antagonist is none of these, but a corny bunch of walking deads, of rancid zombies?

World War Z, an apocalyptic zombie film based on  Max Brook’s novel, begins with barely mawkish drama that could have let one imagine that the entire film would revolve around Gerry Lane’s (Brad Pitt) family and his being a former UN troubleshooter.  But this drama ends immediately, as the following frames do not hesitate to go straight to the point: as the family drives through the Philadelphia city traffic, an uproar breaks the peace, causing severe traffic flow, and giving way to the appearance of the so-called zombies.

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Action-packed, intentionally rowdy, and breathtaking.  What follows is a series of zombie-killing scenes peppered with occasional dramas of Gerry choosing to save the world over his own family, as a protagonist is expected to choose the greater heroic cause.  After, the entire film continues in a not-so-otherworldly fashion: Brad Pitt travels around the world to find the weakness of the zombies—which he then finds minutes before the film ends. The open-ended finale, which shows zombie survivors from different parts of the globe, has Gerry Lane reuniting with his family.

Perhaps the film’s only fault is the profusion of a popular soda product at the climax—which killed the drama that could have merited a standing ovation for Pitt after killing all the zombies in a cinematically otherworldly fashion.

But who could not forgive a “just right” film if Brad Pitt is in it?

World War Z trailer - video
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Samantha Pouls understands that as a high school student who is interested filmmaking, she must not only look at the films produced outside the States but be a supporter of her own country’s movie industry, too. This Facebook page provides updates on her other activities.

An arm and a leg for a short film

They rarely share the big screen with full lengths, except during film festivals. But the vast global repertoire of short films is something to speak of, and one would kind of wonder why they couldn’t win major awards.

The advantage of short films is also the challenge about them: They’re short. Scenes are indispensably useful, and character developments are launched off the bat. They only run the risk of being boring for brief minutes. But they minimize the misleading elements, the kinds that might be inserted in features due to the confusing wealth of takes.

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The message tends to leap at the viewer whole. If a short film doesn’t have a solid, obvious message, then it’s usually there to set the mood for a big plotline outside of the movie. That much is left to the viewer’s imagination. A short story’s meaning is a good parallelism to this characteristic.

Short films are a challenge in that they are usually an aspiring filmmaker’s amateur attempt to finish a piece. The resources that go into creating one, however, are no joke. These are usually independently funded, and for student filmmakers, they require knocking at the doors of interested donors.

The shoot is a massive haul of scouting for locations, convincing talents to work without a fee, and getting a lot of help from friends. The crew is often a tight band of many talents, working part-time for a passion. They’re not full-time filmmakers with a budget to waste, so setting shoot schedules is any line producer’s nightmare.

Learn more about the life of aspiring filmmaker Samantha Pouls on this blog.

What press junkets can do for a film

The Woman In Black Press Junket

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An important part of film marketing strategy, a press junket is a campaign used to get as much exposure for a movie as possible. Before a movie is released, journalists and film critics from around the world are flown into a preselected location to interview cast members and others involved in the film. Usually, a publicist is present to make sure that the interviews maintain a positive tone and are relevant enough to boost ticket sales. The interviews will be published across many media outlets worldwide, helping to create buzz for the motion picture.


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Press junkets are an exhausting task, but the value they bring to the film brand overrides this negative factor. It’s said that a large portion of a film’s budget is partitioned for this global marketing strategy.

Casting aside their marketing value, press junkets also provide the opportunity for media personalities and the audience to see what their favorite actors are like when the camera’s not rolling. In other words, press junkets offer an exclusive look to the kind of drama that appears outside a film set. The awkward moment between former couple Danny Boyle and Rosario Dawson on the junket for the film Trance is an example and so is the difficult situation which a Fusion reporter found himself in while interviewing Jesse Eisenberg of Now You See Me. An Asian reporter’s interview with Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables turned a bit miserable as the scribe was presented with cold statements like “That’s a very personal question,” in response to his query on whether or not Anne has experienced a kind of poverty to play the role of Fantine. Unfortunately the question is one of the many cultural bombs which the reporter shouldn’t have stepped on.


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For Samantha Pouls, a film student, a press junket is better appreciated by its face value—or brand value, that is. Visit this Facebook page for more film and entertainment news.

Reinaldo Arenas in the eyes of Javier Bardem

To the followers of the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, seeing a Spanish actor do their idol’s antics on-screen is ecstasy—it’s as though somebody has pulled their celebrated writer out of the grave to see him in a two-hour spectacle of how he lived his parlous life. And in every dark avenue of Julian Schnabel’s 2000 adaptation of Arenas’s autobiography of the same name, Before Night Falls, Bardem’s thespian acumen lingers in every scream, homosexual kiss, heterosexual queasiness, melancholy, political oppression, and novel writing misery—indeed, it’s a 133-minutereel of authentic Cuban pain.

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Arenas and Bardem do not have any uncanny resemblance. They are handsome in their own right. But when Bardem embarks before the camera he appears as though he has had a pact with Arenas’s soul. They are unrecognizable from each other.

Bardem, without doubts, was born to be an actor. But his transformation into a homosexual poet and novelist has some painful origins. He learned to walk like Arenas did, tweaked his Spaniard tongue into native Cuban, kissed men as though he, too, was a homosexual and puked when his lips united with the women’s as if he hated it, and taught his pointy fingers to kiss the antiquated typewriters, as though he understood what it took to be a writer in a politically restrained nation.

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And it really came out of Bardem’s mouth: that when he was learning to type in the movie, he wanted to understand why Arenas was writing, or for whom he was writing. And when he started to write in the movie as the camera began to roll he realized: “When I’m writing in the movie, I’m writing to him.”

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Understanding the depth of an actor is one of the many things a film enthusiast like Samantha Pouls must know. More about understanding the complexities of filmmaking can be found on this blog.

What Ryan Gosling fatigue? He couldn’t have done fewer films

Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling announced a break from acting, implying the film audience has had enough of him, in the same measure he needs “a break from himself.”

Gosling is also quoted as saying he has too much freedom and is given “enough rope to hang himself with.”

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The actor’s recent comments feed suspicion that overexposure may be the stuff of this gripe. This is unfortunate given an unimpeachable filmography, except for endorphin abuse Crazy Stupid Love, where even his shirt-off objectification could find purchase as an intellectual exception.

There’s also a full-grown Ryan Gosling following that admits gentlemen. His fashion is no less overlooked in Drive, where even his bomber jackets acquired the dramatic quality of his subdued acting. GQ is as guilty as the man himself for giving him more rope, lapdogging his red carpet and paparazzi appearances with editorial approval for his outfits. Pajama tops for film premieres, sailor tanks, ukuleles, top hats, and all that animal loving — the ubiquity of Ryan Gosling is indeed for a leading man, but he doesn’t want to be one.

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He did mention taking up a directorial debut. It’s too early to announce this as good tidings unless he’s also doubling for costume design. But no one can discount Gosling’s depth in Blue Valentine, a hairline-raising performance for an actor whose good looks, by being eschewed, could have only helped him boost his cinematic credibility. Apparently, if there’s anyone who’s not in love with him, it’s himself.

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Actors like Ryan Gosling are saleable, but how would they fare behind the camera? They probably have similar struggles as aspiring filmmakers, like Samantha Poulswho is also an avid observer of cinema’s goings-on. See this blog to understand the pitfalls of birthing a film.