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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ponyo and Airbender Trailers

Let's take a quick minute to take a look at some of the hot new trailers in movie theatres.

First up, we have The Last Airbender, based on the smash-hit cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. (They changed the name for the film so as not to get confused with James Cameron's long-awaited return to filmmaking, Avatar.)

For those who never watched the really awesome cartoon, The Last Airbender takes place in a mythical, vaguely Asian land where people can practice the mystical art of "bending," martial arts that manipulate the four elements. As such, there are four nations in this world: Airbenders, Firebenders, Waterbenders, and Earthbenders. One day, the ruler of the Firebenders gets it in his head that he wants to rule the world, so he starts off by killing all the airbenders.

But one escapes...Aang, the Avatar. The mystical Avatar is the only one who can learn all four types of bending, and thus bring peace to the land.

So the series follows the adventures of Aang as he journeys through this land, a fugitive of the firebenders, and learning the other types of bending.

Joining him on his quest are Katara, a gifted young waterbender, and Katara's brother Sokka. While Sokka is not a bender, he's still a skilled warrior himself.

Now, sadly, this film has become somewhat controversial. How can such a fantastic story be controversial? Well, it's like this. As I said, it takes place in a land heavily based on Asia, all the characters are Asians, so naturally the film was going to have an all-white cast. Luckily, the backlash started early enough that the filmmakers were able to rectify things somewhat in the rest of the casting.

Of course, also controversial, in that whiny fanboy way, was the choice of director. This cartoon is being adapted for the big screen by Captain Twist Ending, M. Night Shyamalan. That was controversial because many say that Shyamalan only made one good film, The Sixth Sense. This is also the first film that Shyamalan made that is not based on of his own, original ideas.

The cast is predominantly unknowns...about the only name in the cast is Dev Patel, star of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Patel plays Prince Zuko, the firebender prince charged with finding Aang.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and, controversies aside, my fingers are crossed that the film will be good. The film hits theatres Summer 2010.

Next up, another film I've mentioned several times on the blog, Ponyo.

Ponyo is the latest epic from world-renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It hit Japanese theatres a year ago, and finally makes its way to North America.

Ponyo is kind of like Miyazaki's re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, from what I gather. It follows the adventures of young goldfish princess named Ponyo, her infatuation with a human boy named Sosuke, and her quest to become human. As for the tone of the film itself, some Miyazaki afficianados say it's for the younger folk...more My Neighbour Totoro than Spirited Away.

As with the past group of Miyazaki films, this is being brought to North America by Disney. As with the last two Miyazaki films, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, the English dub is being supervised by the head of Disney animation, the director of Toy Story, and one of the biggest Miyazaki geeks in the world, John Lasseter. Lasseter is sparing no expense this time out, with the goal of making Ponyo Miyazaki's biggest hit in North America. He's brought in Hollywood uber-producer Frank Marshall to help out. Marshall was responsible for most of the Steven Spielberg blockbusters of the 1980s. His last film was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

As is the tradition in North American films, the voice cast features a galaxy of stars. Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Cloris Leachman and Betty White all provide voices. Ponyo is voiced by Noah Cyrus, Myley Cyrus's little sister, and Sosuke by Frankie Jonas, the littlest Jonas Brother.

It hits North American theatres on August 14.

I kind of think Disney dropped the ball with this trailer...they should have put it in front of Up. Instead, it's going to be in front of the drama My Sister's Keeper in theatres this Friday. Oh, and The Last Airbender trailer is going to be in front of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

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