Culver City Observer -

Special Labor Day Edition: It’s All About Family!


August 29, 2012

This Labor Day weekend, it’s all about the family with family-themed movies and something for everyone.


With the same passion that he had with marketing and merchandising the universally beloved Thomas the Tank Engine and Teletubbies, Kenn Viselman brings us THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE. Jam-packed with heart, fun, adventure, childlike innocence and purity, OOGIELOVES fills a big screen void when it comes to family and children. Reminiscent of Syd & Marty Kroft’s imaginatively fun “ H.R. Pufnstuf”, OOGIELOVES takes that sort of programming format, bringing it forward into the 21st Century with a heightened reality that serves as a wonderful backdrop to colorful, fanciful, fun adventures....and a film that encourages kids to sing and dance along with the movie!

A magical place where balloons talk, sombreros fly through the air fueled by dance, over-sized teapots serve as houses way up high in trees and cows sing and dance while making milkshakes, welcome to the world of Lovelyloveville! Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie are the happiest Oogieloves ever. They live together in a comfy, cozy house filled with love and laughter and together with their friends J. Edgar (a vacuum cleaner), Windy Window (a magical talking window) and their faithful talking fish Ruffy, make every day a special day. But today is more special than most as today is their friend Schluufy’s birthday! A squishy happy little pillow, Schluffy always a smile on his soft fluffy face and the Oogieloves want to do something special to celebrate his special day. Of course, planning a surprise party is no easy task and the Oogieloves call on their friends for some help. Sadly, J. Edgar - in charge of getting the balloons - loses the five magical balloons which fly off into the skies high above Lovelyloveville! How can you have a birthday party without balloons?

Faced with this serious dilemma, the OOGILOVES set out to find the balloons and along the way, run into some of Lovelyloveville’s other residents - Dotty Rounder who lives in the teapot treehouse and who loves everything round; Bobby Wobbly who wobbles and bobbles and loves his bubbles; Milky Marvin who owns the diner where he makes the most delicious milkshakes in town; Rosalie Rosebud, the famous singer who loves roses but who is very allergic to them; and, Lola and Lero Sombrero who fly around town in their oversized sombrero dancing the days away!

Enlisting the help of old and new friends alike, can the OOGIELOVES find all five balloons and save Schluufy’s surprise party?

Together with his co-writer/director/creator Scott Stabile, Viselman creates a world that is not only fun to watch, but one that subliminally creates a sense of safety and security for the very young children. Notable are not only the over-sized characters, beds, tables, chairs, milkshakes & straws, teapot treehouses, but the fact that everything is rounded with soft edges. Table edges are rounded, characters are round, balloons, hats, pancakes, windows, etc., everything has rounded edges and in the world of parenting and children (or even in my bruiseworthy klutzy world), round edges are always the optimum design for safety. Even with Jubilee Rounder, Dotty’s granddaughter, who celebrates squares, the squares have rounded edging. And Milky Marvin's diner not only has rounded edges but the steel structure then gives another level of safety and security in the eyes of a child.

Designed with everything over-sized, the production design is perfect for little minds who see everything around them as soooo big and often intimidating and overwhelming. With these friendly, soft, happy characters and items on screen, not only does it give children levels of comfort, but also a sensibility that they don't need to be afraid of "the bigness" of the world around them. Conceptually, OOGIELOVES is extremely well thought out by Viselman and Stabile.

And what kid doesn’t like music! With OOGIELOVES, the songs and dances are cute, easy to remember and I highly suspect will have kids singing them over and over and over again from the minute they leave the theater!!! But taking the singing and dancing a step further, Viselman really ups the ante. Little kids cannot sit still in the theater and when amped up even higher on candy and soda, it becomes impossible, thus keeping parents from taking kids to the movies because they don't want to have to wrangle them. With a film that has built in "get up and dance in the aisles" sensibility, not only will the children have fun, but the parents can breathe a little easier knowing no one is going to be nagging them about controlling their child.

With a blend of live action and puppetry, the animal puppets themselves and accompanying puppeteering are beyond enchanting. Furry, feathery, fluffy, they not only have a "happy" look to them, but all have a safe, comfortable warmth to them. Personally, I want one of each for my own house. They are adorable in their creation and the basic puppeteering movements used to bring them to live, are akin to something a child could do himself/herself.

But there’s than just appeal for children with the OOGIELOVES. It's also important to note that Stabile and Viselman play to the adults with some witty dialogue and naming of objects, i.e., J. Edgar the vacuum cleaner, as in "Hoover" vacuum or J. Edgar Hoover and his "cleaning up" of America. Nice touch!

But then we look at our actors - Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Pressly, Cary Elwes, Toni Braxton and Chazz Palminteri. While I am not surprised by the presence of Leachman and Lloyd (Leachman has been doing “kid” films and tv as far back as the Shirley Temple Theater in 1960) the real surprises are Elwes and Palminteri. As Dotty, Lero, Lola, Bobby Wobbly, Rosalie Rosebud and Milky Marvin, respectively, the ebullience that each actor brings to their respective role is just so much fun to watch as they embody and bring to life these over-the-top exaggerations designed to bring smiles and laughs to not only children, but adults. I found myself smiling and laughing at the performances, particularly those of Leachman and Elwes. Joyful is that an entirely new generation will be exposed to these gifted performers.

Welcome to the world of Kenn Viselman. THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE is the perfect interactive adventure for the young and the young at heart.


With John Hillcoat’s LAWLESS, the Oscar race gets a bit hotter with a too-die-for performance by Guy Pearce and a script adaptation by Nick Cave that completely captures the imagery, emotion and history of Matt Bondurant’s novel “The Wettest Country in the Country”. A fact meets fiction account of Bondurant’s grandfather Jack, and his uncles Howard and Forrest, LAWLESS is a slice of Americana of which many know very little but which is a core of America’s history - moonshine and bootlegging; in this case, in the prohibition era hills of Franklin County, Virginia.

Forrest Bondurant and his brother Howard are the stuff from which myths and legends are made. Only difference here is that they are real. They keep to themselves but are always first to lend a helping hand. And while Forrest knows how to run a business, Howard knows how to pack a punch to leave a grown man flat on his back. Younger brother Jack, on the other hand, is impetuous, full of energy and grandiose ideas, all of which lead him to take the brothers’ sleepy little moonshine business to new levels by supplying one of the biggest mobsters around, Floyd Banner, with all the product he can handle. Unfortunately for the Bondurants, Chicago’s Special Deputy Charlie Rakes has slinked into town determined to end all the moonshine business in the county, and to do it through corruption and ruthless violence. But the Bondurants aren’t going to take this lying down or be run to the grounds by the likes of Charlie Rakes and will fight to the death to preserve their little bit of heaven.

Never a Tom Hardy fan, he has now won me over completely with his portrayal of Forrest Bondurant. Strong and silent, Hardy brings an air of mystery to Forrest that embodies the essence and secrecy of bootlegging. But then toss in Jessica Chastain as Maggie, a flawless beauty, a wanton woman from the city ready for a quiet life in the country, and watch the sparks fly. Hardy and Chastain smolder and sizzle with barely 50 words between them through the entire film. You can’t take your eyes off them when they are on screen.

Shia LaBeouf easily slides into the skin of Jack. Eager and energetic with an arrogant streak that buoys the performance, LaBeouf adds a liveliness to the story that is engaging. However, where he falls short on believability is with Jack’s courting of the local minister’s daughter. LaBeouf is too slick, unsympathetic as a “romantic” and completely lacks chemistry with Jack’s intended, Bertha, perfectly and piously played by Mia Wasikowska.

Jason Clarke is a surprise who, like Hardy, quietly fills the shoes of Howard, but then adds a touch of surprise with raging violence and outbursts in defense of his brothers. Very emotionally layered performance. Dean DeHaan is a charmer as Jack’s best friend, Cricket. A boy who is slightly “off”, DeHaan gives Cricket a sweetness that balances against the violence of Charlie Rakes’ attacks and big city racketeering of Floyd Banner who has a commanding presence thanks to a brief cameo by Gary Oldman.

With what may garner him a Best Supporting Oscar nomination, Guy Pearce steals the show. As Charlie Rakes, Pearce oozes evil and corruption with a villainous delicious decadence. Chameleonic in his appearance, Pearce’s physicality and nuance through costume and make-up is as transformative and transfixing as his emotional performance. If this isn’t Oscar-worthy, nothing is!

Written by Nick Cave, not only does LAWLESS paint an historically accurate picture of this slice of American history, but Cave provides an intensely personal character study of the Bondurant brothers and their relationships with not only each other but those around them, grounding it all with honesty and decency, and told with a homey sensibility as if a family is gathered around a fireplace listening to elders regale tales of their youth. Adding to the script construct is John Hillcoat’s direction and Benoit Delhomme’s cinematography. Shot digitally, but appearing with a textured film-like quality, the visual tone is steeped in the dustiness of the depression and the colors of nature. Transient scenes are pastoral and serene celebrating the quiet beauty of the backwoods, speaking volumes about the lives of these people. The color red punctuates the muted browns and greens both in Maggie’s costumes and blood splatter, creating a mesmerizing effect.

What is most appreciated with LAWLESS is the filming location. Although unable to film in Franklin County itself, Hillcoat and his team found a perfect location in Peachtree, Georgia. With many rural buildings still standing that date back to the days of prohibition and which are all showcased in the film, the people of the area also added much to the production process as many are still living life similar to the Bondurants and still making “shine” and running bootleg. This living history not only helped inform the actors performances, but gives the film an aura of mystique just like the Bondurants and the world of moonshine.

Not to be overlooked is the music, much of which is written and performed by Nick Cave. Eclectic and raw, the music embodies the blues and bluegrassy rhythms of the time and the people.

On every level, it is impossible to turn away from the story unfolding onscreen. Emotionally and historically immersive, LAWLESS is close to flawless.


Adding some horror to the mix is THE POSSESSION. Based upon the “mythical” Jewish Dibbuk, while the possession of young Emily “Em” Brenek by a Dibbuk is the urban legend basis of the story, it is the father-daughter relationship and a father’s unconditional love for his children and his family that makes this more than a horror film.

Recently divorced Clyde and Stephanie Breneck are not handling the situation well and neither are their daughters. Although an equitable time sharing of the girls, the animosity and anger that Stephanie continually vents proves frustrating for all which may explain why Clyde is a bit more relaxed in his parental duties.

With the girls helping him apportion his new house, the trio stops at a yard sale to pick up dishes and knick knacks. But while rummaging through the tables, Em finds something more intriguing - an old wooden box with carvings on it. Given her fascination with the box, of course Clyde let’s her have it. Little does he know though that the box is speaking to Em. A scratchy and raspy old woman speaks to her, placing Em under her spell and making her do strange, inexplicable things. As her behavior gets more irrational and even dangerous, Clyde knows something is wrong while Stephanie and her dentist boyfriend just think Em needs a shrink or an MRI. Determined to find out what’s going on with his little girl, Clyde enlists the help of a professor friend who tells him about the Dibbuk - a dislocated spirit trapped in the box that feeds on the purity and innocence of a living breathing human; that once released from the box, devours its host and then moves on to the next. If he is to be believed, Em - and the whole family - is in serious danger and there’s only one person who can help them.

Written by the husband and wife team of Stiles White and Juliet Snowden and directed by Ole Bornedal, THE POSSESSION steers clear of cliche and slasher/hacker/blood & guts, engrossing us with emotionally kinetic performances by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Natasha Calis (in an unnerving breakout performance that will put her on the map). For Morgan, he takes the imperfections and failings of Clyde and uses them to deliver an intense, often conflicted and heartbreaking performance for what is one of the best, if not the best, of his career. Kyra Sedgwick easily steps in as an angry divorced mother in denial while Grant Show adds the perfect bit of arrogance as her new unlikeable boyfriend. In a surprise casting move, renowned music superstar Matisyahu makes a stunning feature debut as rabbi-in-training Tzadok.

Thanks to masterful editing by Eric L. Beason and slick, polished, yet tonally denatured cinematography by Dan Laustsen, we are treated to edge of your seat surprises, with fear freezing you to the screen. Adding just the right touch is a chilling and haunting score by Anton Sanko the mere notes of which, sound like terror.

There’s a new face of evil in town. It’s time to get possessed with THE POSSESSION.



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