Encounters at the End of the World

Filmmaker Werner Herzog is best known for his seminal fiction works as “Nosferatu: The Vampire,” “Aquirre: The Wrath of God,” "Fitzcarraldo” and “Rescue Dawn.” However, he also proved to be a top-notch documentary maker with “Heart of Glass,” “Little Dieter Needs to Fly,” the stunning “Lessons of Darkness” and “Grizzly Man.” Now, he and cameraman/collaborator Peter Zeitlinger trek to the farthest reaches of the earth and land in Antarctica for quite unusual “Encounters at the Edge of the World.”

Laura's Review: A

Werner Herzog ("Grizzly Man," "Rescue Dawn") saw some pictures shot underneath the ice in Antarctica and decided he wanted to go there. With a grant from the NSF and a mockingly stern avowal that he would not be shooting a penguin picture, Herzog lands at McMurdo and begins interviewing thefirst person he meets - the bus driver who comes to greet the plane. So begins an incredible exploration of a place and its endlessly fascinating people - dreamers and scientists and technicians all drawn from other places to a frozen world. Much like his last documentary, "Grizzly Man," Herzog leaps from another man's photographic work into his own movie. He uses footage shot by others and his own interviews to create a uniquely Herzogian portrait. From that bus driver to a marine biologist making his last dive, everyone has fascinating tales to tell of both their own personal histories and their work on the continent. We marvel at an iceberg 'bigger than the country that *built* the Titanic' and underwater landscapes divers refer to as 'the cathedral.' Herzog shows us mystical and stunning sea creatures set to the heavenly sounds of the Bulgarian Women's Choir, then furthers the religious symbolism by describing a diver suiting up like a priest preparing for mass. He also exhibits his very dry sense of humor when he actually does get around to those penguins. Trying to get a rise out of his taciturn expert, he asks if penguins ever exhibit gay behavior or insanity perhaps (there is one sad specimen intent on rushing inland where only death could await). He finds linguists on a continent with no language and a single cell organism that shows signs of intelligence. He even revisits the mouth of a live volcano ('watch for bombs in the lava lake!'). Werner Herzog is a global cinematic treasure who has shared his intense curiosity and spirit of adventure via film for over four decades with no sign of slowing. It is a sublime pleasure to spend time with this filmmaker and "Encounters at the End of the World" is a trip from start to finish.

Robin's Review: B+

Helmer Kevin Lima, working with the original script by Bill Kelly, takes traditional fairytale animation a la Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” and combines it with live action that represents a truly unique and enchanting romantic comedy. It is also a showcase for its stars, especially Amy Adams, and a genuine film for all ages. Things start off in typical Disney animation form when we meet Giselle, a pretty innocent who believes in true love and has a magical influence, with her beautiful voice, over the woodland creatures. She knows that her love is out there somewhere and this belief is met when handsome Prince Edward sweeps her off her feet. They fall immediately in love and plans to wed are put in motion. But, Edward’s wicked step mom, fearing that the new princess would replace her, hatches a nefarious scheme to eliminate the threat to her throne. Posing as an old crone, she dupes Giselle, on her wedding day, to make a wish in a magical well. As Giselle leans forward to make a wish – of course, to live happily ever after with her prince - the crone gives her a shove and the would be princess falls into the well and lands, in of all places, underneath a manhole cover in Manhattan. Now a stranger in a strange land, she wanders the mean streets in search of her home. Giselle is definitely a fish out of water amid the hustle, bustle and noise of New York. Caught in the rain trying to get into a palace (in fact, a billboard) she is taken in by a young girl, Morgan (Rachel Covey), and her reluctant father, Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Dad just wants rid of the strange young woman but things get complicated when Prince Edward (no longer animated) arrives in the city with his manservant, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), and Giselle’s best friend in the whole world, the chipmunk Pip, in tow. Unbeknownst to the prince, though, is the fact that Nathaniel is spying for the queen and has orders to give Giselle a poisoned apple. Disney sticks to what it knows about fantasy filmmaking, using its classic animations to infuse the live action with the back-story that sets the stage for Giselle’s adventures in finding true love. But it is the getting there that provides the charm, making Enchanted” thoroughly entertaining and fun for all. Amy Adams is pitch perfect as the pretty Giselle, both animated and live, giving her wide eyed innocence and wonder – and brains. James Marsden is proving to be a versatile actor and he inhabits Prince Edward with goofy charm and bravery – and he is funny! Patrick Dempsey has the usually thankless role as the comedy’s straight man but he is up to the task, giving Robert dimension and understanding. Timothy Spall is made for the role of Nathaniel and he succeeds in making the life action character feel animated. Susan Sarandon is merely okay as the composite bad guy character gleaned from the abovementioned classics. The well-crafted combination of traditional 2D animation, sharp CGI, fantastical fun and solid storytelling make this an deserving entrant into the Disney pantheon of classic family entertainment. And, it should garner some awards attention at year’s end. There are songs galore that make this a big hit for the kids (not to mention the 2D and CGI animals) and intelligence of story that make it no chore for their parents. It is also has enough humor, wit and charm to be something that adults without children can go see - without embarrassment.