Tag Archive: dreamworks


How many films can you really have about criminals racing cars? Obviously Dreamworks felt like seven (and the inevitable eighth, ninth and probably tenth) Fast & Furious films just weren’t enough to satisfy the public – the majority of whom complain about the great success that recent installments of Fast & Furious have had. Therefore, they have decided to take on the established franchise with their own, born from video game (always a recipe for success *rolls eyes*) effort. There is one major difference though: the tone.

 

 

From that short trailer you can already see a difference between Need for Speed and the films of Fast & Furious. While Fast & Furious has always tried to beat home serious themes of family it has always been hid behind a slightly tongue in cheek atmosphere, never more so than in Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. However, with Aaron Paul giving a voice over and laying out the films premise it seems that there isn’t going to be much room for jokes in Need for Speed and seems to be more about a rivalry while giving the police and the crime section more serious undertones.

Aaron Paul’s casting also suggests a difference. Fast Five is probably the best film of the series so far but look at the cast; how many of those actors would look out of place in anything that wasn’t Fast & Furious? Can you really imagine Ludacris, Sung Kang or Gal Gadot in anything serious or better than the Fast & Furious franchise? No, of course not. But here Aaron Paul is one of the hottest names in television thanks to Breaking Bad and is one of the best up and coming actors around Hollywood at the minute. He has more drama in his little finger than the entire cast of the first Fast & Furious film. He’s paired up with Dominic Cooper (and anyone who has read my blog before knows how much I like him) and Imogen Poots, as well as Hollywood heavyweight and former Dark Knight, Michael Keaton.

 

But then there’s the almighty downfall of Need for Speed and why it probably won’t do well. Here’s the premise from IMDB for Need for Speed: Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins. This sounds a lot like an early Fast & Furious film, in particular it reminds me of 2 Fast 2 Furious. Since Fast & Furious gave itself a kick start with number four it became a lot more successful with audiences and critics alike and what was different in Fast & Furious (unfortunately the name of the fourth film as well as the franchise) to its predecessors? It was no longer really about the racing. Street racing or racing on the whole just wasn’t drawing in the audience so it was time to freshen things up in what is probably one of the best decisions in blockbuster history (maybe an overstatement, maybe not. You decide). Bringing standard racing back as the main story just doesn’t sit well with me.

I do hope that Need for Speed is a good film and I hope it brings in an audience (purely for Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper, not for the prospect of sequels) but I just can’t see it happening.

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UK Release Date: 4th July 2013

Stars: Dean DeBlois (director), Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kit Harington, America Ferrera.

Plot: Five years after the events of the first film, the once land locked Vikings are now on the backs of dragons and their world has become bigger. As Hiccup’s curiosity grows the map expands and the Vikings come across new people and new dragons, discovering a larger conflict between mankind and dragonkind which Hiccup is inevitably at the centre of.

With sequels to animated films being all the rage these days with the likes of Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 it should come as no surprise that the universally adored How to Train Your Dragon is getting the sequel treatment (trilogy treatment really with a third installment slated for 2016 release). Out of the three original films (HTTYD, Monsters Inc. and Despicable Me) I felt that HTTYD was the weakest, but with the most potential for more stories to be told, leaving me with the feeling that this could be the best animated sequel since the Toy Story films.

However, the teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t give a lot away. As has become something of a trend recently, this is just one sequence from the film put into two minutes just to give the audience a peek at their old friends.

As we can see Toothless and Hiccup are still working together and Hiccup is clearly advancing Viking technology at a great pace. A glimpse at the new teenage Hiccup is something for fans to get excited about as the changed between when the original film took place and this one should be an interesting point. I look forward to seeing more beautiful footage and finding out more plot details.

A couple of days ago I posted The Best Actors Over the Age of 65. It was a list that put together eight of the most talented older actors still working in movies together. However, there were a few people that I didn’t have room for. A lot of wonderful readers reacted positively and wanted a sequel so I thought… if it’s good enough for Hollywood, then it’s good enough for me! Here comes the second part…

Michael Douglas – Born: 25th September, 1944 – 68 years old.

Douglas appeared to slow down in terms of his acting at the turn of the 21st century but in the past twelve months and in the coming year he looks to be speeding up once more. Most famously known for his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, a role he recently took on again for the sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. In the past few years he has continued to star in relatively good films such as The Sentinel and Haywire.

Al Pacino – Born: 25th April, 1940 – 72 years old.

Along with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino is synonymous with the crime genre. Appearances in The Godfather trilogy, a legendary role in Scarface and alongside the former in Heat have cemented his place as an acting legend. However, his two Oscar nominations have come for two of his most dramatic roles in Glengarry Glen Ross and Scent of a Woman (for which he won the Oscar). Recently he did his reputation a lot of harm and became a target for many jokes after a cameo in the disaster that was Jack & Jill but he looks set to get his reputation back playing the lead in King Lear.

Sir Patrick Stewart – Born: 13th July, 1940 – 72 years old.

One of the finest thespians ever seen. Patrick Stewart seems like an icon of maturity and has a voice as smooth as Morgan Freeman – a voice he has lent to American Dad which shows off his light hearted side too. He’s the man who was made in the mould exactly to fit the role of Professor X and it has become his most iconic role of recent times. Although he does more voice work these days he is returning to the wheelchair for Days of Future Past next year.

Martin Sheen – Born: 3rd August, 1940 – 72 years old.

Martin Sheen proved he still had the acting chops to cut it with the young’uns in The Amazing Spider-Man, in which he put in the best performance of the film as loveable Uncle Ben, contributing to one of the saddest/mood effecting scenes of summer 2012. He’s no stranger to brilliant films either, appearing in Catch Me If You Can and The Departed as well as, earlier in his career, Wall Street and Gandhi.

Dustin Hoffman – Born: 8th August, 1937 – 75 years old.

Hoffman is a really incredible actor. I don’t think that has ever been in doubt since he made his name in 1967 in The Graduate. He has had a career of terrific films right from the get go: Straw Dogs, All The President’s Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Rain Man are just a few. In recent years he took a little move to comedy for Meet the Fockers but continues to do voice work for DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda series.

Burt Reynolds – Born: 11th February, 1936 – 77 years old.

Burt Reynolds’ film career has taken a bit of a back seat over the past few years with him focussing more on television roles, but his acting talent is still obvious. He was nominated for an Oscar back in 1998 for his supporting role in Boogie Nights and appeared in Adam Sandler’s last (probably ever) good film The Longest Yard. He’s been acting since the 1950s and has given no indication that he is ready to stop just yet.

Clint Eastwood – Born: 31st May, 1930 – 82 years old.

A list like this wouldn’t be complete without Clint Eastwood. He is one of the most popular movie legends of all tine thanks to his roles in Westerns such as A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and his role as Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry and its sequels. Although he has now given up acting to focus more on directing he did return for Trouble With the Curve last year to remind everyone what they were missing.

Sir Christopher Lee – Born: 27th May, 1922 – 90 years old.

At 90 years old Christopher Lee is an actor who is just as great to watch now as he was at the beginning of his career. Incredibly, Lee has been acting since the 1940s, meaning this is the seventh decade that we will have seen him on screen for. If any young actors are looking for inspiration then this man has to be at the top of the list. He helped to make British horror films popular with his role as Dracula in a string of Hammer Horror films and he went on to star in two of the most popular franchises of all time: The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) and Star Wars.

The Appeal of Emma Stone

Born Emily Jean Stone the young actress took on the name Emma when registering with the Screen Actors Guild due to there already being an Emily Stone registered. That’s a nice little fact not many people will be too aware of. Anyway, Emma Stone is just one of a new wave of actresses who are currently winning critics over and gaining fans with every performance they put in. In this category I place Stone with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan among others. But there is something different that sets Emma Stone apart from the rest; she has a very distinct and intriguing appeal.

Emma Stone got her first leading role in 2010’s Easy A, a film which focusses on the novel A Scarlet Letter and parallels that with the main character’s life: Olive, played by Emma Stone. I believe that Stone’s performance here is a clear example of just what a wonderful actress she is to watch. Olive is caught up in a web of lies after just trying to shut her friend up by telling her that she has lost her virginity, when in fact she has not. All of this gets out of hand and pretty much ruins Olive’s life. But the way the story is told is from Olive’s first person perspective, already giving us Stone’s narration. As well as this the film uses the narrative device of Stone talking into her webcam (which becomes the screen). This makes Stone’s performance just seem incredibly relaxed and natural and allowing the audience to see her in this way brings us a lot closer to the character and, in effect, Emma Stone herself. Her performance is full of vibrancy and sarcastic humour, outshone only by the frankly quite incredible Stanley Tucci.

Before Stone’s Golden Globe nominated performance in Easy A she was already making a name for herself in the comedy genre. Stone’s first film role was in Superbad, a film that began a new era of comedy films. After Superbad she appeared in a few, shall we say interesting films: The Rocker, The House Bunny and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (but let’s not judge her) before getting back on the right track with Zombieland. Also worth noting, Stone actually auditioned for the role of Claire Bennett in Heroes but obviously lost out to Hayden Panettiere who really impressed casting directors: I would have much preferred to have seen Stone in the role though. But anyway…

Emma Stone’s career has continued to go from strength to strength and she has proven that she is not just a one trick pony, despite being more than comfortable and one of the funniest women in comedy film at the minute. She had supporting roles in Friends With Benefits and Crazy, Stupid, Love (where she would work with Ryan Gosling for the first of quite a few times over the next couple of years) before joining The Help. The Help features an ensemble cast of actresses, not one of whom puts a foot wrong in terms of their performance here. Stone joins the likes of Jessica Chastain (another relatively new actress who is just exceptional at her craft), Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Viola Davis. Stone’s performance helped The Help win many nomination and awards for it’s cast’s performances.

With The Amazing Spider-Man, Emma Stone became the latest actress to join the superhero film genre. However, unlike the latest incarnations of Pepper Potts, Lois Lane and Rachel Dawes we have seen, Stone’s Gwen Stacy was not the typical damsel in distress as she could more than hold her own; standing up to Flash, being incredible stubborn in an attempt to save New York that could have seen her killed as well as smacking The Lizard over the head during a fight with Spider-Man. Then Stone joined a much more testosterone fuelled ensemble in Gangster Squad, joining Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Anthony Mackie. She recently lent her voice to the prehistoric animation film from DreamWorks: The Croods.

I think you would have to go a long way to find any young actress working today with the combination of talent and on screen charisma that Emma Stone has. She has a wonderful presence on screen with a beautiful charm about her and her career shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Next year will see her reprise her role of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, while Birdman (from the director of 21 Grams and Babel) is in pre-production. She is also signed on to star in Guillermo Del Toro’s exciting Crimson Peak which is snapping up a superb cast in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch and Jessica Chastain.

Hopefully we will get to see Emma Stone taking the lead in more and more films over the next few years but for now I am happy enough seeing her play supporting roles if she continues to be as good as she is right now!

Real Steel (2011) Review

Set in the near future, 2020 to be exact, Reel Steel is set at a time where the world of pro-boxing has come to an end and has been replaced by the WRB (the World Robot Boxing League). Two robots slug it out in the ring, being controlled outside the ring by their owners with a sort of futuristic gaming controller.

Our protagonist is Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman). Charlie is a former human boxer, one that never quite fulfilled his potential it seems, who is trying to make money by entering his robot in unsolicited fights. After being told his ex-girlfriend has passed away, Charlie is reunited with his estranged son, Max Kenton (Dakota Goyo). A strained father-son relationship gets put through the its paces as the two bond over their interest in WRB, eventually resulting in a surprise shot at the title belt.

It takes a while to begin to like Charlie. As the protagonist he offers very little to the audience in way of liking him, other than the fact that it’s Hugh Jackman playing him; he is selfish, in serious debt to a handful of people, doesn’t really care about anyone and he runs away from his responsibilities. Cue a family film where a stubborn child teaches his father to be a better person. And that’s where the real star of the show comes into play. Dakota Goyo is making a pretty good child career for himself and with his bright eyed and bushy tailed looks and attitude it’s no real surprise. Goyo is great here and adds a lot of heart to Real Steel and watching his relationship with, not only his father but, the discarded robot Atom grow is really heartwarming.

The work on the special effects in Real Steel is really noticeable and was credited with a nomination for the Academy Award for Visual Effects (losing out to Hugo). Animatronic robots were actually built, combined with motion capture performance, to bring the robots to life and they look 100% real. Everything they do, the way they look, the way they move, is brilliant. Watching the robots go toe to toe in the ring is as exciting as watching any Hollywood fight ever made.

The plot follows a fairly simple path. Nothing new is really offered in terms of the mould of a family film but what Real Steel does is give a masterpiece in how to make a really magical family film. Yes, at it’s core is the world of robot boxing, but really Real Steel is a feel good story with human relations at its core. The characters are really worth investing in and the story really manages to reach out and touch the emotions of the audience.

Slightly predictable, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless!

My Rating: 7/10.

TWO DAYS LATER – I just re-watched Real Steel and I’m not going to change my rating but giving it the film a 7 I have done Real Steel a massive injustice! This is the latest addition to my ever-growing list of favourite films.

UK Release Date: 18th October 2013

Stars: David Soren (director), Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Samuel L Jackson, Snoop Dogg.

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

With DreamWorks’ The Croods in cinemas this week, here is the trailer for the next DreamWorks animated film due for release later this year, with a quite frankly ridiculous plot of a snail trying to compete in the Indy 500 against real life cars… ridiculous…

Ridiculous but FANTASTIC. This is the kind of plot that can only work in animation and the trailer shows all signs of it being a hit for the slightly misfiring DreamWorks. They’ve put together a solid voice cast along with screenwriters who have previously worked on Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer and The Wrestler.

What is clear from the trailer is that this is going to be a brilliant journey that audiences are going to be taken on and it’s going to be, probably, one of the feel good films of the year. The animation looks great as you would expect, the story is interesting, the cast is great, the laughs are there in the trailer. What’s not to like?

Now, the reason for writing this blog is not to just slag Nicolas Cage off, I actually quite like him. I have enjoyed a lot of his films, old and new, including Con Air, Adaptation and Kick-Ass. But I never realised how many really big hits that Cage has been linked with but either turned them down or didn’t come to fruition (thankfully in the end) so that he could make the likes of Ghost Rider, G-Force and Drive Angry. So what are the biggest roles Cage could have starred in but didn’t?

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Shrek

Cage may be voicing a character in the DreamWorks animation The Croods but a few years ago Cage was approached by executives for the role of Shrek. However, this never came to light because of Cage’s self-professed vanity. His reason for not playing Shrek? He didn’t want to look like an ogre. This turned out okay in the end though as if we had got Cage then the loveable ogre may not have his famous Scottish accent that he is known for now.

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Lord of the Rings

Among the fellowship there were no real Hollywood stars; Ian McKellen perhaps the most famous among the cast. So things would have looked slightly different and it may have been marketed differently if Nicolas Cage had accepted the role of… Aragorn. Cage turned this one down citing “family obligations” and Viggo Mortensen will thank him for that and so will fans of the trilogy: Mortensen’s Aragorn became one of the most popular characters in the film.

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The Matrix

The Matrix is quite an iconic film. It’s sequels divide audiences but the first film is usually regarded pretty highly. And Nicolas Cage could have been in the leading role as Neo. Cage turned down the role due to the fact it was filming in New Zealand and he was committed to raising his children at the time. Of course, eventually Keanu Reeves got the role and enjoyed his career for a few weeks.

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The Wrestler

The Wrestler is the only film on this list that I am genuinely interested to see how Nicolas Cage would have played it. I think that this is a role that Cage could have done a wonderful job with. However, the role did go to Mickey Rourke afterwards and he won for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, as well as being nominated for an Oscar and I loved it. But Cage would have been very interesting in The Wrestler.

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Superman Lives

Before the abomination that is Superman Returns was made, Superman Lives was in development. The script was written by Kevin Smith and was set to be directed by Tim Burton with Nicolas Cage in the lead role as Clark Kent/Superman. The film never got off the ground and Cage of course went on to play another comic book character Ghost Rider. I can’t imagine that it would have been a good thing seeing Cage in the red and blue spandex.

As soon as I saw the first trailer for Rise of the Guardians I instantly fell in love with it. Just from the trailer you could tell it was going to be something special; the characters, the colour scheme, the animation. It soon became one of my most anticipated films of the year… so how would it stand up to my very very high expectations?

DreamWorks’ latest feature film sees the immortal guardians: North – Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Bunnymund – Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth – the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the mute Sandy – Sandman team up to stop the evil Boogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) from covering the world in fear and taking away all the innocence of the children. To do so a new recruit must heed the Guardians’ call: Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

The story is pretty simple, it in no way tries to over complicate things but that doesn’t take anything away from the way in which the story are told. Right from the off we are presented with this sort of outcast character of Jack Frost and we are quickly brought in to his story, feeling his sense of longing and wishing to know where he came from, wanting to be believed in by the children of Earth. And right from here you are wrapped up in the story. You’re rooting for him right from the word go and the introduction to this magical world is all you need to quickly become engrossed and want to see more. I found myself amazed at how emotionally attached I grew to Jack Frost as the film went on, there was a distinct sense of humanity in his character.

Of course, some of this humanity is installed by the wonderful Chris Pine’s voice acting and the whole cast did a terrific job in voicing their characters. I can honestly say that this is definitely one of Hugh Jackman’s best performances in my opinion, or at least one of my favourite roles I have seen him in. I almost forgot it was even Alec Baldwin voicing North as well, this sort of Russian/Eastern European accent and demeanor he seemed to have really made his character stand out and it was terrific work from Baldwin in doing this. And although Sandy doesn’t say a word (he communicates through sand drawings above his head) he quickly transforms into this lovable little guy and no doubt one of the most popular characters in Rise of the Guardians! As for Pitch, I think he may just be one of the greatest ever villains in a children’s film.

The animation is second to none. We’re talking perfection here in terms of animation. There are some wonderful sets created; Santa’s workshop, Bunnymund’s Easter retreat, Tooth’s palace and Pitch’s headquarters. There is so much attention to detail, everything is so bold and bright and it all feels so real, like your looking at something of immeasurable beauty. And there are some great action sequences to go with the wonderful aesthetics of the film. Right from the beginning where we first meet Jack Frost and he messes about on the iced over pond to the sled ride he takes Jamie (the last believer in the Guardians) on, from the scene in which the Guardians help restore belief in Tooth, right up to the final climax and fight with Pitch.

Everything is done so well. Scenes you thought were pointless when they first appear later show their importance in the film and it has a sort of poetic feel to it. DreamWorks is really showing here, as people are starting to doubt Pixar for the first time, that they can make top quality films as well as anybody else.

Director Peter Ramsay, producer Christina Steinberg, executive producer Guillermo del Toro and Jack Frost himself Chris Pine have all expressed an interest in making a sequel. Usually I do like to see films just stand alone, it makes a nice change these days, but I have to confess I would welcome a Rise of the Guardians sequel with open arms!

My Rating: 9/10.

UK Release Date: 22nd March 2013

Stars: Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (directors), Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman.

Plot: The Croods is a prehistoric comedy adventure that follows the world’s first family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime when the cave that has always shielded them from danger is destroyed. Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods discover an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures — and their outlook is changed forever.

DreamWorks, in my opinion, has always been a bit hit and miss and some of it’s films, I find, are really over rated. Following this years Rise of the Guardians, a hit by all means, they are now releasing The Croods which, judging by this trailer, is a very very big miss.

The Croods seems to have had positive reception on forums across the internet but I cannot for the life of me see why. Judging from this trailer I think the three main voice actors (Cage, Stone, Reynolds) are horrible miscast although maybe their entire performance might change my mind. Their voices aren’t really the best for voice acting I don’t think and because they are three such big names at the minute I think audiences more familiar with their work may be taken away from the film by their involvement.

The trailer doesn’t do anything for me. We have a very boring first half which tries to explain a bit of back story, then we get the introduction to Reynold’s character and what seems like loads of very obvious jokes about fire. There were a couple of things that made me laugh and children will probably love it, but I think I’ll wait for it on DVD… a very cheap DVD… like 50p or less.

I look forward to being proven wrong about this though.

Obviously the big news of the week is the tragic death of film director Tony Scott who directed such hits as Top Gun, Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 123. I wrote about this the other day and said what a loss I thought he was to the world of cinema and in particular action films. There have been conflicting reports about the health of Scott since his death but all we know for certain is that it is a very sad time for his friends and family and wish them all the best.

Last week I wrote how Donald Faison was approached for a part in Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall as Dr. Gravity and now it seems as though the sequel to 2010’s hit film is moving on full steam ahead with their casting as there have been two very prominent rumours this week. Lindy Booth (Dawn of the Dead, Cry Wolf) is in talks to play another member of Kick-Ass’ superhero team Justice Forever – Night Bitch. The biggest rumour though is who is line to play The Colonel (or Colonel Stars in the comic book) and that is Jim Carrey! Carrey may seem like too much of a big name for a supporting role next to Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz but in recent years Carrey’s career has been stalling and faltering all over the place and this could be the big reboot that his career needs.

The Dark Tower is a series of books written by the world’s most famous author Stephen King. For a while now Ron Howard has been trying to push through a very ambitious and epic television and film collaboration to produce the books. This would mean that in between the films being released there would be a television series to sort of bridge the gap and provide fans with more of a knowledge of the story so you can see the difficulty of getting this done. And it seems as though big studios are shying away from pushing the project through. Universal Pictures has already turned it down and now so have Warner Bros. who were seen as the best studio to do this. With Russell Crowe attached to star it should have studios begging to produce it but the risk seems to outweigh the ambition at the minute. Media Rights Captial (who produced Ted) are now in serious discussions to produce The Dark Tower so maybe it could finally get to the big screen one day. I have only read the first book, The Gunslinger, but I did find it very very interesting and very different. I would love to see this project being greenlit and moving forward.

DreamWorks animation’s contract with Paramount is coming to an end at the turn of the year and is not being renewed. This would mean that DreamWorks have nobody to distribute their films, however they have now agreed a five year run with 20th Century Fox which will see them through until the end of 2017. The reason behind the contract at Paramount not being renewed is thus: Paramount are putting some serious effort into building up their own studio, possibly to rival that of DreamWorks (I imagine it will still be some way behind Pixar). You can see why Paramount would do this, last year they won the Best Animated Film Oscar for their Rango and that clearly has sparked an idea within Paramount to produce more animated features. As owners of Nickelodeon they already have plenty of animated characters to work with. I see the animation scope of films largely dominated by Pixar and DreamWorks (even though other studios do animated films) and I think Paramount will have a long road ahead of them to catch up with those two.