Sunday, 26 December 2010

Gulliver's Travels: Movie Review

Gulliver's Travels: Movie Review

Gulliver's Travels
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Chris O' Dowd, Emily Blunt, Billy Connolly. Jason Segal
Director: Rob Letterman
There seems to have been numerous versions of this story - so does the world need another one? And one in 3D?
Jack Black stars as Lemuel Gulliver, a long term mailroom attendant at a New York travel magazine.
He's been there for years, with no real thoughts about promotion or advancement - a geek with a love of Guitar Hero and Star Wars - and a seriously long brewing crush on the travel editor Darcy (Amanda Peet).
One day after deciding to finally act on the crush and ask her out, he chickens out last minute and ends up offering to take on a travel assignment in the Bermuda Triangle.
However, that job finds him stranded in Lilliput - and a towering presence to those who live there.
And not everyone's impressed with Gulliver's arrival - least of all, General Edward (The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd) who feels threatened by the new face - and plots to get rid of him.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about Gulliver's Travels - firstly, the 3D adds nothing to the film (aside from the opening titles which are so cutely done, rendering a miniature world to life as they do) and secondly the plot is entirely predictable.
Sure, the story's been told many times before - and this one at times, appears to have its tongue firmly in its cheek with some of the acting. But it didn't feel to me like those involved in it really knew 100% what they wanted it to be - either a parody or satire or outright comedy.
Jack Black plays another variation on himself as the lovable schlub, who this time is "never going to be big" - and even busts out his dance moves at the end (which we've all seen before); the rest of the ensemble cast are fine - and Chris O'Dowd stands out from them with his predominantly lead role as the buffoonish bad guy.
However, there's a bit of charm thrown in here and there - and it may keep the very young end of the family amused.

Just one final thing - it's worth getting there early to make sure you don't miss the extremely hilarious new outing from Scrat The Ice Age critter who's always worried about his nut. It's head and shoulders above Gulliver for humour and packs more in in 4 minutes than the actual film itself.

The Kids Are All Right: Movie Review

The Kids Are All Right: Movie Review

The Kids Are All Right
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Beloved of the festival scene, The Kids Are All Right finally arrives in New Zealand cinemas.
It's the tale of a pair of siblings Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) who, despite living with their two moms Nic and Jules (Bening and Moore), decide they want to know who their father is.
On Joni's 18th birthday, Laser persuades her to contact the sperm bank to find their dad - and that's how they end up meeting the laid back and non committal Paul (a superb turn by Mark Ruffalo).
However, the uptight Nic's none too impressed with Paul and despite attempts to get to know him, she appears threatened by the whole situation. Matters - and tensions - get worse when Jules starts spending time with Paul...
The Kids Are All Right is going to be one of those films which is acclaimed by some but others may be at a loss to see what its appeal is.
But it's great performances from all involved which mean it's to be enjoyed in the cinema - there's a very real tenderness between Nic and Jules (despite their fighting and snippiness) and it's well portrayed by a spiky Annette Bening and a passive Julianne Moore.
However, it's Mark Ruffalo who truly impresses in this - as he negotiates the wedge driven between the two moms with a carefree attitude and an inappropriate smirk here and there. It's really one of the best performances I've seen from him - and yet another reason why he's one of Hollywood's most underappreciated talents.

The Kids Are All Right is quirky, a bit indie and very funny in places - director Cholodenko never sends the screen play into melodrama and keeps it all on the level.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest: Movie Review

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest: Movie Review

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Director: Daniel Alfredson
So, the final part of the Millennium Trilogy arrives on the big screen.
In the third film based on Stieg Larsson's books, the action takes up just moments after the close of the second film. Lisbeth Salander is being choppered to hospital, shot repeatedly and on the brink of death after tracking down her father Alexander Zalachenko and exacting her revenge.
Facing charges of attempted murder, Salander is trapped - with the police wanting to hurry her trial along and with the shadowy cabal The Section determined to get rid of her before their existence becomes known, her prospects don't look good.
But as ever, her faithful friend and journalist of the Millennium magazine Mikael Blomkvist (the ever stoic faced Nyqvist) is determined to clear her name.
However, his quest for justice this time could come at a very high personal cost as those planning the conspiracy are getting closer to achieving their aims....
I'll freely admit that I've never been blown away by these films - sure, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a good watch but the sequel The Girl Who Played With Fire was a bit of a disappointment with its penchant for car chases.
However, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a triumphant end to the trilogy - and while some will be put off by the lack of action, the tension in this one is nail biting.

Sure, with most of it taking place in drab corridors, inside a hospital or a courtroom, there's a lot more expected of the actors - and the main duo Rapace and Nyqvist deliver in spades.
Their performances this time around are not showy - they're subtle, layered and peppered with looks and glances which tell you everything you need to know about the characters. Both throw in extremely watchable turns - with Nyqvist making his Blomkvist doggedly determined to clear his friend's name and Rapace saying so much by physically saying so little. It's credit to this pair - who once again, unfortunately spend so much time apart (as the story dictates) that you care so much how it ends.
Yet, it's the story which is more of the star this time (one character even remarks "It's like a classic Greek tragedy") as the various threads are drawn together in the web of decades old conspiracy, the drama is tautly pulled together; so much so that at the devastating end in the courtroom, the restrained directing and story telling works so much better because of it.

The best moment of this film though is the final scene - beautifully poignantly played and not at all what you'd expect given the journey these two share, it is a wonderful testament to the end of the trilogy - and one can only hope that the forthcoming Hollywood remake doesn't abandon it for something much more showy and crowd pleasing.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Dr Who: Time and the Rani: DVD Review

Dr Who: Time and the Rani: DVD Review

Dr Who Time and the Rani
Released by BBC And Roadshow Ent
Rating: PG
Dear, oh dear.
Sometimes being a fan of something can be a cross to bear - and in Dr Who's case, this adventure from the mid 80s which welcomed Sylvester McCoy to the role as the Doctor still remains a horrifying watch some 20 years on.
Forced to regenerate after the TARDIS is attacked, the new Doc tries to work out who he is - at the same time, his nemesis the Rani (Shoulder pad wearing Kate O' Mara) unleashes her plan to take over the universe.
Time and The Rani remains a baffling piece of Dr Who history - the direction and story choice forces the new Doc into being some kind of buffoon who does little to immediately endear himself to a new audience. (Although this can hardly be Sylvester McCoy's fault.)
The story is nonsensical and is Who at its very worst - it's only balanced out by the fact that the extras explain so much of the reason why this just didn't fire from the beginning. A fascinating doco, The Last Chance Saloon, reveals the pressure on the team as BBC suits began to struggle to keep Who on air in the face of such sophisticated new American sci fi shows such as Star Trek The Next Generation.
While the main story is, at best, drivel, the extras give a depth to a turbulent time in the show - and do a little to raise the level of this very disappointing release.
Extras: Commentary, doco, FX docos (which are really interesting given the limitations of 1980s graphics) and Blue Peter and Breakfast time features - a reasonable bunch.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 20 December 2010

Dr Who: Revisitations: DVD Review

Dr Who: Revisitations: DVD Review

Dr Who: Revisitations Set No 1
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M
A seven disc retrospective on three classic old Who releases may seem a tad premature while there's a lot of good stuff waiting in the wings patiently for a release.
But this collection which pulls together Tom Baker's classic Talons of Weng Chiang, Peter Davison's superb The Caves of Androzani and Paul McGann's only TV Who outing, The TV Movie is a timely reminder of why these releases continue to be so important and informative.
While all three of these have had prior releases, they've been buffed up and remastered with a whole heap of new features. Sure McGann's TV Movie is still the weak link (and remains deeply divisive in Who fandom) but the features which go with it - docos on the making, production, the quest to get Who back on TV after its cancellation - more than make up for the generally patchy actual movie.
The Baker and Davison stories are equally lavished with some great extras, interviews and retrospectives which give hours of watching and will give fans even more love for these.
If you're probably not a Who fan, this set would be a good place to start - it showcases the best of what Who did on a limited budget and with more than a fistful of great extras, it's compulsive viewing.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Animal Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Animal Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Animal Kingdom

Released by Madman
Rating: M
One of the hits from the 2010 New Zealand International Film Festival, Animal Kingdom duly deserves its wider release.
An Aussie crime thriller Animal Kingdom by writer director David Michod, this is the Melbourne set story about a crime family falling apart amid police scrutiny - and how a teenager previously estranged from the underworld becomes involved.
It opens with Josh (newcomer James Frecheville) discovering his mum's heroin overdose - and calmly watching an episode of Deal Or No Deal as it all goes down.
With no family to turn to, he's taken into the bosom of the Cody family - a local crime gang who're in their twilight of their career thanks to continual police surveillance.
When one of the Cody family is brutally dispatched, tensions escalate - and soon Josh is in deeper than he expected - and with Guy Pearce's Detective Leckie using him as leverage to try and bring down the syndicate, Josh soon realizes he has to take a side - and that the wrong one could cost him his life.
Animal Kingdom is a tense enthralling affair which hooks you in when you least expect it.
Thanks to the wonderfully layered performance of newcomer James Frecheville,you're caught in the grip of this slick slow burning thriller as you're never quite sure when it's going to explode into violence; there's little of that throughout but thanks to welcome directorial restraint, when it does happen,you're shocked.
With a moody ominous OST, some scenes crackle with uncertainty as you wait for the inevitable to hit. Ben Mendelsohn deserves mention as the volatile uncle Pope whose actions drive so much of the film.
Animal Kingdom is the perfect intelligent and excellently plotted antidote to fast paced unsubstantial crime films- it's a savage must see.
Extras: A plethora of goodies including, commentaries with directors and cast; interview with crime writer Tom Noble; trailer and a feature length doco all make this an essential package.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 17 December 2010

Predators: DVD Review

Predators: DVD Review

Predators
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
The fifth film in the Predator franchise had a lot to live upto following the disappointments of the Aliens vs Predators entries.
Helmed by Robert Rodriguez, it sees Adrien Brody as one of a group of misfit mercenaries trapped on a foreign planet. As the group begins to investigate, they realise not only are they inside a game reserve, they're being hunted and suddenly it becomes a fight for survival.
Not exactly a mess, but this Predators film feels a little like harking back to its greatest hits rather than moving the franchise on.
Fans generally of the Predators series will see it as a return to form (and Adrien Brody is great in this all gruff and buffed up) but others may be scratching their heads as to what exactly is going on.
Extras: Over an hour of extras on Blu Ray - one of which is the motion comic picture starring Danny Trejo - it's a great entry and along with commentaries and doco looking at the rebirth of the Predators, it's a reasonable set.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop: DVD Review

Exit Through the Gift Shop: DVD Review

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Released by Madman
Rating: M
Fresh from dominating the scene at the New Zealand International Film Festival, comes this marvellous doco about the pop art world and those who dwell within it.
It's about the birth of the street graffiti movement which swept up a generation and defined a movement.
Narrated with laconic ease by Rhys Ifans, its "star" is Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker who somehow managed to find himself in the birth of the scene simply because he never put down a camera.
Guetta is a French immigrant in Los Angeles, who's obsessed with the street art scene and sets out to capture it for a documentary he's making - however, Guetta, a weaselly man in his forties simply manages to do this just by being in the right place at the right time.
Intoxicated with the art world around him, Guetta sets out to interview all of those involved under the idea of making a doco -even though he doesn't know what he's doing - and somehow manages to instill confidence in everyone around him.
However, Guetta finds he can't get an interview with the one man who's become synonymous with the street art scene, a character known only as Banksy, who never lets his face be seen in this film - and has his voice disguised throughout. Banksy became notorious for his pieces of art in the UK - and the more the mystery around him grows, the more desperate Guetta becomes to meet him.
One day, their paths cross - and Guetta decides he will follow into the art scene - with disastrous and hilarious results.
Exit Through The Gift Shop is laugh out loud funny in places, riotous in others - and will suck you in with its smart style but you may wonder if this is a prank initiated by Banksy who's famed for duping the world.
It's clever film making and could be the dawn of the prankumentary as it seems at times that this piece could be a mock doco with the wool being pulled firmly over the public's eyes - and the art world.
Extras: Doco about Banksy; deleted scenes and the lawyer's edit - all intriguing stuff adding to the feel of the film

Rating: 8/10

Going Long, Going Hard: DVD Review

Going Long, Going Hard: DVD Review

Going Long, Going Hard
Released by Stormy Dog Productions
Rating: G
As you get ready to batten down the hatches for the onslaught of the rellies over Christmas, believe it or not, there are actually some who are suffering worse conditions during the break.
They are the endurance athletes who take part in Epic Camp - a nationwide event which runs from the very top of Cape Reinga to the very tip of Bluff over 16 days of the Christmas period.
It's the idea of former world Ironman champion Scott Molina - and this independently shot and filmed doco follows some of the world's top Ironman athletes - and average punters as they pit their wits and skills against the wilds of Aotearoa.
We follow the group of some 22 athletes from all around the world - some are lawyers, some are professional athletes. But all of them are after something special offered by the camp experience; whether it's the camaraderie or the simple effort of completing the 2500 km journey, it's clearly something they'll never forget - or outsiders will fully understand.
The non-intrusive style of the doco, coupled with some beautifully shot New Zealand landscape panoramics, encapsulate why some travel from all over the world to take part.
The doco follows the athletes as they run, bike and swim the programme. With a pulsing wild drum soundtrack and the dulcet tones of former ONE Sport presenter Geoff Bryan, Going Long, Going Hard is an intriguing look at the psychology of why - and how they do it. With highs and inevitable lows (bikes breaking, support vehicles failing), the piece zips along as it negotiates the punishing nationwide route.
With snippets of interviews of those involved - including the support crew, you can get (almost) the full experience of being a part of this.
But one minor problem is that with 22 athletes, it's difficult (and nigh on impossible) to get to know every single one of them because of the doco's 50 minute running time.
And it's because of that, that you feel ever so slightly removed from the fully intimate nature of this. It's a shame that you maybe don't get to follow one athlete - amateur or pro - from beginning to end and get their reactions to really invest in the reasons and psychology of why people push themselves so hard.
There's also an intriguing part which shows the group of relatively tight athletes splintering and a pack mentality manifesting itself on one athlete- which to an outsider is interesting but is left a little dangling.
But those are minor niggles in the main doco; and one of them is more than made up for in the extra features - thanks to footage from the cameras given to the athletes during the camp. Those extra insights fully flesh out the characters and their motivations for doing it (and therefore provide you with an idea of what kind of person does this).
Noticeably accessible to all for a sports doco, and definitely watchable, Going Long, Going Hard may appeal a little more to the sports fans among you; but to the casual viewer, it's a tantalising peek into a world many of us may never feel we may excel in.

Rating: 7/10

Sex And The City 2: DVD Review

Sex And The City 2: DVD Review

Sex and The City 2
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Carrie and the girls return in the sequel to the first film and the eternally popular HBO series.
Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie is now married to Chris Noth's Mr Big and struggling with the idea of faithfulness and what comes after I Do. Her ennui is compounded by the rest of the girls who're having issues of their own; Samantha's hitting menopause, Charlotte's jealous of her young nanny and Miranda is struggling with work.
They end up taking a trip to the Middle East and Carrie bumps into an old flame - and suddenly everything's changing for all the girls&.
It's fair to say that Sex and The City 2 is a mess - while it's aiming for the girls' night out crowd, it fails to engage anyone else and with a terrible script which isn't funny, original or entertaining, it's a real disappointment.
Extras: A second disc collects together 100 minutes of extras including an interview with SJP, doco on the men of SATC, and look back at the 80s.

Rating: 4/10

Somewhere: Movie Review

Somewhere: Movie Review

Somewhere
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Sofia Coppolla
After winning us over with the Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppolla returns with this tale of a Hollywood bad boy spending his days in a hotel.
Stephen Dorff gives a brilliant turn as Johnny Marco, who's living a life of excess as he works through a press junket and life beyond. Disconnected from life and lacking any real emotional connection aside from the obligatory few sexual liaisons, Marco's life is changed when he receives an unexpected visit from his daughter, Cleo (played by another of the prodigious Fanning clan).
Marco takes Cleo in and out on the road to Italy with him as he does publicity for his new film and picks up an award - but when he returns to America, he starts to realise that he's lacking the emotional connection in his life&
Somewhere is trademark Coppolla all over - long, lingering shots peppered with silent moments run rampant through this film (which isn't going to be to everyone's taste). The director also wrote the story as well so it's very much an arthouse passion project.
But it's incredibly catchy, hypnotic and at times, ethereal- sort of like watching a cloud in motion; it kind of wafts past you and you appreciate its fragility but then move on.
Stephen Dorff commands the screen with a believable and strong performance as the washed out Hollywood bad boy who's lost. Dozing off while twins pole dance for him is just one of the character highlights and signs of the emotional state of the guy.
However, he's more than matched by Elle Fanning as his daughter - it's clear there's another Fanning talent on the way through as well.

The pair make a likeable duo and thanks to Copolla's direction which sees plenty of shots holding on people, places and events, it's a welcome relief from all the fast paced and frenetic film making these days. Be warned - It won't be to everyone's tastes though.

Tron: Legacy Movie Review

Tron: Legacy Movie Review

Tron Legacy
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen
Director: Joseph Kosinski
It's the sequel that's been nearly 30 years in the making.
Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam Flynn, the son of former inventor and computer genius, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). Kevin disappeared nearly 30 years ago, leaving behind Sam, a major company Encom and a lot of questions.
Since that disappearance, Sam's now grown up and is somewhat restless, flitting between being the CEO of Encom and running into trouble with the law.
But when he receives word from family friend Alan (Boxleitner) that a page was sent from Flynn's arcade (run by Kevin in the 80s), he heads to see how that's possible and if his father is truly still alive.
And then, he's sucked into the world of the computer run Grid and into a fight for his life - as well as the fate of our universe hanging in his hands.
Tron Legacy is this year's Avatar.
That is to say, last year while everyone was raving about Avatar and its special effects (rightfully so I'll add), I wasn't blown away by the story and the characters within.
I think, unfortunately, the same is true of Tron.
Visually and aesthetically, I was gobsmacked by the digital world they've created for this - it looks stunning and is spectacular with its vibrant neon blues and oranges standing out in the Blade Runneresque computer world. Scenes of combat, reminiscent of the gladiator's arena from Roman times, are also sensationally shot.Coupled with an incredible electronic soundtrack of dizzyingly good synth from Daft Punk, the cyber-look of this film is, hands down, easily one of the best of the year.
If not, the best.
But the problem comes with the overall plot.
Let's start with the good though - Olivia Wilde is a brilliant naïf in this - she plays Quorra, someone born of the virtual world and provides some of the humour. Likewise, Michael Sheen's seriously OTT cameo brings some much needed relief.
While Tron Legacy is admirably and well acted by Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund, it's a little disappointing in terms of the characters and slightly clunking dialogue. Bridges plays a sort of self appointed guru in this - as well as a digitally younger version of himself (again, impressively executed).
At times, when he's spouting philosophies and dialogue like "You're messing with my Zen thing", there's a danger of his head disappearing firmly up his virtual ass. Coupled with a distinct lack of real substance and emotional connection, the over riding feeling with Tron Legacy is that the script could have been so much more.

As simple cinematic spectacle, Tron Legacy is one of the best of the year without a shadow of a doubt; just don't expect to have your heart moved as much as perhaps you should.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Avatar: Collector's Edition: Blu Ray Review

Avatar: Collector's Edition: Blu Ray Review

Avatar - Collector's Edition

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment


One year after it hit the cinemas and shook the box office of all its cash, and on the heels of its own DVD release, comes this collector's extended edition of Avatar.

James Cameron's film's already been critiqued by many as the amazing effects/ shoddy plot so what's the point of this release?

Well, with an extended opening plus extra footage within the film, it serves to extend and enrich the visit to Pandora - with three versions of the film making up one disc and the other two devoted to extras (including docos and deleted scenes), there's certainly much to enjoy on the set (even if you're not blown away by the story of the film).

Avatar's collector's edition is essential viewing as it really does go a long way to build the experience of what went into the cinematic phenomenon - and with two other films on the way, it's clearly only just the beginning. Sure, it's not the most perfect film ever, but for spectacle (and in clear HD) it really is impressive.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 13 December 2010

Knight and Day: Blu Ray Review

Knight and Day: Blu Ray Review

Knight and Day -

Released by Roadshow
Rating: M
It's rare these days to get a seasonal blockbuster film which takes a fresh look at the tired action genre.
Knight And Day is that film - Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz reteam in this action comedy. Diaz is a ditzyish June Havens who's on the way to her sister's for wedding duties; while at the airport, she literally bumps into Tom Cruise's enigmatic, beaming and slightly cocky Roy Miller.
There's an instant attraction and spark between them - and soon June finds she's on the same flight as Roy as the plane takes off.
But then things get a bit weird. As June freshens up in the bathroom, Miller becomes an action hero and despatches all of those on the plane who're trying to kill him.
After the plane's set down, Miller explains to June that the FBI (in the form of Peter Sarsgaard) will come looking for her and she's not to trust anyone.
So, June finds herself thrust into Miller's world and sent on a globetrotting quest&.in more ways than she could have expected.
Part of the joy of Knight and Day is how the plot unfolds (hence very little spoilers here) because it doesn't conform initially to your expectations. The mystery remains well until half way through the film - Mangold and the writers seem to have subverted the expectations of the traditional winter time blockbuster - while there's an action sequence at the start on the plane, a lot of it's broken up by the quick dialogue and interaction between the beaming Cruise and wide grin Diaz.
It's their sparky relationship which powers the majority of the film (although it lapses into a few stock action scenes later on) and peppered with some great one liners and funny moments, it makes for an entertaining mix and a refreshing piece of cinema.
Once the full extent of the plot is revealed, there is a bit of a lull, but thanks to good solid supporting performances of Paul Dano as a boy genius and Peter Sarsgaard as an FBI agent, it's no drag to get to the end.
Knight and Day is a welcome entrant into the sometimes tired comedy action thriller genre - and a welcome distraction from the school holiday movie fodder.
Extras: The release comes in a specially extended cut and includes featurettes, music videos and the viral videos which were shot for the film. A solid if unspectacular bunch for the film.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Megamind: Movie Review

Megamind: Movie Review

.Megamind
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill
Director: Tom McGrath
So with the endless, long summer holidays just around the corner, there's a push to keep the kids entertained.
Enter the latest animated outing, this time from Dreamworks and starring Will Ferrell in Megamind.
Ferrell is big blue headed supervillain Megamind, a kind of cross between the Mars Attacks creatures and the Mekon. Dispatched from his dying planet by his parents, he begins a rivalry with Metroman (voiced by Brad Pitt), who was also sent from a dying world by family.
But unlike Metroman who landed in an estate with well to do parents, Megamind crashed into the penitentiary and was brought up as a villain.
After years of rivalry "where Metroman would win some battles, but I (Megamind) would almost win others," Megamind finally gains the upper hand and kills Metroman off.
However, after the initial thrill of dispatching his lifelong rival, ole Bluey realizes that his life is quite empty without someone to thwart his dastardly plans - and so conceives to give superpowers to a regular schlub to give him purpose in life.
Those powers go accidentally to Hal (played by Jonah Hill) who's in love with reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey). But when Hal's rejected, the world has a new villain to fight&.and it's upto Megamind to save the day.
Thematically similar in many ways to this year's Despicable Me, Megamind is still good quality family fare with a spark of originality about it.
But it takes a little while to settle in - the initial 3D with things being thrown in the air is lazy and unoriginal (and seems to be only there to showcase the fact the film is in 3D).
Once the film's settled down, there's much to enjoy though - with unexpected humour and great one liners through out (some of which will require a second viewing to really pick up on.)
There's also plenty of riffing on the Superman myth; right from the opening sequence to Megamind becoming a Brandoesque mentor to Hal when he gives him new powers. There's also some great visual gags peppering the film throughout - the best of which is an Obama inspired poster which amuses greatly.
While Ferrell brings his patented lunatic schtick and absurd banter to the role and the rest of the cast do well, yet it's Arrested Development's David Cross who really shines in this.
As Megamind's minion, a sort of fish in a goldfish bowl atop a robot, Cross is just brilliant with some of the best lines.
It's inevitable there'll be a sequel to this given how well it's already done in the states and to be honest, you can't do worse than this family entertainment piece to kill off a little time during the Christmas holidays.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter
Director: Michael Apted
In this latest Narnia film, which has taken a while to arrive on the big screen following Disney's decision to leave the franchise behind, it's back to the land of Narnia for the Pevensie siblings, Edmund and Lucy (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley).
Via a portrait of a ship on the sea, the duo - along with pesky cousin Eustace (Son of Rambow's Will Poulter) - are pulled back into the world and straight onto the ship, the Dawn Treader - and its quest.
Under the helmship of King Caspian (Ben Barnes), the gang are trying to locate the seven Lords and their seven swords to try and banish evil from Narnia.
But as all of them fall deeper into the quest, their faith and resolve are tested by the dark forces at play in Narnia.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a film which feels like it's from another time in many ways.
It's a very traditional family piece which will appeal to the younger end of the market - and certainly the kids in the audience with whom I saw the film were entranced by certain parts and the antics of animated, swash buckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg) as well as by Will Poulter's terribly annoying Eustace.
There's swashbuckling aplenty at any given moment in this - any excuse to take out swords and have a bit of a fight; unfortunately that leads to the film feeling a tad repetitive throughout as it negotiates "the fight, get captured, escape plot" running through.
Complete with comments such as "Evil has the upper hand", the film misfires a little and doesn't fully engage a wider audience. The kids do a reasonable job of giving their characters some life - and the majority of the laughs go to stuck up Eustace and Reepicheep, but there's little to keep the older section of the audience feeling like they're watching something new here.
That said, there are some pretty impressive effects; the scene where the water comes gushing out of the picture and brings the kids back to Narnia is well done - and the evil green mist floating around adds a layer of much needed menace.

Sure, there's messages in there about faith, being true to yourself and dealing with temptations (which some will understand more than others) but the unspectacular Voyage of the Dawn Treader treads dangerously into the territory of Voyage of the Yawn Treader.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Movie Review

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Movie Review

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rating: 6/10

Cast: Tommi Korpela, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ville Virtanen, Jorma Tommila, Onni Tommila

Director: Jalmari Helander
A Finnish fantasy tale, Rare Exports is an odd beast.
It's set in the Finnish Korvatunturi mountains; it's there a series of miners on an archaeological dig believe they've unearthed one of the biggest secrets of the festive season: Santa Claus.
But while the digging goes on, a pack of hunters in a nearby village is beset by strange goings on; their reindeer are slaughtered and children begin to go missing. However, while the hunters are at a loss to what's going on, one child Pietari (Onni Tommila) seems to be fully aware of the danger they face....
Rare Exports is a twisted slice of Christmas fare; from its Gothic opening titles where the horror of a folklore Santa Claus is revealed, it's clear this isn't a tale of "ho, ho, ho" more like "ho, ho, holy heck what was that?"
There's some beautiful scenery though; the white crisp snow and the mountains look absolutely stunning on the screen; and images such as the slaughtered reindeer look at odds with that. However, that's what the director's gone for with this - it subtly pulls the carpet from under you when you least expect it.
There's a slow atmospheric build up to the big reveal about what's hunting the hunters and what the miners have uncovered; but when the jolts come, they're fairly effective and you won't look at Santa again without seeing a ghoulish emaciated figure with a glint of pure evil in its eyes looking back. It's also odd seeing zombie style imagery being associated with the festive season - but it's that kind of film.

Rare Exports is aiming for cult glory and is bound to be embraced by those who love it; it doesn't quite live up to the initial idea despite the dry dark humour on display. It's a slightly odd maqcabre take on the Christmas story - with its dalliances of the potential evil nature of Santas past, it shows a devilish glint in its eye. It's for that very reason some will love it, and others will wonder why they do.

Easy A : Movie Review

Easy A : Movie Review

Easy A
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Emma Stone, Lisa Kudrow, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Malcolm McDowell
Director: Will Glack
The teen comedy genre gets a welcome shot with this new film, loosely based on the infamous book The Scarlet Letter.
Emma Stone, so wonderful in Zombieland with The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg, stars as Olive Penderghast, who finds her world changed when she's caught up in a lie.
After avoiding a friend's camping trip for a weekend, Olive's badgered into confessing that she slept with a college guy over that 48 hour period; something which is patently untrue but one which is given life despite her protestations to the contrary.
Within hours, the school campus is full of the rumour that Olive's become a harlot - and so much so, that one gay friend, Brandon, comes to her asking for help to get bullies off his back.
So Olive pretends to sleep with him at a public party and a reputation is cemented.
However, Olive soon finds that this faux harlot life is more of a curse than a blessing - and sets about trying to tell the truth - before everything around her falls apart.
Easy A is a success because of its sharp and funny script - but more importantly because of its star in the making turn by Emma Stone. I'm going to avoid any references or comparisons to other teen redheads who may have fallen off the rails in Hollywood, because I do believe this girl will be around for a long time to come. Self effacing, amusing and incredibly watchable, Stone carries the film and gives a performance which is pitch perfect.
But the script is also the star of this film - it sparkles with deadpan humour and sarcasm (mainly from Olive's liberal parents, brilliantly portrayed by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) which will see many enjoy it. Throw in some 1980s references to teen films which have preceded this and you have a film which constantly tips a nod to what's gone before it and acknowledges its debt to influential teen genius John Hughes.
Yet this film is clearly Emma Stone's vehicle - she shows she's got a bright future ahead and can deliver wry and sparky material complete with unexpectedly humourous moments in a way which demonstrates she'll be around for a long, long time.