Sunday, July 31, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger
Year: 2011
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper
In My Own Words
                I wanted to like Captain America: The First Avenger. I really did. It was one of the films this blockbuster season that I had been really looking forward to. No one can accuse me of going into the film convinced that I was going to see something I dislike. I’m not going to say what I thought about the movie in detail here as that is what my review is for, but you can already guess what I thought of it without me saying any extra. It does not detract from my excitement about The Avengers though! I can’t help but think that it really has to be a really bad-ass villain to have any sort of battle with the five superhero’s they will be going up against. The whole concept of the Marvel superheroes joining forces in this cinematic spectacle is definitely intriguing. Who else is excited?
                There was another let down for me. I was excited about seeing British actor Natalie Dormer in a rare film appearance. I am a big fan of The Tudors in which Dormer played the ill-fated Queen of England and second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn.  Dormer played the sassy Private Lorraine in Captain America: The First Avenger who takes a strong liking to Steve. Unfortunate for me, she was in all of two scenes and on screen for no more than three minutes. Oh well, I look forward to seeing her next in W.E. where she will play Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother.
These are my own words and here is my review.
                Captain America: The First Avenger, just to make you all confused, is the last Marvel superhero film before the superhero reunion film, The Avengers. Captain America is the First Avenger as, unlike other superhero films released in the past few years, his story belongs in the war torn 1940’s. So the big difference between this film and other action films is that it would be out of place to have amazing and spectacular special effects which we are now so used to. The action not completely absent or dull, but in order to take a step back in something in a film, something else is to be enhanced in order for it to be successful. This is where Captain America: The First Avenger completely lacks.  The action and special effects are toned down for an action film, but nothing else stands up in its place.
                Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has always been discriminated against because of his height and size, but this has never stopped him standing up for something which he has believed in. He watches everyone around him go off to war while he has to wait at home. He is then approached by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who offers him a chance to join in the army and take part in a project he is involved in. This project is the end of Steve’s woes and the beginning of Captain America. Steve soon finds out that he is the one who can save America from the evil Johann Schmitt (Hugo Weaving). He is the hero America has been waiting for.
                Captain America: The First Avenger had HUGE potential. As said previously, it wasn’t appropriate for a film like this to have amazing action sequences with special effects that will blow your mind and amazing high tech machinery as it is set in the 1940’s. So this should have been huge opportunity to bring a great war story into the film and make the film into something we haven’t seen in years. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There is a story there, just not a strong script to support it and make it engrossing. It is actually even quite boring at times when there is no action happening. It is fair enough normally that a superhero movie doesn’t have a strong story as that isn’t normally the focal point of an action film, but tone down the action and you need to turn something else up.
                One of the more entertaining moments in the film is when Steve becomes Captain America and instead of joining the men in the war fields (which you barely see anything of anyway), he becomes a comic book hero who goes on tour and features in motion pictures. It is a fun part of the film and is reminiscent of how Captain America really was perceived in the 1940’s.
                The special effects which the film does employ are also subject to some criticism. The computer generated and enhanced images look computer generated. Before Steve becomes Captain America, more often than not the visions of the character look like Chris Evans head pasted on a body, not like a smaller version of Evans as a whole. Visions of Evans running through the streets of Brooklyn just after his transformation also look computer generated. Even if the movie is set in the 1940’s, it doesn’t mean that you should take any less pride in making the special effects as realistic as possible.
                The acting is really little more than just reading their lines for the majority of the cast. Chris Evans does do a good job at leading the ensemble. Although it does feel as though he tries more when he is the smaller Steve Rogers, which would make sense because it is more just an action role once he becomes Captain America.  He was the perfect choice for the role as he is just likable in both of his personas and comes across as just a good guy.
                Hugo Weaving is a perfect villain as Johann Schmitt. He is quite terrifying at times, even before he shows his true self as Red Skull. Stanley Tucci is a treat to watch and is actually quite a fun character. Hayley Atwell does well in her role as Steve’s trusted ally and love interest, Peggy Carter. She has one in particular great, emotionally charged scene. However, we have no idea who her character is or where she has come from. Before he is transformed, Steve says “I guess I just don't why you'd wanna join the army if you're a beautiful dame. ...” Peggy doesn’t give an answer and leaves him guessing as well as us.
                As a whole, Captain America: The First Avenger isn’t the worst film of the year by all means, although it had so much potential and it could have been so much more than what it was. It is still entertaining enough and gives you your superhero fix for this half of the year.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Conspirator

The Conspirator
Year: 2010
Director: Robert Redford
Cast: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Kevin Kline, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel
In My Own Words
                I am not going to pretend here that I am an expert on American history because I am far from it. Growing up in Australia, American history is barely uttered in our high school education. I hate to say it, but the first American history lesson I got was by watching The Simpsons. Pop culture is great, isn’t it? Can’t say we don’t learn anything from it! The majority of my American history education comes from my trips to Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Boston, three great cities all with fascinating fragments of America’s history.
One of my friends lives in Washington, DC and certainly knows her US history, so she was the perfect person to have with me to show me the sights and the history behind each place. My favourite sight to see in Washington, DC is the Lincoln Memorial. This memorial is the perfect tribute to the man himself. The statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln is seated in the middle of the memorial as if he is looking back down the Mall towards the Capitol. However, there are some places you can stand in the memorial where it feels as though Lincoln has turned his head and is looking straight at you. The thing I love the most about this memorial is that Abe is larger than life and completely intimidating, just as I expect he was in real life.
One particular scene in The Conspirator which I found particularly haunting was the scene where they are taking Lincoln from the theater to the house across the street after he has been shot by John Wilkes Booth. This film was particularly well made, as it shows the chaos that followed after the assassination. Everybody was confused and distraught, yet wanted to catch a glimpse of their beloved president as he was carried out. The musical score supporting this scene completely enhanced the craziness of this scene as well. The most haunting part about it for me was the fact that I have been outside the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot and inside the room in The Peterson House where he was pronounced dead. I had never actually pictured all the chaos which was part of that night when I was there, I just pictured a few men running across the road with the president in their arms. The chaos seems far more appropriate for the situation than a quiet night I had always pictured.
These are my own words and here is my review.
It has been awhile since we have seen a good American period film. Admittedly there are a few American historical films in the pipeline at the present time, but it can be said with confidence that The Conspirator will be one of the better ones you will see. Robert Redford has done a great job of bringing this part of American history alive, although there are several parts of the film he could have expanded on which would have taken The Conspirator from a very good film to an excellent film.
It is the 15th of April 1865, the night which President Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth. However, everyone knows that one man shot the president, but he wasn’t the only one who orchestrated it. In the days following the assassination, the authorities go after the conspirators and arrest those suspected, including Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) who owns the boarding house which Booth and the other conspirators stayed at and conducted their meetings from. Young lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is given the job to represent her in her trial, whether he believes she is guilty or not. He is soon faced with the dilemma that Surratt seems to be accepting guilt in order to save her son who has disappeared and is also suspected, and that also of his reputation in Washington being tarnished.
The Conspirator above all is a great history lesson. The time period is represented beautifully in the way which 19th century Washington, DC is recreated. The scenery is very impressive and you can really feel what it would be like to be in the city in the time following the Civil War. The way each scene is constructed is commendable as each scene means something and contributes towards the film as a whole. Each scene is informative, entertaining and gives you a piece of new information that you didn’t know in the last scene.
However, it does feel like Redford could have pushed harder with several issues that are bought up in the film, but are not represented the way they should be. For example, when Aiken starts to notice how his social life is affected and how people are treating him in general because of the trial, there isn’t really a sense of it causing him any sense of inner turmoil or any sense of discomfort to the audience. Sure he gets denied going into a party and nudged in the street, but Redford should have pushed this point further in order to grasp what a big deal representing a southerner who is being tried for the murder of the beloved president. It is something which was such a big issue in those times especially because the war was not long over and tensions were still high between the south and the north and the idea of someone from the north representing someone from the south was considered shocking.
Redford may have also done well to push further with the relationships in the film. The relationship between Aiken and Surratt is almost a love/ hate relationship and is quite intriguing. Yet, the relationship between Aiken and his love interest, Sarah (Alexis Bledel) is just dull and would almost do better to not be there, much like Bledel’s performance in the role.
The script was quite well written, yet still seemed a bit weak at times. However, there really are some heart breaking moments in the film. The scene where Lincoln is shot and carried across the road is done brilliantly and a wonderful way to start the film.
Robin Wright is the stand out performance in this film. It is not hard to feel sorry for her character and even be drawn emotionally to her. Wright is just so believable in this role. She truly becomes Surratt in every way. James McAvoy also does very well, but we all know he does well in period films. His performance gradually gets better and better through the film. Evan Rachel Wood is also wonderful in this film giving a heartfelt performance as Surratt’s daughter, Anna.
One thing is sure about The Conspirator, it will be a great film for history classes across the United States in years to come. It is very interesting and there are some wonderful points. Mr Redford just needs to push harder.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher
Year: 2011
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch
In My Own Words
                Hooray! Cameron Diaz is back to what she does so well, the comedies! I love Diaz when she is in comedies and light hearted movies and then I see her in the dramatic roles and I think she is bland. Actually that is a little harsh, let’s just say I find her more endearing and likable in the roles which she is most remembered for, such as The Mask, There’s Something About Mary, Charlie’s Angels and The Sweetest Thing. Even in Bad Teacher where her character is so unethically inclined and is the type of person I would hate in real life, she is still likable. It’s a good problem to have, being likable in every role you do your niche. I think I also have a soft spot for Diaz as she is from Long Beach in California, which is where I used to live for a time!
                An experience in the cinema today got me thinking. I had a middle aged couple sitting behind me when the film started. They seemed really “happy-go-lucky” laughing with each other before the movie began. Then 10 minutes into the film, I had to turn around and politely tell them to please stop talking. Judging by their body language then, they did not look like they were enjoying the movie at all. Sometime in the next five minutes, they left the film.
                Personally I have never walked out of a film. I can’t comprehend spending money on a film and then not seeing the whole thing. Even if I am not enjoying it, I give the film the benefit of the doubt and stay just in case it does get better. I can understand some people can get really offended by a film and feel they have to leave for personal reasons. If people are offended by the language or the violent content of a film, that does make me confused. The censorship ratings are there for a reason. People should really take notice of them. Bad Teacher is rated M 15+ for sexual references, sex scenes, drug use and coarse language. This doesn’t mean they may be there, they are there. If these things offend you, then maybe you shouldn’t see the film.
                These are my own words and here is my review.
                2011 is the year of girls behaving badly in film. Bad Teacher continues on this trend, yet brings something different to the table. It is truly a one woman show led by Cameron Diaz and is very funny. However, it is one of those comedies which relies more on the jokes than on the storyline and the story dissolves into the jokes.
                Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) doesn’t like being a teacher, and she likes it even less when she has to come back from retirement after she is dumped by her fiancĂ©. She decides that in order to be happy she needs to get breast implants, but she needs to raise at least $9000. When she meets new teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), her ambition grows to impress this awkward but attractive colleague. She has to compete with another teacher, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) to get the man and in all her spite and competitiveness, Elizabeth ends up doing some things right.
                The huge problem with this film is that the story and the script do not blend with the comedy to make a successful film. There are many jokes which are irrelevant to what is going on and there are actually a lot of questions left unanswered. It is as though director Jake Kasdan is more concerned with getting the audience to laugh rather than provide them with a journey. Granted, there are some very funny moments. Some comedy moments may feel a bit over the top and just plain ridiculous to some people. There are some crude moments, but for a comedy about a woman obsessed with getting herself breast implants, what would you expect? However, it could have been a lot worse than what it was considering the subject matter.
The script doesn’t address anything which happens before or after the film such as where the characters are from and why they are the way they are. In other words, the character development is just weak and almost non-existent. For example, Elizabeth clearly has no family in the film, but what happened to them? Where are they? Why is Elizabeth the way she is? Did something happen to her or was she bought up that way? Anybody watching this does not feel as though they really know Elizabeth even after watching her for an hour and a half.
Cameron Diaz does do a very good job at playing the bad girl heroine. She is very funny and manages to still be likable while playing someone who is not supposed to be so. Diaz has the “I don’t give a hoot what you are talking about” look down to a tee. Her character of Elizabeth is actually quite unsettling at times and is believable how scheming she is. Diaz was perfectly cast in this film and it is refreshing to see her play a character which is a twist on her stereotypical good girl roles in her comedy films.
Jason Segel is great as gym teacher Russell Gettis with his sarcastic and random comedy moments. Justin Timberlake is good enough, but the nerdiness of the character could have been pushed further. He still seems too cool to be a dork. His song, “Simpatico” is a real treat in the film. Lucy Punch achieves what she sets out to achieve with her character by being irritating and increasing the attractiveness of Diaz’s character. However, her character does provide another unanswered questioned for the film. What was it that she did in 2008 which everybody keeps talking about throughout the film?     
Bad Teacher isn’t one of the best written films you will see as far as the story goes, yet it does give some laughs and some great one-liners. Diaz is the shining star and it is impossible to believe that this film would have been anything at all without her.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mr Popper's Penguins

Mr Popper’s Penguins
Year: 2011
Director:  Mark Waters
Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury
In My Own Words
                I feel like Jim Carrey was the comedian I grew up with. It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years since Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was released. I was quite young when it came out so I didn’t get a lot of the jokes in it, yet I always loved Carrey’s impersonation of the Miami Dolphins mascot which he was trying to track down. Then came The Mask and Carrey secured his status as a superstar. I loved The Mask, still do actually. I love the comedic timing in the film. As the loser Stanley Ipkiss, he is absolutely endearing and you hate how much he gets kicked around. Put on his mask and he is a chauvinist, but absolutely hysterical.
                Since 2004 he has an impressive portfolio of comedy films, as well as a dabble in dramatic films such as the critically acclaimed Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. He has slowed down with his films in the past few years, so when he appears in a film, he is such a crowd drawer. So many of my friends were over the moon when Yes Man was released in 2008…including me! It was like our old Jim Carrey back. I only wish in 2011 he could have done the same.
These are my own words and here is my review.
Mr Popper’s Penguins is a good entertaining holiday movie. However, if we remove the fact that this film was a film released during the school holidays, it would be neither good nor entertaining. It is a good movie for the time in which it has been released. Mr Popper’s Penguins is “G” rated so it is a good family film for those parents looking to keep their children occupied for at least an hour and a half of their holidays. Otherwise, it is good for little else really.
                Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) is a high flying New York businessman who fills his life up with work to avoid thinking about the painful past. He is divorced, but still has feelings for his ex wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and his children, Janie (Madeline Carroll) and Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) naturally expect him to let them down. When he inherits six penguins from his deceased father, Popper’s life is turned upside down. His work life suffers, but he starts to become the father he always should have been… both his children and the penguins.
                You can clearly tell that Mr Popper’s Penguins is supposed to be a cute and funny film. One would think with six penguins that it would be a cute and fluffy film. Yet, there are very few cute moments. There is more penguin toilet humour than anything else, which may be your sense of humour but penguin toilet humour hasn’t been too successful in the past as this film will back up. There are some cute moments far and in between, but not many moment where you feel like you want to pick up and cuddle the penguins.
                The script is just very weak and besides the penguins doing their business everywhere and their fluctuations, the jokes are very old, transparent and predictable. Perhaps the best thing about the script is picking up on all the old Hollywood references such as that of the penguins watching Charlie Chaplin, Mr Popper being likened to Howard Hughes and Mr Popper’s imitation of James Stewart. It may be the presence of Angela Lansbury, who was a star of the golden age of Hollywood herself that prompted these references.  On the other hand, this may be the film’s way of keeping the adult audience happy as well as the young, and some people still may not get these references.
                The main thing you have to say about Jim Carrey in this film is that it isn’t vintage Carrey material. There are so many Carrey facial expressions and comedic material that are used in this film which are not relevant at all and are only included because that is what Carrey has always done in better films. It isn’t his worst acting in a film, but light years from his best.
                Truth be told, there isn’t really any stand out performances in this film. Angela Lansbury is perhaps the only performance worth mentioning in a positive light, but her character isn’t given anywhere near as much screen time as is warranted.
                The problem with the characters in this film is that there is no chemistry or emotion between any of them. Carrey and Carla Gugino just look awkward and mismatched on the screen at all times  and there is only talk of the fatherly love he starts top show towards both his children and the penguins, but no actual proof in the performances. However, Madeline Carroll does show a hint of potential in this film for the future.
                Mr Popper’s Penguins doesn’t achieve anything it sets out to. The only thing it succeeds in doing is filling up an hour and a half of summer break in the northern hemisphere and a winter’s day in the southern.  Still, clean family fun.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Year: 2011
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Tom Felton
In My Own Words
                Well, here we are. At the end of the Harry Potter film series. It really is the end of an era. I feel the way I did at the end of the Lord Of The Rings series, but perhaps a bit sadder to say goodbye than I was then. With Lord Of The Rings it was a film series of three years, Harry Potter it feels like when you were at school. You meet all these news friends on your first day of high school and on the last day of school it’s like you are saying goodbye forever. Although with leaving school you tend to see everybody again. No more Harry though! It really is a sad feeling for die hard supporters such as myself.
                I would be lying if I said I had always liked the Harry Potter books and movies. I have liked them for a long time now, but not since the first book or movie was released. I remember being in high school (that subject seems to be coming up a bit in this post) when the first book came out and quite a few of my school friends were reading. I was a tad confused as to why as I thought that Harry Potter was for children. A few years went by and when Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was released, I thought “I may want to see this film” (this was before I was a film reviewer). So I went out and hired the first two movies. I was hooked. This series was so much fun to watch and not to mention completely addictive. So I have been a die hard fan since 2004.
                I guess what a lot of people like about Harry Potter is not just that it has these three misfits who you almost fell like you get to grow up with or it  meddles with the idea of a magical, fun world running parallel with reality, but it is always a great form of discussion. Before the final book was released, theories about how it was going to end were flying around all over the place. Even know, people think there may be something more which J. K. Rowling isn’t telling us. The films and the books will always draw people together in conversation and be and interesting conversation starter.
                I miss the movies already and I have only been out of the cinema for an hour! It is a sad feeling that it is now all over. I really hope the best for Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. They are each wonderful actors in their own right and I really hope we are going to see lots more of them in the future. I recently saw Rupert Grint in Wild Target on DVD which I really enjoyed him in, and I am looking forward to seeing Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman In Black and Emma Watson in My Week With Marilyn.
                These are my own words and here is my Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 review. Enjoy.
                 “It All Ends” shouts the posters for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. And so it does. After 10 years and 8 Harry Potter films, the final movie event in J. K. Rowling’s phenomenon finally hits cinemas. It is a bittersweet experience for fans which these films and their almost annual releases have become a part of their lives for a decade. The final film doesn’t disappoint for these die hard fans. It is a fitting farewell to the characters which they love and stays true to the book, with some slight adjustments to aid the excitement on the big screen. However, those who haven’t seen any Harry Potter films before and are thinking about seeing this film, shouldn’t unless you watch at the very least Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
                The final Harry Potter film picks up right where it left off in Part 1. Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) power is at its strongest and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his ever trusted friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) know they have to find all the horcruxes in order to kill him once and for all. The showdown takes place at Hogwarts, which is now under the rule of assumed Voldemort follower Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). One thing is for certain in the final war between Harry and Voldemort, only one will survive.
                The great things about the final instalment of the Harry Potter series is that it delivers everything it promises to be. There is suspense from the beginning to the end of the film and it does stay true to the book. In some ways, the final scene at Hogwarts is anti-climatic and may be a bit too subtle for some people. However, it is plain to see why director, David Yates chose to make it like this. It isn’t clichĂ© or a scene where people wave their fists in the air in response to the ending of the battle, and it is a feeling of surrealism and calm now that it is finally all over, and a feeling of wondering where to go from there.
                The directing and cinematography is actually the best in this film than any of the other films. There are some great techniques used in filming some scenes in particular, such as at the very beginning when the three friends are standing outside Olivander’s door and are almost silhouettes. The sound affects for the battle scenes are very impressive, as are the visuals and special effects in these scenes.
                The only real downfall of the film is that it is not quite as emotional in certain scenes as it should be. This is not to say that there is no emotion in this film at all, as there definitely is and there are tears to be shed. Yet, some scenes such as when somebody is thought to be dead, there is only a reaction from one person and barely any tears from others who should be showing some type of emotion.
                As for the acting, job well done by all. Radcliffe gives his best performance as Potter in this film. He isn’t over the top and he is a complete natural now, as you would hope he would be as if he didn’t know his character inside and out by now, he never will. Only criticism is that his chemistry with Bonnie Wright, who plays his love interest, Ginny Weasley is almost non-existent.
                Again, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are very good. Neither is over the top and give their characters all they can. It is almost a moment of triumph when these two finally kiss on screen as everybody has been waiting for this for years. You can see that these two are very close as friends in real life, as they just work on screen together and are very sweet.
                Perhaps the best performance in the film is that of Alan Rickman. He is fantastic in this film. He has the most complex character in the series and in this final film, his character is completely broken down and all the raw emotion of this character comes to the screen. Ralph Fiennes is also brilliant as Voldemort. He is as evil as they come and shows no hint of having any good in his soul at all. Helena Bonham Carter is not on screen too much as Bellatrix Lestrange, but she makes an impact when she is. A great moment and a credit to her acting is when Hermione has taken the polyjuice potion to make her Bellatrix and Bonham Carter charges everything about her performance. You completely forget that you are watching Bonham Carter pretend to be Watson and believe that it really is Hermione trying to be Bellatrix.
                It is definitely a sad time to see the Harry Potter series finish up, but Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a fitting conclusion to the phenomenon. Again, non-fans of the books or movies or people who haven’t had anything to do with either, shouldn’t waste their time as they will have no idea what is going on, but fans will love it. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2
Year:  2011
Director: Jennifer Yuh
Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu
In My Own Words
                Actors must love animation roles. Sure, the obvious reason for loving them is that it provides an easier alternative to their usual on screen acting by only have to act using your voice rather than having to link it up with believable facial expressions and having to worry about where you are standing in relation to your co-stars. The reason I think animation roles are great for actors is because it gives them a great comeback when critics say “(insert name here) plays the same role all the time” and “ Such and Such isn’t a very versatile actor”. What a great way to prove them wrong! Provide the voice for an animated animal on the big screen! That will always provide a “different” role for you on the big screen!
                For example, Jack Black. Someone says “Jack, you are playing too many of the same roles. You always seem to be playing the guy who no one, including themselves takes seriously. You need to branch out to other roles”.
                Black says “Okay. Well, my next role will be about another underdog who no one takes seriously, but this time I will be a….PANDA!” (this isn’t actually a quote from Mr Black, this is just theoretical).
                I’m sure it’s not the versatility that critics are after, but at least it is fun for the actors, and it is a good comeback if someone says you play the same role all the time. “Oh yeah? I play the same role all the time? Well, when was the last time I played an aardvark? When have any of my roles resembled that of a big nosed creature on it four legs obsessed with eating ants?”
                These are my own words and here is my review.
                “The sequel is never as good as the original”.
                This is most probably what the majority of people would have been thinking about Kung Fu Panda 2, and they would have had good reason to as it is not often that a sequel comes anywhere near the quality of the original (The Godfather II  a major exception). However, it is a pleasant surprise to find that Kung Fu Panda 2 is just as good as the original, if not better. The animation is brilliant, script funny and it appeals to all ages.
                Po the Dragon Warrior panda (Jack Black) is back with his Furious Five team of kung fu warriors. When he finds out that the famous warrior, Thundering Rhino has been killed in Gongmen City  by the evil peacock, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) and his pack of wolves, he and the Furious Five set off to free the city from Lord Shen’s evil ways. Before leaving the Valley of Peace, Po was a “shocking” discovery that he is adopted and that his noodle cooking goose (he is actually a goose, not a silly person, although some may object) father, Mr Ping is not really his father. Po has reason to believe that Lord Shen knows who he really is and where he came from. To Po, this awesome mission is now personal.
                Animation in cinema has come a long way since the first animated feature length film, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves in 1937. The quality of the visuals in Kung Fu Panda 2 are very impressive. The action scenes are almost up to the standard of those which you would see in a non-animated action film. It’s not just the action scenes that make you forget that you are watching an animation, there are several nature visuals which you could easily mistake as being that of photography.
 On the other hand, there are then some scenes which resemble a video game, such as when Po is running through the streets of Gongmen City. This isn’t a bad thing, as this video game likeness makes the film a great deal of fun.
                Kung Fu Panda 2 doesn’t just rely on its visuals, it is also accompanied by a very funny script. It has a very sarcastic and random sense of humour to it with some very funny scenes and dialogue. The ending is a bit frustrating however. Although, you can understand why the film makers made it that way.
                The best performances in animation films are those who can disguise their voice to the point where you really can’t guess who’s voice it is you are hearing. Jack Black is the main voice and you can tell he has a lot of fun with the role. It is perfectly suited towards Po. Angelina Jolie is extremely controlled as Tigress and Dustin Hoffman, quite the peaceful master. It is Gary Oldman who does the best job. He tackles new territory as the voice of Shen and is completely disguised in the character. That’s the way it should be when an actor supplies their voice to a film, there should be a sense of becoming someone you’re not, even if it is just by using a different voice to your own.
                Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel out of the ordinary. Funnier than the first film and more suspenseful than many non-animated films. A great film for the holidays for families and adults alike.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Year: 2011
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich
In My Own Words
                I often pride myself on questioning strange things which I am sure the majority of the population do not think about. For example, last week I was pondering the fact that everyone who reaches the grand old age of 100 gets a letter from the Queen and whether this meant that when the Queen Mother reached 100 in the year 2000, does that mean she still gets a letter from her daughter? Surely a card would be nicer than a letter and a “Happy Birthday Mum”? Yes, these are the strange things I wonder about.
                Anyway…on my way to see the third Transformers film, I was contemplating the time when I was a young girl and Transformers: The Movie has just been released, the television series was a huge success and all the boys my age had their action figurines. I started to think about other 1980’s cartoons. Film makers have been recreating so many cartoons of yesteryear as of late such as Yogi Bear and the upcoming, The Smurfs. When will we be seeing a real to life version of He- Man and She-ra? Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Lady Lovelylocks, Care Bears, My Little Pony or The Popples? If Yogi Bear is anything to go by, we can mix real life with animation, so the last three shouldn’t be a problem! Although I don’t know how the idea of magical ponies would go down in a 2011 film of My Little Pony. It could be quite scary and trippy.
                This “In My Own Words” is probably getting a bit scary and trippy for some of you come to think of it. I know I think about some very strange things, but hey, I’m not going to apologise for them because I have fun thinking about these things!
                These are my own words and here is my review.
                If you are looking for an action-packed film with amazing special effects which are enhanced (for once) by 3D, you will find Transformers: Dark Of The Moon a very satisfactory experience. If you are looking for an all-rounder with great script, great acting and lots of emotion, you will enjoy this film as much as a poke in the eye. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is definitely one of those films which is to be taken for what it is. It is the third instalment in Michael Bay’s Transformers films and carries on in the same fashion as its predecessors with no great surprises.  
                In this film, the Autobots are still on Earth and helping the government to track down the Decepticons. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) confronts Secretary of Defense, Charlotte Mearing (Frances McDormand) about a piece of cell he finds and she informs him that the first venture of man to the moon in 1969, was actually a top secret mission to investigate a crash of an alien spacecraft. This spacecraft was actually Sentinel Prime’s (Leonard Nimoy), a leader of the Autobots. Optimus Prime sets off to the moon to bring Sentinel Prime to Earth. Once they arrive back, they are a few surprises in store and nobody knows who they should trust. Just like in the previous Transformers films, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who has now finished college and living in Washington, DC, plays a large part in the fight of the Autobots, as does his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley).
                The best thing about Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is definitely it’s astonishing special effects. There are some truly spectacular action sequences that do not disappoint. They are quite beautiful to watch. It is films like this that make you marvel at how far film making has come in relation it special effects. The action in this film is perhaps more impressive than the action in the first two films. The sounds accompanying the visuals are perfectly suited and are very haunting in some scenes, in particular when they are in Chicago. 3D is really an advantage in this film and it is great to see an action film that truly is enhanced by it.
                Unfortunately, there are not too many other good points about Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. As wonderful as the action sequences are, the final action scenes just go on for way too long, making the film much longer than what it should and could be. It is true that they are so good to watch that you wish you could see action like that in every film in the genre, but in the last 15 minutes of the film, you start to wish that it would get to the finale already. Of course, the ending is very predictable so it is not like you are wondering what is going to happen as much as how it is going to happen. It is an interesting type of suspense. Suspense caused by the intensity of the action rather than the feeling of not knowing what is going to happen.
                The story is actually quite clever when it comes down to it. The idea of combining the Autobots with the first man on the moon and then the explanations as to why the American’s were first there and why they haven’t been back since 1972 is intriguing and if there were such things as Autobots, it would actually be a logical explanation. The script is good enough to support the clever story. Yet, as one can expect, extremely cheesy and very weak in parts.
                 Playing Sam Witwicky is almost second nature to Shia LaBeouf now. He does the role well and is likable, as he was in the past Transformers movies. It is interesting, he seems to have no problems getting tears to well up in his eyes and getting the facial expression of someone in mental pain, but he provokes absolutely no emotion for the audience to feel attached to. LaBeouf actually has a great comedy streak in him which is often overlooked. He started his career as a stand-up comedian and you can see it in his acting in this film. His facial expressions and his deliverance of sarcastic dialogue are truly gold.
                After the departure of Megan Fox from the series, the film makers had to find another stunning woman to fulfil her shoes considering Sam having a beautiful girlfriend is just as much a part of Transformers as the Autobots are. Their answer came in Victoria’s Secret model, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is her acting debut, and it wasn’t too hard a role for her to start off with. Her performance is very amateurish with no emotion or strain really being shown in any scene. However, it is obvious she wasn’t chosen for the role because of her dramatic qualifications. The camera spends a great deal of time scanning her body and boys will become men with her entrance into the film.
                With some films, you can always look at them and realise why they were made at the point in time which they were. With Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, it is crystal clear that it was made at the perfect point in time to take full advantage of the amazing special effects available, not to mention 3D. Although it is a clever story, it is the action that makes this film.