Shrek 4 – a Shrek too far?

Short answer – no. And if this is how the series goes out, then it’s on a high.

Shrek Forever After

“Do the roar”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: In a bad moment, Shrek exchanges one day of his past for a day back being a “real” ogre – but doesn’t count on the consequences.

OK, I’m in Vietnam and I’m watching western films. In my defence this one had Vietnamese subtitles. The cinema was also crammed and there was a constant undercurrent of little kids babbling and giggling. In other words, the perfect atmosphere.

It was also in 3D and from the childish “woah!”s and “oooooh”s, I’m guessing at least a few of the audience hadn’t seen a 3D film before!

Before going on about the film, something else impressed me. As I said, it was subtitled which is unusual for a kid’s film. Generally, in Thailand you get the film in English. And you get one dubbed in Thai (or whatever language elsewhere) as young children will not have time to read all the subtitles. I was amazed to hear the kids laughing at the jokes – not just the visual stuff, but the jokes. Given the ages of some of them it says a lot about their reading ability.

Anyway, the movie. Frankly I thought Shrek 3 was a bit of a disappointment. This is a return to form and a great end to the series with a couple of new characters and a great take on the existing ones. Shrek changes history with his wish and we get to see Fiona as a warrior princess, Puss as a fatty, Gingerbread Man as a gladiator and so on.

I may also say that Fiona – bar the green skin – is bloody attractive for a cartoon character. Especially in armour. I guess I’m a little weird. And, yes, I mean in ogre form. Hmm. Yes. I have issues.

Anyhoo, the laughs are frequent, the dialogue sharp, the visuals possibly the best I’ve seen so far, the story tight and the characters perfect. As ever, in my opinion, Puss steals the show with his lines, attitude and big soppy eyes.

There’s not a lot else to write without giving away the story, but if you felt let down by the last one – give this final chapter a shot.

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Blue Dragon: House 52 Shelter Appeal

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

Here’s the deal – Blue Dragon need to raise $60,000 by the end of July or they’ll be kicked out of their current location. This is a hell of a shame as they’ve put a lot of work into making it a fantastic place for kids to drop in and be looked after. Also, if they move then it takes time for word to get out so future street children know where they can go to be safe.

Planet Wheeler have been hugely generous in agreeing to match every donation dollar for dollar – so BDCF “only” need to raise $30,000.

Please, please, please go to the following links and donate a little bit. If every friend I have on facebook donated the value of 1 beer we’d have almost $1500 to start with!

http://bdcf.org/dragon_house.html

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Two films in Thailand

Ong Bak 3
Ong Bak 3

I’ve got 3 days of spare time in Pattaya – moreso now that my diving day has been cancelled – and was quite happy to spot a cinema when I was walking around. Even happier when I realised that Wednesday was “discount day” at 80B per film – less than £2. So despite being flipping knackered, I caught two movies.

Ong Bak 3

Plot-in-a-nutshell: orphaned ass-kicker takes revenge on nasty man who made him an orphan. I think. Something like that.

Sorry for the vagueness, but OB3 continues the weirdness that kicked off about halfway through Ong Bak 2. Tony Jaa, as ever, stars – and directed, scriptwrites, produces… He’s like Peter Jackson was back in the day. Wouldn’t surprise me if he sings the theme song at the end a la Jackie Chan.

The films follows on directly from OB2 with Tien in chains and about to be executed. Ass-kicking ensues and he escapes. The girl/love interest from the first film makes a re-appearance as does the insane guy for comic relief. He’s got some good lines in this one, but his appearance is still jarring in an otherwise strait-laced movie.

We get to see the creation of the statue which is the centrepiece of the fist Ong Bak movie as well as more elephant-related fight sequences. As ever, it’s the fight scenes which stand out above all else although they’re interspersed a little too much with plot. At times, the film seems to stall as it crawls down the “arty” pathway.

Despite the excellent performance from Jaa, and the wonderful “look” of the film it’s still just a bit too weird for my liking. It’s good to see the series run full circle and hopefully come to an end. With luck this means we can expect something new and different with his next release.

The Losers

“That was supposed to be us.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad man tries to kill bunch of mercenaries who decide that, fair’s fair, they should try to kill him in return.

Despite being based on a DC Comic, this is a British creation being based (loosely) on the first six issues which were scripted by 2000AD‘s own Andy Diggle and drawn by “Jock“. Other than that, though, this is very much an American action movie.

The titular Losers are a bunch of mercenaries sent to do off-the-book dirty work. One jobin South America goes a little wrong and their boss attempts to kill them. This, surprisingly, doesn’t go down well so they set off to return the favour.

That’s about it for the plot as the film just careers through set piece after set piece. It harks back to it’s comic beginnings frequently with many shots frozen on screen or paced to look like frames on a drawn page. I liked that. It’s also big and brash in a way that comics often are, including one of the mist ridiculous finale scenes I think I’ve ever seen.

It’s a silly film, but it’s also funny, fast-paced and enjoyable. The dialogue is quite humorous in places and at no point will your brain be taxed by what happens. Despite this, one arsehole a few seats over kept telling his girlfriend what was about to happen just in case she was struggling to follow it.

If you like big guns, huge explosions and a plot you don’t need to think too hard about then this is well worth the trip to the cinema.

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Shorts – not pants

A very quick film review as I sit at Mumbai Airport. Caught this little number of the flight from Heathrow.

Shorts

“What’s wrong with you? Oh buddy where do I begin?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: boy finds magic wishing stone and everything goes mental. Only in the wrong order.

Robert Rodriguez is a very hard director to pin down style-wise. Having done everything from Spy Kids to Sin City – horror, action and kids’ flicks. This is very much one of the kiddie ones and definitely one more aimed at them than one that’ll capture too many adults as well.

Set in a weird town owned and run by one Mr. Black, all of the adult inhabitants work for his company that make a multi-use device called the Black Box. Our protagonist Toe (Jimmy Bennett) is bullied at school by Cole’s two children, Helvetica (Jolie Vanier) and Cole (Devon Gearhart).

Toe tells us the story, but it’s done as a series of shorts presented in the wrong order. Imagine a mad kids film done in the style of Pulp Fiction and you’re kinda there. He tells us how he finds a magic wishing stone which causes all sorts of problems (we all know wishes in films never work out as they should) in a series of episodes featuring the kids and adults of the town.

As I said earlier, this film will appeal a lot to children, but not to much to accompanying adults. It’s not bad, but doesn’t have much of that humour that would go over children’s heads while making adults giggle. There are little aliens, sentient growing snot, rocket cycles and the like. In fact, the first scene into the credits features two of these and it’s pretty cool.

I kind of enjoyed it, but I’m glad I didn’t bother seeing it at the cinema. It whiled away 90 minutes on my flight, though.

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Robin Hood – no Bryan Adams in sight

Robin Hood 2010 poster
Robin Hood (2010)

Well, I had a pretty awful day but I’m glad to say that I passed at least a little of it with some escapism in the form of Ridley Scott‘s Robin Hood – a film better than the trailer would have had me believe.

Robin Hood

“Rise, and rise again. Until lambs become lions.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Random longbowman becomes knight, then outlaw. All in a measly 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The first thing I really liked about this film was the fact that it was hugely different from any Robin Hood film I’ve seen in the past. The main reason is that Robin isn’t an outlaw in it until the very end. This is the story of how Robin Longstride becomes Robin of the Hood. And a very interesting tale it is, too.

If you’re expecting an update of Kevin Costner‘s Prince of Thieves then you’ll be disappointed. However, if you found that to be a Hollywood-ised mess full of historical inaccuracies and geographical nonsense then you may well prefer Scott’s vision.

There’s no way a truly historic tale could be woven, simply as there’s not even any proof that the man existed. Even if he did, the stories about him vary so hugely that we don’t even know if he was a commoner or aristocrat, or if his name was indeed Robin. Perhaps that came about because he wore red. Or was it Lincoln green? The stories can’t even agree on the colour of his clothes!

Historically, and based on the facts we do know of this period, the version here is definitely far more accurate than Costner’s. Certainly, it’s got one simple fact right – that Richard the Lionheart died in France so his appearance at the end of a film (portrayed by a Scot…) to make everything right again is hardly going to happen. Hell, Scott’s even managed to factor in the fact that the person who killed him was (possibly) a cook. And that he was shot by an arrow in the left side of his neck. In one five minute segment, Scott (and scriptwiter Brian Helgeland) have more historical accuracy than Costner managed in his entire movie.

In the interests of balance, it must be said that this version isn’t as “entertaining” at Prince of Thieves. After all, it hasn’t got Alan Rickman in it. However, it is a very different type of film. Both have their merits – the older one is more fun, frankly, whereas this has a much superior story.

Russell Crowe isn’t bad as Robin. At least he tries at an English accent. Which one, however, is anyone’s guess. One moment he’s Yorkshire, then more Scouse. At times he even drifts as far as having an Irish twang. To give the guy some credit, though. He’s a Kiwi who’s been putting on an American accent for years.

The film certainly doesn’t have the scale of the pair’s earlier Gladiator, but there’s no taking away from the impressive sets and scenery. I’m sure historians would happily point out a thousand discrepancies, but it looks alright to me.

I genuinely had no hope for this film based on the trailer. However, the film advertised certainly isn’t the one I saw. It’s far better written and more interesting than the action-fest I was ready to tolerate.

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