Zookeeper

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsMore kid-friendly cinema. You can tell it’s the school holidays, can’t you?

Zookeeper

Plot-in-a-nutshell: nice-guy zookeeper chases the girl of his dreams with advice from talking animals

See it if you like: rom-coms for kids. Yes, I know. Bit of a stretch, really.

Zookeeper has a bit of an identity conflict. In part it’s a kids’ film with talking animals. In part, it’s a romantic comedy with a plot you’ve seen umpteen times before. Both sides are fairly well done, though the animals aren’t “cartoony” enough to really grasp kids and only the small monkey really raised laughs.

Kevin James plays Griffin, the titular character, as he chases the affections of his ex Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). At an engagement party he suddenly finds out that the animals in his charge can talk and they decide to help him out. Of course. These characters include a lion and lioness (voiced by Sylvester Stallone and Cher respectively), a monkey voiced by Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte as a gorilla… Frankly, the voice cast for the animals is by far more star-laden than the regular cast.

It’s not really a bad film or story, it’s just that you feel you’re watching two different ones that have been haphazardly spliced together. There’s something about it that just doesn’t gel.

The talking animals really won’t appeal to adults. The romantic comedy aspect won’t really appeal to kids. As a result, it really doesn’t satisfy either of its target audiences which is a shame.

Zookeeper isn’t a bad film, it’s just two half0decent ones clagged together with split and chewing gum with the gaps between them clearly visible.

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Transformers 3 – Dark of the Moon (IMAX)

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsOur second IMAX treat inside of a week after HP7b, only this time we got there early enough to get nice seats right in the middle and far enough back that we weren’t inside the flipping 3D.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

“Uh-oh, now this is a clufterf…”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Big robots fight other big robots.

See it if you like: Huge, eye-candy filled special effects films with lots of things being crashed, smushed, blown up, crushed, exploded, etc.

I’ve heard of comments on the internet and even on the radio about films such as Transformers 3, most of it negative and a lot of it saying it’s damaging cinema. I don’t get this. Sure, it’s low brow. It rewrites history ever so slightly, but, hey, this isn’t meant to be a “based on a true story” flick like U-571 or Enigma, both of which shat on the memories of a good number of people.

What it is is entertaining. In a huge way. And I can’t see what’s wrong with people wanting to go to the cinema to be entertained. Surely that’s the whole point?

My one major issue with the first two films was the level of detail in the robotic transformations that I simply couldn’t see. Despite seeing them on the big screen, the incredible computer work was gone in a flash as the robots zoomed past and even a decent cinema seemed too small. That swung my decision to cough up the extra and see this final one on IMAX.

Bloody hell, was it worth it. The 3D isn’t the greatest (most of it was shot in 35mm and converted to 3D in post-production), but the CGI work is simply incredible. This is an effects movie, and it holds no quarter. Everything about it is simply huge, yet the level of detail put into it shows a great degree of skill from those involved.

OK, enough harping on about the geeks in the back room. The story isn’t half bad either and the 157 minutes or so runtime barely drags at any point. Given the length, it could almost have been split into two films which might have raked in some more money, but it would have been pushing it just a bit. The scripting is tight, the dialogue is nicely witty at times and the plot holes can be nicely ignored. Just plug them with popcorn and get over it. It’s a film.

The cast are pretty much by-the-numbers and predominantly the same as the previous two with the exception of Megan Fox who allegedly called director Michael Bay a nazi and was promptly sacked. Frankly, she’s not missed and new totty Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (who sounds as posh as her name) fills the “boobs, lips and legs” rôle perfectly adequately. Shia LaBeouf runs with his character from the first two films and continues to have one of the silliest names of any film star at the moment.

Best background character goes to Dutch (Alan Tudyk), the man-servant/sidekick of mental ex-FBI agent Simmons (John Turturro). Nicely subservient with an undertone of mental. Oh, and then there are all the military characters who could be from any film of this ilk. Out to save the world and kicking ass while they do it. You’ve seen these guys before in The Rock, Invasion: LA, etc.

Star of the show, though, are the Transformers and the sheer scale of the thing. Even if you don’t see it in 3D, you have got to see it on IMAX. I simply can’t imagine watching this on a smaller screen.

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Cars 2

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsOnce again I’m glad to say that I avoided the dreaded enforced 3D by going to see a kids’ film. It may have enhanced about 30 seconds of the film, but hardly worth the discomfort of watching the remainder through those stupid bloody sunglasses.

Cars 2

Tow Mater, average intelligence.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Mader gets mixed up in the spy world as Lightning McQueen undertakes a World Grand Prix.

See if it you like: PIXAR films – it’s a classic example

As usual, we missed the start of the film. This seems to be an annoyingly regular feature of going with the kids, but it’s never their fault. This time it was flipping roadworks with no diversion signs. Thanks, Glasgow Council. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, we only missed a couple of minutes and the beginning of the film takes us right into the spy aspect of the movie. It was brilliant – deserving of an Bond movie and introducing Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), a character originally planned to be just a passing joke in the first film. Instead they held back on the scene he was meant to be in and made him a major character in this one.

We’re swiftly reintroduced to the two leads from last time around, a plot is formed around them touring the world and off we go.

The scenery and imagination used to come up with it is nothing short of amazing. The lifts in the party room before the first race are huge pistons, the Italian Riviera has car-based shapes carved into the hillsides, even the models of cars used for the incidental characters have been carefully planned out to be just right. And that’s even before you spot all the little in-jokes in the background, such as the banners advertising “Lassetyres” (the film’s director is John Lasseter).

I can’t fault the voice acting, either, but with the cast used that’s not a surprise. I mean Michael flipping Caine? Awesome. Owen Wilson and Larry The Cable Guy (seriously – who the hell would work under that pseudonym?) reprise their roles well from the original while Caine is joined by the likes of Emily Mortimer (a sexier voice you will never hear from an automobile), Eddie Izzard and John Turturro.

There is a downside, though. The film has a great story. And a good plot. But to move this forward, there’s a fair bit of dialogue and this means quite a number of fairly static scenes. As an upshot, younger kids might get a little bored as they just want to see the fast-paced action scenes and vehicles hurting themselves. Certainly, Little Mister did. He spent a good while moving up and down the rows. He wasn’t alone, either, with a couple of children near us literally running around the theatre at points. The adults in the audience, however, seemed engrossed.

 

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (IMAX)

OK, that’s a long film title. Because Little Miss hadn’t seen any of the Harry Potter films at the cinema before, we decided to make this one a little special and took her to the IMAX to see it. Advice for future – check the performance times and get there early enough so we’re not sat off to the right of the front row…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Hogwarts is threatened! Man the boundaries. Protect us!”

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsPlot-in-a-nutshell: Go read the book, you lazy arse

See it if you like: finding out what happens at the end of stories you’ve been following for 11 years and are too lazy to read a damn book.

The single biggest opening in US cinema history (possibly worldwide, too), so I’d expect you all to know about this film. But is it any good? Short answer: yes. Certainly it’s far better than Part 1 which was all character development and not a lot of incidence. How you can scene-set for 2 hours and expect kids to sit through it is beyond me.

Part 2 has a load of great action sequences in it, and – no surprise – faultless effects. The IMAX 3D is, of course, far superior to the crap you get in the mainstream cinemas and it’s used to full effect here. As I mentioned in the introduction, though, do make sure your’e sat somewhere good to make the most of it. The picture was rather strained and warped where we were.

The story definitely moves along faster than the previous movie and it’s over fairly quickly, or so it seems. As per the books, pretty much everything is nicely tied together although as you would expect there are some details missing in the adaptation.

It’s also not surprising to see that the acting has improved as the years have gone on. In the early films I could have punched Emma Watson for being so flipping gushy and annoying. Now, she’s a very accomplished actress as are the rest of the now-mature cast. Top marks go to Helena Bonham Carter for her portrayal of herself being portrayed by Hermione, though. Very well done.

Is it worth spending the extra to see this film on IMAX, though? Given the price difference between this screening and the equivalent 3D showing at a regular cinema then definitely. If you’re remotely bothered about 3D then cough up the pennies. It’s far, far, far superior. If you’re only bothered about the story then do the usual and catch it in 2D. At least there’s still an option to do so, thankfully.

There’s no point in recommending the film though. If you’ve seen the other seven then you’ll see this. You have to. If you’ve not seen them then don’t watch it. It makes no sense at all otherwise!

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Iron Maiden / Airbourne, Glasgow SECC

Iron Maiden - Final Frontier
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

If there’s one thing you have to be careful of in the music world, it’s not having a support band that put on a better show than you. I’ve seen it happen – Pantera opening for Megadeth, Machine Head opening for SlayerAirbourne came very close to doing it with Iron Maiden this evening.

Not to say that Maiden’s set wasn’t spectacular (I’ll get to it in a moment), but Airbourne – quite simply – rocked. Immensely.

According to the ticket, they were due on stage at 19:30. By my watch, they kicked off a minute or two early while Gillian was having a chat with her mates outside and I was making impatient “will you hurry the fuck up?!” gestures. What can I say? I like Airbourne. The lads had 45 minutes to warm the crowd up for the might Maiden, and they didn’t waste a second of it.

Track after track was played, applauded and then followed up with another. Given they only have two albums, a 45 minute set isn’t too hard for them to fill especially when there isn’t a single bad track on either LP. With the limited stage set and time, there weren’t any insane activities from lead singer/guitarist Joel, which was a shame, but didn’t really detract from a frenzied, active, loud, brash set.

Well done to them and I can’t wait to see them again.

And on to Maiden who had around two hours to fill once they took to the stage a little before 9pm. They opened with tour and album titler “The Final Frontier” (8:42) and plodded on into “El Dorado” (a shade under 7 minutes). “2 Minutes To Midnight” was a welcome relief and the crowd visibly and audibly erupted when the backdrop revealed the upcoming song. I could almost be unkind and say that people finally woke up… OK, I will. Up until this third song, I couldn’t see a single person around me bouncing, shouting, punching the air or singing. In fact, even applause after the first two songs was rather scant.

So, great, they’re onto the old stuff at last. Phew. Bruce even went as far as to say that the band had 14 other albums to take music from other than the new one. Good.

Then they launched into nine bloody minutes worth of “The Talisman” from The Final Frontier. Bloody hell. The crowd, again, died. A few people near me wandered off when the next track – “Coming Home” (thankfully comparatively short at under 6 minutes) kicked off. Whether they went home or to the bar, I don’t know.

Iron Maiden - Final Frontier
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

This is exactly what happened at Sonisphere last year and why I was so disappointed with them then. The Iron Maiden fan club (and a couple of other people) responded to my disparaging tweet on the night with “What do you expect from The Final Frontier tour?”. I’m at a live Maiden show, I don’t give a bugger what album they’ve just released. I expect a fast-paced show with a ton of classics, not almost half of the performance being taken up with slow, dirgy, rambling, boring songs I don’t know. yes, I have the album. No, I don’t like it. Listened to it, consigned it to the same pile as Virtual XI and Brave New World.

If you’re going to support a new album, don’t fill it with songs that are so long. I saw Judas Priest the night before and I know far less of their back catalogue. However, if a song came on I didn’t recognise then I only had to wait 3-4 minutes, enjoying the pretty lights, until the next track.

The show improved, however, with the backdrop swishing back to introduce “Dance of Death” (OK, another long-ish one at just under 9 minutes, but at least it’s a good song) then “The Trooper“. Awsome. “The Wicker Man”. OK, one of the better songs off a fairly weak album. “Blood Brothers”. Pretty much the only other good one.

Oh. Then nigh on ten minutes of “When The Wild Wind Blows”. I was asleep on my feet by the time this was halfway through.

The rest of the set was, thankfully, excellent. “The Evil That Men Do“, “Fear of the Dark”, “Iron Maiden”, “The Number of the Beast”, “Hallowed be Thy Name” and “Running Free“. Oh, and of course the appearance(s) of the Eddie.

However, it still galls that out of a 2-hour set we got almost 45 minutes of new material. That’s an average of nine minutes per flipping song. What else could they have filled some of that time with? I’m not going to list all the songs I’d rather have heard, but judging by the grumbling from around me at the gig and outside as the crowd filtered out I was by no means in the minority at missing out on some classic tunes in favour of long, rambling new ones.

In future, I think I’ll be basing my decision to see Maiden on the strength of the current album or by checking out playlists from earlier performances on the tour if it’s possible. And if the tickets are gone before then? Well, it’s money saved.

P.S. The only worse decision I can recall Iron Maiden making was actually at the first gig I ever saw them at. They were touring in support of the No Prayer For The Dying album despite it not having been released as yet. Precisely one song was available (the single, “Holy Smoke”) and yet they played a good handful off it. If my memory serves, these definitely included “Tailgunner” and “Mother Russia”, possibly others. They then played the exact same set a couple of months later when they re-toured larger venues after the album’s release.

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