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Yellow Submarine Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad I Shall Wear Midnight: A Discworld Novel Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 Tales of Unease (Wordsworth Mystery & the Supernatural) Bunker 10

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Disney’s Frozen

120px-Film-stripTime for a kids’ afternoon out to give the wife and mum-in-law some peace and quiet…

Disney’s Frozen

“Some people are worth melting for.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Not so wicked ice queen must be convinced to return summer

See it if you like: the more traditional Disney animations

First thing – if you don’t like cartoons with too many songs, then consider looking elsewhere right now. Having said that, at least none of them run on for too long. I went with our eldest daughter (11) and our son (5). She thought it was too “singy”, but otherwise OK. He enjoyed it but found one scene a little scary.

The story is a decent enough one, and a take on “The Snow Queen”. Two sisters (Anna and Elsa, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell respectively) brought up by nice parents (king and queen), but discover that one of them can control ice. Well, “control” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like the ice can control her.

After an accident with her younger sister, the two are separated and the eldest hidden from the world… until the day of her coronation when all frost breaks loose.

Foremost, the animation is superb (as expected). The story isn’t too schmaltzy except where the songs are concerned, and it’s not got quite the ending you’d suspect – I liked that.

On the other hand, the animated two-some of Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad) who starred in the “trailer” used to advertise the film don’t appear until a fair bit in. By the time Olaf turned up, Little Mister had asked me 3-4 times where he was and was convinced we were watching the wrong movie!

The laughs follow the obvious characters and the story is just different enough from the traditional fairy-tale stereotypes to keep the interest going. Visually it’s superb (no surprises), but those darn songs made me cringe.

Overall a good film and the kids did enjoy it, though they weren’t harping on about it in the car or later on in the day as they have done with other films. So good to keep when quiet for a while, but no lasting appeal.

Do note that there’s a post-credit sequence, but we missed it as Little Mister likes to run out of the cinema the moment the credits come up. Grr.

Tis the season for giving…

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

So here’s a perfect reason for digging into your pocket and chucking some money at something worthwhile. This is the xmas letter from the wonderful staff at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam:

Dear Friend of Blue Dragon,

Those of you following my blog will know that this year has been both challenging and exciting for the children at Blue Dragon in Vietnam. In response to cries for help, we’ve rescued more children than ever before from factories and brothels. The rescues are difficult and dangerous – but every mission to bring freedom this year has been successful.

Since January we have conducted 19 rescue trips, both within Vietnam and also to China in search of trafficked young people. Altogether, we have rescued 82 victims of trafficking, including 12 girls from Chinese brothels. With support from Blue Dragon, these girls are all back with their families, or in education. Two have even married, and one has opened her own small business! These are all great successes we’re very proud of.

In Hanoi, we are currently working with 35 children who we have met living and working on the streets. This is an unprecedented number of kids in need of special protection and assistance. These children require not only accommodation and material support, but also counseling and psychological services to help them deal with trauma. Building trust and restoring psychological damage takes time, but it is an essential part of our work with Hanoi’s street kids.

Nearly 1,000 children throughout rural Vietnam are in school with financial assistance from Blue Dragon. Many of these children are supported by sponsors whose monthly donations ensure that families can pay school fees, and students have all the gear they need to attend school. Without this help, the vast majority of these kids would already be out of school, leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking.

Blue Dragon’s lawyers continue to achieve incredible success in supporting children through the legal system, prosecuting traffickers and providing legal identities. This year alone our team of three Child Rights Advocates have given legal advice in 715 cases and defended 19 children in conflict with the law.  The Red Stocking Christmas Campaign has now raised enough money for 55 children to obtain a legal identity, and our team has plans to legally register over 1,000 children and their families in remote Dien Bien province in coming weeks.

THANK YOU for being a part of the Blue Dragon story with me this year. I appreciate your generous support in providing us with the funds to rescue children and assist Vietnamese children to a new start in life. All of us here at Blue Dragon – staff and kids – wish you a safe and happy Christmas.

Warm wishes for the holiday season.

The Blue Dragon kids also wish you a Happy Christmas. Click here to see some smiles.

Michael Brosowski
CEO and Founder
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

Join the Red Stocking Campaign 
www.bluedragon.org
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

120px-Film-stripThis was my birthday treat, though the best seats had gone by the time we booked my actual birthday so we went the day after. Big KFC for dinner and an effects-heavy movie on an IMAX screen for dessert. Lovely.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“I am King Under the Mountain!”

Plot in a nutshell: Small people approach mountain, old beardy guy stirs up evil things

See it if you like: Well, dur. The other LotR films

Credit must first be given to the poor announcer at the Glasgow IMAX. For reasons that I can’t grasp, they still insist on making one of the members of staff stand at the front with a microphone immediately before each screening whose job is to tell you how big the screen is. I can see the damn screen. It’s huge.

Thing is, despite the screen being brilliant the microphone wasn’t working which the poor sod didn’t notice until enough people yelled at him. Some switch fiddling followed by “Is it working now?”

“No!”

“OK, I’ll have to shout… ENJOY THE FILM!!!”

He got a cheer for that.

Anyway, the film.

It’s the best of the LotR films so far. Honestly. Yes, I know they’ve added stuff in that’s not in the books, such as the intriguing Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and they’ve stretched a small book out to three films. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to lack entertainment value.

As with the first film in this second trilogy, the effects don’t quite match up in quality to those of the Lord of the Rings films. Creatures, in particular, when in the distance appear to move unrealistically. However, this is only a minor niggle as the effects-work is done incredibly well.

The highlights by a mile are the last thirty minutes featuring the titular Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch who also plays the CGI Necromancer) and the barrel/river sequence which plays out like a computer game according to some of my work colleagues. They’re not wrong, though.

Martin Freeman has taken the role of Bilbo as his own in this film and the character really stands out in a way he didn’t in the first installment. In addition, the other characters – Thorin especially – are really developing.

Add to this the links being forged to events in the previous trilogy (the events of which, of course, occur chronologically after The Hobbit) are both pleasing and well done. They tie things together in a way that Tolkien simply couldn’t do at the time.

It’s far faster-paced than the first installment, and the dialogue is also more entertaining. Peter Jackson makes his obligatory cameo (I won’t tell you where) as well.

The IMAX was worth it for the “surround vision” experience, although not a lot of use was made of the 3D. However, it seems impossible to see anything at IMAX that’s not 3D these days. Thankfully it’s the only 3D that actually works and doesn’t screw with my eyes. Do note, though, that if the only seats available are right at the front or way off to the side that you’re best off skipping the showing. You want to be slap bang in the middle.

I’m very much looking forward to the third and final part which I think is due out in the summer. And I reckon we’ll cough out for the IMAX again.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire / Thor: The Dark World

120px-Film-stripA night for sequels, it seems. Annoyingly, we had to journey between cinemas as the latter was only on in evil 3D at our nearest picture house.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Remember who the real enemy is.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Winners of the last Hunger Games get pulled into the new ones

See it if you like: the first film and the books

Not one I was keen on seeing as I thought the books were a little dull, and the first film – which I’ve seen bits of here and there – looked equally weak. My preconceptions were borne out by a movie that stayed close to the source material. In some cases this would be a good thing, but it’s not when you’re not a fan of the original.

It moved along nicely enough, but I found the whole thing a little mawkish and several of the characters annoyed me more than anything else. A new director couldn’t save it and the ludicrously over-the-top makeup and clothing worn by the Capital citizens really just looks stupid. By all means show off the difference between the have and have-nots, but there’s a line and this goes way past it.

Obviously there will be a sequel, but at least that’ll be the end of it. If you want to find out more about the film them watch the trailer. It covers virtually every major piece of plot and line of dialogue up until the contestants enter the arena just over halfway through.

Thor: The Dark World

“There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the world is crazier than you are.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Some bad guys are after some bad stuff that the Asgardians are looking after so they can rule the universe

See if it you like: Big, silly superhero films

Another film I wasn’t that fussed about as a) I’m not a big Thor fan and b) I didn’t think the first film was very good. Short version – this is better than the last one.

Thing is, it’s not that much better. It’s less overblown, faster-paced and more quotable. There are more moments of humour and the effects are, undoubtedly, superb. But it just didn’t grab me the way the Iron Man series did. In fairness, I was exhausted by the time we sat down to see this showing which won’t have helped, but I just felt it ran too long.

There’s not a bad story there and it really sets itself up for a sequel (avoiding spoilers prevents me from saying why), but that’s no surprise. As ever, there are a couple of extra bits in the credits – both mid-way and right at the very end.

Chris Hemsworth has his top off a couple of times and I think that was enough to make my Mrs happy.

Beyond that, Thor 2 doesn’t really do anything to set itself out amongst the current glut of superhero films. it’s not bad, but it’s just not super.

Gravity

120px-Film-stripA sneaky daytime showing this week. My aunt volunteered to look after the little one while the other two were at school. I have Tuesdays off, and I’d heard good things, so we booked a couple of tickets for an IMAX screening of…

Gravity

“I hate space!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A routine shuttle mission goes all to hell…

See it if you like: sitting on the edge of your seat and not blinking for ninety minutes

Let’s just add a review-in-a-nutshell to this: See. This. Film.

Slightly expanded: If possibly, See. This. Film. In. IMAX. 3D.

If Hollywood died tomorrow and left Gravity as its legacy, then the industry would be fondly remembered. It’s so good, that I have – after many years – finally forgiven Sandra Bullock for The Net. A film I have derided for nigh on two decades. Sandra, seriously, you can now hold your head high.

With a cast of – to all intents and purposes – two, Gravity proves that you don’t need an all-star ensemble cast to sell a film. In fact, the last time I remember seeing a film with a cast so small it was The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Coincidentally, or maybe not, that film was also staggeringly good (you can see my review here).

Absolutely honestly, with my hand on my heart, I don’t think I so much as blinked (except to “avoid” on chunk of debris that looked like it would hit me in the face) after the first five minutes of the film. Around fifteen minutes in, my wife held my hand and we didn’t let go of each other until the credits rolled.

As ever, I don’t want to tell you too much about the plot for fear of giving anything away. Suffice to say, it’s a drama set in space against the background of a serious accident which leaves a shuttle crew stranded up there. Only it’s way better than that. Way better. Think how good you reckon that could be and then multiply that tenfold. At least.

George Clooney is excellent opposite Bullock, but the real star is director Alfonso Cuarón. With the aid of digital technology and a lot of new techniques, he’s made the visuals so realistic that it moves the film from “impressive” to “jaw-droppingly stunning” in every aspect. I don’t really buy DVDs any more, but this is very much likely to sway me purely as I’d expect some very interesting “Making of” features. In fact, it’s good enough to possibly convince me to finally get a Blu-Ray player.

In case I’ve not convinced you – see this film. If you see one film a week, month or year… this is the one. And stump up for IMAX 3D if you can. I know I go on about how 3D’s rubbish. This doesn’t hold for good IMAX 3D as it makes use of the size of the screen to fill your field of vision, plus the image quality helps.

I’d still not touch it in 3D at a regular cinema, but the extra we paid for IMAX was worth every penny. Twice over.