Puss In Boots

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 CommonsIt’s been an age since we took the kids to the cinema, and this being the holiday season we really didn’t have an excuse what with all the films being aimed at sprogs that come out. The other advantage is that movies aimed at children almost always have a 2D version as well as the irritatingly over-screened 3D performances.

Puss In Boots

“Fear me, if you dare!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: The back story and “legend” of the popular character originally appearing in the Shrek films

See it if you like: the Shrek films, for starters, and high quality children’s films overall

Puss In Boots seems to have taken months to get to the UK. The adverts have been on display since summer, or so it seems, and the US release was back in October. The kids have been at us to see it since then so it was a no-brainer to take them once it finally arrived.

Antonio Banderas‘ lead character is joined by Zach Galifianakis as Humpty “Alexander” Dumpty and Salma Hayek as Kitty Softpaws. Jumping straight into the action, the plot drifts into back-story on two occasions so that we can learn more about the central characters. Despite starting as a throw-away character, Puss has rightly graduated into a central personality and his history is a good one.

In fact, the story for the overall film is pretty impressive. If there’s a problem with it, it’s that it may be a little too hard to follow for the younger members to follow. There are also some moderately lengthy conversational sections which can mean those who need a bit more action in their film-viewing could drift a little. Having said that, Little Mister was pretty much glued to the screen for the whole thing which makes a change from him attempting to sit in every single seat in the theatre.

There are buckets of jokes, some of which will go right over the little ones’ heads – particularly the catnip line. The action sequences are superb and the quality of the animation seems to be improving with each of DreamWorks‘ releases. Humpty, in particular, looks like a human face projected onto an egg so smooth and detailed are the facial movements.

With plenty of giggles, and a story that actually tells you more about the characters as well as moving at a decent pace this is well worth a watch for fans of animated features. The cute factor is enough to keep most children interested as well.

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story (film review)

Due to Gill’s eldest starting back at her Friday club, we couldn’t get to the cinema before 9pm. As such, just the one film this week (boo!)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Plot-in-a-nutshell: depressed teenager gets himself committed to a mental ward and meets some loons.

If I’d known this film featured Zach Galifianakis, I would likely have avoided it. He’s not bad, just typecast. He’s always the fat, useless, bearded outcast that everyone tolerates and then gets to like at the end of the film. *yawn*

In IKoaFS, he’s a fat, useless, bearded outcast who’s genuinely quirky (without being outrageous and just plain stupid) who has reasons for being where he is, reasons for getting better and who you can actually start to feel empathy for by the time the movie ends. This is what good scriptwriting does for an actor who was never actually all that bad.

Zach plays Bobby, an “inmate” of an adult mental ward who befriends teenager Craig (Keir Gilchrist) when he checks himself in due to feeling suicidal. As the film goes on, Craig’s problems are dealt with as Bobby’s are made more clear – and understandable.

The film focusses on the stresses that we often put our children through in this day and age, as well as the predominantly American solution of shoving them towards a psychiatrist and a bottle of tablets. I suppose it would class as a black comedy given the subject matter. Imagine One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for the teen generation. Except better. In fairness, I thought what some may argue as Jack Nicholson‘s finest hour was over-rated – but all the same.

There are great performances across the board and very few if any “seen it all before” moments. Simply, it’s well scripted and entertaining. Sure, you kind of know how it’s going to end but the way it’s presented is excellent – plenty of little animated segues and the like.

Given we only saw one film this week, I think we picked a good one.

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Jackass 3D / Due Date / Let Me In

A three-film weekend, and the final one of the list due to Gillian being a horror fan. Nice to get off my backside and see an extra movie, though. Next week’s releases look amazing. Oh dear.

Jackass 3D

“Oh god, why do I have to be Steve-O?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Plot? It’s a Jackass film. Good grief. Get to the back of the class.

First up, the 3D is pointless. The film doesn’t benefit at all, though they have tried to make it a little more grim with some ****, vomit and the like coming out of the screen. As with pretty much every 3D film I’ve seen, though, it just doesn’t need it.

More importantly, how is the Jackass formula holding up? Not too badly, to be honest, although I found myself laughing less hard than I did at the original movie. That one had me completely creased up unable to breathe at points. This third outing got more than its fair share of guffaws, a moment or two of queasiness, but on the whole I’m thinking this may be a good point for the series to finish.

Sacrilege? Maybe. But let’s be honest, Dirty Sanchez were doing ruder things on TV by the time Jackass were finally allowed to show their arses without black bars over them. The budget of the first Jackass film allowed for bigger and sillier stunts, and this had progressed on with this third film.

Thinking back, I was more laughing at the ideas they’d dreamt up rather than the actual execution of them. The simple fact is that Jackass simply isn’t outrageous any more. It’s had its life span and I really hope they go out on a relative high.

Fans: see the film. Mr Knoxville and crew: retire with your heads held high and your arms in plaster.

Due Date

“I’m sorry we drank your father”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Two unsuited guys end up sharing a car across the US for a couple of days.

Due Date is the bastard child of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and The Hangover, having the plot of the former and the level of humour of the latter. Sadly, though, it doesn’t match up on either count. In fairness, I never really “got” P, T &A aside from the hilarious Steve Martin “****” scene which the BBC continue to deny us when screening it. The Hangover on the other hand was incredible.

The film suffers from one major problem which afflicts so many releases these days – virtually every funny bit is in the trailer. Had I not seen that (several times) I genuinely feel I’d have enjoyed the film more.

As a saving grace, Robert Downey Jr puts in another great performance though I still think he’s better wisecracking in Iron Man. Zach Galifianakis returns to stereotype as “fat, stupid bloke”. Yawn.

The main problem is that Due Date doesn’t offer anything new. It’s a plot that’s been used before, as have many of the jokes. The performances are fine, but the whole thing’s ridiculously predictable, especially if (as I’ve already said) you’ve seen the trailer. In all honesty I’d say there were maybe 5 jokes which I’d not already seen before I sat down to watch the actual movie.

It’s not an utter dead loss as far as films go, but it’s a huge let-down after the side-splitting Hangover. Oh, and it has an incredibly well-filmed “inside the car as it happens” car crash. Which is weird as that’s also a highlight of…

Let Me In

“I’ve been twelve for a very long time.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A little girl moves in next door to a little boy, but she can’t be friends mainly as she burns in sunlight, has superhuman strength and drinks blood. Erm. Few clues there?

Now, this one I enjoyed. It’s no perfect, but it has a lot going for it. Gillian’s seen the original (Let The Right One In) which I haven’t, and apparently this is a lot more accessible – it’s in English for a start – but has lost of a lot of the artistry and beauty of Tomas Alfredson‘s 2008 Swedish version. In other words, it’s a typical American remake.

Having said that, with nothing to compare it to I quite liked it. The young actors are excellent across the board, from Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz as the two central characters (Owen and Abby) to the support there isn’t a complaint to be made. Moretz manages to be scary yet conjures up sympathy in her more human aspect. Smit-McPhee is perhaps a little too “soft” but that’s more the character than the actor.

While adults certainly appear in the film, it’s very much a story about these two characters. In fact, we never get to see the face of Owen’s mother.

It’s quite a grisly film and includes some rather disturbing imagery, especially given that the children are in many scenes. As disturbing as the horror aspects the the bullying and victimisation that Owen suffers at school. However, the fate that befalls his tormentors leaves the viewer a little unsure as to whether they deserved it.

The whole film generates conflicted emotion. Abby is a creature suffering from something that’s not her fault. She’s a child, in a child’s body with a child’s mind… but she’s also a dangerous creature when the mood takes. So should we feel pity for her or should she be treated as a monster? I suppose we’ve been asking questions like this since Mary Shelley had a certain book published over 100 years ago.

Having read a little more about the differences, I’m definitely interested in seeing the original – and the book on which it’s based.

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The Hangover

The Hangover
The Hangover

So far I’ve not read or heard a bad review of this film, and having seen it I’m not surprised. One thing I would recommend is to avoid the trailer if you can. There are loads of laughs in here, and it takes the edge off if you’ve seen them before.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Four guys go for a stag night in Las Vegas. And then wake up the next morning without the husband-to-be…

The Hangover has a great script, starting at the beginning, jumping a few hours and leaving you guessing as much as the main characters as to what’s happened. Each bizarre thing they did the night before is revealed perfectly and nothing is so outlandish that you can’t believe it could happen. In fact I’m sure most of them have happened to someone at some point and probably reported in the little funny stories in the newspapers.

We don’t see too much of the groom in the film (well, the fact he goes missing is central to the plot), but the three main protagonists are a very good mixed bunch. Different from each other without going off the deep end of believability.

We have a somewhat mad but somehow gifted child in a man’s body. A suave ladies’ man. A geek with an overbearing girlfriend. They play off each other so well and the scenes see them go through every emotion you can conceive without once seeming unrealistic.

And there’s a key word: believability. That’s what’s key about this film. As much as insane things happen (or happened), as bonkers as it all may seem, it doesn’t quite let go of the fact that this could maybe, perhaps, just happen.

Is this “the comedy of the year”? I don’t know – it’s only June and I’m not some tosser who writes for The Sun and proclaims anything that makes him chortle the funniest thing in the world. However, it is very funny and also a great story. Don’t miss it.

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