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June Movie Reviews

A quick round up of the films I watched for the first time during June. Yes, I know some of them are older films, but I’d never seen them before now…

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Movie Review – Food Fight! (2009)

Film: Food Fight!
Released: 2009
Director: Lawrence Kasanoff
Stars: Charlie Sheen (voice), Hilary Duff (voice), Eva Longoria Parker (voice), Christopher Lloyd (voice), Haylie Duff (singing voice)

Synopsis:
When the lights are turned off and the doors are locked, chaos reigns supreme for the products in this grocery store.

What I thought of it:
A new film showed up on the schedule of Kids AM at the cinema, so I jumped at the chance to entertain Xan on a rainy Saturday morning with a trip to the movies.

Did I say entertaining? I suppose Xan seemed to enjoy it well enough, but I hated every second of it. I’d never heard of it before – and there’s a reason for that! The animation is terrible – jerky, unnatural movement, sloppy mouth movements that often do not match the dialogue (they’re just generic lip flapping most of the time), and an unfinished look to the characters that make it seem like the production ran out of time and money to finish things off as they should have been.

There are recognisable names involved as the vocal stars, but they all sound like they just phoned in their performances, and in particular, Lloyd turns in a carbon copy of his character from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Xan only really paid attention to about half of the film, which is unusual as he LOVES going to the cinema and always sits nicely and pays attention to what’s happening on the screen. If even a three-year-old isn’t engaged by this inane nonsense, it doesn’t bode well for older children and certainly indicates a period of abject torture for the adults.

Rating:

(Rating for adults is 1, but for kids its 3, so an average of 2 – but really, don’t bother with it – it’s dire!)

A Medley of Mini Movie Reviews

I thought I’d get all caught up with the films I’ve seen but not yet reviewed in one go, so here they all are – my medley of mini movie reviews!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace

Synopsis:
Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

Review: Explosive, visually superb, and a lot of fun. Better than the first film by virtue of RDJ neglecting to mumble (hurrah!). Jam-packed full of action with brilliantly devised slow-motion sequences which are then relayed in real time to great effect.

Rating:

Chronicle (2012)


Director:
Josh Trank
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan

Synopsis: Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.

Review: A simple premise and shot in shaky hand-held camera documentary style, this really hits the mark with top-notch visual effects that manage to look completely natural and performances that are completely unforced. Well worth watching, if only to play guess-who’s-going-to-go-all-Carrie and feeling that anything really is possible!

Rating:

William and Kate (2011)

Director: Mark Rosman
Stars: Camilla Luddington, Nico Evers-Swindell, Samantha Whittaker

Synopsis: A Prince, an ordinary girl. And a very British love story.

Review: Made-for-TV and it shows. Low production values, people who look and sound very little (if anything) like the people they are portraying. A plodding, pedestrian, cash-in-quick scheme for Royalists around the globe. Should have been pitched into the abyss rather than to the production team who green lit the project.

Rating:

Devil Inside (2012)

Director: William Brent Bell
Stars: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman,  Evan Helmuth

Synopsis: In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms during her mission to discover what happened to her mother, who allegedly murdered three people during her own exorcism.

Review: Bad. Awful. Sucky on a major scale. Poor performances and the real-life-documentary-shaky-hand-held-cameras style that has been done to death recently, as this film tries to cash in on the style of the popular Paranormal Activity series. It fails. Dismally. There are some uncomfortable moments during exorcisms with bone cracking contortions, but there’s nothing new here and nothing particularly scary or shocking. Avoid at all costs.

Rating:

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (2012)

Directors: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt
Stars: Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek,  Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Brian Blessed

Synopsis: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.

Review: Loved the book, but despite the wealth of voice talent, the film was slightly disappointing. Not nearly so many laughs as you might expect from Aardman Animations (the people behind Wallace and Gromit). A few giggles and playing spot-the-voice redeem this a little, and the kids will enjoy it, but not much for the adults this time round.

Rating:

The Avengers / Avengers Assemble (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans,  Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany (voice)

Synopsis: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.

Review: With Whedon at the helm, you’d think this would be all kinds of awesome, and the trailer indicated it would be. It wasn’t. We saw this in the IMAX Newcastle and wish we hadn’t forked out for more than regular 2D. Pointless inclusion of Black Widow to provide a little eye candy for the boys, and thin plot. Good special effects and performances drag this out of the doldrums. The Iron Man films are still the best of this franchise. A little disappointing, but mindlessly entertaining in parts.

Rating:

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Director: Mark Waters
Stars: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, David Strathairn, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Andrew McCarthy, Joan Plowright, Seth Rogen (voice), Martin Short (voice)

Synopsis: Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.

Review: Based on the popular series of books, this is a fun family film with great visuals and fabulous vocal talents. The child stars are convincing and the story engaging. Definitely one to entertain the kids on a rainy afternoon, but one the adults won’t mind too much either.

Rating:

Mirror, Mirror (2012)

Director: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Sean Bean

Synopsis: An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.

Review: Visually stunning with vibrant colours everywhere and Roberts as the Wicked Queen, the trailer looked like it would be funny, or at least fun. It was not. The distractions of Roberts’ inconsistent accent, Hammer’s hamminess, and Collins’ massively overgrown eyebrows detract from what little there is. And then the whole thing is made worse by a bog Bollywood number at the end that doesn’t fit with the style of the rest of the movie. Fail.

Rating:

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg,  Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon

Synopsis: Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.

Review: I hated the book, but the film wasn’t half as bad. In hands other than Jackon’s, this might have sucked royally, but it’s watchable fare, even if you didn’t like the book. Wahlberg turns in a surprisingly convincing performance as the grieving father, and Weisz came close to moving me to tears as the mother. Tucci is convincingly creepy, and Ronan naively sweet. Some very pretty dreamlike sequences cleverly meld the real world with that of limbo.

Rating:

Iron Sky (2012)

Director: Timo Vuorensola
Stars: Julia Dietze, Peta Sergeant, Udo Kier

Synopsis: The Nazis set up a secret base on the moon in 1945 where they hide out and plan to return to power in 2018.

Review: Riduculously hammy and fun. If you need a reason to watch, here’s a big one – Moon Nazis! Need another? Udo Kier! The effects are excellent and the action set pieces brilliant. The performances are pure ham and cheese but it suits the film exactly. A surprisingly good watch. If you’ve nothing else to do, give this a try – it’s worth it for the hilarious president alone!

Rating:

Movie Review – Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

Film: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Released: 2012
Director: Brad Peyton
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine

Synopsis:
Sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2008).

17-year-old Sean Anderson receives a coded distress signal from a mysterious island where no island should exist. Unable to stop tracking the signal, he sets out with a small group on a journey to the mysterious island – a place few people have ever seen or lived to tell about. What they find is an island of stunning beauty, strange and threatening life forms, volcanoes, mountains of gold and more than one astonishing secret.

What I thought of it:
I saw the first movie some time ago and rather enjoyed it (so sue me, I adore Brendan Fraser!), and this sequel, although missing Mr Fraser, does feature Josh Hutcherson (the kid in the first film) and has bonus kudos in the form of class act, Michael Caine. Oh, and The Rock is in it too. Sorry, Dwayne Johnson, as he now prefers to be known.

Actually, I’m not even being sarcastic about Mr Johnson’s presence because he’s actually a fun addition to the cast, adding a well-balanced blend of good comedy timing and common-sense-Father-Figure-who-might-just-save-the-day. He also has a surprisingly pleasant singing voice.

No, your eyes did not deceive you – you read that correctly. The Rock sings in this movie, but don’t worry, its brief and, as I already mentioned, not unpleasant.

Now to the plot. It’s adventure by numbers really, but the threads holding it all together are from the classic novel The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, and there’s some cleverness in how they come to find the island that is very inventive. There are elements of other Verne novels present too, so there’s always the chance that some of the kids who see this film might just decide to pick up the books and try them too, which is always a good thing.

It’s a nicely entertaining way to spend an hour and a half on a rainy afternoon with the kids and there’s something in it for everyone – for the kids, there’s the sheer adventure, spectacle and excitement of it all; for Dads there’s Michael Caine (after all, a film can’t be too bad if it has Sir Michael in it!); and for the Mums who like that sort of thing, there’s The Rock popping his pecs. Admittedly, I’m not one of the Mums who lusts after Mr Johnson and his seemingly independently mobile muscles, but I still had a giggle at the scene that was obviously put in for the 3D viewers (we saw it in 2D).

There are much worse ways to kill some time and you might find you actually enjoy it more than you expected. I certainly did. And if it leads to you reading those classic adventure tales to your kids, or to them picking them up for themselves, then you’ve got many more happy hours filled in the future to boot!

Rating:

A bee in my bonnet – cinema etiquette

One of the things I hate about going to the cinema is the other people who are so inconsiderate.

We get everything – people texting or chatting on their phones, talking throughout the film, coming into the screen late and then pushing past you to get to their seat (which is ALWAYS in the middle of MY row – why is that?!), people kicking the back of your seat, couples snogging and groping inappropriately in a showing of a children’s film, and others eating really noisily whilst rustling the packets.

I’ve only taken my 3-year-old to see three films in the cinema so far and he has behaved impeccably. He seats quietly, doesn’t kick the seat or run about, and I always give him his snacks in a small tub that won’t rustle (usually things like yoghurt raisins and other soft snacks – silent food – bliss!). If a small child can behave well, why can’t the adults?

As for politely asking people to pipe down – you’re likely to get a tirade of abuse which causes even more of a disturbance than they were creating in the first place and everyone blames you for antagonizing the cretin who needed to be sushed in the first place. Gone are the days of mutual respect and cinema etiquette, and that’s a very sad thing indeed.

Have you borne the brunt of a cinema cretin, or suffered in silence while they ruined the experience for you? How do you deal with it? I’d love to know.

Movie Review – A Monster in Paris (2011)

Film: A Monster in Paris
Released: 2011
Director: Bibo Bergeron
Stars: Adam Goldberg (voice), Vanessa Paradis (voice), Jay Harrington (voice), Danny Huston (voice), Sean Lennon (singing voice)

Synopsis:
Paris,1910. Emile, a shy movie projectionist, and Raoul, a colorful inventor, find themselves embarked on the hunt for a monster terrorizing citizens. They join forces with Lucille, the big-hearted star of the Rare Bird cabaret, an eccentric scientist and his irascible monkey to save the monster, who turns out to be an oversized but harmless flea, from the city’s ruthlessly ambitious police chief.

What I thought of it:

A wonderful blend of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera (coincidentally both also set in Paris!) with a touch of Frankenstein and a dash of Beauty and the Beast. The animation is gorgeous, the storyline superbly executed, and it features a song that should have been nominated for the Best Original Song at the Oscars (La Seine – it should have won it too!).

Featuring the vocal talents of Vanessa Paradis and Sean Lennon (whch blend beautifully, by the way), this is the perfect antidote to a rainy afternoon for kids and adults alike. I took Xander to see this at the cinema and he’s done nothing but talk about it and ask to see it again ever since – he’s even asked me to sing La Seine for him on numerous occasions and has started joining in with it too!

Of course, we saw the English version, but I’m certain the original French version is just as wonderful.

Rating:

 

 

And for your listening pleasure, here is the English version of La Seine:

Movie Review – Contraband (2012)

Film: Contraband
Released: 2012
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster

Synopsis:
Chris Faraday once smuggled illegal items or contraband into the country on freighters. He left that life behind, got married has a family and went legit. But when his brother-in-law got involved with Briggs, a drug dealer and when he blew a deal, Briggs demands restitution which he can’t deliver. So Chris offers to find a way to pay him but the he threatens Chris’ family if he doesn’t deliver. So he gets on a freighter destined for Panama and he sets out to bring back some counterfeit currency. Briggs “goes to see” Chris’ family. When Chris learns of this he asks his friend Sebastian to take care of them which he does. He tells Chris that it would be better to bring drugs instead of the cash.

What I thought of it:
Once upon a time, there was an actor called Giovani Ribisi, and if you saw his name in a cast list, you were pretty much assured of a quirky, indie film with a strong performance from this guy. Then he went mainstream and started churning out the same character time and time again. Usually a drugged up scumbag. Here he is, as a drgged up, drug-dealing scumbag. It’s now Ribisi by numbers.

And of course, we have the least talented of the Wahlbergs taking the lead (one of his brothers is also in this film, but alas, Donnie isn’t the one as someone like him might have been able to add a possibly film-saving spark!). Marky Mark (who akways tries to leave behind his Funky Bunch persona) doesn’t act – he just frowns his way through the plot in an unconvincing manner and, unfortunately, has absolutely no chemistry with Beckinsale (who plays his wife). How can someone not have chemistry with kate Beckinsale? For crying out loud, she’s hot as Hell! I’m straight as can be and even I fancy her!

The plot is basically Gone in 60 Seconds, but without the cars and without any real structure (coincidentally, Ribisi was in that film too – I sense a pattern…). It was dull, dull, dull and there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this movie at all.

Avoid at all costs.

Rating:

Movie Review – Man On a Ledge (2012)

Film: Man On a Ledge
Released: 2012
Director: Asger Leth
Stars: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris

Synopsis:
An ex-cop turned con threatens to jump to his death from a Manhattan hotel rooftop. The nearest New York Police officer immediately responds to a screaming woman and calls dispatch. More Officers arrive with SWAT and tactical command along with fire-fighters. The police then dispatches a female police psychologist personally requested to talk him down from the ledge. However, things aren’t as straightforward and clearcut as they appear to be.

What I thought of it:
I’d been seeing billboard posters everywhere for this film and the premise seemed alright – a man on a ledge provides distraction to the cops and the watching city whilst a heist is pulled off in the next building – so I thought I’d give it a try.

I needn’t have bothered.

As heist movies go, it’s pretty standard fare and it sticks firmly to the formula of back-and-forth between ledge and heist with a few “are they going to get caught?” moments thrown in every now and then. The back story of the characters was a bit thin, but it was enough to cover a reason for the heist (revenge – what else?).

Jamie Bell is acquitting himself well in his modest adult roles and he’s slowly making the transition between child star and adult actor, distancing himself from his beginnings as Billy Elliot. To be honest, he was pretty much the best thing in this film of the mindless, let-it-wash-over-you sort.

Ed Harris, who is a wonderful actor, just looks bored. He’s completely wasted here as the villain of the piece and shold have taken a pass on the project.

It’s enough to keep you ticking over, but you can clearly see every move coming from quite a while before it happens. If you have an hour 40 to kill and nothing better to watch, by all means give it a shot, but otherwise, don’t bother. It’s nothing new or special.

Rating:

Movie Review – Alvin and the Chipmonks: Chipwrecked (2011)

Film: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Released: 2011
Director: Mike Mitchell
Stars: Justin Long (voice), Matthew Gray Gubler (voice), Jesse McCartney (voice), Alan Tudyk (voice), Christina Applegate (voice), Jason Lee

Synopsis:
Playing around while aboard a cruise ship en route to a music awards ceremony, the Chipmunks and Chipettes accidentally go overboard and end up marooned in a tropical paradise. They discover their new turf is not as deserted as it seems.

What I thought of it:

Let me start off by saying, I HATE the Chipmunks. I always have and always will.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, here goes…

This was my three-year-old son’s first ever cinema trip, so it didn’t matter if I thought the movie as awful (which I did!), all that mattered was that he enjoyed himself (which he did!).

This is the third in the animated/live action chipmunks movie franchise, but it was easy to pick up what had happened before – Jason lee adopted three singing chipmunks, then managed to pick up three female singing chipmunks (the Chipettes) and now they’re on board a cruise ship and will be performing at a music awards ceremony. Are you following? Yes, it’s that easy to work out. And the villain from the previous movie(s) shows up too, but you very quickly realise his connection.

The plot is simple and focuses almost entirely on how the Chipmunks and Chipettes survive on the island after accidentally going overboard, and how they all learn something about themselves and each other. It’s entirely unfunny and they all have those incredibly annoying high-pitched warbly voices that will get the hackles up on any adult (unless they’re very strange and into that kind of thin), but which the kiddies all love. However, there is something very, very wrong about animated chipmunks singing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and nothing will ever convince me otherwise.

So, in short, a hideous experience for parents forced to watch this with their children, but great for the little’uns who will sit goggle-eyed, laughing like loons to the very end. Mine even wanted to stay to the end of the credits.

Rating:

(Rating for adults is 1, but for kids it’s 5, so I had to take the average for my overall rating)

Movie Review – Kill Keith (2011)

Film: Kill Keith
Released: 2011
Director: Andy Thompson
Stars: Susannah Fielding, Simon Phillips, Marc Pickering, Keith Chegwin, Tony Blackburn

Synopsis:
A new host will be announced for popular breakfast show, Crack of Dawn, but someone is hunting down the people on the short list – Joe Pasquale, Tony Blackburn, Russell Grant, and last but not least, Keith Chegwin – to turture and murder them all. Will the Breakfast Serial Killer manage to murder all the prospective presenters? Who is this madman? And why is he embarking on his murderous spree? Can intrepid tea boy and wannabe presenter Danny save the day and get the girl of his dreams, none other than Dawn, the co-star?

What I thought of it:
From start to finish, this film is utter silliness. But you know what? It’s absolutely hilarious! The household names we love (and those we love to hate) are all present and correct as parodies of themselves (kudos especially to Cheggers and Blackburn!). Marc Pickering (Danny) looks like the secret love child of Alan Cumming and is brilliant as the loser who dreams of being more than just the tea boy on Britain’s favourite breakfast television show. The movie-based fantasy sequences are all brilliant.

And when it comes to seeing those aforementioned household names getting tortured, maimed and murdered, the over-the-top ick-factor is extremely high and extremely funny.

It’s nothing high-brow, it’s not particularly clever, but it will make you giggle like crazy. If you ever watched Swap Shop on a Saturday morning as a kid, you’ll love seeing Cheggers in this crazy comedy-murder-fantasy.

Rating: