Last year, the BBC graced upon us the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen in lieu of a full length feature ever appearing. Last time it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and then last year, it was regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in the series 8 opening, Deep Breath.
Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appeared to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.
After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that had been the previous Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffatt wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that managed to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era.
Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties, which certainly gave the whole thing a bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It doesn’t sound much on paper, but revisiting the scene still gives chills.
Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.
This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during The Twin Dilemma. Of course, as the series progressed, there would be further examples of her being left out to dry, but Clara managed to scrabble back her dignity and eventually became The Doctor. If only for a short time.
Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi has certainly become one of the more iconic interpretations. He’s rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples. In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (i.e. us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.
Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Of course, we all know what happened to her. Or do we? Deep Breath was bursting with fun and was the perfect jumping on point for those who still hadn’t dabbled in Nu-Who over the last ten years.
Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up as the ninth season approaches.
When it was announced that Michael Bay was involved in the latest big screen adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the wailing and gnashing of teeth of a fanbase comprised of thirty year olds, who should know better, could be heard from space. But was they’re primordial rage before they picked the kids up from school justified?
Well, not really.
Let’s us be honest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is far from perfect, but it is an extremely entertaining – whisper it – kids film. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo don’t have the gritty realism some would expect or even demand from a reboot. After all, we’re in the age of grit aren’t we? A time where even Superman is not allowed to smile. However, whilst the heroes in a half-shell certainly kick arse, they are also a bit silly; getting into childish fights with each other and being scalded by Splinter. Even when the film threatens to veer off into dark territory, it pulls a joke from its sleeve that leaves a large grin on your face and reminds you of the days when blockbusters weren’t always just about appealing to the fanboys. It’s everything you remember from Saturday mornings.
To expect a film like this to be anything more is to fall into the trap of believing that the things we loved as children should grow up with us. And whilst a number of references are made during the course of the narrative that acknowledge the original cartoon, this is not a film that’s worried about the grown-ups in the room. It’s talking to the kids and successful at doing so. Yes, the plot is simplistic and at times the dialogue merely serves to signpost who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We were more concerned about Will Arnett leering over Megan Fox, which thankfully didn’t happen too often. But really shouldn’t be seen outside of Bay’s Transformers series.
Jonathan Liebesman has directed a great piece of bubblegum cinema that is a hell of a lot of fun. It crucifixion in the press seems misjudged and hopefully, when the boy’s make it onto DVD and bluray, it’ll get the proper recognition it deserves.
Once again, the BBC have graced us with the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen. Last time, it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and now it’s regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in this, the series 8 opening.
Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appears to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.
After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that was last year’s Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffat has wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala.’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that still manages to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era. Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties in this season opener, which certainly gave the whole bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It’s great to see Doctor Who experimenting with people at the helm, and it’ll be fascinating to see what Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) does with her pieces later this year.
Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman has had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.
This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during the Twin Dilemma.
Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi looks set to be one of the more iconic interpretations. He was rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples (or did he?). In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (ie us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.
Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Deep Breath was bursting with fun. Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up. Here’s hoping.
Let’s not pretend with each other. When it was first announced that there was going to be a movie based on those multicolored building blocks, we all thought it was going to turn out to turn out to be a 90 minute advert for their back catalogue. Whilst there’s no denying that The Lego Movie is sure to shift a unit or two at Toys R Us, parents can rest easy knowing that there’s more to it than that.
Emmett Brickowzki (Chris Pratt) is the happiest man in the happiest city ever. Diligently following the instructions given out by the President of the world, Lord Business (Will Ferrell), he’s a nondescript yellow face amongst a sea of yellow faces. When happenstance leads to Emmett meeting the sage like, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and rebellious WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), he discovers that he may be the savior of all the known Lego universes.
Along his journey, Emmett interacts with various ‘master builders’, who – and again parents, you really shouldn’t let this worry you – all happen to be popular spinoffs of the Lego brand. Anyone who has played the Lego computer games – Star Wars, Batman, etc – will know the slight irreverence they have towards their licenses. And those ideals bleed into the movie itself, with Batman (Will Arnett) writing epic goth poetry about being Batman.
Wildly funny and imaginative, the biggest surprise of The Lego Movie is how layered it is. Starting with the checklist that is the Hero’s Journey, the film goes on to take on big business and during the third act manages to upturn the whole thing; turning the conclusion into an emotional finale that makes you reevaluate everything you’ve been watching.
The Lego Movie; A film so brilliant, so – ahem – awesome, we don’t actually want a sequel for fear it will dilute the overall effect. It’s that good.
Good evening and welcome to the EBFS review of the year (in film). Ahhhh…. 2013…. It seems a different, more innocent time. A time when the Academy saw fit to award Argo its highest honour at their annual, low-key shindig, despite their apparent belief that the film just popped into existence from nothing without any help from a director or anything. Cannes dropped to its knees over three hours of emotionally wrought, sapphic love in Blue Is The Warmest Colour, just to prove how stereotypically bloody French they are. Toronto, in a shameless attempt to hold onto it’s spot as “hot Oscar predictor”, hedged its bets and threw The People’s Choice Award at 12 Years a Slave, which is basically cheating. Venice and Berlin foisted their respective golden animal statues at Sacro GRA and Child’s Pose respectively. Two films so art-house and (eurgh) European that they have yet to see a release in either of the countries EBFS wanders around in. However, all of that backpatting, black tie dinnering, gladhanding was just window dressing compared to the (fanfare/family fortunes incorrect answer noise) annual verbal fist fight that has become the Early Bird Film Society’s Collection of Top Five Films And Some Bad Ones Of The Year! The title will be worked on.
Anyway, all four of us here at the global EBFS offices (Melbourne/Manchester Divisions) have picked our top five films that we saw at the cinema in 2013 based on a less than comprehensive release date schedule spanning two countries and poor recollection skills. It’s our list though, so don’t judge us and you’re welcome:
Joss Whedon threw this Shakespeare adaptation together using his house, his wife, his friends and his deft ear for fast, witty dialogue. Delightfully playful, completely faithful and a little breath of fresh air amongst the towering mega franchises.
– DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino’s best film since Jackie Brown, completely ignoring any political subtext and a more brutal depiction of slavery for that reason. Great performances from Foxx and SLJ but Christophe Waltz’s warmth and DiCaprio’s gleeful evil earned them the plaudits. Extra points for surviving Tarantino’s inexplicable Australian accent which he’ll have to be brought to account for at some point.
Divisive doesn’t even cover it. Nicolas Winding Refn’s desire to “violate” the audience came true with this lurid, neo fable of oedipal urges in Bangkok. Ryan Gosling’s easiest day at the office is a bleak and uncompromising, neon drenched nightmare set within the lowest parts of the human psyche. Maybe.
Despite Spock’s presence, this embarrassingly colon free sequel was almost totally bereft of logic. Insane pacing and set pieces (and lens flare) and the worst kept secret of the year still made for a rip-roaring dash through a thousand tropes of the Star Trek universe all coated with JJ Abrams’ clever script reverses and cinema savvy. Best line delivery of the year too. Altogether now….”KHAAAAANNNNN!!”.
Harmony Korine aims for the mainstream and thankfully misses with his visceral tale of hedonism and excess where the youth of America stop trying to be the best they can be and realise they no longer live in a country where anything is possible. Warning, contains James Franco saying “blue Kool-Aid” over and over and singing a Britney Spears song. Not for everyone.
Will Smith “thinks” up an idea where he doesn’t play Will Smith but seventies Robert Duvall, his son convinces us that emoting is hard and M Night Shawaddywaddy directs? Ooh, it took a round of drawing straws to get one of EBFS into the cinema to begin with to gape open mouthed at a film with as much warmth, wit and charm as someone who bangs on a van at a sex trial. If this ruins Will Smith’s career (which it won’t), karmic film balance would at least creep back into the black….
The award for best rug pull/slap in the fan boys faces goes to Shane Black’s exceptionally funny take on the superhero. RDJ nails it yet again as Tony Stark but the star of the show was Sir Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin/Trevor Slattery. Brilliant fun from start to finish.
Adored by critics and loved by the public. Alfonso Cuaron’s marvelous film may have taken some fantastic scientific leaps in logic (seriously, look into it) but who cares, it was brilliant. Innovative and thoughtful this was on most critics top 5 lists. Ghost Clooney is my hero.
The funniest film I’ve seen in ages. Steve Coogan inhibits a character better than any other actor of his ilk, (take note of how it’s done Mr. Ferrell) and does it to consistently hilarious effect. The lip synch to Roachford’s ‘Cuddly Toy’ and ‘the man fanny’ were two of my highlights. Excellent work from everybody involved.
– CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
Tom Hanks is as good as he’s been since he made me cry over losing a chuffing volleyball. Special mention to debutant Barkhad Abdi who held his own against a hollywood legend, his turn as Somali pirate Muse was almost as good as Hanks’ titular hero. Intense,thrilling, fast paced and superbly directed (well-played Paul Greengrass) this was edge of the seat viewing. Worth it for the heartbreaking final scenes.
I’m a 35 year old man who likes boxing, MMA, rugby, NFL, horror movies and the 80’s back catalogue of ‘The Austrian Oak’ and Sly Stallone and yes….a Disney musical made my top 5. The music in this is as good as anything from the 90’s golden era. I’ll put ‘Let it Go’ up against ‘A Whole New World’ or ‘Be Our Guest’. It’s very funny thanks to a brilliant talking snowman and the message that you don’t need a man to feel loved plays totally against Disney’s apparent ethos.
I thought long and ard about this. I nearly gave it to Anchorman 2but as awful as that was it just didn’t make my blood boil as much as OGF. As beautifully shot and scored as this was it felt deliberately obtuse at times and constantly frustrating. I hate this film with a passion that burns with the fire of a thousand suns.
Top 5 by @noonanjohnc
Elijah Wood is a maniac, maniac on the floor and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before. D’oh! He is NOT a maniac, maniac on the floor, dancing like he’s never danced before. He’s the puppy eyed, mumbling owner of a mannequin store, with an oedipal love for his dead mother. Oh and he likes to scalp women. Franck Khalfoun’s remake of the 1981 greasy cult classic, has the morals of American Psycho and the sheen of Drive. Shot from Wood’s POV, the film makes you an unwilling accomplice in his apologetic rampage (‘I won’t hurt you.’ He cries to one of his victims, before doing exactly that). Haunting, vicious and with a superb soundtrack, Maniac will stay with you for a long time. I suggest showering in Swafeger afterwards.
This tale of three lads building a house in the forest to escape their respective parents took me completely by surprise. Equal parts Stand by Me and The Hangover (Seriously), The Kings of Summer is brilliantly shot and hilarious. I’ve watched this several times now and it never fails to cheer me up. Pretty much every highlight includes either Nick Offerman’s grumpy sonuvabich father who continually fights with the local Chinese restaurant or Moises Arias as the alien-esque Biaggio; a boy who mistakes Cystic Fibrosis for being gay.
Another coming of age film. This time from the writers of The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who also direct. Duncan is a boy forced on a summer break with his mum and her somewhat dominant boyfriend. Whilst trying to find something fun to do, Duncan ends up working at Sam Rockwell’s rundown waterpark. Everyone is on fire in this film. Patriculalty Rockwell who has never been better as the lethargic Lothario with *all together now* a heart of gold.
I’ve got two Aussie films in my top ten. Ivan Sen’s noirish police procedural Mystery Road and this from documentarian Kim Mordaunt. I’ve gone with The Rocket simply because it’s probably the most accessible. A film that is both heartbreaking and joyful, The Rocket tells the story of a young boy just trying to prove his worth to his family when all those around him consider him to be bad look. I’ve told people it’s like a children’s story for grown-ups, and I think it’s the most succinct way I can put it.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said on this page. I’m not going to waste your time. If you’ve seen it and loved it, you know why it’s on my list. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and see if you can find a cinema that’s still showing it. I’ll wait.
– I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2
I’ve seen a lot of tosh in 2013. Hell, I saw three Dolph Lundgren films alone. However, absolutely none of them, not even Diana, could be considered the worst of 2013 when you have I Spit on Your Grave 2 vying for your attention. This shitpile of a movie is everything that’s wrong with most horror films today. Replacing subtly and scares with vicious and nasty, the film tries to justify the brutal hour long rape and abuse of its protagonist by letting her have the final third of the film to exact her revenge. No movie has ever made me as angry as this Fanta bottle full of piss.
Top 5 by @noonanhannah
– STOKER (2013)
I must confess to having mixed feelings about Park Chan-wook’s English language debut upon first viewing. But Stoker is one of those films whose utter dedication to atmosphere stays with you months after viewing until you begrudgingly admit that actually, that was rather brilliant. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode all put in stellar performances and Chung Chung-hoon’s cinematography is positively lush. But the real star of Stoker is Wentworth Miller’s haunting script, a brilliant love letter to the twisted family shenanigans of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.
Flawed? Yes. Overlong? Absolutely. But Derek Cianfrance’s follow up to Blue Valentine is a brooding character piece that asks for a gamut of emotional responses from its audience, most of which it successfully achieves. Plus, it threatened to melt the internet by giving us a scene where Ryan Gosling dances with a dog to Bruce Springsteen, and if that’s not what you want out of a film, then we could never be friends.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s ode to coming-of-age films is beautifully judged, wonderfully directed and supremely enjoyable. Allison Janney puts in a brilliant performance as a fabulously awful drunk, and Sam Rockwell becomes the best friend any kid could want. There’s really not much else to say about the Descendantspair’s summer outing that I didn’t cover in my original review.
Disney’s wintery delight is a strong step forward for the house of mouse, and a beautifully woven tale of sisterly love, sassy reindeers and singing snowmen. But more to the point, the songs are fabulous and if you’re not singing ‘Let It Go’ by the end then you have a heart of ice.
The second of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek outings is a two-hour exercise in fan wankery at its absolute finest and, forgive me, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Benedict Cumberbatch e-nun-ci-aaaates his way into the British bad guy canon of Hollywood, and anyone who says it isn’t entertaining watching just how far those nostrils flare is frankly a liar. Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that fiercely says no to logic, and yes to “LOOK! SHINY THINGS!” so excuse me for being a magpie.
– OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)
Most likely not the ACTUAL worst film of the year (I never got round to that Shyamalan affair with Will Smith and his young clone) but certainly the most souless and tedious film I spent money on. James Franco is sleepy and disengaged in this needless and saccharine A list pantomime. There’s a terrible CGI monkey sidekick, a creepy porcelain girl I swear I met in a nightmare in my youth, and the dullest of Bruce Campbell cameos. I love The Wizard of Oz, I love Sam Raimi, but this was such a disappointment.
So there you have it. Did you think any of us were blisteringly right? Howling wrong? Let us know.
Warning: We’ve tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but please advised that if you’ve still yet to see the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, you’re best looking elsewhere for now.
You’ll have to have been trapped in some distant nebula to not know that that Doctor Who is now into its 50th year. As part of the celebrations, the anniversary special has made it the cinemas in glorious 3D – and not 12D as the good Doctor (Matt Smith) suggests in the opening promo.
Steven Moffat was always going to have to a hard time of it with The Day of the Doctor. On the one hand, we have the hardcore, dyed in the wool fans who want to see a special that carts out William Hartnell’s corpse to appease them. To them the show goes beyond pin-up boy David Tennant and his lovey-dovey Doctor. They want a dark doctor! On the other hand, we have the youngsters, the ones who helped make the show’s resurgence. They embraced Russell T. Davies’ reboot and The Day of the Doctor should acknowledge them. And on the third hand – This is sci-fi! We’re allowed three hands – there will be people who know Doctor Who as nothing more than that show with the metal pepperpots, and will be tuning in to see what all the fuss is about.
So, how did it go?
Well, pretty well actually. In fact, very well. In actual fact, we’re still recovering from it all.
Moffat seems to have managed to address concerns on all fronts; embracing the show’s canon, whilst providing a narrative that embraces newcomers one and all. A series of events leads to three incarnations of the Doctor having to join forces to save the world from the Zygons. Well, that’s not really the A-Story, but it’s the one we’re going to tell you. The Day of the Doctor is a bit like opening presents on Christmas Day. You don’t really know what you’ve got until you open them, and then there’s that giddy joy of finding one or two extras tucked away behind the tree. From Gallifrey, to long scarves, to mockney accents, references appear like little chunky nuggets of fun that won’t confuse the casual viewer.
It’s not just Moffat’s script that’s worth mention, Nick Hurran’s direction is particularly dynamic. It’s very easy for a show-runner to say his script is dynamic, but it’s the director that has to realise it. From to barren deserts to war-torn cities, Hurran has added some real weight to the visuals. We are far, far, far from the days when two school teachers turned up at a junkyard to talk to an old man in a blue box.
Whilst we take a break from the gushing praise, we should address the elephant in the room. John Hurt. Yes, he’s a forgotten Doctor, but it’s quite obvious that the character was originally the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston. Whilst Moffat has provided a backstory to explain all this away, it does irk a little. But only a little. Hurt is superb as the earlier and grumpier incarnation of Smith and Tennant. He acts as a bridge not only from the classic series to the new, but he also plays mouthpiece to the numerous old school fans who have had quibbles with the new show’s tropes, such as the overuse of sonic screwdrivers as a weapon. ‘What are you going to do? Assemble a wardrobe at them?!’
The other major problem is a cameo from the show’s past that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to the story. But then again, who are we to fault a desire to please everyone.
The Day of the Doctor is a funny, moving, fast paced adventure. It’s big and bold and it’s a standing testament to the endurance of the show. Not bad for something that was cobbled together 50 years ago to fill a gap between the football and Top of the Pops. Not bad at all.
2010’s Despicable Me was a bit of a sleeper hit. Going toe to toe with Megamind – the other evil genius cartoon that shot itself in the foot with its numerous trailers spoiling its one and only twist – it invariably won audiences over with its gentle humour, its Looney Toons-esque plot, and lots and lots of those little yellow nuggets we now know as Minions. With so much going for it, the arrival of a sequel should only have come as a surprise to rocks and even then, really dumb rocks.
Former evil genius Gru (Steve Carrell) has officially hung up his plans for world domination and is focussing all his energy into raising his three adopted daughters and producing a range of mouth-watering jams. Left in the lurch by his lab partner Dr Nefario (Russell Brand), who wants more evil out of life, Gru finds himself pining for a bit of a break from parenthood. Enter secret agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), who enlists Gru’s help in tracking down a stolen mutating chemical compound.
Despicable Me 2, like most sequels, cranks everything up to 11. However, unlike most sequels, it manages to hit every target it aims for. We very rarely use the term perfect, but the only issue we really had came in the form of a neutered performance by Kim Jeong as the diminutive wig guru, Floyd Eagle-san. Speaking of Jeong, Despicable Me 2 manages to show the excruciating Hangover Part III how you beef up your franchise’s minor characters without crushing the life out the film like a python.
A large part of the film sees the Minions pushed to the front in a plot concerning their kidnapping, and the film’s success is largely down to this. Never managing to outstay their welcome, like a certain man-child, they bring the biggest laughs and the greatest joy of the film. Whether this will translate to the upcoming Minions movie remains to be seen, but for now let’s not worry. Despicable Me 2 is a wonderful, anarchic, slab of joy.
Open your books and turn to chapter one; it’s time for Monsters University, Pixar’s prequel to their 2001 hit. Rewinding the clock, we follow Mike and Sully as they take their first tentative steps into art of scaring. Mike’s rotund spherical shape and booksmarts have made him the target of ridicule as no one finds him the least bit scary, whilst Sully is coasting off the reputation of his successful father and failing to take college seriously. Neither is particularly fond of the other. When they’re both kicked off their course by Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), they must work together to get re-enrolled. Along the way they will join the least successful fraternity and enter the annual Scare Games against the most popular fraternity on campus, Roar Omega Roar.
Yes, this is pretty much every college movie you’ve seen, from Animal House to Revenge of the Nerds, boiled down to a palatable child-friendly nugget. Whilst the initial idea of a children’s film set in a college may seem at odds with the cuddly nature of Pixar, it’s a credit to their talent how quickly these doubts are washed away as Mike literally takes his first step onto university soil. We only wish our days at uni were like this.
Cameos from Monsters Inc rub shoulders with some lovely little set pieces. A showcase of Sully and Mike’s scaring abilities is a particular stand out, as the young monsters learn to harness their abilities against a foe they’ve never studied for. There’s also a lot to be said for a film whose take-home message appears to be at odds with other Pixar movies, such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Whereas those seemed to instil a sense of limitless possibilities into the minds of their impressionable viewers, Monsters University goes for a more grown up message which appears to be restrictive and balances the hash realties of life with a can do spirit that would make Buzz and Woody proud.
Whilst not as eye-opening or wonderful as Monsters Inc, there is enough here to leave a mile wide smile on your face.
Looking through the murky depths of Adam Sandler’s filmography, it’s surprising to see that Hotel Transylvania, his billionth movie, is only his second family film after Eight Crazy Nights. However, this only comes in second to the surprise that it’s co-written by Peter Baynham, who brought us such kiddie friendly fare such as Arthur Christmas, Brass Eye and I’m Alan Partridge.
Contrary to popular belief, Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) is not the Bela Lugosi-shaped blood sucker we all know him to be. Rather than feasting on the blood of virgins and harassing the wives of estate agents, he’s actually a docile single father trying to balance the pressures of running a hotel for his fellow denizens of the night, with trying to protect his 118 year old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), from the horrors of the outside world. If there’s one thing that truly horrifies him, it’s the thought of a human encroaching on his domain, and would you Adam and Eve it? Here comes a big box of trouble in the shape of clueless backpacker, Jonathan (Andy Samberg). What’s a Transylvanian nobleman to do!
Hotel Transylvania is unashamedly a kid’s movie, which is both complementary and damning. We know we laughed just as much as the munchkins in the audience with us, but coming out we struggled to remember any actual ‘jokes’. The zaniness of Samberg’s performance is counteracted by Gomez, whose years on the Disney channel have really helped her fine tune the art of blandness. And so it goes on.
Maybe the issue is with us, the thought of Genndy Tartakovsky directing Hotel Transylvania made us a bit giddy. With a pedigree that includes Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and 2 Stupid Dogs, we really wanted him to pull something special out of the bag. Unfortunately, the script by Robert Smigel and the aforementioned Baynham has very little in the way of originality; feeling like a mixture of Monsters Inc and Rent-a-Ghost with an ending that can be used by Ground Technicians to land planes. It all feels a bit, well, toothless.
This all makes it sound like Hotel Transylvania is a mediocre film, which is far from the truth. The problem seems to be that on the one hand, we have a film that celebrates the art of the fart joke with a plot that’s plotted simply enough for the ankle-biters to follow. However, on the other hand, we have a weakly plotted film with a penchant for breaking wind. Which side of the age of 10 you land on will probably determine how you feel after those 90 minutes are over.
The Adventures of Tintin books were a large part of a number of childhoods. Tintin the man-child journalist leaping from adventure to adventure with his dog, Snowy, by his side and a cavalcade of colourful and unusual bit-players, from Captain Haddock to Thompson and Thomson. So, when it was announced Speilberg was heading up a film version, it wasn’t so much a surprise that it was going to happen, but that it had taken so long.
With Speilberg directing and Peter Jackson on producing duties, it was down to Steven Moffat to put together a script. After banging out a first draft and accepting the job as producer for Doctor Who, fanboy Moffat handed scripting duties to Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). So, that’s a hell of a lot talent on board before you’ve even got the cast. The latest and greatest dog-piled onto a greenscreen set to be motion captured and dropped directly into the very pages of Tintin’s world. How thrilling!
So, where does that leave us?
Unfortunately, with a very average adventure film. Despite everything that’s thrown on screen in an attempt to entertain, it all misses the mark.
No one could argue that the plot, for what it is, isn’t fast paced. In fact, it’s too fast paced. There’s no time to catch your breath or absorb what’s happening. It’s set piece, after set piece, after set piece. A sub-plot involving Thompson and Thomson on the hunt for a pickpocket is loaded with running around and slapstick, when it could have been wisely used as a sort of interval from the action. Even the most ADHD ridden child high on Vimto will want to stop for a fag break.
The animation/motion capture is impressive and EBFS would never take that away from everybody involved. However, it can’t be denied that that everyone looks a tad unearthly. And there’s that niggling thought that if you were going to that much effort to make everyone look ‘human’, why not just use… I don’t know, humans? Tintin’s dead fish eyes were a constant reminder that nothing happening on screen was real. It may as well have been Skyrim. Did The Polar Express teach us nothing?!
The tone of the movie is equally niggling. On the one hand, it does feel like a ripping yarn for boys, but on the other hand it’s all a bit too, well, silly ie Haddock using his alcoholic breath to fuel a plane. This could be the fault of the mixed bag of writers. Separately, each of them are strong writers in their own rights, but together the script seems to suffer from whose interpretation of the Tintin world is actually being put forward for consideration. Snowy chasing the bad guys only to have a cow fart in his face sums up the whole film really.
With Hugo and pretty much anything by Pixar already out there, it can be said that there are better family films. And it’s a shame, because all the signposts suggested that this could have been a cracking piece of work. If we can take anything away from this, at least, Like Moffat’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, there’s always that glimmer of hope that a child will want to pick up one of Hergé’s actual books and that can never be a bad thing.