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Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
A flawed but fun addition to the series
It has been ten years since we saw our Sub-Zero Heros for the first time, and as a long-term Ice Age fan, I have experienced some ups and downs with the series. The first two movies I have really adored, especially the second one for its relaxed story and beautiful animation. But by the time they jumped the shark with the dumb addition of dinosaurs in the third film and the incoherent Christmas special (in which Christmas didn't exist), this made me loose faith in the series. Despite low expectations for this latest addition, I did opt to attend a 3D screening and I was quite surprised about how much fun I had. While Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is quiet enjoyable, its heavily flawed too.
This episode of the highly successful series see's Manny, Diego and Sid separated from the others on a sheet of ice after Scrat the saber-tooth squirrel accidentally causes Pangaea to break up with his acorn (which you've probably seen earlier in Scrat's Continental Crack-up). On the way, they find Sid's granny as a stowaway, discover a new land and come across a bunch of pirates in which Diego falls in love with one of them; a female saber-tooth called Shira. Meanwhile back at home Manny's teenage daughter Peaches finds herself in a relationship conflict with a mammoth named Ethan and a mole hog called Louis, while at the same time having to avoid the disaster caused by Scrat.
Phew! At first impression, this seems like a lot of story to get through in a 94 minute movie. However, the storytelling is all played smoothly, if predictably, but also suffers from a number of unexplained story elements like where did the pirates come from and why they became pirates in the first place. The biggest plot hole has to be the fact that the Pangaea continent Scrat splits up is entirely out of continuity with the Ice Age period since this was meant to happen millions of years prior. Did they makers even do research on this? Couldn't it have just been an simpler approach instead? I found many parts of the film to feel borrowed or rehashed from other animated films, including previous Ice Age films, and with the large amount of story, a few elements aren't focused deep enough including Diego and Shira's relationship.
Despite these issues however, here is a lot to like in this entry. As you would expect from Blue Sky, the animation is very colourful and fluid, the most impressive elements having to be the sea storms as they are well-detailed and thrilling to watch, but it has a been-there-done-that feeling since we are all familiar with the characters and setting. Plus the movie has good use of 3D which isn't too distracting or barely noticeable and I soon forgot that I was wearing the glasses. The humor in this one is pretty hit-and-miss, but when it hits, its quite funny. With the old characters retaining their personalities (which is faithful to them), there's a lot of new characters to freshen things up. While I found Sid's granny a bit annoying at times, I did particularly enjoy Peter Dinklage's evil performance as Captain Gutt as with the other pirates. However my two person favorites were Peaches and Louis because of their character development and nice (if slightly clichéd) friendship, which is something I could relate to, and I thought Josh Gad was a good choice for Louis' sweet and caring personality.
So overall, I'd have to say that Ice Age 4 was a pretty fun ride for me and was much better than I expected despite its problems. Is it great? Well I can't say its as amazing as the first two, but at least its a bit better than the third. I'm glad that I saw it, but I think the series just doesn't feel the same as it was back in 2002. It seems to be missing the nostalgia and charm that the first movie had. And with that said, I suggest its best for Fox to end this saga here instead of continuing to milk and worsen the beloved series. A fifth film is just unnecessary.
Balto, an amazing animated gem
I was only one year old when Balto got released in theaters, but I didn't even hear about its existence until recently. I love animation, I love dogs and I felt sorry to hear that this film wasn't very popular when it was released, so I decided to watch it on DVD. What I got was an amazing, inspiring and heart warming animated film which turned out to be one of the best I've ever seen.
I was surprised about how much I was connected to the main character Balto. Because he is portrayed as a husky-wolf hybrid, the people of Nome fear of him for being part-wolf, the wolf packs reject him for being part-husky and the other dogs make fun of him for it. As a result, he is an outcast who doesn't know where he belongs, and only relying on Boris, a goose who is afraid of heights to take care of him. I showed a lot of sympathy towards Balto because I've been in similar situations and seeing him being left out was very emotive.
The story is loosely based on the true 1925 serum run in Alaska. A disease spreads onto the children of Nome and a snow storm cuts all transport from delivering medicine, so a team sled dogs are sent to pick it up. But poor Balto isn't allowed to help out because of his wolf heritage. When the team is reported missing, Balto sets off on a daring quest to rescue them and get them home safely. This shows how courageous and determined he is to get the medicine to the sick children. That said, he is a very caring character and thats another reason why I really liked him.
There's a bit of peril and emotional moments in this film, but plenty of comic relief is present to ease them, mostly involving Boris and Muk and Luk (the two polar bears). I personally liked the recurring gag when Kaltag hits Star in the head for saying something random. It gave me a smile each time. And the romantic moments of Balto and his girlfriend Jenna are extremely sweet indeed. Again, I found it sympathetic when Steele (the films ruthless antagonist) tries to spoil things for Balto by bullying him and trying to take Jenna from him.
I found the animation to be very well done. With nice character designs and detailed Alaskan backdrops, all of which are well-drawn and gently animated, it allows to show how much work and effort Amblimation put into this traditionally animated masterpiece. James Horner's music is very atmospheric and dramatic and I liked how there were no random musical numbers to interrupt its flow.
The voice acting is just as great. Bob Hoskins (as Boris) and Bridget Fonda (as Jenna) do a good job while Phil Collins voices Muk and Luk adorably and Jim Cummings is great as evil Steele. However, I would have to commend Kevin Bacon's performance for Balto. He voiced Balto sensibly. Not overacting, bland or hip, but he gave the character a more of a calm, humble, shy and likable personality similar to mine. Its another similarity me and Balto have.
In conclusion, I would have to say that I absolutely adored Balto, and thats because of its great animation, story, casting and a protagonist who I could really relate to. I'm glad that I found out about this underrated classic and its a good thing others have too. If you like animation or dogs and you haven't seen it already, then I believe that Balto well deserves your attention. You will fall in love with it just like I did.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
This on the Top 250? Seriously?
Inglourious Basterds is boring, nonsensical, stupid, and overlong. I can't get my head around on why this is on IMDb's Top 250. Personally, I don't think it deserves this amount of praise. Heres why.
The main problem with Inglourious Basterds is that it can't decide whether to be a gritty war film or a table conversation caught on tape. For 70% of the film, all we are given is boring and overlong foreign language conversations that do nothing more than act as stretching filler for the 153 minute run time. Worse, it does almost nothing to develop the nonexistent plot line and the uninteresting and emotionless characters (apart from Colonel Hans Landa played by the great Christoph Waltz). Boring!
It is a strange fact that the title characters (the Basterds) get such little screen time. But even if they had more time, you still wouldn't care about them the slightest. For matters, they aren't very interesting characters. Who are they? Where did they originate? Why were they selected to assonant Nazi's in the first place? None of this is explained. And as hard as Brad Pitt and the others try, their talent is wasted on their roles being overshadowed by the unnecessary conversation scenes plaguing this film.
Near the end of this bore, we get to the action scene (finally!), but its just played out ridiculously. Spoilers: Hitler and his Nazi officers get locked inside a burning theater during a screening. Shouldn't there be guards available to stop the intruder from doing this? I only spotted a few on duty who didn't do anything. During the explosions, two of the Basterds sacrifice their lives to well continue shooting Hitler's corpse I guess? Not sure why. Then we cut to a conclusion that doesn't resolve anything.
So whats so good about this film? From my point of view, nothing apart from Waltz. There's no plot or character development, the story is poorly told and the pacing is slow and boring. We all know Quentin Tarantino as a respected film director, but this mess he made doesn't come close to the charm of other WWII films like The Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan, Defiance or Valiant.
This basterd of a film is just plain bad. But seriously. A movie this poor in the Top 250? Thats completely beyond me. "D"
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
An awesome comedy that stays apart from others
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a very smart teen comedy. While being a romantic comedy, it also makes jabs on video game culture at the same time to create unique storytelling and cinematography. Thanks to its fast-paced action, eye-popping visuals and spot-on references on recto gaming, Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright successfully turns this simple comic book adaption into a funny, innovative and very awesome epic comedy flick that sets itself apart from the crowd.
This is a film based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel with the same name. While I didn't read any Scott Pilgrim novels, I still got engaged in the films fast paced story. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is the basest of his garage rock band Sex Bob-omb who one day, befriends with Ramona Flowers (Elizabeth Mary Winstead) who turns out to be the girl of his dreams. But in order to win her, Scott must stand up and destroy Ramona's seven exes.
The acting in this treat of a film is very witty and well-directed. Michael Cera is very fitting for the title character Scott Pilgrim, delivering his speedy lines in a stable, geeky and enthusiastic way which to me, made him very likable. The same goes with the rest of the cast members including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona and Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate Wallace. Even the seven axes are spot-on, each one being unique and distinctive from each other. While I was a little annoyed with the lack of character development, the characters themselves were still fun and believable.
In addition to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World's witty dialogue, references of old school video games are scatted throughout the film. Not only are they done in such a humorous way and give the film personality, but they also act an important storytelling device. This is no game of "spot-the-reference" like in those "Movie" movies. In Scott Pilgrim, these references help the story keep its flow and pace and gives you the feel of being in a video game. Whether it's Scott's bands name that's taken from the Mario villain or the boss battles that humorously mimic classic fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Combat, they are all excellent and retro gamers will easily pick them up.
It's not just the video game jabs that make this movie so cool. There are amazingly flashy special effects which dominate the films cinematography. What I found special about them is that they are very unique, not clichéd fireballs or gunfire like in other action movies. But instead of those, we are provided with effects varying from classic 8-bit pop-ins and dazzling and colourful light clash effects during the battle scenes. As a bonus, enemy remainings are coins instead of blood. Score!
I had a blast watching, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It's dazzling, wittily written and filled with nostalgia, but it's such a shame it failed at the Box Office. To finish off, this is a cult film that I highly recommend, especially for fans of the novel, video games and Wright's other works. "B+"
A fun dinosaur film
I'm 17 and I am a fan of animated films. Today, I decided to watch We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story just for fun. I wasn't expecting much from this, but I enjoyed it.
Four dinosaurs named Rex, Elsa, Dweeb and Woog are taken inside a time machine where they are feed Brain Cereal. This turns these ferocious reptiles into friendly, cuddly chaps and gives them the ability to talk. The time machine operator Captain Neweyes (wisely voiced by Walter Cronkite) informs the dinos that he has chosen them to be sent to the present day to fulfill kids wishes. Thats when they are dropped off in New York City.
Yes, I found this plot a bit strange (it's based on a children's book) but it was fun enough to enjoy. This film has nicely done animation, the character drawings are good and James Horner's score is pleasant to listen to. I also liked the voices in the film. The dinosaurs were well casted with likings of John Goodman (Rex), Charles Fleischer (Dweeb), Rene LeVant (Woog) and Felicity Kendal (Elsa). They weren't too annoying either, which is a good thing.
Still, I have to report a few negatives for We're Back!. About half way through the film, the theme suddenly changes from happy and colorful to a scary, dark perspective. I think kids might get a fright or two from this. Another minor problem is that I found it somewhat too short (72 minutes at most). It should have been a bit longer, but it's appropriate enough for a kids flick.
With all that said, We're Back! is colorful, silly and has friendly dinosaurs, things children like. It may not be a masterpiece, but kids are going to enjoy this movie a lot if they can forgive the few scary scenes. "B-"
Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
Not as cute or funny as I expected
Alvin and the Chipmunks is another of those CGI/live-action family films based on a cartoon. This film did look cute and appealing, but beyond that, it had little to offer for me.
The overall premise is about three singing chipmunks named Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) who lose their tree home and are sent to Los Angeles, California. The three come upon a struggling songwriter named Dave (Jason Lee) who decides to hire them to sing his songs for him. It's cute at first but later becomes troublesome.
Sadly, I couldn't really stick my teeth into this kids flick. It was dull and too predictable mainly because of its dry humor. The gags primarily consist handfuls of toilet jokes and destructive mayhem. It isn't such a bad thing for a children's film, but these gags are clichéd and recycled from other family movies that have already overused these techniques (i.e. farting, making a mess, breaking stuff, getting somebody fired from work). These predictable jokes were used a lot by Alvin and co which bored me and made me find the trio very annoying and unlikeable.
Alvin and the Chipmunks is not a disaster, but it's forgettable for grownups alike. I was 16 when I first watched this on TV so maybe I was a bit too old for this stuff. I wouldn't recommend this as your sort of movie if you're over the age of 11, but it's strictly aimed for kids so they will surely enjoy it more. If you have some, give this a rental to keep them busy. "C-"
Suspenseful and unpredictable
Knowing is a unique and gripping end-of-the-world science fiction experience that creates suspense in an engrossing way. It's compelling storytelling and slow but tense pace made it a very enjoyable movie for me.
The film starts with an interesting premise about MIT professor John Koestler (played by Nicolas Cage) who receives a strange "drawing" from a time capsule dug out at his sons school. This time capsule contains drawings done in 1959 from students predicting what they might see in 50 years time. The "drawing" he receives apparently contains numbers which somehow is linked to disasters in the past and it predicts those in the future (and possibly the end of the world).
I enjoyed this movie as much as I did with other disaster/sci-fi films such as War of the Worlds and 2012. However, there are some qualities I found rather interesting and better than other movies. Many of those other films have non-stop action and destruction and are pretty predictable but Knowing tries to be different from them. This film gave me suspense because of its slower pace and unpredictable sequences. It made me wonder was going to be the fate of humanity and this (along with a strange alien plot twist) kept the story interesting.
Knowing's presentation was another reason why I found it suspenseful. The score creates a dark and creepy atmosphere and there are only a few (but exhilarating) action sequences that will surely give you tension. Also, I found the acting to be less over-dramatic than in other disaster films. Nicolas Cage does a good performance for his character and shows to be more calm and relaxed compared to other protagonists in the genre.
If your looking for suspenseful flick with and a good blend of disaster and science fiction, then I highly recommend this movie. It's sure to leave you shaken. "A-"
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Tedious and boring if your not a fan
First of all, I have to admit that I am not a fan of the Twilight series and I haven't read any of the books, yet this series seems to be very popular with teenage girls worldwide. I was dragged into the second film in the series New Moon in cinemas during a high school camp and I hadn't even seen the first one yet (I saw that on DVD a few weeks later and found it to be alright).
Since I was unfamiliar with the series, I had to ask the girl sitting next to me about the story so far. She told me its about a teenage girl called Bella (Kristen Stewart) who falls in love with a vampire named Edward (Robert Pattinson).
If you haven't read the books or seen the first movie in particular, your easily going to get lost as soon as New Moon starts. But if you can pay close enough attention, you can get a picture of the story. Edward and his family leave Forks after an incident at Bella's birthday to prevent her from being in more danger of vampires. Bella later gets in touch with her childhood friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who is apparently a werewolf and shows interest in him, but she can't stop thinking about Edward and must confront herself with her new situation.
This film is a sloppy mess and feels like it was all put together in about a month. For those who haven't read the book, you will find out that the movie is hampered with confusing storytelling and there are scenes that will leave you scratching your head wondering whats happening. But if you have read all 563 pages of the book, you might be able to understand this awkward journey.
Comparing this to the first Twilight film, New Moon is a lot worse in terms of quality and storytelling. The acting of the characters is stiff at best and they lack expressive emotions or any signs of character development so not much really happens in New Moon. Screenplay is shallow and rushed, dialogue is dull and boring and the overall execution of the movie is just flat and unexciting.
But I would have to say that there were a few redeeming qualities about New Moon. The werewolf fight scenes were entertaining to watch. They add tension to the movie and the CG on the wolves actually looks pretty good. Also what prevents the film from becoming a complete bore is that its got a tense score and some decent popular music including Muse, Lupe Fiasco and Death Cab for Cutie.
New Moon is nothing more than a tale about a girl trying to figure out who she likes more. This was probably a rushed adaption just to keep demanding Twilight fans satisfied. The end of the movie prepares you for the remaining sequels Eclipse and Breaking Dawn and I'm just glad that nobody is forcing me to watch those at this time. And like I said before, I am not a Twilight fan and I'm not a hater either, so I'm going to give New Moon a C- at most. Unless your a die-hard Twifan, you should give this movie a pass. "C-"
12 Rounds (2009)
Stupid, derivative action flick
When I started to watch Twelve Rounds, I thought it was going to be a fun ride. It begins with a promising premise, but sadly, it careers downhill thanks to derivative action, bland scripting, stupid acting from John Cena and minimal character development. This movie was no good at all.
Professional WWE wrestler John Cena plays as detective Danny Fisher in Twelve Rounds. When Fisher's ex-con Miles Jackson escape from prison and kidnaps his girlfriend, he is forced to complete "12 Rounds" of near-impossible tasks in order to save his loved one.
To begin with, some stunts in the movie are interesting but most others were probably rehashed or borrowed from past action films. Heck. It even borrows carjacking and wreckless driving from Grand Theft Auto. Movies like this aren't much fun if they don't offer anything new or unique.
The acting doesn't fare much better. Much of the dialogue in Twelve Rounds consists Fisher shouting out for his girlfriend and for the right of way. With this and all the environmental destruction he causes, it makes John Cena look like a complete idiot.
I would have to say that Twelve Rounds would have been alright as a video game or a Grand Theft Auto side-mission, but as a movie, it's a highly borrowed mess and a waste of John Cena's career. I suggest you skip this one because there are plenty of better (and more original) action movies available. "D+"
Shrek Forever After (2010)
Not the best Shrek film but a fine closure for the series
Since 2001, Shrek has touched our hearts with humor and charm and has become a major icon in the animation industry. The first two Shrek films were great fun delivering amusing fairy tale satire and memorable characters. Shrek the Third however, never got my attention and I herd it was pretty bad so I decided to skip it.
Now we have Shrek Forever After (aka, The Final Chapter), the four and final film in the series. I didn't get interested in this one either. But when I saw that this movie was playing on a Qantas flight I was on to Sydney, I decided to give it a chance.
The plot in the final installment is fairly interesting. Shrek has grown tired of being a father and a celebrity and wishes to live the days of an ogre again. He is later scammed into a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to become "ogre for a day" and finds himself in twisted version of Far Far Away where Rumpelstiltskin is King and Shrek is known to nobody (not even Fiona who is now an hunting ogre). Shrek must stop Rumpelstiltskin's evil deed before it's too late. It's a decent presentation.
DreamWorks gives out plenty of action in this entry (which the second one lacked) and this does bring the memories of the first film. Speaking of previous films, Forever After has a good number of connections with past events in the series. There aren't as many laughs as there were in the previous films, but it does deliver it's funny bits quite well such as break dancing witches.
Visuals are a big treat in this installment as they have improved a lot over the years. They're fantastic. All the main cast are back and they deliver a reasonable performance for their characters. Walt Dohrn however, does a great job providing the voice for the antagonist Rumpelstiltskin showing a great expression of wit and evilness.
Overall, it's a fun entry for the series. But is The Final Chapter the best of the four Shrek films? Not exactly, but it doesn't have to be. Shrek 4 may not have the magic from the first two films but what it does do is improve over it's poor predecessor and end the once doomed series with charm and dignity. "B"