Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Princess and the Frog Review

princess-andthe-frog-poster-full1 You know……films like this always take me down memory lane……back to the days when I was but a small slimy green frog with yellow eyes that shined like the sun. I was a right buzz of energy, jumping about the place better than any kangaroo or pogo extremist ever could. Going round kissing girls and charming them with my wit. Promising them I would treat them to the finest fly’s they have ever tasted. I could just look deep into their eyes, sitting there as my throat expands and retracts, and let out a seducing croak…it was like taking candy from a tadpole. Until that one girl came along and forgot to tell me she was A BLOOMING PRINCESS AND CHANGED ME INTO A BLOODY HUMAN!!!

Here we have a film that many have speculated to be the arbitrative test that reveals whether or not Disney still have a future in 2D animated films. I for one, am a firm fan of most Disney classics, with The Lion King, Tarzan, and Aladdin being some of my favourite films of all time. Needless to say, I was somewhat intrigued and excited about this offering. Yes, I am a man who lives and breathes for computer animation, but there has always been a special place in my heart…or somewhere in my corneas for traditional, hand drawn animation. Just thinking of those drawings……those lines of pleasure make you understand drug addicts……no?……I thought it was funny. Anyway, ‘The Princess and the frog’ is a Disney re-working of the classic tale. I sat down in the cinema with my little brother at hand to avoid looking foolish, but ended up looking foolish holding my brothers hand…he’s 15. I managed to blend in with the crowd of snotty nosed kids……ok only one of the kids I saw had a snotty nose but that's more than enough for me to generalise. I feel Disney did a good job of recapturing their old formula for success. Now with head of Pixar, John Lasseter at the reigns of Disney's animation department, they managed to slip back into old habits very smoothly. The imagery was beautiful with colours that practically jumped off the screen and gave the cinema a fresh coat of paint. The movement and flow of the characters were as brilliant as ever, with the crucial timing conducted perfectly.  As good as this film is it’s still far from vintage Disney. Sky Movies Reviewer Elliot Noble summed it up quite nicely, saying  “At the end of the day, it's okay. But when it comes to animation from Disney, 'okay' is a bit of a let-down”.

I feel that this movie falls slightly short on almost every aspect. For example, the characters. Although there are the winning array of characters we’ve come to expect from Disney animations, most of them lacked any real depth. They all seemed rather basic. The only strong characters was the ACTUAL princess (not the black girl) and the crocodile who BOTH had me in stitches so bad people thought I had been in a cage fight. Also, the music was not on par with the level we expect from Disney which really baffled me as they had Randy Newman doing the songs. Who would have thought that Mr. You Got a Friend In Me could produce anything but greatness. They weren't that catchy, and they did not leave me spitting in the hair of the person in front of me as I try to whistle them walking out the cinema. Also I didn’t get that strong sense of involvement with the settings. With previous films they really did their homework to make sure the environments captured you and sucked you into their worlds. Good examples of this is The Lion King, where from the very first image you could feel Africa. Or 101 Dalmatians that captured London to the point you could almost feel the dampness in the air!! Or even Mulan where the scenery is as beautiful as you would see in ‘House of Flying Daggers’ or ‘Hero’. This film concentrates more on the era of time, the 20’s, where everything was highly influenced by Broadway and Jazz. Which I guess proves harder to relate to and ultimately immerse you into the settings.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like this film, and the problems mentioned don’t stop it from being a good movie, but I feel they keep it from being a great movie. In any case its a welcomed return to 2D animated films for Disney and although not quite back in their prime its a basketball player’s step in the right direction……………………that was dangerously close to actually reviewing a film, quick say something stupid!!…………butt cheese!!!………perfect


So there I am on my living room floor, shaking in the fetal position, flicking around a scrunched up bit of paper. Why? Because Frankie is at the door. Frankie who? Frankie the seven year old kid from next door. Now before you catapult over the canon (or ‘jump the gun’ as its more commonly known as) and start preparing your ‘Daniel gets beaten up by a seven year old’ jokes, let me explain. Two days ago Frankie knocked on the door……wait it gets worse……I answered the door…well, I opened the door, its not like the door asked me a question and I responded). Frankie is sitting on his bike looking up at me with a very playful look in his eyes. “Is Ashley in?” he asks. ‘He isnt’ I think to myself, then I decide I had better say that out loud in case Frankie doesn’t have mind-reading abilities. “No, he isn’t” I say. “He wont be back for another few hours”. Frankie looks puzzled. I replay what I had just said in my head……nope, that definitely made sense……I’ll just give him a little longer to process it before I close the door. He seems to be taking a little too long so I begin pulling the door shut. “I’VE GOT A WOBBLY TOOTH!!! WANNA SEE!!” he shouts before I even get the door halfway closed. “Err……I guess” escapes from my lips, totally disregarding the brain signals it was receiving screaming “NO!! SAY NO!!!”. Frankie lounges forward, still balanced on his bike and yanks the door back open so I could fully appreciate his ‘wobbly tooth’ presentation. I expected him to get straight to it but for some reason he starts stretching his fingers and shaking loose his hands. Now I’m no professional tooth wobbler but I’m pretty sure limber hands are not essential to masterfully complete the task. Nevertheless I allow him time to loosen up……he even hopped off his bike and stretched his legs to my further surprise. I impatiently watch as little Frankie reaches his fingers to his upper jaw in what can only be described as theatrical, melodramatic, slow motion!! He then grabbed what I shall knowledgeably refer to as the tooth below the left nostril and proceed to give it a vigorous shake. “SEE!!” he exclaims with a face that says ‘How is this even possible’. He really looked amazed by it all. Like a little monkey had appeared from behind the tooth and played ‘Eye of the Tiger’ on a little flute. I try my best to look impressed. I lean back, I raise my eyebrows, I give a one of those one-sided smiles, and if that wasn't enough I even give out an elongated “woooooow”.

Frankie folds his arms looking all smug like some kind of amateur street magician who has just pulled a coin out from behind someone's ear. “That was brilliant Frankie, very cool, you take care now buddy” I say to finalize this encounter. I begin to close the door when “I’VE GOT A SCAR TOO!!!” comes flying out of Frankie’s mouth like someone just Heimlich Manoeuvred it out. His eyes are widened with excitement. This time my lips listen to my brain and I manage to say “Sorry mate, I’ve got to go”. But instead of the reaction I had prepared myself for Frankie stomps his grubby red Reebok onto the doorstep and starts rolling up his trouser leg. DAMMIT FRANKIE!! Just before he reaches his knee he quickly pushes the door back open and again I'm back where I started. He pushed his trouser leg past his kneecap and there behold was a scar. Not the most show-stopping scar you’ve ever seen but indeed a scar. “Err………yea, cool” I muster up, shortly followed bye “ok, bye”. “AND I HAVE ONE ON MY ELBOW!!!!” He screams with the lungs of an opera singer. “Frankie. I really gotta go now” I try, but of course he has already begun rolling up his sleeve. As he does this I started thinking of ways I can get out of this without feeling guilty. I could tell him I’m cooking!!………but that may be interpreted as ‘Join me for dinner where you can share more of your bodily deformities’………I could say I’m running a bath!!……but how long would it take to turn off the taps, and besides, I wouldn’t want him to take THAT as an invitation!! I can see it now…”MUM!! DANIEL WANTS TO WASH ME!!! AND HE SAID HE ‘HAD TO GO’……HE WAS GONNA GO TOILET IN THE BATH!!!”.

Screw it, I’ve had enough, I’ll just tell him I’ve got to go and close the door…IM NO WUSS!! Frankie is again doing the self-impressing street magician pose, this time with his elbow exposed revealing another average scar. “Cool Frankie, anyway, I’ve got to…” I begin, but Frankie is looking away. I turn to see what he is looking at. It’s his mum waving next door. We both wave back. “Is he behaving?” she asks. “Yea, he’s just showing me his scars and his wobbly tooth” I yell back. “Ahh” she says, with a proud smile. “Show him the one on your ankle!!” she says before disappearing into the house. “Oh yea!!” Frankie bellows excitedly. Anyway, to sum up, Frankie continued his ‘show and tell’ by presenting me a viewing of his ankle scar, some YouTube inspired bike tricks, and his melted chocolate bar. I managed to get away by calling the house phone with my pocketed mobile and making a ‘oh this is important’ face. Yes i felt a little bad but he really is the kid you simply cant get rid of!! Like a spot on your face that wont quit or a stain on your favourite top that refuses to wash off. LIKE A WEB BROWSER POP-UP THAT WONT CLOSE, OR AN EYELASH IN YOUR EYE THAT YOU CANT GET OUT!!! So you see, this is why I am now on the floor, in the living room, in the fetal position, sucking my thumb……err, forget that last one. I lie there waiting for little Frankie’s persistence to retire. The doorbell goes off but I remain perfectly still. I then realise there is some writing on the scrunched up paper I was flicking about. I reach for it slowly and unscrunch it. It’s a note from my mum to me. It reads ‘DANIEL, DON’T FORGET THE REPAIR MAN IS COMING AT 4PM TO FIX THE DRYER – MUM’. At the same moment I remember something that sets my heartbeat into over gear. Frankie can’t reach the doorbell!!! In a panic I turn to the clock on the wall……4:06!!!……The bell rings again. “OH SUGAR PUFFS!!”. I jump to my feet and head to the door. As it opens I see a tall bearded man who declares he has come to take a look at the dryer……and behind him……little Frankie, grinning on his bike, with a fresh plaster on his chin and a tooth in his hand.

Friday, 26 February 2010

The Wolfman Review

the-wolfman-poster-1 Let me start by saying that this is a BORING FILM!!! Now i mean this in the obvious sense but also in the ‘I was close to BORING a hole through the cinema wall so I could watch ‘Astro Boy’ during the crap parts’ sense. It had me falling asleep more than a tired narcoleptic runner who had just ran a marathon. I seriously couldn't keep my eyes open, I felt like I needed one of those eye clamp things like in clockwork orange to keep them open. I should probably clarify that all parts WITH the wolfman were perfectly enjoyable however they were few and far apart. I loved the surprisingly ruthless brutality of his actions, the ample realism of the heavy CGI shots and the extra pot of warm cheese that came with my nachos…because lets face it, nachos without cheese is as appealing as a stale, half opened packet of Doritos at the back of a shelf in the supermarket……sorry, I’ve drifted……Wolfman……this film is done in a strong style which resembles the old classic werewolf horrors like ‘An American Werewolf in London’ or ‘Night of The Werewolf’ which is all fine, and actually a selling point for me. My issue with it, which is the only memorable opinion I have of this film is how mind-numbingly dull all the story/character developing scenes were. They were filled with tedious dialogue, soulless performances and prolonged gaps of dramatic pauses, and I'm a guy who hates dramatic…………………………pauses in dialogue. Its like after every sentence they speak their system needs to reset itself and start up again. You know what I'm talking about…a dude says something like “How do you know its him” and the other person is like o_O and goes into deep thought like it was the very last question on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and spends a good minute staring into the other persons eyes looking all intense………and eventually, after you’ve made yourself a cup of tea and read the newspaper, goes “he has a lisp”…..followed but another dramatic pause…………which the audience obviously needs to absorb this information even though we sussed it out 20 minutes ago!!

I think a large part of this had to do with Benicio Del Toro who I entirely despise as an actor…I'm sure as a person he is a delightful addition to mankind, but as an actor he holds as much talent as one of those black & white clapper boards they use when filming before every shot. He’s like a less tolerable, Puerto Rican version of Keanu Reeves. As I watched his onscreen presence I couldn't help  picturing his first ever audition for *quickly IMDBs Benicio’s first acting credit* Shell Game. I could just imagine him standing in a large room as the auditioner  is shouting “GIVE ME ANGRY!!” and Benicio would wrinkle his nose and grit his teeth. Then he would shout “GIVE ME SAD!!!!” and Benicio would poke out his bottom lip. Now I admit I haven't watched many films with this dude and this is all said with very little conviction but I’m pretty sure you could get more emotion out of a sponge……with or without square pants. One thing that I cannot deny is the cinematography which was so well done that some of the shots held more story than the actual film did. It was truly remarkable, any one of those many artistic shots could be used as a poster. I would recommend this film for the werewolf shots that packed a punch like a fist in a lunchbox……great action scenes amongst the dominating dribble surrounding them. I would also recommend you bring a pillow and a mp3 player