Monday, 19 June 2017

Babysitter Club: Smurfs Lost Village

This is a new blog post that I’m calling

This is where I look at films designed purely for parents to put on and distract their kids for an hour or so. Today I’m looking at the recent Smurfs movie

By Brett Haynes 18/06/17

Score: 5/10

Smurfs the Lost Village is the third Smurfs film to hit cinemas but is also the first fully animated one with the previous two taking place mainly in New York City.  I will say while this film isn’t great by any sense, its still better then the previous two films.

The Lost Village actually has a very important message at its core, even if it’s often hard to find it and that is coming to accept and understand your purpose in life. It also has a strong theme about female identity in a male dominated world. If you hadn’t guessed already the main plot revolves around Smurfette (Demi Lovato) who wasn’t created like all the other Smurfs but was designed by the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson).

Smurfette feels like an outcast because in a world where a Smurf is named after there characteristic and Smurfette doesn’t know what hers is. Though the film does try to answer that asking the question: what is a Smurfette. The first fifteen minutes or so shows us Smurfette failing at ever task she undertakes and she feels more lost and desperate then she’s ever been. That is until she discovers a map to the lost village and decides to go along with Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Brainy (Danny Pudi) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer).

Gargamel also knows about the village so it’s a race against time to warn the village about his arrival. They travel through the forbidden forest (which is animated really nicely) until they come across the lost village, which is completely different to the Smurfs as everyone is female here. Lead by Smurfwillow (Julia Roberts), these Smurfs are warriors who know how to fight unlike the Smurfs who really don’t.

While there Smurfwillow offers Smurfette a place of belonging and gives Smurfette hope that she has been missing. Unfortunately while the character story for Smurfette feels compelling, everything else just feels recycled from other animated features. It’s really disappointing to see something that has potential thrown away.

Acting wise everyone does a good job but it’s the characters motivations, which just seem so typical and cliché as possible. While animation at times looks nicely done, other times it just looks so lazy and quite dull with very little effort being put into it.

Smurfs Lost Village is one of those movies, which will entertain your young ones, but you will be bored out of your mind. It tries to give an emotional and touching story but fails in every other department.

Images owned by Sony

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Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

By Brett Haynes 18/06/17

Score: 8/10

I was surprised when I heard that this film was getting good reviews. I mean 85% on Rotten Tomatoes isn’t half bad. This is also coming from DreamWorks studios who if you follow my reviews you’ll know I haven’t been that keen on over the last few years.

Captain Underpants is the story of a grumpy principal who turns into the Underpants wearing superhero created by his two least favourite students. Based off the popular book series, it manages to keep all the fun that the books incorporated.

This movie is basically an origin story for Captain Underpants but really our main characters are the two students George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch). There best friends as well as the pranksters of the school and the biggest problem to principal Mr Krupp (Ed Helms). When Krupp threatens to separate them into different classes (which they take personally even though they live next door to each other), they hypnotise Krupp turning him into Captain Underpants.

It all starts off as a joke but naturally Captain Underpants needs a villain and that villain comes in the shape of evil science teacher Professor P (Nick Kroll) shows up with the goal of wiping out humour in children forever.

The reason Captain Underpants works so well is because of the relationship between Harold and George. You would think that Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch voicing two children wouldn’t work but you’d be dead wrong. The two characters deliver a lot of heart as they both rely on each other during the bad times and make each other laugh during the good times.

The humour throughout is what you would expect. There is a lot of toilet humour, which actually works considering the material. This is easily one of the funniest films to hit cinemas this year and I’m surprised it’s Captain Underpants. A lot of the humour comes from our main characters as we come to know them and connect with them as the film goes on.

Captain Underpants does have some slight problems here and there like the choice in animation, which can make the film a little jarring at times. Captain Underpants never reaches the humorous or emotional heights that something like an early Pixar film or the Lego movie did. For what its worth, Captain Underpants is a joy to watch and I’m happy to finally once again get to say that about a DreamWorks film.

Images owned by 20th Century Fox/DreamWorks

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The Book Of Henry

By Brett Haynes 18/06/17

Score: 5.5/10

The Book of Henry is one of those movies, which I have no idea what to make of it.  It’s one of those movies, which you just have to see to believe. Mixing the tones of goofy child movie with disease of the week weeper to dark thriller. You have to admire director Colin Trevorrow for making something this WTF.

One of the biggest problems that this film suffers with is that it’s not just one coherent story but a mixture of three different genres all mashed together. The film starts off about child prodigy Henry Carpenter (Jaeden Lieberher) who is easily the best part of this film. He never smiles but always has a smug and engaging look on his face. He lives with his brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay) and his video game playing single mother Susan (Naomi Watts) and he knows everything about everything. He can play the stock market and handles the family finances. Can make basically anything in his tree house and has advanced medical and mathematical knowledge.

After the half an hour mark we learn that Henry next-door neighbour and possible love interest Christina (Maddie Ziegler) is being abused by her stepfather Glenn Sickleman (Dean Norris) who also just happens to be the police commissioner.  Henry is on the verge of helping her but then a life threatening illness strikes him down and it’s from here that the film just becomes a series of events, which need to be seen to be believed.

What we’re suppose to believe is that Henry can predict entire conversations before they happen and that his mother is so useless that she will do anything her smart little 11 year old tells her to. By the last act your sitting there thinking what am I watching as we have gone from a story about a child genius to a case about attempted murder?

Trevorrow does a great job at getting exactly what he wants from his actors. Naomi Watts gives a terrific performance as a grieving mother while Sarah Silverman does a good job as Susan boozing waitress friend. The problems this film faces all come from the story. The cinematography is well shot with nice scenic shots of the wood and the last act does get intense even though you can figure out what’s going to happen.

Trevorrow next big film is Star Wars Episode IX and with the reviews so far that might be in danger. We know he can do good work, as his last film was Jurassic World. The Book of Henry will get different reactions from different people. You may like it or you may hate it but one thing is for sure, you won’t believe what you’re seeing.

Images owned by Focus Films
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Cars 3

By Brett Haynes 18/06/17

Score: 5/10

Back in 1995, Pixar released the first fully computer generated animated feature. Over the last 22 years Pixar has created a legacy with some of the greatest animated features coming from the studio. With all greatness comes disappointment and Pixar has hit a rough patch over the last five years. Cars 3 is another example of how rough things have gotten for Pixar. The studio that use to release brilliant and imaginative original ideas has been reduced to creating boring and unnecessary sequels while its sister company Disney animated studios has become the innovative studio.

Cars 3 is the third instalment in the franchise, a franchise that has often been described as one set up purely to sell toys. While Cars 3 is slightly more invested in the story and characters then Cars 2 was, it still feels like a direct to video film that was put onto the big screen. If my screening is anything to go by, Cars 3 will bore the youngest of viewers.

This time around we see Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is no longer the young upstart racer but has become the older statesmen and is slowly being surpassed by a brand new generation of race cars. The big up and comer is Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) who continues to break record after record. No matter what Lightning does he can’t seem to match Storm in the speed department?

We all remember the teaser trailer that showed us Lightning flipping over in slow mo. The trailer was hilarious to anyone who had grown up with the franchise but it made us think. Is this the end of Lightning McQueen, is something going to happen to him. No of course not, that would mean this movie would try something gutsy. No, McQueen does suffer a serious injury and it does put into question if or should he ever race again. Determined to go out on his own merits and cheered on by his new sponsor Sterling (Nathan Fillion), he teams up with trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to work on his speed.

At its core Cars 3 is basically the Rocky 3 of the franchise. An older statesman, who loses big time, trains and comes out to prove everyone wrong. In the films credit they do throw a few curveballs here and there but you can see exactly where this movie is going a mile away. The tone of film is often hard to pin down as well. It does have some strong emotional moments through out which do work. Lightning dealing with going out on his own merits or Cruz Ramirez past failures as a racer are both really powerful scenes. In fact the final act is when this film seems to be at its most Pixarist.

As I mentioned above, I don’t see kids liking this movie too much. The first half has a very dark tone and tackles a lot of emotional issues. Things that would bore the average Cars fan. While older audiences might enjoy this a little more as it feels more directed towards them then Cars 1 and 2 were.

The humour throughout is really hit and miss. Thankfully Mator (Larry the Cable Guy) who is often referred to as the most annoying character is reduced to a supporting role this time. While there are some jokes, which do hit, a majority of them fall flat. Another big problem is how one-dimensional Jackson Storm was. He had no layers except for being an arrogant racer. Which makes no sense, why cast Armie Hammer if your not going to let him be cocky.   

The animation feels like Pixar with some realistic shots of the race cars. We also have a beautifully shot scene of Lightning and Cruz training on a beach, which had some gorgeous looking beach shots. This also feels like a direct sequel to Cars 1 with Cars 2 being completely forgotten. The character of Doc Hudson is also a big influence in the film with Lightning finding Doc teacher to help him find his speed.

Overall this has some promise but its something that shouldn’t be in theatres. It tries to get deep and meaningful but is followed up by awful jokes. The characters are still not that interesting and the story while better then part 2 is still a waste of time. Please Pixar just let this franchise die.

Images owned by Pixar

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Babysitter Club: Smurfs Lost Village

This is a new blog post that I’m calling BABYSITTER CLUB This is where I look at films designed purely for parents to put on and dist...