Space Dogs [Blu Ray]: family friendly, fast-and-loose re-telling of the Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka, who were sent up in Sputnik 5 and became the first animals to return from space in one piece. As a grown up, this film wasn’t pitched at me – the characters are a large-headed, squeaky-voiced, constantly kinetic mixture of animals on spectacularly dazzling adventure. Needless to say, that description ticks every box on the “child entertainment requirements” checklist. Being presented by the Russian Centre of National Film and Ministry of Culture Office there’s a lot of interesting, educational national pride, history, facts and even a mini tour of the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue – which is quite refreshing. The Blu Ray presentation and sound are both impressive; it’s bright, colorful, detailed and sharp. Although missing the multi-generational appeal that Pixar seem to have perfected, Space Dogs looks great, has a simple “happy ever after” story and would be a neat stocking filler for young children this Christmas!
UP [Blu Ray] An elderly widower tries to achieve his lifelong dream of living in South America, but picks up a few inadvertent companions on the way. This one’s definitely pitched way younger than other Pixar films and while there’s some happy moments, overall it’s pretty grim, with some real tearjerking scenes. The ensemble of dogs lighten up the film and were the only things I really enjoyed: poor grammar, dog-based jokes, squirrel etc. Blu Ray presentation is absolutely fantastic, the picture is so vibrant and much of the scenes look like 3D. Best looking BD I’ve seen. Sound/Music is just as important as the dialogue – and it sets the mood / plays with your feelings, to the point of being explicitly manipulative. Up is a super-crazy adventure for kids, but a little shallow and cutesy for the grown ups.
Coraline: didn’t really know what this was supposed to be about; escapism? nightmares? drug use? Visually, the film’s interesting – a mix of stop motion & CGI, and because the overall effect is quite Burton-esque goths and pseudo goths will worship this for years to come. Visual merits aside, everything else about this was terrible. Both the story that takes place and general premise are absolutely mental. It feels like a bunch of OK scenes forced together, rendering a potentially strong story disjointed, boring, pointless and ridiculous. Most of the voice acting is annoying, especially the eternally grating Dakota Fanning (Coraline the character and voice). Her dad looks like an Adrien Brodie caricature. The final product would appeal to such a narrow market; far too scary for young kids and too ridiculous / boring for adults – leaving a tiny slice of angsty teens. Personally, I’d stick to Mirrormask or the original Alice in Wonderland. Totally forgettable, but it did look good in HD
My Wrongs #8245-8249 & 117: Chris Morris’ BAFTA winning short (12 mins) about a mentally ill man’s failed attempt to look after his friend’s Doberman: adapted from a Blue Jam radio sketch. Totally surreal with a talking dog, duck rats and babies – not for everyone. There’s a lot of extras on the DVD disc and on the actual case itself. Must see for Morris fans, although don’t pay over the odds for it.
Antichrist: since studying Europa / Zentropa in Uni I’ve made it my business to see all of Lars Von Trier’s films, most of which push the envelope of style and content. This film sees none of his characteristic rules or obstructions in the film-making process, perhaps why there’s not much content and only a couple of memorable scenes. It’s it’s essentially a film too far, and with loads of needless violence, sex and symbolism – it feels like a slow burning ‘Hostel’ or ‘Saw’ flick. Technically it seemed a waste of the mighty Red One cameras used and things like the GCI animals / talking fox are plain absurd. Eden’s cabin and cheap atmospheric music seemed to nod at the Evil Dead series. The acting’s the only redeeming part of this flick, but I suspect this film will be a stain on both their careers. You can tell Von Trier’s depression was severe when he wrote this; uncharacteristically crap!
Kung Fu Panda / Bee Movie: Only watched these films because Sky are having an animation season at the moment and the visuals are usually nothing short of stunning. Despite being from the same studio, and only a year apart Kung Fu Panda is a far superior film in every sense: story, characters, voice acting, gags, audio mix, and entertainment factor. KungFu Panda also looks a thousand times better, you just get the feeling that the team paid more attention to detail; definitely the best-looking animation I’ve seen with vibrant colours and rich textures. Don’t get me wrong, Bee Movie’s not the worst film in the world, but it’s definitely aimed more at the kids than the whole family.
Kung Fu Panda: 8/10
Bee Movie: 5/10
Finding Nemo: having recently read that this film made it in to Time Magazine’s “100 greatest films of all-time” list (!) and held the record of biggest-selling DVD of all time (!!) I figured it’d be worth checking out. The film is technically outstanding: looks amazing & vibrant, animation is great, the surround-sound track is among the best I’ve heard and the research in to the ocean and ocean life shines through. Lots of good jokes throughout for both adults and kids. However, it’s not a very original story, has about 30 minor characters that you want to know more about, manages to downplay a family massacre, and dozens of cultural references / homages / stereotypes. Overall: I wouldn’t have put this in the 100 greatest films of all time myself, but it is a great film, very enjoyable – even if it’s not quite on par with Toy Story.