Fantastic Mr Fox

10 01 2010

I love Roald Dahl. I love stop motion animation. So why didn’t I love Fantastic Mr Fox? It had a great voice cast, clever and appealing visuals and script, a good vs. evil story but I walked out of the theatre feeling very meh about the whole thing. It simply never engaged me emotionally (tellingly, I don’t think I laughed once). I suspect the boys felt the same. They told me they enjoyed it but neither of them talked about the movie when we left the cinema. There was none of the excitement they showed after seeing the other films we saw this holidays (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Under the Mountain). To me, it felt like one big in-joke that I was not clever enough to get. I suspect the decision to use American voice actors (and American country music) in a story supposedly set in England didn’t help. I am not against using Americans (or any other nationality) but it meant that this movie lacked the sense of place that, for example, Wallace and Gromit has in spades. I was very much looking forward to this movie but in the end it seemed more like an exercise to showcase the cleverness of Wes Anderson and the charm of George Clooney than a good kids film.


Under the Mountain

1 01 2010

Rangitoto Island, one of the locations in "Under the Mountain"

Took Mr 10 and Mr 6 to see Under the Mountain the other day. They chose to see it in preference to Where the Wild Things Are which surprised me a little. Mr 10 got the book for his birthday and was looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. Mr 6 just likes to do whatever his brother his doing. From a kid point of view, it was a great success. Mr 10 liked the movie because it had a happier ending than the book. Mr 6 announced he wasn’t scared at all (although I think most kids his age would find it frightening). When we got home, he grabbed a stone from the garden so he could play “Under the Mountain” and demanded that I take him to Lake Pupuke and North Head, two locations featured in the film. I think both boys were excited to see their city up on the big screen.

I enjoyed the movie although it was not without it faults. The beginning felt a little slow and disjointed. The actors playing the twins did a good job, but it felt like the relationship wasn’t explored deeply enough. Then, after the slow beginning, everything felt a little rushed. Still, I can never get tired of seeing Auckland from the air. It is easy to forget sometimes what a beautiful place it is. I also liked Ricki, the twins’ cousin, who provided a bit of comic relief in his thwarted efforts to get some “alone time” with his girlfriend. My boys still have the kid filter that edits out any “girl” related stuff so that went right over their heads. There were some funny lines too. This one made me laugh out loud:

“We should call the army”

“The NEW ZEALAND army?”

Harsh. Very Harsh. Still we don’t need an army when we have Sam Neill on hand to help save the day. Under the Mountain probably won’t achieve the status of the classic TV series, but it worked a treat for my kids and when it comes down it it, that is all that matters.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

29 12 2009

Christmas means kids’ movies and so the offspring and I headed to the local cinema. We chose a sweet little animated film called Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It tells the story of a young inventor, Flint Lockwood, whose ideas always end in disaster until he creates a machine that makes it rain food. As his town has been subsisting on sardines for quite some time, this development is greeted with enthusiasm by everyone in the community. The only person who isn’t impressed is Flint’s rather taciturn father. Needless to say, free food doesn’t turn out to be quite the blessing it appears to be.

Both the kids and I really enjoyed this one. There are some neat little jibes about excess consumption, the throwaway society and the dumbing down of girls which go along with a major theme about the relationship between fathers and sons. But that just makes it sound worthy and dull and it was neither of those things. Any film featuring giant pieces of food falling from the sky and a cameo appearance by Mr T could surely never be boring. Light but likeable, I found it one of the better kids movies I have been to lately.


20 12 2009

Finding ourselves kid free for more than one evening is unusual so my beloved and I took the opportunity to see Avatar on the big screen and in 3D. After all the money James Cameron poured into the effects, it seemed churlish to do otherwise.

The Good

  • The millions poured into building the alien planet Pandora and its inhabitants were worth every penny. The depth and detail are incredible and you quickly forget that the Na’vi are just created in a computer. The night scenes are particularly beautiful.
  • Nice to see Sigourney Weaver on-screen again.
  • The battle scenes are thrilling.

The Not So Good

  • It is a long movie (162 minutes). I didn’t mind much because I was enjoying it but if it not your thing, it is a long time to sit.
  • The story was predictable and the vibe a bit New Agey. Having said that, rapacious corporates still trash pristine wildernesses for profit so I suppose the message is as timely as ever.
  • Sometimes, it felt a little too similar to Aliens (slimy corporate stooge, feisty Hispanic soldier, giant mechanical robot armour thing) and the Abyss. Aliens is one of my favourite films but it would be nice to see a little more originality.
  • The Na’vi were rather one-dimensional as characters. I would have loved to have seen same attention to detail given to developing their personalities that was applied to creating their visual representations.

Overall, the amazing visuals carried the day for me. It was an eye-opening experience. I can’t help thinking that it will now be possible to film many of my favourite science fiction stories. Whether that ends up being a good thing remains to be seen.