Valiant

A very British attempt to emulate the success of recent animated hits, Valiant is amusing and affectionate WW2 pastiche that amuses and entertains but never quite hits the heights it aims for.

Is it me or are there more animated films about than there used to be? Last week saw Robots open at the cinemas and The Incredibles come out on DVD, whilst only a few weeks ago saw the arrival at local multiplexes of Spongebob Squarepants and The Magic Roundabout. Now we have a home-grown animated film featuring the voices of some heavyweight British talent including Ewan MacGregor, John Cleese and Ricky Gervais. Whilst some of it looks nice and some of the gags hit home it is a bit too slight to rank with some of the better animated films of recent years. Continue reading “Valiant”

Melinda and Melinda

With an intriguing conceit and some good performances Woody Allen’s latest film is a welcome return to form despite never reaching the heights of his best work.

It is still remarkable to think that, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, a Woody Allen film comes around once a year. It has almost become a truism in recent times to say that his latest work is a disappointment and things have got so desperate that some (Hollywood Ending) couldn’t even find a British distributor. Those that did (Curse of the Jade Scorpion) came a year late and his most recent effort (Anything Else) was too slight but Melinda and Melinda marks his best work since 2000’s Sweet and Lowdown. While its not a patch on the heavyweights in Allen canon it still offers up some solid laughs for those who lost faith in his creative abilities way back in the early 90’s. Continue reading “Melinda and Melinda”

Maria Full of Grace

Containing scenes of undeniable power and an excellent central performance Maria Full of Grace is a solid but ultimately unremarkable portrayal of an individual caught up in drug trafficking.

One of the big surprises when this year’s Oscar nominations were announced was the inclusion in the Best Actress category of Catalina Sandino Moreno, an unknown Columbian actress, for her performance as the eponymous Maria in Maria Full of Grace. Despite being filmed almost entirely in Spanish it is actually the feature film debut of an American, writer-director Josh Marston and was funded by HBO (the US cable channel). On the one hand it is a bold attempt to examine the drug trade from a different perspective yet on the other it never really catches fire and suffers from the occasional lapse into cliché. Continue reading “Maria Full of Grace”

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

A tired and unnecessary sequel that’s as bland and clueless as the airhead beauty queens it tries to lampoon.

Last summer saw something unusual at your local multiplex – sequels that were actually very good. Spiderman 2 and The Bourne Supremacy managed to please audiences and studio chiefs by improving on the original films and still make a lot of cash. But if you thought this was the beginning of a new dawn then think again. Last week I had the misfortune to catch three sequels in two days and all of them were considerably worse than the original films. The other two will remain nameless (for now) but Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous was one of them. Given that the 2000 original was only just passable, I didn’t have much hope for this one. My pessimism was justified. Continue reading “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous”

Robots

The latest pretender to the Pixar throne is beautifully designed but lacks the wit and invention of recent animated films.

Animated features used to be the kind of films that kept children happy during the school holidays, but in the last ten years they have become an entirely different proposition. In 1995 Toy Story began a trend that saw animated films migrate from hand drawn kiddie fare to computer-generated blockbusters. Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 have grossed spectacular numbers and it was only a matter of time before other big Hollywood studios got in on the act. Fox’s first forays into this market were mixed – Titan A.E. failed to find a big audience – but with Ice Age grossing nearly $400 million worldwide another big animated feature was always on the cards. Continue reading “Robots”