Let’s get right into it, as I scribble some notes about films I saw on DVD in the comfort of my home instead of the noisy public cinema building. I certainly know how to lure people in with a sexy first sentence, don’t I?
I feel sorry for people who aren’t Pixar who still make animated films, particularly computer-generated movies. Even now that John Lasseter is chief creative officer at Disney (he produced this film), you always have to feel: it’s not Pixar. Bolt isn’t as good as a Pixar film, but it is quite enjoyable. It has to be commended for the fact that it is effectively The Truman Show, but done with a CGI dog. Bolt, voiced by John Travolta (which doesn’t quite seem right; the dog looks more like a Tobey Maguire), is the co-star of a popular television series (as a super-powered spy dog) but who doesn’t know that he is in a television show; like Truman, he has been deceived into believing this reality. After filming an episode, he escapes because he believes his co-star, a girl called Penny, has been kidnapped and he must help her. He ends up being shipped to New York city by accident, and it comes as a shock when he finds out that his super powers don’t work. On the road, he is befriended by a cat and a hamster (who is a big fan of the show), and he learns things about himself. It is entertaining enough, although I doubt it needed the 3D to make it ‘more immersive’, and is actually quite touching at the end – a nice piece of family entertainment.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
This was another CGI animation that was released as a 3D film, but we saw it on traditional a 2D television screen without any loss of enjoyment; I have to say that this was one of the most entertaining animated films I have seen – why it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award is a mystery. It’s probably because it uses ‘science’ and ‘humour’ – the Academy gets scared by those things. The film is really funny – it’s packed with lots of background jokes and big belly laughs – but it also celebrates intelligence and invention and nerdiness. It’s also a little oddball – in the town of Swallow Falls on a tiny island in the Atlantic (underneath the letter A) which suffers economic downturn when the sardine market collapses; our hero is a young inventor who comes up with a food replicator to help his town, which works by converting water molecules into food, hence the title. The town gets food, but things obviously don’t run smooth … I can’t do it justice with my notes, but this film is hilarious, inventive, original, clever and wonderful, with great voice work by actors, not stars. Looks like I’ll have to take back what I said about non-Pixar films: this one’s a winner.
To completely change direction: In Bruges is a live-action, sweary, rather brutal black comedy with a special shock of having Colin Farrell being good in a good film (in fact, he won a Golden Globe for the role). Also, as mentioned yesterday, it has a Harry Potter Factor of 3. Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are two hitmen who are told by their boss, Ralph Fiennes, to lay low in Bruges, Belgium. It’s a small film, mostly about two people talking and wondering around a small European city, Farrell bored by it all and Gleeson enjoying the opportunity to take in some culture. It also includes some very realistic violence, and a vicious turn from Fiennes (with perhaps a slightly dodgy accent), as well as allusions to other films and to the paintings of Heironymous Bosch. It is smart, funny, intense, human, moody and full of great dialogue and moments. It was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, more known as a playwright, but this is his first feature-length film after he won an Oscar for his short film, Six Shooter. Based on this excellent little film, he has the potential for a really good career ahead of him – he writes a solid and entertaining script, he has an unfussy directorial style, and he can get good performances from his actors (it was nice to see Farrell acting again – haven’t seen that since Tigerland). In Bruges is a great start.