Jim's holiday film guide - April 2

Jim's holiday film guide - 2 April, 2013

Too busy to keep up with what's going on in the movie world? Relax. In this new online feature, 3AW's resident film tragic Jim Schembri sums up the week's film news - big and small, important and otherwise.

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA 3D *** (82 minutes) G
The standard of animation in this likeable, lolly-pop of a film from South Africa is not quite up to the standard our eyes have been conditioned to expect, but that's not going to matter to the six year olds it is aimed at. What will click is the Nemo-like story of a young falcon Kai (Jeremy Suarez) who becomes estranged from his father Tendai (Samuel L Jackson) and then must prove himself when he moves to the human-like bird city in Zambezia.The splendid Madagascar films might have spolied us somewhat when it comes to African cartoon animals, but there is enough action and heart in the story to keep things aloft, especially during the big battle climax.Birds can be tough to animate, but fortunately the feathered critters that populate this modest film are more in the line of Rio (2011) than those in the the awkwardly named 2010 US/Australian film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.    

THE CROODS ***1/2 3D (98 minutes) PG
With their prehistoric world changing around them, a family is forced out of their cave in search of a home that is less likely to open up under them. That's bad news for the dad (voiced by Nicolas Cage), whose fear of the unknown makes him insecure about keeping his family secure. But it's great news for his bouncy, proto-feminist daughter (Emma Stone) who loves defying him by sampling all the danger that life has to offer. This sweetly etched conflict drives this very pleasing, kid-friendly adventure as they trek across an ever-changing, increasingly perilous landscape with their new fire-inventing friend (Ryan Reynolds) for a better life.As well as being pacy, energetically animated and stuffed full of modern-day references, The Croods also casts off any lingering doubt that Dreamworks is moving into the character-driven domain normally dominated by Pixar.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH 3D ***1/2 (89 minutes) PG
Here's a ripper sci-fi comedy adventure guaranteed to galvanize the attention of the red-cordial crowd. Feuding, blue-hued alien brothers Gary (Rob Corddry) and Scorch (Brendan Fraser) wind up on a misadventure on the alien planet of Earth. Scorch is the ego-driven jock, Gary is the hero-averse nerd and chasing both of them is Genrral Shanker (William Shatner) who runs the super-secret Area 51. Made in Canada, this delightful, pastel-coloured, busy piece of bubble-gum kids' cinema has fun playing up all the alien conspiracy theories before delivering a nicely payoff about fraternal bonding. And parents will appreciate the slew of gags put in just for them.

GI JOE: RETALIATION 3D ***1/2 (99 minutes) M
It's a highly stylised ballet of big-scale destruction as GI Joe team leader Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew try to figure out why the US President (Jonathan Pryce) wants them all dead.
As a gun-cluttered boom crash opera, this dizzyingly entertaining celebration of fireballs, wire-assisted martial arts and high-calibre firepower has more grace and poise than Die Hard 5.
Director Jon M Chu (Step Up 2&3) loves staging his digitally enhanced set pieces and pulls off a genuinely impressive, elongated sword fight that takes place on vertiginous cliff faces.
Now 40 - that magical age when action heroes start to worry about joint pain and middle age spread - Johnson (aka The Rock from his wrestling days) keeps his tongue in his cheek as he fires off his guns, leaving all the heavy grunting to Bruce Willis. With the 3D looking surprisingly good, this film will surely make up for those disappointed with the so-so 2009 film.    


THE HOST * (125 minutes) M
Based on a novel by Twilight priestess Stephenie Meyer, this limply directed, solidly boring slice of sci-fi twaddle features humanoid aliens who spend much of their screen time staring blankly into the middle distance with glazed eyes. About 10 minutes into this dross, you'll know what that feels like.The premise is cool: Earth is in a state of harmony thanks to a race of aliens that colonise worlds by taking over the bodies of the native beings, locking the consciousness of the original inhabitants of said body inside. It's like a benign version of Satanic possession.These aliens love peace and equality and looking super cool in white suits and driving around in silver Lotus sports cars, so why there are pockets of human rebellion is a bit of a mystery. After all, if the aliens are so tranquil, why not negotiate?
Saoirse Ronan (so good in Hanna, opposite Cate Blanchett) plays Wanderer, a young woman who has been taken over but who hooks up with a group of rebel relatives led by a grizzled, bearded William Hurt.As with In Time, Kiwi writer/director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca; Lord of War; he wrote The Truman Show) simply can't sell a story riddled with plot holes, sci-fi cliches (everyone in the future walks with their hands behind their backs) and inconsistencies.Why, for instance, would a super-advanced race of aliens restrict themselves to the limits of Earthly technology?
The Host is an obvious attempt to try and kick start another movie franchise, but that's unlikely given how resoundsing dull the film is. It also hurts to see Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) thrown away here.

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON *** (94 minutes) M
It's been a long time since Lost in Translation (2003), which is the last time Bill Murray did anything of real note in a film. Here he partially redeems the latter phase of his film career playing pre-war US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ensconsed at his estate in Hyde Park, the laid-back, worry-free Commander-in-Chief awaits the arrival of King George VI (the stutterer from The King's Speech, played here by Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman). Their mission is simple: to beg America for help in the war that is about to engulf Europe. The King is willing to do anything to get a commitment - and that includes eating American food.Running parallel to this historic event, however, is Roosevelt's relationship with his personal aid Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney) who also happens to be his cousin. Suckley's personal accounts of her time with Roosevelt - which were not published and found in a suitcase only after she died - form the basis of the film.Murray plays the president with flair and a casual ease that lends a lightness to tale that really should have carried a tad more weight. Still, the recreation of the period is attractive, and director Roger Michell (Changing Lanes) deserves credit for being brave enough to think Murray could pull off such a charismatic impersonsation.

RUST AND BONE *** (123 minutes; subtitled) MA
While working as a whale trainer, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) suffers an accident that robs her of her legs, her spirit and her sex life. Or so she thinks. Sensing her depression, her attractive, new-found single father friend Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) makes the offer of obligation-free sex, which she can get with a simple text. The notion of strings-free sex gets a good working over from director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet), who takes as much pride in exploring the workings of Stephanie's troubled mind as he does in digitally removing her legs.   

Stay tuned for updates.

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