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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released on 19 August 2011

Not a great week for films... at least not based on what I've seen. French film Incendies and local flick Retribution were also released but I have not seen them.

Cowboys and Aliens has the sort of title that begs to be either warmly embraced by those of us who like a good bit of schlock in our cinema diet or scoffed at by pretty much everyone else. The biggest problem is that the film tries to hard to win both audiences and, in the process, alienates even the b-movie-loving geeks who would normally flock to a film called Cowboys and Aliens. It's not a terrible film by any means - how could it be when you have John Favreau, the director of Iron Man, working with current Bond Daniel Craig, current "It" girl Olivia Wilde and Harrison Frickin' Ford in a crazy mashup of the science fiction and western genres - but it is much, much less fun than it should be. It does pretty well as a western and Craig makes for a solid "Man With No Name"-type gun-slinging anti-hero but this is a far cry from Joss Whedon's brilliant Firefly/ Serenity when it comes to meshing The Wild West and sci-fi elements. The "Aliens" side of the equation is quite weak in general as the personality-free, uber-generic extraterrestrials make for some fairly dull bad guys. Worst of all, though, it's simply not as funny or as off-the-wall as its title seems to promise. Ford is responsible for most of the film's laughs as he once again has great fun playing up to his gruff and grumpy persona after his terrific turn in Morning Glory but he is sorely underused and his relatively small role is certainly not enough to raise the film beyond disappointing mediocrity.

 I'm really quite glad that I didn't have to review Monte Carlo for Channel24 because I am so far away from its target audience that I would barely even know how to approach the thing. It's a silly romantic comedy starring Selena Gomez that is aimed squarely at tweenage girls and, as near as I can tell, no one else. I could simply write it off saying that it ain't no Pretty In Pink or 10 Things I Hate About You but, honestly, I don't even think it was aiming that high. I could complain about the absurdly stupid central plot device but applying anything but the loosest of fairy tale logic to this film is to do it a great disservice. I could also complain about the cloying sentimentality, lame comedy and - a solid supporting turn from Leighton Meester, aside - wooden acting but, there's just no getting past it, I'm a 29-year-old bloke and this film is really, really not for me. It may, however, well work brilliantly for 10 to 12 year old girls and, ya know what, I'm not going to hold anything against either the film or its audience for that.

 Speaking of not being the target audience, Sammy's Adventures: The Secret Passage is a rather unusual modern day digital animation in that it is clearly aimed squarely at younger children. Older audiences will probably find the eco-friendly message that is hammered home ad nauseum throughout the film to be pretty obnoxious (though obviously well-meaning) and there is little to truly latch onto in terms of storytelling, characters or jokes. That said, though, its noble intentions, gentle sweetness, huge heart and cute colourful characters will almost definitely work for younger kids. I would be really surprised if they didn't. Parents taking their kids to see it, though, can at least be reassured by the fact that, though they will hardly be swept away by the film in the way they are in the best Pixar pictures, Sammy's Adventures is short enough and sweet enough to make it a painless visit to the cinema. The animation too is pretty good. Some of the character work is a bit sketchy at times (though obviously nowhere near as bad as, say, Jock of the Busveld) but the underwater landscapes are very easy on the eyes.


Best Film of  the Week: Bloody hell. It's Sammy's Adventures, isn't it? And even then its really only for young kids and their parents. 

Worst Film of the Week: Honestly, everything was too mediocre to really offend. Technically, it's probably Monte Carlo but, again, I'm reasonably sure it will work for its intended audience. 

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