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Happy Feet Two: Uneven Animated Musical
In a colony of singing, dancing penguins, Mumble (Wood) the talented tap dancer from the first film and Gloria (Pink), his gifted singer wife, now have a son called Erik (Acres), the only penguin who can neither dance nor sing. Devoid of any other talents, Erik becomes something of an outcast.
Inspired by Ramon (Williams), a highly eccentric penguin, Erik decides to leave home with two of his friends for a place where untalented penguins would be more welcome. Upon discovering their absence, Mumble takes off to look for the kids. He finds them in thrall of a flying penguin named The Mighty Sven (Azaria) who has them believing that anything is possible if they just will it to be so (The Secret, anyone?). On their way home, Mumble saves a trapped elephant seal yet is disheartened when Erik, who he has a rocky relationship with, chalks the success up to Sven’s influence as opposed to Mumble’s personal endeavours. When they finally get back home, they find their entire colony trapped without food between two glaciers that had suddenly shifted. As the colony’s only free penguins, it’s up to Mumble and the kids to save the rest.
Intertwined with the previous storyline is another arc focusing on two krill named Bill the Krill (Pitt) and Will the Krill (Damon). Bill longs to experience life outside of the swarm, and being the highly curious and brave character that he is, he decides to swim opposite to his swarm and taste the independent life. His friend Will tries to dissuade him yet ends up tagging along with Bill on his adventure, freaking out every five seconds and sorely testing his patience.
The film seems rather undecided about the story it wants to tell. Repeated allusions are made to the horrors of global warming, yet they were never fleshed out. The two story arcs; the krills’ separation from the swarm and the trapped penguins, don’t come together satisfactorily. The film is at its best when Bill and Will interact on screen, yet when they split up and Bill’s storyline tangentially intersects with that of the trapped penguins, the film grinds to a halt. Frankly, it seems like the story took a backseat in favour of the visuals, coming across as a loosely related series of song and dance numbers that work better separately than in the context of the film.
The film’s visuals are pretty schizophrenic. Some aspects are just absolutely stunning, for example, the ice crystals look like diamonds and close-ups on the snow are breathtaking. The animals also look amazing; especially in the attention to detail from the way they look to the way they move. On the other hand, some scenes look rather unfinished or rushed. For example, one of the singing scenes takes place during an aurora, which was supposed to add to the song’s majestic vibe. In actuality, though; it looked like a laptop screensaver.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Armed with a zappy attitude, vibrant colours and a heavily-marketed soundtrack, the latest animated effort from DreamWorks Animation attempts to profit from the once popular toy brand in Trolls: a fun and a breezy animated musical which is a little light on story on substance.
Set deep in the heart of a magical land unknown to man, the Trolls are one of the tiniest and happiest creatures in the world who enjoy spending their days singing, dancing and generally spreading joy throughout their tiny little community. Their polar opposites are the Bergens; large, miserable and seemingly nasty monsters incapable of feeling joy on their own, needing to eat Trolls in order to consume their happiness. See, eating Trolls has become a Bergen holiday and on one of those holidays, the Trolls somehow manage to escape and, for twenty years, have been living a blissful and a carefree existence.
Fast-forward to present day, Princess Poppy (Kendrick) is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of that great escape, something which doesn’t sit all too well with the grumpy troll named Branch (Timberlake) who believes that the party will bring them unnecessary attention. His predictions soon come true when a Bergen Chef (Baranski) emerges from the shadows and grabs a couple of trolls and heads to Bergen command centre in order to redeem her bruised reputation, leaving it up to Poppy and Branch to go after her and save their friends.
Much like the Lego Movie before it, Trolls may come across to many as nothing but a calculated brand-driven cash grab which is looking to capitalise its profits from the popularity of a toy line which hasn’t been relevant since mid 90’s. Sure, money is always major motivators in productions like these, but there’s a fair amount of effort that is deserving of recognition.
Visually speaking, Trolls is a stunner. Offering an immersive and an almost psychedelic viewing experience, its visual palette is filled with vibrant colours and shimmering glitters, while the design of the trolls themselves –rainbow-coloured hair that shoots straight up, wrinkly foreheads and googly eyes – are showcased wonderfully. The voiceover work by the A-list cast – including Gwen Stefani, Zoey Deschanel and Russell Brand – is also solid with Timberlake and Kendrick using their easy chemistry and natural charm to bring the story’s main characters to life.
Unfortunately, where things go wrong is the story itself which comes across as uncreative, predictable and most disappointing of all, forgettable. Adults will left out in the cold by its excessively sugary feel, because ultimately, there’s not much here to engage with beyond the catchy pop-tunes, glittery farts and the candy-coloured façade.