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Non-Review Review: The Penguins of Madagascar

The Penguins of Madagascar is solid family entertainment. It does not rank among the best of Dreamworks’ animated output, nor among the year’s best animated films. However it is a fun adventure movie that moves along at just the right pace – allowing a number of action set-pieces and a solid cast carry most of the weight. The Penguins of Madagascar is fun and solid; it is arguably more fun and more solid than any of the three Madagascar movies that spawned this spin-off.

The Penguins of Madagascar is just what the doctor ordered with the holiday season approaching. It is a film that makes for a solid family diversion, a movie that will appeal to kids without pandering too heavily, and will acknowledge the adults in the audience without losing focus. It is an enjoyable romp, one that delivers almost perfectly on what it sets out to do. It isn’t transcendental or brilliant in the way that The Lego Movie was, but it is more than merely functional.

Cheesy? Sure.

Cheesy? Sure.

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Non-Review Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is solid family entertainment. Too scattershot and inconsistent to really rank among the best of the Dreamworks animated feature films, it does benefit from an endearing energy and momentum – as well as a charming central performance from Ty Burrell as the eponymous super-inventor dog genius. It’s perfectly inoffensive fun that manages to get quite a few laughs, even if it doesn’t tug the heart strings quite as well as it might want to.

A dog and his boy...

A dog and his boy…

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Non-Review Review: Turbo

Turbo is the best animated movie of 2013, well worth coming out of your shell to see. It’s probably the best Dreamworks film since Kung-Fu Panda and the best CGI animated feature since Toy Story 3. Indeed, Turbo manages to evoke a lot of the charming early Pixar films, in particular channelling Ratatouille, as we follow the adventures of one common unloved animal who decides that “good enough” is not quite good enough.

Stop the clock...

Stop the clock…

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Watch! The Fifth Estate Trailer!

The summer’s barely over, but we’re in Oscar trailer season. Or, more accurately, Benedict Cumberbatch season. Yesterday we had our first look at Twelve Years A Slave. Today, it’s The Fifth Estate, the film looking at Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Cumberbatch is interesting here, with his bleached long hair quite a departure from what we’ve come to expect from the actor, and his Australian accent somewhat warping his recognisable deep voice.

The film itself looks interesting, if only because the material is so recent and so controversial. Given that popular culture has yet to make a judgement on Assange, it’ll be intriguing to see what Bill Condon’s biography offers. The cast does look superb, though.

 

Non-Review Review: Shrek

I caught Shrek again at the weekend, and I’m surprised how well it still holds up. Of course, part of my concern was that the sequels might have somehow retroactively impacted on my opinion of the original film, but I’m always a little hesitant to return to films I greatly enjoyed when I was younger – afraid that they might have been superseded by movies I’ve seen in the years since, or perhaps victim to slightly changing tastes. To be honest, it help up very well, and I was genuinely reminded of why I enjoyed it so much over a decade ago.

A fairy tale romance?

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Non-Review Review: Monsters vs. Aliens

I do quite like Monsters vs. Aliens, even if it feels like it’s trying to do too many vastly different things are once. It’s too goofy and silly to be a genuinely emotional morality tale about appreciating those different than us, while also being too sentimental to work as a sort of a goofy hokey monster mash nostalgia trip. One gets the sense that it could have been a much better film had it opted for one approach rather than the other, instead of trying to straddle the middle ground between them. It’s a shame, because it has some genuinely impressive sequences and warm sense of respect and good humour for all those classic creature features, but it just ends up feeling too much like a standard cookie-cutter modern animated film.

It's a Monster Mash!

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Farewell to Nerds: The Big Studios & Comic Con…

Last year, around this time, I was discussing how great it was to be a nerd or a geek. Hell, Comic Con in San Diego seemed like an obligatory stop-off point for the major studios promoting their latest blockbusters to an overly geeky crowd, debuting the trailer for Tron: Legacy or announcing the cast of The Avengers, not to mention footage and panels based around any number of big-screen blockbusters designed to cater towards the geeks and nerds in the movie-going audience. So it feels like a rather dramatic shift that very few of the major movie studios appear to be planning much for the iconic (or, at least, briefly iconic) Hall H in San Diego this year.

Does this mean that the era of the geek is over?

Will Stars stop Trekking to Hall H?

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Non-Review Review: How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon is, at its core, the story of a boy and his dog. Except his dog happens to be a dragon. It is a well-cast, well-made and well-written little film that actually manages to have a lot more emotional depth than the majority of Dreamworks films, even if it doesn’t quite approach the wonderful sophistication that Pixar manage to produce about once a year. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s fun – a wonderfully crafted piece of family entertainment.

An all-time high for Dreamworks?

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Non-Review Review: Kung-Fu Panda 2

I think the original Kung-Fu Panda might be my favourite Dreamworks animated film. A lot of people go on and on and on about how that particular studio’s animation can be measured against that of their competitor Pixar, with arguments about intellectual and emotional maturity and sincerity. Some argue that the reason Pixar dominates their field is because they don’t treat animation as something just for children. Others suggest that they have a mathematical formula devised to break human hearts. Personally, the feeling I always got from Pixar films that I only fleetingly sensed in the work of Dreamworks, was that those creators were essentially making their dream movie – each and every Pixar film seems lovingly crafted according to a creative vision not based around the “rules” of the industry, but around good ideas and the kinds of stories those people like to tell (and like to hear). I think that is why the original Kung-Fu Panda worked so well, and also why Kung-Fu Panda 2 does such a great job as a follow-up.

They know kung-fu...

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How Do Studios Decide What Movies Get Sequels?

This is a question which has bothered me for quite a while now, because it seems like there should be an obvious answer, but I can’t really make a lot of decisions fit based on that. The deciding factor, one would assume, in any industry as to whether a product gets a continuation, a re-release, or a spin-off, would be that of box office. You imagine that the studio executives include an option for sequels in the contracts of any actors they want to stick around, and then wait for the box office totals to come in before they finally decide if they want to make the investment. However, this doesn’t always seem to be the case.

Should I get on my bike?

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