Posts Tagged ‘Dreamworks’

Worth Shelling Out For

August 30, 2013

ImageAn Active3D Movie Review
Movie: Turbo
Rating: **** (out of 5)

My biggest reservation with movies such as Cars and Planes, is that the protagonists lack arms and hands. This tends to limit their expressiveness – as any Mediterranean will confirm. It also prevents one from doing much in the way of work – which I suspect that most Mediterraneans would find desirable… 😉   

And here we find ourselves with a bunch of snails; armless, of course (and no Cockney puns, please). The prognosis isn’t good, but it’s any reviewer’s job to put quibbles aside where possible, and this is what I do. And who knew it; it seems that forelimbs are not entirely necessary: the animators at Dreamworks have assembled a charming and funny ensemble of expressive escargots.

A wee snail called Theo has an obsession with car racing and fancies himself as quite the speed king – in snail terms; which, as you can imagine, doesn’t amount to much. He’s a dreamer, and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the snail community, that leads a dull, 9-to-5 lifestyle. Theo’s brother is always defending him, but even he is starting to lose patience with his younger sibling’s starry-eyed world view. And then it happens: Theo gets momentarily trapped within the turbo system of a souped-up drag-racing car, and finds himself blessed with that very quality he’d so long sought; speed. And thus, a snail legend rises; Turbo! This could lead him, and those around to him, to fame and prosperity, or it could propel him into great danger. The scene is thus set for Dreamwork’s latest 3-D family funfest. 

Car racing fiends will love the climactic scenes set within the Indianapolis Speedway; yup, the home of the Indy 500. Even though I’m no car fanatic, the race scene, in which the animators weave our hero – and therefore us – between, over and under the cars, extracts IMAX-like thrills from even the smallest theatre screen. And there’s more for the speed geeks; racing legend Mario Andretti has two brief voice cameos; one as a fast food customer, and the other as a race official. As for the main audio cast, your ears will keep bumping into familiar voices; some of which you’ll recognise immediately, and some of which will have you muttering, “I *know* that voice… don’t tell me… don’t tell me!” For me, the most recognisable pipes in the line-up belonged to Samuel L Jackson, Luis Guzman, Paul Giamatti, and Richard Jenkins (whose animated avatar even bears a strong resemblance to him).

The cliché-mongers will be calling it “high octane family entertainment”, and I’m happy to report that I’m unable to top that description.


You’ll Warm to This: Ice Age 4

June 27, 2012


An Active3D Review: Ice Age 4 3-D: Continental Drift
Rating: **** (out of 5)

The guys at Fox Animation are really giving Dreamworks’ animators a good run for their money, with a franchise to run neck-and-neck with the Madagascar movies. The Pixar team should also be looking over their shoulders, even though the Ice Age series fails to deliver the emotional meat of most Pixar movies (and here I exclude Pixar’s Cars films, which I believe come in well below that studio’s standards).

Prepare yourself for dramatic continental drift, avalanches, and rising and falling land masses, as the continents as we know them today are formed before our very eyes. (How the process is triggered, I shan’t reveal.) Through all of this geographical upheaval, a group of animals struggles to keep together and stay alive. Cue heaps of comic action, thrown in with some inter-‘personal’ dynamics (i.e. a daddy mammoth who’s having difficulty accepting the fact that his daughter has grown into a young lady, plus the unrequited love of a furry little burrowing creature).

Then we have the crowd favourite, Scrat, who is, as always, in the pathetic pursuit of the ultimate acorn high. Into this crazily uneven mix, the creators of this wild adventure have also tossed a bizarre helping of Greek mythology, which is bound to thrill the academics… and possibly puzzle those who haven’t stopped over at Greek mythology 101. Those amongst us whose cultural references are somewhat more lowbrow, can look forward to an amusing little homage to that overrated, kilt-infested Mel Gibson epic, Braveheart.

The prehistoric escapades are rounded off with a tragicomic moral fable that left me quite stunned – impressive and surprisingly dramatic; though I’m not quite sure how it sits with the accompanying insanity. (But I’m not giving anything away!)

Special mention needs to be given to Wanda Sykes for her lively and endearing vocal performance of a granny sloth who becomes the prima buffo of the piece. She finds herself in the company of other fine actors, such as Peter Dinklage, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, and John Leguizamo.

Ice Age 4’s overall entertainment value and likeable ensemble cast largely override its somewhat patchy conceptualisation. Really; it’s a fun ride.

AND HERE’S A BONUS: the film is preceded by a hilarious and heart-warming 3-D Simpsons cartoon, which stars a largely overlooked character; Maggie, the youngest member of that celebrated TV family. This pre-feature surprise is worth the price of admission alone!

MAD!…agascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

June 15, 2012

An Active3D Review


Rating: ****½ stars (out of 5)

Forget about logic and a serious narrative thread, and join the now-familiar displaced New York zoo-dwellers as they follow their friends and ex-zoomates, those irrepressible penguins, to Monte Carlo. How a lion, hippo, zebra and giraffe get from an island near the southern tip of Africa to the French Riviera, is anyone’s guess – but that sets the tone for the movie that follows: just go with it.

From the Euro-glamour of Monte Carlo to the breathtaking excitement of the Big Top, the film offers grand adventure and gleeful, colourful comedy. The relentless barrage of verbal jokes – of the laugh-out-loud variety – is largely targeted at grown-up audiences, whilst the physical comedy romps shamelessly across age barriers. And the 3-D is such that we get yanked into the non-stop action. If I had any quibble, it would be that the pace is unflaggingly frenetic, so I found myself running out of stamina before the film did… but hey; rather exit exhausted than bored!

My advice: scoop up friends and family members of all ages, and head for the closest 3-D cinema that’s screening this latest Dreamworks escapade.

And here’s a bit of box office trivia that will have fans of family entertainment applauding: Madagascar 3 opened at Number One in the USA; $10million ahead of its direct competitor, Prometheus!

Puss in Boots 3-D : Mee-YOW!!!

December 2, 2011

An Active3D Movie Review

Rating (out of 5 stars): *****

Got a feline you're foolin'... Puss in Boots steps out from Shrek's shadow and struts out in his own comedy.

We’ve been seeing the trailers for months, and I have to tell you that I was left unimpressed and uninspired. This promised to be little more than a self-congratulatory feast of in-jokes and knowing smirks. And, yes; a needless spinoff, riding on the popularity of the Shrek franchise.

And then I saw the press screening. And was utterly blown away.

With this tongue-in-cheek homage to the western genre, crammed with sly jabs at its conventions and clichés, the team at Dreamworks have pulled out all the creative stops. The environments in which we find ourselves are colourful, inviting and utterly immersive. This is 3-D animation at its finest, inviting us back into the story books of our childhood; no matter our ages.

And the gags – both visual and verbal – are laugh-out-loud hilarious; almost ribald at times, though nothing to offend. The story centres around the once-solid friendship between Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) and Humpty Dumpty (vocalised by Zach Galifianakis). They had grown up as childhood friends, it appears, and, although they both appeared set to become petty crooks, Puss ultimately chose the moral high ground, leaving Humpty to turn into… well, a rotten egg. As if this backstory on a famous Mother Goose character wasn’t enough, we’re also exposed to the truth behind Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), who, it appears, were the nursery rhyme equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde. Just tougher and nastier.

With all the shameless ferocity of a gatling gun, this madcap holiday attraction unloads a relentless barrage of laughs, adventure, and mock melodrama. Furry good indeed!