A fine New Years Eve to you all.
Firstly a bit of thanks to each and every one of you who have read, commented and criticised/praised this blog throughout the year. With an average of 21.49 page visits per day, I'm glad to say that Film Flare has grown into something that I'm proud to be doing and hopefully that you are all enjoying at the other end.
With Christmas behind us, I'm happy to report that this Film Flare Film Diary will be an ANIMATION SPECTACULAR!! (the capital letters and punctuation indicate spectacular-ness).
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Ka-Pow! Who among you would have thought that an animated panda doing martial arts would banish my hatred of Jack Black? Not many, that's for certain.
The best thing about this film is the look and style. The animation is so vividly coloured, it is never overwhelming but the screen is filled with the most breathtaking sights and colours. The characters have a 'dreamworks' look to them which makes them cartoonish but capable of emoting widely, that, along with the great voice work actually ends up giving them an astonishing amount of emotional clout.
The story is one of deeply held revenge wrapped in a warming layer of the usual 'believe in yourself' stuff which isn't the film's strong point but it holds the events and the characters together well enough. The films other real strength is the superb action scenes. The villain's escape from prison is thrilling stuff and whilst the last fight is pretty slapstick, it is a children's film and I can't fault it for that. The animation allows the characters to move with a fluid style and the martial arts are awesome to watch.
The cast is pretty impressive. Besides Jack Black, you have Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu and Michael Clarke Duncan. Each perform their roles well, because there are quite a few characters, it is to the performers and the screenwriters that each character is pretty well fleshed out. It's a cute film, a funny film and the action is awesome. Oh, there's also a panda doing kung fu.
Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
Another quality animation film from Dreamworks, this time focusing on average Jane character Susan, who gets hit by a meteorite and grows to 50 feet tall. Alongside other monsters, Susan is used to defend the earth from........aliens. Monsters vs. Aliens. It's not rocket science.
Anyway, Reece Witherspoon gives a good performance as Helen, the most 'human' of the characters, Seth Rogan is an exaggerated version of his usual persona and Hugh Laurie is almost unrecognisable as Dr. Cockroach. Steven Colbert as the President is a particular highlight for the little screen time he has. In fact, all of the voice cast are good.
All of the characters are nicely introduced and certainly the young audience the film is mainly aimed towards will not understand the references the characters have from films like The Blob, Attack of the 50ft Woman, The Fly and so on. Indeed, much of the humour (it is a funny film) is seemingly aimed towards older fans, the president playing an off key version of the communication from Close Encounters of the Third Kind before playing Axel F. It's funny stuff but not what I was expecting.
The film once again packs a surprising amount of emotional power, not as much as Kung Fu Panda, but it hits the right happy and sad points at various times. Again, there is an element of sickly sweet 'believe in yourself' story edge but it's not overdone and you can forgive it because the film has monsters and aliens in it.
In a similar fashion to Kung Fu Panda, the action in this film is well done. An attack on San Francisco is really good, the section on the bridge is a particular highlight. Whilst lacking the intimate detail of motion that KFP has, here it replaced with scale and spectacle.
Finally, the artistic style is odd but really quite lovely to look at. The screen is filled with vivid colours and there are wide shots which are really quite impressive. The film isn't as good as Kung Fu Panda, but it's certainly worth a watch if you get the chance.