Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Cert PG, 93 mins
* * * *
We’re now on to the third film in the animated franchise, with many audiences probably forgetting why it’s even called Madagascar.
Certainly none of this film takes place anywhere near the Indian Ocean island.
To recap, in the first movie a group of animals escaped from New York City zoo and ended up in Madagascar.
In the second film, they tried to get back home but crash-landed in Africa.
Now they start to feel homesick and decide to head off to New York via Monte Carlo, where those clever penguins have won a fortune at gambling.
But resourceful though the aquatic birds are, they almost meet their match in animal control officer Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), a great new character.
She will stop at nothing, even running through brick walls, to get her man – or in this case, lion. She is thrilled to be chasing a giraffe (Melman, voiced by David Schwimmer), zebra (Marty, Chris Rock) and hippo (Gloria, Jada Pinkett Smith).
But it’s lion Alex (Ben Stiller), “ze king of ze beasts”, whose head she really wants on her trophy wall.
To escape, the animals hitch a ride with a circus train and pretend they are also performers.
It’s a good way of introducing new characters like Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), the knife-throwing tiger, Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the sea lion (Martin Short). There’s also Sonya the bear, with whom King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) falls instantly in love.
The circus takes them through scenic locations to Rome and London, and the setting of a big top allows for some highly colourful scenes. The circus performance, with Alex on the trapeze, Melman on a tightrope and Marty flying through the air as a human cannonball, is especially effective in 3D.
It’s good to see that with a decent, fast-paced plot and some witty lines, the quality and entertainment value of the films has been maintained.
As Madagascar is now the second-highest-grossing franchise in the DreamWorks stable, behind Shrek, we can probably expect a few more of their adventures. RL
Cert U, 91 mins
* * * *
Dracula (the voice of Adam Sandler) isn’t scary at all in this film. Instead he’s an overprotective single dad, who just wants to keep his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) away from nasty humans forever.
Their sanctuary is the remote castle hotel he built for fellow monsters like Frankenstein (Kevin James), werewolves, zombies, witches and skeletons.
But on Mavis’s 118th birthday, student backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg) turns up and she falls for him, much to Dracula’s horror.
The script has some good lines, thanks to British writer Peter Baynham who’s worked on Alan Partridge and Arthur Christmas.
The weird and wonderful hotel guests are a visual delight and there’s lots to take in, from monster bingo to shrunken heads as talking Do Not Disturb signs and the food – scream cheese, anyone?
It’s perhaps not quite as much fun as Madagascar and Frankenweenie but it is inventive. Checking into this hotel will give you a thrill and get you in the mood for Halloween. RL
Cert PG, 87 mins
* * * *
In 1984, Tim Burton made a half-hour version of this story and was then fired by Disney for scaring children.
It was to be his last short film prior to his feature-length debut with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).
Twenty-eight years later, he’s back with Disney to prove them wrong now that he’s powerful enough to literally drain the colour from its castle logo.
Frankenweenie is an expanded adventure with the boy who is so passionate about science and horror movies that he tries to electrify his dog back to life.
For adults, there is the joy of seeing a director clearly giving us a labour of love with a film that ‘sells dreams’ and embraces all kinds of horror movie influences with an infectious sense of abandonment.
Children will be fascinated by the experiments and, for them, not only will this monster mash be a useful crash course into 1930s’ horror movies, it might just encourage some to want to become scientists, too. GY
Cert 12A, 118 mins
* * *
Iran is in the news again because of the latest escalation of tensions in the Middle East.
But underneath our Newsnight image of the country, movie-makers like director Asghar Farhadi, whose 2011 film A Separation made him first Iranian to win an Oscar, are very film literate and the subtitles soon become effortless to read.
Many a Hollywood movie (and the sterility of Margot at the Wedding oddly springs to mind) could have been transformed if they only had half of the French-style fluidity of About Elly, which Farhadi made earlier in 2009.
The story is about a young school teacher who is invited by the mother of one of her pupils to go on a weekend seaside trip.
The early singing and charades sequences go on a bit too long, but from the moment there is an incident on the beach, you’ll be concerned for everyone involved.
At the MAC, Cannon Hill Park, on Tuesday October 23 and Wednesday 24. GY
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Cert 15, 107 mins
* * *
Back in 1952, Gregory Peck starred in an African film with this distinctive title, based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
Quite how ‘Les neiges du Kilimandjaro’ then has the same title when its own inspiration is a poem about the poor by Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) is not readily obvious.
But although this is a French film set on the coast, its heartbeat will resonate in the Midlands too where many will still be pondering about the unexpected consequences of redundancy.
Trade unionist Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and wife Marie-Claire (Ariane Ascaride) are both affected when his own name is drawn out of the hat, not least when they are viciously robbed at home.
But it’s Michel’s extraordinarily open road to redemption as a victim which makes The Snows unusual, compelling and inspirational enough to moisten your eyes.
At the MAC, Cannon Hill Park at 6pm today; Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday October 24 and Thursday 25. GY
Cert 18, 116 mins
* * *
The problem with cinema today is that too many filmmakers have either forgotten what real cinema is, or they never had a clue in the first place.
To my mind, in its purest sense, it is simply a means of telling a story through unfamiliar moving pictures.
Directed by Leos Carax and including Kylie Minogue and Eve Mendes among its cast, Holy Motors is a truly-bizarre day-in-the-life style account of Monsieur Oscar, a cross between a ghost and an actor during his trip through various lives and human experiences. As a concept, it’s spooky.
Carax, who has only made five films in 28 years – and this is his first since Pola X in 1999 – finds new ways to film everyday things like cars on roads and people walking or doing gymnastics.
Other guises and scenarios are breathtakingly imaginative. Many will, quite rightly, find the ‘story’ here infuriatingly pretentious – but is that a greater crime than bog-standard Hollywood banality?
It’s another issue altogether whether you want see things like vicious stabbings or a film director guaranteeing an 18-certificate by using extended manhood activity in what some will interpret as a Biblical scene.
Visually, though, Holy Motors is cinema like we rarely see it. And that alone makes it one of the cinematic events of the year.
More so than Cosmopolis in June which also featured Robert Pattinson riding in a stretch limo at the behest of David Cronenberg, who could easily be green with envy if he watches this.
Showing at the Electric Cinema from Friday. GY
To Rome With Love
Cert 12A, 112 mins
* * *
Woody Allen’s latest film is more than just another capital love letter.
The Eternal City hasn’t looked this golden and lovely on screen in years.
The action opens with a traffic policeman talking to camera followed by some touristy shots and then a somewhat unconvincing, ensemble-led series of often interlinked personal stories.
The cast includes Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Ellen Page and Penelope Cruz, with the now 76-year-old Woody looking a touch airbrushed. Or maybe it’s because he suddenly looks like a walking advert for Gant. Alec Baldwin is starting to resemble Terry Wogan and, though equally comfortable on screen, is typically not used enough.
To Rome... is a good-looking, familiar Woody romp. It’s not in the same class as Midnight in Paris (2011), but is fun all the same, with Woody’s neuroses now including turbulence.
And, dare I say it, a screen daughter who looks young enough to be his wife!
At Warwick Arts Centre, Friday to Sunday (October 21) and on Wednesday (24).