MEGAMIND * * * *
Cert PG, 95 mins
In a week dominated by the newly-powerful WikiLeaks, here’s something for their code-crackers to really think about. Does DreamWorks’ animation department have a mole – or a spy – in its midst?
Back in 1998 its Antz movie (which I preferred) was suspiciously similar to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.
Now Megamind is a megalomaniac armed with his own Minion sidekick.
How familiar with Despicable Me, still in cinemas.
And, wouldn’t you know it, old Megamind himself looks deceptively like another DreamWorks’ blue-faced, bulb-headed character, Gallaxhar from last year’s Monsters vs Aliens.
Though clearly derivative and with a good dash of The Incredibles, Megamind is breezily directed by Madagascar’s Tom McGrath and there’s plenty of fun lines, too.
Even if younger viewers don’t understand the Marlon Brando/Superman gag or the Barack Obama “No You Can’t” poster references, they’ll probably love the action regardless.
Megamind (Will Ferrell, much funnier off screen than on) eventually learns that life is no fun if you have your own way all of the time.
He just needs characters like Brad Pitt’s Metro Man to remind him.
So, the next time you want to look down on someone, remember that in a symbiotic world your success relies on everyone else around you. In other words, have a nice day. GY
MONSTERS * * * *
Cert 12A, 93 mins
The trailer for this film makes it out to be an eventful sci-fi thriller.
In fact, all the action and scary moments are packed into the misleading promotional ads. If that’s what you expect when you go into the cinema, you’ll be disappointed.
But if you’re open to a slower-moving, intelligent and emotional drama, then Monsters isn’t a let-down.
It proves that you don’t need a big budget and overblown special effects to pull off a clever alien movie.
It is set in the near future, six years after NASA discovered alien life. A probe, launched to collect samples, crashed on re-entry over Central America. Now half of Mexico is an infected zone and the military struggle to contain the ‘creatures’, which look like giant octopi.
The film’s story is much smaller than the big picture, though, as we follow photo-journalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and Sam Wynden (Whitney Able), the daughter of his boss.
When she suffers minor injuries in a Central American country, he is sent to bring her home to the United States, which means escorting her through the infected zone.
He’s reluctant at first to babysit her, but they slowly bond, especially when he manages to lose her ferry ticket, forcing them to cross Mexico by foot, truck and boat.
Along the way, they realise they have less to fear from the alien monsters than from the US military and their chemical attacks.
It’s rather slow, with no action for a good hour, but it poses interesting questions about deeper issues and carries more emotional depth than most dramas of this genre. RL
LONDON BOULEVARD *
Cert 18, 104 mins
Made by a Bostonian who ought to know better, this typically depressing British movie will soon have you believing you are wasting your life.
Gangster characters like lemon sole-loving Gant (Ray Winstone) make it seem as if humanity scarcely exists.
The C-word used ad nauseam here has nothing to do with Christmas spirit or the optimism of London 2012.
In the case of writer and first-time director William Monahan, the Academy Awards’ organisers should wrestle back the Oscar they gave him for Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, a) because it was a remake of a superior Hong Kong thriller and b) because his new film is light years away from David Cronenberg’s London-based Eastern Promises (2007).
Colin Farrell’s character Mitchell is, yawn of yawns, released from Pentonville prison after serving time for GBH.
Drawn into Gant’s evil world, he increasingly has to live like a gangster to survive.
Farrell, who still only has Phone Booth and In Bruges in serious credit on his CV, delivers another very uneven performance.
His accent varies wildly and one minute he looks like he could play George Clooney’s son, then there’s a thing with his lips which suggests ‘son of Bob Hoskins’. Lord help us.
This film’s distributors insisted I watch this with a public audience. For the record, out of nine people who started watching this with me, only six lasted the course. You’ve been warned. GY
RARE EXPORTS * * *
Cert 15, 82 mins
This is a seasonal tale with a difference. Don’t watch this film if you want a warm and sentimental movie to get you in the Christmas mood, but you might fancy it as an antidote to yuletide cheesiness.
From Finnish writer/director Jalmari Helander, it centres on a much darker, more malevolent version of Father Christmas than the jovial one invented by Coca-Cola.
The ‘original’ Santa is dug up in Lapland from his icy grave, where he’d been lured by locals fed up of his violent methods with kids. If you’ve been naughty and not nice, you end up horribly killed.
It’s down to young boy Pietari (excellent Onni Tommila) to realise what they’re dealing with and find a way of fighting back – and facing up to Santa’s elves who are far from cute.
This is a rather clever, original and darkly humorous, if a little weird, story played out against the backdrop of stunning mountain scenery. RL