LISTED Film Previews – December ’10

It’s December already? When the hell did that happen?! Ok, believe me, I’m not complaining about the fact that I can now wake up to a small chocolatey treat every morning, but it would be nice if I had at least some of my Christmas shopping done and dusted already! I suppose I had better get on with it and blitz my credit card on some online stores! In the meantime, for those of you out there who have already done your shopping, here are some film previews for you to read:

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (12A) (Dir. Michael Apted)

There is a certain amount of scepticism accompanying the release of this third instalment in the Narnia franchise, mainly down to a change of both production companies AND directors. However, with Voyage of the Dawn Treader now being backed by the same company that released Avatar (Fox) there is potential for as much of a marketing blanket as there was before. In this instalment, the Pevensie children once again get swept away to the magical world of Narnia where they re-unite with King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and take a trip on the royal ship The Dawn Treader to their greatest adventure yet, encountering dragons, merfolk and more on their voyage to the edge of the world. Plenty of potential for great 3D here, but without the backing from Disney, will it have quite the same “magical” quality it originally had? Released December 10th.

TRON: LEGACY (PG) (Dir. Joseph Kosinski)

The follow-up to one of the biggest cult sci-fi hits ever finally hits screens this month, following nearly a couple of years of gradually building hype. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) gets sent to investigate a signal from his father’s old arcade decades after he went missing. When he does, he too is sucked into the futuristic cyber world of TRON where his dad Kevin (Jeff Bridges) has been trapped for 20 years. After reuniting with each other, they team up with warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde) to take down the Master Control Program. Disney are releasing this in competition with their old franchise of Narnia, so you can expect this to tick all the right boxes to make sure they bring the crowds in. Everything that made the original great is now upgraded, so expect some immense 3D light cycle action! Make sure you see this! Released December 26th.

MEGAMIND (PG) (Dir. Tom McGrath)

From the same people that brought us How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek comes Will Ferrell’s answer to Despicable Me. Ferrell plays Megamind, the most notorious super-villain Metro City has ever seen. But after he finally defeats his heroic opposite Metro Man, he creates himself a new foe who turns even more evil than him. Now, Megamind might have to use his powers… for good! Also starring Jonah Hill, Tina Fey and Brad Pitt, Megamind could easily crush comedic opposition like Little Fockers, and if this works out well for Ferrell then perhaps Anchorman 2 might not be so far off after all… Released December 3rd.

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (PG) (Dir. Robert Letterman)

Jack Black renews the old story as Lemuel Gulliver, a journalist who gets transported to an island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle where he is a giant among the civilisation of the Lilliputians and eventually becomes part of their community. This is perhaps a slightly unusual turn of character considering what Jack Black is capable of from past ventures, but the fact the production company wouldn’t let him open for Pearl Jam (a lifelong dream of his) shows that dedication has been put into this, so let’s hope it’s all worth it! Released December 26th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on www.listedmagazine.com

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Contains Spoilers)

Perhaps it is a case of me building up how good something is going to be in my own mind, and then that particular something not quite delivering to the extent I think it’s going to be. I mean, it does happen a lot with certain films, but in all honesty The Sorcerer’s Apprentice came fairly close and only fell slightly short of the mark that I had predicted for it. But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it – in fact, it’s one of the more enjoyable and easily accessible films I’ve seen recently.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t exactly one of these films that I have spoken about in which you don’t have to engage your mind very much. Ok, it might not exactly be very challenging either considering that it IS a Disney-produced movie, but thinking of it as being on par with films like Pirates of the Caribbean or Jerry Bruckheimer’s other Disney Studios film this year Prince of Persia is a bit closer to how mentally engaging it is. It is almost a mixture of equal parts clever storytelling and entertaining CGI graphics, mixing the intelligent parts with the effects-lead distractions pretty well.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice basically tells the story of Dave (Jay Baruchel), a young physics nerd who meets Master Sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) who tells him that he is the last in the bloodline descendants of Merlin, and must be trained in Sorcery in order to keep the world safe from Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) who wishes to release Morgana le Fay from her prison and take over the world. Ok, so it doesn’t seem like the most original plot conflict in the world (and in fact, there are bits of it that are a bit predictable because of it) but its the way the story is told and what they do with it that set’s it apart.

There were probably an equal amount of things that I loved and thought less of in this film. Firstly, even though it could have been FAR too easy to do in a film such as this, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice managed not only to steer clear of but completely avoid something I call the “Harry Potter Excuse”. The “Harry Potter Excuse” acts as a plot device which can instantly explain any action taken by someone in a film by saying “It’s magic” and thusly needs no further explanation. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice managed to go the opposite route and ground all the mystical actions of the characters in the real world through saying that Sorcery is a mixture of both Magic AND Physics. The explanation is all there when you watch it, but trust me when I say that it definitely grounded the story a lot more than I thought possible.

There’s also the right mixture of humour and action in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Despite how much Nicolas Cage wears that particular look on his face (you know, the one he put on in Con Air and seems to have had ever since?), he does manage to introduce an element of cool humour to his character of Balthazar, and Jay Baruchel is gradually making his way to the big time with his geeky-but-lovable charm that we saw in How To Train Your Dragon and now in this film, where he brings his natural humour to his main character.

Essentially, there is a lot to be liked in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as there is something for everyone to enjoy – there’s humour, high-budget effects, a storyline that can easily entertain both kids and adults alike and a concept that draws you in and keeps you from the start. There are effects-driven scenes that are pretty entertaining, such as the car chase scene where the cars change form, and there are parts of the storyline that are pretty grounded so you don’t feel like you’re watching something with too much suspended disbelief. However, as with many films, there was always going to be things that didn’t quite measure up…

Firstly, the biggest thing that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice lacked in was the emotional engagement with the characters. The death scene with Balthazar Blake was pretty obviously on its way, but the only thing that surpassed this obviousness was the fact that he get’s brought back to life again when it actually would have been a bit more emotionally compelling if he had died at the end instead. Perhaps we’re giving a Disney produced movie a bit too much credit as far as depth of character goes, but even so there could have been a bit more to that scene than there was. And on the subject of depth, Jay Baruchel’s Dave probably could have used a bit more of a struggle of character throughout the film, as there wasn’t really anything that created any kind of inner turmoil with him. That’s not to say anything about Jay’s performance, he’s actually very good, but there could have been more of a connection established with his character so that we feel a bit more when things happen to him. Perhaps if it had panned out that Horvath had killed off his love interest (who actually doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than being a love interest until the very end) at the point towards the end when he holds her hostage, that would have created a bit more of a double layering to his character with the consequences of doing the right thing? Maybe, but again perhaps we’re forgetting that this is a family movie and therefore doesn’t require too much depth of character in its make-up.

The only other thing I found annoying, but also satisfied that it didn’t last far beyond the opening credits, was all the obvious narrative pointing that goes on for all the set-up when it probably could have, with a little bit of clever writing, have been a script-lead set up of its own. And it probably was to begin with, but my guessing is that it ran a little to long and they couldn’t shorten it without losing storyline, so they had it narrated instead. At the end of the day, it serves a purpose and gets to the main storyline quicker, but it still seems like it could have been handled a bit differently and been better off because of it.

Apart from these, and the occasional obvious plot-hole and loose end, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is basically a fun, enjoyable film for people who like action, fantasy and comedy all together in a neatly tied together package. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice gets an 8 out of 10 for enjoyability, but the lack of depth from the same people who made National Treasure (which was cleverer in its make-up and set the bar for this) let it down a little bit.

LISTED Film Previews – March 2010

Because of changes in the printings for Listed Magazine, these will actually be going out monthly now, as opposed to covering two months in one go – which means more movie previews packed into a months space than before, making your movie-going choices even more difficult than before! I love being helpful!!

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (PG) (Dir. Tim Burton)

Tim Burton, master of the wierd and gothy, has struck once again – this time turning his hand to Lewis Carroll’s famous masterpiece! Taking on a slightly different storyline to the usual concept, this version sees a 19 year old Alice returning to Wonderland to fulfil her destiny of ending the Red Queen’s reign of terror over Wonderland. Burton has given the film’s visuals his own unusual-but-accurate approach, and with a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp (of course) as The Mad Hatter, Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen as The White Rabbit and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen to name just a few, this is definitely one (acid) trip you’ll want to go on! Miss this, and you’ll miss out! Released March 5th.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (15) (Dir. Neils Arden Oplev)

After having a huge reception, this Swedish adaptation of the bestselling book is reaching our shores soon! A journalist (played by Michael Nyqvist) and a computer hacker are paired up to investigate a girl’s disappearance. But the more they investigate, the more they uncover about the families history and a string of murders from the past… Even though Sony have already optioned for a remake, you’ll want to check out this original version first and foremost! Released March 12th.

THE RUNAWAYS (15) (Dir. Floria Sigismondi)

A chronicling of the rise to fame of LA rock band The Runaways, who were an all-girl band in a man’s rock world in 1975. Written and directed by Sigismondi, this film sees Kristen Stewart break FAR away from her previous Twilight Saga role to play teenage lead singer Joan Jett, as well as Dakota Fanning looking surprisingly grown-up playing Cherie Currie. A must see for drama lovers and music lovers alike! Released March 19th.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (12A) (Dir. Louis Leterrier)

Whilst 2010 seems to be “The Year Of The Bad Re-Makes” (stay tuned for future months for more on those…), the Clash Re-make starring Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) looks like it could satisfy anyone having withdrawal symptoms from 300! Loosely based on Greek myth, Perseus (Worthington) embarks on a mission to destroy Hades (Ralph Feinnes) before the underworld can spread to Earth and seize the power of Perseus’ father Zeus. The visual effects in Clash Of The Titans looks fantastic from the trailer, so you can definitely get more bang for your buck in this one than any other action film this month. Expect every other re-make this year to look awful compared to this! Released March 26th.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (PG) (Dir. Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders)

From the same studios that brought you Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name that follows a young Viking named Hiccup Horrendous The Third as he finds his very own wild dragon, Toothless. If you’re a fan of kid’s films with things for the parents included, then this is a great comedy adventure for the family. Catch it in 3D if possible, too! Released March 31st.

As printed in Listed Magazine Issue 25 and on www.listedmagazine.com