It's a wolf in Twilight clothing
Red Riding Hood Cert 12A: RED Riding Hood is Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke's take on an old tale. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) loves exciting Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) but has been engaged to boring Henry (Max Irons).
When Valerie's sister is murdered by the local werewolf, the villagers are forced to call in Fr Solomon (Gary Oldman) who warns them it isn't just a full moon, but a blood moon and there's a werewolf with a strong bloodline in this village.
Visually, Red Riding Hood is very much based on fairytale tradition: long frocks and locks, some tunics and pointy-roofed villages. Fr Solomon's cavalcade and the way he rocks the cruel, holy megastar look is effectively medieval, ish. The film, however, obeys all of the new traditions of Twilight netherworld horror: washed-out colour; swift pans; sudden zooms; abrupt stops; and all to a semi/pseudo/neo goth soundtrack. Given she had a hand in establishing them, Hardwicke has every right to use them, but the clash here lends not texture, but messiness.
The advent of special effects seems to have given some filmmakers the idea that atmosphere is something that can be nuked in later. Not so. Here, its absence compounds the feeling of mish-mash. The village celebration is choreographed in a way that feels neither Glee nor Greenaway, and is certainly not a depiction of superstitious folks' bacchanalia. No one feels cold in the snow, no one is stinky or rotten-toothed and all too often ye olde medieval spoof movies came to mind. Which jars with how seriously the film takes itself.
The performances are OK. Julie Christie is best as the granny and Oldman does a nice job of channeling Jurgen Prochnow, but to be fair to the actors, I suspect the screenplay had a lot of exclamation marks. But then it is pitched at Twilight fans, young lovers of love, the more impossible the better. And if enough of them go see this, there just could be a sequel with a girl who is torn between two boys, one of them with social stigma issues.
IT'S understating the situation to suggest that his recent stint co-hosting the Oscars with Anne Hathaway did little to advertise James Franco's comic credentials. The good news to report about his starring role in medieval-themed comedy Your Highness is that it reveals him in a much more favourable light in terms of showing us the funny. Lewd, crude and rude, this fantasy from director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) is likely to take admirers of both lowbrow and nobrow humour where they want to go.
Franco stars as the valiant Prince Fabious, a bona fide hero's hero who is obliged to embark on an epic quest when his bride to be, the beautiful Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), is kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). Reluctantly along for the ride is his less-than-valiant brother Thadeous (Danny McBride), together with the latter's frequently funny sidekick Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker). Cue some Princess Bride meets Monty Python and The Holy Grail style knockabout humour, as Fabious and his crew of deadbeats do battle with a variety of fantastical creations in their attempts to rescue ye olde damsel in distress.
Highlights along the way include a seriously perverted puppet, aka The Wise Wizard, while the arrival of a leather-clad Natalie Portman as a warrior babe helps maintain engagement levels. Besides the thongtastic Portman, a village of nearly naked hotties play a prominent part in proceedings, while Franco never misses an opportunity to get his torso out.
The gags come thick and fast but mostly thick (too many jokes about the male member that are less than er... memorable) though there's a successfully achieved tongue-in-cheek tone to proceedings that ensures this enjoyable affair doesn't overstay its welcome.
Winnie the Pooh
WINNIE the Pooh has been wowing kids of all ages for more than 80 years at this stage and on the evidence of Disney's latest big-screen adaptation of AA Milne's children's classic, it has lost none of its capacity to captivate. This endearing spectacle is unashamedly targeted at tots and pre-tweens, but accompanying adults will no doubt identify with the various engaging characters and the inevitable vicissitudes visited upon them as their best intentions are thwarted by fate and their own personality quirks. One of the more pertinent life lessons discernible is how inevitable and rapid the downward spiral is if one grants too great an influence to know-alls, or in this instance... er... know-owls.
The story initially focuses on the infamous Bear of Very Little Brain and his attempts to fill his rumbling, tumescent tummy with honey. Before he gets an opportunity to do so a chance meeting with prototype slacker Eeyore sees Winnie changing tack and embarking on a selfless quest designed to reunite the aforementioned Eeyore with his missing tail. Naturally the ensuing happy ending ensures that all paying and more importantly, non-paying punters (kids), are guaranteed to depart with a smile on their face, and courtesy of vocals by Zooey Deschanel, a song in their heart.
Stellar voicework from the likes of John Cleese, Craig Ferguson, and in particular Jim Cummings in the title role, ensure that a vibrant tone is maintained for the duration. The visuals and wordplays are also a constant delight while the spectacle of the characters interacting with the book brings a whole new meaning to the idea of what constitutes the joy of text.
ART-HOUSE director Kelly Reichardt maintains her subtlety and poise for this aridly beautiful western about a small caravan of settlers in 1845 aimlessly searching the barren lands of Oregon for water. History tells of a real Meek's Cutoff, a trail that snaked through the region and claimed the lives of many who set out on it.
Not a word is spoken for the first 20 minutes, which details the chores of the three-family group as they stock up at the last river they know of before setting off into the unknown. We know little about the group, bar first names, such as Emily (Michelle Williams, brilliant as always) and Thomas (Paul Dano). Hired to lead them is Stephen Meek (an unrecognisable Bruce Greenwood), a hirsute fur-trapper and explorer who claims to know the terrain well. It becomes plain, however, that this is not quite the case, and as water rations diminish and the journey takes its toll, temperaments are tested.
When the group happen upon a Cayuse Indian scout, they take him captive in the hope that he can lead them in the right direction. While Meek is adamant the stranger is an enemy and should be dispatched, desperation sees the others place their trust in him. Mesmeric in its vision and atmosphere for half the time, smouldering with hushed drama for the other, Meek's Cutoff would have been in contention for one of the best releases of the year thus far had it not ended the way it does -- an agonising full stop to a film that otherwise would have stood alongside the best westerns of recent years.
Sunday Indo Living