Arthur Christmas

It isn’t even Thanksgiving and we are already on to our second Christmas movie of the year (although unlike Harold & Kumar, this one you can see with the entire family). Produced by the Wallace & Gromit-wheelhouse, Aardman Animations, the British-tinged Xmas tale, Arthur Christmas, is a nice-take on the Holiday genre that is naughty enough to keep those too old to buy a children’s ticket entertained.

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The Descendants

Alexander Payne’s The Descendants may be set on the lush islands of Hawaii, but the journey that the film takes us on is anything but a vacation. Quite the opposite; the road is pretty rough. But even though the territory that Payne is navigating is generally familiar (one major plot thread requires zero effort to guess its outcome), the journey, even at its leisurely (though never sluggish) pace is worth taking. The film, one of the director’s kinder, less bitter projects, is a far cry from Payne’s best work, possibly his least interesting, but it is strong enough to warrant a look from casual movie-goers and hardcore cinephiles alike.

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Happy Feet Two

Admit it: you secretly enjoy all of those videos of cute baby animals doing cute baby animal things. Even a soulless robot would have trouble keeping the grin off their face when they watch a tiny kitten chasing the light given off by a flashlight or a puppy cuddling up to a sleeping baby. Now imagine, if you will, a baby animal specifically designed to make the love bubble up in your heart. This is Mumble’s baby penguin son, Erik. He is fluffy, has a squeaky little voice, and accidentally pees right at the start of Happy Feet Two. Totally endearing.

It has been roughly five years since the original Happy Feet hit the silver screen, with the sequel coming out in time to join in on the 3D craze. The extra dimension adds to the epicness of the mass penguin musical numbers and the vast Antarctic landscape. But beyond the visuals the star-studded cast is thrilling to identify: you’ll hear Elijah Wood and Robin Williams reprising their roles from the original film as well as some new voices like Pink and Sofia Vergara.

Mumble, our tap-dancing penguin friend from Happy Feet is back, now the father of a precious son named Erik. Erik, however, has not inherited the confidence of his father’s dancing or his mother’s singing. After embarrassing himself in front of all the other Emperor penguins, he runs away and meets the Mighty Sven, a miraculous flying penguin. Erik immediately sees Sven as a heroic role model, but when forces of nature shake the snowy world of the Antarctic, Mumble shows his true grit as a penguin who will do anything for a friend and unites not only the penguin nations but a series of other creatures as well.

The animation is stunning – wide shots of giant icebergs partially submerged in the ocean, a glowing sea of fiery orange krill, and the movement of the snow under the dancing penguin feet is truly astounding. Each fluffy feather on little Erik stands out, increasing his already high adorable factor.

The soundtrack is fairly eclectic while still being appropriate for the targeted age group of the audience: children and their parents. The little baby penguins sing about “bringing fluffy back” while Bill the Krill (Matt Damon) sings Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Pink, voicing Mumble’s wife Gloria, lets her songs echo off the animated glaciers, an impressive solo performance in an even more impressive opening dance number.

However, no amount of tap dancing can make up for the film’s poorly executed plot. One disappointed fan after the showing said, “the point of the first Happy Feet was that Mumble was different but he didn’t let it bring him down, he didn’t change himself – instead he got all of the other penguins dancing by the end. In this one [Happy Feet Two] the outcast penguin is just scared the whole time and then sings at the end.” The film was action-packed, making the most of the extra dimension: large waves of fish flowing towards the screen, seals almost eating the audience’s faces off, and Will the Krill constantly falling towards the viewers. The subplots of elephant seals and existential krill (brilliantly voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) did not flow with the overall plot of the movie.

If you’re a big fan Happy Feet, keep in mind that sequels are rarely up to par with their originals. The plot line is poorly executed and the movie is sometimes a little darker than one would expect a children’s movie to be. But the penguins are cute, the singing is great, and Brad Pitt teamed with Matt Damon will have you shaking with laughter.

The writing is funny, the animation is wonderful, the soundtrack is enjoyable, and the kids will like it. Just remember to ignore the the plot line.

7/10

Review by Sarah Porter

Tower Heist

 

When a dollar bill comes fresh off the presses at the mint, it is crisp, green, and sturdy. With the passing through hands, that perfect dollar eventually gets crinkled, grayed, and torn. Something similar is what I imagine happened to Tower Heist, a tired sounding but lively looking heist comedy that pries open just enough laughs to overpower the yawns.

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