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What's worth seeing at the cinema? Cablo Gula knows. This page gives you the opportunity to find out what Cablo Gula thinks are the coolest films out now and coming soon!

The Brothers Grimm (2005)


With: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Belucci


Once upon a time…

Believe it or not it’s been 7 years Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys) hasn’t made a film. With the exception of his documentary Lost in La Mancha in which he told us the tale of his doomed project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which sadly never saw the light of day. Now, movie wizard Gilliam returns with what promises to be his comeback. This time, he takes on the fairy-tales of the Brothers Grimm and creates an original story in which the Brothers, who con poor villagers into believing they can drive witches and demons away. Meanwhile, children are being mysteriously abducted in the nearby woods and the Brothers Grimm are ordered by an evil French general (Pryce) to go and find the missing children. Turns out the forest is genuinely haunted by a scary wolf, dangerous moving trees and a vain, decomposing witch who lives in a tall tower. So Will and Jacob Grimm find themselves in a rather “grim” adventure which presents to them plenty of great ideas for fairy-tales. Actually, the best thing about this film is seeing how Gilliam has managed to brilliantly include references to the famous Grimm tales such as: Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Snow White and the Gingerbread Man. Much like Sleepy Hollow was a pure Tim Burton project, this is a pure Terry Gilliam project. The film starts off promisingly with a great score and a superb title sequence: from the offset, you know you’re going to have a good time and that you’re in safe hands. Indeed, there’s much to admire in The Brothers Grimm. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon prove to be a surprisingly good double act and their discussions and girly screams provide most of the laughs. Gilliam has clearly not lost his magic touch: his admirable swooping camera and the spooky atmosphere he’s created are both delights. The best scenes include Little Red Riding Hood’s creepy walk through the forest and the frankly disturbing horse-swallows-kid scene. Having said all that, The Brothers Grimm is probably Gilliam’s worst effort. He is let down by many things. First, the CGI special effects which, for some reason, are absolutely dire (the wolf and the Gingerbread Man are amongst the worst). Also, the panto-esque performances of Stormare (as Cavaldi) and Pryce (as the general) are unconvincing and overdone (their Italian and French accents are pitiful). And the whole thing is very messy and just gets more and more confused as we rock back and forth between the woods and the village. As the film ends, you can’t help but feel short-changed by the usually inspired Gilliam. The Brothers Grimm is not a bad film but coming from the man who had the balls to do the expensive masterpieces Baron Munchausen and Brazil this is a bit of a disappointment. This is a film that’s overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time, impressive yet unimpressive, enchanting yet frustrating: The Brothers Grimm is a big contradiction, it’s Gilliam at his best and worst. Overall, I recommend this film but be warned, if you’re expecting the ex-Monty Python’s big comeback, this is not it. The Brothers Grimm may be a flawed, slightly disappointing mess but admittedly it’s great fun, very entertaining, stylish and has some enchanting and pretty scary moments.


Overall: ***/5


Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005)


With: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Joanna Lumley, Danny Elfman, Richard E. Grant, Paul Whitehouse, Tracey Ullman, Albert Finney, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Deep Roy



Earlier this year, movie wizard Tim Burton brought us his scrumdiddlyumptious take on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And only a few month later, he returns, much like the Bat-Man, with an animated Halloween treat just for us. Of course comparisons with his previous stop-motion masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas are inevitable. But don’t jump to conclusions for even though there are similarities between the 2 films they are very different indeed. Whereas Nightmare was a musical fairy tale fantasy, Corpse Bride is more of a gothic melodrama. Johnny Depp voices the rather sensitive, hesitant and clumsy Victor Van Dort, whose rich parents have decided to arrange his wedding with a certain Victoria Everglot (Watson) as her parents are poor and need this wedding to take place if they don’t want to end up completely broke. But the wedding rehearsals are disastrous because of Victor’s nervousness due to the fact he is unsure about the whole ‘getting married’ idea as he’s only met his bride-to-be Victoria once, briefly. One night, a depressed Victor is walking in the woods and, during some joking around, puts the wedding ring on what appears to be a branch. Turns out, the branch in question is in fact the finger of a woman’s corpse and when the latter suddenly comes to life, poor Victor is terrified and runs away. Soon, the Corpse Bride (Bonham Carter) brings her new husband home, to the after world where he meets some gruesome characters such as a singing skeleton (Elfman) and a French waiter’s talking head carried by cockroaches. But what will Victor do? Will he go through with marrying the corpse? Victor may be the main character but it must be said that it’s very much the Corpse Bride’s show. She may be slightly scary, and ok she has a Beetlejuice-esque maggot in her skull and an eye that keeps popping out. But even so, she is a very sweet (even cute) character. Can a heart still break when it stops beating? It appears so. The Corpse Bride is visually impressive, the animation is slick and very imaginative. The voice cast is perfect and it’s actually very easy to forget who is doing the voice of whom when watching the film because the characters are so original. The Corpse Bride, it must be said, doesn’t have the energy and the masterful music of Nightmare Before Christmas: the score and the songs are truthfully not very memorable but certainly great fun and at times truly beautiful (the Bride’s song and the piano duet scene are both superb). The irony of this film is that, for Burton, the real world is cold, dull and unpleasant whereas the world of the dead is warm, entertaining and likeable in a gothic kind of way. Overall, The Corpse Bride is a real treat, granted it’s not as brilliant as its older bigger brother but it’s very sweet, funny and done with a lot of heart. Expect black humour, gothic romance, skeletons agogo and some Oscar worthy animation. Missing this film would be a murder most foul.


Overall: ****/5



Serenity (2005)


With: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher




Joss Whedon, mostly known as the creator of hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer brings us this sci-fi spin-off from another series of his called Firefly. Unlike Buffy though, Firefly was axed after only one season (14 episodes). Making a film based on a cult short-lived TV series is certainly a risky project but Whedon has pulled it off. The whole cast of Firefly is here and everyone does their best to adapt to the big-screen format. The film sees the crew of a space craft, Serenity, and its captain Mal Reynolds (Fillion) take on board a young doctor (Maher) and his mysterious goth-ish sister River (Glau). The latter proves to be rather feisty and full of surprises as she gets caught up in a conspiracy involving a galactic superpower which wants to get her back because she managed to escape from them just when they were conducting experiments on her powerful mind. The story, as you can see, is not really straight forward and it just gets more and more complex, probably because Whedon tried cramming ideas from his 14 episodes in a 119 minutes long feature film. Having said that, Serenity is never overwhelming, quite the contrary: it does feel like you’re watching an extended episode of a TV series and this can be, at times, a little irritating. The action scenes are impressive and genuinely great fun, unfortunately there aren’t that many and the film leaves you wanting more. Maybe the story should have been simplified and some of the talking should have been cut because even though Serenity is enjoyable enough, it all feels a little crammed: that’s what sequels are for, guys. The acting, writing and directing are all satisfying but never awe inspiring. Serenity is an original-ish creation with bits and pieces reminiscent of Star Wars, Ghosts of Mars and Japanese mangas to name a few. I must say I was surprised by the way it was received by critics: they loved it and it got rave reviews. Serenity is by no means a bad film but it’s definitely not a masterpiece and certainly not the best science fiction film of the year (which is probably Revenge of the Sith or War of the Worlds). For me, Serenity came off as an enjoyable, if forgettable sci-fi B-movie, nothing more. Overall, it’s ok but just don’t expect something incredible as it has been wrongly overrated. PS: Please make a Farscape feature film!


Overall: ***/5  



Night Watch (2005)


With: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valery Zolotukhin



A big hit in its home country Russia, Night Watch is the first part of a film trilogy about a cold war between Good and Evil, the Night Watch and the Day Watch. The film begins with a real war that ends in a truce between the good guys and the bad guys. Then, we find ourselves in the present where a man, Anton, goes to see a witch and asks her to punish his girlfriend (who left him) by killing her unborn child. He soon changes his mind and it soon becomes clear that he is an Other who will have to choose between the path of good or the path of evil. He chooses good and later finds himself in the middle of the cold war. The story becomes surprisingly complex when we learn there is a chosen one who will end the war by choosing one side that will triumph over the other. Anton saves a possessed child (an Other) from the hands of some bloodthirsty vampire in a routine assignment but turns out things aren’t quite what they seem and there’s much danger ahead. The look of Night Watch and it’s basic ideas aren’t very original, I found myself expecting Keanu Reeves to pop up and take over the role of Anton before dodging bullets and claiming the title of Chosen One. But even though it is comparable to films like Constantine or Matrix there is a lot of originality present in Night Watch. The special effects are ambitious but work very well, which is admirable since the film only cost 4 million pounds to make. There are some impressive moments and lots of good ideas. In an excellent scene, a bolt comes off the wing of a plane and we follow it as it drops all the way down and into the apartment of Anton. Also, if you’re worried that you won’t enjoy the film because it’s subtitled, don’t, as even the subtitles are very cool. Overall, Night Watch is a stylish, impressive and very enjoyable fantasy/ horror that may not be ground breaking but is certainly worth a look. Bring on Day Watch and Dusk Watch.


Overall: ****/5



Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)


With the voices of: Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Billy Crystal, Lauren Bacall



Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese anime genius, finally brings us his follow up to his Oscar-winning masterpiece Spirited Away. Once again, we find ourselves in the strange, charming, surreal world of Miyazaki, where the impossible makes itself at home and pops-up to say hello every few seconds. In a time where unimpressive, repetitive CGI animated films fill our cinemas (Shark Tale, Robots, Madagascar) it is a real breath of fresh air to see a little hand-drawn gem like Howl’s Moving Castle appear out of nowhere and claim the prize for best animated film of the year so far (The Corpse Bride might dethrone it soon though). The story is not quite as simple as Spirited Away’s but it’s not exactly Ghost in the Shell either. Sophie works in a hat shop, she seems quite bored in her life until she meets a handsome, mysterious wizard called Howl. The jealous (and grossly obese) Witch of the Waste one evening turns poor Sophie into an 80 year old woman. In the morning, she leaves her home and decides to try and find someone who could help undo the spell. During her quest, she meets a smiling scarecrow who enjoys bouncing repeatedly on a wooden pogo stick. He leads her to Howl’s enormous and impressive moving castle where she finds refuge. There she meets a talking fire demon called Calcifer (voiced by the brilliant Billy Crystal), a young boy wizard and of course Howl (voiced by Christian “Batman” Bale). Sophie becomes the cleaning woman of the messy castle and all is fine until Howl asks her to go to a meeting with the king in his place as his mother: things get a lot more tricky after that. Howl’s Moving Castle is, first of all, a visual treat: beautiful sunsets, flowery prairies, dark 3 dimensional clouds are just some of the things to admire here. The characters are excellent as well, from the kind but literally heartless Howl who’s hair colour is sacred and who turns into a huge bird-like creature when he goes to war, to the cute little wheezing dog and the bouncy scarecrow (reminiscent of No Face in Spirited Away but less creepy). As for the story, well, it is occasionally enigmatic, the whole war mini-plot can be a bit confusing and the ending is slightly predictable. But I’m being fussy because trust me, it won’t bother you one bit. Overall, Howl’s Moving Castle is funny, enchanting and visually gorgeous: it’s unsurprisingly one of the best animated films you’ll see all year, so don’t miss it.


Overall: ****/5


The Descent (2005)


With: Shauna McDonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, Nora-Jane Noone




2005 has been a very good year for cinema so far, but on the “horror flick” side it’s been a little disappointing. The best efforts in the horror department this year were the disturbing Wolf Creek, which was sadly not scary, the well-made remake Dark Water, also low on scares, and The Ring Two, which was far from impressive but spooky nevertheless. And of course a whole string of pointless other efforts (House of Wax, The Cave, Cursed). I was therefore quite sceptical when I went to see The Descent, especially since the film’s British director Neil Marshall was the one who came up with the so-so Dog Soldiers some years ago. The story is pretty basic really: six women who seek adventure and a change of ideas decide to explore the depths of an Appalachian cave. Juno (Mendoza) assures her friends she knows the way and is very excited about the whole thing. Sarah (Macdonald), however, has been very fragile since she lost her husband and young daughter in a terrible car accident a year before. As the girls get deeper and deeper into the cave, everything just gets creepier and creepier. Sarah’s mental state also seems to get more and more delicate and Juno’s confidence shrinks dramatically. So far it doesn’t sound too scary does it? Well, trust me, before the girls even get into the cave you’ll have jumped off your seat quite a few times. Marshall’s ability to frighten his audience so cleverly is impressive: the scares come in short, unexpected bursts and are very effective. During the film, expect to become increasingly tense because of the cave’s claustrophobic atmosphere but also expect to smile from time to time, not just because of the few winks to horror films (Carrie, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, Shining) but also because of the gory, horrible (yet oddly enjoyable) events from inside the cave. I’ll let you find out for yourselves what the girls find inside, hehehe. All I can say is: The Descent is an unpredictable, genuinely frightening, old-fashioned horror with plenty of scares and brains (hidden behind the minimalist script). If you see one horror film this year, make it The Descent.


Overall: ****1/2 /5



Wolf Creek (2005)


With: John Jarrat, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips




This Australian horror thriller, which tells us right from the start that it is “based on actual events”, tells the story of 3 young backpackers who find themselves kidnapped by a psychotic Crocodile Dundee-ish character. The first half of the film, it must be said, is basically the set up. Nothing particularly scary happens, we are simply introduced to the three main characters which we follow from a night of partying to a road trip that  gradually gets less and less enjoyable for them and for us. First, they arrive at a gas station where some creepy guys start to cause trouble. Then, when they finally arrive at the foggy and deserted Wolf Creek, where a comet landed a long time ago and left a giant crater, it starts to rain. Not only that but their car won’t start, which is particularly frustrating since they are in the middle of nowhere and night is falling. During the night, a man called Mick Taylor in a little truck appears and offers to tow them back to his place where he’ll help with their car. Not exactly showered with choices, they accept. At first, Taylor seems like a nice enough fellow but little by little he just gets creepier and creepier. And when one of the backpackers (Phillips) compares him to Crocodile Dundee, we realise this Mick Taylor, who takes the remark rather badly, is not what he seems. I’ll let you guess the rest. There’s much to like about this little Australian chiller. First, there’s the fact that we are made to care about the characters and when they find themselves in trouble we are genuinely worried about what might happen to them. Unlike in slasher films for example, where we are given a bunch of cocky, annoying teen-agers with no personality who get killed off one by one because of their own stupidity. John Jarrat is absolutely brilliant as the unsettling Mick Taylor, the best horror film “boogeyman” I’ve seen in a while. The rest of the cast is very good too and everyone gives realistic performances. The film also looks terrific, shot on a high definition digital camera, there are some beautiful postcard settings and the hand-held technique makes the whole thing seem that little bit more real. The second half of the film is quite disturbing with Mick Taylor showing the real him and terrorizing the innocent, likeable backpackers. Sadly, the scares rate is pretty low but the film manages to be very compelling nonetheless. Overall, Wolf Creek in an entertaining, chilling and disturbing little thriller with an excellent bad guy, just don’t expect to be too terrified.


Overall: ****/5  



The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)


With: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Catherine Keener, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen


Yes, I know, it’s a silly title. And yes, I know you’re probably not sure who any of the actors listed above are. Nevertheless, if you want to have some laughs, give The 40 Year-Old Virgin a go. Steve Carell is Andy, a very nerdy electrical-store worker who, as the title of the film explains, is a 40 year-old virgin. Andy collects action figures, he’s clumsy, he drives a bicycle to work and seems perfectly fine with his little routine. Oh yes, and he doesn’t mind waking up every morning with a boner. When his “friends” start to talk about past sexual experiences over a poker game, Andy inevitably starts to make up an unconvincing experience of his own. They obviously don’t fall for it and realise he is in fact a virgin. This traumatises them and their mission becomes to get Andy laid by any means necessary. But turns out, it’s not all that simple as Andy encounters some strange ladies indeed, including an alcoholic, a transvestite, a sex freak, a girl whose boobs are planning the great escape…And then he meets Trish, the beautiful owner of an E-bay store. Could she be the One who will put an end to his virginity? Now, who is Steve Carell? Well, remember the pretentious rubber-faced anchorman in Bruce Almighty? That’s him. And what about that hilarious brainless weatherman in Anchorman? Yep, him also. And you can spot him in Melinda and Melinda and Bewitched as well. Not to mention that he plays the main role in the succesful American version of The Office. Carell could be set to become just as big as his pal Will Ferrell. In The 40 Year Old Virgin, Carell is excellent as Andy, the guy has a gift for making even the most mundane things completely hilarious. He’s very good at slapstick, one-liners, deadpan, making faces, everything really, a kind of weird Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller fusion if you will. Catherine Keener is as good (and as hot) as ever as Trich, she was in Being John Malkovitch, SimOne and Death to Smoochy (3 cult films). As for the rest of the cast, they’re all very good, completely unhinged to be precise. The film itself has hilarious moments, such as the scene in the bookshop and the 2 bike crashes. It’s all very loud, silly and extremely rude, the language is completely drowned by the F word and numerous other crude words. It’s ultimately a gross-out comedy, think along the lines of Old School or American Pie 3, clever yet childish. The film’s message and the surprisingly sweet romantic bits are sadly lost between all the craziness and crudeness present in the film. Oh well, it’s still undeniably funny and very enjoyable. It’s essentially a guy film but I’m sure girls will enjoy it too. Overall, The 40 Year-Old Virgin is great fun, full of ideas but unfortunately flawed, maybe a shorter running time would have erased some of the heavier jokes. Messy and overlong but very funny, Steve Carell rocks.


Overall: ***/5


Crash (2005)


With: Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, Brendan Fraser



Set in the City of Angels, Crash is an ensemble drama about the race relations in this city. We follow a number of different people, from different races and we observe them as they come into contact with each other and often clash. An interesting thing about Crash is that no character is all good or all bad, which is, in itself, a statement about the absurd generalisations we often hear (“all black/white people are…” for example). Sandra Bullock is great as a rich woman who gets her car stolen by a couple of young black men and starts to generalize and misjudge everyone around her. Chris Bridge is surprisingly good as one of the guys who robbed her. Don Cheadle and the rest of the cast is excellent, all performances are flawless, even Brendan Fraser is convincing in a serious role! Matt Dillon gives, however, the most impressive performance as a bitter red neck cop. Crash is an intelligent film which tackles the controversial subject of racism in America. Thankfully, Paul Haggis (for which this is a directorial debut) doesn’t simply throw the  “can’t we all just get along?” message we often find in these kind of films. Crash manages to avoid being overly optimistic and cheesy, it’s a realistic and powerful exploration of how people just fail to communicate sometimes because of something as silly as skin colour. Haggis doesn’t tell us “this is good, this is bad”, he shows us how people act and lets us make our own mind up about what these individuals get up to. The film is brilliantly written by Haggis himself (best original screenplay Oscar in 2005?) and the direction is also excellent. However, it must be said that some moments do feel a little overdone (Matt Dillon’s 2-minutes hero pause, Bullock’s unintentionally funny tumble down the stairs…). Also, even though the film is slick and L.A. looks great, I do feel there is a slight lack of originality in the visual look of the film as well as in some of its content: Paul Haggis has obviously watched 21 Grams, Collateral, Amorres Perros and Magnolia closely. Overall, Crash is a powerful, intelligent, brilliantly written, acted and directed film but sadly not a masterpiece, oh well.

Overall: ****/5



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)


With: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Christopher Lee, Helena Bonham Carter



The original adaptation of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book is now seen by some as a flawed, overly positive, unfaithful adaptation and by others as an underrated cult classic. And since I’m of the latter group, I was undoubtedly excited about the great Tim Burton making another adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The casting of Johnny Depp as the weirdest chocolatier ever, Mr Willy Wonka, was obviously very promising as he hasn’t disappointed in any of his past collaborations with Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow). Incarnating young Charlie is Depp’s co-star of Finding Neverland Freddie Highmore, who gives another impressive performance and was definitely a good choice. The rest of the cast includes Helena Bonham Carter as Charlie’s mum and the creepy Christopher Lee as Willy Wonka’s dentist father. From the  amazing opening titles you just know Tim Burton has got his magic touch back. Not that he had really lost it but since Mars Attacks! he hadn’t produced a film worthy of his past masterpieces…until now that is. From the offset, all his best trademarks are at the rendez-vous: Snow? Check. Danny Elfman score? Check. Spirals agogo? Check. Strangely futuristic machinery operating? Check. This version is a considerably darker, more twisted one than the original musical Gene Wilder version. First, Wonka himself: Gene Wilder gave a brilliant performance in the original but he was criticised by some because he wasn’t “weird” or “creepy” enough. Well, they won’t be saying that about Depp’s Wonka that’s for sure. This one is a twisted mixture of Ed Wood and Pee-Wee Herman with a dash of Michael Jackson. The Willy Wonka we’re given is one with a troubled childhood, a constant creepy smile, impossible hair and an undescribable voice: he’s camp, he’s clumsy, he’s disturbing, he’s hilarious. The film itself is definitely a more faithful adaptation even though Burton does add a lot of his own ideas (we discover Wonka’s dad) and the ending is much more satisfying than the overly sentimental one of the original. And what about the Oompa Loompas? Well, you remember the old ones? Basically dwarves with bright orange face-paint, silly clown clothes and green hair. Well, now the Oompas are a sort of Indian-ish tribe of what can only be described as clones. And even though their new songs aren’t quite as memorable as the classic Oompa Loompa Song, they are very catchy nevertheless and much more energetic. Tim Burton has produced his best film in years and it will delight children and adults alike. Overall, with a brilliant Danny Elfman score, cool special effects, Burton’s unique gothic style and Depp’s delighfully tongue-in-cheek performance, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a near-perfect, must-see gem that will have you grinning for an hour and a half. That is, unless you’re made of stone. 


Overall: ***** /5



War Of The Worlds (2005)


With: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins




Mr Spielberg has always had a child-like fascination with aliens and UFOs. In E.T., we “encountered” (hehe) the loveable little E.T.: an alien who formed a friendship with some kids and whose main concern was to phone home. Then came the epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film in which Spielberg’s alien-fixation reached its peak. The ‘Berg even managed to squeeze in aliens at the end of A.I. for crying out loud! Sadly though, in this particular case, it screwed up the ending totally, oh well. Now comes War of the Worlds, the new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ sci-fi novel in which Earth is invaded by evil aliens who want to exterminate and take over. So much for the nice and cutesy UFOs then…The original 1953 film is now a classic and the story is obviously a perfect match for Spielberg’s style. Tom Cruise is Ray Ferrier, a deadbeat dad whose ex-wife gives him the kids to take care of during the week-end as she and her new husband head off to Boston. It’s soon very clear that Ray isn’t a very capable dad and it looks like it’ll be a pretty dull week-end for the kids. That’s of course before they witness an unnatural series of strange lightning bolts. After that, the electricity gets cut off, cars come to a halt, watches stop. Oh yeah, and a Half-Life-style giant tripod appears out of the ground and creates havoc by destroying buildings and people thanks to some nifty laser-beams. Ray will have to go back home, find the kids and get them out of there as quickly as possible. We thus follow this little family (Ray, Dakota Fanning’s cute little Rachel and Justin Chatwin’s teenager Robbie) as they try to escape and avoid being reduced to ashes. Unlike the slow-burning Close Encounters, War of the Worlds is quite fast-paced, when the action sequences kick in, they kick ass, major ass. Spielberg is back doing what he does best: making incredible blockbusters with a mix of jaw-dropping effects and moving drama. The drama in question is cleverly written and avoids most cliches, we feel like we’re part of that family, we witness the invasion the same time as they do. This is not Independence Day (argh) or Armageddon (bouargh): overblown productions in which we see Paris, Tokyo and london getting wiped out one by one and 1 man implausibly saves the whole bloody world without breaking a sweat. No, here, Ray is not concerned with saving the world, he knows that’s impossible to achieve, his goal is to protect his family. Ray is terrified but knows he cannot give up. The original film was very general but this is more focused, we’re not told all the details of the invasion, we don’t know what’s happening in France or Tokyo. Cruise is as good as ever and the young Fanning is impressive as Rachel. The rest of the cast is great too, especially Tim Robbins as a creepy guy who gives the family shelter. Overall, this is Spielberg’s best film since Minority Report and even though the aliens themselves are a bit conventionnal (Spielberg’s obviously read Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher), the last 30 minutes are slower-paced and ends abruptly, War of the Worlds is still a thrilling, ass-kicking sci-fi film that’s at times touching, funny, terrifying, nail-biting and simply amazing to look at. Unmissable.


Overall: ****1/2 /5      


Madagascar (2005)


With the voices of: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Coen


Madagascar is the latest animated film from Dreamworks, who brought us the inspired Shrek films. Earlier this year we saw Robots flop quietly at the box office but it’s very unlikely that Madagascar will suffer the same fate for the latter has much more energy and really feels like a summer movie. It will undoubtedly be a hit, with its great cast, Dreamworks’ reputation and the summery setting (Madagascar, duh!). It’s basically about a bunch of animals who live in a zoo in New York City: Marty, a zebra who dreams of going to the wild (Rock), Alex, an energetic showboat lion with an unhealthy obsession with steaks (Stiller), Gloria a tough but sweet female hippopotamus (Smith) and Melman, a neurotic, whiny and clumsy giraffe (Schwimmer). When Marty escapes from the zoo and takes a walk on the “wild” side (see what I did there?) in the streets of New York, his worried friends escape as well in order to bring him back to the zoo. Unfortunately, they all get caught and are soon put in boxes and sent by boat to Africa, the real wild. Even a bunch of penguins, who also got caught along with the gang as they were attempting to make a break for Antarctica, are part of the boat trip. When Marty and co. land in Madagascar by mistake it soon becomes pretty clear that they don’t really belong in the jungle. As Marty sees his dream become reality, Alex starts to find the lack of steaks on the island very hard to live with. And as for Melman…well, what can I say? It’s Ross! The 4 friends soon encounter a whole population of cute lemurs and befriend their leader King Julian (voiced by Ali G in person). The gang will have to try and adapt to the wild or their friendship will start to tear itself apart gradually. Madagascar has a promising concept, a cool cast, great animation and a welcome original retro look. The makers of the film tried to introduce a lot more Tex Avery-like loud and crazy slapstick and it does bring more life to the usually slightly stiff computer animation. However, it does feel a bit unnecessary and overly chaotic at times. Also, there are some longueurs which break the rhythm of the film and makes the whole thing slightly uneven. There’s a serious lack of villains as well, where’s the bad guy in all this? All that said, the mistakes are very few and there’s much to enjoy here: it’s visually flawless, it has some hilarious moments (the penguins steal the show and every scene in which they appear), a brilliant lemur rave party scene with Ali G singing a catchy tune and good likeable characters (although Gloria is a bit sidelined). I must also mention Alex’s terrific dream sequences, one of them a clever parody of American Beauty. Overall, like Ice Age: it’s entertaining, great fun, very funny and has some unforgettable bits and pieces (the penguins! The penguins!). It’s much better than Shark Tale but not quite as inspired as Shrek or as good as The Incredibles. Kids’ll love it and adults will find much to enjoy. Great summer fun, not a masterpiece but very enjoyable nonetheless.


Overall: ***1/2 /5   



Kung Fu Hustle (2004)


With: Stephen Chow, Yuen Wah, Chiu Chi Ling




Jackie Chan meets the Matrix in Kung Fu Hustle, a huge hit when it appeared on the Asian big-screens. It was written, directed, produced and stars Stephen Chow, who made last year’s Shaolin Soccer. Unlike Hero or House of Flying Daggers, Kung Fu Hustle isn’t arty and balletic, it’s more cartooney and full of over-the-top silliness. The story isn’t very cerebral, it’s about a little poor village that tries to defend itself against the deadly Axe Gang (basically Agent-like gangsters with top hats and axes). Fortunately, some surprisingly powerful kung fu masters live in the village and soon kick the Axe Gang’s butt. So, the latter tries to find more powerful masters to get revenge on the tough-cookies of the village. Among these are blind killers who play harp with really long fingernails and a creepy ‘frog’ master called The Beast. Stephen Chow is a loser who wants to be a bad guy and be part of the Axe Gang, problem is: he’s completely harmless and very clumsy (although not quite as useless as his fat buddy). Kung Fu Hustle is packed with incredibly cool special effects, cartoon humour and thrilling fight scenes courtesy of Yuen Wo Ping (choreographer of the Matrix films). The highlights are the Landlady’s pursuit of Chow in a hilarious Roadrunner-style race and the harp-players’ amazing attacks on the kung-fu masters. The film looks terrific with some daring effects and brilliant ideas, and it is, it has to be said, very funny indeed. Some gags are reminiscent of Ace Ventura and Jackie Chan films. However, try to forgive the poor attempt at a romantic subplot and the terribly cheesy last scene. Other than that, it’s great fun, very entertaining and inventive. But if you’re looking for more realistic ass-kicking I suggest you go see Tony Jaa’s violent Ong Bak instead. Overall, Kung Fu Hustle is loud, extremely silly but ultimately thoroughly enjoyable.


Overall: ***1/2 /5    



Coming soon:
Broken Flowers (2005)