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Cheap Cash-in But Has A Slight Charm
Jurassic Park had a larger influence on society than ever we expect. Since the 4th Jurassic Park film hit the cinema there's been a wave of other dinosaur themed productions with all kinds of budgets, stories and whatever else banded around since 2015. Dinosaurs are clearly back in fashion.
So we have here the story of a boy who gets given an egg which ultimately turns out to be a dinosaur egg. Boy decides to hatch the egg and the story develops from there, culminating in a basic chase to hide the dinosaur from "bad guys", including (for some reason) hiding it in a forest. Yes its a stereotypical kiddie plotline centered around a dinosaur. Not particularly unusual but not I suspect the last in a chain of cheap dinosaur films while Jurassic Park is pumping out new additions to its franchise.
Unfortunately its been proved before that cheap budgets and CGI dinosaurs do not mix. Films produced on a budget can be semi decent but all too often they're let down by lousy writing and/or lousy acting. Kyler Beck is a relative newcomer and does quite a decent little job steering this vehicle with the material he's given but one gets the impression from the way he "strokes" and "interacts" with the dinosaur that the location of the CGI was either an afterthought or they couldn't make it quite work with the budget they had... Still Beck looks like he's having fun and has been trained well, could be one to look out for in the future.
I have ploughed through a large portion of the films aailable on Amazon Prime and seen a whole bunch of stuff far worse than this IMO. You could do far worse. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.
And Another Franchise Fizzled Out...
I loved the 3 Ninjas franchise when it was new in the early 1990s. The first film was brilliant and the actors actually knew martial arts and what they were doing, all having done it from a young age.
Unfortunately the second and third films were released the wrong way round so you get ninjas with new heads in the second film and the original heads in the third film, and both films were financial disasters.
Despite this somebody for some reason now lost in the mists of time decided they wanted another 3 Ninjas film and the result was 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain. It was filmed in 1996 but not released until 1998, and because kids have this annoying habit of growing up, the characters needed new actors.
Unfortunately the plot was ridiculous. A theme park that's been hijacked and everybody else apart from those paid to speak continue to wander around aimlessly and quietly from ride to ride, as if nothing was up. A common trend in kid movies is bad guys who are blatant morons, yet somehow get themselves attached to an evil overlord who puts up with all this and then wonders why their evil plan falls apart.
It perhaps stands to reason why many films decide a trilogy is enough. By the time a fourth film comes along the concept has usually been milked to death and/or has been handed to writers and cast who have no concept of what went before and try to reinvent things, usually with limited success. While it was plausible that the older Ninja would decide one day that kicking ass wasn't "cool" any more, it wasn't plausible that the middle one would lose in a fight with a lawnmower and end up with that haircut!
Unfortunately the presence of Hulk Hogan, Jim Varney and a brief cameo from Victor Wong can't fix what was always going to be somewhat depressing compared to what came before. The best actors on the planet can't save a bad script. It's not completely unwatchable, it was bearable but ultimately disappointing because it could have been so much better, all of the 3 Ninja sequels could have been. But we are where we are so... Oh well.
Dude, Where's My Dog?! (2014)
What on Earth is Going on?
Dude, Where's My Dog? seems to be the tale of a boy who begs for responsibility, is given an opportunity to show it (by being tasked with taking the dog to the vet and back), blows it and then returns home with a dog that has become invisible because it, um, ate a cheeseburger that happened to become covered in some red liquid that causes this.
Apart from being a ridiculously thin plot stretched out to 82 minutes, it doesn't have a lot else going for it. There must have been something gone wrong somewhere in recent years because you can give film professionals a few million dollars and they produce something like this, whereas I can go on YouTube and find a whole load of amateur productions made on a budget of next to sod all that are much better written. Not always better acted (goes with the territory) but usually better written and sometimes better edited.
The script consists primarily of fart jokes (understandable to an extent considering the target audience but is ultimately a lazy cop out with these sort of movies), clumsy dialogue and some lame characterisation - stereotypically "thick" adult sidekicks with a leader with only slightly more brains than everybody else, but they can all be subdued by somebody doing a really eggy fart and they're all out for the count.
A few interesting ideas here but realistically this just boils down to 82 minutes of nothing happening. I can see that any time I like by looking out of a window at home. Some children may get a small kick out of the fart jokes but I suspect they're going to lose interest very quickly. Still, each to their own. It takes a lot for me to decide that a movie is terribly bad and I have seen worse than this. Far far worse.
The Demon Headmaster (1996)
Deliciously Dark Children's TV
I loved this when I was younger, the central premise of a headmaster character that we didn't like as children resonates with us all. The fact it has now been pushed out on DVD is excellent. Okay it was made in the 1990s so the special effects and some of the props look a bit dated these days (there is sight of a Docking Station in one episode, which were relatively common at the time but would later fall out of fashion as laptops became more sophisticated).
Of course one has to bear in mind that the first two books date originally from 1982 and 1985, so the TV show had to update the technology a bit, and of course time now makes this look old and clunky. Still its retro which is in at the moment so...
Anyway it was a great TV show, so dark and moody, the show was relatively faithful to the books, and Terrence Hardiman was fantastically wonderful as the Headmaster.
Having originally read the books, all bar two of them were adapted for the TV show. The current book coverings paint over all knowledge that there was ever a TV adaptation in the first place. The "Hunky Parker" book was not adapted, probably because it was such a surreal and strange concept in the book it just couldn't work on TV.
Very well recommended. Will be checking out the rebooted version later in 2019 which will probably not stand up to this but we shall see.
Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)
Misses The Mark
Having followed the social media postings and rave enthusiasms of a couple of cast members from this, I took a gamble and pre-ordered the DVD. In a sign that the postal service isn't a complete waste of time, I got a film on a Saturday that wasn't due out until the following Monday. So that made my day.
Having been filmed in 2017 but not released into cinema until late 2018, Slaughterhouse Rulez was painted by said cast members as being the best thing since sliced bread. The basic principle which as it turned out became relatively topical is the supposed dangers of fracking under buildings. Whether one agrees with such a principle and the methods is for them to decide; news events at the time of writing suggest that fracking is responsible for mini earthquakes. Slaughterhouse Rulez suggests otherwise that the principle disrupts a network of underground "monsters" from an underground labyrinth underneath the grounds of the school featured in the film and so things sort of go from there really.
Unfortunately we have problems already because that principle only covers the last 45 minutes or so of the film. We seem for some reason to have two films stuck together, one of life at Slaugherhouse, the other of getting eaten by monsters at and around Slaughterhouse. The first half of the film supposedly builds up these characters and the fracking and the back story, while later a bunch of monsters come out to play while everybody screams the place down and runs like hell in the other direction.
The pacing and editing of the film particularly in the first half seems to leave a bit to be desired; it comes to something when I can find stuff that's better edited on YouTube by people who do it on a cheap laptop in the back bedroom. I get the feeling something's missing but I'm not sure what it is; some of the subplots were underdeveloped, maybe that was it. The bullying and mentoring of Wootton in particular seemed thrown in for the heck of it. Kit Connor must have drawn the short straw because he spent the first half of the movie having the crap severely bullied out of him, but his character Wootton (and most of the others as well) went to waste later and Connor seemed to just be floating around in his character's wellies of all things trying not to get eaten. That's not Connor's fault, he just did what he was asked to, that's a fault of the writing and/or editing. Asa Butterfield seems to be "in" at the moment, if only for the fact he can still get away with looking like a 14 year old in stuff like this.
Rulez doesn't quite know what it wants to be or what it wants to do. Now I appreciate the cast members I followed were always going to sing this thing's praises to the heavens and back but from an independent point of view this needed more work, it was half baked in many areas. Best piece of advise I would give is to go in not expecting much and you can never be disappointed. If you overlook the flaws and the crap editing and take it for what it is, its quirky and offbeat and it is watchable, its not a total trainwreck.
There comes a point in most TV viewer's life where mainstream TV just decides it doesn't want to cater for you any longer. Either you got too old or you've finally wised up. Or you want something different.
One could be forgiven for assuming Gortimer Gibbon is presented as another run-of-the-mill children's show with an improbable plot/sequence of events and a load of incredibly irritating characters who don't talk but shout at each other across some garish looking set (ie any recent Nickelodeon production). Your worries are unfounded because in Gilbert nobody's irritating, the sets are vast majority exterior and any indoor sets are quite nice looking. And the plots are improbable (but grounded in reality) and wouldn't have been too far out of place in Eerie Indiana anyway.
While I am reminded of Eerie Indiana, Gortimer isn't quite as dark as Eerie was, not quite as surreal in various areas as Eerie was and is clearly not trying to be Eerie in new colours. Gortimer at least ties the premise and location down to a street or a specific town maybe, as opposed to Eerie which effectively suggested the entire state was off its trolley.
I hadn't realised when I first wrote this review that this show is not a series of self contained episodes, but each episode runs on after the other with references to past events. Therefore the characters develop beautifully with the programme as they absorb details of whatever happened to whichever kid this time. The three main leads are written from the off as having been best friends forever and a day and it shows here in the writing. No spoilers but the relationships of the kids are regularly tested throughout. One event in one episode in particular (I won't say which one) in any other mainstream show would have ended up in a major bust up that would typically last 90% of the episode. Here it was given something different - a beautiful heartfelt resolution that didn't take up anywhere near that amount of time.
This is not a bad little production, this is the sort of live action stuff Nickelodeon used to churn out in the 1990s, so its nice to see there is still a place for something like this. I must sum up with what creator David Anaxagoras wrote as a comment on his blog in 2016 that I agree with for this show: "I never thought of it as a kid's show. I wrote it for the kid in all of us".
Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
Caught the film entirely by accident on TV one day and discovered it to be a good fun adventurous yarn similar in style to Jumanji.
Effectively described as Jumanji in space, the basic premise is an all powerful all knowing board game that one has to play to the end in order to undo everything it does damage wise. In Zathura the game is discovered in the basement with no back story as to how it ended up there, whereas Jumanji had a back story and suggested its chain of events had been going on for well over a hundred years. However the books suggest Zathura was found in a park and it carries on from Jumanji, though the film presents this as an entirely standalone story.
The two lead boys, here a young Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo, carry the film between them easily, naturally and effortlessly. Character wise, Hutcherson and Bobo appear to both bond and wind each other up as brothers do but this relationship and their bickering and arguing becomes a key focal point later in the movie.
Effects wise, much of it works pretty well, though your suspension of disbelief will get shattered if you think too hard about what's going on in the plausibility stakes, especially once the kids open the front door while they're in space, but it's fair to say there is probably more to the powers of Zathura than is let on - possibly a forcefield of some sort that allows them to breathe and for gravity to apply? Wouldn't be unusual in the context of the film, after all Zathura can't be played to completion if its players can't breathe!
Is it better than Jumanji? In some ways, yes. In others, no. Jumanji was financially successful at the box office (and later rebooted) but received crap reviews, whereas Zathura flopped at the box office but received better reviews and will probably not get rebooted.
In summary, I liked this. More than I was probably expecting if truth be told. Very watchable, stands up to repeat viewing and has a genuinely likeable cast to tell its story. Very well recommended.
Santa Hunters (2014)
Doesn't Know What It Wants To Be
Santa Hunters is the story of a boy who gets given a pipe that allegedly belonged to Santa and can't convince people the fat jolly man with the white beard is real. So he and his cousins and nieces go off to try and prove it.
The film starts off looking like it wants to be The Blair Witch Project with plenty of speeches to camera, then later suddenly decides it wants to be Spy Kids (with all the technological gadgets) meets Home Alone (when they glue the windows shut and set up various traps) meets Paranormal Activity (locked off cameras everywhere including for some reason in the fish tank). Every little knock, every little vibration sets off the lead kid to investigate them. They do get their hands on some "proof" but can they use it? As you'd probably expect for the film's target audience there are poo and fart jokes (including an extended scene in the bathroom that combines these two) and some OTT acting which seems to be compulsory for these sorts of films.
If the kids still believe in Santa, they'll be happy. If they don't, well they might get a kick out of Santa falling out the tree-house. Beyond that it's an obvious cheap and cheerful Christmas flick that won't be a classic by any stretch of the imagination but the film isn't particularly bad but not particularly good either.
Decent Little Family Adventure
Having had been a Cub Scout leader for four and a half years, I was "introduced" to the world of kids/family films, which for chilling out purposes at the end of stressful days can be a Godsend. Something to watch that I can follow fairly easily over my evening meal. On occasion films in this genre will do the head in of anybody over the age of 12, but Wild 2 isn't one of them.
I will admit I've only seen the trailer for the first Against the Wild film, but looking at that this second film appears to be broadly similar except set in Africa. I'm not sure really if it can be classed as a sequel because the first film's trailer gives me the impression that Against the Wild 2 appears to be a remake of the first film.
Anyway, Wild 2 is the story of two kids (John Paul Ruttan and Ella Ballentine) who have gone out and crash-landed in a plane somewhere in Africa and end up having to survive, as the title says, Against the Wild.
It may not be an original idea but the film is fairly likable, has lots of lovely scenic shots of South Africa and some natural looking scenes of the kids with the elephants. A quick Google will tell you whether the animals are real or not. The ending is pretty much as you'd expect really - the kids either get trampled by an elephant, starve to death or get found by their parents. I made two of these outcomes up. :)
While the two children are likable, the dog (which I understand is the same dog/character from the first film) seems pointless as he/she runs off, leaving the kids to fend for themselves for a large chunk of the movie. Also I suspect the kids (as their characters) are more clued up than they let on with regards to surviving in the wild - but all too often in real life a lot of kids are more knowledgeable about stuff than they let on - certainly the case with the Cubs I worked with a year or two ago, and I'm sure they'd have loved this.
A recommended film. I liked it. Not the greatest film in the world but a great example of a smaller independent film made on a limited budget.
Quite Enjoyable Ghostly Adventure
Must admit, I quite enjoyed Ghosthunters: On Icy Trails. Probably more than I was expecting to but there you go.
This is basically the story of a boy who meets a ghost and ends up part of some secret arm/offshoot of the government that basically plays at being Ghostbusters, with the underlying aim to banish the ghost from this world. Or dimension or whatever. The problem is the boy has befriended the ghost and pulls out all the stops to stop his new friend being banished.
Milo Parker plays Tom, the boy who meets and befriends the ghost. He's a brilliant young actor (and I'm not just saying that because he's British like me) and is one to look out for in the future. Here Parker provides a solid performance along his co-stars and the computer generated ghost.
This film, looking at other external links and reviews, doesn't seem to be liked. Seriously, it isn't that bad in my view - if I'm in the minority for this film then so be it. To reuse a phrase from another reviewer on another film I also reviewed: Leave your expectations at the door when watching, don't think too hard about what you're watching (this is often a key requirement if you're watching family/kids movies outside of their target audience) and you'll be fine.
Lost & Found (2016)
Lost And Not Quite Found
Lost & Found is the story of two brothers packed off to an island in the middle of nowhere for the summer, and en-route end up in embroiled in the middle of a treasure hunt for their grandfather's long-lost treasure after he suddenly disappeared one day. In the middle of this another character is attempting to buy the island out, and the two brothers befriend his daughter and go hunting for said treasure before he does.
I've written on IMDb before that I tend to gravitate towards the films that premier at Film Festivals, as opposed to at the cinema, and these sorts of films on the whole tend to be solid productions, built on low budgets with semi-decent scripts to match and a lot of the time can stand on their own with those pushed out by the big boys.
Lost & Found isn't the best film ever made on any level. The plot is too thinly stretched for a start and it feels like a standalone TV episode of something or other. Visual wise, the nature of the story requires it to be dark and moody, which it manages easily. Being a film festival movie, it cannot and would never attract big names.
Benjamin Stockham's character unfortunately falls into the "annoying little brother" and "smart arse kid" traps. That and his insistence of wearing water wings for the entire film even in the middle of the forest was irritating and it could have been interesting if the underground chamber flooded while he was wearing the wings...
Don't get me wrong, I liked Stockham in the movie as an actor but I had also seen him previously doing the "annoying little wannabe brother" thing in About A Boy as well, though in AAB it's a character trait, in L&F it's a "I wanna hang out with big bro come what may" thing which may grate.
I didn't hate the film, I would definitely watch again. Maybe a smidgen more dialogue work but only minor other work. Worth a watch.
Man of the House (1995)
Semi-Decent Disney Effort
Man of the House is marketed as a comedy film produced during the recess summer period when Home Improvement was between seasons. Jonathan Taylor-Thomas was a principle member of Home Improvement and this is one of the films he made when he wasn't with Tim Allen. As well as Thomas, the film also features Chevy Chase, Gegroe Wendt and the late Farrah Fawcett.
The film is basically boy loses father and (later) meets stepfather, boy hates stepfather, boy tries to drive stepfather away, boy bonds with stepfather and stepfather marries boy's mother with blessing of boy. Okay so it's been done many times before in many different ways in different flavours of sheeps clothing, in this particular case the bonding is done over the Indian Guides.
Throw in some ill-conceived plot involving "bad guys" who want to kill the step-dad, a near obligatory dance-off and the presence of a mute who acts as a throwback to the old days of variety, and there's a semi-decent set of characters and story here.
Thomas behaves throughout the film in practically the same way as he did as Randy Taylor in Home Improvement, the smart-arse know-it-all kid. As a result the film can easily be looked at as either a Home Improvement location transplant or a Randy Taylor spin-off.
Normally these sort of films tend to suffer from any of the following: poor or stereotypical characterisations, irritating kids, a half-baked script in need of a rewrite or any or all of the above. None of the above apply here, except maybe for the kid with the mute and wacky dad, so it's probably excusable in that case :)
The soundtrack is fantastic for this film, as opposed to using regular random pieces of library music, this features Richard Berry, CC Music Factory and the simply fantastic Enigma's Return to Innocence which I absolutely love, cherish and adore.
Not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but as another reviewer says, leave your expectations at the door and you won't be disappointed.
Christmas in Wonderland (2007)
Passable Christmas Fodder
Having dug into the history of Christmas in Wonderful to find out who made it and where, it turns out to be an ABC Original Movie, a lot of which tend to be hit and miss at the best of times which is sadly a trend of TV movies in general.
Christmas in Wonderland is, as another reviewer stated, essentially Home Alone at the Mall. There is some potential here, but the presence of the late Patrick Swayze and the omni-present Tim Curry doesn't make up for a script full of clumsy dialogue, predictable setups/outcomes and stereotypically "thick" bad guys. There is a scene where a door is opened to reveal some really tacky CGI creation - it may shatter your suspension of disbelief.
Acting wise, pretty much up to TV movie standards really, even from the likes of Swayze and Curry. Cameron Bright also makes an appearance in Christmas in Wonderland but takes stereotypical moody 16 year old teenagers to an extreme. Matthew Knight, as the younger boy, does a wonderful job and is clearly steering this vehicle to the point where he was nominated for Best Performance in a DVD film - a nomination which says it all about the rest of the film.
Watchable, but needed more script work and is an example of something that could have benefited from a bigger budget.
Seen It All Before
Shelby follows the traditional model for these sort of films:
Boy can't have dog because, in this case, mum doesn't like them. Boy meets dog, or Dog meets boy in this instance. Boy gets emotionally attached to dog. Boy loses dog. Boy decides to get dog back, eventually leading to boy keeping dog.
Okay so the idea has been used many times over, best known example of this sort of film is the 2005 film Lassie and in the same vein as Shelby, is the 1991 film Bingo.
Shelby is the dog who flees from the dog pound and ends up in the basement of a family and is drawn to the attention of a boy called Jake who is (stereotypically in these sort of films) isolated and friendless. The dog pound owner wants him back to receive $1000 from some posh lady and her obnoxious offspring for him, so the (admittedly half-hearted) chase is on. Eventually, as the model dictates, posh lady talks herself out of the dog and Shelby ends up living with Jake and family.
Unfortunately the presence of Chevy Chase, Tom Arnold and the voice of Rob Schneider can't rescue this film. The script depends on fart jokes, the "witty" banter/thoughts of the dog is hit and miss, and the less said about the grandpa when he decides to blog, the better.
Lead boy here is John Paul Ruttan, who won an award for his role in the remade Robocop film and appears to be building up a nice portfolio of work. Unfortunately an actor is only as good as his script, which isn't particularly polished and often comes across as having been made up as you go along.
A watchable film which doesn't bring any new ideas to the table and may have benefited from some extra script work. Ah well, better luck next time.
Rocket's Island (2012)
Every once in a while the children's arm of the BBC comes up with a show that really should stretch across from being on its children's channels and up it to a family drama.
Rocket's Island is the story of a family who work and live in a fairly rural area that's officially described as an island. Over the course of the series they take in various foster kids, each with their own quirks, tendencies and issues. It is suggested in the story-line that they've fostered more kids than you reading this have had hot dinners, for each foster kid gets a memento to their name in the family's Wish Cave.
Screen wise, the idea of fostering is pretty much without doubt a plot device used to hire and fire the foster characters based on the quirks, tendencies and issues they've been given by the writers, and how they deal with them. Sometimes the kids are replaced, or just get shipped off in the back of the social worker's car.
So we have a normal character staple set - a set of parents who conveniently, only pay attention to anything their kids and foster kids get up to when the activity comes back to bite them on the arse, and the main character Rocket, a young boy who can't be any older than about 12 who pretty much believes anything mystical. There's also Rocket's best friend, who he falls out with in pretty much every episode before making up with him later and also the weird granddad who claims to be 997 years old and has all these kids eating out of the palm of his hand with his stories.
For a show that is driven the way it is, the child characters are not annoying, not one of them, and even when they are it's down to a character trait or immaturity on their part. Most of the acting is pretty good, but even then there's plenty to look at past that, lots of shots of open green areas, rocks in the sea, the under cave areas, the exteriors you can see through windows - this is all a visual treat.
The writing of the show is methodical and only slightly formulaic; there are themes and thoughts that run through each series but the various methodical beliefs tend to be self contained. One episode focused on mermaids; they were never seen or mentioned again for the rest of the show. That aside, it's straight down to earth writing, stays on track and where it does drift is purely for story reasons. You believe in the characters; their back-stories, their wants, their notions; their decisions. All from the writing. I believe a key writer on this production used to write for Brookside in its dying years; you'd never have guessed.
This is a very good drama that's now entered (and subsequently finished) its third series. Very well recommended. Ignore the fact its aimed at children; it's quite watchable by anybody.
Passable Family Fodder
Straight to video films like this are more often than not lacklustre in terms of their plot, cast, writing and general likability.
Dennis The Menace Strikes Again isn't particularly bad, but has a more pleasant plot than the first film did, as the first Dennis film from 1993 was far more gritty than anything you'll find here. The cast, because of its direct to film status and subsequent budget, is limited in terms of big names.
With regards to the writing, there are some good ideas here that wouldn't have looked too far out of place in the first film but all of Dennis's friends (and Margaret) fall into the all too familiar "annoying kid" trap, with the exception of Alexa Vegas, who would later go on to Spy Kids, and Dennis himself.
Justin Cooper plays Dennis and brings a spirited and energetic performance as Dennis to our screens, and after seeing him in Liar Liar I think he would have been good in the first film. Don Rickles plays Mr Wilson and the presence of George Kennedy is pretty much the biggest name in the film.
As to the likability - some interesting camera-work in places, but the film is fairly likable on its own regardless of whether you've seen the 1993 film or not. Kids will love some of the slapstick comedy but at the end of the day its a bit of pleasant easy watching fun.
This film with the overlong title came presented to me on Sky Demand. I have yet to find out why.
The film's basic premise is: Kid has bad days, wishes for everybody else in the family to have a bad day instead. So they do. Kid then realises how stupid he was to request such a thing (or has a guilt trip, whichever floats your boat) and tries to make it up. He ends up having a birthday party, the same one he had to cancel earlier because it clashed with somebody else's.
This is the sort of film you'd expect to see straight to air on the Disney Channel. Surprised to learn it had a budget of $28million overall, as it clearly wasn't spent on the writing or the cast.
The jokes are predictable, you can see them coming (especially the one with the cough syrup) and while there are a handful of good ideas here, they are far and between and underdeveloped when they do appear.
Pleasant as it was to see Dick Van Dyke, and the presence of old school music (primarily 4 Non Blondes and INXS) on the soundtrack, it wasn't enough to make up for a typical Disney fodder pushing PG-13 standards crying out for a better script.
It's not the worst movie ever made. I've seen far far worse and far far better.
The Harry Hill Movie (2013)
Harry Hill is and always has been a little bit like Marmite - you either like him or you hate him. The same can be said for The Harry Hill Movie.
Harry Hill has always done surreal comedy, that's given, even back in the days when he was on Channel 4. In more recent times he became even more well known for TV Burp, which itself ran for 10 years and made Hill even more of a mainstream celebrity.
Of course, having a successful show like TV Burp means anything you do afterwards is going to get compared to it. Including this film. Large chunks of the film are typical skits that with the right linking material wouldn't look out of place on TV Burp.
The film's basic storyline essentially boils down to: Man takes dying hamster to Blackpool. Man's brother, who is into taxidermy and also a bit on the weird side, wants his brother's hamster to stuff. That premise stretches itself for 85 minutes - painfully. Not even the presence of Julie Walters, former Little Britain comedian Matt Lucas and the voice of Johnny Vegas can save this.
Simon Bird features in this movie and can now have been said to have gone from one extreme to the other - his appearance in the excellent The Inbetweeners to his lacklustre own creation The King Is Dead (thankfully didn't last more than one series) and now Harry Hill Movie, which is only a step up from King is Dead due to the fact the movie had a bigger budget and was a better end production.
There's a few things that could have worked better than they did but the end result appears to be a film made for the sake of making a film. The storyline starts off daft and gets dafter as the film progresses, ultimately concluding with a near obligatory final dance-off for no apparent reason.
Harry Hill can do far better than this. Absolute die-hard Hill fans and those who loved, cherished and adored TV Burp will probably get a kick out of this but everybody else will just wonder what on earth is going on.
Horrid Henry: The Movie (2011)
Just Bearable If You Don't Think About It
Sometimes as adults, we have stressful days at work, and on occasion as part of the unwind process, I have been known to dig out kids films - often something that one can follow without having to think too hard about what's going on.
Horrid Henry: The Movie doesn't require a massive amount of thought process if you know anything at all about the book series - it basically boils down to the lead character being a stereotypical schoolboy - to hate school and girls, and to love anything gross and disgusting with his friends.
Not having to think too hard about the film when watching is helpful, because if you did, you'd see a plot so thinly stretched it was in danger of breaking as soon as anybody opened their mouth. The sequence of events becomes more surreal as the film progresses, and as for the 2 Cool 4 School segment... the chain of events in 2 Cool 4 School isn't too far detached from reality but the presenters definitely are.
Theo Stevenson plays the main lead of Horrid Henry. Stevenson has clearly thrown his heart and soul into this role (he said in pre-release interviews he loved the books) and gives us a highly spirited and energetic performance while managing to avoid being irritating. The same cannot be said unfortunately for the rest of the kids including, ironically enough, Perfect Peter.
Of the adult cast, Anjelica Huston is Henry's teacher, done well here. Richard E. Grant also features as does Mathew Horne (of Bad Education fame and others) and I was pleasantly surprised to see Prunella Scales make a guest appearance as well. Dick & Dom seem to split opinion on everything they do but unfortunately they were both so far beyond irritating in here as their characters that having a hole drilled in my head would have been more pleasurable...
A just about watchable film if you switch off your brain prior to viewing and/or need something to unwind with but beyond that if you're not used to kids films this will probably annoy the living daylights out of you. Youngsters and die-hard Horrid Henry fans will probably lap it up.
Having found The Lost Medallion on Sky On-Demand, I thought it was worth a watch. Many favourite films are found in this way by accident.
This film is essentially a kid's version of Indiana Jones, featuring quite a few staples from Indiana Jones as well. In its original form (without the foster home sequences), the film comes across as a wannabe Goonies clone. The addition of the foster home sequences turns the sequence of events into another character's story, upon which a Christian faith theme is sprinkled throughout.
The basic premise (common to films like these aimed at pre-teens) is good guys and bad guys are both after the same thing and the story of how the saga plays out. Who will out?
Name wise, Billy Unger plays the character of Billy Stone. Unger appears to play this role naturally, in a style that suggests he (as Billy Stone) knows what he's doing. This is a good performance, as Unger manages to avoid falling into the trap of being annoying. The other main character is that of Allie, played by Sammi Hanratty. Again, also a sound performance from her which also doesn't tick any of the "annoying" boxes.
The only real "annoying" character is the wannabe king, Huko (Jansen Panettiere), but this is through a character flaw of Huko, who is an arrogant spoiled brat, so far up himself that he can't see his flaw.
Perhaps the biggest names in this movie are Mark Dacascos (Hawaii Five-O and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) and veteran actor James Hong (hundreds of other productions inc. MacGyver, Jackie Chan Adventures and Mr Ping in Kung Fu Panda).
This is a good flick to watch - it may be aimed at kids but it's fully watchable by anybody. Well recommended.
I tend to (with a few exceptions) avoid the mainstream movies that everybody has heard of and seen, in favour of the under-the-radar productions that premiere at festivals. They aren't made on a shoestring, but they don't have major budgets or major stars in them either. A large budget, or a big household name does not necessarily make a movie better, in my view. The biggest names in Snowmen are Christopher Lloyd and Ray Liotta.
Having read the premise of the film, I must admit I was expecting a cheap-and-cheerful kids production full of the most annoying and group of kids one could have assembled in a sequence of equally ridiculous and annoying situations.
In actual fact, what we ended up with was actually a really charming group of young actors and what turned out to be quite a good coming-of-age story as it turned out.
The three main leads all do justice to their characters; Bobby Coleman is really likable as the dying kid, Bobb'e J. Thompson's character plods around with a Jamaican accent that comes and goes, and Christian Martyn plays the bullied kid who eventually gets the courage to stand up for himself. Christopher Lloyd has a short role as the cemetery caretaker in this movie.
The movie may only run for about 80-85minutes, but there are worse movies you could have seen. You may not have heard of it, but Snowmen isn't a bad movie. If you broaden your horizons and look beyond the mainstream, there's lots of really good movies just like Snowmen to see.
One of the best TV shows of the decade
Outnumbered started as an experiment on BBC Four, hidden away in the 10:30 slot just prior to it's target audience about to go to bed. When a series gets promoted to BBC One, that's when it takes off.
This is the show of the regular, mundane daily lives of a family of five with the odd (very in some cases) input from other characters. The three children improvise all their lines and the adults react to it. It's this that is the key to the comedy success, as the observations and statements have clearly come from the child, as opposed to the traditional way of doing things of a 30 something adult trying to think like a 7 year old, and often failing miserably.
So after five series, three Christmas specials and the odd Comic/Sport Relief skit, how has the series progressed? Naturally speaking, the kids have grown up as each series comes and goes, not even Simon Cowell can do anything about that (yet). As the kids grow, each series changes with them. The first three series are clearly always going to be the best based on the original idea, but the later two have a charm of their own. The fifth series is actually superior to the fourth, as it had a wider story arc running through it than the fourth series did.
This show is a jewel in the BBC's crown. Recommended viewing for everybody, and thanks to the wonders of on-demand, UK Gold and DVD, everybody can enjoy it.
Could have been worse.
Normally by the time a film franchise reaches it's third or fourth in its series, one can usually hear the bottom of the barrel being scraped on the soundtrack. There are exceptions to this of course, but this Home Alone film is not an exception.
Home Alone: The Holiday Heist is clearly ultra modern; a video-game obsessed child, a moody teenager and parents who, thanks to the nature of the films, end up leaving their child home alone. The first two films this was done by accident. The third film was through illness of the main character, the fourth wasn't home alone at all (technically), and this fifth one doesn't leave the main character home alone, but with his older sister. He still gets the lion's share of screen time. Add a couple of bad guys who want to break into a house for some reason, the odd booby trap here and there and we have something that sounds like Home Alone.
Macaulay Culkin unfortunately grew up over the years so the mantel of being the Home Alone boy falls to other actors. For Holiday Heist, this landed in the lap of Christian Martyn, who was also in the Snowmen film and Be My Valentine. Martyn's performance is solid here given the material he has to work with.
Film wise, I half expected this to be even worse than Home Alone 4, which set the standard so low for this franchise that it was practically buried under the ground. Thankfully it was actually better than Home Alone 4, and if Holiday Heist had had a more polished script, better bad guys and had actually left the kid home alone as opposed to being in vocal communication with his big sister through the air duct, then this could have possibly snapped at the heels of Home Alone 3. Holiday Heist doesn't get anywhere near Home Alone and Home Alone 2; I'll be surprised if any future additions to this franchise do, to be honest. Worth a watch on a movie channel around the holiday season though.
My Dad's the Prime Minister (2003)
Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, My Dad's the Prime Minister is a look at what life could be like if... well your life is as the title of the production says! Initially based around the life of Dillon Phillips in the first series, later expanded in the second series to focus more on the prime minister, the show is a look at Dillon's life and how much of a embarrassment it can be to have the PM drop in on Sports Day - via helicopter, en route to the Dalai Lama and while having a sports day race fixed by your spin doctor. Amongst other things, of course.
Many references to common political topics that crop up regardless of which government is in power, but there's no references here to specific parties, however the show is an interesting introduction if nothing else to the basic concepts of living inside Number 10 with a tax-evading mother, a PM father, a sister with an attitude problem and an imagination that puts you in the Newsnight studio.
The main role of Dillian is played by Joe Prospero, previously seen in My Uncle Silas and Finding Neverland, as well as a seemingly compulsory (until it was axed) one-off role for any aspiring actor, as a speaking part in The Bill. Prospero not only fits the role perfectly but slides with ease into Newsnight as well. The prime minister is played by Robert Bathurst, most recently seen in Downton Abbey. The mother is played by Carla Mendonça, probably going to be best known by now as Sophie v2 in My Parents are Aliens.
While available to rent on DVD, general availability of Series 1 appears to have dried up (Series 2 was never released) at reasonable prices, but if you can get to see it, please do. A very well recommended piece of satire, something for everybody.
The King Is Dead (2010)
How this ever ended up as an actual commission will probably end up as one of life's great mysteries. Something will have seriously gone wrong at BBC Three if this comes back as as a second series.
The show is marketed as "part spoof job interview, part chat show, part panel show and part character comedy". Unfortunately it falls down on all parts. By episode 4 Simon Bird and friends were wandering around on location in silly bug, cow and tiger costumes, in an attempt to take this entire charade seriously.
In a nutshell, an announcement: "The *insert some high authority figure of some well-known organisation or branch* is dead!". There then follows a painfully drawn out sequence of silly questions, daft tasks, the odd strange sketch and some half-baked attempts at comedy featuring three celebrities and one of them (in theory) assumes the post that's become vacant.
The question remains: Simon Bird apparently wrote this. Having done three series of The Inbetweeners, you get the distinct impression that Mr Bird has learnt nothing about comedy despite having worked on one of the best TV series of the millennium to date. So how could Mr Bird actually write and create such a poor program? It probably looks really good on paper. Lots of things do. However I dare say it probably looked even better as an idea of Mr Bird, so something's either gone wrong between head and paper, or (more likely) paper and screen.
Better luck next time. The BBC has commissioned a third series of Life of Riley and a third series of Coming Of Age, both programmes which are so bad. Please don't let King is Dead join the list of "programmes that keep getting recommissioned for unfathomable reasons".