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>> Friday, May 21, 2010

Shrek Forever better than Shrek the Turd.

It’s a usual tale we’ve heard a million times and seen in a hundred movies and TV shows. The main character wakes up to their “awful” life where they don’t realize how good they have it – so they ask a magical fairy (or a magical fairy man) to make it all better and give them the life they crave. It’s your typical “what if…?” proposal that creates a story full of lessons learnt. I will admit, however, I wasn’t crazy about seeing this typical plot being brought to the likes of Shrek Forever After.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t worried about the idea that this instalment would be the worst thing to happen to the series. Shrek was magical, Shrek 2 was hilarious (and perhaps my favourite) and Shrek 3 was a typical, disappointing and awful sequel and comparable to the likes of Spider-Man 3. So the Shrek series had already let me down so I didn’t expect much from Forever After, especially when I heard the premise behind it.

The movie starts when we find out Shrek (Mike Myers) has actually hated his life since getting married and having kids. No one fears him anymore (turns out he was happier during those times), everyday is the same and he has become somewhat famous since becoming and unbecoming the King of Far Far Away. It’s the same routine for him every day and frankly he misses the golden era of life he was leading when we first met him in Shrek.

After becoming easily frustrated at his triplets’ first birthday party, he leaves the party and goes for a stroll. By the way, the funniest and most catchy line of the movie goes to the fat kid at the birthday party who keeps telling Shrek to “do the roar” (and it’s not that line either-but he’ll say it and you’ll laugh). So along the walk Shrek runs into Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) who says he will let Shrek be like he used to be for one day before he met Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and all olStiltsy wants in return is one day from Shrek’s childhood. Subsequently, he picks the day Shrek was born and Shrek wakes up in the plot of Back to the Future 2.

In this life Fiona doesn’t know him, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is afraid of him and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is a fat, fat mess. It’s up to Shrek to gain Fiona’s kiss by the end of the day to break the spell and put Rumpel in his place.

Shrek Forever After may not be as funny or refreshing as Shrek 2, but it still delivers on the laughs in a lot of unexpected places. There wasn’t much wrong with this film, just stuff I would have like to have seen. In the alternate universe he visits, Shrek theoretically never existed (paradox much?) - therefore his actions done in the first film are null. I would have found it clever and endearing if perhaps during his adventures in Oz he ran into the first film’s villain, Lord Farquaad. Even a small cameo would have reminded us a bit more of where this film series came from and created a more nostalgic feel for what is supposedly the end of the series. Plus John Lithgow’s height-challenged character was one of the more entertaining characters in Shrek. But his absence is about the only complaint I have.

There’s nothing to really hate in Forever After, and that doesn’t make it the worst movie of the year by any means. But what it does have doesn’t make it an amazing movie either. For me, Forever After was simply fun and something I was able to get into relatively easily. I had a great time watching it, and it further adds to my belief that animated films can actually benefit from 3-D. The door is open for this 4th and final instalment of this lovable green ogre’s quadrilogy, and I recommend it to anyone wanting a little harmless fun added to the beginning of what is sure to be a great summer for movies.

*Stills courtesy of Dreamworks Animation


IRON MAN 2 (2010)

>> Friday, May 7, 2010

Robert Downey Jr. and a VERY welcome Don Cheadle pump some iron and entertainment into the very anticipated Iron Man 2.

After revealing his identity to the world at the end of the last film, Tony Stark is being hounded government officials to give up the suit. Stark is also being stalked by a Russian played by Mickey Rourke who’s father was dissed by Stark’s father and is out for blood. Gewnyth Paltrow is back to play the new CEO of Stark Enetrpirses, leaving an opening for sexy and suave assistant Scarlet Johanson to take her place. Sam Rockwell also pops up here as weapons dealer Justin Hammer. And of course we get a semi-pointless appearance or two by Sam Jackson as Avenegers director Nick Fury.

Eventually, Tony’s arc reactor design (which powers the Iron Man suit) is leaked, and the government obviously takes things to the wrong level by trying to make it a weapon, as opposed to a method of keeping the peace like Stark built it for. It is at this point that everything goes to hell and Iron Man must come to the rescue and save the day.

Iron Man 2 is not better or worse than the first. A lot of the joy from the first one came in seeing a character arc with Tony as he goes from potential bad guy to overzealous good guy. He also plays with building the suit, trying it out and getting some nice revenge. The film is capped off with Nick Fury briefly entering the picture and inviting Tony to join the Avengers Initiative. Iron Man was a fun, amazing action film. The reason I bring this up is because with the second movie (although we want more of the same) we don’t get much development.
Here’s what we get for plot development. For the record I don’t consider any of this a spoiler, as it's all available in the trailer:

Stark’s friend Rhodey becomes War Machine, something that was hinted at in the first film. Why Tony had arc reactors in all his previous suits ready to go, I don’t know. Don Cheadle by the way, is a welcome replacement for the prudley Terrance Howard who apparently had problems really emoting. Pepper Pots and Tony Stark’s relationship grows more romantic, starting with him making her CEO of his company. Sam Rockwell is introduced as Justin Hammer, a potential return villain for sequels to come.

The stuff that is here for filler and goes nowhere is the following:
Tony’s health is decreasing due to the arc reactor in his chest, and he needs to fix it. I won’t say if he does or not, but in the end you’re kind of like, so what? Nick Fury asks Tony again to become part of the Avengers, as he declined in between the last film and this one. By the end, Tony still seems unsure, but there is promise. And no, I don’t believe it’s a spoiler, because there is no development there, at least not really.

Iron Man 2 (as a movie where maybe nothing is promised) is a fun movie, and certainly worth seeing. You really want geeked out developments here, and besides the stuff I mentioned, we get a few hints here and there for the upcoming Avengers movie, which is wonderfully entertaining. Stay until after the credits by the way, there’s a nice little teaser there. Downey, Rourke and Rockwell all have outstanding performances here, and are incredibly entertaining. Rourke especially, is more entertaining than you may expect. Some of the best moments of the film come from Downey doing his thing, especially when he’s slightly depressed just prior to the climax.

Iron Man 2 seems less of a sequel that is better than the first, and more of a filler and necessity that is building up to both Iron Man 3 and the Avengers, both due out in 2012. It does not however, disappoint as far as entertainment is concerned. It moves at a nice pace, the effects are flawless and there is more than just a few laughs, even if some of them are a little cliché and expected.

Iron Man 2 gets an open door, and is a welcome start to the summer blockbuster season.
*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures


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