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Review: Angry Birds by Jamie

Ever since the release of Super Mario Bros in 1993, Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to leech off of the popularity of video games. This was particularly troublesome back in the day because most video games didn’t have much going in the way of plot beyond run right, jump and stomp on bad guys. Studios inevitably found themselves having to try and flesh out these threadbare plots to try and put something on the screen for at least an hour and a half so that they could somehow justify calling it a film.

It’s just like the game you remember and love!

Even as the years have gone by and the games themselves have developed more complex and intricate storylines with more fleshed out and developed characters, for some reason the movies that are adapted from them don’t seem to have been able to bring that to the screen. Max Payne was a game widely regarded for it’s storytelling and strong central character but the movie version is a lukewarm piece of shit starring Mark Wahlberg that no one really remembers any more and rightfully so.

Still, video games are massive money makers and with the right property it should be possible to pull of the seemingly herculean task of actually making a video game movie worth seeing. I won’t lie, some of them do seem like they could be promising. There’s the Duncan Jones helmed Warcraft movie which has some potential and an Assassin’s Creed movie starring Michael Fassbender which could be pretty good. And then there’s Angry Birds. Yes, someone out there saw the travesty that was the Super Mario Bros movie and said to themselves “Can we find a game that has even less of a plot than that and make that into a movie? After all, the only thing that matters is brand recognition. As long as the name gets people to put their money on the counter, who gives a fuck if it has literally any story?”

It’s that easy!.

And so here we are, nearly a quarter of a century later and we find ourselves faced with a movie based on a video game that most people spend five minutes playing at a time while sitting on the toilet. What is the plot of the game? Some pigs steal some birds eggs. The birds want them back. FIne, that’s a perfectly fine and simple setup for a quick little physics puzzle game. I’ll even go so far as to say that it could make a fairly decent basic of a plot for a movie maybe. But the problem is that by adapting that story from a video game, you suddenly find yourself restricted by the rules of that video game. This means that you have to reference things that the video game has in it. For example, one of the characters in The Angry Birds Movie is called Bomb. When he’s upset, he explodes. It’s as simple as that (or it would be if he actually exploded the many, many times he should surely be upset during this film, but I digress). Why does this happen? I dunno. This is perfectly fine as a mechanic for a video game that you’re not meant to put too much though in to. At the end of the day, if the object of the game is to knock down structures and kill pigs, does it matter if it’s an exploding bird or an actual bomb? No. No it does not. But when it’s a talking, emotive character in a movie then there should be some kind of reason? Why do some of these birds have super powers? Why do some of them not? Why did someone decide to make Angry Birds into a movie? These are all questions which probably should be answered.

There are other problems too. Early in the movie, Red, the main character, is sent to an anger management therapy where he meets the previously mentioned Bomb and the small yellow bird named Chuck. Neither of these two actually seem particularly angry. Chuck is literally just fast and Bomb’s only problem is his exploding which generally seems to happen when he is startled rather than infuriated. Why are these two in anger management? Fuck knows. Because Red has to meet them somehow I guess?

Ok, so maybe I’m thinking a little too much about what is ostensibly a children’s movie. Sure, I can understand that and perhaps you’re right. Perhaps the most importnat thing when you really get down to it is whether or not the movie is entertaining. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. There aren’t really jokes in this movie. Just things happening and then people reacting to them often with a phrase that’s popular at the moment. You know, the kind of timeless humour that will really, really play well in a few years time. And there’s a few jokes sprinkled in for the adults throughout although they are mostly pretty weak such as a book on the pigs ship being called “Fifty Shades of Green.” That kind of thing. In fact, there were maybe two jokes that made me laugh throughout the whole film. One was the line “Something isn’t kosher with these pigs.” and the other was when Red insinuated that another bird looked like he may be a kid abducting paedophile. Hehehehe. Children’s movies. Ok, I’ll admit, Peter Dinklage might have gotten a smile out of me as the Might Eagle but I couldn’t tell you if that was because of the movie or because I thought of Tyrion.

Finally, there’s the message of the movie. Red doesn’t trust these foreigners who have shown up on his land and his ingrained mistrust of strangers is proven to be correct. It turns out that these weird people from a strange land don’t want to be friends! They just want to eat the natives children! Vote Red, 2016. Make Bird Island great again.

Again, I know I’m probably coming down too hard on a piece of shit fluff movie that’s just meant to keep kids entertained for an hour and a half. But there are movies that prove that can be done well and with thought and passion and craft. Movies like How To Train Your Dragon or Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs or, you know, most of Pixar’s catalogue. People deserve better than someone assuming that you’ll cynically pay to see a move just because they recognise the name of it. Your children deserve better than that too.

½ pint out of five for that paedophile joke. Hehehehe.

The Angry Birds Movie

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Review: Epic by Jamie

I often moan about 3D. I find it unnecessary and it generally takes away from the cinema experience rather than enhance it. When I saw Toy Story 3, for example, I’d forgotten that I was even watching it in 3D after around ten minutes. If that’s the case, then what’s the point? Of all the 3D movies I’ve seen, only two have ever impressed me. Piranha 3D which used the 3D as the gimmick it is, and Transformers 3 though that may have been me trying to grasp onto anything I could possibly enjoy from that shit pile.

And so it is that for the most part I see movies in 2D whenever possible. But sometimes that isn’t possible like when a preview screening of Epic sells out in 2D because the world is an annoying place. So after much bitching and moaning I buckled down, paid the extra money for the “3D experience” and the stupid 3D glasses as well. And goddamnit, it was actually worth it this time. For the first time that I can remember, the 3D actually added something. It probably has to do with the nature of the movie. In a forest, you really can make a depth of vision that’s noticeable especially when you’re experiencing it at the height of a bug. So yes, first off I’ll admit that the 3D was actually good throughout and I’d recommend seeing it this way if you do choose to see it.

Still 3D isn’t the reason people go to the cinema. They want to be entertained. They want to see something new. Epic succeeds on the first part, the second well kinda. Obviously this is a story we’ve all seen before, inhabitants of a forest trying to save said forest. An outsider being shrunk down and helping in that battle is also something we’ve seen before. Yes, Epic is very, very similar to “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” except now we have a snail and a slug instead of a bat as the comic-relief.

So yeah, you know the story. There’s a scientist named Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) who’s obsessed with discovering a race of tiny men that he believes live in the forest. His daughter MK (Amanda Seyfried) comes to stay with him after her mother dies but believes him to be insane because of said obsession. Events unfurl that lead to MK being shrunk, finding out that her dad was right and having to help the tiny race known as the Leaf Men fight their enemy, The Boggans, who spread rot.

Honestly, the film sounds like it’s literally been reassembled from the assorted carcass of other movies like some kind of Frankenfilm’s monster. Take a bit of Ferngully, a bit of ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’, a little ‘Lord of the Rings’, stitch it all together and you get Epic. Despite all that there is an enjoyable story here and there’s some innovative stuff that I’ve never seen on film before like the theory that Bomba comes up with that we can’t see the race of little people because they live faster than we do. Hence when MK is shrunk, all the larger animals seem to be moving in slow motion. It’s not completely insane. Pigeons, for example, see in slow motion. That’s why they leave it until the last second before moving out of the way of danger. They’re not completely stupid… Just partially stupid.

The voice talent is all pretty good. Biggest surprise was Steven Tyler as an old caterpillar (caterpillars do not work that way) called Nim Galuu. His voice fit the role well and he did a pretty decent job. The slug and the snail voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd respectively were entertaining enough. Sure, they had a few jokes that fell flat but the kids in the audience seemed to enjoy them so fair enough. The stand out, however, is of course Christoph Waltz as Mandrake, the villain. What can I say? He’s Christoph fucking Waltz for fucks sake, of course he’s good. Perhaps most interesting for the character itself was that he has a son and he actually seems proud of him. This is surprising because normally when a villain has a child, they find them bumbling or incompetent and quite an embarrassment. This was a nice change. Also Mandrake wears the skin of a bat which may have been a mistake on the film makers part. You expect me to root against a character wearing a bat cape and cowl? For shame.

Another big surprise was Colin Farrell as Ronin, the leader of the Leaf Men. He brings a lot of humanity to a character that, in a lesser film, would just be a gruff hard ass who’s always getting on the case of the male lead, Nod (Josh Hutcherson). Instead he’s a layered character who cares about Nod due to his relationship with Nod’s father and it’s his unresolved emotional feelings towards the Queen of the forest (Beyonce Knowles) and his strong sense of duty that really drive him on his quest.

So yeah, overall a perfectly enjoyable film and one that is actually improved through it’s use of 3D. There’s a battle sequence early on between the Leaf Men and the Boggans that’s fast paced and extremely lively just because of the way they’ve used the depth and vibrancy that the 3D provides them and I applaud them for it. Still, it probably doesn’t quite deserve the title Epic. Maybe Good but who’s going to see a movie just called Good? No one. There are moments where the film seems to slow down just a little too much and he relationship between the two leads never really develops naturally like it should. I’d probably rank this just below your better non-Pixar CGI films. It never really reaches the heights of ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ or ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’ but it’s certainly better than stuff like the Ice Age or Madagascar sequels. Three pints out of five. Laters.

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