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Big, Dumb and Lots of Fun

I am not doing an in depth analysis of our local rugby club with this post. Nor am I reminiscing about an Irish backpacker with whom I may have been briefly acquainted around the time of the Sydney Olympics. Rather I’m talking about a recent movie date with Dadabulous.  Ever since the trailer came out Dadabs has been “like totally pumped” to see Pacific Rim. I was ever so slightly less enthused but was a willing participant nevertheless. It looked so over the top as to be a self parody, the funniest thing since Starship Troopers.

In case you are not aware of this piece of cinematic genius let me brief you – Pacific Rim is 131 minutes of gigantic robots slugging it out against gigantic Godzillalike alien lizards. As the force is strong with Mumabs I can sense the tide of excitement rising in some of you. I’m guessing however that for the majority of you the will to read on has just vapourized. Bear with me as this film features gratuitous beefcake.

Charlie Hunnam's abs deserve an Oscar

Charlie Hunnam’s abs deserve an Oscar

Still here? Good. Before we entering the cinema I got an unexpected but pleasurable shot of patriotism through the movie posters. Look Australia has its very own alien fighting robot! It has dinky di name of Striker Eureka and gets to belt the bejeepers out of an alien invader in Sydney harbour.  Finally Australia is portrayed as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. Its as if Kevin Rudd’s wildest fantasies suddenly came to pass, only with much less dialogue.

Australia's entry in the alien lizard bashing Olympics.

Australia’s entry in the alien lizard bashing Olympics.

Striker Eureka’s design has been the subject of much heated discussion among the fanboys and girls on the interwebs. Some have suggested that this may have been a more authentically Australian look.

Koala bot?

Koala bot?

I however would have liked to have seen Eureka Striker wearing a Ned Kelly helmet and armed with a gigantic alien crushing cricket bat. In keeping with the cricket theme, Dadabulous thinks a gigantic box may have come in handy.

A more fitting inspiration

A more fitting inspiration

Given that I was riled up with jingoism you can well imagine my disappointment when we were introduced to Striker Eureka’s pilots – the father and son team Herc and Chuck Hansen. Huh – excuse me? Don’t you mean Bruce and Trevor or Wayne and Shane? In this country the name Chuck is reserved for folk with the surname “Wood” or people who have embarrassed themselves by vomiting publicly. These ridiculous names paled into insignificance when the actors open their mouths and bad cockney accents come out. Its such a let down. Our nation finally gets its big cinematic moment and the powers that be cant even be bothered casting actual Aussies to pilot our fair dinkum robot. Stone the flamin’ crows.  The crumpetiness of the Herc Hansen character goes some way towards redeeming the situation but it is not enough.

The Dad (on the right) out crumpets the son

The Dad (on the right) out crumpets the son

This actor has a lean and hunger Richard Roxburgh type look about him so why not simply hire Richard Roxburgh? Richard Roxburgh is hawt.

Cleaver Greene could pilot a giant robot

Cleaver Greene could pilot a giant robot

Just when you thought our national pride couldn’t be affronted any further, Striker Eureka was required to make the ultimate sacrifice so that the American robot could play the hero. It was like Gallipoli all over again.

My patriotic concerns aside, the film offered plenty more to ridicule. It employed pretty much every cliche in the book. For instance a hostile alien race emerges from a time/space portal. Didn’t that happen in The Avengers? Humanity averts catastrophe by nuking said time/space portal. Again – it happened in The Avengers. The enemy is a monstrous race of scavengers bent on destruction and lacking in any morality or nuance. Hmm sounds like Independence Day.  The characters were cardboard cut outs – featuring the usual line up of  noble commander, blonde maverick hero, mad scientists and over the top gangsters. The plot holes were as blatant as the use of cliches – some were so big they resembled the offending time/space portal.

Still I can not bring myself to dislike Pacific Rim. Its not Wim Wenders. Its giant robots belting the crapola out of giant lizards. If you approach it with a spirit of fun and a choc top you’ll be rewarded. I laughed louder than the teenage boys seated opposite us and afterward bonded with Dabads by dissecting the plot faults. (because that’s the kinky kind of people we are at Team Abulous). In the meantime we are both eagerly awaiting the release of Elysium. We both think it looks awesome.

Elysium-Movie

Have you seen any good films lately.

Mumabulous



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Para-Norman

It’s a testimony to the quality of animated films these days that I emerged from Para Norman a little dissatisfied. It features cutting edge animation, wit and humor with some deeper philosophical considerations thrown into the mix. Despite all these pluses it didn’t quite hit the heights of Wreck It Ralph for me or P1. Nevertheless its still a fun outing, particularly for zombie fans and horror buffs.

Para-Norman utilizes stop motion animation in the tradition of the delightful Wallace and Grommit. The old fashion clay models have been souped up with 3D printing technology, bringing the art form well and truly into the 21st Century. Still the look of the film retains a certain old school charm.  We are introduced to Norman Babcock, a spiky haired, eleven year old  zombie fan who has a warm relationship with his Grandma. So far, so normal but we soon discover that Grandma has recently passed away and Norman sees dead people. In fact he sees dead people all the time. They constantly float above him in a sea of green ectoplasmic haze. No one else understands his “gift” and long suffering Norman is the butt of bullying at school and a source exasperation to his family. He teams up with Neil an equally put upon fat kid with irritable bowel syndrome who thinks Norman’s ability to communicate with the undead is way cool. Predictably it isn’t long before these two under dogs are given the chance to become heroes. In this case, the spirit of a witch who was unfairly executed three hundred years earlier is about to wreak havoc upon Norman’s home town of  Blithe Hollow. Naturally only Norman can stop her.

Zombie? No its just Norman.

Zombie? No its just Norman.

The witch has cursed the souls of the seven jurors who convicted her to roam the earth as the undead which is where the zombie mayhem comes in. Some fun is had with a zombie car chase sequence but  terror soon gives way to sympathy. The lumbering, groaning monsters are more afraid of the modern world than it is of them and for good reason. The Blithe Hollow townsfolk waste no time in forming a gun toting, torch wielding lynch mob. It turns out  that the zombies have put aside their desire to munch on human brains in order to help Norman stop to the witch’s curse. This leads to a monologue where Norman calls off the mob. There’s more monologuing when Norman persuades the spirit of the young girl falsely accused of witch craft to call it quits with all the super natural shenanigans. This is where I had a slight problem with the movie. Para Norman had some thoughtful points to make about fear, prejudice and the nature of conflict. Unfortunately these points are hammered home via lectures from the central character.

I don’t need to tell you that Norman successfully placates  the witch’s troubled soul and goes from being the town pariah to local hero. He even wins the acceptance and admiration of his didactic father. We all learn ( once again ) that difference is something to be embraced rather than shunned. Overall its an enjoyable ride which pokes gentle fun at the zombie/horror genre and provides much off the wall humor for adults. Its central message of acceptance and forgiveness is a worthy one. I only wish its delivery had been a little more subtle.

Mumabulous Verdict: 7/10

Para Norman is funny and good hearted. Its worth the outing for the charming animation alone. I’d score it higher if it weren’t for the monologuing.  In conclusion if you only see one family movie this season make it Wreck It Ralph. Para Norman is not a bad second choice.

P1s Verdict

It was kinda funny but kinda scary. Wreck It Ralph was the best kids’ movie.

M: Do you mean the best kids’ movie these Christmas holidays?

P1: No the best kids’ movie ever.

P2s Verdict

Not scary. Silly monsters. I want a drink of apple juice.

photo credit: tsmall via photopin cc

 

 

Photobucket


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The Hobbit – A Confusing Journey

Team Abulous has a soft spot for Hobbits. We too hail from The Shire*.  As a family we are vertically challenged and broad of foot.  Dadabulous has remarkably hairy legs. Moreover Dadabulous has been a Tolkien devotee since reading the books in his teen.  He was completely captivated by the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy and even owns the extended box set – as if the original theatrical releases were not long enough. Also being a consummate tech-head, he was very excited by the new fangled 48 frame per second technology. He moved heaven and earth to get a baby sitter so that we could join his man posse (aka SSBB – Sutherland Shire bum boys*) at Hoyts Broadway last night. Actually he simply asked his mother to mind the kids and she obliged. Thanks very much Grandma for giving us a night off.

Shire Hobbits are our people.

Shire Hobbits are our people.

We were concerned about being late but needn’t have worried. The pre-movie ads were interminable. Why is it that the longer the movie ( The Hobbit was a bladder busting 169 minutes),the more numerous the ads at the beginning? Once we finally arrived at Middle Earth the kingdom felt somehow different. The LOTR films were an amazing visual feast. However The Hobbit seemed oddly claustrophobic and the fancy 48 fps was to blame. The higher resolution meant the picture had remarkable clarity and this showed up every darn thing. The costumes, make up and prosthetics that wowed us in LOTR simply looked cheap, as did the sets. Clearly they were not cheap. The film had a reported budged of $180m but I felt like I was watching an episode of Dr Who. Infact I was hoping the Tardis would pop in because The Hobbit needed an injection of eye candy.

The plot was apparently true to the book. Basically in days of yore a civilization of dwarves were violently booted out of  their prosperous mountain home Erebor (or Lonely Mountain )by Smaug the Dragon. The displaced dwarves attempted to resettle but ended up having serious fisty cuffs with a bunch of Orcs led by the pornographically named Azog The Defiler. I guess it sounds much more menacing that Azog The Regional Sales Director. In the fraccas Thorin, heir to the Dwarf throne, slices off Azog’s arm which pisses him off mightily. You could even say he holds a grudge.

It's a nice day for some defiling.

It’s a nice day for some defiling.

Moving along a gang of 12 dwarves assisted by the Grey Wizard Gandolf  (Ian McKellen reprising the role) decide to take vigilante action against the dragon and reclaim Erebor. The hobbit Bilbo Baggins ( Martin Freeman) is roped into the team and the motley crew set off into the treacherous dark wood on their epic quest. Throughout their journey the gang encounter a confusing array of hazards including trolls, goblins and the still peeved Azog. To my untrained eye these creatures were barely distinguishable from each other. Giant spiders made a cameo appearance as did towering rock giants. The team made a mandatory visit to Elves city where robe clad hippies wafted around to the soothing strains of pan flutes and harps. The place reminded me of the new age crystal shop in Bondi Junction.

The inhabitants of Middle Earth have a callous disregard for Occupational Health and Safety. It’s something the Amalgamated Mythical Creatures Union really must get on to. Most of the fighting action takes place on rickety suspension bridges sans safety rails atop gaping chasms or narrow mountain passes in thunderstorms. Arrows fly, mountainsides avalanche, fierce creatures do their nastiest but no one on the side of righteousness gets a scratch. Along the way the team collects various weapons, all imbued with an heroic back story and beast slaying properties. The legendary “one ring to rule them all” finds its way onto Bilbo’s stumpy finger after a tediously long scene with Gollum. Nevertheless its significance is not discussed as the crew are to busy fleeing from goblins, orcs and God knows what else across suspension bridges.

Dudes - how did you get the DA for this bridge through council without a safety rail?

Dudes – how did you get the DA for this bridge through council without a safety rail?

Overall The Hobbit is less satisfying than LOTR. If bored by the relentless battles in the trilogy, you could immerse yourself in the stunning cinematography. Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and David Wenham provided eye candy to compliment the amazing New Zealand landscape. By comparison the scant perve material in The Hobbit was hidden under layers of prosthetic goop. I found out that the dude who plays the dwarf  leader Thorin – Richard Armitage, is a crumpet with honey out of costume.

Richard Armitage - in costume. Not crumpet.

Richard Armitage – in costume. Not crumpet.

Richard Armitage out of costume. Crumpet!

Richard Armitage out of costume. Crumpet!

Apart from looking like low budget BBC sci-fi, it is simply too long. It could really benefit from some editing with chain saw.

Mumabulous Verdict: 6/10

Three hours of orc slaying pushed me to breaking point. The film is redeemed by some humorous dialogue and a very cool scene were the gang are rescued by a flock of gigantic flying eagles. Fans of the book should enjoy it but others will be let down. If your husband wants to see it give him a leave pass and stay home with a Colin Firth DVD.

* Sydney’s Sutherland Shire

* The clique were given that moniker some 25 years ago. No one remembers exactly why.


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Wreck It Ralph: Wreck-tacular

I can best describe Wreck It Ralph by taking liberties with a line from the film – ” Its like Toy Story and The Matrix got together and had a baby”.  The action takes place in a gaming arcade where “retro classics” like Pac Man stand side by side with cutting edge newcomers such as “Hero’s Duty”. The real fun begins when the arcade closes and the electronic game characters come alive, much like the toys in Toy Story.  These characters can leap frog from one game to another through the wiring but they must return to their own game by the time the arcade reopens in the morning.

We meet Wreck It Ralph addressesing a meeting of Bad Anon, a support group for the “bad” guys of the arcade. We learn that Ralph is lonely and despondent having spent thirty years playing the role of “wrecker” in the game Fix It Felix Jnr. Long term gamers will recognize this as being based on Donkey Kong. Despite being critical to the game’s success, Ralph is ostracized and made to sleep in a garbage dump whilst the hero Felix receives respect, admiration and home baked goodies.

Insult is added to injury when Ralph returns home from his BA meeting to find the Fix It Felix crew having a lavish 30th anniversary party without inviting him. In disgust Ralph gatecrashes the soiree and the ensuing fracas prompts him to take the drastic step of game hopping in order to earn a medal and prove his true worth. This quest sets off a chaotic chain of events which threaten to lay waste to the entire arcade. Its up to Ralph to uncover the “hero within” and save the day.

The gaming arcade is fresh territory for a family movie. It gives the animators license to have a field day and they create some truly stunning cyber-scapes. The “Hero’s Duty” universe is dark and foreboding parodying the futuristic first person “shoot ‘em up” gaming genre. “Sugar Rush”, where most of the action takes place, is an over the top world built entirely from lollies – it’s enough to send even Willy Wonka into a diabetic coma.

The movie is crammed with references to classic games, most of which went over my head. However even I recognized the leader of BA as the ghost from Pac Man. The good news is that you don’t have to be a gaming nerd to enjoy this film. The pace is cracking, the dialogue witty and the characters endearing.  There’s jokes a plenty, a touch of romance and a suspenseful car chase scene. More importantly the film has moments of genuine poignancy as well as hilarity. In fact the climatic scene where Ralph willingly sacrifices himself by causing a mountain of mentos to avalanche into a Coca Cola lake contains both.

I don’t think its spoiling things to say that Ralph comes out on top. He wins the respect and camaraderie he’d always yearned for and discovers that being a “bad guy” doesn’t necessarily have to be so bad. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Ralph. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Disney regames him with a sequel. I’d be happy to play again.

Wreck-It-Ralph- small

Mumabulous Verdict: 9/10

A wonderful family film for the school holidays. Its enjoyable for all ages, even my three year old sat through the two hour running time only complaining once. No gaming knowledge is required but gamers will get just that little bit more from the experience.

P1’s Verdict:

That was the best kid’s movie EVAH! When can we see it again.

P2’s Verdict:

No I don’t need to go the twoilet.


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The Rise Of The Guardians

I’m going to get the negatives about Rise Of The Guardians out of the way quickly so that we can all enjoy this delightful holiday film. On paper  its cornier than a jumbo super sized bucket of  pop-corn. The Guardians are an axis of awesome comprised of the mythical beings who give kids cool stuff,  namely Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and The Sandman (as the bringer of happy dreams). They are appointed by the omnipresent but largely silent Man in the Moon and charged with the solemn duty of protecting the wonder and innocence of childhood.  The leader of the gang Santa Claus or “North”, voiced by Alec Baldwin, is true to his Russian folk roots. Bizarrely The Easter Bunny, voiced by Hugh Jackman, is a boomerang wielding, tough talking Aussie. It’s as if Hugh’s drover character in the movie Australia ate too many carrots and sprouted ears and a cotton tail.

rise-of-the-guardians-movie-quotes

When a new threat emerges in the form of the Bogey Man aka Pitch Black, the fab four must band together to stop fear and nightmares from engulfing the hearts of children world wide. The fight is considered so serious that The Man In The Moon calls upon the help of a new guardian – Jack Frost. Jack’s struggle to uncover his true purpose and identity is the film’s central arc.

If you can get past the idea of a Ruski Santa and Steve Irwinesque Easter Bunny leading the charge against a Bogey Man who resembles Harry Potter’s Voldemort then you are in for a treat. The Rise of The Guardians is a gorgeously animated movie that evokes an enchanting universe. The opening scenes where Jack Frost rises from a frozen lake into the golden moonlight are stunning. The worlds of all the central characters are exquisitely drawn. The tooth fairy is a luminous bird of paradise stationed in Tooth Palace and assisted by an army of splendidly colored humming birds. The Sandman floats on a shimmering cloud weaving lovely dreams for the children from golden dust.  One scene where the gang help the Easter Bunny decorate his eggs in rivers of paint had my inner kindy kid old fist punching the air.

As the Boogey Man and his nightmare minions foil the tooth fairy’s work and ruin Easter, children cease believing in magic en mass. Hope and wonderment are snuffed out like light bulbs all over the world. Except, as you would have surely learned from a lifetime of Christmas stories, for one little boy, Jamie, who never loses faith. Jack is able to rally Jamie and his friends to push back against Pitch and the fear and darkness he represents.

If you see Rise of the Guardians leave your inner cynic at home otherwise he’ll ruin the movie experience like the annoying guy who crunches his chips too loudly. The Rise of the Guardians serves up schmaltz by the tray full but it engulfs you in its wondrous universe. For me it brought back a sense of enchantment reminiscent of being five years old and seeing Charlie and The Chocolate Factory for the first time.

Mumabulous Verdict: 8.5/10

A wonderful holiday for kids who believe or wish they still did. The action is a little too frenetic and some of the scenes are a touch scary for the very little ones. Best suited to everyone over 5 years.


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Frankenweenie

If you only ever see one Tim Burton film in your life this should be it. A black and white stop motion animation, Frankenweenie neatly encapsulates the spirit of Burton’s career so far. The movie is a loving homage to the cheesy black and white B grade horror films of yesteryear with more references to the genre than you can poke a stick at.

We are introduced to young Victor Frankenstein, a quirky loner in the mold of  many of Burton’s previous heroes. Lean and pale with dark rimmed eyes and a shock of  black hair, Victor bares more than a passing resemblance to the Cure’s Robert Smith, as does Burton’s best known creation Edward Scissorhands. The movie’s setting, the hamlet of New Holland with its immaculately manicured landscape closely mirrors the Edward Scissorhand’s universe. Victor spends most of time obsessively making monster movies starring his beloved dog Sparky. In the opening sequence Victor screens his latest masterwork for his parents. Its an hilarious shlock, horror rampage featuring a gigantic  pterodactyl with visible strings. In fact its much like the work of the infamous B grade director Ed Wood whom Burton depicted in the 1994 film of the same name. Are you detecting a pattern here?

Tragedy soon strikes when Sparky is hit by a car. Mr and Mrs Frankenstein try to comfort the devastated Victor by telling him that Sparky will “always be in his heart”. This is of little consolation. Victor doesn’t want Sparky in his heart, he wants his dog back by his side.  As luck would have it a new science teacher, a Vincent Price look and sound alike named Mr Rzykruski, arrives on the scene the following day. He demonstrates how electric current can re animate the the limbs of a dead frog thus spurring Victor off on a bizarre quest.

Victor and Sparky.

In a makeshift laboratory in his attic, Victor harnesses the power of lightening and brings the dog back to life. However he has created a force that cant be contained. The secret soon gets out and creepy, hunch backed classmate Edgar ‘E’ Gore persuades Victor to revive a gold fish. This feat goes “viral” and with a school Science Fair looming a bunch of Victor’s classmates attempt to resurrect their own deceased pets. As we know from countless zombie movies, raising the dead is an undertaking that never ends well. Soon the township of New Holland is engulfed by monster mayhem.  Victor and Sparky must contend with a mummified hamster named Colossus, a were rat, a vampire bat/cat hybrid, a group of sea monkeys on steroids and most fearsome of all a giant turtle with a bad attitude named “Shelley”. To amplify their troubles the townsfolk form a torch weilding mob and try to lynch Sparky.

Despite some mildly scary moments the film’s happy ending is both poignant and heart warming. My girls enjoyed the action and I heard them oohing and aaahing through the climatic scenes. I suspect P1 even teared up during the finale. However much of the humor went straight over their heads. I found myself laughing out loud while they simply looked bemused.

Mumabulous Verdict: 8/10

Frankenweenie is an animated movie that is really pitched at adults. While the story line works on its own, its real beauty is in the way that it celebrates the creature features of old. Every aspect of it is a salute to previous classics. I’d recommend it as a fun Halloween outing for tweens and teens. It would even work for a date night.

P1’s Verdict (aged 5)

First it was scary. Then it wasn’t as scary and I liked it.

P2’s Verdict (aged 3)

Mmmm ummmm ummm. Mmmmm ummm ummmm. Popcorn.

photo credit: dragaroo via photopin cc


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Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania is a star vehicle for Adam Sandler but don’t let that put you off. Its the best kind of Adam Sandler film there is – one where you don’t have to look at Adam Sandler.  Adam flamboyantly voices the unfairly maligned Count Dracula, a doting single Dad who only wants to protect his daughter Mavis from the cruel and vicious human world. He builds the Hotel Transylvania in the midst of a “spooky” forest as the ultimate sanctuary for Mavis and the whole of monster kind. Its a place where the freakish and spooky can unwind, undisturbed by those pesky, lynch mobbing, pitch fork wielding humans.

On the eve of Mavis’ 118th birthday, Drac gathers a motley crew of his nearest and dearest including the Frankensteins, Wayne the werewolf and his litter, Murry the Mummy and Griffin the Invisible man, to throw an almighty monster mash. Meanwhile Mavis has ideas of her own. She is desperate to escape the cloisters of the hotel and experience the wide world. Both their apple carts are upset by the unexpected arrival of a human backpacker Johnathan. Chaos ensues when Mavis and Johnny take a shine to one another. Drac must learn to let his little girl grow up and overcome his distaste for humans so that true luurve can prevail. Luckily the adventurous and fun loving Johnny is the right dude for the job. He  teaches the ghouls how to party 21st century style  and in the process bridges the gap between the two races.

Count and Mavis Dracula

Whilst the central theme of father/daughter conflict is well trodden territory, the film is fresh and playful.  I’d braced myself for an onslaught of potty humor but there was less of it than I had expected.  We do however learn early on that monsters do monstrous farts, which is bound to appeal to young boys. Johnny is a free styling party dude whose philosophy is “you just gotta roll with it”. His exuberance gives the undead Drac a new lease of life.  There are plenty of gags about the way vampires are portrayed in the popular culture. One moment where Drac huffs in disgust about the Twilight saga is pure gold.  In another uproarious scene Drac and his gang stumble into a “monster festival” where they discover that rather than being despised by humans, they are revered, by the nerds at least.

Mavis and Johnny have “zinged” but will true luuuurve win?

The support cast including Kevin James and David Spade add pizazz. Steve Buscemi does a hilariously dead pan hen pecked were wolf and Fran Drescher is brought out of moth balls to play a nasally, big haired Mrs Frankenstein. Overall the dudey high jinks and camaraderie make Hotel Transylvania play like a Judd Apatow  movie minus the sexy bits. This makes it pitch perfect for the 6 to 10 age group.

Mumabulous Verdict: 7.5/10

Given that most of Adam Sandler’s work is juvenile, his foray into children’s films seems like a natural progression. He gets it right with Hotel Transylvania. Apparently Adam wanted to make a film that he could enjoy with his own daughters. He’s put some heart into this project and it shows. Its a fun, high spirited holiday film which is ideal for primary schoolers and has plenty to make the grown ups smile.

P1’s Verdict: I liked the bit where they had a piggy back fight in the pool. That was so fun. Could I have the DVD of that?

P2’s Verdict: Popcorn!

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