The Week in Film by Robert Mann – Week Starting 3/7/09

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D ****
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 2D ***½

Palaeontologists beware! If you want to see a film that accurately reflects prehistoric times then this is definitely not a film for you. After all, since when were there dinosaurs after the Ice Age? Chronological inaccuracies aside, though, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a film that cannot fail. Coming after two hugely successful movies, it is without a doubt the most heavily promoted movie of summer 2009 and it certainly won’t chill the current hot streak at the box office. As for quality, however, there is of course the issue of the third movie curse (where the third film in a series is considered to be greatly inferior to its predecessors) but with the edge of 3D this film does at least have one advantage over its predecessors.

Since the events of the last Ice Age movie life has begun to change for Manny and his friends. Squirrel Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge) is still on the hunt to hold onto his beloved acorn but must face off a rival for its possession from female squirrel Scratte (voiced by Karen Disher). Mammoths Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) and Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah), having since become an item, are expecting a baby, which leaves Manny anxious to ensure that everything is perfect for when his baby arrives. Tiger Diego (voiced by Denis Leary) is worried that he is losing his touch as a hunter having being too laid-back and considers leaving the group. Sloth Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo) begins to wish for a family of his own, and so steals some dinosaur eggs which leads to Sid ending up in a strange underground world where his herd, which also includes possums Crash (voiced by Sean William Scott) and Eddie (voiced by Josh Peck), must rescue him, while dodging dinosaurs and facing danger left and right, and meeting up with a one-eyed weasel known as Buck (voiced by Simon Pegg) who hunts dinosaurs intently.

Right from the clever spin on the 20th Century Fox logo at the start, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs makes effective use of 3D to enhance the viewing experience of the film, even if it doesn’t quite utilize the format to its fullest. The animation maintains the standard of its predecessors, although it fails to raise the bar much, but it is greatly enhanced by the addition of 3D to the equation. At times the animation is quite beautiful although understandably it never reaches the heights soared to by Pixar and DreamWorks, not being the most textured animation, being more cartoony in its design rather than photo-realistic (although there are a few bits that move towards the latter). This isn’t a problem though, as for the purposes of the film the animation does exactly the job it needs to, with all the critters being just as adorable as ever, making it impossible for you not to care about the characters. This is also helped thanks to the strong vocals delivered by the entire cast which really help to add personality to the characters. And this personality is a key reason why much of the humour works. The attempts don’t hit the mark as much as in some animated movies but there are more hits than misses and all the gags are of the good clean and innocent variety, with no resorting to pop culture references or crude gags for the laughs. If the film is let down by any element it is the story which lacks the strength of plot possessed by the film’s predecessors, but this doesn’t stop the film from being an extremely fun ride. Altogether, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs isn’t one of the most engrossing family movies of 2009 but it is still very watchable and the kids will love it. To get the most enjoyment out of it the film is best viewed in 3D.

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Public Enemies ***

Following in the footsteps of Ridley Scott’s 2007 film American Gangster, Public Enemies is another drama/thriller inspired by the life of a legendary American crime figure. This time it is the turn of bank robber John Dillinger to get the big screen biopic treatment, and the man behind the camera is Michael Mann, who has shown himself to be very adept at directing crime orientated thrillers, even if his recent track record has been a bit hit and miss (2004’s Collateral being the hit and 2006’s Miami Vice being the miss). Regardless of the capabilities of the director, however, no fault can be found in the casting department with the always excellent Johnny Depp taking on the Dillinger role and the supporting cast including such names as Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard. Does such great acting talent mean that Public Enemies impresses, however, or will you leave the cinema feeling that Dillinger has committed another act of robbery – that of the price of your cinema ticket?

Public Enemies is the incredible and true story of legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids, with associates Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover’s (Billy Crudup) fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public. As Dillinger pursues a romance with waitress Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) his bank robberies become increasingly dangerous and he finds his once easy profession becoming increasingly difficult as he must not only contend with the FBI agents determined to catch him but also former associates who no longer consider it worth being associated with him.

If there is one area where Public Enemies delivers on an exemplary level it is the acting, which is of a consistently high standard throughout. Johnny Depp is superb as John Dillinger, delivering a charming and charismatic performance of a criminal who is not without a conscience and has a distinctly pleasant element to his personality. We are shown an extremely humanised portrayal of the man that is so convincing that we can quite easily forget that he is supposed to be the bad guy. I guess that this was the aim of Mann, to make us care about the man who we would normally be encouraged to despise. Conversely, Christian Bale’s character, who is supposed to be the good guy, is represented in a wholly less flattering light. It’s not that we are encourage to hate his character in any way as we know well that he is trying to stop a criminal but next to Dillinger, Purvis just doesn’t seem like as nice a guy. The reversal of roles is quite an effective one, allowing us to see things a bit from Dillinger’s perspective than Purvis’. As for Bale’s performance, he convinces in the role but is completely outshone by Depp at every turn. Viewed on its own terms, however, the performance is likely to receive a more overtly positive response than the rather mixed opinions regarding his performance in this summer’s Terminator Salvation. The rest of the cast is also of a high standard, although it is a shame that more isn’t really made of Marion Cotillard, whose character could have been utilized to a much greater extent. A performance that is really of note, however, is not from one of the primary cast members but from one of the supporting performers. Billy Crudup, who impressed earlier this year as Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, once again delivers an extremely impressive performance as J. Edgar Hoover. This performance shows that he is quietly becoming an actor to really watch out for. The film also impresses in another area, that being its historical authenticity. The actors contribute to this authenticity with some very convincing accents but the realism is created through a number of means. An authentic sense of history is created through sets, costumes, cars and even little visual details that all work together to create the look and feel of 1930s America. Even the shootouts, which are very well staged, seem to ring true to the time and period. However, while the historical authenticity of the film is a strong point, so much effort seems to have been put into it that the film suffers severely in other ways. Notably, the storyline fails to be compelling enough, a particular problem considering the long running time, and the result is that the film ends up outstaying its welcome, being far too long and not nearly interesting enough. The film also suffers because of some of Michael Mann’s filming techniques. He has been using high definition cameras in his film for some time now and while they certainly create a distinctive look for his films they come with just as many bad points as good ones. The high definition cinematography often proves counter-effective, serving to make the picture too dark at times and highlighting unnecessary details at others. At the same time, however, it does at least serve to enhance the realism, as does the shaky hand held camera style, which itself comes with its own problems, often being rather distracting and irritating, making it harder to appreciate what is being shown on the screen. Thus, with both positive and negative points Public Enemies stands as a film that has its merits but certainly isn’t one of the summer’s must see movies.

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Reviews by Robert Mann BA (Hons)



© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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