Pudsey the Dog: The Movie

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DIR: Nick Moore • WRI: Paul Rose • PRO: Marshall Leviten, Rupert Preston   DOP: Ali Asad   ED: Dan Farrell   DES: Kristian Milsted • MUS: Simon Woodgate  CAST: Olivia Colman, David Walliams, Izzy Meikle-Small

To term any of the past decade’s offerings from Dreamworks, Pixar et al as “just for kids” would be to do a grand disservice to a period of genuine industry innovation. Where teenage-to-adult oriented blockbuster fare can and often is mindless, the most successful of recent “children’s films” often belie the simplicity implied by the term.

It is of course painting with a rather broad brush to section them quite so succinctly, but generally these films fall into one of two categories – that of arched eyebrows and over-the-head references aimed for adults while providing the sights and sounds for the young’uns, or those which weave the two together a bit more tightly, layering the background with storylines that might appeal to adult and infant alike, a la the currently-showing How To Train Your Dragon 2. Done correctly, it is a marriage that serves to strangle cynicism in its cradle and allow for some genuine fun to be had. Done incorrectly, it comes off as condescending, trite and utterly opportunistic.

Enter Pudsey, the dancing dog who recently rocketed to fame on Britain’s Got Talent alongside his owner Ashley. Much like Pudsey himself, the inevitable movie treatment premiering today is a bit of a mongrel, aiming to marry humour and heart with commercial viability. Slightly less like Pudsey, it’s a mixture designed to capture your wallet rather than your heart.

After crossing paths with a family of underdogs heading for a fresh start on a country farm, Pudsey is launched into some parochial intrigue when he discovers their new landlord’s intent to level the cottage and replace it with a shopping complex. It’s the age-old story of money-hungry developers capitalizing on the idyllic innocence of country bumpkins, brought to you by money-hungry producers capitalizing on the unsuspecting innocence of an infant audience.

Bringing something resembling a slavish kind of life to Pudsey is the voice of David Walliams, who channels energy and gusto that only serves to highlight the drab fare on offer in every other area of production. Jessica Hynes is comically under-used as a single mother struggling to cope, and the small town of Chuffington resembles nothing so much as one of the saccharine pastoral utopias in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz or World’s End, where pure evil lurks beneath toothy, neighbourly smiles and sickly-sweet auto-tuned score.

There is much more to be said of this, but to do so would be the critical equivalent of walking up to an overweight toddler and slapping the ice cream cone from his hand, smug in the knowledge that he’ll thank you twenty years from now. If How To Train Your Dragon is full and you’ve already paid for parking, this will serve as suitable anaesthesia for the senses.

And your hopes and dreams.

Ruairí Moore

PG (See IFCO for details)
87 mins

Pudsey the Dog: The Movie is released on 18th July 2014

Pudsey the Dog: The Movie – Official Website

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Cinema Review: I Give It a Year

 

DIR/WRI: Dan Mazer PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris
Thykier DOP: Ben Davis ED: Tony Cranstoun DES: Simon Elliott Cast:
Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Jason Flemyng, Olivia
Colman, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver

A frequent collaborator of Sacha Baron Cohen (who can currently be
seen flexing his musical muscles in the awards-laden Les Miserables),
Dan Mazer forged his reputation as a producer/writer in both
television and film, with his crowning moment to date being his
Oscar-nominated work on the screenplay for Borat: Cultural Learnings
of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which went
down a storm upon its release Stateside.

He has previously worked on the small screen as a director of certain
segments of Da Ali G Show, as well as the Zach Galifianakis-starring
Dog Bites Man, but I Give It a Year marks his first foray into silver
screen helming.

Featuring an instantly recognisable cast of British and overseas
talent, I Give It a Year focuses on Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne’s
newlywed couple, who find themselves in a real bind just nine months
into their marriage. Mostly told in a series of flashbacks with Olivia
Colman’s marital counselor, we witness the ups and downs of this
initially happy union, and how they are affected by their specific
circumstances.

On hand to complicate the equation are Spall’s former flame Anna
Faris, who has returned from her charitable endeavours overseas, and
the roguishly charming Simon Baker, who is more than willing to mix
business with pleasure in his dealings with Byrne.

Aiming to become a breakaway British comedy success, like Bridget
Jones’s Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral before it, I Give It a
Year is a somewhat uneven comedy, which sometimes tries too hard to
keep the laughter ratio on the right track, but nevertheless has
enough moments to sustain its relatively slender running time.

Key to the film’s sustainability are some fine supporting performances
from reliable faces like Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant and Minnie
Driver, the latter of whom is enjoying a mini-revival on the strength
of roles in the Conviction, Barney’s Version and the underrated Hunky
Dory.

Her part is that of the bride’s best friend, which so often comes
across as stereotypical or caricatured, but thanks to the chemistry
between Driver and on-screen husband Flemyng, she helps to conjure up
some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Merchant is also entertaining, if a little underused (much like The
Farrelly Brothers’ Hall Pass) as Spall’s best man, while Colman
displays the comic chops that she honed in Hot Fuzz and Peep Show
before winning widespread acclaim for her extraordinary performance in
Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur.

In terms of the four-way romance at the heart of the film, the
Spall-Faris thread is more effective, as it is easier to symphatise
with with the husband’s predicament, given the warm history that he
shares with his former partner. Byrne, who showed in Get Him to the
Greek and Bridesmaids that she can be a dab hand at comedy, suffers
more when it comes to characterisation, though she does her level best
to make it work, as does Baker, her fellow Aussie co-star.

Spall, who is starting to step away from the shadow of his
highly-respected father Timothy, is a very engaging male lead, while
Faris (who is so often let down by the script in her chosen projects)
is as likeable as ever.

A neat twist on the standard rom-com finale aside, there is little
here that you won’t have seen before, and the jokes are quite often
‘hit and miss’, but Mazer’s film has more than enough going for it to
keep audiences onside.

Daire Walsh

16 (see IFCO website for details)

97 mins

I Give It a Year is released on 8th February 2013

I Give It a Year – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Iron Lady

The lady's not for gurning

DIR: Phyllida Lloyd • WRI: Abi Morgan • PRO: Damian Jones, Anita Overland, Colleen Woodcock • DOP: Elliot Davis • ED: Justine Wright • DES: Simon Elliott • CAST: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Olivia Colman

A wikipedia-style synopsis about the life of Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady doesn’t do much more than showcase Meryl Streep’s incredible acting in a slightly too warm-and-fuzzy character study.

The film opens with an elderly and confused Margaret, being looked after by her daughter, Carol (Olivia Colman), all the while having hallucinations of her late husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) prancing around the house. These modern day events are integrated with chronological flashbacks of her life, such as meeting her partner, raising her family, the Falklands War, the death of her colleagues in IRA bombings, all the way up until she was ousted from government.

As a premise for a film it was certainly a worthy one, however Thatcher’s career and life story is just too eventful to be crammed in to 105 minutes. The plot is simply made up of the bullet points of her life, punctuated with imagined insights. In fact no important political events are told in the detail they warrant –especially those closer to home.

The choice to have her talking to Denis as a plot device wears quite thin, especially as the film reaches it’s contrived ending. Meanwhile there’s a host of excellent, underutilised actors who only feature fleetingly, though their characters are so integral to Margaret’s political history.

From the brass-balled bully to an aged, forgetful grandmother, there’s an undeniable sense of humanity in the portrayal of Thatcher’s deteriorating mental health. This allows for some beautifully tender moments between Margaret and Carol, in which Olivia Colman really proves she is capable of a lot more than hilarious P.O.V. comedies.

The Iron Lady works well enough as a film, however Meryl works her subtextual magic, weaving it into something Oscar®-worthy, and once again proving to the world that she’s a world leader in her own craft.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

The Iron Lady is released on 6th January 201

The Iron Lady – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiCFY2zsfc

 

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