Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Movies4Kids Films of 2012

Good-Bye-2012

So what were your favourite kids and family movies of this year? Which films made you and the kids laugh or cry – or both? Here’s my pick of the 10 best movies I reviewed at Movies4Kids in 2012, some are for the whole family, some for older kids and some for little ones. Let’s hope there’s as much fun and adventure on the big screen in 2013!

 

Happy New Year  and many thanks to everyone who has visited Movies4Kids and this blog!

Avengers Assemble poster sliceAvengers Assemble

With a witty, sharp script by the talented Joss Whedon (who also directed), a cast that included Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, and some fantastic special effects, this was the comic book movie to beat in 2012. The Dark Knight Rises may have been smarter, but this one was more accessible for the whole family – and where else would you find Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man all kicking butt in the same movie?

 

dr_seuss_the_loraxDr Seuss’ The Lorax

One of the best adaptations of a Dr Seuss story, this animated adventure was bright, colourful and fun – and it had an environmental message too. Zac Efron voiced Ted, the young resident of plastic, man-made town Thneedville who goes in search of a real tree for the girl he loves, while Ed Helms voiced the strange creature the Once-ler and Danny DeVito the Lorax of the title.

 

the-dark-knight-rises-posterThe Dark Knight Rises

One for grown-ups and teens, this wasn’t quite as bleak as 2008’s Dark Knight, but it still had its share of darkness mixed in with some edge-of-the-seat action as Bruce Wayne/Batman finally comes out of retirement when new bad guy Bane (Tom Hardy) starts blowing up bits of Gotham. A terrific ending to director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies, which also boasts great supporting performances from Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Joseph Gordon Levitt.

 

 

frankenweenie_movie_posterFrankenweenie

Director Tim Burton delivered the sweetest, creepiest family movie of the year, a black and white stop-motion animated story about a boy who loves his dog so much he wants to bring him back to life after he’s killed by a car. Actually an expansion of a short movie he made more than two decades ago when he was an animator at Disney, it’s a lovely movie for older kids and adults (younger children will probably find it too quirky and scary).

 

 

hobbit-unexpected-journey-poster2-bilbo-sword-610x902The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It would have been a shock if this adaptation of Tolkien’s classic story hadn’t been good – after all, the man behind this movie (the first in a trilogy) is Peter Jackson, who made the three superb Lord Of The Rings movies. And it is an enjoyable adventure as young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) goes off on a quest to help a handful of dwarves retrieve their homeland from a nasty dragon. Watch out for part two in December 2013…

 

the-hunger-games-poster-405x600The Hunger Games

An adaptation of the first Hunger Games young adult novel, this was dubbed the ‘next Twilight’ but beats that series of movies hands down for quality of plot, script, direction and performances. Jennifer Lawrence is the young girl in the near future who has fight to the death with a handful of other teens in the name of entertainment, among them possible love interest Josh Hutcherson. The Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire opens in November.

 

 

madagascar_three_ver3Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Everyone’s favourite misplaced zoo animals are still trying to get back to New York, and this time they somehow end up in Monte Carlo, on the run from a French animal control inspector, and hook up with a travelling circus en route. Funny, flashy and fast-paced, this is a glossy adventure for the whole family.

 

Poster OfficialThe Muppets

The best Muppet movie since 1992’s Christmas Carol, this is almost more for nostalgic adults than their kids as co-star and Muppet fan Jason Segel pays homage to the world’s most loved puppet show. He stars as Gary, whose younger brother Walter is a muppet fan (and looks rather like a muppet himself). Co-starring Amy Adams and Chris Cooper, it’s adorable stuff… though we’re a little worried that the planned sequel is going to star Ricky Gervais.

 

paranorman-poster-world-exclusive-first-look-102875-01-1000-100ParaNorman

Younger kids would probably prefer the cute Hotel Transylvania, but those eight and older will get a kick out of this animated tale of a young boy who can see dead people, and has to rise to the occasion when zombies and spirits threaten his town. Creepy and fun with some great classic horror movie references for adults, a perfect junior scary movie for kids too young for the real thing.

 

 

rise-of-the-guardians-poster3-405x600Rise Of The Guardians

Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Jack Frost team up in this animated adventure to battle mean Pitch Black (aka the boogeyman) and save the children of the world. Stunningly animated, this story based on Willliam Joyce’s book is one for the over-sixes – younger kids will find Pitch too scary.

RIP Gerry Anderson

 

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I was lucky enough to interview Gerry Anderson back in 1994 for a TV series he was working on called Space Precinct. A friendly, sweet and fascinating man, we chatted about the shows he was known for, such as Stingray and Space 1999, as well as his new project. More than a decade later I really wanted to call him and let him know a new generation – my son – had fallen in love with his best-known series, Thunderbirds (he had once said in an interview he was disappointed his own son preferred Doctor Who!), and that we had scoured school secondhand toy sales and eBay for Thunderbirds toys that were now being lovingly played with and cared for (and carefully repaired after a friend’s sibling ripped the heads and limbs off all the poor, tiny Tracy brothers).

Gerry Anderson sadly died today, aged 83, but he and his wonderful Supermarionation puppet characters will always be remembered.

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Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Watch this space over the next few days for the top movies of 2012 and a look at the family movies coming your way in 2013…

 

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Ice Age 4 Winter Games

IceAge4_AMS55To tie in with last week’s DVD and Blu-Ray release of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift there was a really cool (literally!) event at Milton Keynes SNO!zone – the Ice Age SNO!ympics. Teams from schools and clubs throughout the UK competed in a series of winter sports events, encouraged by stars including Olympic gold medal-winning bobsleigher Amy Williams MBE and Olympic snowboarder Dan Wakeham.

The team of 7 to 11 year olds from Llandaff Cathedral School in Cardiff (representing Wales) and Bourton Meadow Academy School from Buckingham (representing England) were among those who shone at the event, which included events such as Sid’s Ski Slalom, Scrat’s Skeleton Run, Diego’s Snowboard Sprint and the Acorn Relay Challenge. Congratulations to all of them!

A nice tie-in for the Ice Age release, arranged with Snowsport England (the governing body for English skiers and snowboarders), it was also a great way of getting young kids interested in snowsports – while they may be too young to get involved in the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, perhaps we’ll see some of the winners of this snow day at the 2018 Games!

For more information about the facilities at Milton Keynes SnoZone, click here.

And click here for the Snowsport website, to find more about snow sports for kids and adults near you.

Finally, you can click here for the Movies4Kids review of Ice Age 4 Continental Drift!

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Tinker Bell And The Secret Of The Wings – competition and more!

SOTW_B1_POSTER_ALT_SISTERS copy

Over on the main movies4kids website, you can win a fantastic prize to tie in with the UK release of Tinker Bell And The Secret Of The Wings: a family pass to Fairy School, plus a Tinker Bell poster and a DVD boxset of the three previous Tinker Bell movies. For more information, pop over to the Tinkerbell competition.

Also, if you want more information on the Fairy School, click here.

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And if you have a little one who just loves Tinker Bell and her friends, here are some fairy activities they can enjoy – just click on the link below:

Tinker_Bell_Treasure_Hunt

Bah Humbug! The Best Anti-Christmas Movies

antiChristmasTreeAm not feeling very Christmassy at the moment, so for all those people who are gnashing their teeth at the thought of tinsel, presents, granny being sick after too many mince pies and cries from the kids when Santa doesn’t bring what they wanted, here is my list of alternative Christmas movies, chosen for The National newspaper last year… watch these when you’re in a really Scrooge-like mood and you’ll feel much better, I promise! 

(do note that many of these movies are for grown-ups, not kids, and the clips below are not suitable for younger viewers!)

 

 

Bah humbug! It may be the season to be jolly, but it is also the season when television channels trot out all the same old movie chestnuts to get us in the yuletide mood. Just how many times can we sit through Jim Carrey’s facial contortions in The Grinch, or, for that matter, his computer-animated facial contortions in the motion-capture A Christmas Carol? Speaking of which, did you know there are more than 20 TV and movie versions of A Christmas Carol to choose from (or avoid), including versions with Barbie, the Smurfs, the Flintstones and the Muppets (actually that one’s a treat, with Michael Caine a hoot as Scrooge and the Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens)? It’s enough to make you choke on a mince pie.

So this year, instead of watching The Santa Clause for the seventh time, why not pick a movie from my anti-Christmas list? These films may all be set at Christmas, but they’re not exactly filled with tidings of comfort and joy.

 

Die Hard; Lethal Weapon

When John McClane (Bruce Willis) goes to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife in Die Hard (1988), she’s at her office Christmas party and, as we all know, it’s just been taken over by party pooper Hans (Alan Rickman) and his henchmen. When our vest-wearing hero single-handedly takes the baddies on, he does so with some yuletide humour – dispatching one thug, popping a Santa hat on him and writing “ho ho ho” on his chest. Not to be outdone, Lethal Weapon (1987) has detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) contemplating suicide while watching the Bugs Bunny Christmas Special, and later beating bad guy Joshua (Gary Busey) to a bloody pulp, illuminated by twinkling neighbourhood fairy lights. It just gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

Gremlins; Home Alone

Mistakenly considered a kids film, Gremlins (1984) actually has a 15 certificate, perhaps because younger viewers might be traumatised at the sight of Christmas being destroyed by the little monsters from hell (they even electrocute an elderly woman in her stairlift). But the worst bit is not the rapidly multiplying critters, but Kate’s (Phoebe Cates) remembrance of her worst Christmas ever – when her father, dressed as Santa, was found dead in the chimney. So if you have younger Scrooges in the house, try Home Alone (1990) instead, in which Macaulay Culkin’s little Kevin sees off bungling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) with everything from fake snow to glass ornaments when his family flies to Paris, accidentally leaving him behind.

 

 

Enemy of the State

This 1998 film provides the perfect excuse for any man reluctant to buy his missus lingerie – it is while Clayton (Will Smith) is buying frillies for his wife’s Christmas present that an old pal secretly passes him a computer disk of evidence that sets bad guys from the NSA on his trail. Led by a corrupt politician (Jon Voight), these baddies mess up Clayton’s life so badly it’s not long before he’s running down the street dodging bullets in his dressing gown, so he has to turn to a grumpy old man (Gene Hackman), who happens to be a former NSA agent, for help. Maybe Clayton should have bought his wife perfume instead.

 

 

Batman Returns

Arguably the best – and certainly the most gruesome – of the 1990s Batman movies, this is the one from 1992 with Michelle Pfeiffer in PVC as Catwoman, Michael Keaton as the conflicted Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Danny DeVito at his best as the Penguin. It’s businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) who makes it an extra special Christmas in Gotham, however, when he captures the local beauty queen who is due to light the town Christmas tree, and with Penguin’s help, makes it look like Batman’s fault when she plummets from a building to her death. Don’t worry, she does get the job done, as she lands on the switch that turns the tree lights on.

 

 

LA Confidential

Based on James Ellroy’s novel, the excellent LA Confidential (1997) kicks off with a crime based on the real Bloody Christmas incident of 1951, in which a group of drunken police officers brutally beat up six prisoners on Christmas Day. In the movie, Exley (Guy Pearce) testifies against fellow officers who committed such a crime, earning him the disgust of plainclothes detective Bud White (Russell Crowe), who is investigating the Nite Owl murders. There are betrayal, prostitution, drugs, murder and corruption to be uncovered and lives to be wasted before the movie’s over.

 

 

Trading Places

Poor Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) finds himself homeless and penniless at Christmas, thanks to a bet between commodities brokers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche). They decide secretly to switch the lives of two very opposite people and watch what happens, so formerly privileged Louis ends up being taken in by a prostitute (Jamie Lee Curtis), while street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is given Winthorpe’s old job and wealthy lifestyle. Daft fact: when new regulations were being devised for financial markets last year, one rule was dubbed “the Eddie Murphy rule”, referring to a plot twist in this 1983 movie.

 

 

The Ice Harvest

It is Christmas Eve, and mob lawyer Charlie (John Cusack) and crook Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) are counting the $2 million they have stolen from mob boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid) in this black comedy drama. It’s time for them to make their getaway, but the roads are too icy to escape on, so instead Charlie heads to a local strip club – as you do at this family time of year. Forget tinsel, holly and mistletoe, this 2005 Harold Ramis movie has betrayal, greed and two very inept criminals at its heart.

 

 

Brazil

Former Monty Python Terry Gilliam delivered a jaw-dropping visual feast in 1985, but merry it is not. Ironically set during the festive season in an imaginary time and place, the film’s protagonist is Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), who works as a midlevel bureaucrat when his imagination is not indulging in flights of fancy. He is drawn into much more serious stuff, however, when a fly landing on a printer causes the wrong person to be arrested in the place of terrorist heating engineer Tuttle (Robert De Niro). After that, things start to get really strange.

 

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

James Bond’s sixth cinematic outing in 1969 is usually best remembered as either a) the one with George Lazenby as 007, or b) the one in which Bond gets married (to Diana Rigg, no less). It’s also the secret agent’s most Christmassy adventure, as he tries to foil SPECTRE chief Blofeld (Telly Savalas) during the yuletide season, an assignment set against a beautiful Swiss backdrop (Blofeld’s lair is at the top of Piz Gloria in the Alps). Watch out for former children’s TV presenter Jenny Hanley and actress Joanna Lumley as two of Blofeld’s Angels of Death – definitely not the sort of angels you find on Christmas trees.

 

 

 

Grease’s Danny and Sandy… 34 years later

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Grease-27It’s a whopping 34 years since John Travolta’s Danny and Olivia Newton John’s Sandy rose through the clouds in their car at the end of the movie Grease. Since then, the movie has become a kitsch classic, beloved by generations, and even people who have never seen the movie know the words to ‘Greased Lightning’, ‘Summer Lovin’ and ‘You’re The One That I Want’.

So have you ever wondered what happened to Danny and Sandy after they flew into the sunset? You now have an answer as John Travolta and Olivia Newton John have teamed up to make a Christmas album, and have released a single for charity called ‘I Think You Might Like It’, written by John Farrar (who also wrote ‘You’re The One That I Want’). And the video has the two of them playing lovebirds – sort of. It’s kinda cute, but also unintentionally hilarious, bless them…

And here it is:

 

 

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