Welcome

Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Entire Franchise: 'Shrek'

Shrek


*****

Shrek is the first in one of the most successful film franchises of all time, as well as the second computer animation from DreamWorks after Antz (1998).

After fairy tale creatures are dumped on his swamp by Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), grumpy ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) and a talking Donkey (Eddie Murphy) agree to rescue the beautiful Priness Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a Dragon (Frank Welker) guarded tower for Farquaad in order to get his land back. However, matters are further complicated when Shrek falls in love with Fiona, and vice versa. And the princess also has a secret of her own...

Firstly, let's look at the animation. It is outstanding, no doubt about it. Everything is really bright, vivid and colourful, as well as intricately designed and detailed that give the characters such a real human quality. There are absolutely no weak points at all, everything was clearly created over a large amount of time to look as perfect as possible, and it is all so beautiful to look at.

Secondly, let's look at the characters and the superb vocal performances. Shrek is truly brought to life by Myers, who makes the grumpy ogre feel so realistic, and only strengthens this with the use of a Scots accent, that makes the character only more comical. And the characters struggle with his emotions in the final twenty minutes or so is very heartfelt and powerful. Murphy is comic gold as the talking donkey (simply called Donkey), bringing excellent comic timing and delivery to the character, through vast amounts of energy and gusto, making Donkey hilarious and sincere. Diaz makes Fiona a fiesty, no-nonsense type of girl, who is charming and gorgeous, as well as deep and complex. Lithgow makes Farquaad such the perfect creep and so deliciously sleezy, and some great gags come from the fact he is scarcely four feet tall. These wonderful characters are also supported by a great ensemble of supporting characters, almost all of whom are your typical fairy tale characters - Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon), Magic Mirror (Chris Miller), Pinocchio (Cody Cameron), Three Little Pigs (also Cameron), Three Blind Mice (Christopher Knights, Simon J. Smith, Jerome De Guzman), and the cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf (Aron Warner) from Little Red Riding Hood - all of whom, although getting very little screen time, have very comical appearances and are instantly memorable.

Finally, let's look at the screenplay. It is wonderful. There is a gag a minute, both verbal and physical, some of which are more sophisticated, but that are all ultimately farcical, full of slapstick and innuendos. The characters (certainly the four leads) get vast amounts of development, which makes them very substantial and coherently engaging, as well as hilarious due to the amount of gags which they are given. And despite the film's medieval setting, everything medieval is given a contemporary twist that make both great gags and interesting components. Combine the screenplay with the above mentioned elements of animation and characters, and you have a very substantial, coherently entertaining and powerful film, makingShrek one of the only computer animated features to rival the overall quality of Pixar films.

2001.
U.
Stars:
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Conrad Vernon, Chris Miller, Cody Cameron, Christopher Knights, Aron Warner, Jim Cummings, Jerome De Guzman, Vincent Cassel.

Oscar: Best Animated Feature (Aron Warner).
Oscar nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Schulman).


Shrek 2


****

Meeting his new in-laws - King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen Lilian (Julie Andrews) of Far Far Away - for the first time, grumpy ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) makes a poor impression, leading Harold to hire bounty hunter Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to kill Shrek, which sparks off an unforgettable, life-changing adventure for Shrek, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss.

The film boasts a rich screenplay with lots of excellent humour, which is often farcical in nature thanks to the fast pace and wonderfully over the top creation of it; much verbal humour comes from Donkey, who is just as excitable as ever, and now has a very well written rivalry with Puss for the role of "annoying talking animal", their constant bickering delivered superbly by Murphy and Banderas. The screenplay is also quite deep and thought-provoking. It is not 100% original, due to a key theme being love's true form - the major theme of the 2001 original. However, the idea of giving up on the lifestyle you adore for the woman you love - which here sees Shrek deciding he is happy to become human for Fiona - is new and really makes you think of what true love looks like. It is a deep and well written part of the screenplay, which shows a whole new emotional side to Shrek we previously couldn't imagine, and provides some really moving moments.

As well as wonderful comedy and deep meaning, the screenplay also introduces some excellent new characters to the franchise. As mentioned there is Banderas's superb Puss in Boots. There is also a terrific antagonist in the form of Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who is deliciously cold and sadistic, which hilariously contrasts the initially sickly sweet impression the character gives in her first scene, and Saunders brings great energy and enthusiasm to this role, making Godmother such a fun character to watch. Just as fun and memorable is her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett). Everett makes Charming such a sly character, who is deliciously camp and hilariously feminine, as well as a real Mummy's Boy, so it is a wonderful twist when he shows his mean, tough side.

Ultimately, the strongest element of this film is the beautiful animation. Filled with a lot of very intricate detail, the animation brings bright, vibrant life to the wonderfully voiced characters, as well as sharp boldness and great majesty to Far Far Away. Duloc was grand in the original, but comparing it to Far Far Away is like comparing Kansas to the Emerald City when watching The Wizard of Oz (1939). In short the animation is bright, colourful, bold and dazzling, and when added to the film's other strong elements this is the third best animated sequel to date after Toy Story 3 (2010) and Toy Story 2 (1999). A must watch and one of DreamWorks's greatest animations!

2004.
U.
Stars:
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Saunders, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Julie Andrews, Conrad Vernon, Cody Cameron, Aron Warner, Christopher Knights, Chris Miller.

Oscar nominations: Best Animated Feature (Andrew Adamson), Best Original Song (Accidentally in Love - Adam Duritz, Charles Gillingham, Jim Bogios, David Immergluck, Matthew Malley, David Bryson, Dan Vickrey).


Shrek the Third

**

When King Harold (John Cleese) literally croaks it, Shrek (Mike Myers) realises he can't be King, so goes with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss (Antonio Banderas) to find Arthur (Justin Timberlake), Harold's nephew and the only other heir. Meanwhile, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) learns she is pregnant with triplets, but her happiness is interrupted by Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and a host of fairy tale villains trying to claim Far Far Away's throne.

After the outstanding Shrek (2001) and very good Shrek 2 (2004), great excitement had been built up for this third installment. Tragically, however, great disappointment hit us huge fans of the franchise with this installment. The animation is just as wonderful as ever, there is no question about that. It is bold, dazzling and colourful, bringing the characters to a very eye catching life, and making Far Far Away really eye-catching, as well as bringing great colour mixes that really dazzle to Merlin's (Eric Idle) magic spells. It is also very detailed, almost giving life to every golden locke on Charming's head, and giving Puss's fur a real stand up on its own type of life. So Shrek the Third is as much a visual treat as its predecessors.

The rest of the film is what disappoints, however, most disappointments coming from the screenplay. The events of the screenplay jump from one to the next with little development, which results in their being little substance to the specific events, and (in the bigger picture) no substance to the screenplay in general. The characters, both old and new, are just as poorly written. Charming just acts too feminine to be a decent villain; Arthur - or Artie - is too much of a little tantrum thrower to be taken even slightly seriously; Merlin the crackdown magician is too over the top with little entertaining quality, which is a shame when it is Eric Idle of Monty Python fame voicing him; and the manly Doris (Larry King) was funny in Shrek 2 as she was just so ladylike, only looking manly, but here she is a lot more harsh and brutal so the comedic quality is automatically lost. And finally the screenplay also greatly misuses some pop songs, which ruins some scenes; e.g. at Harold's funeral which is made to look very moving some singing frogs start singing Live and Let Die, which kills the mood and just wouldn't work at all at a funeral scene, even if Harold had been voiced by Paul McCartney; when Gingy's (Conrad Vernon) life flashes before his eyes he begins singing On the Good Ship Lollipop, and you can't help but groan at the stupid unoriginality of it.

Clearly, the DreamWorks team were too focused on making another visual spectacle and didn't bother too much with a screenplay or characters. In what was a poor era for computer animated features - particularly for DreamWorks who released Shark Tale (2004), Madagascar (2005) and Flushed Away (2006) during this era of dropping standards - one hoped Shrek the Thirdwould mark the end of below par computer animations, but alas not.

2007.
U.
Stars:
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Julie Andrews, Larry King, Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris, Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, Conrad Vernon, Cody Cameron, John Cleese, Aron Warner, Ian McShane, Regis Philbin, Eric Idle, Seth Rogen.

BAFTA nomination: Best Animated Film (Chris Miller).


Shrek Forever After

***

Yearning for the good old days, Shrek (Mike Myers) gives a day of his infancy to Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) in exchange for a day as a real ogre. However, Stiltskin takes the day Shrek was born throwing the grouchy ogre into an alternate universe where Stiltskin rules Far Far Away, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is a slave, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) has never met Shrek and leads an army of ogres, and Puss (Antonio Banderas) is her obese, pampered pet. If Shrek can't make Fiona fall in love with him within 24 hours then he will cease to exist, and the alternate reality stays.

Taglined as The Final Chapter, which isn't the title in the opening credits, I was slightly worried about a fourth Shrek film after the very disappointing third installment (2007). Fortunately there was really no need to worry. This isn't a great film, but it is far superior to its predecessor, just missing out on that fourth star, yet still scraping its hit status.

The animation, quite frankly, is the best that DreamWorks has produced to date. The images are sharp and bold; beautiful to look at, thanks to excellent attention to detail in the intricate designs, as well as wonderful use of colour, with the large range of colours coming together wonderfully like a work of art, never threatening to look garish or sickly, but always beautiful to the eye.

Generally the characters and screenplay are quite strong, although this is where the film is flawed.
As always Myers and Diaz voice Shrek and Fiona with much passion, and create a really touching sense of romance between the two characters. Thanks to Myers's comic timing Shrek's dulcit Scottish tones are as wonderfully comic as ever. Fiona is also an engaging character due to to the emotional complexities of her character, just like in the first film (2001), which is why we readily forgive the fact she is not that much different in the alternate reality to how she is in the realShrek world. The downside, though, is the fact that the two characters have to fall in love all over again, and this is quite predictable as we saw it in the first film, and saw elements of it in the second (2004).
When it comes to Donkey and Puss, Donkey is no different in the alternate reality to the realShrek world, which is disappointing, as a semi-intelligent, respected Donkey would have been a wonderful comic contrast, but Murphy still makes Donkey as comical as ever. Fortunately the well-written and very witty alternate Puss makes up for this, and it was a very clever idea to make Puss obese and pampered, as it is a great contrast to the real Shrek world Puss.
When it comes to new characters, Dohrn is deliciously sadistic as Stiltskin, and although the chracter's temper tantrums get irritating, he is sly, crafty and generally engaging. Other characters, such as ogres Brogan (Jon Hamm), Cookie (Craig Robinson) and Gretchen (Jane Lynch), however, fail to engage us due to the fact they are unsubstantial, underwritten and generally one-sided.
As for the screenplay, it is generally well-paced, with comical, dramatic and emotional sides to it that generally all work. Some of the jokes though fail to ammuse, a lot of the time because they are poorly set up, thanks to scenes that are rushed and the jokes also get understated that way. The characters and screenplay are the flaws that stop this from being as good as Shrek 2, but this is all-in-all a good film, and a nice wrap up to the franchise.

2010.
U.
Stars:
Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Walt Dohrn, Jon Hamm, Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch, Julie Andrews, Conrad Vernon, Kristen Schaal, Mary Kay Place, Meredith Vieira, Kathy Griffin, Lake Bell, Aron Warner, Christopher Knights, Cody Cameron, Frank Welker, John Cleese, Jeremy Steig, Chris Miller, Mike Mitchell, Ryan Seacrest.

Annie Award nominations: Animated Effects in an Animated Production (Andrew Young Kim), Voice Acting in a Feature Production (Cameron Diaz), Storyboarding in a Feature Production (Paul Fisher), Production Design in a Feature Production (Peter Zaslav), Music in a Feature Production (Harry Gregson Williams).


Puss in Boots

****

Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) first appeared in Shrek 2 (2004), and now, seven years on, he gets his very own film in this prequel to the Shrek franchise (2001-11). With childhood best friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), fugitive Puss is pitted against murderous outlaws Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) in a quest to find magic beans, which are said to lead to a golden goose, and great fortune.

Puss in Boots, like all the most recent DreamWorks films features absolutely fantastic computer animation which brings together a multitude of colours together perfectly to make a beautiful final product. The design team clearly worked very hard as they captured wonderfully the rustic feel of older Spanish villages, and as well as this they created a wonderful amount of texture for Puss's and Kitty's fur.

Accompanying the animation is an altogether charming screenplay, witty in places, particularly in the duologues between characters such as Puss and Kitty, as well as Humpty's views on life as an egg, while also creating some quite emotional drama, particularly Puss's backstory told in a flashback which has the occasional comical scene, while also tugging on the heartstrings as we are told of the problems and emotional moments of Puss's life. Drama also comes in the film's climax in large portions as life and death situations are faced.
The screenplay also features wonderfully written characters who the cast voice with passion and emotion. The characters are very cleverly written, and a testimony to the writing skills of David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Brian Lynch. It would have been so easy to make Puss and Kitty the most humanesque anthropomorphic cats possible, however, the pair are believably cats. They lap up milk with their tongues, they hiss, they get distracted by lights and balls of wool. As for Jack and Jill, they are hugely dominant antagonists, the passionate rage by Thornton and Sedaris making them very bold and attention grabbing, while their on screen presence, which includes killing a stranger so they can sleep in an inn for the night, often dominates their scenes while capturing the murderous outlaw stereotype.

Altogether this film is a fitting conclusion to the Shrek franchise (2001-11), even if it does not centre on the grumpy green ogre, and has continued the recent DreamWorks string of hits, which started with Monsters vs. Aliens (2009).

2011.
PG.
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Zach Galifianakis, Salma Hayek, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro, Zeus Mendoza, Bob Joles, Mike Mitchell, Robert Persichetti Jr.

Oscar nomination: Best Animated Feature (Chris Miller).

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Shrek series have been my favorite among other animated films. It is good to know that it was one of the most successful franchises of all time.

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  4. i love shrek!!



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