Although it was shown in cinemas last weekend as part of a promotional campaign, Megamind officially opens today to what will probably be large crowds eager to see the latest offering from DreamWorks, which has earned itself a weak track record in recent years by cynically squeezing money from the Shrek and Madagascar franchises. Megamind seems to signal a creative return to form, and while it glories in packing in a vast array of superhero references from numerous recent animation features from The Incredibles to Despicable Me, it has such good fun turning the usual superhero tropes on their heads that it is hard to take offense. Directed by Tom McGrath, who brought us the first two Madagascar movies, the film also features some fine voice talent including Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
After a shaky start, The Chronicles of Narnia plod on into their third installment, which follows closely after Prince Caspian, the second film. The Narnia installments so far have been notable for their rather low-budget special effects and retro vibe that preserve the dated children’s story quality of the books, published in the 1950s. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the most technically ambitious of the Narnia films to date, but the trailer suggests the same old hokey effects, though now enhanced with digital 3D. On the plus side, it is directed by Michael Apted, a thoughtful director (Gorillas in the Mist, 49 Up, Amazing Grace), albeit with limited experience with fantasy adventure.
South Taiwan Film Festival
For those living in or near Tainan and starved for art house cinema, the South Taiwan Film Festival (2010南方影展), organized by alumni from audiovisual-related studies at Tainan National University of the Arts (國立台南藝術大學), is just what you need. The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and following screenings in Chiayi and Kaohsiung, the event will take up residence at the Ambassador Cinema Tainan (台南國賓廣場) located at 66-68, Jhonghua E Rd, Eastern District, Tainan City (台南市東區中華東路一段66-88號) from today until Dec. 12. A detailed schedule can be found at southfilmtw.pixnet.net. Tickets are NT$150, available at the door.
Son of Babylon
A road movie from Iraq that focuses on a journey taken by a small boy, Ahmed, and his grandmother, in search of his father. Regional politics — the US occupation, the Kurdish atrocities — are discreetly backgrounded, creating an intimate picture of the massive human toll that resulted from the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the perhaps misguided or just inadequate effort to put it right. There are moments of powerful emotion, but also passages of discursive exposition that slow the film. Director Mohamed Al-Daradji touches on the country’s open wounds — many of which continue to fester — and his efforts were recognized at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival with the Amnesty International Film Prize.
Cinematic filler from 2002 being brought to local screens to meet the needs of the festive season, this film will more than adequately serve the needs of people looking for something nice, with children and animals, and an upbeat, inspirational message. Directed by actor Barry Tubb, a Texas native who was a bull-riding champion at age 15 (in a junior division), Grand Champion tells the story of Buddy and Hokey (a calf), who work their way through the ranks of several Texas stock shows to finally win the coveted title of Grand Champion. All sorts of charming characters help them along the way.