Here's a collection of three movies to start off the new year with. Why these three? Because they combine the best of comedy, drama, relationships, friendship, a bit of action and unpredictability. They are quite different form each other but make for great weekend viewing.
The Tale of Despereaux
Despereaux is about a mouse and in the animated world, we love rodents because they are relatively clean and fantastically heroic.
Tiny and graced with oversized ears, Despereaux was born too big for his little world. Refusing to live his life cowering, he befriends a Princess named Pea and learns to read (rather than eat) books -- reveling in stories of knights, dragons and fair maidens. Banished from Mouseworld for being more man than mouse, Despereaux is rescued by another outcast, Roscuro, who also wants to hear the tales. But when the Princess dismisses Roscuro's friendship, he becomes the ultimate rat and plots revenge with fellow outsider Mig. What follows is a tale of betrayal, bravery, friendship and comic escapades.
The movie has a plot, a deep, dark and often hilarious one combining a fairytale within the fairytale.
And it is refreshingly devoid of irony and pop-culture references. It stands alone on mostly original jokes. Great storybook adventure.
A touch of drama and romance starring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson. Ben Thomas (Smith) is an affable but traumatized IRS agent who enters the screen making a call to 911 and reporting a suicide: his own.
From here, the script is a series of nonchronological flashbacks to his recent past, beginning with a sequence where he enters the life of a terminally ill young woman (Rosario Dawson) who owes more than $50,000 in back taxes.
Next, we see him on the phone unaccountably harassing a blind telemarketer (Woody Harrelson), helps out a mother of two children being abused by her sadistic boyfriend, then there's a little-league hockey coach, a hospitalized boy and a couple of other needy strangers. Seven people.
There's his story of his relationships and back to the beginning where he wants to end his life. Why? You've got to watch and find out. Will Smith exudes a charm and competence while delivering self-deprecating wit and humour. The movie will keep you hooked with great dialogue and plot that progresses seamlessly without leaving you confused.
The funny man with the rubber face is back with his antics. In this movie, Carl Allen (Carrey) is a "no man" - someone who says "no" to every opportunity and would never dream of doing anything spontaneous. Prompted by a friend, he signs up for a self-help program based on one simple principle: say yes to everything... and anything. He gives all his money to a homeless man and ends up on a hike to a gas station after his car runs dry. At first, unleashing the power of "yes" transforms his life in amazing and unexpected ways, but he soon discovers that opening up his life to endless possibilities can have its drawbacks.
But things take a turn for the better when he meets Allison (Deschanel), a woman who is in many ways his complete opposite and in other ways his perfect match. He finds that he can't say "no" to her - until she asks one tricky question.
Carrey fools around enough in the beginning to make it seem like a usual Carrey movie which isn't a bad thing at all. But then Zooey Deschanel comes up and makes this more than a generic romantic comedy.
The lead characters play very well off each other. They are two lonely people who meet and click. And the audience feels that connection. While Carrey hams it up, Deschanel avoids overacting and lets her expressive eyes convey a lot of what her character is feeling. Yes Man makes for an undemanding, funny and enjoyable movie.
By Le Chupacabra
In a far-flung world, all the inhabitants come together to celebrate what they truly cherish: good music, good times. Yet, a greedy businessman has been watching this band from afar, observing how it gives so much joy to the people. In one fell swoop, he has them kidnapped and 're-educated' for his own purposes. As they begin their robotic lives earning millions for their captor, one heroic fan will fight against all odds to rescue his idols
I love Daft Punk. I also love anime. Now bear with me for a moment and let's imagine this scenario: what if, just what if, there were an anime created in harmony with the electronic ministrations of Daft Punk? Now, that would be a pretty trippy, toe-tappin' experience come to think of it.
What would surprise you is that it wouldn't just be that, but the music and visuals would come together to create a heartfelt story of courage and greed, love and loss. With nary a word spoken, there would be something so compelling about this melange that you wouldn't need dialogue at all. You'd merely need to watch and feel the rhythym.
That, in a nutshell, is Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. A lovechild of Captain Harlock creator Reiji Matsumoto and French electronica maestros Daft Punk, it's a truly powerful work of audio-visual synergy. It started off as a set of anime-esque music videos, but spliced together there is such a wonderful tale to be told. Perhaps it isn't the most original nor the most gripping, but the way it ebbs and flows with the music is what lends it that enrapturing singularity.
Reiji Matsumoto's endearingly charming and recogniseable art gives it a certain warmth whereas Daft Punk's groovy discotheque beats offer it vibrancy. These two seemingly dissimilar styles come together and end up creating pure magic.
Okay, so this is where it may also dishearten some viewers. If you're not a fan of the artist's themes or strong style and similarly, aren't into electronica and/or Daft Punk, this film won't hold nearly as much incentive. For all its qualities, there is a bit of a love/hate relationship that Interstella 5555 can invoke.
If you're truly enticed, however, for a good hour you can get blissfully lost in this little world where two storytelling styles merge into a form of expression that's simply enchanting.
The first revamping attempt on Prince of Persia was met with pretty crude results. But, the next one took the world by storm. I'm of course talking about The Sands of Time. Ubisoft released the game in the year 2003 and proved to be very successful in transforming this old platformer into an unforgettable 3D adventure that has you shinning on the edge of your seat. So successful that Ubisoft released two sequels, both of which mostly failed to live up to the standards, not to mention the disaster Warrior Within was.
Ubisoft ushers in a third revamping of the franchise. And once more, it's taken the world by its ankle and made it walk on walls. The newest game proved to be several folds better than what I had hoped for it to be. I was stricken with Sands of Time, horrified by Warrior Within and disappointed by Two Thrones. And the new Prince of Persia game makes me brim with excitement at the thought of performing literally death defying acrobats, exploring mystical places and generally saving the world. Let's get to it, shall we?
The prince, nameless as always, is actually a wanderer, an adventurer who does the occasional stealing and the grave robbing, for the hope of getting very thick carpets. The game begins with him returning from such an occasion, on his way home to a life of luxury, when fate dumps on his shoulder the very future of the world.
Lost in the sandstorm, the hero stumbles into the temple city of Ahura. There he meets the Princess Elika, seemingly on the run from her own city, and from there the two of them make their way into a giant temple that contains the God of Darkness, Ahriman. The tree keeping the prison intact is destroyed, and the land is plunged into darkness, slowly being overrun by Corruption, an oozing slime that taints and destroys everything it touches.
Now the Prince and Elika must gather 'light seeds' and heal the all of the Fertile Grounds scattered around the city- their only hope of re-imprisoning Ahriman and saving the land from the dark corruption.
What's Prince of Persia without acrobats, right? This game is no different. With the respective help of a gauntlet, and magic, both the Prince and Elika are able to do wall runs, jumps, and various other amazing stunts. The characters can now jump further than before with a little boost from Elika's magic. The player must make use of timing, teamwork and puzzle solving to reach their destinations.
Elika, although primarily a secondary character plays a large role in the game. The prince can no longer die- every time there's a threat of falling down a chasm or falling combat, Elika's usually there to give a literal helping hand. With a penalty of having part of the enemy's life-bar refilled or starting again from a particular point. The game has little to no loading time, and the lack of having to load everytime you accidentally die checks of any interruptions in the smooth, oh-so-fun flow of the game.
Similar to Assassin's Creed, the world is open-ended in that you can explore everything as long as you have certain abilities. PoP has been criticized for being targeted towards a more user-friendly audience but that does nothing to quell the fun gameplay, and unlike AC which becomes redundant very soon, you'll always be on your toes to reach the next location.
Combat sees a massive improvement compared to earlier installments, or most games as a matter of fact. Smooth, flowing, one-on-one combat based more on timing and quick thinking rather than button bashing has an amazing feel that previous games lacked. You'll feel let down that there aren't enough fights to go around.
Ubisoft has opted to use a more illustrated graphics, and rather than a traditional style uses neat spiffy cel-shading, with lots more detail drawn in. The animations are wonderful with more than decent facial expressions and actions, quite unlike the airless feel of the previous games. Add to that lots of light and fireworks, its allll awesome eye-candy.
The soundtrack is once again written and composed by Stuart Chatwood (worked on the previous trilogy), and there's more of a Persian feel to it than ever before. Soft music you can drown in when you're just wondering around, or combative marches that riles up the blood. The voice acting is superb, with great dialogues, and witty remarks every now and then keeps the game interesting. It's possible to initiate conversations with Elika at frequent key points to delve more into the story and background.
There's a lot more out there- plenty of fun-filled gameplay, an engrossing storyline that makes you want dive into the land of Ahura, swords, sorcery and many more. Without a doubt, Ubisoft pulled out a big one this time, and it's definitely one of the best games to be out for the PC in the year 2008. A++!