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Ms. J. A. Jacobs (United Kingdom)

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La Belle ET LA Bete (Folio 2 Euros)
La Belle ET LA Bete (Folio 2 Euros)
by Aude Le Pichon
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £2.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bona Fide Original of a Classic Tale, 12 Nov. 2011
Just to state the obvious, this book is in French, but if you are a non-speaker I would definitely recommend you seek out the translation in your own language.

For those who don't know, Beauty and the Beast is the story of a beautiful woman who falls in love with an ugly beast.

Although most people will be familiar with the Disney or Beaumont versions of Beauty and the Beast, Villeneuve's is the original, and the story is much more calculated with a larger scope.

Later versions have taken some of the same details, such as Belle being the youngest daughter of a merchant, whose father encounters the Beast when he steals roses from his garden, but Belle and the Beast are in fact destined to be together in this tale. This is all to do with an ending that at first appears tacked on, but then seems to draw all the plot points together in an engaging way. I should warn you, it does involve fairies, and the story is a bit more "family-friendly" than the more modern versions...but in the other kind of way.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it introduced other characters and themes apart from Belle, the Beast and the moral of inner beauty - it also makes a statement about social class, and gives an intriguing back story for both of the main characters.

Also, it has monkey butlers. What more can you ask for?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2011 9:36 PM GMT

Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chinese Legend with Related Texts
Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chinese Legend with Related Texts
by Shiamin Kwa
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look at the Legends of Mulan, 12 Nov. 2011
Thank to Disney, Mulan is a household name in the west these days, but the Chinese legend has been around for many hundreds of years and has a great many iterations. Regardless, they all share the same plotline - a young girl who disguises herself as a man and goes to war in place of her ailing father.

This book has five full versions of the legend of Mulan:

1) Poem of Mulan (the first recorded version by anonymous, possibly written between 386 and 533 A.D.)
2) Song of Mulan (an imitation written in the 8th Century by Wei Yanfu, a Tang Dynasty official)
3) The Female Mulan Joins the Army in Place of Her Father (a play by Xu Wei, written in the 16th Century)
4) Mu Lan Joins the Army (a Peking opera script from 1903)
5) Mulan Joins the Army (the script from the 1939 film)

The introduction analyses each version and gives some background to each, and they are surprisingly different despite the similar story at their heart. Some versions are more about patriotism and duty to your family, and others have a more comedic tone that have fun with the idea of cross-dressing.

However, sometimes the arguments given in the analysis aren't all that clear, and there is no mention of whether Mulan herself was a real person or not, but this is an invaluable book for people wanting to learn more about the original tale of Mulan.

As well as the five complete versions, the appendix gives summaries of the following pre-1949 plays about Mulan:

1) A Couple of Hares by Yong'en (Qianlong period, 1736-1795)
2) Hua Mulan by Chen Xu (1897-1940)
3) Mulan Joins the Army by Mei Lanfang and Qi Rushan (1917)
4) On Campaign in Place of her Father by Daifu Zheng (no date)
5) Mulan Joins the Army by Ma Shaobo (revised version of the play from 1917)
6) Joining the Army: On the Road by Pifu (1932)
7) Mulan Joins the Army by Ouyang Yuqian (a Guiji from 1942)

and three novels of the Qing Dynasty:

1) Historical Romance of the Sui and the Tang by Chu Renhuo
2) The Story of the Loyal, Filial, and Heroic Mulan/the Wondrous Maiden Mulan/Complete Story of the Wondrous Maiden Mulan by anonymous
3) An Extraordinary History of the Northern Wei: The Story of a Filial and Heroic Girl by Zhang Shaoxian

If you have even a passing interest in the Disney film I would recommend this book, as it uncovers a rich tapestry of ideas and gives an insight into ancient Chinese folklore.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon [DVD]
Transformers: Dark of the Moon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shia LaBeouf
Price: £1.96

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars AVOID unless you haven't seen any of the others, 28 Aug. 2011
I've given this film 2/5 since although it's probably the dullest action film I have ever seen, I can appreciate that those who haven't seen any of the other Transformers films will probably like it. I'm therefore splitting my review into two sections:

1) For those who haven't seen the other two Transformers films:

- You will probably enjoy this, as the CGI is superb, the action scenes will look impressive, and if you ever had the Transformers toys when you were small, you will recognise Optimus Prime and Bumblebee (and apparently the woman, Carly, is from one of the cartoon series as well).

- There are some fairly imaginative fights that take place, especially in downtown Chicago, and a very cool transformer that burrows into buildings and the ground like a massive corkscrew.

- For the chaps, there is a very attractive female character who is constantly positioning her posterior in the camera (this in fact how we are introduced to her), and wears a tight white dress or top for most of the film.

- There are a couple of cameos, such as John Malkovich, and the chap who voiced Optimus Prime also does the robot's voice.

Check it out if you must, but in terms of entertainment and effects, I would recommend the first film, which is more tightly paced and makes more sense.

2) For those who have seen the other two Transformers films:

- Don't bother. You have already seen this film, and it will destroy your opinion of the other two if you watch it. Once again it's a race against time for the Autobots to find some macguffin before the Decepticons do, and they have fights downtown and in the desert.

- Sam and his parents have themselves transformed into obnoxious and hateful characters - Sam spends most of the first part of the film moping and stropping because he can't find a job, and in fact we are subjected to a montage of him going to various job interviews. What did you expect to see in this film, robots fighting? His parents are also constantly expressing their disappointment in him, and come across as shallow and very unlikeable. I don't think any of them crack a smile during the entire 3 hour long picture.

- Sam's new girlfriend, Carly, is purely there for sex appeal and does nothing else apart from stand around doing skin shots or speaking with a ridiculous accent. Megan Fox's character is not even explained away; one of the robots says to Sam "Your last girlfriend was mean" and that's all you get.

- I don't know how Michael Bay managed it, but he made a film with giant fighting robots incredibly boring. Everything is grey, and they fight in the exact same places as they did in the first film - but only when we're not being force fed useless details about the human characters we barely care about.

- There are enough plot holes to drive Devastator through, and the laws of physics are constantly beaten with a sharp stick - even in the context of this universe.

- Finally, there are some pointless cameos - I have no idea what John Malkovich was doing in this film, as he has very little screen time and is neither funny nor particularly interesting.

Yes, this is a Michael Bay film, so obviously the acting, dialogue and story take a backseat to the effects, but he at least made the first Transformers film fun and entertaining, and you actually cared about the characters. This film goes on far too long, brings nothing new to the table, and focuses far too much on irritating and unsympathetic human characters. Avoid at all costs.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2011 10:56 PM BST

Hercules [DVD] [1997]
Hercules [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Tate Donovan
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good light-hearted fun, but a bit of a black sheep, 28 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Hercules [DVD] [1997] (DVD)
If you're looking for a warm, colourful and funky family film, then Hercules is for you. However, some aspects of its style may put some people off, and if you are interested in Greek mythology, you may want to steer clear, as it beats the original story with a sharp stick and then throws a party on its grave!

In case you hadn't guessed, the story is set in Ancient Greece, where Hercules is born to Zeus and Hera, the most powerful gods on Mount Olympus. However, Hades, Lord of the Underworld, seeks to get rid of Hercules, as according to a prophecy, in 18 years' time the child will prevent him from overthrowing the other gods and taking over the world. He tries to turn Hercules mortal and then kill him, but all does not go to plan - while Hercules is turned mortal, he still retains his god-like strength and is rescued by mortals. He grows up in secret on Earth, and gets involved in various comic situations due to his impressive strength. During his teenage years, he discovers he was adopted, and Zeus tells him that his godhood will be restored if he becomes a true hero. And so begins Hercules' quest, where he is joined by his faithful Pegasus, grouchy hero-trainer Philatetes (played by Danny DeVito), and love interest Megara, all the while with Hades trying to plot his demise.

Good points:

1) Hercules' world is very colourfully realised, and you get a sense of the vastness of the countryside and the gods' home dwellings, such as Mount Olympus and Hades' underworld.

2) The music is very funky and you may have to resist the urge to clap along with it, as there are some gospel influences (the narrators are muses who sing in gospel style). I'm not religious myself, but I found it hard not to want to join in!

3) There are some very impressive monsters that Hercules has to go up against; the hydra in particular gives quite a thrilling battle.

4) Megara bucks the trend of the usual damsel in distress, for instance, when she is being attacked by the river guardian Nessus, she looks vaguely bored and irritated by Hercules' efforts to save her (the reason for this is explained soon after).

5) Hades, voiced by James Woods, definitely steals the show. Although his plan is diabolical, it's hard not to like him and find him amusing, and unlike most villains, when he makes a bargain with "the good guys", he actually keeps his side of it, making him a tad more sympathetic.

6) There are a couple of genuinely tense moments in Hercules, especially towards the end, which you don't really expect from a Disney film.

Bad points:

1) It's rather telling when Hades is the first thing you'll remember when someone mentions this film. Hercules is likeable enough in the usual Disney protagonist way, but he is rather bland and doesn't have much depth to him.

2) There are a couple of gaping plot holes - but to be fair, you would have to think about the story for a while before realising they're there.

3) Some of the jokes don't quite work, especially on repeat viewings.

4) Some people may not like the style of some of the characters - for example, there is an almost "elastic" design for some of the townspeople of Thebes, which made me think ever so slightly of Ren and Stimpy.

5) There are a couple of lyrics that may sound a little bit sexist towards men, such as "and this perfect package had a pair of pretty pecs" and "isn't he sweet? Our favourite flavour!", sorry to get all PC but it did cross my mind when I watched it again recently.

6) Again, to reiterate, if you are really into Greek mythology, the film may make you angry as they obviously had to change it quite a bit to make it more family-friendly!

In short, Hercules is a colourful and uplifting Disney film, although it's a bit of an outsider compared with the usual classics. The characters are fun and entertaining, the music is catchy, and there are some splendid set-pieces. Although not entirely faithful to the source material, you kind of expect this with Disney films, so most people would enjoy this. It might not make people's top 10 lists (more like top 15), but it's great for cheering people up.

Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII
Offered by samurai media JPN401
Price: £38.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to Hitoshi Sakimoto!, 24 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Final Fantasy XII (Audio CD)
Final Fantasy games are famous for their music as well as their graphics, characters and gameplay. Traditional composer Nobuo Uematsu has stepped down for Final Fantasy XII, but Hitsohi Sakimoto has done a fantastic job despite having plenty to live up to.

This special edition four disc album contains all of the music from Final Fantasy XII, no matter how incidental (it even has the level up, ship cabin rest and "game over" jingles), and is an involving and varied collection.

Fans of the game will remember the traditional Final Fantasy overture that opens the album, as well as the epic clashes of orchestra for the boss battles; the echoing percussion of King Raithwall's ancient tomb; the melancholic piano from the snowy Paramina Rift, and the mystical flute of Eruyt Village. The music from the Great Crystal, twinkling with percussion and sighing with brass instruments is also here, and the roaring choir from the Esper battles too. While the main themes may not be as memorable as others in the series, there are plenty of inspiring and atmospheric tracks in this album, and none of them seem to have been missed in the list - not always the case when it comes to soundtracks.

Those who have played the game will be familiar with the music itself, so I will talk about the CD set. It's presented in a shiny DVD box much like a TV series box set, featuring the image of the masked judges, as you can see in the photos above. The box folds out to reveal the four discs, and the immediate inner folds feature Vaan, Penelo and Basch on the left, and Balthier, Ashe and Fran on the right.

Disc one has an image of Vaan and Penelo; disc two has Fran and Balthier; disc three has Ashe and Basch, and disc four features two moogles. Behind discs one and four are black backgrounds with an introduction and synopsis to the game; behind discs two and three is an image of the city of Archades, which you can see in full by tilting the box set into a portrait position.

There is also a small 14-page booklet with some promotional artwork from the game and blurbs/articles in Japanese. Unfortunately I have no idea what they mean, but the images are pretty!

Given the content of this set and its very neat and stylish presentation, this is well worth the cost of shipping over from Japan.

Avatar [DVD]
Avatar [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by 101Trading
Price: £4.30

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic escapism, 31 May 2011
This review is from: Avatar [DVD] (DVD)
If you want to be entertained, marvel at impressive special effects, and feel emotionally invested in the characters, then Avatar is for you. If you are expecting epic storytelling, intelligent dialogue, and a new take on the science fiction genre, look elsewhere.

Avatar more than deserves its blockbuster status, and not only due to its special effects. The story is an unabashed mish-mash of Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves and even Fern Gully, and some of the characters are cardboard cut-outs merely plonked in the mixture to move the plot forward, but if you approach the film with this in mind, you can still be blown away by it and enjoy it to its fullest.

The story is set far in the future, when humans are plundering other planets and moons for minerals and ore. On a particular moon called Pandora there lives a native species of humanoids, called the Na'vi. In order to gain access to the ore, the humans have set up an "avatar" programme, whereby they create a living, breathing Na'vi 'shell' which can be remotely controlled by a human, in order to interact with the other Na'vi and gain their trust. The main character is Jake, a paralysed marine, who is called in as an avatar driver after the death of his twin brother - the avatar is matched to the DNA of its driver, so only he can resume his brother's work. Initially, Jake is assigned to gain access to the Na'vi so he can determine how to fight them if need be, but soon becomes involved in and accepted by their culture, causing a dilemma as the Na'vi tribe are at risk of being destroyed. The film follows Jake as he learns about Na'vi culture and as the mining company moves closer and closer to the tribe's home, with epic consequences.

Firstly the good points:

1) You don't need to watch this in 3D in order to appreciate it. I saw this in 3D at the cinema, and in all honesty, it doesn't add much at all. In fact, the action scenes ended up looking very blurry as a result. Aside from having the odd leaf or spirit seed flapping right by your face, I didn't notice a vast difference when watching the film in 2D.

2) The moon of Pandora is very beautifully realised, with lush jungles, mountains and bioluminescent plant and animal life, so there is a real sense of escapism.

3) There are some good performances from the actors, particularly Zoe Saldana, who is excellent as Neytiri, the daughter of the chief and the one assigned to teach Jake the ways of Na'vi life.

4) The action scenes are spectacular, especially the aerial battle towards the end of the film. The pacing is spot on, and you get a sense of how each character fares and contributes to the fight.

5) There are lots of different types of action scene in the film, which means it's worth watching multiple times as each time you will notice something new.

Now the bad:

1) The story has no surprises whatsoever - you will see every plot point coming from a mile off, and the originality comes from some of the designs or things that the characters use rather than the actual plot.

2) A couple of the characters, particularly Colonel Quaritch, are no better than cartoon villains - they have no visible motivation or depth to them at all. Their evil nature is also rammed down your throat a tad too much - for instance, during one attack on the Na'vi, the camera holds a bit too long on the Colonel gleefully drinking a cup of coffee while watching.

3) There are several plot holes. For example, an avatar is "grown" from the DNA of the human driver and the natives, and is clearly a living thing, that needs to sleep, eat and so on. Why then does it not have a personality or mind of its own? When it is not being "driven", it simply lies there, asleep. The film never attempts to explain this.

4) The film's messages are as subtle as a brick. So much so, that even a basic synopsis of the film feels preachy.

5) I also felt there was a touch of hypocrisy in this film. The whole idea is that we should understand the natives and live peacefully with them and so on, and that humans are closed minded and can't see this. However, equally, the Na'vi accuse Jake's culture of being "insane" and make no attempt to understand human culture - it's just assumed that the Na'vi way of life is "correct", with no room to manoeuvre or compromise.

Avatar presents you with fantastic special effects, sympathetic characters (for the most part) and an exciting journey, which make it more than worth checking out, which is why I gave it four stars. However, if you are sensitive to preachy or unoriginal storytelling, be prepared to grit your teeth or watch something else. In terms of its effects it lives up to the hype, but it's not quite the genre-changing epic it wants to be.

X-Files - I Want To Believe (1-Disc Edition) [DVD]
X-Files - I Want To Believe (1-Disc Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Duchovny
Price: £3.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't Chris Carter, it was a pod person, 31 May 2011
If you took out Mulder and Scully, you would have no idea that this is an X Files film.

For some inexplicable reason, after building up a mythology over the years, as well as some solid characters with interesting relationships that we actually cared about, Chris Carter (or someone disguised as him) has taken pretty much all of these elements out of the story, leaving us with a thriller that's one step above teen fan fiction and two steps below a Sunday afternoon TV movie.

Before I descend into a rant (I consider myself a hardened X Files fan, at least up until the 8th series), I'll talk about the plot.

Mulder and Scully are no longer FBI agents - Mulder has gone into hiding, living in a log cabin amidst cut outs of paranormal news reports and doing his own research into the unexplained. Scully is now just a doctor, practising at a Catholic hospital and currently dealing with a young boy suffering from a serious degenerative brain disease. She is contacted by the FBI who want Mulder's help tracing a missing FBI agent. The reason? They think the only way they can find the missing agent is by using the help of a convicted paedophile priest who has visions that may lead them to her. There is a race against time to find the agent as well as another young woman who has been abducted. Mulder wants to believe and help with the case, but Scully is her usual skeptical self.

On the surface, this sounds like a pretty solid standalone episode of the series, but unfortunately there are many things working against it. To start with the good points:

1) The sexual tension between Mulder and Scully has changed now, as they are now living together as an actual couple. However, you still get a sense of the tenderness they have for one another, without them being all over each other in every scene.

2) A.D. Skinner makes a welcome (if slightly ad hoc) appearance towards the end of the film

3) Billy Connolly turns in a good performance as the priest

4) The special effects are convincing

5) This is entirely self-indulgent, but Mulder is topless in one scene (thought I'd mention it as I wanted to know before I watched the film!)

Now the bad points (you might want to get a cup of tea/coffee for this):

1) What on Earth has happened to Scully. Far from the professional, unflappable investigator she once was, she is now an emotional, hormonal wreck who bears her Catholic cross a little too literally. If she isn't moping about the hospital or scowling at people, she's crying or shouting at Mulder or the priest. In fact, she is so ineffectual, she jeopardises the investigation due to her own selfish motives, and then goes to pieces when she can't find Mulder - something that happened frequently during the series but now apparently renders her incapable of thinking or doing anything rational.

2) Without giving too much away, the missing agent's abductors are kidnapping a certain type of person. Why only this particular kind of person, or indeed why they are doing the things that they are doing, is never explained, and not in a "to be continued" X Files way either. My feeling is that there was an explanation, but for whatever reason it was cut out, or that the writing is just very, very lazy. I have read the script, watched the film and even read the novelisation, but none of these give any clue as to the villains' motivation.

3) Who on Earth cast Billy Connolly. I said he turns in a good performance, but he was also very, very distracting and took away from the realism of everything else. Perhaps he's not as well known in the States, but I couldn't get my head around him being a paedophile priest in an X Files film - he has not had enough serious movie roles to make you see him as anything other than a standup comedian.

4) There are so many plot holes. Aside from the one alluded to in 2), if the FBI think Scully knows where Mulder is, does it not occur to them to check her home address to see if he's living there?

5) There is no tension to speak of. This is supposed to be a race against time, instead it's a succession of people talking or arguing in various locations (most of them barren snowy tundra), with the occasional cut to a strange warehouse where the kidnappers are doing their thing, which makes very little sense until later in the film.

To sum up, all of the aspects that made The X Files so successful have been stripped away - there is no tension, sexual or otherwise, between the characters or in terms of what is going to happen; the main characters, bar Mulder (and not just for the topless scene) are either irritating or instantly forgettable; the wrong parts of the plot are left unexplained, and the setting consists of a dusty wooden barn or endless icy tundra.

I wanted to watch this film out of loyalty as an X Files fan, but I really regret having done this, as it dismantles everything the series set up, particularly the characters, and presents a below average story that could have featured any old investigators. I wouldn't recommend this to an X Files fan, and definitely not to a newcomer to the series or saga, as it is could not be further from what The X Files is all about.

If you want to see Mulder and Scully in a movie length feature, the first film Fight the Future was significantly better and much more true to the series - it actually continues the story. Only watch this if you are absolutely desperate to see what has happened since the end of the final series, but even then it might be better to keep the nostalgic memories you have rather than ruin them with this dross.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2013 4:09 PM GMT

Knowing [DVD] [2009]
Knowing [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.20

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Olympic shark jumper, 23 May 2011
This review is from: Knowing [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Ironically, Knowing doesn't seem to know what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a science-fiction film? Is it a fantasy film? Is it a drama? Is it a thriller? It flits between these genres regularly, and you can add comedy into the mix as well, although for the most part it's entirely unintentional - I found myself laughing incredulously rather than hysterically.

The film begins promisingly enough with some tension and intrigue. We are introduced to a rather mysterious young girl in the 1950s who has a strange obsession with writing down long, endless streams of numbers, and is so fiercely committed to doing so that she resorts to denting the wooden desk with her pen and sometimes drawing blood. Years later, her manic scribblings are discovered by Nicolas Cage's character and his son, who realises that the numbers symbolise prophecies that are to take place right up until the year 1999, after which there is a strange symbol.

Don't get too excited. The plot holes and contrivances come thick and fast, first on the list being how on Earth can Cage's character identify each "prophecy" from a random string of numbers? How does he know where they begin and end, or which number represents what? Aside from him having to be borderline psychic to do this, it would also depend on news reports getting the death count absolutely right each time. Cage's character also has a habit of only just figuring out what the next sequence is right before the prophecy takes place - which just so happens to be right in front of him. This happens so many times it's almost farcical.
Also, if the sequences are meant to show every single horrific disaster from 1959 to 1999, why do they only take up two sides of A4 paper?

It gets worse - he randomly bumps into the daughter of the original little girl, played by Rachel Weisz, who decides to help him in his quest to discover what the last symbol on the paper means. I won't give this away, I'll let you roll your eyes or throw up your arms in exasperation when this is finally revealed; needless to say it feels like the writers just gave up at this point.

Strange humanoid beings also start appearing around this time in the film, and they seem to be particularly interested in Cage's son and Rachel's daughter. Cue a couple of kidnapping scares, due to idiotic behaviour from both of the parents, and a nod to either extra-terrestrials or angels, depending on what you believe in - and this film is at great pains to stress that both are equally valid in their own special way.

The final straw is how Cage figures out what is going to happen. In the last 15 minutes of the film, he suddenly brings up a really, really important scientific paper that he published about three years ago - which has not been mentioned in the film at all prior to this - which is now apparently the axis of the story. The ending, the main reason why most people go to see a film of this type (I was looking forward to it, it has to be said), will either give you a face-ache from your incredulous scowling, or make you put your head in your hands and shake it repeatedly. A very, very small percentage of people, possibly the ones who buy nauseating greetings cards, may find it deep and meaningful, but I found it incredibly jarring and not at all matching the original exposition.

I think someone was trying to create a "one size fits all" film in terms of science+the paranormal+religion, but it comes off as confusing, ridiculous, and jumps the shark on so many different occasions it's hard to focus on any one part of the story.

In short, this is 2 hours of my life I want back.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2012 5:22 AM GMT

Splice [DVD]
Splice [DVD]
Dvd ~ Adrien Brody
Price: £3.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Watch it, but remember, you can't un-watch it!, 22 May 2011
This review is from: Splice [DVD] (DVD)
Two things to get out of the way:

1) It is NOTHING like Species, so get that out of your head.
2) You will probably feel mentally violated after watching this.

Splice is the story of a brilliant scientific couple who have been splicing genes from various plants and animals to create new creatures, from which they can extract proteins to treat illnesses in livestock. This is all going swimmingly, so the next step, they feel, is to splice human genes with the hope of treating human illnesses with the recovered proteins. However, their sponsors have other ideas, so the couple end up performing their tests in secret.

What begins as a trial ends up as a finished product, so to speak - a creature created using animal and human DNA and grown in an artificial womb. At various stages of the process, Adrien Brody's character, Clive, tries to pull the plug, but his partner Elsa persuades him otherwise - as far as she is concerned, not trying to help cure cancer, AIDS and a myriad of other horrible diseases is morally worse than experimenting with human DNA. Their experiment, called Dren, grows at a rapid rate, maturing into a young adult female hybrid, who they must care for and keep hidden in an abandoned barn. The barn is also on the land belonging to Elsa's deranged (and presumably deceased) mother.

In a surprise to absolutely no one, Dren becomes a problem in that she wants freedom, and becomes rather too attached to Clive. Elsa also see-saws between being a caring maternal figure and a cool and dispassionate scientist, depending on how Dren behaves. The film consequently throws all sorts of themes into the mix, the main ones being the responsibilities of parenthood, science and large pharmaceutical companies.

Although I did feel dirty after watching this film, it did impress me as many of its events were unexpected, and there was an interesting dynamic between Clive and Elsa as these events unfolded. The only thing I didn't find convincing was Clive's connection to Dren, as it seemed to appear out of nowhere in order to drive the story forward. Also, some people may not like this film as its focus is more on the moral implications of these kinds of experiments and the scientists that perform them, rather than being about a creature created in a lab that goes on a killing spree or causes havoc. I'd also advise against watching this film if you are pregnant - it sounds weird but you would probably thank me for pointing this out!

To sum up, I think this is the thinking-person's Frankenstein movie for modern times.

Legend of the Guardians [DVD] [2010]
Legend of the Guardians [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Emilie de Ravin
Price: £3.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wasted potential - could have been an epic trilogy, 22 May 2011
Legend of the Guardians - the Owls of Ga'hoole is apparently based on three books in a series of novels, and in all honesty it shows. I think if they had been given the budget and time to make a trilogy, this could have rivalled the likes of Harry Potter and Narnia, with more fleshed out characters and a much larger scale.

The film Legend of the Guardians is about a pair or barn owl brothers, Soren and Kludd, who as well as a healthy smattering of sibling rivalry also have entirely different outlooks on life. Soren is idealistic and the obvious hero of the film, whereas Kludd is more cynical and feels unappreciated for his talents. One night, after a flying accident, both are kidnapped and taken to a mountain range as recruits for an evil owl army known as the "Pure Ones", ancient rivals of the "Guardians" (a knight order of owls, no pun intended) whom Soren has come to revere since he was a baby. Consequently, he tries to escape and seek the help of said guardians, whereas Kludd chooses to remain with the Pure Ones, as he feels they are the only ones who ever believed in him. Both sides are preparing for an imminent war.

The animation is absolutely beautiful and flawless - the owls have been rendered realistically enough to both look like owls but without looking ridiculous when speaking or making facial expressions. They also blend in perfectly with their photo-realistic environments, like the dawn-lit pine forest, the swirling snowstorms and the glowing canyon. The only downside is that owls of the same species can look identical, such as the king and queen guardians (both snowy owls).

The biggest problem with this film is the pacing. For instance, Soren meets a collection of characters on his way to find the island of the guardians, and for a short while you think the film is going to be about them and their journey. Not so - there is the build up for an epic journey, but this is over fairly quickly, and for all of its build up, the characters are seen flying back and forth between the island and the Pure Ones' canyon several times. The characters that Soren meets on the way, who seem like they should be at the forefront of the story, suddenly disappear into the background about halfway through, surrendering the floor (or sky) to the Guardians, whose characters are so underdeveloped they are pretty much interchangeable.

This film was in dire need of more time to develop them, because some of these characters have so much potential - we see nothing of Gylfie learning her trade as a navigator, and aside from some light comic relief, characters Twilight and Digger do practically nothing to move the story forward. There is also no sense of grandeur with the king and queen guardian, other than that they are the only snowy owls and one of them wears a golden battle helmet.

The character who has the most presence or intrigue is Ezylryb, an elderly screech owl who lives among the Guardians on their island, and talks morosely about the history of the wars with the Pure Ones. The rest of the cast do nothing more than tick boxes, for example, Soren's parents fulfill the role of proud but slightly fretting family members at the beginning of the film, and at the end, do nothing more than beam with pride at one of their sons, apparently forgetting what has transpired between their children.

The story is likeable enough, but there are one or two plot holes - the distance between the Guardians' island and the Pure Ones' canyon being one of them - and a song by Owl City that has been needlessly shoe-horned into the middle of the film, probably because it's by Owl City. Also, you never, ever see antagonist Metal Beak's face, which I found excruciatingly annoying. In its favour, it is darker than most children's films, and for once it doesn't ram pop-culture references (with one exception), any unexpected "isn't 70s music funny?" moments, a wise-cracking sidekick or over anthropomorphised animals down your throat.

To sum up, Legend of the Guardians is a beautifully animated animal film, with a classic good versus evil story that doesn't talk down to its audience and has some potentially fascinating characters. However, this is marred by its underdeveloped characters, rushed pacing, a completely jarring song halfway through and one or two confusing plot holes.
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