In the 2006 animated blockbuster Happy Feet an alienated emperor penguin named Mumbles found empowerment through tap-dancing and in so doing managed to both attract a mate and stop the overfishing that imperiled his Antarctic habitat. Directed by George Mitchell – the same George Mitchell who gave us the post-apocalyptic Mad Max trilogy and the almost despairingly bleak Babe: Pig in the City – Happy Feet paired its broadly conventional narrative with a darker sensibility not often seen in talking-animal fare.
The film’s sequel Happy Feet Two finds Mitchell (co-directing with Gary Eck) both more jovial and more easily distracted. The story begins straightforwardly enough with Mumbles (Elijah Wood) now grown-up and by all appearances well-adjusted ceding the mantle of self-discovery to his son Erik (Ava Acres). Boogie fever has swept the once dance-averse penguin nation but in a cruelly ironic twist Erik has inherited none of his father’s nifty moves. But just as Happy Feet Two appears intent on recycling its predecessor’s basic storyline the film abruptly changes course and embarks on a series of detours that seemed geared more as fodder for throwaway gags and showy set pieces than anything else. The disparate narrative elements while enjoyable in isolation never quite coalesce into a meaningful whole leaving us entertained but unfulfilled.
As before Happy Feet Two features a variety of buoyant song-and-dance numbers with Alecia Moore (aka P!nk) lending her formidable pipes to spirited re-workings of “Rhythm Nation” and “Under Pressure ” among others. Robin Williams returns for double duty as both Ramon a diminutive oversexed Latin lover and Lovelace a fiery Southern-preacher type. (Lovelace later adopts a Rastafarian dialect allowing Williams to achieve the rare culture-caricature trifecta.) His voracious scenery-devouring is all the more impressive given the grandeur of the scenery. Not to be left out of the quasi-Vaudevillian comic shenanigans Hank Azaria lays on a thick Scandinavian shtick as Sven a charismatic Arctic émigré who presents himself as the only penguin in the world who can fly. Azaria is a hoot but the film’s best moments come courtesy of the cast’s highest-profile additions Matt Damon and Brad Pitt voicing Bill and Will (respectively) two tiny krill in search of meaning at the bottom of the food chain.
Currently Jason Statham is the reigning king of the run-around-and-shoot-things-until-something-explodes genre. He doesn't have a great deal of range but he doesn't need to—pile a few insane action set pieces around him and let his clenched teeth beady eyes and grunting do the rest. At its worst he can deliver purposefully over-the-top ADD-ridden circuses like Crank. At his best stylistic surface-level heist flicks like The Bank Job.
Statham's latest movie Killer Elite manages to squander his potential in favor of being boldly drab choosing political intrigue and hammy espionage devoid of intensity over anything remotely fun. The picture introduces us to Statham's Danny a mercenary in cahoots with a ragtag team of killers: Hunter (Robert De Niro) Meier (Aden Young) and Davies (Dominic Purcell). After a fumbled mission in which Danny takes down a nameless suit in front of his horrified son the bald gunman leaves his less-than-legal lifestyle behind and heads back to his honey Anne (Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski) in Australia.
A decent setup with above-average action segues quickly into Killer Elite's floundering plot: Danny receives word a year later (or a few months? A perfect timeline/logic isn't the movie's priority) that Hunter has been kidnapped by the Sheikh of Oman and in order to get him back he'll have to slip back into his old assassin ways to knock off three members of an elite British military force (the SAS) who reportedly killed the Sheikh's son. After a lengthy heart-to-heart with the imprisoned Hunter Danny accepts the mission and reteams with Meier and Davies to eliminate the ex-SAS operatives.
Not often do you beg a film to dumb itself down and get to the fistfighting but Killer Elite's so caught up in the "real life" of the SAS the veteran masterminds known as "The Feather Men" (a table full of grandpas who puppeteer the military squad with "back in my day" anecdotes) and their involvement with Oman politics that it never allows itself to unfold as a slick thriller. Clive Owen does his best to shake the film to life as the only youthful member of the The Feather Men: a one-eyed obsessive badass sworn to protect the targeted SAS members. Thankfully he makes for an excellent antagonist to Statham's loyal killer. In the very few moments they share together Killer Elite wakes up—you've seen a moment of it in the trailer where Statham fights Owen while tied to a chair—but even then the fact that they're having the skirmish doesn't click with the rest of the film.
The performances are Killer Elite's saving grace. While De Niro gives a masterclass in phoning it in (there's literally a scene in which he runs off with a briefcase of money) everyone else appears to be trying their best to make the dense material something worth watching. Dominic Purcell is the stand-out his mutton chopped womanizing renegade giving a handful of scenes a necessary comic edge. Director Gary McKendry nails the scenes where Statham's team plans and prepares with witty banter but when it comes to action and interweaving the story's many perspectives the film becomes a muddled mess.
Killer Elite is the definition of average—which feels especially unsatisfying when you realize the talent involved. De Niro and Owen are Oscar-nomianted actors. Statham's been set on fire while headbutting an AK-47-toting gangster. The real mystery of this film is why this didn't amount to something watchable.
The actor has flown Down Under for a 10-day shoot to film his part in new movie The Killer Elite, based on The Feathermen novel by famed British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Movie crews shut off an area of Melbourne on Tuesday (06Jul10) to film De Niro's scenes, and they baffled onlookers by transforming the sidewalk into a street from the French capital - placing Parisian phone booths, street signs and information boards along the road.
The street was also bedecked with vintage cars to transport De Niro back into the 1970s.
The film's executive producer, Christopher Mapp, recently told TheAge.com they will be using the Australian city as a backdrop for most of their foreign location filming: "We've found elements of the Middle East, Paris, the U.K. here. We'll be shooting elements of true locations, too, but I challenge audiences to pick which is which."
Source: Omnilab Media, The Jim Henson Company
In a joint announcement by Omnilab Media's Christopher Mapp and The Jim Henson Company's Lisa Henson, Australian based Omnilab Media is teaming up with The Jim Henson Company to bring the fantasy sequel Power of the Dark Crystal to the big screen in stereoscopic 3D.
Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, writers and directors of Undead and most recently, Daybreakers, have come aboard to direct the screenplay written by Australian Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge!, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet) based on an original script by Annette Duffy and David Odell. The legendary fantasy artist Brian Froud will reprise his role as conceptual designer of the film, which will use a mix of live action and traditional puppetry combined with visual and special effects produced entirely in Australia. Omnilab-affiliated Iloura (Where the Wild Things Are, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark) has already begun work on the film's complex CGI elements. With this team in place, next steps will be to secure worldwide distribution.
Michael Spierig said, "We feel a tremendous amount of responsibility in telling this story with the same meticulous care that Jim Henson and Frank Oz gave the 1982 original." Added Peter Spierig, "This is a chance to take the world of puppetry into the modern age by using modern techniques (like motion capture CGI) and the tried and true methods (like puppetry and animatronics) to create a one hundred percent real world that is unique to The Dark Crystal."
Set hundreds of years after the events of the first movie when the world has once again fallen into darkness, Power of the Dark Crystal follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made of fire who, together with a Gelfling outcast, steals a shard of the legendary Crystal in an attempt to reignite the dying sun that exists at the center of the planet.