ORBzine - Fairy Tales & Victoriana Movie Reviews

Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story

Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story This is a Jim Henson production, a metaphor for exploitation of the Third World.

Matthew Modine ( Cutthroat Island ) inherits his family fortune. Unfortunately he is cursed to die soon. His Aunt Vanessa Redgrave knows the family secret. They are descended from Jack the Giant-killer.

Mia Sara travels from the Giants' world to bring Modine back for trial. The Giants include Richard Attenborough, Daryl Hannah and Honor Blackman .

John Voight ( National Treasure ) is Jack's business manager.

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    Enchanted

    Enchanted The story starts in a Disney-esque cartoon. The wicked witch ( Susan Sarandon ) sends pretty Princess Giselle through a portal. Giselle ends up in New York City, where she looks like Amy Adams Ms Adams is a literally Oscar-worthy actress who shows her abilities for musical theatre, slapstick comedy and portraying a clueless bimbo.

    Giselle befriends Patrick Dempsey (an experienced straight-man in rom-coms). He is a single father who is only interested in career women. The wannabe-cat-lady type, not the wicked stepmother type.

    Giselle's fiance, Prince Edward (Matthew Marsden - X-Men ) comes looking for her. His talking chipmunk buddy is rendered mute, but his CGI antics make him more acrobatic than ever. Timothy Spall ( Red Dwarf ) is along for the ride, as the most interesting character in the film.

    This fairytale parody stuff has been done before in Ella Enchanted and the Shrek series. But Amy Adams takes this past the cliches and makes it incredibly watchable. That said, the climactic confrontation itself seems a bit forced.

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    Maleficent

    Maleficent Once upon a time there were two lands - The land of the Haves and The land of the Have-Nots. Maleficent was a fairy girl (with big satanic horns) who lived in a magical land of milk and honey. One day she met a human boy named Stefan, who had to steal in order to get food. They became friends, but apparently Stefan's unhappiness with poverty is a bad thing.

    Eventually they grew up, so that Maleficent looked like Angelina Jolie and Stefan looked like Shalto Copely ( District 9 ). Stefan's greed and ambition (AKA starvation and a sense of duty towards his community) led him to start working for a living. He betrayed Maleficent, but spared her life - and no good deed goes unpunished.

    Instead of marrying Maleficent, the Princess of the Fairies, Stefan marries the Princess of the Humans. But Maleficent, full of rage, gate-crashes their daughter's christening. The daughter is cursed that on the day of her sixteenth birthday ... she will become Sleeping Beauty . Yes, this is basically the fairy tale retold from the antagonist's perspective. But it is not without its flaws. To start with, the narrator is not present at most of the events shown. She would only be able to repeat hearsay from Maleficent herself.

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    Shrek Franchise

    Shrek II

    Shrek II Shrek and Fiona visit Fiona's parents, King and Queen of Far Far Away. Naturally, the Royals are less than happy to see a couple of Ogres arrive!

    The King (John Cleese - Life of Brian ) hires Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas - Zorro ) to assassinate Shrek!

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    Shrek the Third

    Shrek 3 The King (John Cleese - Life of Brian ) dies. Shrek, as Fiona's Husband, is next in line for the throne. He does not want it, so he goes to find a young Prince (Justin Timberlake) who is also in the inheritance.

    They get a helpful wizard (Eric Idle - Life of Brian ) to lend a hand.

    Meanwhile, Prince Charming wants the Throne himself. He gets together an army of outcasts, the people who always come off worse in fairytales, and unites them with common cause.

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  • Shrek 2
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    Shrek Forever After

    Shrek Forever After Shrek the Ogre (Mike Myers - Austin Powers ) is stressed out with the domestic bliss of his marriage to Fiona ( Cameron Diaz ). He gets tricked into making a deal with Rumplestiltskin, and ends up in a world where he was never born - like in It's A Wonderful Life .

    Rumplestiltskin is leader of the more disenfranchised members of society, commonly referred to as The Villains. These were the people that Prince Charming banded together in Shrek the Third , but strangely he is never referred to in this film.

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  • Shrek 2
  • Shrek the Third
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    Puss in Boots

    Puss in Boots This is a U-rated cartoon spun off from the Shrek Series. Think of it as Shrek lite.

    Our hero (voiced by Antonio Banderas - Zorro ) narrates his background story, from the days before he met the green ogre. He teamed up with cat-burglar Kitty Softpaws ( Salma Hayek ) and his childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifrianis - Tru Calling ). They want to catch the goose that lays the golden eggs. But first they must steal the magic beans from incestuous giants Jack and Jill ( Amy Sedaris and Billy-Bob Thornton - ( Armageddon ).

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  • Shrek the Third
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    Snow White Stories

    Snow White: A Tale of Terror

    Snow White: A Tale of Terror In the 1500s, Sam Neill ( The Dish ) marries Sigourney Weaver . This is a very dark story, strangely sympathetic to the evil stepmother.

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    Snow White: The Fairest of Them All

    Snow White: The Fairest of Them All A Genie (Clancy Brown - Starship Troopers ) offers a man three wishes. Naturally, his wishes (a Kingdom and a beautiful wife) come with strings attached ...

    Miranda Richardson wishes to be beautiful - but her vanity turns her into a Wicked Queen. In her jealousy she orders the huntsman to kill her stepdaughter ( Kristen Kreuk ). The girl ends up with the Seven Dwarves, embodying the colours of the rainbow and named after the days of the week. They include Warwick Davis ( Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ), Vincent Sciavelli ( Tomorrow Never Dies ) and the dwarf from Twin Peaks .

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    Mirror, Mirror

    Mirror, Mirror King Sean Bean ( Game of Thrones ) is killed by a magical monster. His daughter, Snow White ( Lilly Collins ) is left in the care of her Wicked stepmother ( Julia Roberts ).

    A few years later, after the Wicked Queen has economically ruined the country, Snow White eclipses her in the beauty stakes. Worse, the Princess is a rival for the affections of a heroic-but-dim Prince. A lackey is sent to get rid of the Princess

    This is a light-hearted comedy romp, very much centred around the female characters. Snow White manages to rescue herself, outwitting all opponents. The Wicked Queen is a worthy antagonist, however. In contrast, the male characters are mostly the butt of the story's humour. The Prince is the best fighter in the story, but still loses every fight he gets in. And as always, the seven dwarves are played for laughs.

    This was directed by an Indian director, which explains the unconventional feel to it. And the bollywood-style song routine over the end credits. Beyond that, the greatest inspiration seems to be The Princess Bride . It is certainly not as memorable, but still an enjoyable effort.

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    Snow White and the Huntsman

    Snow White and the Huntsman It is difficult to find a fairy tale unoriginal, because they generally birth tropes rather than regurgitate cliches. However, this effort seems patched together from a vast number of other films.

    Snow White's father is a bloodthirsty king who takes no prisoners. He marries the beautiful lady Ravenna, who might look like Charlize Theron but deep down is more like Aileen Wournos ... She lambasts men for valuing only her beauty, but she sucks the youth out of every woman in the land so she can retain it (and with it, her magic). Snow White is the last - but eating her heart will give Ravenna immortality.

    Snow White ( Kirsten Stewart ) is a lot more active in this version than in others. The Huntsman also has an awful lot more to do. He is a rogue, she is a warrior princess. They bicker like Han Solo and Princess Leia. There is a charming Prince - well, the son of a Duke, anyway.

    They naturally encounter seven dwarven warriors - well, seven famous British actors (Ray Winston, Lovejoy, etc) shrunk by camera trickery, like in Lord of the Rings .

    For the climactic battle, Kristen Stewart straps on armour and leads the assault - like Joanne Whalley-Kilmer in Willow .

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    The Huntsman: Winter's War

    The Huntsman: Winter's War Once upon a time there were two sisters. One of them fell in love with a charming man, and they finished each others' sandwiches, but it ended badly. Also, one of them discovered she had the superpower of freezing things so she went off, made herself an ice palace and became a supervillain. Yes, this is the grown-up version of Frozen !

    The Ice Princess ( Emily Blunt ) builds herself a kingdom and kidnaps all the local children. She trains them as a mixed-gender group of child soldiers. They are nicknamed Huntsmen - yes, the term has been retro-fitted as the name of an elite military unit rather than as what it has traditionally meant, merely a man who hunts things. The finest among them are Eric (Chris Hemsworth - Thor ) and Sarah ( Jessica Chastain ).

    Seven years later, after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman , Eric has to go on a quest to retrieve the magic mirror. He forms a Fellowship with a couple of Dwarves - Nick Frost ( Hyperdrive ) and Rob Bryden. They team up with a couple of female Dwarves ( Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach ). This section of the story is more than a little reminiscent of Willow , which is a bit shocking because that was generally regarded as one of the most unoriginal Fantasy efforts ever made.

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    Chronicles of Narnia

    Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The

    Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The This is the mega-budget adaption of the childrens' book by CS Lewis. It certainly does not disappoint. It is a lot more accessible to youngsters than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is the closest comparison.

    The story starts in the Second World War, when the four Pevensie children are evacuated from London. The go to live in a country mansion with Professor Jim Broadbent ( Inkheart ). The youngest child, Lucy, discovers that a wardrobe is actually a doorway to the magical world of Narnia.

    Narnia is ruled by the wicked White Witch ( Tilda Swinton ). However, the talking animals that live there look forward to the Second Coming of their saviour, Aslan the talking lion (voiced by Liam Neeson - SW I: Phantom Menace ).

    Lucy brings her siblings through the wardrobe. Peter, the eldest, is de facto leader. Susan ( Anna Popplewell ), ironically when one considers her eventual fate, is a contrary bitch who argues with every one of Peter's decisions. Edward, a middle child, goes off on his own ... and meets the Witch!

  • Prince Caspian
  • Voyage of the Dawn Treader
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    Prince Caspian

    Prince Caspian This is adapted from the first sequel to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe . But while the source material was a children's book, a slim pamphlet of 190 pages (including illustrations), this has been much expanded to fill out over 2 hours!

    A year after the events of the first book, the Pevensie children are summoned back to Narnia. The land has been conquered by a human race, the Telmarines, and the magical Narnian creatures have been driven into hiding. The Pevensies must team up with Caspian, a young Telmarine Prince of their own age, and liberate Narnia in the name of Aslan. Little People Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis (Reepicheep in the BBC adaption) play Dwarves. Davis gives a wonderful performance - his earlier work was OTT, almost pantomime material, but here he gives his character far greater depth. Eddie Izzard provides the voice for Reepicheep, the swashbuckling mouse.

    While the story stays more or less true, the dialogue is much changed. The original tweeness has been replaced with a modern cynicism - the D.L.F. line is the most obvious example.

    The Telmarines, the equivalent of the Norman Conquerers, are portrayed as Spanish conquistadors (with crossbows instead of muskets). But in fairness they are now actually introduced as individual characters, while in the book they were a bland conglomeration.

    All in all, despite all the changes this is a much improved version of the story. The CGI and celebrity supporting actors do not hurt it, either.

  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Voyage of the Dawn Treader
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    Voyage of the Dawn Treader

    Voyage of the Dawn Treader The Pevensie children are still enduring the Second World War. Susan and Peter have been sent to America, and do not get back to Narnia this time. While Lucy and Edmund stay with their annoying cousin Eustace, they end up with Prince Caspian aboard a Narnian sailing ship named Dawn Treader.

    The story has been adapted quite a bit from the original book. A lot of action scenes have been added, turning this into a Hollywood 3-act structure The heroes must now locate seven magic swords in order to defeat an evil mist which uses the image of the White Witch! There is also more character-development - the younger Pevensie kids are suffering from sibling rivalry, which means that Susan and Peter get more mentions.

    There are other changes. For example, Reepicheep is voiced by Simon Pegg ( Star Trek Reboot ) instead of Eddie Izzard ( Mystery Men ).

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    Harry Potter Franchise

    Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

    Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them In 1928, Newt Salamander (Eddie Redmayne - ) arrives in New York City. He has a suitcase full of magical beasts, and one of them is a duck-billed platypus who is also a kleptomaniac. The platypus escapes and goes on a thieving spree in a bank. Newt has to use magic to get it back, but attracts the wrong kind of attention in doing so.

    Newt stumbles into the main plot by accident. Magical detective Colin Farrell ( Daredevil ) is investigating a series of incidents apparently caused by a magical beast. It may have something to do with a group of fanatical fascists, led by a woman who would not be out of place in the Temperance movement or the Suffragettes.

    Griswold (Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Carribean ), the mentor of Voldemort and lover of Dumbledore alluded to in the Harry Pottermovies, is on the run after his failed uprising in Europe. It seems that the USA is exactly the kind of place he would like. MACUSA, the local equivalent of the Ministry of Magic, has a strict segregation policy towards Muggles. Magical beasts are generally exterminated whenever possible. And instead of trial by jury or sentence by judge, an execution order can be issued by a single detective without need for any paperwork at all. Yes, this place would be a fascist hate-monger's paradise.

    This film was made in Leavesden, England. Thus many of the smaller roles may be recognisable. For example, Gemma Chan has a tiny role as the Chinese magic community's representative.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry and the others go back to Hogwarts for their Second year. Celebrity Wizard Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh Dead Again ) is the new Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts.

    Some monsterous follower of Voldemort is on the loose in Hogwarts. It is even killing the castle's Ghosts! Suspicion is that the monster is something to do with the mysterious Chamber of Secrets, supposedly concealed somewhere in Hogwarts.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry and the others go back to Hogwarts for their third year. But Sirius Black (Gary Oldman - Lost In Space ) has busted out of Azkaban prison. Everyone thinks hes on his way to Hogwarts, to kill Harry.

    David Thewlis ( Dragonheart ) is the new Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts. He takes a liking to Harry, and teaches him the Petronas charm

    This was directed by Latin American film-maker Alfons Cuaron , and is far more serious in tone than the previous offerings by Hollywood kids' director Chris Columbus .

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire This time the director is Mike Newell , best known for serious dramatic work. The film opens with a score reminiscent of John Williams' work and a landscape reminiscent of Mordor. The eeevil Voldemort is planning something.

    Meanwhile, the main characters head off to the Quiddich World Cup. This does not add much to the plot, but conveniently introduces most of the story's main characters. Then Voldemort's followers, the Death-eaters, attack - led by David Tennant ( Dr Who )!

    Back in Hogwarts, the school has been chosen to host the Tri-Wizard Cup. The two other Magical schools send their best pupils, the typical bunch of shallow stereotypes. Each sends their best as a contestant for the Cup. The Russian is a sporty, slow-witted fellow. The French girl is also a stereotype. The Hogwarts golden boy is Cecil Diggory, who never made much impression before this movie. And someone mysteriously put Harry Potter's name in!

    Harry is forced to compete, while dealing with Ron and Hermiones' tantrums. Tabloid journalist Miranda Richardson pops up briefly to insinuate scandal into things. One gets the feeling there was a sub-plot in the book that was barely squeezed into the film.

    The climax really just sets things up for the next episode in the series.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry and the others go back to Hogwarts for their Fifth year. Ministry of Magic Securocrat Imelda Staunton is the new Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Her main job is actually to cover up for the fact that Voldemort is back in business!

    Dumbledore has started his own secret army, the Order of the Phoenix. Snape is an important member, even though Potter and his chums still have a childish mistrust of the man that Dumbledore puts so much faith in. However, we get a brief flashback that explains Snape's emnity towards Potter's father ...

    Potter and his chums start their own self-defence classes. Of course, they have to escape the attentions of Ms Staunton. Meanwhile, Voldemort rebuilds his army by staging a mass breakout from Azkhaban. The old Death Eaters are back in force, including Bellatrix Lestrange ( Helena Bonham Carter ).

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    Dumbledore recruits an old Potions Master to Hogwarts. This is part of his strategy, as he takes Harry on the offensive. Finally they have a way to hurt Voldemort.

    The returning Potions Master takes Harry under his wing. And in potions class, Harry discovers a text-book that once belongs to a pupil called himself The Half-Blood Prince. This is an interesting side-story to the overall plot of the film.

    Snape is promoted to Master of Defence against the Dark Arts. Just like he always wanted. But he has to help Draco Malfoy complete his evil task.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt 1)

    Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt 1) The Death-eaters are on the rise. Their first target is the Ministry, which is of course entirely unprepared. Despite all their planning and preparation, the Order of the Phoenix can do little to protect Harry.

    Harry, Ron and Hermione go on the run together. They try to stay off the grid, to stay out of trouble. Luna Lovegood's dad (Rhys Ifans - Hannibal Rising ) tells them about the new McGuffin - the titular Deadly Hallows. This consists of three magical super-weapons that the trio must locate to help them destroy the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort.

    Our intrepid trio have a lot to worry about, but their greatest threat is from their feelings for each other.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt2)
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    Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt 2)

    Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt 2) Our heroic trio stage a bank heist, to get one of the remaining Horcruxes. They coerce a Goblin (Warwick Davis - most improved actor in the UK, as evidenced in his incredible performance).

    Once their mission is complete, they retreat to Hogwarts for the climactic super-battle. There are seven films worth of supporting characters, all of whom need to have their fate in the battle shown on-screen.

    The problem with the film is that it does not have the three-act structure. The whole thing is basically an extended third act, like the crappy Transformers 3 . It is part 2 of a 2-parter ... but it does not work as a stand-alone, compared to Kill Bill 2 . But in spite of the odd pacing, at least it does not have the multiple endings of LOTR: Return of the King

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Pt1)
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    Steampunk & Victoriana

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Dick Van Dyke ( Mary Poppins ) is an inventor who repairs an old car. His children name it Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because of the noises it makes.

    In the story within a story, Van Dyke and family use their car to take on the evil Baron Blomburst (Gert Frobe - Goldfinger ). They follow the Baron to his fairytale Rhineland castle. Like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , the town they arrive in does not have any children. But this is a singing, dancing musical instead of a horror film.

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    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins Edwardian England, and a couple of upper middle-class children are miserable. But super-powered nanny Mary Poppins ( Julie Andrews ) appears on the scene, and cheers everyone up.

    Mary and her boyfriend the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ) take the kids on magical adventures, courtesy of the Walt Disney corporation. The result is a big-budget 1960s technicolour musical that mixes live-action footage and animation.

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    Nanny McPhee

    Nanny McPhee It's the Edwardian era, and English Country doctor Colin Firth ( The Last Legion ) has a bunch of unruly children. Not just playful, but vicious little bastards who play constantly mind-games to get his attention. He and housemaid Kelly McDonald are losing control of the situation.

    Luckily, Emma Thompson arrives with enough make-up on to be an extremely ugly nanny with supernatural powers and a heart of gold. Yes, this is basically Mary Poppins as told in the manner of Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events . Nothing too original, but young kids generally do not like surprising or original things. It was popular enough for a sequel to get made, so the intended audience must have liked it.

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    Phantom of the Opera (2004)

    Phantom of the Opera (2004) This starts in b&w, set during the closing-down sale at the Paris Opera House. It then flashes back (in an amazing SPFX scene) to the place's hey-day, when it had just been bought by new management. The Diva Carlotta ( Minnie Driver ) storms out, so they get Christine the chorus girl ( Emmy Rossum ) to stand in for her. Christine is the protege of the Phantom, a mysterious and masked figure who creeps about the Opera House. A bit like Zorro, only he does not help people out of the goodness of his heart.

    The Phantom helps Christine's career, but only because he wants her for himself. Unfortunately, when she falls for the young Aristocrat who owns the Opera Hall the Phantom is greatly offended. He shows that he knows how to use a sword, among other skills.

    This is not a crappy slasher or melodrama - it is a musical with wonderful cinematography. It is even in widescreen, to give extra value for money. Miranda Richardson and Jennifer Ellison provide able support.

    Joel Schumacher delivers an impressive piece, to say the least. In fact, the Andrew Rice Webber songs are probably the weakest part of it!

  • Sweeney Todd (2008)
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    Wolfman

    Wolfman Someone returns to their childhood home to attend a funeral, and discovers that much has changed in the years they were away. This is the basic plot for literature novels, but in this case we get a Hammer-style Werewolf story set in the 1890s.

    Benicio Del Toro ( Licence To Kill ) is the hero. His mother was Spanish and he spent his entire adult life in America, which conveniently explains how he became the most unlikely English Gentleman. When the hero gets word of his brother's death he returns to stay in the family mansion with his father (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ), faithful Sikh manservant Singh (Art Malik - Living Daylights ) and the dead brother's fiance ( Emily Blunt ).

    The brother is only one of a string of mutilated corpses. Inspector Abeline of Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving - The Matrix, Lord of the Rings ) pays a visit. The main suspect is the protagonist himself, of course. And since the curse can be spread by a bite ...

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    Howl's Moving Castle

    Howl's Moving Castle This is a piece of Japanese anime by Studio Ghibli ( Princess Mononoke ), adapted for the English-speaking world by the folks behind Toy Story .

    The story is set in a European country in the Late Victorian era. It's a Steampunk world with a heavy helping of magical realism. The moving Castle of the title is steam-powered, but the steam generator is heated by a fire demon instead of coal!

    Sophie ( Emily Mortimer ) befriends a wizard named Howl (Christian Bale - Terminator 4 ). Then she is cursed by the jealous Witch of the Wastelands ( Lauren Bacall ) and is turned into an old lady ( Jean Simmons ). She goes to Howl's castle, amnd works as his cleaning lady until she can be cured.

    Meanwhile, the country goes to war. Howl has never stood up for anything in his life, preferring to run away. Now he makes a tough stand ... as a conscientous objector! The thing is that to fight, a wizard must turn into a monster - thus turning to the Dark Side!

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    Brothers Grimm

    Brothers Grimm The title characters are Heath Ledger ( Dark Knight ) and Matt Damon ( Dogma ), a pair of monster-hunters who help people in Napoleonic-era Germany. They do not do it for free, of course.

    Napoleon's Governor (Jonathan Pryce - Tomorrow Never Dies ) orders them to save some missing children from an enchanted forest ... Along with their sidekick McKenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ), an Italian hit-man and a female rabbit-skinner ( Lena Headey ), they set off into the unknown.

    This was directed by Terry Gilliam . It is far cry from his Monty Python stuff - it is closest to Baron Munchausen or Burton's Sleepy Hollow . All the Germans speak with English accents (even Matt Damon!), but the acting performances are all excellent.

  • The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
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    Wild Wild West

    Wild Wild West It is Reconstruction time, in the late 1860s. Will Smith ( MIB ), Kevin Kline ( Princess Cariboo ) and Salma Hayek team up against evil cripple Dr Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh - ) and his babes ( Musetta Vander, Bai Ling ). Ted Levine ( Silence of the Lambs ) is a Confederate general.

    Barry Sonnenfeld directed this steam-punk blockbuster, although it was never as successful as his previous collaboration with Will Smith ( MIB ).

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    True Grit

    True Grit The Coen brothers deliver a deceptively simple tale from the wild west. A teenage girl hires a couple of bounty hunters to go after a murderer. One is a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon - Dogma ), the other is one-eyed gunman Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges - Tron ).

    If this seems familiar, it is because the film was previously made in 1969. This new version is a re-adaption of the original novel, rather than a straight remake of the John Wayne classic. That said, the dialogue is almost identical to that of the original film. This is grimmer, more brutal and cynical - like Unforgiven with the bookend narration of Titanic. Unfortunately, it is not as hard-hitting as either of those films.

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    Hateful Eight, The

    Hateful Eight, The Major Marcus Warren (Samuel L Jackson - Star Wars: TPM ) is a bounty hunter, trapped in a snowdrift in a mountain pass in Wyoming. He hitches a ride with fellow Bounty Hunter Kurt Russell ( Escape From New York ), who is taking Daisy Domergue ( Jennifer Jason Leigh ) to be executed. They end up at the equivalent of the truck-stop, snowed in with a handful of others including a couple of Reservoir Dogs - Tim Roth ( The Musketeer ) and Michael Madsen ( Species ). The real scene-stealer is Walton Goggins ( Django Unchained ), who portrays the same kind of loveable racist he plays in Justified.

    Some people are not impressed with this film, because it is over two hours long and most of the time is spent waiting for something to happen. Well, if a story about Kurt Russell being snowed in for days with a bunch of potential killers sounds familiar, that is because it is the basis for the finest film he has been in - The Thing ! In that tradition, Tarantino has delivered an impressive suspense thriller. Yes, QT is renowned as someone who delivers style over substance, but here (like in the well-plotted literary adaptation Jackie Brown) he delivers a film with depth.

    Magic Mike from Haywire puts in an appearance in a flashback. He is Daisy's brother ... although this would make more sense if Daisy was played by the runner-up for that role, Katee Sackhoff . With the age gap, Jennifer Jason Leigh is closer to being his mother. Naturally, Leigh is the only cast member to be nominated for an Academy Award for their work on this film. Had Sackhoff done as good a job with the role, which she could have done easily if one compares Daisy to Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica (2003) , would she have gotten a nomination?

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    Magnificent Seven (2016)

    Magnificent Seven (2016) This is a remake of the classic 1960s Western by John Sturges, which was itself a remake of the classic Japanese film Sturges' film was made during the Hayes Code Era. That pretty much sums up the current trend towards 12a/PG-13 films. Then as now, A cowboy can get shot, but he cannot bleed ... and no nudity!

    A villain terrorises a town full of innocent villagers. This town has been relocated from Mexico to the USA, and instead of a bandito the villain is a The main protagonist is Cahill (Denzel Washington - Virtuosity ), a blaxploitation Western hero of the type seen in recent films like Django Unchained, Hateful Eight . He recruits an unscrupulous gambler (Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy ), a Confederate sharpshooter (Ethan Hawke - Gattacca ) and a burly Mountain Man (Vincent D'Onofrio - Men in Black ). There are also plenty of People of Colour in the team - he hires a stereotypical Latino, Oriental and Native American.

    Ethan Hawke is the best actor in the whole thing. In this reviewer's opinion it is not much of an improvement on the original - just a rehash of modern westerns, with trendy modern causes like environmentalism, multiculturism and socialism ...

    There is one important question that this movie raises. Are rifle bullets fired at random from a gatling gun more powerful or deadly than those fired from dozens of sharpshooters?

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    Sherlock Holmes

    Sherlock Holmes This is Guy Ritchie 's much-hyped rehash based on Conan Doyle's character. Robert Downey Jnr ( Iron Man ) is the title character, while Jude Law ( A.I. ) is his long-suffering sidekick, Dr John Watson. Together this dynamic duo take on a selection of thugs in some spectacular physical confrontations.

    Rent-a-villain actor Mark Strong ( Tristan and Isolde ) is Lord Blackthorn, a character about as subtle in demeanor as Severus Snape. This wicked Peer of the Realm is plotting to take over the Empire, and thus the civilised world, by means of apparent black magic.

    Holmes' lost love Irene Adler ( Rachael McAdams ) is in town, working for a shadowy figure who calls himself The Professor. This sub-plot is an indication that the inevitable sequel might be even better!

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    Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

    Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

    The story starts with a reference to the first movie, with Moriarty's henchwoman Irene Adler ( Rachel McAdams ). Luckily for the plot there is a new female lead, a gypsy girl played by Noomi Rapace

    Holmes has his sights on Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris - Fringe ).

    Moriarty also has another minion to run errands for him - a very unlikely-looking fellow who is supposed to be Colonel Sebastian Moran, finest sharpshooter in the world (lately of Her Majesty's Armed Forces).

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