Fox’s wildly popular prehistoric toon series shows no sign of extinction in “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” an amusing, adds-nothing fourth chapter in which Manny and his woolly mammoth family find their lives disrupted by the separation of Pangaea — an event that occurred roughly 200 million years before their time. Not that scientific accuracy has been a terribly high priority for the likable if soft-brained franchise, coming off a top-grossing installment co-starring dinosaurs. Now, the action takes to the sea, where pirates, original songs and a minx-like Jennifer Lopez character make for harmless diversion unlikely to rival earlier B.O.
As per usual, pic opens with Scrat, as the saber-toothed squirrel’s quest for the elusive acorn splits the ice, then the continents and eventually Manny’s family. Kids will recognize (but probably won’t mind) the repetition of the frazzled rodent’s opening-comedy routine from an earlier self-standing short, “Scrat’s Continental Crack-up,” which Fox attached to “Gulliver’s Travels” in 2010, while a later lost-at-sea vignette repeats a short shown before “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.”
Recycling seems to be the spirit of the day, seeing as how this motley ensemble of characters has slipped into an almost sitcom-like mold with each new sequel feeling more like an extra-long Looney Tunes cartoon than a fully developed feature. The principal change since the first “Ice Age” outing has been the shift from an honorary family composed of misfit friends Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) to the real thing, now that Manny and Ellie (Queen Latifah) have a daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), who’s old enough to start thinking about boys.
Before her crush can progress to the dating stage, a massive earthquake separates Manny and his original “Ice Age” mates from the rest of his woolly mammoth clan, creating an all-too-common kidpic situation in which life-threatening events teach an overly protective parent to chill out. Stranded on a block of ice sent drifting out to sea, the trio is joined by Granny (Wanda Sykes), the wisecracking elder stateswoman of Sid’s long-lost family, which reappears just long enough to unload the toothless old lady into Sid’s care.
That essentially leaves Diego as the only original character without kin, though the film soon remedies that situation by introducing a love interest in the form of Shira (Lopez), a silver saber-toothed tigress the group encounters at sea. As it turns out, the “Ice Age” gang aren’t the only mammals stranded in the ocean, though the others who’ve managed to survive have less friendly intentions, their booty-looting agenda dictated by a mangy orangutan named Capt. Gutt (Peter Dinklage, outdoing Aardman with the year’s most entertaining animated-pirate voice).
Of the leading toon studios, Blue Sky has most enthusiastically embraced the concept of stereoscopic 3D as an opportunity to deliver roller-coaster-style thrills; the film’s continent-splitting and swashbuckling threads serve as little more than the thin plank its characters must walk before plunging into slides, rides and other dynamic activities designed to take full advantage of the added dimension. As such, the script will likely bore anyone above the age of 10, even as it spares younger tykes the tedium of nuanced story and characters.
While the pirate plot capitalizes on the current popularity of scurvy sea criminals among family auds, there’s nothing new or memorable about this particular bunch. Instead, directors Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier keep things moving by punctuating the episodic plot with a song or some funnier-than-usual comic relief. Peaches receives a mild lesson in the perils of peer pressure, though the film’s more satisfying message suggests even a screw-up like Sid can redeem himself.
The typically high-end look of Blue Sky’s animation hasn’t changed much since “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” though it’s leagues beyond where the series began a decade ago, with Peter de Seve’s wonderfully wonky character designs holding up brilliantly as the animators bend, stretch and otherwise abuse these critters. While much of this installment has a been-there, done-that feel, the sight of Scrat holding his breath underwater or Sid paralyzed by a lotus berry rank among the series’ more inspired moments.
Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen, 3D), Renato Falcao; editors, James M. Palumbo, David Ian Salter; music, John Powell; art director, Nash Dunnigan; sound designer (Dobly Stereo/Datasat), Randy Thom; supervising sound editors, Thom, Michael Silvers; re-recording mixers, Thom, Lora Hirschberg; CG supervisor, Kirk Garfield; supervising animators, James Bresnahan, Nick Bruno; lighting supervisor, Jeeyun Sung Chisholm; character designer, Peter de Seve; stereoscopic supervisor, Daniel Abramovich; casting, Christian Kaplan. Reviewed at Fox studios, Los Angeles, June 27, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 87 MIN.
Oh man, I would love to see a live-action film where Ray Romano was married to Queen Latifah and Wanda Sykes was his grandmother!
I’m just glad I have some time to catch up on the other movies I’ve missed.
Haven’t seen an Ice Age film since the second one. I like the Scrat shorts, but that’s about it.
I’ll see The Dark Knight Rises because I want to see what Nolan does with the IMAX screen (the format is really amazing when done right – see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and to see Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I just hope Nolan has gotten better at directing action; The Dark Knight was one of the most incoherently edited films of the past decade (not to mention too self-serious by half and too dark to sustain its outrageously long run-time). Ledger gave a damn good performance, though, so I’m hoping for a similar saving grace from the new one. But I refuse to see it opening weekend. Can’t deal with the fanboys.
The response I’d like to say:
Two movies you already know if you’re going to see or not.
The response I feel more exasperatingly compelled to say:
I get it, you don’t like Nolan/Dark Knight. That wouldn’t be a problem except that you and I will be arguing the finer points of this movie throughout August, but I will have actually enjoyed watching it.
Because Ice Age is the type of movie where people feel obliged to take it or leave it…
…yet somehow people who expend volumes of digital ink about how much they hate Nolan bother to see everything that he makes.
Very well said.
First Dark Knight Rises Screenings
Though reviews are barred, early tweets and responses have been stellar. I really wish we could just fast forward to two weeks when this film opens.
I CAN’T WAIT!!!!
Batman in daylight=false.
Which is kinda funny ’cause you could imagine the following conversation occurring:
“We don’t mean to interrupt your day of mental work, but…”
“Get tada point!”
“Right boss right boss, sorry, but wez, uh, wez uh noticed something.”
“That Bat character, guy in the mask. He only beat up our guyz at night.”
“Oh yeah, you sez so?”
“Rocko points it out, eh Rocko?”
“Yeah, I meet the man in the bat suit, I only see ‘im when it’s dark, see what I’m sayin’?”
“I see boyz, I see what your sayin’. Yeah. Only at night. Well that there is some helpful information!”
It’s not like kids are going to Pixar movies saying oh good, that’s John Ratzenberger, either.
Few blockbusters have borne so heavy a burden of audience expectation as Christopher Nolan’s final Batman caper, and the filmmaker steps up to the occasion with a cataclysmic vision of Gotham City under siege in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Running an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes, Nolan’s trilogy-capping epic sends Batman to a literal pit of despair, restoring him to the core of a legend that questions, and powerfully affirms, the need for heroism in a fallen world. If it never quite matches the brilliance of 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” this hugely ambitious action-drama nonetheless retains the moral urgency and serious-minded pulp instincts that have made the Warners franchise a beacon of integrity in an increasingly comicbook-driven Hollywood universe. Global B.O. domination awaits.
Even without the bonus of 3D, a technology Nolan has resolutely avoided while continuing to shoot in 35mm and 70mm, “The Dark Knight Rises” should continue the writer-director’s commercial hot streak following “The Dark Knight” and “Inception.” Pic’s B.O. reign will be sustained in part by repeat attendance and Imax ticket premiums; 72 minutes of the film (roughly 40%) were lensed using super-high-res Imax cameras, representing the most extensive and sophisticated use of the giantscreen format in a studio picture.
Once again writing with his brother Jonathan from a tale conceived with David S. Goyer, Nolan has more story obligations than usual this time around. The result is a nearly three-hour yarn that draws on key plot points from “The Dark Knight” before bringing the trilogy full circle, back to the origin story of “Batman Begins,” even as it ushers in a motley crew of villains and allies (not always easy to tell apart) inspired by Bob Kane’s original comics, and pushes the citizens of Gotham into new realms of terror and mayhem.
Initially, at least, the city is enjoying a period of relative peace eight years after the disappearance of the outlawed vigilante known as Batman, presumed responsible for the death of beloved law-and-order figurehead Harvey Dent. Yet the deception continues to weigh heavily on Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Bruce Wayne himself (Christian Bale), now a shut-in who spends his nights slinking, Hamlet-like, about the parapets of Wayne Manor.
While the ever-loyal Alfred (Michael Caine) supplies one of the series’ emotional high points with a tender expression of love and concern for the man he’s known since boyhood, it takes the intervention of several new characters for Wayne to return to public life. Two formidable women court his attentions: first Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who’s spearheading an important clean-energy initiative, then Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a wily cat burglar who skillfully robs the billionaire playboy, and later has the nerve to upbraid him for his obscene fortune. There’s also John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a smart young cop who clings to his belief in Batman’s goodness, and turns out to share some of Wayne’s childhood traumas.
Yet the figure who decisively triggers Batman’s re-emergence is Bane (Tom Hardy), a vicious mercenary introduced seizing control of an aircraft mid-flight in a bravura opening sequence (Hans Bjerno handled the stunning aerial photography). Wearing a steel-trap-like gas mask to neutralize the pain of unspeakable wounds, this bald, hulking brute is a former member of the League of Shadows, the same “gang of psychopaths” that gave Wayne his own basic training. For this reason, Bane is also the franchise’s first major villain who turns out to be a physical match for Batman, something made brutally apparent in a pummeling scene of hand-to-hand, mask-to-mask combat.
The heavy artillery comes out just after the halfway point as Bane’s men take advantage of a well-attended football game to turn Gotham into a terrorist stronghold. There’s nothing particularly ingenious about their scheme (call it the Bane-ality of evil), which confronts audiences with the now-familiar spectacle of a city’s apocalyptic destruction. Yet it’s typical of Nolan’s approach that his evocation of mass chaos feels so trenchantly detailed, so attuned to the crisis’ human toll as glimpsed in the terrified faces of civilian onlookers.
As d.p. Wally Pfister’s camera scans the war-torn island metropolis, viewers see not just buildings but social structures collapsing; anarchy ensues as prisoners are released en masse, and various legal, political and financial chieftains are made to answer for their alleged crimes against the underclass. All in all, the picture impressively conveys a seething vision of urban anxiety that speaks to such issues as the greed and complacency of the 1%, the criminal neglect of the poor and oppressed, and above all the unsettling sense that no one and nothing is safe.
Nolan’s previous Batman picture tapped into a similar vein of post-9/11 distress. Yet while “The Dark Knight Rises” raises the dramatic stakes considerably, at least in terms of its potential body count, it doesn’t have its predecessor’s breathless sense of menace or its demonic showmanship, and with the exception of one audacious sleight-of-hand twist, the story can at times seem more complicated than intricate, especially in its reliance on portentous exposition and geographically far-flung flashbacks.
Perhaps inevitably, one also feels the absence of a villain as indelible as Heath Ledger’s Joker, although Hardy does make Bane a creature of distinct malevolence with his baroque speech patterns and rumbling bass tones, provoking a sort of lower-register duet when pitted against Batman’s own voice-distorted growl (the sound mix rendered their dialogue mostly if not entirely intelligible at the screening attended).
In a more gratifying development, the film reasserts the primacy of its title character and the general excellence of Bale’s performance, forcing Wayne to reckon once and for all with the alter ego he’s fashioned for himself and Gotham in the name of justice. If the point is that only a state of total desperation can push a person to greatness, Nolan movingly acknowledges the limits of lone-ranger justice, as Selina, Miranda, Gordon, Blake and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Wayne’s old friend and gadgets expert, come to play crucial and sometimes unexpected roles in the twisty drama.
Hardy, Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard, recruited for duty after their stints in “Inception,” are all on their game here, blending easily in a supporting cast anchored by old pros Caine, Oldman and Freeman. Perhaps the riskiest casting choice was that of Hathaway in the potentially problematic role of Selina/Catwoman, but although her kitty outfit reps a slightly more cartoonish touch than Nolan’s neo-noir aesthetic typically allows (if nowhere near as campy as those worn by Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer), the versatile actress nails the sardonic, hard-edged tone necessary to make this morally ambiguous vixen a dynamic foil for the Caped Crusader.
Production designers Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh opt for a grittier, more working-class Gotham this time around, a fully inhabited city of rundown street corners, public-works offices, bombed-out bridges and fetid sewers. While Chicago served as a recognizable template in the earlier two pictures, the exterior city shots here were achieved in New York, Pittsburgh and especially Los Angeles, whose downtown serves as the backdrop for a thrilling Michael Mann-style street chase marked by the appearance of Wayne’s latest vessel, a jet-helicopter hybrid known simply as the Bat.
Lee Smith’s editing maintains tautness and energy over the estimable running time, and Hans Zimmer adds a few ivory-tickling grace notes to his magnificently brooding score, still one of the most striking and definitive elements of this altogether exemplary studio franchise.
Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Wally Pfister; editor, Lee Smith; music, Hans Zimmer; production designers, Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh; supervising art director, Naaman Marshall; art directors, Joshua Lusby, Dean Wolcott, Zack Grobler, Robert Woodruff; set designers, Martha Johnston, Theodore Sharps; set decorators, Paki Smith, Julie Ochipinti; costume designer, Lindy Hemming; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat/SDDS), Ed Novick; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Richard King; re-recording mixers, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker; special effects supervisor, Chris Corbould; special effects coordinator, Scott Fisher; visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin; visual effects producer, Mike Chambers; visual effects, Double Negative, New Deal Studios; stunt coordinator, Tom Struthers; assistant director, Nilo Otero; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, Calif., July 14, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 164 MIN.
I don’t understand why they’re barring reviews. Most of the time when they do that it’s because they know the reviews are going to be bad. Maybe they’re afraid of Dark Knight comparisons?
I agree the technical detail is what makes Nolan’s post-indie phase stand out. It’s almost good enough to cover up Dark Knight’s gaping plot holes, as well as Inception’s, so there’s no reason to think Dark Knight Rises will be any different: Plot holes that you ignore because everything looks so cool.
I just wish his films had more reasonable length and didn’t draw out the exposition parts.
“I don’t understand why they’re barring reviews.”
To control momentum. It’s not necessarily about whether the reviews are good or bad
I’m not going to read specific reviews but I’m excited to hear that The Dark Knight Rises has met (if not exceeded) expectations. The fact that some critics are calling it “better” than*The Dark Knight* is pretty remarkable.
The Dark Knight Rises Reviews Are In
covers ears, RUNS AWAY FROM THREAD
I will be back after I see the film.
^I know! It’s so hard though. I don’t know how I’m going to avoid reading reviews for the next week. I just need Saturday to come ASAP!
Ice Age 4 does decently because there’s nothing else new and meh, Amazing Spiderman. Scrat may not hold this thing for much longer. Ultimately my opinion on the franchise (and Madagascar) is that we’re there to see Scrat and the penguins, the rest of the cast can suck it.
164 mins? Seriously?
No thanks. I’m not watching a guy in a batsuit ran around in broad daylight for that long. Sorry, not fucking doing it haha
Spiderman has already made over 500 million worldwide and it’s still going strong. Ice Age has almost done 400 million already hehe.
I loved that Variety review. I’ll break down its most important points:
“Running an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes… Nolan has more story obligations than usual this time around.. that draws on key plot points from “The Dark Knight” before bringing the trilogy full circle, back to the origin story of “Batman Begins….the story can at times seem more complicated than intricate, especially in its reliance on portentous exposition and geographically far-flung flashbacks.”
[in other words, urinary-tract-infection inducing expositional scenes try to wrap up every last thread, so hey, completionism!]
“even as it ushers in a motley crew of villains and allies (not always easy to tell apart) inspired by Bob Kane’s original comics, and pushes the citizens of Gotham into new realms of terror and mayhem.”
[Fan-service. Nolan only gets three movies, so all three have to encompass the entire fucking Asylum]
“Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who’s spearheading an important clean-energy initiative, then Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a wily cat burglar who skillfully robs the billionaire playboy, and later has the nerve to upbraid him for his obscene fortune. "
[7 Mubi-thread pages plus of debate about the righteous righty wingnut right-of-right far rightness of Nolan’s right wing agenda with a few points about how terribly he handles women characters thrown in for good measure.]
“his evocation of mass chaos feels so trenchantly detailed, so attuned to the crisis’ human toll as glimpsed in the terrified faces of civilian onlookers… All in all, the picture impressively conveys a seething vision of urban anxiety that speaks to such issues as the greed and complacency of the 1%, the criminal neglect of the poor and oppressed, and above all the unsettling sense that no one and nothing is safe…[in this] grittier, more working-class Gotham… a fully inhabited city of rundown street corners, public-works offices, bombed-out bridges and fetid sewers. "
[Books worth of periodical literature asking tepid, uninspired, and incomplete sociological questions about contemporary cinema’s response to real world issues to give us another good 2 or 3 Mubi-thread pages of debate about how right of far right righter than right Nolan is]
“Hardy does make Bane a creature of distinct malevolence with his baroque speech patterns and rumbling bass tones, provoking a sort of lower-register duet when pitted against Batman’s own voice-distorted growl (the sound mix rendered their dialogue mostly if not entirely intelligible at the screening attended)….Hans Zimmer adds a few ivory-tickling grace notes to his magnificently brooding score, still one of the most striking and definitive elements of this altogether exemplary studio franchise.”
[It’s overscored and overmixed like all of Nolan’s movies, my biggest technical problem with his work.]
Put it together and whadya got?
EXACTLY WHAT ANYBODY SHOULD EXPECT BY NOW.
My point holds. You know whether you’ll like this movie or not, right now.
Rotten Tomatoes Suspends Comments on The Dark Knight Rises
Thanks for posting that, Santino, as I was about to. Fanboys and their death threats…
Movie going this Summer really sucks. There is nothing to see, everything is pretty much garbage.
I saw The Dark Knight Rises last night at its preview. One of the better films we’ve put out.
apparently.Bane is hard to understand
I imagine conversations between Bane and Batman going like this:
“Mrrr grumgrumbble grr blrrr vengeance grrrgkkkk”
“Moofff woff subwoofer justice mrufftuff furfflllle!”
“GAR GRAGGLE FRRRGGGHKKK painnnnnn gwr!”
“Fffrumffffrrrgrrrfffff order mrf!”
Holy mumblecore, Batman!
“Step Up Revolution,” the fourth entry in the venerable dance franchise, is a narrative failure but a triumph of sheer spectacle. As a story about actual human characters, it comes up short, and as a performance film, it’s kinetic and acrobatic, yet misses an essential element of artistry. As a 98-minute eye- and ear-candy delivery device, however, it’s an unquestionable achievement. Given that the latter element was clearly its highest priority, the film ultimately registers as a success, and its superlative 3D work ought to help it continue its predecessors’ modest (if gradually declining) winning streak.
The “Step Up” franchise has never quite gotten over the loss of star Channing Tatum, who used its first installment as a key stepping stone to his current leading-man status. In his place, the filmmakers turn to former male model and MMA fighter Ryan Guzman, who radiates bland charm as the oft-shirtless protag, Sean.
Though he stumbles through a job as a waiter at a posh Miami seaside resort, Sean is preoccupied with his leadership role in a gang of flash-mob dancers — dubbed, creatively, the Mob — who crash public spaces with cleverly choreographed routines. These elaborate stunts are recorded and uploaded to YouTube, where the gang hopes to win a $100,000 prize for having the site’s most popular channel. Standing in their way is that most formidable of viral video attractions: a dubstep-loving kitten.
While the troupe struggles to effectively monetize its online traffic, it’s also faced with the more pressing specter of gentrification and predatory development. The hotel that employs Sean has just been purchased by slick resort tycoon Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher, doing yeoman’s work as the only experienced thesp in the primary cast), who aims to raze and redevelop the neighborhood where most of the Mob live. Meanwhile, Anderson’s daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick) strikes up a relationship with Sean and joins his merry band, her parentage unknown to the gang.
As Anderson begins to close the deal on his new hotel, the Mob turns radical, incorporating some anti-establishment protests into its routines, shutting down an office building with the film’s best choreographed dance sequence, and at one point even appearing in full G8-style guerrilla garb (though the activism is compromised by a bizarre plot twist that would surely make Naomi Klein scream).
Everything about the plot is absurd, of course, and the largely inexperienced cast can’t do much to salvage some groan-worthy dialogue. But there are far worse fantastical realms to inhabit than one in which jobs, money woes and prison stints are but minor inconveniences in between illicit dance parties. The crew even rehearses in a fantastically equipped riverside compound that may as well be a Neverland hideout.
The good news is that the narrative elements take up no more than half the running time. Structured less like a traditional dance film than an old-school skateboarding movie, “Step Up Revolution” contains routines that are essentially staged as heists by director Scott Speer, making creative use of the existing environments; a slow-building stunt in an art gallery is particularly ingenious in this regard. On a technical level, the dance scenes are impeccably assembled, with cameras always placed exactly where they should be, 3D quality that puts a number of bigger-budgeted pics to shame, and sharply intuitive music selections.
The dance routines are all solidly and enthusiastically performed, with even the less experienced hoofers like Guzman showing their best sides. But the aesthetic behind the routines often feels unduly indebted to “So You Think You Can Dance?” from which this film takes its female lead (McCormick), a producer (Adam Shankman), several prominent supporting thesps (Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Mia Michaels), two choreographers (Travis Wall, Chuck Maldonato), and a number of supporting dancers. (If the camera seems to linger on a random passerby with unusual attention, it’s safe to assume they once appeared on the show.) Much like the series, the film is rooted in cuddly versions of various hip-hop styles, with sideways nods to ballet, modern jazz and Cirque-style acrobatics — a strange melange of individually enjoyable elements that never quite meld, like an ice cream sundae topped with caviar.
But as wonky as the film may be, its anything-goes attitude can be infectious, never more so than in a climactic routine that simply throws everything against the wall, not waiting around to see if it sticks