Friday, December 28, 2012

The 40 Best Movies of 2012

2012 was a huge year for movies - we've had both great commercial and indie gems. It is futile to include The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers in a 'best of' list, because they don't need validation at this point, everyone loved them. 

It's also silly to make a top ten list, because this year there were about 40 incredible films that ought to be watched by any self respecting film buff. Here they are: 

40 - Excision

A bat guano insane high school girl is obsessed with blood. And she is looking forward to losing her virginity. That is all that you need to know about this stunning horror-drama. Not for the squeamish. Still not convinced why the film exists in this list? Watch the EXTREMELY NSFW trailer below:

39 - Sleep Tight

'REC' director Jaume Balaguero forgoes the blood and constant dread of the zombie movies for a chilling Spanish thriller about a hotel concierge who may not be as demure as he looks. Luis Tosar is excellent as a sad loner with a creepy disability, and Balaguero even manages to get the audience to sympathize with his proantagonist.

38 - Chronicle

Chronicle was the biggest surprise of the year as first-time director Josh Trank combined intricate handheld live-action camerawork with CGI wizardry to a groovy effect in this found footage superhero thriller.

37 - Mars et Avril

A futuristic love triangle with superb visual effects that made the tiny indie look like a big budget film. Canadian director Martin Villenueve made a great debut and showed the kind of flair with his actors the way Marc Webb did in 500 Days of Summer.

36 - Dredd

Perhaps the most overlooked film of 2012, Dredd packed wall to wall action with gorgeous special effects, a fun plot and a badass female villain. Writer Alex Garland deserves more recognition, and the film deserved a sequel, unfortunately we'll never get it thanks to its box office returns.

35 - Sinister

Scott Derrickson, who earlier made The Exorcism of Emily Rose returned to his horror roots in a big way with this creepy thriller. The 'family moving to a new haunted house' genre has been done to death but Derrickson managed to pull a fresh spin here. Standout portions include the spine tingling music that plays out in the video recordings that the hero Ethan Hawke finds.

34 - Looper

Way too many fanboy favourite things in this movie - Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon Levitt, time travel, Emily Blunt, guns, telekinesis, and more. And boy, did it deliver. It’s not an action film, but the best time travel movie since 2004’s Primer. Looper cost just $30 million to make, in a perfect world inhabited by clones of my own self, the film would gross a billion dollars.

33 - Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson successfully combined the tragic, quirky and the cute in what is probably his best film to date. Like the hilarious lightening strike scene, the film contains many, many more moments that leave a lasting impression, which only Wes Anderson could come up with.

32 - The Dictator

This year's guilty pleasures are courtesy of Sascha Baron Cohen who played a tongue-in-cheek version of Gaddafi in America. The Dictator is as funny as Borat and is a proper feature with a 'plot' instead of a mere mockumentary. Cohen makes sure he targets all kinds of audiences and offends them as much as possible, but what makes it work is that he does it without being smarmy.

31 - The Day He Arrives

A thoroughly mesmerizing Korean film about a has-been filmmaker who arrives in Seoul to meet his friend for drinks and loses himself in a strange warped Groundhog Day. Director Sang Soo Hong revisits the theme of a filmmaker with midlife crisis from his 2008 movie Night and Day. Although a big recco for movie buffs, this is a must watch for those who make movies.

30 - 21 Jump Street

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller make dick jokes funny in this hysterical movie version of the hit series. It's a buddy cop comedy done right with the perfectly cast Hill and Tatum for non-stop gut busting gags; what's more, it even parodies its own genre.

29 - Sound of my Voice

Brit Marling has delivered a one-two punch with Another Earth last year and Sound of my Voice this year - both futuristic/psychological thriller indies made on a shoestring budget with humongous helpings of narrative skill. Director Zal Batmanglij proves just why he has such a cool name, thanks to the double entendre ending.

28 - Ruby Sparks

The guys who made Little Miss Sunshine outdid themselves with this film where a writer's character in his book comes to life. It's an utterly fascinating, constantly hilarious, and at times an unexpectedly dark metaphor for the complexities of a relationship and a man's urge to manipulate his girlfriend to be the way he wants her to be, rather than love her for the way she is. Whether or not the film is based on their own experiences, the mesmerizing plot is buoyed by performances from Paul Dano and his off screen writer girlfriend Zoe Kazan.

27 - Cloud Atlas

An ambitious, grand feature that more than anything, proved that an unfilmable book can indeed be filmed in the hands of some very capable people like the Wachowskis and Tykwer. It’s one of those rare Hollywood entertainers that frequently challenges the viewers’ concentration and attention levels, and delivers on the gynormous expectations. 

26 - Argo

With Argo Ben Affleck effortlessly places himself in the pantheon of the best filmmakers as he exacts the best performances of the year from Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and even himself. If the airtight plotting doesn't impress you, the one liners certainly will.

25 - Skyfall

The latest Bond turned out to be a hell of a blast as director Sam Mendes handily wiped the floor with all of the previous Bond movies to date. The villainous Javier Bardem doles out a Joker-Chigurh cocktail and he's gleefully awesome in his Oscar-snagging opening monologue. And the Academy would be blind to not give Roger Deakins a trophy for his work here. 

24 - Marley

Having made One day in September and Life in a Day, director Kevin Macdonald was the perfect choice for the biopic of the legendary Rastafarian. Marley is perhaps the best retelling of Bob Marley's life we'll ever see. Macdonald mixes some fascinating footage with Marley's classic hits and delivers an extremely comprehensive account that is enough to drive fans crazy in emotion.

23 - Tabu

Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes' odd and absorbing film is a sort of movie-within-a-movie with endless shots of philobabble on a haunting black and white palette. Just the sort of thing for those with a fetish for the Bela Tar Boiling Potato genre.

22 - This is Not a Film

Jafar Panahi has been put under house arrest and banned by the Iranian govt from making movies. To be shown to the rest of the world, This is not a film was smuggled out of his house hidden inside a cake. The footage contains Panahi's account of a film that he wishes to make and is a heartbreaking political statement against the dictatorial Iranian government, one that echoes last year's No one knows about Persian cats.

21 - Silver Linings Playbook

Beautiful, touching. David O Russell gloriously demonstrates his prodigious skill of directing scenes of family conflict. And the girl in the above picture makes you wish for every guy with a broken heart to find a Jennifer Lawrence to fix him and dance with.

20 - Supermen of Malegaon

In an industry ruled by the Khans and Kumars director Faiza Ahmad's docu is a fresh breath of air. Clocking in at just over an hour, Supermen of Malegaon is beguiling and often funny, moreover it avoids sentimentality and all the cliches found in most documentaries. Easily the best Indian film of this year.

19 - The Loved Ones

An absolutely bloody and shocking horror-black comedy from Australia, The Loved Ones has enough squirmy thrills to satisfy the die hardest fans of Martyrs. Robin McLeavy is great as a demented teenager who kidnaps her crush and tortures him after he refuses to go to prom with her.

18 - The We and the I

After a string of disappointments at Hollywood and mainstream, Michel Gondry makes a great return to indies with a brilliant story set entirely within a school bus on the last day of the academic year. Gondry puts you in a seat swarming with twenty high school characters, every one of which is superbly realized, each with its own individual back story. It's fun, quirky, visually riveting, with a hint of gloom - just like the old works of Gondry.

17 - Safety Not Guaranteed

Already a cult classic and an internet favourite, Safety Not Guaranteed mixes the themes found in K-Pax and Back to the Future, with its own smart dose of new age comedy. The hilarious Aubrey Plaza (from Parks and Rec) finally gets a big starring role as a reporter who discovers a classified ad that leads her to a man who believes he has invented a time machine and is looking for a partner to travel with him. 

16 - Take This Waltz

Michelle Williams stars in yet another heart wrenching story of doomed marriage and the frailty of a relationship. Also starring Seth Rogen, director Sarah Polley takes us through the most devastating couple seen on screen since Blue Valentine. 

15 - Cabin in the Woods

Written by Geek God Joss Whedon and Cloverfield's Drew Goddard, Cabin the the Woods is twisted, unique and endlessly fascinating to sit through. The two deliberately mix horror movie clichés with darkly absurd genre dissection and ultimately dole out a modern masterpiece.

14 - Compliance

Unsettling from start to finish, Compliance pushes your boundaries of belief and and stuns you into submission. The film is based on a real life story of a bunch of McDonalds employees who were brainwashed by a mysterious cop on a phone who ordered them to perform strange duties. A post film dissection leads one to the mindboggling Milgram Experiment.

13 - Snabba Cash

Snabba Cash is Snabba Entertainment, and a cooler Swedish version of a Pusher style mafia thriller. Starring Joel Kinnaman (the new Robocop) and a vast array of characters, the film packs enough smarts to shame recent Hollywood gangster movies. A sequel is slated to release next year. 

12 - Holy Motors

Director Leos Carax returns to the screen after an absence of 12 years with a supremely indulgent, yet absolutely head spinning piece of cinema that works both a personal rant against film reviewers and a despondent look at the infirmity of a filmmaker's celebrity. The film features Denis Lavant as half a dozen characters thrust in bizarre imagery and situations all in one night, best of which is a LED-lit pseudo sex scene in a motion capture animation studio.

11 - Polisse

The French film Polisse is the feel bad movie of the year and contains no redemption or hope. Director Maiwenn emerges as the Kathryn Bigelow of France after stepping out of the shadow of her ex husband Luc Besson and delivering an unsettling story of a Child Protection Unit. The powerhouse acting ensemble is so good that at some moments you forget that these are actors.

10 - A Monster in Paris

The feel good film of the year is a French cartoon that contains some of the most exquisite animation ever put on screen. Director Bibo Bergeron crafts a smart, funny, quirky comedy that gets better and better as it plays and even contains a couple of fun song and dance numbers.

9 - Sleepless Night

Starring Tomer Sisley, this french action thriller is set almost entirely inside a nightclub. The single location with flickering lights and pulsating music of the discotheque makes for a very claustrophobic atmosphere, and combined with wall to wall action it simply becomes an insanely gripping watch.

8 - Sleepwalk With Me

Comedian Mike Birbiglia makes a fabulous debut as a writer-director-star and doles out the best usage of irony in a motion picture this year. The film features a struggling standup comedian whose only way to get gigs is by poking fun at the festering relationship with his loving girlfriend.

7 - Cafe de Flore

Cafe de Flore mixes dreams, reality, time, space, happiness, loss, incredible visuals and Sigur Rós song 'Svefn-g-Englar' to magnificent effect whilst shifting between two interlinked stories set 50 years apart. The 6-minute sequence featuring the aforementioned song is so captivating you won't believe it until you see it.

6 - Beyond the Black Rainbow

This year's WTF Genre Champion is director Panos Costamos dark, brilliantly trippy, crazy as hell pastiche of THX 1138, Scanners, Eraserhead, Blue Sunshine, Russia and Kubrick. Beyond the Black Rainbow stars Eva Allen as a patient in a strange institution interrogated by an even weirder doctor, and it eventually turns into a horror movie. If the imagery in this film is anything to go by, we can expect some very imaginative films in the future from Cosmatos.      

5 - Pieta

Kim Ki Duk offers a brutal, thoroughly humorless and devastating story from the black hole of exploding misery that is his South Korean mind in the story of a 30-year-old loan shark who comes across a woman who claims to be his long lost mother. Not only does the film make you writhe in your seat in distress but also leaves you almost entirely bereft of optimism.

4 - The Imposter

The best thriller of the year is not a big budget Bourne or Bond, but surprisingly, this small documentary. The Imposter chronicles the shocking real life story of a 23 year old French man who impersonated a 15 year old boy from Texas and fooled the police, the immigration authorities and even the Texan family. Instead of being a mere docu drama, the film unfolds like a whodunit, and nothing can prepare you for the bizarre final twenty minutes.

3 - The Raid Redemption

A 100 minutes of non stop cyclonic mayhem, The Raid: Redemption is not one of the better action films of the past few years, it is one of the best action movies ever made. Indonesian star Iko Uwais using his bare hands slices, dices, stabs, jackhammers through scores and scores of ruffians with the ease of a ballet dancer, and director Gareth Evans' camera lingers around for long, uncut shots.

2 - The Hunt (Jagten)

The other side of last year's Michael, Thomas Vinterberg directs Mads Mikkelsen in the best acting performance of the year as a small Danish town's nursery school teacher who is suddenly accused of being a pedophile. Vinterberg superbly captures the paranoia and fear that can spread like a virus in even the most harmless society, and Mikkelsen is just terrific in his complicated role. Qualifies as the best feature film of the year, but is #2 on this list only because of the film below.

1 - Indie Game The Movie.

You've heard of indie films and their struggle, but have you heard of indie video games? Indie Game The Movie is a beguiling spotlight on the people who refuse to join the big companies or submit to the commercial consumers. Directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky chronicle the lives of three sets of indie game developers who give up everything to create smart, innovative games at a hundredth of the budget of mainstream franchises. It is a story that has never been told before, the research level is extraordinary, and its big achievement is that it appeals to people who don't even play video games. And that makes it, the best goddamn movie of the year.

Honorable Mentions: End of watch, Flight, Something in the Air, God Bless America, Killing them Softly, Ship of Theseus.

Note: The MasterZero Dark Thirty and Django haven't made it to this list because they sadly haven't released here yet. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review: Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher is based on Lee Child’s 80’s-esque One Shot featuring an 80’s style antihero up against 80’s style master criminals, and the results are exactly what you expect – an 80’s style potboiler, but one that manages to keep you fairly entertained. It’s more or less a great Salman Khan movie, with Tom Cruise in the lead role instead of Salman Khan.

In the novel Reacher is supposed to be a towering 6 foot 5 inch blue eyed blond haired, slow moving 50 inch chested hulk, but here Tom Cruise steps in about a whole foot shorter, brunette, puny and agile. The strange casting choices would mar the experience for fans of the novels, but don’t make a lick of a difference to those unfamiliar with the Reacher books. Because the film offers every bit of the archaic thrills that it promises, trying to make us forget that every single of its plot points has been done before in 80’s and 90’s cinema.

There is literally nothing new that Jack Reacher offers in plot, mystery or character and at times it seems absolutely outdated in 2012. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (who penned The Usual Suspects) crafts a Perry Mason style mystery with the filmmaking technology from Bourne. We’re introduced to Mr Reacher (Cruise), an ex-military legend who is sucked into investigating a strange case where a sniper had taken down seemingly random people in broad daylight in a public place. But of course, nothing is random, as Reacher deduces, and the fat gets in the fire soon enough for Reacher to smell a big conspiracy and smack goons in the face. There is Richard Jenkins as a miscast suspicious DA and Rosamund Pike as his daughter who bags the prizes for the worst American accent and the most spectacularly odd character to grace screens this year. To go into the motives of the characters is not recommended because that would mean looking for logic and a semblance of common sense in the film. All you can do is sit back, sip your drink and soak in the slickly presented familiarity on screen.

However Jack Reacher makes up for its flaws with some tremendous cinematography, a superbly choreographed hand to hand combat sequence between Cruise and a baddie, and the incredible Werner Herzog as the villain. With one good eye and fingers bitten off, Herzog is frightening as hell, and it hurts to see his character given such little screen time and an ultimately lame resolution – he truly deserves to be cast in a Quentin Tarantino movie as the chief bad guy.

(First published in MiD Day)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians is a visually spectacular Avengers­­-style movie for kids – really small kids. It’s got half a dozen superheroes, non-stop colorful computer animated wizardry to keep children entertained, but nearly nothing new or fascinating enough for adults or older children to enjoy.

Produced by Guillermo Del Toro and directed by first timer Peter Ramsey who has worked as a storyboard artist in Minority Report, Cast Away and Men in Black, Rise of the Guardians attempts to create a colossal story of team of superheroes fighting to annihilate a baddie. The problem here is, Ramsey crams in too many themes, too many heroes and too many subplots instead of bringing us one epic and coherent story. You get abandonment issues, acceptance issues, family values and all kinds of adult themes that are neither well explored nor fit in the audience demographic. Every one of those poorly fleshed out themes plays out like a checklist tick mark by the filmmakers. Adults would be unimpressed with the half-baked execution, and children are bound to be bored with all the serious stuff and even mildly scared at some of the things the villain does in the film.

Here we have the villainous Pitch Black (Jude Law) who is furious with children being happy and believing in their favourite superheroes instead of fearing him. Pitch comes up with a plan to spread darkness around the world and have his reign over humans. The only people to stop him are a team of oddballs - Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the tooth fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman. What follows are scene after scene of some seriously high quality animation, remarkable special effects and a couple of fun action sequences. The troublesome ‘adult themes’ keep popping in and out to stem the flow of mayhem and one wishes the filmmakers had focused on making a laugh out loud comedy instead of a semi-serious adventure. All the laughs in the film are courtesy of the excellent Hugh Jackman as the Aussie-accented Easter Bunny, yet he is criminally relegated to the background for most of the runtime.

The goodies include gorgeously rendered demon horses conjured by Pitch, intricately designed icy frost forming around window panes, and Jack Frost’s long and superbly choreographed uncut shots of flying from rooftop to rooftop. Like last year’s Arthur Christmas, Rise of the Guardians will probably be remembered as an underrated animated thrill ride - it’s certainly not for adults, but an absolutely dazzling ride for kids, best enjoyed in bright 2D. 

(First published in MiD Day)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

(This is a review of the 24 FPS version of the film. Thoughts on 48 FPS will be added on Saturday)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is by far the greatest adventure story put together on screen - it revolutionized epic scope filmmaking and gave this generation its own Star Wars. The raging question on everyone’s mind is if Peter Jackson sold out and desecrated the Lord of the Rings trilogy by making three prequels. The answer is yes, he did. But is the first film any good then? The answer is still yes, but just barely so.

Without a doubt, Jackson has George Lucas’d it this time around, perhaps because of the middling box office returns of King Kong and the crushing failure of The Lovely Bones. Without a doubt the first portion of The Hobbit will make a busload of money, but it remains to be seen if the second and third parts manage similar feats. Because An Unexpected Journey has none of the charm, characterization and newness that made the Lord of the Rings movies so great. It offers nothing technically new or aesthetically unique, nor does it justify the existence of three three-hour-long movies for a 275 page children’s book. It does feel like a meandering mass of more of the same, and it’s a disappointment especially for someone who has to wait two more years to watch the rest of the story on screen.

The good news is that Jackson is genuinely obsessed with the source material, and is committed to bringing you the best looking movie that money can buy. The motion capture in An Unexpected Journey is miles ahead of anything ever done before – Gollum’s detailing straight away makes it obvious that Weta Digital is the best special effects company in the world. The intricacy of a certain CGI creature that makes an appearance in the final frame of the film is jaw dropping to say the least. The rolling hills of Middle Earth are back, as are the bright green pastures and the pitch dark caverns made of nightmares shot by Andrew Lesnie’s camera. And though not as heroic and scary as Frodo’s journey towards Mount Doom, Jackson manages to maintain a nostalgic sense of adventure throughout its rather long running time. It’s hard to not be pleased with the return of Elijah Wood and Ian Holm as Frodo and Bilbo and the great Ian McKellan as Gandalf single handedly carries the film on his shoulders when it begins to meander into banality.

Also making a return are Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, but their presence here seems .. awkward. The weakest segment of the film feature the Elves chatting with Saruman and Gandalf at Rivendell and the characters seem clumsily padded on into the film for financial reasons. The greatest strength of Fellowship of the Ring is the way the world builds in the first half and you’re completely invested into the characters. An Unexpected Journey falls flat in this regard – there are 13 dwarves in the film who hang around Bilbo’s house for what feels like half an hour yet it is difficult to care about any of them and near impossible to recall their names. This is troubling, because you expect characters like Aragorn here and all you get is a pack of 13 Stooges led by a mostly uncharismatic Thorin (Richard Armitage). We ‘re introduced to Thorin’s backstory but it is stunningly pale compared to the beautifully crafted themes of Aragon’s love for Arwen, loss, despair and goosebump-inducing redemption. McKellan seems only too well aware of the problems here and at times tries too hard salvage the magic.

Jackson displays a flash of genuine brilliance when Gollum makes his entry in An Unexpected Journey – the riddle game between Gollum and Bilbo is perhaps the most extraordinary movie scene of the year. Gollum’s animation is fine tuned to make him slightly younger and the finer nuances, the expressive eyes are incredible to watch. The film is significantly less scary than Fellowship of the Ring, however in one eerie sequence Jackson returns to his The Frighteners roots for a bone chilling scene featuring a Necromancer. The impossibly high production values are a swell pleasure, the hoard of Orcs, Goblins, Wolves, Spiders are as realistic as they can ever get. The sweeping New Zealand landscapes once again make it difficult to pick the real world from the fantastical computer graphics. The problem is, most of the action sequences exist purely to make things exciting, unlike in the Rings trilogy where they existed to actually move the story forward. My biggest gripe with An Unexpected Journey is the curiously prosaic soundtrack by Howard Shore, which is a rehash of the score from the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit is part of the LOTR universe but is set in a completely different part of Middle Earth, and one wonders why Jackson refused to even try to make something different here. Hopefully the next movie The Desolation of Smaug will offer something new to see and listen to. Where Jackson did put an effort in is the 3D, but the third dimension is sadly unnecessary and does little to immerse you in Middle Earth. Unless you are ok with loss of video quality and extra glasses, 24 FPS 2D will certainly be the best format to watch The Hobbit in.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a mildly fun return to Middle Earth and despite its first hour never feels boring. However the disappointment is hard to mask, and unless the next two films offer something drastically different, I would be forced to believe what I feared: that Peter Jackson is now Gollum, Tolkien’s literature is his precious, and over the years it has consumed him and turned him into a disillusioned and slightly evil creature that feasts by stealing from your pockets.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: The Collection

If you’re looking for a lovely time out with your family, you have to look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for new, sadistic ways to torture and kill someone you hate, then The Collection is the one stop guide for you.

Written and directed by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the duo responsible for the Saw sequels, The Collection is 80 minutes of blood, gore, cheap thrills, jarring noise and cuss words – just the sort of thing to enjoy if you’re tired of boring romantic comedies. There are bear traps, electrocution wires, lobotomies and many more objects of pain and suffering in the film to make the viewing as brutal as possible. The torture porn genre was invented back in the 80’s and was brought to the mainstream by Eli Roth with Hostel, and thanks to the Saw franchise and now The Collection the genre continues to invade your living room.

The film is actually a sequel to 2009’s The Collector and picks up immediately where the previous movie left off. The original was realized by Melton and Dunstan as a prequel to Saw but decided to turn it into an altogether different low budget franchise, and it seems to have worked. The plot of the first film was moderately thrilling – a burglar (Josh Stewart) who sneaks into a mansion at night is surprised and abducted by a psychotic killer who has already broken into the house. In The Collection the masked killer snares a young girl from a night club as the burglar from the first film escapes and leads a black ops team to catch the madman and rescue the girl. Sadly our armed heroes fail to estimate the lunacy level of the killer and walk into a massive trap that has them being maimed in various gruesome ways. Think of a low budget video game version of Saw and you have the remainder of the plot details of this movie.

Aside from the ghastly torture techniques and the even more painful acting on display, The Collection features plenty of terrible editing and hilariously bad characterization to make it a worthwhile B-movie. Melton and Dunstan run all traces of common sense and logic into the killer’s shredding machine, and it’s only a matter of time until we get a third movie. In case brainless gore is your quick fix for the day then this is admittedly a fun recco.  

(First published in MiD Day)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania is both a surprise and a disappointment at the same time. It is surprising because the cast of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and the rest of the Happy Maddison group manage to squeeze out some entertainment this time around. It is disappointing because the film is a fairly decent, but not remarkable directorial debut of animation legend Genndy Tartakovsky. Either ways, it’s a passably fun ride for kids, and for some, that’s what matters in the end.

Mashing together a vast array of classic movie monsters, Tartakovsky introduces us to the Hotel Transylvania where all kinds of famous ghouls and ghosts chill out and recreate. The place is managed by Dracula (Sandler) who is extra protective of his ghostly tenants after losing his wife to humans. There’s the Mummy (CeeLo Green), the invisible man (David Spade), the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), Frankenstein (Kevin James) and other eminent monsters who frequent the place to de-stress from the human world. Dracula’s problems arise when his daughter (Selena Gomez) gets inquisitive about seeing the world and meeting humans, and hell breaks loose when she develops a crush on a boy named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) who arrives at the hotel looking for accommodation.

It becomes a reasonably enjoyable jaunt as Tartakovsky just about manages to place the jokes ahead of the stars, although Sandler does his best to make his character more like Sandler doing an imitation of Dracula, instead of being Dracula. You won’t find anything here as devilishly great as A Nightmare before Christmas, but some of the gags do work, especially if you’re (mentally) a twelve year old. Sadly the film is rife with plenty of clichéd Hollywood themes like the overprotective father and a rebellious teenager that simply demand to be forgiven by its audience. The jokes are mostly hit and miss, with some weird indulgence on body horror early into the film, quite a letdown considering co-writer Peter Baynham was responsible for the hilarity in Borat. The 3D doesn’t really add to the charm and it just diminishes the beautiful artwork on display. Hotel Transylvania would amuse kids. Adults, on the other hand, would be happier to fire up the DVD player and enjoy Tartakovsky’s earlier works like Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack.

(First published in MiD Day)