#263: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

A kid’s movie with adults in mind, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a funny, politically slanted computer animation feature that is well worth devouring.

Lightly adapted from Judi and Ron Barrett’s children’s book, it’s playful storyline is brought to the big screen by another dynamic duo, writers/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who recently directed the 21 Jump Street movie remake, which I’m still yet to see!).

It’s the larger-than-life story of a small town dreamer. Flint (voiced by SNL stalwart Bill Hader) is a teenager longing to invent the next big thing. He lives on a small New England island called Swallow Falls, a place going through hardship after it’s premier sardines factory was forced to shutdown. Sick of eating the tinned leftovers, Flint sets out on a humanitarian cause:  a contraption that turns rainwater into food.

His first major scientific breakthrough, the invention works a treat. Putting in daily requests, Flint makes burgers, pancakes, ice cream, waffles and even a Las Vegas-style buffet. All of which drop from the sky and straight onto plates at open-air restaurants. From geek to hero, he is also mitten over the strawberry-blonde weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris). With the machine malfunctioning, the portions getting bigger and the neighbours demands more glutinous, his perfect storm is set to take a turn for the worse.

It may not be the best CGI you’ll ever see, Cloudy makes up for it with a hilarious script; close to reaching the joke-a-minute Aardman claymation The Pirates! from earlier this year. The sublime Hader and Faris are met with an equally brilliant supporting cast, including Bruce Campbell as the power-hungry town mayor, The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg as a child star turned burn-out, the ever-arresting voice of James Caan as Flint’s stern sardine selling father, and Mr. T playing an animated, jewelery-free incarnation of Mr. T (who else?).

As if that wasn’t enough brownie points, Lord & Miller hire Devo-frontman, turned accomplished film composer Mark Mothersbaugh to produce the whimsy, orchestral score.

With the sequel right around the corner, 2009’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is definitely worth the revisit. Kids or no kids, it’s fun for all, and all for fun.

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#164: Detachment (2012)

By show of hands, who thought King Kong was a painful movie?

Although it’s a money making machine, America’s film industry is filled with bonafide oddballs. Billy Wilder – bit of a nut job. The late great Dennis Hopper – a great loon. If you let them in, they pop up all over the place. But then there’s the counter-culture eccentrics who rival against the studios and fall into obscurity. A perfect example here is the London born Tony Kaye. With over fifteen years working in the celluloid grind, he has remarkably only released one feature film for distribution, 1998’s provocative American History X. A film with a final cut that wasn’t even approved by Mr Kaye in the first place.

In rolls Kaye’s second film warranting our attention. Detachment is a star-studded critique on the American education system, parenting, prostitution and anyone else that happens to stumble into Kaye’s ramshackle filming style. Adrien Brody (who is really working his ass off here) plays substitute teacher Henry Barthes. Travelling from place to place, his latest venture is with a particularly problematic school. With petulant teenagers dishing out torrents of abuse on their teachers on an hourly basis, Barthes tries to glimpse through the light in all this darkness and do the thing that he does best – teach.

With an impressive, if underused ensemble cast including James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu and Bryan Cranston, it’s clear that Tony Kaye has a name formidable enough to wet the appetite of actors wanting to take up more harsh and unconventional roles. But, for all his notoriety, Detachment is a Tony Kaye talkie that just doesn’t equate to the sum of its parts. Politically charged, it feels more like a bag of ideas than one conclusive work, meandering around implosive ideas without ever really hitting the high-water mark of American History X and his powerful 2006 abortion debate documentary Lake of Fire.

That there’s a mini review, now listen to me spurt some vocalised words:

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