At the Cinema: February 2010

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Disney returns to its familiar hand-drawn animated musicals at long last with this loose adaptation of the old Frog Princess fairy tale. Set in 1920s New Orleans, it features the usual mixture of beautiful girls, handsome princes, dastardly villains, comedy animal sidekicks and love conquering all. It also features a great jazz-inspired soundtrack, and is quite simply the best non-Pixar Disney film since Lilo & Stitch. It may not measure up to past classics like Beauty and the Beast, but its setting works brilliantly – the music, the Mardi-Gras atmosphere and the locations (whether the French Quarter of New Orleans or the Bayou). The end feels perhaps a little bit too Shrek, and it might be a tad scary for very little ones, but otherwise a good effort. 3/5

Solomon Kane (2009)

Sombre pulp action fantasy, based on a character created by Robert E. Howard, about a 17th century English mercenary and rogue who reforms his ways and vows to fight evil. Taken for what it is, it’s enjoyable stuff – nicely atmospheric, good archetypal characters and well acted. James Purefoy is a strong lead, ably supported by the likes of Pete Postlethwaite and (briefly) Max von Sydow. The limited budget shows through occasionally, particularly in the fight scenes, and this restricts the ambitious story; a stronger director might have been able to do more. But to be fair, Michael Bassett does a pretty good job with it, and further adventures with Kane would be very welcome. 4/5

The Wolfman (2010)

Lavishly mounted remake of the classic 1941 Universal horror brings plenty of blood and action to the table, but lacks the tangible atmosphere of terror that it seems to aspire to. The film’s emphasis on traditional qualities like character and story help to redeem many of its faults though, thanks to its strong cast (especially Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving) and a more than serviceable script. A mixed bag then, but entertaining nonetheless. 3/5

A Single Man (2009)

Moving, absorbing drama set in the 1960s from first-time director Tom Ford, about a gay college professor (Colin Firth) struggling to cope with his grief over the untimely death of his partner. Excellent performances from Firth, Julianne Moore as his closest friend and Nicholas Hoult as one of his students. Beautifully shot and paced.  4/5

Invictus (2009)

Inspiring dramatisation of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, and the home nation’s against-all-odds victory which helped begin a healing process for its people, a few years after Apartheid had finally ended. Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela is as excellent as you might expect, but Matt Damon is just as good as the Springboks captain François Pienaar. Even people who hate rugby will find this story absorbing. Recommended. 4/5

Published by Gavin Midgley

Freelance film journalist, blogger and geek.