San Diego's most intrepid television news reporter (Will Ferrell) rises from the ashes in ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES; a baby Pachyrhinosaurus must overcome his small stature to deal with the obstacles that life throws at him in WALKING WITH DINOSAURS - THE 3D MOVIE, and Buster Bumblechops leads an expedition to uncover the Great Moshling Egg in MOSHI MONSTERS: THE MOVIE
FILM OF THE WEEK
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS - THE 3D MOVIE (U, 87 mins) Family/Action/Adventure/Romance/Comedy. Karl Urban, Charlie Rowe, Angourie Rice and the voices of Justin Long, Skyler Stone, John Leguizamo, Tiya Sircar. Directors: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale.
In October 1999, six years after Steven Spielberg restored Tyrannosaurus Rex to the top of the food chain in Jurassic Park, the BBC unveiled its ground-breaking series, Walking With Dinosaurs.
Narrated by Kenneth Branagh, the programme employed state-of-the-art animatronics and computer-generated effects to step back in time to the Mesozoic Era - the so-called Age Of Reptiles.
The six-part journey into a lost world populated by majestic beasts, like the Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus and the gargantuan Brachiosaurus, captivated viewers and won numerous awards, including two BAFTAs and three Emmys. According to Guinness World Records, the programme also claimed the dubious honour of the Most Expensive Television Documentary Series Per Minute, costing a reported £6.1 million for 162 minutes of screen time.
Shot on location in Alaska, Walking With Dinosaurs - The 3D Movie is the next evolution, employing dazzling visuals to explore a familiar story of triumph against adversity in the Late Cretaceous period.
Screenwriter John Collee roasts a hoary narrative chestnut - the journey of a runt of the litter - for a simplistic script. It emphasises the educational aspects by repeatedly freeze-framing the action to provide us with the genus, English translation and feeding classification of each dinosaur.
Humour is pitched at younger audiences - the opening sequence is a feast of dino-poop - with occasional concessions to parents, like when the film's hero stares dreamily at a picturesque landscape and gushes, "This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen!".
"It's a future oilfield, so don't get too attached," replies his feathered sidekick tartly.
A clumsy yet well-intentioned framing device introduces Bulldust, the leader of a herd of herbivorous Pachyrhinosaurus. Bulldust must impose his authority on younger rivals while keeping an eye on his newly hatched brood including Scowler (voiced by Skyler Stone) and his weakling brother Patchi (Justin Long).
As the siblings grow up, Patchi learns to compensate for his small stature to overcome the obstacles that life throws at him and woo his sweetheart, Juniper (Tiya Sircar).
Wise-cracking best friend Alex (John Leguizamo) keeps a close eye on Patchi and together, they face the merciless Gorgosaurus, high-flying Pterosaurs and the chicken-like Hesperonychus, which Patchi refers to as "skinny-necked pecky things".
Walking With Dinosaurs - The 3D Movie is visually arresting edutainment that makes fleeting use of the eye-popping format. Thus, a Pterosaur almost pokes our eye out with its beak and moths flutter inches from our face.
Vocal performances are solid, with Leguizamo stealing the best lines as the little bird who professes: "If you want to know where the food is, follow the fat guys".
Scenes that might be a tad scary for the very young are preceded by a verbal warning from Alex, giving parents sufficient time to create a cuddle cage from the necessary bloodshed.
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (15, 119 mins) Comedy/Romance. Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell, Meagan Good, James Marsden, Kristen Wiig, Greg Kinnear, Harrison Ford, Dylan Baker, Judah Nelson. Director: Adam McKay.
Released: December 18 (UK & Ireland)
You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and dogs don't come much mangier than chauvinistic, self-absorbed television newsman, Ron Burgundy.
Will Ferrell's buffoonish alter-ego, who kicked up his flares in the media satire Anchorman - The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, staggers bleary-eyed into the 1980s in Adam McKay's overlong and sporadically hilarious sequel.
Like its predecessor, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is more miss than hit, allowing a number of running jokes to wheeze far beyond a point of comfort. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Ron's treatment of his new African American boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). His initial reaction - to scream "black!" to her face - continues ad nauseum and kindles a pointless scene in which Ron merrily peddles racial stereotypes around the dinner table with Linda's horrified relatives.
At almost two hours, McKay's film is overstuffed with superfluous nonsense that will delight only ardent fans of the 2004 film, which transformed Burgundy into an icon of the media-saturated modern age.
At the beginning of the sequel, the eponymous broadcaster falls on hard times, unable to realise "what God put Ron Burgundy on this earth for: to have salon-quality hair and to read the news".
Producer Freddy Schap (Dylan Baker) throws Ron a career lifeline by asking him to join the ranks of New York City's first 24-hour station, Global News Network (GNN). Thus, the rejuvenated big man and his team - field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) - jump into a campervan bound for the Big Apple.
Current golden boy, Jack Lime (James Marsden), proves a tough adversary though and refuses to give up his GNN crown without a fight.
Against the odds, Ron achieves record ratings and he uses his celebrity status to rebuild bridges with Veronica (Christina Applegate) and his son Walter (Judah Nelson). Meanwhile, Brick courts a hapless GNN secretary called Chani (Kristen Wiig).
Like its naive and socially inept protagonist, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has no clear idea where it's going and stumbles from mishap to misstep. Ferrell and co seem to be having a blast, always one giggle away from corpsing, while Carell and Wiig are an adorable pairing.
As in the first film, the sequel reaches a crescendo with a battle royale involving rival news crews that briefly flings a pompous BBC reporter (Sacha Baron Cohen) into the melee.
In terms of quotable one-liners, pickings are slimmer, but co-writers Ferrell and McKay hit gold with Brick's stalker and a biting aside about Ron's night on the town with his ladykiller pals.
There is a generous amount of recycling of tired gags to pad out the running time including a reprise of Ron's jazz flute.
If it's already broke, why fix it?
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
MOSHI MONSTERS: THE MOVIE (U, 81 mins) Children/Animation/Adventure. Featuring the voices of Keith Wickham, Emma Tate, Tom Clarke Hill, Boris Hiestand, Phillipa Alexander, Ashley Slater, Steve Cleverley, Rajesh David. Directors: Wip Vernooij, Morgan Francis.
Released: December 20 (UK & Ireland)
Some of the best ideas take root in coffee shops.
JK Rowling famously started writing the bestselling Harry Potter books with her baby daughter at her side while enjoying a hot brew. Five years ago, inspiration also struck Michael Acton Smith in a South London coffee shop.
While sketching creatures on a scrap of paper, the designer stumbled upon the idea of a game, which allowed players to adopt, play with and nurture their own monster, expanding the idea of virtual pet ownership from the Tamagotchi craze that swept the globe in the late 1990s.
The success of the Moshis has been phenomenal, sowing the seeds of a dizzying array of spin-offs including trading cards, magazines and a music album. Considering more than 80 million children aged 6-14 have adopted Moshi Monsters, it's perhaps inevitable these quirky critters would also stampede the big screen in a song-filled romp.
Financed, written, directed and animated in the UK, Moshi Monsters: The Movie brings to life the six virtual monsters from the game - Diavlo, Katsuma, Furi, Luvli, Poppet and Zommer - as they venture far from the safety of Monstro City.
Moshling collector Buster Bumblechops (voiced by Keith Wickham) leads an expedition to uncover the Great Moshling Egg.
The moustachioed adventurer brings this precious artefact back to Monstro City and proudly displays it at his mansion.
Arch-villain Dr Strangeglove (Ashley Slater) and his incompetent Glump sidekick Fishlips (Boris Hiestand) steal the egg and promise to return it only if Katsuma (Emma Tate), Poppet (Phillipa Alexander) and the other Moshi Monsters retrieve three rare objects.
With a documentary film crew and Mr Snoodle in tow, Katsuma, Poppet and the gang begin their epic quest, unaware of the dangers that await them.
En route, they encounter sugary psychopath Sweet Tooth (Steve Cleverley) and shake their booties with Jollywood superstar Bobbi SingSong (Rajesh David).
Alas, Katsuma's over-inflated ego jeopardises his friendships.
"The others, they're just the fries to my burger, the sprinkles to my cupcake," Katsuma arrogantly tells the director of the documentary.
Pride, inevitabley, comes before a fall, and Katsuma must fight hard to rebuild bridges with Poppet, Diavlo (Wickham again), Furi (Tom Clarke Hill), Luvli (Tate again) and Zommer (Slater again).
Enforcing the Moshi Monsters brand with its cheerful, upbeat tone and a well-worn mantra ("if you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything") Wip Vernooij and Morgan Francis's film should entertain youngsters, who have already been bitten by the virtual pet bug.
Slater camps it up as the boo-hiss villain of the piece, while the animators cram as much retina-searing colour into each frame. Pacing is brisk and action set-pieces include a stomach-churching mine cart roller-coaster ride.
Given that I'm more than 30 years older than the film's target demographic, I cheerfully spent 81 minutes with Katsuma and co, and smiled through most of it.
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (15, 119 mins)
Released: December 18 (UK & Ireland)
San Diego's most intrepid television news reporter, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), straightens his tie in the eagerly awaited sequel to the cult 2004 comedy, directed once again by Adam McKay. Ron and his team - field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) - jump into a campervan and head for New York City to join the city's first 24-hour station, Global News Network (GNN). News producer Freddy Schap (Dylan Baker) knows that Ron and his cohorts are popular with viewers and could energise GNN. Not everyone is convinced, though, including current golden boy, Jack Lime (James Marsden), who won't give up his GNN crown without a fight. Against the odds, Ron achieves record ratings with his unconventional approach to news reporting and he uses his newfound celebrity to rebuild bridges with his sassy wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who has a new squeeze called Gary (Greg Kinnear).
THE HARRY HILL MOVIE (PG, 88 mins)
Released: December 20 (UK & Ireland)
The award-winning presenter of TV Burp and You've Been Framed gatecrashes the big screen in this madcap road movie directed by Steve Bendelack (The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse). Separated at birth from his nefarious twin brother Otto (Matt Lucas), who has been raised by dogs, Harry (playing himself) has enjoyed a haphazard life in the company of his petrol-guzzling Nan (Julie Walters) and beloved pet hamster Abu (voiced by Johnny Vegas). When Harry learns that the plucky rodent has just one week to live and mistranslates the creature's dying wish, the eponymous hero takes to the road with Nan bound for the bright lights of Blackpool. En route, they encounter doggy superstars The Dachsund Five, a deranged vet (Simon Bird) and an undersea shell person (Sheridan Smith), who snags Harry's heart. The film receives its world premiere on Thursday in London's Leicester Square.
AMERICAN HUSTLE (15, 138 mins)
Released: December 20 (London Vue West End only); January 1 (UK & Ireland)
Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper reunite with Silver Linings Playbook director David O Russell for this comedy about a hare-brained scheme to expose corruption within the hallowed corridors of political power. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a brilliant con man, who is trapped in a loveless marriage with a harridan wife, Rosalyn (Lawrence), who has made it painfully clear that she will demand sole custody of their son if Irving dares to divorce her. So Irving throws himself into his illegal work, recruiting an inexperienced sidekick Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who poses as a rich English aristocrat in order to secure funds from gullible businessmen. Irving and Sydney are arrested by ambitious FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Cooper), who forces them to put their dubious talents to good use to entrap Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) and his associates in the underworld. As Irving and Sydney prepare to lure Camine into their trap, an increasingly jealous and vengeful Rosalyn threatens to destroy the undercover operation as well as Irving's burgeoning love for his gorgeous assistant.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (PG, 114 mins)
Released: December 26 (UK & Ireland)
Adapted from a short story by James Thurber, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty charts the misadventures of a dreamer, whose imagination conjures fantastical adventures to offset the gloom of his humdrum reality. Walter (Ben Stiller) processes the negatives for respected magazine Life, taking care with each image, especially the work of globe-trotting photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn). Throughout the day, Walter 'zones out' and imagines himself declaring his love to pretty colleague Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). Arriving for work one morning, Walter learns that the magazine is being shut down to make way for the digital revolution of Life.com. For the front cover of the magazine's final issue, Sean O'Connell has sent a special image but the negative goes astray. So Walter abandons his mother Edna (Shirley MacLaine) and sister Odessa (Kathryn Hahn) to embark on a life-altering quest to track down Sean in the icy wilderness of Greenland, where the dreamer realises that he has the courage to embrace life after all.