It’s half term next week so not surprisingly DVD distributors have scheduled their new releases with young audiences in mind. First up is the awesome foursome’s return in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (12: Paramount).
A frustrated TV news reporter (Megan Fox) discovers four humanoid amphibians who live in the sewers of New York and use their martial arts skills to fight crime.
The existence of the half-shelled heroes makes her realise her connection via her late researcher father’s experiments and also that his shady ex-partner (William Fichtner) has joined forces with the Shredder’s Foot Clan to launch a chemical attack.
The film strikes a fluid balance between pop-culture banter, cartoon fisticuffs, family friendliness and thrilling action sequences. Shredder’s spectacular samurai-robot battle and the wild truck chase through snowy mountains are highlights.
> BOOK OF LIFE (U: Twentieth Century Fox) is rather like a Tim Burton animation splashed with bold, bright colour. It follows Mexican troubadour and reluctant bullfighter Manolo (Diego Luna) through three dimensions – the Lands of the Living, the Dead and the Forgotten – driven by his love for local beauty Maria (a sassy Zoe Saldana).
Channing Tatum voices Manolo’s bumptious pal Joaquin, who also aims to make Maria his wife, and he ups the laugh count by striving to prove his macho credentials.
The story is kept simple, but tackles the subject of death with gusto, never patronising younger viewers and using humour to lighten the darker passages without falling back on postmodern gags. With vividly drawn characters and psychedelic landscapes of incredible depth and detail, Book Of Life will transport you to other worlds.
> It’s unlikely you’ll find a longer film title this year, or any year for that matter, than ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (PG: Walt Disney). At a a lean, mean 81 minutes, this live-action family comedy is somewhat shorter than its title.
Treading much the same territory as the Wimpy Kid films, it stars Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner in the dad and mum roles. At the core of the chaos is Ed Oxenbould, cast as their son Alexander, who has just had the day from hell.
It’s now his 12th birthday and, frustrated by a schoolmate’s plan to stage a rival mega-party, he wishes that his family could feel what a worst-ever day feels like, too.
And, almost magically, they do. Their day descends into mayhem, which includes an escaped crocodile, a very failed driving test, a self-destructing school production of Peter Pan and a highly unfortunate misprint which involves one of the stars of Mary Poppins. Alexander spreads its comedy a little thin in trying to appeal to a broad family audience, but it’s big-hearted and ultimately upbeat.
> Definitely not for the very young, THE BABADOOK (15: Icon) is a bold and intensely emotional psychological horror. Struggling to cope with her troubled six-year-old son Samuel, who was born on the day her husband violently died, stressed-out Australian care worker Amelia reads him sinister children’s book The Babadook that mysteriously appears on a shelf.
From that moment on Samuel can put a name to the “monster in the closet” causing his sleepless nights, while his mother comes to question whether the beast is as fictional as she first thought. Old school special effects give scary life to the titular black-clad creature.