Reel Critics: Fourth 'Ice Age' is nothing new

"Ice Age: Continental Drift" is the fourth installment of this franchise, and it's starting to wear thin. The formula is predictable and consists of interchangeable parts that have all been assembled before. If you saw any of the other "Ice Age" movies, you have already seen this one.

The characters look like stuffed animal parodies of their real life counterparts. Woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, rodents and assorted sea creatures are all represented in key roles. They look cute and cuddly but talk and act like manic versions of stand-up comedians. Their dialogue is snappy but won't create much laughter for the parental crowd.

The plot has many adventures and contrived perils to be overcome. Animal villains threaten the heroes of the previous films. The animation and action sequences are very well done. Vibrant colors, lots of noise and musical comedy production numbers keep things moving for the youngsters. It may be a commercial success, but no one will confuse this perfunctory sequel with the quality of the "Toy Story" series.


'Beasts' an unforgettable indie film

"Beasts of the Southern Wild," a low-budget indie set in a dirt-poor section of Louisiana, simply defies description.

This Cannes Film Festival entry mixes harsh realities with the vivid imagination of a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy. Her wiry, hard-drinking daddy, Wink, refuses to coddle her but teaches her to be a survivor, a force of nature, a beast to be reckoned with.

Their fictional swampland community, the Bathtub, has its own unique culture that takes joys in small things — beer, mountains of crawfish, a little music — and makes every day a holiday. They refuse to leave the Bathtub even when a huge storm (reminiscent of Katrina) threatens their way of life.

Quvenzhané Wallis, an untrained actress, is amazingly expressive as Hushpuppy and virtually carries the film. In another great debut, Dwight Henry (a New Orleans baker) is dynamic as Wink.

"Beasts" doesn't have a solid plot; it is more like a series of experiences as seen through a child's eyes. The images are ugly and beautiful at the same time and highly creative: boats made from old truck parts, shacks with washing machine doors for windows.

I don't know if this movie deserves all the critical acclaim that's been heaped upon it. But it's certainly an unforgettable experience.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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