HOT­SHOTS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

Mada­gas­car: Es­cape 2 Africa ( PG): Even bet­ter than the orig­i­nal 2005 an­i­mated film, this se­quel fea­tures the same an­i­mals, refugees from a New York zoo, who find them­selves stranded in Lion King coun­try. The voice cast ( Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Sacha Baron Co­hen) is strong, the di­a­logue is witty and know­ing, and the an­i­ma­tion is state of the art. Fun for all the fam­ily. — David Stratton

Four Hol­i­days ( M): Vince Vaughn and Reese Wither­spoon play an ill-matched cou­ple whose rules for do­mes­tic hap­pi­ness ( no mar­riage, no kids, no fam­ily gath­er­ings at Christ­mas) go astray in this pre­dictable farce from di­rec­tor Seth Gor­don. The fine sup­port­ing cast ( in­clud­ing Robert Du­vall and Sissy Spacek) is no match for the in­tractable ma­te­rial and Vaughn’s charm­less per­for­mance. — Evan Wil­liams

Pre­dictable farce: Four Hol­i­days

( G): A tall tale, based on Jeanne Duprau’s 2003 novel, aimed at teenagers, about a fu­tur­is­tic city in which the in­hab­i­tants strug­gle against fail­ing power and in­va­sions of nasty crea­tures. It’s a very hand­some pro­duc­tion that doesn’t quite man­age to sus­tain the ten­sion un­til a rather pre­dictable con­clu­sion. — D. S.

( M): An el­e­gantly made film of the best-sell­ing novel by Stephe­nie Meyer in which a teenager, well played by Kris­ten Ste­wart, falls in love with a hand­some young vam­pire ( Robert Pat­tin­son). This im­prob­a­ble sce­nario plays out in a com­pellingly real set­ting, and di­rec­tor Cather­ine Hard­wicke ex­tracts max­i­mum im­pact from the story. — D. S.

( G): French wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher Lau­rent Char­bon­nier spent two years film­ing in 14 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, to pro­duce this en­gag­ing doc­u­men­tary about the mat­ing habits of an­i­mals in the wild. Crammed with charm­ing im­ages and in­formed by a poet’s rev­er­ence for the nat­u­ral world, it avoids ex­ces­sive cute­ness. — E. W.

( M): This se­quel to is the short­est of the 22 James Bond films but suf­fers from sketchy plot­ting and char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, com­bined with over-edited, al­though un­ques­tion­ably well-staged, action se­quences. Daniel Craig is stee­l­ier and Judi Dench’s M has the best lines, but every­one else gets short shrift. — D. S.

( M): Baz Luhrmann’s sprawl­ing out­back epic is a magic pud­ding of a film: an in­ex­haustible sup­ply of kitsch, sumptuous land­scapes, stir­ring ro­mance and war­time spec­ta­cle wrapped in a soft-hearted story about the Stolen Gen­er­a­tions. It’s too much, too silly and too long, but Nicole Kid­man has rarely looked love­lier. The film’s pas­sion and grandeur are hard to re­sist. — E. W.

( M): This ex­traor­di­nary film by Nanette Burstein, with a cast of teenagers, ex­plores the lives of un­happy youngsters at a school in In­di­ana. It spares us noth­ing of ado­les­cent pho­bias and frus­tra­tions, but the fi­nal mes­sage is hope­ful. — E. W.

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