Review - Film - Touchy-feely aliens ... a world apart
MAC AND ME
Director: Stewart Raffill
Starring: Christine Ebersole, Vinnie Torrente, Barbara Allyne-Bennet
Out now on DVD
This is a great film starring a family of rubbery aliens. The story is roughly this: when the aliens are accidentally brought to Earth and escape from some scientists, they find themselves split up. The youngest member of the family, Mac, ends up making friends with a boy, Eric, who has just moved in to his new house and uses a wheelchair. The bits when Mac breaks out of the space probe and runs around are really funny. And when Mac is disguised in a teddy-bear suit and starts break-dancing, I couldn't stop laughing.
The film's message is simple: you must not be selfish; you must care about others more than yourself. Eric cared for Mac and his family and the aliens cared for Eric, too.
The film is a bit like E.T. but the difference is that E.T's family are not on Earth. Mac, however, is trying to look for his family and his family are trying to look for him. They even communicate across the country making weird noises.
You should watch Mac and Me with friends. It will give you a lot of laughs, and by the end you'll be wondering, "How on Earth did Mac do that?"
Tyrese Logan, 11, Anson Primary School, Brent, north-west London
The 1980s was a time when the film industry went crazy over aliens. After the success of E.T., almost 50 films about aliens were released in the following decade. By 1988, it was the turn of Mac and Me to jump on the bandwagon. It concentrates on the relationship between Eric, new to the neighbourhood, and Mac, who is new to the planet.
When Mac arrives in Eric's life it causes chaos. No-one believes Eric when he says an alien is responsible for the destruction in the neighbourhood. As the story unfolds, the characters see the truth and, one by one, they join the attempts to help the alien family find each other once more.
The problem is that Mac and Me fails to tug at the heartstrings because the relationships between characters are weak and the storyline is poor. We just don't care enough about any of the characters to invest our own emotions in them. There is a good message at the heart of the film as the children are very protective of their alien friend and have good intentions, but this tenderness is lost largely due to the gross placement of commercial products.
This film will appeal to children. It's fun. It's silly. It has a simple storyline and dancing aliens in bear suits are always entertaining. However, it will take 95 minutes of their life away and give them very little in return. For me, it's not so much "out of this world and into your hearts" but more a case of "out of my DVD-player and into the charity shop" - at least some good can then come from it.
Simon Pile, Filmclub leader, Anson Primary School, Brent, north-west London
Filmclub, an educational charity supported by Lovefilm, sets up after school clubs, where children meet to watch, discuss and review thought-provoking films. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to classic and world cinema. Free to state schools. Find out more at www.filmclub.orgregister
Director: Michael Madsen
Starring: Timo Aikas, Carl Reinhold Brakenhjelm, Mikael Jensen, Berit Lundqvist
Out now on DVD
Michael Madsen's Into Eternity is, on the surface, a documentary about the future of nuclear waste and how an enormous chamber, called Onkalo, is being constructed deep beneath the ground in Finland.
The facility is on such an epic scale that it is almost unimaginable that it will ever be finished, with an estimated completion date in the 2100s. The purpose of Onkalo - Finnish for "hiding place" - is to store nuclear waste for 100,000 years until it becomes safe. This timescale alone is very difficult for any viewer to comprehend. After all, the pyramids of Egypt were completed just 4,000 years ago.
The cinematography of Madsen's film is unusual. It uses a range of techniques that blur the line between cinema and documentary. It uses lots of slow motion which can, at times, be off-putting and makes the film overly long.
The most interesting parts are where Madsen himself appears on screen, lit only by a match to tell us, in the style of a children's story, why the facility is being constructed and what may happen in the future. This is a very effective way of presenting the information.
The film provides opportunities to discuss what future civilisations might be like, whether Onkalo's location should be marked or made invisible and what the consequences might be if people from the future dig into the rock.
Into Eternity seems to be not entirely sure whether its purpose is to inform us about the facility or terrify us with a lot of questions about the future. The references to the pyramids of Egypt seem particularly disturbing as they were never meant to be opened, and one can't help wondering whether human nature will allow Onkalo to remain sealed for 100,000 years.
The film is overly long but raises some very interesting, almost apocalyptic, questions.
Daniel Bousfield, Filmclub leader, Sandilands Community Primary School, Manchester
MARY AND MAX
Director: Adam Elliot
Starring: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana
Out now on DVD
Based on a true story, this is a "claymated" feature from the creators of the Oscar-winning short animation Harvie Krumpet.
Mary is a lonely eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, and Max is a 44-year-old man living in hectic New York.
Mary's home life is awful: she lives with her mother and father and doesn't have any friends, instead amusing herself with her pet rooster, toys she makes and watching her favourite television shows. Jewish atheist Max also has few friends and spends much of his time in his flat in New York alone with his pets.
Their relationship begins when Mary visits her post office with her mother and is intrigued by names in an American telephone book, thinking them highly unusual. She decides she would like a pen pal and writes a letter to Max, picking his name because it stands out from the rest.
The film is based around the letters that they send to each other and the relationship that grows from those letters, spanning more than 20 years. Mary and Max find that writing the letters helps them escape their dull, uninteresting lives and loneliness. Finding similarities in their lives, their friendship grows stronger and their letter-writing more frequent as they write and send chocolates to each other, a favourite food for both of them.
Mary Daisy Dinkle's voice is provided by Bethany Whitmore for Mary's younger years and Toni Collette for her older ones, while Max Jerry Horovitz is voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film is narrated by Barry Humphries, who adds a wonderful contribution to the story as the movie unfolds with twists and turns.
Mary and Max is a very deep film and kept me interested all the way through, as I watched the letters fly from one end of the world to the other.
Sam McGrath, 11, Sandilands Community Primary School, Manchester.