Black Friday isn’t just about shopping.
The Thanksgiving weekend is typically one of the busiest of the year at movie theaters, with studios releasing some of their big budget hopefuls.
A pair of films – “Penguins of Madagascar” and “Horrible Bosses 2” – opened just in time for the holiday season in Bowling Green, with the latest from “The Hunger Games” franchise getting a head start last weekend.
Here are a couple of those releases, with more on “Horrible Bosses 2” next week:
One of the highlights of the “Madagascar” films has been the comic relief provided by the four penguin characters.
Now those penguins get to step out of the supporting role, with their own feature film “Penguins of Madagascar.” It’s a film that shows more of these wisecracking sidekicks can be a good thing, with a fast-paced and entertaining endeavor that will play well to its core audience and the parents they drag along.
“Penguins of Madagascar” serves as an origin story for the foursome – Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath), Kowalski (voiced by Chris Miller), Private (voiced by Christopher Knights), and Rico (voiced by Conrad Vernon) – tracing how they left Antarctica to become a bumbling covert quartet that battles global espionage.
Their latest battle involves a former comrade named Dave (voiced by John Malkovich), an octopus whose jealousy for penguins has reached a fever pitch – resulting in a plan to garner revenge on the species for taking his spotlight at zoos across the country.
The penguins join forces with an elite undercover agency called the North Wind, hoping to stop Dave before he can complete his master plan.
“Penguins of Madagascar” is a clever, rapid-fire barrage of pop culture references and dizzying one-liners, all delivered with a self-awareness that only adds to the fun. John Aboud and Michael Colton’s screenplay is smart, very funny and able to balance the line between entertaining children and their parents and everyone in between.
I’ll admit any animated film that finds a way to use documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog earns bonus points in my book, but it is only one element that makes “Penguins of Madagascar” so much fun.
In addition to Werzog, you get Benedict Cumberbatch as the leader of the North Wind – who along with Malkovich gives the film a pedigree you don’t see in most animated movies.
Sure “Penguins of Madagascar” has some stumbles, particularly in the middle third, but it comes whizzing at the audience so fast there really isn’t much down time before the next inspired gag.
This is a fun spinoff that will lead to more adventures in the coming years.
Also in theaters
While “Penguins of Madagascar” hopes to become a franchise, another of this week’s releases – “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” (B) – is a firmly entrenched franchise that once again succeeds.
The third installment takes the series in a bit of a different direction – a prelude to what appears to be an explosive final chapter in 2015.
This installment picks up with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) rescued from the Hunger Games, but confined to District 13 after her district has been destroyed.
Katniss is recruited by district president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) to become the symbol of the growing rebellion against the Capital. At first Katniss resists, until she learns that Peta (Josh Hutcherson) is still alive and serving as the voice of the Capital. She agrees to be that face, but only if Coin will help liberate Peta from the clutches of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
This is a darker more detailed chapter, with less action and more political commentary. It’s a slow build that proves to be quite interesting – sort of an evolution of the revolution.
It helps to have Lawrence as your lead. She has such a commanding screen presence that it’s easy for the audience to become invested in her story.
Moore, Sutherland and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman also bring a credibility to “Mockingjay.”
Not everything works, especially the continuing love triangle among Katniss, Peta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), but there is a lot to like. Sure this is all a build for next year’s final chapter, but it serves its purpose – leaving the audience eagerly anticipating the last film.
“Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Franklin Drive-In, and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.