Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breaking News Regarding Guns, Drugs, & The US Government

Friday, November 19, 2010

Unstoppable Review

Trains and brains may rhyme, but both are in short supply in this movie about a locomotive that takes off without a driver. Dewey (Ethan Suplee) is the dolt who insists he doesn’t need to connect the air brakes just moments before he hops out of a moving cab to throw a switch. Not able to run any faster than he can think, his engine and its half-mile of cars are soon heading down the track without him. Even more surprising, his coworkers just laugh at the situation. When Dewey eventually finds the yardmaster (Rosario Dawson), he admits his mistake like a schoolboy who has cheated on a test, leaving Connie to figure out how best to cope with what is now described as "a missile the size of the Chrysler building."

Meanwhile at the other end of the line, veteran engineer Frank (Denzel Washington) and his rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine) have just pulled out with their load. And guess what? They are headed straight for the runaway. About the only thing more you could add to this already tense situation is a school field trip, tanker cars of hazardous chemicals and a small city with a big curving railroad bridge that can only be navigated at 15 MPH. Yup… they are all part of this movie mix.

If you come into this film expecting only exciting pictures of a train on the lamb and a passel of railroad workers wondering how they will stop it, then you may not be disappointed. However, being a big rail fan myself, I was hoping for a little more to get stoked over in this great locomotive chase. Pardon the inevitable pun, but this truly is a one-track script. Character development is virtually non-existent, with the exception of Frank and Will taking a few sideline moments to discuss marriage woes.

Then there is the critical lack of intelligence that overshadows much of what is on screen. Early in the movie, after being informed there is a train barreling toward him, Frank asks the obvious question: "Where is it?" Connie replies they don’t know. Yet Fox News (which is promoted to the point of saturation in this film that features dozens of fake embedded reports) has a helicopter tracking the locomotive with a live video feed. Too bad the yardmaster didn’t look at the huge TV in her control room. Later, when Connie finally is watching the news, she sees one of the company heroes madly driving his truck beside the speeding engine in an attempt to make a daring rescue. Shrieking, she gives this poor sap a call, forcing him to answer his cell phone while trying to pull off the difficult maneuver.

Along with the many moments of peril, an accidental injury with some blood effects is depicted. We also learn that railroad employees can swear up a storm because we are treated to a boxcar load of moderate and mild profanities, terms of deity and a sexual expletive.

Loosely based on an actual event from 2001, Unstoppable is a fast-paced, frenetic film with many hand-held camera shots that often tries too hard to convince us that a million tons of steel running out of control is a serious matter. For parents of older teens who are willing to tolerate the language and ignore the plot holes, this train may barely make the grade.

The Next Three Days Review

It’s not hard to understand why John Brennan (Russell Crowe) does what he does. But is it possible to justify?

His wife Lara (Elisabeth Banks) has been accused and convicted of murder. Three years into her sentence, their son Luke (Ty Simpkins) is beginning to forget what it is like to have a mom at home and John is tired of the prison guards and bars that stand between him and the woman he loves. Convinced she is innocent, he tries the legal recourse route using every penny he can scrape together from his teacher’s salary. But the couple’s hopes for a new trial are dashed when their appeal is thrown out.

Rather than continue to fight the system, John tracks down an ex-con (Liam Neeson) who has published a how-to book after escaping from prison seven times. Though John is warned about the risks of attempting a jailbreak, he forges ahead with a plan to spring his wife out of the correctional facility where she is being held.

Increasingly obsessed with the idea, he plots out his strategy on his bedroom wall, collecting maps, photos, time schedules, delivery truck routes and Internet videos on stealing cars and making bump keys. He also drives to the seedier side of town where he sells prescription drugs on the street to make some quick cash. While there, he also searches for a criminal element that can forge passports and other vital documents he’ll need for a quick trip out of the country with his wife and child.

Directed by Paul Haggis, the film’s tension builds at an escalating pace as the awkward academic seemingly bumbles his way through his early preparations. He is nearly caught while trying to test a homemade elevator key during a prisoner visit. Too eager to acquire fake papers, he is beaten and left bleeding on a dark side street after two thugs lure him into a trap and steal his money. Still filmmakers take no shortcuts to ensure audiences are on side with the petite blonde inmate whose innocence is questioned. They also give ample reasons to explain John’s vigilantism. But it becomes increasingly difficult to excuse his actions when he turns to crime as a way to secure his wife’s freedom and leaves a trail of fatalities in his wake. His recklessness also forces his parents (Brian Dennehy, Helen Carey) and sibling (Michael Buie) into compromising situations even though he is fighting to correct an injustice in the justice system.

Playing a cat and mouse game with detectives who are closing in on the escapees, the film does a fair job of holding the audience’s attention to the final climatic moments. However, the movie is not quite as convincing at making the audience cheer for a man who knowingly steps outside the boundaries of society to secure his own desires.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hereafter

Director Clint Eastwood doesn’t waste a single bullet in the production of Hereafter. In fact, bullets aren’t even a part of the script. But that doesn’t mean people don’t die or leave others behind to deal with the aftereffect of their demise. Death, when depicted in this film’s natural disaster, an accident and supposed terrorist attack, is often sudden and startlingly realistic. But in comparison to those brief intense scenes, the rest of the storyline ambles along at an unhurried pace introducing the movie’s main characters. Though they live in different parts of the world, we know they will eventually find one another—even if we haven’t seen the trailer. Yet it takes most of the movie to make that happen.

On the San Francisco docks, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) works in a sugar factory. After hours, his brother Billy (Jay Mohr) badgers him to reopen an office and cash in on his gift as a psychic. Billy even goes so far as to show up at George’s apartment with the occasional client (Richard Kind).

However George recognizes that knowing everything about a person weighs heavily on him and hampers the ability to build a long-term relationship. (Still, George is not opposed to trying to do so with his cooking class partner played Bryce Dallas Howard.)

Meanwhile Marie LeLay (Cécile De France), a French journalist, deals with the posttraumatic symptoms of being caught in the crushing waves of a tsunami while on vacation at an idyllic tropical resort. Her experience with seeing shadows of the afterlife has left her grasping for a deeper understanding about what happens when a person passes.

Finally, a young London schoolboy (Frankie and George McLaren) searches for consolation after the death of a close family member. But his succession of visits to psychics, who use mirror gazing, high frequency microphones and other measures to contact the dead, leaves him disillusioned and often unresponsive to the compassionate gestures of living people around him.

In the final minutes of the film, Eastwood manages to bring the trio together through a series of coincidences that even feel somewhat believable. Yet it appears to be all for naught. After building up some strong sexual tension in a kitchen scene and coaxing out convincing, emotional performances from many of his actors, Eastwood doesn’t seem to capitalize on what could have been a powerful climatic conclusion to the story.

While many of his other productions (among them Million Dollar Baby, Changeling, and Gran Torino) have given audiences plenty of opportunity to debate his characters’ actions, this script fails to justify the instant connection between individuals or the film’s seemingly abrupt ending. Still the possibility of life after death is an idea that will likely spark discussion among viewers once again. And with only a single strong sexual expletive and a handful of other profanities, the death scenes offer the most concerns for parents who may be considering an outing with their older teens to see this ammunition-free movie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Social Network Review

In The Social Network, the character of Mark Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is an academically brilliant, but socially inept, Harvard undergrad. When his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) breaks off their relationship, Mark retaliates by posting his unedited thoughts about her on his blog. (The same lack of personal censorship has come back to sting other social network users who hit post before reconsidering their comments.) Mark then hacks into the school’s directory, steals information and sets up a website where his fellow classmates can rate the girls on campus.

While the site doesn’t do anything to endear him to the female population, it catches on immediately with the male students. The stunt also comes to the attention of the faculty when it brings down the school’s server. The result is academic probation for the computer whiz. Yet despite that, Mark convinces his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to help him create an even bigger version of a social networking site. In exchange for a thousand dollars seed money and a mathematical algorithm to make the program work, Eduardo becomes the business manager for the fledgling company that ultimately becomes Facebook.

Meanwhile Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) approach Mark with their own idea for a social website and ask him to help them write the computer code necessary to launch it. But accusations and lawsuits fly when Mark unveils his own version of the concept after repeatedly ignoring the twins’ attempts to communicate with him.

As the popularity of the original thefacebook.com explodes, NAPSTER creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) approaches Mark and convinces him and his programmers to relocate to sunny California (where it appears the group lives solely on licorice and liquor). The move tears a rift between Mark and Eduardo who have different ideas about the company’s direction and initiates yet another court case aimed at the young entrepreneur.

During scenes of the hearings, Mark remains indifferent to the allegations and insolent toward the plaintiffs and their lawyers. Though he has all the smarts needed to found a world-changing phenomenon, his lack of social skills and maturity fuels hurt feelings and threatens the company’s reputation. Consequently, it may be difficult for some audience members to warm up to this character that can hardly maintain a face-to-face relationship and yet is the guru behind the largest social site to date.

Putting in strong performances, the actors in this film bring believable versions of the multi-billionaires to the big screen. Unfortunately, these newly minted moneymakers use some strong expletives to express themselves. They also get involved in plenty of sexual exploits and parties that include smoking, drinking and the recreational use of illegal drugs.

While Facebook now boasts a net worth in the billions and over 500 million active users, this production gives a new face to the story behind its beginning—one that is often more acrimonious than friendly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alpha and Omega Movie Review

Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere provide the voice talent for two animated wolves named Humphrey and Kate in this 3D adventure. The pair of carnivores calls Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada their home. But even though they enjoy cavorting with their friends and family in the serene nature preserve, there is still a problem brewing. The “Eastern Wolves” led by Tony (voiced by the late Dennis Hopper) live across the creek and are desperate for meat because the caribou don’t roam there anymore. These hungry neighbors want access to the land dominated by Kate’s father Winston (voice of Danny Glover).

One obvious solution appears to solve the territorial dispute: Have Kate accept Tony’s son Garth (voiced of Chris Carmack) as a mate. As both are Alpha wolves, they are equally matched in the accepted social order. However, there is one secret dissenter to the plan. Humphrey, a second-class Omega male silently yearns to woo Kate himself. But figuring out a way to overcome long-established class boundaries and getting approval from her father and the rest of the pack, are substantial obstacles he has yet to overcome. (And then there is the fact that Kate views him only as a buddy.)

While the animals attempt to sort out some resolution to this soap opera, a couple of animal control officers appear on the scene. The human officials are looking for a pair of wolves they can relocate to help repopulate a state park in Idaho. And guess which two they pick?

The next thing Kate and Humphrey know they are waking up in the back of a pickup truck on their way to the Gem State. When they are released into an unknown wilderness, the pair immediately begins to look for a way back home. Soon they meet up with a duck (voice of Eric Price) and a Canada Goose (voice of Larry Miller). Although the foul are first and foremost serious aficionados of golf, they also claim to have visited Jasper often and offer the lost wolves a few pointers on finding their way north.

So Kate and Humphrey set out on a long road trip. Of course, this means they will have to spend a great deal of time together and… well… I’m sure you can see where the plot will go next.

While the conclusion may not be a huge surprise, parents may be wondering if they are the only ones feeling a little awkward about the portrayals of the animals in this film. Although there are no overt sexual discussions in the movie, it’s the “howling” that may raise some eyebrows. This somewhat musical activity is described as the ultimate uniting of a male and female wolf, and the dialogue accompanying the event implies there is more to it than just exercising vocal chords. (After their howl, one character asks the other, “Was it good for you?”) It’s subtle, but the term is essentially a synonym for sexual activity.

That aside, there is little other content for concern. The wolves get into a couple of skirmishes and are seen hunting on a few occasions. (This "natural" pursuit is depicted without blood and very little peril). Some mild bathroom humor is also heard.

On a final note, artistically this film falls below what audiences are used to seeing from more mainstream sources. It’s a US-based production that’s animated in India and set in Canada. Sadly, this international blend doesn’t work very well, and the animal movements, as well as their environmental surroundings suggest few of the creators have ever seen a wolf or its typical habitat. If you go expecting more of a beta experience, you’ll be in for less of a disappointment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kevin James to Play MMA Fighter in New Film

Two bit of movie news that by themselves don’t quite deserve their own post, but together! Well, they still don’t deserve a whole post, but these are the only two interesting bits of movie news I could find right now, so, you know.

First up, Kevin James will be playing an MMA fighter in a new, untitled comedy for Sony. No, really.
James is attached to play a physics teacher whose school faces drastic cutbacks. In an attempt to save his best friend’s job and the music program his students love, he moonlights in the octagon as a mixed martial arts fighter, ultimately leading to brawling in the UFC.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Last Exorcism

In the Deep South, Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a well-known preacher who began working in the ministry as a child and performed his first exorcism while still an adolescent. Now as an adult he often receives impassioned pleas from those seeking relief from demons. But Cotton, who has perfected the showmanship aspect of his sermons, is facing a crisis of faith.

After reading about exorcisms that resulted in the death of children, he determines to expose these acts as fraud. To do so, the religious shyster (with all the saintly sincerity of an unscrupulous used car salesman) decides to accept one last invitation to reclaim an innocent soul. While doing so, he plans to expose all his tricks of the trade to a documentary film crew he is bringing along.

With a smirk on his face, Connor drives with his sound specialist (Iris Bahr) and a cameraman to the Louis Sweetzer farm where he is greeted by a distraught father (Louis Herthum) with strong fundamentalist beliefs. In an emotional voice, Louis recalls the recent death of his wife and the impact it has had on their family. He also introduces the trio to his son Caleb (Caleb Jones) and his teenaged daughter Nell (Ashley Bell). He accuses the innocent looking young girl of killing and disemboweling the family’s farm animals and presents her bloody clothes as evidence of her deeds. Nell, on the other hand, has no recollection of the nightly activities she is supposedly involved in.

Employing a few slight-of-hand tricks to convince Louis of his power, Cotton finally agrees to execute an exorcism but only after he has personally prepared the bedroom where the event will happen with props that will help simulate a departing devil. With the camera rolling, the purging takes place. And by nightfall the team has left the farm and settled comfortably in their hotel rooms five miles away. Then Cotton wakes in the night to find Nell standing beside his bed in a blood splattered nightgown. Wide-eyed and unresponsive, the girl looks more possessed than ever.

If the erratic movements of the handheld camera haven’t begun to bother you by this point in the film, the increasing gore might. Taking a knife, Nell slashes open her brother’s face. (The act takes place off screen although Caleb’s blood soaked mouth and clothes are seen as he tries to stop the bleeding.) Lashing out like a wild animal, Nell also becomes increasingly demonic as the plot continues, contorting herself into strange positions and breaking her own fingers. Throughout the production, the moviemakers maintain the notion that this is a factual film, much like producers promoted the reality of paranormal activity in The Fourth Kind).

Unfortunately, the script does little more than further the negative stereotypical portrayals of religious believers as fanatics and Southerners as illiterate, incestuous and superstitious. Using the simple tactics of camera angles, scary sounds and darkened sets rather than an excess of complicated computer generated special effects, the movie manages to create a sense of suspense. However the focus on satanic rituals may disturb some young viewers or spark a curiosity in the occult among others.

Though this film is titled with the promising adjective "last", a sampling of similar type horror movies (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Haunting in Connecticut, Dark Water and The Skeleton Key) already on DVD shelves, proves it might be too optimistic to hope that this is truly The Last Exorcism we’ll see.

Takers Review

The cops and robbers genre has been around for a long time—though in the early days it often involved a sheriff and gun-slinging outlaws. But movie figures who are sworn to protect and to serve are having a hard time of late. No longer are they the heroes wearing the white hats and restoring justice. It is the felons who get away with the money, the murders and most often the girl.

Following the formula for films like Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, and The Italian Job, Takers features a cast of men who feel no remorse over lining their pockets with currency from other people’s savings accounts. (They do, however, donate ten percent of their haul to charity—presumably as a way to give back to the community after ripping off individuals who earn their livelihood in a more socially acceptable manner.) Living in luxurious homes, they use the piles of bills they have stashed away to imbibe in the best liquor and cigars, drive expensive cars and outfit themselves in top-of-the-line suits.

To put it simply, there is nothing shabby about the everyday life of these thieves.

But greed can get to even the most charitable of crooks. The day after they make off with bags of loot from a California bank, Gordon (Idris Elba), John (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen) and brothers Jesse (Chris Brown) and Jake (Michael Ealy) are unexpectedly visited by an old team member who had his sentence shortened for good behavior. While Ghost (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) may have been the model inmate, he is far from reformed. With next week’s armored car route in his hands, he proposes a new heist with a $20 million payoff.

Compared to these high living criminals, LAPD officers Jake Wells (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) are a sorry sight. Eddie lives in the suburbs with his wife (Zulay Henao) and their young son (Harrison Miller) who is facing serious medical issues. Jake is a rumpled, short-tempered workaholic devoted to justice. He gets a bad rap when he follows up on a lead in the robbery on the day he is supposed to be spending quality time with his daughter (Isa Briones).

Yet in reality the police do little more in this storyline than keep George and his gang from publically flaunting the source of their funds. The real conflict comes when a group of badder rogues attempt to steal the hot money from the bank robbers. The result is endless exchanges of gunfire. (For apparent artistic purposes, the director accompanies one lengthy hotel room shootout scene with strains of violin music and millions of feathers from perforated pillows drifting gently through the air.) The only thing that outnumbers the barrage of bullets is the constant use of scatological slang and profanities that are teamed up with frequent portrayals of smoking and alcohol use. A brief, shadowed depiction of male buttock nudity is also shown when a man enters a pool where two women wait for him.

Although there is some collateral damage along the way, these criminals not only glamorize robbery, murder and the destruction of public property but they do it with a sense of entitlement—as if all that cash was due them. But then what can you expect from a group of guys who admittedly revere Genghis Khan as their historic hero.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Last Song Review

Miley Cyrus fans will likely weep their way through this teen tearjerker. Other audience members, however, may be less than smitten with the The Last Song.

Despite the number of Nicholas Sparks’ novels that have been tailored for the big screen, this is the first time the author has penned the screenplay as well. Unfortunately too many of the scenes in this adaptation suffer from awkward or unbelievable dialogue and others, which appear to have some potential, are shoved on the screen and then yanked off before the characters or circumstances have time to develop. It takes some consummate acting skills to give life to these clumsy lines and regrettably Miley Cyrus is not a consummate actress—at least not yet.

Learning her trade on the preteen sitcom Hannah Montana required nothing more than a limited number of exaggerated emotions, namely sad, happy, angry. While this works for the show’s target audience, it never allowed Miley to practice portraying more subtle or complex feeling. Just like Hannah, her character Ronnie in The Last Song is either cheerful, cheerless or cheesed off, and it is usually the latter. Thankfully, Miley’s younger costar, Bobby Coleman, puts in several emotionally touching performances that help redeem the script.

In the story, Ronnie is a defiant, sulking teen who wears a scowl that would scare off a pit bull. Forced in the back seat of her mother’s (Kelly Preston) SUV, she and her little brother Jonah (played by Coleman) are hauled off to spend the summer with their estranged father (Greg Kinnear) in a Georgia beach town. While I can think of worse places to be dumped, Ronnie is still seething over her parents’ divorce and appears to want some kind of blood sacrifice to atone for their decision to separate. Even though she has exceptional talent and years of musical training, she also punishes her mom and dad by refusing to sit down at the piano or accept an invitation to Julliard.

After arriving on Tybee Island, Ronnie has an accidental run-in with one of the local boys. While she is pushing through the throng at a shoreline carnival, Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth) unintentionally bowls her over during a beach volleyball game. Maintaining the same "I’ll forgive when I am ready" attitude that she uses with her parents, Ronnie refuses to graciously accept his apology. Undeterred by her rudeness, Will continues to try and engage the glowering girl every time he sees her in the small town. Eventually he wears her down with a long and lingering kiss on the beach. But the rest of the film is spent watching Ronnie boomerang between professions of love and loathing for the young man. Her ever-changing attitudes make it difficult to feel any real affection for the troubled teen.

On the other hand, Ronnie makes a few good decisions that most parents will appreciate while watching this film with their preteens. Given a chance to consume alcohol at a late night make out session on the beach, Ronnie rejects both alcohol and some advances from an inebriated partygoer. As well she refuses to be involved in stealing from a street vendor. Later she helps a girl in an abusive relationship find the courage to get out. Audiences will also see more than one lip lock between Ronnie and Will, yet there isn’t even a hint of more intimate relations. And Ronnie finally exhibits some maturity when a family tragedy befalls them. Ultimately she even takes her eyes off her own problems long enough to help someone else.

In a similar fashion, viewers will have to look past this film’s flaws and lock on those few redeeming qualities in order to appreciate this story. Otherwise this summer romance barely earns a passing grade even for Hannah Montana fans who are ready to watch their favorite sitcom star grow up.

Nanny McPhee Review

To say the Brown children misbehave is an understatement of magnificent proportions. These seven motherless children are down right naughty.

Sneaking down to the kitchen, they whack the cook (Imelda Staunton) over the head with a frying pan before tying her up and ransacking the kitchen. They drive their seventeenth nanny screaming from the house after pretending to eat the baby, and one brother routinely decapitates dolls and teddy bears with his guillotine.

The situation is so bad the local employment agency refuses to answer Mr. Brown's (Colin Firth) inquiries for more help.

Fortunately, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) doesn't work for the agency. Arriving unbidden on the family's doorstep, the bulbous-nosed woman with the warty chin and black attire immediately takes measures to restore peace.

Given the challenge of a new victim, Simon (Thomas Sangster) and his siblings assume they can run off this hired help as easily as the others. They introduce themselves with bogus names (body parts and bathroom terminology), intending to rattle her. But Nanny McPhee, unruffled by their rude humor, insists on proper manners and uses her magical touch to enforce them. With firm but tender composure, she ensures the rowdy offspring experience the consequences of their choices

 Knowing she can only stay as long as she is needed, Nanny McPhee promptly goes about establishing calm in the chaotic household by helping the children deal with the loss of their mother and their father's lack of attention. When their stuffy and bossy Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) arrives for tea, she also helps the brood use their heads to solve a familial dilemma.

However, even she can't interfere with matters of the heart. So when Mr. Brown--a mortician who talks to his deceased clients--presents Mrs. Quickly (Celia Imrie) as a possible stepmother, the children are left to their own devices to scare her off. Unfortunately, in an attempt to shield the bawdy widow from his children's nasty pranks, the father's actions are misconstrued as overt sexual advances.

In addition to playing the robust nursemaid, Emma Thompson penned the screenplay based on the Nurse Matilda series. Over and above the rambunctious progeny, her characters include two comical funeral assistants and Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), a self-conscious scullery maid. While the outcome is predictable, the colorful sets and inevitable food fight will likely entertain older children.
Whether or not Nanny McPhee sparks another reading frenzy like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, her insistence on civility and her corresponding kindness demonstrates it's not necessarily bad to carry a big stick as long as you have an equally big heart.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vampires Suck Review

Since the book release in 2005, Twilight has had a polarizing effect on the general public despite spending over 91 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. The first film debuted in 2008 in sold out theaters and grossed over $392 million worldwide. But not everyone bought into the craze. So considering the phenomenal success of the Twilight franchise, it is amazing it has taken the writing team of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg this long to lampoon the vampire trilogy for the sake of those who dislike the glittery image of Edward. What recent film series is riper for the ribbing?
Jenn Proske plays the brooding and angst-ridden Becca Crane with the same stammering, incomplete sentences and constant hair tucking that the Belle Swan character has become known for. The other cast members, Matt Lanter as Edward Sullen, Diedrich Bader as Becca’s father Frank and Chris Riggi as the shirt-sluffing Jacob, recreate their more famous counterparts with a certain amount of comedic precision. And the script doesn’t miss the opportunity to poke fun at some of the more unexplainable points of the original story. Why, in fact, does the morose new girl at school attract so much attention from not one but two boys?
Unfortunately the scriptwriters, best known for the crass humor in Date Movie, Scary Movie, Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans, let the real possibilities of this parody slip through their fingers. Rather than penning an original storyline that could stand on its own while taking jabs at the series, they randomly pluck lines and scenes from the trilogy and slap them together with excessive, farcical violence. The scenes portray characters being beheaded, impaled with a pitchfork, hit with a shovel and pierced in the head with a spiked bat. Unending crude sexual innuendos and comments are also included, along with some male buttock nudity and inappropriate comments from a father to his daughter.
Using up all their good gags and one-liners in the first 40 minutes, the plot lags during the final act as Becca strives to stop Edward from exposing himself (literally) to the evil leaders of the vampire underground (Mike Mayhall, Ken Jeong, Bradley Dodds) and the entire crowd at her high school prom. But by that point in the movie, any reason to engage in this overwrought attempt to mock the undead has long been sucked dry.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Expendables Review

Well the Summer 2010 movie season is winding down. As usual we’ve had a couple of hits (Toy Story 3, Inception), misses (The Last Airbender, Jonah Hex), and a whole lot of in-between. This downhill side of summer now brings us to Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables – a promised testosterone fest that many have been looking forward to as a throw-back to the good old days (1980s) of macho, cigar-chewing tough guys (with a soft spot for women in danger) who have endless gun magazine clips and cheesy but funny throwaway lines of dialog.

The question of course, is whether Sly and the gang deliver just that?



The film opens with what’s come to be the standard, introduction-to-the-team action set piece. It’s a hostage rescue situation and the nice thing about it is that it’s very effective at establishing both who the characters are when it comes to dangerous situations and what we can expect from the rest of the film. The action and violence factor is made clear right up front in a satisfying sequence where the team takes down the bad guys without backing down even a fraction of an inch.
The team:
  • Ross (Sylvester Stallone), leader of the Expendables
  • Christmas (Jason Statham), Ross’ second-in-command
  • Yin Yang (Jet Li), Chinese martial arts master
  • Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), a borderline psychotic Swedish sniper
  • Hale Caeser (yeah, I know, played byTerry Crews), heavy weapons specialist
  • Toll Road (Randy Couture), demolitions expert
Home base for the team is a warehouse that former Expendable, Tool (Mickey Rourke), calls home. Rourke is the philosophical anchor of if not the team, then Ross, who leads it. They’re good, long time friends and it’s Tool who Ross turns to when he’s struggling with a decision. Jensen seems to be enjoying killing now – he’s been in the game too long and can no longer be trusted, and Mickey warns Ross that will happen to everyone who stays in the business too long.

Ross is looking for one more job, and this is where Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger make their cameo appearances. Willis is effective as Church – apparently a CIA higher up who needs a job done in a foreign county, but needs it done off the books. Arnold comes in as an old rival to Ross, and while it was amusing to see the banter between the three characters, Arnold’s cameo felt completely superfluous and the film would have been had he been left out.

The mission is to overthrow a South American dictator, but once the team gets there they find things to be much more complicated than they had anticipated (or been told about). Ross meets their contact there, a lovely young woman named Sandra and played by Giselle Itié. She’s afraid but overcomes her fear for love her country and people. Things go wrong and the team has to escape – in a pretty awesome action scene involving their cargo plane and of course some really big explosions. 
Ross was forced to leave Sandra behind and it eats away at him – he has to decide whether to save himself or attempt a suicide mission to rescue her (one guess which he picks).
So enough about the story… is the movie any GOOD?

Well, that will depend on you. The Expendables is a movie that I already know is going to split people down the middle.

If you’re looking for anything more than a macho throwback to 80s action movies you’re going to be very disappointed. If you’ve been looking forward to blood, brutal hand to hand, thousands of bullets flying and tons of explosions then you’ll be one happy camper.

Me, I’m somewhere just north of the middle.

I get what Stallone was trying to accomplish here – I just don’t think he quite managed to do it as well as it could have been done. For one thing, while I’m not privy to early incarnations of the script, it seems evident that it was supposed to have more of the aging action stars thing happening than what ends up in the finished film. Among the actors that were approached to appear in some roles that ended up being filled by younger actors were Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Kurt Russell (Chuck Norris and Carl Weathers would have made fine additions as well). Instead younger (mostly non-) actors were chosen: Steve Austin (who plays bad guy Eric Roberts bodyguard), Randy Couture and Terry Crews.

The three younger actors mentioned don’t get a lot of dialog, and honestly that’s something I’m thankful for. They’re in the film to look and act tough, and at that, they are pretty damned good. There was one scene where Terry Crews waxed poetic about his uber-gun and it was a pale shadow of Jesse Ventura’s description of “Old Painless” in Predator. Was Ventura a great actor in that film? Of course not – but that leads me to another point…

One of the hallmarks of those bodybuilder-filled action movies from 25 years ago were the throwaway one-liners:
“I’ll be back.”
“Yippee Ki Ay Mother F****r.”
“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
“Hasta la vista, baby.”
“I ain’t got time to bleed.”
“Stick around.”
You get the picture.

With the exception of the aforementioned scene with Stallone, Arnold and Willis, most of the humor in the movie falls flat. You keep waiting and hoping for a witty or even cornball quip that might put a smile on your face – but it just doesn’t happen. Most of the dialog is just plain weak. There are a few decent moments that shine through – in particular a scene where Mickey Rourke is thinking back to the event that changed the course of his life… powerful stuff for a movie like this. There are also a couple of scenes between Statham and his girlfriend that manage to convey some depth of character for the man – and a fight scene on a basketball court related to that which manages to seal the emotional tie between him and his young lady (go figure). I would have liked to have seen a little more screen time from Jet Li, but at least he got more than the professional fighters in the cast.
But other than those and a few scattered moments (usually between Stallone and Statham) the conversations never really seem to click.

Due to that, a lot of the movie feels like waiting around for the next big action set piece or the next hand to hand combat sequence. With the exception of some jarring in-close camera work (which to my recollection is thankfully the exception and not the rule) those scene are most DEFINITELY worth waiting for – and are what this movie is all about.

The fight scenes are brutal, with lots of bone-breaking and blood shooting and splattering. They go on for a while and for the most part allow you to see what the heck is going on (although some of them are a bit to WWF-ish). The big action sequences are pretty amazing as well – the escape from the South American country, both the car chase scene but especially the flight out of there. Damn sweet for action fans. There’s also an over-the-top action sequence combining gun battles, hand to hand, massive explosions, collapsing buildings and a river of fire at the end. ‘Nuff said.

For me, it was great seeing a bunch of guys being guys. Especially the older actors, who were obviously raised before they started putting estrogen in the meat supply. No emo guys here, and even when being introspective they’re muy macho.

So if you’re looking for a guy’s movie that’s heavy on the action and you don’t mind if it’s missing a lot of everything else, The Expendables is for you. So now you’ve been warned: If you’re expecting more from this movie, don’t come crying to me because it lacks emotional depth and character development.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud Review

Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is riding on the crest of success after he and his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) win a local sailing race. It is quite an accomplishment since the boys live in relative poverty with their single mother (Kim Basinger). The victory results in a scholarship and Charlie is Stanford-bound. But a trip to a celebratory keg party on the night of high school graduation ends badly when a drunk driver plows into the siblings. Sam is killed at the scene and Charlie flat-lines in the back of an ambulance until a persistent paramedic (Ray Liotta) revives him.

Though Charlie is physically alive, he is a long way from living. Deferring his scholarship, he isolates himself in a job as a caretaker in the cemetery. Every evening as the sunset canon fires at the yacht club, he leaves work and rushes to a secluded spot in the graveyard where he meets his dead brother to play a game of catch.

With his life on pause, he refuses to leave town even after his mother moves on. While most of the community understandably thinks Charlie is crazy, the sober and reclusive young man intrigues one woman.

Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew) is also a sailor. Days away from the start of a solo trip around the world, she sets out from the local harbor to test her boat on stormy waters. When she fails to return, Charlie realizes he must forgo his nightly ritual with Sam if he wants to join the search.

In so many ways, Efron plays the perfect adolescent heartthrob, with a handsome tousled look, a wounded spirit and an aura of mystery about him. His character even has two teenaged store clerks swooning over him. Yet the script (that includes a scene of sensuality which fortunately skips most of the sexual details) seems like a more grown up storyline for the actor who appears to be transitioning away from his roles in High School Musical and 17 Again.

Still, this love story is often sideswiped by alcohol use, surreal occurrences involving spirits and the repeated depiction of the car accident that may be disturbing for others. As well, the script is often confusing as filmmakers try to construct a happy ending with a combination of the dead and living.

So while many of Efron’s fans will be swept away by his latest screen appearance, parents may find this movie enters rough waters when it comes to younger family viewers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Review

Michael Cera seems to have found a niche for himself playing wimpy, teenaged doofuses in films like Juno, Year One, Extreme Movie and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. His latest character, Scott Pilgrim, doesn’t stray far from this stereotypical role.

Scott, a jobless, 22-year-old bass guitar player, shares an air mattress in a tiny apartment with his gay roommate and anyone else Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) brings home to cuddle with under the covers. Scott’s own romantic life is littered with broken relationships including one with his fellow band member Kim Pine (Alison Pill) and popular singer Envy Adams (Brie Larson). After his painful breakup with Envy, Scott resorts to dating a high school student from a Catholic academy as a way to restore his confidence in his own desirability. However, Knives Chau’s (Ellen Wong) ethnicity, religious affiliation and youth fuel recurrent jokes among the film’s older characters.

Then Scott lays eyes on the pink-haired Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Windstead) at a party. (In a surreal scenario, the mysterious woman skates through his dreams before he even meets her.) Too spineless to break up with Knives, Scott waffles between both girls until they uncover his deceit. That’s when Scott encounters the full fury of scorned love. But Knives isn’t the only one looking for a little revenge. Scott discovers that Ramona has seven former beaus whom he must fight before he can date her.

Set up like the levels of a video game, each encounter with an evil, super powered ex involves finding the chink that allows Scott to defeat him (or her, in the case of Ramona’s lesbian lover). A win results in points being tallied on the screen and a jackpot of coins raining from thin air. Bending the rules of reality further, the film’s stylized depictions of violence includes scenes of characters thrown through walls, stabbed with light sabers and tossed around a room. Luckily these combatants can also catch a second life, which allows the battles to linger on longer. Complete with descriptive graphics like “pow” and “thonk,” viewers get some visual stimulation to help them stay involved in this senseless, wandering plot.

Unfortunately, scriptwriters pad this story with ongoing homosexual jokes, crude terms for male anatomy, profanities and plenty of vulgar sexual innuendo. Scott’s biggest worries seem to be his lack of sexual activity and his need to frequent the bathroom. But parents may also be concerned with the young adult’s lack of responsibility. Consumed with his lust for Ramona, he lets down his band members, disregards Knives’ feelings and wallows in bouts of self-pity that he must be coddled and coaxed through. Every girl deserves better than that.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inception Review

Computer hacking seems like child’s play compared to the criminal activities in Inception. Entering a person’s dream world by means of a special machine, these hackers manipulate and mine the human mind for information they can sell to interested clients for a hefty price. Unfortunately, this activity is hardly legal or ethical. And as a result of his part in it, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is unable to return to his wife (Marion Cotillard), children (Claire Geare, Magnus Nolan) and father (Michael Caine).

The prospect of going home improves, however, when a wealthy businessman offers Dom a new challenge. Rather than extraction, Saito (Ken Watanabe) wants the skilled mind reader to try “inception”—planting an idea in someone’s mind. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), a young man who is about to inherit an energy empire from his dying father (Pete Postlethwaite).

Trusting in Saito’s ability to clear his past, Dom assembles a team of invasion experts (Dileep Rao, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Tom Hardy) along with newcomer Ariadne (Ellen Page) to help him maneuver through Robert’s REM state fantasies. Together they develop a plan that will allow them to delve into the sleeping man’s subconscious and bury the seeds of a thought. But going that deep poses risks for the team and Dom is reticent to reveal just how dangerous those hazards are. Only Ariadne suspects there is something precarious about the job when she discovers Dom’s frequent, solitary journeys to his own dream world.

For audience members who’ve only been given a few clues in the movie’s trailers, the opening scenes may feel baffling and disjointed. Like The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix and Click, this film has both real and dream states. In Inception, the script bounces viewers between both and it isn’t always clear which one the audience is in. Yet the production brings an interesting sophistication to the dream theme once the storyline begins to take shape, slowly revealing the motivations, subconscious fears and secret thoughts of these compelling characters. Artistically this film also offers strong acting, editing and digital settings that contribute to the jumbled feel of the dream world.

But while the concept (and lack of sexual content) may be intriguing to parents looking for an entertainment option for their older teens, Inception is riddled with ongoing depictions of violence. Trained assassins with rounds of ammunition infiltrate nearly every level of dreams. Refusing to leave even one shell in the chambers of their guns, they fire continuously on Dom’s team members as they descend lower and lower into a subconscious state. In the meantime, massive explosions, car chases and brutal fistfights are also shown, along with a suicide. Much of the action is non-graphic, yet there are still portrayals of bloody injuries, stabbings and close range shootings.

Although the non-stop adventure will keep many viewers engaged for the film’s full runtime (almost two and a half hours), others may find that the nightmarish consequences of Inception are enough to keep them laying awake at night—afraid to enter their own dream world.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shrek Forever After Review

In what is officially billed as the final episode of the Shrek franchise, our big green hero (voice of Mike Myers) is working through a midlife crisis. It’s the same thing day after day… raising kids, putting up with tourists wanting to see your swamp, and keeping the outhouse running smoothly. All these gritty little details are weighing Shrek down to the point where he finally loses it during his kid’s birthday party. Wishing to be left alone to enjoy life as a grumpy ogre again, Shrek opens himself up to the temptations of an unknown enemy.

Years ago Rumpelstiltskin (voice of Walt Dohrn), a dealer of deception, had the King and Queen (voices of John Cleese and Julie Andrews) on the verge of signing over their kingdom to him in return for removing the spell that made their daughter Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) an ogre by night and a princess by day. Of course, Shrek’s rescue thwarted his plan leaving the menacing magician with nothing. Sporting a new offer in hand, Rumpelstiltskin (with the help of a few eyeball martinis) manages to convince the beleaguered father to sign a contract giving him a day away from all his worries in exchange for one "meaningless" day from his childhood. What Shrek doesn’t know is his signature will void the day of his birth.

Literally taking a page from It’s A Wonderful Life (one scene contains some exact lines from the classic Christmas movie), Shrek is propelled into a parallel universe where he no longer exist and ogres are treated as slaves. Trying to put things right, Shrek begins by attempting to convince his friends Donkey and Puss in Boots (voices of Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas) that he knew them in a past life. But if that is difficult, rekindling his relationship with his wife proves even harder. Fiona is now the head of a rebellion, and has no interest in the newcomer’s affection.

After a near-decade of character development, Shrek’s crusty outer layers seem to be giving way to a softer persona underneath. For some fans, this may be a disappointment. Yet from a family perspective, there has never been a more accessible Shrek. Other than the usual cartoon slapstick violence, along with diaper and outhouse comments, this fourth installment is devoid of the sexual innuendo and edgy humor that pervaded earlier movies. Thankfully there is still laughter, especially for those old enough to sympathize with the overloaded feeling years of kids, job issues and plugged drains can create.

It should come as no surprise that a happily ever after ending concludes this final tale from the land of Far, Far, Away. Still, the sentimentality seems justified. For most of us, the path of mortality leads through the young adult "I know it all" years, which segue into the mid-life experience of "I know nothing" compunction. Ironically Shrek, an imaginary character in a highly unrealistic world, is portraying a similar progression through his animated life’s experience. If the writers stay on this course, I’d love to see this ogre dealing with grandkids and prune juice.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Step Up 3D Review

Step Up 3D is a formula film, yet it is a formula that seems to be working for the movies’ producers. Their third installment in the dance franchise includes a sugary romance and plenty of moves designed to take advantage of the 3D technology. Rushing the screen, thrusting out their arms and throwing team members into the air, the characters push the limits of their dance floor as far as they can.

In the story, Luke (Rick Malambri), a gifted performer and aspiring filmmaker, assembles a group of New York hoofers known as the Pirates from off the streets. He brings them to an old warehouse his parents converted into a practice hall where dancers of all ilks could come together to perfect their art.

Now his parents are gone and the bank is eyeing the piece of prime real estate in downtown New York. Five months behind on his mortgage payments, Luke knows his only chance to keep the studio solvent is to win the upcoming World Jam dance competition. But first he and the Pirates have to qualify for the finals. With his camcorder in hand, Luke scours the city for some new talent to add to the troupe.

That’s when he meets NYU freshman Moose (Adam G. Sevani) who has just arrived on campus. (Moose first made his appearance in Step Up 2 The Streets.) Luke invites the new student back to The Vault where his company rehearses. Though Moose promised his parents he’d give up dancing in order to focus on his studies as an engineer, he soon finds himself practicing his art during every spare moment he can find. The time commitment impacts not only his studies, but more importantly, his relationship with his old high school friend Camille (Alyson Stoner.)

In addition to Moose, Luke lures the beautiful Natalie (Sharni Vinson who has an uncanny ability for tearing up) into joining the group just before their first qualifying battle. However, the Pirates’ rivals in the House of Samurai are eager to win the competition as well and are willing to stoop to just about any level to make sure they take home the title.

Although the storyline may be shallow and predictable, the performances are anything but. Combing the country for the nation’s best, the film’s casting crew has gleaned an ensemble of agile and athletic terpsichoreans who execute some truly amazing choreography directed by Jamal Simms. Their styles include a mix of Indian, popping and locking, robotics, ballet, tap and urban street moves, as well as some parkour-inspired training steps.

The production has the mandatory bad boy—Julien (Joe Slaughter) who leads the Samurai—yet there isn’t the same kind of rebellious, sulking individuals we’ve seen in past films. These characters dance because they love it and because they love each other. Forming a family of sorts, they bring out the best in one another by sharing their skills. The spirit of teamwork and dedication are positive messages in this movie, as is the importance of pursuing educational opportunities. Parents will also appreciate that the script focuses primarily on competition preparations with only brief scenes of kissing, some infrequent sensual dance moves and a smattering of language concerns.

While the film follows the underground dance culture, the imaginative and energetic choreography may inspire young viewers to step up and develop their own style of musical movement.

Our Wedding Family Review

If you can remember when Sidney Poitier had to break the ice with his white suburban in-laws in the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, then you’ll be able to guess what problem is about to erupt during Our Family Wedding. In this updated version the clash happens between Hispanics and African Americans.

The potential groom, Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross) has more than cultural and racial differences to bridge after he and his fiancée Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera) return to their family’s homes in Los Angeles to announce their engagement. Their fathers, Brad Boyd and Miguel Ramirez (Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia), have already had a previous close encounter of the interracial kind when Ramirez’s towing company hauled Brad’s costly car away for a parking violation. Add Lucia’s mother Donia (Diana-Maria Riva) in the throws of a midlife crisis, and her Mexican grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros) who literally faints the first time she sets eyes on Marcus’s black skin, and you have a recipe for a mixed bag of racial tensions, uncomfortable jokes and tedious wedding plans. And all this fun happens before a goat eats Brad’s bulk-sized bottle of Viagra.

This movie should have had great family-viewing potential. Messages about racial harmony, and the importance of families and marriage are overriding themes. Unfortunately these positive elements are painfully developed through a non-stop series of difficult meetings and angry encounters. As well, we learn that Brad, a popular smooth-talking radio host, slept with countless women after his first marriage broke up. (We also see his imagination envisioning his ex being run over by a bus.) His best friend and lawyer (Regina King), truly the most levelheaded character in the script, tries to help him navigate his minefield of a life, but you have to wonder what motivates her to care for this playboy.
Non-explicit sexual discussions and infrequent profanities are among the content concerns. However, while bad words are few in number, they do include a sexual expletive and another crude term for sex, along with terms of deity. Family squabbles abound, racial slurs are heard and alcohol flows freely in some scenes. Finally, there’s the goat that takes a liking to Brad for a few seconds of animal awkwardness.

While the conclusion attempts to tie up every last string and ensure nobody leaves the wedding without a mate (or the theater without a smile) Our Family Wedding likely won’t leave you wishing for an invitation to the clans’ next shindig.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Other Guys Review

During the dog days of summer, cinemas usually host a variety of low-ball comedies that play best to audiences seeking a cool, relaxing place to rest their brains. In the case of this movie, you may need to go a step further and completely shutdown your cerebrum in order to survive.

The fact the film stars Will Ferrell (who also appears in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Semi-Pro) should be an immediate indication of what to expect. Here he plays a policeman named Allen Gamble, a nerd anxious to fit into the cop culture. This desire to be a real toughie instead of one of the wimpy "other guys" makes him a prime target for his coworker’s practical jokes and insults. He’s teamed up with a hot-tempered desk jockey, which begs the question: Why has Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) been saddled with Gamble and office duty?

Desperate to get back on the streets and doing some exciting police work, Hoitz convinces his partner in law to go out on a call. Cruising in Gamble’s Prius (one of many in-your-face product placements), the impetuous act inadvertently leads the pair into a major crime investigation… and the ongoing wrath of their Captain (Michael Keaton).

The opening half hour fires off a fair number of reasonably funny lines, but the comedic bullets are quickly exhausted. Increasingly long scenes of stupidity, unwarranted action sequences and needless script detours hamper this movie’s artistic merit. Most parents will not appreciate the frequent sexual jokes, crude remarks and profanities. Nor are they likely to approve of the generous depictions of violence, including a suicide, all of which are played for humor.

Finally, if the names of Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson on the marquee are enticing you to still give this film a shot, all I can say is "buyer beware." Without spoiling what little “surprise” this movie has to offer, don’t expect to get your money’s worth from seeing these two celebs. Instead, you’ll find yourself stuck with the other guys for a very tedious two hours.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Twilight Saga: Eclipse Review

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse opened in the US with the largest domestic release in box office history according to Internet sources. Booked in 4,416 theaters, the third installment of Stephenie Meyer’s tale about a tortured teen who yearns to be a vampire beat out the previous record for cinemas set by Iron Man 2.

So what does a scowling, lovelorn high school senior (Kristen Stewart) have over a playboy billionaire in a high-tech armored suit (Robert Downey Jr.)? The Marvel Comic hero speaks to stereotypical male fantasies—fast machines, big toys that make noise, and a pretty girl at one’s beck and call. But Bella embodies the daydream of those females who’d love to have not one but two men fighting for their affections.

This film begins with a rash of mysterious deaths and disappearances in the Seattle, Washington area. Although the crimes baffle local police, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) senses something sinister and surreal is behind them. After closer investigation, the Cullen family discovers an army of newborn vampires is ravaging the city in a kind of feeding frenzy. Unable to determine who is behind the birthing, the Cullens nonetheless take action to stop the vicious, bloodthirsty host from coming to Forks and harming Bella.

Unfortunately while they are training to take on the powerful enemies, Bella remains caught up in the love triangle between Edward (Robert Pattinson), Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and herself. Acting as if everything revolves around her, she flitters between her two love interests like a moth to a porch light. (And that’s not the only time her fickle personality surfaces.) Even when the vampires and werewolves are actively engaged in a brutal battle to save her from the advancing army, she is more interested in luring Edward into taking her virginity. Luckily, he is far more honorable than she deserves and refuses to lower his standards regarding virtue. His rejection of her petulant pleadings is the most redeeming thing this script has to offer. The other positive point may be the cooperation of the vampires and werewolves. Setting aside of their age-old feud, they work together to take on a foe that is more powerful than either of them. This agreement doesn’t result in friendship, yet there is at least a new level of respect for one another.

Still, the script remains plagued with implausible dialogue, excessive explanations and unwarranted melodrama. Depictions of violent decapitations, bloody injuries and fierce fighting are also less than family friendly. Yet Eclipse shows a glimmer of improvement over the first two films (Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon) that parents will likely appreciate.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Review

Sorcery and science fuse together in this live-action adventure film that reunites Nicholas Cage and Jon Turteltaub, the star and director from theNational Treasure franchise. Cage plays Balthazar Blake, one of three sorcerers trained by Merlin the Magician (James A. Stephans). At Merlin’s untimely death by stabbing, Balthazar is given his master’s precious dragon ring and a charge to find the one person who can destroy the wicked Morgana (Alice Krige) when she is freed from the confines of a magical matryoshka doll.

Setting out on his quest, Balthazar roams the world for centuries. At last he stumbles upon an unlikely candidate in modern day New York City. At the time, Dave (Jake Cherry) is an awkward 10-year-old whose clumsiness results in a decade long imprisonment in a clay urn for Merlin’s wandering apprentice. When the magician is finally released, he revisits Dave who is now a geeky—and still awkward—physics major at NYU. Balthazar then reveals the young adult’s role in saving mankind from the forces of evil.

Dave is skeptical and only half-hearted about his training. He is even more distracted after he runs into Becky (Teresa Palmer) and becomes enchanted by the old grade-school flame. However when the villainous Horvath (Alfred Molina) and his apprentice Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell) kidnap Becky and threaten her life, the college student seriously concentrates on developing his sorcery skills.
With plenty of engaging action for older children and teens, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice feels like a video game with increasingly difficult challenges to overcome. While it contains few language and sexual concerns, the film’s theme of sorcery and witchcraft (including the possession of bodies, incantations and the raising of the dead), may be problematic for some family viewers. The young Dave also runs away from his class during a fieldtrip, ending up alone in a shabby shop where he meets Balthazar. There he is almost killed during an ensuing battle between two sorcerers. Stabbings, electrocutions, fire breathing dragons and needles used as weapons are other intense depictions of violence and peril.

Yet for audience members who have no problem with Harry Potter and his classmates at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, this story offers similar suspense and action. Combining his physics education with his recently acquired magical abilities, Dave embraces his new skills as a sorcerer’s apprentice to challenge the destructive forces of evil.

Diner For Schmucks Review

Tim (Paul Rudd) is bucking for a promotion at his asset management firm. Recognized for his ability to schmooze a wealthy new client into the corporate portfolio, he has a shot at moving up to the coveted 7th Floor if he is willing to play a strange game: Search for a schmuck and invite him to his boss’s (Bruce Greenwood) monthly "dinner for idiots." Whoever shows up with the biggest bozo wins the prize. For Tim, that means the big promotion.

Unlike the other executives where he works, Tim’s live-in girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) immediately recognizes the cruel intent of the activity. However her sharp criticism doesn’t deter the determined manager, especially after he meets Barry (Steve Carell), an IRS employee who lands on the hood of Tim’s Porsche while he is busy texting.

After recovering from the forced acquainting, the nerdy looking victim reveals his life’s passion of collecting and arranging dead mice in detailed dioramas. When he whips out a scene of The Last Supper, with Jesus and the apostles all being represented by taxidermically prepared rodents, Tim feels he has found the perfect dinner guest. Extending the invitation, Barry readily accepts—and even shows up a day early.

Barry arrives in the midst of a spat between the couple, and immediately integrates himself into Tim’s life. He creates complete chaos by inadvertently allowing a woman (Lucy Punch) into Tim’s home who has been stalking the corporate climber for three years. By the end of the night, Tim’s apartment is nearly destroyed, his Porsche is beaten and he’s facing a tax audit.

There are moments of genius in this script that are made truly funny by Steve Carell’s very capable performance. But sadly, the movie stoops to the lowest common denominator shared by far too many contemporary comedies to create laughs. Sexual jokes, innuendo and outright explicit discussions permeate many scenes. Partial female and male nudity, with explicit body parts barely covered, is briefly shown. Offensive language (such as profanities, a single sexual expletive and many terms of deity) is heard throughout. And the constant slapstick violence includes the dismemberment of a finger during a fight.

Content aside, the theme itself may present the greatest issue for parents. Reported to be far less cruel than the popular French film, The Dinner Game, upon which Schmucks is based, this production still begs the question: How do we perceive those around us who appear "different?" Thankfully, the final few minutes do attempt to reorient the audience perspective to view the rich executives as the nasty members of the club while the "idiots" claim their right to social acceptance. Yet it’s a weak excuse to justify laughing at marginalized members of society for the last two hours—or to alleviate the lingering guilt we may feel after chuckling at their expense.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cats and Dogs - Revenge of Kitty Galore

Like the original Cats and Dogs, the fate of mankind rests in the paws of the animal kingdom in the sequel Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. However, the filmmakers seem compelled to up the story’s edginess by adding a heaping helping of adult content. The inclusion of drug use, allusions to a serial killer and the title (which plays on the name of the famous James Bond bombshell, Pussy Galore) made me wonder if double entendres were really necessary to keep audience members engaged. Since the depiction of an army tank labeled PU55 is unlikely to lure older viewers into a PG movie, why not leave the sexual innuendo out and let the four-legged spy story stand on its own?

To be honest, the hairless Kitty Galore (voice by Bette Midler) is anything but the sex symbol played by Honor Blackman in the 1964 Goldfinger. After Kitty has an unfortunate encounter with a vat of hair removal cream, she is rejected by her human family. Heartbroken, she vows to wreak revenge on all two-legged creatures.

Meanwhile, Diggs (voice by James Marsden) is an exuberant German Shepherd who works on the San Francisco police force with his human partner Shane (Chris O’Donnell). However his canine enthusiasm—and inability to follow orders—gets him in trouble once too often when he causes an explosion at a used car dealership during a hostage taking. Impounded in the police kennel, he faces a long stint of solitary confinement.

Luckily for him, his sentence is cut short when he is recruited by a secret society of dog agents devoted to keeping the planet safe. The organization is on the tail of Kitty and needs some extra teeth to bring down the criminal. But it doesn’t take Diggs and his partner Butch (Nick Nolte) long to realize they are going to need even more help to capture the rogue cat. Resigning themselves to the situation, they are partnered with the furry feline Catherine (voice of Christina Applegate) from MEOW and a pea-brained pigeon named Seamus (voice of Katt Williams).

Filled with typical cartoon-type violence, moments of peril and a scene of cats on a catnip-induced high, the script is only a mediocre rehashing of the original story. It does, however, offer some positive messages about cooperation and overcoming personal fears. Yet even with all the up-to-the-minute, canine-adapted spy gear, this tale of undercover espionage with its vague sexual comments will leave many parents wondering if children’s movies have finally gone to the dogs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Usefulness Of Movie Reviews

A movie review gives an indication as to whether or not others will find the movie worth watching. The purpose of most movie reviews is to help the reader in determining whether they want to watch, rent or buy the movie. The review should also give enough details about the movie so that the reader can make a right choice. For that the review must deal with all important aspects of the movie such as the plot or the story. In this article, we will be discussing the guidelines, which should be followed while writing a movie review. Before starting to write a review, the writer should select the movie he is going to write about. Knowing the details of the movie, such as its director, actors, story and such things is important. Then the reviewer should formulate his own opinion in one sentence. Lastly, special scenes from the movie or other things that will support the writer's opinion have to be selected and given. The first step in writing the review is to watch the movie. Most movie reviewers take notes as they watch the movie itself. Watching the movie a second time helps to absorb a lot more details about the movie. Most movie reviewers give their opinion of the movie only after watching it a second or third time. In all good journalism, the reviewer should always give impartial details, and allow the readers to make their own opinion about the film. Reviewer's opinions should be explained to allow the reader to determine whether they would agree with his opinion. The reviewer also needs to consider the audience. Writing a movie review for children requires a different approach than writing for a general movie audience. The review should always be written keeping the targeted audience in mind. The main essence of the movie should be retained in an outlined sketch. But it should always be remembered not to give away any essential details like surprises or a sudden turn in the plot. Details of actors, crew members, and directors should be mentioned. It should also be mentioned how well they have acted and how well the movie has been made technically. The technicalities are an important part of the movie review. Technicalities include art direction, music, editing, lighting, cinematography and the like. Movie reviews even include a little bit of criticism if needed. Criticism says what could have been done to make the film better or what the weak points of the movie are. Though critical analysis is not always needed, a word or two in that manner can be very good at times. A reviewer must always remember to give an outline of the whole story, but not give away details which hold surprises or the special essence of the film. It should be kept untold to keep the suspense. The movie review should be written keeping a note of the types of readers who would be reading the review. The language, presentation and the technicalities of writing would also depend on the types of readers. The medium in which the review will be published is also important, because if the review is published on the net the reviewer will get mostly young readers but if it is going to be published in a local language in a local daily the approach should be different.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Green Lantern

Here is the new cover to Entertainment Weekly.  The images of The Green Lantern are getting me excited for the movie. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grown Ups Review

While I was looking forward to seeing the latest Happy Madison product, I left somewhat disappointed.  The basis of the movie is:  after their high school basketball coach passes away, 5 friends reunite for the funeral during the 4th of July weekend. 

After the funeral, Lenny (Adam Sandler), Kurt (Chris Rock), Eric (Kevin James), Marcus (David Spade), and Rob (Rob Schneider) spend the weekend at a lake house that they used to hang out at when they were teens basically reliving their glory days. 

The story has been done many times in the past and with the comedians involved in this film, I expected more.  There are funny moments in the film that will have you laughing but its hit or miss.  Two hours are spent with the guys making fun of each other.  Their is a good message in the film where Sandler realizes his kids are to "hollywood" and wants them to do things he did as a kid, like skipping rocks, playing outside. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Scream 4 Troubles

Scream 4 is currently shooting in Michigan, where the movie is reportedly experiencing script issues. According to Zap2It, script changes are frustrating the cast, particularly Hayden Panettiere, who is "beyond frustrated with the changes" since her formerly "really sharp" role has been "dumbed down significantly." Lauren Graham, once attached to the movie, left after her role was reduced to almost nothing.
Accusing eyes would normally target Scream co-creator and Scream 4 screenwriter Kevin Williamson, however, the report indicates that Williamson has left the project, and Ehren Kruger, screenwriter for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is currently in charge of the script.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Red State

It seems that Kevin Smith is finally starting this project after 3 years.  He is in the process of casting as we speak, but says, "he doesn't want any actors that are known as that will ruin the film."  After this project is wrapped up, he will team up with Sean William Scott for the hockey comedy "Hit Somebody."

Sin City 2

Robert Rodriguez has stated that the current script needs rewriting.  That hasn't happened yet, but will soon.  He is in the process of finding a time slot to start the writing.  Maybe he should cut back on some of his other projects and get this one going.  I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Last Airbender Box Office

According to Box Office Mojo, The Last Airbender ranks #2 behind The Twilight Saga in box office take between July 2 and July 4 taking in over 40 million dollars.  This should be great news to M. Night Shyamalan and the executives at Paramount studios.  Most of the early reviews about the movie were negative, but that isn't swaying anyone away from the movie. 


Saturday, July 3, 2010

2 New Mad Max Films?

George Miller is shooting 2 Mad Max films back to back.  Movie #1 is titled Mad Max: Fury Road and #2 is Mad Max: Furiosa.  Stayed tuned for more information on this.

Twilight Stars Set To Get Big Raise

It was minor players in the Twilight franchise like Ashley Green and Kellan Lutz
who held up progress on Breaking Dawn by demanding higher salaries, but the three major players in the saga will be the ones taking home the biggest paydays. Vulture has learned that Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner will each earn $25 million for appearing in the two Breaking Dawn films, which amounts to about $12.5 million for each emotion the actors are capable of expressing in the films.

And that's before the actual gross of the movies are factored in. The stars are earning the $25 million against 7.5% of the theatrical gross for both films, which Vulture estimates could net them an extra $16 million based on how well the first three films have done.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Other Guys Preview

The Other Guys is set to hit theatre's August 6, 2010.  I've been looking forward to this film for some time now.  Here is the plot for the movie:   NYPD Detectives Christopher Danson and P.K. Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are the baddest and most beloved cops in New York City. They don't get tattoos - other men get tattoos of them. Two desks over and one back, sit Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). You've seen them in the background of photos of Danson and Highsmith, out of focus and eyes closed. They're not heroes - they're "the Other Guys." But every cop has his or her day and soon Gamble and Hoitz stumble into a seemingly innocuous case no other detective wants to touch that could turn into New York City's biggest crime. It's the opportunity of their lives, but do these guys have the right stuff?

The Other Guys Trailer

M. Night Shyamalan-The Last Airbender Trilogy

Apparently, this all depends on the success of The Last Airbender part 1.  Judging from early reviews, thats probably not going to happen.  I'm hoping he can turn it around as I have enjoyed some of his earlier work. 

Here's the story.  The Last Airbender Trilogy

The Expendables

This movie is set to hit theatres August 13, 2010.  The Expendables has about every known action star at least having a cameo.  If your looking for some of that 80's action nostalgia, then this should be the movie for you.  Tons of explosions and action make this a must see for me.  Here is the synopsis. 

THE EXPENDABLES is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator. Once the mission begins, the men realize things arent quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers.

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is a man with nothing to lose. Fearless and void of emotion, he is the leader, the sage and the strategist of this tight-knit band of men who live on the fringe. His only attachment is to his pickup truck, his seaplane and his team of loyal modern-day warriors. His is a true cynic who describes what he does as removing those hard to get at stains. The team behind him is made up of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), former SAS and a savant with anything that has a blade; Yin Yang (Jet Li), a master at close-quarter combat; Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who has known Barney for ten years and is a long-barrel weapons specialist; Toll Road (Randy Couture), a skilled demolitions expert and considered the intellect of the group; and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), a combat veteran and an expert in precision sniping who struggles with his own demons.

When the mysterious Church offers Barney a job no one else would take, Barney and his team embark on what appears to be a routine mission: overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas), the murderous dictator of the small island country of Vilena and end the years of death and destruction inflicted on its people. On a reconnaissance mission to Vilena, Barney and Christmas meet their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie), a local freedom-fighter with a dark secret. They also come to learn who their true enemy is: rogue ex-CIA operative James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his henchman Paine (Steve Austin). When things go terribly wrong, Barney and Christmas are forced to leave Sandra behind, essentially giving her a death sentence. Haunted by this failure, Barney convinces the team to return to Vilena to rescue the hostage and finish the job he started. And to perhaps save a soul: his own.

The Expendables Trailer 

Major League 4

Apparently the first 3 films in this franchise weren't enough.  While I enjoyed the first 2, Major League 3: Back to the Minors really ended it for me.  But nonetheless, here is the synopsis.

20 years after the events of the first Major League, the pitcher, Wild Thing, comes out of retirement to mentor a young new player.  Charlie Sheen is in talks, while Wesley Snipes and Corbin Bernsen are rumored.