Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

 Les Misérables 

 Image: Wolverine sings his little heart out.


I really need to get out more. Apparently, " Les Misérables" was a famous Broadway musical, with lots of singing and whatnot. Anyway, the movie version stars Wolverine, Gladiator, Catwoman and Borat. How could it possibly fail?

So Hugh Jackman plays a French convict named Jean Valjean, who is released on parole by Prison Guard, Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread (Serves him right!) After breaking his parole, Valjean decides to go straight and start a new life, but Javert makes a solemn vow (Why are vows always so solemn?) to hunt down the dastardly bread thief.

8 years later, Valjean is the Mayor of a town, and owner of a factory. He discovers that Fantine (Anne Hathaway), an employee, has been "Selling Herself" to take care of her daughter. When she is arrested by Javert, who is now Police Captain, Valjean saves her, and vows (Yet another vow) to take care of her daughter, Cossete, when a seriously ill Fantine dies. (Depressed? It's called "The Miserables" for a reason.)

So 9 years later, It's time for the French Revolution. Valjean now grown daughter Cossete ,(Amanda Seyfred), or, I mean Fantine's daughter, who Valjean has raised as as his own, but never told, well anyway...she loves a young revolutionary (Eddie Redmayne), Javert confronts Valjean, Valjean confronts Javert, you'll laugh, you'll cry (A lot), you'll cheer, you'll go home pretty happy.

For a story called " Les Misérables" , the film is strangely uplifting. In the end, the theme is about hope in even the most dire circumstances, and the soaring music helps convey that. I ended up loving the film, more than I thought I could possibly love a musical with as much death and despair in it.

The film has it's detractors. Some complain it doesn't compare well to the famous book or stage shows, and I can't speak to that. Judging on it's own merits, "Les Misérables", is lovely to look at. The set design and costumes are incredibly detailed, matching the time period just right. 

The famous music is beautiful, even with the stars singing "Live", so to speak. Some critics have complained about this, though, for me, it adds realism. The top notch cast sings pretty much the entire movie, and most fare extremely well in difficult roles. Hugh Jackman gives a great performance, including his singing, Anne Hathaway's role is small but important, and she is perfection (Her big musical number is the showstopper), and Amanda Seyfred is a cutie pie, with a sweet voice. Russell Crowe gives it his all, but is probably the weakest link (He kinda' sounds like "Kermit the Frog", to be honest.)

The rest of the large cast is good, including Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter,(As the comedy relief. They are hilarious), and newcomer Samantha Barks is wonderful (With a great voice) in a small but important role. The film is HUGE, and can almost veer into being too big and bombastic. Still, the entire film strives for greatness, and pulls off one of the most impressive film achievements I have seen this year. Such a sad story, yet it leaves you happy and uplifted. "Les Misérables" can't exceed everyone's expectations, but it sure exceeded mine. Of course, if you had to sit through the junk I suffer through at times... 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Scenes of Great Intensity and Heartbreak.

Django Unchained

 Image: Christoph Waltz and Jaime Foxx coming for their Oscar nominations.


So THAT'S what all that hububb has been about that Tarantino guy!

There may be no Hollywood Director more controversial than Quentin Tarantino. Of course, how would I know? Because of my well-meaning, but over-protective Father, who would prefer that I watch nothing more controversial than "Sesame Street" (Although I did catch that "Special" episode where Bert and Ernie consummated their relationship. That's not illegal anymore on "Sesame Street".)

Anyway, now I can't imagine a more original Director than Tarantino, or a more original film than "Django Unchained", which tells the sprawling tale of a mid-19th century slave named "Django" (Jamie Foxx. The D is silent), who is bought and freed by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). They decide to become partners, and the German agrees to help Django save his wife (Kerry Washington), who is being held by the ruthless Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio) a slave owner who enjoys forcing his male slaves to fight each other to the death. This all builds to a breathtaking (And gruesome) finale that I guarantee you will never see the likes of in your movie going life again.

I'm not exaggerating here, folks. "Django Unchained" is absolutely sensational, starting with the riveting dialogue, which is irreverent and, at times, darkly humorous. In lesser hands, with such a serious subject, "Django" would have been a complete disaster. But Tarantino gives his amazing cast such great material to work with, that it becomes a thought-provoking, yet still supremely entertaining film.

"Django Unchained" is filled with award worthy performances. Jamie Foxx makes a compelling and bad-ass hero, and Christoph Waltz plays what may be my favorite original character in a film this year (Can't decide if he should be up for a Best Actor or Supporting Actor Oscar.) Leonardo DiCaprio is having a complete blast playing one of the nastiest villains you will ever love to hate on film, and Samuel L. Jackson (As DiCaprio's head house slave) is riveting in a memorable role. Oscars galore!

Tarantino gives "Django" a wild look and feel, that is slowly paced, yet exciting. It finally grows and builds up to one Hell of a finale. A very bloody, gory finale. "Django"'s violence and blood is undeniably controversial, as is the language and the common use of the "N" word. From my point of view, context is everything. In "Django", every bad guy who uses the vulgar term, gruesomely gets what's coming to him. In the end, it's a "Revenge for Slavery" film that easily puts the crowd on Django's side from start to finish.

"Django Unchained" is as fascinating as any film this year, and has a chance to finish at the top of "James Eagan Top 20 of 2012 List". In fact, this film has inspired me to become the "Tarantino" of film reviewers. Brutal, meaningful, humorous, and yes, controversial. The "Inglorious Bastard" of movie critics. 4 Stars. Rated R for Brutal Violence, Brutal Language, and A Brutal Shot of Jamie Foxx's Testicles!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

 Above: "You can keep the ring. Just give me some pants!"


The reason I got into the film review business (Other than to tell a girl, "Hey, how would you like to go out with a film critic?") was that I noticed that too many critics seemed to base their reviews based on their own expectations. Maybe some prejudge a movie, especially when comparing it to an already beloved film series. Just seems like everyone likes to hate on "The Hobbit".

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is not great. So be it. But it's still pretty freakin' awesome. The first part of the prequel trilogy to "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit" tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a peaceful little Hobbit who lives a cozy life in the Shire, in his little hole in the ground. One day, Gandolf the Grey (Ian Mckellen) pressures Bilbo to volunteer to join a quest, involving 13 Dwarfs (Sounds like a joke. A Rabbi, a Priest, and 13 Dwarfs go into a bar), led by "Thorin" (Richard Armitage), a bad-ass Dwarf who is hell bent on taking back their homeland, which was taken over by "Smaug" the Dragon (Brother of "Puff the Magic").

On the journey, they encounter a vengeful Ork, some disgusting Goblins, uncover a dark conspiracy, and Bilbo meets the cute and cuddly "Gollum" (Andy Serkis), who posesses the "Precious" ring that unites the entire trilogy. Wow, that sounds epic! And that's just the beginning of the trilogy.

"The Hobbit" is not a truly great movie. But ease up, critics! The film still has so many of the elements that we all love from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy . The characters here are plenty memorable, and, although the CGI isn't perfect, it looks spectacular at times.

Peter Jackson is a terrific Director, and has an amazingly lush visual flair. The performances match the characters perfectly. Martin Freeman is excellent, Sir Ian Mckellen is a flawless actor, and Richard Arbitage develops a truly fun character. And I will not sleep (Ok, I WILL sleep a little) until I get Andy Serkis an Oscar nomination this year (Maybe just a special Oscar for "People Who Deserve an Award For Just Being Awesome").

Unlike some other critics, I don't feel "The Hobbit" is too long, and I don't understand the complaint that the film is too "Kid-Friendly". "The Hobbit" was always more of a lighter tale, but still has plenty of depth for adults (And plenty of beheadings and such). And the character, "Radagast the Brown" (Sylvester McCoy) is NOT the "Jar-Jar Binks" of "The Hobbit". 

I also don't care about the debate over the "High-Frame Rate". It's not a legit complaint to me. I had a blast watching "The Hobbit", as did my 9 year old sister (It's pretty suitable for most younger audiences). Again, not in the same league as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but still plenty epic for a devoted, uh, "Lordy" ? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Surprisingly Gruesome Deaths.

Playing For Keeps

 Above: The stuffed animal contemplates escaping from "Playing For Keeps"


I hate romantic comedies. Mind you, it doesn't have to be this way (See: "Silver Linings Playbook"). But Hollywood insists on including every "Rom-Com" cliche in the book. The guy who is trying to win back the girl he let get away, who has moved on. Yeah, he's kind of a rogue and a bit of a bad boy. But he's just so charming and lovable. And all the other girls in town fall for him, but the girl he wants resists until finally relenting for the heartwarming finale, which anyone can see coming an excruciating hour and a half ago. 

Well if that sounds like fun to you, then you'll probably love "Playing For Keeps". Unlike me. Who hates it. Gerard Butler stars as a former soccer star with an outrageous Scottish accent (Actually, I think that's his real accent), who finally decides to spend time with his son, whom he had recklessly abandoned along with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel). She has moved on with a perfectly decent guy, but clearly still finds her ex charming and lovable and Scottish.

Meanwhile, all of the horny soccer moms in town can't keep their hands off of him, and charmingly, he only sleeps with two of them (What self control!). Of course, he really is pining away for his ex, whom he finally acknowledges is "The One", and waits for the perfect moment to tell her. On her wedding day, with her in her wedding dress. Naturally.

Sounds horrible, doesn't it? It is. In so many ways. "Playing For Keeps" is the worst kind of "Rom-Com". One that clearly thinks it is way more charming than it is. When in reality, it's boring, silly, lazy, and downright offensive and sexist. Ladies, whatever you think of Gerard Butler, I would hope you have more self respect than the female characters in this film.

Nothing rings true in "Playing For Keeps", from the bland characters, terrible script, and at times, strange acting (Dennis Quaid plays one of the strangest movie characters I've ever seen.) It's the kind of film where no one acts as any rational person would in real life. There is a reason why "Playing For Keeps" has a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. It sucks. And ladies, I want you to know that I would never act as irresponsible as Gerard Butler does in this movie. I play for keeps. 1/2 A Star. Rated PG-13 for Sexual Situations.

Hitchcock

 Above: Sir Anthony Hopkins as Sir Alfred Hitchcock.


I admit, that for a devoted film critic like me to admit to not having seen "Psycho", considered to be one of the all-time greats, it hurts my credibility. And I am a huge fan of Director Alfred Hitchcock. You have to see "Notorious", "Rear Window", "North by Northwest" and "To Catch a Thief". All 4 Stars of awesomeness. But I have not seen "Vertigo" or "Strangers on a Train". Or "Shadow of a Doubt". Or "Rebecca". I blame my Dad for not insisting I see them yet.

"Hitchcock" tells the "Factual?" tale of the making of "Psycho", and the problems the famed, portly Director faced. Hitchcock ( Anthony Hopkins) was plagued by funding issues, battles with the studio over the film's shocking content, marital conflicts with his wife ( Helen Mirren), his fascination with his film's leading ladies (Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel), and his freaky obsession with the real-life killer on which "Psycho" was based on.

I don't know about historical accuracy, but as sheer entertainment, "Hitchcock" succeeds. Mind you, it's a bit strange. At times, too strange, especially when the film focuses on Hitchcock's inner dreams and visions, and almost goes off the rails. "Hitchcock" isn't always fluid in it's storytelling, but excels when focusing on the details of making "Psycho", and his relationship dynamic with his wife.

The performances all very good all around, but "Hitchcock" really depends on it's star power, and it's two legendary leads are flawless. Sir Anthony Hopkins is a delight as always, devouring the scenery like Hitchcock would have devoured a turkey leg, while Dame Helen Mirren is absolute perfection. Watching these two all-time greats together is one of the highlights of the year in movies. Hopkins might deserve yet another Oscar nomination, and I'm going to be P.O'D if Mirren isn't nominated. ( Remember, I helped get Gary Oldman his nomination last year. That was me! I did that! Now can we get Andy Serkis one too?)

"Hitchcock" is a clever and fun film, and despite it's idiosyncrasies, is an interesting imagining of one of Hollywood's most fascinating and controversial directors. I will let you know what I think of "Psycho". 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Suggestive and Strange Content.

Silver Linings Playbook

 Image: BACK OFF, COOPER! SHES MINE!


It's always strange how even really good actors can make some really terrible choices with their films. It was only a few months ago that Bradley Cooper starred in "The Words", a pretentious flop that bored me to tears, while the lovely and enchanting Jennifer Lawrence followed the smash "The Hunger Games", with "House at the End of the Street", a complete mess and a total waste of her talents.

Luckily, both rebound quite nicely with "Silver Linings Playbook", a quirky, interesting "Dramedy", starring Cooper as Pat, a man with Bi-Polar Disorder who found his wife cheating on him, causing him to freak out and attack her lover. Now, eight months later, he has been released from a mental health facility, but is under the delusion that he is still together with his wife.

Pat returns home to Philadelphia, and his football obsessed parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), where he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a young widow with her own emotional issues. Tiffany knows Pat's ex-wife, and agrees to help him, if he agrees to be her dance partner for an upcoming competition. As Pat and Tiffany grow closer, Pat must deal with her struggles, as well as his family's.

Written and directed By David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook" is certainly a surprise to me. There are a few moments where the script struggles to find the right balance between humor and it's touchy subject matter. But "Playbook" is extremely well written, and is full of wonderful, memorable, and eccentric cast of characters, who are brought to life by top-notch actors. I would never have thought that Bradley Cooper could give such an enjoyable, layered performance.

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver are extremely likable as the parents, and, (Who would have guessed this) Chris Tucker is a pleasant surprise and very funny as Cooper's lovable friend he met at the facility.

Now, I would like to devote an entire paragraph to Jennifer Lawrence, or as I refer to her as, "The future Mrs. James Eagan". She is easily one of the best actresses of her generation, and is absolutely terrific in "Playbook". She handles her challenging character with ease, grace and humor. Oh, and by the way, she looks absolutely stunning. Jennifer Lawrence deserves her ranking as number one on "James Eagan's Top 35 Most Beautiful Woman List". (Yes, I have a list. Admit it guys. We all do.)

"Silver Linings Playbook" almost falls into typical "Romantic Comedy" territory at times, (Of which I am not a fan), but the film, and the two leads handle these moments so well that I've decided to forgive it. In fact, Cooper and Lawrence are so convincing together ( Even though he's too old for her. I think she should go for 18 year old film critics), they make the best screen couple I've seen this year.

A thoughtful, entertaining film for adults, "Silver Linings Playbook" deserves Oscar consideration for it's excellent performances. And, if any of my readers happen to know Jennifer Lawrence, please direct her to this website. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Sexual Situations and Language.

Life of Pi

 Image: Here kitty kitty! Good kitty! 


For any movie critic, this is the best time of year, when all of the rest of the films with "Oscar Buzz" get released. This puts me under enormous pressure, since I have no car, no paying job, and no computer of my own. Heck, my hometown doesn't even have a movie theater! And yet I persevere, knowing that when I'm working as a movie critic at Rolling Stone (Peter Travers, I hope you're reading. You're the best!), I'm going to look back at this and laugh. And maybe pay back my Dad for subsidizing all of this. But probably not.

Sure to get Oscar consideration will be "Life of Pi", one of the best looking films you will ever see on screen (You have to watch it in 3-D.) "Pi" begins with a man (Ifran Khan) named Piscine ("Pi" for short) telling his life story to a writer (Rafe Spall). "Pi" has an incredible tale to tell, beginning with his relationship with his family, the zoo his family owned, and his introduction to different religions.

While sailing away from their homeland, a massive storm destroys the ship, and "Pi" (Now a teenager) finds himself sharing a lifeboat with a zoo tiger, who sees "Pi" as tastier than, well, a pie. Somehow, they form a very uneasy alliance in order to survive the harsh elements, and "Pi" must test his religious beliefs, questioning why he is faced with so much anguish. And fish. So much fish in this movie.

As I said earlier, "Life of Pi" is visually stunning, and matches the graphics with an emotionally stunning story (Listen up "Avatar". I'm talking to you. ) The film is strong throughout, visually, but it's the tiger itself that is a digital masterpiece. I swear at times I even forgot is was CGI it was so realistic.

Yet graphics alone aren't the only impressive thing about "Life of Pi". Ifran Khan, and, especially Suraj Sharma (As the teenage "Pi". Acting with a CGI tiger can't be easy) give terrific performances, adding heart and warmth to a very likable character. "Pi" really soars with the focus on "Pi" and the tiger, with the great looking visuals a bonus to the compelling story and performance.

Director Ang Lee is clearly brilliant, adding a completely unique style with a sense of wonder and awe. "Life of Pi" is a thought provoking film, and it's complexity makes for an intellectually challenging time at the movies. ("Red Dawn" this is NOT.) With it's PG rating, "Pi" is fairly suitable for children, despite it's deep and, at times, dark subject matter. As for aspiring "Rolling Stone" film critics, (Or any publication. I'm not picky) "Life of Pi" is sure to make my top ten list for 2012. 4 Stars. Rated PG for Adult Topics.

Jack Reacher

 Image: "Kittridge, you've never seen me upset!"


I'm not sure I'm qualified to review a Tom Cruise action film. The only one I've ever seen was that one where he was jumping up and down on a couch, screaming at Oprah. Something about Katie Holmes and Scientology and "Vanilla Sky".

"Jack Reacher" stars the 5 foot 5 Cruise as the 6 foot 5 Jack Reacher, a former Military Police Officer who is asked by a Defense Attorney (Rosamund Pike) to investigate why a former Army Sharpshooter was arrested after a sniper killed 5 people. Reacher discovers that the suspect was framed, and must prove his innocence, while uncovering the conspiracy of why Tom Cruise runs so much in all of his movies.

"Jack Reacher" is the kind of action film that some people will think is clever and original, while others will find it just plain generic and silly. I find it to be somewhere in between. "Reacher" is more of a thriller than the previews have let on, and has moments that are clever,including a couple of solid action sequences.

The performances are fine, with Tom Cruise making for an enjoyable action hero. Rosamund Pike is a cutie pie, and Werner Herzog plays a nifty villain, with an incredible, "Bad Guy" voice. (If I ever decide to become a villain, THAT'S the voice I'm gonna' have.) Oh, and Robert Duvall is in it a little, and he's always great.

What's a little silly about "Jack Reacher" is it's lack of consistency. The shift in tone, from action drama, to goofy action comedy, is very strange at times, and that makes it difficult to take the movie too seriously. And like a lot of recent films, it's WAY too long, and in some serious need of editing. Overall, It just doesn't have that special quality that would make it memorable.

Enjoyable, but forgettable, "Jack Reacher" does give Tom Cruise a chance to show his action star chops. What it doesn't do is give me a chance to write one of my epic reviews. Either be good enough to shower with praise, using my wit and intellect, or bad enough to mock mercilessly, using some of my cunning. No, wait.... All of my cunning! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Violence, Language and For Werner Herzog (Sounds Like A Disease).

Red Dawn


 Image: "I go from "The Avengers" to this?"

"Wolverines!" ... "Small Government!"... "Traditional Values!"

Sure is a lot of shouting , shootings, noise, and other such nonsense going on in the remake of "Red Dawn", and it just doesn't add up to anything. And even though I missed the original, I don't feel like I'm missing out much there either. Just don't care. I'm good.

But in case any of you insist on watching this crap, here you go. "Red Dawn" starts out peaceful in a generic, American town, blissfully unaware of the impending North Korean invasion (As we all are). Fortunately, these particular North Koreans are pretty stupid, allowing a bunch of teenagers (Who look like they're in their late twenties) to start a rebellion, led by Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Josh "Hug me brotha'!" Peck, and Josh "Insert Hunger Games joke here" Hutcherson. 

"Red Dawn" seems geared toward the specific audience that I happened to see the film with. Three young, Confederate loving rednecks who thought this was the greatest film ever made. Swear to God! This was their "Lincoln". To me, "Red Dawn" is loud, obnoxious, and mercifully short, with no direction to keep anyone without a gun rack in your truck even slightly interested. 

I mean, North Korea? They couldn't take us, and the script makes them look ridiculous anyway. The actors are all right, I guess. Chris Hemsworth comes across best, despite some trouble with his accent, but "Red Dawn" just doesn't make any effort to make me care who lived or died. "Greg! No, not Greg!" Who the hell was "Greg" ? I didn't care. 

Characters and plot points seem to come and go, subplots disappear, and the dialogue is just plain silly. My biggest objection to "Red Dawn" is it's lack of effort. It's not a competent film, but at least make me care. At least make me feel that the villains have a shot. So for all of you North Koreans reading this review... Just keep trying. "Red Dawn" is as close as you're ever going to get. "Wolverines!" 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Excessive Gun Violence (NRA Approved.)

Rise of the Guardians

 Image: Its the fight of the century! Jack vs.Rabbit.


It's been a really good year for animated films, with "Wreck-it Ralph", "Paranorman" and "The Secret World of Arrietty" leading the pack for my Animated Movie Awards. Vote now on Facebook. Your vote matters, people! Otherwise, you have no right to complain.

Our final animated film of 2012 is "Rise of the Guardians" (Not to mistaken as a sequel to "Legend of the Guardian. I don't think we're getting that sequel any time soon, dang it.) Based on a series of books, "Guardians" tells the tale of our childhood guardians. Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin, with a Russian accent), The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and The Sandman (played by no one. He doesn't speak.)

The Guardians have been giving children of the world dreams, hope, wonder and protection (Not THAT kind of protection. Sicko!), but the Bogeyman (Jude Law) is back, intending to plunge the world and our children into a state of fear. So the Guardians enlist the help of Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who has a special power that is needed to defeat the Bogeyman, and save the children of the world.

As you can tell from the previews, "Rise of the Guardians" is one of the best looking animated films of the year. The visuals are stunning, with a very unique art design, and is filled with some amazing action sequences. Strangely, this is the biggest problem with the film, in that everything is thrown at he audience, and it is almost too much to handle at times.

Plot wise, "Guardians" relies too heavily on the visuals and has a problem with maintaining it's focus, but luckily the characters are interesting enough, and the sub plots have quite a bit of depth, that "Guardians" is still a very entertaining film. The voice work is fine, with Alec Baldwin (Who really makes the Russian accent play), and Jude Law (Who looks uncannily like his character, if Jude Law had sharp teeth, was grey, and surrounded by an aura of darkness) stealing the show. 

The score has an epic sound, looks and feels like a big movie, but adults may find "Rise of the Guardians" to be a fine film, but somewhat lacking, especially compared to the best animated films of the year. But this is perfect for children, and they will love it. After all, the still have eyes and hearts full of wonder and imagination. It's us adults who are hardened and cynical, and take all the joy out of life. But... I still believe in Santa. And he is BADASS! 3 Stars. Rated PG for Scary Images.

Lincoln 

 Image: Abraham Lincoln, as resurrected by Daniel Day-Lewis.


I believe that Steven Spielberg should have been my history teacher. Not necessarily for historical accuracy, mind you. But just because he's so dang entertaining. I mean, Abraham Lincoln is obviously as interesting a subject matter as there is. It's just how Spielberg presents a specific period of time, with his attention to detail, character and dialogue. And, at 2 1/2 hours length, "Lincoln" could have saved me 4 years of high school.

Spielberg's "Lincoln" focuses on the last few months of President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), and his time in office, and of his life before his tragic assassination. The Civil War is still raging on, and Lincoln is trying desperately to pass the 13th Amendment, which would abolish Slavery. He enlists the help of Senator Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), who helps organize the votes to pass the legislation, despite the furious objections of some politicians who somehow supported the horror of Slavery, and who I assume are burning in Hell right now.

President Lincoln clearly had a lot on his plate (President Obama thinks HE has it tough!). Civil War, Slavery, having to negotiating a peace accord with the South, all the while dealing with a son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who wants to join the war, and a caring wife (Sally Field) who may have been emotionally unstable at times. 

"Lincoln" meets the definition of an "Epic" film, although there is very little action shown of the brutality of the Civil War. Spielberg mostly focuses on the difficulties and the specific details of the politics of the day. Yet it so well written, directed and acted that it is never less than exciting and suspenseful. The characters are so richly developed, that it feels as if you're in the room with these fascinating, yet complex people.

The acting in "Lincoln" is perfect. A perfectly acted film, with Daniel Day-Lewis literally bringing Abraham Lincoln back to life in front of our eyes. The way he embodies the President, in his look, voice, and stature, is exactly how I would have imagined one of the most famous people in history to be. Day-Lewis gives quite possibly one of the greatest acting performances I have ever seen.

The rest of the cast is flawless as well. Tommy Lee Jones is perfectly, awesomely cantankerous, Sally Field is beautifully complicated, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jared Harris (As General Grant), David Strathairn (As Lincoln's Secretary of State William Seward ), James Spader (As Political Operative William Bilbo), and, well, I could go on and on. The whole cast is phenominal.

The script is so well detailed, and heartfelt, that it feels genuinely authentic. "Lincoln" teaches lessons that are very relevant today, from our current political battles, to issues of equality. And while I'm on the subject, How about we stop all the "Secession" talk I've been hearing about? Yeah, that worked out SO well the last time!

And, finally, (And I didn't think this was possible,) "Lincoln" may give "Argo" a run for it's money as the best movie of the year. A masterpiece. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Intense Images, and Intense Performances.

twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2

 Image: Spoiler alert! They all die. The end. Go home.


Thank God. I got through it. To be honest, I really didn't know if I had the strength within me. To actually have the courage to walk up to the ticket counter, and ask the nice young lady by the counter for one ticket (I couldn't get a date. Damn it!) to see a film that is clearly a heterosexual male's worst nightmare. Fortunately, I had the cunning and foresight to sucker my dad to buy me the ticket. It was a brilliantly conceived plan, until he ruthlessly ratted me out, leaving the ticket counter girl (And every other teenage girl in the theater) to do nothing but pity the single young man in the little black Fedora. But... It's all over now. IT'S ALL OVER!!!!

Yes, I finally broke down, gave into the intense pressure, and decided to review a @#$!ing "Twilight" movie. Here's "Breaking Dawn Part II" in a nutshell. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a Vampire, she and Edward (Robert Pattinson ) have a CGI Vampire/Human baby named "Renesmee" (Who is aging rapidly due to the fact that she's half Vampire). Meanwhile, the Vampire Luminati figures that she must be an Immortal (I guess a big no-no in the Vampire world), so Their leader (Michael Sheen ) concludes they better slaughter all who are protecting the little girl, including Jacob (Taylor "Would you please put a shirt on!" Lautner, who, because he "Marked" the little girl as his "Territory", (And nicknames her "Nessie", because she reminds him of the Loch Ness Monster, I guess.) seems to have the hots for her (Fans can rationalize the plot all they want. It's still creepy and twisted.)

Bella and Edward gather all of the good Vampires to help them, leading to what seems to be a final, epic battle, but really ends up being nothing more than a big "Screw You!" to the loyal audience. In the end, they all live happily ever after, Bella with Edward, and, yuck! Jacob with Renesmee (Who, somehow is now, "Old Enough". Don't ask.)

This is a "Twilight" movie. It's not going to to be any good. If you are a fan going in, you'll love it. Everyone else, stay away. Just because it's better than the last one, doesn't mean that the entire "Twilight" series has been anything more than a cash grab, until the next Teenage fad comes along. I'm not insulting the legions of young girls who enjoy the "Romance" and such. I'm only wondering why anyone would consider any of this to be quality entertainment.

The acting is laughable, save Billy Burke as Bella's dad, (At least he and his awesome mustache are trying), and Michael Sheen (Who is brilliantly over the top, and probably higher than a kite). In another movie, he would be a great villain. The other actors look bored and ready to finish the film series, so they can enjoy their millions of dollars, because they will clearly all have long lasting Hollywood careers.

The script is poor, the CGI is lousy, the pacing is awful, and the film ends in a Quentin Tarintino like insanity. "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II" just sort of stops. Just like my review. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Bloodless Decapitations, and for Jacob Being Inappropriate With The Little Girl. And With Billy Burke. Don't Ask.

Life of Pi

 Image: Here kitty kitty! Good kitty! 


For any movie critic, this is the best time of year, when all of the rest of the films with "Oscar Buzz" get released. This puts me under enormous pressure, since I have no car, no paying job, and no computer of my own. Heck, my hometown doesn't even have a movie theater! And yet I persevere, knowing that when I'm working as a movie critic at Rolling Stone (Peter Travers, I hope you're reading. You're the best!), I'm going to look back at this and laugh. And maybe pay back my Dad for subsidizing all of this. But probably not.

Sure to get Oscar consideration will be "Life of Pi", one of the best looking films you will ever see on screen (You have to watch it in 3-D.) "Pi" begins with a man (Ifran Khan) named Piscine ("Pi" for short) telling his life story to a writer (Rafe Spall). "Pi" has an incredible tale to tell, beginning with his relationship with his family, the zoo his family owned, and his introduction to different religions.

While sailing away from their homeland, a massive storm destroys the ship, and "Pi" (Now a teenager) finds himself sharing a lifeboat with a zoo tiger, who sees "Pi" as tastier than, well, a pie. Somehow, they form a very uneasy alliance in order to survive the harsh elements, and "Pi" must test his religious beliefs, questioning why he is faced with so much anguish. And fish. So much fish in this movie.

As I said earlier, "Life of Pi" is visually stunning, and matches the graphics with an emotionally stunning story (Listen up "Avatar". I'm talking to you. ) The film is strong throughout, visually, but it's the tiger itself that is a digital masterpiece. I swear at times I even forgot is was CGI it was so realistic.

Yet graphics alone aren't the only impressive thing about "Life of Pi". Ifran Khan, and, especially Suraj Sharma (As the teenage "Pi". Acting with a CGI tiger can't be easy) give terrific performances, adding heart and warmth to a very likable character. "Pi" really soars with the focus on "Pi" and the tiger, with the great looking visuals a bonus to the compelling story and performance.

Director Ang Lee is clearly brilliant, adding a completely unique style with a sense of wonder and awe. "Life of Pi" is a thought provoking film, and it's complexity makes for an intellectually challenging time at the movies. ("Red Dawn" this is NOT.) With it's PG rating, "Pi" is fairly suitable for children, despite it's deep and, at times, dark subject matter. As for aspiring "Rolling Stone" film critics, (Or any publication. I'm not picky) "Life of Pi" is sure to make my top ten list for 2012. 4 Stars. Rated PG for Adult Topics.

Wreck-it Ralph

 Image: "Ralph, it's time to admit your meth addiction."


Yep. We've all thought about how great it would be to watch a movie with the greatest video game characters of all time. A sort of, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?". You know. With video game characters. In fact, since we all really came up with the idea, I'm thinking Disney should offer each and every one of us a cut of the "Wreck-it Ralph" profits. Oh wait, Disney just spent 4 BILLION on Jar-Jar Binks, Ewoks and Hayden Christensen. Well, maybe not EVERY idea is a great one.

But "Wreck-it Ralph" turned out to be a great idea. John C. Reily stars as video game villain "Wreck-it Ralph", in the game, "Fix-it Felix Jr.", Ralph's only job is to wreck a big building, so that the game's hero, "Fix-it Felix Jr." (Jack McBrayer) can stop him, and, of course, get all the praise.

So Ralph decides that he wants to be the good guy for a change. He leaves his video game and jumps into other ones, like "Heroes Duty" (Hah! Dootie!) and "Sugar Rush", a candy coated racing game. There, Ralph meets a little girl named "Vanellope" (Sarah Silverman), who has been shunned by the other residents in the game because they think she is a "Glitch" in the game's program.

Meanwhile, Felix Jr. and Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the hero from "Heroes Duty", need to find Ralph because he accidentally brought robotic, multiplying bugs from her world into "Sugar Rush". There, Ralph develops a soft spot for Vanellope, and decides to help her win the big race, so that she will finally be included and accepted by the other characters.

Just the idea of having famous video game characters, like "Sonic the Hedgehog" (My personal favorite), "Bowser", "Q*bert", "M. Bison", and "Pac-Man", among many others (Though, unfortunately, not "Mario", though he is mentioned), is worth the price of admission alone. But what makes "Wreck-it Ralph" truly great is that it isn't just a gimmick. "Ralph" is truly hilarious, with a great script, memorable characters, and beautiful animation.

The casting couldn't have been better. I can't imagine anyone other than John C. Reily playing "Ralph". His voice just fits this big, lovable character who just wants some appreciation, perfectly. Sarah Silverman is adorable (Though some have found her annoying, for some reason) as "Vanellope" , Jack McBrayer is a riot as "Felix jr." Jane Lynch (Whose "Sgt. Calhoun" looks eerily just like her) is spot-on. But Alan Tudyk (As the flamboyant "King of Sugar Rush" ), steals the show with his over-the-top, "Mad-Hatter" like performance.

"Wreck-it Ralph" is a pretty standard story, but "Disney" just does this so much better than anyone else in animation. The film has so much heart, emotion and effort put into it, that it feels very personal, both to the viewer, and to Director Rich Moore. "Ralph" looks and feels very unique, and even the music sounds just like it came out of one of your favorite video game.

What could have been just a novel idea, "Wreck-it Ralph" turned into a truly wonderful movie, ranked up there with the best films of the year, animated or otherwise. Maybe Disney does deserve the benefit of the doubt, that they won't butcher our favorite galaxy from far, far away.And just think of the cool new rides they will have at Disney Land! 4 Stars. Rated PG for Crude Humor (Hah! Doodie!) and Surprisingly Hardcore Video Game Violence.

Cloud Atlas

 Image: Me, in my best Halloween costume ever!


Clocking in at almost 3 hours in length, "Cloud Atlas" is an epic film that is so ambitious in scope, and so difficult to explain, that it deserves an epic review. This will test my reviewing skills in a way that only true, professional movie critics like myself should ever even try. In order to do it justice, I will attempt to explain this unique, complicated film in a way that will be as easy to follow.

"Cloud Atlas" tells 6 different stories, that all have some connection throughout different times, past, present and future, with the actors in the film each playing different roles in each story. The first story is set in the 1800's, and involves "Adam" (Jim Sturgess), a young man on his way to America, who befriends a slave ( David Giasi) who stows away on his ship. Adam is treated by an eccentric doctor (Tom Hanks) , who is secretly poisoning him in a plot to steal Adam's gold. This story flows convincingly and naturally, with believable relationships, a respectful discussion of racism, and a fun, creepy performance by Tom Hanks. 4 Stars for Part 1.

Part 2 is the most forgettable. A gay (And I don't mean "Happy" ) composer of music (Ben Wishaw) , writes to his lover his story of going to work for an older, famous composer (Jim Broadbent), and the tragic consequences that followed. The story here is very rushed and a little odd , and just isn't as interesting as it could have been. 1 1/2 Stars.

The next story takes place in the groovy 1970's, where a female reporter (Halle Berry) gets involved in a political conspiracy about a soon to open nuclear plant. This tale is more of a mystery for the viewer, so the less said, the better, but I loved this story. Halle Berry is very likeable , the 70's details are perfect, and it keeps you guessing.to the exciting conclusion. 4 Stars for Part 3.

Part 4 is more comedic, involving a older writer (Jim Broadbent), placed into a prison like nursing home, who plots with the other seniors an elaborate escape. This is a funny and sweet tale about our elderly needing to maintain their freedom, with a great performance by Jim Broadbent, and a funny and slightly disturbing performance by Hugo Weaving (As a very ugly, female nurse!) 3 1/2 Stars.

Part 5 takes place in the near future, and stars Bae Doona as an Asian "Clone", used as a waitress for a very strange restaurant, with a very "Tasty" menu. She is rescued by a member of a rebellion (Jim Sturgess, in VERY odd make-up), who plan to fight their evil Government. Visually, Part 5 is stunning, and the futuristic world looks amazing. But despite a fine performance by Bae Doona, the sight of Non-Asian actors in "Asian" make-up is just plain weird, and completely took me out of caring about the story. 2 Stars.

The final story takes place in the Post-Apocalyptic future, and follows Tom Hanks as a Tribal leader, who is visited by a beautiful girl (Halle Berry), more advanced than he and his followers are. She asks him to guide her to an ancient city, hoping to find a way to signal any other civilization, to help save theirs. On their journey, they encounter Cannibals, while Tom Hanks must deal with an inner demon (In the form of Hugo Weaving as the Devil).This story is interesting, and maybe the most important in weaving all of the previous tales together. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry have great chemistry together, and Hugo Weaving once again plays a Bad-Ass villain. It's only problem is the oddly written story, and, at times, the difficult to follow dialogue. 2 1/2 Stars.

As a whole, "Cloud Atlas" is a very ambitious film, and maybe at times, a bit pretentious, but it is made with true devotion by the Directors and the cast. The make-up is mostly terrific, yet also, very strange (A white Halle Berry? Huh?) And since the stories told are literally intertwined during the film, it comes across as understandably messy in certain moments, and maybe hard to follow for some people.

The cinematography is Oscar worthy, along with the special-effects, and is beautifully enhanced by an amazing score. The impressive thing about "Cloud Atlas" is it's grand scope. Even the least impressive stories are always interesting, and have an epic feel to them. In the end, that is something I really love about the film. It's uniqueness and inventiveness is exactly what Hollywood does at it's best. Some people will love it, some will hate it, and I understand both sides, but I truly enjoyed "Cloud Atlas". At the least, it's unforgettable. (And try to see it on IMAX. It's unreal!) A very high 3 Stars. Rated R for Graphic Violence, Nudity, and Strong Language.

Fun Size

 Image:"I'll get you my pretty! .........No, seriously Victoria. I will."


Happy Halloween! 

I have to admit, watching Victoria Justice for an hour and a half in a "Dorthy" from "The Wizard of Oz" has got me into the Halloween spirit. Maybe that's why I'm feeling a little generous tonight in my review for "Fun Size". Or, just maybe, I'm finished purging the demons from deep within my soul after sitting through "Alex Cross". "I will meet his soul at the gates of Hell before I let him take away something that I love!" 

"Fun Size" stars Victoria Justice as "Wren", a really, really, really pretty girl who has to babysit her pudgy little brother, Albert, (Jackson Nicoll) on Halloween, after her skank of a mother (Chelsea Handler) decides she'd rather hang out with her boyfriend than do her parental duties (Don't worry. Being a "Nickelodeon" film, Mama learns a valuable lesson). While trick-or-treating, Wren loses the little guy, and that when the shenanigans ensue.

If that's all you need to know about the plot, then you can pretty much guess that "Fun Size" doesn't have much plot or originality. But it's fairly cute and harmless (Although it is PG-13, and get's away with a little more grown up humor), and I found myself laughing a little more than I thought I would.

The main reason is because of Jackson Nicoll as the little brother, who teams up with "Fuzzy" (Thomas Middleditch) who gets the boy involved in a scheme to get back at "Fuzzy's" ex-girlfriend, whose boyfriend is a real Jackass (Johnny Knoxville).

Victoria Justice is sweet and cute in her role, and the rest of the cast is fine, I guess, but "Fun Size" just isn't my kind of movie. From the moment the Carly Rae Jepsen (Who is also really cute. Just sayin') music video plays before the beginning of the film, I knew I was clearly not the intended demographic.

But as far as "These kind" of movies go, "Fun Size" isn't anything too bad, especially compared to so many other "Teen" movies that make me feel depressed and actually weep for the future ( How 'bout "Project X"?) There, I'm done. Now I can go Trick-or-Treating as Gene Shalit. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Crude Humor and Teenage Girls in Inappropriate Halloween Attire.

Alex Cross


 Image: I can do bad acting all by myself.

"Madea" is looking pretty good to me right now.

For the time being, Tyler Perry has given up his incredibly ugly alter ego, and has made the logical leap from drag queen, to Morgan Freeman. In "Alex Cross", Perry takes on the role made famous by one of the most awesome actors of our time. And completely F@$# it up beyond all recognition.

In "Alex Cross", Perry plays Cross as a combination of a perfect man and a brilliant detective.(Or, Sherlock Holmes and Jesus). This bad guy called, "The Butcher" (Matthew Fox, with freakishly absurd muscles), an assassin who has been hired to kill a wealthy French businessman (Jean Reno, with freakishly fat muscles. Seriously! This guy used to be an action star!)

Then, it gets personal. "The Butcher" kills Alex Cross's wife, and Cross decides to take the law into his own hands, without any repercussions whatsoever, and takes vengeance on "The Butcher", and the man who hired him.

I want to take my own vengeance on "Alex Cross". I HATE this movie. Not just for the obvious reason that this is the worst casting for a film I have ever seen. Tyler Perry is not only one UGLY woman. He is a TERRIBLE action star! His Alex Cross is not believable for a second in anything he says or does. He just isn't a good enough actor to overcome awful dialogue and such a gritty story. 

Matthew Fox is probably a good actor, but he seems to be channeling Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight", and it comes across as awkward in such a desperately silly movie. This PG-13 rated movie has an R-rated plot, mixed with a PG rated script. "Alex Cross" tries to be gritty, yet seems to want to play towards a younger audience, and the result is a complete mess.

The script goes nowhere, with several unforgivable plot holes, and the direction is so haphazard, especially in the final action sequence (Tyler Perry going all "Madea" on Matthew Fox) , that it climaxes in possibly the most awful fight scene in history. And yet, as bad as I've made "Alex Cross" seem so far, the worst aspect of the film is the ultimate, cop-out ending, which washes away all of Alex Cross's actions, with absolutely no consequences. According to "Alex Cross", revenge really IS sweet. What a wonderful message Tyler Perry is sending us! 0 Stars.(Did I mention that I HATE THIS FILM!) Rated PG-13 (Should have been R) for Violent Images and A Bowl of Human Fingers.

Flight

Image: "King Kong 'aint got 'nothin on me!"

Denzel Washington is clearly one of the best and coolest actors of all time. But, to tell you the truth, I'm only going on what I've seen in movie clips. That's because my overprotective Dad didn't want me seeing Rated-R films until I was almost old enough to vote. (Which I did. As should You. What's the matter with you!?) And Denzel hasn't done many films that are family friendly. (He's great in "Remember the Titans") So now that I'm a biggie boy, I get to see any Adult film I want! 

"Flight" stars Denzel as Airline Captain "Whip" Whitaker, who heroically lands a plane under extraordinary circumstances, saving most of the passengers on board. Unfortunately, it turns out "Whip" has some inner demons, and was under the influence at the time. Let's just say, "Whip" wasn't high on just life.

Whip's friend and fellow pilot (Bruce Greenwood) gets him an attorney (Don Cheadle), who tries convince the hearing board that Whip was sober, and, that he was the only pilot who could have possibly landed the plane. (Although, personally, from now on when I fly I'm going to ask every Pilot for a urine sample.) Whip must now deal with his Alcohol problem, made more complicated by family issues, and his relationship with a recovering drug addict (Kelly Reilly).

Denzel Washington is truly as great an actor as his reputation. He carries a flawed but interesting film, shot with some impressive visual style by Director Robert ("Mars Needs Mom's" still sucks!) Zemeckes. His character is very complex, and not easy to sympathize with, but Denzel completely owns the role, and is impossible not to root for his redemption. Oscar Nomination for sure.

Same is true for Don Cheadle, whose character defends Whip, even though he's conflicted about his innocence. Their scenes together are the best of the film. Bruce Greenwood and Kelly Reilly are very good as well, and John Goodman is very funny in a small role as Whip's drug dealer buddy. The script has some powerful moments, and needed moments of humor, but "Flight" is grounded a bit by an uneven script (Which is a problem in the Zemeckis films I've seen.) Some of the plot points, especially involving Whip's love life, feel choppy and unfinished.

The plane crash sequence is masterfully directed and terrifying, and with the Oscar worthy performances, "Flight" is exciting and fascinating, yet just flawed enough to keep it from being a truly great film. Now excuse me, I have go rent out Denzel's other acclaimed performances. Like "Training Day". And "Glory". And "Malcolm X". And "Crimson Tide",etc. etc. 3 Stars. Rated R for Drugs, Alcohol, Nudity, Language, and A Plane Crash So Scary You'll Wet Yourself. 

Argo

 Image:Ben Affleck can't understand the State Department's response to Libya, either.


Here comes the Oscar!

How in the world could this really have happened? If someone had written a screenplay about a C.I.A. Specialist, who enlists a film producer, and a make-up artist, and concocts a scheme to save Americans hiding out in a Canadian Ambassador's house in Iran, by posing as a Canadian movie crew, pretending to make a science-fiction film called "Argo", would anyone have bought it?

Apparently, you really can't make this stuff up. This really DID happen in 1979, and somehow was incredibly successful. Just as incredibly, "Argo" is just as amazing as a film. Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the C.I.A. Specialist, who comes up with the crazy idea to save the stranded Americans, whose lives were on the line when they got caught up in the Iranian Revolution.

Mendez convinces John Chambers (John Goodman), a make-up artist who worked on "The Planet of the Apes" (Not the Tim Burton one. Or the James Franco one. There were movies way back then, too), who convinces film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to come up with the fake movie, by pretending to use the stranded Americans as part of the film crew in order to plot their escape.

Part of the greatness of "Argo" (Brilliantly directed by Affleck) is how exciting and interesting the film is, despite very little actual action there actually is. That is because of a terrific script, which is dramatic, and yet has a very funny (Albeit, dark) sense of humor. The characters are memorable, with the actors all working off each other perfectly.

Ben Affleck has had his share of bad roles early in his career, but he has turned into an excellent actor. Alan Arkin and John Goodman are hilarious and are a perfect pair, and Bryan Cranston, as Affleck's C.I.A. buddy (Who seems to make every film he has been in this year better) is awesome and deserves an Oscar nomination. In fact, the whole cast deserves accolades, and "Argo" is the best cast film I've seen in a long time.

Not a flaw to be seen, "Argo" has an attention to detail that captures the fear of those terrifying moments in 1979, and yet keeps the characters so grounded in reality, that you feel that you know these people, and that you are really there. This is how it's done, Hollywood! In fact, "Argo" takes a few deserved shots at 1970's Hollywood, and Washington politics that seems very fitting today.

I can't remember leaving a theater so refreshed, and especially after suffering through "Here Comes the Boom", "Argo" is the kind of film that renews my belief in what movies are capable of. Unless it flops. Then I would blame all of you. Like Washington politicians, we have to hold Hollywood accountable. Don't let me down, people!

Best film of the year. 4 Stars. Rated R for Language and Disturbing Imagery.

Frankenweenie

 Image: A boy and his dead dog.


You can always tell when Tim Burton really cares about a movie. When he's passionate about the story, you get "Batman", "Beetlejuice", "Corpse Bride", and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (My favorite movie of all time). Unfortunately, when he's a little, "Off", so to speak, you get "Planet of the Apes", "Dark Shadows", and, to an extent, "Alice in Wonderland". Let's face it, Tim Burton is kind of a weirdo. In a good way. You know, with the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. (Stole that from "Austin Powers, not from Tim Burton).

"Frankenweenie" is a full-length, stop motion remake of his classic 1984 short film, about a boy named Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his beloved dog, Sparky. The little dog is hit by a car and is killed. The End.... Or is it? 

Because Victor gets an idea from his eccentric teacher (Martin Landau) to "Reanimate" Sparky (Or, bring back to life, in layman's terms). The experiment somehow works and brings Sparky back from the dead. A little mangled, but none the worse for wear. Victor tries to keep all of this a secret from his parents (Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara), but eventually the public finds out, and all the children in town start to figure, "What's the worst that can happen? Let's try it out for ourselves!" (This is why children cannot be trusted with scientific experiments). Naturally, chaos ensues.

"Frankenweenie's" animation is absolutely stunning. It's shot in black and white, giving it an old-fashion feeling to it, as if you're watching a classic horror film. The movie and the characters has the usual, awesome Tim Burton design (But how do they make the characters stand up, with those long, skinny little legs, and tiny little feet? I gotta' ask Tim Burton about that one of these days).

The voice work is perfect, backed by some of the usual, Tim Burton crew on board. Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara (Who each play many roles), Winona Ryder (As basically the girl from "Beetlejuice) , and especially Martin Landau are all wonderful. "Frankenweenie" is very heart felt and emotional.

As typical with some of Burton's recent films, "Frankenweenie" feels a little clustered and the end is abrupt, making you wonder what happened to certain characters. I had to give a little extra thought to my grade, because the flaws are noticeable, but it's a good thing when a film makes you think about the message and it's characters long after you've seen it. The subject matter is tough for any of us who has lost a beloved pet, but "Frankenweenie" points out the good and the bad of what science and it's capabilities can bring. It all depends on your motivation, and your understanding of it. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for Disturbing Thoughts and Images.

Looper

 Image: "Hey! Let me go... I mean you... I mean us..Oh, screw it!" 


Imagine. Going to see a film that makes you think. To contemplate the laws of physics and time. A film that tests the boundaries of reality, yet expands your ability to use rationality and logic. But enough about "Hotel Transylvania".

"Looper" is a real mind bender. Somewhere in the future, time travel has become possible, but is illegal. The Mob is using time travel to send targets back in time, to be killed by hitmen, or "Loopers". 

Now bear with me, folks. The less you know, the better. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a "Looper", who must deal with his future self (Bruce Willis), who goes back in time for some really deeply personal reasons. The other "Loopers" wants both of them dead (Or, both of "Him" dead?). Levitt becomes involved with a very lovely young mother (The VERY lovely Emily Blunt), and her VERY strange son (Pierce Gagnon). From there on out, prepare to have your mind blown, man.

With "Looper", the less you know going in, the better. Just pay attention to the details, and enjoy the well-written, thought provoking script, and the top-notch acting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance and appearance (Made up to look like a young Bruce Willis) kind of threw me for a, uh, loop, at first, but he ends up nailing the part. Bruce Willis is terrific as well, and their scenes together are the highlight of the movie. Emily Blunt is wonderful, and very believable, and Pierce Gagnon is one of the most remarkable young actors I've ever seen.

The action and cinematography has a very unique style, which is enhanced by the crisp dialogue and inventive story. " Looper" could have been near-flawless if not for a subplot involving a snotty young "Looper" (Noah Segan), who is hunting them down.His scenes are unnecessary, and the film would have been better served by giving Jeff Daniels (As the leader of the "Loopers") a lot more screen time.

This is usually the time of year for the throwaway movies to be released, but "Looper" is good enough to have been a summer blockbuster. It's pure entertainment. Only smarter. If only I could go back in time and write my "Trouble with the Curve" review. Sorry, guys. I was on vacation at "Disneyland".... And you weren't. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Violence, Blood, and a Quick Boobie Shot.

Here Comes The Boom

 Image: THIS IS FOR ZOOKEEPER!


Good News! In the long, storied history of "Happy Madison" produced films, "Here Comes the Boom" is one of the better ones. Always one to give credit where credit is due, I believe that "Boom" is not an absolute abomination. I mean, it could have been just terrible, yet it somehow manages to avoid total embarrassment.... I mean, it still sucks. But that's progress, right?

"Here Comes the Boom" stars Kevin (Look how charming and chubby I am!) James as a hapless teacher, whose school is facing massive cutbacks. His best friend, and school music teacher (The "Fonz", er, Henry Winkler), is going to have his curriculum cut (Ouch!), seemingly only because the Principal has nothing better to do than be the standard bad guy in these kind of films.

So our chubby hero decides to raise money for his school by doing what any out-of shape teacher would do. Allow himself to be beaten to a pulp by becoming a mixed-martial arts fighter. Naturally, being a Kevin James movie, he proceeds to fall down a lot, yet somehow gains the self-confidence to win the fight, and the heart of a beautiful teacher (Salma Hayek), who is so far out of his league that 97 percent of scientists worldwide have proved it. In fact, this being the night after the presidential debate, it was the one and only thing both candidates agreed upon.

We all understand the "Happy Madison" formula, and "Here Comes the Boom" is no exception. Stupid, predictable plot, stupid, bumbling characters, with the same kind of silly, juvenile bathroom humor that too many kids seem to love and rely on. And worse of all, "Boom" lays on the schmaltz so thick, and is so predictable from beginning to end, that instead of warming my heart, it irritated me to the point of wanting to jump in the Octagon and take out my frustrations on Kevin James. In the final, climactic fight scene, watching Kevin James getting the snot beaten out of him, actually helped relieve my rage, and I began to find a sense of calm and tranquility, that has now brought an inner peace to my essence.

But now, I'm getting angry again, insulted by the fact that "Here Comes the Boom" easily made more at the Box-Office than "Frankenweenie" or "Seven Psychopaths". But, luckily, not as much as "Argo". So I say to "Boom"... "Argo" @!!@ yourself! 1 Star. Rated PG for A Cherubic Actor Struggling To Fit Into His MMA Tights.

House At The End Of The STreet

 Image: Screw bows and arrows, this Katniss is packing heat.


I admit it. She's the only dang reason I went to see this movie. And somehow I think even Jennifer Lawrence knew this was going to be a stinker.

Made in 2010, and clearly released now to capitalize on her popularity, "House at the End of the Street" stars Lawrence as "Elissa" , who moves with her mother (Elizabeth Shue) to a new town, and near the house at the end of the street.(Technically, it's really in the woods, but why start caring and add logic now).

In this old, creepy house lived a sweet, innocent little girl . Who chopped up her Mom and Dad (Allegedly). All that's left is the brooding, misunderstood loner brother (Ryan Thieriot), who Elissa is inexplicably attracted to. They develop a relationship, but nothing could have compared her for the shocking events that everyone else could see coming from miles away.

There is absolutely no suspense in "House". I swear I knew from the start (Heck, from the PREVIEWS) where the piece of crud that the screenwriters call a script would end up. It's so horribly written, all you get is awkward acting, and your standard, boring PG-13 horror film that doesn't even have any cheesy, "Guilty Pleasure" quality to it. 

The so-called, final twist in "House" is indicative of it's failure. It's so predictable and ludicrous that it boggles the mind, and it nearly rivals "Ghost Rider 2" or "Project X" as the worst film of the year. In fact, the only point of "House in the End of the Street" seems to be to show Jennifer Lawrence and her tight t-shirt in all their glory. Eye candy. And for that, I forgive her. Love you, Jenny! 1/2 Star. Rated PG-13 for Excessive Binge Drinking of Big Red, and Jump Scares! Ooh, There's Another Jump Scare!

the Words

 

 Image: Bradley Cooper searches desperately for a better script.


Sorry for the delay in getting out my review in time. Had some important family matters to attend to. I assume Ebert, and Roeper, and that guy who does the Bum Reviews have run into the same problems. But considering this turned out to be the worst Box-Office weekend in four years, were you really waiting with anticipation for a movie about words?

Seriously, "The Words" is very difficult to explain without using a lot of, well, words. I guess it's kind of about an author (Dennis Quaid), who is reading to a group his readers, including a beautiful stalker/ fan (Olivia Wilde), his new book, "The Words". His book tells the very uninteresting story of another young writer (Bradley Cooper), who is trying to turn his writing hobby into a profession (Not unlike myself).

The young author finds an old written story, and selfishly passes it off as his own work (Very much UNLIKE me). An old man named "The Old Man" (Jeremy Irons) tells the selfish bastard, "Hey, you stole my story!.So I'm going to make you feel guilty by droning endlessly on and on about my life story". That's it.

Sound exciting? Didn't think so. "The Words" is so cluttered, (Especially with the overly long, Jeremy Irons narrative), that it becomes a messsy, well, mess. The movie is a story, within a story, within a story, so there literally is way too much story to tell. The script is poorly conceived, and it puts a normally strong cast in roles they don't look comfortable in. Jeremy Irons at least adds some life to the film, but it's not nearly enough to keep "The Words" from completely faltering on it's own self-importance.

"The Words" is one of those films that thinks it's far more intelligent than it really is. And that is the worst crime a movie can make. Trying to make the viewer feel something that just isn't there. And trying to generate "Oscar Buzz" that 'aint gonna' happen. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Wasting Mine and Jeremy Irons' Precious Time.

Premium Rush

 Image: "Holy tight bicycle shorts, Batman!"


Man, I've sure been looking for a rush at the movie theater. Maybe a great action film, balanced with a well thought out plot, with interesting, credible characters. And Bicycles. Lots and lots of Bicycles. Hollywood has never made a great film about bicycle messangers. There's so many stories to tell. Just maybe, "Premium Rush" is the film that gives our unsung heroes their just due.

Oh, well. They gave it a shot.

"Premium Rush" stars Joseph Gordan-Levitt as a New York City Bike Messanger named "Wilee". (As in Coyote. Get it! How ruthlessly absurd!) He gets an envelope containing something that is desired by a crooked, maniacal cop (I mean, this guy is nuts!), played by Michael Shannon.

Yep. That's it. All you need to know is that bad people want to grab Joseph Gordan-Levitt's package. "Premium Rush" is very convoluted, and I just don't want to spend any more time explaining it. Because it's a movie about bicycle messangers! The finale, which has all the bicycle messangers from across the city banding together, sums up the entire movie. Preposterous, and kind of stupid .

I will say that the way "Premium Rush" is told, from the different perspectives of it's main characters, is kind of intriguing. Joseph Gordan Levitt is fine as the lead, but I'm kind of getting tired of the whole "I'm a cocky, daredevil anti-hero who lives by his own rules" kind of schtick that so many action movies insist we are supposed to like. (Sorry,"Wilee". Just wouldn't care to know you in real life.)

The script is poor, the dialogue is silly, the racing scenes are kind of boring and monotonous, and the rest of the characters are idiots. And as far as Michael Shannon as the baddie, he so over-the top that it is an absolute riot. Not sure if he was supposed to be intentionally hilarious (Probably not), but you never think for a second that his outlandish character could possibly succeed. I admit, I got some kind of sick enjoyment out of watching him froth at the mouth and convulse in some epic rages. 

And why the Director found it neccessary to have Jamie Chung (As the girl who needs the package delivered) to try to pull off an awful Chinese accent is difficult to comprehend. (As is the 72% critic favorability on "Rotten Tomatoes". What the heck?) Maybe "Premium Rush" just isn't meant to be taken seriously. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Adult Language and Graphic Bicycle Carnage.

Sparkle

 Image: Two American Idols


I thought musicals were supposed to be cheerful. I mean, I love the classic musicals, like "Singin' in the Rain". That made me feel like singin'. And dancin'. In the rain! They give you that warm, hopeful feeling that sends you home happy, and, well, sparkly.

"Sparkle" may not be that kind of musical. Jordin Sparks stars as Sparkle, who along with her sisters, Dee (Tika Sumpter) and Sister (Carmen Ejogo), are an aspiring singing trio, who don't want their loving, but strict mother (Whitney Houston) to find out. They secretly perform together, and slowly become famous.Sparkle falls in love with their manager (Derek Luke), and Dee wants to go to medical school. Sister becomes a drug addict when she gets involved with an entertainer (Mike Epps), who abuses Sister, forcing her sisters to take take drastic action, changing their lives forever.

This dark subplot takes up a large part of the film, and is my biggest problem with "Sparkle". It's not the fact that they take on such a serious subject matter. It's that the melodramatic way of telling and filming of Sister's tragic situation is heavy handed and, even pretentious. The subject matter deserves better, and the scenes (With some extremely unpleasant images), leave the audience feeling incredibly uncomfortable.

"Sparkle" had a lot of potential. The cast is spot on with the three talented girls shining in their roles, both singing and acting wonderfully, and they handle even the over-dramatic elements very well. The film's first and third acts are the most entertaining, despite the predictable plot points, leading to a fairly satisfying conclusion. Obviously, it's bittersweet to see the late, great Whitney Houston in her final film role, and, fittingly she gets the show-stopping musical number, which is the highlight of the movie.

There was a really good film to be had in 'Sparkle", but it's worst moments drag it down into only a barely passable musical-drama. Just buy the "Sparkle" soundtrack, and enjoy Whitney's final bow. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Drug Use, Sexual Content and Moments of Extreme Violence.

Paranorman

 Image: Had a dream like this once.


No, seriously. I really did have a dream like this once. (Ok, there were no toilets involved. Wait. There was one.) My dream was to create my own stop-motion film. It all looked so easy. I got the do-it-yourself-stop-motion-clay-stuff, and I was on my way.

But it was so @!#$ing hard! The clay and my dreams crumbled in my hands, so I decided to try criticizing other people, and all of their hard work and effort instead. I mean, any idiot can do that, right? (Editors note: These comments are not meant to be taken literally by any professional film critic, or any prospective employers.)

Anyway, on with my completely professional and respectful film review. "ParaNorman" comes from Laika, the same film studio that created "Coraline", and tells the story of a young boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who can talk to the dead. Ghosts, Zombies, Corpses. Lindsay Lohan's career. You name it. 

Norman is considered an outcast, and is bullied by his peers, so his family doesn't quite know what to do with him. When the spirit of Norman's crazy uncle (John Goodman) warns him of a vengeful witch, who long ago had been hanged by the leaders of her town, Norman has stop her before she raises the dead and takes her vengeful vengeance on the unsuspecting public. (Spoiler alert: He doesn't succeed.)

When the public freaks out and form an angry mob, Norman, his sister (Anna Kendrick), his chubby friend (Tucker Albrizzi), his chubby friend's brother (Casey Affleck), and the bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) must team together to stop the witch's curse, while uncovering the town's horrifying history. (And it is pretty horrifying.Parents be warned:The subject matter may be a bit intense for the smaller kids.)

As you can see in the previews, "ParaNorman" has possibly the best stop-motion animation you will ever see. The characters look amazing, showing all of their personality and design. Yet the film wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if not for the hilarious dialogue. This is as funny film as any I've seen this year, with, at times, edgy humor that will crack up parents, and, hopefully go over the heads of little kids.

The voices are all spot-on, with excellent comedic timing, and while the story is a bit familiar, it's told uniquely, with an interesting premise that handles a possibly tricky subject matter very maturely. (Unlike The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which comes across as clumsy and pandering.) My only gripe is that while the climax is spectacular to look at, it's a little too chaotic for me.

But I enjoyed the heck out of "ParaNorman". I think it has a good chance at the coveted "Eagan Animation Award" at the end of the year. Hey, I gotta' stick to what I'm good at. Judging the ability of others that I am totally incapable of doing myself. BEST. JOB. EVER. An extremely high 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for Scary Images and Some Adult Humor.

Hotel Transylvania

 Image: "This is my bicycle *seagull laughs* I've had since i was ten *seagull laughs* 


I know, I've been as hard on Adam Sandler as any film critic has been. And every bit of it is well deserved. It's not that he can't be kind of funny. It's just that he's stopped trying. Every movie he has touched in the last several years, from "Grown Ups", to "Zookeeper", and "Jack and Jill", has regressed into the lowest form of juvenile comedy. This trend would be completely depressing, but strangely I find great solace in writing these vicious reviews, knowing that I'm providing this invaluable public service. This is my burden, and my sacrifice to you.

For his latest abomination, Sandler stars as Dracula in "Hotel Transylvania". Dracula is actually a "Vegi-Vampire", who has given up human blood (Too fattening). He's now an overprotective parent to his 118 year-old teenage daughter (Selena Gomez), living and running a hotel made for monsters, such as Frankenstein's Monster (Kevin James), The Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), The Mummy (Cee Lo Green), The Invisible Man (David Spade), and... Quasimodo? (Jon Lovitz). (Quasi's no monster! He's just a deformed guy).

(Cough! Choke!... Excuse me. As I was writing this review, I just noticed the $43 MILLION! box-office total for "Transylvania". Good Lord, people!)

Sorry about that. As I was saying, an idiot human (Andy Samberg) somehow stumbles his way into the hotel, and has a "Zing", or whatever, with the daughter. Dracula spends the rest of the film trying to keep these two lovebirds apart, while hiding the human from the unsuspecting monsters. From there on out, it's just the characters running around, making noise and doing stuff.

Somewhat surprisingly, the animation is solid, and the character design is pretty nice. That is, when you can actually see it. The characters are constantly jumping around, and are all up in your face. "Hotel Transylvania" just doesn't know when to settle down.

The characters don't seem to have any personality, outside of the celebrities voicing them, which is a real problem in a film with so many characters and monsters that well known. The voice work is all pretty annoying, with many characters shouting out just about every line, making for a very loud and obnoxious movie.

I did chuckle once (Just once. It was a "Twilight" joke). And the well-animated end credits show the film's Director's (Legendary Animator Genndy Tartakovsky, who deserves better) unique style. Other than that, "Hotel Transylvania" just isn't worth it. It's generic, boring, and WAY too noisy. On the bright side, this may be Adam Sandler's best film in 10 years. But it's still really bad. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for Fart Jokes, Pee Jokes, and Adam Sandler Rapping About His "Zing" (Even worse than it sounds).

Total Recall

 Above: Picture of me, being forced to watch "Total Recall".


Bad reviews sure get around quick these days. The early buzz for the remake of "Total Recall" was surprisingly harsh, with the haters using terms ranging from "Lifeless", to "Incoherent". Even, "Garbage". 

Now, I'm not one to pile on, but...

The new "Total Recall" stays fairly close to the original film's plot (Although I wouldn't really know. Haven't seen it. I know! What the heck!) Instead of Arnold Schwatzenheimer or, whatever, the remake is set in the near future, and stars Colin Farrell as a schmuck who is bored with his life, even though he looks like Colin Farrell, seems to have a pretty good job, and is married to Kate Beckinsale. (Yeah, your life sucks, dude.) 

He goes to "Rekall", a virtual reality world to live out his fantasies, and escape from his miserable, drab existence. Something goes haywire, and he suddenly finds himself hunted by military forces, and by his traitorous, butt-kicking wife. He literally teams up with the girl of his virtual dreams (Jessica Biel), and the pair must find the rebel leader (Bill Nighy, strangely without a British accent), and retrieve a secret code from deep inside the brain of Colin Farrell. All this in order to stop the evil plans of the dad from "Malcolm in the Middle" (Bryan Cranston).

The premise of "Total Recall" is interesting, and early on the film asks intriguing questions about what is reality or imagination. Visually, "Recall" looks really cool, although nothing I haven't seen before in other Sci-Fi movies.

But the problem with "Total Recall" is lack of personality. The script has little heart and is utterly humorless, and that leads to bland characters who don't develop into people you really care much about. Even the action sequences are repetitive and surprisingly boring. 

Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale do okay with what they have to work with, and Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston add a little color in the little screen time they get, but the script is too bland for me to care. In the end, I just wanted some virtual reality device to take away the last two hours of my life. "Total Recall" is only competent, at best. And when you're expecting so much more, it only serves to make the original look really cool in comparison. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Constant Violence, and One Woman With Three Naked Boobies.

Step Up: Revolution

 Above: "The Mob", sticking it to society through interpretive dance


Perfect.Just the film I needed to see after another great "Batman". You just knew "Step Up 4: Revolution" was going to be bad.And I haven't given a bad film review since I saw "Battleship". I need to bring back balance to the universe.

"Step Up 4" stars a whole bunch of great dancers who obviously aren't actors. The plot (If you can call it that) is about a girl (Kathryn McCormick) who meets a boy (Ryan Guzman), and his posse of "Flash Mob" dancer hooligan friends, called "THE MOB". These kids just need to be heard. To let people know they "Exist", or something ridiculous like that.

So when an EVIL buisinessman/girl's Dad (Peter Gallagher and his amazing eyebrows) plans to tear down their hangout, to build Condos, or something EVIL like that, the MOB decides to "Step Up" and stick it to "The Man", by dancing their buns off, disrupting traffic, breaking and entering, assaulting a security guard, and other peaceful forms of protest. 

"Step Up 4" pretends as if this is real world drama, but it's strictly silly fantasy. Absolutely nothing in this film is even remotely realistic, from the absurd script, to the preposterous actions of the characters. The message of the movie is confused. The characters act morally rightous , yet have no problem acting like total Jackasses. I actually have more sympathy for the EVIL father, who heart is being crushed to pieces by his bratty daughter.

Now, even though I have a dancing disability (a condition handed down to me from my own father), I appreciate the dancing numbers, and the talent of the dancers. And certainly the city of Miami has probably never looked better on screen. But "Step Up 4" is shot and edited so clumsily that the film feels aimless and dizzying. 

From what I can tell, other than Peter Gallagher, and the amazing performance by his eyebrows, there doesn't seem to be any real acting in "Step Up: Revolution ". Just a lot of good dancers and a lot of supreme idiocy. Remember, we exist! 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Some Really Suggestive Dancing, Reckless Actions, and Cruel Behavior To Any Character Over The Age Of 30.

The Dark Knight Rises

 Above: Uh Batman, This is not how a High-Five works.


This is it. The Super Bowl of movies. The reason I got into the "biz". To me, reviewing "The Dark Knight Rises" is bigger than Graduation. The Olympics. The Presidential Election. So I'm going to give it to take it one word at a time, give it 110 %. Give the fans a good show. Let the games begin! Bring on the Pain!

"The Dark Knight Rises" picks up 8 years after the previous film. Batman (Christian Bale) is now an outlaw. Bruce Wayne (Also Christian Bale) is lives in seclusion in his mansion, with nothing but his billions of dollars in offshore tax havens. Peace and prosperity have come to Gotham. But it's all based on a lie!

Muscle bound Anarchist freak Bane (Tom Hardy) is causing destruction, occupying Wall Street, er, Gotham, and terrorizing the city. Batman is forced out of retirement, but must also deal with the hottest cat-burglar in movie history (Anne Hathaway) as Bane holds the city hostage. Batman's loyal butler (Michael Caine) fears for him and wants him to retire, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is nearly killed by Bane, but is rescued by a young cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). 

Bruce also has time to get frisky with a gorgeous (And I mean gorgeous!) business woman (Marion Cotillard), and Bruce's cool weapons guy, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) is around because, well, Morgan Freeman is cool to have around.

Clocking in at almost 3 hours, "The Dark Knight Rises" has an "Epic" scope.Actually, "Epic" can't possibly describe how big this film is. (EpicBlamKaboom? How's that?) The amazing sound and score makes for a perfect movie-going experience. The cinematography is hauntingly beautiful, capturing the seriousness and destruction of Gotham.

I couldn't possibly cast a film better than this. Suffice to say, every actor is pitch-perfect.This is Christain Bale's best Batman performance, despite the growl. Tom Hardy may be the most menacing screen villains in years (And I understood his voice perfectly. I'm fluent in muscle-bound,Anarchist freaks.) 

Anne Hathaway steals every scene she's in, even rivaling Michelle Pfieffer as sexiest Catwoman ever, and, who in the world would disagree that Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are three of the greatest freakin' actors of all time.

Can I complain about anything? The first quarter is a little slow, as we're introduced to all of the characters. That's it. The only complaint. The rest of "The Dark Knight Rises" is a pure, emotional adrenaline rush that is a fitting conclusion to a memorable movie trilogy. And maybe the best film of the year. Or, maybe "The Avengers". I'm too exhausted to think. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Intense Intensity.

Ice Age: Continental Drift

 Above: "We're going to hold a cloth over your mouth and pour water down your throat to simulate the sensation of drowning! YEAH! SMALL GOVERNMENT!"


I know. 3 Stars seems a little bit of a stretch for something as frivolous as another dang "Ice Age" movie. I can see your outrage now. (It's "Transformers 3" all over again!). Look, before youclick off the website and unfriend me, aren't we all allowed a guilty pleasure at the theater now and then?

On the plus side, "Ice Age 4" starts off with a wonderful "Simpsons" short that is well worth the price of admission. The third "Ice Age" sequel begins with "Scrat" the Saber-Tooth Squirrel Rat Thingy, who is just trying to bury his nuts like any guy would. His actions cause the Continents to crack apart, separating Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), Diego the Saber-Tooth Tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid's senile Granny (Wanda Sykes), from Manny's Mammoth wife (Queen Latifah), and teenage daughter (Keke Palmer). Now they're embarking on a journey to back home, but have to deal with ruthless Pirates, led by the even more ruthless Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage).(Where the heck are all the humans? Weren't they in the first one? Where's that cute baby?) 

Yes,"Ice Age 4" is an obvious cash-in on the success of the first 3. That's the thing that bothers us critics the most. Like many sequels, it's lazy at times, and suffers from WAY too many subplots and an onslaught of unnecessary characters. Queen Latifah seems bored, and Jennifer Lopez (As Diego's new love interest) is underwritten and seems added at the last second. And, of course, the casting of certain "Hip-Hop" stars (Drake and Nicki Minaj) comes across as painfully annoying.(Nicki is so lucky she's cute).

"Ice Age 4" works best when it focuses on the 3 original characters. It feels more like the first, and best of the series, and Wanda Sykes is hilarious, adding to their wonderful chemistry.The four of them are terrific together, helping keep the film pretty entertaining, and Peter Dinklage is a fun villain, the best of the series. 

Typical of "Blue Sky" studios, the animation is beautiful to look at.The design and movements of the characters are intensely detailed, making "Scrat's" torture even more perversely enjoyable.(Kind of sick of us,right?) Kids will love "Ice age 4" (Parents,just hold on for "The Dark Knight Rises), and it had me laughing more than I should have, but I'm not the only one with guilty pleasures, am I? Don't give me that! You know you do! Don't judge me! 3 Stars.Rated PG for Annoying Pop Culture References, One Scary Scene, One Awesome Death Scene, and Scrat's Constant Gratuitous Grabbing Of His Nuts.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

 Above: Kids grow out of the ground so fast these days.


So, did you hear about the parents who, basically made a wish for a child of their own, and, presto, a boy named Timothy magically grows out of the ground like a tree? I guess I missed that story on CNN.

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" follows a couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who are unable to have a child of their own. They fill a box with all the qualities they would want in a child, bury it in the back yard, and, like a demon rising from the pits of hell, a young boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) appears, butt naked except for leaves that have grown out of his legs.(You don't wanna' know where the potatoes were growing.)

Timothy is everything the couple had asked for. Kind and helpful, always looking on the bright side of life, which will tragically end when the leaves fall off of his legs, after he changes the lives of everyone in what has to be the most boring town in America.

"Timothy Green" teaches us all about the importance of pencils.(Number two pencils in particular.I'm not kidding!They have an obsession with pencils in this town. ) Look, I know this is a well meaning film, but this "Odd" movie is actually quite bizarre. I know they were going for whimsical, but instead the film comes across as a unintentionally creepy. The plot points range from overly cutesy, to over dramatic heavy-handedness. The tone is all over the place.

CJ Adams fares pretty well, but the rest of the actors come across as awkward due to to the forced script. I'm not sure who "Timothy Green" ends up being meant for.Parents will be turned off by the cloying plot, and kids will be bored out of their freaking minds.And the harsh ending left me wondering what exactly we (or the parents) were supposed to learn from all of this. (Other than that kids grow out of the ground.My Sex-Ed Teacher lied to me!)

Maybe it's just me who didn't understand "The Bizarre, Short, Tragic life of Timothy Green", so if anyone out there (especially lovers of pencils) understands or enjoyed the film, please help me out and explain to me why.Just curious. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for The Cruel, Depressing Reality of Life and Death Shoved Down Our Throats.

The Amazing Spider-Man

 Above: "Sorry,Spidey.I was holding out for Batman."


Long, long ago, way back in the 90's after they ruined the original "Batman" franchise, Hollywood waited 8 years before re-booting the series with "Batman Begins", so why not milk some more dough out of "Spider-Man" ? Heck, it been 5 years. While we're at it, can we get a remake of "Superman" ?Oh, right.

In reality, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is more of a re-telling of the 2002 smash "Spider-Man". This time, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is living with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), after his parents mysteriously disappear. In his search,for the truth, Peter meets Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans), who worked with Peter's Dad on a genetic experiment gone horribly awry, as genetic experiments always do. That's when that dang mutated spider bites Peter, giving him the Super Spidey powers he needs to implement his reign of terror. I mean, to fight crime.

Meanwhile,the cute girl he's crushing on (Emma Stone), happens to be the daughter of the Chief of Police (Dennis Leary), who won't tolerate any insect vigilantes in his town. And, oh yeah, Dr. Conners turns into a giant lizard.

It's a legitimate criticism to complain about re-booting the "Spider-Man" franchise, when there really wasn't that much to complain about with the original series. "The Amazing Spider-Man" may be unnecessary, and some of the plot points annoyingly repeat themselves.

But "Amazing" is still, on it's own, a very well done film.(Although it does feel choppy at times) The two leads are terrific together, and their relationship may be the best part of the movie. The overall acting is very good, with Rhys Ifans making a sympathetic, although not especially compelling villain.

The action and special effects are top notch, and the film has a great design. Director Marc Webb (Webb ? Perfect. ) obviously has great affection for Spider-Man, and "Amazing" looks as good as any in the franchise.

Some critics are saying this is the best Spidey yet,and even one of the best films of the year.I find it a little less than "Amazing", but still a fun Super-Hero movie. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For A Few Surprisingly Gruesome Images, And A Surprisingly Tight Spidey Suit.

Brave

 Above: She's good, but she ain't got nothing on Katniss


"Pixar has spoiled you critics!"

Do you remember last year,when a certain young,handsome(and single,ladies!) film critic called out all the so called"Professional" film critics,for comparing every single Pixar movie unfavorably to classics like "Toy Story 3","Up" and "Wall-E" ? Pixar has set the bar so high that even good,solid films,such as "Cars","Cars 2' and "Brave" are looked down on as tragedies.Emotion over rationality.And I'm an UNPAID professional film critic !

"Brave" tells the story of a young Scottish princess,Merida (Kelly Macdonald),who pushes back against her mother (Emma Thompson),and her wish for Merida to conform to royalty and pick a suitor.Merida doesn't need no man to keep her down.She wants to be "Brave",wield her bow and arrow,and ride her horse through the valley.She meets a haggard old witch,who gives her a magic spell to "Change" her Mother,but the spell goes all "Brother Bear" on us,and,presto,we've got a Mama Grizzly.Merida and Winnie the Pooh must repair their bond before the spell becomes permanent,or before her Father (Billy Connolly) mounts Mama's head on a wall.

This story has become a little repetitive,and the whole Mystical/Witch/Turning into a Bear plot is too cartoonish for Pixar's standards.Yet "Brave" overcomes much of this because of it's supremely gorgeous animation and Scottish setting(Feast 'yer eyes !) The Mother/Daughter conflict is respectful and deep,and not simplified like other non-Pixar movies would be.

The voice actors is typically Pixar terrific,with the authentic Scottish accents making the dialogue meaningful.(And funny.Scottish accents are always funny.Even in drama's.No offense,Scotland.I love you.) And "Brave" has a terrific score,great characters,and enough humor and heart to keep parents happy and entertained.

So "Brave" isn't a masterpiece.But it has professionalism,craft and care,which any "real" movie critic should be able to see and appriciate.Anyone looking for a "real" movie critic out there ? You know where to find me.Barely 3 1/2 Stars.Rated PG for Scary Situations and Scottish Mooning.

Rock Of Ages

 Above: Tom Cruise is not gonna' take it!No! He 'aint gonna' take it! 


Whoa! I'm suddenly having an 80's flashback.I remember Reagan and Iran-Contra.Maddona and Duran Duran."Flashdance" and "Dirty Dancing".Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang.Yes,I remember the 80's as if it were yesterday.Which is amazing considering I was born in 1994.

You can't get away from the 80's,which is why "Rock of Ages" is probably a surefire hit,full of schlocky,overwrought music,questionable behavior(Motley Crue,anyone?),and,let's be honest,hilarious wardrobe and hairstyle choices.They must have been high.

"Rock of Ages" follows Sherrie (Julianne Hough),a small town girl on a Saturday night,lookin' for the fight of her life.She falls for Drew (Diego Boneta) and pours some sugar on him.He gets her a job at the most popular bar in Los Angeles,where Tom Cruise dresses up as a burned out rock star named Stacee Jaxx,livin' on a prayer,and embarking on a solo career,because he can't fight this feelin' anymore.

Unfortunately,The Mayor's crusading wife,Sister Christian (Catherine-Zeta Jones) hits Jaxx with her best shot,organizing a group of concerned mothers who have a problem with Dr.Feelgood.I guess every rose has it's thorn.They try to shut down all the rock 'n rollers on their Highway to Hell.But Jaxx is a maniac.Maniac! And his adoring fans won't stop believin' ,because they're hungry like the wolf,bad to the bone and hot for teacher. 

Admit it.When you saw the trailer,you knew this was going to be cheesier than,well,a cheesy poof.But "Rock of Ages" embraces the cheese within,reveling in it's 80's excess and it's music.If you loved the music then,you're going to love "Rock".

To be fair,"Rock of Ages" is clever at times,and very funny (sometimes,unintentionally).The supporting cast is top-notch,with Tom Cruise nailing the over-blown,tortured Rock God.Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are hilarious together as the managers of the bar,and Paul Giamatti (as Cruise's slimeball manager),and Catherine Zeta-Jones are amusing antagonists.

"Rock of Ages" fails when the focus remains on it's two main leads.Julianne Hough is cute but boring,and has no real chemistry with Diego Bonetta( not cute,but equally boring).The love story is painfully predictable,and their "Conflict" is silly and stupid,and could easily have been resolved in the real world. (It's called communication,people! Talk it out!) Instead it drags down the movie and saps some of the fun out of it.

If you concentrate on it's musical strengths(Cruise could be the next Bon Jovi),and it's humor,"Rock of Ages" will leave a smile on your face,and a melodramatic,bombastic and over-dramatic song in your heart.2 1/2 Stars.Rated PG-13 Sexual Content,Rock 'n Roll Excess,And Tom Cruise In A Thong.BLAH !

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

 Above:James Eagan's High School Graduation picture. 


"$60 million at the box-office?" "Chimichangas!" "Those are numbers I can live with!"

Not generally a critical favorite,the "Madagascar" series are silly and frenetic.But they're also mostly hilarious,and,as "Skipper" the Penguin says,cute and cuddly.

"Madagascar 3:Europe's Most Wanted" takes up with Alex the Lion(Ben Stiller),Marty the Zebra(Chris Rock),Gloria the Hippo(Jada Pinkett-Smith),and Melman the Giraffe(David Scwimmer),off to Monte Carlo to find the Penguins(and the two Monkeys who like to fling poo),who have been on a casino gambling spree.Of course,Lemurs King Julian(Sascha Baron Cohen),Maurice(Cedric the Entertainer),and Mort(Andy Richter) arrive in Monte Carlo by paddleboat.

They all act like animals,cause a huge scene,and are chased by Captain Dubois(Frances McDormand),a crazed Animal Control specialist.So,just as I did when I was a young teenager,they run off and join the Circus.

Obviously,another Madagascar over-the-top plot,but "Madagascar 3" is at least just as funny as the first two films,with the Penguins stealing the show,once again proving to be way funnier than "Mr.Popper's Penguins",or any other Penguins ever portrayed on film.The main cast is terrific again(Sacha Baron Cohen is a riot),and Frances McDormand is very amusing and surprisingly nasty as the baddie.

The animation with "Dreamworks" studios keeps getting better and better with every film,and "Madagascar 3" is very colorful and fun.The plot is thin,but "Madagascar 3" may be the best of the series.It has more story structure,flowing into a very satisfying conclusion.

"Madagascar 3" has a lot of heart,and again promotes a good message of camaraderie and friendship.And Penguins Karate chopping people unconscious.3 1/2 stars.Rated PG for Crude Humor and Animal Gambling.

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Snow White and the Huntsman

 
Above:The "ugly" Wicked Witch.

"Snow White and the Huntsman" is the second of three "Snow White " films in theaters,following the forgettable "Mirror Mirror",and preceding the future smash,"Snow White Eats a Rotten Apple and Gets the Plague",starring Lindsey Lohan.Well,maybe two Snow White films is enough.

Anyway,welcome to the dark side of "Snow White".In "The Huntsman",Charlize Theron plays a beautiful wicked Queen who is very self conscious about her looks(If you were Charlize Theron,wouldn't you be?).Problem is,she's getting grosser and grosser as time goes on.So she murders her husband,the King,to take over the kingdom.

Flash forward about 10 years or so.The wicked Queen is informed by a magic mirror that she must eat the heart of the most fairest of them all,Snow White(Kristen Stewart),so she can live forever.(No mention is made on,how exactly one would go about eating a human heart.Deep Fry?)Snow White escapes into The Dark Forest,where only "The Huntsman"(Chris Hemsworth) will follow the Queens orders to find her.But the plan backfires,Snow White and the Huntsman join forces,and they lead a rebellion against the Queen.

"Mirror Mirror" seemed to get slightly better reviews than "The Huntsman",but I'm not sure why that is.The film looks terrific visually,capturing a more realistic reality than a lot of films in the genre,and the costume design is pretty fabulous!(Uh,I mean interesting).The score is epic sounding,helping to fit the mood just right. 

Charlize Theron is very good for the most part,if a bit over the top at times,but her character is compelling and three-dimentional.Kristen Stewart takes a while to find her footing,but is actually pretty good ,and Chris Hemsworth has shown himself to be a fine action hero.

I frickin' love the Dwarfs! Exactly how the Dwarfs should have been in "Mirror". Hilarious and awesome.Yet despite some great moments,"Snow White" has some nearly fatal flaws.Some of the dialogue is laughable,and the pacing is rushed early on.Fortunately,the film settles down as the movie goes on,just in time. 

"Snow White and the Huntsman" had a chance to be "Lord of the Rings" type great,but settles for a flawed,but fun Snow Job. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Intense,Bloodless Violence and,Man,Does Charlize Theron Get Gooey,Slimy and Ugly!

Men In Black 3

 Above:"It would mean a lot to me if you would take my Alien zapper thingy." 


For kids from my generation,"Men In Black" was one of the first,big action films,providing us with a special summer blockbuster formula of Aliens,comedy,big special effects,and Will Smith.After a pretty lame sequel about 10 years ago,Mr.Smith and Mr.Tommy Lee Jones are back with "Men In Black 3" to see if the formula is still relevant. 

Ya'll remember what the story is about,right? Agents J(Smith) and K(Jones) secretly protect us from the Aliens living among us.An animalistic Alien criminal,Boris(Jemaine Clement) is an old enemy of K,and goes back in time to kill K,and succeeds,erasing him from the present time.(Are you following this?) So J has to go back in time to 1969(Groovy!),and enlists the help of the younger K( Josh Brolin) to stop Boris from killing K and destroying the future in the process. Still with me?

Yeah it's confusing,and I didn't even get to the most confusing parts,but most of "Men In Black 3" works just fine,mostly because of a great sense of humor,and the charm of the cast.Will Smith does his usual great Will Smith impersonation,and both Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin do perfect Tommy Lee Jones impersonations.(Brolin is so good,he could confuse the heck out of a Mrs.Tommy Lee Jones.)The chemistry between the actors keeps the film grounded from it's sillier moments. 

The Aliens are all amusing and cleverly written into the story,which has a few too many subplots going on,but it's still a fun enough story to be nearly as entertaining as the original."Men In Black 3" has a satisfying finale,and a sweet resolution to the story,and for the characters.

Like the original,'Men In Black" is a fine summer diversion,completely diverting my attention from board-game based movies,like the upcoming "Pictionary:The Movie",starring Ralph Fiennes and Lady Gaga.3 Stars.Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Violence And 'Cause I Found Out All Supermodels Are Aliens.

Battleship


 Above:How a $200 million dollar budget goes down the toilet. 

We've made all of the jokes about "Battleship",the movie based on the board game,so there's no need to continue making more.I think we all know that the movie is a bad enough joke itself. 

"Battleship" really doesn't really have anything to do with the board game.Apparently it doesn't have anything to do with talent,either.We have a cocky,bad boy protaganist,played by Taylor(I'm in the process of ruining every summer blockbuster I'm in this year)Kitch,who is persuaded by responsible,good boy(So,of course,he's doomed) brother(Alexander Skarsgard),to join the Navy.His girlfriend(Brooklyn Decker) is way out of his league,so he tries to get the blessing of her Navy Commander Father,played by Liam(Man,I hope the paycheck was worth it)Neeson.Anyway,after an incredibly boring first 30 minutes,all heck breaks loose when giant,bearded,robot aliens invade Planet Earth,so it's left up to pop sensation Rhianna to save us from impending doom.

There's some good news and bad news here.The bad news is,"Battleship" sucks.The good news is,I wasn't disappointed,because we already knew it from the first moment we heard about it."From Hasbro! The toy company that brought you 'Transformers'?!" Are they kidding ? 

Everything in "Battleship" is a cliche,from the writing to the characters,seemingly borrowed from the worst aspects of every other big-budget action movie,and the acting isn't any better.The aliens are pretty uninteresting,although they show more emotion than the human performances.It may be the laziest $200 million dollar film in movie history.

It's a shame because the visuals are not half bad,but the true crime here is that "Battleship" is a complete bore,which is pretty unforgiveable considering all the dough that's involved.On the brightside,maybe now we can avoid "Operation:The Movie",starring Robert Duvall and Ke$ha.1 Star.Rated PG-13 for Alien Violence,And For Completely Exploiting Brooklyn Decker's Cleavage.

Dark Shadows

 Above: Johnny Depp admires his fabulous manicure. 


I am under a lot of stress here. 

There are a lot of Johnny Depp "Fangirls" out there,who have told me,in no uncertain terms,that Sir Johnny Depp deserves nothing less than 4 stars(if not more) in every film he makes,and that the consequences would be severe enough that a lot of cute girls may never talk to me again. 

Fortunately,I'm usually a big fan of Depp and freaky Director Tim Burton,so I had hopes for "Dark Shadows",which is a freaky re-imagining of a freaky old soap opera.Sounds freaky,so far.So,Depp stars as "Barnabas" an 18th Century Billionaire Philanthropist,who breaks the heart of a crazy Witch(Eva Green),who then kills his fiancee and turns him into a Vampire.He is locked in a coffin for 2 Centuries,re-awakening in the terrifying age of tacky clothes,and the Nixon Administration(the 1970's,for those of you who don't know you're history.Shame on you). 

Barnabas returns to his old estate,and to what remains of his heirs,whose business is being ruined by that same, crazy Witch.Barnabas must try to save the family business,and tie up some loose subplots that I had absolutely no interest in following. 

There is some good news,ladies.The look of "Dark Shadows" is distinctive and creative,as it always is in Burton films.Depp is enjoyably kooky,and the rest of the cast is good as well.Michelle(Dang,how in the #$%! is she 54!) Pfeiffer is beautiful(Yeah,I said it.She's a "Cougar"!),and Green is amusingly over the top.

The problem with "Shadows" is it is way too uneven.The previews made it look like a straight forward comedy,but it comes across as more of a gothic,"Dramedy". I enjoyed the film more when it was pretty much a horror drama,with a little humor,but the final result makes it feel odd and uncomfortable. 

The subplots are many and confusing,wasting the adorably cute Helena Bonham Carter,and the not so adorable Jackie Earle Haley,who has the funniest moments in the movie.And the ending ruins any chance of a positive review,coming across as like the "Haunted Mansion" ride at Disney World,only on crack. 

Sorry,Ladies. I swear I wanted to like "Dark Shadows",and I really,really need you to still love me.So we cool,right? I'm here for you if you wanna' talk. 2 Stars.Rated PG-13 for Scary Moments,and for Some Pretty Unpleasant Images.

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The Avengers

 Above: Another Halloween party gets out of hand

"The Avengers" is, without a doubt, of all the stupendously, fantastically,most anticipated movie in the history of film, this is easily in my top 3 this year. Shows you what kind of movie summer we're going to have. ...

You've got Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.),Captain America (Chris Evans),Thor (Chris Hemsworth),The Incredible Hulk(Mark Ruffalo).Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye(Jeremy Renner).Almost every Superhero known to Marvel is here (Spider Man and Wolverene were unavoidably detained and strip searched at the airport).

"The Avengers" begins with Nick Fury(Samuel L. Jackson) (I'm going to change my name to Nick Fury. Or Samuel L. Jackson. I haven't decided) enlisting the Superheroes, who join forces to stop Thor's step-brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).Loki is angry with Thor after falling into a worm hole. I guess you could say he's a little Thor! Ha!

Anyway, Loki is trying to take over the world, with help from the aliens from "Halo"(I swear! Tell me they don't look exactly like them!) In the final, epic, monumental finale of epic proportions, "The Avengers" battle Loki for the WWE title, and for the fate of mankind.

"The Avengers" could have gone wrong very easily without the sure handed direction of Joss Whedon, who somehow keeps track of every detail and story line, and turns it into an epic, superhero film that somehow lives up to the hype. The stars and the characters are perfect, starting with Robert Downey Jr..But the rest of the cast all have their chance to shine, with great humor and a fun script to back them up.

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided to give "The Avengers" my coveted 4 Star rating, despite the fact that it's so long that I actually began to check my watch, especially during the long, protracted finale that could have been a little bit of overkill.

But "The Avengers" is just too much darn fun, with so much time and care put into pleasing it's audience, that I find it impossible to not to give it my 4 Star rating. As I said, it's highly coveted. Rated PG-13 for what? Being loud? Should have been PG.

The Pirates: Band of Misfits

 

 Above: "You're possible the worst pirate I've ever heard of !" "But you have heard of me "

Do you think Dreamworks is beginning to regret dropping Aardman yet ?

For those of you who don't follow this kind of thing,the studio that made such classics such as "Chicken Run" and "Wallace and Gromit" was dumped a few years ago,to make room for "Be...e Movie" and "Shrek 13".I told them they should have hired me years ago.

But Aardman studios hasn't lost their form,with last year's "Arthur Christmas",and now,with the very witty "The Pirates",which tells the tale of a pirate captain named,"The Pirate Captain"(voiced by Hugh Grant),who is determined to defeat his rivals to win the "Pirate of the Year" award.He meets up with Charles Darwin(David Tennant),who discovers that the captains beloved pet Parrot is actually the world's last Dodo Bird.So they head to England,only to become wrapped up in a plot involving Queen Victoria(Imelda Staunton).

I absolutely love Aardman's cheeky looking stop-motion animation,and "The Pirates" is probably their best looking film yet.The background details are clever and hilarious,and you have to look closely to catch the many hidden jokes.

The voice work is typically top notch,with Hugh Grant making a wonderfully buffoonish captain,and the rest of the cast clearly has a lot of fun with their roles.And a new star is born in the monkey known as "Mr.Bobo",who can only communicate by using flash cards (Between "Oscar" from 'Chimpanzee",and "Caesar" from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes",Monkeys have given Hollywood's best performances recently.)

"The Pirates" is very funny throughout,but just not quite up to the level of Aardman's best films,but it is a wonderful film with the kind of humor that both kids and their parents will enjoy. 3 1/2 Stars.Rated PG for Gratuitous Pirate Booty,and Surprisingly Curvaceous Female Pirate Booty.

Chimpanzee

 above: Do you mind? I'm trying to eat here.

Every year around Earth Day,Disney releases a documentary celebrating nature.(But how does anyone know Earth's actual birthday? Maybe Al Gore knows.) ...

Anyway,despite what some film critics have said,every Disney documentary has been good,especially 'Oceans" and "African Cats".But they have done very little box-office,so I'm hoping maybe some adorable little monkeys will change that.

"Chimpanzee" follows a young Chimp named "Oscar"(named after his father,"The Grouch"),who is separated from his mother when she is chased away by a rival Chimp named "Scar".(How does his parents think he is going to turn out,with a name like that ?) Fortunately,"Oscar" is adopted by a male Chimp named "Freddie",who raises and protects "Oscar" as his own.And,of course,teaches him how to fling poo.

Every Disney documentary is amazing to look at,as is "Chimpanzee",which has wonderful footage of the Chimps in their habitat,showing all of their daily habits and conflicts.It's a heartwarming story,and "Oscar" has to be one of the cutest animals ever shown on film.(I'm in the process of adopting him myself.)

The narration by Buzz Light, er, Tim Allen(not exactly James Earl Jones or Samuel L. Jackson this time),is just a little too goofy,and takes focus off the story.The film is also a little too short and fast,and doesn't have the same depth as Disney's previous documentaries.

It's a slight letdown, but "Chimpanzees" is still a highly enjoyable film,especially for smaller kids, who will absolutely love it and learn a whole lot.Make sure you stick around through the credits for some more incredible behind-the scenes shots of how the film makers came up with the amazing footage. 3 Stars. Rated G .

Mirror Mirror

 Above: My Queen, I bring you bad news. James Eagan gave us a negative review.

OK. Picture this if you will.Imagine me,18 years old. Single. Professional film critic. Wanted and desired by women. And men. No,no. Just women. I swear. Anyway,I'm standing in line,embarrassed and mortified by the thought of asking the movie ticke...t guy for 1 admission to a girly kids movie. And I'm not even getting paid for this yet!

Fortunately,"Mirror Mirror" is so forgetable,It's,well I've forgotten almost everything about it. I vaguely remember tripping over the steps of the theater(I may have accidentally cussed out a little girl.See,I don't remember !) And there was a strange,hippie couple I was laughing at as they walked into "The Lorax".

I do remember something about an evil queen(Julia Roberts,with an on again,off again British accent),who is trying to off her adorable stepdaughter(Lily Collins),who shacks up with seven strange criminal Dwarfs. Meanwhile,the Queen is trying land a Prince(Armie Hammer) who has all mushy,googly eyes for the stepdaughter. And there's a Dragon.

Wait.I knew I've seen this movie before. "Mirror Mirror" Is "Ella Enchanted",only without the singing. It's also a lot more annoying,forcing it's humor pretty desperately with unoriginal characters and a weak script. And usually,I find Dwarfs to be amusing,but these little fellas' are excruciating. My apologies to Little People everywhere,but these guys just won't shut up. And there's a "twist" at the end that's supposed to be clever,but it's ridiculous,and I could see it coming from the very beginning.

"Mirror Mirror" looks good,with a nice visual style(This is the same guy who directed the very R-rated "Immortals" and "The Cell".Gross!),but still feels more like a TV movie than a theatrical film. In fact,it looks like just like that ABC show,"Once upon A Time". And this is about an hour longer and cost me 8 bucks.

Julia Roberts does look like she's having a lot of fun,and Nathan Lane has a couple of funny (and one hilarious) lines,but I can only recommend "Mirror Mirror" for young kids with low standards. But everyone else will forget they even saw it by the end of the day. I did. 2 Stars. Rated PG for Some Crude Humor.

The hunger Games

 

 above: Katniss, taking singing lessons from Lady Gaga

With the "Harry Potter" franchise over,and,thankfully,the "Twilight" films nearing it's end,it's obvious that teens are going to need a new film series to obsess over....

Based off of the first of 3 in the best selling book series,"The Hunger Games" is newer take(or rip-off to some) of the famous tale about people being forced to battle one another to the death,for the enjoyment of an elite few.Only this time,it's teenagers fighting each other for survival.Like High School,but with bows and arrows.

Jennifer Lawrence (a.k.a. Mrs. James Eagan) stars as Katniss,who volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the "Game".She and the other teens are being forced by the wealthy rulers of the fictitious "Panem",who use the game to remind the population of their "place" in society.

Sounds kind of gruesome and violent,right? And it is at times, but not really gratuitously,but it could be disturbing for some younger viewers.Then again,my 9 year old sister loved "The Hunger Games" and wasn't scared at all,so, parents,talk to your kids before hand.

The characters in "The Hunger Games" are fully developed,and the actors are terrific,especially Lawrence.She's like Bella from "Twilight".Only with likeability and self-respect.Josh Hutcherson rebounds nicely from the silly "Journey 2",Donald Sutherland makes a particularly manipulative villain,and Stanley Tucci is hilarious as a pompous game "host". But it's Woody Harrelson who steals the show as a former "winner" of the game who drunkenly mentors the teens.

"The Hunger Games" captures the essence of the book,both visually and in vision,and it's futuristic world.If the director had avoided some of the shaky,hand-held camera work(gettin' really old,really fast,Hollywood !) early in the film,we could have had a nearly flawless action film.Even still,with sequels on the way,"The Hunger Games" could be a worthy successor to retired wizards and the perfect replacement for de-fanged vampires and werewolves.4 Stars.Rated PG-13 for Fairly Graphic Violence,Disturbing Themes,And For,Of Course,Teenagers Killing Each Other.

john Carter

 above: THIS IS SPARTA!!!!

When Brad Bird,Director of beloved Pixar films,such as "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille", made the jump to live action,he was met with both critical and commercial success with last year's smash "Mission Impossible 4".When Andrew Stanton,Director of beloved Pixar films,such as "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E",well,...we get "John Carter"

Based on the ancient book written 100 years ago,the long awaited Disney film stars Taylor Kitsch(Do you know who he is? Neither do I.) as,uh,John Carter,a confederate soldier (OOH! Controversial!) from the Civil War who takes a magical trip to Mars,where he meets a tribe of 4 armed creatures,led by Willem Dafoe.Carter becomes involved with the Princess(Lynn Collins) of another Alien race,and must help save her from an evil baddie (Dominic West),who is taking orders from the bald bad guy from just about every recent film (Mark Strong).

This $250 MILLION (Yes,I said $250 MILLION!) disappointment begins with a way overlong opening prologue,and never quite catches fire."John Carter" is fairly boring(And too long) for such an expensive film,with bad pacing and campy dialogue.Now,I enjoy a little campy dialogue now and then,when done by good actors(or even bad actors,making it hysterically funny).But the acting in "John Carter" is so dull,especially from Kitch(who is very bland),that it takes any fun out of it.

As you would expect from Disney,"John Carter" looks good visually,and it does have some some interesting plot points with the Princess,and with the villains motives(Right!Mark Strong IS the bald bad guy in every movie!),and I really liked the 4 armed aliens,which made me lean towards a higher recommendation.But,ugh,I HATED the final 25 minutes,because the dang thing didn't know when to end! Just when you think it's over,"John Carter" keeps going! Nothing but clutter and confusion.(C'mon,I've got a Spring Break to get back to.Disney World on Friday.Woo Hoo!)

Did you see the commercials touting "John Carter"? How it was the inspiration for "Star Wars" and "Avatar"? Well,you oversold it.Came on a LITTLE too strong."John Carter" isn't an awful film.It's just that we were mislead.2 Stars.Rated PG-13 for A Suprising Amount Of Violence(And Splattering Of Blue Blood.Pretty Graphic!)

the Lorax

 Above:" I'll see your re-raise and put you all in ! "

Dr.Seuss movies kind of suck.Especially the DREADFUL "The Cat In The Hat".(Yeah,I know Mike Myers looked like he was having a lot of fun.He wasn't).From "The Grinch"(Lame),to "Horton Hears the Who"(Decent),they just don't translate to big screen the way the good Doctor would have wanted....

But now we have "The Lorax",which tells the story about a boy (Zac Efron) who has the hots for an older girl (Taylor Swift),who is completely out of his league.She loves her some trees,but they don't exist anymore where they live.So he goes on a search to find the "Once-Ler" (Ed Helms),who tells the lad the story behind what happened to all the trees."Once-Ler" had run into "The Lorax" (Danny Devito),who had warned him about what would happen if you chop them all down.But with one special seed,the boy can bring back the forest,the "Lorax",and still get the girl.

In general, when books are made into films and stick to the original story, they usually get it right. And when "The Lorax" remains faithful to Dr. Seuss,that's when it's enjoyable.The pacing flows very well when it concentrates on the scenes between the Lorax and Once-Ler,and Danny Devito and Ed Helms have great chemistry together.When the story is padded with typical Hollywood "stuff",that's when the movie goes a little downhill.The script just isn't good enough,and the added touches not in the book aren't necessary.

The voice work is generally good, although Taylor Swift's character is terribly written with little personality. And I didn't care for the tiny villain( Rob Riggle),who serves no purpose except to be the "annoying bad guy".(What's up with all the "tiny" villains you see in movies recently ? As a tiny person myself, I find this very offensive)

Despite very pretty animation,"The Lorax" is too safe, the songs are bland and forgettable (With one exception), and no more then pleasant.Cute,but just not all that funny.But,hey,the kids will love it.(And it's not "Liberal Propaganda",Lou Dobbs !) 2 1/2 Stars.Rated PG for,Well,I Didn't See Anything Wrong With It.Shouda Been G.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

above: Ghost Rider pissing on our intelligence

BLAH!!!!...

If there was ever a description of my feelings towards the ineptitude and utter incompetence that is "Ghost Rider 2",It's the times when Nicholas "I feel SO BAD for this guy" Cage turns into "Ghost Rider' and screams "BLAH!!!" into our faces.In 3-D no less!

In the sequel no one asked for,Cage reprises his role as"Ghost Rider",not that this film has anything to do with the last.So Cage has to save this lady's son from the Devil (Ciaran Hinds),and his minion (Johnny Whitworth).Seems the Devil wants to possess the boy,and there is plenty of other nonsense to go around,like this monk who's entire body looks like it was scribbled on by pre-schoolers,and there's a mysterious guy (Idris Elba) who hires Ghost Rider to save the kid from Satan.

The whole film is just one big excuse for pointless action sequences.Badly done action sequences,all made worse by direction and camera work apparently done by a drunk Gorilla having convulsions.And to top it off,when Ghost Rider has to take a leak,it comes out in flames!!!! Swear to God!!!! Twice!!!(My dad says this is a problem with some older men).I've always liked Nicholas Cage,but he must have had an I.R.S. lien to pay off or something to agree to this abomination.

When I think of all my most hated movies,"Jack and Jill", "Transformers 2", "Zookeeper", "Batman and Robin",I mean this is even worse that "Batman and Robin"!!!! The worst Super-Hero film ever.With the worst 3-D effects I've ever seen.

"Ghost Rider 2" is a completely unpleasant experience,although the crowd i was with seemed to eat this @#!@#!@$ up. To those of you who actually enjoyed this movie, please go to the nearest church and confess your sin. May "Ghost Rider 2" rot in the fiery abyss of Hell from which it came. WORST...SUPERHERO....MOVIE...EVER!!!!!!

BLAH!!!!! 0 Stars.Rated PG-13 for,Well,It's All Just A Bunch Of Crap.

The Secret World of Arrietty

 

 above: "You know this would be easier without you breathing down my neck!"

Most of you serious fans of Japanese animation know who Hayao Miyazaki is,animator of such classics as "Castle In The Sky", "Princess Mononoke",and, my personal favorite, "Spirited Away"....

Well,Miyazaki and Studio Ghibly continue their winning streak with "The Secret World Of Arrietty",which tells the story of an itsy-bitsy young "Borrower"(voiced by Bridget Mendler-the cute girl from The Disney Channel's "Good Luck Charlie".Yes,I watch the show.With my little sister. It's funny, dang it!)

Anyway,"Arrietty" lives with her parents(voiced by Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) as "Borrowers",little people who steal,er,borrow stuff from regular "Beings" that the tall folks won't miss,such as grains of sugar,a napkin,a needle,a new flat-screen t.v.,a hot tub,etc.On Arrietty's first mission,she is befriended by a sickly young "bean"(voiced by David Henry),who is curious about the borrowers.

As with all Miyazaki films,the animation in "The Secret World of Arrietty" is beautiful.It's like watching a moving painting,with it's incredible background and color.The character detail is amazing and very expressive,and,despite some viewer's complaining of the simpleness of the tale, I don't think it needs the more complexity of most Miyazaki stories.

Others fans complain about the english dubbing in Miyazaki films, but in "Arrietty" the voice work is quite good,especially Mendler and Carol Burnett(who plays the most psychotic headcase of a housekeeper you will ever see).

This isn't Miyazaki's greatest work,but "The Secret World Of Arrietty" is still a wonderful,charming and thoroughly watchable movie.Basically everything "Ghost Rider 2" is not. 4 Stars. Rated G

Big Miracle

 

 above: Drew Barrymore's final scene before being devoured by a giant Whale.
   
Reviewing "Big Miracle" is a difficult film to review,only because there are so many different ways to describe mediocrity. Average. So-So. Middling, Adequate, Ok. Eh? ...

"Big Miracle" is based on a true story of three whales trapped beneath an ocean of ice,and the humans who harpoon them and harvest their blubber.Oh,wait.Wrong movie.The humans that battle the elements to save them.John Krasinski plays the reporter who brings the story to the world's attention,Drew Barrymore is the tree-hugging hippie enviromental wacko(Naw,she's nice)who tries to rally the public.Ted Danson plays the cold hearted millionaire(Naw,he's ok) who warms to the whales,and Kristin Bell plays an ambitious reporter trying to use the story for her career(Naw,she's cute).

"Big Miracle" is a wonderful story that is too cliched to be taken seriously,with typical Hollywood dialogue that doesn't help the cause.A story this,well,miraculous,doesn't need to lay on the sappyness.The actors are all very good and put their heart into it,but their characters are dull and predictable.The focus should have been less on the humans,and more on the incredible whales and their peril.

On the bright side,"Big Miracle" does have somewhat of a happy ending.I guess all's "whale" that ends "whale"(My Dad's joke.I protested.) 2 1/2 Stars.Rated PG for Mature Topics And For The Harsh Realities Of Nature(Reality can suck!)

Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

 above: "Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?" "I can smell something"

Attention readers! Wanted:Missing In Action! What in the @!@#$!#$@ happened to Brendan Fraser? I mean it's not like I (or anyone in America),was asking for a sequel to Fraser's "Journey To The Center Of The Earth",which was a pretty decent hit a few years ago.I'm ...just worried about the poor guy and his career.(Lord knows his agent isn't.I mean, "Furry Vengeance" ? YOU HIGH,MAN!)

But they made a sequel anyway,"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island",which stars the natural replacement for Brendan Fraser.The Rock(I know,Dwayne Johnson,but to me he's,"The Rock") stars as the Step Dad to Josh Hutcherson's character,who receives a mysterious message from his mysterious Grandpa(Michael "Just doin' this movie for the Grandkids" Caine),who has been missing mysteriously while searching for a mysterious island.Hutcherson and The Rock go on a mysterious journey to find Gramps,aided by an annoying pilot(Luis Guzman),and his daughter,Eye Candy McShort Shorts(Vanessa Hudgens) as they fight through a brutal storm and end up on "The Mysterious Island". And the Mysterious Journey begins again!! Oh no!!

There are some some positives to "Journey", which has some good visuals and a decent,but cliched story.But there is one unforgivable flaw that ruins the journey.The script and dialogue is just awful,making the charcters unlikeable and annoying.To be honest,each one of them acts either like ldiots or Jackasses,especially Guzman and (God love him!),Caine,who have thankless roles to play.These flaws destroy the film completely,making a possibly harmless family film for kids,pretty much excruciating for me and anyone over 8.

Kids.Reading is fun and good for you.Pick up Jules Verne's original classic(or any of his novels),and skip this journey.You can still visualize Vanessa Hudgens in her shorty shorts.I am right now.1 1/2 Stars.Rated PG for Peril,Preposterous People and The Rock's Popping Pecs

Chronicle

 above: The force is strong with this one

What would you do if you had superpowers? Would you use them for good or for evil? To clean up crime or to cause it? Would you feed the poor? Or would you chow down on an entire stuffed crust pizza that you had stolen from an orphanage? Would you save an entire species from extinction? Or would you walk... up to PETA with a Tiger skin fur coat with a neckless made of Elephant ivory while wearing shoes made from baby Zebra.And you're kicking a puppy?

That's the intriguing premise of "Chronicle",which begins with three teenagers discovering an all-powerful force(that is never quite explained) that gives them incredible mental powers,allowing them to do stupid teen stuff.Like scare little kids with floating objects.Making cheerleaders skirts fly up.Or in the case of the one tortured teen with uncontrollable pent up anger,rob a gas staion,blowing it up in the process and incinerating a gas station attendant.

"Chronicle" is filmed in the "shaky camera-found footage" style that usually kind of annoys me.But here it is used very effectively,making this small budget film look and feel very realistic and gritty.This particular style helps you relate to these sympathetic teenagers(and the impressive young actors who play them),and makes you feel like you're following right along with them.

What I enjoy most about "Chronicle" is how simply and smoothly the story comes together,because of a top-notch script,and even better direction.The only flaw is in how the final 15 minutes play out.It's "Cloverfield" all over again! Shaking! Moving Violently! Explosions! It's unnecesarily frenetic and dizzying.Like that ride at the carnival. You know,the spinning one that makes you wanna' hurl? It's like that.

Still,"Chronicle" is original,facinating and extremely well made.It also gives you an important moral lesson to think about.If you ever develop superpowers,use them for something productive like I do.Saving the world from having to see "Ghost Rider 2".3 1/2 Stars.Rated PG-13 for Violence,Adult Content,Language and The Nausea Inducing Camera Work.

Red Tails

above: "You're all clear kid, now lets blow this thing and go home"

Have to get this out of the way first....

We did it! Obviously,thanks to the efforts of our loyal viewers and my courageous leadership,Gary Oldman has finally gotten the Academy Award nomination he has long deserved,this year for his amazing performance in "Tailor,Tinker,Soldier,Spy",a film I have not seen yet,in which I'm pretty sure he played The Tailor,The Tinker,The Soldier and The Spy because he's Gary !$@!@! Oldman,people! Way to go,everyone! But,remember.We have won the battle.But we have not yet won the War! Pitt and Clooney, you're goin' down!!!

Now on to this week's new film."Red Tails" is based on the amazing true story of the Tuskegee Airmen,an all-black fighter pilot squadron,who overcame racism,segregation and other hardships to battle and defeat Nazi pilots in some of the most important battles in World War II.

"Red Tails" is full of cliches.In fact,the whole movie embraces it's cornyness,and it's a story that produced wih obvious affection by George "Jar Jar Lives!" Lucas. If you close your eyes, I swear you will think you're listening to "Star Wars Episode VII: Revenge Of The Schnitzel."

The dialogue is,well,pretty lousy to be honest,complete with a laughable,over-the top Nazi villian with a scar on his face and a cheesy accent.At least the main cast is likeable and their characters justifiably heroic,although the bigger stars,Terrance Howard and Cuba "Show Me The Money!!" Gooding Jr.don't have much to do.

The CGI is ok,but it never feels very realistic.Yet despite it's obvious flaws,"Red Tails" is a pretty entertaining film.It's clearly intended to be a tribute to a group of men who probably will never be given their just do.It's a pure crowd pleaser,and sometimes that's good enough.2 1/2 Stars.Rated PG-13 For Intense Battle Scenes.

Joyful Noise

 above: TESTIFY SISTAHS!!!!!!

I know. You all look to me to be prompt and professional with my movie reviews. And I would be except for the ineptitude of my poor,senile,helpless father, who allowed yet another virus obliterate our computer.I want to give a shout out to my main man, Cousin, and all-around genius, Conor Eagan,for fixing yet another of my father's embarassments.His incompetence will not go unpunished.(Seriously,Dad.No hard feelings?We cool,right?)

Anyway,back to the poop at hand."Joyful Noise" stars Queen Latifah(Wife of King Latifah?) as Vi,who takes over a church choir after Kris Kristofferson shows up and dies.His Widow, Dolly Parton plays G.G., which is either her nickname or her breast size.They seem to have a long standing grudge ,for no reason that is ever explained.

So when Dolly's grandson, Randy(Jeremy Jordan) puts his white boy moves on Vi's daughter,Olivia(Keke Palmer),she's like, "Oh,Hell no!!!" There's also subplots with the Queen's son,who is ill and loses his faith,a member of the choir who can't find a man, a mean boy who reappears later as a good boy,and too many other subplots to keep up with or care about.

"Joyful Noise" would have been charming if it it had stuck to the music and concentrated on the fine singing of Latifah,Parton and Palmer,and there are a couple of sweet scenes that could have turned into a better film.But,typical of Hollywood,the script really falls flat with predictability.Many scenes made me cringe with with silly,forced dialogue and unrealistic actions.Every plot point could be resolved within a few minutes.Almost 2 hours is just too much to handle.

The crowd I was with certainly disagreed with me, and I do understand that "Joyful Noise" intends to be nothing more than a crowd pleaser.People seemed to have a smile on their face as they left the theater, but I don't think the film ever figures out whether it's a light hearted family movie or a more adult emotional drama(with some suprisingly bad language). A better script might have made likeable performers look better, so my advise is to spend your money on the soundtrack.

2 Stars.Rated PG-13 For The Bad Language, Dolly's Giant Melons, and For Death By Sex(I'm Not Kidding.Real Family Entertainment!)

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