Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toy Story 3 - 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who enjoyed the first Toy Story,teenagers who have grown up with Andy, and kids of all ages...basically, everyone. :)

Best Mood to Walk In With:Sentimental

Don't See This Movie If: You are a parent sending their first child off to college this fall and don't want to cry about it

Toy Story 3 was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was charming and funny like its predecessors, touching when it needed to be, and more sentimental than I was expecting. And although I am someone who has based my career off of parents sending their children off to college, it is a movie everyone can relate to.

That being said, I want to start off with what annoyed me, since they are small complaints. As you can see from the poster above, Bo Peep is featured along with the words "The toys are back in town". However, Bo Peep is not in this movie, and the lack of continuity irks me. Also, the reason B.P. (unfortunate initials given the present oil situation in the Gulf) presumably does not appear is to make room for all the new characters. In Toy Story 2, I got a little bored with the focus being on introducing a new character (Jessie), rather than focusing solely on the characters I already loved. In this third round, the same issue arises. It's not that Lotso (the Bear character) isn't interesting, but I wanted more screen time for Buzz, Rex, and the other beloved gang that I met in 1995. After all, if you attended a dinner party filled with strangers as well as dear friends you hadn't seen in years, who would you gravitate towards?

However, these end up being observations that did not ruin the overall experience. Like the first two, the animation is incredible, the script can reel in children and adults, and the voices continue to be more indelible than some of the celebrities live action roles. Basically, score another hit for Pixar...another BIG hit.

But more important than all of these elements are the lessons that are gently emphasized throughout the movie. The values of loyalty, compassion, and fairness have been showcased in other children's films, but not always as seamlessly. And for those of us who remember watching Andy and his toys as younger versions of our own selves, it is a bittersweet reminder that becoming a grown up is inevitable. And although this sounds depressing as I write it, these tender emotions that the movie evokes are what makes it so wonderful. I have always been impressed how Pixar can make me feel more connected to a computer generated image, than most of Hollywood can make me feel about real people.

Keep Your Eyes Open For: The climatic furnace scene where the characters reflect all the reasons they are known by name, rather than just thought of as toys
Also Keep Your Eyes Open For: The garbage man...does he look familiar to you? ;) (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can Google it. Actually, searching for all the Easter Eggs in the movie is fascinating. Pixar's attention to detail is incredible. Check it out here:

All in all, a touching and funny chapter in the Toy Story series that leaves me wondering if it is finally "The End" for Woody and Buzz, or simply another beginning...

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Complicated - 4 out of 5 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who liked Something's Gotta Give

Best Mood to Walk In With: More ready for comedy than romance

Don't See This Movie If: You prefer coming of age movies like Juno to movies celebrating middle age
There's nothing complicated about It's Complicated. I found it to be a delight despite mixed reviews from other critics. Maybe it's because I had lower expectations, but I thought this movie was a hoot. If you like Meryl Streep, you won't be disappointed, and it's nice to see Steve Martin doing good comedy again (and not The Pink Panther...ugh!).

Although I don't think Streep will be taking home any Oscar gold for this movie, I do think it is another film in a long list that shows why audiences find her so endearing. Her character is real and her interpretation makes her an every woman. Even as a lady half her age, I could imagine myself in her shoes and so laughed all the harder at the ridiculous situations she found herself in.

Alex Baldwin translates wonderfully from the small screen to the large screen and plays a stereotype much like he does in 30 Rock. And although he gets more time in the movie, it is Steve Martin that stole my heart. It is truly a joy to watch pros like Streep and Martin who make acting appear so effortless that it is truly relaxing to watch. Nancy Myers is certainly not new to this type of film, but this would have been a very mediocre movie without the talent on the other side of the camera.

Keep Your Eyes Open For: John Krasinski finds a natural vehicle for his talent, and a great follow up to Away We Go
Keep You Eyes Closed For: There were a few too many semi-nude Alec Baldwin scenes for me

All in all, this is a funny movie, but could be equally enjoyed from the comfort of you own couch in a few months.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Panique au Village

I've been very excited about this movie for a while and it is making its American debut soon! :)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mary a way you've never seen her!

Movies Are Life. ~ K

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - 3 out of 5 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who liked the fantasy scenes of What Dreams May Come and people who can enjoy a movie that doesn't answer all the questions it introduces

Best Mood to Walk In With: Alert

Don't See This Movie If: You don't care that this was Heath Ledger's final film and actually want a substantive work
I wish I could know what The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was originally supposed to look like before Heath Ledger died halfway through filming. I have to say, it is truly remarkable to see how the film makers utilized Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp to finish the film and even a tad creepy when you realize how much they resemble Ledger. (Depp even sounds like him.) However, this was the most impressive feat of the movie, as the film seems to try to do too much and thus does not accomplish much of anything.

To be honest, if you're expecting Ledger to show the immense acting skills he did in The Dark Knight or for Christopher Plummer to show us why he is one of the most casted veterans of Hollywood, you're going to be surprised that it was Verne Troyer who impressed me the most. Perhaps it's because I only have farcical movies like Austin Powers to compare it to, but Troyer did a fantastic job with his character. I look forward to seeing him in more roles that focus on who his character is rather than making fun of his size the entire time. Tom Waits is also delightfully and charmingly sinister as Mr. Nick.

As for the visuals of the imaginings, they are interesting, but there are not enough of them and now that Avatar has changed the game it is difficult to be too impressed. Basically, it reminded me of seeing Moulin Rouge for the first time. Part of me was confused, part of me was intrigued, and part of me was wishing I had tried LSD at some point in my life so I could compare the two experiences. Unfortunately, Moulin Rouge also had a stellar storyline and wonderful performances, things that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus did not have the fortune of possessing.

To quote the SciFi Wire review, "I have no idea what it was about." And although that review continued on to say that the movie was still enjoyable, I found a journey that I expected to be fantastical and imaginative to be a wandering that seemed pointless and forgettable.

Surprised that: even in an uninspired role and with the vestiges of old age written on his face, I still find Christopher Plummer incredibly handsome. Shows how Captain Von Trapp remains imprinted on my heart no matter what form he takes...
My Suggestion: Wait until it comes out on DVD unless you have a big Heath Ledger obsession.

All in all, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was not bad and kept my attention for two hours. However, I stayed tuned in because I kept expecting more and never got any resolution to the plot questions I had. Although we currently categorize the film as Heath Ledger's last, in a decade we will not be calling it one of his best, if it comes to mind at all.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Avatar Sneak Peek

Eric got to see a sneak of Avatar. So jealous! Here are his thoughts: his video blog.

Can't wait to see it!

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twilight Cycles

WARNING: If humor about menstruation upsets you, don't watch this Funny or Die clip. :) If you're ok with it, I highly recommend it since it makes fun of Twilight very cleverly.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pirate Radio (British Title: The Boat that Rocked) - 2 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like fluffy indie coming of age movies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Relaxed

Don't See This Movie If: You're looking for a heavy hitting plot

Although the movie itself is not bad (so-so, in my opinion), I refuse to write too much about it based on the fact that one scene is intolerable. Although half the plot is focused on the fact that Britain has pretty much outlawed rock-n-roll music, forcing fans to listen to a radio station that is boat-based, the other half of the movie is focused on a young man set on losing his virginity. And although this is not a new story line, it certainly crosses the line in how it is presented.

At one point, a deejay on the boat begins getting intimate with his girlfriend and then turns off the lights to try and trick her into actually having sex with the ingenue virgin. Not only is this scene not funny due to bad execution, but the basic premise is offensive. I'm sick of movies putting disgusting moments like this in films for a cheap laugh (In Observe and Report, Seth Rogen is shown having sex with a drunk girl who is passed out.). What are we teaching people by making these scenes "funny"? Would it be funny if someone tricked your daughter, sister, or female friend into having sex with someone they didn't think was in the room? Obviously not, so why are we making light in film what would be horrifying and illegal in real life?

So Hollywood, clean up your act and stop making violence toward women funny. This is one consumer who is sick of it.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

The Blind Side - 3.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People looking for a feel good comedy

Best Mood to Walk In With: Hopeful

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like dramatized films of real life inspirational stories

The Blind Side is surprisingly really good. Although it takes place in Memphis, and obviously was not shot there, I still really enjoyed it. (Big words coming from a Memphian!) And like most inspirational flicks, some impossibilities do occur (like Sandra Bullock's character going into the ghetto and challenging gun carrying thugs and making it out alive). But these things aside, The Blind Side served its purpose of inspiring and surprisingly also made me laugh often.

Despite what Bullock has said about how she's not the kind of actor who does work that wins awards, I think The Blind Side is completely dependent on her best performance yet. Without her remarkable and subtle performance, it would be too sugary sweet and over the top. Somehow, unbelievable, trite lines about how Michael, a boy from an underprivileged background, has changed her life seem less gag-worthy coming from Bullock's lips.

Although other performances are good, they're nothing to write home about. (Sorry Tim McGraw. Keep trying buckaroo.) However, possibly my favorite part of the movie is when the credits are rolling and you see footage of the real life Michael Oher with his family during career milestones. The movie itself is sentimental and moving, but the real story it is based on is heartwarming and a reminder of what open hearted people can do to change others' lives. The Blind Side made me proud to share a hometown with the Tuhoys.

Keep Your Ears Open For: The best line of the movie, "Who thought we'd have a Black son before we knew a Democrat?"
And Stay Aware That: As amazing it is to watch the film version of Oher escaping from the projects, let it be known that real life Memphis projects are much worse than portrayed in the film, making Oher's transition that much more incredible.

All in all, The Blind Side is a refreshingly touching movie that somehow excels amongst its too Hollywood-contrived "inspirational" brethren. Definitely a hit, and definitely a movie for fans of Oher or fans of true life happy endings.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Twilight Saga - New Moon - 3.0 out of 4.0 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People that enjoy the Twilight series books

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready for cheesiness

Don't See This Movie If: You are not a fan of the books

I enjoy the Twilight series as books; however, I was incredibly disappointed with the first movie. The awful effects, the plot gaps if you hadn't read the book, the bad acting...all of it ended in disappointment for me. However, I was overwhelmingly in the minority since most of the people who had read the book loved the movie. I chalked this to obsessive fan power of tweens and let it go. I debated even seeing New Moon in theaters because I still felt so cheated out of what could have potentially been a great film had it not been rushed through production and packaged for those with lower movie expectations. But since New Moon is my favorite of the 4 Twilight books, I decided to go ahead and fork over the $10.

Let me just say, it was worth the money. Please note, though, that this statement is based on a lot of conditions. First, you must already like the Twilight series, whether because you enjoy the books or because you somehow saw the movie on its own and joined the phenomenon. If you don't know what is going on, this movie may slightly confuse you because it relies on your knowledge of past events. Secondly, you must be ready for the corny romance. This is not a subtle love or a slow moving romance, this is an obsessive, over-the-top relationship that says the most ridiculous things every chance it gets. And that is inevitably part of its charm, but you have to be ready for it or the sappiness will get tiresome quickly. And finally, you have to be a good sport. I didn't see it opening night or the night after. In fact, the theater was more empty than full, but still every time Taylor Lautner appeared, girls screamed. Also, some middle aged women sitting in front of me made inappropriate comments about what they wanted to do to this 17 year old boy whenever he took off his shirt (which was often).

Since I can't really speak about the acting (I mean, let's be honest, that's not why you're going to see this movie anyway), I do want to point out that it is unfortunate for Rob Pattinson that he takes his shirt off after Lautner has already stripped numerous times. My friend Sara remarked that Pattinson did not have a great body, but I think it is hard to find Edward attractive when Lautner is undeniably so easy on the eyes. In fact, overall this is the basic issue I have with this movie. The entire movie makes Jacob so attractive and perfect, that it is hard to understand why Bella doesn't fall in love with him. Granted, reading the books, you wondered the same thing, but in the end whether or not you were Team Jacob or Team Edwards, you could understand why Bella did what she inevitably does. However, for the purposes of the movie, it seems completely like she is getting the raw end of the deal.

Thankfully, not only is the acting moderately better (Lautner is much more impressive in this movie than the last), the effects are where you see the biggest difference. From the completely awful running through the forest scene of the last movie to the incredible CGI wolves in this one, the special effects are like night and day. I sincerely look forward to seeing what tricks are in store for us with the upcoming Eclipse.

Keep Your Eyes Open For: The movie theater scene...I was laughing out loud for a good 5 minutes with that one
And Stay Aware That: Billy does not miraculously free himself from the wheelchair he was bound to in the first movie. That's actually Harry, who seems to take over the best friend role that Billy has in the book concerning Charlie.

All in all, Twilight lovers will be pleased that the movie franchise has upped the ante, but New Moon is still only a frothy dessert compared to the much more filling entree of the book itself.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Christmas Carol - 3.75 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Adults that enjoy the gritty original story of A Christmas Carol

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to be spooked

Don't See This Movie If: You prefer a feel good version of this story that is more commonly shown in media

Probably the most important thing to know about Disney's A Christmas Carol is that, despite the animation, this is not a movie for children. At times I was actually frightened, and the theme of death and sin is very strong in this film as it was in the original Charles Dickens novel. If you're looking for a kid friendly version, rent the Muppets Christmas Carol instead.

So once you get past the fact that this is not an overall feel good movie, the film is actually wonderfully executed. Although I did not see this film in 3-D, good friends have told me it was one of the few 3-D movies that actually utilize 3-D in creative and ongoing ways. However, I did not need to even ask them, because the animation was so vivid, it was easy to tell where the more dynamic 3-D effects could be placed to enhance already rich images. The creativity of the animation is quite outstanding, particularly with the way the ghosts are presented.

In addition to the wonderful presentation, Jim Carrey proves his relevancy in today's filmography by lending his voice to all the major characters. He does a really great job and it is creepy to see parts of his face represented in all the people he brings to life. Additionally, the underlying soundtrack of noises and music blend so perfectly with what you're watching that you're drawn deeper into the story than with most animated features.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The passing of the Ghost of Christmas Present...scary!
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The emotion-invoking animation of the horses drawing the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come's carriage (that emotion also being fear)

All in all, A Christmas Carol would win a 4 Star rating from me if it weren't for the fact that I walked in expecting a more feel good movie. It's time for studios to start marketing films as they really are, rather than how they think will sell the most tickets. Shame on production companies for not giving us realistic expectations, particularly when the reality is much better than what you advertised.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Box - 0 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: I find it hard to believe anyone would find this movie worth $10

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to walk out

Don't See This Movie If: You have better things to do with your clip your toe nails or watching any other movie

Donnie Darko fans are going to be disappointed, because The Box is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Seriously though, don't waste your money. I know Donnie Darko is a bit out there and not for everyone, but filmmaker Richard Kelly steps it up a notch this time and made a film that no one will likely enjoy.

I've decided that film names that consist of a noun explaining what the movie is about is always a bad idea. For instance, last year's Fighting. What was the movie about? Fighting. What was the movie named? Fighting. Was the movie good? Decidedly not. Now let's repeat those question but insert "The Box" for "Fighting". Not only was the script convoluted, but there seemed to be no motivation for the characters acting as they did. Additionally, there was no resolution, no explanation for the mysteries that had been presented for the entire time.

To be honest, even if the movie did make sense, The Box would still be difficult to watch because of Cameron Diaz's atrocious accent. I just felt all over bad for Frank Langella who made an awful decision lending his talent to this horrible film.

All in all, don't waste 2 hours of your life on The Box unless you feel the need to punish yourself for something.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Friday, October 30, 2009

But I'm a Cheerleader (on DVD) - 2.5 out of 4.0 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like social satire and don't mind clumsy filmmaking

Best Mood to Walk In With: Prepared for the mixing of both cynical and heartfelt humor

Don't See This Movie If: Clever humor is not enough for you to deal with trite, predictable storylines

But I'm a Cheerleader is not a bad movie if you like campy-ness and are in an easygoing mood. Folks who tend to be critical of indies not being as good as Hollywood should probably not see this movie.

Basically the premise is that a cheerleader is suspected of being a lesbian, and after being shipped off to gay camp discovers that everyone else was correct. Although not a fairy tale by any means, the storyline is as predictable as one and the acting is flat. However, there are moments of humor that kept me watching.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The awful use of stereotypes
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The surprise scene after the credits start rolling.

To be honest, I have little to say about this film, because everything was pretty mediocre. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. All in all, But I'm a Cheerleader is not awful, but I wouldn't spend money on it. Try catching it on TBS or HBO on Demand if you feel the need to see it.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Away We Go (on DVD) - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like indie romances

Best Mood to Walk In With: Laid back

Don't See This Movie If: You want something fast-paced or unrealistic

Sadly, I missed this critically acclaimed indie when it appeared in art house theaters and had to wait for Away We Go to arrive on DVD. Although it proved to be an original and entertaining movie, I did not find it to be the best film of the year. While last year's indie smash Juno was fast paced and sarcastically witty, this film is much more realistic and finds humor in the every day ridiculousness.

You never know what to expect out of Sam Mendes content-wise, but no matter the story, you know you get quality. American Beauty showed us the depravity of the suburbs, Road to Perdition focused on revenge, Jarhead took us to war, Revolutionary Road exposed a self-destructive marriage...Surprisingly, Away We Go shows us the beauty of the ordinary and the freedom of creating our own life. Is this a turning point for Mendes? It's doubtful. Instead, I believe his array of works just shows that every thorn has its rose as well.

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are cast well, but it is Maggie Gyllenhaal I fell in love with. Toni Collette had originally been slated in the role of LN, and although Collette is brilliant, the role was perfect with Gyllenhaal. Tons of big names cameo, Catherine O'Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janey...the normal cast of quirky characters in a movie about misfits.

Please Don't Miss: It may seem like an excellent bathroom break when the couple enters the hotel, but the scene with the kid talking about babies is hilarious.
You're Sure To Laugh When: Gyllenhaal's explanation of why she dislikes strollers.

All in all, Away We Go is fun, but fluffy. Not a bad way to spend an otherwise uneventful evening, but certainly not something that can't wait.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paranormal Activity - 4 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Folks who like movies that are scary but without large amounts of blood and gore

Best Mood to Walk In With: Prepared to not sleep

Don't See This Movie If: You want a big effects thriller

Paranormal Activity proves itself as the little movie that could. With a budget less than $15k, this film manages to pack in the creepies while also finishing glossier and more Hollywood than its Blair Witch predecessor.

The beauty is surprisingly found in the simplicity. It doesn't take big time effects, terrifying monsters, or scenes of carnage to give you the willies. Instead, the film shows you every day life. Things that all of us have had happen around us before...flickering lights, rumbling noises, swaying doors, nightmares...they all take a more ominous tone with the insertion of a demonic explanation. Perhaps it is the normality of so many of the situations that begins to haunt us, so that when the really supernatural occurs we are ready to jump.

The fact that this movie is a "documentary" and begins with an acknowledgment of the victim's families and ends with no credits is one of the cleverest things I've seen a horror movie do. Even while you're reminding yourself that it was just a movie in your car ride home, you're still able to doubt. The actors in the movie are natural, Katie in particular. And unlike Blair Witch, the "guerrilla" footage won't make you motion sick.

Paranormal Activity also expands on the fears almost everyone has as a child and turns them into reality. Who wasn't nervous about your foot coming out from under the covers and the monsters that lived under the bed getting you? Also inventive is the way the filmmakers make use of the concept of time. Simply watching the timestamp fastforward quickened my heart, because I knew something scary was about to happen. I was like Pavlov's dog, my body trained to react in fear even if nothing was coming.

Please Don't Miss: The ending. It is a true culmination of the entire movie. (After Steven Spielberg saw the original footage, he suggested the ending that made the widely released version.)
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The Ouija board scene terrified me
You're Sure To Laugh When: The expert booking it out. LOL.

All in all, for a movie that was filmed in one week, Paranormal Activity is incredibly effective and one of the best scary movies I've seen. After a sleepless night of trying to keep every body part in the direct center of my bed, I'm still excited about the sequel. :)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are - 4 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Older children of any age

Best Mood to Walk In With: Prepared to re-enter childhood

Don't See This Movie If: You have no concept of imagination

I am in love with Where the Wild Things Are. Spike Jonze said, "I didn't look at it as trying to make a children's movie. I just wanted to make a movie about childhood." It is this concept that haunts every scene, every moment, and every frame of this epic movie. Where the Wild Things Are successfully does what The Wizard of Oz also accomplished 70 years ago, it translates a wonderfully vivid book into an even more tangible and fantastic world of imagination and childhood fantasy.

Adults will connect with Where the Wild Things Are because it reminds us what it feels like to be a child. Everything Jonze does is from the viewpoint of a kid named Max, and his remarkable attention to detail will make this film a classic. One of the best things I noticed concerning this immersion into Max's point of view is how in the real world every person is seen from a lower angle. When Max is in a scene with his Mom or sister, the camera is looking up at them. But once Max enters the land of the wild things, even though they are monstrously tall compared to him, the camera shows them at the same level. Max is never looking up to them, because they do what the real world so often neglects, validating the worth of a child's viewpoint as equal to their own. Upon Max's reentry to normal life, Jonze does not condescend to imagine that the world has drastically changed to recognize Max as an equal. Instead he keeps the angles as they were, but shows the way the adults stoop or sit to join Max on his level. Once Max and his Mother are reunited, you never again see her as taller than her son. It's a lyrical symbolism that credits Jonze's directorial talents.

Although this film is fantastical, the emotions are raw, powerful, and very real. Because of this and the beautiful way they are portrayed, I believe this is what Spike Jonze will be remembered for. Max Records who was last seen in The Brothers Bloom astounded me by acting so naturally and charmingly as Max. He is a youngster to keep your eye on, and I hope more evolves from his career than the unfortunately short-lived one of Haley Joel Osment. However, it is James Gandolfini who I believe will be recognized by the Academy for his startlingly touching and nuanced translation of Carol, the focal point of the wild things. For an actor who has long played thugs and villains, Gandolfini does a remarkable job of showing vulnerability, false bravedo, and longing simply through his voice. Of course I don't want to forget the CGI animators and puppeteers that tackled the mammoth task of giving body and facial expressions to the voices. And don't miss Catherine Keener, Catherine O'Hara, and Forest Whitaker who also move the audience with their passionate performances.

Please Don't Miss: The opening scene where the Warner Brothers logo and a fun romp with a dog fully characterize Max within 30 seconds
Keep Your Ears Open For: The incredible soundtrack that harmonizes so perfectly to the action, you almost forget it is there
You're Sure To Laugh When: The comment about eating off feet appears

I've read that Where the Wild Things Are is being considered an indie arthouse flick. However, I would disagree and say that this film is exactly what every movie should aspire to be. It is both entertaining as a movie, but executed with the beauty and thoughtfulness to make it art. And it reminds us of the important lesson that whether you're mournful or triumphant, the emotion can always be captured with a good, loud HHHHOOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLL! :)

Movie Are Life. ~ K

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fame - 2 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Folks who like America's Got Talent-like talent revues

Best Mood to Walk In With: Easily entertained

Don't See This Movie If: You want a musical with a storyline

Fame has no storyline and moderate talent. I say this not because there are no extremely talented characters, but because they are countered by some actors who would have been laughed out of American Idol auditions.

I know musicals are not known for their incredible plots. In fact, most of them are loosely bound by storylines that simply link the songs to each other. However, if shows like Les Miserables and Rent and Wicked are happy exceptions to this rule, then the remake of Fame is a sad exception to the standard. The stories of the characters keep you less interested than an episode of a reality tv show (e.g. The Bachelor or Charm School), so it is the raw talent that you should go see this movie for.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Naturi Naughton, who plays Denise (the pianist singing the song featured in all the ads for this movie), there is little talent to speak of that you wouldn't find at a high school talent show. Specifically Kay Panabaker makes it difficult to even believe her character Jenny could have made it into this school of performing arts, much less succeed at it.

However, two things made this movie enjoyable for me. The first was obviously Naughton who got loud applause from the entire theater after she finished singing her first song. This young lady is talented and I hope to see her in a better vehicle for what she has to offer. The second are the incredible cameos of Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer, and Charles Dutton as the school's teachers. Without a doubt, these Broadway veterans have talent, and there is a fantastic scene where Megan Mullally belts it. Had there been more of that and less of the students, I would have enjoyed Fame much more.

Feel Free to Go to the Restroom During: The contrived scene where Mr. Dowd asks Malik about his father
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The hilarious audition in the opening montage of the guy doing a Chicago number

All in all, if you're looking for a good musical, rent my favorite movie Meet Me In St. Louis or, if you need a more modern one, Chicago. Fame just isn't going to make the cut.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Couples Retreat - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Folks who like typical romantic comedys

Best Mood to Walk In With: Good natured

Don't See This Movie If: You are wanting a more hard core Vince Vaughn comedy-centric movie like Swingers or Old School

Couples Retreat has gotten awful reviews, and although I did not think it lived up to its potential, I did think it was a fun way to relax with some friends. If you're comparing the movie to Old School or Sex and the City, of course it will come up short because those are in an upper echelon of pop-coms or pop-roms. (Yes, I made up those words, but hope you understand their meanings...)

However, when comparing Couples Retreat to the typical trash that comes out, it fares much better than an All About Steve or Imagine That. Which leads to an important question: Why do some reviewers judge a few actors against themselves (Vince Vaughn) and not others (Eddie Murphy). True, Couples Retreat is not something that will be a timeless classic, but it made me giggle even if it was predictable, and it certainly did not deserve the awful reviews it has received.

To play off a comment made in the movie, think of Couples Retreat as a screen saver. It can be really cool and interesting, but it's still a screensaver. This movie has funny and cute parts, but it is still a typical romantic comedy. Nothing too special. And to be honest, that's all I have to say about it.

Feel Free to Go to the Restroom During: the Kristin Davis storyline...any of it
Keep Your Eyes Open For: Vince Vaughn's explanation in the woods about why he prefers married life to single's an "Awww" moment for the ladies

All in all, Couple's Retreat is a completely acceptable rental. And if you need a rom com that's in theaters now, it is the only truly viable option at the moment.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Invention of Lying - 2.5 out of 4.0 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Folks who liked Ghost Town

Best Mood to Walk In With: Gullible

Don't See This Movie If: You can't stand illogical premises

The Invention of Lying doesn't know if it wants to be social commentary or a romantic comedy. Because of this, the script is disjointed and not thought through enough to be truly clever. While there are moments of humor, overall this movie is a disappointment and not a good vehicle for Ricky Gervais's enormous talents.

If you're like me and cannot buy into a film with gaping plot holes, you will not enjoy this movie. The general interesting idea about society's approach to organized religion is overshadowed by inconsistent logic and bad explanations. It is also fascinating how this film has been packaged as a comedy, when it actually has several quite poignant scenes and an overarching theme that will get the Southern Baptists rioting in the streets.

Although the plot is not the best, Ricky Gervais really gets to showcase his talent in a much broader format than The Office. He is truly moving in this movie, and it is nice to see him in a more full role, even if it is the same bitter, cynical character he always is. Jennifer Garner, however, falls flat in trying to recapture the endearingly charming in her flaws character we saw her play in Juno. However, blame the script which only provides stock female characters who are not very interesting.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The contrived scene where Mark delivers the explanation of the Man in the Sky
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The surprisingly tender scene between Mark and his Mom

All in all, if you still really want to see The Invention of Lying, wait til it comes out on video. It's neither inventive nor worth your $11.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (on DVD) - 3.5 out of 4.0 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Any little girl...even the ones who are 26 :)

Best Mood to Walk In With: Light-hearted

Don't See This Movie If: You are looking for something thought-provoking for adults

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is the film that the more recent Nancy Drew movie should have been. It is sweet, enjoyable, and surprising at the mystery's conclusion. It is truly family friendly, not only because it is suitable for children, but also because it is not bad entertainment for adults.

It's no secret that I love Abigail Breslin, and I should note that I also think her handlers pick great and age appropriate roles for her. The character of Kit Kittredge is both. The cute and upbeat nature of this movie is expected, given that it is an American Girl movie; however, the intelligent plot and easy charm are a much appreciated added bonus.

Part of this refreshing movie charisma comes from excellent performances by an all-star cast, including Stanley Tucci, Jane Krakowski, and Joan Cusak. But a lot of it comes from the cute additions of characters like Grace the dog and Willow Smith (Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's daughter).

Although my expectations were that an American Girl movie would have to rely on gimmicks like dogs and adorable children, the script is well-written with both a historical perspective and a moral lesson. Taking place in the 30's, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl takes the subject of the Great Depression seriously, while also not making it overwhelming for a child audience. Compassion and optimism are the mainstays of this script, but not without recognizing the reality of homelessness and greed.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The soup kitchen scene is pretty contrived.
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The tender Thanksgiving brought tears to my eyes!

All in all, I was very surprised by how enjoyable Kit Kittredge: An American Girl proved to be. Kit is a wonderful role model for young girls, because her allure is not the fame of Hannah Montana or the glamor of Barbie, but reliant instead on the integrity of a do-gooder.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Whip It - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like coming of age movies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Good-natured

Don't See This Movie If: You need more substance than charm

Whip It is a fun romp on wheels. What it lacks on depth, it makes up for in plain old likability.

Ellen Page brings her normal energy to the main role of Bliss, the indie high school outcast. For those that liked her in Juno, you'll enjoy her as this less trendy talking, more endearingly sweet version of the misfit stock character. If you preferred her in the darker, more disturbing film Hard Candy, you'll notice the same easy acting in a much more mainstream setting.

It's also easy to see how Drew Barrymore selected this film as her directorial debut after producing movies like the Charlie's Angels remakes. These films and Whip It are all feel good movies with an underlying themes of girl power. Whip It, however, is much less silly than Charlie's Angels, and with a broader audience that can relate to concurrent themes of wanting to make your parents proud and staying true to yourself.

Marcia Gay Harden steals many of the scenes as Bliss's good meaning, but uncompromising mother, and Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig are wonderful additions to the cast per usual. You'll definitely take more note of the relationship-driven storyline than accumulate any roller derby knowledge.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: Nothing. It's an easy watch.
Keep Your EARS Open For: The incredible vocals of Landon Pigg who plays the love interest Oliver.

All in all, Whip It is a charming piece of formulaic fluff with good intentions. You'll easily be able to guess the ending, but like life, Whip It's enjoyability is more about the journey than the destination.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Zombieland - 3.5 out of 4.0 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like funny movies about zombies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ferociously ready to kick butt during the zombie contamination period

Don't See This Movie If: You're part of the legion of the undead or don't believe this could actually happen

Some people were not sure if Zombieland would be stupid or great. However, I walked into the theater fully prepared to love it. Sometimes having high expectations leads to big disappointment, but Zombieland was everything I wanted it to be. It was funny, it was gross, it was a comedy, it was a romance, it featured actors I already enjoyed, and it introduced me to actors I hadn't seen before. Basically, it was a really fun way to spend 2 hours.

Woody Harrelson was great in this film. In fact, in my opinion, it was his best movie since No Country for Old Men. (Semi-Pro, really Woody?) Even better, however, is the surprising cameo by Bill Murray. As usual, Abigail Breslin's performance is solid. And this is a much better vehicle for Jesse Eisenberg than Adventureland was. (Now, if he can only find movies where theme parks are not the main focus...)

But let's be honest. You're not going to watch Zombieland for the acting. You're watching it for the zombies! And they are awesome. They are gross and ravenous and creepy and funny...everything zombies should be in a comedy. The script is clever and even zombie enthusiasts will enjoy its attention to detail.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The puking zombie is nasty
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The final zombie at the amusement park...HIGH-larious!

All in all, even those that don't like zombies will probably like Zombieland if they are looking for a comedy. You just can't take it too seriously...or can you? ;)

Movies Are Life. ~ K