Monday, June 27, 2011

(MOVIE REVIEW) Mr. Popper’s Penguins provides a pleasant family picture but didn’t pique my personal picture preference

Do you know what is twice as cute as a kitten but never sheds? Me. Know what is a close runner up? Penguins. I dare anyone to go to the zoo, watch them playing and waddling around, and tell me that they are not adorable. We are incapable of resisting their adorableness and that is why they will one day rule the world...but that is another story for another time. 

Mr. Popper’s Penguins is based off of a beloved children’s book from 1938. The film adaptation centers around Tom Popper (Carrey), a very successful business man, and his estranged wife and children. Popper has worked his way up the corporate ladder for years and is on the verge of making partner, but before that can happen his bosses inform him that he must obtain the infamous Tavern on the Green located in Central Park. While focused on the task at hand he receives a package from his recently deceased father. What Popper first believes to be a stuffed penguin turns out to be the real deal. When one penguin quickly becomes six, the shenanigans begin. His children become attached to the penguins, so Popper tries to find a way to make it work. This proves to be harder than he originally thought and he finds himself defending his new role to his bosses, neighbors, and to a zoo keeper determined to take the penguins to the zoo. When his life turns upside down, and his character is put to the test, will Popper remain a slave to his career, or will the penguins help him become the father and husband that he was always meant to be? 

I’m not a fan of Jim Carrey’s comedy. I actually prefer him in more serious roles like The Majestic, Man on the Moon, or The Number 23. So it’s no surprise that I’m not a big fan of his comedy in this movie. However, he has a few scenes that are pretty touching and show the better side of his range, which I thought were great. Also, the real stars of this movie are the penguins, and they are really funny and very entertaining.

Worth the admission? Definitely for a family outing, but not so much if you are looking for anything with substance. While cute, the movie doesn’t stick with you past the parking lot. I say watch it with the kids or rent it later.  

(MOVIE REVIEW) Lantern may have failed to rake in the Green, but it still manages to offer fans an enjoyable movie

Matthew 5:5 says that “the meek shall inherit the Earth”. Well, I don’t know when that will happen, but I do know that the summer of 2011 is when “the geek shall inherit the Earth”. This summer has been loaded with fan-boy movies like no other summer in recent history. We have already seen The Green Hornet, Priest, Thor, X Men: First Class and this week’s Green Lantern on the big screen. Not to mention that Captain America and Transformers are still to come this year. So, needless to say, I am in the dorkiest part of dork heaven…and I love it. 

Green Lantern begins with an origin story and lots of exposition about how the Green Lantern Corps, a group of thousands of defenders that harness the willpower of the universe through their rings to form whatever the rings wielder can imagine, fought to capture a ruthless entity named Parallax. Parallax derives his power from fear. When Parallax escapes his prison, he targets the one Green Lantern that was responsible for his capture, Abin Sur. When Abin Sur is fatally wounded by Parallax, the ring seeks out a replacement Green Lantern to protect earth. It chooses Hal Jordan (Reynolds). When Jordan accepts the ring he is taken to the planet Oa, home of the Corps, to train. Training is cut short when Parallax begins destroying entire planets, causing genocide, and decides to make his next target earth. Jordan must be fearless, he must protect his planet, and he must find a way to defeat Parallax. Can he fight an unstoppable force, or is another planet forced to suffer extermination by Parallax?

Right out of the box I have to say this. I built this movie up SO BIG in my mind that it would never be as good as I hoped. That being said, it was a really fun movie that has a lot of heart, a little comedy, and some truly amazing special effects (especially in 3D). Sinestro (Mark Strong) is a great character in the film and will play a larger part in the next. While I am not a big fan of Peter Sarsgaard, he played the character of Hector Hammond perfectly. 

Worth the admission? Does Ryan Reynolds look good in tights? My wife thought so. The movie is not a 10, but it is at least an 8. What was worth the ticket price alone was to get to hear the Green Lantern Oath. An amazing moment in the movie and well acted by Reynolds. Go see this movie!

Watch the credits for a bonus scene let me know what you thought of the set up for the next film. 

(MOVIE REVIEW) Super 8 is easily a 10

When is a monster movie not a monster movie? When it’s also a comedy. I love when a movie transcends its own genre. When a movie is billed as a monster movie and you sit in your seat, expecting nothing but destruction, and end up with a movie that works on so many more levels than you ever thought that it would.  J.J Abrams (producer and director) is extremely gifted when it come to delivering these types of genre crossing projects. His television shows have consisted of Alias, Lost and Fringe and feature films include movies like Star Trek, Cloverfield, the Mission Impossible franchise and now Super 8.

Super 8 gets its title from camera film of the same name. This is the particular film that a group of friends in a small town in 1979 use to shoot their homemade monster movies. When they go to the local train depot to shoot a scene they decide to shoot with an oncoming train in the background. When this train derails, they have to make a run for it. While scrambling from the fallout of the crash their camera is overturned and records the whole ordeal, and what it records is something they cannot believe. Something was in that train…and it got out. When the military comes to town and starts to investigate, all while keeping the townsfolk in the dark, the kids decide to take it upon themselves to get to the bottom of the strange events that have been recently plaguing their small town. What they find is something that they never expected, and what takes place is something that they will never forget. 

Have you ever wished that you could combine two of your favorite movies into one and see what the result would be? I have, and this movie is it. It’s like someone combined Cloverfield with The Goonies. It is full of comedy, major tear jerking moments, great acting and lots of monstrous mayhem. 

Worth the admission? Absolutely! I rarely buy movies these days, but this one will be on my shelf the minute it is released. It succeeds on so many levels and is fun for everyone. I laughed a lot during this movie but actually laughed out loud at least 3 times. That is a rare thing for me in a theater. 

If you have some favorite movies from your childhood that you would compare Super 8 to, let me know what they are.

(MOVIE REVIEW) Fans get a worthy origin story in X Men: First Class

Prequel. The word alone brings out horrible images of movies that managed to take healthy franchises and reduce them to a joke. Cruel Intentions 2, Hannibal Rising, and Star Wars: Episodes 1-3 are all equally horrifying examples of this. Closer to home for this franchise was the horrific X Men Origins: Wolverine. So, it was with great trepidation that I bought tickets for this movie over the weekend. I already had my reservations when I realized that Erik/Magneto has a completely different accent in this film than he does in the original films, but I pressed on. Thankfully I did, because what could have been a complete train wreck turned out to be a really nice addition to the franchise. 

The film follows the lives of young Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr as they begin to grow into the infamous character know as Professor X and Magneto. Charles was born into a life of luxury and learned to fit into the world and to work from the inside to help his fellow mutants. Erik first discovered his powers in a Nazi camp as he was being torn away from his mother. Once Nazi officers realized his power, they experimented on him. His torture came at the hands of Sebastian Shaw (Bacon).

 As we see them later in life, Charles (McAvoy) is attempting to work with the government while Erik (Fassbender) is on a mission to hunt down and kill Shaw and all of those responsible for his pain. When their separate quests intersect, they find that they need each other to complete the objectives at hand. They, with the help of the government, reach out to the mutant community and start recruiting young mutants to join their cause. When Shaw finds out about this, he brings his own team of mutants in to battle the newly formed group of heroes. The battle lines are drawn and lives are lost in the crossfire. Who will survive and who will be forever changed by the final conflict?

I actually liked this movie more than I thought I would. It’s fun to see the “first class” of this infamous superhero team and how they are molded into heroes. Also to be noted, McAvory and Fassbender turn in equally impressive performances. I was pleasantly surprised with their portrayals of these iconic characters. 

Worth the admission? Is The Beast blue? Of course I recommend it. Superhero films are a big part of this summer and I feel that this one held its own.

Note: There are two past/future characters that make cameos. Tell me what you thought of them.  

(MOVIE REVIEW) Madea's Big Happy Family refuses to take an “even” approach and ends up with more ups and downs than a yoyo competition

I want to start off by admitting something. While I am a fan of Tyler Perry, because of the incredible way that he has branded himself and made his name synonymous with success, I have never been a fan of his work. It is usually all over the place. Like a rutterless ship. It goes from being really good to really really bad within the time span of two scenes. That, to me, is a travesty. When someone has had this much success and still can’t seem to pull everything together to make a movie that the majority of the audience can enjoy.

In this film Shirley (Loretta Devine) has received some devastating news from her doctor. In an attempt to discuss her health problems with her entire family, she calls them all to dinner. This fails miserably. Her family just can’t seem to get along. Everyone stays too caught up in their own problems to even take time to listen to hers. When the dinner fails, she and Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) enlists the help of Madea (Tyler Perry) to help straighten out the family and get them all together….before time runs out.

This movie has some good points to it. It really does. At times I really enjoyed and even laughed pretty hard at a few things. The problem is that it can’t sustain the quality or flow of content. It will take you to a great scene and then drop off completely. Not only that, but they give some very serious subject matter to Isaiah Mustafa to deliver. It is EXTREMELY hard to take this guy serious after his Old Spice body wash commercials. Not only that, but he can’t act. Being typecast AND not having the acting chops to break that typecast is a dangerous combination.

Worth the admission? I would have to say NO. At least not for me. If you enjoy the other Perry material, you will like this. I, unfortunately, did not.

Standout: On a good note, Cassi Davis/Aunt Bam is hilarious. She was easily the best part about this movie and I really enjoyed her screen time. If you enjoyed her performance, or have another favorite performance in the film, let me know.

(MOVIE REVIEW) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides shows that Captain Jack still has plenty of wind left in his sails

You can ask pretty much anyone that knows me how I feel about the Pirates franchise. They will quickly tell you that I am not a big fan of the overall series of films. Why? Because they started out with a pretty solid movie with The Curse of the Black Pearl but was turning out trash by the end of At Worlds End. This is the biggest problem I have with a franchise. They keep going past their prime and ultimately ruin any of the positive memories that you had of the original release. The original Superman franchise is the best (and most personally painful) representation of this point. They made the superhero film genre a serious subject, but by the time Superman 4: A Quest for Peace came out, the series had been reduced to a joke and NO ONE cared about the punch line.

We, once again, find ourselves following the wayward Captain Jack Sparrow on another adventure in this latest Pirates film. Jack, after refusing to help the English Navy (led by Barbossa from the previous films) beat the Spanish Navy in a race to find the legendary Fountain of Youth, wakes to find himself a prisoner on a ship that is at sea. When an old flame, Angelica, tells Jack that she is in search of the Fountain as well, Jack scoffs. That scoff quickly turns to intrigue when Jack learns that Angelica’s father is the famous pirate Blackbeard. Jack must fight his way through armies, zombies and mermaids in his race to the Fountain. 

This movie is fun. It’s not something that you are going to remember as being one of the best movies you ever watched, but it is a great break from the normalcy of your work week. It also proves that someone can successfully be a one trick pony…especially if they are really good at that one trick. Whereas the last two Pirate movies felt over the top, stale, and boring, this one seems to have corrected the sluggish areas and keeps the story moving at a nice pace. 

Worth the admission?   Aye (yes). Lots of fun and lots of action. Make sure to see it!

Note: As with the other films there is a scene after the credits. Stick around after the movie then let me know what you thought of the extra scene

(MOVIE REVIEW) The Hangover Part II proves that you can always go back to the well, especially if that well contains a Wolfpack.

I love a good dessert. No matter how good a meal is I always enjoy dessert more. It’s a weakness. I could sit down to a Beef Wellington prepared by Gordon Ramsay and it may be the single greatest meal that I have ever eaten, but a piece of cheesecake afterwards will make the dinner a long forgotten build up that ends with perfection. So, if The Hangover was the meal, The Hangover Part II is the dessert. It does something that is often attempted and almost always failed to achieve…it’s arguably better than the original. 

We, yet again, find ourselves about to witness a marriage. This time it’s Stu (Helms) that is getting married. He and his fiancĂ© are getting married in Thailand and the whole group is invited, except for Alan (Galifianakis). After some pressuring from Phil (Cooper) and Doug (Bartha), Stu finally agrees to let Alan come to the wedding. Stu, wanting to keep the surprises to a minimum, only agrees to a single beer on the beach to commemorate the night. They wake up in a Bangkok motel with no memory of the previous night. Teddy, Stu’s soon to be brother in law, is missing and the guys must find a way to get him back, to try to remember the events of the previous night and to make it back in time for Stu’s wedding. 

If the story sounds familiar it’s because it is basically the same format from the first film. This was my biggest problem when I first heard about this movie being made. I didn’t think that the same movie in a different location with different jokes would be worth watching. I’m glad to say that I was wrong. The format doesn’t really matter in movies like this. It’s just a device. A situation to overcome. That is all. When it comes to this type of movie the jokes and character interactions are what matter. That is something that this movie does incredibly well. 

Worth the admission? 100% yes. This movie doesn’t miss a single opportunity to cash in on a joke. It’s an R Rated comedy and it is rated as such for a very good reason, but if you don’t mind a comedy like this I would recommend that you make your way to a theater to see it this weekend. 

Note: Let me know which Hangover you preferred and why 

(MOVIE REVIEW) Fast Five proves that the franchise still has plenty of tread left on the tires

Raise your hand if you occasionally speed. Now put your hand down...because I can’t see them raised anyway. The point is that everyone likes to play “speed demon” from time to time. The problem is that it is often dangerous and always illegal. That means that about 90% of your driving time is filled with the urge to do something that you can’t/shouldn’t do and, if you are anything like me, sometimes it’s aggravating. That is the major appeal of movies in this franchise. The driving rulebook goes out the window, the pedal is pinned to the floorboard, and the breaks are never pushed.

This movie picks up at the end of the last installment. Dom (Diesel) has recently been incarcerated and is being transported to a correctional facility. While on his way to the location Brian (Walker) and Mia (Brewster) swing into action in an attempt to break him free. After the escape, they are immediately placed at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Agent Hobbs (Johnson) is sent to apprehend the group, send Dom back to prison, and turn in anyone associated with the past crimes (those shown in the previous films). Knowing that they need to escape and finally get out of this lifestyle, they plan one last job. When the job exposes a kingpin in Rio, things get very dangerous for the group. 

I can’t tell you how much I have disliked some of the films in this franchise. The second and third installments were horrible. However, the franchise got back on track with the fourth film and, admittedly, turned out a pretty entertaining film with Fast Five. It’s the perfect movie to kick off a summer of mindless (but entertaining) blockbuster movies. 

Worth the admission? Absolutely. The movie is not going to win any awards for writing or acting, but its niche is action and it does that very well. 

Note: I thought it was great to see some of the past stars of the previous films in this installment….but I was left a little aggravated when I realized where this movie is chronologically placed in the franchise. Let me know what you thought of this.