Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Muppets

Family Fare:  The Muppets  (2011)  In this new Muppets film, Gary (played by Jason Segel), has a brother named Walter (voiced by Peter Linz).  Walter is a little different because he looks like a Muppet; but that is good because his favorite TV show is, The Muppets.   Segel, his girlfriend (played by the cute Amy Adams) and Walter go to California to visit the Muppet studio, a lifelong dream of Walters. They find out that not only is the studio abandoned, the Muppets have disbanded and that an evil oil baron (played by Chris Cooper) wants the land where the studio is and will do almost anything to get it.  Walter finds Kermit and persuades him to get the old Muppet gang back together to save the studio.  This is an absolute joy of a film to watch, and I was smiling throughout.  Unlike Happy Feet Two, this film has several memorable song and dance numbers, and Segel (who also co-wrote the script) has a ball performing with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the rest of the gang.  This is by far the best of the Muppet films and is one not to be missed.  My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   The Muppets Website
My View:  Hugo  (2011)  Martin Scorsese directs this 3-D film about a young orphan (Asa Butterfield) who lives in a train station in Paris in the 1930s. His father left him a mysterious, metal man, an  automaton, a prop used by magicians at the turn of the century.   The boy is convinced that if he can get the automaton working, it will give him a message from his late father, so he sets out to repair it.  A girl (played by Chole Moretz), whose godfather (played by Ben Kingsley) owns a small toy shop in the train station, decides to help him.  The godfather, though, is hiding secrets - secrets that might help the boy solve the riddle of the automaton, and there is an evil Station Inspector (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) who is dead-set on catching the boy and sending him off to an orphanage.  This is a beautiful film and the best use of 3-D since Avatar, but the film is way too long (127 minutes), takes forever to set up any of the story-lines and is just not very interesting.  This is one  of those films that you want to love but just don't really even like.   My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Hugo Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film):  The Descendants  (2011)  George Clooney stars in this film about a father whose life is shattering around him.  His oldest daughter  (played by Shailene Woodley) is in a boarding school and is flunking out.  His youngest daughter is not getting along with fellow students and says things without thinking.  His wife has had a boating accident and is in a coma.  And, to add to the pressure, he is the main trustee of a large parcel of pristine real estate on one of the Islands of Hawaii, and he has to decide who to sell the land to, land that has been in his family for 150 years.  Clooney is amazing in this role, low key and restrained, and this role is sure to get him an Oscar nomination.  But it's Shailene Woodley (Secret Life of the American Teenager) who really shines in this film.  She does an incredible job as a teenager dealing with her mother's coma while trying to re-forge a relationship with her father.  This film is warm and rich and is surprisingly funny, as director Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) gets multi-layered performances out of the whole cast.  My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   The Descendants Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time):
#30 Best Film  
The Deer Hunter  (1978)  This five time Academy Award winning film (including Best Picture and Best Director) is a film about how the Vietnam War affected the lives of a small, factory town in Pennsylvania.  Three men, Michael (played by Robert De Niro), Steven (played by John Savage) and Nick (played by Christopher Walken) have enlisted in the Army to fight in Vietnam.  Before they depart, Steve marries his childhood sweetheart (played by Rutanya Alda) and Michael, Nick and their friend, Stan (played by John Cazale), go on one last hunting trip.   Little do the three men know that the next time they will meet will be in a Vietcong prison.  This is a complex film that tracks the three men through their tour in Vietnam and the after-effects of war when the three men return to civilian life.  Director Michael Cimino boldly directs this film, using great sweeping shots, and gets every ounce out of an incredible cast that also includes a very young Meryl Streep.  This is a marvelous film and one that shows how a war can affect not only the men/women who fight, but their loved ones, as well.   The Deer Hunter Info
Forgotten Film Marty  (1955)  Ernest Borgnine, in an Academy Award winning role, plays Marty, a 34 year old butcher, who has just about given up finding someone to love.  He still lives with his mother, hangs out with his buddies at the local bar and has to be dragged by his friends to a dance.  At that dance, he meets a plain-looking woman (Betsy Blair) and discovers that maybe, just maybe, he can find love.   Borgnine is absolutely perfect in the role, and Paddy Chayefsky (Network) wrote a script that gives him the part of a lifetime.  My Rating:  Full Price   Marty Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Super 8 (2011)   I liked this film from producer Steven Spielberg and director J.J.  Abrams as I felt it was part E.T., part Close Encounters and part Alien with a whole lot of The Goonies thrown in.  It has an impressive young cast that does a terrific job of taking you on a thrilling adventure.  My Rating:  Full Price   Super 8 Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Seen Only in Trailers but Just  Looks Like a Bad Idea): Mirror Mirror   Fairy tales have been all the  rage in Hollywood these days, and this one is the story of Snow White (played by Lily Collins - the daughter of musician, Phil Collins) and the evil queen (played by...wait for it...Julia Roberts) who sets out to destroy the sweet and innocent Snow White.  It's really hard to tell if this film is a comedy (Nathan Lane is the evil queen's servant) or a drama.  I have a feeling I won't really care.   Mirror Mirror Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Hugo:  Personal designer for Sir Ben Kingsley

Flictionary (A Definition of a Film Term):  Tracking Shot  This a shot where the camera follows a parallel path of the object on the screen.  Normally done with a camera mounted on a dolly, it can also be done with a crane or a hand held camera.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  The Iron Lady   A film about the life of British Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher. I only need to say three words: "Starring Meryl Streep."   The Iron Lady Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

My View:  The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn – Part 1  (2011)  It’s the big event we have all been waiting for (or at least all the “Twihards” have), the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire boyfriend, Edward (Robert Pattinson).   Everyone is happy about the wedding except for the other man in Bella’s life, the werewolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner).  But the wedding goes on, and the happy couple fly off to Rio for their long awaited honeymoon.  Bella gets pregnant, a pregnancy that she thought could not happen.  If she keeps the child, the birth will probably kill her.  To complicate matters more, the werewolf pack that Jacob is a part of, plans to kill Bella and destroy the baby.  If you’re a fan of the series, you will like this film (but not love it).  If you are not a fan of the series, you will be very bored.  It’s incredibly long, full of weak special effects, bad writing and even worse, acting.  Taylor Lautner seems to just get worse with each acting job he gets, continuously stomping around in scenes.  Pattinson and Stewart don’t do much better - there just doesn’t seem to be any chemistry between them.  My feeling is that this film should have been part of the final film, as there just isn’t enough material to fill out this story, unless you like 20 minutes of the wedded couple staring into each other eyes. By the way, if you do go see the film, stay through the first part of the closing credits.  There’s a scene that sets up the next movie.  My Rating:  Cable   Breaking Dawn Part 1 Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film) Like Crazy (2011)  A British college student (Felicity Jones), while attending a university in California, falls in love with an American student (Anton Yelchin).  Since the romance just started, the British student overstays her visit and her Visa expires.  She is deported and can’t come back into the States, and the American  has just started his handmade furniture business and can’t move to England.  The rest of the film explores the long distance / on-off again relationship.  This is one of those films where you just want to bop the heads of the two main characters  together and say, “Wake Up!”  You never get the feeling that these two people were meant to be a couple because they don’t really seem to fit.  And, for two “star-crossed lovers” who desperately love each other, they find new partners rather easily.  I didn’t enjoy this film and felt the trailer misrepresented the movie.  I thought I was going to see a romance, but what I got was a bad drama.  My Rating:  You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Like Crazy Website
Family Fare:  Happy Feet Two  (2011)  Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) and Gloria (voiced by Pink) now have a son, Erik (voiced by Ava Acres).  Erik, though well liked, is shy, doesn’t seem to have the dancing talent of his father, and has trouble figuring out his place in the world.  When Ramon (voiced by Robin Williams) decides to go off on an adventure, Erik and his friends decide to follow.  Mumble then sets out to find his missing son and bring him back.  I wasn’t a big fan of the first Happy Feet and enjoyed this film even less.  It’s too long (over 100 minutes), there isn’t a really catchy song in the bunch, very few laughs occur, and there is a rather bizarre side story of two krill (voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) who decide to leave the safety of the swarm and go out on their own.  If you do see it, it is worth the extra money to see it in 3-D, as that aspect of the film is used very well.  I just didn’t get the feel-good feeling that I have gotten from other animated works like Toy Story 3.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Happy Feet Two Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time):
#30 Worst Film
Shanghai Surprise (1986)   This film takes place in China in the 1940’s.  Sean Penn, plays a bad tie-wearing,  bearded bounty hunter who is looking for a way to get out of the country.  He encounters a missionary nurse (yes, you read that right) played by Madonna, who is trying to get opium to help her patients.  They set out on an adventure through the streets of Shanghai to find the drugs and steal them from a drug gang. This movie was so bad that, even though Madonna recorded several songs  with ex-Beatle George Harrison, the CD was never released.  I think the only reason this film was made was so Penn and Madonna, the real life, newly married couple, could go on a Honeymoon in China.   Shanghai Surprise Info
Forgotten Film: Vision Quest (1985)  This coming of age film, stars Matthew Modine as Louden Swain (one of the great film names of all time), a high school wrestler, who decides he is going to drop in weight and challenge the 3 time defending champion.  His life is full of interesting characters and includes his father (played by Ronny Cox), his best friend who is a wannabe Indian and an older women, Carla (played by the lovely Linda Fiorentino) who becomes a boarder at his house.  Louden takes an interest in Carla and tries desperately to get her attention.  Fiorentino is perfect as the woman who has been around the block a few times, and Modine is dead-on as the love struck kid.  This is a fantastic film about love, friendship and believing in yourself to reach you goals.  My Rating:  Full Price   Vision Quest Info
In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)  I did not like this film when it came out this past summer.  It started out nicely, with a brilliant run through the streets of London, but peaked early, and the rest of the film never matched the excitement of the early scenes.  This film missed the spark that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley brought to the earlier films in the series.  My Rating: Cable   Pirates Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Seen Only in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  One for the Money  All I have to say is this stars Katherine Heigl as a newly divorced woman who starts bounty hunting to make money.  You stopped reading this at Katherine Heigl, didn’t you?  One for the Money Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Happy Feet Two:  Tap Dance Foley Sequence

Flictionary (A Definition of a Film Term):  Montage   This is an editing technique which uses a series of short shots cut together.  It can stand for a passage of time or can be symbolic in meaning.  This technique was first used by Russian filmmakers in the 1920’s and some directors, like Alfred Hitchcock, became known for their montage sequences.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  We Bought A Zoo  Cameron Crowe (Say Anything, Jerry Maguire) directs this film about a father (played by  Matt Damon) who buys a small, rundown zoo and moves his family to the property to renovate and re-open it.   Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church and Scarlett Johannsson round out the cast.   We Bought a Zoo Website
Until Next Time!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

J. Edgar

My View:  J. Edgar  (2011)  Directed by Clint Eastwood, this film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as longtime head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, who, with almost a 50 year reign, was able to stay in power by using a combination of PR, lobby tactics and amassed secrets on the most powerful men in the U.S. government.  Hoover, though, had secrets too:  a controlling mother, a speech impediment, a fetish for women's clothing and a life-long love affair with his second-in-command, Clyde Tolson (played by Armie Hammer).  This is a flawed movie that tries to cover too much ground (get the extra large popcorn because this movie is more than 2:15 in length) and is hampered by a script that seems to want to spell out every little nuance in the plot.  DiCaprio is superb in the role, and his older J. Edgar is almost picture-perfect, but he has to give way too many long speeches. It's almost as if Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter, doesn't think we, the audience, can figure out a darn thing.  I also found that Armie Hammer, who played Hoover's right-hand man and love interest, was a little lacking in keeping up with DiCaprio's acting skills.  I also think Eastwood has a tendency to stay with a camera shot too long, which makes a long movie seem longer.  There is one reason to see this movie - Naomi Watts who is brilliant as Hoover's long time private secretary and keeper of the secret files. This could have been a much better and faster movie if it had just concentrated on one segment of Hoover's life instead of covering his lifespan.  My rating:  Cable   J. Edgar Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film):  Take Shelter (2011)  Michael Shannon plays a husband and father who begins seeing things and has a series of apocalyptic visions. His family has a history of mental illness; his mother was diagnosed when she was the age that he is now.  Shannon decides to build a storm shelter to protect his family, a decision that could cost him everything he loves.  This is an Oscar worthy role, and Shannon plays it masterfully by showing the torment and confusion on his face as he tries to decide to give into the visions or fight them.  Jessica Chastain is perfect as his long suffering wife who tries as best she can to comprehend and stand by her husband, even when his behavior becomes baffling.  Though I didn’t like the ending, I was completely impressed by Shannon’s acting abilities, which makes this film worth seeing.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Take Shelter Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time):
#31 Best Film
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)    Errol Flynn is at his charismatic best in the role of Sir Robin of Locksley, a nobleman who defies the Norman authority to bring back the rightful King of England.  Olivia de Havilland is the beautiful Maid Marian, and Basil Rathbone plays one of the greatest screen villains of all time, the dastardly Sir Guy of Gisbourne.  This is a cinematic masterpiece with huge sets and bright, full vibrant costumes that fill the screen with amazing colors.  But, make no mistake, this is Flynn’s movie, and he is incredible in it, as he seemingly has a twinkle in his eye in almost every scene.  This is a film where, after you see it, you’ll say to yourself, “They don't make them like that anymore.”   The Adventures of Robin Hood Info
Forgotten Film:  The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t let me watch horror movies, so when I became a teen, I relished the late Saturday night horror movies, and this film was one of my favorites.  In this film, doctors are murdered in bizarre ways, and each death represents one of the nine Biblical plagues.  What evolves is that all the doctors had been involved in an unsuccessful operation on a wife of one Dr. Phibes, causing her death.  Now Phibes has risen from the dead to get his revenge.  Vincent Price is the perfect blend of horror and absurd for the role of the mad doctor, and the death devices are so clever in how the deaths are triggered.  This is an enjoyable, campy film and even if you don't love horror flicks, you’ll love this one.  My Rating:  Full Price   The Abominable Dr. Phibes Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)   I felt this was one of the better films of the summer, where Harry, Hermione and the gang are on a mission to defeat Voldemort or die trying.  Daniel Radcliffe shows that he has a future in acting, and it doesn't hurt when your supporting cast is made up of Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter.  This is a satisfying end to the series, and even if you haven't seen the other films, this one stands on its own.  My Rating:  Full Price   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Joyful Noise  Two women fight over the direction of a church choir as it gets ready for annual competition.  The two women are Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.  There won't be room on the screen for anyone else.   Joyful Noise Website
Weird Credits:  From the credits of Margin Call:  Helicopter double of Mr. Irons

Flictionary (A Definition of a Film Term) :  Loader:  The loader used to be responsible for the loading of the film into cameras, but now almost all films are shot digitally and there isn't any film.  But the loader is also responsible for handling the clapper, which is a device that is filmed before each take to sync sound and identify what scene is being shot.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  War Horse  Director Steven Spielberg brings to the screen a film about a young man who has an emotional connection to a horse he raised from birth.  The horse is then sold to the army to be used in the trenches of World War I.  Even though the main character is too young to enlist, he heads to France to find and save his horse. This film is sure to be an Oscar contender.   War Horse Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Puss in Boots

My View:  Puss in Boots  (2011)  This Shrek-series spin-off tells the origin of the swashbuckling cat, Puss in Boots.  Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of Puss, a cat who, at an early age, dreamed of fame and glory.  Along the way, we meet his best friend, Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) and a fellow pick-pocketing cat named, Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek).  Puss and his gang decide to find the legendary magic beans (as in Jack and the Beanstalk) in hopes of getting rich from the Golden Goose.  Their plans, however, go bad when Puss is betrayed by one of his own.  This animated film was made in 3-D, but the film is so dark in appearance, the 3-D effects aren’t always noticed.  The story is long and complicated with a lot of flashbacks - something I think kids will find difficult.  There is very little humor in this film (the first Shrek film had loads of humor), and I quickly tired of the banter/stick of Puss.  I think Puss is just not a strong enough character to lead a picture.  He should have stayed in the shadow of the big green ogre.  My Rating:  Cable   Puss in Boots Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film): Martha Marcy May Marlene  (2011) Elizabeth Olsen (yes, she is the sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) stars in the title role, a women who suddenly shows up on her sister's doorstep after she was missing for two years.  The reunion, though, is difficult and forced as Martha is hiding secrets, and her deception starts tearing apart the sisters.  We discover, in flashbacks, that Martha lived in a cult led by a charismatic man (played by the very creepy John Hawkes).   This is a dark film, and you won’t always be able to decipher reality and what is just happening in Martha's mind.  Olsen is amazing.  Her appearance changes when she exhibits a remarkable range of emotions as the film progresses and she gets pulled deeper and deeper into the cult.   Hawkes is perfect as the cult leader who never uses physical violence to meld his members.  His control is all accomplished with a calm, quiet demeanor that is far scarier.  Olsen is almost certain to get an Oscar nomination in this interesting study of a cult mind.  My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Martha Marcy May Marlene Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time):  
#31 Worst Film
Staying Alive (1983)  Rocky meets Saturday Night Fever, as Sylvester Stallone directs John Travolta who reprises his role as Tony Manero.   It's five years later, and Tony is no longer dancing on a disco floor…he’s now auditioning on the Broadway stage.  Tony seems to have left behind his Brooklyn-old ways as he now has a steady girlfriend and has toned down the boozing lifestyle.  The old Tony, though, surfaces when he dumps his girlfriend (played by Cynthia Rhodes) to sleep with the play’s lead dancer (Finola Hughes), in an attempt to get a bigger part.  Stallone's handprint is all over the script (he co-wrote it), and the dialogue is so heavy-handed, I was waiting for Tony to say, "yo," at some point.   The dance numbers are horrible and so is the outfit Tony wears onstage - so bad it makes you long for the white suit of his Bee Gee-loving days.   Staying Alive Info
Forgotten Film:  Tom Jones (1963)  This British comedy was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.  Albert Finney plays the title role of the bastard son of a nobleman.  He is in love with a woman (played by the lovely Susannah York) who is too high in social status to ever be able to marry him..  Tom decides to go into the world and find his fortune, and he soon discovers that he has great and unlikely talent for wooing women and getting into trouble.  Finney is incredibly funny and winning charming as he travels from one woman to another.  This film breaks a lot of barriers, using a silent film sequence in the opening, and often the actors look directly into the camera, addressing the audience as if they are part of the gang.  Tom Jones is a funny and whimsical film but also has one of the greatest seduction scenes of all time when Jones and a woman he has just met (played by Joyce Redman) share a meal, one that gets more sensual as they work their way through the menu.  My Rating:  I Would Pay To See it Again   Tom Jones Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Water for Elephants  (2011)  Robert Pattinson (Twilight) plays a veterinarian student at the height of the 1930's depression who suddenly loses his parents in an accident and runs away to join a circus.  Unfortunately, this circus is run by a man (played by Christoph Waltz) who treats his workers like a mafia mob boss by killing people instead of just firing them.  Pattinson can't help but fall in love with the star of the circus (played by Reese Witherspoon), which is bad news and destined for trouble, since she is married to Waltz.  I found that although this film is very lush-looking with intriguing scenery, it's flawed because Pattinson just didn't have the acting chops to keep up with the Oscar-winning Waltz and Witherspoon.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Water for Elephants Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked   Do we really need a third film with these high pitched squirrels?  I think this film will stink, and, add to that, almost everyone in this film is a TV actor/actress with not one A-Lister among them.   Chip-Wrecked Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Puss in Boots:  Whistler

Flictionary (a Definition of a Film Term)  Location Manager:  The Location Manager is responsible for getting the rights to use locations in films.  This person confirms and negotiates, with the property owner, the licenses and ability to use the property.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Hugo  Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver) directs this 3-D film about a young orphan in 1930's Paris who secretly lives in a train station and is bound and determined to figure out the mysterious almost robot-like contraption his father left him.  Hey, it's Scorsese doing a family film - should be really interesting.   Hugo Website
Until Next Time!