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Movie review : The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door
The Spy Next Door

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[ No spoilers ]

This movie is exactly what you would expect of it. Classic Jackie Chan action and humor. If you’ve seen any of Jackie’s work before then you know what to expect.

Unfortunately there were no children in the theater when I saw the movie so it’s hard to tell how well they might like it. The older crowd did laugh quite a few times at the physical humor. Besides that there isn’t much going on.

What did you think about The Spy Next Door? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Movie review : The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

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You’ll certainly enjoy this movie if you’re a fan of Terry Gilliam’s visual style – which I am. I’m pretty sure this is Gilliam’s first major foray into CGI which is worth seeing regardless of the storyline. Even though there aren’t too many scenes that involve CGI. We do get plenty of Gilliam’s dirty, cluttered environments that are his signature.

The main plot in this movie is what happened during the filming. Heath Ledger passed away during principle filming leaving many scenes unfinished. Fortunately Gilliam found a very creative way to finish telling the story without Ledger by using three substitutes – Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell – who all in many ways play homage to Ledger. It seems that the only scenes left to film were those that took place inside the Imaginarium. Since Ledger’s character enters three different times they use a different substitute in each scene. And it works out fine.

What I don’t know is what scenes are missing from outside the Imaginarium. It certainly seems like there are at least a few missing scenes because the story doesn’t quite make sense. After watching the movie I’m left wondering why Ledger’s character is even in the film. I’m not sure if I’m missing something or if the film is missing something. Probably a combination of the two.

Wired Magazine has an interview with Terry Gilliam that is worth reading if you’re still on the fence about seeing the movie.

What did you think about Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Leap Year

Leap Year
Leap Year

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With its stunning on-location southwest Irish landscapes, Leap Year is a sweet treat for the eyes. The leads are easy on the oculars also.

We don’t get anything new here – our characters share in their disdain for each other, bickering their way from Dingle to Dublin, occasionally revealing emotional baggage while inwardly denying the building romantic attraction. Do they end up together? DO THEY? What do you think?

I’m okay with all this. It’s a romantic comedy. Most movies of this ilk trod such ground – it’s what we buy with our ticket. What makes something in this genre worthwhile is how the characters get there. Where we experienced utter FAIL last month with tired romcom Did You Hear About the Morgans, Leap Year is actually a pleasant 105-minute diversion.

Some of the humor works, in particular a running verbal gag about Anna’s suitcase, and a sweet beach scene with drunken Anna declaring Declan an irritable, beautiful lion. The director should have stuck with such story-based comedy, because the slapstick moments (a flying shoe, slipping in the mud, stepping in poo) are merely embarrassing.

[Spoiler-ey comment ahead, although, honestly, what else do you expect in a romantic comedy?]

By the time Anna returns home to Boston we feel her dismay in seeing her old life through newly adjusted eyes. This makes more real her snap decision to head back to Ireland and confront Declan. What she says to him is highly awkward – I was squirming through her speech – but earnestly heartfelt.

[No more spoilers]

Ireland herself steals most of the scenes, with endless rows of ancient stone walls lining narrow country roads, sheer ocean cliffs, romantic tumbling castles overlooking lush valleys, and quiet bed and breakfast inns tucked under statuesque trees.

Next best is Matthew Goode, a marvel at turning mediocre lines into something fresh and intriguing. Declan is a joy in his rudely insightful, gruff way, and has a knack for eye-rolling expressions of disdain. Goode carries this film, infusing delightful charm into his old boyo persona.

Amy Adams is serviceable, reprising Meg Ryan’s ebullient control-freak tendencies from When Harry Met Sally. Her Anna is a snotty yet likable Boston socialite, intent on getting exactly what she wants in the exact manner she envisions. How cute little Adams manages to totter around on those heels – on those roads – is a cinematic mystery.

Leap Year was light and enjoyable. Goode’s charm tugs this B movie into an actual B+. But be warned: you’ll leave the theater planning a trip to Dingle and the spectacular southwest Irish coast.

What did you think about Leap Year? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Daybreakers

Daybreakers
Daybreakers

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Do all angsty, brooding, attractive vampires have to be named Edward? Oh, wait, we also had Angel and Louis. Okay, strike that, but it’s still weirdly coincidental.

I saw this movie yesterday and have a lot to say about it. Still compiling my thoughts and will add a full review this weekend.

So far it gets an A from me for being stylish, intriguing and intelligent. The projectile blood and juvenile gore drags the score down from a potential A+.

What did you think about Daybreakers? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Movie review : It’s Complicated

It’s Complicated
It's Complicated
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This is easily the funniest movie of the year. If you exclude The Hangover from the list then It’s Complicated is funnier than all the other comedies that came out in 2009 combined. It’s that funny. The middle third of the movie was almost non-stop laughing. Sometimes it was even a raucous laughter.

I felt that the cast worked very well together. Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin make up an almost unbeatable trio. They played very well together and seemed to have great chemistry. Many people feel that Streep will get an Oscar nod for her work here. I feel that Alec Baldwin is just as deserving.

And don’t forget that John Krasinski – Harley the son-in-law – is in here. He provided his fair share of laughs despite limited screen time. No question that he did a lot with a little.

Nancy Meyers – writer/director – deserves 10-fold more kudos than all the actors are getting. She provided the cast with a great vehicle and gave them excellent directions. For all the crap that Hollywood produces it’s refreshing to be reminded that there are talented people there who can entertain us with a funny and real life story.

What did you think about It’s Complicated? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
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Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes legions can relax; this Holmes outing isn’t too egregious. In fact, it’s even a good time for all.

The plot isn’t really afoot, here. In other words, the plot is only okay – it has notes of Hound of Baskervilles, mixed with a whole lot of Voldemort (sort of like a grown up Harry Potter and Tower of London). But since this is an introductory movie for – one guesses – a new franchise, we can forgive a weak plot.

The real game is the relationship unfolding between Holmes and Watson.

Fans of House, MD will recognize and appreciate this Holmes and Watson. House and Wilson have the same sort of obvious male domestic partnership. The chemistry between Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law is brilliant to behold.

Downey’s Holmes is a pugilist (and indeed, so was Doyle’s) who instantaneously sizes up an opponent’s weaknesses for intellectual entertainment.

Between cases, Holmes is a wreck, unable to stop the accretion of sensory input when he ventures into normal, polite British society. He prefers seclusion in the dark, imbibing whatever is at hand, concocting bizarre experiments and bemoaning the banality of existence. Only on the case, it seems, can Holmes’ high functioning autistic tendencies be put to use. Downey manages to make his quirky character believable, extraordinarily amusing…and also pathetic. This is a flawed Holmes, to our delight.

Our man Watson is an equal here, no bumbling fool merely present to receive Holmes’ expository brilliance. Watson is a well-dressed member of London society, a respected surgeon. He is also a skilled sharp shooter, a quick study, and – to his dismay – itches to throw himself into almost any fray. Law’s Watson alternately brings Holmes back to reality and enables his obsessions.

London herself has certainly never looked so luxuriantly grimy. This steampunk version of London is stylish, very wet, and bursting with industrial zeal. The final set piece on an unfinished Tower Bridge in particular is beautifully rendered.

Watson’s Mary is a wonderful addition, adding a realistic portrayal of a bright, strong 1890s woman. By contrast, the love interest for Holmes just doesn’t work. Actress Rachel McAdams can’t pull off enough the gravitas necessary to lend credence that THIS is the one person – in all the world – who outwits/ensnares Holmes.

Director Guy Ritchie is an odd choice to direct this genre and it shows: his modern stylized quick cuts, so admirable in Snatch, only drag the viewer away from the impact of a period epic tale. With more seamless editing and a better plot, we’d have a solid A film here. One hopes the follow-up with a certain arch nemesis will be just right. A-

What did you think about Sherlock Holmes? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Alvin and the Chipmunks

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I have loved Alvin and the Chimpmunks since they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late 50’s. Yes they are that old, so that should tell you something about their ageless appeal.

I didn’t find this sequel quite as funny as the first one, but it was just as charming. Plus it introduces the Chipettes, three chipmunk girls. They are sweet.

This movie is for the kindergarten set, however, I did hear the parents chuckling as loudly as their children at some of the scenes. And the children did laugh A LOT.

So after you’ve dragged the kiddies through the mall looking for that last minute gift, take them to see The Chipmunks, it’s a nice Christmas treat.

What did you think about Alvin and the Chipmunks? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below..

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Movie review : Did You Hear About the Morgans?

I ‘ve been dragging my feet to review this movie. Good lead actors in a C level film. How did this happen?

The Morgans movie commits the worst entertainment sin there is – it is dull. If I didn’t have to get the PeeTimes and end credits info, I would have walked out and sat in on the end of some other movie. Honestly. It is that boring.

This movie fails as a romantic comedy in two ways – the romance is not believable; the comedy is flat. What remains is a predictable city mouse/country mouse story that plods along between small town bingo parlors and a rodeo. There’s a cowboy dance; there are salt-of-the-Earth townspeople. Check. Check.

What was good? Sam Elliot does his well-trod cowboy thing with expected panache. I chortled at the reference to Sarah Palin. The overworked NYC assistants had a few good moments together. Um. Okay, I am out of positives here.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, two usually reliable actors in the genre, have zero screen chemistry. I kept looking, watching and waiting for some – any – kind of spark between them. I got bupkis. I don’t think they even made eye contact. Were they in the same movie at all? Do the actors dislike each other?

Grant seemed to be in actual pain, for some reason, while Parker looked old and worn. These actors are still attractive people, but you really don’t see any of that here.

Grant and Parker work hard to sell their usual film personas, but neither saves this flick from the Land of Misfit Movies. Wait for the DVD, or just give it up and rent When Harry Met Sally again.

What did you think about Did You Hear About the Morgans? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Avatar

Avatar
Avatar
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[ No Spoilers ]

As soon as this movie was over I knew that it was in my top 10 all time favorites. After some careful consideration I’d put it in the top 3 – with Return of the King and The Matrix.

A word about 3D
I get motion sick fairly easy. So I was a bit apprehensive going in to see this in 3D. I usually avoid 3D screens, and on the occasions that I have experienced them it was bad. Usually 3D movies show a few scenes here and there in 3D, but the majority of the time you’re wearing those funky glasses for nothing.

Well that’s not the case here. Cameron waited 10 years to make this movie because he wanted to do it right – which means he wanted to do it his way. The movie is 3D from beginning to end. And not just that, but it’s good 3D. Cameron doesn’t go for cheap gimmicks by randomly throwing things at the audience. Oh, sure there are a few, very few, times that something might make you flinch, but for the most part the 3D experience just brings you deeper into the scene.

And I completely forgot that I was wearing the glasses and watching a 3D movie after about the first 30 minutes. The movie is that good. So see it in 3D or don’t even bother seeing it.

Stunningly beautiful
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there has never been a more beautiful movie ever made. Pandora is breathtaking. You get that from the previews but you see so much more in the movie.

Pacing and story
Cameron is a master at pacing. No, he is the master at pacing. You’ll get pulled into the story and forget that you’re sitting in a movie theater even though the movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. The movie seamlessly switches back and forth between the avatar and non-avatar world. You’re never in a scene too long that it begins to drag. The action scenes are just long enough. Cameron never interjects additional action just to show off. He’s here to tell a story that he has worked and re-worked for years. That makes it tight.

Acting
Nothing more to say than it was perfect.

Bottom line
Cameron has secured himself in the director pantheon. In my opinion, he and Spielberg sit alone at the pinnacle of Mt. Director. Cameron put everything on the line and risked a great deal of money and his reputation. Both are going to get a huge boost from Avatar.

Oh, and Mr. George Lucas: You need to attend any workshops on directing that Cameron might offer. You could learn a thing or two from this man.

What did you think about Avatar? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog

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Unfortunately, I had the flu this week and did not want to spread it to a theater rull of children (or anyone, f0r that matter). So we asked Dan’s mother to get the PeeTimes for this movie (which are up at RunPee.com).

So, right, I didn’t see the film. 🙁 Boo. I really do want to and will see if I can get to it this weekend, along with New Moon. I will compare Pee Times along with those created by others and add my reviews as well.

The only thing my mother in law reports on The Princess and the Frog is that the movie is “really pretty.”

I’d like to see if I can get anything better out of it, myself. 🙂

What did you think about The Princess and the Frog? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below..

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