Jack Black is far from my favorite person, but I like the Kung Fu Panda movies. In this sequel, Po the fat, unlikely kung-fu legend is tasked with bringing down an evil emperor who is threatening everyone with cannons. The opening backstory sequences are amazing, some of the jokes are pretty hilarious, and you’ll actually learn a smidgeon about Chinese history from the plot. It’s a fun movie to watch even if you don’t have any kids with you to use as an excuse. You can read my full Kung Fu Panda 2 review here.
The original Planet of the Apes tried to be really deep, but mostly came off as goofy because it features talking ape-people that didn’t even look that realistic. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the prequel, achieves what the original was trying for. It’s about a scientist who struggles with the ethical implications of raising one lonely super smart ape for scientific testing purposes, only to have said lonely ape rebel and try to take over the planet. It’s science fiction, but accessible to everyone – like an action movie with a little science on the side. Check it out.
Fright Night is a remake of the 1980s horror movie of the same name, and has achieved approximately the same B movie status as the original, but without the possibility of a cult following seeing as how it’s been drowned in the glut of other 80s horror remakes. The story follows Anton Yelchin’s character as he tries to take down Colin Farrell, his nextdoor neighbor who happens to be a vampire (an evil one, not a Twilight one) with the help of Dr. Who… I’m sorry, I mean David Tennant. See it only if you’re not offended by remakes or already tired of Hollywood’s half-assed attempts at scaring you.
This movie came out on DVD a couple of months ago and wasn’t that great to begin with, but there’s not much else coming out this week so I’ll talk about this new director’s cut version. If you didn’t know, it’s a meathead action movie about a team of mercenaries played by famous meathead action stars (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, etc) getting back together for one last South American job (full review here). The director’s cut has 11 extra minutes of things blowing up, a feature length documentary about how many things they blew up, and a Godsmack music video. Blech.
As weird as it was to see a movie about New Year’s when everyone’s thinking about Christmas, and as underwhelmed as I was by Valentine’s Day, I chose to see New Year’s Eve this week because my only other option was The Sitter. So read this review and file the information away for that period between Christmas and New Year’s, when everyone’s actually thinking about what to do on the big day. With an ensemble movie like this, it’s almost impossible to write a good logline. The closest you can get is:
A bunch of people (who are kind of sort of vaguely connected to each other sometimes) have trouble with relationships on New Year’s Eve.
It’s really easy to make a bland ensemble movie, because with so many characters it can be hard to balance character development, screen time, and plot payoffs. Love Actually, the Christmas movie that started the recent holiday ensemble trend, managed it really, really well. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, did not. I expected New Year’s Eve to be more of the same, because it was the same writer (Katherine Fugate) and director (Garry Marshall). But I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much, much funnier.
With the near total non-failure of last year’s Valentine’s Day, Garry Marshall seems to have decided to continue making movies named after holidays and featuring (almost) the same humungous cast of celebrities falling in love with each other (a model they ripped off of Love Actually, which you will notice is not named for a holiday, but happens at Christmas). Anyway if you plan to see this movie, it’s probably a good idea not to watch the trailer (oops, too late) because it gives away the pairings and the “problems” that the characters have which will be solved in the inevitable happy ending. So it’s predictable, yes, but I’m going to it. Why? My major reason starts with J and ends with Osh Duhamel.
As you can see, New Year’s Eve didn’t have a lot of competition this week. Way to ruin Adventures in Babysitting by putting Jonah Hill in it. Would I trust this guy with my kids? No. Would I let him live in my house and sponge off me? No. Even if he was my own son? Still no. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to see my dipsh** hypothetical son get punched in the face by drug dealers. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather buy than an $11.50 ticket to this movie. A new pair of mittens that don’t have holes in them. A DVD of Ghost Rider. Nine cans of creamed corn. You can put that on the DVD box, 20th Century Fox. “The Sitter is less enticing than nine cans of creamed corn.”
EYE OF THE STORM
This movie is Australian, so I’ll talk about it even though it’s probably only playing in about 5 theaters, all of which are in Toronto. Okay… rich people, with you so far… deciding when to die, okay, hints of suicide there…. wait, is her hair purple? Why does she have purple hair?? And her son looks strangely like Prince Charles. Has Geoffrey Rush ever played Prince Charles? No? Well they missed an opportunity there. This is pretty funny, actually. I mean, her idea of committing suicide is to hang around outside waiting to be hit by lightning? Shouldn’t she at least be on the roof? With a golf club or something? I’ll probably end up renting this in like five years when I remember that it exists.
The Debt is a period film that alternates between the 90s and the 50s as it tells the story of three Mossad agents sent to East Germany to hunt down a Nazi criminal. Something went wrong during that mission, and the movie gradually builds up to a big reveal. It’s not a true story, but it is vaguely based on the Nazi-hunting that Mossad used to do after World War II. All of the actors, particularly Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, and Jessica Chastain, are really good, and the whole thing is really, really tense. Definitely rent it. You can read my full review of The Debt here.
Most movies about civil rights tend to be very serious and depressing, even the ones with uplifting messages. The Help on the other hand, has a humorous and uplifting (yet somehow still serious) tone that sets it apart. It stars Emma Stone as a young Southern reporter doing a book on the lives of the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi, who are played by Viola Davis and the hilarious Octavia Spencer. This is a great movie to rent on ladies’ night, but your average fella won’t be too interested, so rent something else for date night. Check out my full review of The Help here.
Cowboys and Aliens is exactly as silly as you would think from the title Cowboys and Aliens, but sometimes we’re not looking for grit and seriousness in our science fiction. Sometimes we’re looking for fun. So if you’re being treated for depression because of Battlestar Galactica, rent Cowboys and Aliens. Watching Daniel Craig blast alien spaceships with a laser gun from the back of a horse while Harrison Ford says cranky Harrison Ford things is bound to put a smile on anybody’s face. There’s even a bit of mystery included in the set, since Daniel Craig has amnesia.
If you finished watching The Hangover and immediately wished you could watch it again, this is the movie for you. It’s not so much a sequel to The Hangover as it is a remake, with a slight swapping out of the missing person and the setting. The premise is still the same (wake up in strange hotel room with no memory after a bachelor party) the characters are still the same (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianakis) and even most of the jokes are the same (the missing tooth becomes a tattoo). It’s a good movie for boys’ night as long as you and your friends don’t mind repetition.
I was really looking forward to Hugo, so much so that I actually wrote an angry email to our theater when it didn’t get Hugo in last week, when it was released. The trailer made it seem like an awesome children’s steampunk adventure. I didn’t know why it had to be directed by Martin Scorsese, a big shot of the “intelligent film” persuasion. You would think a children’s steampunk adventure would be more Chris Columbus territory, but I figured he was doing it for his grandkids or something. The story was certainly cool enough to appeal to kids:
An orphaned boy living in the walls of a Paris train station unlocks a mystery when he meets a girl with the key to his dead father’s clockwork automaton.
I was expecting something along the same lines as City of Ember (which, by the way, was fabulous) or A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the automaton’s clue leads Hugo down the path to danger, adventure, and the truth about his parents, but that wasn’t what I got at all. Instead, I got a thinly veiled lesson in the history of film which felt like nothing more than an ad urging people to support The Film Foundation’s restoration efforts. This explains why Martin Scorsese wanted to direct it – he’s the founder of that organization.
There was a glut of movies last week and there will be another one again on December 16th when all the Christmas blockbusters are released, but this week there’s hardly anything. The headliner for this week (if this week has a headliner) is therefore an independent drama that won’t even come to most of your theaters. But, oh, what a beautiful dog that is! This movie looks reasonably funny and not up itself, though the plot seems a bit vague. So there’s a little person who snowshoes, and everyone’s a dick to him, and then he meets a dog and a girl, and things get… better? I dunno, I might see it if that was an option.
I AM SINGH
This one is a limited release, so you’re probably not going to be able to see it either. You’ll likely have to make do with last weeks’ releases. However, just in case you live in a big city, I’ve included the trailer here, even though I can only understand about half of it. I’m hoping the actual film has subtitles. This movie deals with an important subject – blanket discrimination post 9/11 – but it’s alternately stylized and stilted, like it’s a joke or something, so I don’t think it’s really going to move anybody like a really hard-hitting drama would. I had to look on the theater website to find out what the story was – a man from India finds out his family is missing and goes to America to investigate – so I don’t think I’d watch this one.
Oh, and good news for anyone who was pissed off that their theater didn’t get Hugo last week (like ME). It’s releasing in more theaters this week, so go get your clockwork on. I totally am.
And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing their final film of the season, a weird-ass indie movie called The Future, about an almost Autistic-seeming couple who are fostering a cat with one paw. Click here to see the trailer. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.
This movie came out at the same time as another “let’s be friends who have sex but whoops we fell in love” movie called No String Attached. In the trailers, No Strings Attached seemed better, but I’ve seen both and this is definitely the stronger of the two. The characters are endearing, the dialogue is sharp, and the whole thing is downright hilarious. It’s a great movie to watch on date night, as even guys will laugh at the sexual humor. Definitely choose it over No Strings Attached. You can read my full Friends With Benefits review here.
Paul Rudd excels at playing the quirky, lovable everyman in comedies. This time he goes a little more over the top and plays the weird hippie uncle that everyone in the family is sort of embarrassed by. The story follows his adjustment to real life after he gets out of jail. If he has a goal, it’s to get his dog back from his bitchy ex. It should fail because of this, but it’s really funny and sweet, so it manages to squeak by. I wouldn’t say rush out and buy a copy, but definitely check it out if you’re looking for a comedy that isn’t trying so hard to make you laugh that it becomes annoying. You can find the full Out Idiot Brother review here.
With romantic movies, you usually only get to see the first bit of their lives, where they meet and fall in love and perhaps get married. Some focus on couples regaining lost love. This one in unique in that it shows the couple on one day a year (the anniversary of the day they met in college) over a period of 20 years. It’s based on a book, it’s British, and it stars Ann Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, so there’s three good reasons to watch it right there. Don’t go into it expecting to see a more drawn-out version of a romantic comedy, as things change direction near the end, but do watch it.
30 Minutes or Less and The Smurfs also come out on DVD today, but since one stars Danny McBride and the other is an ultra-lame nostalgia fest, I’m going to talk about Another Earth instead. It’s a lesser-known science fiction movie about two people who are caught in a horrifying accident on the day a second Earth is discovered. As they deal with the aftermath, they begin to wonder what their lives were like on that parallel universe version of Earth. Sort of like Sliding Doors, but with a tragic startoff. Check it out, even if you’re not a hard sci-fi fan. The science isn’t the focal point here anyway.
I’ve been really looking forward to this movie, and no, it’s not because of Martin Scorsese. Martin Scorsese is incidental. What’s important is that it’s a cute movie involving a Steampunk mystery that stars a British kid rather than an American (the one who was in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, no less) and features the 30 Seconds to Mars song “Kings and Queens” in the trailer. I frikkin’ love that song. So I can easily forgive it for having a lame cake-wrecking joke in the trailer. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to it so much that I might just burn down our theater if it doesn’t get here pronto. I checked today, and it’s not in the lineup. This is a BIG MOVIE, Empire Theaters in Sydney, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!?
This movie reminds me of something that’s been done before… a combination of the “marginalized Santa family member” plot from Fred Claus and the militarized elves of the E.L.F. Sqad from The Santa Clause perhaps? But still, it’s Aardman/Sony, so that’s a big draw for me. Aardman have been behind several movies I love, including Chicken Run and Flushed Away. James MacAvoy is perfect as Arthur, and that’s a pretty clever jab at the American “no child left behind” education initiative at the end of the trailer there. I think it’s going to be worth seeing, but unfortunately it comes out the same week as Hugo. And you can’t beat Hugo.
When I was a kid, there were some programmes I only watched because they were on. Smurfs fell into that category. And there were others that I loved to pieces, like The Muppets. I still laugh every time I see Statler and Waldorf, and I’ve been a grown up for ten years now. I love the idea of a new muppet movie, but did they really have to put Jason Seigel in it? That guy is like everywhere, and he is not growing on me. I do like Amy Adams, though. And OH MY GOD they play the “munah munah” song. I love that song. I’ve seen the trailer a few times now and I’m still not sure what the plot is supposed to be. They’re putting on a reunion show? Is that the whole plot? Oh well, the whole reason people will be going is to see the nutso looks on the muppet faces as they flail around behind chest-high wall anyway.
I know at least half the world is waiting in line to give George Clooney acting awards, but I just don’t see it. Look at that scene where he’s sitting across from his daughter attempting to have a meaningful conversation. The daughter looks embarrassed and exasperated. Clooney looks blank, just like he looks in every other scene in this trailer. I’m sorry, but if I’m going to watch a character-based drama like this, I need it to star someone who can freaking emote. Even the robot dad from And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird is more lovable than this. I am, therefore, unlikely to see this movie. If I want to watch a dad/child bonding film, I’ll break out my DVD of The Boys are Back, because even Clive Owen can do better than this.
I suppose they’re trying to capitalize on all the Occupy Stuff protestors sitting around outside for various reasons by putting the movie out now, but is this what we really want to see as the Christmas season begins? A depressing movie about the terrible state of the economy? Yes, we like Zachary Quinto and Kevin Spacey and and Paul Bettany and Penn Badgley and Jeremy Irons and Simon Baker and Stanley Tucci, but even all of them combined will not be enough to induce people to subject themselves to a movie that will make them miserable when they want to feel happy. So they will go see Hugo and Arthur Christmas and The Muppets and forget about this until January, when their Christmas credit card bills arrive and they’re looking for someone else to blame it on. That’s my prediction.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
This is a limited release, so I was just going to ignore it until I saw the cast list. Emma Watson and Michelle Williams and Kenneth Brannagh and Dominic Cooper and Judi Dench all in one movie together?? Well I had to check it out. I’m not a big Marilyn Monroe devotee. I think all I’ve ever seen are the posters, which are pretty much a cliché now, so it would be interesting to see more of her life from a more personal perspective. And of course it’s British, so I wouldn’t miss it for that. I wouldn’t have thought of Michelle Williams as looking much like Marilyn Monroe, but I have to say she does pretty well here, from what I can see. I’ll add it to my list of DVDs to see.
This is another limited release, but I feel like I have to talk about it anyway because I talked about the last one. Is this a silent movie about silent movies? I have to admit, I’m intrigued. Some of my favorite episodes of TV shows have been the ones where characters lose the ability to speak and have to rely on their body language and the ambient music to convey emotion. (Check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4×10 “Hush” and The Fairly Odd Parents 3×24 “Pipe Down” to see what I mean) Holy cow that hand-in-the-empty-jacket thing is freaky, though! Anyway, it looks totally cool. I definitely want to see it. Sign me up for the DVD.
And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing a cool looking documentary called The Interrupters, which is about people who try to fight urban violence like it’s an infectious disease. Click here to see the trailer and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.
I am no fan of the Twilight series. I did, however, rather like the last film, Eclipse, so I decided to give Breaking Dawn Part 1 (or if you want to be proper about it The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1) a fair chance. I wouldn’t have chosen to give it a fair chance on the weekend of my birthday, but I guess we all have to suck it up and make sacrifices at some point in the name of increased website traffic. Now, the plot blurb for Breaking Dawn Part 1 is rather exciting:
A human girl marries a vampire and quickly finds herself pregnant with fast-growing hybrid that is slowly leeching the life out of her, making her and her “abomination” a target for the local werewolf pack.
A vampire-human hybrid monster eating it’s mother from the inside out like a baby Ebola virus? Enormous, vicious wolves circling in for the kill? This is the stuff of nightmares. They could not possibly make a boring movie out of a setup like that. If you think this, you are wrong. Despite the exciting setup, Breaking Dawn Part 1 manages to be both boring and stupid. Twilight fans are now invited to send me angry emails that have no chance of changing my mind.
The same type of thing happened to Breaking Dawn, the longest book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, as happened to Deathly Hallows – it was split into two films, mostly to make more money. I have every expectation that this movie will be as boring and drawn out as Deathly Hallows Part 1, with the added bonus of the obvious chastity/teen marriage element making me want to puke. But of course I have to see it anyway, because that’s what everyone is going to be wanting to read a review about, which makes all of my criticism pointless (from the studio/publisher’s point of view) because I’m still spending money on it. Vote with your wallets, kids, and don’t go to this one!
HAPPY FEET 2
Happy Feet was the story of a penguin who didn’t fit in because all the other penguins were singers and he was a dancer. Now, one generation later, the whole penguin flock (Clan? Mob? Community?) has seemingly converted to dancing AND singing and the original character’s kid sucks at both and wants to…. what? Fly? This is significantly more difficult to achieve, on account of his power-to-weight ratio. He’ll have to build a hang glider or something. And kids, that “penguin who can fly” is not a penguin at all. It’s a puffin. I thought the last one way okay, though, so I’ll probably watch this one at some point. Just not eagerly.
THE SKIN I LIVE IN
Okay… what the hell? What is this movie even about? So there’s a guy who licks surveillance videos of other people, a lady in a beige body suit who apparently lives in an art gallery, a guy chained to the basement, and Antonio Banderas making skin in a petri dish and squirting him with a riot hose? And then a lady in a burn mask kicks him in the testicles. So of course he gets to carry a gun (this is an Antonio Banderas movie, after all), which scares a lady so bad she decides to start walking in the woods at night and going to museums to consult with party dresses. Who made this trailer and what drugs were they on? If the whole movie is like that… extra WTF.
Oddly enough, the TV movie of this story seems to have come out long before the documentary. I remember hearing about it when I was living in Vancouver, and that was years ago. Cleverly, they set up the conflict between the people who wanted to be Luna’s friends and the people who take a hands-off approach to nature in the trailer, but didn’t give any hint as to who won in the end. Of course, you could watch the TV movie or you could look it up on Wikipedia, but it makes you just that little bit more likely to seek out and watch the documentary. I’d see it. I don’t even care if Ryan Reynolds is in it.
And in other news, the Cape Breton Film Series is showing Win Win. It’s a bland drama that’s sort of about high school wrestling which came out ages ago on DVD. Click here to see the trailer review and decide for yourself. The show is at 7pm on Thursday at the Empire Theaters in Sydney.