February 26, 2010

Reviews A-Z


21 Jump Street (2012)
About Schmidt (2002)
Aladdin (1992)
American: The Bill Hicks Story (2011)
American Swing (2008)
Avatar (2009)
Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)
Bee Movie (2007)
Best Worst Movie (2009)
Beware! The Blob (1972)
The Black Cat (1934)
Black Christmas (1974)
Black Samurai (1977)
The Bleeding House (2011)
Blood Rain (2006)
Bobbie Jo and The Outlaw (1976)
Bolt (2008)
A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
Bridesmaids (2011)
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins (2000)
Captain Sabertooth (2003)
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Cars 2 (2011)
Casino Royale (2006)
The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
A Cat in Paris (2010)
Cats of Rome (2007)
Chicken Run (2000)
Chico & Rita (2010)
Chocolate (2008)
The Chosen One (2008)
Citadel (2012)
Class of 1984 (1982)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
The Curse of February 29th (2006)


The Dark Knight (2008)
Dead Snow (2009)
Death Sentence (2007)
Dinosaur (2000)
Despicable Me (2010)
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Dumbo (1941)
Elf-Man (2012)
Escape from Suburbia (2007)
Everyone's Hero (2006)
Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (2013)
The Expendables (2010)
The Expendables 2 (2012)
ffolkes (1980)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Fired Up (2009)
A Fish Tale (2000/2006)
Fly Me To The Moon (2008)
A Force of One (1979)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Full Metal Village (2006)


Garfield’s FunFest (2008)
GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (2012)
The Golden Blaze (2005)
Gotta Catch Santa Claus (2009)
The Great Bear (2011)
The Green Slime (1969)
The Grind (2009)
Grizzly (1976)
Gumby: The Movie (1995)
Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa (2012)
The Hangover (2009)
Heavy Metal (1981)
High Plains Drifter (1973)
Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
Horton Hears a Who (2008)
Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) 
The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
The Incredibles (2004)
Infection (2004)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The Iron Giant (1999)
Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (2009)
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)


Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
The Jungle Book (1967)
Junior High Spy (2012)
Juno (2007)
The Kids Grow Up (2011)
Kirby: Fright to the Finish (2005)
The Korean (2008)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Labou (2009)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
The Land Before Time (1988)
Last House on the Left (2009)
The Late Show (1977)
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
The Legend of God's Gun (2007)
The Legend of Sasquatch (2006)
LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers (2010)
Leroy & Stitch (2006)
Let The Right One In (2008)
The Lion King 1½ (2004)
Little Erin Merryweather (2003)


Mad Monster Party (1967)
Magnum Force (1973)
Man on Wire (2008)
Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)
Metropia (2009)
Milk (2008)
The Mist (2007)
Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2008)
Moonlight (2002)
Mulan (1998)
The Muppets (2011)
Murder, Take One (2005)
My Best Fiend (2000)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
The Naked Cage (1986)
Oliver and Company (1988)
The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure (2012)
Opposite Day (2010)
Orca (1977)
The Other F Word (2011)


ParaNorman (2012)
Pariah (1999)
Peter Pan (1953)
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie (2008)
Pokemon: The First Movie (1999)
Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)
Rambo (2008)
Rango (2011)
Ratatoing (2007)
Ratatouille (2007)
Rescue Heroes: The Movie (2003)
Rio (2011)
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss (2007)
The Ruins (2008)


The Sadist (1963)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies (2001)
Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster (2004)
Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword (2009)
Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! (2006)
Secrecy (2008)
The Secret of Kells (2009)
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind (2010)
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Son of Godzilla (1967)
So Undercover (2012)
Space Buddies (2009)
Spookley the Square Pumpkin (2004)
The Spy Next Door (2010)
Starcrash (1979)
Stitch! The Movie (2003)
Suddenly (1954)
Sunshine (2007)
Superdad (1973)
Superfights (1995)
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
Sushi Girl (2012)
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Taken (2009)
Taken 2 (2012)
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (1974)
Tales from the Script (2009)
A Talking Cat !?! (2013) 
Texas Chainsaw (2013)
The Thing (1982)
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)
Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails (2009)
Tom and Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers (2006)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Turkey Shoot (1982)
A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures (2010) 
A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape from Paradise (2012)


Valentine's Day (2010)
Valiant (2005)
Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)
WALL•E (2008)
Watership Down (1978)
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Westworld (1973)
Wiener Dog Nationals (2013)
The Wild (2006)
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2010)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Win Win (2011)
Without Warning (1980)
Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: Wubbzy's Christmas Adventure (2009)
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
The Wrestler (2008)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

The Chosen One (2008)

THESE DAYS, with the many affordable advancements in computer technology, it’s easier than ever for a filmmaker and/or animator to create a full-length movie. Case in point: my last review.

Case in point deux: director Chris Lackey, who – according to the film’s press kit – animated The Chosen One “almost entirely from his Santa Monica apartment” as “a truly independent film alternative to the big, multi-million dollar studio animated movies.”

And while bigger is indeed not always better, and independent filmmaking can be innovative and inspiring, would The Chosen One truly be a godsend to viewers?

Lou (Chosen One co-writer and composer Chad Fifer) is having a bad day. He’s dumped by his girlfriend (Laura Prepon), fired from his job, his car is totaled by falling satellite, and he’s attacked by a bear. While recovering from the bear attack, Lou’s geezer roommate Zeb (Chris Sarandon) takes him to Zeb’s oddball church, where the congregation declares Lou to be “the chosen one” and sends him to Kansas on a mission to bring the world into a new age of enlightenment. But as Lou begins his journey – with Zeb and ex-coworker Donna (Danielle Fishel) in tow – a rogue group of church leaders sends a squad of mercenaries (including femme fatale Traci Lords) to kill Lou – while a dapper, Fabio-esque Lucifer (Tim Curry) joins Lou on his trek, filling his ear with religious rhetoric…and what Lucifer feels is Lou’s true calling.


I was really hoping to enjoy The Chosen One, due to its eclectic cast and unconventional animation. But I was also expecting (and hoping) for it to be more profane and savage in its execution. Not that a film has to be dirty to be funny, but The Chosen One is strangely a very tame film for tackling hot-button topics such as religion, relationships, and the meaning of life.

The animation is more South Park than Pixar – an irony, since The Chosen One’s timidity is the complete opposite of South Park’s no-holds-barred yet often intelligent raunch. (Lackey’s Flash-based animation and vector-art illustrations remind me of Internet ads I worked on at my agency circa 2002.)

The film’s narrative is meandering and nonsensical, and while the main characters all take turns philosophizing about what true happiness is, none of it is profound or memorable. In addition, the dialogue is flat and littered with punchlines that never rise above a sitcom. I smiled four times and didn’t laugh once (yes, I kept score).

Lackey and Fifer could have taken The Chosen One in three directions: a polemic questioning religion’s role in one’s fate, an outlandish comedy skewering the many outdated aspects of religious beliefs, or a clever combination of both. Unfortunately for the viewer, they chose none of the above.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Aside some cartoon violence involving fighting and explosions, there’s nothing in The Chosen One that’s truly offensive or inappropriate. But that doesn’t mean your kids would find the film even remotely interesting.

Will your FilmMother like it?
Even if she likes films that question such higher topics as religion, mortality, or morality, she’ll be disappointed by The Chosen One. And if she’s looking for a laugh-out-comedy…um, what’s worse than “disappointed?”

Sorry, Zeb…for this film, your thumb’s in the wrong direction.

The Chosen One
* Director: Chris Lackey
* Screenwriters: Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer
* Stars: Chad Fifer, Laura Prepon, Chris Sarandon, Danielle Fishel, Debra Wilson, Tim Curry, Lance Henriksen, Traci Lords
* MPAA Rating: N/A

February 22, 2010

Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss (2007)


Well, more like a deceitful dad.

Let me explain: I wanted Dash to watch Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss with me for this review, but I knew there’d be no way if he knew the full title or true plot. I told him it was simply called Romeo & Juliet, and it was about two seals who wanted to be “friends” but their families wouldn’t allow it.

I still sensed some reluctance, but after some additional cajoling during our recent snowpocalypse in the Northeast, he gave in.

For those who need a refresher course from their Cliffs Notes, Romeo & Juliet tells the story of two warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets. One day, lovelorn Montague seal Romeo (Daniel Trippett) falls for Capulet seal Juliet (Tricia Trippett), but they must keep their forbidden love a secret – not only from the rival families, but also from a boorish elephant seal Prince (Phil Nibbelink) who wishes to make Juliet his own.


Like A Fish Tale, Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss is an interesting detour from the big-budget animated blockbusters put out by Pixar, DreamWorks, etc. But also like Fish Tale, Romeo & Juliet’s blend of traditional-looking 2D characters with blatantly computer-generated scenery is an ill fit (in addition to writing and directing R&J:SWAK, former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink animated the entire film himself by computer). The quality ultimately falls somewhere between a Saturday morning cartoon and a Disney feature.

In terms of the storytelling: The film’s narrative is a bit underwhelming and flat, and many of the jokes and punchlines are derivative. (As adults we’ve heard them all before, though kids will probably think they’re hysterical.) There are also generous twists on quotes from Romeo & Juliet (“A fish of any color would smell just as sweet”) and other Shakespeare works such as Hamlet and Macbeth.

For the sake of a G-rated kids’ movie, Nibbelink takes liberties with the fates of the main characters (spoiler alert: Romeo and Juliet don’t die at the end), although we’re to believe that Mercutio (Chip Albers) meets the same fate as in the play (P.S.: He comes back, too). The last act gets dark in tone and visuals – though no darker than any Disney classic – including Juliet drinking the potion that makes her appear dead (which may need some explaining to younger viewers).

I’m wavering between liking or merely tolerating Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss, because it depends on a larger question that plagues the film: Who’s it for?
Boys? Too much lovey-kissy.
Little children? Much like Shakespeare’s play, the film’s subject matter is a bit heavy: fighting, dying, pretending to die, etc.
Adults? You probably need at least a passing knowledge of Romeo & Juliet (and maybe other Shakespeare works) to fully appreciate the story and a healthy portion of the dialogue/jokes.

While Nibbelink should be commended for taking on the Bard and making a G-rated film when such films are a rarity, Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss ultimately misfires in both finding and captivating an audience. When it ended, parting was not sweet sorrow...just unsatisfying.


What did Dash think?
It’s hard to keep a 6-year-old boy interested in a love story, even if it’s done with animated, talking seals. So it was no surprise when Dash gave up on R&J:SWAK at the halfway point, declaring it “boring” and that he only likes “the seals who make the jokes” (Mercutio and Benvolio).

Will your kids like it?
I think R&J:SWAK will definitely be more appealing to little girls who dream of princes, princesses, and fairy tales. If Dash is any indication, young boys may bail when the love story gets in full swing.

Will your FilmMother like it?
My wife (who teaches high school English, including Hamlet) approached R&J:SWAK as more of a curiosity to see how Nibbelink adapted the classic play for kiddies, but she was pretty underwhelmed by what she saw. Maybe your FilmMother will have more appreciation for the love story and cute little seals.

Uh, thanks, but I've got Kleenex back at my cave.

Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss
* Director: Phil Nibbelink
* Screenwriter: Phil Nibbelink
* Cast: Daniel Trippett, Tricia Trippett, Chip Albers, Michael Toland, Phil Nibbelink, Chanelle Nibbelink
* MPAA Rating: G

February 17, 2010

Valentine’s Day (2010)

CLICHÉ (n): a hackneyed situation, characterization, or theme.

Example: For Valentine’s Day, FilmFather and his wife went to see the movie Valentine’s Day.

I guess that could also qualify as redundant. Anyway, I had almost convinced her to see Avatar, but ultimately she decided on a romantic comedy, rather than wear 3-D glasses for nearly three hours and watch what some naysayers have called Dancing with Smurfs.

Valentine’s Day follows about two dozen Los Angelinos on February 14th, many of whose lives intersect as the day progresses, including a florist (Ashton Kutcher), his girlfriend (Jessica Alba) whom he proposes to that morning, his family-man co-worker and neighbor (George Lopez), his co-worker (Jennifer Garner) who’s unknowingly dating a married man (Patrick Dempsey), a frustrated TV sports anchor (Jamie Foxx), an office worker (Anne Hathaway) who supplements her income as a phone sex operator, her hard-as-nails sports-agent boss (Queen Latifah), the office worker’s bumpkin boyfriend (Topher Grace), an over-the-hill quarterback (Eric Dane), his PR person (Jessica Biel) who hates Valentine’s Day, a businessman (Bradley Cooper) and a returning war veteran (Julia Roberts) sharing a 14-hour flight to LA, an older married couple (Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine), and their lovelorn grandson (Bryce Robinson).


Despite my wariness and lack of enthusiasm entering the theater, I actually wound up liking Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be busting it out on DVD months from now with buddies of mine, but it definitely made for a fun night out at the movies with my wife. I actually laughed out loud several times. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The cast does a commendable job of keeping up with Katherine Fugate’s script, which is smart, funny, and sensitive in all the right places. Kudos also to Fugate for keeping the many storylines tight and well-intertwined…and for being able to make phone sex sound PG-13-rated.

That being said, Valentine’s Day probably could have been just as entertaining with a few less characters to follow (the two teenage storylines, featuring couples Emma Roberts / Carter Jenkins and Taylor Swift / Taylor Lautner, are successfully played more for laughs than sentiment). And with a running time of two hours, my wife and I eventually started keeping score on whose storylines had to be closed before the movie could finally end.

Valentine’s Day is fun without being ridiculous, sweet without being schmaltzy. If you and your significant other had to push out your Valentine’s Day plans for some reason, or even if you’re just looking for a good date movie, this flick will fit the bill.


Is it appropriate for my kids?
Valentine’s Day is rated PG-13 for adult situations and language, including some brief partial male nudity and Hathaway’s skills as the aforementioned phone sex operator (which she performs at least a half dozen times during the film).

Will your FilmMother like it?
Yeah, no doubt. Don’t be surprised if you enjoy it, too. In fact, here’s your chance to proactively suggest a date movie that she may actually want to see. Earn points where you can, my fellow men.

He's got it bad, got it bad, got it baaad...
he's hot for Garner.

Valentine’s Day
* Director: Garry Marshall
* Screenwriter: Katherine Fugate
* Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Topher Grace, Eric Dane, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Hector Elizondo, Shirley MacLaine, Bryce Robinson, Emma Roberts, Carter Jenkins, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner
* MPAA Rating: PG-13 (adult situations and language, some sexual material and brief partial nudity)

February 6, 2010

Death Sentence (2007)

STOP ME IF you’ve heard this before: I love revenge movies.

I’m not sure what that says about me. Whether it means I enjoy bad people getting their comeuppance by the film’s vengeful star, or whether I’m fascinated by the morally ambiguous satisfaction that revenge can bring to those who pursue it. (It’s probably a generous serving of each.)

Anyhoo...time to shut my self-analytical piehole and get to the review: 2007’s revenge-fueled Death Sentence.

Insurance honcho Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) has a good career and family life, including a beautiful wife (Kelly Preston) and two teenage sons. But tragedy strikes when the older son (Stuart Lafferty), a promising hockey star, is killed by a gang as they initiate a new member. Filled with rage and grief, Nick – the only witness to his son’s murder – lies under oath at the killer’s trial to get him released, then tracks him down and kills him…setting off a chain of brutal (and deadly) retaliations between the gang and Nick’s family.


With Death Sentence, director James Wan (Saw) initially gives the viewer an unflinching, hard-to-watch experience featuring decent use of foreshadowing, roving camerawork, and several impressive scenes – including an extended cat-and-mouse sequence in a parking tower, with no cuts. And he succeeds in balancing the film’s outrageous violence with character development, up to a point; the believability factor gets tested at times, and Death Sentence dips into melodrama on occasion.

The third act plays a bit like Death Wish meets Rambo, as the believable gives way to the preposterous, but by then you won’t care…you just want to see Bacon bust out the whuppin’ stick on some lowlife scumbags.

One element that doesn’t help the film’s watchability is Charlie Clouser’s overwrought and sometimes inappropriate musical score, as well as a soundtrack with songs that seem straight out of Grey’s Anatomy.

In supporting roles, Jordan Garrett brings an extra level of emotion to the film as the overlooked younger brother trying to make sense of what’s happening to his dad and their family; John Goodman chews chunks of scenery as a skuzzy underworld mob boss; and as much as I love Aisha Tyler (especially in FX’s hilarious new animated series Archer), she’s woefully miscast as a hard-edged detective assigned to Bacon’s case.

Death Sentence is far from a perfect movie, but it does make you ask yourself the age-old question: Under the same circumstances Bacon’s character encounters, what would you do if it was YOUR child? What lengths would you go to get what you consider justice? There’s usually no easy answer, nor a clear moral path you could take – which is probably a large part of what makes revenge-themed films a continuous form of fascination for me.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Uhhh, no…not if you have young ones. Death Sentence is brutally violent in the first two acts, and all-out bloody in the third. There are also too many F-bombs to count. High school teens and older.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
I know lots of female filmgoers really like Kevin Bacon, but this subject matter and content may be tough for your FilmMother to take, especially if you have children. Also, there are better films starring Bacon, as well as better films on the subject.

Red Rover, Red Rover, let yo' mama come over.

Death Sentence
* Director: James Wan
* Screenwriter: Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
* Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kelly Preston, Jordan Garrett, Garrett Hedlund, Aisha Tyler, John Goodman, Matt O’Leary
* MPAA Rating: R (strong bloody brutal violence and pervasive language)


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