May 23, 2013

Kung Fu Magoo (2010)

MENTION THE NAME “Mr. Magoo” to anyone under 30, and you’ll probably get a blank stare. Or in honor of Magoo’s handicap, maybe a squinting, legally blind stare.

Mr. Magoo was a series of cartoon shorts created in 1949 featuring the misadventures of Quincy Magoo (voiced by Gilligan’s Island star Jim Backus), whose incredibly poor vision put him in all kinds of slapstick misunderstandings, with Magoo completely oblivious to what was really happening. Over the years, Magoo has appeared in various TV series, holiday specials, and movies (including a dreadful live-action film starring Leslie Nielsen). The latest incarnation is 2010’s Kung Fu Magoo, which has Mr. Magoo (Jim Conroy) sharing a home with his nephew Justin (Dylan Sprouse), who mostly rolls his eyes at his uncle’s nearsighted antics.

After inadvertently saving a busload of students from a robotic villain, Mr. Magoo is labeled a hero and recruited by the government to infiltrate Bad Bad Island, with Justin and Mr. Magoo’s dog McBarker along for the trip. Bad Bad Island is led by the sinister Tan Gu (Lloyd Floyd), who is holding the Evilympics, where the toughest supervillains compete in events such as building doomsday devices, battling giant spider robots, and yes, knuckle cracking. Also competing is Justin’s hero, action movie star Cole Fusion (Chris Parnell), who’s there to prove he’s more than just another pretty face.

Despite the film’s title, we don’t get a lot of kung fu fighting from Mr. Magoo. (He gets his moniker because someone thinks he’s striking a Karate Kid-like crane pose while tangled in fishing line.) However, the film makes up for this by providing non-stop action throughout, mostly thanks to the Evilympics events and several chase sequences involving Magoo, Justin, and various pursuants. And while not every one of Magoo’s myopic misunderstandings is laugh-out-loud funny, several are truly hilarious.

A joint effort from DreamWorks Classics (formerly Classic Media) and Mexican-based Anima Estudios, Kung Fu Magoo maintains the spirit of the classic Mr. Magoo character within a contemporary, fast-paced, enjoyable film.


What did FilmBoy think?
Initially, he didn’t know what to make of Mr. Magoo – but once Kung Fu Magoo got rolling, he was laughing out loud on several occasions.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Violence/Scariness: Cartoonish violence abounds (punching, knife-throwing, laser guns, rocket launchers, etc.); a boy bullies Justin on several occasions, mostly via water balloons.
Rude Humor: McBarker vomits over the side of a boat; a robot is kicked in the groin and self-destructs; a bird poops on Mr. Magoo’s head. Justin’s best friend in school is a poor Indian stereotype, with a thick accent and protruding teeth.
Language: “Jerk,” “freak,” “hotness,” “kicking butt”

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
She could do worse than having to sit through Kung Fu Magoo with your kids. It’s often exciting and intermittently funny. And if she’s a Gen-Xer or older, she might feel nostalgic seeing Mr. Magoo again.

“Um, Bob? You might wanna bring a deadlier weapon next time…”

Kung Fu Magoo
* Director: Andrés Couturier
* Screenwriters: Emmy Laybourne, Rob Sosin, Robert Mittenthal
* Stars: Jim Conroy, Lloyd Floyd, Dylan Sprouse, Cole Sprouse, Alyson Stoner, Tom Kenny, Chris Parnell, Rodger Bumpass, Maile Flanagan, Wally Wingert, Candi Milo
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Rent Kung Fu Magoo from Netflix >>

May 15, 2013

Texas Chainsaw (2013)

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE has established itself as a true classic of relentless terror. But its many sequels, prequels, and remakes have delivered continually diminishing returns. This year’s Texas Chainsaw picks up where the original Chainsaw left off, with an opening sequence that shows the demented Sawyer family holed up in their farmhouse, surrounded by an armed, angry mob. The mob opens fire on the house and then burns the place down, apparently killing everyone inside – including the maniacal Leatherface, who wields the titular chainsaw and wears a mask of human skin.

Fast forward a couple decades, and we meet Heather (Alexandra Daddario), who learns that a grandmother she never knew has died and left Heather her mansion in Texas. Bringing along her friends Ryan (Trey Songz), Nikki (Lost’s Tania Raymonde), and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), Heather heads to her grandmother’s mansion to finalize some paperwork. Turns out that inheriting Grandma’s mansion comes with a little snag: Leatherface (Dan Yeager) is alive and living in the sprawling basement, which he’s turned into his personal butcher shop.

Like the many Chainsaw films that followed the largely bloodless original, Texas Chainsaw piles on the gore – with Leatherface putting his trusty saw to use on several victims, including his own grisly not-so-magic trick of sawing a person in half. (Texas Chainsaw’s gore comes courtesy of FX master Greg Nicotero, who also worked on Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.)

But Texas Chainsaw is more than a story about a boy and his power tool; the sins of the past also come to light, as Heather discovers her connection to the Sawyer family – and uncovers the tragic demise of a family she never knew. Corrupt policemen, brutish locals, and small-town secrets start playing a big (if not bigger) role than the horror of Leatherface, and the film falls into some sort of horror/crime hybrid that dilutes any small shred of terror it succeeded in creating.

Texas Chainsaw director John Luessenhop should get credit for attempting a fresh approach to bridge to the original film, as well as taking the terror of Leatherface beyond the house of horrors and into the local population (police investigate the killings, and Leatherface chases Heather through a crowded town fair). But not even cameos by the original Chainsaw cast can save this latest lackluster attempt at keeping the franchise alive. Uneven, rarely scary, and hobbled by an awkward and unsatisfying conclusion, Texas Chainsaw is yet another sub-par installment in a film series where, nearly 40 years later, the first is still the best.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Texas Chainsaw is rated R for “strong grisly violence and language throughout.” So, no.
Violence: People are shot, impaled, bludgeoned to death, beheaded, dismembered, skinned alive, and ground into meat.
Sex/Nudity: Heather and Ryan make out, with Heather only wearing a bra on top. Nikki strips to her bra and panties on several occasions.
Language: Countless four-letter words. A couple mentions of “retard.”

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Highly doubtful. Even if she’s a horror film buff, avoid this one and watch the original.

Hmmm...decisions, decisions...

Texas Chainsaw
* Director: John Luessenhop
* Screenwriters: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, Kirsten Elms
* Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde, Scott Eastwood, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, James MacDonald, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Richard Riehle, Bill Moseley
* MPAA Rating: R

Rent Texas Chainsaw from Netflix >>

May 9, 2013

Bee Movie (2007)

MY AFFECTION FOR DreamWorks Animation has definitely grown over the last five years, thanks to more deeply developed offerings such as the Kung Fu Panda films, How to Train Your Dragon, and last year’s Rise of the Guardians.

But before that, DreamWorks’ output lacked the depth and imagination that Pixar was providing in droves. And 2007’s Bee Movie is (hopefully) one of the last installments of that earlier time.

Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) is a college grad who’s eager to begin his career as a worker bee in his hive. Since bees have a short lifespan, he knows he has to make his career choice count – once a bee picks a job in the hive, they’re stuck with it for the rest of their (abbreviated) life. While out collecting pollen, Barry befriends Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), a human who values all living things, including Barry. When Barry is outraged that people have been “stealing” bees’ honey for years, Vanessa helps him file a lawsuit against the human race.

Bee Movie is pollinated here and there with make-you-smile cleverness, but out-loud laughs are few. Many jokes will go over kids’ heads, but the punchlines won’t satisfy the adults who get them. (It really took four writers to come up with this?)

In addition to uneven humor and lack of character depth, the film demands huge suspensions of disbelief. The fact that Vanessa accepts and befriends a talking bee after only a few moments is hard to swallow, not to mention the swarms of people in the courtroom during Barry’s lawsuit trial who also seem unaffected by Barry’s ability to speak. It’s also tough buying the seasoned, “lemme tell ya” voice of 53-year-old Jerry Seinfeld as a recent college graduate. (If you’re dying for a Jerry/Puddy reunion, Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton voices Vanessa’s arrogant and jealous boyfriend, Ken.)

Bee Movie starts with a promising premise – questioning the idea of having one monotonous job your entire life (a la Wreck-It Ralph) – but soon devolves into a much less engaging plot involving a courtroom trial that kids won’t care about, much less understand. Uneven and too clever for its own good, Bee Movie provides occasional glimpses of inspiration, but ultimately not enough sting.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
FilmBoy stayed with Bee Movie for the first hour, but then his attention waned and he started looking at his Pokemon cards. His final verdict: “It was okay.” Meanwhile, Jack-Jack soaked in every bit, getting visibly animated at much of what was going on.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Bee Movie is rated PG for "mild suggestive humor."
Language: A bee accuses Barry of “making out” with Vanessa. When he needs to go to the bathroom, Barry declares he needs to “drain the ol’ stinger.” A bee says of a female co-worker, “She’s hot!” Barry describes a character as being “very Jewish.” In a low moment, Barry and Vanessa jokingly discuss a “suicide pact” and how they would do it. One mention each of “drag queen,” “poo water,” and “heaving buttocks.”
Violence: Vanessa stabs herself with a fork to make sure she’s not dreaming. Barry has a dream where Vanessa crashes a plane she’s piloting and it bursts into flames. There are several scenes of slapstick punching and slapping. Ken tries to swat, smash, and light Barry on fire during a fight.
Adult Themes: There’s an ongoing theme, though handled lightheartedly, of dying and death due to the bee’s short lifespan.
Smoking: A human passerby smokes a cigarette.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
The images and premise of Bee Movie may appeal to her, but she may balk at the pedestrian humor and questionable adult material in such a child-targeted film.

Wow – that's one honey of a serve!
(Oh, boo-hiss to you, too.)

Bee Movie
* Directors: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
* Screenwriters: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, Andy Robin
* Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard, Alan Arkin, Megan Mullally, Rip Torn, Larry Miller, Barry Levinson
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent Bee Movie from Netflix >>

Congrats to the winner of the
Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection!


The winner is...

Amy Bond!

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest - and for making this my most popular giveaway ever.

May 2, 2013

Win the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection!
(a $600 value)

I CAN’T BELIEVE I’m giving this away: You could win the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection!

This collection makes a great last-minute Mother’s Day gift. It features 100 classic films (including all 22 of Warner Bros.’ Best Picture™ winners) on 55 DVDs, presented in book-style premium packaging. It also includes two all-new documentaries, Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot and The Warner Bros. Lot Tour, plus hours of commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more on select films, as well as a limited edition 27” x 40” poster and a postcard series of Warner Bros. movie posters designed by the legendary Bill Gold. View full film list

How to Enter:
  • Comment on this post by May 8, 2013. You must provide a way for me to contact you if you win. For example, your e-mail address must be available on the page/site that's linked to your name ("Bob said...") or include your email or Twitter handle in your comment.
  • I will pick one comment at random and post the winner.
  • Prize is available to U.S. mailing addresses only. (No P.O. Boxes, please.)

After you’ve entered, check out the Mother’s Day Movie Night Blog App, featuring:
  • Guess-the-Scene – How well do you know the silver screen’s most famous love stories and sing-a-longs? Test your knowledge on the world’s greatest films. The quicker you pick, the more points you score!
  • Words in Film – Select your mood and let quotes and images from film express how you’re feeling.
  • Movie Night Conversation Starters – Watching a classic flick together is the perfect opportunity to catch up and share stories. This Mother’s Day, make it a point to connect with your family and give them a chance to learn something about mom they never knew!

You can also download “My Perfect Mother’s Day” (PDF), a fun fill-in-the-blank sheet you can fill out and hang on your fridge for your whole family to see.

Good luck!


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