Monthly Archives: April 2012
This documentary hit all the right notes with me. You have to understand, music has always been a part of my family’s lives. From my brothers holding me up to dance to their records when I was two years old, to my niece being put to bed with the sounds of a symphony, to my nephew playing in a band; everyone in the family was a music lover. That is why I was thrilled watching this wonderful film about the Funk Brothers. They were the group of musicians Berry Gordy assembled to play backup to what would become some of the biggest artists from his Hitsville U.S.A./Motown recording studio. Here is an interesting fact for you: These musicians were on more #1 singles than Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys combined. How cool is that? With the aid of archival footage, interviews and celebrity guests such as Chaka Khan, Gerald Levert, Joan Osborne and Meshell Ndegeocello interpreting some of those classic hits with the remaining Funk Brothers; this music film would be the perfect choice for any music lover. After watching this incredible documentary, I was filled with wonderful memories of where I was when I heard some of these great songs.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
When it was time for me to go to college, I had to go to a weekend orientation prior to the start of school. During that time I had my first contact with fraternity guys. It took only 2 days to realize I was not cut out to be part of a fraternity. Not that I had anything bad to say; it just was not my thing. I am more comfortable with individuality instead of trying to be part of a group mentality. I wondered if this would be a hindrance for me to review this movie about college life. It was not, for this film had a strong quirky style to it with offbeat characters. A group of girls ran a suicide prevention center to help their fellow students with depression and suicide. The leader of the group was Violet, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, No Strings Attached), who believed tap dancing and musical numbers would be the cure. Transfer student Lily, played by Analeigh Tipton (The Green Hornet; Crazy, Stupid Love) was taken under the girls’ wings as they navigated their way through campus life. There was a darkness to this movie, that was kept in check with some great lines. I found the humor off the wall; not to a laugh out loud level, but certainly chuckles and smirks. However, the inconsistent script was all over the place. At times clear and focused, other times muddled and slow. Though there was an independent flair to this comedy, I don’t think you would get a detention for cutting this showing.
2 1/4 stars
When I am not teaching my classes, some days I can be found in aisle 9, candies and cookies, of my local grocery store. The rush I get while I peruse the assortment of delicious treats was the same feeling I felt at the opening scene of this combo animated and live action movie. My television screen was filled with delectable sweet delicacies from the Easter Bunny candy factory. I enjoyed the beginning of this fanciful film. The story was about the Easter Bunny’s son E.B., voiced by Russell Brand (Arthur, Get Him to the Greek), who did not want to take over for his Dad and become the Easter Bunny. Instead, E.B. wanted to become a famous drummer, running away to Hollywood to fulfill his dream. It was at this point of the movie where things began to fall apart for me. Enter James Marsden (Enchanted, Hairspray) as Fred O’Hare, an unemployed slacker who accidentally injured E.B. with his car. From the wonderful opening the rest of the movie was lackluster with primitive humor. What could have been an interesting story just never clicked with me and I found myself being bored. Out of the choices available to see an animated, fantasy movie; I felt like I just pulled out the green Life Saver from my assortment pack–my least favorite flavor.
2 stars — DVD
I am all for cutting corners where one can to save some money. In my heyday you should have seen my coupon prowess. But what was the studio thinking when they saw a script like this one which had Bruce Willis’ name written all over it? Maybe Bruce’s asking price was too high and the studio went instead for a discount. So they chose Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, Traitor) to play the role of wrongly convicted, smart mouthed Snow. Not that Bruce has cornered the market on quick-witted, sarcastic retorts; but, I became bored early on with Guy’s attempts. Here is the story in a nutshell: Snow was offered his freedom if he would agree to rescue the President’s daughter Emilie Warnock, played by Maggie Grace (Taken, The Jane Austen Book Club), who was trapped inside an outer space prison, when overtaken by the prisoners. Granted, not the most original of ideas and the movie studio did not just stop there in their frugality. I found the special effects, for this day and age, lackluster and unexciting. The one object I found cool could be seen in the trailer–the space-aged motorcycle ridden by Guy Pearce. Okay, so it looked like a pimped out Bat-Pod. Remember, the producers were trying to save some change. As you may have gathered, I did not find too much to like in this movie. All I was hoping to accomplish was some space out time with a thrilling fun science fiction movie. Instead I felt a dose of reality as I watched this cheaply made movie that should have gone straight to DVD.
1 2/3 stars
Conjuring up the directional spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, this intelligent suspense movie was beautifully directed by Roman Polanski. Atmospheric scenes added to the thrilling story as Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Miss Potter) introduced himself as the Ghost aka the ghost writer. He was hired to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day, Mamma Mia), when the previous ghost writer died from an accidental drowning. As Ewan’s character delved into Mr. Lang’s past, he discovered something unusual. My attention was totally captured by this exciting film. Without the use of explosions or hi-tech wizardry, this movie steadily built up the anticipation with the aid of a smart script. The characters were all believable to me and with Mr. Polanski’s trained eye for making each frame appear full, I loved the way the tension kept a steady pace throughout the movie. The casting of Pierce in the role of prime minister was bloody brilliant. The only complaint I had about this film was my disappointment in the way it ended. However, it was not traumatic enough for me to have lost my enthusiasm for having been a witness to this gripping movie.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
Women you caught us men; who knew it only took reading Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” to figure out the male species. And if you believe that, I have a brand new, still in the box Betamax for sale. I did not have high expectations for this movie. The story was about a group of women who read Steve Harvey’s book and used it to beat the man in their life at his own game. The movie, I believe, was not necessarily following the whole book, as much as just presenting scenes that addressed several chapters of it. This certainly was a great marketing idea. There were funny parts throughout this comedy; the bulk of them being handled by Kevin Hart (Death at a Funeral, Fool’s Gold) as Cedric. Out of the different couples in play, I felt Lauren and Dominic played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Karate Kid) and Michael Ealy (Seven Pounds, 2 Fast 2 Furious) were the most believable out of the group. Besides them, the acting was passable from the rest of the cast. As far as I could tell, the majority of the audience was enjoying this light comedy. There really was nothing bad about this movie, just light fluff in my opinion. I think this film would be an easy choice as a date night movie for most people.
2 1/4 stars
The closest I have come to witnessing some of the events in this movie have been from a co-worker’s stories, who is part of a patriotic honor guard riding group. What was special about this movie was the fact there was no political bent or one-sided criticism of war. This was not a typical war movie per se; the only battle was between protocol and compassion. After being injured, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery played by Ben Foster (The Mechanic, Birds of America) was assigned to assist Captain Tony Stone, played by Woody Harrelson (Rampart, The Hunger Games). The two of them had the task of informing family members on the death of a loved one. Having never experienced this situation, I was moved on what it took to perform such a monumental task. The acting by Woody and Ben was believable, at times heart wrenching. I could see why Woody received an Oscar nomination for this role. He brought such intensity to this character who was trained to do things by the book, no matter how conflicted he may have been. Also, I was completely impressed with Ben’s performance; he was amazing in this tough role and was able to keep up with Mr. Harrelson. This emotionally charged drama, with such strong characters, truly did justice in showing an aspect of war not usually covered in other military movies.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
There is something special about chimpanzees, where people can quickly place human characteristics on these fascinating creatures. I have a special spot for the animals because my very first stuffed animal was of a chimpanzee. Zippy was his name and he had been handed down to me from my brothers. This documentary did not disappoint on the visuals, from beautiful landscapes to incredible close ups of the chimps, every scene was a treat. Where the movie did not do itself justice was who they had narrate the story, Tim Allen (Home Improvement-TV, Wild Hogs). Along with his annoying inflections, I also had to place blame on the script he was given to read. I understand the idea of making this film for the entire family by adding a dramatic story line; however, it started to feel as if I was on one of the rides in the Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World. A 2nd clan of chimpanzees were portrayed as the bad guys; lead by Scar the alpha male. Tim’s grunts and excited reading was ridiculous to me. Instead of observing chimpanzees in their natural habitat, we were given a sanitized tale of little Oscar’s plight within the group. At the end of the movie statistics were presented on what the chimpanzee poplulation used to be and what it was currently, with no explanation on the reasons why. This film was made to entertain the whole family and on some levels it accomplished the task. However, I only wished they could have let the chimpanzees be themselves and avoid being turned into drama queens.
2 2/3 stars
For a small German village there seemed to be an ever increasing amount of mysterious incidents. It began when the doctor, played by Rainer Bock (War Horse, My Best Enemy), was thrown from his horse by a thin wire strung across the path. We learned of these events from the school teacher, played by Christian Friedel (Chicken with Plums), who played a sympathetic character in this film. The cinematography was exquisite, with almost each frame worthy enough to be hung in an art museum. And this was why the movie worked so well; amongst such beautiful visuals there was an underlying uneasiness as a menacing evil was taking hold. In the beginning of this amazing film, the pacing was kept to a slow pace as we were being introduced to the villagers. With some of the incidents having violent overtones, the villagers became afraid and suspicious that the person or persons responsible could easily be a neighbor. I would classify this former Oscar nominee as a dramatic mystery. For those who are uncomfortable with the sight of blood, there is only one quick scene and I would gladly share with you where it took place in this movie. German with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
After the movie ended and I had to climb over the woman dabbing at her moist eyes with a wad of tissues, I was wondering who was the lucky one. Maybe she felt fortunate for seeing this movie; I know I certainly did not, I was the unlucky one. My teachers used to tell me before you give a negative comment, always start out with something positive. I liked the coming attractions. Now that I got that out of the way, let me start with the lead character Logan played by Zac Efron(17 Again, New Year’s Eve). He was so wrong for this movie and shame on the director for not pushing Zac to at least try and act in this movie. I felt he was too young and pretty while he tried to portray a three tours of duty marine. After finding a photograph of a woman, Logan felt it was a good luck charm that protected him, keeping him alive during his military stint. He made a promise if he survived the war, he would find this woman and thank her. The photo he kept close was of Beth played by Taylor Schilling (Dark Matter, Mercy). Her acting was decent, but there was absolutely no chemistry between her and Zac. Besides being passionless to the point of almost painful, this movie was predictable. Syrupy music was used throughout as we were exposed to extended shots of the sun setting or rising. I did not read the book, but I think with a different cast and director this film could have been a better movie and a more believable story.
1 3/4 stars