SOUL SURFER, EMOTIONAL & INSPIRATIONAL

Emotional and moving the true story of Bethany Hamilton called Soul Surfer makes its way into movie theaters across the nation.  Without a doubt the best film about recovery from a tragedy I’ve seen in decade.  If there is one film you see this year, make it be Soul Surfer, you will be truly inspired.

 

In December of 2004 a tsunami pounded the coastal region of Thailand causing much death and massive destruction.  In the middle of the crisis a group of volunteers from Hawaii went to help the survivors.  Included in the group is Bethany Hamilton, a one armed 14-year-old youngster who believes in herself and a chance to help others.

 

Flash back a year and two months earlier where in a freak accident Bethany is attacked by a shark while practicing for a surfing tournament off the coast of Hawaii.  The bite takes off her left arm and nearly kills her.  With the help of her surfing companions she gets rushed to the hospital where doctors save her life.

AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton in SOUL SURFER

Being a surfer with plans on becoming a professional one-day, you would think that this terrible act of nature would be a career ender.  Not many have survived such a tragedy and been able to pull themselves up and get back on the job.  A similar Hollywood movie last year called 127 Hours received a lot of acclaim when through perseverance a young rock climber Aron Ralston had to remove his own arm to save his life.  That man went on to climb many mountains including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It’s this kind of inspiration that I felt from the Bethany Hamilton story in the movie Soul Surfer.

 

In Bethany’s story we find not only inspiration, but also an abiding faith in a divine reason for the tragic attack.  This faith, and witnessing how others such as the people in Thailand have the desire to recover from tragedy, compelled her to regain her strength and become a world-class surfing champion.

 

The acting in Soul Surfer by AnnaSophia Robb shines as the young girl who has to raise herself up, shrug off pity and move on to her goal. Being able to project the emotional trauma, pain and suffering, Robb makes the story work.  Her ability to express the disappointment from the results of the attack, accept the fact that she must move on and then rise above the tragedy to become a champion is impressive.

 

A stellar support cast that includes Denis Quaid as Tom Hamilton, Helen Hunt as Cheri Hamilton and Lorraine Nicholson as Alana Blanchard provide emotional performances as parents and friend.  Never giving up on Bethany, Tom supports her belief that she can still become a professional surfer in spite of her loss of limb. And, Alana never turns away from her friend, encouraging her to work hard at conditioning herself, getting up on the board and becoming a champion.

 

As a closing point, the making of the movie with the use of advanced filming techniques provides the realism that is necessary for a winning project such as this. It’s amazing how through the use of green screen applications Robb is able to go though all the motions armless.

 

Stay after the credits start to roll to see real footage of Bethany in action on a surfboard, many of her videos of growing up and her trip to Thailand.

 

Soul Surfer is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: See this movie and feel the inspiration. (A)

 

 

 

 

ARTHUR, Hysterical

Another big comedy has entered theaters this weekend called Arthur and it’s a scream.  Of course the most fun comes from star Russell Brand the new champion of comedy who turns and old film into a touchingly brilliant laugher.  If you want to loosen up from everyday problems go see Arthur, his troubles are far from dull.

 

The film centers on Arthur Bach (Brand) a rich heir to a limitless fortune and a playboy who never has an empty booze bottle.  But, after so many embarrassing incidents his mother (Geraldine James) wants him to settle down and get married.  Not to anyone mind you, but to his ex-girlfriend Susan (Jennifer Garner) with whom his mother has business ties.  When Arthur stumbles upon Naomi (Greta Gerwig) his real love in life, things start getting real messy.

Mirren as Hobson and Brand as Arthur

Even if you’ve seen the original release starring Dudley Moore, it’s time you met his match.  Brand puts on a hilarious performance as the drunken billionaire who finds himself in a quandary of loosing his fortune by going against his mother’s wishes.  He molds Arthur into a fun loving oaf who you cannot but adore his winsome personality and generosity.

In support, Luis Guzman plays his trusting butler Bitterman who desperately tries to keep Arthur in line. The perfect character to bounce off a lot of comedy in scenes that need to be uplifted following Arthur’s problematic times.

But the support star of this show is Helen Mirren who plays the loyal nanny Hobson.  She’s the backbone for Arthur, his fallback person and real ‘mother’ when it comes to life challenges. Mirren shows her acting charm and sensibility giving Brand the perfect person to bring out his character’s inner sincerity.

Director Jason Winer on the set of ARTHUR

Special applause goes to Jason Winer for his fine direction of his first motion picture.  Making a comedy for the big screen is no easy task and he nailed it with Arthur.  I’m looking forward to more of his filmmaking, hopefully in the near future.

Arthur is rated PG-13 for alcohol use throughout, sexual content and some drug references.  Please be cautioned that in most cases there is little consolation for Arthur’s drinking habits and a lot of comedy surrounds the bad habit.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A very funny comedy. (A)

 

 

YOUR HIGHNESS, a kingdom on drugs

Gross, rude, crude and lewd, Your Highness almost takes the trophy from Borat, Bruno, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back as the most vulgar film of the past decade.  Every laugh attempt uses tongue in cheek comedy and that gets wierd after awhile.  The special effect/CGI laden motion picture looked like a tribute to FX artists everywhere.  The only group worthy of such foolishness, men who think macho is still ‘in’, will probably suck it up big time.

 

There is no real story; well ok it’s about Thadeous (Danny McBride) the son of a king who’s jealous of his brother Fabious (James Franco) because he does all the fun stuff like slaying the local Cyclops.  When Fabious’s bride to be gets kidnapped by a wizard, the two join in a quest to get her back.

Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel in YOUR HIGHNESS

The ‘F’ word gets used so much, after awhile I became immune to the insult.  Constant sexual suggestions, pseudo portrayals of sex, exposed genitalia and mammary make the film so infantile that even the target audience will probably say, “You got to be kidding me” “Yuck,” “Oh no not that” or “Tell me that’s not real”.

McBride as Thadeous and Franco as Fabious

Now the film isn’t completely all that bad because it has some excellent special effects.  I even have to admit I laughed very loudly during the scene where Thadious, Fabious and Courtney are held captive in a stadium and they have to fight an evil looking five-headed monster.  Yeah, and also the stagecoach chase scene gets exciting, and the scene in the wizard’s castle where he tries to take Belladonna’s virginity, and the scene where Thadious has to kiss the Oracle, and … well maybe several other scenes, but not THAT many.

 

However, Your Highness is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.  I’m sure they left out other stuff like a genital necklace and a record number of times they use the ‘F’ word.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Warning, do not take your girlfriend to see the film. Trust me on this one, it’s a guy thing. (B)

 

 

HANNA, a fantasy

The movie Hanna has a lot of relentless action and for that the adrenaline seekers will be grateful.  It has Saoirse Ronan and her tough sweetness surly blisters the screen. Beautifully photographed, nicely acted and directed, but the storyline didn’t move me.

 

The film centers on Hanna a 16-year-old pubescent young lady who has spent most of her life in seclusion being trained to kill by he father Erik, an ex-CIA agent. She’s near the end of her critical education and has been allowed to make a decision, whether to continue to be in hiding or take on a task laid out by her father.  When she decides to take the mission, her whole world starts to change, including her desire to be a teenager.

Saoirse Ronan in HANNA

While the acting here is admirable, the script insists on being a hackneyed rehash of several movies that come to mind.  The never-ending story attempts to take you on a roller-coaster ride of martial arts fighting, narrow escapes and a relentless chase by Marissa (Cate Blanchett- horribly miscast for the character she plays), a ruthless intelligence operative.  But, the trip gets obviously predictable early one and once you figure out why Hanna is so valuable, it’s not fun anymore.

I will say that the cinematography of the wintry landscape, amazing night shots, great close-ups of Ronan and a lot of exciting fight scenes makes the film ‘watchable’.   That is if you are a male teen who probably doesn’t care about the story anyway. There’s one particular scene that really caught my attention, however; it’s a confrontation between Hanna and troops sent to take her down in her snowy woodsy home.

The hard-pounding soundtrack is also very good and adds a lot of excitement to the film. Special effects also play a big role in the film even though some of the green screen shots tend to be laughable.  Choreography of the fight and chase scenes almost makes the fighting look real, that is until you don’t see a mark on Hanna, almost never.

Eric Bana does his level best to keep the plot real as does Tom Hollander as a very nasty hired hit man.  But, nothing can save the film from a disastrous time line, including impossible appearances by Marissa who can get halfway across a continent in a matter of minutes in her nicely pressed skirt and blouse.

 

Hanna is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.  You know, most of the stuff that male teens want to share with their buddies.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Hanna’s not Hit Girl, but it will have to do for now. (C )

 

 

 

SOURCE CODE, A UNIQUE FORMULA

Unique, explosive and intriguing Source Code breaks the mold in this thriller that entertains.  The intricate plot constantly changes making the tale gripping and mysterious in a fantasy action adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Excitement and suspense lovers will get a double dip in Source Code where the expectancy never stops.

 

The plot centers on Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) a Special Forces soldier who finds himself sitting on a train across from Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) a beautiful young lady who he does not know.  He’s befuddled to find out that she knows him but calls him by another name.  Eight minutes later the train blows up and he’s at a lab where his programmer Colleen (Vera Farmiga) repeats the assignment given to him.  He again finds himself on the train in the same situation, but this time with more knowledge of what’s about to happen.  When he finds that his mission involves an even bigger target, he must act fast to save Chicago,

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal in SOURCE CODE

The direction by Duncan Jones of the gripping script is superb.  Able to keep the plot moving at a fast clip, make his characters real and create an action packed revolving door, Jones makes Source Code a winner.  I enjoy the way he adds another problem in the mix each time Colter returns to the train after it explodes.  Gathering the clues on each of his returns provides the fun of the movie keeping us guessing till the perpetrator gets revealed.  It’s a nail biter right up to the very end.

Director Duncan Jones on the set of SOURCE CODE

Gyllenhaal shows fine talent making his character keep you wondering each step of the way.  But I am more amazed by Farmiga who makes her dedicated character go from cold and calculating to sympathetic for her experimental subject.  In support, Monaghan keeps her role malleable enough to maintain Captain Stevens perplexity throughout the ordeal.

 

The film is rated PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images, and for language.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A unique cringing thriller (B+)

HOP, A KIDDIE DITTY

The film Hop comes to theatres just in time for the Easter season and kiddies will love it.  Filled with some very comical fun, the live action movie with computer graphics provides a good venue for mom to treat the youngsters.  I liked the cute little plot with some adult tongue-in-cheek quips and amusing sight gags.

 

The story finds E.B. (voice Russell Brand), the son of the Easter Bunny bored with his life on Easter Island.  He’s a drummer and wants to make his way in the world entirely different that delivering eggs to humans.  Sneaking down the transporting rabbit hole he ends up in the yard of Fred (James Marsden), an adult human who’s jobless and house sitting for some funds to keep him afloat until he can find his dream career.  When the two eventually team up, their lives start getting better in a crazy kind of way.

 

Russell Brand lends his voice of E.B.

The snappy comedy has a lot of fantasy content that if you just go with it, even adults can enjoy the ride.  Much like The Santa Clause there’s a lot of imagination needed to accept the story, but what a great opportunity to loosen up and be a kid again.

James Marsden plays Fred in Hop

The computer graphic animation of the rabbits and chicks is brilliant in this film.  And with the use of live characters the blend here provides a fun screen event that’s magical to watch.  Children will be begging for their own E.B. and I’m almost sure Wal-Mart can provide one.

 

Hop is rated PG for some mild rude humor, but nothing more than what Sponge Bob delivers.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Stuff some jellybeans in your purse, grab the kids and ‘bounce’ off to see Hop, it’s a blast. (A)

 

INSIDEOUS, GETS LUDICROUS

There are many bumps in the night in the film Insidious, but not enough acting delivery to make the horror work.  I do admit I jumped and flinched on a few occasions as director James Wan does set you up for some exciting chills, but it’s not enough to give the film even an average grade.  Of course like most horror flicks these days, they’re critic proof and this one will probably still do well at the box office with teens.

 

The plot centers on the Lambert family who moves into a Victorian home in the burbs.  Shortly thereafter, their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) starts having nightmares and ghostly visions.  Hearing a noise in the attic, Dalton goes up in the dreary room, climbs a ladder and falls putting himself in a coma.  When parents Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) cannot bring Dalton around they call in some ghost hunters in an attempt to release him from evil spirits.

Dalton gets a strange visitor in his bedroom

The story provides nothing new and the acting slips downward as the movie plays out; in fact it gets quite ludicrous.  The saving grace here are the scare techniques that James Wan (Saw) uses to get a rise out of the audience.  They are very chilling at times and he inserts them intermittently much like a walk through a scary Halloween horror house.

 

That said, acting by Wilson (Phantom of the Opera), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) and Byrne (Knowing) goes down hill shortly after the opening sequences.  I’m puzzled as to why the three consummate actors would even allow themselves to be in the B movie.  As for the plot, it’s so predictable, if you don’t get it right away you need to get out of the house more often.

 

Oh, and in one scene the director or one of his crew was probably so bored with the film that he drew a likeness of the mask from Saw on the blackboard.

 

Insidious is rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror, frightening images, and brief strong language.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A shock flick that needs more tricks. (D+)

 

JANE EYRE, AN EXCELLENT REMAKE

Captivating and as the British would say utterly romantic, the movie version of the Charlotte Bronte novel Jane Eyre moves into theaters this weekend. I enjoyed the acting, the amazing landscapes and period costumes.  If you like the book, enjoy period piece films, dream about those who live in huge estates, then wake up and go see Jane Eyre.

 

At the center of the plot is a young Jane Eyre (Amelia Clarkson) who finds herself living with her aunt after her parents die.  At odds with her male cousin, her aunt feels that Jane should be put in a private school.  Fast-forward to the 17 years of age Jane (Mia Wasikowska) who escapes the confines of her dull life and finds her way to the home of the wealthy Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) where she takes on the job of governess.  When a romance starts between Jane and Edward, her life starts to change in a direction she did not anticipate.

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre

Even though the age differences between Jane and Edward are distances apart, the actors are able to show the fire that burns between them.  You can see the change on Wasikowska’s innocent face when she realizes that Edward can be hers. The chemistry between the two burns a hole in the screen.

One of the many costumes in Jane Eyre

The costuming and sets are a major part of the story and here no expense has been spared to provide the look and flavor of the early English period.  The camera captures every bit of the countryside, the worn English manor and the clothes that are as important to the entertainment as the actors.  The camera lens even instills a cold damp feeling during Jane’s trek through an unforgiving forest during a horrendous rainstorm.  Jane Eyre is a feeling and director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) provides the complete experience from script to actor to the big screen.

 

Jane Eyre has been produced some seventeen times on television and film starting as far back as 1914 according to the International Movie Data Base.  But with today’s technology, special cameras and creative sets, I found this Jane Eyre to be the amazingly good.

 

The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image in a painting and brief violent content.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A classy look at an old plot. (A-)

TANGLED, DAZZLING ON 3D BLU-RAY

One of my most loved animated films of 2010 gets its release on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD.  The much-anticipated full-length feature provides a fun time for the whole family.  Tangled grossed over $400 million worldwide in theatres making it one of the highest Disney producers.

When the kingdom’s most wanted—and most charming—bandit Flynn Rider (voice of ZACHARY LEVI) hides out in a mysterious tower, he’s taken hostage by Rapunzel (voice of MANDY MOORE), a beautiful and feisty tower-bound teen with 70 feet of magical, golden hair. Flynn’s curious captor, who’s looking for her ticket out of the tower she’s been locked away in for years, strikes a deal with the handsome thief, and the unlikely duo sets off on an action-packed escapade, complete with a super-cop horse, an overprotective chameleon and a gruff gang of pub thugs.

Tangled comes in the 3D Blu-ray format in addition to the regular Blu-ray and DVD.  The 3D is very realistic providing amazing depth of field, eye popping thrills and enhanced graphics.  It’s the ideal way to view the film beyond regular Blu-ray.  But with all animation films, the regular DVD format contains all the magic and color, so if you do not have 3D or Blu-ray capabilities, the movie still delivers the experience in a big way.

In addition to combo packs and 1 disc DVD Tangled is also released in a special 4-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) contains all the special features including:

Blu-ray

Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale with questions answered on most every topic about the film, Deleted Scenes that had cut from the film, Extended Songs, 9 Tangled teasers and more.

DVD

The special bonus features here included on the DVD are two very interesting surprises, two original storybook openings and a 50th Animated Feature Countdown.

POETRY, RHYME FOR A REASON

Bringing to light a heinous crime, Poetry does a good job of making a case against bullying.  The acting, directing and cinematography all connect in this South Korean tale that is heartbreaking and revealing.  Acting saves the lengthy wondering film.

Mi-ja (Yoon Jung-hee) leads a hand-to-mouth life raising her teenage grandson by herself. She nevertheless, retains a childlike innocence and curiosity, and becomes immersed in the world of poetry and beauty when she enrolls in a local writing class. But when she learns of a shocking revelation, she must confront the ugly side of life, and take matters into her own hands.

Delivering a wonderful performance, Yoon Jung-hee shows the devastating affects her character faces in a dreadful situation.  I love the way she moves through the film sometimes aware, other times oblivious to what life has dealt her.  Finding grief not only in what her grandson has done, but feeling the effects of a debilitating disease manipulating her brain.

Writer/Director Chang-dong Lee

Making  a mesmerizing tale writer/director Chang-dong Lee dives into every angle of his main character’s plight.  So much so, however, that the film takes a long time to develop making his project almost unending.  A problem with most directors that write their own pieces, it’s never done until every last word, character, incident and bit of information has been filmed.  Although I liked the film, it gets way too long to be perfect.

The cinematography showing the landscapes and villages of South Korea becomes part of the entertainment.  Working the characters through the plot with a National Geographic background keeps the film from being dreary in light of the subject matter.

Poetry is unrated but contains adult content and disturbing images.  The foreign film is in Korean with English Subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good drama with stellar acting. (B)

Nausicaa out on Blu-ray

Japan’s most prestigious animation studio has released  one from their vault in Blu-ray .  Studio Ghibli the production company that made the Academy Award winner Spirited Away and the recent kid favorite Ponyo delivers exciting family friendly films that inspire and entertain.

 

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was initially released several years ago in the DVD format and gets a makeover with the magic of Blu-ray.  The film takes on a more vivid look and makes the presentation of Studio Ghibli’s founder Hayao Miyazaki’s epic masterpiece even more exciting.

The film tells the story of the courageous Princess Nausicaa who in an epic struggle sets out to restore order in a kingdom that has been devastated due to global war.  Miyazaki who is the master behind Spirited Away and other animated features dazzles the senses with amazingly different characters and creatures.  Mature children as well as adults should be easily caught up in the exciting storyline.

The Blu-ray disc features The World of Ghibli where you can visit Nausicaa’s world in an enchanted interactive experience; Behind the Studio includes an interview with the master Hayao Miyazaki; Enter the Lands explores the many worlds of Studio Ghibli and much more.  A special bonus on both the Blu-ray and DVD is The Birth Story of Studio Ghibli featurette.

The film is rated PG, a must see for mature children and a great addition to an animation collection. The film features the voice cast of Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Gattaca) Shia LeBeouf (Tranformers, Surf’s Up) and Patrick Stewart (Gnomeo & Juliet, Bambi II, Chicken Little)

Aced Reviewer Rating: (B)

 

 

 

 

Limitless, A Chilling Focus Factor

The premise of Limitless involves the use of a mythical drug that magically makes a person a total Einstein, the pure fantasy and consequences of the outcome makes it intriguing.  The cast perfectly drawn and the direction top notch, Limitless thrills and chills.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) has drawn a blank causing a case of writers block.  The company who has given him a monetary advance to write his book is asking for results.  Totally depressed and thinking of ending his career he by chance runs into Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) an old buddy who introduces him to a pill called NZT.  It allows one to use his entire brain including the incidental memory that has picked up information not purposely stored.  With this newfound drug, Eddie is on top of the world and writes his book in four days.  When finds Vernon dead, Eddie realizes the reason and searches his apartment coming up with a bag of the brain stretchers.  When word gets around that Eddie has NZT his world turns upside down.

Robert De Niro as Van Loon and Bradley Cooper as Eddie

The fantasy here shows the premise that if it were true that one could take a pill and use his or her whole brain to it’s fullest potential then an Eddie would probably outshine most everyone with the use of his stored knowledge.  It would be like the memory enhancing supplement Focus Factor on steroids.

The film under the direction by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) gets nicely played out.  He keeps his audience guessing and on the edge as Eddie copes with his situation and the dangerous new ones being created. Cooper makes his character real going from indigent writer to top of the world consultant.  His interaction with superstar Robert DeNiro as investor Carl Van Loon works well. As the two plays off each other they turn a dull possibility into an intriguing interaction showing Eddie’s brilliance.

Limitless is rated PG 13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A bright chilling fantasy that entertains. (B-)

 

 

The Lincoln Lawyer, ‘Court’ing a Killer

Suspenseful, intriguing and exciting The Lincoln Lawyer makes the legal system entertaining. With all the TV attorney shows pushing for top ratings, this film comes at the right time. A strong cast, excellent direction and a riveting storyline make The Lincoln Lawyer a must see.

Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) keeps his legal business close to him, in his car. Defending the lowlifes or whomever desperately needs legal assistance; Mick turns down very few clients. While working on a questionable case his confidant Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) gives him the name of Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). This client will pay big money to get him off for battery and rape. It’s the case of a lifetime and Mick knows it. Suspicious of the client however, he brings on his friend Frank Levin (William H. Macy) a private detective. When they start getting conflicting evidence, Mick starts to get distrustful of Roulet.

McConaughey, Leguizamo and Macy work nicely together easily bringing out the sleazy ways Mick does business. But the strong performance of Phillippe in his role as the guiltless client makes the script work. I was totally engrossed in the film watching every twist and turn right to the nearly unpredictable turn of events at the end.

 

Mathew McConaughey plays Mick Haller The Lincoln Lawyer

Excellent direction by Brad Furman helps in crafting The Lincoln Lawyer into good show. His ability to maneuver the characters into realistic situations that create suspense with creative conflict makes this film work. The only thing that comes in question is “Did he write McConaughey taking off his shirt into the film or was it his star’s way of leaving his usual mark?”

The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R for some violence, sexual content and language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A killer of a thriller. (B)

Paul, an A for the Alien

 

If you are a Sci Fi comedy nut like myself Paul delivers 104 minutes of amazement and fun.  The cute little laugher features a great comical cast and although the story gets quite corny most of the sight gags are priceless.

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost)

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) have traveled thousands of miles from England in order to attend a Comic Book Convention in the United States.  The two British nerds then plan to take a rented RV for a trip to all the historical UFO sights in Nevada and New Mexico.  After leaving the wild convention they make their first stop in the middle of nowhere for a bite to eat.  On the way out of the joint they dent the finder of a couple of wise cracking patrons and speed off down the road.  Just when they feel they are out of danger a car comes crashing into a ditch, Graeme and Clive get a huge surprise when a snappy little alien called Paul pops out of the bushes.  When Paul talks the two into helping him escape being hunted by the FBI, a road trip to hell begins.

The comedy comes swift and often with crazy sight gags and snappy one-liners. Although most of the comedy has a British flare it’s still understandably funny.  If you have seen Shaun of the Dead or even Hot Fuzz you will get my meaning.

Seth Rogan provides the voice of Paul

Leading the cast of crazies are Simon Pegg and Nick Frost the duo who made several films together including their next big release The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Bill Hader, Kristin Wigg and Justin Bateman a trio of Americans help deliver the very funny movie under the fine direction of by Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad).  The unmistakable Seth Rogan voices Paul the smart ass alien who kicks the movie into high gear with his super powers.

The movie is filled with lines and gestures borrowed from many science fiction movies and I found myself counting them as the film progressed.  The most oblivious is Devils Tower National Monument a site that Close Encounters of a Third Kind made famous.

Paul is rated R for language including sexual references and some drug use so even as cute the alien, please be cautious about bringing immature children.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An A for the Alien. (A)

 

 

Studio Ghibli Releases New Film on DVD

Japan’s most prestigious animation studio has released a new entry into the market called Tales of Earthsea.  Studio Ghibli the production company that made the Academy Award winner Spirited Away and the recent kid favorite Ponyo delivers exciting family friendly films that inspire and entertain.

A new animated feature from Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro has been released on DVD.  The adventure called Tales From Earthsea is the first directorship for Goro and it shows a lot of influence by his father.  The movie is based on the series of fantasy books by Ursula Le Guin.

Set in a fantasy world of magic we follow Arren a prince who is conflicted over a wrongful deed against his father.  Arren travels the land where he meets Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk a master wizard who takes the troubled youth under his wing.  When THE mysterious Cobb tries to destroy Arren over the special sword he carries, an epic battle ensues.

The attention to detail in all of Studio Ghibli is evidenced in this adventure of a troubled youth looking for redemption and self-discovery.  I like the feel of the film in this Asian style of 2D animation that’s more story oriented than the computer graphic delivery we get with most USA productions.

The DVD special features include the The World of Studio Ghibli where you can visit the land of Earthsea in an interactive experience.  It also contains a trivia challenge an much more.

Tales of Earthsea is rated PG-13 for some violent images.  It stars the voice talent of Timothy Dalton (Toy Story 3), Willem Dafoe ( Spider Man) Cheech Marin (Cars, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) and Mariska Hargitay (TV’s Law & Order)