THE MUPPETS, ZANY FAMILY FUN

By Susan Phillips Delia, Guest Writer

 

 

I grew up watching “The Muppet Show” on television every week and the new movie The Muppets has all the same characters as the program.  The show hasn’t been around for a very long time so it was great to see the old gang getting back together.  If your children like a lot of silliness and some lessons to be learned in a fun way, then I recommend taking them to see The Muppets.

 

The movie is about the Muppets reopening their studio after a long hiatus, but they find they owe a lot of money on the building.  A bad man Tex finds out that there is oil under the property and wants to get the studio.   In order to save the studio, Kermit sets out to get the whole gang back together and start a new show to raise the money.  In the meantime two men who grew up watching The Muppet Show  set out to help them win over Tex.

 

Kermit, Amy Adams and Jason Segel in THE MUPPETS

The flow of the storyline is right on the mark starting with the two boys growing up and wanting to save the Muppet studio. It shows the passion they have for the Muppets and their wanting them to get back together to save their studio.

 

I loved the film it was a lot of fun there was both singing and dancing, but not too much and the songs are really funny.  They have guest celebrity appearances on the show so for example in order to get Jack Black  they had to kidnap him.  It was a hysterical skit. Other cameo appearances include Alan Arkin, Ken Jeong, Sarah Silverman and many others.

 

My two girls liked the film very much.  The five year old has got one of the songs stuck in her head and sings it a lot and the fourteen year old found The Muppets a lot of fun as well. I found I didn’t have to worry about my youngest wanting a potty break as she focused on all the crazy things going on in the movie.

 

Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Kermit in THE MUPPETS

Kermit is always the group leader so he always treats his friends in a loving way.  There is the normal love-hate relationship between he and Miss Piggy and it was like old times for me.  As far as whether The Muppets will stick around for future films, I feel they can make a comeback but first on TV so children can have that kind of programming. If they do start there than a sequel can be made; other than that this is a one-hit wonder.

 

The Muppets is rated PG for some rude humor. For the most part the film is very wholesome, but there were a couple of scenes that weren’t very nice. It wasn’t scary mind you, but there was this one show called the teacher and they showed people punching teachers that I found to be questionable.

 

 

I will give this a B+ for children, especially younger ones who are aware enough to identify the lesson here of working together as a team.

 

If you would like to be a guest writer please contact me at jdelia.pr@gmail.com

BREAKING DAWN, A GOOD BEGINNING

 

Well the Twilight Saga has finally reached its ebb with the first half of Breaking Dawn that opens this weekend in theaters around the world.  Certainly expected to be earth shaking due to millions of young girls and twenty-something’s rushing to the box-office to get a look at semi-nude Robert Pattenson making love to his comely co-star Kristin Stewart.  It’s all about the look and feel of the film that makes this one a winner.

 

The Cullins at THE wedding

Bella and Edward have a stunningly beautiful wedding, one that could easily overshadow even some of the top weddings ever on film. Following the wedding Edward whisks his bride off to a secluded island for their honeymoon.  When they return home with Bella in pain it incites the Blacks to become vicious.

 

Edward (Pattinson) and Bella (Stewart) on their wedding night

Taking a crack at the ongoing series director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) gets a little edgy with an intense sexually charged wedding night on a private island with his two central stars.  Biding his time with the camera close ups and leaning into the special moment, Condon brings his audience within a hair of the actual act.  But, his reveal the following day provides enough evidence of a very bruising passionate union making the first half of the fourth installment a vampire’s saga.

 

The acting here has developed to a higher level since first we met Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.  Time to grow up and practice with roles in films like The Runnaways and Welcome to the Rileys have made Stewart into a viable star quality actress.  Taking Bella through several almost mystical scenes, dramatic moments and a near death occurrence, Stewart shows she can act.

 

Pattenson has developed extremely well himself using his seasoned ability from such films as Water for Elephants and Little Ashes to make his Edward character very palatable. Together with Stewart they blaze Breaking Dawn in a hot screen appearance together.  His dramatic appeal continues beyond Twilight with Cosmopolis and Bel Ami looking for release dates.

 

But, for the guys Breaking Dawn has dragging issues, especially the long-winded honeymoon that rolls out slowly with too much lovey-dovey before it becomes intimate enough to attract a macho audience.  Even Bella’s ‘growing’ entity within her seems to be drawn out with each of the Cullen women getting into the act, but here there’s forgiveness because Condon needed the time to split the film into two parts.  On the plus side the werewolves vs. vampires attack is very cool.

 

Breaking Dawn is rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements. Be extremely cautious when deciding to bring immature pre-teenagers. The 1 hour and 48 minute film is part one of the final book of the Twilight Saga with part two being released in November of 2012.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A hot beginning to an expected violent ending. (B)

 

 

 

LIKE CRAZY, FLIMSEY & FORGETABLE

 

How to screw up your life without really trying seems to be the theme of the film Like Crazy an inconceivable little film that’s poorly written and delivered.  Even with heartthrobs Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, the unlikely plot just kills any chance for a dramatic winner.

 

Writer director Drake Doremus centers his film on Jacob (Yelchin) and Anna (Jones) two college students who are about to graduate when they meet.  After a quick romantic interlude, the two decide to spend the summer together before going on to their chosen professions.  One problem, Anna is a British subject in America on a student visa and since she graduated must return to England.  But, the whimsical Anna chooses to be with Jacob for the summer turning her nose up at ‘immigration’.

 

Following an amazing summer together, Anna returns to her parents in England to try and figure out her life.  After some long distance romance, Anna returns to America only to get rejected due to violating her student visa and gets sent back to England.  So starts a complicated relationship that mixes marriage, unfaithfulness and a whole lot of sex.

 

Drake Doremus on the set of LIKE CRAZY

Although Doremus sets up a great theme to work with, he fails to instill any chemistry between his characters, provide a realistic script in a reasonable time frame and chooses (like his Anna character) to believe the audience will accept all this in the name of love.  Well, NO! Anna and Jacob have found a special kind of ‘true’ love in the first act that I accepted.  The moment Anna is out of the picture locked in London, however, Jacob starts to get sexually involved with Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence) while he builds his chair business.

 

Anna then convinces Jacob to join her in London and the two decide to get married thinking that would get her a Green Card.  The red tape bogs the couple down so Jacob returns to the United States to run his chair business and goes back to his sexual tricks with Samantha, etc…. leading to an unlikely ending. I could fill in the blanks but just in case you really want to go see Like Crazy, so you can moon over the two main actors, there’s no reason to go any further.

 

As to Jones and Yelchin a suggestion, sweep this one under the rug and move on to another project.  From the looks of things on the screen, you probably already did this by the beginning of the third act.

Like Crazy is rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language.  The film runs 1 hour and 29 minutes.

 

FINAL ANAYSIS: A romantic comedy running on empty. (D)

 

 

 

 

 

MELANCHOLIA, MESMERIZING

 

 

The film Melancholia by writer and director Lars von Trier stimulates the artistic part of the brain with sprawling landscape images, ominous tableaus and threatening visuals of a drifting planet. The film moves along playing out like the definition of its title. Melancholia: a mental condition and especially a manic-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions.

 

Lars doesn’t pull any punches here or hide the intention of the story in any way.  He takes the lovely conflicted Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and pairs her with Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) a love-smitten man who has visions of a future with her.

 

Justine ( Dunst), Michael (Skarsgard), John (Sutherland) and Claire (Gainsbourg) check out a distant plane

In part one (Justine) of the two-act script, the newly married couple are on their way to their reception at a beautiful mansion and are late due to some issues with their limo driver.  The party is a gift from Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) who want to make the late afternoon soirée something that everyone will never forget.

 

A slow moving tableau in MELANCHOLIA

Lars treats his audience to an ominous feast however, complete with a brooding bride who has lost herself in an almost surrealistic emotional despair, a puzzled husband and other elements way beyond the word ‘festive’, ending the event both faithless and unfaithful.

 

At the start of part two (Claire) we find Justine forlorn still at her sister’s vast estate trying to recover from the night before, but this time Lars presents his audience a different kind of depressing stimulus, the threat of a collision between Earth and the roving planet Melancholia.  Here Lars’s camera focuses on the dangerous planet hovering over the estate with its expansive manicured lawns, neighboring lush woodlands, and opulent estate buildings.  Justine begins to succumb to the pull of Melancholia while Claire attempts to draw her out of the dreary mental state. Now on the verge of something even more unimaginable, Claire herself starts to slide into the abyss.

 

Kirsten Dunst feels the force of the planet Melancholia

Melancholia, although an amazing work of art accomplishes what Lars set out to do, make a depressing movie. If I could categorize the film on whether it is the best dismal film ever, it’s certainly near the top of the list. Not a mainstream contender for box-office glory, yet still art for those who like films intriguing and all absorbing.

 

Lars brings out some brilliant acting on the part of the main cast and support players in this fantasy tale.  Providing a stage for their craft with Dunst at the center of the enigma, Lars works his characters into frenzy as they try to come to grips with the inevitable. I especially liked Gainsbourg’s performance as the hapless woman who takes on her sister’s plight only to realize that time has run out for Justine and her family. I would love to see her recognized for her performance with an Oscar nomination.

 

Melancholia is rated R for some graphic nudity, sexual content and language.  The film emits a depressive feeling that may tend to extract a somber mood from susceptible viewers. The film runs just over 2 hours.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A fantasy tableau that captivates. (B)

 

 

“J. EDGAR” a JUNIOR G-MAN

 

The interesting and historical J. Edgar has reached local movie theaters with very good performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts and Judi Dench.  The film has a few flaws, but it does give a good account of the man who was the first director of the FBI.

 

The film follows the life of J. Edgar Hoover (DiCaprio) the first director of the FBI who was appointed to the position in 1935 by the then Attorney General of the United States. During his 37 years in the position he set up a bureau that sought out many famous criminals, set up a library of information on persons of interest to the federal government, and he amassed some unsavory secret files that kept him in his job. His private life with his mother and tawdry long time affair with his assistant Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) plays out intermittently throughout the film.

Clyde (Hammer) and J. Edgar (DiCaprio) during their younger years
The older J. Edgar and Clyde Tolson

The acting and make-up are a plus factor with DiCaprio giving an extremely good effort in the role of J. Edgar Hoover.  His ability to capture the essence of the man showing the power monger unwavering and stern in the quest for the best possible government bureau should get him an Oscar nod.  The skillful make-up prosthetics changes his face showing the character grow older and eerily becoming very reminiscent of the actual man.

 

Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy with DiCaprio as J. Edgar

In support, Naomi Watts brings Helen Gandy his secretary and loyal devotee to life with a superb performance as the ‘other’ woman in his life. But the first lady to Edgar, his mother played by Dame Judi Dench in a performance only she can give, stands out beyond any other support character.  She would only have to give one expressive look at Edgar in response to a question and it shows volumes.

 

What I don’t like about J. Edgar comes in the presentation.  Jumping back and forth from his final year as director to his early life as head of the G-men is very bewildering.  I would have enjoyed the film more if Director Clint Eastwood had introduced the character and started from the beginning of his life with the bureau to the final years.  I found some sections of the film hard to enjoy, especially the Charles Lindberg case that lost its importance with repetitive flashbacks.

 

J. Edgar is rated R by the MPAA for brief strong language, but it also contains a couple of sexual scenes, drug use and crime violence.  The film runs two hours and 17 minutes, about 20 minutes too long.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A good film that could have been better. (C+)

 

ANONYMOUS, a work of art

 

I hope the film Anonymous is true because as being a former Theatre (plays) critic it has always intrigued me if William Shakespeare did or didn’t write his sonnets and plays.  So, being the kind of guy I am and having enjoyed the film so much, it must be very near the truth.  Even if this period piece was all contrived, the settings, costumes, acting and directing provide some awesome entertainment.

 

The film centers on Queen Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave) during her reign in the early 17th Century and Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans) the Earl of Oxford.  Elizabeth has been getting very crotchety at this point in her life and shows it with malice.  Her attendants get the brunt of her emotional trauma but Edward is not without some of the impudence.

 

Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford

Over many years Edward has taken a favor of writing poetry and prose and now in his latter life has chosen to turn some of it theatre. Knowing that Elizabeth will not be happy with his providing entertainment for the local playhouse, he seek out Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), a member of the Globe Theatre and gives him one of his plays.  The play gets performed and the audience wants to know the writer.  Being sworn to secrecy Johnson does not come forward.  Instead Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) comes forward to take the credit.  So begins the intriguing plot that includes danger, revelations, dastardly deeds, greed and an attempt at royal power.

 

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) takes his cast into an era of evocative emotion when England stood on a dangerous precipice and only Elizabeth’s strong powerful devotion to her throne could hold back an insurrection.  Vanessa Redgrave gives a powerful performance as the ‘wicked’ Queen who used her authority to manipulate the people around her.  But, as Edward de Vere, Rhys Ifans one-ups her acting with an impeccable performance of his own.

 

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth in her royal robes
Costumes show the period well
David Thewlis wears his courtly garb while Joley Richardson is dressed for pubic appearance

Anonymous provides a platform for an amazing costume piece.  Combined with some gorgeous sets, special lighting, wide-angle cinematography and excellent make-up the presentation makes a show of its own.  Dazzling gowns, suits, ruddy town’s garb, stalwart guard uniforms and much more set the period in all its glory.  Plays dressed and presented on the ‘Globe Theatre’ stage are striking, rambunctious and fun to watch.

 

As for the validity of the speculative matter here is what Wikipedia says about the subject: “Around 150 years after Shakespeare’s death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him. Proposed alternative candidates include Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Several “group theories” have also been proposed.Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution,but interest in the subject, particularly the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, continues into the 21st century”.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare

 

Anonymous is rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content. The movie runs two hours and ten minutes but moves along at a fast clip with a feast for the eyes.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A work of art by Roland Emmerich. (A) 

 

 

 

 

 

DISNEY RELEASES 3D HOME ENTERTAINMENT BLITZ

 

Upgrading their prestigious vault to 3D, Disney releases four of their animated films featuring family fun.  The popular titles Bolt, Chicken Little, G-Force and Meet The Robinsons hit the stores in 3D Blu-ray combo packs.

 

These latest 3D Blu-ray home entertainment films join ranks with the recent release of the Toy Story Trilogy, Cars 2, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Lion King.  Other 3D releases over the past year include Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gnomeo & JulietTRON: Legacy, Tangled, Step-up 3D, Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Mars Needs Moms.

 

The comedy and adventure in all four new titles is exciting and fun to watch, especially for children.  With the exception of Chicken Little, which I found on a higher adult level, the other titles tend to be a bit more directed at the juvenile crowd.  As for the 3D effect all three are surprisingly very exciting with out-of-the-screen illusions and dazzling depth of field.

Probably the best of the four films Chicken Little bounced on the scene in 2006 with a hilarious telling of “The Sky is Falling” fable.  Released in 3D it has a lot of things coming at you and the comedy is totally over the top. Starring Zack Braff, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Joan Cusack and many other recognizable voices, the film reaches three levels from tots to oldsters.  The film grossed over $135 million dollars in the USA theatrically and won an ASCAP Award for top box office films.

Meet the Robinsons originally released in 2007 the story follows Lewis who goes on a quest to find his parents. Kidnapped and whisked into the future he finds a hilarious family that shows him that there is more to life, even if it doesn’t seem so. On 3D Blu-ray the magicians at Disney created an eye-popping event.  The film grossed nearly $100 million theatrically in the USA.

Bolt originally released theatrically in 3D follows the adventurous wonder dog that gets separated from his owner and goes on a cross-country quest to find her. Joined by a hamster in a plastic ball a feisty cat and three hilarious pigeons, Bolt gets into one funny situation after another.  Kids will love all the adventure and the crystal clear presentation. The film grossed nearly $115 million at the box office when it was released in 2008

G-Force hit the 3D screen in 2009 as a live action with animation film starring some very funny guinea pigs as an elite team of government spies.  Armed with the latest is special ops equipment they go on a mission to save the world.  It a very funny film with a lot of James Bond type action, but what sets it apart from the other kid friendly films is the live action that doesn’t quite hit the younger children’s target market.  The film’s theatrical gross in the USA was just under $120 million.

 

But as far as I’m concerned it’s the youngsters who have to like a film and all four Disney toons should make them laugh and learn.

 

All four films have bonus features:

 

CHICKEN LITTLE: Comes in a 3-disc combo pack, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD and has many bonus features on both the Blu-ray disc and DVD.

 

Blu-ray: Filmmakers Q&A, Audio Commentary, Movie Showcase, Alien Invasion Game, Deleted Scenes, Hatching Chicken Little: the Making of the Movie, Shake A Tail Feather music video, One Little Slip sing along and more.

 

DVD: Where’s Fish? Trivia game, Deleted Scenes, Hatching Chicken Little: The making of the movie, Shake A Tail Feather music video, One Little Slip sing along and more.

 

MEET THE ROBINSONS: Comes in a 3-disc combo pack, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD with bonus features on the Blu-ray and DVD disc.

 

Blu-ray: Audio Commentary, Inventing the Robinsons, Deleted Scenes, Keep Moving Forward-Inventions that shaped the world, Bowler Hat Barrage! Game, Family Function 5000: Family Tree Game, Kids of the Future Showcase, and more

 

DVD: Audio Commentary, Inventing the Robinsons, Deleted Scenes, Keep Moving Forward-Inventions that shaped the world, Bowler Hat Barrage! Game, Family Function 5000: Family Tree Game, Kids of the Future Showcase, Little wonders and more

 

BOLT: Comes in a 4-disc combo pack, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy with bonus features on the Blu-ray and DVD discs.

 

Blu-ray: Super Rhino animated short, Bolt’s Be-Awesome Mission Game, In Session with John Travolta, I Thought I Lost You music video, Creating the World of Bolt, A New Breed of Directors, Deleted Scenes, Act, Speak! The voices of Bolt and more

 

DVD: Super Rhino animated short, In Session with John Travolta and Creating the World of Bolt.

 

G-FORCE: Comes in a 3-disc combo pack, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD with bonus features on the Blu-ray only.

 

Blu-ray: Cine-Explore with Darwin, Blaster and their Creator, Bruckheimer Animated: A Look Back at his CG Work, Access Granted: Inside the Animation Lab, G-Force- Bloopers & Flubs, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos, Blaster’s Boot Camp and G-Force Mastermind

 

VIDEO SPECS:

 

BOLT: Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray = 1080p HD/ Widescreen (1.78:1) DVD = Widescreen (1.78:1)/ Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions

 

CHICKEN LITTLE: Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray = 1080p HD/ Widescreen (1.78:1) DVD = Widescreen (1.78:1)/ Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions

 

G-FORCE: Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray = 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)

DVD = Widescreen (2.40:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions

 

MEET THE ROBINSONS: Blu-ray 3D = 1080p HD – Widescreen (1.85:1)

Blu-ray 2D = 1080p HD – Widescreen (1.78:1)

DVD = Widescreen (1.78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Television

 

 

AUDIO SPECS:

 

BOLT: Blu-ray 3D = English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DVS, French and Spanish Dolby Digital

Blu-ray = English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

DVD= English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

 

CHICKEN LITTLE: Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray = English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray 3D); English 5.1 PCM (Blu-ray), French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

DVD = English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

 

G-FORCE: Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray = English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

DVD = English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

 

MEET THE ROBINSONS: Blu-ray 3D = English 5.1 DTS-HD Master, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Blu-ray 2D = English 5.1 PCM, English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

DVD = English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound

 

I am a fan of animation and the 3D here transfers nicely to Blu-ray.  The colors are great, clarity sharp and the format fit my HD TV just right.

 

I do have preferences for the films however, based on what I think young children will like best:

Chicken Little (A)

Bolt (A)

G-Force (B)

Meet The Robinsons (C )


 

CARS 2 IN 3D Home Video, takes the checkered flag

 

Now available in 3D Blu-ray, Cars 2 drives some cool animation home in time for gift giving.  The world wide theatrical hit making over $550 million took the planet by storm.   The number 11 over all in the Disney/Pixar domestic releases Cars 2’s a zany feature with a lot of action and the kind of fun the whole family should enjoy.

 

In this episode we find Lightning McQueen traveling around the world competing in the World Grand Prix.  Stopping off in several foreign cities, McQueen along with his pit crew and Mater the tow truck, finds themselves fending off adversaries and getting caught up in international espionage.  But, it’s Mater who puts himself in a quandary when he’s coaxed into a top-secret mission led by master British super spy Finn McMissile and his partner Holley Shiftwell.  When Mater gets in over his head, sparks start to fly.

 

The film features an all-star vocal cast including Owen Wilson who reprises his role as hotshot racecar Lightning McQueen. Larry the Cable Guy provides the voice of Mater (proprietor of Tow Mater Towing and Salvage), Lightning McQueen’s best friend and the heart and soul of Radiator Springs. Bonnie Hunt is back as Sally, the baby blue Porsche 911 Carrera whose motor races for Lightning. Acclaimed actor Michael Caine makes his Pixar debut as Finn McMissile, a top British spy who mistakes Mater for an undercover American agent with a genius disguise. Emily Mortimer brings charm, cleverness and cachet as Holley Shiftwell, a rookie field spy who knows every trick in the manual. Versatile actor John Turturro gives a freewheeling performance as Francesco Bernoulli, the world-renowned Italian racing champ who is Lightning’s chief rival. Tony Shalhoub, Joe Mantegna, Peter Jacobson, Jason Isaacs, Eddie Izzard, Paul Dooley, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave also lend their vocal talents. Real-life Formula 1 racing champ Lewis Hamilton and NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon add a touch of authenticity with their cameos in the film.

 

The 3D movie is very kid friendly and although a young lad’s film, it should make the gals in the family happy as well.  I liked the way Filmmaker John Lasseter keeps the action going, adds a layer of adult interest and brings the movie to a show stopping finale. The 3D eye popping effects are very well done and this one has a lot coming at you since it was created in the 3D format for the big screen.

 

The Bonus Features are not overly abundant but what they do have makes for some additional enjoyment. The 5 disc combo pack with the 3D Blu-ray disc, 2 Blu-ray discs, the DVD of the film and movie download disc has the best value since it includes all the formats.

 

The bonuses on the 3D blu-ray have the Cars Toon: “Air Mater” in 3D for their extra.

 

The Blu-ray disc in the combo pack however has a lot more;  In addition to the Cars Toon “Air Mater” in 2D, your are treated to the theatrical short “Hawaiian Vacation, the Director’s commentary, Speak Peek: The Nuts & Bolts of Cars Land and World Tour with interactive access to  Deleted Scenes, Documentaries, Animation and more from different locations in the movie.

 

The DVD has the cream of the extras with “Air Mater,” the Hawaiian Vacation and the Director’s commentary.

 

For fans that are hot on specs of the 5 disc combo pack:

 

Aspect Ratio: Blu-ray 3D: 2.39:1 Aspect Ratio (Feature Film)

Blu-ray:1080p High Definition • 2.39:1 (Feature Film)

DVD: 1080p High Definition • 2.39:1 (Feature Film)

 

Audio: Blu-ray 3D: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Near Field Mix 2.0

Blu-ray: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio ES, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Near Field Mix 2.0

DVD: English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Near Field Mix 2.0 Dolby Digital, English SDH Subtitles

 

Cars 2 is rated G for General Audiences and the movie runs approximately 1hr and 36min, but you can bet that it will be played over and over again.

 

I like the packaging with the 3D cover, the content and the movie with an overall rating of B+

 

 

 

 

 

 

GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE, Interesting But Long

 

A biopic of a very talented French singer, songwriter, actor and director Serge Gainsbourg comes to the screen in all its glory in the film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life.  Set in a time where film stars and the well to do hob knobbed with upcoming artists, the movie is a cornucopia of oddball personalities, wicked interludes and imaginative cultural music.

 

Director Joann Sfar begins his film with the young Lucien (Later changed to Serge) a strong willed young man who fancies art, especially drawing naked women with whom he is enamored.  It’s a time in France when the Nazis are in control and being Jewish Lucien’s family must keep on their toes to avoid being singled out as protesters.  When the yellow Star of David gets introduced, Serg is the first one in line to get one sewed on his jacket. Proud and rebellious, he starts to write songs about the defiant times and romance.

 

 

Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino)

The film takes a giant step forward and we find Lucian now Serg living the life of a the illustrious singer/songwriter writing jazz in the early 60’s moving into funk, rock and reggae in the 70’s and contemporary in the 80’s.  During all this time he gets married and divorced, runs with movie stars like Bridget Bardot, Julliet Greco and Jane Birkin.

 

The period piece covering 5 decades shows the changes that went on in Europe, the strong will of Serge and a society that didn’t really give a hoot except for love and music. Joann Sfar captures the moments through Gainsbourg as he moves through life living it at it’s fullest and making a mark in musical history.  He does a terrific job of turning Eric Elmosnino into the prolific icon who challenges the music of the times continuously protesting with his lyrics and catchy tunes.

 

Brigitte Bardot (Casta) and Serge Gainsbourg (Elmosnino)

As Bardot however, Laetitia Casta steals the show depicting the star as this sweet innocent to Gainbourg until he masters her charms with some of his own.  The chemistry between Casta and Elmosnino gets hot and steamy in a very prurient scene that lingers all too long after Sfar moves to another scene.

 

The film’s downside comes with the length of the story bursting at its seams.  Sfar goes way too much into the depth of this biopic and tires his audience.  I felt that there should have been an intermission between the youngster Lucien (played by Kacey Mottet-Klein) and the accomplished Serg (played by Elmosnino) just to rest my mind between the two brilliant performances. I won’t say the film is boring at all, but I will say overly aggressive.

 

The film is unrated but it does contain nudity, sexual elements, language and some violence.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film that would have been better shorter. (C+)

 

 

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Hysterical

 

Definitely a man flick A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas follows up on the other two outings with a lot of eye candy and sex, but the gals will get an eye full too. You do not have to have seen the other two flicks, but I bet you will go rent them after seeing this wild comedy; it’s as good at The Hangover.

 

Their signature full circle crazy night out takes full swing when Harold’s (John Cho) father-in-law Mr. Perez (Danny Trio) comes to visit their daughter’s new home for the holiday bringing his own homegrown Christmas tree.  In order to impress him Harold volunteers to trim the tree while his new wife Maria (Paula Garces) and the rest of the Perez clan go out shopping.

 

Todd (Lennon). Harold (Cho), Kumar (Penn) and Adrian (Blumenfeld)

Kumar (Kal Penn) in the meantime receives a package at his apartment addressed to Harold so he brings it over to his house.  Upon opening the box they find a marijuana cigarette.  When Kumar lights it up and Harold throws it out the window it flies back in burning down the Christmas tree. So starts the journey to find a replacement tree and the kind of trouble only these two misfits can get into.

 

The film is a laugh a minute with so many funny sight gags, impossible situations, wild parties…well if you have seen the other two films you will know what I mean.  Penn and Cho are amazing together much like Cheech and Chong a couple of decades ago.  Cho always plays the straight man that seems to get himself into harm’s way with Penn entering the situation making it absurd.  The two make the perfect team for their style of comedy that hardly ever gets matched on the screen.

 

Harold, Neil Patrick Harris and Kumar perform the Nutcracker

In this episode there’s a lot of crudeness with Wall Street protesters throwing eggs, dog fecies and other stuff that pushes the yuck factor. There’s even swinging parties with sex going on in bedrooms and trouble from the Russian Mafia caused by Kumar’s friend Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld). But most of the wickedness comes with the drug use.  When the Christmas tree burns down Harold calls his new best friend Todd played by Tom Lennon who has his young daughter in tow.  With smoke from joints blowing in her face and cocaine snowing down on her it adds to the silliness that feeds the laughter throughout the film.

 

The 3D adds a lot of fun to the film and it’s done amazingly well with a lot of eye popping elements that crash through the screen, float through the air and fill the theater with things like snow flakes, marijuana smoke, cocaine dust, parts of a car, and too many more to mention.  It’s an excellent use of the special effect in most scenes making the film extremely fun to watch.

 

This is the G rated version

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.  Oh, be warned that if you have ever watched the film A Christmas Story then you know the scene where the boy has his tongue frozen to the flagpole. Well in this film Harold and Kumar do their own take on the unfortunate situation.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: It’s a laugh riot for males and a blush for the ladies. (A)

 

THE SON OF NO ONE, A TAUT CRIME DRAMA

 

Sprouting some good acting from new actors The Son of No One becomes a showcase for their talent.  Even with the fine acting however, the movie tends to ramble in the hands of director Dito Montiel.  It becomes two films, one about a hopeless child, the other a man who has to come to terms with his unfortunate past.

 

The film opens with a startling shot of a crazed man going into a rundown neighborhood housing project looking for his gun.  Climbing several stairs he busts into an apartment and yelling for his gun, when he enters the bathroom, young Jonathan White (Jake Cherry) shoots the man dead.  His friend Vinnie (Brian Gilbert) who witnesses the tragedy helps Jonathan get rid of the body.

 

Channing Tatum and Juliette Binoche

Fast forward 17 years and we find White (Channing Tatum) as a patrol policeman just transferred to Queens, the neighborhood in which he grew up.  A ‘good’ cop with a lot going for him he gets handed a case that’s being reopened due to the prodding of a Queens’s newspaper reporter Loren Carter (Juliette Binoche).  So begins a suspenseful drama that twists and turns right up to the final ‘shot’.

 

 

Channing Tatum and Al Pacino in THE SON OF NO ONE

Tatum does a very good job as the patrolman trying to ‘solve’ his own case.  If you saw the film Fighting, you get the idea of his ability to play tough yet endearing characters and as Jonathan he accomplishes just that.  His opening scene shows this suspicious yet righteous man and slowly you see the reasons. Not having asked for the transfer, Jonathan becomes worried about his duty and when the case is handed to him Tatum takes his character to even a darker place.

 

But for an excellent performance it’s Jake Cherry as the young Jonathan who finds himself an orphan living in an unsafe ghetto house with his grandmother not knowing when harm will come to him.  When a crazy intruder confronts him there’s panic in his face and when the gun goes off he becomes totally frightened.

 

Another great performance comes from an actor who most know as a consummate comedian Tracy Morgan who plays the grown up Vinnie.  Making an amazing transformation into a aimless sole Morgan creates this psychological wreck that’s been living with his past unable to shake witnessing the murder and the sexual abuse from his mother’s boyfriend.  It’s an important role and one he handles with ease.

 

Putting the story together with swings from past to present and back again can be difficult and depends on good acting to carry both time frames.  The ‘past’ comes together quite well with Montiel helming the gritty scenes with ease much like his ghetto fist to face actioner Fighting.  Gilbert and Cherry are molded nicely into the poverty ridden teens that are trying to survive in their unsafe world.  Even Al Pacino as Detective Stanford does a good job as the cop handling the murder case involving Jonathan.

 

If there is a downside it comes with the present day sequences that tend to be somewhat predictable, trite and lacking in performance value.  Although Tatum handles his character well, I am not as happy with Liotta as Captain Marion Mathers or Katie Holmes as the wife of Jonathan White.  Both roles looked forced and unrealistic.

 

The Son of No One is rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief disturbing sexual content. The movie also shows some drug use and a scene of animal abuse.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A powerful story that looses strength in the present day time frame. (C+)

 

TOY STORY TRILOGY, POPS IN 3D

 

Now here’s the way to release a trio of classics, with the whole set, not only in Blu-ray but in 3D as well.  The whole Toy Story trilogy comes to Blu-ray with Toy Story 1 & Toy Story 2 in a 4 Disc package and it’s newest Toy Story 3 in a 5 Disc package.

 

Woody, Buzz and Jessie peep through a fence in TOY STORY 3

For the first time ever, I was able to see Toy Story in the new format and it is dazzling.  Not only do you get the enhancement of the Blu-ray but also it’s even more eye-popping in 3D.  And that goes for Toy Story 2 and 3 as well.  The colorful toys are enriched using the blu-ray system and when Buzz Lightyear goes into orbit the first time it’s like being in the room with him.

 

Toy Story 1 is set in a world where toys come to life when people are not present.  The movie opens in Andy’s room a youngster that adores Woody a talking cowboy with a pull string.  Going everywhere with the toy, Woody is the leader of all the other toys in the room and their protector.  But it’s Andy’s birthday and he’s about to get gifts putting Woody in a tizzy as to what new playthings will be added to his realm.  When Andy gets superhero space action fighter Buzz Lightyear, the toy room starts seeing a rivalry for supremacy. It’s a comical adventure with action and surprises at every turn, one that’s at the top of my list of animated films for children.

 

 

Toy Story 2 finds Woody kidnapped by a toy collector putting the gang in a panic.  Lead by Buzz Lightyear they leave the security of the toy room and go downtown to the kidnappers toy store to save him.  When things get out of control involving a valuable Woody’s Roundup Collection, the toys pull off a death-defying rescue. It’s a companion story to the first and introduces new characters that live on in the third sequel to this never aging trilogy.

 

 

 

 

Toy Story 3 finds Andy grown and getting ready for college leaving the toys in a quandary on whether they will have a home. In an attempt to give them a good home they are taken to the Sunnyside Daycare Center where they meet many new toys that look worse for wear. When Andy finds the going rough he plans an escape.  In this story we find the action more intriguing and suspenseful.  It’s Andy and Buzz against a whole room filled with mismatched dolls, cars, and other toys that have been abused.  I liked this one as an adult because it’s more edgy and has a lot of action.  The movie is the all time DISNEY/PIXAR release with a worldwide box office of over a billion dollars and ranks 10th in all movies live action and animation for the United States.

 

Toy Story 1995 was nominated for three Oscars for music and story and was presented with an Oscar for Special Achievement.  Toy Story 2 came out in 1999 and was nominated for and Oscar in the music category.  But 2010’s Toy Story 3 won two Oscars including Best Animated Feature.  It took the Oscar for best song “We Belong Together”.  Even though it is an Animated movie it received nominations in both the Animation Best Picture and the overall Best Picture.

 

Tom Hanks voices Woody in Toy Story trilogy

The main Voice Talent: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm) and Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head) are superb in their voice roles. I especially like Joan Cusack as the feisty Jessie introduced in Toy Story 2 who hits on Woody to try starting a relationship. Her character provides a lot of laughs along with a few touching scenes.

 

Bonus features are many on each of the Toy Story sequels.

 

Toy Story 1 has Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off, three Animated Studio Stories, Buzz Takes Manhattan, Deleted Scenes, and over 90 minutes more bonus.

 

Toy Story 2 has Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station, three Animated Studio Stories, Pixar’s Zoetrope, Toy Box: Outtakes and Alternate Scenes, Deleted Scenes and more.

 

Toy Story 3 has “Day & Night” Theatrical Short, Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure, Toy Story Trivia Dash – Interactive Game, Cine-Explorer with Director Lee Unkrich and Producer Darla Anderson, Bonnie’s Playtime – a story roundtable with director Lee Unkrich, Paths to Pixar: Editorial, three Studio Stories, and more.

 

Now for you guys who keep writing me and asking for more technical features about what 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVDs have to offer, Disney has covered all bases as far as my needs being met. For those of you who wrote about lightness and darkness issues in the 3D Blu-ray format, again it’s up to your systems quality and room lighting for best 3D viewing.

 

For Viewing, all three films have the same aspect ratio where the 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray movie presentation fits the TV screen extremely well, especially if you have the 1080p HD system that translates into a 1.78:1.  It fills the screen like you were in the movie theater for best viewing.  Even the DVD in the package is set up as widescreen (1.78:1) for full effect on comparable equipment.

 

The audio for Toy Story 1&2 are identical for the Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray = English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DTS-HD, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish & French 5.1 Dolby Digital EX. Toy Story 3 comes in slightly different with a Blu-ray 3D = English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX. Blu-ray = English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX. DVD = English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital.

 

Toy Story is also available in a 3-Disc Blu-ray 3D Trilogy Set (includes a Blu-ray 3D copy of each of the three movies).  So if you already have the DVDs of Toy Story then get ready for 3D Blu-ray and Blu-ray all in one box.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A trio of toddler family films that make the grade on home video. (A)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE RUM DIARY, A TIPSY TWISTER

A testy screenplay that turns conventional upside down becomes an enjoyable madcap adventure with Johnny Depp’s ‘intoxicating’ performance.  The daring filmmaking that takes a chance with the outlandish Hunter S. Thompson book The Rum Diary comes up a winner.  Not a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but a very good companion piece.

Johnny Depp nails Hunter S. Thompson’s oblivious character Paul Kemp in this sociopolitical drama making the sordid plot a delight to watch.  Playing a more likeable character than he did in Fear and Loathing, where he was extremely over the top, here you’ll have more feeling for Kemp, a confused and more malleable character that has no clue as to what he’s getting into.  Torn by extremely different surroundings from his last position as a reporter at the New York Times, Depp’s character crumbles quickly to the wims of the Puerto Rican establishment that runs the awakening island.

Sala (Michael Rispoli) and Kemp (Johnny Depp) in THE RUM DIARY

Bruce Robinson (Jennifer Eight) directs the ditsy story using every bit of Depp’s talent to develop his quirky characters.  Capturing Thompson’s early 60’s political scene of disenchantment with the United States in Puerto Rico, Robinson uses the sinking San Juan Star newspaper as his centerpiece to show Kemp entering a world very much unlike his former New York gig.  Being a plum for the failing rag, Kemp quickly makes friends with a couple of staff members including Sala (Michael Rispoli) the staff photographer who has become very acclimated to the quirks of this island ‘paradise’ who leads him down a primrose path.

The highly character driven film takes a lot of twists and turns that show Kemp’s naïve acceptance of the internal frustration of his fellow employees, discovering the greedy American Entrepreneurs and his fascination for Chenault (Amber Heard), a hot uncontrollable woman stuck in the world of her wealthy underhanded fiancée.  Throughout this incredible life-altering interlude, Kemp drinks himself silly, slowly becoming a part of the island’s madness and the popular insurrection he cannot avoid.

Chenault (Amber Heard) and Kemp get acquainted in THE RUM DIARY

The film has an outstanding performance by Respoli who makes his Sala a troubled man totally frustrated until he meets Kemp.  Providing the catalyst for Kemp to get involved in a story to expose the shady dealings in San Juan, Respoli brings an amusing character to an otherwise disciplined story.  As the half crazed writer Moburg, Giovanni Ribisi puts on an Academy Award worthy show.  His offbeat, drugged out role gives Ribisi a chance to show of his incredible talent.

The Rum Diary is rated R for language, brief drug use and sexuality.  The film also contains a scene of violence.  It’s a film buff’s delight and a mainstream moviegoer’s uncertainty, but if you stick with the pleasures of the craziness of it all you may find a real gem.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A toast to Depp, Rabisi and Rispoli for the tipsy twister. (B)

MARGIN CALL, A STUNNER

At first look you may think that Margin Call is an extension of the film Wall Street, but as the film progresses I found a very good movie that really shows the effect of greed, contempt, lack of compassion and survival of the fittest, no matter who gets squashed in the process.  It’s like our economical climate these days, you never know when or where the next shoe will drop.

Using the background of the stock market crash of 2008 writer director J.C. Chandor takes his film into the bowls of a stockbrokerage house that’s on the verge of folding due to the collapsing of the formula used to equate their business’s viability.  It’s a taught drama that reveals the workings of the investment company in relationship to its clients, workforce and the people at the top.  Chandor doesn’t pull any punches as he gets his characters involved in the plot to save the dissolution of the company no matter how many jobs, small businesses and lives are at stake.

Jeremy Irons as John Tuld in MARGIN CALL

From the onset of the first act there is this feeling of impending doom that slowly settles over the firm.  Chandor uses the strength of his cast to take on the company, deal with the problem and accept the solution.   Jeremy Irons brings his tough persona to John Tuld the owner of the investment house that’s about to change the economy of a good size portion of the world.  Stubborn and passionate about keeping his company going in spite of what it will be doing, Tuld works himself into a one way no return decision.

Kevin Spacey as Sam Rogers in MARGIN CALL

However it’s Spacey’s strong sense of right that makes Sam Rogers the adversary to the no win decision that makes this film work.  Chandor focuses on Rogers who goes head to head with the impossible in this clash between upper management and his devotion to the employees under him.  It’s his drive in an attempt for a resolve, no matter if it means the demise his own job that controls all the drama.

The support cast helps the film along especially Paul Bettany as Will Emerson the upcoming analyst that brings the problem to his boss and Stanley Tucci as the scapegoat for the error, both delivering excellent characters that up the suspense level.  Even though not in the film very much, Demi Moore makes an appearance as Sara Robertson a corporate damage control specialist.  Her Robertson reminded me of the malicious personality as Merideth Wilson in Disclosure.

The film is rated R for language so keep this in mind if you have to bring an immature child along to avoid a babysitter.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A taught drama that delivers an eye-opening blow. (B)

 

 

JOHNNY ENGLISH, A SQUEEKY SEQUEL

 

It’s very hard to repeat a performance of  a character after an 8-year hiatus from the role and Rowan Atkinson, as Johnny English just isn’t as funny anymore.  Maybe its because I love Atkinson as Mr. Bean and in Johnny English Reborn the lack of the amazing wordless dialogue in Bean’s facial expressions are hard to forget. Or it just may be that seeing another spoof on James Bond just doesn’t make it anymore.

 

In this sequel we find super spy MI-7 Johnny English setting out to stop international assassins from killing the Chinese Premiere and causing chaos among nations.  Now with new martial arts skills that he has perfected since his last mission he’s ready for anything.  Armed with some not so amazing gadgets, he leaps into action.  When he finds himself headed for disaster, Johnny must turn the tide back in his favor.

 

Atkinson really disappointed me with this go around and maybe he should have retired after his last Mr. Bean movie at the top of the heap.  He really doesn’t shine under the direction of Oliver Parker who strikes out yet with Johnny English Reborn after failing miserably in his last three outings.

 

Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English

Parker salts his production with a couple of notable actors including the gorgeous Rosamond Pike (Barney’s Version) and the dashing Dominic West (300), but from there on the cast dwindles into television actors and upcoming newbie’s.  He isn’t able to create the laughter necessary to keep the adults happy or the kids bopping in their seats more than a few times.

 

Maybe it’s the worn-out script as it’s somewhat like The Pink Panther, Get Smart, Spies Like Us, The Spy Next Door, Spy Hard and so many more action comedies.  However, movies with take off’s of James Bond have made it big at the box-office especially The Austin Powers franchise that made nearly $300 million.  So we’ll just have to see if America needs a rebirth of Johnny English.

 

The argument here may be moot considering that the film is aimed at a juvenile audience that spends a lot at the box office.  Just give them some falling down sight gags, a few dumb adversaries that can’t shoot straight, a foolish incredibly impossible escape and there’s money waiting to be banked.

 

The film is rated PG for mild action violence, rude humor, for language and brief sensuality. Oh yes, the brief sensuality was surly thrown in there for adults to at least keep awake during the showing.


 

FINAL ANALYSIS: If you must have your youngsters see this film, c’est la vie (Sorry for my French). (D)