THE DEBT, A SIZZLER THAT FIZZLES

A fairly good drama with a lot of intrigue bows at local movie theatres starring a fine cast.  Although the actors do an excellent job of portraying the interesting characters, the story gets muddled a bit with questions of reality.  If you like films geared to getting you incensed about Nazi war crimes then The Debt is worth a look.

 

The film centers on Stephan and David, two Israeli Nazi war criminal hunters who get an assignment to track down a Dr. Vogel in Russian occupied East Berlin during the 60’s wall era.  Stephen and David have Vogel ready for capture but they need someone to be the patient in their plan.  Rachel, a retired agent accepts the assignment and meets up with Stephen and David in the dangerous occupied zone.  Although the capture takes a turn for the worse, the three find themselves heroes.  Years later, a horrible secret comes to a head.

Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington in THE DEBT

Intrigue saves The Debt from an early downfall in this fictional account of the capture of a Nazi war criminal.  Stellar acting helps the drama unfold nicely as the story skips from one era to another and back again.  I enjoyed the determination showed by the actors to make their characters real and fallible, but the story in my estimation gets implausible.

 

The twist here is not how they perceive the hunt and capture to work, but that no matter how intricate the caper the consequences would have been accepted, especially if you are an Israeli secret agent and true to the cause.  This bothered me and no matter how I played it in my mind I could not come up accepting the outcome of the film. I would be interested in finding out if any of my readers come up with the same conclusion.

 

John Madden does a good job of separating the past and present in The Debt.  Weaving the crime to the injustice, and then infusing the final justice, Madden keeps his audience on edge till the final twist of fate.  Although he did his job, the failed script becomes the loser here.

 

The film is rated R for some violence and language, but be aware that there are some very brutal scenes.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: The production flaw here is in the script. (C )


POINT BLANK, adrenaline pumping thriller

 

Thrilling, Intriguing and vicious Point Blank keeps the adrenaline pumping with excitement at every turn.  A fine cast ably directed by Fred Cavaye puts the film in a league with The Departed.  If you like a lot of action with a harrowing storyline then go and see Point Blank.

 

Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) is a male nurse working at a hospital when his pregnant wife Nadia (Elana Anaya) gets kidnapped before his very eyes. Knocked unconscious, he comes to and discovers that a dangerous criminal named Sartet (Roschdy Zem) is responsible, and if he’s ever to see his wife again, he must do Sartet’s bidding. Samuel quickly finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save the lives of his wife and unborn child.

Gilles Lellouche as Samuel in POINT BLANK

Acting by Gilles Lellouche, Elana Anaya and Roschdy Zem can only be described with words like realistic, stunning and gripping.  The three take on the major roles and with the fine direction of Fred Cavaye put on a great show.  I especially like Lellouche’s energy as Samuel who finds himself in some crazy dangerous situations while trying to free his pregnant wife.  Never wavering, his character pushes forward not knowing what his next test may be.

Samuel (Lallouche) and Nadia (Elana Anaya) in Point Blank

Anaya’s performance as the pregnant wife who has to face a brutal kidnapper with only a month left to her due date.  Her acting gets so realistic that you can feel her fright, exasperation and stamina as Nadia fights to keep her and her unborn baby alive. If she could be nominated for an Oscar, she certainly should be for the realism she put in her anguished character.

 

The cinematography by Alain Duplantier is outstanding getting shots that set the tone for the incredible chases, brutal attacks and punishing reprisals.  Duplantier’s next photography project is just a month away and pits Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro against some nasty assassins in Killer Elite. I can’t wait to see the production, if the camera work’s anything like Point Blank it’s sure to be a winner.

 

Point Blank is rated R for strong violence and some language.  The film also contains scenes of brutality and a disturbing image. The film is presented in French with English Subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A must see for the story and performances. (A)


 

 

 

 

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, A KILLER CHILLER

The summer has been running out of gas and tries to get a boost from several remakes including another horror film called Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  It’s a tale of things that go bump in the night.  In this case it’s little monsters that have a plan.  I like a good horror flick now and then and I found this film a winner in the crowded market.  My only question; why it isn’t being released during the Halloween season, a perfect opportunity missed.

 

The story finds Sally (Bailee Madison) a demure youngster moving in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in a huge 19th century manor where they are renovating it for a quick sale.  Being easily bored Sally explores the huge old mansion in wonderment.  At one point she discovers the house has a secret lower level that has not been entered for almost a hundred years. While exploring a little too much she accidentally opens a doorway that contains creatures intent on destroying everyone in the household.

Bailee Madison as Sally in DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

The whole cast does a very good job of showing off their skills as a family in distress.  I liked Holmes in the roll of the ‘surrogate mommy’ who has to try to win Sally over.  She does an excellent job showing her frustration of not being able to soothe Sally’s feelings that she was cast off by her mother to live with her father.  When things start getting heated up in the horror department, Kim’s the one who has to deal with the worst blow.

Madison and Troy Nixey on the set of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

The star of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark however is Bailee Madison who makes her character believably startled yet curious, then strong in the face of the beast.  Her bewitching eyes, inquisitive mind and captivating smile get turned into a frightful horror that imbues a state of incredible terror. Controlling the circumstances and enabling the plot to spool out slowly not showing his beasts until well into the film, director Troy Nixey does a good job with his young actor keeping her intent with finding out just what she’s up against.

 

What adds to a good horror flick is the camera work and in this film, there are a lot of excellent shots including a scene in the cellar that will blow your mind.  Aided by some very good CGI, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (Unthinkable) puts the audience into a very brutal and scary arena filled with ugly creatures that tear, slice and scratch.  His shots of the exterior mansion and the grounds keep the film chilling and cold, while his interiors are a playground for horror.

 

The film is rated R for violence and terror.  There are some scenes of brutality and gore that are very realistic and should only be viewed by mature adults.

 

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


OUR IDIOT BROTHER, A LOSER

 

If you are looking for a comedy that has a lot of laughs and surprising situations, Our Idiot Brother fails to deliver.  Opening late in the summer wasn’t a good idea since the film comes on the heels of a fairly good year for human humor.  A lot of ‘seen that’ and ‘not too original’ puts this film on a fast track to a low box office.  If you haven’t seen a comedy this year, then maybe it’s worth a watch.

Ned (Paul Rudd) with Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) in OUR IDIOT BROTHER

We enter the life of Ned (Paul Rudd) a 30 something loser that sells homegrown vegetables at an open market with his hippie girl friend Janet (Kathryn Hahn).   Being the idiot he is, Ned sells some pot to a uniformed cop in a sting operation. Serving a short time due to good behavior, Ned gets out of jail only to find out Janet has taken over the business is shacking up with a friend and has no need for him.  Ned decides that his only salvation is to take his problem to his mom and three sisters.  When the family starts taking him in one sibling at a time, their lives start turning upside down.

 

Rudd plays his usual lifeless self with deadpan comedy that has become the industry standard for the loner guy.  You’ve probably seen this character before, especially if you follow film stars like Steve Carell (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Adam Sandler (Just Go With It), Kevin James (Zookeeper), well you get the idea.  Here however, it’s the script that causes Rudd to crash and burn.  His character is so insipid that you cannot feel sorry for the dumb looser.  And the messes he makes are way too avoidable to be realistic.

Elizabeth Banks,Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel as Ned's sisters

In addition to the uncreative writing, part of the blame must go to director Jesse Peretz who didn’t recognize that his story was hackneyed and needed a good script doctor to ramp it up for better entertainment value.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have a great cast including Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer with which to work.  The three likable ladies were dumbed down so much however; it made Rudd’s character look brilliant.  As for predictability, well lets not go there…enough said.

 

Our Idiot Brother is rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.  The nudity is mostly gratuitous and not involving the main female cast, the profanity gets very loose and sometimes embarrassing.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A wreck that started with the script. (D)

 

CONAN THE BARBARIAN, SWEET REMAKE

Hollywood has a way of reinventing things by rejuvenating characters and bringing them up to date with all the bells and whistles necessary to make it ‘fresh and new.’  This is the case of the film Conan the Barbarian where they have remade a classic adding all the CGI bells and whistles then throwing in some topless women for eye candy.  If you love a medieval action adventure that kicks butt, there’s a thrill a minute in the ‘new’ Conan the Barbarian.

 

The story takes place during the Hyborian Age where beastly men look for ways to become Gods.  After being sliced from his dieing mother’s womb, Conan gets raised by Corin (Ron Pearlman) his father a strong man and protector of the village. The villagers arch nemesis a Cimmerian warrior Kahalar Zym (Stephen Lang) pays Corin’s village a visit looking for the last piece of a magical mask that coupled with the blood of a descendent of the Sorcerers of Acheron will turn him into a God.  When Corin resists, Kahalar kills him and finds the last fragment. Filled with revenge Conan (Jason Momoa), now grown, starts his search to destroy the evil one.

Jason Momoa is CONAN THE BARBARIAN

The action is non-stop from the very beginning to its explosive ending.  In between Conan runs into extreme fighting against the protectors of Kahalar, a monster caged in a watery pit, and other devilish adversaries.  But the most incredible fight comes against the sand warriors that attack Conan with relentless energy while he’s protecting the gorgeous sorcerer’s descendent Tamara (Rachel Nichols) from capture.

 

Director Marcus Nispel uses every trick in his bag to make Conan realistic and comes up a winner.  His muscle-laden hero commands the screen with Nispel provided sets and Robert E. Howard’s visceral story.  All of the hideous characters are masterpieces of graphic evil personified.  He offsets the macabre with his grubby slave nymphs and meager villagers making his scenes realistically barbaric.

Conan faces frees slaves

The acting by Jason Momoa is really not bad, unlike Arnold Schwartzinegger at least you can understand what he says.  His muscular body mirrors much of what Arnold brought to the screen, but Momoa gets to add a bare butt for female viewers to buzz about.  Momoa’s Conan shows a lot more agility, expressiveness and realism possibly due to the updated special effects and computer graphics.

 

Nicols gives a steamy performance in one scene that if it was her body for real comes close to a prurient stag show.  She and a bevy of slave girls show some extremely enchanting visual food for mature filmgoers.  Her acting isn’t half bad also making Tamara a strong willed woman that doesn’t back down from a good fight.

 

Conan the Barbarian is rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.  Trust me when I say this is a HARD R and should only be viewed my very mature. The 3D that some theaters will offer does nothing to enhance the film and my recommendation is save the extra bucks.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  An action adventure fit for mature sword and sorcery lovers. (B-)



FRIGHT NIGHT, BLOODSUCKING SCARY

The scary, seething, suspenseful, gory, horror filled Fright Night left me turning my head on my way to the car following the showing.  It’s a frightening flick that takes its toll on those that can have a love for the thrills that evil can provide.  You don’t have to be Goth to enjoy, just a sense of humor and a need to feed your bloody thirst for a good horror movie.

 

Charley (Anton Yelchin) has finally made it to the in crowd in his senior year at his local high school.  He’s got the top girl Amy (Imogen Poots), cool duds and the guys respect him, what more can a teen want.  How about some thrills, just what Charley needs, right?  Well he’s about to get his fill when Jerry (Colin Farrell) a vampire moves in next door and starts raiding the neighborhood for ‘food’.  When his former best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) comes up missing, Charley tries to convince his mother and girlfriend that evil lurks in the house on the left.  Luckily Peter Vincent (David Tennant), the vampire killer is in town performing his magic show.

 

Charley (Anton Yelchin) and Amy (Imogen Poots) face up to a vampire

 

I am a huge horror fan and I’ve seen the 1985 original starring Chris Sarandon as Jerry and Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent and loved it even though it didn’t have all the special effects that ramp up this version.  The remake of Fright Night does have much of the comedy as the first except here they use it as a relief from the horror where in Tom Holland’s it was more of a tongue in cheek campy kind of fun.  While this one has a LOT more horror and suspense, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to rent the original for some good laughs, but not before seeing the remake.

 

Jerry (Colin Farrell) tries for a bite out of Charlie

 

The performance by Colin Ferrell as the relentless blood lusting ghoul is chillingly terrific and most times terrifying.  He brings to Jerry a wicked smile and evil eyes that makes his character very creepy and spine chilling, just what’s needed to carry off the menacing plot.

 

Director Craig Gillespie on the set of FRIGHT NIGHT

 

Director Craig Gillespie does a great job of infusing the intermittent laughs with the help of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Charley’s nerdy best friend Ed who steel many scenes while trying to escape the clutches of the vampire.  Gillespie lays out his story and gets to the meat of it in a very nice fashion leaving no time to make his audience think of other films that may be similar.  He charges right in letting you know who the vampire is and what kind of mayhem he’s taking to the neighborhood.

 

The film is rated R for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references.  The 3D in Fright Night does have some very nasty things coming at you and a scene of glowing ashes that’s quite mesmerizing, thanks to some amazing CGI.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good horror flick with a lot of gory fun. (B)

 

 

THE NAMES OF LOVE, LIBERALLY FRENCH

 

The French really know how to make a lighthearted sexy comedy and the proof comes in a very funny and provocative film called The Names of Love.  Although complicated as most French comedies are, the quirky little film puts on a good show.

 

Do you remember the days when young people were running around in nearly nothing and chanting, “make love not war”? Well if you do then you’ll fall into the audience category for which this movie takes aim.

 

Baya (Sara Forestier) and Arthur (Jacques Gamblin)

Baya’s (Sara Forestier) a single young outgoing, kinda overly sexual liberal that has found a way to solve her political woes, seduce her rivals and convert them to her way of thinking.  Working her way though some very big political names and receiving excellent results, Baya’s on top of the world.  Everything she touches turns in her favor, up until she meets Arthur (Jacques Gamblin), an older man who has made exceptional strides in the scientific community.  Although a fence walker when it comes to politics, Baya still wants Arthur as one of her trophies.  When she finds out that they have a few too many things in common, things start to get complicated.

 

Director Michel Leclerc does a fine job of helping Forestier put together an outstanding performance as the uninhibited girl that takes French lascivious humor to another level.  The comely Forester burns up the screen showing off her beautiful frame and then some.  Boldly she’s Baya and every sly look, prim walk and confident gesture is projected on the screen for all to see.  It’s a gaping mouth voyeuristic film depicting the bliss for which the French are known.

Baya (Sara Forestier) at the beach in THE NAMES OF LOVE

But, Forestier wouldn’t have given the performance of her life had she not been opposite Gamblin who gives her the naive Arthur who doesn’t have a clue that he’s corralled Baya one of the hottest items in Paris.  But it’s not all romance and sex, the film gloats on several issues that challenges the minds of the modern day world, including anti-Semitism, Arab-Jewish relationships, immigration, and cultural identity.

 

The Names of Love is rated R and includes adult situations, nudity, sexuality and language.  The spoken language is French with English Subtitles.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A very good movie for lovers and art film enthusiasts. (B)


FINAL DESTINATION 5, A COOL GROSS OUT

 

Shattering, piercing, suspenseful, queasy, bloody, gouging, bone breaking, mind blowing, and yet mesmerizing that’s what Final Destination 5 is all about, especially in 3D.  This is one of those select few films that use 3 Dimension well and it will blow your mind.  If you have never seen a Final Destination movie or are a big fan of the guts and gore they deliver, then rush to see Final Destination 5, but do not go over a bridge on your way.

 

The premise behind all 5 of the Final Destinations is that you cannot cheat death.  In the first film 8 students get off an airplane as one of them sees a vision that it is going to crash.  One by one the students find that life is an elusive commodity. The next three sequels feature a horrifying highway wreck, a roller coaster ride gone wrong and a car that explodes into the stands at a racetrack.

 

Molly (Emma Bell) as hangs on to the bridge for dear life

 

The special effects, make-up, computer graphics imaging and motion capture are amazing and the real stars of the film.  The opening credits have so much coming at you that it startles.  If you have seen the first four films then you will find most of the weapons of death used in those flicks popping into view.

Jacqueline Macinnes-Wood as Olivia Castle in FINAL DESTINATION

 

The acting in Final Destination 5 comes in above average with some performances exceptionally good especially Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood as the arrogant Olivia Castle who you lean to love to hate for her snotty selfishness.  When her time comes to meet her maker the ‘eyes’ have it.

 

The film is rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language.  If gore makes you ill you may want to stay away from this gross-out.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A goody gruesome for horror hounds. (B)

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 MINUES OR LESS, A ZANY COMEDY

 

The situation action comedy 30 Minutes or Less does a very good job of setting up the laughter while following a story that’s as idiotic as a 3 dollar bill.  The film moves along much like the title with very little time to catch your breath.  It’s a fantasy, but if you accept it then it’s a lot of fun.  If you like films such as Pineapple Express or Fun With Dick and Jane where there’s a lot of unreality with some measure of probability than you should check out 30 Minutes or Less.

 

Without giving a lot away the movie goes something like this.  Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) gets along in life delivering pizza in this small town where there’s not a lot of excitement. Involved in the plot are a couple of hapless delinquents Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) who hatch a plan to knock off Dwayne’s father for the fortune.  Unfortunately the deal with Chango the hit man (Michael Pena) goes bad so the two kidnap Nick to rob a bank for the money to set the matter straight. But there wouldn’t bee a lot of fun if the plan worked out, now would it?

McBride and Swardson in 30 MINUTES OR LESS

 

The actors make this scatterbrain plot work.  McBride plays his usual off-the-wall persona, Swardson kicks in his daffy comedy while Eisenberg uses his dead pan to make the mix work into a lot of laughs.  Throwing comedian Aziz Ansari as Nick’s best friend Chet who tries to make sense of it all becomes a bonus.

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in 30 MINUTES OR LESS

Direction of any comedy takes a lot of vision and Rubin Fleischer (Zombieland) does a great job with timing making the situations screwy enough to elicit the necessary off the screen responses. Although the film’s plot is quite predictable, it’s the fun getting to the weird ending that makes it worth a see.

 

On the downside, in addition to the predictability, I found Ansari’s performance a little too wacky, jumpy and unemotional.  But, that just might be me as I have not seen his role in TV’s Parks and Recreation to get enough feel for his kind of comedy.

Michael Pena as Chango in 30 MINUTES OR LESS

On the upbeat, Michael Pena gives a hilarious performance as the Hispanic hired hit man who gets stiffed on his pay.  Going after Chet and Nick turns into some extremely funny ethnic comedy.  Pena is a mainstay with over 10 years in the film industry playing support characters in such films as The Lincoln Lawyer, Lions for Lambs and his other 26 movies.  Here he shows another side of his many faces inserting nervously scary comedy into 30 Minutes of Less.

 

30 Minutes or Less has been rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.  VERY IMPORTANT: Avoid seeing trailer as it gives away a lot of the sight gags, excitement and comedy traps.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A zany fun film (B)


 

 

 

THE HELP, TOUCHING AND REAL

It’s hard to believe that it was only a short period of time ago that people were still separating black from white.  In The Help we find what a little thing like writing a book could do to stir up segregation and bring it to the forefront.  In this story there’s a huge helping of right versus wrong with an unexpected outcome that reminds all that man’s inhumanity to man did exist even in the good old USA.

 

It’s the 1960’s Mississippi and the women in this particular town are prominent southern ladies who spend their days at teas and community events.  Their social life depends on how they look and present themselves so having a maid or two is a normal thing.  Skeeter, a local socialite, has just graduated college from Mississippi State and returns following her long absence. Being brought up by a black housekeeper she’s familiar with the power of the local ladies over the help.  A New York publisher gets a call from Skeeter about her wanting to write for the publication and the editor tells her that she wants something controversial.  When she offers her a story on ‘The Help’ things start getting edgy in Mississippi.

Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in THE HELP

I like the way writer/director Tate Taylor spools his story out slowly delivering a lot of character build-up in this segregation drama. Featuring fine acting from the whole cast their characters are caring, loving, controlling, hurtful and rebellious making the story forceful and convincing yet entertaining.

Tate Taylor and Emma Stone on the set of THE HELP

Both Taylor and novelist Kathryn Stockett were brought up in Mississippi homes where African American maids did all the work including the much-needed attention to the children of the household.  This first hand knowledge makes the film more real and compelling.  Taylor uses his sets and costumes to depict the era while putting his actors through their everyday routines, confrontations and finally a remarkable showdown that sums up the message embodied the film “Change begins with a whisper”.

 

The musical score by Thomas Newman helps put each of the scenes in the mood intended and remarkably adds to the dialogue. A song by Mary J. Blige “The Living Proof” written and sung by Mary for the film adds power to the presentation. Please stay for the end credits to hear the complete rendition.

 

Emma Stone has been making films for several years, all of which were shallow except for possibly Zombieland where she excelled here as a sweetheart with a cobra’s bite.  Here she does an outstanding job playing Skeeter with a very believable performance showing that yes, she can play with the big girls.

 

The Help is rated PG-13 for thematic material.  It does contain some derogatory language and vicious remarks so please be aware of this in choosing to bring immature youngsters.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very realistic story and reminder of a troubled past (B)

 

 

 

MARS NEEDS MOMS, on 3D Blu-ray

 

Technology has really taken a big leap with 3D home viewing and many films with the original format are now available on Blu-ray 3D.  This is the case with the newest Disney Release to 3D called Mars Needs Moms.  Sure it hit big in theatres to its target group kids and pre-teens, but now adults can check it out at home.  Whether you have 3D or other mode of video, the animation in Mars Needs Moms rivals PIXAR.

 

The story involves a nine-year-old named Milo who like most all pre-teens can’t seem to get a grasp on growing up.  Whether it’s at the dinner table or keeping his room tidy, Milo’s not one to follow that drill.  But his mom thinks otherwise and while she provides a good life for Milo, she finds herself in the same boat as other moms when it comes to adolescents.

 

One evening a huge commotion outside brings Milo to out of bed only to see his mother being whisked away by an alien space ship. In hot pursuit he catches up to the ship and stows aboard.  What happens next is an adventure filled with comedy, danger and a chance to make it all up to mom.

 

The 3D special effects are blazing on a home theater.  The strength comes mostly on the depth of field, but there’s plenty of action that comes out at you.  The most exciting thing I found however is the crispness of the animation.

 

Like most Blu-ray and DVD the fun for the kids here is the replay button that will allow them to run the film over and over again.  The story has a lot of kiddy twists and keeps them interested and laughing.  I found myself getting involved in the story even though I found it a little trite and corny at times.  Sure it’s a one time through for me, but since there are children in my life, it will get played plenty of times.

 

There are some cool extras on each of the formats.

 

If there is a 3D theater in your future you’ll want to get the 3D combo pack which has 4 ways to view, 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy all in one package.  Otherwise Mars Needs Moms can be obtained in a Blu-ray Combo or just a DVD.

 

The extras on the 3D disk include everything on the Blu-ray & DVD plus…. “Mom-Napping (All-new 3D Exclusive) – There‘s more than meets the eye during the Martian abduction of Milo‘s Mom”. This alternate scene — completely finished in 3D — tells all.

 

Blu-ray 2D includes Everything on the DVD plus an “Extended Opening – The movie begins… but wait, there‘s more. See it here.”

 

They all have deleted scenes, and many other fun things to search out.  You know, I never thought the youngsters as young as 5 years old would even find the extras, but my son’s children are pros at it.  And even if they have seen it once, unlike me, they will upload it again.

 

Things like  “Life On Mars: The Full Motion-Capture Experience” – Go way behind the scenes to where the actors performances are captured. This feature-length, picture-in-picture viewing mode also lets you listen to director Simon Wells and actors Seth Green and Dan Fogler give a fun and insightful look into creating the movie.

 

Deleted Scenes with Simon Wells introductions (4 Blu-ray 2D Exclusive Deleted Scenes) – 7 deleted scenes of which four are exclusive to the Blu-ray 2D release. Some cool scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Now you can see them with introductions by director Simon Wells.

 

“Flower Power” Easter Egg – the name of the show that Ki watched and learned English from is entitled ?Freaks on the Street.

 

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, AWESOME

Do you have your Action/Adventure fill for summer, or are you ready for more?  Try Rise of the Planet of the Apes for a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.  I like the way Director Rupert Wyatt makes sure each exciting scene develops with emotion, first creating interest, then suspense finalizing in aggressive thrills.  If you are ready for a creative story that connects to the original, then swing down to your nearest movie theater.

 

The story goes something like this; Will Rodman (James Franco) a budding scientist has developed a virus that has signs of curing Alzheimer disease called ALZ112.  Testing it on chimpanzees he finds that it makes them smart and easier to manage.  His test subject Bright Eyes seems to be progressing nicely till one day where she starts to shy away from her handlers.

 

Because of her aggressive emotional state, one handler tries to move Bright Eyes to another cage and that’s when she bolts escaping from the lab into the foyer. Fearing that she will hurt someone a security guard shoots her, revealing that she was about to give birth.  The ape child Caesar gets taken and raised by Rodman.  When she starts showing signs of over aggressiveness by injuring a neighbor, Rodman is forced to take Caesar to a special primate compound.  When the virus ALZ113 gets discovered things take a serious turn for the worse.

You can see the detail and realism in this shot of the revolt by the apes

The CGI, make-up, puppetry, performance capture, stuntmen and special effects make the film a success. With the film wholly dependent on the realistic look of the apes, the creators do a superb job of binging the animals to life.  I am amazed on how the personalities of each of the animals progress as the film goes on.  Showing the playfulness, cleverness and then aggression of the primates, the crew makes the film work.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) examins the ALZ113 container

Director Rupert Wyatt does a great job of moving the story along at a pretty fast clip introducing his characters, interacting them within storyline and keeping his audience on the edge of their seats.  His selection of Franco as Will Rodman proves to be a perfect choice making the scientist a caring and instinctive person who can relate to the apes.  But the most creative role goes to Andy Serkis as the ape Caesar who Wyatt hones into the most amazing performance this year.

 

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is PG-13 for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence. The film has very little flaws during the nearly two-hour playtime.  All the apes looked real and dangerous when need be.  The support acting is flawless, cinematography bright and expansive, storyline interesting and certainly well worth watching.

 

Stay after the credits start to roll for the thread that makes the final connection to the original Planet of the Apes.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A thriller with a gorilla. (A)



 

 

THE CHANGE UP, MISSES TERRIBLY

Not much to say positive about The Change UP a lame film that tries every old trick in the book to grab your attention and make you think it’s comedy.  The film suffers from ‘I’ve seen that before’ and a sick humor syndrome.  If you think that watching a baby try to stick its hand in a blender is funny, then this is your kind of weird.

 

Two long time buddies, Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave (Jason Bateman), go out to a bar to watch a Braves game, get drunk and end up peeing in a magic fountain that swaps their brains to live in each other’s bodies.  Now straight arrow Dave, a family guy with a gorgeous wife (Lisa Mann) and three kids, has worked hard all his life to be this amazing lawyer on the verge of becoming a Vice President of his firm, while Mitch has been hanging out being a playboy wannabe actor.  So when the two exchange lives the craziness begins.

Olivia Wilde plays office hottie Sabrina

Although I do like what Bateman (Extract) and Reynolds (The Proposal) have done in the past, the script the two have to act out is far too kinky, sleazy and ridiculous for anyone other than hormonal males that need a stimulating brain fix.  That said, Olivia Wilde looks great in the raw, and if she didn’t use a body double, so does Lisa Mann.

Mitch tries his best to be Dave

The Change Up has an inordinate amount of site gags that in most cases cause laughter and for this the film does entertain.  However, that’s not enough here because I really didn’t find myself accepting Bateman inside Reynolds nor Reynolds inside Bateman’s skin.  The two are too much alike to become different and this predictable film proves it.  I really can’t say that any film of this one’s ilk ever worked including Freaky Friday, Like Father Like Son and Vice Versa.  The only one that came close is Face Off where you could feel the sinister coming out of Nick Cage’s Caster Troy and the softening of John Travolta’s Sean Archer.

 

The film is rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use. In the film they present a new term, ‘lorno’ meaning a light porno film and after watching The Change Up I had the feeling I just saw one.  Although comically presented, the over the top scenes tend to be more of a gross out than a misadventure.  Other scenes show babies handling knives, sticking their tongue in an electrical socket and a hand in a blender, all of which are more shocking than funny.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Only if you and your buddy have nothing else to do. (D)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNOW FLOWER, BLOOMS

Beautifully photographed the drama Snow Flower and the Secret Fan provides a stunning window into the lives of four women.  Although the film is a bit long, I found the journey well worth taking. Although a major chick flick, the film still plays well to older males.

 

The film features the custom of laotung a binding of friends for life as soul mates.  The tradition comforts the main characters Snow Flower (Ji-hyeon) and Lilly (Li Bingbing) through the best of times and then the toughest tests of their lives.

 

In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong’s descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai.  Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever.

Snow Flower and Lilly become laotung

Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) pulls excellent performances from his cast although I found myself struggling at times to separate the modern day female pair from their ancestors because he used the same actors.  Even with the make up and costume differences, the ploy just doesn’t work for me.  That said, Ji-hyeon as Snow Flower/Sofia and Li Bingbing as Nina/Lilly are brilliant in their roles portraying the delicate women who have to live through some very hard times.

 

The film does have some drawbacks however; the transitions between the modern day laotung women to their 1800’s counterparts happen a little too frequently, which causes a disjointing of the storyline.  Although director Wang found it a necessary bridge between eras, larger spans of each couples lives would have made the film more compelling.  Continuity suffered from a possible shorting of some scenes, especially the invasion of the Chinese rebels that displace a whole village only to find them returned in such a short span of time.

 

The customs of the early Chinese involve foot binding whereby the parents of young girls wrap their feet tightly so they will not grow.  Since most high-class suitors like women with small feet it becomes a way for most families to increase their station in life. Nicely inserted this binding process generates empathy and sadness for Sunflower and Lilly adding to the emotional charged film.

 

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence/disturbing images and drug use. Be cautions on dragging along immature pre-teens due to the subject matter. English subtitles are used during Chinese dialog.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A challenging film for viewers and the filmmaker. (B-)