The Lion King 1 1/2 and The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride Now on Blu-ray

Two of The Lion King trilogy, The Lion King 1 ½ and The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride are now on Blu-ray.  The two animated films include some good special bonus features and with the Blu-ray format the picture on my home entertainment center screen is sharper and the colors more vibrant.

The story of The Lion King 1 ½ mainly involves Pumbaa and Timon, the wild and crazy warthog and Meercat that were the first to come upon Simba when he got lost in The Lion King.  In this animated motion picture we find the two fun loving characters romping through the jungle way before The Lion King starts.  We find out where the two came from, how they met and how they helped save the savanna on the Serengeti.  It’s a hilarious tale and one the kids will easly understand. Read more

Thin Ice, A Slippery Plot

It seems like ages since a movie featuring a good cunning tale unraveled on the big screen and I’m happy to say Thin Ice fits the bill.  A smartly written well-acted story with so many twists and turns I found myself wondering, “How did I not see that coming”?  It’s a deceiving, manipulative and funny film played out in a quick tempo that kept me spellbound throughout.

The story centers on Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear) a small-time insurance agent looking for a way to increase his business and escape from the Wisconsin snow. A salesman who can sell as long as he can find someone to believe his smooth tongue delivery and there’s money to be had. At a conference where he gives a speech he meets Bob Egan (David Harbor) who gets hired by Mickey to get leads for his insurance business. Read more

Shame, Erotically NC-17

Brilliantly written, cunningly directed and very disturbing Shame gives a fly on the wall view of eroticism.  What makes this film a work of art however, comes with the fine acting by Fassbender and Carey Mulligan who give performances worthy of an Oscar.

The story centers on Brandon (Michael Fassbender) a successful businessman in New York’s fast lane that can’t feel love with his women, but still craves them for sex. He frequents places where he can hook up with ladies who either just want a good time or receive money for their services.  His thirst for power over women has driven him nearly insane.  When his outlandish sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) moves in with him on the pretext that she will get a job to be able to go out on her own, Brandon’s troubles start to escalate beyond his mental control.

Amusing and different are the best words I can come up with at this time of writing my review.  Shame is amusing in that it provides a voyeur’s window on Brandon’s erotic world allowing us the audience to judge his way of life.  Totally off the wall, suggestive of incest and a sordid series of romps the film is worthy of a soft porno.  The movie gets sometimes disgusting yet it’s very hard to turn away. Read more

TEXAS KILLING FIELDS, A Suspense Filled Thriller on Blu-ray

A very good script, fine direction and top-notch actors make Texas Killing Fields, now on Blu-ray/DVD, a suspenseful thriller.  The film, based on a true happening, winds its way through crime scenes, suspects and chases leading up to a final exciting confrontation.  If you like movies that are intriguing with a lot of action, then check out this title now available.

The film centers on Detective Souder (Sam Worthington) who heads up the homicide division in Texas City a small Texas town.  He has just acquired a new partner, Detective Heigh (Jeffery Dean Morgan) a top cop from New York City.  When we meet them they are tracking a killer who has dumped a body by a roadside.  At the same time, an abandoned car is discovered in an adjacent town’s swamp nicknamed “The Killing Fields” due to four bodies being found there. But, that town’s detective, Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain) is very protective about that crime scene and it makes it difficult for the outsiders to investigate the murder in their vicinity.  When Anne (Chloe Grace Moritz) a popular middle school girl in Souder’s precinct goes missing, all three detectives know that they are on the clock.

Director Ami Canaan Mann makes here film exciting from the opening scene body discovery, a tough town of impoverished people resisting the investigation and suspects turning up all over the place.  Using Worthington (Avatar) and Morgan (The Losers) as a pair of tough cops who stop at nothing, she creates a lot of intrigue and action.  Chastain (The Help) does a good job of playing the feisty neighboring detective who doesn’t want the two outsiders tromping on her crime field, especially since one of them happens to be her ex-husband.

Adding a bit of urgency, Moritz (Kick-Ass, Hugo) turns on the charm as the young poverty-stricken girl who has to deal with an alcoholic mother who takes on men for extra cash.  As Anne we find her trying to cope with her situation and stave off advances by her mother’s boyfriends.  She’s the catalyst that leads to the exciting ending.

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz7zk1xqFMI&feature=relmfu[/youtube]

After you have watched the movie than go to the set up feature and turn on the audio commentary featuring Director Ami Canaan Man and writer Donald F. Ferrarone.  The two go into more depth how the film came about, the choosing of the actors, and details that may have been missed while you were watching it the first time through.

The film has been rated R by the MPAA for violence and language including some sexual references.

Editor’s Note: Texas Killing Fields got its inspiration from the true events that took place in League City, Texas where bodies started turning up leading to an investigation of a possible serial killer in 1986.  According to the Houston Chronicle newspaper the case has never been solved and two women have yet to be identified connected with the crimes.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good intriguing crime flick. Feature (B), Bonus Commentary (B), overall experience (B) 

TECHNICAL INFORMATION:

  • Cast: Sam Worthington, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Chloe Grace Moritz, Jason Clarke and Jessica Chastain
  • Director: Ami Canaan Mann
  • MPAA Rating: R (for violence and language including some sexual references)
  • Genre: Thriller, Crime, and Drama
  • Running Time: 1 hr 45 min
  • Format: 2.40:1/16×9 Full Screen 1080p
  • Sound: Blu-ray – Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Street Date: January 31, 2012
  • Distributed by: Anchor Bay Films

 

ALBERT NOBBS, TOP DRAWER

 

Headlining the film Glenn Close gives a magnificent performance as the title character in Albert Nobbs.  The very emotional and tragic drama provides a platform for her amazing talent.  Including a noted cast, fine direction by Rodrigo Garcia and remarkable cinematography that sets the bleak Irish period, the movie wins big.

 

The story centers on a forty-year-old woman passing as Albert Nobbs a waiter in a hotel in order to survive a depressing time in Ireland’s history.  She’s familiar with being a man; Nobbs has been portraying one since fourteen to keep her alive.  Getting on in age and depressed as to what she has missed as a woman, she hoards her money in a chance to start a new life openly as a shop owner.  Since she does not share of room with anyone, the hotel owner puts the plumber up with her for the night.  When the plumber accidentally finds out Albert is a woman, things take a turn in her life.

 

Helen (Mia Wasikowska) walks with Albert (Glenn Close) on a date

Glenn Close puts on a great show as the man who takes pride in being a master waiter in the upscale Morrison Hotel.  A much asked for and respected waiter Nobbs leads the staff in making the dining service impeccable.  Brilliantly adorned and with just the right makeup it’s hard to tell the difference where the man ends and the woman begins.  Her mannerisms perfected, voice throated and charms muted Close emits the sadness and tragedy in her many years of hiding her womanhood.

 

Although Albert Nobbs certainly showcases Close’s acting prowess, it’s her support cast that allows her to give her Oscar nominated performance.  As Helen a young maid in the Morrison Hotel who becomes the object of Nobbs’ sexual freedom, Mia Wasikowska attractively creates the innocent servant and object of his desire.  Flirting with Nobbs, a man of twice her age, Helen must do so to obtain the finer things that have passed her by. She’s the pawn in Nobbs’ fantasy to leave the hotel and start a better life.

 

Glenn Close and Janet McTeer both nominated for 2012 Oscars

Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actress in Albert Nobbs Janet McTeer gives the performance of her career as Hubert Page, the plumber who through happenstance ends up in Nobbs’ room. Hubert adds fuel to Nobbs’ plan to gain sexual freedom, an existence that will offer love and companionship.  It’s McTeer’s character that actually helps Nobbs realize the ability to reach out for her dream.

 

Director Rodrigo Garcia, more known for his cinematography, does a superb job of bringing the story to life on the big screen.  He molds his characters into interesting people alive and full of life while his keen eye elevates the development of the period, costumes, The Morrison Hotel, cobblestone lined mercantile village, and other visuals that transport the moviegoer to the time and setting. He wastes no time introducing his main character, the center of his artistic challenge, and focusing on her throughout.  Providing a platform for the great actress, he pulls back his camera and lets Close spin his tale.

 

Albert Nobbs  has been rated R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A fascinating emotional drama with outstanding performances. (A)  

 

 

A DANGEROUS METHOD, DEPRESSING

 

You have to really dig deep to find a perfect performance in A Dangerous Method, unfortunately there isn’t a big cast from which to choose, Keira Knightley over acts, Viggo Mortensen very dull and Fassbender a little distant.  Disguised as a biography, it’s more of a blip on an electroencephalograph in the life of some noted psychoanalysts.

 

The movie features more of a story about Sabina Spielrein’s (credited as the first female psychotherapist) who was damaged by her father spanking the youngster as youngster up through pubescence during which she had sexual emotions. After reaching adulthood Spielrein’s emotions get the best of her so her mother sends her to noted psychoanalyst Carl Jung to be studied.  Jung discovers that Spielrein has a deep desire for masochism and treats her for it. After a few years Jung finds Spielrein has potential for being a clinical psychoanalyst so he awards her an internship, but not before having a sordid affair with her. Jung realizes he’s in jeopardy of being exposed for the tryst with Spielrein so he consults Sigmund Freud who helps him start to resist the temptations brought on by his lust for the woman.

 

Fassbender as Jung and Kinightley as Spielrein

The acting leaves a lot to be desired, mostly attributed to the script and direction by David Cronenberg who takes his actors and tries to transform them into unrealistic characters beyond their scope.  He then gives his movie goers a segment of sexual perversion between Jung and Spielrein that creates an unusual visual in an attempt to peak curiosity.  Not a prude here, but in researching Spielrein on the Internet I found no evidence that she involved herself in the deviant practice.

 

Spielrein and Jung start to modify each other's behavior

Cronenberg best known for his blood and aggression in movies such as Eastern Promises, The Fly, and History of Violence starts his film with a bit of over acting by Keira Knightley who distorts her face profusely, spatters and shows strong emotional distress.  Her extremely grotesque facial expressions look forced and fairly comical destroying any possible realism for me. This emotional outburst made me wonder why she wasn’t brought to Jung’s medical facility in a straightjacket instead of an unrestrained carriage ride.

 

Both Mortensen and Fassbender play their characters with a lot of deadpan seriousness probably trying to give their audience a picture of what a psychoanalyst should look like during the early 20th century Austria.  To me, however, it was very stuffy, boring and lackluster. Cronenberg would have interested me more showing the works of Jung and Freud dealing with other patients so as to flesh out their characters.

 

Cassel as Otto Gross chats with Jung

But not all the acting is questionable in A Dangerous Method. Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross a tormented Austrian psychoanalyst and disciple of Sigmund Feud puts on a spirited show.  And Sarah Gadon does a fine job of playing the lovely Emma Jung, wife of the famous Therapist, who has to deal with a choice between love and family.

 

On the bright side, I did like the cinematography showing the early turn of the century Austria prior to the First World War.  The costumes, countryside, estates and scenic views are brilliant.

 

A Dangerous Method has been rated R by the MPAA for sexual content and brief language.  It also shows a scene of drug use.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A historical fragment of Jung and Freud, nothing more. (D)

 

 

 

 

 

 

REAL STEEL, is Smashing on Blu-ray/DVD

 

 

It’s not Rocky, it’s Real Steel, but you would think you were watching the great boxing film in another dimension.  Now on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack the gritty, action packed fight film blows the lid off some extreme robots on it’s way to being an entertaining movie for those who like a good punch fest.  I liked this film for the action, comedy and father-son relationship and now that it’s on Blu-ray, on my home entertainment system, it’s still got me hooked.

 

 

It’s the year 2020 and human-to-human boxing has been moved aside for the exciting 2000 pound 8 foot steel robot contenders who draw crowds and gambling from around the world.  It’s a big business with huge purses for the right boxing events.

 

Down on his luck ex-boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) has just had his bot destroyed in a bout and heads back to his hometown gym.  The only thing left for him to do involves signing papers so his deceased ex-wife’s parents can take custody of his son Max (Dakota Goyo).  Needing money to purchase another bot Charlie makes a big money deal with his ex-wife’s father in exchange for his signature and to leave the boy alone.  The deal however has one glitch; Charlie would have to keep max for the summer while his ex-in-laws takes a trip to Europe. When Max gets to go on the road with Charlie for a robot fight however, their relationship gets complicated.

Real Steel has an explosive script and director Shawn Levy fills every inch of and home screen with hard-hitting robot action.  Much like Transformers, the robots here move about so realistically that it’s like having a ringside seat in the future of boxing.  Levy keeps the film moving at a fast clip making the 2 hours plus an exciting event.

 

A standout performance by Dakota Goyo as Max makes the film work.  The feisty kid has his mind set on winning big when he finds a worn-out ‘fighting robot’. Goyo works well with director Levy turning out a stubborn yet emotional character that becomes very likable.  The movie is so good I included it in my Top Ten Feature Films for 2011.

 

Real Steel is rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action, and brief language, but nothing more than you see in the Transformer films.  If you like this film, then rent  or buy a movie called Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone another exciting father/son film.


BONUS FEATURES:

 

2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack  (1 Blu-ray Disc + 1 DVD)

 

REAL STEEL SECOND SCREEN – You can interact with you computer or iPad while you watch the movie on your Blu-ray player.  You will get hours of never-before-seen content.  You can go ringside with Director Shawn Levy on an action-packed journey into the world of Real Steel that you control.  In addition you will be able to see cutting edge technology used to create the robot battles.

 

Additional Blu-ray bonuses are:

Countdown to the Fight—The Charlie Kenton Story

Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ

Deleted and Extended Scenes with introductions by Shawn Levy

—Extended “Meet Ambush”

—Deleted “Butterfly” Storyline

 

PLUS On the enclosed DVD are these Bonus Features

 

1-Disc DVD (1 DVD)

Making of Metal Valley

Building the Bots

Bloopers

 

Real Steel also comes in a 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack that includes the Blu-ray with all the bonus features mentioned about, a DVD with the bonus features and a Digital Copy of the film to use for mobile options and your computer.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good story with awesome action to boot. Feature rating (A), Bonus features (A), Overall experience (A)

 

 

DISC SPECIFICATIONS:

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly and Anthony Mackie

Directed by: Shawn Levy

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, intense action, and brief language

Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Sports

Street Date: January 24, 2012

Released by: DreamWorks Pictures

Feature Run Time:  127 Minutes

Aspect Ratio: Blu-ray: 1.85:1, DVD: 1.85:1

Audio: Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS HD-MA; 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital,  DVD: 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital

 

 

 

 

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, Sweet and Sour

 

The touching film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close delves into the mind of a young boy on a quest.  It’s not the quest that’s important here, but the determination and desire to make peace with a loss so great it’s nearly impossible.   Director Stephen Daldry takes us on that journey as if we were the ones looking for answers. 

 

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) has lost his father (Tom Hanks) to the catastrophe of  9/11 and finds himself a lonely young boy without hope.  One day while going through his mother’s (Sandra Bullock) closet he accidentally knocks over a vase and finds an envelope with a key in it.  Thinking that it must be a message from his father he goes on an adventure throughout the tri-boroughs of New York City trying to track down what the key opens.  By the time he gets the clue that could give him the answer, he’s already found something even greater.

 

 

 

Thomas Horn as Oskar finding a key

The whole film rests on the acting ability of newcomer Thomas Horn as the young determined lad who cannot come to grips with the loss of his father.  Horn does an incredible job of bringing Oskar to life on the screen.  His sad inquisitive eyes tell most of the story as he goes from one person to another in search for the meaning of the Key.  In the sensitive capable hands of Director Stephen Daldry (The Reader, Billy Elliot) the young actor reveals the sweet personality, heartfelt loss and relentless drive of the character.

 

 

Max Von Sydow as The Renter with Oskar

Interestingly enough I was intrigued more with the back-story on Oskar’s meeting with The Renter played by Max von Sydow.  Handled nicely by von Sydow I found that an underlying secret that surfaces a nice touch to the storyline. It’s a fine performance by von Sydow and without him saying a word.

 

Although I liked the film a lot, there are downsides to the movie that distract and cast doubt.  On the distraction I found both Bullock and Hanks performances maudlin and ineffective. As Linda Schell, Bullock seems almost absent in the film as Daldry doesn’t give us enough character buildup to make her and even Hanks an important enough part of the story.  It’s this lack of relationship between the two that’s distracting.  The quick on and off the screen of the two stars bothered me since they are the impetus that Oskar finds himself on the quest.

 

Also problematic is the doubt that Mrs. Schell would allow the boy to go from stranger to stranger looking for the answer to what the key may bring.  With New York City being the venue in which the boy has to search, it had me wondering more and more about his safety.  It’s cute that Oskar makes himself a detective intruding on private lives, but I am not certain that those chosen as his subjects would really have opened up to him.  

 

Daldry moves his camera in and out of the streets of New York as if it were a wonderland giving the feeling that the 9/11 was a thing of the forgotten past with everyone back to normal and yet such a short time passage.  His brief showing of the ‘Towers’ catastrophe in the most heinous way didn’t work for me either. 

 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language. Be cautioned when bringing the very young to see the film. Oh, and you may want to bring some tissues.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Saving this suspect film are the fine performances. (C )

 

 

 

 

Golden Globes 2012, Best Dressed

So let’s be honest- we tell people we watch the Golden Globes every year to fulfill our duty as devoted fans and cheer on our favorite actors and actresses from the comfort of our couch. And the reason we tell ourselves? The dresses, of course! How can actresses so fabulous in movies not look stunning on the red carpet? Here are a few of 2012’s top nominees strutting their designer threads: Read more

CARNAGE, Wit Wars

 

 

Bizarre and yet a tasty morsel, Carnage is one of those ‘fly on the wall’ films where in this case you get to watch the decay of one’s social skills and can laugh without them hearing you. It’s four stellar actors in a room with a very wacky script and a tall order of ego, all moving in opposite directions over a simple solution. 

 

The simple stimulus concerns two boys who have a fight on a playground and report it to their parents, the Longstreet’s Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) versus the Cowen’s Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz).  The Longstreet’s invite the Cowen’s over to discuss this act of aggression because a stick was used in the altercation that injured their son’s face.

 

Penelope (Foster) and Nancy (Winslet) mull over a snide statement in CARNAGE

When we pick up the story the Cowen’s have already arrived and the couples are summing up a written report so they can agree on what had happened.  After some nice pleasantries, a few phone calls received by Alan and idle chat the Cowen’s decide to leave.  Just as they get to the elevator Penelope invites them back into the apartment for some special homemade crumb cake and a drink.  So starts an evening of unnecessary intervention that spirals into madness.

 

A tipsy Nancy trying the find the contents of her purse

I’m sure you have probably met couples like this and have gone though some very embarrassing situations where you upchucked on someone’s table, got drunk, dropped a few F bombs, embarrassed yourself and your husband, yelled, screamed and then the most despicable thing – you smashed their tulips.  Well if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon it’s time you did cause you need to see it coming before you accept the invitation to little Billy’s friend’s house for a quiet conversation about behavior.

 

Director Roman Polanski (The Pianist) spools out his tale giving the audience just enough line to get hooked.  Then he starts to unleash the mayhem, outrage, chaos and…oh yes carnage.  His actors are perfectly cast for the roles with Foster coming on as the dotting housewife, Reilly a comical oaf, Winslet an understanding lady and Waltz an uncaring businessman.  That is until the layers start to get pealed away and you see their real persona come through. 

 

Carnage is not exactly a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (if you saw the film made back in the 1960’s), but not too far off base. The two mirror each other in many ways with the drinking, arguments, embarrassment and more.  But with Carnage, Polanski doesn’t push the envelope far enough to make his ‘audience fighting mad’ leaving the theater with sights set on a possible chance at road rage.  Polanski only goes far enough to the edge so as to laugh at his characters, not want to tear their eyes out, and that’s a good thing.

 

Carnage has been rated R by the MPAA for language.  I does contain a lot of alcohol usage however, so be cautioned about that also before bringing youngsters in tow.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A great study in human behavior with laughter for the prize. (B)

 

THE IRON LADY, A GIFTED PERFORMANCE

 

 

With a genuinely gifted performance, Meryl Streep depicts Margaret Thatcher one of the world’s greatest leaders in The Iron Lady.  Thatcher served as the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and during some of the most trying times.  If you like biographies, real life stores and historical happenings, The Iron Lady is a must see.

 

The Biopic covers three days in Margaret Thatcher’s (Streep) retired life as she recalls her past in a vivid mesmerizing tone that keeps you glued to the screen not wanting to miss one word.  Streep’s acting and physical resemblance gets so astonishing that one would believe the real Thatcher’s playing the part.

 

As the film takes place she’s in her 80’s and as she thinks back we get a glimpse of Thatcher’s childhood through the eyes of this strong woman, yet now frail, widowed and fighting the challenges of age.  It was the war era with Brittan entering WW II and the tough going of her parents. In following scenes she recalls her discussions with her husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) whom she lost as a companion and confident in his death, her arguments in parliament, her strong will to make sure the people are served and more, all structured from her own memory without outside influences.

 

The Thatchers, Meryl Streep as Margaret and Jim Broadbent as Denis

Touching, sometimes biting and most of the time revering the movie is not a tell all, but a taste of how one woman could stand up for all her people in he face of resistance by her challengers.  Making monumental decisions that affected the whole world, Thatcher became know as the ‘Iron Lady.’

 

Streep has a close resemblence to Thatcher

It’s also a sad and emotional film to see the realization that time has taken a toll on this icon of history.  The love of a faithful husband during her political life shows how he stood by her in her fight against prejudice due to gender in the male dominated world. The stalwart lady fought throughout her career to keep the country a global power only to end her career betrayed by her own party’s treacherous colleagues.

 

Direction by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) puts the emphasis on the woman, more of a reminiscent storyline faithful to the female gender.  The Iron Lady becomes a reminder of what Thatcher stood for rather than the a sappy story about her life, pointing out her hard stand against trade unions, strong conservative policies and foot down approach against the Soviet Union. 

 

 

The Iron Lady has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violent images and brief nudity.  It runs about an hour and 45 minutes, but goes by quickly. 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A double win, an elegant acting performance and homage to a powerful lady. (B)

 

JOYFUL NOISE, A HEAVENLY SOUND

 

 

If you have some time, want some cool entertainment and like updated gospel music then sit-in on Joyful Noise, a very entertaining musical.  Director Todd Graff keeps the story simple, predictable yet enjoyable with a glowing cast, hip tunes and amazing vocals.

 

Following the recent death of their choir director, the board of a small-town church appoints Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) to lead the choir in the annual quarterfinals of the Joyful Noise competition.  When Vi takes over she finds out that she isn’t the most able leader due to the home life baggage, attitude toward other members of the choir and an old school choice of music.

 

G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), the widow of the deceased director has hurt feelings that she was not appointed which adds to the difficulties that lie ahead for the small choir facing the best competition in the USA.  When G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes back to live with her and gets romantically involved with Vi’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) things start heating up between the two matriarchs.

 

G.G. (Parton) and Vi Rose (Latifah) in JOYFUL NOISE

The fun within this film comes with the infighting between Latifah’s character, Parton’s role and the choir.  But, the best part of the film is the music.  Filled with enjoyable upbeat songs and choir arrangements mixed in with a family story, that although you can tell where it’s going, Joyful Noise is just that, joyful.

 

Writer/Director Todd Graff (Bandslam) keeps his relationships realistic enough to keep the audience interested in the story while he spins the music using Palmer’s strong voice and Parton’s country twang.  Taking some older rock, pop, country and blues, arranged by five time Grammy winner Mervyn Warren, he turns old choir into a modern toe-tapping concert right up to the down right incredible finale. Even Latifah gets in on the singing action with her thrilling rendition of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”

 

Parton, Keke Palmer and Latifah kick it up in JOYFUL NOISE

I really don’t think there’s more to say, except ‘go and see the rousing film’. To enjoy it best however, go along with the predictable story that even your youngest teen can enjoy. The film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some language including a sexual reference. Taking pre-teen children accompanied by a responsible adult should be okay with Joyful Noise.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: An uplifting film that should fill you with spirit. (B)

 

 

 

Top Ten Movies for 2011

In 2011 I saw nearly 250 USA released films, not counting the Independent offers viewed at film festivals or sent to my home for comment.  Unfortunately this was no year to brag about due to an over abundance of  sequels, enough superhero’s to save two planets, worn out story-lines, not enough good drama, a lot of raunchy romance with more skin and sex than in an art house, very few box-office blowouts, a small number of good acting newcomers, and some bad performances by our legends.

The following is my selections for the best of 2011 each selected for their uniqueness and strong presentation that provides enjoyable entertainment. Read more

WAR HORSE, Emotional War Tale

 

Steven Spielberg adds another holiday film to the mix, but this one tends to skew higher on the age scale due the violence and cruelty.  The film called War Horse has a bountiful cast of good actors, a bold story and brilliant cinematography that sometimes seems ‘too’ real.  Although targeted to young boys, the film gets a little too strong for immature adolescents. For acting and story however, the movie is a must see. Read more

WE BOUGHT A ZOO, Uplifting True Story

 

The heartfelt drama We Bought A Zoo comes to town and it’s for the whole family.  A true story perfect for the holiday season with an uplifting account that shows what one family can do to help a community while healing themselves.  I am a fan of this kind of film as it reminds us of the principles on which America is built, with dreams, hard work and service to humanity.

 

The recently widowed Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) has had a hard time with the loss of his wife and raising his two children young Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and teen Dylan (Colin Ford).  So much so that with Dylan’s school problems, no time for Rose and a dead end job, Ben decides to quit and move out of his city far enough away to get control of their lives.  After looking at unsuitable homes for his children the realtor takes a chance on showing him a house with a lot of property attached.  When Ben’s daughter Rosie says she feels that this is the one, the realtor presents them with a problem.  If Ben purchases the house he has to take a zoo complete with 200 animals.

 

Matt Damon as Ben in WE BOUGHT A ZOO

The actors are perfect for their roles as you can see it in the way they seem to have fun portraying the characters.  The Mee family proves exciting with cutesy Jones as an eager Rosie who loves animals; Ford realistically playing an upset Dylan who has to leave his friends behind; and Damon as Ben an earnest decision maker who takes a chance on a challenging future.

 

Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon

In support Scarlett Johansson plays the no-nonsense Kelly Foster, manager of the failing zoo. She shows her steadfast side while trying to understand why the mild mannered Ben would take on the huge task.  Her pivotal performance makes the story work bringing sense to the family while trying to hold on to her job.  Elle Fanning becomes the ace in the deck being the one who brings Dylan out of his stubbornness and back into the family.

 

We Bought a Zoo provides a touching story that should hopefully resonate within the families of America showing what one family can do to help themselves and others in need.  “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.”- Benjamin Mee. Whether it’s the reopening of an attraction that helps support the community, patching up relations or providing much needed work for people, the film should win the hearts of all who see it.

 

The movie has been rated PG by the MPAA for language and some thematic elements.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: An inspirational film for the whole family. (B)