Monday, March 26, 2012

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – 86min – PG

Let me get this rant out of the way. I grew up on Dr. Seuss books. I love them almost as much as I love my own mother. I was thrilled in 2000 when I saw a Grinch movie coming out. I was also completely disappointed with it. Let’s not talk about The Cat in the Hat. Awkward. Horton Hears a Who was better but still not a good track record for these stories.

The main problem I have had with these films is that it takes way too many liberties with the source material. I am well aware of how a book and a movie are not going to be the same but there are some lines you don’t cross with adaptations, especially with children’s books.

I was extremely nervous when they announced another release of a Dr. Seuss book. I was downright fearful of how bad they could mess this one up. I went to the movie expecting a complete slaughtering of yet another beloved childhood memory. I was completely wrong. This movie is a green light film because it does adaptation right.

The story starts with Ted (Zac Efron) a young boy who is trying to get the attention of the girl next door, Audrey (Taylor Swift). He finds out she really would like to see a real tree because they live in a city that is completely made out of plastic.

He starts a quest to find out what happened to real trees. With the help of his Grammy (Betty White) he starts to look for a man known as The Once-ler(Ed Helms). The Once-ler tells the story of what happened to trees and of the warnings of a defender of trees known as The Lorax (Danny DeVito). The town is run by Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle) and he does not want any real trees horning in on his caned air business.

This movie takes the elements of the original story and keeps them in tact without corrupting them with crass humor or changing the message to modernize it. The theme of the story is applicable today with the green movement and the overall message is that we have to be considerate of our environment. The Co-directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, did an excellent job of keeping the level of entertainment focused on the younger audience.

There is a reason these stories are classics: because they don’t need to be changed. If you do a movie like this it needs to respect the source material.

Warning Spoilers!!!! Only friends of the Truffula Trees past this point!!!

We see the progression of capitalism applied to its extreme and the deforestations of the trees. The preachy nature of the story was in the book but it did not show us the actual deforestation or the ramifications of the actions that were taken. It’s one thing to be told the bad things happen and another to show it. This movie does have a "save the trees message" but it does not apply it with an environmentally sound brick to the head.

One side character that I want to highlight is the Once-ler’s Mom (Nasim Pedrad) she did an excellent job of making me hate her. I love this performer I have enjoyed her work on SNL and other things but I really despised her character.

It was an excellent story of poor guy take out on his own, makes it big, turns his back on his promises and then falls into ruin but in the end saves the day; as well as a story of a young boy risking everything for love. Great two for one story extravaganza.

What kid’s book have you enjoyed and wanted to see in the big screen?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - 94min – PG

This sequel follows the character from the original movie Journey to the Center of the Earth and is loosely based on elements from Jules Vern’s stories. Its focus is on a younger audience and it does an excellent job of keeping that target in focus but also makes it entertaining for them. This movie is a green light film for its entertainment value for the entire family.

The movie starts out with Sean (Josh Hutcherson) running from the cops because he broke into a satellite relay station. Hank (Dwayne Johnson) is Sean’s stepfather and collects him from custody. In an attempt to connect with Sean, he finds out why Sean wanted to break into the relay station. Sean’s Grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine), is transmitting messages and he wanted to use the relay station to boost the signal.

Decoding one of those messages sends them on a treasure hunt. The journey takes them to a remote island and they get the help of helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to go to the source of the signal and that leads them to the mysterious island.

The director (Brad Peyton) has only one other movie credit but the work on his short films is really great. I liked Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl and Bad Luck for their visualization and for their story telling. This foundation flourished in this feature film. What he does not have in experience he makes up for with talent

Younger audiences are hard to write for, because you don’t want to scare them but you want to keep them engaged. Brian and Mark Gunn strike a good balance of the two. They take the action scenes and make them suspenseful without going too far, the same is also true for their humor it’s witty without relying on potty humor.

There are enough tender moments in the film to give the story feeling without slowing down the action. This movie is visual stunning, a great setting or this adventure. The 3D elements are completely forgettable so this aspect is a miss but it’s not enough to tarnish the fun ride.

Warning Spoilers!!!! Adventurous types only behind this point.

The funniest line in the entire film is where they were walking through the dark and scary cave and a spooky sound is heard. Kailani asks ”what was that?” Her father replies “A spooky sound in a dark and scary cave. Can you keep walking please?” Best line ever.

Dwayne Johnson and his "pop your pecks" was hilarious. It was really a cheep gimmick to get a 3D effect into the film but the reincorporation at the end of the movie was what really made it funny. He is right it takes a big man to play a little guitar. That man can “ROCK” a ukulele.

I have always liked Michael Caine as an actor, he has called himself a movie actor and no a movie star. He takes on any role with the same level of attention even if it’s a small part. I love that about him. His professionalism shows in each and every part he does.

My parting shot for this post is going to be a quick one. What is your favorite Michael Caine Movie?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Good Deeds

Good Deeds – 110 Min – PG13

This is my first Tyler Perry film. I enjoyed so many aspects of it, but I had a big problem with one key point. I am having a problem with really giving my true feelings because the problem I have is wrapped in a blanket of spoilers. I can’t explain why I am giving this rating in the upper part of my review I have to go over it in the spoilers section. Click on the highlighted section below to expand the spoilers. I try and keep them away from the viewing public. I wanted to give it a green light but there are some points I can’t overlook, so it falls to a yellow light.

Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) is the CEO of a company his dad built. He is living his in a mental fog with absolutely no passion and or spontaneity. His is the very model of doing what is expected of him. His brother Walter (Brian White) is the opposite of that; he is only still employed because Wesley has promised to look out for him. Wesley is engaged to Natalie (Gabrielle Union) and they are completely perfect for one another but have absolutely no passion.

Lindsey (Thandie Newton) and her daughter, Ariel (Jordenn Thompson), have just been evicted from their apartment. Lindsey is struggling to keep things together and protect Arial from the harsh realities of living on the streets.

This story is about how Wesley and Lindsey meet and change each other’s lives. This movie highlights how many people can be depend on your life. It’s easy to get wrapped in what is expected of you that you lose your individuality in those expectations. You have to strike a balance between what is required of you and what makes you, you. This movie shows us what happens when you lose that balance.

Tyler Perry is known for his roles he performs in drag but I think that might overshadow his work as a writer. He has some very strong messages that people can relate to. When watching this movie I am reminded of the same feelings I get when I watch a Frank Capra movie. Really well developed characters in some thought provoking situations.

Spoiler warning!!!!
Behind this click is why I downgraded this film.

The end of this film failed the journey leading up to it. Let me explain. We have a story of one person who has lived his entire life for his father's memory and for his mother's expectations. We see him completely change his life and his mindset. He is a completely different person by the end of the film. We learn that you have to live for yourself and not be burdened down by the expectations of others.

Wesley celebrates this change in his life by asking the woman who was the catalyst for this change to run away to Africa and dig wells for villages. This woman is a single mother of a seven year old girl and when she was given the offer to run away with this man she just met, she said no.

I completely fell in love with this movie when she said no. I though this is the movie that will reflect real life and not fall into the trap of giving the sellout happy finale. She made the right choice for her and her daughter because going with him would mean living for his expectations and not her own. At the airport he does not see her running to the plane in a final scene, because she has already boarded the plane and is waiting for him. I lost all respect for this movie.

It would have been better if they kept their relationship going via letter or web cam or something. He lives his life and she hers, and they grow separately but they also grow a deeper relationship. We could see them reunite, with each of them learning a lot about themselves and becoming more secure people.

One thing I really like about this movie is how it kept honesty to how people should act even if they are falling out of love. They did not go and have an affair with other people but worked out the differences before moving on. There are so many great things about the movie get let down by the sellout ending.

What movie have you seen that you loved until something made you think differntly about the movie?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Wanderlust – 98min – R

This is a 98 min long comedy sketch that really only has about 5 min of good material. This is a fish out of water story that is poorly told and I don’t feel sorry for those fish gasping for air and flopping around on the floor. The cast hold tight to the roles they have been given and they play them to the hilt but it’s just not entertaining enough to hold for this length of time. There are some truly reprehensible characters in this film, and it’s painful to watch them. I started out aiming for a yellow light on this film but as I sit here and think about it, it’s really a red.

George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) live in Manhattan. They both lose their jobs and are forced to move across country to live with George’s douche bag brother, Rick (Ken Marino). I rarely use language like to describe people but this character personifies that term. They fall in with some people living in a 60s style commune. This group is “not” lead by the “not” leader Seth (Justin Theroux) who welcomes them into the group. They have an awkward time adjusting to the open lifestyle and learn a lot about each other and about themselves along the way.

The problem with this movie is that it really does not have any characters that you feel for. They go for all of the obvious jokes about the “Hippy” lifestyle. The hippies are outrageous characterizations and just the slightest bit offensive at times. They tried to encompass all various lifestyles: nudist, earth mothers, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. George and Linda are really not enjoyable even with the transformation to the new life style. They come off as awkward and forced and I felt absolutely nothing for their journey.

This movie was directed by David Wain who has a long list of episodic television shows under his belt. This may be why this movie feels like a very long sitcom, his other films were low brow films as well and they seemed to be better paced than this one. As he was the co writer as well he takes the brunt of this movie’s failures. Ken Marino was the other writer, and I am shocked that he did not write a better role for himself.

Spoiler warning!! If you are worried about being brought down by the Man. Don’t click here!!!

The only really chuckle worthy part was when George was in the bathroom in front of the mirror talking himself up to have sex with someone other than his wife. The level of vulgarity starts off small and then just escalates to the ridiculous. I giggled at the start and was laughing as it went on. And then was mortified as he continued it when he was actually in front of the person he was intending to cheat with.

Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele were great in this film. Keegan was a yes man for a short bit and Jordan played a member of the community. I love their work on Key & Peele they need to be more in the spotlight and less on the sidelines. Was it my imagination was Jordan’s character the only person of color in the community?

This movie again fails at a sufficient ending. It seemed like they ran out of money and decided to do a bunch of cut scenes to reincorporate some other jokes in the film. BUT I was glad it was over so I should not complain.

What was a scene you liked in a bad movie? In this one I really only liked one scene, it was childish and immature, but I am ok with how it made me laugh in a movie that was really devoid of them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Chronicle – 84 min – PG13

I imagine stories of super powers have been with us from the time of the cave man. They would tell stories of one cave man so powerful he can kill seven mammoths with just one blow. Fast forward to today and this review of an origin story of how three boys gain super powers and struggle to deal with this new reality. This movie examines the adage “power corrupts” in a social experiment that gives three people of various backgrounds the same power and we see what happens to them. Wow, that sounds like a bad Candid Camera set up. Having super powers is a new hot topic in film and television. This version, however, is great as they keep it focused on how the people deal with the change more than the powers. I had problems with the choice of hand-held camera footage, but I am going to give this movie a green light for the power of its story.

Andrew (Dane DeHaan) has a camera and he is going to film his life as a teenager. He is in high school and kind of a loner. His only friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell). Matt convinces Andrew that he needs to get out more and experience life. They go to a rave and meet up with Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the popular kid in school. They stumble upon something odd in the woods that gives them unusual powers. Because Andrew is recording his entire life we see all of the experiments they do with their new-found powers.

This story is a very new perspective on a story that has been told in TV and Comic books. Yes, it’s all fantasy, but the real elements are what really make this an interesting story. Because they all come from different backgrounds they all have different ways of dealing with the stress. While their powers grow they also have to deal with teenager life problems. As a former teenager and the father of one, I know how much a teen has to deal with without adding all of the stress of super powers.

It was very interesting to see how they make choices based on what they were dealing with. Max Landis wrote the screenplay and has a really great sense of how to blend the real and imaginary to create this universe.

This is Josh Trank’s first director credit. He did a great job with making this story feel real. The only issues I have with this movie is the hand held camera and the story telling from other cameras point of view. The “found footage” like quality of the film does nothing for me. It is really a distraction because we can’t get any footage that is not from some standing camera someplace in the movie. The beginning of the film where Andrew is packing around a camera this works but towards the end when the action is wrapping up it loses the cool factor and ends up being a distraction. This move is 90% win if they would have rethought the camera gimmick I think it would have worked on all levels for me.

Spoiler Warning!! This Area is Kryptonite to some movie fans, Be Careful!!!

I thought that having Ashley Hinshaw as another student video blogger was incredibly convenient to get a second cut away shot when you needed it. When you are outside of Andrew’s vicinity and need to have other story elements added using her character is one way to still keep the hand held camera gimmick going and still give you more room for other stories. She seemed underused as a performer in this film and I look forward to seeing what she has to offer other films.

When Andrew started to hover, his camera was also another great way to expand your view. We now have the ability to do a Two Shot from a hand held camera without having to explain why someone is walking around two people have a conversation.

This is Matt’s origin story. We have a focus on one person that really is just the catalyst of why the new hero takes up the mantle of doing right with his powers and with finding out what happened. Everything led up to the last moment when we have the last good bye from him to Andrew.

I usually end on question for you to think about, I am going to finish off with a plea. Max, Josh; please for the love of god and everything holy, please, please , please; no matter how much money the studios offer you or how they might tempt you, do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, make a sequel.

This movie is good as it is. We the viewers do not need to see a sequel. When you hit that high note walk off stage. I am reminded of many films that were a good idea once and they were ruined by their sequels. Cough….Cough Blues Brothers 2000 Cough. Do something Hollywood has forgotten about, be original.