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I have to start this review with a disclaimer. I've been a Mission: Impossible fan since I was in roughly second grade.  For me, Peter Graves was The Man, and there was a thrill when the fuse lit every week.  My babysitter used to let me stay up late to watch it sometimes, which added a frisson of danger to the operation.  But I digress.

 

This time out, Ethan and his team are out in the cold, on their own against a bad guy who feels as if he belongs in an earlier era.  In fact there's quite a bit about this MI movie that has a throwback aura.  The music, the witty banter, and the edge-of-your-seat, precisely timed antics all made me feel nostalgic in a good way.  This one seems a bit less slick and overproduced, as if the producers had a few cocktails and loosened up a bit.  I like it.

 

The action takes place in Budapest, Dubai, and Mumbai, and revolves around a somewhat cockamamie plot involving nuclear codes (yes, nuclear codes).  But the plot driver doesn't really matter; we're all really there to watch Ethan cling, Spiderman-style to the outside of the Burj Dubai.  I loved the addition of Jeremy Renner to the mix, as well; he adds a kinetic energy to the team.

 

When they announce MI:5, I'll be right there ready to plunk down for a ticket.

 
 
 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Tina · 12/24/11 6:20 PM)

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When I first saw the trailer for Hugo, I was perplexed. It looked like it was a movie for kids, but it was directed by Martin Scorsese.  Now that's intriguing.  I noticed also that it was in 3D, a format I usually just tolerate, not necessarily enjoy.

 

However, Hugo manages to smash all expectations.  It unfolds in 3D like a magical pop-up book, wheeling and spinning through a dreamy time and place.  Somewhere in Paris, some time around the 30's, with a cast of characters populating a train station.  Look for a brilliant turn by Sacha Baron Cohen (yes, of Bruno fame) as a lovesick security guard.  

 

This is not a movie for young children, although it revolves around a mystical quest by a 12 year old boy.  It is grounded in gritty reality (he's an orphan), but flies around fancifully, tracking the whys and wherefores of how people tick.  I can't say too much about the actual story without spilling some of the intrigue, but let's just say it's mesmerizing in the best possible way.

 

This is one of Martin Scorsese's masterpieces.  Not to be missed.

 

 
 
 
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If you're trying to get in the Christmas spirit, I highly recommend seeing the movie Arthur Christmas.  I had been anticipating it for a while, after seeing the inventive trailer that shows a Mission: Impossible like scenario where Santa is trapped in a kid's room and has to be extricated with surgical precision.  That scene alone is worth the price of admission, but there is so much more.  In the morass of substandard, crass, and cynical kid movies out there (I'm looking at you, Happy Feet 2), Arthur Christmas is a beacon of warmth and intelligence.

 

Arthur comes from a slightly disfunctional family of Clauses, and his overachieving brother doesn't realize that he's really the linchpin of true Christmas spirit.  He actually cares about each child on the planet, and spends the entire movie bringing everyone else along on his quest to make good.

 

Fun for the whole family, and wonderfully fart-joke-free, Arthur is reaching for a more lasting impression, and made it for me.  It's not just a light snack, it's a satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs meal.

 
 
 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen · 12/5/11 8:38 AM)

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In the same way the movie Amadeus made me want to run out and re-listen to all of Mozart's works, Anonymous made me want to re-read all of Shakespeare.  The structure of the film is brilliant, pulling you back through time and weaving together characters from real life, from bits of Shakespeare's plays, and from the writer's imagination.  (Bonus that Derek Jacobi narrates the intro and end-piece, since I fondly remember his performance in Kenneth Brannagh's Henry V.)

 

At the heart of the story is the mystery of provenance.  Who actually wrote the works credited to Shakespeare? Did he actually exist? If not, then who was the true author?  I'm sure that Shakespeare geeks will chew this over for years, debating the accuracy of the proposed theory, but from an entertainment standpoint, it doesn't matter.  It was engrossing, funny, touching, and thought-provoking.  Vanessa Redgrave's performance as Elizabeth only adds to the depth; she's witty and mercurial.  Director Roland Emmerich is more famous for his "event" movies (Independence Day, Godzilla), but this film shows him fully capable of helming less action-oriented fare.

 

If you're looking to avoid the Adam Sandler movie, this would make an awesome alternative.  We had to seek out an art-house theater to see it, but it was well worth the effort.

 
 
 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Lori · 11/22/11 11:05 AM)

I have to admit that I was pumped up for this movie.  I love a good heist, particularly if there are twists and turns along the way (note that A Fish Called Wanda is one of my favorites of all time).  

 

Tower Heist is no "Wanda," but it is a great way to spend a couple of hours.  One of the key draws for me was to see Eddie Murphy finally doing his thing again, coming out from behind the cartoon donkey of Shrek.  He injects his sly self into several of the funnier scenes, but it could have used even more.

 

Gabourey Sidibe almost steals the show as a Jamaican maid with mad skills and sexy energy.  She could have also used more screen time.

 

Ben Stiller is the hub of the action, as the tightly wrapped manager of the Tower.  He draws around him a family of characters who ring true, and create the beating heart of the movie.  That's what makes the heist worth caring about.

 

My final recommendation is go see it.  It's very funny and engaging, and relies on smart humor rather than the usual sludge of crudeness and slapstick.  Let's support that!

 

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Smack in the middle of the Summer movie onslaught of pyrotechnics, superheroes, and dancing penguins comes a thought-provoking, quirky movie for grownups. 

 

Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent, is a well-drawn slice of life with absolutely no explosions.  The film shows that when the rug is pulled out from under your expectations, healing can happen.  McGregor's character (Oliver) has a dry, real sense of humor that quietly powers the entire movie.  He's dealing with the revelation that his father has terminal cancer and, oh by the way, has also been gay for his entire 40+ year marriage.  The relationships in the movie include those weird, insider-y moments that complete the picture; Oliver's mother (now deceased) had a reckless and hilarious way of dealing with her son.  She is still present in his quest for a girlfriend who can live up to her style and verve.

 

Ultimately, the movie allows us to look closely at human compassion, but without being dispassionate.  We become deeply attached to Oliver, his new girlfriend, the father Hal, and even the father's boyfriend Andy.  And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the adorable Jack Russell terrier who serves as sounding board/glue for the whole group.  He deserves billing with the human leads, for his soulful and witty performance.

 

Here's the official movie website for more information: Beginners

 

 

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The charming story from 1938's children's book is almost unrecognizable in this un-charming movie.  There are indeed penguins.  And there is a Mr. Popper.  But the similarities end there.

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Rather than stick to the original storyline, Mr. Popper has been "modernized" into the familiar construct of Divorced Dad Who is Always Disappointing His Family.  Is anyone else tired of this worn out trope?

 

Jim Carrey runs through the motions of being alternately hangdog and spastic, and tries to repair his broken family while learning life lessons about caring for other creatures.  And because this is a Jim Carrey Movie, there is scatological humor to spare.  Therefore, this will be another fun-looking "kid" movie that my kids are going to beg to see because they see commercials about penguins sliding down the bannisters of an NYC apartment, and I have to be the bad guy who doesn't want them to see it.  I've pretty much had enough of the coarseness that's pervading the movies targeted at my kids right now.  I'm trying not to be a killjoy here, but geeze, is it really necessary?  I think not, and the movie would have been better without it.

 

One bright spot was the absolutely amazing special effects.  I have no idea how they made the penguins look so real, and perhaps they were real penguins in some scenes.  The scene where Carrey's character dances with the lineup of penguins is an adorable homage to Dick Van Dyke's penguin dance in Mary Poppins.

 

I might be alone on this, but for me, Mr. Popper's Penguins is a wait-till-it's-on-at-3am-and-you-need-to-fall-asleep movie.

 
 
 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 6/18/11 10:25 AM)

The opening sequence of Rio is visually stunning. It sets a tone of wonder and exoticism that lingers throughout the movie. 

 

Rio is ostensibly the story of Blu, the last remaining Blue Macaw, who grows up as the best friend of Linda in a small town in Minnesota.  But there's also a love letter to the City of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in there...slums, beaches, and Carnivale included.  The primary message is to have courage and be yourself (Blu's journey includes learning to fly.)

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There's a feast of gorgeous animation, and a fast-paced story.  If you enjoyed the Ice Age movies, you'll probably enjoy this one as well.  There's a hilarious bulldog character voiced by Tracy Morgan who steals the show with his ropes of drool.  The main character, Blu, is voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, who is becoming the Woody Allen character of his generation (neurotic, socially clueless, clipped speech). 

 

My only complaint is that the original soundtrack songs are weak.  You may have heard Jaimie Foxx and will.i.am perform "Hot Wings" on American Idol; I thought that performance was a hot mess, and the movie version is similar.  I did enjoy the retro songs that were included: "Girl from Ipanema," and Sergio Mendes "Mas que Nada."

 

Ultimately, I'd recommend the movie as good family fare; but be aware that, like the Ice Age movies, there are smatterings of crude humor and the evil bird (Nigel) is somewhat scary, and sings another awful rap-based song.  The movie was originally PG, and was trimmed down for a G rating, and that slips through occasionally.

 

My 3 mini-reviewers gave the movie "1,000 thumbs up."  They are aged 5, 5, and 7.

 

 

DISCLOSURE: I was provided free tickets to the preview screening of this movie for purposes of writing a review.  My policy as a reviewer is to give an open and honest review, regardless of whether I paid for admission.

 
 
 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: SuBe · 4/15/11 8:26 PM)

You know a movie is good when images from it are still hanging around your brain several days later.  The new Jane Eyre adaptation is doing just that.  I originally read (and loved) the Charlotte Bronte book baJane-Eyre-2011-Movie-Posterck in 5th grade, so I was skeptical of the need for another movie version.  In fact, I have purposely avoided watching previous adaptations because I didn't want to spoil my own imaginings.

 

However, finding myself at loose ends on Saturday night, and free to pick whatever I wanted to watch, I decided to visit the moors.  The trailer for this movie makes it seem as if it's a horror flick (perhaps to entice boys), but the supernatural aspects are elegantly woven and subtle.

 

Jane is the prototypical "caged bird," and Director Fukunaga does a fine job of building an inner life for Mia Wasikowska (who was also amazing on HBO's In Treatment).  My imaginings were left entirely intact as Jane struggles against the many and diverse restraints that are placed upon her---everything from the very corset she wears to the expectations of her acquaintances.

 

Michael Fassbender is a somewhat young-ish Rochester, but he immediately overcomes that hurdle with his fierce glances and simmering intellect. 

 

In short, I was swept away just as I was in 5th grade, and now I need to read it again!

 
 
 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Triggers · 4/12/11 12:08 PM)
I was invited to a preview screening of the new Universal Pictures movie HOP last Saturday, and wanted to share a quick review!

It's rare these days to find an un-cynical, snark-free movie for the family, but HOP fits the bill.  Over the last few years, most animated (or semi-animated) films have become chock full of scatological humor, rude words, and kid-inappropriate situations.  I call it the "Shrek-effect."  And while HOP does include a couple of Playboy mansion references and one jellybean-pooping incident (which probably gave it the PG rating) it mainly steers toward G-rated kid-friendly fun.

The basic story is what happens when Fred, a ne'er-do-well 20-something, crosses paths with his bunny equivalent, E.B., the son/heir of the Easter Bunny.  E.B. is voiced by Russell Brand, and he is hilarious.

This is not "Lawrence of Arabia," but an awesome way to spend a couple of hours with your kids.  The animation is superb (you can almost feel the bunny fur ruffling in the wind), and most of the gags are clever (the bunnies live on Easter Island...get it?).  Check out the wonder of the Easter factory, which reminded me of the Willy Wonka factory scene for pure delight.

An added soupcon of danger comes from Carlos, the "number two" at the factory, an ambitious chick who wants to overthrow the Easter Bunny, and the "Pink Berets," a girl-squad of ninja-like bunnies who protect the Easter Bunny.

I don't want to give anything more away, because one of the fun things about this movie is the unfolding story and heartfelt message at the center of the action.

Bottom line: take your kids!

Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty fun too...

Disclosure: I received one free ticket to the screening via Klout Perks (http://www.cmp.ly/2/va).
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Lori · 3/23/11 9:25 AM)
 
 
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