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Sucker Punch: A Visual Feast for the Eyes

Director: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Zack Snyder, health Steve Shibuya
Release Date: March 25, 2011
Actors: Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaacs, Carla Gugino, Gerard Plunkett

Ever wonder what it’s like to watch a visual art piece created on the screen? “Sucker Punch” is as close as it gets. From director Zack Snyder, most well known for his creative use of visuals in films such as “300” and “Watchmen”, comes his new film “Sucker Punch” that pushes his visual creativity in film even further. “300” brought a whole new level of ‘beauty’ to the screen, combining violence with an odd sense of aesthetics, slowing down the movement right before making a kill or a slash and then speeding up the motion once the kill is made. In addition, a brown-hue like filter was added, with an impressionist-air brushed quality that made you feel as though you were watching a water color painting depicting war come alive. “Sucker Punch” delivers on similar visual traits, this time with a blueish-brown filter and slow motion action.

“Sucker Punch” centers around Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who finds herself in a hospital for the mentally ill after recently losing her mother and accidentally killing her sister to protect both herself and her sister from her evil stepfather (Gerard Plunkett). Her stepfather turns her in to the mental hospital and pays off Blue (Oscar Isaac), a worker in the hospital, to find a way for Baby to get a lobotomy quickly so she has no time to be questioned by the authorities regarding the reasons for her sister’s death. Blue promises that he will simply forge psychiatrist Dr. Vera Gorski’s (Carla Gugino) signature so the lobotomy will take place. Baby overhears all this and quickly realizes that she only has five days to try and escape before the lobotomist arrives. Quickly assessing the rundown facility, she sees a few friendly faces and soon, her mind starts to create a fantasy that will help her escape and survive the place. Instead of a patient, she envisions herself as the orphan being asked to be a professional “dancer”, servicing special clients. The rest of the patients are also dancers, imprisoned by the illegal establishment ran by Blue Jones. Vera in her fantasy is now her dancing teacher and Baby quickly befriends Rocket (Jena Malone), her older sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung) by asking them to survive and escape with her, after discovering her talent for attention numbing dance moves. Sounds ridiculous, yes? Well, it is.

In similar ways to that aesthetic beauty found in “300”, it’s truly hard to describe “Sucker Punch” in a simple sentence as Snyder takes his ideas from “300” and proceeds to push it to visual limits that no other director [that comes to mind] has previously done. Much like an artist with a painting or a photographer with his photo, Snyder tries to convey the story with less words and more visuals. Because of the lack of dialogue for what seems like ten minutes or so, the main reliance on imagery and the over-the-top story, it was hard for “Sucker Punch” to strike a chord with me initially, for perhaps the first forty-five minutes of the film. Everything was stylized yet lacked a sense of substance. One may say that I shouldn’t expect much for a movie like “Sucker Punch” to have more of an interesting story, but in some ways, I felt like I was being tricked to believing there was so much more to the story than there really was. Another film that springs to my mind that had more substance that was highly stylized was “Moulin Rouge”, though it also relied heavily on song. However, “Sucker Punch” began to find it’s stride when the fantasies (within a fantasy — think “Inception here”) became more interesting instead of the usual “fight here”, “spin here”, “blow up here” when the story in the dancer world became more intense. But it may have came too late as the film started to lose my attention once I got used to how beautiful the imagery and Snyder’s creativity was applied in “Sucker Punch”.

This film is sure to catch those eyes who love scantily dressed women or anime — or those anime with scantily dressed women. Emily Browning looks fantastic and just like a doll as Baby Doll, as well as the rest of the girls, who looked toned and fit in all the cool outfits they wore. Surprisingly, Abbie Cornish had more to do in this role than her more dramatic role in last week’s release of Limitless (which does not say much), and Jena Malone as usual, is a stand out in whichever role she takes on, this one not being any different, despite the slant on effects to carry the film. The makeup is flawless, as every close up of Emily Browning’s eyes, or Jamie Chung’s eyelids, were perfect. The cinematography by Larry Fong and the frames that were setup (I’m sure with Snyder) really caught my eye. One scene that comes to mind is when Baby Doll hears the conversation between her stepfather and Blue. It is so distinct and visual yet quietly emotional that it captured my attention immediately. Her eye takes up a third of the screen, and you can see her stepfather talking. Switch to her other eye, and you can see Blue talking. It was fascinating. Other plentiful moments of cinematic wonder were the many fighting scenes in Baby Doll’s fantasies, with similar techniques that were used in “300” (Larry Fong was also the cinematographer).

I keep going back and forth on this film. On one hand, the first half, though there was a purpose, seemed rushed, with little substance and seemed like a constant assault of visual images on the screen. There was no connection between the characters or with Baby Doll itself. Snyder seemed as though he wanted to capture the emotion of his characters with pure imagery and create character development by the closeup of the eyes as the window to their emotions. Carla Gugino and Jena Malone succeeded with this, but Emily Browning, though pretty and innocent, I’m not sure could really convincingly show me what she felt through the use of her eyes.

With the emotion lacking, the disconnect between the characters and the disjointed feel of the film, I was almost bored until the death of one of the characters that comes late in the film. However, even though you know it’s about to hit the peak, you’re not sure what to feel because there is no connection between them to the audience. None of the characters build much rapport with one another and it seems as though there is one character too many. The lack of flow and the failure in editing and storytelling make what this film an eventual disappointment. Though beautiful to look at, the story seemed to get itself together much too late.

One of the strongest suits of the film in addition to the visuals, the makeup and the cinematography is the soundtrack. “Sucker Punch” has one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a while, with each song matching the atmosphere of the film perfectly, note by note. Emily Browning provides the voice to some of the songs (ie. “Sweet Dreams are Made of This”) and her voice is haunting and in pain, which gives a voice to the film that is lacking. I strongly suggest picking up the soundtrack.

So what exactly is the message that “Sucker Punch” delivers? You try to survive, however you can. If you need the fantasies to survive, you do it. You do whatever you do, because it’s only you in the end. They allude to this a couple of times throughout the film, and it’s only towards the fourth quarter of the film where it tries to really deliver this message. Perhaps they didn’t want to force this idea down our throat, but with how the fights seemed just pieced together, the lack of transition from patient to new dancer, it doesn’t seem as though we were watching much of anything at all except for a few pretty images.

Bottom line: Watch the film if you like anime, or scantily clad women (they are fantastically dressed as I can foresee girls going to Comic-con dressed this year as Baby Doll, or any of the rest of the girls). If you are all about the visuals and love action and could care less about having a story, “Sucker Punch” is chock full of both and won’t disappoint. If you like your action to have a little bit of substance, skip it. Critics absolutely think the film is a pile of dung, and honestly, I can see why. There are other choices that are infinitely better than “Sucker Punch” that are worthy of seeing (“Paul” comes to mind), but definitely have an idea of what to expect when you go see this.

Visually amazing, but somewhat boring, disjointed and disappointing. It could have been so much more. Just OK for me. 2 dances / 5 dances

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Limitless: Be All That You Can Be

Director: Neil Burger
Screenplay: Leslie Dixon
Release Date: March 18, information pills 2011
Actors: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert de Niro, Anna Friel, Andrew Howard, Johnny Whitworth, Tomas Arana, Robert John Burke
Based on the book by the same name by Alan Glynn

If you could use 100% of your brain 100% of the time, what would you do? “Limitless” explores these exact questions with leading actor Bradley Cooper, who plays Eddie Morra in this fun and entertaining science-fiction thriller, which is based on the book “Dark Fields” by Irish writer Alan Glynn, which has now been reissued and retitled “Limitless: A Novel”.

Eddie is a washed up writer who drinks too much and has difficulty putting his ideas together. One day, by chance, he runs into his ex-wife’s brother whose former job used to be in dealing drugs. His brother-in-law claims that he’s gone legal now, working in Pharmaceuticals, and he’s got this top-secret drug named NZT that the FDA just approved and is about to go on the market. The drug, he claims, will allow all the synapses of one’s brain to continuously fire, essentially allowing Eddie to use 100% of his brain 100% of the time.

Deciding that it was a soon-to-be legal drug, Eddie does not see the harm in taking the drug and by accident, finds himself in a whole level of thinking and clarity, giving him motivation to learn, grow and discover all sorts of knowledge in the deep recesses in his brain that he never knew he had. After the effects of the pill start wearing off, he tracks his brother-in-law to find out how to get more of NZT, but quickly finds himself in an odd situation with his brother-in-law murdered and him armed with a huge bag of NZT.

Without revealing too much, “Limitless” is clever, funny in an unexpected manner, and surprising. The script is witty and smartly written, so much so that the story takes you in different directions without feeling too unrealistic. Narrated in first person throughout by Bradley Cooper as his character, Limitless feels unique and organic, never forced, despite the idea that we as an audience must accept. Everyone around me seemed to accept the idea easily and hopped on the ride that we are shown, simultaneously allowing each of us to question what we would do if we were given the same chance and could take NZT? Would we still be who we are, despite our brains functioning at a much higher clarity? “Limitless” takes the idea that we are still who we we are, but we just become better at who or what we want to be. The bad guy is still a bad guy after all, just onto bigger and “badder” things.

Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra – first as the deadbeat writer who can’t keep his hair clean, then later as the charming young hot shot, was excellent in his role. I’m rather impartial to his roles – though I find him to be a more interesting actor in drama than in comedy. Abbie Cornish as his on and off girlfriend played her just as one would expect as the sweet and ethical loving girlfriend who has her career developing and wishes Eddie to be something more than he seems to be. We’ll be seeing her in the upcoming “Sucker Punch”, so it seems to mean that this month is Abbie Cornish’s. Supporting actors Robert de Niro, Andrew Howard and Anna Friel aren’t given much to do since the movie solely rests on Bradley Cooper’s shoulders and the script, but they aid in Bradley Cooper’s interesting rise to success with the NZT.

“Limitless” is delivered in such a surprisingly creative stylized manner that one might expect it lacks substance, but I thought “Limitless” poses some interesting questions. Some people might think this is without ethics or morals, but how many movies are there about drugs and drug abuse? Others might say it’s shallow as it does not even for a second ask whether or not what Eddie was doing was right or wrong. Though they touched upon this slightly, I think it was much more effective that they didn’t explore this at all, and instead challenged the audience to wonder if they would take the pill, and if they did, what they would do if they had that much more potential? This made it much less run-of-the-mill, less serious, and more interesting. The choices they made in direction and effects when Eddie had done more than his normal dose of NZT was eye candy, and gave a unique feeling to the film not found in other more independent films (almost Requiem for a Dream-like, but less terrifying). The ending surprised everyone whom I went with as it was completely unexpected. This is not to say there is a twist of any sort, because there isn’t, but it’s not really typical or atypical of a Hollywood ending, which is what was surprising and even refreshing.

Since “Limitless” is much better seen than explained, and much better discovered than revealed, I won’t say much more. I will say one thing though – this week is a terrific week for releases. From the upcoming movies released on March 18, you really can’t go wrong with “Limitless” if you’re looking for an interesting twist on a take of a science fiction thriller, or “Paul” as an entertaining science fiction comedy, or the outstanding drama “Win Win” which will deliver a few laughs, make your heart swell, and root for all the main characters involved.

If you love science fiction thrillers, and want something refreshing and different, “Limitless” is for you. I thought it was awesome. 4 NZTs / 5 NZTs

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Paul: A Road Trip Not Forgotten

Director: Greg Mottola
Screenplay: Simon Pegg, order Nick Frost
Release Date: March 18, 2011
Actors: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristin Wiig, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Signourey Weaver, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, David Koechner, Jesse Plemons, Jane Lynch, Blythe Danner

Have you ever had a dream to befriend an alien? You haven’t? Okay, so maybe this dream is only for nerds, or perhaps it was sprouted from E.T.’s first appearance on the big screen, but was much too creepy for this chick. Paul would either be your new annoying pal or your new best friend. He will outdo you in everything though, including turning invisible and having the tiny gift for healing animals and human ailments. He however, can’t drive worth a lick.

If this doesn’t give you a quick idea of what kind of comedy Paul is, here’s a quick summmary. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play best buddies Graeme and Clive from London, England who have made the long flight over to San Diego to attend the Comic-Con convention. (And for this Comic-con goer, it was a lot of fun seeing these scenes of them at the Gaslamp Quarter, crossing the road to the convention center!) Their plan is to rent an RV and hit all the alien suspected spots in the US. Unexpectedly, early on in their trip, they frightfully run into Paul – who looks like the standard huge black almond eyed, short green eyed alien – with a few tricks up his sleeve.

Along the way, they pick up Ruth Buggs (Kristin Wiig) during their stay at an RV camp by accident, and are currently running from both the FBI (headed by Jason Bateman’s character as Agent Zoil), and Ruth’s dad (John Carroll Lynch). Other shenanigans are abound by officers Haggard and O’Reilly (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) who have little idea as to why they’re trying to catch this RV and what they’re exactly looking for, but follow Zoil’s lead into the desert. Graeme and Clive don’t really know why people are after Paul, but Paul is determined to get to his destination safely so he can go home (you know, like E.T. but less creepy).

The voice of Paul is done by Seth Rogen, which fits the character so well. Sometimes though, instead of hearing Paul, it’s just Seth Rogen you’re hearing. Thankfully, Paul is not overpoweringly annoying (which Seth Rogen can be) due to Rogen’s lack of presence. In fact, the CG in this movie is terrific. Though Paul is clearly CGI, it’s not distracting as one might think and because the story is so enthralling and there clearly is dimension to his character, it’s easy to forget that Paul is computer generated at all. The supporting actors all aid to the hilarity of this road trip adventure, with some terrific one liners, one that easily comes to mind in a scene that Kristin Wiig shouts as she runs out of the RV. I won’t spoil it though, because it’s no fun when you know the joke coming!

In general, I’m not sure I really enjoy road trip movies, but “Paul” is in a word: awesome. Many sci-fi film fanatics will recognize and appreciate the countless references to other popular sci-fi films and shows such as “Star Trek”, “Star Wars”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”; the list goes on. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve had a few comments made by friends saying they don’t like Seth Rogen or don’t like the guy humor. I don’t normally enjoy Judd Apatow movies, who I think has revolutionized the idea of what a romantic comedy is as there are no more classics like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Notting Hill” being made, and instead we are left with vulgar male romances ala “Knocked Up” (probably the worst “romance” movie, even worse than “The Ugly Truth” though both have the pain inducing Katherine Heigl — at least for me). But I’m going off track here, as “Paul” is strictly an adventure movie, and a hilarious one at that, thanks to the witty minds of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It IS vulgar however, so it isn’t for everyone. It’s got a mix of that American humor mixed in with the British (and if anyone knows me, I love British humor), which is at times, a bit odd given that it resorts to more vulgarity and less wittiness to be funny, but in the end, remains fun and that’s what truly matters in a movie such as “Paul”.

So, in the end.. I would highly recommend it if you can handle vulgar, in your face comedies. But it’s not so over the top that it’s enjoyable. The best thing to do is just sit back, laugh, and enjoy the road trip! 4 Puddle Pools / 5 Puddle Pools

If you liked this movie, you might like these:
Hot Tub Time Machine, Hot Fuzz, The Hangover

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Win Win: A Winning Combination

Director: Thomas McCarthy
Screenplay: Thomas McCarthy
Release Date: March 18, buy more about 2011
Actors: Paul Giamatti, malady Alex Shaffer, Amy Ryan, Melanie Lynskey, Bobby Canavale, Jeffrey Tambor

As opposed to the earlier Fox Searchlight comedy “Cedar Rapids”, “Win Win” is a breath of fresh air. Starring Paul Giamatti, and newcomer Alex Shaffer, “Win Win” is a story about struggling attorney Mike Flaherty, who is trying to take care of his family who also coaches the high school wrestling team. Due to his inner struggle and stress as a result of his lack of clients and needing more financial help, he ends up appointing himself as his client Leo Poplar’s guardian, with less than moral decisions. Mike ends up running into Leo’s grandson, Kyle, who has left his mom and wants to get to know his grandfather. With bleached blond hair, a quiet straight faced demeanor, and a surprising interest in the people around him, Mike and the rest of his family quickly grow fond of Kyle, after allowing him to stay in their home. Complications arise when Kyle’s mom (Melanie Lynskey, “Two and a Half Men”) comes around looking for Kyle and her father.

I was really impressed by this little film by Fox Searchlight. The humor was more along the lines of one of my favorites “Little Miss Sunshine” than the latest over the top comedy found in “Cedar Rapids”. I tend to enjoy more family oriented films – the three dimensional ones – and “Win Win” fired on all cylinders. The strength of the movie relied on the acting, the script, and the flow of the story, to be successful. And when these three elements are the best parts of a film, it’s hard to go wrong. The actors who were the supporting roles to Paul Giamatti (Bobby Canavale as Terry Delfino and Jeffrey Tambor as Stephen Vigman) were quirky and layered in development that it lent well to the comedy and the overall feel of the film. Never once did I feel like it was over-the-top. In fact, most of the humor is very subtle and dry, which is my favorite kind of comedy.

Each scene, including those that included wrestling were just the right amount. Sometimes, movies that involve sports get so involved with sporting scenes that it ends up leaving the character development on the floor. This is not the case here. One could get a sense of growth from everyone involved with the wrestling team without so much as a few words or scenes to show how everyone had become even more excited by the success of the wrestling team and the addition of Kyle to the group. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The family dynamic of the daughter, his wife Jackie (played by Amy Ryan), Kyle and Paul Giamatti’s Mike feel like a true and loving family, each with their own faults. It’s hard to put into the exact words as to why I loved this film, just that it works on so many levels and is a joy to watch. I felt like I was peeking into this family’s life and all the idiosyncrasies of each character. Because of this quiet humor, “Win Win” may not work for everyone. The movie is fairly formulaic. Despite the “indie” comedic feel to the film, we ultimately know what the ending will be. There were a few moments that did make me wonder why Terry didn’t lend Mike some money, given how well off he seems to be. Granted, you don’t want to be lending money to a friend forever, but the differences in salaries are pretty obvious given Terry’s nice bachelor pad. In general though, there are no real lessons to be learned except for the obvious – don’t lie.

I would definitely recommend seeing this little gem in theatre. It’s no “Little Miss Sunshine” in the realm of quirky family comedies, but it will definitely be one that will be enjoyed by most people looking for a comedy that offers an interesting story with some depth.

Definitely see! 4 Wrestlers / 5 Wrestlers

If you enjoyed this movie, you might also like:
Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life, City Island

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Battle: Los Angeles: Ooh-Rah

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay: Chris Bertolini
Release Date:: March 11, drug 2011
Actors: Aaron Eckhart, physician Ramon Rodriguez, cost Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena, Cory Hardrict, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Will Rothhaar, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo, James Hiroyuki Liao, Neil Brown Jr., Taylor Handley

The last time we saw Los Angeles being invaded they were done by huge tentacle-like aliens who had blue lights that detected human being activity. They did this by detecting light and their goal was to collect the brains of humans. Remember? Oh yeah, that was a different movie, called Skyline. That was out last November when Los Angeles was last invaded. I guess we were safe then, but I think Los Angeles is in trouble again.

In “Battle: Los Angeles”, the invasion occurs yet again, but instead of following a group of partying civilians stuck in a fancy apartment building, we’re introduced a group of Marines. We’re shown a bit of their backgrounds and have a chance to get to know them, however briefly, in the very beginning. Their mission is to find the civilians in a police dept and bring them back to the safe zone before Santa Monica is leveled to the ground. Straight faced staff sergeant Mike Nantz (portrayed here by Aaron Eckhart) is about to retire when he is called in to help with this mission.

Don’t expect “Battle: Los Angeles” to be anything more than it is. If you expect some sort of social commentary ala “District 9” or a story similar to those bacteria dying aliens found in “War of the Worlds”, stay home. Most of the action is very “Call of the Duty”-like. You WILL feel as though you’re playing a shooting game, with all the shaky camera moments and the main weaponry used being rifles, shotguns and machine guns with at most several packs of C4. Critics will surely pan this film. This is almost guaranteed. But, I enjoy action and shooting films. Though “Battle: Los Angeles” does play something like one long Marine recruiting commercial, I imagine that if an alien invasion were to happen, this is how the Marines would react (or so I hope). It is because of this that “Battle: Los Angeles” feels very realistic, because we’re not fighting the aliens with some fancy technology we don’t have, but what we’re familiar with. Granted, if you sit there and start to think a bit more, it’s hard to understand how any humans survived at all, given that we’re fighting aliens that have lasers and weapons seared onto their bodies. The scene where they’re running away in a bus lacked any believability either. I constantly wondered how they could drive 25 miles without getting bombed and destroyed when they had trouble walking a few feet without getting shot at. The same thought crossed my mind every time a helicopter landed or there were a dozen helicopters in the sky. These slow moving vehicles could be wiped out in a matter of minutes. I kept waiting, but they remained alive in the sky. Some scenes were just too much, especially when Nantz gives a pep talk to the son (Bryce Cass) of civilian Joe Rincon about what it means to be brave and to be a Marine, and then continues on describing the effect of losing so many people in squadrons from his previous missions – basically, more Marine talk. I could have done without that as it was just overkill. It was almost as it was written in for some emotional effect, but “Battle: Los Angeles” largely lacks any real emotion.

If I overlook these elements, I really enjoyed “Battle: Los Angeles”, and I think the people around me really enjoyed it too (for the most part, minus some of the press members.) The whole time I had problems trying to remember to breathe, as it was nonstop action that just never really let up. Each intense scene transitioned to another intense scene. The actors (Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Will Rothhaar, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo, James Hiroyuki Liao, Neil Brown Jr., Taylor Handley) really conveyed the feeling that they really had each others’ backs. As always, it was pleasant to see Michelle Rodriguez in a role which suits her so well (much like Avatar). She blended into the team so well, and I appreciated there was no superiority or air of condescension towards the fact that she was the only female, except for the small scene that allowed for a bit of comedy when she helps out Corporal Nick Stavrou (Gino Anthony Pesi) and Corporal Lee Imlay (Will Rothhaar). The film does suffer a bit with not enough character development, but this is always difficult when your cast is so huge and there is no time to get to know the characters because they’re busy trying to save the world.

The scope of this invasion is directed mainly at Los Angeles, with brief mentions that other countries and cities are also being invaded. Because the film focuses mainly on Santa Monica and the events that happen with this squadron, it is difficult to feel as though you’re not trapped with them. I actually think the film succeeds here, because it manages to give you an idea of what you might really feel like if you were stuck in this situation with no where to go and only these Marines to rely on to get you safely out of harms way. Actors Bridget Moynahan (you can see her currently on CBS’ “Blue Blood”), and Michael Pena (who has had countless of successful roles) play civilians Michele and Joe Rincon that the squadron must rescue along with two other girls and Rincon’s son. They’re not really given all that much to do, but they offer some perspective of being part of the non-armed group who must trust Lieutenant Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) and Nantz with their lives.

So, despite the lack of believability in some parts (yes, that is if you accept the idea that aliens have invaded earth, want to colonize here and they are actually waging war against humans), “Battle: Los Angeles” is sock full of intense scenes, weapon fights and many scenes worthy of cheering when the enemy falls to the ground. The story is fairly clear and cohesive, due to the mission they’re given. There are a few dialogue problems, especially the ones I mentioned above (translation: Do you want to be a Marine? It’s good to be a Marine. Be proud to be a Marine. A Marine never quits) as it all turns into an advertisement. I appreciate what our military does for us, but the extent writer Chris Bertolini took it was a bit too far. However, I will admit that at the end of the film, I almost wanted to become a Marine.

Ignore the critics on this one if you were planning on checking this film out. If you like action, apocalyptic movies (and I sure love these as much as I love romantic comedies), get to the theatre and make up your own mind.

Definitely recommend! Has a few problems, but generally, filled with nonstop intense action and likeable characters portrayed by actors Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez. Not much heart or emotion, but take it for what it is and you will be satisfied. It felt pretty real, due to the shaky cam, the gritty scenes, and the use of real weapons. 3.5 Retreat Hells / 5 Retreat Hells

If you like this film, you might also like:
Independence Day, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Skyline, Black Hawk Down, District 9, War of the Worlds, 2012, Armageddon

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Red Riding Hood: Twilight Meets Twisted Fairytale

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Screenplay: David Johnson
Release Date: March 11, population health 2011
Actors: Amanda Seyfried, store Gary Oldman, viagra 60mg Julie Christie, Virgina Madsen, Lukas Haas, Max Irons, Shiloh Fernandez, Michael Hogan, Adrian Holmes

“Grandma, what big eyes you have.”
“The better to see you with, my dear.”
“Grandma, what big ears you have.”
“The better to hear you with, my dear.”
“Grandma, what big teeth you have.”
“The better to eat you with, my dear.”

Most people who are familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood are most likely to remember the exchange above the most from their memory of this classic fairytale originally written by Charles Perrault. When it appeared in “Red Riding Hood”, the audience chuckled at its use. In fact, throughout the entire movie, “Red Riding Hood” had underlying comedy mixed in with the dark tone of the film. It also suffered a bit with the Twilight-like direction, especially in those scenes that involved romance.

The talented and young actress Amanda Seyfried portrays Valerie, who grows up in a medieval village that has been threatened by werewolves for centuries. She’s engaged to Henry (Max Irons), the son of a wealthy family, but her heart belongs to her childhood friend Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), whose trade as a woodcutter does not make much. After the death of her sister, Valerie, murdered by the werewolf, a group of villagers try and hunt down the werewolf, only to be treated to the arrival of Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who promises to kill the beast for them. He informs them that the werewolf is really among them, which makes each person untrusting of the people around them. Admist the chaos, Valerie finds that her mom (Virgina Madsen) holds a few secrets of her own, while continuing to do the song and dance with Peter, discovering she herself has a few unanswered questions herself in regards to the true nature of the werewolf.

The film starts up very slow and slightly off-putting, with the camera circling the two actors, trying to represent their whirlwind flirtation and romance. With the fallen snow, the contrast in colors, it just reminded me of Twilight, which is not a good reminder. This may have been because the director is actually the same director who directed Twilight. But as someone who cannot stand Twilight the book or the movies, these scenes made me cringe. With the odd introduction of the two characters as kids and then their older selves, we were basically made to accept that these two should be together. Except these scenes didn’t. The way the scenes were set up, and the exchange of words between Peter and Valeri was as though the film was meant to be a teenage romance. The only problem is that Red Riding Hood isn’t a teenage romance. It was advertised as a scary thriller with a new twist on the story of Little Red Riding Hood with young lead actors.

Thankfully, after these awkward scenes, the movie picks up with the first death in the cast, Valeri’s sister. The use of colour in Red Riding Hood is absolutely gorgeous. Against the white snow and wooden shacks and homes, and the dowdy wear of most of the cast, Valeri’s bright red cape and Father Solomon’s purple suite stood out brightly with an aesthetic appeal to the eye. Gary Oldman is terrific in this, as one would expect. However, having said that, the biggest problem Red Riding Hood deals with is the extremely strange dialogue. It can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be. Is it a weird parody of the genre, hence the almost comedic deliverance of some of the lines by the actors? Or was the dialogue not intended to be funny and therefore is a huge failure of the film? It’s very difficult to make scary movies well, scary, and this time is no different. I enjoyed the premise and the “whodunnit” aspect the story has to offer, but the script left much to be desired. Without strong dialogue, despite a strong story and idea, this movie simply was just “okay”. Though I always enjoy a good detective story and enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out who the big bad wolf was, Red Riding Hood could have been so much more.

I’m not sure if I fault the director or the actors for the generally poor acting, especially that of Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons, who played Peter and Henry respectively. Seasoned actors such as Julie Christie, Virgina Madsen and Billy Burke (who played the grandma, the mother and the father) delivered below par lines and who all attributed to my confusion of whether or not the comedy was intended. These are talented actors who have had some excellent roles, so in this instance, I would fault the director for such a poor job in not producing better work. The camera work was also all over the place – some scenes were just breathtakingly beautiful, thanks to such beautifully created scenes in the film studios located in Vancouver, Canada. Other times, it was just horribly shaky and did not fit the film well, when the camera tried to represent the eyes of another person walking or peering around. In the end, due to the thin line it walks, Red Riding Hood is slightly below average. Its mystery aspect saves it from being a complete failure, and the colouring is quite pretty to look at, but when a film cannot decide what its tone is – a comedy, a romance, a thriller, or cannot successfully intertwine those elements together, they will quickly lose their audience.

Very uneven, not really recommended. 2 Howls / 5 Howls

If you like this film, you might like:
Company of Wolves
The Wolfman
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Oscars 2011, My Ballot

Though I follow the Oscars every year, pharm this is the first year I’ve decided to blog about the race leading up to the event which is this Sunday, doctor February 27, 2011. I’ve italicized who or what I want to win, and bold for what I think will win.

Best Picture
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Comments: Honestly, I’d be happy if The King’s Speech won too, as my favorites out of the list of top ten nominees here are Inception, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David Fincher, The Social Network
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

I think with The King’s Speech winning so many of the awards as of late, that the best director will still go to David Fincher for The Social Network, since the Academy will see him as deserving. Though I appreciate Tom Hooper’s direction for The King’s Speech, I would have to say him and David O. Russell are the weaker of the group. I’m a bit annoyed Christopher Nolan was never nominated, but not that surprised, because he would have been my choice for personal pick.

Best Actor
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

I love Colin Firth. That is all. I kid! Well, I do love Colin Firth, but I think he is deserving of this award for the King’s Speech since I think he captures the stutter so well. The depth in this field though, is pretty deep, despite Firth’s sweep.

Best Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

I was never much of a fan of Natalie Portman. Then I saw Black Swan, and my mind completely changed, as I became a fan after it finished. The competition was between Bening and Portman for a while, and though there still might be an upset by Bening, I think that’s highly doubtful at this point. I much prefer Nicole Kidman or Michelle Williams over Bening, but Portman still leads the pack for me, both in the race and in my own opinion.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Geoffrey Rush’s performance to me, was charming, hit the perfect right notes to offset Colin Firth’s, and left a more lasting impression in my mind as he tried to teach the King how to get over his stutter. While Bale also left an impression, and do think he is deserved as he will win for sure, my personal preference is just for Rush.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Leo will win for The Fighter – and I wouldn’t be able to explain to you why, except that she has been winning for all the major precursors. I really enjoyed Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, but since I find her to be committing a bit of category fraud, I would venture to say this category is very weak this year. My personal pick out of all of these choices would be for Jacki Weaver, since she scared the pants off of me in Animal Kingdom. What a cold, calculating mother she played. Out of all the major acting awards, the supporting actress category seems to be the weakest this year, and this category is most likely to have an upset.

Best Animated Feature
How To Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3

When one of the nominations is also nominated for Best Picture, it’s pretty much a lock for it to win it a sub category. Here, it’s Toy Story 3.
And, the rest of the nominations, of which I offer no commentary 😛

Best Foreign Film
Mexico – Biutiful
Greece – Dogtooth
Denmark – In a Better World
Canada – Incendies
Algeria – Outside the Law

Though my personal preference is for Greece’s Dogtooth, it’s mainly because it’s the only movie I’ve seen. However, I think it will go to In a Better World. Biutiful might be an upset however, for how much campaigning there has been done for the movie, but mostly for Javier Bardem.

Best Original Screenplay
Another Year
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech

I would love for this category to have an upset. This year, the most distinctive screenplay has always been Inception, and stood out above all the rest. It was well crafted and well scripted. It’s my favorite, and I believe it deserves the win. If the Academy wants to award Inception for anything, this would be the award to do so. Having said that, I still believe The King’s Speech will win.

Best Adapted Screenplay
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Best Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The King’s Speech
True Grit

There’s more room to wiggle here, but I think The King’s Speech will take it here. The Academy has always favored period pieces for their art and costume design, and The King’s Speech is no different.

Best Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Look above.

Best Original Song
Coming Home – Country Strong
I See the Light – Tangled
If I Rise – 127 Hours
We Belong Together – Toy Story 3

I think Toy Story 3 will win it, but my preference is I See the Light in Tangled. It was such a beautiful scene with the floating lanterns. I can’t wait to see Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi perform this (I hope they are including this in the broadcast). In general though, it will be wonderful to see the song nominees Oscar night.

Best Original Score
How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
Inception – Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours – A.R. Rahman
The Social Network – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

This category is really between The Social Network and The King’s Speech. It could easily go either way. Amusingly to me, neither The King’s Speech or The Social Network are the strong scores in this category. For me, half of Inception was the soundtrack by Zimmer, and the sounds of flight still resonates with me when I think of How to Train Your Dragon. I would have traded any of the other three movie nominations with Daft Punk’s soundtrack for TRON: Legacy, which was infinitely more creative and imaginative than The King’s Speech or 127 Hours. I hope this category surprises me, and I get this prediction wrong.

Best Documentary
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

I don’t have a personal preference for this category, as the nominees are all fairly strong. I’ve seen parts of Exit Through the Gift Shop, Restrepo, and Inside Job, so my opinions are not even. However, Inside Job seems to be the front runner here, though I think Exit Through the Gift Shop has plenty of room to upset.

Best Film Editing
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

One of the strongest points of The Social Network is the technical aspect, and when it comes to film editing, The Social Network is the strongest in feeling extremely well paced, each frame and scene thoughtfully pieced together. It has received a lot of praise for its film editing, and I think it is well deserved.

Best Cinematography
Black Swan – Matthew Libatique
Inception – Wally Pfister
The King’s Speech – Danny Cohen
The Social Network – Jeff Cronenberg
True Grit – Roger Deakins

Best Makeup
Barney’s Version
The Way Back
The Wolfman

It’s either The Way Back, or The Wolfman, which honestly, I thought had pretty horrible makeup, but what do I know. The Academy might be more swayed towards The Way Back, which is more traditional, but we shall see tomorrow.

Best Sound Editing
Toy Story 3
TRON: Legacy
True Grit

Best Sound Mixing
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Best Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
Iron Man 2

Best Documentary (Short)
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Comes Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

Best Visual Short Film (Animated)
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let’s Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage

Super inventive, super creative, Day & Night (Pixar) is poised to pick up this Best Visual Short Film. But an upset is not unlikely at all, as Pixar has lost in years past, and this category is usually filled with wonderful animation.

Best Short Film (Live Action)
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

I think the main race here is between Na Wewe and Wish143… I don’t know much about this category, but that seems to be the two favorites/predictions coming out of critics.

Whether or not this broadcast will be a lackluster year remains to be seen. An upset in one of the major categories will certainly make things more exciting, but I’m not holding my breath. With James Fanco and Anne Hathaway hosting, it should prove to be at least to be somewhat half entertaining…right? I’ll report back tomorrow, maybe with some live commentary! 🙂 What are your picks?

Just Go With It: Surprisingly Funny

Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenplay: Allan Loeb, cardiology Timothy Dowling
Release Date: February 11, 2011
Actors: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Bailee Madison, Griffin Gluck, Nicole Kidman, Dave Matthews
Based on the play ‘Cactus Flower’

Jennifer Aniston has had some hits and misses in the past year, notably her last film with Gerard Butler and The Switch. She’s a competent actress, but she does not invoke confidence when seemingly cast for another romantic comedy. I’ve been fairly impartial to Adam Sandler’s movies – I’ve liked some, I’ve hated a few, and thought some were okay.

Plastic surgeon Danny (Adam Sandler), after leaving his fiancee at the altar, discovers the power of a wedding ring: it attracts girls. So Danny continues wearing a fake wedding ring when it suits him. One evening, he meets and hooks up with the girl of his dreams (Brooklyn Decker). Unfortunately, Palmer discovers his fake wedding ring, believing of course, that it is real and is furious with him, refusing to have any further contact with him. Danny decides to tell her that he is divorced to save himself, but comes to a road block when Palmer says she wants to meet her. Danny then asks his long time assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) to help him out by pretending to be his ex-wife. After the two meet, the lie begins to grow larger and larger until it starts to get out of control.

In a word, I thought this movie was simply: hilarious. If you like to laugh, and don’t take your movies too seriously, ‘Just Go With It’ is sure to make you laugh. It was non stop laughter for me and for everyone else in the lively theatre I saw it in. There were some scenes that induced cringing and groaning. Critics seemed to really hate this film, and as I’ve often thought lately of critics – they don’t know how to have a good time. That’s not to say there aren’t some cheap shots, with the abundance of bathroom humour and low ball quality of jokes, but for the most part, the jokes kept on going, and the laughs kept on rolling.

What I really liked about ‘Just Go With It’ was that the girlfriend was incredibly sweet (usually not the case) which is decently acted by Brooklyn Devlin. Another surprise is the chemistry between Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler – who knew? But the couple works, and works very well at that. The only oddities I felt where the movie pushed way too far was Eddie, Danny’s brother (Nick Swardson). He assigned himself to be Katherine’s boyfriend “Dolph Lundgren” (Yes, you read that correctly), and the character he gave “Dolph” just got annoying and over the top. I’d be amazed anyone could have found his Dolph endearing or attractive.

Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews (of The Dave Matthew Band) make an appearance here – much more than a cameo, to get under Katherine’s skin as her high school rival/enemy Devlin Adams and her husband Ian Maxtone Jones. The scenes between them are particularly funny, especially one that has both Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston dancing.

Just be warned that it is mandatory to check your brain at the door. The first thing I thought to myself when Palmer asked Danny why he had a ring in his pocket was why he couldn’t come up with a better lie. Why not tell Palmer that he was a widower and it was a way to remember his wife. Or why not come up with a cheesy story that he keeps the ring around him to remind him of who he is – and actually say he was about to get married years ago, and he keeps it around as a lesson? All of which are clearly better lies than the one he came up with. Of course, if there was no dumb moment, there would be no movie. Many times I could hear a little voice in my head telling myself “that’s all he could come up with?” in regards to the kinds of lies Danny told. I’m not much of a liar, but even I could have come up with better stories than that! The kids who play Maggie and Michael, Katherine’s kids are absolutely hilarious. They know how to manipulate Danny to get what they want and they’re not afraid to go for it. Their presence gives a rather charming quality to the film, as does the funny chemistry and banter between the two leads.

Don’t expect to learn anything from this film (though “lying is bad” can be gleaned from the movie … somewhat). For once though, instead of being force fed an idea, the overlying message that “lying is bad” is obvious. After a while, they couldn’t keep their lies straight.

Don’t listen to the critics – if you enjoy silly humor, you will enjoy ‘Just Go With It’. I can’t think of any guy friend of mine who wouldn’t enjoy the film, because the humor matches the somewhat juvenile jokes that are dispersed throughout the film. Some of it however, is a clever, and even quite unexpected, like the one scene where the whole “family” is cooly walking into the Chuck E Cheeses’ restaurant. I will concede though, that the humor isn’t for everyone. It might disgust you and think “This is terrible”. I’m pretty sure though, that the majority of people who watch this movie will be able to enjoy themselves.

Recommended for a light night of entertainment and lots of laughter. 3.5 Devlins / 5 Devlins 😉

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The Adjustment Bureau: Choose your own destiny

Director: George Nolfi
Screenplay: George Nolfi
Release Date: March 4, healing 2011
Actors: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly
Based on the short story ‘The Adjustment Team’ by Philip K. Dick

Do you ever wonder about fate? Do you believe in destiny and the idea of free will? These are all questions that you will ask yourself while watching ‘The Adjustment Bureau’.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is the youngest man to run for Senator in the state of New York. As his popularity quickly rises, he thinks he is invincible, despite his impulsive behaviour and young age. However, he discovers that as quickly as popularity rises, it can quickly fall too, with the leak of a photo of himself mooning his friends in college on the eve of his election. Despite his lead prior to the election, he ends up losing, crushed by his competitor. While struggling to come up with his speech in the men’s bathroom of his hotel, he meets a sassy, captivating yet elusive woman and share an unexpected kiss. The experience leaves him finding inspiration and delivering an unexpectedly well-received speech, leaving an impression on his supporters for the following election.

Fast forward 6 months. We are introduced to mysterious men in hats, one in particular named Harry (Anthony Mackie) that is assigned to make David’s coffee spill at exactly 7:05a.m. in the morning. However, he falls asleep and finds that he is too late and David has already gotten on the bus. Once David gets on the bus, he finds that the mysterious woman he met in the bathroom is also seated, staring out the window. Excited, he sits down next to her and they exchange a flirtatious banter resulting in the receipt of her phone number and the discovery that her name is Elise. David later enters his office building, not fully realizing that something strange is happening until he goes into the main meeting room, where a bunch of ‘hat-ted’ and suited men are ‘scanning’ many people of which he works with. From that point on, David’s life is changed forever, as he meets “The Adjustment Bureau”, and is told point blank not to contact Elise again. That, and not to tell anyone else, or David shall be ‘reset’. The ‘chairman’ has bigger plans for him, and Elise shall not be a part of David’s plan. They take the card with Elise’s phone number from David and burns it. David obeys, but cannot get Elise out of his mind. From that point on, David’s heart is not in the Senate race and tries to change his assigned destiny by finding a way to be with Elise and avoid the Adjustment Bureau.

‘The Adjustment Bureau’ is based on the short story by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, also known as ‘The Adjustment Team’. At the heart of the film it’s about a romance, but the more interesting question that remains are those of free will and fate. The beginning shots of The Adjustment Bureau were reminiscent to me of The Observers from Fringe (though they are bald) and the style of which the Adjustment Bureau went through door after door ending up in unexpected places was very Inception-esque. However, ‘The Adjustment Team’ is a much older story, and these comparisons happened to pop into my head. I really liked how despite the threats of the Bureau, they aren’t a violent bunch (unless you consider being reset as one of them), and they use their power to cause different future events in order to achieve their expected result. They certainly aren’t “all-powerful”, as they are limited to the magic of their hats to move and travel in and out of places quickly. It is because of these limits and David’s determination to be with Elise that make ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ a very entertaining film. Even though David knows what his plan is supposed to be, he refuses to accept it and is willing to go to great lengths to get what he wants and the happiness he feels he deserves.

The film raises questions as to whether we really have the ability to change our fate when we fight for something we believe in, or whether or not everything is planned for us. Does it succeed on this level? Yes, and no. The film counteracts a lot of my own personal thinking that – there is not just “one person” in the world for you, and there is not just “one career” for you, and that is the plan, and everything must go according to plan. It is sure to bring about debate, especially with those of faith in a greater being (in fact, this movie is making the rounds with free screenings that are church sponsored). Is there a greater plan for all of us? Do our decisions mean anything? ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ even suggests that if it were not for them, humanity and life as we know it would have been long dead. That’s almost condescending. It causes a divide between those who would like to believe that their future is in their complete control, and it is because of the decisions we make that bring us to where we are today, and those who believe that ‘the person upstairs’ has a plan for each and everyone of us and he simply guides us towards that direction. I enjoy films that make you think, or those that might even spark a debate. ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ certainly can create the spark, but the film itself lacks of depth and connection with the audience that would really strike a chord with emotion. Certainly, the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are out of the world, supported by terrific acting that of Terence Stamp, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and Michael Kelly all of which are given good character development. However, there is just something slightly missing in putting it altogether that it doesn’t fully succeed. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the film – I really did, but I felt no triumph or emotion for the ending that we were given, and I felt that given all that David Norris went through, it should have been much more satisfying. It all built up… to all abruptly end, with not much payoff. In addition, there was no mystery as to the reason as to why they could not be together. I found it very predictable, almost from the very first ten minutes of the film. Those are the main reasons as to why I didn’t love the film, yet can heartily say I enjoyed it and would still recommend it.

Recommended. A whirlwind of subtle visual effects and magnetic chemistry between the two leads. 3.5 fedoras / 5 fedoras

If you like this movie, you might also like: Inception, Matrix, Sliding Doors, The Butterfly Effect

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Note: I’m always looking to improve my writing and my reviews – if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear from you!

Gnomeo & Juliet: The strength are in the voices

Director: Kelly Asbury
Release Date: February 11, public health 2011
Screenplay: Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Steve Hamilton Shaw, John R. Smith, Rob Sprackling
Cast: Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Ashley Jensen, Jason Statham, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant, Julie Walters
Based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I thought Gnomeo and Juliet would either be a hit or a miss, but definitely better than the dreadful Sanctum earlier in the week.

Gnomeo & Juliet is the same story written by William Shakespeare – the famous Romeo and Juliet story of course, without, as one might expect, a tragic ending. There is a feud that exists between the red and the blue gnomes, who tend to the gardens of the human beings whose last names are that of Montague and Capulet. No one knows how the feud began, but one exists anyhow. Tybalt (Jason Statham), a red gnome, loves to wreak havoc on the blue gnomes, but especially Gnomeo, due to their passion in racing each other on lawnmowers down the alleyway. However, no one really likes Tybalt, including his own as they simply just fear him instead. Gnomeo’s bumbling friend Benny (Matt Lucas) help Gnomeo on his quest to seek revenge on the Reds, and Juliet has her spouting water friend Nanette (Ashley Benson) to confide in. After a chance meeting in an abandoned garden and befriending the plastic flamingo Featherstone, Juliet and Gnomeo fall in love (of course). As the feud escalates higher, their lives are at stake and revenge takes a dangerous step.

Voiced by an extremely strong cast (James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as the two leads), in addition to Ashley Benson (Ugly Betty, Accidentally on Purpose), Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Dolly Parton, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham and a continuing line of famous actors, it is their work that carries the film.

Cute characterizations of a mushroom, a deer, rabbits, and funny positioned gnomes add to the magic of the garden life. Funny quotes are changed (Kick in the *ss turns into kick in the grass, for example). Benny is somewhat endearing, and it is easy to hate on Tybalt. However, I did find the love between Gnomeo and Juliet rather unbelievable, but maybe this is because I have great disdain for the original. Having said that, I may actually prefer this animated light heart version. The animation isn’t anything that special, and the 3D was forgettable about five minutes into the film. I would have actually preferred having seen the film in 2D (Note: The 3D in the movie is clearly not worth it as it’s not really all that immersive) given how DARK the movie looked under 3D. It was quite possibly the theatre, given that I went to see it at an older theatre, but the darkness took me out of the film quite a bit. I thought a few lines of the movie, and how they incorporated “garden fare” into the film was very clever, but the overall film was no Pixar film, or How to Train Your Dragon. It shocked me to also find during the credits that a group of ten writers wrote the screenplay.

I wondered whether or not kids would love it, as the kids around me weren’t laughing, but it seemed like a movie that kids would enjoy. Some of the Shakespearan references might have gone over their heads. One part that I absolutely loved was the appearance of “banana”. I won’t ruin it for you for those who plan to see it, but it was hilarious. All in all, there isn’t really anything overtly special in this rendition of Romeo and Juliet (at least nothing that compares to the colorful 1996 Baz Luhrman version or my 1968 favorite directed by Franco Zeffirelli.) This one is definitely for the kids, and it’s cute and enjoyable. But there lacks a bit of magic that would have made me love the film. There is no malleable chemistry between many of the leads, and the only major standout to me is Nanette. And even the moral of the story – that nothing good ever comes from fighting and avenge – becomes lost. Shakespeare’s message comes through loud and clear with the deaths of his star crossed lovers, but here, despite the ending in Gnomeo & Juliet, the message is lost in the rubble.

The soundtrack is amazing and fun, mostly composed and sung by Elton John, with the help of James Newton Howard. But these elements just churn out a very average film, that while cute, entertaining and great for Valentine’s Day, will be easily forgotten once you walk out of the theatre.

Good animation, good effects. Talented cast and great soundtrack. Lack of magic, believability (I say this in seriousness, due to lack of character development and chemistry) make this all very average. Kids probably will enjoy. If you must, see this in 2D. Otherwise, I’d say rental. 2.5 gnomes / 5 gnomes.

If you liked this film, you might enjoy:
Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens

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