All posts tagged Movies

Movie Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Published October 10, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of:  Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, Khamani Griffin.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes.


My son Ethan (freshly turned 10 on Oct 2nd) had already seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, but asked if Maria and I would take him again, which was a very good sign.  Having seen the first one, and finding it quite mediocre, I can’t say I was doing cartwheels about going, but we went anyway.  The kid was right!  Not just better than the original, MUCH better.  Flint Lockwood (Hader) invented a machine that turned water into food.  In the first movie, everything was going along great on his island hometown of Swallow Falls until the machine runs amok (the food becomes enormous) and has to be shut down.  At the beginning of 2, Flint is about to embark on a new business venture with his love interest, meteorologist Sam Sparks (Faris) when we find out the aforementioned machine, is still working in the wilderness and creating horrible “foodimals” that are threatening to overrun the Earth.  The residents of Swallow Falls are evacuated to San Franjose, California.  Chester V (Forte), inventor, entrepreneur and Flint’s hero, has been enlisted to lead the effort to stop the machine and eventually needs help from Flint and his gang.  Also back from the first movie are: Flint’s pet monkey Steve (NPH), his bushy eyebrowed, sardine loving dad Tim (Caan), chicken suit wearing Brent (Samberg), police officer Earl (Crews) and his son Cal (Griffin) and Sam’s cameraman Manny (Bratt).  An eclectic group to say the least, Chester sends them back to the island, and this is where the movie really begins.  The “foodimals” and food puns steal the show.  There are tacodiles, watermelophants, shrimpanzees, bananostriches, and peanut butter and jellyfish, just to name a few.  We learn along the way that everything isn’t quite what it seems as pertains to who’s good and bad, but the dialogue flows smoothly and the jokes are clever and aplenty.  I had more laugh out loud moments at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, than I’ve had at any animated movie in a long time.

This was the best animated feature we’ve seen since Wreck-It Ralph, which was released in November of 2012.  We’ve seen a slew of forgettable kids movies since then.  Like Ross, I wasn’t a fan of the first installment of this series either, but the sequel was awesome!  The puns were so bloody brilliant I found myself wishing that I had come up with them myself.  We had fun whispering our own bastardizations of the animal, food hybrids before the film identified them.  One of our favorite characters was Barry, a live strawberry that Sam Sparks smuggles out of one of the sketchy labs they encounter.  This adorable little fruity dude, has some of the most memorable lines and an addictive catch phrase.  When he first meets Flint he keeps looking at him and uttering, “En woo.”  All three of us had some good laughs and it’s always a good sign when Ethan wants to go see a movie again.  The storyline was also well done, incorporating the ground work laid by the first movie while heading in a new, exciting direction with the plot of the second.  It reminded me of the flawless transition that was achieved with the classic Toy Story trilogy.  I found the overall moral of the story great too.  The lesson that Flint had to learn was to appreciate and recognize his real friends.  His loyal brood accompanies him to the island and he starts to take their friendship for granted.

I love Bill Hader, he stole the show at the James Franco Roast we watched on Comedy Central recently.  He enjoys doing these voice characters, in addition to reprising his Flint Lockwood role, he’s had parts in Ice Age, Monsters University and Turbo.  It is Flint’s ambition, awkward genius and eventual growth that is at the center of Meatballs 2.  I’m not sure where I’d rank it among my all-time animated favorites, but most definitely would recommend you see it in the theater or when it reaches DVD.  So many memorable characters, Maria mentioned the talking strawberry Barry; look for a scene where Barry is interpreting Flint’s speech for the other “foodimals”.  Hilarious.  I also enjoy Flint’s dad Tim played by James Caan.  He has Eugene Levy-like eyebrows, and has his own adventure with some warrior pickles who share his love for sardines.  That last line is something isn’t it?  So is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, a very pleasant surprise. 

I most certainly suggest catching this one in theaters.  We skipped the 3-D, which didn’t take anything away from how great it was.  I doubt it will be taking best animated feature of the year home (lots more of this genre to come during the holidays!), but the story is uplifting, heartwarming and seriously funny.  I believe adults will enjoy this one just as much as the kids!


Ross’ Rating: 4 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummies.


Movie Review: Planes

Published August 20, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the Voices of:  Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Terri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Brent Musburger.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

I was shocked.  Not by the formulaic plot.  Or the predictable twists.  What was shocking was that even with all these flaws, I still enjoyed the movie somehow.  I entered the theatre with the lowest expectations possible.  Mostly because I knew from previews and pre-release press that Planes was going to be a Cars/Turbo hybrid.  Crop dusting plane wants to race around the World; crop duster qualifies due to glitch; blah blah blah.  It’s difficult to get hyped up for the same crap all the time in these kids movies.  Every storyline is about some type of underdog with big dreams.  Believe me, I’m all about encouraging kids to achieve great things, but aren’t there plenty of other life lessons we can start portraying on screen.  Anything original that doesn’t involve racing?  Maybe a story about how hard work results in success or how being kind and generous is rewarding.  There has to be some new subject matter we haven’t yet tapped into.

I realize lately we’ve become somewhat of a broken record when it comes to the lack of originality in movies, and that Planes is another in the line was certainly no surprise.  Maria has hit it on the head with her assessment of Planes as a cross between Cars and Turbo.  Slow snail gets fast, wins Indy 500.  Underestimated crop duster……..yeah, okay, got it.  Dusty’s (Cook) sidekick Chug (Garrett) = Mater.  Broken down mentor Skipper (Keach) is Doc Hudson.  It’s especially distressing to me because I have been saying for ages that the animated features, as a whole, are far superior offerings than mainstream Hollywood.  Now, it seems, they’ve finally decided to sacrifice quality for money grabbing and that is truly a shame.  I also liked Planes better than Turbo, but I’m definitely not nutting over it.  Check out that voice cast!  They deserve better.  I really hope the studios get back to serving us the quality we’ve come to know, and stop taking advantage of our kids and the parents. We deserve better too.

Going to the movies is an expensive venture, which is the main reason we deserve better.  We skipped the 3-D this time, because quite honestly, we haven’t been impressed by the use of the effect on screen.  And it’s an extra 3 or 4 bucks per ticket!  The only movie I have seen that truly wowed me was Jackass 3-D.  Now that was well worth the extra cash because they used the effect to its potential.  Shooting things out into the crowd and dusting us with faux confetti; that’s what going to a 3-D movie should be like.  I want to be grabbing and dodging things.  Keep that in mind, Hollywood.  Planes had some indescribable charm.  And I enjoyed the manner with which they executed the race.  There were more laughs and clever antics than Turbo, but it fell short of its predecessor, Cars.  Needless to say, this latest kids flick was mediocre.  I won’t be racing out to grab it off shelves.

Ethan enjoyed the movie, that’s all that matters really.  Though I’m sure even he would admit it’s not going on his all time favorites list.  We didn’t go 3-D, that was a plus, waste of money.  I’m going to make two prediction: 3-D offerings will decrease significantly, soon.  And, sometime in the future, you’ll see a Cars/Planes release.  Hopefully they’ll come up with a script worthy of the actors and the audience. 

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  2.75 Gummies. 


Recent DVD Release: Olympus Has Fallen

Published August 18, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Ashley Judd, Cole Hauser, Robert Forster, Finley Jacobsen.

Rated: R.  Action/Thriller.  Running Time: 2 hours.

In recent years an annoying phenomenon has appeared in Hollywood, the release of movies with nearly identical subject matter, right on top of each other.  There was Deep Impact and Armageddon.  Red Planet and Mission to Mars.  The Girl and Hitchcock.  Now we have White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.  We haven’t seen the former yet but we just rented the latter out of our beloved Redbox.  A far-fetched, action packed, predictable hostage story that I realized half way through, was just Die Hard set in the White House.  Gerard Butler is John McClane, Rick Yune is Hans Gruber.  The White House is Nakatomi Plaza, Robert Forster is the inept FBI agent that sends in the troops against our hero’s advice.  Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett team up to form a composite of the sympathetic Sgt. Al Powell, and Aaron Eckhart plays the President but is really just Bonnie Bedelia as Mrs. McClane.  There’s a failed helicopter assault/rescue, and plenty of wise-cracking one-liners from Butler, as he McClanes through the scores of North Korean bad guys.  I loved this movie, in 1988, the first time I saw it.  Now?  Not so much.

Recently, Ross has been offering up insightful synopses of our entertainment.  He first pegged my new series crush, Ray Donovan (Showtime), as “Soprano’s West”.  And when he fixed Olympus Has Fallen as a Die Hard rehash, I knew he nailed it again.  Although, if it wasn’t for Butler’s McClanesque one-liners I would have found nearly no amusement in this flick.  Sure there are some action packed artillery scenes and tons of dramatic explosions, but it definitely didn’t add up to Die Hard standards.  It lacked Die Hard’s effortless charm.  To sum up Olympus Has Fallen in one word: forgettable.  I found myself missing the days of Butler donning a red loin cloth & ball kicking some Persian dude bellowing, “THIS IS SPARTA”.  I like to remember him at his best.  As for the other mish mash of famous faces, I saw people who I also like to remember as their past characters.  Aaron Eckhart; Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face.  Ashley Judd; Dr. Kate McTiernan (Kiss The Girls)…I’d have to include Olympus co-star Morgan Freeman with this film.  He is the only man allowed to play Alex Cross.  That last line is directed at you, Tyler Perry.  Please stick to what you know – dressing up as old black ladies.

Gerard Butler is a likeable dude, and man’s man.  He disposes of the henchmen well in this movie and has some pretty cool moves.  That being said, I’ve always found him lacking as a movie star.  I did enjoy 300 and Chasing Mavericks was okay, but he is just stiff.  He doesn’t have “It”.  You can’t really define “It”, you just know it when you see it.  Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson, De Niro, Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cary Grant.  You get the point.  They’re trying to make Butler a star.  They’re trying with Ryan Reynolds too, but you can’t make champagne out of lemons.  The other actors in Olympus Has Fallen don’t do much here either.  For crying out loud, Morgan Freeman just played the President not long ago in the aforementioned Deep Impact, now he’s the acting President.  Ashley Judd and Cole Hauser stop by for a cup of coffee.  Aaron Eckhart is tied up most of the movie, probably wishing he could escape entirely.  Rick Yune is okay as the head bad guy, but really he’s pretty much the evil nephew from Karate Kid 2.  And his female sidekick is a carbon copy of the Asian bad girl who gets her ass kicked by John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard.  Hell, that fourth installment of Bruce Willis’ series was ten times better than OHF.  And come to think of it, they fake blew up the White House in that one too.  Instead of renting or ordering Olympus Has Fallen, take the time to revisit any Die Hard movie, the guy in those films is a bona fide movie star.  “Yippee ki yay, Motherfucker!”  

Butler’s McClane tribute was a lame, “Let’s play a game of fuck off, you go first.”  I’m not saying I won’t use the line, it just didn’t suit Gerry.  Anyhow, OHF was a mediocre movie with a potentially decent plot that failed to execute its ideas.  There were some glimpses into clever writing, such as the relationship between Butler and the President’s son, which proves to be an asset as the boy seeks refuge during the attack.  It just seemed like something we’ve already seen, good guy is offered redemption, saves the day, blah blah blah.  In order for a story of this nature to translate, it has to find its niche.  Olympus didn’t have a niche, it just carved out a tiny little spot next to the Die Hard series.  Sorry Mike Banning (Butler’s character in OHF), but John McClane kicks your ass.


Ross’ Rating:  1.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  2.25 Gummies.

Movie Review: This Is The End

Published June 14, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Michael Cera.

Rated: R.  Action/Comedy.  Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

Wow. Gratuitous cock shots. Celebrity drug use. Ridiculously bawdy humor. It’s like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg somehow got the combination to the safe containing my dream movie. The last comedy that had the feeling of an early Christmas just for Maria was Step Brothers. That being said…if you’re not a fan of watching witty celebs get fucked up and make lots of jizz jokes, you should most likely skip this feature. There are countless mentions of dicks, butt holes, cocaine, ecstasy, weed and jerking off. But what else do you expect? It’s an R rated comedy about the apocalypse featuring the dudes listed above. I on the other hand profusely enjoyed myself and laughed to the point of crying. This original film was Worlds away from anything I’ve ever seen. And the entire story is so ludicrous, but laced with moments of true sincerity. This is how these guys really talk to each other…it’s just an exaggerated version.

Let’s be clear, full frontal male schlong is big these days.  Magic Mike, Da Vinci’s Demons, Game of Thrones, Michael Fassbender in Shame; the “member” list goes on and on.  No one, however, has shown demon dick like This Is The End.  I’m talking about a two hundred foot tall, burning, horned devil with a major swinger.  Also, since the turn of the century, no subject has been more popular at the movies than end of days.  Whether it’s zombies, plagues, aliens, natural disasters, meteors or good old-fashioned bible shit, Hollywood loves to kill, or attempt to kill the planet.  But nobody has ever seen or done anything like This Is The End.  That the entire ensemble are all playing versions of themselves is incredibly original.  The humor is exactly at the level of raunchiness you would expect from this group and it is at times hilarious, but there is also an extremely hard edge injected into the mix that is unexpected and to me at least; a touch disconcerting.  Definitely not enough for me not to have enjoyed myself thoroughly, just a bit of seat squirming.  Like Maria alluded to, if you can’t handle or don’t like serious off color humor, drug use and blood, you should probably skip it.  For the rest, go see This Is the End, Michael Cera’s performance alone is worth the price of admission!

Cera is fantastic.  And it’s really funny because we’ve been watching all the old Arrested Development episodes and he still has such a baby face!  I found this movie incredibly entertaining.  I was captivated by what would happen next and what the characters might say.  It would be a daunting task to name all of the cameos that occur, but there are some very memorable ones!  If you’re debating whether to wait for this one on DVD or go to the theatre, I strongly suggest catching it on the big screen.  It makes a lasting impression and still has me giggling days later.

Just a few other performances of note.  Emma Watson is very un-Hermione like.  James Franco does a perfect…well, James Franco.  Danny McBride is deliciously vile.  And finally, keep an eye out for a brief but very brave and stomach turning appearance by Channing Tatum.  All I can think to say is: eww!!

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummies.



Recent DVD Release: Cloud Atlas

Published June 13, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Xun Zhou, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Davis Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant.

Rated: R. Adventure/Drama/Science Fiction. Running Time: 2 hours 52 minutes.

Let me begin by saying, I couldn’t wait to see this movie. We missed it in the theaters, and when it showed up in our Redbox yesterday, I was psyched. Maria wasn’t nearly as excited as I was, but she’s always a good sport, so it was dinner and Cloud Atlas. I knew we were in trouble very quickly. It’s nearly impossible to capsulize the plot, truly. Suffice it to say, Cloud Atlas makes Inception seem like a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. It jumps around from one time to another with reckless abandon. The actors all play numerous roles, in some they’re good, in some bad. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you know that series has a dozen story lines that they address in any given episode. GoT is a one man Broadway play compared to Cloud Atlas. And if the breakneck speed of changing ages and landscapes isn’t enough, in one of the settings they’re speaking some kind of bastardized language that’s reminiscent of Jar Jar Binks’ blatherings in Star Wars. Eventually, the movie somewhat ties up all the plotlines, but it’s WAY too late. If you want the “true-true”, stay far away from this nearly endless epic tale, far away and with extreme prejudice.

Fifteen minutes in and I was already feeling overwhelmed, overworked and unimpressed. My brain was hurting from trying to keep track of who, what, when, where and why. I admit when I first peeped previews of this film I was intrigued and excited. For one, it was pitched as a ‘Wachowski’ film (the people who brought us The Matrix). It also seemed to explore certain spiritual themes that I am somewhat familiar with. I’m not a very religious type, but I do believe in something and I’ve found some past lives writing quite interesting. My personal favorite was a suggestion of my good friend Kate Doyle, “Many Lives, Many Masters” written by Dr. Brian L. Weiss (READ THIS!). It’s a fantastic read and raises some important questions about the meaning and mysteries of life. Cloud Atlas courageously explores these same concepts, but fails to make a lasting impression. It has glimpses of greatness, but then drags the viewer into an exhausting montage of times and places. Just enough to drain all of the heart and magic out of this film. What really annoyed me about this movie was that it had the potential to be wonderful, but eventually couldn’t get out of its own way. They missed the mark and apparently missed the day of class when the instructor went over the KISS principle. KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

When it comes down to it, I’m a pretty fair Sci-Fi nerd. I love everything Star Trek, The Matrix Trilogy, X-Files, Fringe. To a lesser extent, Star Wars, Transformers, Inception. And it remains one of my favorite genres. Maria mentioned the Wachowski influence, and that was promising to me because The Matrix was fantastic. Cloud Atlas is extremely clever and deeply thought provoking, which is generally a perfect formula for me. However, it is also long and convoluted and despite everything that’s going on; boring. Hey, I’m not MENSA material, but I’m no schlub either. I don’t think it’s conceited of me to say that I’m smarter than the average bear, but Cloud Atlas had my head swimming and my brain just drowned. As I pointed out, near the end the writers did endeavor to make a little sense of the previous two and a half hours of chaos, but by then I just didn’t care. The movie was filled with some of my all-time favorites, Hanks, Weaving, Broadbent, Grant, and they did their jobs as well as they usually do. Unfortunately, the maelstrom that is Cloud Atlas just swallowed them whole. If indeed I’m not intelligent enough to enjoy Cloud Atlas, then I say “ignorance is bliss!”

Obviously, we both did not enjoy this film. However, there were some positive aspects. The visual effects were awesome and the overall theme was meaningful. I also had a special affinity for the character of Mr. Meeks, an elderly nursing home resident who only speaks the words, “I know, I know”…for the majority of the film, until he needs to save himself and his friends from a certainly bleak future. Sadly, these few things were lost in the Uber mindfuck that is Cloud Atlas. I can’t imagine you’d consider wasting several hours on this flick after reading this glowing review, but if you dare – perhaps some research into the plot will benefit you. After conducting a mild investigation to fill in the details for our piece, I read a two sentence synopsis that shed more light on the story. I usually like to have a grasp of what’s going on in the beginning, middle or end of a movie. Yet, even now I have questions. The most pertinent one being, “Why did we watch this?”

Ross’ Rating: 1.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 1.5 Gummies.

Movie Review: Django Unchained

Published January 11, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington.

Rated: R.  Action/Drama/Western.  Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes.

Hi all, we’re back.  Hope everyone had a great holiday and rang in the New Year with gusto.  We certainly did.  Let’s get back in the swing.  For a guy who has only directed 8 movies, Quentin Tarantino has an amazing body of work.  Maria is a HUGE fan of his, she especiallly likes the Kill Bill’s.  I’m a fan, but not of her caliber.  I recognize his genius, appreciate his love of movies, admire his rise from video store clerk and his unique style is obviously unmistakeable.  Django Unchained is his best movie since Pulp Fiction in my humble opinion.  The story of a slave, Django (Foxx) who is sold and separated from his wife Broomhilda (Washington) as punishment for their attempt to run away.  Django meets and joins a bounty hunter named Dr. King Shultz (portrayed by the always fantastic Waltz, a Tarantino favorite from Inglorious Basterds).  Shultz needs Django’s help to identify three fugitives, but along the way he also mentors him, and ultimately the two become real friends.  They formulate a plan together to rescue Broomhilda.  If you go expecting to see Tarantino’s trademark blood and guts, you certainly will not be disappointed.  The film is not for the squeamish, but the story is so good, and the bad guys are soooo bad that it just doesn’t seem that gory.

It’s one of Tarantino’s signature tricks – he creates such heinous human beings that no one minds watching them die horrible deaths.  He is also masterful at building suspense by focusing on minor details.  Perhaps this is why his movies are notorious for having long running times.  He focuses on certain shots which have no pertinence to the story, such as the scene from Django when Waltz is pouring two draft beers at a saloon for himself and his new acquaintance.  But these types of scenes are what define Tarantino’s style as a director and make his movies so enjoyable.  I believe his style has matured over the years.  As I recall his earlier films such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, they seem so different and yet very much the same.  His movies always scream his name as you watch them, but the more recent films have evolved into more than that.  More than his signature bloody violence and titillating twisted tales. This is especially true of Django and his latest film prior to that, Inglorious Basterds.  Recently it seems Tarantino has adopted a fearless approach to historical storytelling.  I’ve heard Basterds referred to as a “Jewish Fairytale”, which I found rather comical.  If that’s so, than Django is definitely the quintessential “Black Fairytale”.  He tells the story with such attractive characters and dynamic dialogue laced with glimpses of humor.  Just the right amount of humor to be thought of as acceptable pertaining to the very serious subjects he’s discussing.  As you can tell, he is one of my favorite directors, but I don’t have much to say about his personality in real life.  His movies are great, but listening to the man speak in an interview makes me wonder where he stores all his creative genius.  In his defense, I’ve never sat down and had coffee with the dude, so I don’t really know him at all.  However, I will say that his movies seem to get better and better.  Django may be my new favorite, but I can’t give it Kill Bill’s coveted number one spot just yet.

Wow, that is one eloquently written paragraph!  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see who the brains of this operation is.  Django Unchained is 2 hours and 45 minutes long and I didn’t notice.  I’d have to think that is a pretty good endorsement of the movie in itself.  Maybe the best acted film I’ve seen from top to bottom also.   The chemistry between Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz is fabulous, and DiCaprio’s deliciously evil turn as the merciless plantation and slave owner Candie, alone is worth the price of admission.  Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen, had to be difficult to play as he is one kiss ass, Uncle Tom son of a bitch.  Samuel L. bravely dove right into the character and it’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off.  One final note, without really spoiling anything, Tarantino has a bit of fun with us with the actor James Remar.  Remar is a longtime favorite of mine .  He played one of the best bad guys of all time, Ganz, in 1982’s 48 Hours, and currently can be seen portraying Dexter’s father on the Showtime hit.  When I saw his name in the opening credits, I was psyched, but then he dies in the very first scene.  I know he’s not the biggest name out there, but I was thinking he’d get more screen time than that.  Well Quentin took care of me, because James comes back to life as a different character later in the movie.  Thanks Mr. Tarantino for saving James Remar and for the terrifically entertaining Django Unchained!

I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  I would go out on a limb and say that Tarantino has never disappointed me.  He has shocked me, disturbed me and even rendered me speechless…but I’ve never gone to the theatre and walked out saying, “What the Hell was that?”  He consistently delivers an entertaining and stimulating piece of cinema.  He is also constantly pushing the envelope and fearlessly trying new things no one else has the courage to do.  For instance, the extremely candid nude scene featured in Django.  There has been tons of nudity in recent cinema, but none as brave as that of Django.  This scene features several camera angles through very precarious positions…I’ll let your imagination run wild with that one.  However, if you’re reading this I would imagine you’d be persuaded to give Django Unchained a shot.  Honestly, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in quite a while.  And not a bad soundtrack either, which is another expectation of Tarantino fans.  Keep up the good work Q…still digging your style.

Ross’ Rating: 4.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 5 Gummies.

Movie Review: Life Of Pi

Published November 26, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Kahn, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu.

Rated: PG.  Adventure/Drama.  2 hours 7 minutes.

Anyone who has seen the trailers for Life of Pi has a decent idea of what the main plot of the movie is.  A young boy is in a terrible shipwreck and ends up on a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal tiger.  Life of Pi is much more than that in fact, not all of it good unfortunately.  As the title states, this is the story (the fairly complete story) of the life of Pi Patel (Sharma).  It is told by the very grown up Pi (Kahn) to a writer (Spall) who has been sent to visit him at his current residence in Canada.  The story begins in India when Pi is very young living with his family who own a zoo.  The story is an interesting one, but there is too much of it.  The feeling of “get to the good stuff” was running through my mind and I’d wager through many others in the packed theater as well.  Once we do get there, Life of Pi begins in earnest, and the visuals are indeed stunning.

It was visually mesmerizing. However, the dramatic and heartbreaking story was overshadowed by the trippy 3-D sequences. The director, Ang Lee, should not expect to garner such success as he had previously seen with features such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain”. Life of Pi was like a melding of these two; an emotional heart-wrenching story like Brokeback with the artistic visuals and cinematic spectacles of Crouching Tiger. These aspects of the film work better as singular focuses rather than the attempted dichotomy in Pi. I have to agree with Ross that I was eagerly awaiting the shipwreck and other action packed scenes I had seen in previews. The first hour or so seemed to drag on and the last twenty minutes ruined the whole thing for me. The story didn’t have any closure, nothing seemed to come full circle. And there were too many boring lulls between the spectacular scenes and the core of the plot.

I’m not feeling quite as negative about the film as Maria seems to be, but I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment of the use of 3-D.  First, they’re remaking and re-releasing everything in 3-D these days.  We saw a preview for Jurassic Park in 3-D coming soon.  An obvious and overtly whorish money grab.  Second, personally I don’t find the effects of the 3-D to enhance my viewing pleasure at all.  It’s already a high definition gigantic screen, how much more do you need?  Life of Pi would’ve been better without it IMO.  So, back to the movie.  The story is being told by Pi as an adult, so you know he’s going to survive.  This in and of itself doesn’t ruin anything, but there are many truly life-threatening scenes that you know aren’t going to kill him.  Granted, many movies have similar situations and you pretty much “know” the star isn’t going to die.  But there’s always that puny hint of doubt in the back of your mind, isn’t there?  Still, the interaction between Pi and the tiger, their battles with each other and their battles to survive, were well done and Ang Lee at his best.  Pi survives obviously, but there is a twist at the end that left me thinking, and I’ve decided ultimately, diminished the entire movie.  My boy Ethan (9) didn’t really want to see it with us but he went anyway (a really good boy), and though he was pretty scared a few times, he enjoyed it.  There was one “juvenile-type humor” scene that especially tickled him, but I think PG-13 might have been a better rating.  I recommend seeing Life of Pi.  It explores spirituality in a straight forward, unbiased way that I found interesting.  It’s well acted and beautifully filmed.  It’s also a bit too long and the end bothered me.  I think with the right editing it could’ve become a true classic.  In it’s current form I believe it falls short of that.

Perhaps, I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the story.  I truly loved the examination of faith, hope and spiritualism, but it seemed like a difficult book to bring to the screen.  Also, I wasn’t thinking about the movie for hours afterward – asking myself the same questions from the film surrounding faith and the human spirit.  The deeper themes didn’t stay with me and I didn’t feel moved to further ponder the ideas from Pi.  I know that a film has truly accomplished something amazing when I can’t stop thinking about it several hours later or before I fall asleep.  Something was missing here for me and I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly what it is.  However, there were several things I thoroughly enjoyed, such as the scenes with the beautiful Bengal tiger.  What a magnificent animal!  I also love the story of Pi’s survival, of how he never gave up hope and was determined to make it back to civilization.  I found his friendship with the tiger moving and inspiring.  It reminded me of Tom Hanks’ friendship with the volleyball, “Wilson”.  Although, of course, Wilson was an inanimate object, but I felt the same emotional weight in both these relationships.  I cry everytime I watch that volleyball float away on the sea in “Cast Away”.  Pi is a heartbreaking tale coupled with vivid and splendid visuals, but it left so much to be desired…for me at least.

Ross’ Rating: 3 out of 5 Gummy Bears. 

Maria’s Rating: 2.5 Gummies.

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2

Published November 16, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Mackenzie Foy, Billy Burke.

Rated: PG-13.  Adventure/Drama/Fantasy.  Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes.

Twi-hards rejoice, its finally here – opening weekend of Breaking Dawn part deux.  Eternal love.  Always.  Forever.  Well, at least for Edward and Bella.  Not so much for Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.  K-Stew’s off-screen love affair didn’t kill my interest or respect for the extremely successful franchise.  I adored the books and I wasn’t about to let a Hollywood indiscretion ruin the movies for me.  If I ever allowed that to happen, there wouldn’t be much cinema left to enjoy.  Lastly, regarding that subject matter, keep in mind that if every twenty-two year old’s mis-steps were shared Worldwide, we’d have a lifetime or more of stories.  Luckily, not everybody’s business is newsworthy.  So, I found this latest and last installment to be one of the best out of the five that make up the entire saga.  I wouldn’t necessarily say its my favorite…yet.  I have a feeling that it will grow on me in time, but its definitely at least in the second spot.  Director Bill Condon finishes us up with a decent balance of fun, conflict and stylish visuals.  The fun parts focus mainly on Bella’s newfound talents as a newborn vampire and her charming half-mortal, half-immortal little girl, Renesmee.  My best friend, who first gave me the books back in 2010, had guessed I wouldn’t care much for the name.  I still don’t.  Namesakes aside, the character was well cast with the stunning Mackenzie Foy who almost looks surreal on camera.  Of course, the flawless Cullen’s are overwhelmingly stylish and perfect looking throughout the 156 minutes.

Maria and I are coming from different directions as pertaining to the Twilight franchise.  First, I haven’t read the books, which worked perfectly for me during the epic Harry Potter series, because as is universally recognized, books are always better than the movies.  I had no idea what was coming, which I prefer.  Second, I don’t have a vagina, which I’m fairly certain is required to be truly blown away by these movies.  That being said, I did enjoy the whole story.  The dynamic love triangle, the feud between the vampires and werewolves, the anticipation of Bella becoming a cold immortal and the hugely underused Billy Burke as Bella’s dad.  One of my favorite parts of BDP2 is when Charlie finally gets a glimpse behind the curtain.  This is a tough review to pen without ruining the plot.  I’ve read other reviewers write things like “If you don’t want to know what happens then you shouldn’t read my review” or ” Caution Spoiler Alert!!”   I like to think that Maria and I have gotten across our opinions quite nicely without ever divulging crucial plot points, and we certainly aren’t going to start now.  But this is a tough one.  Often I am the set-up guy when we write, giving a brief brass tacks synopsis of the flick.  Unfortunately, if you’re going to see BDP2, no set-up is really required so I’ll try a little different approach.  It was great to finally see Kristen Stewart not constantly brooding around, and she is a badass vampire!  Their daughter Renesmee (that name really does blow) is a cool human/vampire hybrid and her connection with Jacob (Lautner) is very sweet.  And whether you’ve read the books or not, the inevitable confrontation between the Cullen Clan and The Volturi will have you riveted to the screen.  Guaranteed. 

I love the Volturi.  They add such a dynamic to the on screen ensemble.  Michael Sheen as the all powerful Aro, with his apathetic sidekicks Caius and Marcus.  Their numerous minions doling out punishments to anyone they perceive as a threat.  Dakota Fanning does a wonderful job as Jane, who literally has less than 20 lines spanning over several of the sequels.  There is a palpable tension between Jane and Bella, which is realized in this conclusion.  Their animosity seemed to blossom from a scene in Twilight New Moon when Jane’s propensity for distributing pain is thwarted by Bella’s uncanny talent for shielding from vampire’s powers, even Edward’s.

One thing missing from our viewing experience was a theater full of Twi-hards.  BDP2 was playing at like 5 different times and our room was kind of dead.  I know Maria would’ve enjoyed some hearty gasps, oohs and ahhs from the tween crowd.  I would’ve had some laughs myself watching the youngins lose their minds.  Vampires are everywhere these days and I will reiterate that I enjoyed the Twilight Saga, but I didn’t have a hard time sleeping thinking about seeing any of them.  Truth be told, give me HBO’s True Blood anyday.  That show delivers every week and is definitely made for grown-ups.  Bill rising up out of that puddle of blood in last season’s finale was off the hook!  Sookie and Eric are going to have their hands full next season.   And it has the best opening theme song in history.  “When you came in, the air went out…”  Hells yeah!

I agree sweetheart, True Blood kicks Twilight’s ass, but I still find both enjoyable.  Even though the subject matter is still vampires, they are both such different animals.  True Blood is cheeky, wicked and gory.  While twilight tries to examine a tamed vampire capable of certain human emotions that we often don’t expect from such creatures.  The true focus of Twilight is star-crossed teen lovers from two distinct Worlds, the immortal and the human.  The love story is the real core of Twilight.  Readers and viewers alike become invested in the success of Edward and Bella’s relationship, which is why I believe there was such an uproar with Kristen’s indiscretion.  I also think Ross may be on to something with that vagina hypothesis.  The lead isn’t bad eye candy and his character’s relentless love and protective nature appeal to all women in some capacity.  The books are exquisite – the movies are good.  It’s fun to watch one of your favorite books come to the screen, even if it misses the mark by a smidge.  By the way…TEAM EDWARD.  Just Sayin’.

Thanks baby, for the vagina monologue.

Maria’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5 Gummy Bears. (And 4 out of 5 for the entire saga!)

Ross’ Rating: 3.25 Gummies.