iFamilyKC, Reviews

Disney’s “Frozen”: In Review

“Frozen”

Disney_Frozen_snowman_poster

Release Date: November 27, 2013

MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.

Run Time: 108 Minutes

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menze

Well, folks, it looks like Disney has done it again. In keeping with tradition, Disney is releasing their latest masterpiece just in time for the holidays.  “Frozen”, which opens in theaters everywhere today, follows the journey of two sisters, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menze) and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) who inherit their kingdom after the death of their parents.  The once close sisters were torn apart following an accident in their childhood that’s been kept secret from everyone except Elsa (the older sister).  Once Elsa becomes old enough to be crowned Queen, the girls open their castle doors for a grand coronation ball.  Events unfold during the party that cause Queen Elsa to head for the hills…quite literally.  The remainder of the movie follows younger sister Anna, as she attempts to locate and bring her older sister home.  Along the way, she meets new friends, discovers a few foes, and learns a lot about what it means to love.  In the end, everyone’s lives are changed forever.

This visually appealing film was brilliantly crafted. The beautiful, vibrant colors pop from the screen. I had the privilege to attend an advanced screening of this film in 3D. I’m not sure if it was the screen in the theater that we were viewing it in or if it was the movie itself but it took a few minutes before everything ‘settled’ (so to speak) and for the 3D to look as crisp as one would expect it to be.  Beyond the aesthetics, the movie’s score is incredible. Christophe Beck, the composer for this film, has really outdone himself in creating a soundtrack that is sure to be loved by generations to come.  The film itself is well paced with a great storyline and an intelligent use of Olaf (the adorable snowman) as a bit of comedic relief throughout the film. It will be well received by adults and children of all ages and may very well be a contender for best animated film at the 2014 Academy Awards.

On my scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is the worst, 5 is the best, and 10 is the worst again, I give Disney’s “Frozen” a 5.25 and an emoticon subranking of “Awwwwww! That was sweet!”

iFamilyKC, Reviews

Don Jon: In Review

Don Jon

“Don Jon”

Release Date: Friday September 27, 2013

MPAA Rating: Rated R  for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language.

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore

In Don Jon, (Written, directed and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is about a handsome and confident New Jersey who is addicted to pornography and is looking for a relationship that can match-up to his digital fantasies.

The first two acts of this movie involve a lot of repetition, which makes actually watching a monotonous experience.  It basically goes, show a pornography clip, show, Jon goes to church to repent, and repeat.  While this may be a very honest depiction of the seemingly endless cycle of addiction, it does not make particularly good entertainment.   While it seems like I am making a habit being prudish in my review (See my review of The To Do List)  I honestly do not have a problem with adult content in movies when it used effectively.  In this case however it was used as a blunt object and the audience was beaten over the head with it repeatedly.  This movie was no more capable of subtlety than its brash title character.

Another overly done element of this movie was its portrayal of Italian-Americans.  Don Jon and his family played on every “Jersey Shore” type stereotype.   It seems like a lazy and possibly offensive way to develop a character,   Sure enough, an Italian American group (http://www.ereleases.com/pr/negative-stereotypes-italian-americans-perpetuated-joseph-gordonlevitts-don-jon-movie-italian-american-voice-coalition-174493) has complained about the sterotypical and denigrating characterization of Italian-Americans in the movie.

I did think that the movie improved as Jon sought to redeem himself in the movie’s third act and began to experience growth as a person; however, it was not enough to save what was ultimately a monotonous movie experience.

On my scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best and 10 being the worst again I give Don Jon a 2.25 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: shrug.

iFamilyKC, Reviews

“The Family”: In Review

The Family Movie Review

The Family

Release Date: Friday September 13, 2013

MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle  Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones

Robert De Niro is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of all time.  Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I feel like it should be ok for me to be a little harsh on his latest movie, “The Family”.  Despite an all-star cast, “The Family” is a flawed film with severe pacing problems and plot points that rely far too heavily on coincidence. 

De Niro plays a mafia boss who is relocated with his family to a small town in France under the witness protection program.  Much of the film depicts the family members behaving badly.   Any problem that they encounter, regardless of how petty it may be, is addressed with the use of extreme violence.  Not only this is not very smart of them (a mafia family in protection should know better than to constantly risk blowing their cover), it is also not nearly as funny as it is supposed to be. 

Despite clocking in at just under two hours, the movie still feels like it is half an hour longer than it needs to be.  There is just not a lot of story here, and it showed.  The story that they did have wasn’t overly unique or clever.   The last act featured plot points that were unbelievable and ridiculous to the point where they were funny in a way that I’m sure was not intentional. 

For a movie like this to work, the characters need to be well-developed and you have to care about them.  There was very little attempt at character development here, and it was not very well done.  There was one scene that stood out where the daughter was going through a particularly emotional time.  Without going into too much detail, the actions of her character seemed out-of-place and unnecessary. 

“The Family” may be worth renting for devout fans of violent comedies or mafia movies.  For the rest of us, going to “The Family” is an offer that you should refuse.  Godfather reference.  Whammy.

On a scale from 1-10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best, and 10 being the worst again, I give “The Family” a 2.1 with an emoticon based subranking of: that thing that De Niro does at Focker in “Meet the Parents” when he’s frowning but also sort of smiling.

iFamilyKC, Reviews

“Elysium”: In Review

“Elysium”

MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout

Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Release Date: August 9, 2013

Science fiction / Action fans who will be heading out to the theaters tonight for the release of the highly anticipated “Elysium” should take note that there is a lot (a whole lot) of language and violence in the film. The storyline is decent and set in the year 2154 where the wealthiest of the wealthy have left planet Earth to live on a space station aptly named “Elysium” (which, in real life, means “a place or state of perfect happiness”). It’s a beautiful paradise. The homes are gorgeous, the landscaping is plush, and the society has developed a cure for aging and sickness. Paradise, however, does not make for a good plot and not everything is at is seems in the island in the sky. Elysium’s Defense Secretary Delacourt (played by Jodie Foster) is at odds with their President on how best to protect the space station from their growing problem of illegal immigration (Earth residents trying to escape the slums they’ve grown accustomed to on our home planet). Meanwhile on Earth…

Enter Los Angeles in the year 2154 where we meet Max, a convicted felon trying to live the straight life. Society 141 years from now is not a place you would want to be. The air is bad, access to proper health care is second-rate (at best), and the overall quality of life is far from ideal. It’s hard for many to appreciate life on Earth when Elysium, in contrast, is a living paradise. Nevertheless, many people plug away at their routine daily lives just trying to stay out of trouble. Max was one of those people until one fateful day when his life, and the lives of those around him, changed forever. The story follows Max as he attempts to break into Elysium and change the course of history…forever.

The role, which is so vastly different from anything I’ve ever seen Damon play before, was what caught me off guard the most. His character isn’t your traditional, noble hero. He’s a rough, seemingly self-serving character who inadvertently ends up being heroic. It’s well done and it’s enjoyable but seeing Matt Damon in that particular role was just not my cup of tea. For that reason, I give it the following rating:

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the worst, 5 is the best, and 10 is the worst again: I give it a 8.75 with an emoticon sub-raking of “hmmm” face.

iFamilyKC, Reviews

Disney’s “Planes”: In Review

“Planes”

Disney's Planes

MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor

Cast: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett

Time: 92 Minutes

Release Date: August 9, 2013

Disney’s “Planes”, which opens in theatres today, follows the journey of a small Midwestern plane, Dusty Crophopper, (voiced by Dane Cook) who aspires to race around the world. The underdog story shows that with the right attitude, good friends at your side, and some hard work it is possible to overcome your perceived limitations.

Even though “Planes” was not produced by Pixar, it is set in the same universe as Pixar’s Cars, and, like its predecessor tells a story with a good message in a way that kids will enjoy. Dusty’s character was surprisingly humble for being voiced by the normally cocky Dane Cook, and the lessons he learns in perseverance and overcoming adversity, while cliche, are certainly applicable to many kids.

 

In the same way that “Cars” had nods to Automotive and Nascar aficionados, “Planes” features enough attention to detail to delight aviation enthusiasts, who would likely need multiple viewings to catch every inside reference. Every plane in the movie is modeled after an actual aircraft, and in many cases the characteristics of that aircraft influence the personality of the character in the film.

 

Though the premise would seem to foretell non stop racing and action, “Planes” is actually a very dialogue driven movie. For this reason, it is unlikely to have the same appeal to smaller children as “Finding Nemo” or “Toy Story”. I don’t propose to know what eight year old boys like these days but I imagine that this film would be very appealing to them. There were some attempts at comedy relief, but it often fell flat. I’m not the biggest fan of Larry the Cable Guy in the world, but in the first “Cars” movie, his character provided important distractions from what was a fairly “grown up” story. There was no effective relief here, and it was missed. Overall, it was a warm, light hearted tale of adventure, friendship in the open skies, and an overall message to follow your dreams.


On my 1-10 Scale with 1 being the worst 5 being the best and 10 being the worst again I give Planes a 6.25000007 and an emoticon based sub ranking of: awwww…

iFamilyKC, Reviews

“The To Do List”: In Review

The To Do List

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language – all involving teens

Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson, Alia Shawkat, Connie Britton

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Release Date: July 26, 2013

The_To_Do_List_film

The raunchy teen comedy is not a new phenomenon.  The To Do List is the latest in a long standing tradition that includes such not so highly regarded films as Porkies, The American Pie series, and countless others.  “The To Do List” is more of the same, but with a female twist.  This twist could have made it just different enough from its thematic predecessors to succeed, however, despite the impressive collection of talent in the cast, the film was undone by inconsistent tone and too many cheap jokes.

Set in 1993, valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) wants to shed her uptight image and to that purpose compiles a list of all the adult type activities that she missed out in highschool. In order to complete the list she must solicit help from her friends. Hijinks ensue.

There are many ways to judge a comedy. The most simplistic way is by measure of sheer volume of laughs.  By this measure, “The To Do List” did fairly well.  I did laugh, but they were not joyous laughs induced by clever lines or nuanced performances.  They were awkward and uncomfortable laughs where you can’t really believe what you are seeing and you kind of want it to stop.  There was a lot here that was raunchy for the sake of being raunchy.  There’s nothing particularly clever about a person eating poo (or is it a candy bar? Or is it poo?,….It was poo). 

The other bullet in this movie’s holster is the trusty 1990s reference.  A lot of the jokes were basically, “Ha! People used different slang words back then!” or, “Ha! Look at what people wore in 1993,” or “Hey! I remember that song.” I truthfully enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but there was nothing particularly insightful about the references. They just pointed out a lot of stuff that was considered cool in 1993. 

I think the most disappointing aspect of this movie is the amount of talent that was on display.   Aubrey Plaza is amazing in Parks and Recreation.   Television as a medium has the luxury of slowly developing characters over time, but her character in that show plays very well to strengths as an actress.  She is strong, smart, sarcastic, dark.  She has a tough exterior, but secretly really cares about the people around her.  She is able to make a flawed and often rude character very likable.   Here, she is repressed, naive and extremely Type A.  It is good to see her try something different, but she was not able to make me like her character. 

There were a lot of other talented people here also: Donald Glover, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg and others were all trying very hard but were unable to lift this material to bring anything beyond a few cheap laughs. 

At the end, the movie couldn’t quite commit to what it had set out to be.   For the first 90 minutes this was an unapologetically raunchy film that never met a line it wouldn’t cross.  Then at the end it turned sappy with a heavy-handed lesson that may have been sweet, but seemed woefully out of place.

“The To Do List”, gave ladies the teen raunchy comedy that I would guess most of them never wanted. 

On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the least, 5 being the best, and 10 being the worst again I give it a 2.25 with the emoticon based sub-ranking of: clutching pearls.

 

 

Culture, iFamilyKC, Reviews

What?! Another Movie Review, You Say?! “Now You See Me”

“Now You See Me”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for Language, Some Action, and Sexual Content)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Melanie Laurent, Dave Franco, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Release Date: May 31, 2013

I must begin this review with a confession: I love magic. When my husband and I talk about vacationing in Vegas one day, we don’t talk about drinking or gambling or any other form of Vegas debauchery, we talk about going to see Penn & Teller. I consider myself to be a very analytical person, and trying to figure out how a good magician pulls off a particularly clever illusion is an enjoyable challenge for me.

So it’s fair to say that “Now You See Me” is right up my alley, and it did not disappoint. The movie begins with four different magicians demonstrating their particular talents while being recruited by a mysterious person in a blue hoodie. They unite to become the Four Horsemen, and in their first show rob a bank in the middle of their act and distribute the stolen money to the audience.  On the case are skeptical FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), Interpol agent Alma Vargas (Melanie Laurent, from “Inglorious Bastards”) and Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).  Thaddeus is a former magician turned professional illusion buster who makes a living exposing the secrets of famous magicians.

The robbery, however, is only the beginning. As the Four Horsemen continue towards their grand finale, the FBI and the audience are left trying to figure out what they are building towards, and who is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Like and good magical illusion, “Now You See Me” takes you on an adventure with so many twists and turns that it’s hard to keep up, but you’ll have fun trying. It’s entertaining, captivating and enjoyable with an ending that you’ll never see coming. It features compelling and charismatic performances by a strong cast, and holds your undivided attention all the way through. Though the special effects are occasionally distracting, and remind you that you are being fooled by computers instead of real people, the sense of wonder and awe that draws people to magic is definitely there.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best, and 10 being the worst again, I give it a 4 and an emoticon based sub ranking of, “Excited Winking Face”.