Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Colombiana and Trouble the Water

Colombiana: 3 of 5 Horns

I am extremely tired and was very devoid of flicks this weekend. I worked late on Friday, worked on Saturday, lady then went straight to my boy Jackson's 2nd birthday party at "Fun Run." Come Sunday, I had time for one flickaroo, and I went with Colombiana.

I think Zoe Saldana is a real up-and-comer in the action-adventure genre...see also: Avatar, Star Trek, and most relevant here, The Losers.

If you didn't see The Losers, it is actually worth watching, and was something of the poor man's A-Team, also a 2010 release. Saldana was the female lead in The Losers. Without getting into spoilers for either, their characters were fueled by the same motivation in each and kick ass, in just about the exact same manner.

Now while this may seem insignificant, given that these are two different movies, but Columbiana, for a few interesting scenes, just couldn't really hold my attention.

Yes, this was a budget thriller, evidenced by the presence of Max Martini and Lennie James, both excellent actors, both in my favorites category, neither of which with any star power (see also: David Mamet's Redbelt) Oh yeah...another of my favorites who shows up here and there....Cliff Curtis is here too. Add a few bits of Alias's Michael Vartan, and you have the extent of your recognizable cast.

Perhaps you may see some of these folks and think they were bit players in one of the season of 24. You're probably right. This movie is completely carried by Saldana and for bits and pieces of the film that were descent, there were too many distractions and subplots and zig-zags to make this interesting. The film is competent, but just not entirely.

The coolest name award goes to Olivier Megatron, director, who most notably previously gave us, The Transporter 3.  I mean come on...let this man direct Transformers 4 (if there is one), on principal alone.

The screenplay was by Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson. With Besson penning this, I hoped for more, but I just can't say what. This guy has given us La Femme Nakita, Leon/The Professional, Point of No Return, The Fifth Element, and all three Transporter flicks. Pretty decent track record, and that is just a sampling.

I guess with the last feature he wrote being From Paris With Love (a marginally watchable flick), perhaps he is getting rough around the edges in his old age...well, he is only 52.

3 of 5 Horns for this film...not really bad, just nothing that drew me in. Sorry Zoe.

In honor of Hurricane Irene, I also caught the 2008 documentary, Trouble the Water, from filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. I had a chance to see this when it first came out with a Q&A with the filmmakers following the show. This was, of course, three years ago and this most recent viewing was in the comfy confines of my super sized Lazy-Boy...thank you very much Netflix!

Trouble the Water: 5 of 5 Horns
This is a movie that shows some of the tragedy, some of the efforts to survive, but mostly, the emotional moments that come after the trouble has passed. So often, stories end when everybody is safe and the disaster has passed. This movie takes it to the next step, showing exactly how the events of Katrina not only affected, but changed this group of people.

The basics are these, the filmmakers had gone to New Orleans to film some of the National Guard returning to their hometown after a tour in Iraq, in the early part of their filming, they meet Kimberley Rivers Roberts, aspiring rap star (aka Black Kold Madina) and her husband Scott. Shortly before Katrina, Kim got her hands on a camcorder and filmed the events leading up to the storm, the storm and violently rising water, and their escape from their attic to safety.

The climactic moments occur in the front end of the film, but the most emotional moments play out as the film presses forward.

While there is a undertone of failure on behalf of "the system," which seemingly is undeniable. Any film on Katrina that doesn't cover that to some extent would be an incomplete picture. But that only adds to the challenge that the folks faced and overcame. This documentary surrounds the events of Hurricane Katrina, but it truly is a showcase of the human spirit, the power of love, and the amazing capabilities of any person, when put in a situation that demands action.

Katrina was a nasty, nasty lady...On August 29, Katrina's storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans, submerging eighty percent of the city. The greatest displacement in the United States, over 800,000 people, since the Dust Bowl of the 1930's.

The cast featured in this film are in the lower socio-economic status of those in the New Orleans area. I think that they are representative of those impacted most heavily by the failure of the levee system. Race and socio-economic status played out through the film, but never in a heavy-handed manner. Some of the quotes that struck me as especially poignant were these...

Larry, saving dozens of people with a punching bag and a rowboat: "I never thought the Lord could use a man like me."

When talking with Larry, one of the other survivors says: "We had always spoke, but that day there, brought us to a brotherhood."

"During Katrina, my enemies helped me out. The storm brought us together, and now we're like brothers."

"If you don't have money and you don't have status, then you don't have the government." This woman's son wanted to join the army, but she said that she'd be damned and would wash floors to put him through college. "I don't want him fighting for a country that doesn't give a damn about him."

One of the survivors..."In other parts of the world, they're preparing for college. In New Orleans, there preparing us for prison."

New Orleans was and still is a haven for crime and troubled lives. There is a real redemptive power at hand in the transformation that is seen in many of those featured through the film, most notably Kim and Scott.

Make some time and catch this flick...it is truly worth it.

How about The Help! Another week at the top of the pile and well worth it, I might say. If you haven't seen it yet, do so soon. What else are you going to see this weekend? Shark Night 3-D? Yeah, I'll probably see it too, but I can save you the trouble and let you know if it's worth it.

Until later, take care...
Reel Rhino

Monday, August 22, 2011

Powers Back and So Am I...Fright Night (take 2) and Final Destination 5

My power is back and so am I!  I didn't have a chance to see Conan this weekend, but I fear that the critics and the audiences have spoken.  What a bizarre weekend at the box office...

1 The Help $20,018,659
2 Rise of the Planet of the Apes $16,119,502
3 Spy Kids: All the Time in the World $11,644,672
4 Conan the Barbarian $10,021,015
5 The Smurfs $7,802,377
6 Fright Night $7,714,388
7 Final Destination 5 $7,703,466
8 30 Minutes or Less $6,402,602
9 One Day $5,079,566
10 Crazy, Stupid, Love. $4,797,364
11 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 $4,511,411
12 Cowboys & Aliens $4,215,780

The Help managed to make the coveted move from #2 to #1, swapping spots with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and much deservedly, I may add.  But Apes is still on a great run...I mean two weeks at #1 and now the third week in release at #2.  Granted, Smurfs held off the Apes overseas, I think we can safely say that the success of Cesaer and Co. will lead to a greenlit sequel for that franchise.

Of the two re-envisionings, Conan was the winner by position, but with a $90 million budget, versus the more manageable budget of Fright Night at $30 million, the financial winner was Fright Night.  Granted I haven't seen Conan as of yet, RT has it sitting at 24% and Fright Night at 74%.  Hopefully word of mouth will get out on Fight Night, for it is actually a pretty good time....    

(Since my first post was a mobile blog, I will repost the Fright Night review now): 
Fright Night is a very solid flick that I enjoyed very much. 4.5 Horns for this remake of the 26 year old horror classic.

Colin Farrell is usually hit or miss for me, and this is a hit in his role as the swarmy and deadly vampire, Jerry.  For other Farrell hits, check out Tigerland, In Bruges, and The Way Back.

Anton Yelchin is someone that at this point, I think I would watch in anything. From his great turn in JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot to Defiance to Charlie Bartlett...this cat's got range.  His leading man effort her as Charley Brewster is no different...he just has charisma.
Toni Collette is great as Charley's mom, Jane and Imogene Poots is both cute and effective as the damsel in distress Amy, to Yelchin's Charley.

There are some similarities to the original, but has originality in both story and in visual appeal. Missing is some of the campiness of the original, but a well developed story is the result, so fat and happy, am I.

That well developed story is attributed to Marti Noxon, whose most recent credit otherwise is I Am Number Four.  This is a more sold effort and the direction here was also well handled, by Craig Gillespie, the man behind Lars and the Real Girl, but also Mr. Woodcock.

There are some great 3-D enhancements , so choose wisely and see this in glorious digital 3-D.

Oh yeah...McLovin' alert, McLovin' alert. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in the house and yet again, I find him completely enjoyable (see also: Role Models). I would even argue that he is stunningly leading MSN
handsome in some of his later scenes in the flick.
Finally, the character of Peter Vincent is pure gold. Culled from the 1985 film, the casting is great and some of the funnier moments come with him on screen.  Quite a change from the role first portrayed by Roddy McDowell.

I say 'funnier', but again, much of the camp is gone with laughs found here in the firm of throwaway one-liners here and there in a very well composed screenplay with a tone I had hoped Disblo Cody would have given us with Jennifer's Body.

The last 15 minute of the movie are brilliant.  Something of a mix between Ghostbusters and a less terrible Van Helsing.
Again, 4.5 Horns for this, a wholly enjoyable entry into the horror genre!

Final Destination 5
Timing is everything, and while I may have rather caught Conan, I was drawn into this due to the fact that it was starting and it was short.

Now I hadn't seen the fourth in the series, and I actually had wanted to, with #4 having been the first in the series in 3-D.  I have a vague interest in the torture-porn genre and was similarily interested when Saw gave us their first 3-D offering.

Let me sum up this film for you....

One of the cast has a vision of a disaster, this time, it's a bridge collapse.
He quickly realizes that his vision is about to come true.
He warns everone, a few people survive the disaster.
They start dying
Tony Todd is seen here or there, perhaps at some times, offering insight to the plight of the survivors.
The dwindling survivors hatch a scheme to further cheat death.
A twist ending gives death the upper hand.
Roll credits.

Now perhaps this is an over-simplified version of this screenplay, but it is pretty accurate.

I will say that adding David Koechner did not really enhance the film to any enjoyable extent.  Yes, he was enjoyable in every of his scenes, but it just wasn't enough.

The last 10 minutes of the film were by far the best, and that does include the four minutes or so of the death compilation, a compendium of all the kills in the history of the series.  I did mention a twist ending and for all the bad, it was an enjoyable little wrinkle that I actually did enjoy.

Final Destination 5 gets a 1.5 of 5 Horn rating from the Reel Rhino.  The kill scenes were mediocre and from what I hear, a vast improvement over part 4, so perhaps I was spared in missing it after all.

The best part of this movie was the freaky 3-D holographic poster stand-up that graced the theater lobby!

That's all for now.

A final question before I bid you adieu....

Will Shark Night 3-D capture the enjoyable campiness that last year's Pirahna 3-D managed to spin up?  Time will tell as Sept 2nd is rolling up quickly.

Until later, take care.
Reel Rhino

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reel Rhino (lite - as in lights out)

So my power is out.  Again. 

While it wasn't documented, I am quite certain that a tornado ripped through my neighborhood last night.

We were spared, but some of neighbors fared less well...I think from the Blogger app, all picts will be at the bottom, but check them out...that's a hundred year old oak, as we'be been calling it.

In the meantime, I did have a chance to see Fright Night.

Very solid flick that I enjoyed very much.  4.5 Horns for this remake of the 26 year old horror classic.

Collins Farrell is hit or miss for me, and this is a hit in his role as the swarmy and deadly vampire, Jerry.

Antonio Yelchin is someone that at this point, I think I would watch in anything.  From his great turn in JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot to Defiance to Charlie Bartlett...this cat's got range.

Toni Collette is great as is Imogene Poots as the damsel in distress to Yelchin's hero.

There are some similarities to the original, but it is different in both story and in visual appeal.  Missing is some of the campiness of the original, but a well developed story is the result, so fat and happy, am I.

There are some great 3-D enhancements , so choose wisely and see this in glorious digital 3-D.

Oh yeah...McLovin' alert, McLovin' alert.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in the house and yet again, I find him completely enjoyable (see also: Role Models).  I would even argue that he is stunningly leading MSN handsome in some of his later scenes in the flick.

Finally, the character of Peter Vincent is pure gold.  Culled from the 1985 film, the casting is great and some of the funnier moments come with him on screen.

I say 'funnier', but again, much of the camp is gone with laughs found here in the firm of throwaway one-liners here and there in a very well composed screenplay with a tone I had hoped Disblo Cody would have given us with Jennifer's Body.

Again, 4.5 Horns for this.  My text finger is tired, so I shall take my leave of you.

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Help

I ended up sending roving reporter, Dani California, into the fray to see The Help. While my intentions were to get her review posted over the weekend, well, you know what they say about the best intentions being fraught with disappointment.

The Reel Rhiness herself is planning a post as well, discussing the differences between the book and big screen versions of The Help, but with the school year in full swing, that post may be delayed a few days. She is also trying to recover emotionally from the roller coaster of highs and lows that this film provided. I agree with that...and there's nothing worse than seeing a big man sobbing into his popcorn.

I absolutely loved this film.

It has rocketed triumphantly into my top 5 of the year thus far, and this is really one of the few times that I unequivocally put a film into the mandatory viewing category. The powers of film is the ability to learn from the mistakes of our past. Such an opportunity exists here, providing biting insight to the hardships faced by African Americans in the racially divided south during a truly hateful time in World history.

Mistakes...such an understatement for the topic at hand. This movie demonstrates, albeit it watered down a bit for the masses, the brutality and hate of the era. But really, the brutality demonstrated here is not so much about muscle, as it was the complete demoralization of a group of people.

As we celebrate the recent passing of the law allowing same sex marriages in the State of New York, it brings to mind that while we have made great strides for the equality of all people in America, we still have some tough roads to travel.

Westboro Baptist Church Protesting Kevin Smith's
Red State

Think of how many times in a day you hear something spoken, something posted online, some photo that brings to mind racism, sexism, discrimination, objectification, prejudice, or some other form of one group of people oppressing another.

I am a part time Catholic, but even in my scant appearances in the great cathedrals of the world, I have picked up this little nugget...do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Pretty true, regardless of who, what, when, and where. The why? Well the why is simple...because its the right thing to do.

The Preacher in The Help gave a sermon about doing what's right regardless of the possible struggles you may be making for yourself. This becomes the driving force of the stories that are the heart of this film. These maids did what was right, knowing the dangers it created in their lives and the lives of their family.

They did what was right. This film is courage in action....a measure of resolve at the testing point.

Go see The Help. 5 of 5 Horns from The Reel Rhino...

And now for Dani Californa...

My Friday night movie of choice was The Help. Having already seen 30 minutes or Less and being extremely disappointed, I needed something that would live up to my expectations and The Help definitely did just that.

For those that haven't heard anything about this movie and what it is about, this is what IMDB says:
"Set in Mississippi during the 1960's, Skeeter (Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families."
Emma Stone is the leading lady followed by Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard. I adore Emma Stone, and I love the fact that she is playing a more serious role aside from her previous films like Superbad, Zombieland, and The House Bunny. Viola Davis shows you so much love and emotion that at times the movie brought tears to my eyes. She did such a fantastic job portraying a house maid of the era, I don't think anyone wouldn't feel the pain that she endured.

Bryce Dallas Howard is another amazing actress that performs so well, you just want to smack her throughout the entire movie. At least that's how I felt about her. Its a love-hate relationship with her in this movie...you love the performance, you hate the part. Octavia Spencer plays another of the main maid roles in the movie...Millie. She adds humor to the film that is a welcome relief from much of the weighty topics. But for her humor, she also has moments of great pain. Jessica Chastain plays the character of Celia Foote, who the women of Mississippi do not like much for reasons the movie will explain. She is such a sweet person, a little much to handle at times, but she means well. I honestly enjoyed every moment she was on screen.

I enjoyed this movie greatly. From the laughs to the tears, I wouldn't change anything. I am not up to date on my history, nor am I old enough to have experienced what it was like back then, but I am glad that for the most part, things are not that way any more. I give The Help 5 out of 5 Chili Peppers.

Until next time :) Dani California

Thanks Dani...I agree about everything you said. Especially about Emma Stone...she is adorable. She is this year's It-Girl and I am glad she is having her moment. This will likely be the first of many years into the future that she is so heavily applauded for her on-screen efforts.

Tate Taylor is a director to watch.  He has a longer resume as an actor than as a director and it seems his only other feature, Pretty Ugly People, sounds interesting. 

Also, Sissy Spacek was brilliant in The Help.  She became the focus of every scene in which she was on screen.  It's hard to believe that only 35 years ago, she played that telekinetically charged young woman who wrought havoc on her high school prom (Carrie).  While she is only 62, she felt older in Spirit, and perfectly wielded Southern charm.

Until later, do what's right in the face of possible pain...if we don't learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it.

Reel Rhino

Friday, August 12, 2011

30 Minutes or Less (or How Much of This Movie You May Find Funny)

Friday fun day was in effect and when the work bell rang, I slid down my dino’s tail, and headed for the movies. Although I enjoyed Chipotle, rather than a Brontosaurus burger, my tummy was happy none the less.

I was invited by The Kid in the Helmet to catch the midnight screening of 30 Minutes or Less last night, with the recent calamity resulting from Sunday’s microburst, I had to decline. While I did get to check the flick out today, The Kid was gracious enough to write a guest review for your reading pleasure. He did such a great job, that minus a little editorial at the bottom of the post, I leave you in The Kid’s extremely capable hands…

30 MINUTES OR LESS      The Kid: 2 Helmets/Reel Rhino: 2 Horns
Hello Reel Rhino readers. Part-time correspondent The Kid in the Helmet here, checking in with a review of 30 Minutes or Less, which will hence be referred to as 30 MOL. Not normally a movie I would see at a midnight opening-day showing but when my Dad (Papa Schmer, for frequent readers of Reel Rhino) asked if I wanted to go, I said “sure.”

So off we went to good ol’ AMC Barrywoods 24. As we walked up to purchase our ticket we were approached by a clean- cut All-American 14 year old boy who asked, “Any chance you guys are seeing 30 Minutes or Less.” To which my dad replied, “We are.” Prompting the young man to ask, “Could you be our fake father?” The answer was no and the kid said ok and walked away back to his group of friends. My dad and I applauded his efforts and we both agreed that we would much rather see him trying to get adults to buy him R rated movie tickets than standing outside a liquor store asking adults to buy him beer. Sorry little-shaver, the rules may have changed but the game is the same…I figured out how to sneak into R rated movies all on my own when I was your age, you can do the same.

Since the flick was R rated and it was midnight I didn’t expect a big crowd. So I was surprised to see a half-full theater 15 minutes before show time. Not only was it half-full but there were 4, count ‘em, 4 beach balls being tossed around. People were yelling and laughing and having a grand old time. Then, as always, one person couldn’t handle themselves and hit one of the balls as hard as he could, with no loft, straight into another patron’s face. Naturally this prompted Beach Ball Face to leave the theater and return with one of KC’s Finest who gave a stern look around to all in the theater, promptly ending all beach ball shenanigans.

A little about the movie for those not in the know. Rotten Tomatoes sums up the plot as such:

In the action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wanna-be criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). The volatile duo kidnaps Nick and forces him to rob a bank. With mere hours to pull off the impossible task, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). As the clock ticks, the two must deal with the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers, and their own tumultuous relationship.” The way in which the criminal dup force Nick to rob a bank is by strapping a bomb to his chest that will detonate in 10 hours if he fails his mission, attempts to take the bomb off, or contacts the police.
This seemed like a funny premise, it had a good cast, and it had a pretty great trailer. On the surface this might look like an odd choice for Eisenberg fresh off the excellent drama The Social Network, but he is no stranger to the comedy/action genre; catching his big break in the new classic Zombieland. Here Eisenberg is again teamed up with Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer. For those Social Network fans who pay close attention there is a nice little facebook joke in 30 MOL poking fun at Eisenberg’s turn as Mark Zuckerberg…it’s easy to miss so pay attention. Eisenberg is fine in the role. It’s nothing new. He plays almost the same character he did in Zombieland. It’s a little disappointing given that we know he is capable of more, but this movie doesn’t require much more than the stoned slacker role.

Teamed up with Eisenberg is Aziz Ansari. Who many know from NBC’s Parks and Recreation but who I fondly remember as Raaaaandy: the stand-up comic with a DJ in Judd Apatow’s Funny People. If you are not familiar with Randy…or even if you are…check out this clip:

...funny funny stuff. Aziz has some funny moments in 30 MOL and it’s nice to see him getting more feature roles.

And lastly we have our criminal master-mind, played by East Bound and Down’s Danny McBride. Not much to say here. If you enjoy his shtick you will enjoy him in this movie. Personally I have to take him in small doses, but I do like the fact that he recently became CEO of K-Swiss:

Ultimately this movie is a waste of potential, both of cast and premise. The writing just does not live up to how promising the premise is and how talented the cast is. There are some funny lines throughout, most of which you saw in the trailer, but no real gut busting moments. More so than the lack of laughs, this movie has major tone issues. There are some psychotically violent moments that are supposed to be funny, but come off as awkward, out of place, and, at times, downright uncomfortable. There are a lot of things wrong with this movie but perhaps the worst thing I can say about it is that it’s only 1:23 long and I felt like it dragged…a lot. I’d say it needed another round at the editing table but at 1:23 there’s nothing else to cut. I imagine the studio saw the dailies and knew they had a bad movie and were banking on star power and a good trailer to bring audiences in. And for the first week they will succeed in that endeavor, but I have to imagine word of mouth will start to hurt this one after opening weekend.

I give it 2 out of 5 Helmets. All 3 stars are better and funnier in their other movies and television shows, so save your money and rewatch those. This movie could pass the time on an airplane or in a hotel, but I wouldn’t even waste space in your Netflix queue. Till next time, this is The Kid in the Helmet reporting for The Reel Rhino.

Thanks Kid…as well spoken as any review I have ever read…you are a gentleman and a poet.

Firstly, in short, I agree with almost every sentiment the Kid points out above. Aziz Ansari is hilarious. His adlibs were the highlight of this flick and the only reason I also give it a 2 of 5 Horn rating. Danny McBride is routinely entertaining, but it felt like he was meandering through the script, devoid of the passion we typically see from him. Nick Swardson is also enjoyable, most of the time, but he too seemed to underperform in every way here. I did enjoy Remo Williams…err…Fred Ward, for his little screen time. If ever given the chance to meet him, I would let him know that I have always enjoyed his tough guy roles.

At 83 minutes, I wonder how much was left on the cutting room floor, that may have made this a more competent film? Maybe it was the studio, maybe it was Fleischer keeping things short and (as he saw it) sweet, I mean Zombieland was a tightly woven tale that was engaging from start to finish at 88 minutes. But this 83 minutes, while nearly short enough to play out as scripted television, drags on like War and Peace (no offense, Mr. Tolstoy).

I posted this link to the Wiki site for the real “pizza bomber” event:

and I find it more interesting to learn that 30 MOL was also fueled by an assassination plot, in which the motivation for the robbery was to raise money for a hit. In both instances, the end goal is to the hit is to kill a parental figure, so that an inheritance will be gained by an untimely death. I wonder how “vaguely familiar” the screenwriters actually were, given these stark parallels.

I had hoped for more from Ruben Fleischer, but this is really only his sophomore effort, following the very successful Zombieland. There is much buzz around his in-production The Gangster Squad, including the star-studded cast, which features It-Girl, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, and Ryan Gosling, among others.

Too bad, so sad, as they say.

I hope to have some word from the much anticipated The Help very soon, as well as some word on Glee 3-D. Another Earth finally hit KC this week, so I plan on taking that in soon, as well. And the dark horse of the weekend may be Final Destination 5, playing in IMAX 3-D as well as 2-D theaters. It’s PG-13 and surprisingly teetering near a fresh rating on RT. If nothing else, FD5 does feature the adorable Emma Bell.

Until later, take care…

Reel Rhino

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction? 30 Minutes or Less

So I wrote about most of my moviegoing last Friday, and I am itching to post. This weekend was quite hairy, as a Microburst brought down two trees into my yard...one on my truck and one on my shed. The latter of the two burst into flames as the downed power lines remained live for around 10 minutes after they went down. KC's Bravest made it to the homestead in two-alarm fashion. At the end of the day, no one was hurt but the insurance company, thank God for that.

I did go to The Smurfs on Saturday, as I scored a few hours off from family detail and the timing was right to catch this short, family flick.

I didn't hate The Smurfs. I grew up a member of the Smurfs fan club, so nostalgia played a part in my perspective. I think also, to some extent, I am tired of the fish out of water reboots that are so prevalent, and this tale was no different.

I will say that Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays were competent as the human counterparts in this live action flick. Jonathan Winters was also acceptable Papa Smurf with a decent effort by Katy Perry as the lovable Smurfette. But by far, the show was stolen by that menacing figure in Gargamel, portrayed wonderfully by Hank Azaria.

I give The Smurfs a 2.5 of 5 rating and nostalgia aside, this film is really only worth it if you are taking the youngins' to catch some of these animated hijinks. Yes, I say animated as the live action smurfs were really no better than a live-action/animated hybrid. The Smurfs would have been much better if they would have stuck to the cartoon roots and went for a full on animated reboot in the vein of Shrek or How To Train Your Dragon. The material was there, it was just squandered on this as the product. Sorry gang.

30 Minutes or Less
I haven't seen this flick yet, but I am utilizing my filmic soapbox to wax poetic on this new release for this weekend.

I know I haven't ever mentioned it...why would I right...but my hometown is good old Erie, PA. What you may not know is that this quiet city is the home of the inspiration for this new comedy from Ruben Fleisher, director of Zombieland.

On August 28th, 2003, Brian Douglas Wells, a local Erie pizza delivery man, marched into an area bank and demanded money. Did he have a gun? A knife? Nope...

Well if you've seen at least a single trailer for the film, you know it was a bomb. But unlike the movie, in which Jesse Eisenberg has a bomb strapped to his chest, Mr. Wells had a bomb clamped around his neck.

While I don't yet know how things will turn out for Eisenberg's character, we do know the tragic end that met Mr. Wells that day. On national television, with police and federal agents holding onlookers at bay, Mr. Wells collar bomb detonated, blasting a sizable hole in his chest.

The controversy and investigation that followed would be huge for the big little city of Erie, and in the end, Brian Wells would be implicated in the crime. There are theories that he was a true victim and those that speculate he was in on the crime from the get go and was killed by his co-conspirators to eliminate a potential witness in the case. The evidence is pretty heavy that he was involved, and although it is not valid for your next term paper, you can learn more here:

Also, for a dramatization of events, this is actually a pretty neat re-enactment, I believe from America's Most Wanted:

Finally, don't forget about the other new releases this weekend...

Glee 3-D - yes, I am a GLEEK.
The Help
Final Destination 5 3-D aka 5-al Destination

When will we stop integrating numbers into titles...yes, we get it....you are vedy, vedy cleaver.

Until later, take care...
Reel Rhino

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Change-Up; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; FWB

The Change Up: 4.5 Horns
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 4 Horns
Friends with Benefits: 4 Horns

Doubleheader Friday was in effect today and it was a hell of a day at sea! 

This week also saw the first set photo of Selena Kyle in full Catwoman gear, that's Anne Hathoway, one of my personal favorites.  Chris Nolan is my #1 favorite director of the moment and next year's The Dark Knight Rises is by far tied for my most anticipated flick of 2012...that being tied with THE AVENGERS.

A quick note of R.I.P. ~ Bubba Smith, former All-Pro defensive player and of course, Hightower, from the hallowed cannon of Police Academy, died this past week.  I point it out, out of respect, and because Police Academy remains one of my favorite series from my youth.  Of course, that reverence stands for Police Academy's 1 through 4...5 wasn't bad, but from there, things got a little bit ridiculous.  I won't be surprised when this franchise is revived, and when it is, hopefully that will be in the form of a proper adult comedy, as was the original.

Speaking of adult comedy....

The Change Up is a standard body-swap flick, flipped 100% on its head.  Not so much in the mechanics of it, but in the naughty bits.  The Change Up is a super duper ADULT comedy, full of eff's, skin, and loads of adult situations.

I mean it...this comedy, given to us by writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore...it is almost enough to make me forgive them for THE HANGOVER 2, their offering from earlier this summer.

Jason Bateman has become a staple of successful comedy, but when comparing this to his other recent "adult comedy" offering ~ Horrible Bosses ~ The Change Up is the no-holds barred WINNER.

Of course, I may be preferential as my hetero-man-crush Ryan Reynolds is front and center in this one.  Or it could be due to the appearance of the smokin' hot Olivia Wilde, making a great appearance two weeks in a row, also burning up the screen last week in Cowboys and Aliens.  Catfish...this one is for you!

It could be the wonderful use of THUNDERSTRUCK in the trailer that hooked me...a great song for trailers and pre-game pump up rituals.

Maybe it was Leslie Mann, who basically has me at hello in whatever she appears, not only because she is a beautiful woman, but also because she is one of the funniest actors in film today.  She has delivery that is second to none and she can play straight and serious as well as improv hilarious scenes.

While I often out and out review films, provide a synopsis, then give my opinion...I shall deviate here.  I can only say this: see this movie.

This film got me in a number of ways hitting
 emotional highs and lows as well as it did its comedic peaks.  It had a slew of bust a gut moments and steady supply of sustained laughs and get this...this movie actually brought me to tears twice. 

The depth of the emotion of the themes was striking and the messages were overt, but camouflaged successfully through most of the picture by the comedy.  See it, you'll feel it.

I give The Change Up 4.5 of 5 Horns and I say this...this is the champion of the summer adult comedies.  This is the second summer in the last 10 years that Director David Dobkin holds that title, with the last time being 2005 with The Wedding Crashers.  If he hits a gem once every 6 years, I'll take it, but I have a feeling that this may open some more doors for him much sooner than that.  Then again, he followed Crashers with Fred Claus the following year.  Let's hope his next film doesn't repeat that pattern.

I've seen the original and I've seen the cluster of a remake from Tim Burton, one of his few misfires, and while I am not fully versed in Apes lore, I was very excited to see this film.

Actually, I wasn't crazy about this until I saw the most recent trailer.  You see the first trailers focused on the rise part of the film, which is actually a rather short portion of the film.

The crux of this effort looks at the parental relationships.  First, with James Franco, playing Will Rodman, dealing with his father, portrayed wonderfully by John Lithgow.  And throughout the whole film, we see the parental bond that forms between Will and the chimp that would become Caesar. 

The film's central human character is Franco, but given the title and the franchise, the real star is Caesar.

It's kind of funny that one of the hallmarks of the intelligence of Caesar is his ability to use sign language, giving him nearly full fluency in human speak.  I say funny, because of the documentary in theaters now, Project Nim, which actually looks at a real life situation where an ape was domesticated (as much as that is possible) and taught to sign.  I haven't yet, but I plan on catching it ASAP.

As much as this is a dramatic tale in a fantastical world, that world is tamed by Will's goal in life...find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and to save his father's life.  It is apparent from the trailer and from the opening scenes of the film, that Rodman is successful to an extent, in his endeavors.  The plot moves forward as we learn the troubles that are married to this perceived breakthrough in medical technology.

Andy Serkis is the actor behind the motion-capture genius that fuels Caesar's on-screen performance.  You know him also as Gollum and King-Kong, his physical prowess is undeniable.

To that end, all of the animal effects are believable, given the suspension of disbelief.  I think the main thing that is distorted in watching the Apes on-screen is the speed with which they move.  Given it is an action movie, it is okay, but the Apes fighting and running all seemed to happen much faster and with more fluidity that would be in real life...but I guess since I have never seen Apes running or fighting, that is pure speculation on my part.

This film will likely be plenty to reinvigorate this franchise into a reboot-sequel, and I for one am excited to see where this story goes and how it all fits together with the Planet of the Apes world that has come before it, minus the Tim Burton entry, that is.

4 of 5 Horns for Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It looks like it did well over a million at the Thursday midnight show, and given The Change Up's R-rating, it will likely take the weekend, with Harry Potter and Captain America being too far into their releases to pose too much of a threat.  That, coupled with the middling reviews for Cowboys and Aliens (please note...I loved it!), and the Apes will likely take the box-office crown, in addition to beating down a goodly number of human along the way.  I think this flick will be fueled to a small extent with the Potter-contingency coming out to see Tom Felton's first post-Draco Malfoy role.  His bit as a sadistic ape-handler has much of the same cruel way of being he perfected as Malfoy.

Friends With Benefits
FWB was getting some harsh criticism, myself included (before I saw it) for actually being an iteration of NO STRINGS ATTACHED 2: THE DIRTY DIRTY.

I will say at the outset, I am a far bigger Mila Kunis fan than Natalie Portman, in the looks department, so that had me slightly jazzed for this go of things.  Let me qualify by saying that I have a hard time seeing Portman as a sexual being, given my affinity for some of her child roles, most notably, Leon and Beautiful Girls.  But, I certainly didn't stomp out of the theater in the big Kunis-Portman BLACK SWAN scene.  Also, speaking of sexuality, we did get a supposed Kunis butt-shot in this flick, but apparently this week, she has come out and said that a body double walked that walk in her place.

What am I saying...caught up talking about the ladies...I'm starting to sound like CATFISH!

Justin Timberlake.

So a part of me was bred to hate him...I mean, he was in a boy band!  Public opinion swayed a bit with his go in The Social Network, and I too enjoyed that performance, but was it a one hit wonder?

While JT doesn't knock it out of the park here, he certainly out performs his previous effort this summer in the milquetoast Bad Teacher.  He certainly moved straight past the over the clothes business of Bad Teacher into some full on naughty business.

FWB's dialogue, dirty talk included, blew right past No Strings Attached.  I mean I liked No Strings Attached...it had my kind of comic sensibilities, especially being an Ivan Reitman joint, but FWB is clearly the more enjoyable entry into this year's casual sex line-up.

What made this more enjoyable was a bit of what I felt with the last two reviews...heart.  JT's pops in FWB, a fantastic performance by Richard Jenkins, is suffering from Alzheimer's.  Perhaps, like in Apes, it is the disease of the moment to tug at the heartstrings of filmgoers, but dammit if it didn't resonate.

50/50 with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordan-Levitt will put to the test the ability to laugh while seeing the struggles of those suffering from debilitating illness with their "cancer comedy" hitting theaters this fall.  But I for one say that why should we be afraid to mix laughs with sorrows?  It more closely mirrors real life, and for me, it worked here.

Also, I mentioned how I liked No Strings Attached in part because of the styling of Ivan Reitman...well I think the director here, Will Glick, is an up and comer in a big way.  first off, he gave us last year's Easy A, starring my favorite and yours, Emma Stone.  But perhaps in the file of Reel Rhino's Hidden Gems...FIRED UP, the cheer camp comedy from 2009.  F.U. and Easy A both have tinges of darker, adult comedies that is a bit more overt in this, the first R-rated flick from Glick.  It all adds up to a big bucket of see this flick.

4 of 5 Horns for Friends With Benefits.  As an added bonus, in the early moments of the flick, we even get a little bit of Emma Stone...and that's never a bad thing.
A final note....

IN TIMESet for release October 28th, this film seems to be extremely original in nature, and also happens to star two of the peeps mentioned above in Olivia Wilde and Justin Timberlake as an unlikely mother and son pair.  Watch the trailer and you'll understand...also, Amanda Seyfried is cute and worked as the lead in Mamma Mia, but she faltered in genre picks Red Riding Hood and Jennifer's Body.  Perhaps the blame for those rests with Catherine Hardwicke and Diablo Cody, but I am hoping she can channel something great and make this flick shine.  Cillian Murphy is the lead baddie in this, and it looks fantastic.  Andrew Niccol gave us the visionary sci-fi flick Gattaca, which holds a very special place in my CSI-heart, so I know that this film was created with a competent eye at the helm.  Hey, check out the trailer and judge for yourself...

Until later, take care...
Reel Rhino