Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2

Starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Gary Oldman
Directed by Jennifer Yuh
Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence
Appropriate for all ages

    Po is back as the Dragon Warrior panda who is now the hero of the land.  But apparently, years ago, the ruling family of China had a son named Chen whose fortune was told that a panda would be his downfall.  Thus, he killed all of the pandas in the land.  His parents threw him out of the city, but now he is back and has taken siege of the capital with only Po and his warrior friends to restore peace.  

    I was one of those surprised people when the first Kung Fu Panda hit theaters.  I was getting to the point where Jack Black was starting to become annoying, but the story and production won me over.  Now that I find Jack Black to be completely annoying, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be all that into the panda sequel.  That being said, I’m glad I went with an open mind because it wasn’t all that bad.  It wasn’t as impressive or original as the first, but those are some big shoes to fill.  

    The first half of this film, to me, felt like filler.  It was boring, not very funny, and only there to set up the second half.  This is the case with a lot of films, but this one seemed particularly lame at first.  But then when the warriors arrived at the capital, things started to shape up and not only did it become more exciting, the humor missing from the first half leaped into action as well.  Getting past all of the exposition was tiresome, but if you start to nod off after 45 minutes, don’t worry, you’ll wake back up shortly.

    As for Black, he’s not as bad as I expected.  There was a time when I really loved him and what he was doing.  I went to several Tenacious D concerts and couldn’t wait to see the next big JB movie.  But then his seemingly manic presence got on my nerves.  It’s as if the world turned on his slap happy button and it never got turned back off.  Fortunately for us, Po moves and acts differently.  You still get the made up words and silly sayings, but there is more of a softness and humility to Po that makes him bearable.  Get it?  Bearable?  Sorry about that.

    So while I didn’t love the movie, I did find it enjoyable at times.  It has just enough laughs and action to keep you engaged, especially at the end.  I do think the first film targeted both children and adults a little better than this one.  While the kids will no doubt have a blast, the parents won’t be blown away.  

    Just in case you are thinking about going to see this one in 3D, I have to tell you that Kung Fu Panda 2 has the same problem that the new Pirates pic has: it’s too dark for 3D.  With those tinted glasses, it makes it very hard to see the nighttime events, and much of the film takes place at night.  Also, it dulls the colors, which is one of the things that brings a film like this to life.  B-  

New in Home Entertainment – May 31, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 31, 2011

True Blood: The Complete Third Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When the Sopranos left the air a few years back, there were many besides myself that thought HBO was in a bit of a pickle.  After a bit of dry spell, they came back with a vengeance with True Blood.  While the first two seasons of the hit vampire show introduced us to the world of Louisiana vampires and demons, the third went in a brand new direction: werewolves.  Sookie (Anna Paqin) had a fun enough time being fought over by two bloodsuckers (Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard), but in season three a new hairy hunk was thrown into the mix (Joe Manganiello).  And if you thought seasons one and two were crazy, the third gets wilder and naughtier.  I can hardly wait to see what season four throws at us come June 26.  A

Rated R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

He might have been haunting in No Country for Old Men, but now Javier Bardem is haunted in Alenjandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest film about a man from Barcelona who struggles not only to provide for his children, but with his connection to the afterlife as well.  Just like Inarritu’s other films, Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, the film is a challenge to watch but worth every minute spent viewing.  With the absence of long time writing partner and collaborator Guillermo Arriaga, there is definitely a different approach to his characters and his filmmaking than audiences will be used to, especially since this film follows one central storyline rather than several.  But many will find this to be an easier film to follow, although it is equally as difficult in regard to subject.  The biggest reason to watch this film – Bardem’s powerhouse performance which won him a best actor award at Cannes as well as an Oscar nomination.  A-

Once Upon a Time in the West
Rated PG-13
Available on Blu-ray

While this classic western isn’t as popular as Sergio Leone’s other masterpiece The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, (it’s still ranked #20 on IMDB’s top 250 list) you can tell five minutes into the first act that this might be his most influential.  Having been years since I’ve seen this tale about a widow trying to stay alive in the old west while some really bad dudes want her property, I had forgotten how much this looks like a Quentin Tarantino film.  I would guess that Tarantino watched this over and over again, studying it while trying to put together his own stories in his head.  This particular pic is unique in that Leone built the film around the score.  He had long-time collaborator Ennio Morricone compose a magnificent piece of music and then shot the movie with the music in his head.  In this regard, the music becomes an entire other character, enhancing the movie well above where the story could have taken it.  It’s not my favorite western, but it’s awfully darn good and very evident that there can be a true art in western pictures.  A-

American Graffiti
Rated PG
Available on Blu-ray

While not a western, American Graffiti, which is also making its blu-ray debut, has a lot in common with Once Upon a Time in the West.  When George Lucas pitched his classic American car story, he did so as a musical.  He had dozens of classic American songs from that period in his head and wanted to play them in the background while telling the story of teenagers in the 60s whose lives were about to change after their high school graduation.  The film takes place in the span of one night and in the process invented a new sub-genre of teenage comedies.  I’m not a big fan of the film, but I can certainly appreciate what it did for cinema.  Without American Graffiti there would be no Dazed and Confused, American Pie, Harold and Kumar or even Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  Graffiti also introduced the concept of Music Supervisor, creating a new standard by which many films are judged today: the soundtrack.  B+

Drive Angry
Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

While Nick Cage has become quite famous for taking on some bad films in order to pay off his nasty spending habit, occasionally we get a guilty pleasure gem like Kick Ass and now Drive Angry.  Drive Angry follows a man that has escaped from Hell in order to track down the cult that has killed his daughter and kidnapped his baby grandchild in order to sacrifice her.  While the film was meant to be watched in 3D, it is still fun in its 2D format.  Sure, its more entertaining to have Cage shoot off someone’s hand only to have said hand fly into your face, but if you haven’t made the move to a 3D TV yet, you’ll still get the point and you won’t have to wear the nerdy glasses.  This is by no means a good movie.  I’m not trying to trick you into believing it is.  But if you just want a guilty pleasure, mindless grindhouse pic to keep you entertained after a long and hard week, this will fit the bill just fine.  B-

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane
Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago)
Rated PG-13
Appropriate for ages 10+

    If you were like me, you were completely clueless as to what the second and third Pirates films were about.  Aiming to get back to a movie with an actual plot, Disney decided to build a fourth installment, and this time with an actual story.  Gone are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and in is Penelope Cruz as an old love interest of Captain Jack Sparrow’s (Depp) and Ian McShane as Captain Blackbeard, the supposed fiercest pirate to ever helm a ship.  Here, Sparrow finds himself taken prisoner aboard Blackbeard’s ship as a race ensues to find the Fountain of Youth.  

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Disney decided to offer up a real story for the new film and I’m very pleased that Bloom and Knightly are gone as their characters had completely outstayed their welcome.  What I’m not so pleased about is the weakness of the writing and the overall production.  I think the Fountain of Youth is a worthy goal, even if the tale does cut a little too close to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  That being said, the movie feels like all fluff and the plot points are lame at best.  If they truly wanted to make this a fresh new Pirates film, they should have left Rush’s Barbossa out of it and allowed Sparrow to lead the path as the lone survivor from the first three films.  With Rush still in it, the movie feels like just a retread of the rest of the movies and the story suffers because of it.  

    Depp and Cruz had some real potential if the writers knew what to do with them, but rather than a romantic swashbuckling movie, the romantic was killed off entirely making it a film about lousy criminals attempting to find a prize.  If they had made a deeper connection between Depp and Cruz, the film could have had something to bring out an emotional attachment with its audience.  

    Also, while McShane is a great actor, his character never succeeds in making the audience scared of his villainous role.  The problem is that he is just like the villainous pirates of the last three films.  Maybe a little less impressive since he isn’t actually dead or grafted to an octopus.  Between a less than frightening villain and a tired script that replaces original action sequences with what could have been shots taken from the first three films, this new Pirates comes off as a boring pic that will most likely be blasted by audiences as well as critics.  

    The only real scary villain in the film, and maybe the film’s only saving grace, is the group of mermaids.  I loved how they made the mermaids a vampire-like creature and the battle with them is a fun one to watch.  

    If you do decide not to head my warning against seeing this film, at least don’t pay the extra bucks for the 3D version.  Not only is it embarrassing that they use the 3D more as a gimmick than an enhancement, but the film is very dark most of the time, and the 3D glasses are tinted.  Corey Hart might have enjoyed wearing his sunglasses at night, but I much prefer a brighter scenario when they are on my face.  C-

New in Home Entertainment – May 24, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 24, 2011

The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Series
Available on DVD

In the late 80’s SNL producer Lorne Michaels introduced America to Canadian sketch comedy with The Kids in the Hall.  Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson performed a unique style of comedy that while reminiscent of SNL and Monty Python, definitely stands out in its originality.  While the episodes look dated with an almost pastel hue, the laughs are still there in force.  Watching these guys go drag is simply hilarious and in their more masculine characters they are just as funny.  The great thing about a set like this is that the more you watch, the funnier it gets.  It sort of breaks down your defenses and puts you in the right mood to enjoy the silliness.  Also included in this set (as well as sold separately) is the 2010 eight-episode television series Death Comes to Town.  It’s not as great as the original show, but the comedy team proves that they still have it and their unusual style shines through.  The Kids In the Hall A; Death Comes to Town B

Gnomeo and Juliet
Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While I can’t prove it, I’m generally certain that Disney’s Shakespeare-inspired tale started with the catchy title and then they attempted to put a story with it.  There are many problems with that though.  When they couldn’t get a good enough kid-friendly story, they chose to beef it up with a load of Elton John tunes.  I know Elton tells it differently, but I just can’t imagine another alternative.  First off, how do you screw up Romeo and Juliet?  First, you muck with the classic.  In an attempt to be clever, they throw in tons of puns, most of them unfunny.  And talk about boring.  This is the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons, not the follow up to the brilliant Tangled.  I know an animated tragedy doesn’t make the best kids flick, but maybe Disney shouldn’t be so worried about pandering to their perceived audience and instead elevate the material.  And if they think the themes would make that bad of a kids movie, then maybe they shouldn’t have made it at all.  I’ve seen many good modern variations on Shakespeare’s work,  but this sure isn’t one of them.  C-

Wartorn 1861-2010
Available on DVD

Executive producer James Gandolfini and HBO explore the world of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its link to military combat.  The disease has had many names since the Civil War, but the cause as well as the results are very similar.  The essential thesis of the film is that we turn our kids into killing machines and can’t handle the consequences when they aren’t deprogrammed back in the States.  This is a tough film to watch, but it is absolutely one of the best arguments I’ve ever seen for not sending our kids out to fight frivolous wars.  A-

I Am Number Four
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and for brief language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Several children are sent to Earth from a distant planet in order to escape assassination from a sinister alien race.  When the assassins get to Earth to wipe them out, they succeed in the first three.  Now Number Four and his protector must find a way to survive the impending attack.  While this sci-fi action flick was a critical dud, I have to admire the producers for putting so much money behind an original story like this.  Sure there is a lot of cheesiness going on, but the acting isn’t half bad (love Timothy Olyphant in almost anything) and the film is pretty entertaining overall.  B-

Rated R for violence, pervasive language, a scene of strong sexuality and some drug use
Available on Blu-ray

Before Tigerland, Colin Farrell was just a no name Hollywood wannabe.  This Vietnam era drama stars Farrell as a trouble-making soldier who specializes in helping misfits get discharged.  Preparing for war in hot and humid Fort Polk, Louisiana is his last stop before being shipped out to Vietnam.  It’s a well-told story with a star-making performance by Farrell.  If you are looking for a good war film this Memorial Day, you gotta check out this little gem.  A- 



Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Rose Byrne
Directed by Paul Feig (Arrested Development)
Rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout
Appropriate for ages 17+

    When she is picked to be the maid of honor for the wedding of her best friend (Rudolph), Annie (Wiig) spirals out of control trying to compete with one of the girls who is also in the bridal party (Byrne).  

    If you think the description of the film sounds like every other lame romantic comedy or chick flick, then you would be correct.  Fortunately, this is no lame romantic comedy or chick flick.  The film begins with Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig having the most unsexy sex you’ve ever seen, setting the tone for this unusual raunchy comedy that turns out to be extremely enjoyable.

    The first clue that this is a good comedy is Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin) taking the reins as producer.  He is on a string of hits a mile long and this one just adds to the list.  Whatever formula he applies is working just fine and giving their audiences their money’s worth.  

    The next clue is the cast.  While it’s not a completely unknown cast, there are very few famous actors in the movie, which is fine because there is more talent here than in most movies loaded with A-listers.  While in the past Kristen Wiig has played mostly over-the-top characters, much like she does on SNL, here she shows her acting chops with a performance that makes you laugh, but draws a tremendous amount of empathy as well.  Also, the actresses in the bridal party work very well as an ensemble, and Melissa McCarthy steals every scene she’s in with perfect comic timing and an outrageous ability to shock.  The pleasant surprise was The IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd who plays the charming cop with a crush on Annie.

    While the comedy itself is sometimes so powerful that you manage to miss dialog due to people laughing too loud, there are some restrained moments as well that equal out the absurdities.  This is something that Apatow’s films do all have in common – the heart is hit as hard as the funny bone.  

    I’ll admit that the movie does have some minor flaws.  While all films have some continuity errors, this one has quite a few very visible ones – most notable were the scenes where they compare dirty teeth and the dance sequence at the end.  You can tell that the improv became such a vital force in the making of the film that little details were simply overlooked.  Those overlooked details are completely forgettable, though, when you consider how fun the overall experience of the movie is.  A-

New in Home Entertainment – May 17, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 17, 2011

Mao’s Last Dancer
Rated PG for  a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray (Exclusively at Target until the end of July)

If you blinked, you probably missed this little Australian Indie based on the true story of a Chinese ballet dancer and his time in Houston during the early eighties.  Li Cunxin (Chi Cao) started out as a poor peasant only to end up representing Beijing as a ballet dancer.  Upon a cultural exchange with the Houston Ballet, Li became world famous, especially after he defected in order to stay.  While the film does have its problems, including some subpar acting and many situations where they showed a modern Houston while wanting you to believe it was 1981, it is also an amazing story with two big stars: The Dancing and The City of Houston.  First off, the dancing is remarkable and overall much stronger than what we saw earlier this year with Black Swan.  I think the part of the film I enjoyed the most was seeing how well Houston was represented.  Houston is portrayed as a Mecca of the arts and since it was filmed in our great city, it was thrilling that a group of Australian filmmakers would show Houston is such a great light.  And while I wasn’t hot on some of the acting and scene direction, I must give props to Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) who did a terrific job portraying Houston Ballet Artistic Director Ben Stevenson.  I wish I (and many of the other critics around the country) could have seen this film in time to vote last year, as he would have easily been a contender for Best Supporting Actor.  B+

Diablolique: The Criterion Collection
Not Rated
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While the word shocked is relative compared to today, in 1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s film about the wife and mistress of a cruel headmaster plotting revenge shocked the world and paved the way for many of the great psychological thrillers and horror films of the 60s and even today.  56 years later, the classic French film is getting the Criterion treatment with a new digital restoration and tons of great special features.  It’s hard not to like an old film such as this, which looks less dated than you would think, and it’s one of only a few classic movies from this time period to grace the IMDB Top 250 (currently ranked 182).  A

The Rite
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material, violence, frightening images, and language including sexual references
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Going along with the old priest/new priest routine, Anthony Hopkins is the old exorcist, well-practiced in the art of removing demons, while Colin O’Donoghue is the young seminary student who has lost his faith.  The film starts out pretty creepy, but loses momentum when it is obvious that there is something demonic going on and the young priest is still in disbelief.  Also, the fact that it is PG-13 when it should definitely be R doesn’t help the film in the least.  Finally, the studio’s insistence that there be a hot young women thrown in the mix creates a hollywood factory feel rather than a true taste of horror.  That being said, Hopkins is great and tries to hold things together.  The forces fighting against him are simply too strong.  C

The Other Woman

Rated R for sexual content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

If you are under the impression that Natalie Portman is in half of the films out right now, you aren’t far off.  Since 2009 she has made 10 films and many of them are just now seeing the light of day.  This little Indie stars Portman as a home wrecker after she has wrecked the home.  When her child from her stolen husband dies shortly after birth, she must learn to cope with the loss, her strained relationship with her new family, as well as a hidden secret.  The film itself has a movie-of-the-week look and feel driven by one of the worst musical soundtracks you could put in a film.  The acting isn’t half bad and there are many great emotionally impactful scenes but it’s as if the cast really cared about the picture even though the production team either didn’t care or was incapable of presenting the material in a palatable format.  Either way, the movie is not only a bit depressing, but bland as well.  C-

New in Home Entertainment – May 10, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 10, 2011

No Strings Attached
Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Films about couples that only want a physical relationship and nothing more have until lately been sentenced to straight-to-dvd or late night cable flicks with lousy actors that possess no talent other than their beautiful looks.  The last few months, however, has changed that with the Anne Hathaway/Jake Gyllenhaal dramady Love and Other Drugs and now No Strings Attached with Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.  While this new film sticks to the predictable formula you’d expect, there are some bright spots.  First off, this is a sex comedy with relatively little sex.  While there are some that might think that is a bad thing, I think it helps to elevate the integrity of the film a bit.  Acting-wise, while there aren’t going to be any awards handed out from this title, Portman does a fine job and Kutcher keeps up respectably.  Unfortunately, director Ivan Reitman (Dave) creates too many sit-comish scenarios that bring the film down a notch.  That being said, I did laugh quite a few times.  So while it’s not a great achievement for the genre, it is still better than most of the rom coms hitting the scene today.  C+

Blue Valentine
Rated R for strong graphic sexual content, language, and a beating
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This polar opposite of a romantic comedy stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple that dramatically fall in and out of love.  While the falling in love part of the film is romantic and engaging, the falling out phase is almost unbearable to watch.  Sure it’s reality, but that’s not always a good thing when it is immensely depressing.  The performances are so good by Gosling and Williams that its hard to take your eyes off of them, but many will absolutely not appreciate the challenge this film presents.  As for the NC-17 the film originally received, I’m pretty sure that was a publicity stunt by Weinstein as there is hardly anything in the film warranting that strong of a rating.  B

Something Wild: The Criterion Collection
Rated R
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While it didn’t break any records at the box office, this 1986 Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) comedy is quite the cult classic, and according to the interview with Demme on the disc, the movie that kept him from quitting the business.  Given creative freedom by Orion Pictures, Demme was able to create a great little comedy that starts out fun and ends up dramatic.  The story follows Jeff Daniels as he is seduced by Melanie Griffith who wants to borrow him for a while.  But then in walks her ex Ray Liotta in his film debut.  All of the performances are strong, but the film is worth seeing almost for Liotta alone.  While there are some “what were thinking” moments in the film, mostly concerning music and costume design, the movie is extremely fun to watch and impossible to predict what will happen next.  A-



Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins
Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence
Appropriate for ages 10+

    In the processing of going to the Marvel bench for more super hero movies, Paramount has turned to the story of the one of the few heroes who is not actually a man, but a god.  Thor (Hemsworth), the powerful but arrogant Norse god of thunder has been cast down to Earth by his father (Hopkins), sentenced to live as a mortal until he does a little growing up.  Jealous of Thor’s life and legacy, his younger brother Loki seeks to wreak havoc amongst his own people and the folks on Earth as well.

    Marvel and fanboys throughout the world have been clamoring for an Avengers movie, but in order to bring the Avengers together (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America) it is important to introduce Thor and his world to the movie-going public, and so this film serves as the necessary genesis.  While it is spectacular to look at, and contains some entertaining features, the film also misses the mark when it comes to creating a truly original and award-worthy action film.  

    First the good.  As previously stated, the production design is breathtaking.  The world of Asgard is a site to behold and the visual effects are jaw-dropping.  While the score by the usually terrific Patrick Doyle (Henry V) almost gives a cheap b-movie sound to the film, the visual effects team is very worthy of praise.  

    I also thought they did a great job with casting the main roles.  The relatively unknown Hemsworth was a terrific Thor and Hopkins was superb as his father Odin.  Tom Hiddleston could have been a little more of a snake in the grass as Loki, but by the end his creepiness showed forth just right.  

    Where they messed up is in the story department.  Most of the time when you see so many writers receiving credit – that ain’t a good thing.   The story’s direction was so bent on getting to the Avenger’s film that it became a huge distraction.  It cheapened the film and almost ruined it.  I liked Iron Man and Thor when they included nice plugs after the credits, but here, just as in Iron Man 2, they made the plugs a central theme in the movie.  When Thor tells the SHIELD leader that they are on the same side and that he will be an ally, it feels forced and ridiculous.  I honestly believe that the studio’s involvement in trying to make Thor a commercial plug for the big upcoming film hurt the integrity of the project tremendously.

    Another shameful inclusion were Thor’s friends from Asgard.  I’m sure they played a major part in the comic but here they not only came off as unimpressive and almost weak, but they also added a silly element that the film didn’t need.  Perhaps Marvel was trying to figure out which character was worthy of a spinoff, like they did with X-Men 3 and Wolverine, but whatever the reason for inclusion, it did nothing to help the film but rather created annoying characters that only served to confuse and cause the audience to roll their eyes.

    So is it a good film? I have to admit that it is entertaining at times, and they did get many things right, but the things they got wrong stuck out like a hammered thumb.  C+

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

POM Wonderful presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Starring Morgan Spurlock
Directed by Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me)
Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual material
Appropriate for ages 15+

    Product placement in movies and television has always been with us, whether we notice it or not.  Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s obvious and then sometimes it’s distracting when it’s not there (i.e. cans of Tasty Drink Cola and Crispy Flakes Cereal).  With his unique brand of filmmaking, documentarian Morgan Spurlock shows us all about product placement by going around to different sponsors and trying to get product placement for his movie.  Sponsors can get varying level of exposure in his film and to the highest sponsor (in this case POM wonderful) goes the name above the title.

    There is no doubt that Morgan is a wildly creative filmmaker with a distinct style.  His goal is to always make a strong point, but to do so in a comedic, memorable way.  And this particular film does just that.  It’s funny, witty and engaging while at the same time wildly informative.  It will be hard to see a Dr. Pepper on television or a Budweiser in a movie now without thinking of this film and the people responsible for getting it there.  

    A key element of the film that keeps it very interesting is the series of interviews with all sorts of unlikely suspects.  Whether it’s Ralph Nadar or Noam Chomsky weighing in on the evils of corporate brainwashing or film directors Brett Ratner and Quentin Taratino discussing how they maintain artistic integrity while at the same time placing products in their films, the selection of subjects are well-interviewed and give credibility to the project.  

    One thing you won’t find in the movie is an argument.  It’s also not an extremely intellectual doc with a strong thesis.  In fact, compared to films like last year’s Oscar winner Inside Job or 2010’s winner The Cove, it can hardly be labeled in the same style of filmmaking.  It’s almost less of a documentary and more like reality cinema.  That’s not a bad thing, as the film is completely engaging and entertaining.  But then again, it’s not going to create a revolution or change the world either.  It’s simply a fun way to spend 90 minutes shedding light on a subject you are already probably mildly aware of.  B+

New in Home Entertainment – May 3, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 3, 2011

The Dilemma
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Vince Vaughn and Kevin James team up with director Ron Howard in this decent little buddy comedy that stank it up at the box office earlier this year.  While the movie is pretty funny at times, and fairly well-acted, the subject matter of addiction and adultery had a tough time finding an audience.  Vaughn is fun to watch while trying to put off telling his friend and business partner James about his cheating wife until the worst possible moment.  In fact, what makes the movie funny, yet also annoying, is that Vaughn’s timing is off on everything. His character couldn’t possibly make worse decisions.  Both Vaughn and James pull off respectable performances, and Winona Ryder and Channing Tatum turn in surprisingly good work as the cheating spouse and her lover.  Meanwhile, Jennifer Connelly is given an almost wasted part and Queen Latifah is completely irritating.  I like that Ron Howard got back into comedy, but this probably wasn’t the best project for him as it wouldn’t have seen a big audience even with flawless execution and a perfect cast.  B

Gulliver’s Travels
Rated PG for brief rude humor, mild language and action
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Jack Black is just a guy named Gulliver who works in the mail room when he finds himself on an assignment to cover travel in the Bermuda Triangle.  When his ship wrecks off the coast of Liliput, he finds himself a giant amongst the inches-high residents.  And then he goes into Jack Black mode.  What is that, in case you don’t know?  He goes nuts – singing, dancing, and making a fool of himself.  It was cute during his first couple of movies, but years later, and in this setting, I find it almost unwatchable.  Miscast here is Jason Segel as Horatio and Emily Blunt as Princess Mary.  I feel that this movie is just plain beneath them as actors and can be nothing but a step back in their careers.  That being said, the production values are pretty impressive with decent special effects and an impressive process for making the ginormous size of Black look almost organic.  Also, while I didn’t enjoy myself, my one-year-old couldn’t take his eyes off of the screen.  Maybe I’m just the wrong audience.  D+