Reviews

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5/10
Darker than expected, not for small children
11 July 2016
The preview gives the impression this is a light comedy. Some parts are cute and sweet, while others are very dark and just plain cruel. Some animals have very nefarious plans.

At the screening I attended, when those evil plans were revealed, about 15 people walked out of the theater (about 6 or 7 families with children under 8). There's a character that gets off on violence and violent stories.

That being said, it's not a horrible film. It definitely has its moments, but the pacing is just odd. It can't make up its mind. Characters change alliances randomly. One minute it's funny, the next it's very disturbing.

There's even a psychedelic, drug-like sequence all of a sudden which just seems out of place and is just weird. I couldn't wait till it was over.

The film was obviously made by and for dog lovers, not cat lovers too.

I left the theater feeling empty at the end.

If you're looking for a solid family film, Finding Dory is a better choice and movie overall. You might want to pre-screen The Secret Life of Pets if you have small children.
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10/10
A Wonderful, Creative Fantasy!
21 November 2013
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is the story of Alice, but later on in her life. This is nothing like the Tim Burton interpretation. This is the spirited, little girl that we loved as Alice in books but all grown up. She's now a clever, young woman with determination.

Wonderland takes on a life of it's own, incorporating parts of the original story like the mock turtle and chess game, but serving them up in a whole new way.

There are references to Once Upon a Time, there's no need to watch this before Wonderland. Wonderland stands on its own as an interesting tale.

It's VERY creative and the story begins quickly. I suggest watching through to at least the 3rd episode then deciding if you want to stick with it. The 3rd, 4th and 5th episode are all great character studies, while the 1st and 2nd set the stage.

Strong female AND male characters lead characters are a nice touch. It's very balanced.

The story isn't spoon-fed to the watcher either which adds to the unpredictability. Anything that seems out of place (like the phony Queen and the presence of Jafer) are there for a reason is all I have to say.

It's great to see an extremely creative, fantasy show on TV. Being a fan of shows like Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, White Dwarf (I wish that made it past the pilot), and others, I really hope this show's given a chance.

A lot of sci-fi or vampire shows seem to make into several seasons, but fantasy seems to have more of a challenge.

This is definitely one of the better ones, but I fear it may suffer a similar fate to Stargate Universe (which starred Robert Carlyle AKA Rumplestilskin), where viewers expect it to be like the previous incarnation.

It's wonderful to see Michael Socha (The Knave of Hearts) play the underdog who struggles to do the right thing. (He was also in the ill- fated fantasy/horror "Being Human" UK version which ended too soon).

Wonderland is focused on just a couple stories, instead of several like Once Upon a Time. It's more of a quest and journey focusing mainly on Alice, but with VERY interesting characters surrounding her.
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Funny People (2009)
5/10
Not Very Funny, Boring and Long
3 August 2009
First, I've been very entertained by films like 40-year Old Virgin, I Love You Man, and Superbad. I'm generally not offended by gross-out humor or films with a long running time so that's not my issue with Funny People. The problem is that Funny People is an extremely self-indulgent film with uninteresting characters. I'm okay with unlikable characters, I welcome the kind of characters that you love to hate like Jack Nicholson's character in As Good as It Gets, but I didn't find anyone lovable, much less likable in Funny People.

The lead characters in Funny People are just not the kind I care about. Sandler plays George, an extremely successful Comedian who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. He's not a jerk, just a typical, spoiled rich actor who has free stuff given to him and sleeps with groupies all the time. He hires Ira (played by Seth Rogen), an aspiring comedian, to follow him around and do things like sell off his excess car collection. Sandler regrets not having love in his life so he calls an ex-girlfriend. All I can say is, so what? I don't care. Ira has two room mates that are aspiring actors with varying success. The characters are either spoiled actors or people who want to be spoiled actors. Funny People is all about their boring lives off the stage and screen. So what that George has trouble sleeping at night and sucks a popsicle after sex. So what that Ira can't get a date with a nice girl.

There's no depth in this movie, just a shell of superficiality that's parading as deep. Even with Sandler's inclinations that there may be something deeper that he's missing out on like a family or kids, his actions in the film show that he doesn't care. The characters don't grow and change. Ira gets to pal around with a big celebrity like George for awhile, but he doesn't really learn much from it. He just sits in the living room while George has sex with willing women. I could care less about an aspiring actor's fantasy like this.

Now, it's not all bad, but I needed to vent about the real problems of this film first.

The supporting characters are where some of the depth comes in. There are a few laughs with a tall, imposing doctor and Eric Bana is surprisingly tolerable as the husband of the ex-girlfriend whom George misses from the past. In fact, Bana's character is almost likable as the Aussie businessman who puts down his wife and finds peace in Buddhism. There's also camaraderie and friendship in Ira's room mate situation which is unexpected. I was with two guys who kept laughing at the male genitalia humor. Some of it went over my head, so I guess you need to be a guy to understand some of the stuff going on down there.

The film just doesn't get funny enough or dramatic enough to be interesting. There's not much of a story here unless you like the boring lives of actors. I would caution woman on seeing this film. There won't be anyone you can relate to unless you have the fantasy of banging an actor.
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Away We Go (2009)
10/10
A Charming Journey/Roadtrip
21 June 2009
The style of Away We Go very much reminded me of a late 1960s/early 1970s film. I kept thinking of Harold and Maude or The Graduate, where the lead characters learn about themselves as their relationships grow and change. There were some characters that were so despicable that they'll make you laugh and cringe at the same time. The disappointments were done in a comedic way so the movie never drags. There were introspective scenes along the journey where I thought a Cat Stevens song would start playing.

The main couple travel to various cities to find the perfect place to raise their daughter and they meet an insane cast of characters along the way. These people remind me of people I've actually met in real life. A lot are parents with the best of intentions but what they are doing is just plain wrong.

Maya Rudolph should be in more serious roles. She's an amazing actress. She gives a very genuine performance, no overacting at all. As for John Krasinski, he was very good too as the loving, supportive boyfriend. There's a scene where he kept trying to say the right thing, but it keeps coming out all wrong. I think any couple will be able to relate to it when they see the film.

What makes this movie charming and deeper than a lot of romantic comedies is that you already have an established couple that's very much in love. This is usually where a romantic comedies ends, but Away We Go probes the deeper question of what happens after you meet the person of your dreams. Away We Go completely avoids the cliché of boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again.

I thought the music was okay, not the best, but the two men I was with very much enjoyed it.

I don't want to give away too much, but if you like a quieter film with a tone like the other movies I mentioned, you will enjoy this. If you're a looking for just a mindless roadtrip, this is not the film for you.

***I just read an article that the screenwriters were influenced by early 1970s movies, especially Hal Ashby who directed such classics as Being There and Harold and Maude. That explains why I kept thinking of Cat Stevens. If you go to the FilmInFocus website there's a 6 page interview with the screenwriters.***

Also, there's a comment that the film glorifies animal cruelty. The dog races were chosen because it's the saddest place the screenwriters could imagine to do the scene in Arizona. The context in the movie was to show the misery of a place like that, not glorify it at all.
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10/10
Extremely Funny Mockumentory
29 May 2009
CSA was much better than I expected. It was produced by Spike Lee and was obviously a labor of love from Kevin Willmott. It shows an alternate history for if the confederates won the civil war.

The style is like a documentary you'd see on the History Channel with fake commercial breaks that show popular products. Probably one of the most disturbing things is that you find out a lot of these products are based on real items (Niggerhair cigarettes and Darky toothpaste come to mind).

As with any good satire, there needs to be an element of truth which is definitely explored in CSA.

I watched the movie with a friend who just got his MA in History, focusing on the civil war. He was extremely amused by CSA and pointed out that a lot of elements would be true if the confederacy won. For example, growing cotton devastates the land, so using manifest destiny as an excuse to acquire land masses is a definite.

There are also fake film clips like The Northern Wind (based on Gone With the Wind) and a commercial for Leave it to Beulah (based on Leave it to Beaver). Instead of Better Homes and Gardens, there's Better Homes and Plantations.

There's also a mention of what happens to Chinese immigrants and Jews.

Overall, very funny. If you watch the trailer and like it, you should definitely see the the entire movie. If you didn't find it funny, avoid CSA. It won't be your kind of humor.
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10/10
Bring the Handkerchiefs
26 December 2008
If you don't enjoy tearjerkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button isn't for you, Wow, I haven't cried this much at a film in a long time. I brought my boyfriend's teenage sister and we shared a good, cry fest.

I know a lot of people have commented on the length of the film. Yes, it is long but I feel that it was necessary to bring the depth needed to get personally involved with the characters. The character development was excellent; relationships weren't just assumed.

There are really two stories in the film. The first is the obvious one, a man aging backwards, but just as much of the story is devoted to a little girl as she transforms into a superficial young women, then into maturity. It was a great contrast to really explore what a person goes through while aging (enhanced with amazing make up and acting).

There's tragedy in the film but there's also comic relief so you never get the feeling of hopelessness while watching. There are some beautiful, erotic dance scenes that are somehow also tasteful which I wasn't expecting. It's hard to describe. You'll have to see the film to understand.

I honestly feel that saying Benjamin Button is the same as Forrest Gump is unfair. The only thing the characters have in common is being born with disadvantages and having someone believe in them. That's all though. Benjamin Button isn't a fairy tale and is no where near as light-hearted as Forest Gump (which was a relief). The two movies have a completely different tone to them. Benjamin Button is more of a parable about aging and loss. Button is an intelligent man, fully aware of his disadvantages and the pain it may cause.

On a lighter note, there's also great costuming. They really got the look and clothing of the time periods right (and there are a lot of time periods). The 1930s, 1940s and 1950s dresses were distinct and correct for each decade. I wouldn't be surprised if the film won some awards for its flawlessness.

Benjamin Button wasn't as predictable as I thought it would be either. It was a very nice, solid film. Definitely worth the price of admission.
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Blindness (2008)
2/10
Interesting Idea, but a Let Down
4 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If you like shocker drama, you'll probably enjoy Blindness.

Blindness begins as very promising. The editing and art direction cleverly shows peoples' mental states as they panic from not being able to see. Random people are struck blind and forced to live in a quarantined areas with limited resources and no links to the outside world. Julianne Moore pretends to be blind so she can stay with her husband. There's wonderful character development in the beginning, but the middle spirals downhill. For an hour in the middle logic is thrown out the window allowing for extremely graphic violence and sex.

Main characters allow idiotic things happen which can easily be stopped. I sat cringing through not 1, but 2 very long, brutal, rape/orgy scenes which could have been prevented. In the first scene, one of the women is beaten to death and continually raped. These scenes are very traumatic. Even if you cover your eyes, you can hear a man's graphic, verbal description of how he's raping a women. If I had been warned about them, I would not have chosen to watch this film. Julianne Moore has a weapon, can see, but goes along with being raped, stands by her husband after he has sex with another women in the cafeteria and just wonders around powerless for 2/3 of the film as bullies horde the food. It's completely ridiculous. There's no discussion about the affair so Moore's forgiveness to her husband makes no sense. In fact she just hugs the other woman after watching them have sex.

There's also a lot of feces, trash and naked people scattered around (some having graphic sex). I get the message that things are bad, but the film just lingers in this state for an hour, so I found myself getting very bored. I don't need to stare at close ups of dogs devouring people for several minutes or people's pets starving or dead in their arms.

The ending is treated like a fairy tale (complete with Moore's blind husband coming in like the knight in shining armor. He somehow finds Moore in a mob and rescues her). People get their sight back and Julianne Moore has sex with her husband again like nothing bad just happened. Everyone's happy. There's a scene with 3 women showering that seems thrown in to show more nudity.

Blindness focuses little on the process of how society outside the quarantine area collapses and rebuilds itself. That's what I was hoping to see, but it didn't happen.

The film left me feeling empty. The acting was fine, but I didn't learn anything new. Watching Blindness is a journey that I would not want take again. You also never learn what actually caused the blindness.
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Babylon A.D. (2008)
3/10
Interesting Futuristic Details Stitched into a Poor Story
7 September 2008
Wow. I didn't have high expectation, but thought I'd at least enjoy Babylon AD. I like just about anything science fiction and most B movies. Babylon AD seriously got the Homer Simpson treatment which I explain later in my review.

The setting is the world in ruins after nuclear war. Vin Diesel comes in as the anti-hero, terrorist hired to deliver a "package" to the US. Enter Michelle Yeoh as the protector and chaperone to the package. She's excellent in her role as a nun in a seemingly peaceful cult spouting lines such as, "just because we are peaceful, doesn't mean we are weak." There are some nifty special effects and enough mystery at the beginning to make me believe the film is going to get 7 stars.

Except for some futuristic technology, that's about it for the good parts of the film.

As for the bad parts, have you ever seen The Simpsons episode with Mel Gibson? The last half hour of Babylon AD is treated like Homer Simpson's version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I'm not kidding. It was shockingly bad and truly follows Homer's vision.

I'm still not quite sure what point the movie was trying to make. The story becomes so muddled and the acting is so bad at times that I had no idea what was going on. About 3/4 through the movie, one of the most awkward sexual tension scenes is thrown in for the hell of it. There's no build to it and it makes absolutely no sense, which unfortunately becomes the recurring theme until the end.
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8/10
Silly & Fun Adventure
8 August 2008
Put on those ridiculously over-sized, 3-D glasses which is THE ONLY way to see Journey to the Center of the Earth. "Nerd alert" was what people were shouting in the theater before the film, so it was nice to be surrounded by a festive crowd.

Journey to the Center of the Earth really beckons to the time of 1950s horror flicks with huge monsters chasing the hero and heroine who escape situations with luck and crazy logic. It's a fun ride with weird creatures biting at your face and things flying around that you will feel the need to swat at, even though nothing is really there. It's not everyone's taste, but I love these types of films. I was probably one of the few people who enjoyed A Sound of Thunder because of this.

I highly recommend this for a family outing. Kids will love it. No nudity or foul language. Little kids may find some of the monsters scary, but nothing gross happens.

I saw it with my long-time boyfriend and it was just a hoot. It's not a film to take too seriously, but not all films are meant to dredge the soul. It was just a very nice escape for a couple of hours and was very easy on the brain.

All the acting is decent enough. Even the teenage boy who seemed like he would be really annoying at the beginning won me over.

There are some very cool special effects. I wondered how the film was going to answer the question of lighting in the center of the earth, but that's summed up quite nicely. Beautiful landscapes show that a lot of imagination went into the set development. The film moves quickly. I really felt like I was on ride at Disneyland.

The plot is simple enough. Brendan Fraser plays a scientist who's brother disappears while investigating volcanoes. Several years later, he discovers something very curious in one of his brothers books which leads him on his journey to solve the mystery.

There are only two annoying things, a sentient creature who really shouldn't be sentient and a scene where the characters run into someone who doesn't speak English, so one of the characters adds an accent to his English so the guy will understand him.

The trailers were done well too. All were in 3-D. We saw "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Bolt." Both looked like great fun.

Journey to the Center of the Earth would rate about a 6.5 without the 3D glasses. I'd only bother to see it in the theater if it's in 3D otherwise it'll be a waste.

So get that popcorn, put on those nerd specs and have a jolly good time.
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Get Smart (2008)
9/10
A Remake That Works
24 June 2008
Finally, a movie that doesn't rely on gross-out humor to get a laugh. I'm so sick of that trend in Hollywood to drag out all these disgusting-joke scenes for way too long. Thankfully, Get Smart beckons back to comedies before all the potty-humor took over the screen.

I can see why Get Smart wouldn't be for everyone. If you need those R-rated chuckles, this isn't the film for you. There is no dark humor. Get Smart is more slapstick and physical comedy. The jokes are smart and quite witty. You can definitely see Mel Brooks's humor shining in places.

There was an elderly couple sitting next to me in the theater and I was scared the silver-haired gentleman was going to crack a rib, he was laughing so hard.

I was reluctant to see Get Smart. I loved the original series and could not imagine how it could be done right. I got dragged to see Get Smart by my boyfriend. I'm so glad I gave it a chance.

Don't expect a carbon copy of the original. This is a new interpretation with similar characters. If you get caught up hoping that this will be exactly the same as the original, you will miss out on a very good film.

One of things I admire about Get Smart is how it deals with plump people. There were a couple scenes where the writers could have taken the easy way out and made some fat jokes. Thankfully, this did not happen and the character(s) were treated with respect and sophistication.

Also, there are some nice special effects and action scenes. Just remember, this isn't meant to be Die Hard. The comedy comes first so this won't be back-to-back action.

Oh, and there's a funny cameo from the original head of KAOS. I won't spoil it for you.

If you're looking for some laughs, this is a great film. One of the best comedies I've seen in awhile.
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