Sherlock Continues to Entertain

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

now on: Blu-ray, DVD, & combo pack

 

The game is afoot again in Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows. Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) come face to face with Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Watson arrives at Holmes’s house for his stag party, Holmes has connected the dots between a string of crimes and Moriarty. Because Watson is getting married, Holmes tries to keep Watson out of the game that he and Moriarty are playing. But Moriarty knows that taking out Watson will hurt Holmes more than hurting Holmes himself. Holmes shanghais Watson’s honeymoon in order to keep the Watsons safe. Noomi Rapace joins the adventure this time as a gypsy looking for her missing brother who happens to be working for the professor. The party follows  leads to Paris and beyond.

Like the previous movie, the characters are wonderful. It is great to see Watson come into his own and be able to show the skills he has learned from Holmes. Downey Jr. portrays Holmes wonderfully, injecting humor into a vey serious character. Rapace’s gypsy is a welcome addition.  Her character was both strong and vulnerable. Reducing Rachel McAdams’ role works well, not because the character is flawed, but because of McAdams’ subpar acting. The only other character issue was Harris. Harris seemed not to be able to find a middle ground with Moriarty; he is either overacting or underwhelming. The saving grace for his character is in the final scenes as he and Holmes go head to head in a thinking wart.

There are two big drawbacks to the movie. The first being that the movie covers so much ground.  The movie encompasses the entire Moriarty tale including, to fans of the stories, a very familiar ending. The story could have spanned several movies, but Guy Ritchie was trying to create a comprehensive tale with finality instead of just another sequel lead in.

The second drawback is the shift in tone. The original film was very much a buddy/detective story. The second movie shifts to an action film. While this keeps the movie exciting and propels the plot forward, the witty banter between Holmes and Watson has been greatly reduced. This shift makes the sequel a different kind of movie. Some say it was better than the first one, but personally I do not agree.

Extras:

The Blu-ray only version contains minimal special features limited to three features with behind the scenes look on the two friends, their nemesis, and look at making Holmesavision.

Bottom Line:

A great follow up to a franchise that should have another sequel.

By the Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

A comparison between book and film. Contains spoilers

The Lynne Ramsay film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s marvelous novel We Need to Talk About Kevin is flat and emotionless. The film looses all emotional impact in both the plot and removes the twist that makes the novel’s ending have such an impact.

Both the novel and the film center on Eva’s relationship with her son Kevin. Eva struggles with feelings of apathy towards her own flesh and blood. But when Kevin causes a school massacre, it seems that Eva may reason to feel apathetic towards her son.

The book is written in first person letters from Eva to her husband. These letters describe her current life after Kevin’s attack and well as reminiscing on her past with her child. Eva seriously considers her choices as a mother. She was stricken with apathy towards this child, and the book explores two opposing ideas: did her apathy cause Kevin’s issues or did an inherent badness in Kevin cause her apathy. You struggle along with Eva to understand her thoughts and feelings as well as those of Kevin.

The film captures none this emotion. Eva’s letter are excluded entirely, and the events are filmed with a huge slant. You get the sense from the beginning that something isn’t right about Kevin and that just magnifies as the story goes along. The characters are flat: Tilda Swanson’s Eva is affectless and dispassionate; John C. Reilly’s father is so one sided, he doesn’t even consider the mother sides; and Ezra Miller’s Kevin is devious from the beginning. The only depth any character shows is when Kevin is sick and plays the mama’s boy.

The film is not very well delineated. Memories and present are mashed together with no discernable plan. Why are we going back to the past? When did this event happen? In fact, if I hadn’t read the book, I would not have been able to follow what was happening. The movie saves the actual atrocity that Kevin did until the end. Because of this, the shocking psychological twist of the book is destroyed because it comes on the heels of Kevin’s school attack. Plus, by not including any narration of Eva’s letters to her husband, a lot of the emotional impact from the twist is lost including the fact that the husband’s present situation is even a twist.

The film rips apart a thought provoking emotional journey through motherhood and anti-social personality disorder. The film is one dimensional and discombobulated. Skip the film and go directly to Shriver’s source material.

Get the San Romero High Spirit!

Lollipop Chainsaw

PS3, XBOX 360

 

The concept of cheerleaders and zombies may seem as foreign as a cheerleader did to vampires, but, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lollipop Chainsaw takes a blonde, perky cheerleader and turns her into a killing machine.

On Juliet Starling’s 18 birthday, her town is overrun by zombies. Decked out in her cheerleading outfit and pink embellished chainsaw, she rushes to her boyfriend’s side only for him to fall victim to a zombie. Through some of Juliet’s zombie hunter magic, she has animated his head so he can join her on her adventures. As Juliet travels through the town massacring zombies and evil zombie bosses, she is joined by her father and two sisters who are also zombie hunters.

Through the bizarre eyes of Suda51 and James Gunn, this charmingly twisted tale keeps the player engaged. The story travels over various places including San Romero (;-)) High School, a farm, and a video arcade. Each zone has a tailored mini-game that breaks up the game play. At the stadium, Juliet participates in zombie baseball, and the video arcade features mini games of old school video games. The combos are easy to master, and the combat level is manageable even on “Hard.” The camera angels are almost completely manual making game play easier and keeping shots on target.

It’s the charm of the characters and their zingy one-liners that truly makes this game stand out. Juliet has some ditzy blonde to her, but her zombie killing mastery gives her character more depth. Nick’s sarcastic musings are fun but as the game progresses he becomes whiney. But what more should one expect from a severed head? Juliet’s family rounds out the characters. Her father has an Elvis like drawl and manly charm, her sister Cordelia is s sharp shooter that looks like Payne from Final Fantasy 10-2, and her wacky sister Rosalind is too much fun with her destructive bus. If Alice from the Twilight books was Selphie as a vampire, Rosalind is the zombie hunter version of the same zany girl.

Each boss is unique and is themed after different kinds of music. Zed, the punk rock zombie, sports a red mo-hawk while the folk music hippy Mariska attacks with bubbles and butterflies. These battles are multi-staged each using different strategy. This keeps the boss battles from being monotonous, and the player feels like they are doing more than hacking and slashing.

Replay value is high. There are a variety of trophies as well as collections to complete. To complete the various accomplishments, players must play across the different level difficulties. Completing various tasks earns the player unique costumes including the costumes to Juliet’s other family members. The types and numbers of zombies increase as you go up the difficulty levels keeping the 7 stages from being monotonous as the player strives for each trophy or high score.

A must have for any zombie game fan, the characters and humor will also appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Lollipop Chainsaw doesn’t take itself too seriously and delivers a pom-pom-tastic zombie slashing adventure.

 

Theater Releases for 6-15-12

Rock of Ages PG-13 Starring:Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Julianna Hough, Diego Boneta
That’s My Boy R Starring: Adam Sandler, Any Samberg,  James Caan, Leighton Meester
The Girl From the Naked Eye R Starring: Jason Yee, Ron Yuan, Dominique Swain
Patang NR Starring: Nowaz, Seema Biswas, Mukkund Shukla, Sugandha Garg
Your Sister’s Sister R Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia

Goon Skids on the Ice

Goon now on:

Blu-ray, DVD, and combo pack

I’m not a big sports fan, but often I find myself enjoying sports related movies especially the comedies. I still have a soft spot for Major League. In that spirit, I sat down with the comedic hockey tale Goon.

Based on a book by real life hockey goon Douglass Smith (& Adam Frattasio), Goon is the story of the unintelligent, muscled Doug Glatt who works as a bouncer. After a You Tube video of on of his fights goes viral, he asked to audition for a local hockey team. He learns how to skate, and his only job is to protect the other players. Even though his father (Eugene Levy) looks down on him (and his gay brother), Glatt works hard at the one thing he is good at: fighting.

Glatt is picked up by a professional team where is job is to protect a hockey star who’s career is sliding due to drugs and sex. As Glatt makes a name for himself, his skills lead the team to a possible playoff game and a fight with legendary henchman Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber). Much hockey chaos ensues.

The trouble with Goon is that you don’t like the characters, and you unable to empathize with any of them. Glatt’s character is supposed to be funny, but I can’t bring myself to laugh at some one that seems like they have Asperser’s syndrome. The other hockey players are all foul mouthed punks who you really don’t care whether they form a team or not. Glatt’s best friend’s (Jay Baruchel) character could have deleted entirely, and the movie would have been even funnier. Glatt’s love interest is a self proclaimed slut. Even Kim Coate’s coach does more yelling than actually coaching.

The movie doesn’t really focus on the hockey aspect which is why the pinnacle of the movie is Glatt’s fight with Rhea. This leaves the audience to wondering, did they make it to the play offs or not? Yes, the not so bright Glatt is good at something, something that helps his team to glory, but with out the team glory is there really more than fighting?

The best part pf the movie was watching the real footage during the credits. Yes, refs did let the players fight like that. I also enjoyed the cinematography. The majority of fight shots were fluid, and you could tell what was going on in the fights as well as on the rink.

Extras

Goon features a Power Play version. When the hockey sticky icon comes up on the screen during the movie, you can press a button to be taken to behind the scenes clip and then resume the movie. The viewer can also watch these clips separately instead of with in the movie. There is a commentary with director Michael Dowse and writer/actor Baruchel, deleted scenes and a behind the scenes features. The bloopers aren’t funny and are mostly more shots of everyone hitting each other.

Bottom Line: The movie makes an attempt to put humor and meaning behind the life of an ex-hockey goon, but it handles it with mediocrity.

If I Ran I Circus, I’d Have Penguins and Lemurs

There was a time between my childhood and my adult yeas, when frankly, too many animated movies appealed just to children. I remember watching American Tale and The Secret of NIMH with my entire family and all of us enjoying it. Then came Pokémon and every parents or babysitter I knew complained about it. Slowly, children’s movies are being family movies once again where adults and children alike could enjoy them. Shrek and Ice Age helped bridge this gap as well as theMadagascarseries.

In the series third installment Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted, Alex and the gang are tired of waiting for the penguins to return from their trip with money to fly home. Alex mistakenly decides that they should go get the penguins and the crew swims to Monte Carlo. Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria not only manage to give away the penguins disguise and end their winning streak, but they also gain attention of famed animal control captain Chantel Dubois.

In an effort to escape Dubois, who wants to put Alex’s head on her mantle, the crew stowaway with a circus train. Alex and company purchase the circus unaware that the circus owners are laughing all the way to the bank. The circus is not as magical as it once was, and it’s up to the Central Park Zoo crew to help them win the heart of the European audiences.

The story itself is nothing new. Male lies to female in order to hide out/join crew and then he lies are outed. A washed up performed gets his groove back. Home is not always where the house is. But the movie’s charm lies less in the tired story arcs and more on the way the story is executed. Personification of the animals gives empathy to these homesick creatures as they battle animal versions of human problems. The humor keeps the movie from becoming too serious.

As usual, King Julien steals the show. Not only does he continue to riff on modern music (“I am getting so hot, I wanna take my fur off”). But his love affair with a tri-cycle riding bear is both humorous and heartfelt. With the help of the penguins, Marty, and the new comer Stefano, a sea lion voiced by Martin Short, the movie stays fresh and funny. In fact, try come out of the theatre not singing “Afro Circus.”

The rebooted circus performance is one of the most beautiful animated scenes I have seen in some time. The bright colors and shapes made me regret I wasn’t watching the movie in 3D. Set to Katy Perry’s “Firework” the art work is stunning and captures the audience like the families in the circus crowd.

There was some controversy with the movie audience I watched it with. At one point the Russian tiger proclaims that something is “full of Bolsheviks.” There was a collective gasp from parents and some children as they processed that the tiger had not used the word that they had thought he had. And to be honest, I’m not sure some people even knew the difference.
Overall, Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted keeps the franchise fresh and fun. Humors and heart warming, Madagascar 3 tackles the old idea that your place in the world may not be the place you call home.

 

 

 

This Means More War

This Mean War now on:

DVD, Blu-ray, Combo Pack with Digital Copy

McG directs a homourus talel about two spies vying for the love of one woman. More hilarious and touching than the previews suggested, FDR and Tuck are best friends/brothers who work the CIA. When Reese Witherspoon’s Lauren Scott enters the pictures, the men’s friendship is put in jeopardy. The two make a “gentleman’s” bet to see who Lauren really wants to be. This agreement quickly changes as they pull out every weapon in their arsenal to sabotage each other. The two must get over their differences as a Russian mobster not only puts their lives at risk, but Lauren’s as well.

McG directs with that a quirky style of humor and action. Like the web series Aim High he produces, the move is at the same time funny and thrilling, and it stars really hot guys. The opening sequence is outrageous and rather unbelievable, but the scene is meant to be so. The outrageousness quickly translates into the two men being grounded gving background and moving the plot along. The other actions sequences are toned down to movie believability.

Your heart aches for the sweet Tuck who truly wants a lasting relationship but can still kill a man with his bare hands. Hardy handles these paradoxical sides easy, and Tuck easily becomes my favorite character. Chelsea Handler is hilarious as Lauren’s best friend. She’s the perfect inappropriate friend who says everything you’re thinking but afraid to say. Through no fault of Pine, I never took a liking to FDR even as love begins to change him from the promiscuous playboy. I think my womanly bias comes out every time.

 

Extras

The Blu-ay comes with the theatrical version as well as an extended version. Unlike many movies, the extend version ads longer than 30 seconds. A whole sequence involving Tuck’s “family” has been included. While the scenes are hilarious and I will never complain about having more Hardy, the sequence itself detracts from the story and really puts Tuck in a bad light.

Standard extras include the standard variety of special content. There is a gag reel as well as Commentary by McG as well as deleted scenes. The majority of the deleted scenes were wisely cut as they slowed down the movie and took away from the over all humorous feel. The pre-viz for an alternate scene is a bore.
The most fascinating extra is the alternate endings. With this movie, alternate ending doesn’t just include the same resolution just filmed differently. There is an ending for all of Lauren’s options. Viewer see how the movie would have ended if she had chosen Tuck or FDR and there is even an ending where she chooses herself over them both. Also included is an alternate sequence where Lauren is kidnapped by the Russian mobster and taken to a warehouse. This version is much darker and would have changed the overall tone of the story.

 If you missed This Means War, catch it on DVD, Blu ray or Combo pack. Once you’ve watched and laughed, check out the alternate ending to see what might have been.

One Less Angel

Season 4 of Dead Diva Premiers

TV Recap: Spoilers

The newest season of Drop Dead Diva includes lots of drama and a few less laughs. From major plot twists to the loss of a certain guardian angel, the new season is making way for a new path.

When Season 3 ended, Jane had runaway toItalywith her new boyfriend Owen after seeing Stacy and Grayson kissing. She had also convinced Fred to make his own dream because Stacy is no longer committed to him. Stacy, on the other hand, tells Grayson she has no feeling for him and that Jane is actually Deb. Parker has gone to look for the son he just learned about and put Kim in charge as managing partner in his abscesses.

The episode starts with Jane and Owen enjoying Italy. The calm is broken by Teri who has been sent by Kim to bring Jane back. It seems that the law firm is going bankrupt, and Kim needs Jane for a lucrative and high exposure murder case. Once home, she finally has to confront Stacey about the betrayal, and they have to deal with the new issue at hand: Fred’s back–with a new girlfriend.

While Jane advises Fred about how to handle his emotions about his new girlfriend and Stacy, Stacy is given bad advice from a “love guru” played by Kim Kardashian. This ultimately leads to the end of Fred’s new relationship and his relationship with Stacy. When Stacey finally ends it, Fred tells the truth about being a guardian angel in an effort to prove that he truly loved her. This leads to Fred being sent back to heaven and a new guardian angel being assigned.

While Jane deals with this crisis, her murder case is becoming more and more complicated. Several suspects are identified including an ex girl and a jealous boyfriend. Jane then comes to find out her client did commit the murder and she was being manipulated. This causes internal conflicts for Jane. As she is mulling this over, she is introduced to her new guardian angel Luke. It turns out that Luke has invested enough money in the firm to keep it afloat. Meanwhile, Grayson has researched Deb’s death and correlated it with Jane’s shooting. After talking to Stacy, he is sure that Jane is Deb.

I am really excited about the fact that Grayson has learned about Jane/Deb. It’s what viewers have been waiting for since the series started. Though I am curious: are we going to get the fairy tale ending we want or the practical, personal growth version of the situation? I am also exited to see the development of Stacy’s character. She is moving away from the vain, flippant model to a woman with real feelings about men isn’t affected by what brand they are wearing. While it has been a tough road for her, the events of the previous season have culminated in a more diverse charter. And speaking of character development, I would love to see Kim finally end the drama with Parker and get back to the tough skinned woman she used to be.

I am disappointed about loosing Fred. He was snatched away once before only to return after Stacy’s memory is wiped. But with a replacement guardian angel already in house, and Ben Feldman doing a stint on Mad Men, I don’t think Fred will be back. I also don’t understand why there was a need for adding Kim Kardashin as a recurring guest role. Neither her character nor her acting skills were that intriguing. I wonder how many Kardashian fans are tuning in. Also, I was surprised that Parker was back and giving up the search for his son. Can’t he afford good private eyes to find the boy?

Drop Dead Divas makes a few changes this season, and only time will tell which ones will ultimately be good and which ones will be bad.

Men in Black Suit Up…Again

Often franchises sputter and die, especially when a long period of times elapses. Case in point: Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. But several franchises continue to bring in and excite viewers each time.  Men in Black III had a prickly production process, but it opened in first place opening weekend knocking The Avengers out of the top spot. While the total gross, isn’t quite yet enough to pay for the film, it was a much better movie than many anticipated.

Some of the best elements from the franchise are featured in this foray. Agent J is back wise cracking his way through fights with aliens. Danny Elfman’s bewitching score adds the perfect atmosphere. K is more sullen than ever. The variety in alien design is fresh and fun. And, as usual, several celebrities are outed as aliens (of course Lady Gaga is an alien!).

In this particular outing, Agent J has become obsessed with K’s sullenness which has grown more ever present with the death of Z. His desire to learn how K has become the man he is today is cut short by the breakout of a violent alien that K had captured. Boris the Animal decides to rectify the situation by traveling back in time to kill K before the agent can capture Boris and take off his arm. With J being the only person who remembers K, he travels back time to take down Boris the animal. There he meets the young version of K, and J gets insight into K’s past.

The time travel aspect lends a humor and freshness to the jokes and designs. Everything from the technology, to the clothing, to the aliens is designed in the ‘60s area without being garish. A look back at the ancient equipment, especially the nueralizer, proved for good humor as well as unique challenges for J. This different world helps keep the franchise from recycling too much old material.

Joining Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is Josh Brolin as a young K. Brolin captures Jones in a very believable way. In fact his multifaceted version of K is a refreshing aspect to the sully character. Through the story and the acting, the audience is taking through the same journey through K’s past that J does. But K is not the only person whose history is explored. J’s story gets emotional depth that the character has been lacking throughout the franchise.

Like the sequel, this third installment lacked the charm of the first movie.  It’s not that the novelty has worn out per se. But the second movie tried too hard to add more action and this movie tried to out-emotion the previous installments. This subtle change in tone affects the sequels in a profound way leaving audience wanting a little bit more.

The casting is strong though I was quite surprised when I found out that I hadn’t been watching Tim Curry for 106 minutes. Jemaine Clement has down the surly Curry voice and the make-up made recognizing any face impossible. Bill Harder’s guest role was fabulous as guest start Any Warhol, and I would have loved to know a little more about his character. I was also thrown for a curve with Michal Stuhlbarg’s Griffin. I was convinced the prophetic character was played by Alias’ David Weisman. Stuhlbarg’s Griffin has the same quirky sweetness that Weisman’s Marshall had. He was dorky but lovable.

Overall, MIBIII adds depth to the franchise and gives the viewer insight into the characters. This humorous adventure into the world of the Men in Black should delight fans of all ages.

Josh Brolin as a young Agent K with Will Smith’s Agent J