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Monsters vs Aliens – 3D (2009) PG 94min


April 13th, 2009 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 14,839 Views

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Monsters vs Aliens” is a new 3D animated feature from DreamWorks Animation. Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon, written by Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.

The plot: Susan (Reese Witherspoon) was about to get married to n aspiring TV anchor Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd) when a meteor fell to Earth and the substance within it transformed Susan into a monster. From then on she was a property of U.S. Government.  Her new name shall be Ginormica. The facility in “Area 51″ where Susan is held, also is a home (and a prison) for other monsters that General W.R. Monger (Keifer Sutherland) is in charge of: a jello-bodied B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), The Missing Link (Will Arnett) and a gigantic bug (whose name I don’t remember). They all feel like prisoners there, but soon they are released when the President (Steven Colbert) needs their help against an upcoming invasion of alien robots and clones seeking the material from the meteor – the best known source of energy in the universe.

The good: This movie looks exceptionally good in 3D. It’s not one of those 3D movies where things jump out from the screen at you. The monsters are lovable and each one, as expected, has it’s own goof. Good story. Kids loved the humor in the movie and adults too laughed out-loud. Great animation.

There were hilarious references to other movies about monsters and aliens, such as President playing “Axel F” tune on the synthesizer – a tune from the “Beverly Hills Cop”, which, by the way is composed by the same composer – Hans Zimmer (a brilliant composer who wrote music for some many movies over the past 25 years), but even funnier was the tune that he tried to play in the beginning – from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – a tune that everyone in the theater recognized immediately! Another obvious reference to monster/horror movies was the explanation of how Dr. Cockroach came to be – same way as the handsome scientist got transformed in “The Fly”. Did you notice that one of the General W.R. Monger’s decorations was a Shrek pin! Clearly Steven Colbert and his Comedy Central buddy Ed Helms had an influence in the screenplay: one of the secret service agents referred to the President a “Papa Bear” – this is how Stephen Colbert refers to Bill O’Reilly. The war room was a lot like in Dr. Strangelove. I’m sure there were other gags that I missed. Can you find them?

The F-14 Tomcats and Apache helicopters were also exciting to watch in action. There was also the famous Guppy aircraft used by NASA to transport space shuttles. Don’t know if anyone noticed, but B.O.B. had not only the voice of Seth Rogen, but also his body language. BOB was the most fascinating monster of all because he was… dumb. The view from space was awesome, thanks to 3D.

More jokes during closing credits.

The bad: Didn’t care about the back-story. That Derek character is useless to the plot. Many jokes would be over the kids’ heads.

The summary: a pretty clever, but predictable story designed to please the kids with a few gags to satisfy their parents too. Looks great in 3D. I’m pretty sure small kids will not appreciate the references to other monster/horror/disaster movies, but there’s plenty of pleasing visuals and jokes, and the length of the movie is just right to keep their attention. But without 3D this movie will likely fall flat on its face (he he see what I did there?)

The cast: Susan Murphy / Ginormica – Reese Witherspoon | B.O.B.  – Seth Rogen | Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. - Hugh Laurie | The Missing Link - Will Arnett | General W.R. Monger  – Kiefer Sutherland | Gallaxhar  – Rainn Wilson | President Hathaway – Stephen Colbert | Derek Dietl – Paul Rudd | Katie – Renée Zellweger

The crew: Director – Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon | Original Story – Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon | Writers – Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger | Producers – Jill Hopper, Latifa Ouaou, Lisa Stewart | Original Music – Henry Jackman | DreamWorks Animation

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Rated 4/5 on Apr 13 2009
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→ 1 Comment · 14,839 ViewsTags: Adventure · Animation · Comedy · Disaster · Fantasy · Movies · Sci-Fi · USA

Joyeux Noel (2005) PG-13 1h 56min

April 9th, 2009 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 11,691 Views

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“Joyeux Noël” (”Merry Christmas” (UK/US title) or “Happy Christmas”) is a drama set in 1914 during World War I and is inspired by a true story. The film is an international project involving people and locations from France, Germany, UK, Romania and Belgium. The movie is in English, German and French, with English subtitles.

The plot: World War I. 1914. Christmas eve. German, Scottish and French troops prepare to open their presents and try to avoid fighting each other. A German soprano Anna Sörensen (Diane Kruger, voiced by Natalie Dessay) convinces prince of Prussia to sing for the German high command on Christmas eve together with her husband Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann voiced over by Rolando Villazón). They come to the Western front to perform. The Scottish Lieutenant Gordon (Alex Ferns) and the French Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) have an unauthorized meeting with the German Lieutenant Horstmayer (Daniel Brühl) and negotiate a truce for that night, and Anglican priest Palmer (Gary Lewis) celebrates a mass for the soldiers. But when their superiors find out, all must face the consequences.

The good: Great, heartwarming story based on real events, when in 1914 in many places along the front line the fighting troops met on No-Man’s Land and celebrated Christmas together, buried their dead together and played football together during a 1-day informal truce (although there is no historical record of any women singing at the front line). Written and directed by Christian Carion, who was nominated for BAFTA Film Award for this movie. Great camera work. Powerful acting. The movie underlines the humanity of all soldiers and how foreign and preposterous the war is to humanity. People were celebrating together – the birth of Christ and their common values and realizing that they are just pawns in the hands of their rulers. I know I will be frowned upon for referencing Karl Marx, but this movie really shows that many wars are fought by simple working-class people for the benefit of the ruling class of the wealthy – a primary reason why in Russia the Tsar has lost power and provisional government lost its credibility and people could not longer tolerate the rule of the rich, which resulted in February and later October revolution. The film also shows the role of the Church in the war. There’s humor in this war movie too: a sequence where French soldiers are jealous that Germans and Scots are celebrating and French were not invited, and a sequence where all sides are disputing the ownership rights to a stray cat. Beautiful music and singing voices. It was amazing how people who a minute ago were killing each other were unified by a song.

The bad: Minor historical inaccuracies. Unnatural lighting in all Christmas eve trench scenes was distracting – could not get rid of the feeling that there are people with lamps and projects standing around the movie set. The trenches are all brand-new and clean. The only reference to the horrors of war in the movie is the tenor confessing to his lover that he has lice and frozen bodies on the battle field. There’s no build up.

Memorable quotes:

Anglican bishop: “The forces of good against the forces of evil. For this war is indeed a crusade! A holy war to save the freedom of the world. In truth I tell you: the Germans do not act like us, neither do they think like us, for they are not, like us, children of God. Are those who shell cities populated only by civilians the children of God? Are those who advanced armed hiding behind women and children the children of God? With God’s help, you must kill the Germans, good or bad, young or old. Kill every one of them so that it won’t have to be done again. The Lord be with you.”

General Audebert: I don’t understand you. Carousing with the enemy while the country’s partly occupied!
Lieutenant Audebert: The country? What does it know of what we suffer here? Of what we do without complaint? Let me tell you, I felt closer to the Germans than those who cry, “Kill the Krauts!” before their stuffed turkey!

The summary: A great Christmas movie set during World War I.

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Rated 5/5 on Apr 9 2009
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→ 1 Comment · 11,691 ViewsTags: Belgium · Classic Films · DVD · Drama · Epics/Historical · Foreign · France · Germany · Movies · Romania · UK · War

Adventureland (2009) R 107min


April 6th, 2009 by Maxim · No Comments · 9,155 Views

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“Adventureland” is a comedy from the writer-director Greg Mottola (”Superbad”). Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig.

The plot: Set in a Reagan era, this movie about a misfit college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg of “The Squid and the Whale”) is forced to take any summer job to earn some money for an Ivy-league school when his alcoholic father is demoted to a less-paying job. Nobody would hire him for a low-paying job, even though he naively offers his SAT scores when applying. He ends up taking a job as a game operator at  Pittsburgh’s Adventureland in the summer of ‘87. Since he always seems to have some weed on him, making friends wasn’t hard. Also working at the park, there’s this alluring girl Em (Kristen Stewart – “Twilight”). She only works there to get away from her father and unbearable step-mom. She’s a complete wreck, and has a secret affair with a local [married] musician and park’s repairman Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), to whom James confesses his enormous feelings for Em. But there’s a lot of temptation around, such as park’s dancer Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), who also demands James’s attention.

The good: A believable story. Not surprisingly, since its based on Greg Motolla’s own experience working at Long Island amusement. Great characters. Good directing and acting. Many funny scenes, where the audience can find humor in the most dramatic situations. The scene where James and Em are in the car and he’s looking at her with puppy-love eyes is really funny because many people will recognize themselves in him when they were in love for the first time in their late teens-early twenties – a chance to laugh at themselves. James’s friend Eric is also a funny character – his a bit gitty but it’s impossible to be angry at him. In the end of the movie he gets his best moment when he is fooling around for the last time before he grows up – scene shot with a sunset in the background. Well-reproduced atmosphere of the 80s, with Foreigner tribute band in the bar, Disco in the club and Reagan on TV.

The bad: This movie was marketed as a teen comedy, but it’s not a comedy at all. It’s more of a drama with some funny moments. It’s got some elements of comedy, such as barf  jokes and urination jokes, and it’s got two comic-relief characters – the owners and operators of the Adventureland – “Saturday Night Live”’s Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. But compared to the rest of the movie they seem out of place. They act like they are in a comedy and everybody else acts like normal dramatic actors.

The summary: This movie is not a comedy – it’s a dramatic story of a young man spending summer in the bad job and who meats different people – good and bad. Some good jokes here and there. Good movie overall. See it (unless you are on a first date – it may get awkward).

Worth noting that Jesse Eisenberg who played James looks almost exactly like Michael Cera in Superbad – only with different hair.

The cast: James Brennan - Jesse Eisenberg | Em Lewin - Kristen Stewart | Lisa P – Margarita Levieva | Arlene – Kelsey Ford | Eric – Michael Zegen | Brad – Ryan McFarland | Mr. Brennan – Jack Gilpin | Mrs. Brennan – Wendie Malick | Paulette – Kristen Wiig | Bobby – Bill Hader | Joel – Martin Starr | Mr. Lewin – Josh Pais | Mike Connell – Ryan Reynolds

The crew: Director – Greg Mottola | Writer – Greg Mottola | Producers – Declan Baldwin, Anne Carey, Ted Hope, William Horberg, Sidney Kimmel, Bruce Toll | Cinematography – Terry Stacey | Editing – Anne McCabe | Sidney Kimmel Entertainment | This Is That Productions | Miramax Films

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Rated 4/5 on Apr 6 2009
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→ No Comments · 9,155 ViewsTags: Comedy · Drama · Movies · USA

12 Rounds (2009) PG-13 108min


March 29th, 2009 by Maxim · No Comments · 16,829 Views

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12 Rounds” is an action thriller starring WWE’s John Cena (The Marine), Ashley Scott (S.W.A.T., Walking Tall, Into The Blue, The Kingdom) and Aidan Gillen (Shanghai Nights and The Wire TV series) directed by Finnish director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, The Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Exorcist: The Beginning, The Covenant, Cleaner).

The plot: Police Detective Denny Fisher (John Cena) got promoted to Detective for apprehending an Irish terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen) after a heist of diamonds – after a chase and shootout in which Jackson’s woman was accidentally killed. A year later Jackson escapes from prison and kidnaps Fisher’s girlfriend Molly Porter (Ashley Scott) on anniversary of his capture and his girlfriend’s death. Denny will have to complete 12 challenges to get her back. Even though Denny has got the help of his partner and FBI, Miles always seems to be a step ahead in this explosive game of cat and mouse.

The good: This is a rather fast-paced thriller that will keep you at the edge of the seat for most of the movie. The plot only seems to thicken as Denny gets closer to passing all 12 tests. There are lots of high-speed chases through busy streets and lots of cars being smashed. Good music for an action thriller.

The bad: There’s nothing original about this movie. This is basically the same plot as ”Die Hard 2″, only without a single joke: “Simon says…” and off Denny goes/runs/races to the next location to get the next clue to whereabouts of his fiancee. The girlfriend with explosives strapped onto her were straight from the “Speed”, and attempt to stop a trolley without brakes with a car was a rip-off from Eddie Murphy’s “Metro”.  The ending had practically ruined the whole movie for me.

The summary: a humorless version of Die Hard 2. The similarity is not surprising since Renny Harlin directed both movies.

The cast: Denny Fisher – John Cena | Miles Jackson – Aidan Gillen | Molly Porter – Ashley Scott | Detective Frank Carver – Brian J. White | Special Agent George Aiken - Steve Harris | Special Agent Ray Santiago - Gonzalo Menendez | Erica Kessen – Taylor Cole

The crew: Director – Renny Harlin | Writer – Daniel Kunka | Producers – Renny Harlin, Mark Gordon, Becki Cross Trujillo, Mike Lake, Josh McLaughlin, Vince McMahon | Music – Trevor Rabin | Cinematography – David Boyd

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Rated 3/5 on Mar 29 2009
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→ No Comments · 16,829 ViewsTags: Action · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense · USA