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Entries Tagged 'Kids' ↓

A Christmas Carol

There is a big part of me that is so angry that director Robert Zemeckis no longer directs live-action movies.  I miss films like “Forrest Gump,” “Cast Away,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and The Back to the Future series.  Lately he’s only done these CGI animated movies, like “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf.”  However his new one, which is the next in a long line of film versions of Charles Dickens’ story is absolutely incredible!  For those of you out there that say, “Oh great!  This is being made into a movie AGAIN?!”  I say, I’m glad.  This really is one of the greatest stories ever written and the fact that it has been made so many times is a testament to that.  Is this the best version of the story?  That I’m not sure of since there have been so many great versions, but I can say that it’s in the Top 3.  What it is the best at though is 3D creativity.  This was by-far the greatest 3D movie I’ve ever seen.  You know from the opening credits that Zemeckis is going to take you on a trip through London that could never ever be done in live-action.  Because of that, the sequences are not only vibrantly gorgeous to look out, they’re creative in a way that I never would’ve imagined.  (I think a Best Director Oscar should be in consideration.)  That remarkable ingenuity not only leads to adventure and thrills but it also takes us down some very dark and scary places.  WARNING: some of these scenes are too intense for small children.  Zemeckis didn’t pull back on the reins at all and created some downright frightening images and sequences in an attempt to make the movie as close to the book as possible.  That includes some scenes that The Muppets and Mickey may have left out.  If there is anything bad to say about the movie it might be in the performances from the actors.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s amazing to see the same actors play multiple roles of all ages and sizes because they’re not really on the screen.  I’m just one of those snobs that still can’t look past the CGI characters to the human emotions behind them.  But that’s not the fault of stars Jim Carey, Gary Oldman and others.  Carey is 80% of this movie playing Scrooge (of every age) and all the spirits.  However his Scrooge is nothing more than a realistic Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons,” his Ghost of Christmas Past is a distractingly creepy gay Irishman and his Ghost of Christmas Present is merely a fat Ring Starr.  But those borrowed characters are more amusing than pitiful and don’t ruin the film at all.  Will this version of “A Christmas Carol” put you in the Christmas spirit after watching it?  I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t.  Now whether or not you can hold on to it since they released it almost 2 months before Christmas is another question.
A Christmas Carol (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: A


Up (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: A

I read somewhere that Pixar said they were no longer concerned with making good films for kids but are now focused on making good films.  That couldn’t be more true with their latest opus.  As the first 15 minutes of “Up” are playing out in front of us, I heard a woman talk to her friend next to her and say, “This is way too serious for kids.”  She might be right, although I don’t think kids will understand the gravity of what’s going on.  But the opening montage shows you one man’s life in 15 minutes and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I had tears pouring down my face from behind my 3D glasses.  Don’t worry though, it’s get lite.  But Pixar really has evolved to the point where they can get away with stuff like that.  I’ve been a HUGE fan of Pixar since “Toy Story.”  But their movies have increasingly gotten better and better.  They do such a good job of taking adult subjects and packaging it in bright, colorful, funny stories that kids can still enjoy.  And they are boldly taking more risks.  Can you imagine how the pitch meeting with Disney went for “Up” when they said they want to make a movie with only 5 main characters, virtually zero celebrity voices and the main one is a grump, old man?  That alone shows their power.  The Disney marketing team must’ve scratched their heads till they bled trying to make toys and costume characters that kids would want to hug on that one.  But “Up” captures the human soul so well and will strike a chord with everyone who has ever loved and lost or watched their grandparents go through it.  The story gets absurd at times, but you’re totally willing to forgive that since you feel so deeply for the characters.  The animation is still a work of art, although the 3D isn’t worth the extra cash at all.  Pixar is utterly amazing!  They’ve released yet another movie while still keeping their perfect box office and critical success stellar…and they’ve made me desire a dog with a talking dog collar more than anything in the world!

Night at the Museum 2

Night at the Museum 2 (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: B

The last time Ben Stiller spent the night at the museum it got crapped all over by critics but raked in over a half-billion dollars worldwide.  However the second time Stiller gets trapped in the museum…well, nothing much is different.  But I’m one of the people who don’t understand why these movies don’t get the love they deserve.  Maybe the inner-kid in me is still loving the concept of a whole museum coming to life.  When I was a kid and my dad would take me to the museums in Philadelphia, I had that fantasy and would even imagine what that would be like.  So to see it in vivid life on the big screen is awesome!  I actually found the first one very funny as well as adventurous.  But the comedy was definitely punched up for the sequel.  When you add gifted comic actors like Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, and Bill Hader to the already existing comedy team of Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, and Steven Coogan; then add the adorable sexiness of Amy Adams…hey, I’m on board!  (By the way, Adams is one helluva an actress.  I knew that already but she commits to her part in this with the same “moxy” that she does when she’s vying for an Oscar in others.)  It’s also fun to sit back and count the cameos that float through like Johah Hill, the cast of The Office, the cast of Reno 911, The Jonas Bros and Eugene Levy’s voice.  The fact that the special effects are as plentiful as a Star Wars movie amazes me because with such an expensive production you’d think they wouldn’t allow improv from the actors at all.  I’m glad they did though.  Some of the improvised scenes between Stiller and Azaria (who steals the show) and the “axis of evil” had me almost in tears.  Of course the story is a little absurd.  I know it’s a kid’s movie, but the motives for the plot in the sequel are a little bit of a stretch.  That being said, I hope they end these movies on this one so we don’t need to imagine a worse plot but as long as they continue to make gobs of money, I’m probably wrong.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs. Aliens (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: C+

I think this movie was pitched as a MUST to see in 3D, however compared to more recent 3D releases, I feel like it was a put-on.  The premise of the movie is that when Aliens attack the world the only force strong enough to stop them are Monsters that the government has kept secret for decades.  That plot screams adventure and action; plenty of chance to flex a 3D muscle.  But it was almost like the makers of the film didn’t know how to flex it.  The real winner in this movie was the voice work from an all-star comedy team; ie: Seth Rogen, Stephen Colbert, Will Arnett and half the cast of “The Office” just to name a few.  The inside jokes that only adults would get run rampant through the story and result in a few legit belly laughs.  I definitely think that Seth Rogen, who plays a gelatinous character named B.O.B., steals the show as far as the jokes come.  Surpringly funny in the movie was Hugh Laurie, who you know better from Fox’s show “House.”  He uses his real British accent as Dr. Cochroach and shows off his comedy chops for once.  Makes me look forward to a comedy starring him at some point.  However, the movie itself didn’t stand up to the calabir that its stars could produce.  It seemed like the voice work was an A+ effort but the director and other people making it were playing on a J.V. level.  I felt like I wasn’t alone feeling that either.  As I looked around the theater, it seemed that halfway through I saw a lot of bored faces and yawns.  Even through the 3D glasses I could tell the eyes were glazing over, and yes I’m talking about the kids too.  It was almost as if the crew at Dreamworks knew they had a cash cow on their hands and just assembled a huge comedic cast of voice actors and then crapped out a story and slapped it together just to put out there and make some quick, easy cash.  I’d say I was wrong perhaps if the movie wasn’t set up with a cliffhanger to set up a franchise before they were even sure how it would do at the Box Office


Coraline (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: A-

I recently read the review for this movie in Entertainment Weekly and they said that what’s so perfect about “Coraline” is that it finds an audience in everyone.  I would say that they’re wrong and in fact it’s the exact opposite; it may find an audience in no one.  This new movie from director Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas) is too childish for adults and way too terrifying for children.  But that’s not to say that the movie isn’t great.  When I went to see it, I saw it in 3D, which I’m pretty sure is the only way to see it.  I can only describe seeing this in a theater in 3D as being a total experience; an event.  The fact that it’s stop-motion claymation and is also in 3D makes it feel like you’ve stuck your head inside a moving diorama, like those things you made out of shoeboxes in Elementary School.  And the visuals that you see while inside these dioramas are stunning!  That aside, the story is also fantastic!  It’s gothic and creepy, but still totally appealing to the kid in all of us that dreams of a better world.  Of course that was easy to achieve in the movie since the book, by Neil Gaiman, has already been such a success.  The acting was good too from the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher.  The only flaw in “Coraline” was the script.  It was written for the screen by Selick and the dialogue verged on downright idiotic…even for a kid’s movie.  Because of that, the movie feels every second of it’s 101 minute runtime.  However, I can forgive the script being so bad since you spend much of the time getting lost in the consuming worlds of the film.  But be warned that those worlds are probably too scary for most young kids out there.