Saturday, June 30, 2012


   A  dumb but endearing comedy from the creator of "Family Guy", Seth McFarlane. "Ted" is an unusual buddy comedy about a 35 year old man who's best friend is a walking, talking teddy bear. If you are a "Family Guy" fan, you will love "Ted".  If you took Brian the animated talking dog from that show and switched him into a offensive CGI teddy bear in a real world, you would have Ted.

     This very R rated film begins when little John Bennett gets a cuddly teddy for Christmas. That night he wishes that "Teddy" can be real so he has a friend for life. Much to everyone's surprise, Teddy comes to life and 30 years later, he is still John's best friend although he has turned into a foul mouthed, stoner, know it all who has something irreverent to say about everything. 

     The adult John is played by Mark Wahlberg and he deserves a lot of credit for selling this ridiculous concept.  John is such a good, sweet guy that you buy into his life with Ted and really root for him to succeed. That's not so easy when he has a loser job and spends all his free time getting high with Ted. The one good thing thing in his life is his girlfriend, played by Mila Kunis.  Ms. Kunis, like Mr. Wahlberg, takes acting with a CGI bear very seriously. The film also stars Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale. Both play different sorts of sleazy characters, one who wants the bear and one who wants the girl.

     The dialogue is very funny at times, even if the story is completely absurd. With everyone taking their roles so seriously, it makes the concept that much funnier. Obviously a talking teddy bear can get away with offensive, insulting, filthy language and behavior. The city of Boston is in on the joke and plays background to John and Ted's adventures.  Boston girls, however, may take offense at some harsh humor directed at them.

      Mr. McFarlane wrote the screenplay, directed the film and is also the voice of Ted. He has a legion of loyal fans out there and they won't be disappointed. Everyone else should go knowing what to expect and definitely leave the kids at home

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rock of Ages

   Most Broadway shows don't translate well to films and "Rock of Ages" is no exception. A marginal but crowd pleasing musical, "ROA" contains a great soundtrack of '80's rock but it's star power casting fizzles in excruciatingly embarrassing moments. The only saving grace is Tom Cruise, who once again proves he can do just about anything and make it work.

         Mr. Cruise went into this project a self-admitted "bad" singer but after some hard work with a vocal coach, he makes a very credible singer and the only actor who seems in on the joke. His role as "Stacee Jaxx" is spot on rock star extravagance. The rest of the cast including Alex Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamati, and Russel Brand all find ways to completely embarrass themselves. The young leads played by Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are attractive enough but robotic, boring singers that can barely act. They may have chemistry with each other but none with the audience and when you don't care about the leads, you lose focus on the rest of the film.

          Like the Journey song says "they go on and on and on..." just like this film. It seemed like the end would never come. The only thing keeping my interest was Mr. Cruise, but unfortunately, even he succumbs to an embarrassing moment singing "I want to Know What Love Is" into the rear end of Malin Ackerman in a poorly filmed (bordering on pornographic) seduction number.

           Director Adam Shankman did a very good job bringing "Hairspray" to the screen but comes up short here.  You're never sure if this is meant to be taken seriously or one big inside joke. Only Mr. Cruise successfully plays it both ways. I will give credit to some of the musical numbers and their clever choreography but overall, this rock falls flat.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Snow White & The Huntsman

  A very dark vision of the classic fairy tale starring Charlize Theron, Kristin Stewart, and Chris Hemsworth. The film tries hard to be a serious take on a children's classic but it mixes in elements of too many other movies ("Pan's Labyrinth" for one) to take itself seriously. And digitally grafting the heads of famous British actors onto the bodies of dwarves is just plain disturbing.

       Ms. Theron easily steals the movie as the evil queen. She is becoming quite adept at playing the icy villain (see "Prometheus"). She takes her part very seriously, even when imparting those famous words, "Mirror mirror on the wall..." Kristin Stewart, on the other hand, plays a very schizoid Snow White. At once an innocent, a warrior, a leader and a follower. She also navigates her way through a strange land pretty well for a girl who has been locked in a tower for most of her life. Her poisoned apple scene seems forced in this version but has a surprising twist. Mr. Hemsworth is not asked to do much except fight, act drunk, and look attractive. Basically the same thing he does as Thor in the Marvel films.

        Someone must have thought casting Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Toby Jones and Eddie Marsan as part of the seven dwarves was a fun idea. As I implied earlier, it's just creepy. They, however, seem to be enjoying themselves (and there's not a "Sleepy", "Doc" or "Dopey" among them). The digital landscape and CGI work is impressive but with an overall dark tone, it all becomes rather depressing. In the final scene, Ms. Stewart and Mr. Hemsworth appear not sure what to do next. The answer is simple... pray there's no sequel.

Monday, June 11, 2012


           You don't have to know anything about the film "Alien" or it's sequels to enjoy "Prometheus" but it will certainly add another level of enjoyment if you do know the mythology behind those films. Either way, if you are a fan of science-fiction films, this one will be a blast for you. If  Sci-Fi is not your thing, then I advise you to stay clear as you probably won't have a clue what's going on anyway.

           "Prometheus" is a prequel of sorts to "Alien" but can easily stand on it's own. There are many similar elements to the story- strong female hero, evil corporation, android with a secret agenda, and it's own brand of creepy, crawly things that go bump in the night. Noomi Rapace (so good in the original "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy) is Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist looking for answers to the origin of mankind. Her scientist boyfriend is played by Logan Marshall-Green. Also along for the ride is Idris Elba as the spaceship's captain, Charlize Theron as the evil corporation executive and a wonderful Michael Fassbender as the android, "David".

           Director Ridley Scott puts together a team that truly makes movie magic. He returns here to familiar territory but still manages new twists. The digital effects are seamless and this is one film that really deserves to be seen in IMAX 3-D. It is visually stunning and enhanced by the IMAX sound system, you will feel totally immersed in the action.  

           Anyone who remembers the "pop-out" alien baby from "Alien" will not be disappointed by many of the gory sequences in the film, so be warned. One sequence in particular, will either amaze or disgust you. Despite the cringe worthy scenes, "Prometheus" rises way above your average Sci-Fi adventure and while it took over 30 years to return to this dark world, credit Mr. Scott for making it worth the wait.


   Featuring an award worthy performance by Jack Black as "Bernie", this dark comedy is a remarkably true story. Director Richard Linklater films Bernie Tiede's story in a pseudo documentary style, using many of the real inhabitants of Carthage Texas, where the story takes place. Mr. Tiede was an assistant funeral director beloved by everyone in town. When he takes up a friendship with the town's nastiest citizen, the widow Mrs. Nugent (played wonderfully by Shirley McLaine), the town is aghast and after an unexpected turn, things really start to heat up.

       The film co-stars Matthew McConaughey, charismatic as always and perfectly cast. And while he and Ms. McLaine shine, it is really Mr. Black who shines the most.  He completely disappears into the role of Bernie, a character so completely different from anything he has played before. Mr. Black is also known for singing as well as acting and in the film he gets a chance to show off his vocal range with a list of gospel songs. It's a Jack Black we have never seen and he's just terrific.

       Give Mr. Linklater credit for not only seeing potential in Mr. Black for the role but in his choices of the real life towns folk he puts on screen to fill in the back-story of Bernie Tiede. They are truly a colorful cast of characters and really add flavor to the story.

        This little independent film certainly has a quirky appeal and is worth your time, especially if you are looking for something completely different.

Moonrise Kingdom

  Director and co-writer Wes Anderson brings his unique style to the screen once more with this whimsical tale of young love. This is the story of Sam and Susie, two twelve year olds living on an island community who fall in love and run off together.  Featuring a co-starring cast of Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Ed Norton, "Moonrise Kingdom" is a pure delight.

     The film is light and sweet-natured. The young lovers run off to the wild end of the island while everyone else looks for them. The film takes place in 1965 and has a magical innocence to it. Ed Norton plays a scout master who enlists the entire troop to hunt for Sam and Susie. Sam was one of the scouts and has excellent survival skills. Mr. Willis is the island police officer and plays very much against type except for one brief heroic moment. Ms. McDormand and Mr. Murray are Susie's parents and Ms. Swinton plays "Social Services", coming after Sam who, as it turns out is an orphan.

     The film itself is, in many ways, reminiscent of a live version of  "The Fantastic Mr. Fox", Mr. Anderson's animated classic.  All the actors play colorfully odd characters and much of the film is spent chasing down Susie and Sam. The soundtrack is lovely and makes much use of "A Child's introduction To The Orchestra".

      It may not become a classic like "Rushmore" or "The Royal Tannenbaums" but it has it's own charming appeal.