Saturday, March 31, 2012


The best hockey film since "Slapshot". Come to think of it, have there actually been any others? This is based on the true story of Doug Smith (Doug Glatt in the film), a boxer who becomes a hockey enforcer. Doug is not a very good hockey player but he is an excellent fighter and every hockey team needs an enforcer to do the dirty work against the other team.

Doug is play by Seann William Scott in his best role to date. When he isn't punching someone's lights out, he shows some real range as the mild mannered and dim witted Doug (who comes alive only when he's doing what he does best...hitting people). He is joined by Jay Baruchel (who also produced and co-wrote the film) as his best friend Pat. Mr. Baruchel captures the Boston hockey fan stereotype perfectly and is very funny in the film. Also starring are Alison Pill as Doug's love interest, Kim Coates as the coach of the team and Liv Schreiber as a rival enforcer.

The movie has lots of hockey action, intense fight scenes on the ice, and some very funny scenes off the ice thanks to a clever script with memorable dialogue. It's full of colorful characters and while brutal at times, it is also very touching.

Hockey is far from my favorite sport but "Goon" keeps things interesting and fun. It's a lot better than watching an actual hockey game.

The Hunger Games

"The Hunger Games"

I have not read the bestselling novel this film is based on so I can't use it as a reference point. I can only judge the film on it's own merit. So for those of who have read the book, you may have an entirely different viewpoint. I found the film interesting and exciting at times but the central plot left a bad taste in my mouth.

Do we really want to watch a film where the entire second half is about a group of youngsters trying to kill each other for the enjoyment of adults? The premise is distasteful but at least most of the slaughter is quick or off screen. I suppose it could have been worse as the film is rated PG-13 to attract it's legions of teenage fans.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss, the plucky heroine who volunteers to take her younger sister's place at the "games". Ms. Lawrence is a very talented actress who truly breathes life to Katniss. There is not one false note in her performance and I would imagine she does the character proud. She's an exciting talent who carries the film on her young shoulders. She was terrific in "Winter's Bone", "The X-Men: First Class" and now, the first of a Hunger Games trilogy. Co-starring are Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bently, Donald Sutherland and Lenny Kravitz. Apparently everyone in the future has horrible hairstyles.

There are elements of "The Truman Show" and certainly "Battle Royale" (a Japanese film from 2000 that basically used the same plot first) found throughout the film and when it tends to lose steam, Ms. Lawrence keeps everything ramped up until the grand finale (which technically isn't a finale at all but a bookmark until the next installment).

Fans of the series will hunger for more but I was satisfied with the first course.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Carter

I had to see for myself why this film has been getting so much bad press. Sometimes critics are just too critical. Yes, it's a bad hybrid of "Star Wars" meets "Avatar" with terrible dialog and some wooden acting does hold a certain appeal for the 12-year old boy in all of us.

If you are a fan of Science fiction action films, you can certainly do worse than "John Carter". If you do decide to see it, see it in IMAX 3-D where you can at least appreciate the exciting visuals. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a whole series of stories about John Carter so there is plenty of appeal of the character in literature. Translating it properly to the screen is the issue. The story is sloppy and unoriginal, blatantly stealing chunks of ideas from the earlier mentioned sci-fi giants.

The film stars Taylor Kitsch as the title hero. Mr. Kitsch has the looks but lacks the skill to pull off the role. He takes everything much too seriously and tries too hard to please. His love interest, played by Lynn Collins is attractive and handy with a sword but has little personality. Ciaran Hinds and Dominic West add some acting weight to the proceedings but this is a far cry from "Rome" or "The Wire".

The story is confusing enough transplanting a confederate soldier to Mars via a sliver medallion but once John Carter arrives he finds himself in the middle of a Martian Civil War involving humanoid Martians. At the same time, totally CGI alien looking Martians co-exist peacefully but for some reason get caught up in the war. Director Andrew Stanton has made a ton of hits for Pixar and has no problem directing his CGI Martians. It's his approach to human interaction that needs work.

The action sequences are fun and the film does look great in IMAX 3-D. Sometimes, a movie is just a movie and if escapist entertainment is all you seek, then consider John Carter. Your inner child may thank you...or throw a tantrum for wasting his allowance.

Friday, March 16, 2012

21 Jump Street

This new comedy borrows the concept from the original TV show (that launched the career of Johnny Depp) but only in a very broad sense. The film is sophomoric, raunchy, very funny and surprisingly entertaining. What could have been just a lame re-make filled with genital jokes is actually a very smart script constantly making fun of itself and keeping the audience in on the gag. Oh, and lots of genital jokes.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have great chemistry together and going undercover at high school presents all kinds of sub-plots. A bathroom scene where he and Mr. Tatum try to regurgitate drugs they had swallowed had me roaring with laughter. More than just an action comedy, the film is a "bromance" and plays upon role reversals of high school stereotypes. Mr. Hill co-wrote the story but is generous enough to share the spotlight with his cast mates.. Rob Riggle and Ice Cube co-star and both are given ample screen time to provide laughs. Brie Larson provides the love interest and Dave Franco (younger brother of James) rounds out the cast as the ecology minded high school drug dealer.

Give credit to the studio for making a trailer that, for once, doesn't give away ALL the funny parts. There are plenty of verbal and visuals gags that you don't see coming. Chase scenes are constructed in an unconventional way as well as other typical "action" scenes making the film fresh even while it makes fun of it's origin. There is also an unbilled cameo that comes as a pleasant surprise.

The film's rated R for a reason but there is intelligence beyond the raunchy humor and it's an address you'll want to visit. And if you do enjoy it, don't worry...the end practically screams sequel.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


A bright spot during a winter of bad B movies, this new comedy has many laugh out loud moments. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as George and Linda, unemployed New Yorkers on their way to start again in Atlanta Georgia. On the way to live with George's brother, they get sidetracked at Elysium, a commune of free spirits that offer them a new lifestyle.

This is a reverse "Out of Towners" where the laughs come fast as the NY couple try to adjust to the easy going lifestyle of the commune where nudity, free love and vegan diets are the order of the day. Paul Rudd is the king of sarcasm and double takes. He is just hilarious throughout the film and the scene where he is talking to himself in the mirror will have you rolling in the aisles. Ms. Aniston plays to her comedic strength and has good chemistry with Mr. Rudd.

The film co-stars Justin Theroux co-stars as Seth, the magnetic leader of the commune and Alan Alda as the founder of Elysium. Ken Marino, who co-wrote the script with director David Wain, is also very funny as George's obnoxious older brother.

It's a silly (rated R for a reason) comedy but a good escape from the winter blues.