The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT Review

"The Five-Year Engagement" has a lot going for it, but doesn't seem to care too much for pacing or trimming around the edges. It is a good film no doubt, a very funny one that had a few of the most genuine laugh out loud  moments I've experienced in a long time. It has a stellar cast and a director/writer team in Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) that know how and when to bring the funny, the subtle, and the touching. Segel has become comfortable as the reliable slob of a charming guy. If his onscreen persona is anything like that of his real life, he has to be one of the nicest guys ever. I consider "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" to be one of the more recent comedy classics so to say I was looking forward to this would be a bit of an understatement. The only problem I had with the film was figuring out the gist of the title itself. It seemed a problem that was at first unnecessary and could be worked around in a much easier manner than the script seemed to have played it. Now, obviously this is a movie and I realize things happen in movies that in a sense "make them movies" while the conflict here would likely never take this route in the real world. In the end it comes down to the fact that the movie isn't really about the pro-longed engagement at all but is simply an easy way of putting that it examines the current generations need to postpone everything until it is perfect while wasting one's life away in the process of figuring it all about. It turns into people in their mid-20's who feel a little behind, but still on the right track who grow into their 30's and realize they've wasted enough time to put them even further behind.

Suzie (Alison Brie) won't give Alex (Chris Pratt)
the time of day when they first meet.
One thing I will say about "The Five-Year Engagement" that I really enjoyed is the steps it took to go beyond a standard romantic comedy. It created a fleshed out and realistic world filled with diverse and entertaining people. Whether we were in the couple's hometown of San Francisco or the cold days in Michigan our main characters are always surrounded by people who become a part of their lives as anyone naturally would when they relocate. For the first half an hour or so the film rolls along at a brilliant pace with joke after joke landing, even if some scenes feel unnecessary it isn't a bother yet. Tom (Segel) and Violet (the wonderful Emily Blunt) have been dating for a year and it is obvious to everyone including him how lucky and how in love with Violet he is. He proposes, she says yes and everything is going hunky-dory until Violet gets a position at Michigan University rather then the preferred Berkeley. Tom is an up and coming chef that was likely to be promoted to running his own restaurant soon but knows this is Violet's life long dream and is not going to allow himself to hold her back. he can cook elsewhere. Such is his thought and the rest of the audiences. Meanwhile, on the other side of things Violet's sister Suzie (Community's Alison Brie) and Tom's best friend Alex (Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt) have a one night stand that results in unplanned bliss. The theme of the film being you can't always plan your life to work out how you want it, but instead you sometimes just have to let it happen.

From Left: Vaneetha (Mindy Kailing) Ming (Randall Park),
Doug (kevin Hart) Violet (Emily Blunt) and Winton
(Rhys Ifans) study their psychology subjects.
While the story made me worry prior to the film it was actually the one thing that impressed me more than anything about the film. What detracts from this realistic premise though is that Segel and Stoller are unable to sacrifice a joke for the sake of pacing. The result is that this throws off the tone of the film that instead sometimes feels like an extended unrated cut rather than the well-oiled machine of a movie the studio would release on average theater-goers. There is a weird part in the second act of the film where Tom and Violet end up resenting one another. While we could have seen this coming as Violet, from the beginning, seemed to fancy her Psychology professor (a great Rhys Ifans) a little too much, it goes to such lengths that the audience is almost convinced these two not being together might not be a bad idea. The only thing that saves the movie from sacrificing itself is the fact that Segel and Blunt as actors could probably create chemistry with a cucumber and when put together,  the chemistry is inevitable. They are both equally charming and appealing. They are the cool, but care free human beings every person of their generation aspires to be. The glue of their chemistry is what makes it worth sticking around till the end for. If it weren't for Blunt's way of making everything seem so reasonable and Segel's persona of the love-torn good guy the movie would have become too distracted by it's own universe to even allow these guys to re-connect. This is a movie though and the resolution that will "make it a movie" does happen. So, while the studio might have let them get away with throwing extra gags in the mix for an average Apatowian runtime, it would never allow them to release a tragedy rather than a happy rom-com.

Tom (Jason Segel) and Tarquin (Brian Posehn) become
fast friends in The Five-Year Engagement.
While there are clearly several issues I could take with "The Five-Year Engagement" there is also alot to love and no matter how random it became or how overly long it seemed to last, I wasn't ever mad or irritated by the fact it wasn't over yet. Again, it comes down to the people. Director Stoller not only hit a home run with the pairing of Brie and Pratt who nearly steal the show, but also in populating the couple's Michigan settlement with entertaining folks. Mindy Kailing (The Office) and Kevin Hart (Think Like A Man) show up as fellow grad students at Michigan University and Segel's Tom befriends his alcoholic boss played to perfection by comedian Brian Posehn. Then there is the hilarious Chris Parnell. Parnell was never one of my favorite Saturday Night Live cast members and his movie roles have always been more of sparse cameos than anything else, but here he is the relentless stay at home dad that takes up knitting because he gets so bored watching his kids nap. He is present to serve as the embodiment of what Tom doesn't want to become. he has let all of his aspirations go by the wayside in order for his wife to accomplish her career goals. Parnell balances his ridiculous dialogue with the tragic undertones they imply quite nicely and nearly steals every scene he is in. It is this kind of random humor and consistent hilarity that make these raunchy but sweet comedies work. "The Five-Year Engagement" is certainly not the best of the bunch, but it isn't like you're walking into a Kate Hudson comedy either. I expected slightly more from Segel and Stoller, but there flair for touching on real emotion while exploiting the funny of everyday life is still present here. I can't be mad, but I hope their next outing is a step forward rather then one in the same direction.



THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT Review

"The Five-Year Engagement" has a lot going for it, but doesn't seem to care too much for pacing or trimming around the edges. It is a good film no doubt, a very funny one that had a few of the most genuine laugh out loud  moments I've experienced in a long time. It has a stellar cast and a director/writer team in Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) that know how and when to bring the funny, the subtle, and the touching. Segel has become comfortable as the reliable slob of a charming guy. If his onscreen persona is anything like that of his real life, he has to be one of the nicest guys ever. I consider "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" to be one of the more recent comedy classics so to say I was looking forward to this would be a bit of an understatement. The only problem I had with the film was figuring out the gist of the title itself. It seemed a problem that was at first unnecessary and could be worked around in a much easier manner than the script seemed to have played it. Now, obviously this is a movie and I realize things happen in movies that in a sense "make them movies" while the conflict here would likely never take this route in the real world. In the end it comes down to the fact that the movie isn't really about the pro-longed engagement at all but is simply an easy way of putting that it examines the current generations need to postpone everything until it is perfect while wasting one's life away in the process of figuring it all about. It turns into people in their mid-20's who feel a little behind, but still on the right track who grow into their 30's and realize they've wasted enough time to put them even further behind.

THE DEEP BLUE SEA Review

I was unfamiliar with the story I was walking into upon seeing "The Deep Blue Sea" and was not well acquainted with any of writer/director Terrence Davies previous work. I had of course heard others discuss his films and was anxious to see if what I had heard would turn out to be true. What is actually delivered in his latest film is by all means a very simple tale. It is nothing more than a tragic love story set in the ruins of World War II. As awful as it may sound I am always entertained, or more accurately engaged by tragic love stories. The dynamic of a failed relationship is always interesting. That is why there are so many songs about them, that is why the story never grows old. I found the adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play to be emotionally enduring and a very introspective look at how the human heart deals with past memories and lost feelings it will never likely be reunited with again. Still, for such a melodramatic premise, it also ends up being rather boring. Davies does in fact prove to be a very straight forward director who documents this story with a stylistically square eye. Everything we see feels flawless, painted almost and yet at the center of our story is an extremely fractured individual that slowly becomes more self-destructive due to the heartbreaking circumstances she is forced to confront yet are of her own creation. This is a distinctly British film, but after seeing "Pirates! Band of Misfits" earlier this week I found it even more interesting to see how big the crevice really is between the work in American cinema and how it compares. Clearly this is a much heavier film than the animated export that is opening wide this weekend, but it may not be the better film because of it.

Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) is shocked
by his wife's actions.
I realize this has little to do with an animated movie about Pirates, but it is inevitable for me as a movie-goer to not relate the two as they come from filmmakers with similar cultures. There is really no way to compare the two, but why I even mention the observation is due to the fact that the kind of people we watch here carry that same noble persona, that uniquely formal reserve for one another. The is demonstrated in the story by Freddie Page, a pilot in the Royal Air Force who is having trouble adjusting to life after the war. As played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor) Freddie is a fickle, thrill-seeking playboy who gives into Hester's longing for more than skin deep love if only to succeed in gaining lust and sin from the married woman. Hester, a romanticizing and smouldering Rachel Weisz, is looking for more than this though. She longs for true passion and true love. As the younger wife to high court judge Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) she sits pretty in his wealthy arms, she is comfortable, but needs more in her life to fill those ideals of romantic escapades, to help her realize those passions. This leads her to the affair with Freddie who after learning of an attempted suicide by Hester seems to see it as a way out and quickly exits before getting caught up in actually having to return the love Hester feels for him and provide stability in her life. The film plays out in this single day where Hester has attempted to kill herself and plays out through short flashbacks to flesh out the complete story of the affair and how she has arrived in her current state. 

Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) and Hester (Rachel Weisz) can't
help falling in love.
Davies handles these flashbacks with ease as he navigates them with the help of a strong classical score. Much of the film in fact plays out as if it could be a silent picture. Of course, this would take away some of the scenes in which we see Weisz, as a performer, exceed. The images are just so elegant though that the sweeping orchestral sounds take the imagery to a completely different level where the slow pace becomes more of a point than a flaw. No doubt it is intentional, but that we don't really dig into the meat of the story until the half hour point makes for a rather uninspired introduction. The main conflict I have with the movie though was that we, as an audience, are confused as to whether we should like or be afraid of Weisz's Hester. True, she is a damaged soul, but as she is clearly a danger to herself Davies should have taken more time to flesh her out as a human being. There is a development in the character that is missing. We never really learn how she came to marry the older man in the first place, why she might be drawn to such lustful desires, or if she has ever been happy. Does she even know what it truly feels like to fall in love? At one point Freddie speaks a line of dialogue that goes went something to the effect of marrying the first man that asked and falling in love with the first to smile at her. We see the pain and confusion there, but we want to be given a deeper look into its roots. This is a familiar story and because Davies has stripped it down to its core characters it feels more like a filmed version of the stage play in parts than it does a feature film. This was my biggest detraction for myself to emotionally connect with the film, which is a shame because there is serious complexities going on under Weisz's soft-focused eyes.

Hester is at the center of The Deep Blue Sea and is cause
for much stress in the life of two men.
"The Deep Blue Sea" is clearly not a film for everyone. It is in many ways a throw back to movies of old. There is a lost soul feeling to the film that overcasts the gloomy British setting and tragic story. I almost came to understand what life must have felt like post-WWII. There is a sense of hopelessness hanging over everything. This could be the reason a restricted romantic like Hester becomes so restless in her unaffectionate marriage, but it also serves the film in its quest to make you really feel the heartache. "The Deep Blue Sea" is a very careful film, one that seems planned to a T with its steady cam shots set to classical music and the very quick witted dialogue exchanged in rapid fire while the words contain the intelligence of thoughts that would usually have to be boiled over. It is that kind of film and if that isn't your cup of tea, then you will honestly probably hate the film. I din't love it, but I think I understood it. I certainly understood Weisz's performance and while I yearned to know more about Hester I was also thankful such a talented actress had taken the role. A lesser one would not have been able to convey nearly as much history in the unspoken moments as Weisz does here. We know what she wants, what she longs for when the camera studies her face as she looks at Freddie. Even when her character becomes somewhat of a wallower, feeling sorry for herself because of her current lifestyle we sympathize with her. That is the strongest aspect the film has going for it and while plenty of other things compliment the performance, that alone is what will resonate with you hours after the credits roll.

      

      

THE DEEP BLUE SEA Review

I was unfamiliar with the story I was walking into upon seeing "The Deep Blue Sea" and was not well acquainted with any of writer/director Terrence Davies previous work. I had of course heard others discuss his films and was anxious to see if what I had heard would turn out to be true. What is actually delivered in his latest film is by all means a very simple tale. It is nothing more than a tragic love story set in the ruins of World War II. As awful as it may sound I am always entertained, or more accurately engaged by tragic love stories. The dynamic of a failed relationship is always interesting. That is why there are so many songs about them, that is why the story never grows old. I found the adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play to be emotionally enduring and a very introspective look at how the human heart deals with past memories and lost feelings it will never likely be reunited with again. Still, for such a melodramatic premise, it also ends up being rather boring. Davies does in fact prove to be a very straight forward director who documents this story with a stylistically square eye. Everything we see feels flawless, painted almost and yet at the center of our story is an extremely fractured individual that slowly becomes more self-destructive due to the heartbreaking circumstances she is forced to confront yet are of her own creation. This is a distinctly British film, but after seeing "Pirates! Band of Misfits" earlier this week I found it even more interesting to see how big the crevice really is between the work in American cinema and how it compares. Clearly this is a much heavier film than the animated export that is opening wide this weekend, but it may not be the better film because of it.

SAFE Review

There must have been an excess supply of fake guns, bullets, and blood laying around in a props department somewhere and someone was ordered to take care of it. The best way they knew how to resolve the problem was clearly to make a modest budget action flick and get Jason Statham to play the lead. This would guarantee that they'd make their money back and then some. The courtesy for human life in the chrome-domed actioners latest saga is set to zero as the body count climbs higher every few minutes. That's not to say this kind of redundancy doesn't still pack a punch. It certainly does. The kind of films that Statham participates in are more about the integrated sequences of action rather than the story that supports them, but credit must be given where it's due and in that regard "Safe" does try its hardest to build a twisted and engaging plot line that ends up being a rather routine corrupt cop drama. Still, it offers enough turns to keep you entertained. While "Safe" will likely rank more among the likes of "The Mechanic" and "Death Race" than with "The Bank Job" or "The Transporter" series when fans look back on his career it is nonetheless a fun and thrilling ride. While writer and director Boaz Yakin is not known for this kind of work (his previous directing credits include Remember the Titans and Uptown Girls) he does a fine job of navigating the shaky cam through the action and making sure his lead and only viable star in the film is made to look like he's supposed to. While you can't really call what Statham gives a performance, he shows his usual tender side that has made him the charming lead he has become. Don't be fooled though, he'll snap and leave you for dead if you go against him or his mission.

Luke Wright (Jason Statham) gets himself into some
serious trouble in Safe.
The one thing about flat out action flicks like "Safe" that seems to be present lately is that hint of self-awareness. While this is in no way makes reference to the fact it knows what kind of film it is, it plays up so many of the cliches of the genre we can't help but know they are laughing with us. Whether it be when Statham delivers lines like, "Don't worry, he had it comin" after disposing of some Russian gangsters on a subway or replying "Surprised I can even walk," after being told how big his balls must be for walking in on the Mayor of New York and threatening him. The one-liners hit and the crowd chuckles. The bullets fly and take out everyone we know needs to die and the crowd gasps. In fact, there is nothing risky about "Safe" at all. It is a paint by the numbers action flick and it knows it. If you have a problem with that then you have no business watching it. That's the attitude it carries and why shouldn't it? I don't at all have a problem with it, in fact I am a pretty avid fan of Statham and will always think of him as more of a straight up and down action star then The Rock (though he's gaining momentum) and Vin Diesel. I would probably watch Statham in just about anything (except for In the Name of the King, no sir Uwe Boll you won't trick me) and find something interesting I can latch onto. What the niche for me here was the switch up between gunplay and martial arts. While there are more than enough shoot outs here to last you a lifetime, "Safe" really gets down and dirty when it allows its star to go toe to toe with a baddie and show off his skills that haven't been utilized to their max since "Crank: High Voltage". With a good portion of the story line being devoted to a Triad gang it is interesting they didn't use more of the hand to hand fighting style. If there is a critique of the action to be made here, I believe it would be that.

Luke and Mei (Catherine Chan) become fast friends.
While it would be clear from the cast list and trailer that it takes a certain taste of the genre to enjoy this film, it should be noted that there is an attempt at actual storytelling here as well. Statham plays Luke Wright who, when we meet him, is a second rate cage fighter that has just blown a rigged fight that puts him in a bad spot with the Russian mafia. They naturally come for his family first and in the singular most touching scene in the film (they're pretty sparse believe it or not) Statham lets us in on what kind of man Luke is. Luke begins wandering the streets of New York riddled with guilt. On the other side of things Mei (Catehrine Chan), a young girl that is a genius at math and can memorize long sequences of numbers with her photographic memory is brought to the U.S. from China. She becomes caught in the middle of a war between the Triads who brought her over and the Russians who want the code that the Triad gang had her memorize. She is kidnapped by the Russians but is able to escape and make it to a train station where an impulsive Luke sees the men who killed his family and seeks revenge. He inadvertently puts himself into the middle of the war between the Triads and the Russians that also comes to include a group of corrupt NYC cops. Surprise, surprise there's more to this than you might expect. Maybe a hidden past for Luke that didn't always involve cage fighting? Yea, probably so. It plays out in a manner so slick and calculated that you can't help but want to drive off after exiting the theater feeling as if you'd just taken care of business yourself. It leaves that kind of impression, and in my books, it could be a lot worse.

"I'm Jason Statham and this is my money shot!"
While looking at Mr. Statham's IMDB page will probably make you wonder how many more times he can do this before they run out of premises for him to skate by on the answer is clearly never. Every few years he has the option of likely doing another "Transporter" or "Crank" film and also has the hugely successful "Expendables" brand attached to his name that will likely allow it soar even higher after part two is released this August. Statham has a loyal fan base and keeps a steady flow of films coming. Whether they turn out to be theatrical releases or straight to DVD titles it doesn't matter. The man has become a brand and he will only continue to use the successful formula that has put him where he's at now. What makes the guy stand out from every other actor trying to establish themselves in the genre is the fact he can show range if he needs to. "Safe" allows only a slight peek at this during the scenes he and his young co-star Chan share together. There is a humanity to the brutality we are accustomed to seeing. That he is able to show this in the quieter scenes while maintaining his credibility as a human being after stabbing a man in the neck with a fork is slightly discomforting, but in the same way reassuring. He is the guy you don't want to mess with but the friend that you would love to have on your team. That is the magic of Statham and that is why he keeps getting asked to make movies and why people continue to go see them.

SAFE Review

There must have been an excess supply of fake guns, bullets, and blood laying around in a props department somewhere and someone was ordered to take care of it. The best way they knew how to resolve the problem was clearly to make a modest budget action flick and get Jason Statham to play the lead. This would guarantee that they'd make their money back and then some. The courtesy for human life in the chrome-domed actioners latest saga is set to zero as the body count climbs higher every few minutes. That's not to say this kind of redundancy doesn't still pack a punch. It certainly does. The kind of films that Statham participates in are more about the integrated sequences of action rather than the story that supports them, but credit must be given where it's due and in that regard "Safe" does try its hardest to build a twisted and engaging plot line that ends up being a rather routine corrupt cop drama. Still, it offers enough turns to keep you entertained. While "Safe" will likely rank more among the likes of "The Mechanic" and "Death Race" than with "The Bank Job" or "The Transporter" series when fans look back on his career it is nonetheless a fun and thrilling ride. While writer and director Boaz Yakin is not known for this kind of work (his previous directing credits include Remember the Titans and Uptown Girls) he does a fine job of navigating the shaky cam through the action and making sure his lead and only viable star in the film is made to look like he's supposed to. While you can't really call what Statham gives a performance, he shows his usual tender side that has made him the charming lead he has become. Don't be fooled though, he'll snap and leave you for dead if you go against him or his mission.

THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS Review

I have an odd relationship with stop motion animation. I am not particularly attracted to the style of animation and am never very interested to see the films when prompted by their trailers. Whenever I manage to end up seeing one though, I'm usually pretty glad I did. From the beginning I have been rather skeptical of "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" due to the lack of a tired premise. Not a year after the tired fourth entry in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise it seemed the testy premise of adventures on the high seas might be out of commission for a while. Instead, what the always reliable Aardman studios has produced here is not exactly a laugh out loud comedy, but is instead a sly little satire on the ways of old Victorian England. It makes keen observations about pirates and their interesting ways with plenty of blink and you'll miss them asides. I was neither hugely entertained or bored with the movie. It is indeed a very British kind of humor that brands the film, which is great as I enjoy that dry wit, but despite the intriguing charisma of the characters there doesn't always feel like enough substance to the story to really warrant a full length feature. I say that and immediately feel bad though, because it really is a delightful little film and breezes by at a brief 88 minutes. There is a stellar voice cast here and the young audience that crowded the theater seemed to enjoy it immensely despite it being somewhat unconventional to their usual 3D fare. It isn't a film the youngins will want to rely on for adequate history lessons, and it isn't something they might even want to re-visit, but in the moment it is exciting and charming.

Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) is a formidable threat.
What I was most concerned with going in was, as I said earlier, the premise. After the writers of that Johnny Depp franchise seemed to exhaust every possible plot related to pirates I wondered first and foremost where this movie was going to take me. The film centers itself around its idiotic if not slightly charming and simply named Pirate Captain. With Hugh Grant doing his best surly growl mixed with that upper crest English accent, he makes the Pirate Captain a lovable simpleton. He (mis)guides a crew of interesting characters that in no manner resemble the classic pirate archetypes we have grown familiar with. I loved that they each had simple descriptive names such as The Pirate with Gout (as played up by the great Brendan Gleeson) and The Pirate with a Scarf (the soon to be Bilbo Baggins but who I will always identify as the British Jim). Anton Yelchin gets in a few laughs as The Albino Pirate and in a great running gag Ashley Jensen, a pro at voice work who you might have seen on Chlesea Lately, is the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. The ragtag bunch is on a quest to help their fearless leader win the coveted Pirate of the Year award that he has had a long standing losing streak with. Naturally, the prize is claimed by the pirate who steals the most gold, and though he is dedicated to his craft, The Pirate Captain is not the most skilled or intimidating enforcer.

The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his rag tag crew.
Sounds like pretty standard fare so far huh? Yea, that's what I was thinking until the writers threw a pleasant little twist into the mix. The pirate gang, while in the process of hijacking ships and looking for "booty", come across Charles Darwin ( David Tennant).  Darwin sheds light on the fact The Pirate Captain's faithful companion Polly the parrot is not a parrot at all, but the rare dodo bird that could be the answer to his untold riches problem. This leads them through a rather interesting game of double crossing and lies as Darwin wants the praise for his find and the Captain wants his rewards. They run across the pirate-hating Queen Victoria (the wonderfully evil Imelda Staunton) who becomes more of a central focus than her first impression gave, but at least adds depth to the shallow outline of what I thought we would be served. Clearly there would need to be more than I expected, but I guess what I'm really saying is that the experience of "Pirates!" was not the light endeavor I anticipated but in fact turned out to be a rather great investment that in the end was hugely enjoyable. It's weird because I still don't think the movie overall was as exceptional as some likely will, but it was at least a fun and clever written piece. It has a distinctive style that the target audience will probably find engaging as it mixes the stop motion and computer animation, but it also carries that British wit that will help keep the parents in the crowd awake and chuckling.

Darwin's faithful companion seems to be the
most intelligent character around.
As I watched the beautiful, hand-made creations move flawlessly from scene to scene that initial hesitation to embrace the style of animation seemed to fade. I was now seemingly on the other end of the spectrum where I almost appreciated the fact the makers had made such an investment in telling this story that I wanted to applaud it more. It even seemed to give the whole movie a more personal tone, a more human effort. We weren't simply watching characters that animators had constructed inside a digital world while sitting behind a computer, but instead were seeing a hands-on, detailed piece that came from the skills they inherently possessed. That is not to say computer animation doesn't take time (its incredibly detailed work) or doesn't require talent, but this is talent of a different kind. When applied to this medium, while not the most popular at the moment, it still lends a different kind of gut reaction from the audience watching. This is a labor of love and that is what is most evident about "Pirates! Band of Misfits". There is always the supporting characters voiced by more familiar names like Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek (even Al Roker shows up as The Pirate who Likes Sunsets and Kittens) but it is the charm of watching these blob-like characters set against the digitized settings lurch through the film while providing great farce. I could never have seen this film and my life would be no different for it, but even though I can shrug it off doesn't mean it's horrible. It's here and it's probably the best option you have if you're looking for good, family entertainment this weekend.



THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS Review

I have an odd relationship with stop motion animation. I am not particularly attracted to the style of animation and am never very interested to see the films when prompted by their trailers. Whenever I manage to end up seeing one though, I'm usually pretty glad I did. From the beginning I have been rather skeptical of "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" due to the lack of a tired premise. Not a year after the tired fourth entry in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise it seemed the testy premise of adventures on the high seas might be out of commission for a while. Instead, what the always reliable Aardman studios has produced here is not exactly a laugh out loud comedy, but is instead a sly little satire on the ways of old Victorian England. It makes keen observations about pirates and their interesting ways with plenty of blink and you'll miss them asides. I was neither hugely entertained or bored with the movie. It is indeed a very British kind of humor that brands the film, which is great as I enjoy that dry wit, but despite the intriguing charisma of the characters there doesn't always feel like enough substance to the story to really warrant a full length feature. I say that and immediately feel bad though, because it really is a delightful little film and breezes by at a brief 88 minutes. There is a stellar voice cast here and the young audience that crowded the theater seemed to enjoy it immensely despite it being somewhat unconventional to their usual 3D fare. It isn't a film the youngins will want to rely on for adequate history lessons, and it isn't something they might even want to re-visit, but in the moment it is exciting and charming.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2012

This is clearly the list of a fan boy. Let me say that first and foremost. I love the comic book movies and this year I am a huge sucker for them all. Not to worry though, because this summer not only features the most anticipated film of the year for me in Chris Nolan's final Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises it also kicks off with the most ambitious super hero project ever as Disney and Marvel's The Avengers will surely give ole bats a run for his money. Then there is possibly my favorite super hero as a kid. I clumped these all together in my number one spot (no spoiler there) and spread out a variety of other films across the remainder of my top 10. I did this mainly because there really are so many films I want to see this summer that I can't even fit half on this list. I can't wait to see the Brave, the re-boots of Total Recall and the Bourne franchise, while Ted and That's My Boy look to contend with the comedies I did include on the list. Heck, I even want to see Rock of Ages because I trust Adam Shankman when it comes to musicals. Alas, there can only be 10 and though and I know some will agree, most probably won't, so let me know what you think in the comments section and let us know what YOU'RE most looking forward to in the summer of '12.



10. Savages


Oliver Stone has never been one of my favorite directors. I have certainly enjoyed many of his films and as a person who finds history very interesting there should really be no better source than Stone in Hollywood right now. This reason is exactly why my number 10 pick is so engaging. Usually telling the story of a real-life President or a great historical event is what Stone gravitates towards. He has certainly made his share of more mainstream films and has had success with them in his "Wall Street" movies and "Any Given Sunday". His latest film "Savages" seems to combine his knack for telling insightful stories that mix with the underground world of people's darkest thoughts in the vein of "Natural Born Killers". Stone has rounded up an all star cast including this years "it guy" Taylor Kitsch as well as "Kick Ass" star Aaron Johnson with their love interest played by Blake Lively and a prestigious supporting cast that includes John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Benecio Del Toro, Uma Thurman, and Emile Hirsch. "Savages' chronicles the uprising of Pot growers Ben and Chon as they run into inevitable conflict and have to face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend. Savages is rated R and will be released on July 6, 2012. Check out the trailer here


9. The Dictator


I still trust in Sacha Baron Cohen even after the debacle that was "Bruno". The guy broke onto the scene like no one else in 2006 with "Borat" which went on to make more than $260 million worldwide. "Bruno" pushed the envelope even further showing us there was literally nothing Cohen wouldn't do for a laugh. Unfortunately for him, the fan response was not as great. So, here we go again with what looks like a mix of the documentary style Cohen and collaborator Larry Charles have used on their previous films mixed with what seems to be a more cinematic take. This time they have enlisted the help of movie stars to assist in telling the heroic story of a dictator (Cohen) who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed. In supporting roles we have the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley (I can just imagine Cohen pitching Kingsley on the project on the set of "Hugo") as well as John C. Reilly, Anna Faris, and Megan Fox (playing Megan Fox). The first trailer gave a great look at the tone of the film while the second has given us a better glimpse of the plot which basically looks like much of the same as this odd, out of touch character is dropped into middle-America. That doesn't mean it won't be hilarious though. The Dictator is rated R and will be released on May 16, 2012. Check out the trailer here.


8.Magic Mike


It isn't hard to tell on the surface who the target market is for "Magic Mike". The story is based loosely around star Channing Tatum's pre-fame male stripper days. It has Tatum as veteran stripper Magic Mike who teaches a new stripper played by Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) the ropes of the occupation. They also happen to work at the club Xquisite that is owned by former stripper Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). This sounds like typical fodder for a ladies night, but I include it on my list not because I have any desire to see these guys shirtless for over half of a film, but because it is being directed by Steven Soderbergh. After Tatum tossed out the idea to Soderbergh on the set of "Haywire" the director thought it was one of the best ideas for a film he had ever heard. That alone makes me interested in what the director will do with the material and McConaughey has seemed more choosy about his roles lately, taking those that offer him something different. The same can be said for Tatum as he is becoming more appealing to the male crowds with the help of both "Haywire" and "21 Jump Street". The rest of the cast is rounded out by other extremely fit guys such as Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello. Magic Mike is rated R and will be released on June 29, 2012. Check out the first trailer here.


7.The Campaign


At first I was rather upset Will Ferrell and frequent collaborator Adam McKay would not be putting out a high profile project this year as it disrupts their pattern of doing a film together every other year since 2004. At least Ferrell has a comedy hitting theaters though and if it can't be a Ferrell/McKay collabo this is probably the next best thing. Ferrell plays a small town southern politician who is vying for a seat in Congress to represent his small North Carolina district is challenged by the most unlikely of adversaries in Zach Galifianakis. The comedy will certainly be relative as it hits in late summer just as the Presidential race will really begin to take over every news outlet. Ferrell has always been a class act when it comes to lampooning politicians and I expect nothing short of greatness from him here. The pair of he and Galifianakis could be gold as well. Ferrell has proved a great team player as he and John C. Reilly are classic and he and Mark Wahlberg seem to be another pair in the works. Galifianakis needs this to be a hit so he can prove he is capable outside of the "Hangover" franchise. All signs are positive though as they are surrounded by such comedic talent as Jason Sudeikis, Dan Aykroyd, and John Lithgow as well as a good amount of weight in Brian Cox and even Dylan McDermott. They are working from a script by Shawn Harwell (Eastbound & Down) and are under the direction of Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers). The Campaign is not yet rated and will be released on August 10, 2012. It's likely we will see a trailer in early May.


6.Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter


Though many will likely have this pegged as the most absurd film of the summer I find it extremely interesting to see these very serious historical figures integrated into such geeky folklore as vampires. Based on the book by Seth Grahame-Smith who also penned Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the story follows President Lincoln as he discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States and makes it his mission to eliminate them. I haven't finished reading the source material from which this is based just yet, but am thoroughly intrigued so far and have heard nothing but good things about that continue to be proven true. what has most impressed me so far is the amount of research Grahame-Smith seems to have done and I hope he incorporated this into his screenplay. There were a slew of big name stars that at one point were set to play the president but Benjamin Walker, a relative unknown who's biggest role so far was in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of our Fathers" finally nabbed it. He seems to have pulled off the look rather well and has a strong supporting cast around him including Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is rated R and will be released on June 22, 2012. Check out the trailer here.  



5.Snow White & The Huntsmen


Late last month there was a version of the Snow White story that hit theaters and while it was a nice, fanciful take on the children's story this summer we will get a far more serious film that seems to be following the original Grimm story a little closer in tone. I was hesitant to embrace this take on the tale when I heard "Twilight's" Kristen Stewart would be playing the title character. Under first time director Rupert Sanders they add a twist to the fairy tale, where the Huntsman, played by Chris "Thor" Hemsworth, is ordered to take Snow White into the woods to kill but ends up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron). There will be the inevitable comparisons between the two Snow White tales this year, but they look to be two completely different machines. The folks behind "Mirror Mirror" were right to get their version out first as the good amount of footage and behind the scenes features we've seen for this summer extravaganza consistently keeps setting the expectation bar higher. This looks genuinely engaging and I am rather excited to see this mature take on a story we all grew up with. The set design and costumes look amazing and Theron looks to be perfect as the Evil Queen. Snow White & The Huntsmen is rated PG-13 and will be released on June 1, 2012. Check out the trailer here.


4.Neighborhood Watch


I am a huge fan of the Frat Pack, which is, for those of you who don't know, the unofficial name for this group of actors that have appeared in numerous films together. The core group was originally made up of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Owen and Luke Wilson, and Jack Black. Steve Carell and Paul Rudd have since been inducted to the group and they have many a friends that are part of the "circle of trust". Their heyday was certainly the early 2000's to around '05, but with "Neighborhood Watch" being a huge tentpole comedy this summer it looks like the gang might be back for round two. With Vaughn and Stiller re-teaming for the first time since "Dodgeball" and co-stars such as Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade (Moss of "The IT Crowd") as directed by Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) and written by screenwriting team Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad) this broad comedy about a group of suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch group to get time away from their families who end up discovering a plot to destroy Earth should be a highlight in a summer full of great comedies. Neighborhood Watch is rated R and will be released on  July 27, 2012. Check out the teaser trailer here



3. Dark Shadows


With only a short two months to go before the release of his latest live action film, Tim Burton had yet to release a trailer and only a small amount of photos from "Dark Shadows". The film, which is based on the 1966-1971 gothic soap opera of the same name follows the life of an imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) who is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection. The twist here is that he is set free in the 70's and the comedy lies within the old fashioned vampire adjusting to disco rather than demons. When the first trailer was finally released the tone was not at all what I expected from Burton. But it was great. I was excited for his take on "Alice in Wonderland" a few years ago but was rather disappointed by its execution. I was hesitant to think this might be as good as many of his and Depp's collaborations but all of those have been put to rest and I am anxiously awaiting what fun "Dark Shadows" looks like it will be. Burton has surrounded Depp with a stellar cast that includes frequent collaborator and long time girlfriend Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Eva Green, and Jackie Earle Haley. He is also working from a screenplay by "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" author Seth Grahame-Smith. Dark Shadows is rated PG-13 and will be released on May 11, 2012. Check out the trailer here


2.Prometheus


Though I was only introduced to the original "Alien" in one of my film classes in college it was apparent why so many people had fallen in love with the film and why it made a star out of Sigourney Weaver. Director Ridley Scott who has arguably made two of the best sci-fi films of all time with the aforementioned "Alien" and "Blade Runner" returns to the genre for the first time in over 30 years and has been very hush hush about whether the story here has any connection to his beloved "Alien".  The story, well at least what we know of it, follows a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race. The visuals look amazing here and the story holds enough secrecy and myth that there is no reason you shouldn't be excited. Plus, there is the spectacular cast of Noomi Rapace (who no doubt hopes this will do for her career what "Alien" did for Weaver's), Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Patrick Wilson, and Guy Pearce. Prometheus is not yet rated and will be released on June 8, 2012. Check out the trailer here




1. Super Hero Films


Is this considered cheating? I hope not. It is no secret the summer movie season has become the spot for all things super hero. While each of these films had a spot on my top 10 most anticipated films of the year I had to combine them here. "The Avengers" hits theaters first and if you don't already know follows Nick Fury and the international agency S.H.I.E.L.D. as they bring together a team of super humans (Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki & his various membered army. Early reviews are positive and make the film sound as if it is everything fans hoped it to be. This makes me even more antsy to see it myself. The Avengers is rated PG-13 and opens May 4, 2012. Check out the trailer here.


Easily the most anticipated out of the bunch is the conclusion of Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy. "The Dark Knight Rises" takes place eight years after Batman took the fall for Two Face's crimes. Now, a new terrorist leader, Bane overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that brands him an enemy. The scope of this film looks epic and we can only hope that Nolan has topped himself with this one. There is so much pressure riding on him to deliver after the behemoth "The Dark Knight" turned out to be. Many think it was only as big as it was because of star Heath Ledger's death and are doubting the follow-up. With the stellar cast that has been assembled that includes Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Liam Neeson, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, and Michael Caine and the already mind blowing prologue that was released just after filming wrapped last December I can only expect this to meet if not exceed every expectation I hold for it. The Dark Knight Rises is rated PG-13 and opens July 20, 2012. Check out the trailer here


Most people were hesitant to even embrace the idea of a Spider-Man reboot so soon after plans for a fourth installment in the previous trilogy were abandoned. Most were disappointed that Raimi, Maguire and crew decided not to redeem themselves after the horrible third movie but instead they decided to do nothing about it all. What was done instead was "500 Days of Summer" director Marc Webb was recruited to reboot the franchise and enlisted the help of up and coming stars Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) and Emma Stone (Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love) along with a better known supporting cast that includes Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Dennis Leary and Rhys Ifans as the eagerly anticipated villain the lizard. This new story will re-visit the origin story as Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors, his father's former partner. The Amazing Spider-Man is rated PG-13 and opens July 3, 2012. Check out the trailer here.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2012

This is clearly the list of a fan boy. Let me say that first and foremost. I love the comic book movies and this year I am a huge sucker for them all. Not to worry though, because this summer not only features the most anticipated film of the year for me in Chris Nolan's final Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises it also kicks off with the most ambitious super hero project ever as Disney and Marvel's The Avengers will surely give ole bats a run for his money. Then there is possibly my favorite super hero as a kid. I clumped these all together in my number one spot (no spoiler there) and spread out a variety of other films across the remainder of my top 10. I did this mainly because there really are so many films I want to see this summer that I can't even fit half on this list. I can't wait to see the Brave, the re-boots of Total Recall and the Bourne franchise, while Ted and That's My Boy look to contend with the comedies I did include on the list. Heck, I even want to see Rock of Ages because I trust Adam Shankman when it comes to musicals. Alas, there can only be 10 and though and I know some will agree, most probably won't, so let me know what you think in the comments section and let us know what YOU'RE most looking forward to in the summer of '12.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS Review

When it comes to "Cabin in the Woods" I was rather worried at first because the film was completed in 2009 and delayed but this was simply due to business reasons. Now that it has seen the light of day and has received some pretty high accolades it seems there are two distinct camps when it comes to the reaction of the film. There are those who went into the film with the expectation this was going to be either a movie lampooning the horror genre cliches in which a nice scary quality was woven in. There are also those that intentionally didn't watch any of the trailers for fear that it would give away too much of what the "twist" of the film was. Like most, for me to be interested in a film I require a little preview of what I am walking into. Needless to say, I was in the former category. It appears though that anyone not within a certain kind of film community would not know to watch the trailer if one did not want to be subjected to any plot details. The fact of the matter is that the trailer did give a little too much away and in the end the hype around the film overshadowed what this actually delivered for me. The idea is there and I'm actually pretty positive that if I had gone into the film without believing the hype or even hearing anything about it I would have likely enjoyed it much more. Unfortunately, I went into the it with the high expectations of seeing a modern horror masterpiece and while the first hour or so was completely engaging, even exciting in terms of what the movie had in store those hopes eventually began to slip at the realization of what was happening was indeed exactly what I expected it to be.

Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), Lin (Amy Acker), and Hadley
(Bradley Whitford) all gear up for another day
at the office.
As I have already complained about, if you have seen the trailer for this you pretty much know what you are walking into. Although I will give the trailer props for at least offering the exact tone of the film that the creators wanted to parody. In that way of thinking about it, most folks who were eager to see this and are strictly fans of the horror genre were likely not expecting as much of a commentary on the genre's stereotypes as "Cabin in the Woods" turns out to be. Since everyone has seemed to make this out to be a film that needs to be guarded so as not to give away any plot details I won't go too far into why the whole "twist ending" was disappointing but I will say that up front, it disappointed me. After hearing from several, and various sources that it was different than what I might expect I was looking forward to this revelation the entire film and when the credits did begin to roll I was shocked at what I'd seen. Not because of how different it actually was or because something happened that completely caught me off guard but the more I thought about it the more it made sense, no. I was shocked because I had been left with an empty feeling of, "that's it?". Again, I am trying to defer from giving too much away, so I guess the best way to put it would be to say that I expected something that was more grounded in reality, something that after the execution of everything that happened throughout the conclusion felt more campy than I expected. It almost went from being too smart for its own good to the exact kind of film it was making fun of in the end.

From left: Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams),
Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and
Dana (Kristen Connolly).
While I have likely gone on for too long now about everything I disliked about the movie I must keep in mind that there is plenty to enjoy here and I only seem so upset because the aspect of the film that was so built up is what let me down. The remainder of what unfolds on screen is not only entertaining but it is disturbingly clever and plays with the archetypes and stock characters of the genre with a no holds barred attitude. We have the standard characters here in the jock Curt (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) and his newly blonde girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison) as well as the token weedhead who is here named as Marty (Fran Kranz). Rounding out the group is Curt's new teammate Holden (Jesse Williams) and Jules newly single friend Dana (Kristen Connolly) aka the innocent virgin of the group that we know will end up being our protagonist. The five college kids set off on a road trip to Curt's cousins cabin and the screenplay weaves in every cliche it can think of and turns it into a point of purpose in its elaborate story. While each of the characters clearly fits into a definitive type the actors give what are credible performances in that they allow a genuine realness in each of them to seep in before things begin to get a little hokey. Obviously Hemsworth is a strong alpha-male presence but even the average Connolly pulls off some moments that could have been taken straight from the movies this is parodying. The real star here becomes Marty though as from the beginning (and in a nice twist) his narcotics give him the edge to see the bigger picture.

Through the process of writing this review it has become kind of obvious in a way that the film, when taken out of the context of movie blogs and rotten tomato percentages stands as a horror movie that is more an inside look at what horror films have become and why they are set up the way they are rather than an actual film on its own. While this could be taken as trying to be too insightful with a film that had no intentions further than mocking the conventions of these types of movies I feel like it is a valid point due to the fact that my gut reaction to the film was something reminiscent of being unfulfilled.  I was not as engaged purely by the story as I hoped to be, but was instead entertained simply because it was pulling back a curtain and taking a peek inside which is naturally interesting, but you can only offer so much insight before that work needs to be exemplified and that is where "Cabin in the Woods" falls short. The film is certainly different than what horror fans have grown used to as of late, but that doesn't make this a great movie, it simply means that those who are making scary movies need to step up up their creativity and deliver something that doesn't always so comfortably fit into a category.

Dana has some issues to deal with by the end of the film.
A film shouldn't have a set of stipulations for it to be received the intended way. If the desired effect is ruined by the marketing campaign then in all honesty the marketing team should have probably figured out a better (or smarter) way to advertise the product. The opinion of a film should not lie in the outside factors but instead should come from that experience where for 95-minutes you are glued to that theater seat. I expected "Cabin in the Woods" to be more than the typical teen weekend getaway horror flick, but wanted it to be more than the "Scream" of the cabin in the woods story line. In that department it failed to live up to the standards that not only the fanboys set for it, but also the ones that the all too revealing trailers did. This looked to be a piece of fun that mocked the aspects of the well worn story while bringing something new to the table. Some will argue that the conclusion does in fact bring something fresh and unexpected to the story but I will argue that it devolves into exactly the kind of been there done that horror flick it so cleverly made fun of in the first half of the film. I enjoyed the set up of the twist and I was especially engaged by the performances and roles that Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford played up nicely. Still, as hard as the movie tries it never feels it reaches that full potential and that is something that doesn't have to be investigated or given reason. That is a pure, emotional reaction and that is all that matters in a scary movie. When that reaction is one that doesn't in some way relate to the title of the genre then a piece of the experiment has failed.



 

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS Review

When it comes to "Cabin in the Woods" I was rather worried at first because the film was completed in 2009 and delayed but this was simply due to business reasons. Now that it has seen the light of day and has received some pretty high accolades it seems there are two distinct camps when it comes to the reaction of the film. There are those who went into the film with the expectation this was going to be either a movie lampooning the horror genre cliches in which a nice scary quality was woven in. There are also those that intentionally didn't watch any of the trailers for fear that it would give away too much of what the "twist" of the film was. Like most, for me to be interested in a film I require a little preview of what I am walking into. Needless to say, I was in the former category. It appears though that anyone not within a certain kind of film community would not know to watch the trailer if one did not want to be subjected to any plot details. The fact of the matter is that the trailer did give a little too much away and in the end the hype around the film overshadowed what this actually delivered for me. The idea is there and I'm actually pretty positive that if I had gone into the film without believing the hype or even hearing anything about it I would have likely enjoyed it much more. Unfortunately, I went into the it with the high expectations of seeing a modern horror masterpiece and while the first hour or so was completely engaging, even exciting in terms of what the movie had in store those hopes eventually began to slip at the realization of what was happening was indeed exactly what I expected it to be.

THE THREE STOOGES Review

Let me start by saying that I was never introduced to the comedy of the original three stooges when I was a child. I have of course known about them since I was young and would see old clips and commercials on TV, but never had I settled down and actually watched an episode. Going into a movie about them that seemed to be more of a tribute than anything I figured I would obtain a pretty fine idea of what the original had to offer and why it had become so loved. For the most part this seems to be true. When the talkings of a movie about the stooges came up it seemed natural that the brothers Farrelly would be at the helm. They seemed to have a loving relationship with the series that likely inspired them as young filmmakers to create the kind of comedies they've become famous for. Though I would have preferred to see the more prestigious version of this film where Sean Penn played Larry, Benincio Del Toro was Moe with Jim Carrey as Curly though it is nice to see that the project was able to rebound and for the most part, land on its feet. While their has been hesitation from pretty much everyone to embrace this film given its horrible trailers and TV spots or simply because you might be a fan of the original and think of this as blasphemy; the good news is that the Farrelly's have produced a family friendly film that doesn't wear out its welcome or short you on the gags you really came to the movie to see. It is indeed a loving tribute to the series and the characters with some Farrelly-esque moments but all in all isn't nearly as bad as we all imagined it would be.

Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) gets mixed up with the
Jersey Shore gang in the stooges new movie.
The three acts of the script have been clearly identified in the film as they pose as if each individual episodes that form this coherent film. The plot of the film has something to do with the stooges raising money to keep open the orphanage that has raised them and where they still live and work in their mid-30's. Their adventure to round up $830,000 is of course lined with obstacles and adventures that put the guys in many a complicated and unfortunate situations but does the plot really matter here? No, not really but it is expertly put together and layers the elements of moral lessons to be learned just perfectly. It is also fun to watch as celebrities like the hilarious and gorgeous Sofia Vergara show up throughout. There's also Larry David being a scene-stealer as the mean nun, an underused Jane Lynch as mother superior, and an out of place Jennifer Hudson as the token black nun. Stephen Collins (7th Heaven) shows up for a few scenes and in a very Farrelly move Moe is dropped in as a cast member on Jersey Shore which of course features cameos from the likes of Snooki and the Situation (although I would have preferred it more had Moe and Pauly D gotten together). Each of the stooges go through an emotional journey in a nice touch of theme that has to do with the importance of brotherly love, as well as the importance of family. It gets sweet and a little sappy but more importantly it never lacks the slapstick humor (no matter how easy the joke) and never loses sight of what it is in being a tribute to the original pranksters.

Curly (Will Sasso), Moe, and Larry (Sean Hayes) make a
great impression as the three stooges. 
What the film really comes down to though is how well the three actors imitate the original stooges. While these actors aren't the major stars that were one time attached to the project each does have some TV credit and are nothing short of great at mimicking the original Larry, Curly, and Moe. As Curly, Will Sasso (Mad TV) might be an obvious choice for his looks but he has to be given credit for looking eerily similar to the original. While his impersonation is probably the one that is most easily seen through it is tricky to judge because Curly had the most defining characteristics. Whether it be the hand movements, the high voice, or the body language, each aspect of the character was very specific and with such a high order Sasso had tall orders to emulate a character who is essentially a carbon copy without seeming over the top. Over the top in the means of his impression as his actions will naturally be over the top. Sasso handles it well for the most part, while it may be difficult to look past it as anything more than an impression at first we eventually tune into it and become more at ease about it. In almost a spot on bit of casting Will & Grace alum Sean Hayes inhabits the role of Larry. It was a questionable choice at first as Hayes really doesn't resemble the original Larry all that much, but with the right amount of make-up and that hair he comes across perfectly. The voice, the movement is spot on and the same can be said for Chris Diamantopoulos (24). He not only looks the part of ringleader Moe but he has the very distinct accent down pat and marches through the story with confidence and ignorance just like we would expect him to. It is easy to see why it was hard for the Farrelly's to find three actors that wouldn't mind taking on the iconic roles and despite the fact their will still be criticism it will not be at the fault of these actors who don't attempt to do "versions" of these characters, but are in fact doing Moe, Larry, and Curly on the nose.

Sister Bernice (Kate Upton) reveals her gifts from
God to the stooges.
While this has clearly been a labor of love for the Farrelly brothers it seems to have paid off. I didn't personally have a lot of hope for the film going into it, but afterwards and after seeing all the faces of the children reacting to the film it was clear that they accomplished what they were going for. This is one of those movies that I would have seen as a child, that my parents would have purchased because it was guaranteed entertainment and I would have watched it over and over again until it was burned into the DNA of my childhood. That's what I saw on the faces of those kids and the minds of their parents as I exited the (crowded) theater. Throughout it was clear that everyone in the theater was enjoying themselves and it boils down to one simple thing: the humor. It is basic, but it is hilarious, sometimes there is nothing better than watching grown men act like idiots. While today's comedians have seemed to advance the comedic landscape by playing these man-children it was the stooges who did it first. To watch a grown man pinch another's nostrils with a pair of tongs or to see them get belted in the head with whatever object is handy never seems to grow old, especially when aided by those classic sound effects. The movie plays the persona's of these knuckleheads just right, giving them the roles that relate to someone at every age and no matter if you think this is another case of Hollywood mining old ideas for new money, I think it is a good thing that younger generations are being given this big budget introduction to the stooges and the product we have been given is a fine tribute to some of comedies greatest heroes.