Friday, December 27, 2013

One Minute Movie Review: White House Down

Roland Emmerich, director of such Blockbusters as ID4, The Patriot, and Stargate brings us this liberally lopsided action adventure about an improbable, to the point of downright silliness, attack on the white house and the characters who are caught in the crossfire.   Both this film and its doppelganger, Olympus Has Fallen, failed miserably at the box office, maybe because in this post 911 world, audiences just don't find violent terrorist attacks on our nation's capitol all that entertaining, but mostly because they are so unbelievable in their storytelling and poorly acted.   We don't mind aliens from space decimating every monument and city on the planet with maximum carnage, that's fantasy, but a group of human psychopaths killing countless innocents and destroying our national symbols of strength and society must hit a little too close to home.   But unlike Olympus, Emmerich fills his cinematic train wreck with so much liberal ideology, swipes at the right, and ridiculous logic that it eclipses all the action and any redeeming qualities, which are minimal in totality.  The story is unbelievable, even further damaged by the performances of the entire ensemble, none more than its two leading men.  Why Tatum is still allowed to act in anything should be a federal offense in and of itself and Fox's performance is simply two dimensional and stale.  The remaining cast plays their parts so over the top that they become comical in a very accidental way.    The action is impressive, although it is so far fetched it ends up looking like an unconscious parody of itself.  There are brief moments of humor and connection between Channing and Jamie, but they are too few and move by too fast.  This was yet another attempt at creating Die Hard in DC that was an epic fail in scope and dollars.    0 out of 5 Kernels; the only thing terrorized by this movie is the folks who either paid to see it in the theater, or took the time to suffer through it via Netflix.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Minute Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Whenever a cinematic trilogy is attempted, it is always the middle of the three that is the most difficult to create.  It must act as a cliffhanger, bring depth to the characters and story all while successfully "setting up" the finale to effectively evolve the concept and deliver the utmost in satisfaction and closure to the fan base.   There are very few success stories and a plethora of celluloid disasters.   Now with the advent of stretching novel series into multiple pictures, the challenge is even greater, and the chance of failure is more significant, especially when it is an effort to turn a single literary work into three cohesive and coherent flicks.  Peter Jackson, mastered the art of the trilogy with his brilliant work with the Lord of the Rings series, but, again, that was three books, as opposed to one, using the appendices to flesh out the story and players in a way that was engaging and thoroughly entertaining.  Here Jackson is presented with the daunting trial of duplicating that achievement with only the material from a single work, his elaborate imagination, and dogmatic love for Tolkien's best seller.   In other words, it requires more filler than a truck load of Chicken McNuggets.   The pros of the film are quick to identify, sweeping cinematography, jaw dropping scope, thanks to some of the most magnificent CGI work, likable characters, solid performances, and amazingly choreographed battle sequences.   He is also successful in weaving in the mythology of his prior trilogy adding some sleek twists and plot devices that fit perfectly.  He achieves bringing depth to the story and fleshing out the cast, but that is where the positives end.  The problem, there is so much filler in this go round that the story drags, ala Soap Opera style, and ends up diluting the final product.   It simply feels like a commercial attempt at keeping the franchise alive, rather than a true bridge between films.  Add into that an ending that is lackluster and almost lazy, and you end up disappointed rather than entertained.    It diminishes everything that is right about the picture and leaves you feeling like you just got taken in a proverbial sidewalk shell game.   This story could have been told in two movies, but it is evident that would not have provided a big enough paid day.  What a painful statement to make about one of my favorite directors.  I have to give the points where they are due, but I am almost hesitant to do so.  3 out of 5 Kernels: apparently Smaug is not the only entity here obsessed with how much treasure he could accumulate, Jackson wasn't satisfied with his pile either.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

One Minute Movie Review: Frozen

When I initially saw the myriad of trailers for the Mightiest of Mouses' latest venture all I could think of was Rapunzel meets Frosty the Snowman.  Instead, writers and directors, Chris Buck (Tarzan) and Jennifer Lee (Wreck it Ralph) bring us an unique and inventive reboot of the 1845 Hans Christian Anderson classic fairy tale, The Snow Queen.  But Buck and Lee don't simply retell the tale, they create an imaginative and wondrous new story with exciting and endearing characters possessing upbeat and fast paced dialogue and humor.  Add into that, an amazing score that is elegantly performed by leading ladies Bell and Menzel and breathtaking animation and you have one of Disney's finest productions.   Hats off to lesser known Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and Santino Fontana for rounding out a superb cast bringing their respective characters to magnificent life.  Escaping the whole damsel or princess in distress routine, the creative team opt for a tale of self-reliance and selflessness, replacing their standard, overdone formulaic storytelling, for an unpredictable, refreshing, and thoroughly enjoyable movie appealing to both young and old.   I thought Brave broke through the tried and true Disney product like one of Merida's well placed arrows, however, it is Frozen that takes it to the next level with an even more musically epic scale.  4 out of 5 Kernels: a simply extraordinary production that warms the heart while spinning a very cool yarn.

One Minute Movie Review; Monsters University

In all truthfulness, I really did not want to see this film, as I thought the first was so creative unique, endearing, and entertaining that I believed there was no way that a sequel could do it justice.  I mean, how could any successor top the cute to near nauseating relationship between Boo and Sully and the kid friendly twist, at the end, teaching children to transform their fears into laughs.   So, I had no desire to ruin the enjoyment and impressiveness of the first with a substandard second act.  But my children begged, and like all dad's who stick dogmatically to their principles and are tested by the infamous, "please daddy, please," look, I caved.   I am ecstatic to report that I was not only pleasantly surprised, but concede that this movie is as good as the first, though different, it is as well constructed, told, and acted as its predecessor.  Dan Scanlon trades his writing hat for his first directorial cap and makes the transition with tremendous success.   Goodman and Crystal return with some old favorites and new friends taking us back to the beginning, where we get to see how Mike and Sully met and became friends.   While Goodman was the absolute star of the first, this time around, it is Crystal's performance that shines above all else, as the tale of Mike's fearlessness and unrelenting spirit is tested, challenged, and tried, with an authenticity and sincerity that everyone, young and old, can relate to.  The laughs are not outrageous, but they move the story along fluidly.   The animation is, again, amazing, and the plot, though somewhat predictable, provides a few, simple but slick, twists and turns.    You'll miss Boo, but the story will keep you engaged and entertained in a new and exciting way.  4 out of 5 Kernels; very few sequels have merit, especially animated ones, so monster sized kudos to Scanlon and company.