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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Movie Review: [REC]

[REC]
2007
R



[Rec] is a 2007 Spanish horror film directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza that takes place in an apartment building infected with some kind of contagious disease. One night, Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman set out to a fire station to film the latest episode of Ángela's show, While You're Sleeping. The two move about the station, recording the rather mundane livelihood of a firefighter at the station as they wait for any type of nighttime call. It ultimately comes, and the two join firefighters Manu (Ferran Terraza) and Álex (David Vert) to respond to a call at an apartment where an elderly woman is said to be hurt. When the group arrives, they walk to the old woman's apartment with the police already on-scene; the woman appears very agitated and ultimately attacks one of the police officers, biting into his neck, putting him into critical condition. As the group of people shake off the shock of what they just saw, they take the injured man downstairs where the other people living in the complex inform them that they have been sealed inside the building by authorities outside. This sets off a mass panic as everyone inside the building tries to figure out why they've been trapped and just what kind of menace they have to face inside.

I've known about this movie for quite a while, but it really came into my collective consciousness after an American remake (entitled Quarantine) was released in 2008. All I've ever heard about the film was that it's one of the scariest ever to grace the screen, so I've been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to give it a view. Although it's not quite the scariest flick I've had the chance to see, it definitely ranks as one of the best horror films in my film repertoire.

The film is shot in the now-relatively-common Blair Witch style, giving us a character's point-of-view throughout the film. When done correctly, these types of movies can be extremely effective in that they give the viewer a chance to immerse themselves completely into the story. It's almost as though we're the one holding the camera, filming everything that's going on around us. The makers of [Rec] use this style to the best of their ability, not only succeeding with the shaky-camera style, but giving the audience a sense of confusion and claustrophobia that's truly difficult to convey in cinema. Kudos to these guys for doing just that.

I also found the cast to be stellar, although I can see where some people could be annoyed by them. I've been reading some reviews, and a lot of people criticized the cast as being too one-dimensional. In their defense, this type of film with this type of story doesn't necessarily leave room for any type of character development. It's supposed to be a kind of real-time movie with the actors simply reacting to their surroundings. So to those critics who said that the acting wasn't any good, I'd have to disagree. I thought that each character, while ultimately expendable, brought a different type of persona to the film. Velasco does very well as our lead, taking us through a wide range of emotions that fit perfectly with what's going on around her. Every other character complements her Ángela well, making a rather strong ensemble cast.

I did have a little bit of issue with the screenplay in that they tried a little too hard to explain things at the end. In the film's climactic moments, Ángela starts to piece together the puzzle, but the reveal is so blatantly obvious that I felt a little insulted. It comes down to the whole concept of "showing, not telling." In this case, the filmmakers "tell" us the reasons behind this disease rather than simply "showing" us the pieces and letting us put it all together on our own. Ultimately, I don't think any explanation was really needed - in a film like this, where confusion is key, I think there needs to be a little bit of ambiguity at the finale to make it a little stronger. It's not like the ending destroys the movie, but I did feel like it could've been a little better by being a little more ambiguous.

Overall, [Rec] is a fantastically-shot film that's sure to deliver both suspense and some jump-out-of-your-seat scares. I even have to admit that I yelled out loud at one point, which has only happened during a film once before (when I watched 1979's Alien for the first time). That alone should make you want to give this one a shot. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
1.5 Thumbs Up

Addition to Rankings
Best Horror/Thriller: #25

Addition to Awards
2007: 2 nominations

Friday, April 29, 2011

Trailer Breakdown: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

As most of you already know, the third installment in the Transformers franchise, subtitled Dark of the Moon, will be crashing into theaters this summer. I for one have been a little bit against the previous two films. Yes, they're both visually spectacular (if a little manic at times), but the acting of a certain lead named Shia LaBeouf has been so horrendously bad that I just haven't been able to get into the films. However, I'll still be seeing the next film because it's such a big-budget summer blockbuster. The most recent trailer has just been released, so I thought I'd break it down a little bit and try to figure out just what we can expect from Dark of the Moon.



So let's get on with the questions that arose while I watched the trailer...

Will there be any amount of brains mixed in with the brawn presented in this film?
I'm sure it's safe to say that there won't be, considering this is a Michael Bay picture. He's more known for his emphasis on wowing the audience with a massive overload of special effects than attempting to craft a legitimate story, but I suppose we can't completely knock it until it comes out. The first movie wasn't horrible, but anyone who saw Revenge of the Fallen will certainly agree that the screenplay wasn't the strongest in the world. I just hope there's enough intelligence infused into this popcorn-muncher to keep us all engaged.

Will the new girl be any better than Megan Fox?
For those of you who don't already know, every guy's favorite eye candy will not be returning for the third installment of the Transformers franchise. In case you hadn't heard, she happened to call Bay a Nazi or something along those lines, so you can imagine why she won't be back. In her stead, they've signed on former Victoria's Secret model and first-time actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. I suppose there's a strong enough argument to make for her replacement in terms of looks, but can she deliver a little more in terms of actual acting? I know that Bay doesn't really require much in terms of legitimate acting, but I always like to see the actors actually, you know, act. Seeing as she's the biggest change to the cast, Huntington-Whiteley stands to lose the most with a terrible performance.

Is it just me, or does Shia's level of acting look to be a little better this time around?
Anyone who knows me personally will know that I have very strong feelings against Mr. LaBeouf mostly because he doesn't really know how to act. I've seen him in a number of films, including both Transformers flicks, and my opinion remains steadfast. However, the limited number of appearances of his character in the trailer actually make it look as though he might be upping his personal ante a little bit. I'm not holding my breath, but a stronger performance for LaBeouf could be the push that Dark of the Moon needs to be "good" in my book.

And now for a couple of off-the-wall questions that I thought about while watching the trailer...

The bad Transformers are taking down a skyscraper while Shia's inside. Any bets that he's going to survive?
As I mentioned in my breakdown of Fast Five, every action movie trailer will have an over-the-top action-oriented scene to prove the filmmakers' skill in crafting something original and death-defying. The skyscraper scenes proves to be Dark of the Moon's attempt, and it does look rather interesting. However, it's hard to imagine that anyone could possibly survive something to destructive; on the other hand, it's just as unlikely that they're going to off three of the film's central characters (LaBeouf, Huntington-Whiteley and Tyrese Gibson) in one fell swoop. Let the ridiculousness commence.

Are those two "racist" Autobots from Revenge of the Fallen going to return?
There's no evidence anywhere in this trailer, but the inclusion of Skids and Mudflap in the second film sparked quite a bit of controversy. Many people started to call the film and Michael Bay racist for presenting such characters, so I'd be a little surprised to see them return in this flick. Then again, did they even survive that film? This entire question could be for naught because I simply cannot remember if they even made it at the end.

How many more Transformers movies are they going to make?
By this point, I'm just a little bit sick of these Transformers movies, so I decided to do a little research into finding the answer. Apparently, this will be the final film in Bay's trilogy as he plans to stop making the movies once this one is released. Bay was reported as saying, "As a trilogy, it really ends. It could be rebooted again, but I think it has a really killer ending." That being said, we should see an ultimate conclusion at the end of Dark of the Moon, but considering how much money these movies have made (the first two grossed over $720 million in the United States alone), I wouldn't be surprised if we see another attempt at the franchise somewhere down the road.


Transformers: Dark of the Moon will hit U.S. theaters in 3D on July 1, 2011.

Movie Review: FAST FIVE

FAST FIVE
2011
PG-13



Fast Five is a 2011 action film directed by Justin Lin that serves as the fifth installment into the Fast and the Furious franchise. It picks up where the fourth film left off, with Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) racing to free Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) from his fate of life in prison. The three make their way to Rio de Janeiro where they meet up with Vince (Matt Schulze) who gets them to agree to aid him with a job. The job ultimately goes sour, leaving O'Conner and the Torettos bruised, both physically and emotionally. They're ultimately framed for the murder of three DEA agents, causing the United States government to send a crack team, led by a "shoot first, ask questions later" leader named Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to find them and bring them to justice. Our heroes have other ideas, however, as they try to plan one last heist that will take down the reigning kingpin in Rio while giving them over $100 million. The three call the best people they know to help, bringing a massive reunion of characters from the previous films.

As my readers know, I broke down Fast Five's trailer after initially seeing it, posing a number of questions that could have aided the movie in becoming illogical. I'm going to spend a little bit of time answering the questions I posed in this review, and I think that should give a good sense of how this movie turned out.

I initially wondered there would be any brains hidden beneath the brawn shown in Fast Five, and although there's nothing truly spectacular about the screenplay, it doesn't prove entirely predictable. Sure, there's plenty of moments where you know exactly what's going to happen, but there was one or two scenes that worked as clever little twists. It's no Inception, but considering the bulk of this film is surrounded by fast-driving cars and barrages of gunshots, I think it worked rather nicely. Oh, and my question concerning the keeping of $100 million inside a police station was actually answered relatively early in the film, and it actually makes sense. Kudos to the screenwriters for not going entirely absurd here.

I also originally questioned whether such a large, recognizable cast would prove detrimental to the film as a whole. Let me say this: there's never a question about who's running the show on-screen, with Diesel taking most of the screen-time but giving just enough to Walker and Brewster. Everyone else plays a key role, but it's made apparent that they are by no means the film's central characters. That being said, let's delve into the performances. Diesel, Brewster and Walker are bringing the same people they've brought a few times before, so you can't really expect much from them. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris complement each other perfectly, bringing quite a bit of comic relief (although, my laughter could have easily been triggered by the laughter of the largely African-American crowd surrounding me in the theater). The only truly new addition to the franchise is the presence of The Rock. Although I wanted to hate him so badly during his opening scenes, I ultimately found myself enjoying his steady presence. He went with a type of character that doesn't necessarily fit what he's done in the past, so it takes a little time getting used to, but he's committed to maintaining that character throughout, making it a legitimate performance.

Overall, Fast Five is an over-the-top, popcorn-munching action flick, and it shouldn't be taken for anything else. The action is almost non-stop, and the filmmakers took no lengths to make any of it physically believable. But when you go to a Fast and the Furious movie, you should probably expect a lack of logic and a massive gain in explosions, and that's exactly what Fast Five delivers. Oh, and for those of you who see the film, make sure you stay halfway through the credits - there's an extra scene waiting for you...

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: C-
1 Thumb Up

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Movie Review: BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III

BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III
1990
PG



Back to the Future Part III is the third and final installment in the Back to the Future franchise directed by Robert Zemeckis. It picks up just where Part II leaves off, with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) stuck in 1955 and Dr. "Doc" Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) stuck in 1885. With the help of the 1955 Doc, Marty unearths the hidden DeLorean, fixes it up and takes it back to the Old West to bring the Doc back to the future after learning that he's going to be shot and killed by a notorious gunslinger named Buford 'Mad Dog' Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Marty arrives in the past and finds the new township of Hill Valley, taking on the name "Clint Eastwood" around the townsfolk. After a brief run-in with Tannen, Marty finds Doc and tells him of his fate. The two start to plan their escape back to the future, but things become complicated when the Doc finds himself falling in love with a schoolteacher named Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen). As the two try to plan their way home and deal with the ever-present threat from Tannen, twist after twist comes to pass, making their trip home all the more difficult.

Literally everyone I've talked to about the Back to the Future franchise has told me that this third installment is the bad egg of the bunch. Considering our heroes were being sent way, WAY back in time, I can imagine why so many people would think so. Still, I went in with an open mind considering I've loved the franchise thus far, and to be honest, I loved this one almost as much as the rest. I'll admit that the screenplay isn't quite at the standard of the previous two films, and that magical aura that was presented in the original flick doesn't quite permeate into the sequels, but I thought that Part III was original enough to make an entire film devoted to life in the 19th century. The storyline is relatively predictable, but the film carries that lightheartedness that the rest of the franchise has had, so you're still in for an enjoyable adventure.

One of the things that I liked most about this installment is the fact that we get to see a more human side of Doc Brown. In the first two installments, Christopher Lloyd is damn-near brilliant as the manic scientist, and it plays well for the time. However, seeing him lose touch with logic because of a woman presents the real man inside the machine, giving us an emotional touch to a character we thought we already knew. Don't worry - he doesn't completely toss logic out the window, but Part III works well to add another dimension to his character. I also rather enjoyed the outlaw turn that Wilson takes as 'Mad Dog' Tannen this time around. In the past two films, Wilson was always a sore spot for me because I felt like his style of over-acting was just a little too much at times. I loved his Biff, but I could only take so much of him. However, as this gun-toting Western bad guy, you can hardly see the resemblance, and the over-acting is pitch-perfect for the setting. It's the best performance Wilson has given in the trilogy, and I think he should be commended for it.

As I did during my review of the second film, I'd like to commend Alan Silvestri for his musical composition for this installment. A lot of it is the same as we've heard, but we also get some of that western-style twang inserted throughout, and it gives the setting a little more authenticity.

Overall, I have to say that I loved Part III just as much as I loved Part II. Is it as good as the first two films? Not really, mostly because it's a little more mindless than the previous two. Does that make it a bad film? Absolutely not. It's a fantastic conclusion the three-parter, and it solidifies the Back to the Future franchise's spot as one of my favorite film trilogies of all time.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B+
2 Thumbs Up


Addition to Rankings:
Best Sequel - #18

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DVD Challenge #4: KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
2002
PG-13
Run-time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Directed by: Steve Oedekerk
Starring: Steve Oedekerk





I'm honestly not entirely sure why I have this movie in my DVD collection because it's not really the type of movie I'd generally buy. If I remember correctly, I think my dad bought the flick, and at some point in time, I absorbed it into my personal collection, so it had to be viewed as part of this DVD Challenge. That being said, let's get into what works and what doesn't, shall we?

For those of you know who don't know the deal behind this movie, Oedekerk essentially took an obscure, 1970s martial arts movie called Tiger and Crane Fist and inserted himself into the story. In doing so, he created an entirely original storyline and dubbed the voices of the original characters, essentially spoofing the martial arts genre. Unfortunately, a lot of the jokes are relatively childish and unoriginal. Basically, we've got a movie that delves into the "stupid funny" realm in order to garner its laughs. There's a lot of slapstick comedy and a lot of raunchy humor, but aside from that, we're not getting any legitimate laughs.

There are quite a few pop culture references to be had, however. The most obvious modern spoofs are of the 1999 film The Matrix and the 1994 animated film The Lion King, so be on the lookout for those homages. According to the film's IMDb page, there are also references to Titanic, The Usual Suspects, and The Lord of the Rings, but I couldn't find them anywhere in the film. Maybe you'll have a little more luck spotting those particular gags.

Overall, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is good for a few chuckles here and there. It's a goofy send-up of 1970s martial arts flicks from the man who brought the world the Ace Ventura films, so you can probably assume the direction this one will take. Is it worth owning? Probably not, but it's still in my library so I'll treasure it regardless.

Previous DVD Challenge: THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1996)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie Review: FOOD, INC.

FOOD, INC.
2009
PG



Food, Inc. is a 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary directed by Robert Kenner. To quote the synposis on Wikipedia - because I can't think of a better way to organize it in my own words - the film "examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees." The movie is divided into a number of personal segments, but they all fall into the following three overarching concepts: the inhumanity of industrial meat production; the instability of industrial production of corn and other vegetables; and a look at the legal and economic issues that circle this issue in its entirety.

I've been meaning to watch this film for probably a year now, but some recent incidences in my own life led me to finally give the film a shot. Those of you who know me personally will know that I gave up meat for Lent (the Christian time of preparation for Easter), spending six-and-a-half weeks without consuming it in any way. As you know, yesterday was Easter, meaning it was the first day I could once again eat meat. My dad, a huge proponent of eating red meat, decided to buy me a steak, much to my reluctance. I had heard that returning to meat after such a long stay away could prove a little sickening, so I only allowed myself to eat a small portion of the disgusting-looking slab that sat on my plate. As of this morning, I'm still feeling my stomach's anger, and I feel so terrible right now that I'm contemplating returning to a no-meat diet. So it seemed like the perfect moment to watch Food, Inc. because I thought it could help me with my ultimate decision.

That drive to watch this film might account for my relatively lukewarm feelings towards it. Perhaps I was hoping for it to be a bit of a shock-fest that would scare me away from the steaming meat market once again. Considering the film's tagline reads, "You'll never look at dinner the same way," you can probably understand why I thought it might be the life-changer. However, Food, Inc. chooses to tell us about the horrors rather than show us. Yeah, there's a couple of moments that'll have animal lovers cringing a little bit, but you can easily find much more shocking videos on YouTube. While this should prove to be just as effective, I found myself shifting in and out of attentiveness because the film simply never grabbed hold of me. It does bring a number of personal stories with everyday Americans that prove to be the best moments in the film, but aside from that, I just couldn't allow myself to remain interested in everything they were saying.

That being said, I'm sure this is a documentary that everyone should see. I definitely learned a lot from the film, and that's the biggest goal of documentaries: to teach and inform. In that sense, it's a success, and given it's Academy Award nomination, you can be sure that you'll be getting your bang for your buck. I just wish it could've hooked me a little bit more, but every film affects everyone in a different way. Perhaps you'll get more out of it than I did.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B-
1 Thumb Up

Addition to Awards
2009: Best Documentary nominee

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Movie Review: BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II

BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II
1989
PG



Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 adventure comedy directed by Robert Zemeckis that serves as a direct sequel to the 1985 film, Back to the Future. The second installment picks up exactly where the first film left off, with Dr. "Doc" Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) whisking Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his girlfriend Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue) into his time-traveling - and now flying - DeLorean. He takes them into the future in order to prevent Marty's son (also played by Fox) from being imprisoned, but during their covert mission, Marty purchases a then-dated sports almanac that holds every sporting result from 1950 to the year 2000. He hopes to take it back in time to use it to make money, but Doc Brown strongly insists against it. While attempting to rescue Jennifer during a brief mix-up, an elderly Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) finds the almanac and steals the DeLorean, taking the book to his high school-aged self in 1955. Unaware of Biff's plot, Marty and Doc Brown take Jennifer back to 1985 only to find it turned into a downtrodden slum controlled by a multi-millionaire Biff. Through his wit, Marty learns that Biff received the sports almanac from a grizzled old man during high school, so he and Doc Brown return to 1955 to prevent Biff from ever being able to use the book, hoping that it will return the present (1985) to its normal state.

I know I probably overloaded the above synopsis with quite a bit of plot detail, so please forgive me if it sounds a little flustered. I just finished the film, and I'm still in a little bit of a daze as a result. I know that I probably should have seen this film ages ago, and after watching it, I know I've caught bits and pieces here and there, but I've definitely never seen this sequel in its entirety. Fortunately, I had the chance to watch it this afternoon, and boy am I glad!

Talk about turning a storyline on its ear! This film's screenplay works exceptionally well considering it's a sequel which, to quote Randy Meeks from Scream 2, are "by definition alone...inferior films." In the first film, the audience only had to shift twice, moving from 1985 to 1955 then back to 1985. The train of logic was sturdy and easily accessible. But according to the logic again proposed in Scream 2 (forgive the references - they're on the mind), sequels have to be a little bit more grandiose in their delivery. This time, we're given three jumps in time, shifting between 1985 (the "present"), 2015 (the "future") and 1955 (the "past"). The situations that lead the characters to the future ultimately lead them back to a changed present; those situations lead them back to the past where they want to re-establish order in the present. It's like a mindless, pre-1990s Inception, but it's a hell of a ride.

I wasn't particularly fond of the part of the story that took place in 2015. Aside from a couple of clever jokes and gags, it felt completely like the plot device that it was meant to be. There was never any intention for the characters to enjoy a prolonged stay in the future, and you get that vibe right away. Fortunately, it all picks up a little bit once you're back in the altered 1985, which spurs the film's real conflict: finding Biff and destroying the sports almanac before he can use it to craft the present into what Doc Brown and Marty have seen. The shift back to 1955 serves more of a nostalgic purpose, adding an additional layer to a story audiences already knew. Using footage from the original film, additional shots are added in the foreground and background to make it seem as though there was actually more going on. This is where the film succeeds, flawlessly executing the story within a story and making it entertaining all the way through. See how the Inception analogy is starting to tie together? Yeah, neither do I, but I figured I'd throw it out there anyways.

There isn't much to say about the acting, considering we're given the same characters we saw in the original film. Yeah, they're all playing the same characters at different ages (depending on the year we're in), but there's nothing all that impressive about it, aside from some of the trick camerawork that was used to bring the same actor on-screen with himself or herself.

We're also given another rendition of Alan Silvestri's fantastic score composed for the original film. It's definitely one of my favorites, as is evidenced by its inclusion on my list of favorite film scores. The music fits seamlessly with the film, so I think it should once again be commended.

Is Part II better than the original Back to the Future film? Of course not. The first installment held an aura of magic and wonder that no sequel was ever going to match. However, it still serves as a fantastic and entertaining follow-up to our original story, and I would highly recommend viewing it. I can't wait to watch Part III, the final installment in the series.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
1.5 Thumbs UpAddition to Rankings
Best Action/Adventure: #41
Best Sequel: #11

Movie Awards: BEST OF 2001

Here's a look at my "Best of 2001" awards. Check it out!

*****

Best Animation
Nominees:
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Monsters, Inc.
Shrek 

Winner: Shrek

*****

Best Visual Effects
Nominees:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Jurassic Park III
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Mummy Returns
Pearl Harbor 

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

*****

Best Original Song
Nominees:
Billy Crystal & John Goodman for "If I Didn't Have You," Monsters, Inc.
Enya for "May It Be," The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman for "Come What May," Moulin Rouge!
Faith Hill for "There You'll Be," Pearl Harbor
Paul McCartney for "Vanilla Sky," Vanilla Sky 

Winner: Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman

*****

Best Original Score
Nominees:
Harry Gregson-Williams & John Powell, Shrek
Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
James Horner, A Beautiful Mind
John Williams, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Yann Tiersen, Amélie 

Winner: John Williams

*****

Best Cameo or Brief Appearance
Nominees:
Cliff Curtis, Training Day
Jeremy Piven, Rush Hour 2
John Cleese, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Molly Ringwald, Not Another Teen Movie
Sean Combs, Monster's Ball 

Winner: Jeremy Piven

*****

Best Young Star
Nominees:
Coronji Calhoun, Monster's Ball
Dakota Fanning, I Am Sam
Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Freddie Boath, The Mummy Returns
Trevor Morgan, Jurassic Park III 

Winner: Emma Watson

*****

Best Villain
Nominees:
Andy Garcia, Ocean's Eleven
Christopher Lee, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Denzel Washington, Training Day
Iain Glen, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Rufus Sewell, A Knight's Tale 

Winner: Denzel Washington

*****

Best Vocal Performance
Nominees:
Alec Baldwin, The Royal Tenenbaums
Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Eddie Murphy, Shrek
Michael J. Fox, Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Steve Buscemi, Monsters, Inc. 

Winner: Eddie Murphy

*****

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Nominees:
Gwyneth Paltrow, The Royal Tenenbaums
Julie Andrews, The Princess Diaries
Mia Kirshner, Not Another Teen Movie
Roselyn Sanchez, Rush Hour 2
Susan McConnell, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Winner: Gwyneth Paltrow

*****

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Nominees:
Cate Blanchett, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Fionnula Flanagan, The Others
Katrin Cartlidge, No Man's Land
Maggie Smith, Gosford Park
Vanessa Bauche, Amores perros 

Winner: Cate Blanchett

*****

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Nominees:
Billy Bob Thornton, Bandits
John Rhys-Davies, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Luke Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums
Paul Bettany, A Knight's Tale
Robbie Coltrane, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 

Winner: Paul Bettany

*****

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Nominees:
Denzel Washington, Training Day
Ed Harris, A Beautiful Mind
Heath Ledger, Monster's Ball
Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Richard Harris, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 

Winner: Denzel Washington

*****

Best Actress, Comedy
Nominees:
Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Anjelica Huston, The Royal Tenenbaums
Audrey Tautou, Amélie
Cate Blanchett, Bandits
Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! 

Winner: Nicole Kidman

*****

Best Actress, Drama
Nominees:
Halle Berry, Monster's Ball
Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind
Nicole Kidman, The Others
Penélope Cruz, Blow
Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom 

Winner: Jennifer Connelly

*****

Best Actor, Comedy
Nominees:
Ben Stiller, Zoolander
Bruce Willis, Bandits
Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!
Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums
Heath Ledger, A Knight's Tale  

Winner: Ewan McGregor

*****

Best Actor, Drama
Nominees:
Gael García Bernal, Amores perros
Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko
Johnny Depp, Blow
Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind
Sean Penn, I Am Sam 

Winner: Russell Crowe

*****

Best Director
Nominees:
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Amores perros
Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge!
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amélie
Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko
Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums 

Winner: Baz Luhrmann

*****

Best Screenplay, Comedy
Nominees:
Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce, Moulin Rouge!
Guillaume Laurant & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amélie
Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Schulman, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, Shrek
Larry Blamire, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Owen Wilson & Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums 

Winner: Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce

*****

Best Screenplay, Drama
Nominees:
Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson & Philippa Boyens, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Guillermo Arriaga, Amores perros
Julian Fellowes, Gosford Park
Ken Nolan, Black Hawk Down
Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko 

Winner: Guillermo Arriaga

*****

Best Cast, Vocal
Nominees:
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Monsters, Inc.
Shrek 

Winner: Shrek

*****

Best Cast, Comedy
Nominees:
Amélie
Bandits
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Moulin Rouge!
The Royal Tenenbaums

Winner: Moulin Rouge!

*****

Best Cast, Drama
Nominees:
Amores perros
A Beautiful Mind
Black Hawk Down
Blow
Gosford Park 

Winner: A Beautiful Mind

*****

Best Foreign Language Film
Nominees:
Amélie
Amores perros
No Man's Land 

Winner: Amores perros

*****

Best Animated Film
Nominees:
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Monsters, Inc.
Shrek 

Winner: Shrek

*****

Best Horror/Thriller
Nominees:
The Others

Winner: The Others

*****

Best Action/Adventure
Nominees:
Black Hawk Down
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Mummy Returns 

Winner: Black Hawk Down

*****

Best Comedy
Nominees:
Amélie
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Moulin Rouge!
The Royal Tenenbaums
Zoolander 

Winner: Moulin Rouge!

*****

Best Drama
Nominees:
Amores perros
A Beautiful Mind
Donnie Darko
Gosford Park
Training Day 

Winner: Amores perros

*****

Best Picture of the Year
Nominees:
Amores perros
Black Hawk Down
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Moulin Rouge!
Shrek 

Winner: Moulin Rouge!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Opinion: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

I was talking to a very dear friend from church yesterday, and somehow the topic of Mel Gibson's 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ entered the conversation. As we talked about our personal experiences with the film, she suggested that I write a post about the movie considering yesterday was Good Friday (the day that the film takes place, for those of you unfamiliar). I didn't make it home in time to write the post for Good Friday, but with Easter coming tomorrow, I think that this post still resonates rather clearly.

I have only seen The Passion of the Christ once, during its initial run during Lent in 2004 (although I own the DVD, so my regular readers know I'll have to watch it again at some point for my DVD Challenge). The film was released on Ash Wednesday of that year, gliding into theaters on the first day of Christian preparation for Easter. I, however, didn't see the film until Easter Sunday because that was the first time that both my father and myself could find time to see it together. I had only months earlier experienced a bit of a religious awakening through my church's Confirmation program, and my Catholic faith had never been stronger. This newfound bit of faith spurred me towards seeing the movie despite the "horror" stories I had heard in the weeks since its release. Still, my dad - a devout Christian but not a Catholic - and I really wanted to see it, and Easter was our first opportunity, so we decided to give it a watch.

There's a very good reason why I have yet to give The Passion of the Christ a second viewing. It is one of the most brutal films you may ever experience, regardless of your personal religious beliefs. Obviously, if you do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (like I do), then you'll probably take the film a lot more personally than someone who doesn't share those same beliefs. As my friend and I talked last night, she mentioned that she thought the film was one of the most violent she had ever seen, and I tend to agree with that sentiment, to a degree. In the annals of cinematic history, there have been countless numbers of excessively violent films (you don't have to look that far back to see the grotesque horrors placed in front of audiences in films like Saw or Hostel). The reason that The Passion stands out as so glaringly violent is because it's all directed at one individual rather than a collective group of people. Seeing the brutal onslaught exacted upon Jesus (portrayed flawlessly by James Caviezel) is almost too much to bear.

Regardless of your current opinions of Mel Gibson, it's hard to argue that his film isn't a tour-de-force of raw power. A devout Catholic himself, he made some interesting decisions when crafting the film. For example, he chose to have the screenplay written in Aramaic to give the film even more authenticity. However, the basis of the film is to show the sacrifice that Christ made for all mankind as he suffered his way through the streets of Jerusalem on the path to his ultimate crucifixion. The Passion chronicles every painstaking detail, but the attention to such detail gives the film its power. It's not the prettiest or easiest film to watch, but in a way, it's almost a necessity for Christians to behold. You can hear the story of His death and resurrection come the Lenten and Easter seasons, but to witness what it must have truly been like leaves quite the scar on your psyche. But this is a very good scar in that it reminds us of a man who gave everything He had in order for us to live.

I was talking to my grandfather a few days ago, and this film also came up in our conversation. He's as devout and conservative a Catholic as they come, so he had nothing but praise for The Passion of the Christ. "A masterpiece," he called it. I'm not quite sure whether I can place it on such a lofty pedestal just yet, but when I finally give in and watch the film again, perhaps my mind will change. It may not be a film that will appeal to everyone - it's obvious demographic is the Christian market - but for those of you who believe in Jesus as the Son of God, then this film, no matter how brutally violent and off-putting, should be seen. You're not going to enjoy it, but that's the entire purpose of the film. So on this Holy Saturday, let us remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us as we prepare to welcome Him back into the world tomorrow on Easter.

Movie Awards: BEST OF 2002

Here's a look at my "Best of 2002" awards. Enjoy!

*****

Best Animation
Nominees:
Ice Age
Lilo & Stitch

Winner: Ice Age

*****

Best Visual Effects
Nominees:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Minority Report
Spider-man
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Winner: Minority Report

*****

Best Original Song
Nominees:
Catherine Zeta-Jones & Renée Zellweger for "I Move On," Chicago
Eminem for "Lose Yourself," 8 Mile
Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus for "Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride," Lilo & Stitch
Madonna for "Die Another Day," Die Another Day
U2 for "The Hands That Built America," Gangs of New York

Winner: Eminem

*****

Best Original Score
Nominees:
Danny Elfman, Spider-man
John Williams, Catch Me If You Can
Philip Glass, The Hours
Rolfe Kent, About Schmidt
Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition

Winner: Philip Glass

*****

Best Cameo or Brief Appearance
Nominees:
Brian Cox, Adaptation.
Kevin Spacey, Austin Powers in Goldmember
Liam Neeson, Gangs of New York
Michael Jackson, Men in Black II
Toni Collette, The Hours

Winner: Brian Cox

*****

Best Young Star
Nominees:
Cian McCormack, Gangs of New York
Daniel Logan, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Frankie Muniz, Big Fat Liar
Rory Culkin, Signs
Tyler Hoechlin, Road to Perdition

Winner: Tyler Hoechlin

*****

Best Villain
Nominees:
Brad Dourif, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Jude Law, Road to Perdition
Robin Williams, Insomnia

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis

*****

Best Vocal Performance
Nominees:
Chris Sanders, Lilo & Stitch
John Leguizamo, Ice Age
John Rhys-Davies, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Sean Penn, Dogtown & Z-Boys
Toby Jones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Winner: Chris Sanders

*****


Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Nominees:
Cara Seymour, Adaptation.
Catherine Keener, Death to Smoochy
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
Shirley Henderson, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Winner: Catherine Zeta-Jones

*****

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Nominees:
Amy Adams, Catch Me If You Can
Anna Paquin, 25th Hour
Julianne Moore, The Hours
Miranda Otto, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Rosemary Harris, Spider-man

Winner: Julianne Moore

*****

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Nominees:
Brian Cox, Super Troopers
Chris Cooper, Adaptation.
Kenneth Branagh, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Michael Caine, Austin Powers in Goldmember
Richard Gere, Chicago

Winner: Richard Gere

*****

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Nominees:
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Ed Harris, The Hours
Paul Newman, Road to Perdition
Philip Seymour Hoffman, 25th Hour
Thomas Kretschmann, The Pianist

Winner: Ed Harris

*****

Best Actress, Comedy
Nominees:
Hope Davis, About Schmidt
Meryl Streep, Adaptation.
Renée Zellweger, Chicago
Shannyn Sossamon, 40 Days and 40 Nights
Tara Reid, Van Wilder

Winner: Meryl Streep

*****

Best Actress, Drama
Nominees:
Alexis Bledel, Tuck Everlasting
Hilary Swank, Insomnia
Maribel Verdú, Y tu mamá también
Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Rosario Dawson, 25th Hour

Winner: Nicole Kidman

*****

Best Actor, Comedy
Nominees:
Edward Norton, Death to Smoochy
Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt
Jay Chandrasekhar, Super Troopers
Nicolas Cage, Adaptation.
Ryan Reynolds, Van Wilder

Winner: Nicolas Cage

*****

Best Actor, Drama
Nominees:
Adrien Brody, The Pianist
Al Pacino, Insomnia
Gael García Bernal, Y tu mamá también
Leonardo DiCaprio, Catch Me If You Can
Tom Hanks, Road to Perdition


Winner: Tom Hanks

*****

Best Director
Nominees:
Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York
Rob Marshall, Chicago
Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition
Spike Jonze, Adaptation.
Stephen Daldry, The Hours

Winner: Sam Mendes

*****


Best Screenplay, Comedy
Nominees:
Adam Resnick, Death to Smoochy
Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, About Schmidt
Bill Condon, Chicago
Charlie Kaufman, Adaptation.
Michael Berg, Michael J. Wilson & Peter Ackerman, Ice Age

Winner: Charlie Kaufman

*****

Best Screenplay, Drama
Nominees:
Alfonso Cuarón & Carlos Cuarón, Y tu mamá también
David Hare, The Hours
David Self, Road to Perdition
Jay Cocks, Kenneth Lonergan & Steven Zaillian, Gangs of New York
Jon Cohen & Scott Frank, Minority Report

Winner: David Self

*****

Best Cast, Vocal
Nominees:
Ice Age
Lilo & Stitch

Winner: Ice Age

*****


Best Cast, Comedy
Nominees:
About Schmidt
Adaptation.
Chicago
Death to Smoochy
Super Troopers

Winner: Chicago

*****

Best Cast, Drama
Nominees:
Gangs of New York
The Hours
The Pianist
Road to Perdition
Y tu mamá también

Winner: Gangs of New York

*****

Best Documentary
Nominees:
Dogtown & Z-Boys
Jackass the Movie

Winner: Dogtown & Z-Boys

*****

Best Foreign Language Film
Nominees:
Y tu mamá también

Winner: Y tu mamá también

*****

Best Animated Film
Nominees:
Ice Age
Lilo & Stitch

Winner: Lilo & Stitch

*****

Best Action/Adventure
Nominees:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Minority Report
Spider-man
Windtalkers

Winner: Minority Report

*****

Best Comedy
Nominees:
About Schmidt
Adaptation.
Chicago
Death to Smoochy
Super Troopers

Winner: Chicago

*****

Best Drama
Nominees:
Gangs of New York
The Hours
The Pianist
Road to Perdition
Y tu mamá también

Winner: Road to Perdition

*****

Best Picture of the Year
Nominees:
Adaptation.
Chicago
Gangs of New York
The Hours
Road to Perdition

Winner: Road to Perdition

Friday, April 22, 2011

Movie Review: THE CONSPIRATOR

THE CONSPIRATOR
2011
PG-13



The Conspirator is a 2011 historical drama directed by Robert Redford that portrays the trial of the men and woman accused of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln in the days following the "end" of the Civil War. The film essentially starts on the night of the assassination, where we meet Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), a Union soldier and lawyer who is celebrating the imminent end of the war. After the President is shot, mass chaos erupts in the streets of Washington, D.C., and in a whirlwind of days, a number of individuals are either killed or brought into justice on suspicion of having something to do with the assassination plot. Aiken is brought into the military tribunal by Senator Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to defend Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the only woman accused of the treasonous act. Aiken initially struggles with the posting, citing that he fought the Southerners throughout the war and has no desire to defend one who may have helped kill Lincoln. However, as the trial commences, it becomes increasingly clear that the cards are stacked against Mary, who seems to be much more innocent than the government is willing to accept. With the help of Mary's daughter Anna (Evan Rachel Wood), Aiken sets out to prove the tribunal of Mary's innocence despite his personal beliefs to the contrary.

I was initially drawn to this film simply because it presents a historically-based story centered around one of the most tragic moments in American history. Because I'm fascinated with the history of the United States, I was intrigued to see a film that talked about the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination rather than just the murder itself. The screenplay works relatively well, and it presents a compelling argument for the innocence of Surratt, who proved by the the first woman ever sentenced to death under the United States legal system. We receive a slew of great courtroom scenes that show the lengths that the government took in order to achieve justice (read: revenge) as swiftly as possible. My only beef with the screenplay was that the dialogue all seemed a little too simplistic. I couldn't find the characters entirely believable because I just didn't believe that they would speak in the way that they did. Aside from that, however, we get a solid and easily understandable storyline to follow.

We also get a nice bit of acting from the ensemble, center-pieced by a fine performance from James McAvoy. It took me a little while to warm up to his character, but as the film progressed, I felt more and more connected with him. Aiken is given a rather complete character arc as he struggles with the loopholes the government uses in order to make the tribunal as unconstitutional as one can imagine. What starts as a terrible bit of luck turns into a fight for basic human rights as Aiken does his best to convince the generals that serve as the tribunal's jurors. I wouldn't quite say that McAvoy delivers a tour-de-force performance, but he definitely steals the show from an otherwise pedestrian group. Robin Wright is okay, but she's given a lot less screen-time than one would imagine considering her top-billing. Sadly, she doesn't do much with a role that isn't entirely developed, so it's probably not her fault. Wilkinson is rather good in a limited amount of scenes, but he definitely makes you notice him. Be on the lookout for some other relatively well-known actors, such as the following: Alexis Bledel, Kevin Kline, Danny Huston, an inexplicable Justin Long, and Norman Reedus (who's most memorable from his starring role in The Boondock Saints).

Overall, there's definitely some flaws with The Conspirator (one of the biggest being its incredibly slow pace), but there's still enough for you to latch onto and enjoy if you're in the mood for a period piece like this. If anything, go for McAvoy's performance - give him a little time, and I guarantee you that you'll fall for the character at some point.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B-
1 Thumb Up

Movie Review: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
2011
PG-13



Water for Elephants is a 2011 dramatic romance film directed by Francis Lawrence that centers around the final rise and fall of a circus during the Great Depression. When his father and mother are killed in a car accident, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University and sets foot for the big city to find work. One night, he stumbles across a railroad track and stows aboard a passing train. In the morning, he learns that the train houses the very livelihood of the Benzini Brothers circus. Jacob is immediately impressed and seeks employment doing whatever he can to earn a living. He catches the eye of the circus's rash, and sometimes violent, ringleader August (Christoph Waltz) after telling him of his training as a veterinarian; August decides to hire him as the circus's full-time vet. Jacob meets August's wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) who stars as the main attraction in the circus's lineup. As time passes, Jacob and Marlena start to grow fond of one another, sending August into consistent states of fury. When he happens upon an elephant, August purchases the creature in the hopes that it can bring more revenue for the circus. He enlists Jacob to train the animal and Marlena to star alongside it, bringing the two ever closer until their affections towards one another is no longer deniable.

The story starts off well enough, with an elderly Jacob (played by Hal Holbrook) stumbling upon a modern circus. When he's seated with the circus manager, he begins to recant the tale of the disaster surrounding the Benzini Brothers circus, and the rest of the film serves as his flashback. Generally speaking, I'm not much for the concept of "the whole movie is a flashback" because I feel like I've seen it so many times before, and it's gotten a little cliché. With this film, however, I feel like it works a little bit better, although I'm not entirely sure why. The screenplay itself is relatively strong, and it does just enough to keep you intertwined with the story and the characters. There are moments that are going to pull at your heartstrings (especially if you're an animal lover like myself - you all should probably be forewarned of some animal cruelty presented in the film), and those moments alone make the movie all the more endearing. At times, it's a little difficult to watch (for those aforementioned animal lovers), but the lead characters are so likable that they make everything seem all right.

We're given a relatively good cast that works well with the material. I have not seen any of the Twilight films, so my vision of Pattinson's acting ability has not yet been muddied. Truth be told, I've only seen him in a few other films (2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and 2010's Remember Me), so I still don't have much of a feel for him as an actor. I thought he did well with his role here, but there wasn't anything spectacular about his portrayal. The best compliment I could probably give him was that his Jacob felt like a real person, and ultimately, that's probably what every actor hopes to achieve with their character. Witherspoon is also decent, but she hasn't come close to hitting her Oscar-winning performance in 2005's Walk the Line since that film; still, she's serviceable here. The real praise should go to Waltz who has his first legitimate role since winning the Academy Award for Inglourious Basterds (I'm sure we can forgive and forget that tremendously bad bit in The Green Hornet, right?). He plays a fantastic madman who has no control over his issues with anger, and every time he's on-screen, you're just waiting for him to lose it again. My only fear is that he's starting to be typecast as a villain or antagonist - I personally would love to see him as a good guy at some point. Oh, and Holbrook is quite the revelation in his limited amount of screen-time. If you're looking for an emotional and spirited performance in this film, you need not look past him.

I also found the film's musical score to be quite well-done, so I'd like to tip my hat to James Newton Howard for creating it. He's always been a favorite of mine, and he definitely does well here.

I'm going to be honest: when I first saw the trailers for this film, I wasn't entirely impressed and had no real desire to go see it. However, considering this weekend's other major releases (Madea's Big Happy Family and African Cats), I figured this would probably be my best shot at seeing something relatively entertaining. And although I wasn't entirely blown away, I'd have to say that Water for Elephants is definitely a solid film that's worth giving a gander if you've got some time for a romantic drama.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B-
1 Thumb Up

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Movie Review: GNOMEO & JULIET

GNOMEO & JULIET
2011
G



Gnomeo & Juliet is a 2011 animated film directed by Kelly Asbury that puts a comedic, family-friendly spin on William Shakespeare's tale of star-crossed lovers. In two gardens separated only by a fence, there lives two rival groups of garden gnomes: the Reds and the Blues. For as long as anyone can remember, the two groups have feuded, and the feud has become deeply ingrained into the Blues' favorite son, Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy). One night, he decides to infiltrate the Reds' garden, and after an unsuccessful attempt to wreak havoc, Gnomeo spots a shadowy figure running along the top of a fence towards an abandoned yard's greenhouse where a beautiful orchid sits in full bloom. He chases the figure to the flower, and after a short interchange, he realizes that she the Reds' favorite daughter, Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt). Initially, the two are repulsed by the others' true identity, but they cannot deny the immediate spark they both felt. They make plans to meet in the abandoned yard the following day, and the forbidden love affair begins. The two do their best to keep their love a secret, but with each passing moment, they have to fight to hide their affections from their families and their respective gardens. To top it off, they have to balance their feelings with the ever-growing resilience that both the Blues and the Reds are feeling towards one another, and Gnomeo and Juliet must ultimately choose between their love and their families.

When I first started seeing trailers for this film, I was originally rather excited to see it. Anything even remotely related to the tale of Romeo and Juliet - or anything Shakespearean in general - is sure to garner my attention, so Gnomeo & Juliet looked like it might be right up my alley. Upon its release, however, it started to garner some mixed reviews, and I soon found myself a little bit wary to give it a shot, chalking it up to another early-year dud. Still, something kept me wanting to watch it, and I finally had the opportunity to do so, and I have to say that I'm not quite sure why it was panned so widely.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know the basic story of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, and this film essentially follows the same formula (although, as you can probably imagine, the ultimate finalé is a little tamer than the dual-suicide that Shakespeare originally wrote). We're given a relatively good screenplay that's full of goofy jokes and gags, but there's definitely enough there for adults to enjoy and laugh at. There's quite a lot of self-reference to the original story, and I think that plays pretty well throughout the story. There's even a scene where Gnomeo meets a statue of Shakespeare himself and recants his tale, to which the Shakespeare statue tells him that he knows of a very similar story. But I digress... At the end of the day, there's a lot of goofs and gags for the kids, but there's enough for an adult audience to enjoy as well.

One reason that I particularly enjoyed this film was for its astoundingly huge-name voice cast that brings life to the gnomes and other characters on-screen. I've already mentioned McAvoy and Blunt, and having those two rising stars attached to this movie already gives it quite a bit of validity, but here's a list of some of the other big names that make vocal appearances throughout this one:

Dolly Parton (as Dolly Gnome)
Jason Statham (as Tybalt, Gnomeo's main enemy)
Jim Cummings (as Featherstone, a lawn flamingo)
Maggie Smith (as Lady Bluebury, leader of the Blues)
Matt Lucas (as Benny, Gnomeo's best friend)
Michael Caine (as Lord Redbrick, leader of the Reds)
Ozzy Osbourne (as Fawn, Tybalt's friend)
Patrick Stewart (as Bill Shakespeare)


As you can see, we're given quite the list of British-accented actors to lend their voices to the film, so it was quite a treat for a film buff like myself to hear the collective voices resonating throughout the movie. Oh, and we even get a little bit of a vocal cameo from Hulk Hogan, so be on the lookout for that one (it's pretty obvious).

I'd also like to take a moment to talk about the music in the film, which is almost entirely centered around the music of Elton John. In addition to a couple of visual references to the man himself, our ears are given a taste of such Elton songs as "Crocodile Rock," "Tiny Dancer," "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," and "Your Song," as well as a few others. Although there's really no real explanation as to the usage of his music, the simple fact that we're graced with Elton John tunes throughout the movie makes it all the more watchable, in my opinion.

Overall, I'm not quite sure why this movie was received with mixed reviews. Sure, it's not the greatest animated movie I've ever seen, but it's by no means the worst I've seen either. When you add solid animation, an age-old tale, a fantastic voice cast and incredible music, you're going to come out with a winner. So grab the kids and give this one a gander. They'll enjoy it, and so will you.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B-
1.5 Thumb Up