Ice Age The Meltdown

January 16th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0438097/

Ice Age The MeltdownYour favorite sub-zero heroes are back for another incredible adventure in the super-cool sequel to the global hit comedy Ice Age.

The action heats up -- and so does the temperature -- for Manny, Sid, Diego and Scrat. Trying to escape the valley to avoid a flood of trouble, the comical creatures embark on a hilarious journey across the thawing landscape and meet Ellie, a female woolly mammoth who melts Manny's heart.

With its dazzling animation, unforgettable characters and playful music, Ice Age The Meltdown is laugh-out-loud fun for the whole family!

I laughed a lot. Certainly I laughed more than I had expected to. As things got underway, I figured Ice Age The Meltdown would be the classic animated sequel -- thrown together too quickly to try and ride the wave of initial popularity. If I may be so bold, I enjoyed Ice Age The Meltdown more than it's predecessor.

The story was a little...childish, but consider that it is still primarily a kids' movie. While it may have happened earlier, I cite Toy Story as being the first movie to include more adult humor, and Ice Age The Meltdown follows suit. This movie goes above and beyond the legacy created by Toy Story. I would even recommend you reserve the movie for your slightly older children because some of the writing borders the inappropriate (my only example here is when Manny is called "pervert"). With that simple disclaimer made, the rest of the movie was a lot of fun. There was plenty of funny dialogue and hilarious physical comedy. I was watching for some sort of message, but if they meant to, I am not sure they succeeded delivering one.

I enjoy the Ice Age series and its characters. I am not sure how many movies the series will be able to span, but I am confident that they could do at least one more. I enjoy the dynamic of the "herd," comprised first of a sloth; a sabretooth tiger; and a woolly mammoth, and now including a second mammoth and two possums. Their personalities go well together as they interact in a prehistoric age reminding me of another kids series I enjoyed growing up: The Land Before Time.

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Top 5 Movies: About Incarceration

January 11th, 2007

Kill Bill Volume 1

January 11th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0266697/

Kill Bill Volume 1The acclaimed fourth film from groundbreaking writer and director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown), Kill Bill Volume 1 stars Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction), Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels, Chicago) and Vivica A. Fox (Two Can Play That Game) in an astonishing, action-packed thriller about brutal betrayal and an epic vendetta! Four years after taking a bullet in the head at her own wedding, The Bride (Thurman) emerges from a coma and decides it's time for payback...with a vengeance! Having been gunned down by her former boss (David Carradine) and his deadly squad of international assassins, it's a kill-or-be-killed fight she didn't start but is determined to finish! Loaded with explosive action and outrageous humor, it's a must-see motion picture event that has critics everywhere raving.

Of the two times I sat down to watch Kill Bill Volume 1, I can say that I only fell asleep once. Watching it for the first time, I never realized how slow the story is. I actually used to make excuses about how tired I was that day I fell asleep rather than seeing what really happened. There is some amazing action in Kill Bill Volume 1, but it is neatly bundled into only a few scenes. Those scenes were great, and the marriage between live action scenes and anime shorts worked very well.

The movie was pretty funny, more so than I had expected. The humor was in the writing in some parts, but also in just how ridiculously bloody the fight scenes were. Think of Kill Bill Volume 1 as a cross between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Evil Dead. From Crouching Tiger we see the live action fight scenes choreographed like Japanese anime cartoons. From Evil Dead we get high-pressured spouts of blood coming from every slash and cut.

The language is not the best, but it is the fight scenes that would probably prevent you from showing this movie to young children and the squeemish.

Kill Bill Volume 1 was good, but not great. I am hoping that it will gain favor with me when I see Volume 2. I have heard that they really must regarded as two parts of a whole and that it is unfair to judge them separately.

Get yourself a large caffeinated beverage and enjoy Kill Bill Volume 1. That is unless my suspicions are correct and I am actually the last person to see this movie.

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Night at the Museum

January 8th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0477347/

I did not plan to see Night at the Museum.

I did not want to see Night at the Museum.

But...I was invited to go. So I went. Why not, right?

I liked it.

Before going to see it for myself, I was perplexed by the numbers this movie was posting at the box office. The only rationale I could attribute to its success was that it was pretty much the only "kids movie" out, but that couldn't be enough of a driving force to get that many people to go see it. But now it all makes sense.

If you are in search of a thought-provoking, well-written plot with rich character development, Night at the Museum should not be on your list. If you want a fun (and at times very funny) film with a good message for your kids, make sure Night at the Museum is on your list. The story was a little hokey; I can admit that. But it was still entertaining.

Ben Stiller (who I do not typically enjoy) is Larry, the consistently out-of-work, divorced father who takes a job as night security for The Museum of Natural History. The job sounds simple enough, but he soon finds it is much more than he bargained for when on his first night everything in the museum comes to life. Yes. Literally.

The story, very narrowly, is about Stiller being a hero to his kid. Much more broadly, the story shows kids how much fun history can be (apparently as long as you don't have the teachers I had in high school!). The movie has probably influenced an increase in trips to museums all over the country by exciting children about the mysticism of the exhibits. Any movie that can be entertaining and educational like that deserves praise. I will even admit that it caused me to consider a trip to a museum one of these days.

But the real highlight for me was the constant banter between Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan, as Jedidiah and Octavius respectively. They played leaders of groups of miniature characters in the "diorama room" of the museum, constantly at war with each other. Their interaction with each other and Ben Stiller was hilarious. (They even made me a little nostalgic for the good old days of The Indian in the Cupboard.)

I saw Night at the Museum in IMAX, which did not seem to make much of a difference. It was a pleasant viewing and listening experience, but I would imagine that Night at the Museum is just as good in your normal theater, so save yourself the extra few dollars.

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December 30th, 2006
The BeachRichard: I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing.

Top 5 Movies: Starring Harrison Ford

December 28th, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion

December 28th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0420087/

A Prairie Home CompanionGo backstage with A Prairie Home Companion, and experience the laughter and joy of down-home America's favorite radio show. Acclaimed director Robert Altman (Gosford Park, The Player) leads an all-star cast in this magical, fictional account of the legendary show's final radio broadcast. As cast and crew assemble one last time to sing, tell stories and reminisce, the result is an unforgettable homage to a beloved American treasure.

The things I had heard about A Prairie Home Companion were positive ones. No one seemed to gush over the movie and no one called it an "absolute must-see." All of the thoughts I heard or read seemed to portray A Prairie Home Companion as a GOOD movie. And that is what it was. A Prairie Home Companion is a hearty, meat and potatoes, stick-to-your-ribs kind of good movie. The movie may be overflowing with highlights personal to you, but from a broader perspective I would only list one highlight. It wasn't "that kind of movie." Rather than a story about a radio show airing its last broadcast, it was a heartwarming story about a band of radio personalities giving their final performance. The focus was the people.

The movie was a look into their lives. They tell stories, some for the first time, with others they've lost count. They laugh. They cry. They are a family. And while the stories may not be familiar to us, the faces sure are.

The cast includes Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Marylouise Burke and L.Q. Jones. Surely you've heard one or two of those names! So many names, some bigger than others. It was nice to see so many people be a part of a movie like this when many of the roles were limited. Try to argue all you want that there aren't big names in that list, but I will fight you there.

Oh, and before I forget: that highlight I mentioned earlier. Kevin Kline. If you are a fan of Mr. Kline, I probably won't need to elaborate. If you have seen the movie, then you may even agree. This guy is magic. I loved the part he played as Guy Noir, the short-of-work 1930s private eye stuck manning security for the theater. As he spoke, whether it be conversationally or in narration to the movie, he did so in an overly dramatic style characterized decades ago by men and women in film. In the DVD extras, director Robert Altman talks admiringly about Kline. He says that the camera has to be on Kline's body rather than zoom in because he plays his parts with his entire body. Think about that after watching one of his movies if you don't believe it. The man is talented, and his performance was the highlight for me.

I liked A Prairie Home Companion. It was fun to hear some of the ridiculous jingles that the performers had to sing. It was a pleasure to be let into the lives of the characters facing the end of the careers they loved so deeply. And it was a riot to hear some of the jokes. A Prairie Home Companion may never see an award from the Academy, but please do not limit your movie watching based upon that metric.

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Movie of the Month - January, 2007

December 21st, 2006

Danny Deckchair

Danny DeckchairAn average guy uses gags and pranks to liven up his blue-collar life and accidentally ends up taking off in a deck chair strapped to giant helium-filled balloons while his friends watch helplessly from below. He starts a whole new life in a far-off town where he crash lands...until his old life catches up to him.

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The Great New Wonderful

December 19th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0402230/

The Great New WonderfulMaggie Gyllenhaal (World Trade Center), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report) deliver brilliant performances in this intoxicating, intelligent comedy. In this character driven masterpiece several New Yorkers -- an oddball office shrink, a cluelessly competitive pastry chef, and a flirtatious security guard -- reveal their eccentric private stories. It's a deliciously bittersweet comic triumph from director Danny Leiner (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle).

How does that Meat Loaf song go? Two out of Three Ain't Bad? I guess that means one out of three is bad. This movie was neither Great, nor Wonderful. And as soon as it is no longer considered "new," it will be zero out of three.

I wanted to enjoy the movie. For most of the movie I enjoyed the characters and felt for them in certain scenarios. Something was just missing. Well, I figure two things were missing: cohesion and closure.

I can appreciate the idea of many smaller stories combined to form one bigger super-movie. Maybe I am just used to seeing it more when the stories have some common element. These stories never intertwined and nothing, except the emotional roller coaster of life in The Big Apple was the same for any of the characters.

There were emotional highs and lows. Hopes were exalted and dashed. And all the while...nothing really happened. There was no story; we simply follow a few people on their day-to-day routines and see the happiness and pain they experience at whatever intervals they experience them.

And then the movie ends. That's it.

Well to be fair they showed one more scene that only serves to compound the abundance of loose ends and detract from any feeling of compassion. I won't spoil the final scene, but it was not the most "pro-family" scene I have ever watched.

The movie does have a decent list of names associated with it. Probably my favorite of the bunch is Jim Gaffigan. He may not be the funniest comedian, but I have enjoyed seeing him in what I can when I can. He and Tony Shalhoub bantered well together as doctor and patient. Their story was a little forced, but the two had good chemistry.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is finally beginning to grow on me. Or then again it might just be the part she played was much more...wholesome than roles she has had in the past (e.g. Happy Endings)

It certainly would take much more than additional witty banter from Jim Gaffigan and wholesomeness from Maggie Gyllenhaal to even make The Great New Wonderful into A Movie Worth Seeing. I do not recommend you see this movie. I will even go one step further to recommend you avoid it altogether.

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Top 5 Movies: About Christmas

December 14th, 2006