Friday, July 28, 2006


I think this is an awful movie. Honestly. It's like Jumanji only instead of the jungle, it's in space. It's repetitive. It's exhausting.

Two kids are left to their own entertainment in a gorgeous old Craftsman style house which of course gets trashed when they start playing this mysterious old game. There's a snotty older sister, an astronaut, and fighting brothers. There's a touching scene of brotherly loyalty at the end.

The tiny role of Dad may or may not have been played by a guy who looked like Tim Robbins. The Astronaut is played by a guy who may or may not have been Zach Braff but turned out to be Dax Shepherd.

Director Jon Favreau has done the ultimate condtradiction: made a movie beautiful to look at and nearly impossible to watch.

The special effects, I'll admit, are spectacular.

It does't matter. The entire movie showcases the systematic trashing of the gorgeous house. All the glowing woodwork and grand rooms. Trashed. Thoroughly. And above all, LOUDLY. This is the loudest most obnoxious movie. The music is loud. The choir synth pads are overwhelming. The screaming and shrieking is grating. Every crash and boom is over the top loud.

How can I watch a beautiful old house get wrecked? Why not just twist my arm behind my back and poke me in the shoulder? For an hour!!

The kids liked it okay. My son liked it because there's a black hole in it and the boy just loves his space physics. I wouldn't recommend it to all kids though. It gets frightening and heavy and tense.

But kids will watch anything, and this proves it! We did laugh a couple of times. I'm not sure if we laughed when we were supposed to, though.

I haven't often found myself wishing that the damn movie would just be over. This is the one. At least it had a happy ending. And yes, the house was okay. That's really all I cared about.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I'll admit, when I saw the poster for this one when it was in theatres, I had just one thought: Creepy. All those big eyed, computer animated shiny faced creepy creeps. I was the kid who, in the middle of the night, got out of bed to turn the stuffed toy to the wall because the hall light was reflecting in its plastic eye and it gave me the creeps. I wasn't so sure about this movie.

Well as it turns out, it's a harmless, non-scary, funny little movie. And yes the word Creepy comes up at least twice, proving that it doesn't take itself too seriously.

In a twist on the old fairy tale, the story is basically about the interrogation of the four persons involved in an altercation in the woods. Granny (who isn't your typical Granny, it turns out), Red, the Wolf, and the Woodsman all get a chance to tell their story.

If there's one thing a kid loves, it's repetition. Kids love it even more if something changes just a little bit with each repetition. Each one of the stories ties together in a way that makes it easy for the young viewer to figure out what's going on.

As far as the characters go, several stood out. The wolf is played by the always great Patrick Warburton. Andy Dick brings a special ickiness to Boingo the Bunny.

Twitchy the Squirrel, voiced by directed Cory Edwards, is brilliant. I mean, I hate squirrels even more than I hate creepy dolls and stuffed toys, but I loved Twitchy.

Unfortunately I didn't feel the same way about Red. The character looked grumpy and somewhat snotty and Anne Hathaway's voicing didn't improve it. (I really want to like Anne. She's hit or miss for me.) I really do think it's a big eyed shiny faced prejudice on my part though.

But I won't hold it against her. In her favour, at least she's a strong female character and let's have more of those!!

The animation is just awful. Not even so bad it's good. Just too bright, too harsh, too chunky. Having said that, with its over the top colour and quick edits, this cartoon is probably perfect for a generation raised on video games.

The songs were great though. I liked the "Creatures of Habit", the band performing at the Extreme Sports competition. (Long story...) I thought the song "Critters Have Feelings" was a nice homage to The Cars. Very eighties sounding.

If the kid in your life is begging to watch Hoodwinked, go ahead. You'll find something to laugh at and the kid will too!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I always get a little nervous around Chick Flicks, and even more so when aimed at a young audience. This one looked somewhat harmless. I was pleasantly surprized that it was not only harmless but non-offensive! The trick to movies like this one is to always go in with low expectations. Maybe that's not the best way to approach a movie but it works for me.

Hailey is about to be parted from her best friend Claire when her mother takes a Marine Biology job in Australia, which is, like, on the other side of the world! Claire's parents drowned a few years back, leaving her in the care of her grandparents, who run a Florida beach resort. Claire never goes in the water.

There's a little hocus-pocus stuff where the girls goofily make a prayer to some kind of ocean gods which of course leads up to a big storm and the next day, they spot a mermaid, yes, a mermaid, in the pool! They don't tell anybody of course. She explains to the girls that she got herself washed up into the pool in order to escape her mean old dad, who wants her to marry some slimy crustacean. If she can prove that love exists, she doesn't have to marry him.

This plot totally follows the rules of a fantasy story: She has three days to accomplish her task. She has legs during daylight. If you help a mermaid, you get a wish.

Hailey and Claire wish to stay together. They are thirteen and if there's one thing I'm learning about girls this age, it's that they really want to be together. A fantasy has to be grounded with some reality to make the magic work.

Aquamarine has no clue about life on land. Apparently underwater, marriages are arranged because merpeople are totally out of it when it comes to flirting. The girls deluge the mermaid with teen magazines, and give her very bad advice on handling boys, which has never actually worked for them either. The end result is that the three girls really like each other.

Eventually Raymond the hot lifeguard does take a liking to the beautiful and strange girl...but it doesn't work out according to plan. And that's okay.

It's a sweet movie that does manage to gently add a few good lessons about friendship, love, loyalty, mothers and daughters, and the unrealistic demands of romance.

I liked the performances by the two leads, Emma Roberts and Jojo Levesque.

They seemed natural! The script allowed them to be awkward and charming thirteen year olds. They dress like real girls do; for example, Hailey wears big baggy cargo shorts instead of something from a magazine spread. That they were not sexualized was a real relief to me as a mother of a pre-teen.

Although they do get to dress up for the Big Party Scene, and what good is a fairy tale without a Big Party Scene?

Sara Paxton, who plays Aquamarine, is a real prize. She's beautiful yet played the endearingly awkward young woman perfectly. She looked like it was her first day on the new legs. She was goofy, confident, and exuberant. Me being a landlubber I had to notice how easy she made the mermaid scenes look. She was glued into a tail, kids, with fins. And there she was swimming around like it was the most natural thing in the world. This was a detail that the entire movie hinged on. She pulled it off.

Plus I really liked the blue streaks in her hair. Fun!

It's not an excellent movie. The effects appear to be very low budget. Overall it has a digital look, but not in a good, sharp, clear way. The story is simplistic, but at least it doesn't treat its audience like morons.

The girls didn't get the ending the wished for. But they all got what they could live with.

This movie contains no violence, no swearing, and only two very well behaved kissing parts. My 12 year old daughter and I really enjoyed this movie. My 10 year old son liked the mermaid swearwords ( Bullshark! ) and aquatic puns such as "Call me on my shell phone." It's nice that this flick knows its audience.

Big Daddy wasn't crazy about the scene where the teenage bully girl shows off her new big boobies. He was afraid to look. And I covered my boy's eyes for the kissy parts.

Don't expect too much from it, but do watch it with your daughters. It's cute and you'll feel all warm and happy and bubbly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest


Let me just start this thing off with a statement.
If you loved the first one, you’ll love the second one. If you hated the first one, or didn’t get it, don’t watch this one.

The creators of Pirates of the Caribbean stuck faithfully to the formula that made “The Curse of the Black Pearl” such a success. This is also known as a "Cash Grab."

It’s everything I expected it to be. It’s all there:

The lovers who can’t be together.

The charismatic pirate who may or may not be an honourable man.

The small dose of reality involving the British colonies of the Caribbean.

The supernatural forces.

The twisted plots and subplots.

The incredibly interesting villain.

Something that needs to be found.

Someone needing to be rescued.

Bargaining, swindling and lying!


Swashing and buckling!

Ridiculous slapstick comedy!

Not only did they stick with a winning formula, they exaggerated it. If a swordfight is good, a three-way swordfight is better!

The plot is more complex, there are more characters, and the villainous barnacle covered slimy pirates are more disgusting than the rotting corpse pirates three years ago. Dead Man’s Chest suffers from Middle Movie Syndrome. Much of the dialogue and sight gags rely on references from the movie before, and the ending practically screams “To Be Continued!”

It manages to be slightly more gruesome on this outing, but not bloody. Less blood, more slime! Less violence, more kissing!

And the kissing...we have to wait for it. But it’s worth the wait. And it isn’t quite what you expect.

The mystery of the enigmatic Captain Jack Sparrow continues. I felt like I could have used more of him, but I simply can’t get enough of him. Perhaps the script didn’t give as many chances to see Jack’s deep side, full of regret and remorse. (Remember the shootout with Barbossa at the end of Black Pearl?) There really aren’t any Oscar Nomination moments here. Instead, we finally get to see what makes Jack nervous and unhinged, what's got him vexed and acting

Simply, Jack Sparrow doesn't know what he wants. Where is his famously broken compass guiding him? How can he find what he truly wants if he doesn't know what it is he wants?

Is it an excellent movie? Heck no! It's terrible! It’s long, confusing, and bloated. It plays for cheap laughs too often. It relies too much on the movie before it and the one that will follow. It's a retread of the one before it. It's an attempt to squeeze out another run at the box office dollars.

It’s also huge, exciting, creepy, funny, and thoroughly involving as well as visually amazing. I LOVED IT. I fully intend to see it a third time.

I can’t divulge any more details without ruining it for you, and I love surprizes so much that I won’t do that to you. I will give you a tease-- watch for somebody familiar to show up ruined and with revenge on his mind! And he’s way sexier now that he’s not so uptight.

And finally, I want Keira Knightley’s job. I really do. In what other career would one have the opportunity to stand on a white sand beach dressed up as a pirate and surrounded by three handsome men, two of whom are English and one who’s Johnny Depp?!

What is it you truly want?


A whole gang of us went to see this movie: ages 63, 57, 37, 35, 33, 12, and 10.

We all LOVED it.

Is this the perfect movie? Pretty darn close! Pixar proves again that they are the best. Not only is it gut busting funny, it's got a Meaningful Story, and not in a way that beat us over the head with the morality tale. The music, featuring Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts doing a Tom Cochrane classic, is excellent and suits every scene. The gags and puns are perfect, the sight gags are brilliant, and the scenery will blow your mind.

"Look at the sky!"

"It's all computer generated y'know."

"Yeah...I know!"


Now, about Cars: It's always nice when a cartoon for parents has enough entertainment value to keep the kids happy as well. And that's what we had here.

This is not a kid's movie. Don't get me wrong--it's 'G' rated, and has lots of fun and flashy stuff in it that will make every kid kick the seat in front with delight and excitement, but that's not who this flick is focused on.

It's aimed at the NASCAR Dad.

I'm not a big NASCAR fan. I don't know Rusty Wallace from a rusty fender. But this movie was chockfull of car-culture references. Most of which I'm guessing were over the heads of the average 8 to 10 year olds.

Me? I ate it up. So many people in the automobile world were represented in this thing that even me, a guy who had gotten over car fever a few decades ago, was impressed.

"Look! That's Richard Petty!" I'd whisper to my son.

"Oh! That's Click and Clack the Tappit Brothers!" I'd murmer to my daughter.

"I don't care!" he'd offer.

"Shut up!" she'd suggest.

But it was cool to me.

And it's an interesting phenomenon: If there was a movie where Owen Wilson and Bonnie Hunt were flirting with each other on camera, my kids would be bored, regardless of the level of wit in the dialogue. But if he's a racecar, and she's a Porsche, they'll be enamored.

So anyways.

Owen Wilson is Ligthning McQueen, rookie sensation on the Piston Cup circuit, looking to be the first rookie to ever win the cup. He's cocky and selfish, and his arrogance costs him an outright championship of the Cup, and sets up an unprecidented three-way race-off to determine the championship, between him, the reiging champ, a gentlemanly King (Petty) and the eternally second place car, the aggressive/dirty Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton).

On his way to the race, McQueen gets waylaid, and ends up in the nearly-deserted Radiator Springs, where he meets a group of colorful characters, who show him the true meaning of friendship and give him a true sense of perspective.

Sound familiar? It's basically the plot of Doc Hollywood.

There's nothing new here. Not a damn thing. Not in plot, not in character, not in animation style. Even some of the naming gags--Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip--are used (anyone remember Stony Curtis from The Flintstones?).

That doesn't mean it's not good. To continue the metaphor: there's nothing new, really in the 2006 Bentleys, either. But they're still selling for six figures.

Even though it's old ground, it's covered with a muscular authority and grace. Every character is fully developed, both in terms of graphics and in storyline. Each character in the frame, no matter whether it's the main character, or just in the background, is drawn with the same attention to detail.

From the bugs on the windows of the old stores (VW Beetless with wings, by the way), to the individual chunks of broken-off asphalt that jump and bounce with the passing of the racers, every pixel is planned and executed with zero tolerance. Even with sequential processing on the fastest computers out there, the average frame render on this move was seventeen hours. That means each second of the movie took seventeen days to finish. That's just render time. Rendering's the last step in a CGI movie. To get to the render phase takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work. And it shows.

The dialogue is also predictible, but sparkling, and the characters are vital. Paul Newman is as curmudgeonly as he can be as Doc Hudson, the town Judge/physician, who has a bone to pick with race cars. Bonnie hunt is at her sparkliest as Sally Carrera, the big city Porsche with small town dreams. And it pains me to say it, but the biggest scene-stealer of all is Dan Whitney (AKA Larry the Cable Guy) who embodies all that is annoying and endearing (usually the same traits) about rednecks as the tow truck, Mater ("like tomater, but without the tuh"), while leaving out the racism, fear and misogyny.

In the end John Lassiter shows everyone why he is the King of the CGI movie world. And there's no hotshot rookie coming up behind him.

Go see it. Hell, you might even want to bring your kids along.


Read Pirate's whole posting of that review here.