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  • Rise of the Guardians

    Rise of the Guardians (2012)

    December 07, 2012

    It is so comforting to know that everyone on earth is under the watch and protection of THE GUARDIANS, those mystical, magical beings that we all learn about early in life that give us something to believe in: Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, & The Tooth Fairy- with guidance provided by he, who watches over the entire world on a daily basis, The Man in the Moon!

    Jack Frost is immortal, eternally young, charismatic, and smart! He's the spirit of mischief and chaos personified, but doesn't understand why he's been given his magical powers or why he should be a Guardian.
    At the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to Jack Frost at the moment of his creation (voiced by Chris Pine), and watch with youthful amazement as he discovers his new magical powers to create beautiful frozen patterns as he taunts and teases humans as he also learns that he is invisible, and can't be touched or heard. Jump ahead 300 years to a toy workshop staffed by Yetis, those mystical snow creatures rumored to exist in the Himalayas as well as elves, who are more servants and friends of Santa Claus than they are toy makers!

    Santa Claus with his tattooed arms and thick Russian accent is the protector of children's wonder and gives them gifts of toys to reward them for being good and helping their parents.
    Santa sounds amazingly like Alec Baldwin speaking with a heavy Russian accent and is alerted that in his global monitoring room, where there's a huge globe lit with lights representing every child in the world who believes in childhood wonders and magic, there is a problem! Santa sees an old adversary that he hasn't seen for centuries! The BOOGEY MAN has returned to takeover the earth and plunge it into another age of fear and dread like the dark ages!

    The Easter Bunny is the protector of nature. Identified with Easter and the wonders of Spring and renewal, he waits till the exactly right moment and takes immediate action when nature is threatened.
    Santa puts out an alert to call his fellow GUARDIANS that is the Aurora Borealis (or the Northern Lights). As soon as they see Santa's signal, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Sandman converge on his North Pole workshop where they are informed by the Man In The Moon that it is time for them to anoint a new Guardian to help them fight this new threat and Jack Frost is named as the new member of their elite team! So the Easter Bunny, voiced by Hugh Jackman in a heavy Australian accent, along with two Yetis are dispatched to retrieve Jack who has been enjoying being a mischievous little sprite for 300 years, causing it to snow on Easter and frosting over windows and nipping at children's noses. For all of those 300 years however, Jack has wondered why he can't be seen or heard by the humans, living in isolation which fuels his mischievous activities.

    Pitch is better known as the Boogey Man and wants to fill the world with fear by destroying their belief in the magic that is The Guardians.
    Jack is informed that because of the Boogey Man, also known as Pitch and voiced by Jude Law, children are losing their innocence and belief in the magical wonderment of childhood. Instead of the happy dreams provided by the Sandman, they are having nightmares and waking up in fear. The lights are going out on Santa's monitor as children stop believing in the magic of the legendary characters, and as their belief wains, so does the powers of the team. Jack must discover his purpose for being who he is by discovering who he was before he became Jack Frost! And so begins the "Rise of the Guardians"!

    The animation team is to be commended on the awesome job they did capturing the facial expressions and personalities of each of the characters, especially Jack Frost.

    The Tooth Fairy and her army of baby teeth collectors are charged with protecting the teeth because in the teeth are stored the memories of our childhood which she can provide at those moments in our lives when we need to remember the magic of our childhoods!
    Tooth Fairy and her army of baby teeth collectors are also beautifully animated with brilliant colors! Tooth is half human and half hummingbird and never sets foot on land, constantly on the go to collect all of those baby teeth from children around the world and leaving a small reward to reinforce their belief in her magic! I haven't seen a holiday themed film like this since I first saw "POLAR EXPRESS" in Imax 3D when it felt like a snowflake landed on my nose!

    I particularly liked the underlying story plot of "RISE OF THE GUARDIANS" where each of the characters are charged with their own unique assignment to protect one of the different facets of the things that all combined provide us with our memories of the magic of being a child. I'll never forget the day that an old maid school teacher of mine shattered our wonder and belief in those special parts of our childhood by informing us that our parents were liars and there was really no such thing as Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or any of the other things we had believed in for our entire short lifetimes. Our parents were furious that she had made them out to be liars and robbed us of our magic forever!

    "RISE OF THE GUARDIANS" will entertain your children and restore your belief that maybe, just maybe, there really is a team of magical legendary characters out there somewhere that put the quarters under our pillows and stuffed the toys in our stockings and ate our cookies we put out on Christmas, and that Jack Frost magically painted the beautiful pictures we woke up to on a cold winter morning before the days of insulated double-pane windows. Yes, Virginia! There really is a Santa Claus!

    Do you think you're on the Naughty or Nice list?

  • Life of Pi

    Life of Pi (2012)

    December 07, 2012

    Maybe it's because of the hype of the advertising, or maybe because of the comparisons being made to "AVATAR", but after paying to go see "LIFE OF PI" on opening weekend, I have to say I came away somewhat disappointed. When I go to see a movie, I'm going for an entertainment experience. I'm looking to be excited. I'm looking to feel a sense of wonder. I'm not looking to have the movie trying to shove a message into my brain such as "YOU WILL BELIEVE IN GOD!" I felt like I was watching a commercial for religion made by a combination of Hindus, Muslims, and Tea Party Republicans.

    The storyline is presented as a narrative by the adult PI telling his story to a journalist who was referred to him by some GUY named MamaGee (drag queen?) who we are briefly introduced to in a flashback to Pi's childhood, one of many. Apparently, it was through the influence of this "MamaGee" that PI was stuck with his rather stupid name, being named after some French swimming pool he had swam in prior to Pi's birth, and him telling the story about this swimming pool to Pi's parents. So they named him Piscine Molitor Patel, which became "Pissing Patel" when he got to his school days. So the young boy devised a plan to convince his peers and teachers to stop calling him by this derogatory name and instead, to call him PI by demonstrating his knowledge of the number which is used in mathematical calculations.

    Pi's family is Hindu, but when he is a teenager, Pi gets introduced to the religions of Muslim and Christianity and decides he will adopt the best practices of all 3 religions, to the bemusement of his family, seemingly incapable of deciding upon only one. Pi's father owns a zoo in Pondicherry, India but after a while, decides that with changing economic times in India (in the 1970?s) his family would have a brighter future if they emigrated to Canada. So they pack up their possessions and some of their animals, and take a small Japanese boat sailing to India. A few days after departing, the ship encounters a terrible storm and the boat is capsized and sinks, with only Pi escaping in a lifeboat with an assortment of animals including one of his father's tigers from the zoo named Richard Parker.

    What follows is the story of how Pi survives, along with the tiger while all the time reaching out to his various religious beliefs for endurance and strength to keep on going.

    While there is some beautiful imagery, particularly during the nights floating on the ocean, most of it seems to be the hallucinations of the starving Pi in the end. There is some great use of the 3D effects and the animation of the computer generated tiger is amazing, but I can't say that I enjoyed this movie as much as I had hoped that I would. The ending is rather flat and uneventful. Maybe if you've read the book it is based upon, you'd have a better understanding of what is trying to be conveyed by the movie, but I found it ridiculous and poorly put together and just really did not feel I got my money's worth, even though I used a discounted ticket.

  • The Collection

    The Collection (2012)

    December 07, 2012

    Horror movie fans will delight in this latest offering from writer/director Marcus Dunstan in his latest collaboration with co-writer Patrick Melton, THE COLLECTION. Collection posterThis is a sequel to the 2009 movie, THE COLLECTOR which ended with Arkin, played by Josh Stewart trapped in a small red truck. Stewart reprises his role in this movie which starts out with Elena, played by Emma Fitzpatrick being convinced by her friends to go out to a private warehouse party where admission is by secret password only after she is ditched by her boyfriend when he calls to cancel their plans because something came up. As she kisses her handicapped wealthy sleeping father goodbye, a news report is playing on the TV about a crazed serial killer who has captured another victim that the police are trying to find. His name is Arkin and his wife is begging his captor to release her husband so he can come back to her and their baby.

    So Elena goes off to the party with her best friend and the friend's brother. After gaining entry by knowing the password, while exploring the crowded dance floor packed with young teenage and twenty-something party-goers, she discovers her boyfriend making out on the dance floor with another bimbo, and after punching him, separates herself from the others to brood. She stumbles upon a trunk which she unlocks when she hears noises coming from it, and releases Arkin who is bound and gagged inside the booby-trapped trunk. As she is coping with the irrational screams of Arkin, trying to make sense of what is going on, down on the dance floor a rotating razor sharp harvester blade is being lowered down on the dance floor making a sweep across the dance floor cutting everyone on it to shreds in a pool of 55 gallons of fake blood and body parts. Those who try to escape, crowd into the cage style of elevator to safety, only to be locked in and crushed to death when the ceiling is slowly lowered on them with bones crushing and blood squeezing out. As Arkin frees himself from his shackles and desperately looks for a means to escape, the masked murderer encounters the hysterical Elena and drugs her and shoves her into the same trunk she had rescued Arkin from, thus setting the stage for the rest of the movie.

    The masked murderer, who we never see the face of, has converted a remote abandoned hotel into a morbid, grotesque museum of macabre where he reassembles body parts from various victims into disgusting warped works of art preserved in large glass display cases. Arkin has successfully made his escape, and while laying in the hospital talking with his thankful wife, he is unwillingly recruited by a bodyguard employed by Elena's father to assist in her rescue, as his moral responsibility since he could have attempted to help her escape, but abandoned her instead.

    So he retraces the route which his abductor took with him, leading the rescue team of professional mercenaries to the dilapidated rundown hotel, which is booby-trapped with death waiting at every turn. They encounter other victims who have been drugged to become crazed killers and with surgically implanted bombs, as they systematically work their way through the death maze of rooms and hallways in the hotel.

    Famous for their creative writing in the SAW series of movies starting with SAW IV, I do have to say that with THE COLLECTION, at least there is a plot to he film and it's not just gore and horror for the sake of shock value. If you enjoy the horror genre, you will love the quality of videography and creativity used in making this film.

    One of the actors from the movie was present in the theater at the screening I attended and I had the opportunity to talk with him following the movie. Lee Tergesen plays Lucello, the leader of the rescue team employed by Elena's father. Tergesen is best known for his portrayal of Tobias Beecher in HBO's long running series, OZ. After congratulating him on the movie, I asked him what it was like making such a gruesome gory movie. He said, "It's fun, but it is also physically challenging. The way movies are made today, you have to react to something when there's nothing there but maybe a camera or nothing at all." I asked him what he thought of the audience reaction at the screening and he replied, "It seemed like everyone enjoyed it! I was glad I came. I hope you liked it!"

    Unlike their SAW movies, this movie does have a plot, at least, and introduces you to the characters through some character development. For a blood and guts slasher movie, it wasn't bad, if you really like that sort of movie.

  • Men in Black III

    Men in Black III (2012)

    December 07, 2012

    In this third excursion into the ridiculous ongoing fight with aliens living among us on earth, Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin, as a younger K, Tommy Lee Jones' character, continue their battle to save Earth from alien invasion, but this time, with a healthy dose of time travel mixed in.

    Josh Brolin gives a stellar performance as a much younger version of Tommy Lee Jones' character, K back before he became a cynical, grouchy, set-in-his-ways MIB agent. It's amazing how well he becomes young K down to the last detail of his quirky accent, his comedic timing, and body language. Will Smith seems to be almost timeless and never seems to age! The latest incarnation of the Men In Black movie franchise starts out with the escape of Boris the Animal from a lunar prison designed specifically to hold him. He has one arm missing and we learn that it was shot off by Agent K when he was arrested back in 1969, and Boris is hellbent on revenge. Back on Earth the MIB agents are gathered for the memorial service of Chief Zed who formerly had been played by Rip Torn in the first two movies. No explanation is offered for his demise and Agent K gives a very heartfelt, touching eulogy, "Z was my superior. In all the years I knew him, he never gave away anything personal about himself, nor did he invite me to his house. Thank you." and he sits down. LOL

    There are some very funny moments in MIB 3, if you're a fan of this movie concept and franchise. The animation used to integrate many of the alien creatures is great, and I did find the storyline plausible. Tommy Lee Jones is in the beginning of the movie, but then disappears for 45 minutes as Josh Brolin takes over the role of Agent K after Agent J goes back to the past to save the future from an all out alien invasion that was underway when he jumps off of the Chrysler Building to activate his "time jump". Emma Thompson has taken over as the head of the MIB organization with the unexplained demise of Agent Zed, and plays a critical role in the movie.

    I enjoy movies like "Men In Black 3? because it allows us to forget about our own problems and reality for a couple of hours and instead just immerse ourselves in the lighthearted imagery and dialogue that the "Men In Black" movies are known for. We can only hope that IF there are aliens living among us, there is an agency like MIB watching over us, even if we are neuralized so we don't remember it after we witness them protecting us. It could happen, right?

  • Les MisÚrables

    Les MisÚrables (2012)

    December 07, 2012

    Of all the Broadway musicals that I've seen over the years, LES MIS was never one that I thought I would like, in spite of the beautiful music from it, such as the song which catapulted Susan Boyle to international fame, "I Dreamed a Dream".

    But with such big box office names such as Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonhomme Carter, and Baron Sacha Cohen leading the cast of the new movie version, I finally had to give in and see what I've been missing. This stellar cast did a marvelous job of bringing the classic Broadway musical to life on the big screen!

    For those unfamiliar with the storyline of Les Miserables, Hugh Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, a man hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Anne Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. The movie spans a time frame of several decades starting with Jean Valjean toiling away as a prisoner after spending 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread so his nephew would not starve. Javert is the head guard of the prisoners and has it out for Valjean from the beginning.

    Valjean breaks his probation after he is given a break by a priest, who shows him compassion for the first time in his life, and becomes a model citizen under an assumed name, eventually becoming the owner of a factory with hundreds of workers under his employment. One of those employees is the beautiful Fantine, but when he is distracted by an unexpected visit to his factory by the ruthless Javert who has been promoted to chief of police, he defers the resolution of an argument involving her to one of his supervisors, and he puts her out on the street, which then leads to her becoming desperate.

    The songs were recorded in a groundbreaking method for a musical with the vocals being recorded live as the actors sang the songs with piano accompaniment playing on earphones in their ears as opposed to being pre-recorded in as studio and then lip-synching the songs as they are acting the scene. The orchestrations were then added afterwards following the actor's singing style as opposed to the actor following the orchestra. It worked very well for the most part although some of Hugh Jackman's singing isn't as good as I know he is capable of. Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried perform their songs beautifully! Russell Crowe should stick to acting rather than singing! All in all, as the first real screen adaptation of a Broadway musical to come along since Mama Mia in 2008, it is wonderfully done and it just might break those box office records as the biggest box office musical film production of all time!

  • Playing for Keeps

    Playing for Keeps (2012)

    December 07, 2012

    I usually try to find something to say about each movie I see and review. The best thing I can say about this movie is, "Thank God it's only an hour and forty five minutes long. I hate story lines that are as predictable as the sunrise or sunset, and you can see this one coming from a mile away.

    There are some very well-known, recognizable faces in the cast including Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, and Jessica Beil, but even they aren't enough to make this sappy lover's triangle make sense. I'm not even going to bother going into more details. Everyone was talking about how bad it was as we were leaving the theater. This is a flop almost as big as Gigli. Watch the trailer and decide for yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you.

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