Weekend Warrior: Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint

The Consensus: The last Harry Potter film has been racking up the positive reviews this week. It currently has a very fresh 96% score at Rotten Tomatoes, and a 90 at Meta Critic. I’ve been a fan ever since watching Chamber of Secrets in an airplane and eagerly devouring the first four books in short order. I got my wand at Hot Topic, my Gryffindor tie just arrived from Amazon, and I’m ready for the midnight premiere. (Yes, my wife and I are brewing butterbeer that night) I’ve never been in costume at a movie before, but I’ve grown attached to the Harry Potter characters/cast, and it seems a fitting way to join them one last time.

Negative Take: N/A (from top critics) at this point.

Positive Take:

It ends well. After eight films in 10 years and a cumulative global box-office take of more than $6.3 billion, the most successful franchise in the history of movies comes to an obligatory — and quite satisfying — conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Fully justifying the decision, once thought purely mercenary, of splitting J.K. Rowling‘s final book into two parts, this is an exciting and, to put it mildly, massively eventful finale that will grip and greatly please anyone who has been at all a fan of the series up to now. If ever there was a sure thing commercially, this stout farewell is it.

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

Winnie the Pooh
Directed by: Stephen J. Anderson / Don Hall
Written by: Stephen J. Anderson / Don Hall / Clio Chiang / Don Dougherty / Brian Kesinger / Nicole Mitchell / Jeremy Spears
Starring: Jim Cummings / Craig Ferguson / John Cleese

The Consensus: I’ve been a fan of the older Winnie the Pooh films, which the latest iteration seems to take visual inspiration from, watching them on well-worn VHS tapes time and time again. I’ve seen moments of the attempted revivals of the classic characters, including the hideous CGI television series. This version looks to be a fun, nostalgic romp with old friends in the 100 Acred Woods. Rotten Tomatoes agrees with a 77% score, and a similar score of 72 from Meta Critic. With the Harry Potter behemoth breathing down it’s neck, I hope Winnie the Pooh does well at the box office.

Negative Take: N/A (from top critics) at this point.

Positive Take:

So definitive are the soft, simple, pastel evocations of the English countryside in E.H. Shepard’s original Pooh illustrations that revisionist versions would be unthinkable. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall (director and a writer, respectively, on Meet the Robinsons) do nothing to rock the boat, delivering rich, beautifully rendered visual backdrops for the mild antics of the familiar characters.

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

Let us know what YOU thought in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Warrior: Pixar/Diaz Vehicle


Cars 2
Directed by: John Lasseter / Brad Lewis
Written by: Ben Queen / John Lassater / Brad Lewis / Dan Fogelman
Starring: Owen Wilson / Larry the Cable Guy / Michael Caine / Emily Mortimer

 

The Consensus: At the start of this ‘critical’ race, Cars 2 and Bad Teacher are pretty much neck and neck. Cars 2 has a rotten 52% from Rotten Tomatoes and a 60 from Meta Critic, which is the lowest rating for a Pixar film (Cars has a score 74%) I’ll be seeing it in theaters, but I’m not expecting more than a fun popcorn film with talking cars.

Negative Take:

“Cars 2” is such a mess, it makes the original look like it ought to rank among Pixar’s masterpieces by comparison.

What has set the studio’s films apart from all the other animated fare is story: It’s paramount. Innovative tales like “WALL-E” and “Up” get you choked up just thinking about them, they’re that good. “Cars 2” tries to encompass many kinds of stories at once, none of which is terribly clever or compelling.

Christy Lemire (Associated Press)

Positive Take:

By Pixar’s own standards, “Cars,” the scenic animated amble on the backroads of the Roadrunner’s desert southwest, was the company’s worst film. Laugh-starved, lacking much in the line of action, it was a triumph of toy sales and product tie-in (NASCAR) over motion picture.

“Cars 2″ over-compensates for those “Get off the fast track” mid-life crisis musings, but does so in an often funny and action-packed “James Bond goes Racing” comedy. They turn more of the story over to the comic relief, the dopey tow truck Tow Mater, and get a sillier, more kid-friendly movie out of it. Yes, “Cars 2″ is better than “Cars.”

Roger Moore (Orlando Sentinel)


Bad Teacher
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Gene Stupnitsky / Lee Eisenberg
Starring: Cameron Diaz / Jason Segel / Justin Timberlake

 

The Consensus: One-upping Cars 2 with 53% rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a (lower) score of 48 from Meta Critic, Bad Teacher looks like fun, but in that all-the-jokes-are-in-the-preview kind of way. It is nice to see Segel (I Love You, Man) and Timberlake (The Social Network) getting more roles.

Negative Take:

Kasden and writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg construct the film as a series of set pieces, some funnier than others. [. . .] But in the end it just doesn’t quite add up. Maybe it’s the too-easy ending that feels like a cop-out. Maybe it’s the cardboard cut-out nature of the characters. Probably it’s a combination of those and other elements that leads to Diaz’s bad teacher not being as bad as she might have been and “Bad Teacher” not as good as it could have been.

Bill Goodykoontz (AZCentral.com)

Positive Take:

“Bad Teacher” is exactly the one-joke movie that you probably expect it to be, but there are enough variations and shadings of that one joke to sustain its brief running time — just barely.

Christy Lemire (Associated Press)

Let us know what YOU thought of Cars 2 and Bad Teacher in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Warrior: In Brightest Day, In Coldest Night

Green Lantern
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

The Consensus: Judging from the first preview, I wasn’t too interested in Green Lantern. The visuals looked great, but I wasn’t buying the acting and the narrative. Apparently the critics agree; Green Lantern currently has a rotten score of 21% at Rotten Tomatoes. Coupled with a 40/100 from Meta Critic, it’s not looking good for the green guy. I am curious how popular it will be with audiences, however. I can see Green Lantern making a lot of green (sorry, couldn’t resist) this weekend; I know a lot of people who are going to see it.

Negative Take:

Had Green Lanternwaded a bit longer in the weird end of the pool, and lost some of the patently dreary, outrageously predictable, clumsily edited origin story, we’d probably have a cult classic waiting to happen. Alas, what we’re left with is one schizophrenic little flick, one that has a lot of eye candy worth savoring, but next to nothing in the departments of wit, depth, heart, or insight.

Scott Weinberg (Twitch Film)

Positive Take:

[Martin Campbell] has a good sense of pace. A good sense of humor, too — although the film never plays things for easy laughs, it gets a few smiles from Hal’s “this-is-so-cool!” enthusiasm (and co-star Blake Lively, as Hal’s sometime-girlfriend, gets a big laugh out of mocking the secret-identity ruse beloved of every superhero).

Stephen Whitty (NJ.com)

Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Directed by: Mark Waters
Written by: Sean Anders, John Morris, Jared Stern
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury

The Consensus: This is based on a children’s novel that I enjoyed reading when I was a kid. On paper the adaptation sounds great; Mark Waters has directed some admirable films (I loved The Spiderwick Chronicles a few years ago), Jim Carrey is hilarious, and the book is fun. But then came the trailer, destroying any anticipation I had for the film. While it is commendable that the Rotten Tomatoes score for Mr. Popper’s Penguins (45%) is over 100% greater than the score for The Green Lantern, I think I’ll be staying at home this week.

Negative Take:

There’s no story beyond the utterly formulaic and not the slightest semblance of realism, but your kids will enjoy it if they’re young enough and pretty easy to please. (Mine are both.)

With that taken care of, the other question to emerge from this tepid all-ages flick, which will neither last long in theaters nor generate all that much cash, is what the heck became of Carrey’s career as a comic genius? It’s a question that answers itself, in a way. Ever since Carrey became a top-line movie star with the first “Ace Ventura” picture in 1994, he’s made sporadic attempts to break out of the goofballing cut-up role by doing edgy adult comedy or semi-serious drama or whatever.

Andrew O’Hehir (Salon.com)

Positive Take:

For some reason I was under the impression Jim Carrey already made his penguin movie. Doesn’t it seem like it? Am I the only one who had to ask himself that question coming out of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”?

Turns out this is his first, and it’s not bad (optional “!” goes here). Director Mark Waters’ film stars Carrey, some real penguins and some computer-generated penguins. Together they deliver the expected, albeit with a lighter touch and a nicer sheen (thanks to cinematographer Florian Ballhaus), than most of producer John Davis’ previous family-friendly commodities. That list includes “Garfield,” “Daddy Day Care” and “Dr. Dolittle” plus sequels. With some sentences, listing the titles is enough.

Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

 

Let us know what YOU thought of Green Lantern and Mr. Popper’s Penguins in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Warrior: Super 8 vs. Judy Moody

Super 8
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka, Kyle Chandler

The Consensus: The Tomatometer is soaring with an 87% rating for J.J. Abram’s Super 8, followed by a 67 / 100 score from Meta Critic. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this one since the first teaser trailer hit the web. It looks like a mixture of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Iron Giant.

Negative Take:

I find myself wondering if the pitch meeting was little more than Abrams promising Steven Spielberg that the famed director’s oeuvre would be all but gilded and bronzed right there on the screen. But that can be forgiven…if there’s a story.

And there’s not. Well, there’s not a complete story. There’s a lot of mayhem that feels injected into a coming-of-age yarn that itself needed some tinkering, and then there’s a climax that is meant to bring it all together, but ultimately whiffs worse than Begbie’s scratch in“Trainspotting.”

Kristopher Tapley (Incontention.com)

Positive Take:

The effects, while spectacular, also happen to be germane to the plot, and they have an intimate, tactile quality, rather than seeming too glossy or removed from reality. (And they’re NOT in 3-D. Yes, it is indeed possible.)

So all you’re left with is … story. And strong performances. And well-developed characters. And a believable emotional arc. And genuine thrills.

And that’s apropos, given that it’s a love letter to the man who skillfully wove together all those elements in inventing the modern blockbuster.

Christy Lemire (boston.com)

Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
Directed by: John Schultz
Written by: Kathy Waugh, Megan McDonald
Starring: Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Parris Mosteller

The Consensus: No consensus yet. (I think I’ll pass on this one)

Negative Take:

At the risk of being a Debbie Downer, watchingJudy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is akin to being trapped in the ADHD-addled mind of an adolescent hopped up on too much Ritalin.

Nick Schager (The Village Voice)

Positive Take:

The movie may be a bit too high on the junk food meter, and excessively frantic in action sequences towards the narrative finish line when chasing down assorted runaway plot threads, but who cares. John Schultz’s Judy Moody And The NOT Bummer Summer generally delights as it excels in its Juno-in-training wild tween talk lingo. And with generous heaps of sublimely cartoonish kid satire, even at its most hyper-actively hokey interludes.

Prairie Miller (News Blaze)

 

Let us know what YOU thought of Super 8 and Judy Moody in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Movies (6/3)

X-Men: First Class
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult

The Consensus: X-Men: First Class is getting praise from the critics this weekend, with an 87% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. While lower than RT, Metacritic’s score of 65/100 is still favorable. Judging from what I’ve heard of the film, it’s a well-polished, entertaining superhero film that’s above recent superhero films, but not by much.

Negative Take:

The best acting in “X-Men: First Class” is by President John F. Kennedy, who in his Thanksgiving 1962 message to the nation, expresses gratitude for the successful end of the Cuban Missile Crisis while suppressing what he surely must know, that American and Soviet missiles spent a great deal of time flying back and forth while mentally controlled by the awesome powers of mutants. The movie’s use of the missile crisis certainly serves the purpose of establishing this prequel in the early 1960s and answers a question I’ve always had: Does the real world overlap with the histories of superheroes?

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

Positive Take:

The damage inflicted on the X-Men franchise by the poorly received X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn’t quite as extensive as the harm done to Batman by the infamous Batman & Robin, but the brand was definitely in need of similar revitalization. Unlike Batman Begins, though, X-Men: First Class doesn’t start from scratch. Instead, it uses the themes of the previous movies to build an intelligent, fast-paced, and highly entertaining prequel. It also re-raises the bar for superhero flicks in general, which have gotten complacent lately.

Eric D. Snider (Film.com)

 

Let us know what YOU thought of X-Men: First Class in the comments.

Weekend Warrior

Friday’s coming, and we all know what that means: More movies coming to your local theater.

Writing about which movies to watch / avoid each weekend can be a frightfully dull exercise in the mundane, so let’s spice this sucker up. Each week there will be a post about the new movies on the block, and why you should rent something else instead of watching it.*

In Theaters: Takers
Skip It: It has Hayden Christensen.

On DVD: Ocean’s 11
Watch It: We’ve all seen Soderbergh’s version, so why not watch the original for a change? You can’t go wrong with the Rat Pack.

In Theaters: The Last Exorcism
Skip It:  I’m tired of all these generic Romcoms in theaters these days.

On DVD: Annie Hall
Watch It: Back in the day, comedies didn’t have to JUST be banal attempts at humor. You could have a good story AND humor. Whoa, right?

* Some opinions voiced in this post should possibly definitely maybe not be taken seriously.