Friday, February 25, 2011

Movie Review: Hall Pass

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To continue with last weeks weather analogy, we got hit by a big arctic cold front passing through. Was hoping for better such luck. Previews for Drive Angry and just the name alone didn't seem appealing. So, maybe the Farrelly brothers' film Hall Pass would be OK and I might see a glimpse of scenes from back home in New England as they base a lot of their works out of Rhode Island. There works are not known as the thinking mans film, but hopefully good for a few laughs. A few laughs is right...very few laughs.

Hall Pass Movie Poster
The basic premise is this: What would two couples do in one week's time when one spouse gives the other a "hall pass" from their marriage. Do what ever you want and there will be no consequences. The first pass is given by Maggie (Jenna Fischer) to her husband Rick (Owen Wilson). The other pass is wanted by and then given to Fred(Jason Sudeikis) by Grace (Christina Applegate). The couples are long time best friends. The ladies are upset with their husbands for looking at other women and the constant need the guys have. The idea is given to the wives by their psychologist friend Dr Lucy (Joy Behar) who says it will give the guys a way to clear up the "what if" in their lives. "What if" they didn't have wives, would they still be able to be the chick magnets they think they are? Sort of a variation of It's a Wonderful Life where everyone still knows who everyone else is but without Christmas, cold snow or crotchety old Mr Potter.

You know right off the bat they are not going to be getting as much as they thought they would. The guys and their friends debate which would be a better place to pick up women, Applebee's or Olive Garden. Really, Applelee's or Olive Garden? I wonder how much those restaurants paid for movie product placement. As a side note, neither of these restaurants have locations in Hawaii. As each day passes, the Law and Order card sting written by Mike Post, you know the sound, the doink doink, is used as a segue to clue us in that time has passed.

At the end of the week what do we get? We have all the usual suspects of a Farrelly movie. We have language, we have odd sexual innuendos, fetishes, both male and female frontal nudity, off color jokes and tons of embarrassing situations. Unfortunately this did not live up to the level of a There's Something About Mary or Dumb and Dumber. The set up for some of the jokes seemed high and ambitious but were left flopping around on the floor like Jell-o after falling off the kitchen table. Not a pretty sight.

Maybe the reason for the problems is while being set in the Northeast it was actually Georgia posing as New England and couldn't quite pull it off. The movie was rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use and ran for 105 minutes. If you go, stay to the end of the credits for some extra scenes.

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Movie Review: I am Number Four

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This week finally had a better selection. So is this just a single "warm" day only to go back to the coldness that has been the banality of the past month's releases? We'll have to wait and see what happens for next week. In the mean time, a social media posting for Unknown with Liam Neeson vs I am Number Four which several people pointed out had Dianna Agron from Glee, which should I watch and the response was for the latter. The movie is based off of a book of the same name.

I Am Number Four movie poster
What surprised me right off the bat were the companies involved. Touchstone Pictures and Dreamworks. I thought there was still a bit of bad blood between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Disney. Apparently I was wrong. With Michael Bay directing, you know that there are going to be some big action scenes and lots of things blowing up. The opening set up scene has the fast panning motion as we start from outer space and zoom across the globe heading down into a hut in a jungle. A few more seconds later and we have people darting through the dense tropical growth running for their lives! Yep, no doubt Michael Bay is involved!

The basic storyline could have been part of the X-Files. Planet Lorien (sheesh, not only does she have an island, but she has a planet too! Lucky bugger! Sorry, inside joke) has been destroyed by the Mogadorians. There are nine youths and their protectors that were sent to Earth to hide. They are the last of their kind. Number Four (Alex Pettyfor) and his protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) detect that Number Three has been killed. To protect Number Four he goes by the name John Smith and they run to Paradise, Ohio. Oh yeah, you could detect the irony in the naming selection of that town!

While trying to blend in John meets Sara (Agron). Of course they fall for each other. But Sara and the football quarterback are supposed to be an item. This is where I tried to figure out Agron as Sara vs her Glee character Quinn Fabray. Small town Ohio, dating the football hero. For me, the roles and how she plays them were too similar. He tries to blend in, but not really. He upsets the apple cart on several levels drawing attention to himself.

Eventually the Mogadorian's track down John. The Commander (Kevin Durand, Kimi from LOST) has his team and some nasty beasties to track down the Loriens. He has these openings along side his nose that look like gills but actually help turn him into a intergalactic basset hound of sorts. Eventually in a Michael Bay film you end up with the one gigantic battle/action scene. About this time, Number Six (Teresa Palmer) joins the fray. Turns out when the Loriens get together they have powers beyond what each alone could do. Six does a great job taking on the bad guys. Ultimately, there is the giant explosion to end the battle.

There were a couple of items that weakened the film. They introduced a tin foil hat conspiracy theory alien chaser but didn't flesh out his background enough. Some of the alien technology was really advanced, but some seemed too Earthling. Same with the Loriens themselves, they appeared very human like, but the Mogadorians not so. The last point being why the human antagonist did what he did at the end. What thought process was being used when he made that last big action? The movie ran for 110 minutes. Taking an extra ten minutes to explain that one action would have been appreciated instead of leaving it on the cutting room floor or as a DVD extra.

On the plus side, they have set this up for a sequel. I would be interested in seeing what happened to the other Loriens. What powers do they have and how do their powers combine. Just why was Earth chosen as their hide out? The different symbols that we enountered, how to they fit into the larger puzzle. Do they have any connection to crop circles? These would all be good questions for the next movie or two to answer. These ponderings were enough to capture my attention and leave me wanting for more.

The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hope for Disney Aulani Opening Ceremony

Trains have always been an integral part of the Disney Company. When Disneyland opened to the World on July 17, 1955 the opening scene on TV was of the Main Street Train Station with Art Linkletter standing on the tracks and platform. The first shot you see of Walt Disney is him wearing an engineers hat and scarf in the engine of the EP Ripley with a stuffed Mickey Mouse sitting in a window with him. Some will argue that the real seed for the idea of Disneyland was planted at his Holmby Hills home in early 1950 when Walt built the Carrolwood Pacific Railroad in his back yard. When Walt asked Herb Ryman to draw up the original plans for Disneyland, Walt asked for it to be surrounded by a train. Since then, each of the Magic Kingdom style parks have been built each with a train circling the park. Well, expect Tokyo Disneyland, theirs circles just the west side of the park starting and ending in Adventureland and going through Westernland and Critter Country.

On August 29 of this year, Disney enters into the Hawaii Tourism market with the opening of Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa within the Ko Olina resort in Kapolei, Hawaii. This resort will mix Disney Vacation Club villas along side regular resort rooms on the 21 acre beach side location immersed in Hawaiian lore, lifestyle and culture. Recently Lianne Maeda the Recruiting Manager for Aulani made the prediction that 'Ama'ama restaurant will not only be the place to eat at Aulani, but for O'ahu as well.

So why the mention of Walt's love of railroads and the opening of Aulani? During the days when sugar was the king of the economy for not only O'ahu, but the Hawaiian Islands, the O'ahu Railway & Land Company hauled people and sugar cane between the fields and the factories. Across the street from Aulani are tracks for the only active railway on O'ahu. It is currently used by The Hawaiian Railway Society based out of 'Ewa Beach for two excursions on Sunday afternoons. For the opening ceremonies for Aulani, it would be great to incorporate the two together.

Disney DVC Aulani Update 2010-08-26
It would be fitting for Disney to use the Hawaiian Railway Society's engines and cars to start off the ceremony. CEO Bob Iger, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs, Aulani Executive Imagineer Joe Rohde and Aulani General Manager Elliot Mills along with Mickey, Minnie and the gang could ride into Ko Olina and stop near the Ko Olina Station, get off the train and walk across Aliinui Drive and into the resort. As they enter, the dignitaries will be passing taro gardens paying respect to story of Haloa, the direct ancestor of the Hawaiian people.

Disney DVC Aulani Update 2011-01-27 Disney DVC Aulani Update 2011-01-27 Disney DVC Aulani Update 2010-12-29
Disney DVC Aulani Update  2010-10-13 DVC Update Oct 7, 2009

After the resort is opened the tie in with The Hawaiian Railway Society would hopefully remain in place. The sugar and pineapple plantations across Hawai'i were important to the history of the islands. With Aulani showcasing Hawaii and Hawaiian culture, it would make sense to include what was a significant economic force in shaping Hawai'i. It's responsible for bringing immigrants into the islands as workers. The plantations became the reason for the pidgin language to come into existence. The political landscape was changed due to the plantations. Leaving the plantations aside, the ride on the train is a beautiful scenic tour on and of the leeward side of O'ahu.

Here's hoping that the two events, the opening of Disneyland and the opening of Aulani can be tied together through one of Walt's great loves, the railroad.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Movie Rewiew: Oscar Nominated Shorts

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This weekend I had the chance to do something different for the movie going experience. My regular theater was showing Gnomeo and Juliet but the competing art house type theater was showing the 2011 Oscar nominated shorts. Although the poster showed Animated, Live Action and Documentary, they didn't show the latter and each of the categories was a separate ticket. So I spent double the usual amount for this weeks review, but I thought the price would be reasonable considering that many people considered these films the best of the best.

This presentation was not the usual formula for movie attendance. The theater remained lit until they pressed play on what looked like a Blu-Ray disc. No slides, no sound, no trailers, no warnings about fire exits, smoking or turning off of cell phones. There was a quick title card showing what I was attending first which was the Animated Shorts and then into the selections. BTW, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a shorts as "A short film is defined as an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits." To see the complete criteria Click Here.

The animated selections were as follows:
  • Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage, France, 11 minutes
  • Let's Pollute, USA, 6 minutes
  • The Gruffalo, UK/Germany, 27 minutes
  • The Lost Thing, Australia, 15 minutes
  • Day & Night, USA, 6 minutes
Also included were two other Highly Recommended films which were:
  • URS, Germany, 10 minutes
  • The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger, USA, 6 minutes
Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage was the story of a person returning home for a funeral. The format was like a travel book with pages being turned to tell the story. The pictures were ink, pastels, water colors and pencil. Layers were used to make the images appear to have 3D depths. Subtitles were provided.

Let's Pollute was a film about how bad man is to the environment by mocking mankind and their habits. It was done with the styling of educational films from the 1950s.

I very much enjoyed The Gruffalo. When I saw the title, I thought that actor Mark Ruffalo would show up and be yelling "Grrrrrr." The style looked like claymation, but was computer generated. It's a mother squirrel telling the story of a smart mouse who outwits predators by telling them he's meeting a Gruffalo, a scary beast that happens to like the predators as ingredients for a meal.

I use a social networking program that has icons that look like different objects and animals put together as a single life form. The Lost Thing reminded me of those icons. A boy finds a lost thing on the beach. It has the body of a teapot minus the handle along with crab like claws, bells and tentacles. He wants to bring it home but realizes that it needs to live somewhere else.

The last official entry was Day & Night. It was the only one that I saw previously as it was made by Pixar and shown with last year's Toy Story 3 which is up for the Oscar's Best Animated Feature Film award. It is about two entities who meet but through their outline bodies the scenery is time shifted. It was shown in 2D but was originally processed for 3D viewing.

URS is without words. An older son attempts to move his reluctant mother to someplace better. It has dark and light and had me emotionally involved in just the short ten minutes.

Lastly was The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger. Two things on this movie. First is it goes to prove that parents, you can love your kids as much as you want, but they can still make bad decisions where they might hurt themselves. Secondly, ladies, maybe lifting weights isn't such a bad thing.

After a short break and a reload on popcorn and soda, the second "movie" began with the same lack of fanfare as the first.

This time only five shorts were shown and in order they were:
  • Na Wewe, Belgium, 19 minutes
  • The Crush, Ireland, 15 minutes
  • The Confession, UK, 26 minutes
  • Wish 143, UK, 24 minutes
  • God of Love, USA, 18 minutes
Just as the first short in animation began with subtitles, so did Na Wewe. A Belgian and his assistant break down and get picked up by a passing passenger van in Burundi. Shortly thereafter they are stopped by rebels looking to determine who is Hutu and who is Tutsi. I was uncomfortable in my seat thinking that someone might get executed just for being themselves.

What will a second grade boy do to win the affection of his teacher? The Crush examines one such scenario when the boy goes up against a competing suitor. For me the Irish brogue added a lot of charm to this selection.

This short, The Confession, had me on the edge of my seat. Usually shorts are comedy or whimsical. This was a thriller and a suspense that I wasn't expecting. A boy and his friend are getting ready for their first confession. But what will they be confessing?

A 16 year old male terminal cancer patient is asked about what he would like for his wish, Wish 143. But how will the granting organization respond when he asks to have the pleasure of experiencing intimate love for his first and probably only time before he passes away?

The last live action short was God of Love. It was a funny little film about a man who had been asking God for a year to bring him the love of his life. Is the package that showed up at his work place the answer to his prayers? As it is said, be careful what you ask for because you may get it!

If you would like to see the trailers for all of the nominated shorts or look for locations near you where you can see all of the selections, goto The trailers for the Highly Recommended films are not there. For URS trailer, Click Here. The trailer for The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger can be found Here. If you have a chance to go see them, I highly recommend it.

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie Review: The Illusionist

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It was another poor week for releases. My regular theater was only showing Sanctum with the extra upcharges so once again I was forced to look at the competitor to see if they had something else. It's a good thing that I like art house type films! The competitor was showing The Illusionist which has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Animated Feature Film category.

The film comes with a little bit of pedigree. It is directed by Sylvain Chomet who's 2003 Triplets of Belleville was also nominated for Animated Feature Film but lost that year against Disney Pixar's Finding Nemo. The Illusionist is up against Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon and the boffo box office giant that is Disney Pixar's Toy Story 3. After viewing the film, it justly deserves to be nominated. Do I think it will win, no. Not because it's not good. It has a different visual style than most animation people are familiar with in addition to not being wholly computer generated.

It's the story of an older gentleman who's occupation is given by the movie title. He does illusions. He starts in France then moves on to England and eventually up into Scotland. Times are changing and he's drawing smaller crowds including coming up against Rock-n-Roll for stage time. In Scotland he meets a girl, Alice. She believes that his magic is real. When he leaves the moors of Scotland to head into Edinburgh she follows him and he takes her in.

The different components of the movie worked together very well. While there was some dialogue, most of the time I couldn't understand it. It was in french or maybe even garbled. There was very little English and no subtitles. What English there was wasn't really necessary as it became clear what was going on. The majority of the dialogue was relegated to the background. The dialogue didn't move the movie forward. It didn't have to. The visuals told the story. Through gestures, glances and interactions between people it was very clear as to what was happening. Whether the Illusionist was trying to secure a job, being released from a position or showing wonderment or confusion or worry, the images got the point across.

The visuals themselves were stunning. There was an aspect of detail, but a high amount of abstraction at the same time. There was detail that made me go wow. As he was being taken by boat across a Scottish loch, there were low hanging clouds obscuring a building on a hill. The clouds moved away, the lighting changed and the building was revealed. At another point there was rain. Roads were wet and the interaction of the street lights and vehicle lights on the wet surfaces caught my attention. Actually, the use of lights and their sources: street lights, light bulbs, spot lights, theater and marquee lighting and their corresponding darkness as cast onto varied textures had me watching the detail throughout.

The one aspect of the movie that I couldn't figure out was the motivation of Tatischeff in relation to Alice the girl. She was clearly enthralled by his magic and the pet rabbit (what good magician doesn't have an overweight nipping rabbit that has a mind of his own? Professor Hinkle in Frosty the Snowman and Presto DiGiotagione and his rabbit Alec Azam in Disney Pixar's short Presto had theirs. OK, maybe they weren't overweight and nipping, but they definitely had minds of their own!) He splurges and buys things for her that seems to really bend his wallet. They share a flat in Edinburgh. They sleep in separate rooms. He doesn't come across as a dirty old man. So why does he allow her to stay with him? If you could see me at the moment I have question marks hanging over my head in wonderment. But even with that unanswered question, it was an enjoyable watch and listen to.

The soundtrack varied with sections of opera, rock-n-roll, blues, bag pipes, jazz, piano solos, middle eastern, and circus music all used to punctuate scenes and moods of the movie. Of course since the movie starts in France there is a song sung in French to get you settled into the adventure you're about to explore.

There are an additional assortment of odd characters that add a bit of whimsy and a bit of sadness to the overall tone of the movie. The movie is rated PG for thematic elements and smoking. Lots of smoking. A couple of times wondering if something was going to catch on fire due to all the smoking kinds of smoking. The 80 minutes passes quickly and if you wait until after the credits there is an added scene for you to enjoy!

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.