Friday, August 27, 2010

Movie Review: Takers

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Summer is almost over and all the block busters have run out. We start to slide into the slow season with the horror movies starting with Halloween not too far around the corner, but far enough from the Oscar nominations in January that "the good stuff" is held out until Thanksgiving thru December to be fresh in the mind of academy voters. The major selections this week were a bank heist or an exorcism. OH WAIT! We did have a re-release of Avatar in 3D IMAX only at least in the theater that I regularly attend. Been there, done that except for the extra eight minutes they added. At a cost of $17, that's over $2 per minute and I'd have to endure the other two hours and forty-three minutes, I think instead of giving my money to James Cameron, I'd rather let the bank heist be Takers!

One of the fun parts of watching a bank heist movie is watching the plan come together. The first time we see our "heroes" they are actually pulling off the job. They gather, they execute, they get away to commit more robbery on another day. They're so brazen as to not take out all of the video cameras and mug for the recording. At their final get away destination we are given a little glimpse into the criminals. One drives away in a SUV, another a two-seater vintage sports car and a third on a motor cycle.

The next time we see the gang it's almost like seeing GQ models on set. Champagne, cigars, investment talk. The leader Gordon (Idris Elba) is working with offshore investment bankers. The discussion is of ROI, financial news from Bloomberg and how to make sure the assets are safe. These men look at their thievery as their source of income and even talk about what amounts to a tithe of ten percent to be given to the usual charities anonymously of course! This is their chosen life endeavor as if they were investment bankers.

Chasing the bad guys is the cop who is obsessed with catching them. Jack (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie (Jay Hernandez) deal with the day to day events of tracking down every day bad guys, but when these big events hit and new clues become available Jack narrows focus to the detriment of his now ex-wife and daughter. Eddie on the other hand is just barely holding on with life exacerbated by a seriously ill family member.

Just after the big heist a former member of the gang, Ghost (TI "Tip" Harris), is released from jail. He approaches the gang to their surprise with a big pay day of $25-$30 million for a job but it will happen quickly, not like their normal turn around time. All the gang Jesse, Jake, AJ and John (Chris Brown, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen and Paul Walker respectively) agree to take Ghost's plan with Gordon's command. You already know by then, deviating from their norm that plans will not go the way they expect.

As the movie progresses, we realize that we've seen this before. Nothing ground breaking or earth shattering. Is a bad guy really a good guy or a good guy really a bad guy. I found myself not really caring. The character development wasn't in place that I should care for them. To start with most of the main characters are criminals. If they get caught, they're bad guys and not Robin Hood bad guys who are trying to take back what was rightfully theirs. The one person I cared for was Rachel played by Zoe Saldana. She's got some action acting chops and is hawt and yet she only got a few minutes on screen. The movie could have done with more Zoe screen time!

The action was nothing spectacular. There was lots of intense shooting, not a huge amount of blood given the amount of lead that went flying from the different guns. That taken with some language and sexual situations/partial nudity earned the movie a PG-13 rating. Was my one hour and forty-seven minutes wasted? It wasn't bad but it wasn't great either. For an end of the summer movie it was just average and probably better than the eight extra minutes in Avatar and in the long run saved myself an hour between the two movies run times.

The Movie Monkey

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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa Transportation Information

The question was asked how to get between Honolulu International Airport (HNL) and Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa at Ko olina. It's about 21 miles between HNL and Aulani. Here is the information that I have as of today, August 21, 2010.

I was talking to the folks at the Disney Vacation Club sales kiosk at Ala Moana shopping center. As of now, there is no plan for a Disney Magical Express option for guests. Will there be one in the future? They don't know at this point.

Taking the public bus called The Bus is not an option as they don't go into the Ko Olina resort area. First, you'd have to walk quite a bit to get to a stop on Nimitz Highway for a single bus ride or you'll have to do transfers. At Ko Olina, they stop on Farrington Highway near the Waimanalo Gulch landfill entrance and then you have to cross a busy highway and walk in 1/2 a mile to the resort. Part of the walk in has no walk way. Plus they don't allow big luggage on the bus. I have not heard any plans at this time for The Bus to create or change a route to go into Ko Olina and Aulani. Please don't even attempt this option. The inconvenience and safety are not worth the hassle and risk.

If you take a shuttle service like Reliable Shuttle (808)-924-9292 locally or 888-924-9292 toll free, it would be $31 per person with one bag one way between the two points.

If you take a cab like The Cab (808-422-2222) or Charley's Taxi (808-233-3333) then it is about $75 and $60 or more dollars respectively one way and if there is traffic, well you know how that works!

If you really want to visit other spots on the island, you will need a rent-a-car (RAC). I was told that they will have a RAC counter on property, but no one has been named yet. I'm thinking Alamo as 1) they are the offical RAC for other properties and 2) the name sort of looks Hawaiian.

Driving from HNL to Aulani is very easy as the airport connects to the H1 freeway west or as we say the H1 Ewa bound. The airport RAC locations just follow the signs to H1 West. If you use the off site RAC locations, take Nimitz Highway west and follow the signs to the H1 West. Take H1 West where you'll take the exit marked Ko Olina after about 19-17 miles depending if you got on at the airport or had to take Nimity Hwy. The exit goes up and over the H1 and brings you to a security check point on Aliinui Dr. Once past that, you will go over the Hawaii Railway railroad tracks, past the entrance to Paradise Cove Luau, the Campbell Estate office and then to the intersection with Olani Street a little over a quarter of a mile from the security check point. The speed limit is 25 MPH and they have a radar sign to let you know your speed. Just after Olani from the artist renderings that I've seen will be the porte-cochere entrance to Aulani. With NO traffic on the H1 figure about 30-45 minutes, with traffic, especially rush hour, it may take an hour or more.

Getting out may be a little more difficult as you'll have to get around a median in front on the resort. I haven't seen where they will have the exit for the resort. If they exit you on Kamoana Place, then turn left at the intersection of Kamoana Pl and Aliinui Dr. If you are put onto Allinui Dr you'll need to go to the break in the median at Kamoana Pl and make a U-turn. But, once on Allinui Dr heading back to the security check point, it's a breeze to get back on the H1 going west or east (Diamond Head) bound.

Hope that gives you some more information. Please note all this information is not from Disney and is subject to change.

Information on this blog copyright 2010 Frikitiki Productions

Movie Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

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When you watch Mary Poppins, you hope that you could get that wonderful nanny who would blow into town and make your life all better. Well apparently Mary just deals with groups of two. For larger situations, you call on Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson). In the 2005 original she dealt with seven brothers and sisters who had lost their mother and had scared off seventeen other nannies. This go around there are five children, three from one family belonging to Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a brother and sister who are cousins with all five children causing pandemonium which is why Nanny McPhee Returns. Please note, small "c" and big "P". Thank you very much!

Isabel is trying to hold it all together. She's working at a store, struggling to keep the family farm running and keep hope alive in her children as their father and her husband is off at war. She's attempting to keep at bay her brother in law Phil (Rhys Ifans) who owns half the farm with his military brother and wants to make money by selling the farm. Top that off with the arrival of her niece and nephew from the city and you have one overwhelming situation but Isabel won't admit that.

Nanny McPhee arrives just in time, saying that she's from the War Department with her services being paid for by the Army as it's implied that this is occurring during World War II. She immediately steps up to the plate to teach the children five lessons right away. "When you need me but do not want me then I must stay; when you want me but no longer need me, I have to go." she tells the children. Of course she manages to impart her practical life lessons and moves on. You don't get recommend by drawers, pots, boots and tea cups if you can't accomplish the required task. Getting the approval of inanimate objects would seem to be a rather high compliment!

Taken over from Kirk Jones, director Susanna White gives us a set design and look of the film are very similar to the original. Even the camera shots of the first time the title character is on screen showing her wart, uni-brow and snaggle tooth and then full face is identical between the two movies. Being set on a farm, the family house isn't quite as colorful as the Brown's house in the original but the adults clothing, other than Nanny McPhee's is rather colorful. The English country side is beautiful.

Emma Thompson once again delivers a fine performance as the caster of magic that teaches the children. Through the story a little of Nanny McPhee's history is shown so while we don't know her full story, there are a few rays of light cast giving us those brief glimpses. Ifan as Uncle Phil to the children shows us a different side of his acting. We usually see him as whacked out, care free, let's party and have a good time character. As Phil it was a nice change to see Ifan play a bit of a high stung and uptight man with curly hair and not his usual frizzed out straight hair worried about what might happen to him. Who seemed to be out of place was Gyllenhaal. All of the other adult actors were from England. She's the only one that wasn't and it seemed a bit out of place without a British accent but other than that incongruity, delivered a fine performance.

The story line was pretty straight forward for a children's movie. There was whimsy and magic along with some rude humor (mostly poop jokes), language and mild thematic elements with the kids dealing with war time dad issues that many children of today's soldiers are handling earning the movie a PG rating for its 109 minute run time. The credits are visually interesting to watch as they seemed to mix two different mediums together and at the very end there is an easter egg.

Rumors are that there will be a third movie. Thompson who wrote both movies off of the Christianna Brand Nurse Matilda stories hinted there might be. I would like to see that with the couple of reveals about Nanny McPhee moving the story into a trilogy will give an opportunity to explore and cast some more light on the nanny's magic. Here's wishing for a good box office and a third installment!

The Movie Monkey

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

Friday, August 13, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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So after last week I decided to start with the Art House movies this week instead of the first run movies. Funny thing is that my first choice theater, the local Regal Cinema hasn't been running any art house movies for the past month. So I looked at the regular movies and this week there was enough to keep my interest in that category and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was victorious in my selection of the week.

Imagine if you would taking a video game, a graphic novel, an MTV video, the Batman TV show and a John Hughes teenager angst movie and mashing them together. The result would be Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Who better to play the man with angst but Michael Cera, currently Hollywood's leading angst man! As Scott Pilgrim, Cera gives the character that certain nerdiness, shy, and questioning qualities as a twenty two year old who is dating a high schooler, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). While sleeping he has visions of a women with fuchsia hair or was it magenta...I can never seem to get those two colors right....roller blade past him. The next day, WHAM, he sees his dream girl in the flesh. Can this be coincidence? Probably not!

Scott tracks her down with the help of one of his friends who knows everyone. Turns out her name is Ramoa Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She's just moved to the area to get away from her past. Awkwardly he manages to ask her out to a battle of the bands. He's the bassist in Sex Bob-omb who will be battling for a record deal. Gotta love a band name like that! During their song they are interrupted by Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), one of Ramona's exes who Scott is told he must defeat in order to date her. Turns out there are seven exes and Matthew's just the first. When he confronts Ramona about it she responds "We all have baggage" to which Scott retorts, "Yeah well, my baggage doesn't try and kill me every five minutes."

So far what I've described is the typical boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girls love story formula. Nothing super exciting there. I mentioned MTV and video games and other influences....where does that come in? This is the part of the movie that I found very exciting and exhilarating and refreshing. There were many quick cut edits and at times non linear spatial cuts such as they are talking at one second in Scott's apartment and then next shot on the same conversation is at the record store. Add on top of that the sensibilities of panel frames from a comic book and the corniness from the Batman sound effect cards like "Pow", "Ker Plop" and "Spla-at" resulting in an eye feast while viewing. Some of the back stories for the exes were done in pure cartoon fashion. The fight scenes were staged like arcade games with power meters, hit counts and replays. From the very opening with the Universal Logo you know that the look and feel to this love story will be different.

With the stylized battles, drug references, language and sexual content the movie is rated PG-13 and runs for a very quick 112 minutes. Will everyone find this something to cheer about? Probably not. The visual language presented will probably turn some people off, but I don't think you'd be able to say you've seen anything like this before. It kept my eyes glued to the screen from the production company title cards all the way to the easter egg at the end of the movie.

The Movie Monkey

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Movie Review: Micmacs

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It was one of those weekends again. In theaters was Will Ferrell playing another man boy (at least it looked like it via the previews) or a 3D dance movie. From what I understand, at least the 3D movie was filmed in 3D and not post processed. But I digress. In either case, I wasn't interested in those movies so I looked to the art cinema for something and found something I did! From french director Jean-Pierre Jeunet Micmacs was one of the selections available. The film had played on the film festival circuit starting back in 2009 and had a limited release that began on May 28, 2010.

Well, it made its way to Honolulu for the first weekend in August. Even though it was one of those films where you have to read the words at the bottom of the screen, it was a refreshingly quirky and different kind of film.

The film starts out in the desert. We see a team attempting to clear landmines. It was unsuccessful. During the funeral the property of the dead man is delivered and as the wife gives a blank stare over the open package, the son grabs a packet out of the box and runs to his room. The packet contains crime scene photos where he sees a logo on the land mine remains. Flash forward 30 years and see the boy now a man observing a shooting by his work place. Unfortunately, wrong place and wrong time. He ends up getting shot in the head.

Of course this changes Bazil's (Dany Boon) life. At this point the original french title of Micmacs a tire-larigot comes into play. There is no direct translation but it's something along the lines of non-stop or a lot of shenanigans. After coming out of the hospital with the bullet still embedded in his head, Bazil no longer has a job or home and is adopted into an eclectic "family" who go around Paris, collect junk and recycle them into useful or possibly re-purposed objects. After Bazil discovers the manufacturers of the land mine and bullet that affected his life, he decides to do something about it. The family joins in with a "they all do it together or he doesn't do it at all" attitude.

The movie makes a point about arms dealers. We've seen some of it before but the way that it's brought forth in this movie is more lighthearted and almost whimsical fashion. People would like to see the end of war, expect for the arms dealers. If there was no war and fighting and conflict, these companies wouldn't be in business and making money. Jeunet brings us some of the atrocities of war and slams our head against the wall with the point but at the same times gives us this nice soft fluffy pillow to make the slam comfortable enough that you almost wanted to ask for another one.

You could say that war was declared on the war makers. Each member of the family adds their talents to the plan to bring down the companies involved in making arms. I'm not going to get into the skills or give away the names, that was part of the enjoyment of the film, discovering who these people are. Calling them misfits would be wrong. They are square pegs who instead of trying to fit into a round hole found the square hole where they fit. With one particular sexual distraction used in the plan and the violence of war, the movie is rated R. Now according to sources the movie should have lasted 105 minutes, but I'm not totally sure of length or if there was an easter egg at the end. As the credits started to roll, the actor listing had just started to scroll up the screen when they abruptly stopped and the house lights came on. I hadn't expected the movie to end that way.

If Micmacs comes to your local art house cinema or becomes available via Netflix or in Blockbuster, have a look, I think that you'll find it enjoyable.

The Movie Monkey

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

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