MOVIE MADNESS UPDATE #2

Movies featured in this update in CHASING MAVERICKS, GAMBIT, THIS IS 40, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS and FRANKENWEENIE.

#173: Chasing Mavericks

There’s been lots of surfing movies through the years. One’s that have defined a generation (Endless Summer), pure adrenaline (Point Break), family fare (Soul Surfer) and documentaries (Step Into Liquid). Chasing Mavericks is kind of like what if “The Karate Kid” was about surfing instead of karate. Butler is Mr. Miyagi and Jonny Weston is well “the kid”. The only thing that saves it from being a Karate Kid movie is that it is based on a true story of surfing legend, Jay Moriarty. It is quite a solid family film with strong supporting performances from Abigail Spencer and Elisabeth Shue. (3.5 out of 5)

#174: Gambit (2012)

Back in 1966, Michael Caine teamed up with Shirley MacLaine to take down Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther) in a carefully played out art heist. The movie was far from a classic but it did setup Ronald Neame for a string of hits to close out his seventy plus year career behind the camera in Hollywood. The 2012 remake teams Colin Firth & Cameron Diaz looking to takedown Alan Rickman. Written by the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers, the remake has some solid wit, playful consideration and interesting performances but it lacks conviction. The star studded parties involved are just cashing paychecks here. Rickman’s mean, rich guy has been played to death. Firth’s stumbling Brit is another paint-by-numbers character. And well Cameron Diaz’s cowgirl just isn’t wild enough of a wildcard that the film craves. I do wonder how good this movie could have become if the Coen’s had directed it themselves. It might have been as classic as their gem “Raising Arizona”. (3 out of 5)

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#175: This is 40

It is official, Judd Apatow has forgotten what comedy is. How many more bank shots can this former genius keep serving up? Ever since 2009’s “Funny People”, Apatow has changed his directing style. His running times have increased, the laughs have vacated the premise and former funny people are now DOA. Take Apatow alum Paul Rudd for example, he is usually hysterical because he knows how to tickle our funnybones when he is allowed to be awkward and unconfident. But here he is an unsympathetic matriarch who’s mid-life crisis threatens to destroy his happy family. That is way too serious for a Apatow improv comedy. Leslie Mann (or Mrs. Apatow) is the only saving grace of this film. She is a force of nature and the best character in the film. But really I think that has to do with Apatow and his faith in her. There is too much drama here and not enough laughs. (2 out of 5)

#176: Rise of the Guardians

I expected more from this holiday-themed Avengers movie. But the script itself felt more like a made for Saturday morning special than a theatrical event. The idea is sound. The characters are well designed. Jack Frost’s redemption is interesting. But the rest is just tinsel poppy-cock! The movie needed to be reworked from the ground up. The script, the motives, the story and which holidays could be used. You also needed a real, nasty villain (how about a shape-changing Halloween villain?) and the power of heart. These are reasons why this will never be a classic it could have been. (2 out of 5)

#177: Frankenweenie (2012)

Back in 1984, Tim Burton directed a live-action movie about a boy, inspired by the movie Frankenstein, brings his dog back to life. The 30-minute short became a cult classic. Burton felt restricted by just how dark he could go with his work for Disney and left. Frankenweenie was his last project for the Mouse House. Now nearly thirty years later, Burton returned to the property to expand the short to a animated feature film. The result is extremely mixed. While Burton tries to evoke emotion and mines his imagination for new subplots, he never really finds the allure and magic that was that classic short. The idea and concept was perfect at 30 minutes but when stretched it feels the weight. Kind of like expanding a 20-minute cartoon or sitcom into a feature film. (2.5 out of 5) 

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