Saturday, June 1, 2013

After Earth

After Earth, PG-13

1hour 40 minutes

2 stars

There are times when your expectations exceed your abilities.  This happens to Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) in the new film “After Earth.”  He is hoping to become a ranger just as his father, Cypher Raige (Will Smith).  Despite his efforts he falls short and will not advance after his evaluation is finished.  Not living up to his father’s ideals bothers Kitai but he is determined to keep going.

His father is a legend because he is able to “ghost” with alien creatures, Ursa, that track humans by smelling fear.  They use smell since they are blind and cannot see humans.

Kitai has a tough time facing his past.  He has memories of his sister being attacked by an Ursa and killed in their home.   This hinders his ability to be like his father and “ghost” as he does.  

Cypher is a military man and is tough on his son even to a fault.  In an effort to get closer to his son Cypher tells Kitai he will join him on his last mission before he retires.  While traveling to the training grounds their ship is damaged and crashes on earth.  It is 1000 years since humans left the planet so no one knows what to expect.  They are the only survivors and Dad is not in good shape.
The beacon they need to send back to their home planet in located in the tail section of their ship which landed about 100km away from their location.  Kitai must prove he has the ability to accomplish this task.  Oh they also were transporting an Ursa for training purposes, and it is possibly on the loose.

It is interesting that this film uses the theme of living up to an example for its central story, because the film itself is lacking in that department.  The story is a good one and a good idea but some of the plot points do not add up.

For instance the Ursas, they are blind but yet they still can stick a dead body on a sharpened limb to frighten other humans.  Also the environmental message is a little strong.  If you are looking for a political statement from your films then it probably won’t be too bad.  

While the story is a good idea it doesn’t feel complete.  There were times that it felt like the story jumped forward in time.  While the acting was good Will Smith is usually better than this.  It seems his strict father act doesn’t work on film.  He tried to be too serious.  Plus the final battle is definatly done on a green screen stage with tons of CGI.

All in all this can be a good film to see on video when it comes out but probably not good enough to spend the money to see it in theaters.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3, PG-13
3.5 Stars

By the time a franchise has hit the third film in the series fans know what to expect.  Characters are established, relationships are strong and you just need a different bad guy, as long as you didn’t kill off the one in the previous film.  So what should you expect when it comes to “Iron Man 3?”  A little old and new mixed together.

You will remember all the favorite characters coming back, except for Agent Coulson unfortunately.   Then there is the new bad guy, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).  He has some terroristic tendencies, and is exercising them against the United States.  Kingsley does very well as the bad guy up to a point.  Then he is not so believable as his character.  

Watching this film is much like going back to the Iron Man Comic book.  There are no other heroes present, unless you count War Machine.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) though is very troubled by what happened in New York in the Avengers film.  There are demons haunting him when he sleeps and he wonders how he can keep Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) safe.  

Through all of this The Mandarin is attacking.  There are explosions happening all around the country but there is no evidence of a bomb to be found.  It hits for Stark when Happy Hogan (John Favreu) is hurt in an attack at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.   That’s when Stark gives his address out on TV and dares The Mandarin to come find him.  Find him he does, and Stark must deal with what he has done.
Marvel has a lot to live up to following the success of “The Avengers” last year.  They did a very good job of it with this film.  The same comedic vein that runs through “Avengers” runs through “Iron Man 3.”  Plus the action is just as good as the first “Iron Man.”  For many the second film in this trilogy was not great, but this one surpasses that one.  While this is a good film it is not the perfection that we saw in “The Avengers” but it is close.   

Parents you can expect a bit of violence in this film but you should know that already.  That violence includes explosions, gun battles, a helicopter attack with missiles, plus hand to hand combat.  There are also some scenes with women not wearing many clothes.  Girls are playing ping pong in swimsuits and some are in bed in lingerie.  There is no nudity except for some men who are shirtless.  Profanity is not used as much as it could but there are a few words spread around.  Plus there are some people injected with a substance that changes them drastically.

All in all this is a good film.  If you liked “The Avengers” you will like “Iron Man 3.”

Saturday, April 13, 2013


“42” PG-13
Warner Bros.
4 Stars

Baseball has been around for more than a hundred years.  Movies about baseball have not been around that long but there are many films that use the sport as a central theme. 

I do have a bias to claim at this point, I am a huge baseball fan, so any film that uses baseball as a background already has a good start.  That being said I do not like every baseball film but “42” is one I love.  

There are good baseball movies like “The Bad News Bears, “Major League” and “Angels in the Outfield.” Then there are great movies that have baseball in them such as “Field of Dreams, “The Natural and “The Rookie.”  “42” falls in the latter category.  

This is the story of Jackie Robinson and how he broke the color barrier in baseball.  Robinson was a letterman athlete at UCLA in 4 sports, baseball, basketball, football, and track.  He was also the first person to accomplish the feat.  

After a stint in the military, Robinson was playing baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues.  While there he was a star shortstop hitting very well and making it to the All-Star game in 1945.  The schedule was very hectic and did not allow Robinson to communicate well with his then girlfriend Rachel Isum, who he met at UCLA.

In the meantime the General Manager of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey, was looking to sign an African-American player to the organization in Brooklyn.  He noticed Robinson’s statistics and brought him to his New York office to discuss the situation.

This meeting is only a part of the film that stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Rickey.  Both actors did their homework for this film, making each character believable and relatable for the audience.  Ford did a wonderful job of taking on Rickey’s persona and using a much different voice than his own.  It is probably too early but Ford should get a nomination for his work in this film.

This film does try to hold true to the history behind the story.  As a result, there are some truths that parents will have to deal with if they take kids to see this film.  First of all is the use of the “N” word.  People used that word quite a bit in the 40’s and it is used a lot in the film.  Its use comes in spurts depending on the scene and what is happening.  There is other language in the film but it does not come close the use of racial slurs.  

There is some violence in the film.  Many players did not want Robinson to be in baseball and they tried to scare him physically by throwing at him and spiking him.  There are many threats portrayed in the film both verbal and written.

Overall though, the most important things parents should consider are the messages in this film.  Not only is there a wonderful display of how discrimination hurts society as a whole, but you will also see why a person should believe in themselves.  Plus there are great examples of courage and standing up for what is right despite what others might think.

So if you are considering that you might not like this film because it is about baseball.  Consider that this film is not only about baseball but how baseball has helped to form that society into what it is today. 

This is not just a great baseball movie but a great story on its own.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"The Croods"

“The Croods” PG
3 Stars

What was it like for a family back in the day?  Way back in the day, so far back in the day that you weren’t the top of the food chain. “The Croods” might have an answer for you or it could just be an entertaining film for your family.  

Eep (voice of Emma Stone) is a teenager who must deal with living in a cave for days at a time with her family.  She has to live by the rules set by Grug (voice of Nicholas Cage), her father.  Those rules include one that states; never be not afraid.  The other rule that has kept them alive for so long is never leave the cave.

Being a teenager, and a very curious one at that, Eep leaves the cave to explore a light that she sees.  She then discovers Guy (voice of Ryan Reynolds) and he can make fire.  This is a new experience for the family who usually find themselves in the dark each night.  

After a small earthquake the family must face life without their cave.  They are forced to travel and find a new home.  Little do they know that not just the way they have to think is changing but so is the whole world around them. 

“The Croods” is a good film for the entire family.  Parents will enjoy it as well as the kids.  There is plenty of humor to make everyone laugh.  The story moves along at a good pace and there are some touching moments as well.  Plus, the filmmakers included a very good message about families.

The violence in the film is the same as watching a cartoon.  No blood is ever shown and the characters bounce back.  Since this is an animated film that is probably not a surprise.  The rest of the content is also easy to handle for kids.  There are moments when animals are attacking and feeding, but again nothing very scary.   

The Croods are savages so when it does come time to eat something, they don’t exactly have table manners.  Then again they don’t have a table.  The relationships within the family seem true,  there are moments of contention but things work out.
If you are looking for family entertainment this would be the movie to see.