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>> Monday, February 14, 2011

A tired tale? Hardly.

It was inevitable, wasn't it? That one day Elton John would insist on being part of a project that combined his loves of Shakespeare and garden gnomes. As executive producer for Gnomeo & Juliet, he's done just that - but he's not the only man behind the curtain in this fun tale of two gnome families duking it out. It also comes to us in part from director Kelly Asbury, who unsurprisingly also headed 2004's Shrek 2 - my favorite Shrek film to date.

The story itself is of course based on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It's also based on Gnome Culture - surprisingly, we get no references on behalf of or referencing Travelocity. There are two families of gnomes - the Blue and the Red. Each color represents the owners who bought the ceramic figures, named Montague and Capulet.

The two colors it seems have been battling it out forever. They play pranks on each other and when the owners are away they have lawnmower races in the alley. While playing a prank one night on the reds (AKA the Capulets), a disguised Gnomeo (James McAvoy) runs into Emily Blunt's Juliet (who also happens to be in disguise and on a mission of her own). They fall in love almost instantly and it isn't long before they discover that they are, alas, enemies.

Whenever they get the chance, they tryst in a neighbouring abandoned backyard whose only inhabitant is a rejected pink flamingo named Featherstone (Jim Cummings). Other notable appearances come from Matt Lucas who plays Benny and Ashley Jensen who plays the wise-cracking Nanette.

What I really liked about Gnomeo & Juliet was the fact that the original 400 year old play was nothing more than a guideline. The writers realized it's been done before and that a simple translation wouldn't be funny no matter how cute the gnomes would be. There's even a comment on this within the film itself where a statue of Bill Shakespeare (voiced by Patrick Stewart) tells Gnomeo that his lovelorn tale sounds similar to a story he wrote and that "it didn't end well".

Gnomeo & Juliet gets an open door. It's funny, clever and isn't afraid to recognize itself as nothing more than a movie who's title is based purely and simply on a pun. However, anybody that knows me knows that there's nothing more that I enjoy than a good pun - and there are lots here (as well as a lot of quick references to other Shakespeare tales). A lot of people find garden and lawn gnomes creepy -but if their anything like these guys when nobody is around, I certainly don't mind.

*Stills courtesy of Miramax Films


SANCTUM (2011)

>> Monday, February 7, 2011


First off, this isn't a James Cameron film. That needs to be made clear to those of you saying "Oh, I'm on my way to see James Cameron's Sanctum" or "the new James Cameron flick". This needs to be stressed in a way most things don't, because if Sanctum were a real James Cameron picture you would undoubtedly see a nice Open Door logo to your left. No, this is indeed an Aliston Grierson film, who in the past has also directed... - well, nothing (that is to say nothing that's ever mattered).

Sanctum is about a group of people who get stuck in a cave underground somewhere in Papua New Guinea, just as a cyclone starts flooding that same cave. Think The Descent (2005) mixed with Hard Rain (1998) mixed with a bus load of bullshit. By the end of this thing I had seen more unoriginal and satirical material than one can find in all the nineteen Scary Movies combined.

Breaking it down, the film is about a father-son relationship that needs some work. The father, Frank, is played by Richard Roxburgh and the son, Josh, is played by Rhys Wakefield. There are other characters involved, of course, (including Fantastic Four's Ioan Gruffudd) but they don't really matter because in the end all you have is a group of flat, two-dimensional characters fighting their way through a predictable storyline that ends in just as a predictable fashion.

I am (obviously) giving Sanctum a closed door. While the 3D was fine and the cinematography pretty well done, there's nothing here we haven't seen before. It's the usual fight-for-your-life survival story with one character who panics, one guy who's the hero, one character who's a selfish butthole and another who knows everything. While parts of this film are enjoyable and some people may find this 'adventure' amusing, enjoyable or maybe even inspiring, for me it just came off as ... meh. No-name filmmaker? Yes. James Cameron? HELLZ NO!

*Stills courtesy of Relativity Media


THE RITE (2011)

>> Thursday, February 3, 2011

The rite stuff.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is back to being as creepy as he possibly can in the year's first excorcism movie. Either the churches are pushing for more of these (it was only last September we were treated to The Last Exorcism) or Hollywood is thinking this is the new 'hot thing' - as it was thirty years ago. Either way, I'm happy to say that while The Rite has some moments of weakness, it's far better than Last Exorcism in style, acting and consistency.

Hopkins plays Father Lucas Trevant, an exorcist in Italy who has done more than 2, 000 exorcisms in his lifetime. We first meet up with Father Lucas when the lead character in the film, Michael Kovak (Colin O' Donoghue) is sent to him by a colleague. Kovak is there to acquire the proof he needs to make sure that the line of work he plans on entering (a Priest) isn't a big ol' sham. In a sense, Kovak represents us, the viewers.

What Kovak experiences in his first exorcism at the hands of Lucas, is enough to convince most people that this ritual isn't all smoke and mirrors. But not Kovak. He's a doubter and it'll take more than a few bloody nails being coughed up before he'll believe in the Devil. So what happens next? Well the Devil says "Fair enough, Michael. You want proof? You got it." The rest, as they say, is history.

At least that's what the filmmakers would like to you believe - that The Rite is not only inspired by true events (as it blatently states in the credits), but that it's an actual true story. This is where my only real issue with the film lies. While it's one thing to state this film is inspired by true events, it's another to state it's all fact using a couple of 'Here's where they are now' paragraphs randomly thrown in at the end of the movie. Now, I don't mind it when fictional movies try and seem real to add to their overall effect (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity, etc). What I do mind, however, is when a perfectly fine narrative soils itself at the last minute by trying to throw in little factoids to make the whole thing seem 'scarier'. A movie going audience isn't naive and if you're not going to market The Rite as a true story from the get-go then don't try and squeeze it in last minute. Especially when your 'true story' facts go something like "Michael Kovak now runs a parish just outside of Chicago" - upon looking I found over 100 parishes in that area. In this case, the devil really is in the details.

Despite my peeve within relation to this feeble attempt at building a larger audience, I'm giving The Rite an open door. Hopkins was fantastic in it (as was most of the cast) and regardless of the female lead AliceBraga's two-dimensional character (not important enough to mention, really), the film and story are relatively fleshed out enough that you'll have a good enough time. The scary moments are scary, the creepy moments are creepy and the epic moments are - well, epic. Hannibal is back, baby!

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures



>> Tuesday, February 1, 2011


My friend Luke (of EditingLuke) will surely be disappointed with me this time. He was the last person that I heard that really enjoyed the first two movies in this series (Big Momma's House 1 & 2), and I've no doubt that in preparation for this year's Oscars, he will be in line at the theatre opening day to catch this third (and hopefully final) installment.

But why do I refuse to see what is surely to be a masterpiece of fat-suit phenomena? Frankly, if you didn't get your fill in Big Momma's House, you should have definitely had enough by the time the credits rolled on the second film. The trailer offers up it's usual puns and lines which you just know is the best (and possibly only) funny material in this outdated flick. Those moments alone are enough to make your eyes roll to the point of nausea, not to mention what one can expect from seeing the film in it's entirety.

While Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son will undoubtedly have it's moments, it's not worth a few of mine. Luke, the movie opens February 18th. If you like it (and I mean really like it), I'll make you a deal and give you the $5 to scoop it out of the Wal-Mart bin next month just in time for your birthday.

*Note: Luke normally has an impeccable taste when it comes to good movies, but he really did enjoy the first two Big Momma movies. For shame...


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