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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Movie Review - Strange Magic


Strange Magic $$$$

 


PG
99 Minutes

Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Elijah Kelley, Meredith Ann Bull, and Sam Palladio.
Directors: Gary Rydstrom.

 
            I happened to be looking for a PG movie to take my family to see and this is what was playing at the luxury theater we planned to attend. Nobody in the family had heard anything about the film so we were a bit unprepared for a musical. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed it, but it took a few numbers for us to adjust our thinking. The best way to describe the movie is Grease in fairyland.

            The plot is pretty simple. Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) is preparing to marry Roland (Sam Palladio) when she catches him cheating on her. She vows to never fall in love again. Meanwhile, Sunny (Elijah Kelley) travels into the dark forest in order to have the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) create a love potion that will make Marianne’s sister, Dawn (Meredith Ann Bull) fall in love with him. The problem with that is the Bog King (Alan Cumming) holds the Sugar Plum Fairy captive and forbids the making of any more love potions.
            There you have it, a tale of love from both the light and dark side of the point of view. And even though I found it a bit odd, I really enjoyed it.
           

            This is how I rated Strange Magic.

1. Fun – How can nearly 100 minutes of music and the pursuit of love not be fun? Alright—don’t answer that. I like musicals and this certainly hit the spot. I gave the film a full MB for fun.

2. Story – Let’s face it, musicals are fairly weak as far as story goes. Other than being on the simple side there is nothing wrong with this one. I enjoy where they go with the story, but don’t feel that it deserves a full rating for it. I gave Strange Magic half a MB for a pretty standard tale.

3. Technical – Good animation. Check. Lively music and sound. Check. An interesting take on the classic romantic tale. Check. I gave it a full MB for hitting all the right technical notes.

4. Acting – The acting did not get in the way of the story. Which is good, but not great. Alan Cumming (The Bog King) turns in the strongest performance in the film. I also enjoyed Elijah Kelley and Maya Rudolph (Grisela) as well. However, the acting just wasn’t strong enough to warrant a full MB so I am giving it half a MB for some solid voice work.

            That combines for a rating of 3 Movie Bucks. And that may be an unfair rating as I would be willing to pay full price to see the film again. It was a lot of fun. A matinee makes more sense for an outing with the entire family, but don’t hesitate to take a date to this and pay full price (assuming that both of you like odd musical fare).


                        Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Movie Review - The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies  $$$ 1/2

 
 

PG-13
144 Minutes
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and Luke Evans.
Director: Peter Jackson.
          

            This is the final installment of The Hobbit series. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the film I think it is the weakest of the three movies. That being said, I still think it is worth going to see.  

            The mighty dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been awakened and the citizens of Laketown will suffer. Smaug torches the entire town, but is miraculously killed by the human, Bard (Luke Evans). With winter setting in  and the dragon dead the humans seek shelter among the ruins of the dwarven city. And they are not the only ones interested in Thorin’s (Richard Armitage) legacy. The elves have arrived, wanting the return of priceless elvish jewelry that are among the vast wealth of the dwarven coffers. On top of all of that drama, an immense army of orcs are on the way. Da-da-daaaaa.   
            For those of you who were counting, that’s only four armies. You want to know who else shows up for this bloody party, see the movie.
                      

            Here is how I ranked the The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:

            1. Fun – As surprising as it sounds I’m only giving a Half a MB for fun. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was fun and held my attention, but it is too focused on action and doesn’t have enough of the other elements which make for a good story. What can you expect? This is an entire movie about the battle that happens at the end of The Hobbit. I don’t feel that it was intended to be an entire nearly 3-hour movie.
            The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets Half a MB for fun.

            2. Story – Here comes surprise number two, following on the heels of my comments about the movie being an extended action scene I am going to applaud the writers for putting in as many non-combat elements as they did. I enjoyed the interspecies romance between Kili (Aidan Turner) and  Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).  The golden curse storyline with Thorin (Richard Armitage) is excellent. And adding Bard’s (Luke Evans) struggle to save the people of Laketown gives some of that human element every film needs to succeed. 
            The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets a Full MB for story.

            3. Technical – As with all of Peter Jackson’s films the visual effects are as beautiful as they are stunning. Fantasy creatures, picturesque landscapes, and the impressive innards of the dwarven halls under the mountain.  
            The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets a Full MB for Technical.

            4. Acting – Outstanding on all fronts. I can’t think of anyone who turned in a lackluster performance.            
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies  gets a Full MB for acting.
 

            The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets a rating of 3 ½  Movie Bucks. This is one of those films that really need to be seen at the theater. A large screen and state-of-the-art sound system will enhance you movie-going experience for this movie. I suggest a matinee, but paying full price would be alright too.
 

                        Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Movie Review - Penguins of Madagascar


Penguins of Madagascar $$$ 1/2  

 
 

PG
92 Minutes
Starring: Tom McGrath, Christopher Knights, John Malkovich, and Benedict Cumberbatch.  
Directors: Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith.
  

            In my opinion, the penguins were the best part of any of the Madagascar films. They have their own television show. And now they have a movie. Hooray. 
            As far as a plot goes, to celebrate the birthday of Private (Christopher Knights) the penguins break into a highly-secure facility to obtain a rare treasure and are snagged by the evil mad-scientist, Dave (John Malkovich).
            Being the resourceful flightless birds that they are they escape and find themselves working at odds with a secret organization known as the North Wind. Both teams run afoul (pun intended) of one another as they attempt to prevent Dave from unleashing his diabolical plan upon the world.
     

            This is how I rated Penguins of Madagascar .

1. Fun – A movie like this might appeal to you if you like to laugh a lot. I know I certainly enjoyed it. Watch for the celebrity name dropping done by Dave whenever he speaks to his minions. I give it a Full MB for fun.

2. Story – The story really is only there to provide a vehicle for the penguins to travel around the globe creating havoc in their own unique way. I did like the plotline involving Private and his quest to be a valuable member of the team. I give it Half a MB for a decent, uncomplicated storyline.

3. Technical – Dreamworks puts out quality films with high expectations in the technical department. This movie is no exception. I give it a Full MB for visual and audio excellence.

4. Acting – Strong performances all around. You should already know what to expect from the penguins and they deliver. Perhaps a little more so from Private. John Malkovich does an outstanding job with Dave. Benedict Cumberbatch is great as Classified. The North Wind is well-represented with Peter Stormare as Corporal. I give a Full MB for the Dreamwork-standard voice work.

Put that all together and Penguins of Madagascar earns 3 ½ Movie Bucks. It is well worth the price of prime time ticket. Although, if you have several children you probably should consider catching it as a matinee.


                        Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.