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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Review of Ben-Hur & Kubo and the Two Strings





Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to the chariot races...erm...off to Marquee Cinemas for Ben-Hur and Kubo and the Two Strings. Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First on the docket, the ill-advised remake of Ben-Hur. An exiled prince returns home to seek revenge on the brother who wronged his family.

Regular reader(s) may recall that religious-themed movies fall at or about Nicholas Sparks-level on the list of "Things I Endure Only Under Duress."

I have no great love for 1959's Ben-Hur, but it's an iconic enough piece of cinema that even I recognized this remake as a bad idea. However, I think any movie with Jack Huston is a very good idea indeed, so I headed out to cheer on my man in his silly chariot race.

*sigh* The good news is, while Ben-Hur is far from a great movie, it's not nearly as terrible as I'd feared. Let's get the bad out of the way first, shall we?

This remake is a good 90 minutes shorter than its predecessor, but it still goes on a bit. Some of the dialoge is wrong for the characters and/or the time period, and some of it is just plain wrong.

The first act features some weirdly awkward time hops, the second act is a criminal waste of Morgan Freeman, and the ending is so cheesy it's almost physically painful, but....... Jack Huston is in nearly every single frame of this picture.

I mean, almost every last one. When a guy's the sole reason you plunk down your ten bucks for a ticket, it's hard to complain about a movie that ponies up like that.

Huston is a truly great actor and Ben-Hur doesn't come close to giving his talent a workout, but he does as well as anyone could with it.

There are some gorgeous costumes and nice looking sets, and the film's sound effects are particularly well done. I'm not a believer, myself, but Jesus (whose appearance amounts to little more than a cameo), provides a timely and important reminder that we have to start being better to each other. Really, people. Finally, if the chariot race is what puts butts in the seats, that sequence is a well-executed nail-biter, even if you already know the outcome.

Ben-Hur clocks in at 124 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of violence and disturbing images."

Ben-Hur isn't quite the disaster most anticipated, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement. Oh, and, Jack...if the best of your last three movies is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it might be time to have a little chat with the agent.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Ben-Hur gets five. (But I'll probably see it again because...SO MUCH JACK HUSTON!)

Next up: Kubo and the Two Strings. A boy sets out on a quest to find the magical items that will protect him from an old enemy.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous telling of a gorgeous story. The art and animation are breathtaking and unique, and the tale reflects its culture while being signifcant and relatable to everyone.

Big-name voice talent, in the form of Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, adds to the film's appeal, as does a lovely score by Dario Marianelli. (Be sure to stick around for Regina Spektor's haunting cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" over the end credits!) On the downside, the story is a little slow at times, and some parts may be too scary for younger viewers.

The 3D is also kind of pointless, so don't waste the extra three bucks if you can avoid it. Kubo and the Two Strings runs 101 minutes and is rated PG for "thematic elements, scary images, action, and peril." 2016 is proving to be a banner year for really great animated offerings, and Kubo and the Two Strings is among the best.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Kubo and the Two Strings gets seven and a half.

Until next time...


Saturday, August 20, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: BAD MOMS







































Three overstressed, overworked mothers (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn) decide to blow off their responsibilities and have some fun, but their wild ways cause them to clash with a rival mommy (Christina Applegate) who's dedicated to preserving the facade of her perfect life. Jada Pinkett Smith co-stars. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. ~ Jack Rodgers, Rovi
Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore 

Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jay Hernandez, Annie Mumolo

Release Date: Jul 29, 2016

Rated R for Full Frontal Nudity, Drug and Alcohol Content, Language Throughout and Sexual 
Material

Runtime: 1 hr. 41 min.

Genres: Comedy

Review:

Bad Moms is a fairly straightforward women behaving badly comedy that offers a decent amount of laughs.  It’s a great showcase for Mila Kunis who is a gifted comedic actress who’s deserved a showcase for a while.  Kunis is great in her role but Kathryn Hahn nearly steals the show as her bawdy new friend.  Hahn is always the most interesting person on screen and covers for some underlying script issues.  Kristen Bell is solid if unimpressive, mainly due to a thinly written character.  There in lies the films biggest issue.  The actors really make a weak script far better than it should be.  The characters are all types more than actual people.  It’s not a terrible flaw since the actors all turn in solid work but noticeable enough to make you wish they’d spent a bit more time fleshing these characters out.

B-

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reveiws of Pete’s Dragon & Florence Foster Jenkins

Dearest Blog, yesterday I decided to leave Sausage Party to the grownups (my blog partner Daniel!) while I headed off to Marquee Cinemas for the inoffensive pairing of Pete's Dragon and Florence Foster Jenkins. Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. First up: Disney's remake of Pete's Dragon. 
An orphaned boy survives in the wild with help from his best friend...who happens to be a dragon. Dear Reader(s), I have not seen the 1977 version of Pete's Dragon. I like to think that leaves me free of nostalgia that might unfairly bias my opinion of this remake, but, sadly, I am still underwhelmed. My first issue is that the dragon looks awful, resembling a jungle cat with wings more than anything else. 
The movie attempts to imbue him with pet-like mannerisms, but doesn't come close to the excellence of How to Train Your Dragon in that regard. Both television and film have set a pretty high barre for dragons these days, and a picture with a titular dragon cannot afford to fail on that front. Filmmakers have loaded the movie with an environmentally-conscious message, cookie-cutter good and bad guys, and moody pseudo-folk tunes, but none of that is any help to this dull rehash of a tired tale that's been told a thousand times before, with only the details varying. 
There's an unintentionally hilarious moment where two adults, first faced with the dragon, hide behind a child (really??) and, despite having nothing else to date the movie outside a few older-looking vehicles, everyone in Pete's Dragon still uses a land line. 
I found that even more unbelievable than dragons! Having said all that, even the worst movie has its positives, and Pete's Dragon boasts some gorgeous scenery and dizzying aerial shots. 
It's also worth noting that "Forest Ranger" Bryce Dallas Howard has learnt her lesson from Jurassic World and is at least wearing sensible shoes to run around the wilderness this time. Pete's Dragon runs 102 minutes and is rated PG for "action, peril, and brief language." Pete's Dragon is a weak effort from Disney that has very little to recommend it. Maybe take the kids to see Secret Life of Pets again instead. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Pete's Dragon gets three. Fangirl points: Robert Redford. Karl Urban. 
On the same screen. I nearly swooned myself to death! Next on the agenda: Florence Foster Jenkins, a.k.a. This Year's Meryl Streep Oscar Nomination. 
The true story of a a wealthy heiress who, encouraged by her husband, pursues a singing career despite a notable lack of talent. 
There's no hiding the fact that Florence Foster Jenkins' primary function is the annual throwing of Meryl Streep's hat into the Awards Season Sweepstakes. She is her usual magnificent self here, expertly playing both the comedy and the tragedy of Jenkins. Jenkins was a terrible singer who believed (or was led to believe) she was actually good, and Streep tackles her performances with the earnestness of a woman who not only believes in herself, but is making a genuine effort to learn and improve. 
On the surface, there are sadder aspects of her story (a chronic illness and an unfaithful husband, for starters), but to me none of it seems any more tragic than being the butt of a joke of which everyone but her is aware. 
It makes the character sympathetic, bordering on pathetic, and makes the movie almost too uncomfortable to watch at times, though its saving grace is it's never mean spirited. Hugh Grant is charming as Jenkins' enabling husband, and Simon Helberg is delightful as her young accompanist. His reactions to her caterwauling are some of the movie's funniest moments. 
Like Eddie the Eagle before it, Florence Foster Jenkins presents viewers with some awkward questions: To what point can devotion and enthusiasm substitute for talent and skill? Is it better or more kind to destroy a loved one's dream than to let him make a fool of himself? If a good movie is one that leaves you thinking about the points it raises, then Florence Foster Jenkins certainly fits the bill. 
Outside of Streep's extraordinary work, the film probably isn't special enough to create much of a stir come awards time, but if you love music more than anything else (as I do, and as Jenkins did), you're going to feel this one in your very soul. Florence Foster Jenkins clocks in at 110 minutes and is rated PG13 for "brief suggestive material." Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful, if sometimes awkward, story that's bolstered by strong performances and likeable characters. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Florence Foster Jenkins gets seven. 
Until next time...




Saturday, August 13, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: SAUSAGE PARTY







































A misplaced sausage (voice of Seth Rogen) and his food friends embark on an existential adventure through the aisles of a massive supermarket in this raunchy animated comedy. While they are initially excited by the prospect of a Fourth of July sale, the perishable pals are soon horrified when they learn the full truth about what happens after they are purchased.

Director: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera

Release Date: Aug 12, 2016

Rated R for pervasive Language, Drug Use and Strong Crude Sexual Content

Runtime: 1 hr. 29 min.

Genres: Animated, Comedy

Review:

Sausage Party is every bit as raunchy and politically incorrect coming from the minds of  Seth Rogen, Johan Hill, and Evan Goldberg.  If not for the sheer amount of F bombs and sex jokes this would fit right in with any Pixar movie.  The basis of the plot is very similar to some of the Toy Story films taken to the extreme with a focus on sex while skewering organized religion and various other topics along the way.  It’s pretty easy to get lost in all the raunchy fun but the script does a great job of satirizing a lot of big themes.  Even with it’s headier themes mixed into the plot the film accomplices it’s primary goal of being laugh out loud funny for the better part of it’s runtime.  The trek through the grocery store is a cornucopia of set pieces which are incredibly impressive and fun all leading up to a final scene that will either make you laugh uncontrollably or shake your head in disbelief.   

A
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