FSR's Weekly Report Card

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for brief war violence, sexual content, language and smoking.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali and Julia Ormond

Directed by: David Fincher

What it’s about: The son of a famous button maker is born as an 80-year-old man and ages in reverse. Through his backwards life, he discovers love, war and some meaning behind it all.

What I liked: I was urged by the publicist to see this movie in digital projection (rather than watch it at home on a screener disc) because of the film’s stunning visual look. I can’t say this was a bad idea. The cinematography for this movie is simply breathtaking.

As a film that runs nearly three hours, it did keep my interest (although I can’t say that every minute of the film was worth it). The acting was decent from the main players, with the exception of Cate Blanchett overdoing it as an 80-year-old woman in her flashbacks.

What I didn’t: I have to admit I was underwhelmed by the characters. While the movie itself is decent, I don’t see what the fuss is about. The character of Benjamin Button is pretty lame. He really doesn’t do much but rather just stumbles through his life. And he’s a weak-willed person with the decisions he makes near the end of the movie. I can’t say that I was surprised to learn this was an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, considering the humdrum passion it had.

Who is gonna like this movie: Award film junkies and people who go ga ga over Brad Pitt.

Grade: B-

VALKYRIE

Studio: United Artists

Rated: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp and Eddie Izzard

Directed by: Bryan Singer

What it’s about: In the latter days of World War II, a handful of Nazi officers, led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), are plotting a way to assassinate Hitler and send the German government in a new direction. Colonel von Stauffenberg manipulates German law, in particular the Valkyrie initiative, to try to take over the government.

What I liked: I’ve always liked a good World War II picture, and this one has many elements that make it thrilling. There are plenty of tense moments as you watch to see if the plan is going to work, and the twisted politics behind the hatching of this plan is intriguing to watch.

What I didn’t: Let’s start with the thing everyone seems to be complaining about: the accents. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing to not have the proper accent, but in this movie it’s literally all over the map. You have American accents, British accents and German accents from the actual German actors. You even have Eddie Izzard (a Brit) doing an American accent as a Nazi.

I read on Wikipedia that, “Some of the non-German actors initially experimented with German accents, but Singer discarded the idea, instead instructing them to adopt neutral accents that ‘[wouldn’t] distract from the story’.” I read that to mean that the anchor star and head of the studio (i.e., Tom Cruise) couldn’t do a proper accent, and no one could fire him for it.

It’s really Tom Cruise who held this movie back. Bryan Singer, who is normally a really good director (save that ass-clown of a film, Superman Returns), seemed shackled by making Cruise look like the nicest Nazi in history and couldn’t explore the film properly.

Who is gonna like this movie: Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Suri… maybe.

Grade: C

THE SPIRIT

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.

Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Louis Lombardi, Sarah Paulson and Jaime King

Directed by: Frank Miller

What it’s about: A cop was shot years ago and has resurrected as The Spirit, a mysterious crime fighter who cannot die. Tons of hot women cause problems in his life, along with Samuel L. Jackson as The Octopus as one of the goofiest comic adaptations in a long while.

What I liked: Let me start by acknowledging that Frank Miller is one hell of a creative genius. He was bitten by the filmmaking bug when Robert Rodriguez worked with him on Sin City. He imitated that filmmaking style for The Spirit, and while it diverges from Will Eisner’s original look, it still was pretty cool.

There are moments in The Spirit that are fantastic, shocking and fun, although it’s not a consistent burn through the film. Similarly, the eye candy in the film (courtesy of Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King and a underestimated Stana Katic as Morgenstern) is pretty impressive for a PG-13 rating. Gotta love Eva Mendes’ assets.

What I didn’t: This movie was just damn goofy. While I enjoyed parts of it, the down parts were scratch-your-eyes-out bad. Scarlett Johansson proved once again that she’s really not that great of an actress. Samuel L. Jackson is spending more time playing caricatures of himself than actually getting into a role.

Frank Miller has some neat ideas, but he floundered through The Spirit like a first-year film school wannabe. Too much of the visual style was copied from Sin City, which he pioneered, but it doesn’t match Eisner’s original style. Similarly, he camped things up too much in this movie to be taken seriously.

Who is gonna like this movie: People so desperate to see Sin City 2 that they’ll settle for anything… and anyone who wants an eyeful of Eva Mendes’s bodacious ass.

Grade: C+

MARLEY AND ME

Studio: 20the Century Fox

Rated: PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language.

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner adn Alan Arkin

Directed by: David Frankel

What it’s about: Owen Wilson plays newspaper columnist John Grogan who gets a dog for his wife (Jennifer Aniston) to prepare them for having kids. However, he ends up choosing an adorable yellow lab that turns into the worst dog in the world. Still, the Grogan family keeps Marley the dog and learns to love him, making him a permanent fixture in their lives.

What I liked: I’ve been a dog lover for years, so I immediately fell in love with Marley and Me. Sure, it tugs at all the heart strings, and it pushes buttons. This is a damn manipulative movie. But it’s also a damn good movie, if you like that sort of thing.

Owen Wilson was a perfect choice to play Grogan because of his likeability, especially when he’s a bit of a slacker. A lesser slacker actor would have been annoying (considering Marley wasn’t a bad dog; his “parents” were the ones that needed some training). However, Wilson saves the day on the human side.

Likewise, Jennifer Aniston (whom I normally don’t like that much) works well in the role of Grogan’s wife. She’s comfortable and likeable in the role, and the fact that I didn’t find her annoying is a testament to how well she worked in the film.

Oh, and the dog was freakin’ awesome.

What I didn’t: Not much. There’s nothing about this movie that was a problem. Sure, it’s gonna make you cry, but that’s part of the emotional roller coaster you’ll feel – and the one you’ve probably taken already in your own life if you’ve had dogs in the past.

Who is gonna like this movie: Dog lovers, families and fat film critics like me who appreciate a good cry.

Grade: A

BEDTIME STORIES

Studio: Disney

Rated: PG for some mild rude humor and mild language.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Richard Griffiths and Teresa Palmer

Directed by: Adam Shankman

What it’s about: Adam Sandler plays Skeeter, a maintenance-man slacker who dreams of inheriting his father’s hotel business. When his sister has to leave town, she asks him to babysit her two young children. When Skeeter tells them bedtime stories, they miraculously come true the next day. He tries to use this to fix his life, but he soon realizes that it’s the kids that control the outcome of the stories.

What I liked: Since I have had kids, I have gained an appreciation for children’s movies. And this film is exactly that… it’s Disney’s annual holiday movie that is meant for families with young children. Don’t try to think too much and expect deep philosophical stories.

Adam Sandler did an okay job avoiding the poop and fart jokes, which is usually a staple in his comedies. If you can handle his sometimes annoying delivery, he’s actually quite funny. But let’s not kid ourselves. Bedtime Stories is for the kiddies, and in that respect, it works.

What I didn’t: This isn’t Enchanted. Not by a long shot. This may be partly because Adam Sandler isn’t nearly as adorable as Amy Adams is.

The plot elements to the movie are sometimes forced and quite a bit corny. It involves the hotel dudes trying to tear down a school, which isn’t exactly new ground. Didn’t Scooby Doo come up with plots like that years ago?

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and the parents who want to watch them laugh.

Grade: B+


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