Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: December 10, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads to the movie theater to enjoy the holiday releases and the award films. But how do they stack up against each other. After being swept into Narnia in post-converted 3D, Kevin takes a trip to Venice where he watches a portly Johnny Depp play an everyman to Angelina Jolie walking around a lot. Finally, he takes another award season trip to Boston to watch Mark Wahlberg get punch drunk..

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as guest host Chase Whale joins him in the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.


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Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action

Starring: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell

Directed by: Michael Apted

What it’s about: Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are sent to the country to live with their cousin while their older brother and sister have grown up. One day, a picture on the wall seems to come alive, suddenly bringing them back to the magical land of Narnia. There, they board the Dawn Treader, a ship led by King Caspian. Soon, they discover a dark force that is making Narnians disappear, and the younger Pevensie children must make a bold journey to save them.

What I liked: I know there hasn’t been a lot of buzz about the Narnia movies here on the interwebs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their fans out there. After all, more than a billion dollars in worldwide box office shows that someone is watching these things. And that someone is people like me, folks who read some of the books as children and have kids of their own now.

This installment is scaled down considerably from the other two films, though it still offers that bright fantasy element as a Lord of the Rings film for younger viewers. And for this movie, younger viewers are the key. With a running time less than two hours and plenty of creature effects – including a dragon and a variety of Narnian characters – this is probably the most accessible to the kids.

The movie takes about half its time getting its sea legs, but once it does, it becomes a fun family adventure with plenty of excitement and action.

What I didn’t: While I never read the book “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” I hear that some things have been changed to focus the story and punch up the action. I’m okay with that, though my bigger complaints come from losing the other two Pevensie children for the most part. This was C.S. Lewis’ call decades ago, but it does make the film seem lesser than the other two.

And as much of a proponent of 3D that I am, this is not an ideal 3D experience. Like Clash of the Titans, this is a post-conversion process and only really works with the gimmick shots and the high effects moments. The conversion is rather flat – unlike the deliberate depth added to a film like Piranha 3D – and if your theater doesn’t have its projector’s setting correct, the image teeters on being too dark.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and their families and anyone who is a fan of the Narnia films.

Grade: B+

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language

Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell and Timothy Dalton

Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

What it’s about: Johnny Depp plays an average American tourist who meets up with a beautiful woman (Angelina Jolie) on the train. It turns out she has chosen him as a decoy to throw the cops following her off the trail of an international criminal. However, as more people – including a vicious gangster in search of stolen money – comes out of the woodwork, the two go on the run together.

What I liked: Well, the scenery was nice. You really can’t go wrong with Venice.

Oh, and Timothy Dalton was a badass (if not in need of a new haircut). Too bad he was only in the movie for about four minutes.

What I didn’t: Pretty much everything else. You’d think with two of the biggest movie stars on the planet, the director of the quite brilliant The Lives of Others and Venice as the backdrop, you’d get a fantastic international thriller. Not so. This movie falls flat at every turn, offering no chemistry, intrigue or fun.

Johnny Depp’s everyman is just too perfect… he’s boring as hell. There’s nothing compelling about him, leaving me to want for his over-the-top characters like Jack Sparrow, Ed Wood, Hunter S. Thompson or the Mad Hatter. And Angelina Jolie just phoned in her performance. The film seemed more interested in watching her walk and pose throughout the film than actually giving her any sort of character.

The scenery is wasted, and any chance of action moments fizzle, including a water taxi chase at the breakneck speed of 5 miles per hour. A new shot at James Bond, this is not.

Finally, there’s the ending, which is one of the worst endings I’ve seen this year… right up there with Book of Eli and Remember Me. In fact, I saw this ending coming a mile away but dismissed it about half-way through the film because it doesn’t even make sense within the script. Yet, they go for it anyway. I suppose they get an A for clueless effort, if not for execution.

Who is gonna like this movie: I cannot even imagine.

Grade: D

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Rated: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality

Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo and Robert Wahlberg

Directed by: David O. Russell

What it’s about: Mark Wahlberg plays Mickey Ward, an aging boxer from the streets of Boston whose career is constantly being tanked by his out-of-control and dysfunctional family. His brother (Christian Bale) is his corner man but is addicted to crack and never shows up for training. His mother (Melissa Leo) is a portrait of white trash glory who thinks she knows best for her son but just cannot deliver. Soon, Mickey starts to distance himself from his family and put his own career as a focus in his life.

What I liked: The Fighter is typical of the slate of award films you see each year. It’s a well-made movie, and it has some fantastic performances in it. In particular, Christian Bale nails the out-of-control older brother living in the rose-colored past. Look for Bale’s name on the short list of award nominees this year. Likewise, Amy Adams is adorable as Wahlberg’s love interest, and it doesn’t hurt having her dance around in her underwear at one point. Melissa Leo is also the Darth Vader of the film, playing the mom you love to hate but just can’t leave.

The film has an interesting delivery, partly told by a documentary crew chronicling the crack addiction of Mickey’s brother. The piece abandons this set-up randomly, though it definitely works when it is used.

I did enjoy The Fighter, mostly for the performances and the gritty nature. It won’t make my top 10 list of the year, but it’s definitely worth a look.

What I didn’t: What’s up with the award bait movies from Massachusetts this year? After the decent The Town and the bloody awful Conviction (which also starred Melissa Leo), I’m getting tired of the Hollywood elite chewing through their Bah-ston accents. It’s become a cliche in itself this year.

Aside from this, The Fighter suffers from many of the history of award films that preceded it. We’ve seen better boxing movies (like Rocky and Million Dollar Baby), though to be fair, this isn’t a film about boxing per se. The other albatross around this film’s neck is the cliche spotlight on the white trash family. Sure, it’s as realistic as it comes, but around this time of year, I get weary of hoity-toity actors trying to win awards by playing the dumb-and-poor card.

Who is gonna like this movie: Award film junkies.

Grade: B

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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