Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: December 17, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr enters the grid (which is what he likes to call his local IMAX theater) to try and find an old and hairy Jeff Bridges amidst a bunch of young-looking sexy-time people in tight body suits. Afterwards, he has a pic-i-nic at Jellystone Park and faces a bear attack. It’s a good thing he had his hunting rifle with him… but he still wonders why that grizzly he shot was wearing a hat and tie.

Finally, he hands out some grades on two limited release award flicks that really don’t jazz him as much as a big, dumb IMAX 3D movie.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Neil Miller makes a triumphant (and radically informed) return to the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.

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Studio: Disney

Rated: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

What it’s about: Sam Flynn has been a bad boy ever since his father, video game pioneer Kevin Flynn, disappeared in the late 1980s. After a mysterious page calls him back to his dad’s old arcade, Sam finds himself transported to the digital world where he must try to find his dad and escape the grid before the program-gone-horribly-awry named Clu finds a way back to the real world.

What I liked: I was just a kid when the first Tron came out, and I was blown away by it. Sure, it was a silly story with goofy characters, but it was such a brilliantly executed adventure in the digital realm. With pioneering special effects and action sequences you had never seen before, Tron had such an impact on me as a young filmgoer.

Similarly, I had a hell of a blast watching Tron: Legacy. For as much as people have been ragging on the story and characters, I found them passable, especially in light of how similar all those elements were to the original.

Like Avatar, Tron: Legacy is a cinematic experience, an adventure ride that needs to be experienced in IMAX 3D. It has such fantastic effects, production design, sound and music that it carries along the otherwise ho-hum plot. After all, who was really expecting anything brilliant from the script in the first place?

What I didn’t: All my problems are the same as everyone else – the story is uninspired, the characters are have less dimension than the film’s presentation, the acting is nothing to write home about – but these were exactly what I expected. Ultimately, these aren’t complaints by me but rather footnotes in an otherwise awesome cinematic experience.

Well, aside from that goofy-ass line delivered by the original Tron character. That was about as awkward as Morgan Freeman dropping the f-bomb in Wanted.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fanboys who can get past their own bellyaching about an imperfect plot and characters.

Grade: A

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG

Starring: Anna Faris, Justin Timberlake, Dan Aykroyd, T.J. Miller and Nathan Corddry

Directed by: Eric Brevig

What it’s about: Yogi Bear and Boo Boo take time away from their everyday activities of stealing pic-i-nic baskets from campers to help the Ranger and a cute documentation save Jellystone Park from being sold off to a logging company… in 3D.

What I liked: Yogi Bear is aimed at kids. And it’s not just aimed at kids in general. It’s aimed at little kids. It’s not trying to be a Pixar movie that has a broad spectrum appeal. Rather, it’s going for the little kids audience that enjoys the talking animal movies. And compared to films like Furry Vengeance and Marmaduke, this new Yogi Bear is one of the better ones out there.

Like Alvin and the Chipmunks three years ago, I enjoyed this movie because it was a fun treat to see with my kids. They enjoyed the hell out of it, laughing at all the right places and just generally getting into the whole experience. If you set your brain to their level (which isn’t a bad thing, all you stuffy film snobs out there), Yogi Bear is pretty damn cute.

The 3D was a hoot, too, because it went for the gimmick, pushing things into your face like a kids’ 3D movie should do. If you’re a 3D hater, you’ll complain about it, but as a movie made for kids, it pushed the right buttons.

Oh, and Anna Faris is just plain adorable in it. She can “go gorilla” on me anytime.

What I didn’t: Sure, there’s a lot of things to point your finger at with this film. It’s a flimsy story. The acting isn’t that great (except for some pretty spot-on voice acting from Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake). And there’s plenty of silly humor in it. But then again, if you were to actually go back and watch some of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the 60s and 70s, you’d see exactly the same thing… even worse.

In the end, Yogi Bear is entirely in line with and worthy of its original source material.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and their parents or babysitters who remember what the original cartoon was actually like.

Grade: B+

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some drug use and language

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Sandra Oh, Jon Tenney and Dianne Wiest

Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell

What it’s about: It has been eight months since Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) lost their four-year-old son in a car accident, and they’re still picking up the pieces. The tragedy has caused strains in their relationship, which makes each one find comfort outside of the marriage. Becca reaches out to the teenage boy who was driving the car that killed her son while Howie starts talking to another woman from their bereavement support group.

What I liked: A film like Rabbit Hole is exactly what you’d expect from the award season fray. It’s very well acted, and it tackles some deep, gritty, emotionally scarring issues. On the whole, it is well written, staying away from being too droll or dark. At times, the script starts to examine some interesting concepts – like parallel universes and who might be there – but where those concepts go is up to your own imagination.

Rabbit Hole pushes the right buttons and gets you to care about the characters and their journey through grief – a journey which we join in mid-step. It’s hard to watch and contemplate as a parent because of the subject matter, but it performs a fine balancing act with being morose about loss, understanding emotional recovery and revealing some of the annoyingly cheesy aspects of counseling.

What I didn’t: The biggest issues I had with this film stemmed from it not being my kind of movie. Like the award film buffs who pooh-pooh the summer movie season as being a glorification of grandiose effects films, I get weary during award season seeing talky, intense dramas that really aren’t my cup of tea. To its credit, Rabbit Hole doesn’t dig too deep into this rabbit hole, leaving the movie watchable.

I also am a little annoyed at the pretension of the actors and filmmakers of this movie. I saw Nicole Kidman on Conan, and she dared to say this is a risky kind of movie and there aren’t many out there like it. Sorry, Nicole. We get these kind of movies each year around this time. In fact, just a couple years ago, the equally grief-filled Reservation Road was the dead kid picture of the year.

Who is gonna like this movie: Award film fans and anyone who wants to see Nicole Kidman win another Oscar.

Grade: B

Studio: Art Takes Over

Rated: R for pervasive language, some violence and brief nudity

Starring: Kelly Preston, Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Rachelle Lefevre and Jon Lovitz

Directed by: George Hickenlooper

What it’s about: Kevin Spacey stars in this stylized true story of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was embroiled in scandal and eventually went to prison for fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.

What I liked: There was a certain energy to this movie that cannot be denied. I did not know anything about the movie before I saw it, so it leapt out of the gate with more speed than most films you see in limited release at the end of the year. An overdose of impressions aside, Spacey does a fine job acting in this movie as the smarmy lobbyist, and he does evoke a surprising amount of sympathy from the viewer.

What I didn’t: With Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story about a year in the past, this movie seemed to be treading over familiar ground. But like the Whitewater scandal during the Clinton administration (which has never had a movie made out of it, showing the true political colors of Hollywood), the crimes committed were just a bit overcomplicated to weave into a coherent story.

Thus, the plot and motivations get muddled. This causes the movie to lose focus right when it should be picking up outside of the second act, and it never regains traction.

Oh, and I understand that Jack Abramoff was a big movie buff who slipped into impressions, but the ridiculous number of Hollywood voices that it took me out of the movie. It seemed like the director asked Spacey which impressions he could do and just shoe-horned them into the script.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who care about Jack Abramoff… which isn’t very many at this point in time.

Grade: C-

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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