Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: February 18, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr hit his head and spent the better part of his time wandering around Berlin looking for January Jones. Soon he unlocked the key to his past and realized he was an alien who is hiding among the people of Earth, hunted by big dudes with tattoos and trench coats. Fortunately, he woke up from this terrifying dream to realize the true nightmare… there’s another Big Momma movie with Martin Lawrence and on-screen son Brandon T. Jackson in fat suits. To quote many a movie: “Noooooooooooo!”

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Kevin is joined in the Magical Studio in the Sky by Todd Tieuli from the Dangerous Memories podcast.

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Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content

Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella and Aidan Quinn

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

What it’s about: Liam Neeson plays a man who is attending a conference in Berlin and gets separated from his wife. After a car accident puts him in a coma with a spotty memory of his life, he searches the strange city for his wife. When he finds her, he discovers that someone is impersonating him, which sends him on an action-filled mission to uncover the secrets of his life.

What I liked: When Liam Neeson made Taken a couple years ago, he proved that he has what it takes to be a badass action star. And if Unknown is any indication, Neeson might have a future making international action flicks with one-word titles.

It’s not that the story behind Unknown is anything new, or not predictable for that matter. But like last year’s Inception, it was an exceptionally well-constructed path into familiar territory. There’s enough twists and turns in the plot that you likely won’t have things figured out until later in the film. (Let’s be honest, you’ll probably figure things out before they’re revealed, but it’s not totally telegraphed from the start, at least.)

Unknown is exactly what I expect from an early-year action thriller. It has some great chase scenes, a nice touch of mystery and a great lead to carry the film. I’m looking forward to Neeson’s next single-word-title film set in a foreign city.

What I didn’t: On the whole, this film is well enough made to escape most criticism from me. Sure, it has plot points that are similar to about a dozen films I’ve seen over the years (though, I’ll admit that were I to name them, I’d spoil sections of the film). But not too many movies are made today that don’t borrow from somewhere, for better or for worse.

Still, there is a weak link in this film, an its name is January Jones. Yes, she’s a pretty girl with a rocking bod, but she is an acting vacuum. Every time she speaks, it ripped me out of the film. I ceased seeing the character’s wife and ended up watching a starlet who has less acting ability than the trashy street-walker who tells me that fat guys turn her on.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the international action thriller.

Grade: A-

Studio: Touchstone

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief language

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron and Callan McAuliffe

Directed by: D.J. Caruso

What it’s about: So these nine aliens left their home planet to seek refuge on Earth where they flee with their special protectors. But then these really ugly alien dudes with lots of tattoos and trench coats discover where they are and start picking them off one-by-one. The fourth alien realizes he’s next, and he goes on the run with his protector who looks a lot like Raylan Givens without a cowboy hat. Oh, and another super-hot alien is after them too.

What I liked: I know that plot synopsis sounds like the stupidest thing ever written, but there’s no way to sugar-coat the silliness of this plot. But if you can get past it and enjoy the film as an action piece about a kid being chased by intergalactic bad guys, this movie can be a heck of a lot of fun.

I Am Number Four was originally a work of young adult fiction, and it plays out like it’s targeted to a tween and teen crowd. It’s not as Mickey Mouse as the Disney Channel original series (yes, that pun was indeed intended). Instead, it’s got more grit and a harder edge. Michael Bay produces it, and his high visual standards are apparent in the film.

Think of this as a less silly and more gutsy version of Race to Witch Mountain, and you might enjoy it as much as I did. It’s not exactly science fiction for grown-ups, but rather science fiction for almost-grown-ups.

What I didn’t: The problems with this film falls in the realm of young adult fiction. Like the Twilight movies, it’s never quite explained why, if the characters are supposed to be in hiding, are they attending high school. They could easily pass as adults. Also, there’s a cheesy love story shoehorned into the film, featuring the pretty girl from Glee.

If you want to rail on teen fiction given a big budget treatment, you’ll find plenty to complain about with this movie. But on the whole, it’s far more cohesive and more competently made than other films like Eragon, The Golden Compass and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising.

Who is gonna like this movie: Teenage boys.

Grade: B+

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual humor and brief violence

Starring: Martin Lawrence, Faizon Love, Emily Rios, Portia Doubleday and Michelle Ang

Directed by: John Whitesell

What it’s about: Four horses are seen on the horizon: one white, one red, one black and one green. Then, the visions of the martyrs start, followed soon by the sun turning black, the moons turning to blood. In the distance, we hear seven trumpets of angels… Wait. That’s the signs of the apocalypse, which is easily confused with the plot of Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son in which Martin Lawrence and on-screen son Brandon T. Jackson put on fat suits to hide from the Russian mob in an all-girls school of the performing arts.

What I liked: At minute 107 in this film, the credits finish rolling. That, my friends, is the best part of the film. Sweet release.

What I didn’t: This movie is the ultimate example of an unnecessary film. I know that the previous two films made more than $300 million on a combined budget of about $70 million. But to quote Steven Seagal from On Deadly Ground, “How much is enough?”

There is so much wrong with this movie, from the terrifying make-up job on Lawrence (I thought prosthetics was supposed to improve as time goes on) to the ridiculous interactions that Jackson’s character has with the other girls at the school (you’d think someone would just dismiss “her” as a lesbian). There’s virtually no story but rather an excuse to get the characters in the school.

Ultimately, this film is nothing more than an excuse to string together a series of random jokes and slapstick about gender and weight. Jackson’s character is a punk whose only motivation is to sign a contract to be a rapper. Lawrence’s character randomly floats from situation to situation with no logic or pacing.

Along with all the bad jokes, there are jokes that aren’t even capitalized upon. For example, the bad guy in the film is named Cherkov, but no one ever drops a one-liner about it. Classic MacGruber!

The fat suits in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son are a microcosm of the film itself. It’s just a lot of ugly, needless padding.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who hate themselves.

Grade: D-

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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