Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: January 13, 2012

Kevin Carr's Weekly Report Card

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr recovers from his colossal failure in getting any of his votes in the Critic’s Choice Movie Awards to count (except for A Separation for best foreign film, but who didn’t think that would win?) by engaging in therapy via multiplex. Unfortunately, it’s January, and his only choices were Marky Mark and the Smuggling Bunch or Queen Latifah going mano-y-mano with the robot Dolly Parton. He opts for the action film, but he may have also fallen asleep during it. How soon until good movies are released again?

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined by Tim Buel from The Golden Briefcase to chat about the new movies of the week and what films should get a 3D conversion.

Studio: Universal

Rated: R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi and Diego Luna

Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur

What it’s about: Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a smuggler who has gone legit and is getting his life in order. However, his brother-in-law is still smuggling and ends up dumping a shipment of cocaine when the Coast Guard gets too close. The drug dealers demand payment and threaten Chris’s family, so he plans one final job to pay the debt.

What makes the grade: Had Contraband shown up as a DVD or Blu-ray to review buried among other straight-to-video releases, it might have been somewhat impressive. There is a certain level of production value and casting that help it rise above a standard direct-to-DVD movie. Unfortunately, this was released in theaters, so it’s left to compete with the big boys.

In the film’s defense, it has some decent action elements, including guns blazing and vehicles blowing up. But then again, so did Colombiana, and that was a real stinker of a film.

What fails: Even though Contraband rises above your standard direct-to-DVD action release, it doesn’t do so by much. Part of the problem is that the hero is stuck on a ship for half the film, limiting what little action we can actually see. At times – especially as we near the end of the movie – it tries to present itself as a gritty smuggling version of Oceans Eleven. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the cast or the charisma to pull that off.

Part of the film is the suspense that is supposed to be felt as you watch Farraday’s wife (phoned in by Kate Beckinsale) and kids in danger from the local drug dealers. However, we are never really given any reason to like the wife aside from the fact that she’s pretty (it is Kate Beckinsale, after all) and she likes to make out with her husband during other people’s weddings. Sadly, she’s a weak-willed, unprepared idiot of a character who can’t put anything together to figure out what’s really going on. And her kids are brats, too.

In the end, Contraband isn’t terrible, rather utterly forgettable. And there really wasn’t much potential there anyway. We’ve seen all this before, though often executed better.

Who is gonna like this movie: Action junkies looking for a quick fix before the winter shoot-em-ups start.

Grade: C-

Studio: Disney

Rated: G

Starring: Paige O’Hara, Richard White, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach and David Ogden Stiers

Directed by: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

What it’s about: Disney’s classic animated film about a young woman held prisoner in a castle by a beast with whom she falls in love comes back to theaters for a limited time, presented in 3D.

What makes the grade: Quite simply, this is my favorite ink-and-paint animated film from the Disney vault. It also earned the distinction of being the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture when there were only five nominees (which also pre-dated the Best Animated Film category). Made in the middle of Disney’s 90s Renaissance, which also included The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King, this is a fantastic film no matter what format it’s presented in – theatrical, 3D, VHS, DVD or Blu-ray.

The music is perfect for the film, composed and written by the powerhouse team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman before the latter died too young. The voice cast is also perfect, before it became popular for well-known celebrities to lend their voices to these productions. Instead of being saddled with too many recognizable names, the characters were cast for their voice acting abilities and appropriate fit.

But beyond all the technical brilliance, beautiful animation and other aforementioned elements, Beauty and the Beast works because its story and characters are smoothly crafted and presented with care. It’s a story that people of any age can relate to, whether its the aspects of love and honor or the fear of being trapped. One of the greatest love stories Disney has committed to screen, Beauty and the Beast is a wonderful movie that transcends generations.

What fails: There’s really nothing that bothers me about the production itself. However, I do question the need for a theatrical 3D release. As much as I love the 3D format, it seems silly to put this in theaters when the 3D Blu-ray has been available since the beginning of October. This seems more of a cash grab for the Mouse House after The Lion King 3D tore up the box office in September.

A friend of mine once said to never underestimate Disney’s ability to cash in on something, but we shall see if audience will pay the money to see the 3D version with the only added bonus being a new short with the characters from Tangled.

Who is gonna like this movie: Pretty much everyone.

Grade: A+

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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