Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: July 23, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr sulks his head at not being able to see all the cool stuff that’s going on at Comic-Con 2010, but he knows he’s the lucky one because he was able to see Ramona and Beezus, Suck on that! Oh, and he gets a gander at Angelina Jolie in Salt, which ain’t bad, either.


SSalttudio: Columbia Pictures

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

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alex Pettyfer and Gaius Charles

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

What it’s about: Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who has been held hostage in North Korea and eventually released. Soon afterwards, a man walks off the street into CIA headquarters and accuses her of being a Russian spy. Realizing this can put her loved ones in danger, Salt goes on the run and gets whipped up in a dangerous web of political assassination.

What I liked: Like many of you, I’m so tired of hearing about Angelina Jolie in the gossip rags that I sometimes forget about what a good actor she is. I was reminded of this in Salt. Not only does she have the chops to pull off the action sequences (which we all remember from the Tom Raider films, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Wanted), but also the more human elements of the film.

At its heart, Salt is nothing more than a big, dumb, popcorn film – and yes, I did eat my fair share of popcorn during the picture, and let me tell you it was glorious. With Phillip Noyce in the director’s chair, he’s able to bring a level of quality to the picture as he did with his more serious works (like The Quiet American) yet still retains the kick-ass action nature (like he did with Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger).

I have to admit, I liked this movie quite a bit and had a great time watching it. It could have done with some gratuitous bikini shots of Jolie, but in the end, Salt is what Knight and Day wished it could have been.

What I didn’t: Even though this movie is fun as hell, it’s hardly original or unpredictable. I was about eight steps ahead of the story, and I can’t imagine anyone being surprises at the twists and turns in the plot. Fortunately, the film moves fast enough with the action that you don’t have time to really think about how cliché everything is.

Also, what’s up with the Russians as the bad guys? Did Kurt Wimmer write this movie in the 1980s and just now get around to getting it produced. Sure, it worked for what it was, but it’s not exactly timely.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of big, dumb, popcorn movies and Angelina Jolie.

Grade: B+


Ramona and BeezusStudio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: G

Starring: Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan and Ginnifer Goodwin

Directed by: Elizabeth Allen

What it’s about: Beverly Cleary’s beloved books have been brought to life on the big screen, telling the story of two sisters dealing with their lives in suburbia. Ramona is the free-spirited younger sister who always gets in trouble while Beezus is the older teenager who is just a little too perfect. When their dad loses his job, they realize their lives may be uprooted, and the girls try to help out to make ends meet.

What I liked: Not many people know this about me, but I was a Beverly Cleary fanboy when I was in elementary school. I read the Ramona books, the Henry Huggins books, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ribsy. I can’t believe it took Hollywood sixty years to pick up on the fact that these are great books for kids.

From what I remember about the Ramona series, they captured the spirit and soul of the books. I was a little worried when I saw the trailers, but there was the familiar sweetness of Cleary’s stories throughout this movie.

Joey King is simply adorable as the female Dennis the Menace, and Selena Gomez plays off her quite well. Plus, there’s a great supporting cast including Josh Duhamel, Sandra Oh, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan and Ginnifer Goodwin. And speaking of Goodwin, I always thought of Aunt Bea as being a bit of an old maid. But damn! She’s one hot tomato, as my grandfather used to say.

What I didn’t: I will admit that this entire movie is a bit schmaltzy for some. It doesn’t go overboard, but there isn’t a whole lot of edge to it. Ramona and Beezus is exactly what you’d expect from a G-rated kids flick, so if you’re the kind of person who resists a cinematic hug, you’ll want to skip it.

The film also runs a bit long, oddly enough five minutes more than its opposing release Salt. It’s not bloated like The Karate Kid, but it could have been trimmed down a bit.

Also, other Beverly Cleary fanboys might notice that Ramona and Beezus are a bit older than they are in the books – at least at the beginning. This adds to the fact that the movie felt like it was rushing through the story, trying to cover the series rather than the first book.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids who know the stories and self-admitted Beverly Cleary fanboys.

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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