Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: March 11, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr finds himself behind enemy lines in Los Angeles. At first, he thought he was the victim of an alien invasion, but then he realized he was just in South Central wearing the wrong colors.

Fortunately, Aaron Eckhart came to his rescue. This gave him a chance to put on a red cloak and skip through the woods, searching for Amanda Seyfried. He then capped off the week sneaking on a NASA flight to Mars wearing only boxer shorts, a T-shirt and a space helmet. He plans to return soon because that kind of makeshift space suit worked for the folks in Mars Needs Moms. Don’t wait up, though.

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 FSR Managing Editor, Dr. Cole Abaius, who discusses a variety of film topics, including lactation.

Download this Episode

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Peña and Ramon Rodriguez

Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman

What it’s about: Without much warning, the Earth finds itself under attack. First, it’s a meteor shower. Then, it’s rampaging cyborgs laying waste to humanity from the shores of its biggest city. A squad of U.S. Marines are sent into the war zone in L.A. to rescue civilians and find a way to defeat the invaders.

What I liked: I like a good war action flick. I also like a good science fiction action flick. For the most part, Battle: Los Angeles hits all those marks. It’s more military action than sci-fi action, mostly because it’s told strictly from the point of view of the Marines in the field. We’ve had a slew of films over the past decade that really puts the audience at ground zero – from Children of Men to Green Zone, and this movie hits those targets pretty well. Plus, plenty of shit gets blowed up, and that speaks to me.

Were Battle: Los Angeles released in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, it would be a bit disappointing. But it’s been dropped in the tail-end of winter where historically films like Ghost Rider is out best hope. The flick’s not as good as the trailers lead it on to be, but it’s definitely passable for a boots-on-the-ground action flick in March.

What I didn’t: Films like these rely on three things: action, effects and characters. While the action and the effects are pretty awesome, the characters have a bit to be desired. Like the 90s Volcano, the characters are pretty standard cardboard cut-outs. In fact, with all the comparisons we’ve heard between this flick and Skyline, it’s not a surprise they’re pretty much the same film… only with a bunch of Marines and evacuees running rather than a rapper and his posse. Oh, and the acting in this film beats Skyline through and through.

My other big complaint is the overdone cinematography, which takes the war documentary style to a ridiculous degree. Hell, I’ve seen embedded war footage that’s steadier than this film is. I understand using a herky-jerky motion during a battle sequence, but when two guys are sitting across a desk talking? At least it’s good to see that people with Parkinson’s disease can get jobs as professional cinematographers nowadays.

Who is gonna like this movie: People yearning for a big summer action film… in March.

Grade: B+

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Lukas Haas and Shiloh Fernandez

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

What it’s about: Amanda Seyfried plays a girl who lives in a nondescript possibly European village centuries ago that happens to be plagued with a werewolf. When the monthly sacrifices to the werewolf fail, a famous witchfinder (Gary Oldman) comes to town to discover the werewolf’s identity.

What I liked: If I were a different person – one who loves the Twilight soundtrack, enjoys seeing hot young love interests with way too much mousse in their hair and anything that Catherine Hardwicke directs – I’d like this movie.

Sadly, aside from some moderately passable werewolf moments, there’s not much in here to like. The best thing I can say is that Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman manage to carry this movie better than Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson ever could.

What I didn’t: I can understand the appeal of a film like Twilight and its subsequent sequels. I don’t really blame that franchise for anything because it definitely connects with an audience. What I hate about Twilight is that it spawns movies like Red Riding Hood. And while Red Riding Hood is a better film than Hardwicke’s stab at the first Twilight, it shoots itself in the foot trying to capitalize on that film.

I blame a lot of the problems on Hardwicke, who was once a good costume designer in Hollywood. Ironically, there’s no logical oversight on the costumes of this film, with every item worn by these oppressed villagers looking like it just came from the shop, off the rack or from some trendy Beverly Hills boutique.

Beyond the costumes and the somewhat ridiculous set design, the story just doesn’t make sense. As simple as the tale of Red Riding Hood is, the film is needlessly convoluted. A cheesy love story is shoehorned into the piece. The plot hinges on one of the most obvious mysteries ever committed to film. And no one has the good sense to just gather the village together in one room and see who turns into a werewolf to discover who the werewolf is.

Who is gonna like this movie: Twilight tweens, but few older than that.

Grade: C-

Studio: Disney

Rated: PG for sci-fi action and peril

Starring: Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler and Mindy Sterling

Directed by: Simon Wells

What it’s about: Based on a children’s book by Berkeley Breathed, this film follows a boy whose mother is kidnapped by Martians. After hitching a ride on their ship, the kid discovers that the Martians plan to extract all of his mother’s maternal instincts so they can program robots to take care of their own offspring.

What I liked: The best thing I can say about Mars Needs Moms is that it is at least tolerable for parents. There are some really cool science fiction elements to the film, particularly in the set design and animation. For this reason, it’s pretty cool to watch in IMAX 3D, though I honestly can’t say the experience is worth the extra cash.

Also, the running time is less than 90 minutes, so the film doesn’t drag along, making a weekend at the movies with hundreds of five-year-olds in a theater a little bit more tolerable.

But those kids? They’re gonna love it.

What I didn’t: One of the best things that Disney has done with animated films has been first partnering with and later purchasing Pixar. This has led them to be the market standard for brilliant and loveable computer generated films. But the downside to this is that when the Mouse House releases something that’s nowhere near the quality of Pixar movies, it’s all the more noticeable.

Mars Needs Moms is not a great movie by far. And were it not for the high definition IMAX rendering, it seems to fit better on the direct-to-DVD shelf. The child is annoying in this film, and Dan Fogler’s adult man-child character is just too disturbing.

Finally, there’s the look of the film. The motion-capture technology is pretty cool, but it has not yet crawled out of the uncanny valley. It’s getting close, to be sure, because these humans live in the uncanniest region of the uncanny valley. Seriously, the weird, bow-legged, big badonkadonk Martians are more visually appealing than the people in this film.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone under the age of ten.

Grade: C+

Want to see what Kevin had to say about the Oscars this week 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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