Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: March 4, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets an added dose of tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA to make it through all the movie-watching he endures. He bats about .500 in his screenings, really liking some but struggling through others. After a visit to the wild west of Rango, he finds his fate adjusted by a mysterious fleet of men with stylish hats. Then, he realizes how ugly Number Four really is before staying out all night, drinking with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer… who looks a lot like Number Six.

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 television hound and Idiot Boxers co-host Merrill Barr.

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Studio: Paramount

Rated: PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking

Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina and Bill Nighy

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

What it’s about: Johnny Depp plays a computer-generated chameleon who falls off the family car in the desert, landing himself in a small wild west town. There, he becomes the unlikely sheriff who must save the town from a water shortage, fight political corruption and defeat notorious gunslingers.

What I liked: By now, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Rango, and for the most part, it lives up to the hype. The animation is subtle but beautiful. The comedy is goofy enough for kids to enjoy but has plenty of moments (including off-the-wall references to other films) that should make the grown-ups in the audience laugh out loud.

The best part about Rango, though, isn’t the action, comedy and general unique quality of this animated film. Rather, like Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies (well, at least the first one), it captures the genre with fun filmmaking. With so many westerns nowadays aiming for the Oscar, they tend to get too dark and brooding. Rango is just plain fun… the way westerns used to be.

What I didn’t: There are some moments in the film where the story drags a big, trying to grasp onto the next plot thread. And while Depp famously performed his role in recording sessions, there’s several points where it just seems like he’s milking things a bit too much.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids, families and general film buffs. It’s a keeper, folks.

Grade: A-

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image

Starring: Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp and John Slattery

Directed by: George Nolfi

What it’s about: Matt Damon plays a politician who discovers there are some mysterious strangers manipulating his life. And when he runs into a woman (Emily Blunt), with whom he seems destined to be with, these strangers try to keep them apart.

What I liked: I love a good Twilight Zone story, which is why I have been a champion of last year’s Devil, in spite of everyone’s bellyaching about M. Night Shyamalan’s involvement. Similar to that film, The Adjustment Bureau plays out like a long episode, particularly with a dose of 80s flavor that we got from the first remake of The Twilight Zone series.

This film is a fantastic piece of speculative fiction which is hung on a somewhat cheesy but not unappealing love story. While these things would normally work against each other, they actually complement themselves. In the end, we’re given a fun, lighthearted and rather uplifting film that makes a great date night flick.

What I didn’t: Hats. And water.

I really can’t go into detail about these items for fear of dropping spoilers. Let’s just say that these are two plot points that just seem a little hard to swallow at times. They don’t ruin the movie, but they do seem just a bit forced.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who likes a good Twilight Zone story.

Grade: B+

Studio: CBS Films

Rated: PG-13 for language including crude comments, brief violence and some thematic material

Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer, Mary-Kate Olsen, Peter Krause and Lisa Gay Hamilton

Directed by: Daniel Barnz

What it’s about: In this modern retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” legend, Alex Pettyfer plays an arrogant and handsome high school student who is cursed by a witch. He is made a beast who must find someone to love him for what’s inside before the year is out. Fortunately, he comes to care for Vanessa Hudgens who needs protection from a drug dealer.

What I liked: Unless you’re really into staring at a lot of beautiful people, you’re not going to find much to like about this movie.

Oh, except for Neil Patrick Harris, who makes a completely out-of-place but awesome blind tutor for the Beast. But then again, it’s NPH. He brings up the quality of anything he’s in… including Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

What I didn’t: For a film that crams the “it’s what’s inside that matters” message down the throats of its audience, Beastly is one of the most superficial and overly stylized films out there. Everyone in the cast – from Alex Pettyfer as the not-so-ugly-but-instead-edgy Beast to the many extras playing high school students – is gorgeous. Even Mary Kate Olsen, who plays the witch that curses him, is told to be ugly but is obsessed about appearances in a Lady Gaga sort of way.

The script is cringe-worthy, trying desperately to have the snappy pacing of The Social Network or Juno, but instead coming across flat.

And then there’s the leads. Both Pettyfer and Hudgens are easy on the eyes, but great actors they are not. Hudgens peaked with her High School Musical parts, and Pettyfer confusing standing around and looking cool with emoting.

Who is gonna like this movie: Teenage kids who would watch a CW made-for-TV movie.

Grade: D

Studio: Relativity Media

Rated: R for language, sexual content and drug use

Starring: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer and Chris Pratt

Directed by: Michael Dowse

What it’s about: Topher Grace and Anna Faris play twins who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives after college. On Labor Day in 1988, they go to an all-night party where he actually has a shot with his high school crush and she comes to a cold realization about her steady boyfriend. And Dan Fogler’s character does a lot of coke.

What I liked: I grew up in the 80s, just turning 17 in 1988. I can say first hand that this doesn’t quite capture the decade perfectly, but it does offer a nice bit of nostalgia in terms of music and fashion. Like That ‘70s Show, this movie throws a lot of 80s cheese at you but leaves a lot of it behind. If you like these flashback movies, you can enjoy this.

We’ve seen these all-night party movies before in many different eras (the 70s with Dazed and Confused, the 80s with Sixteen Candles, the 90s with Can’t Hardly Wait and the 00s with Superbad), and we find ourselves in very familiar territory here. At the very least, it hits its mark and pushes the necessary buttons to string you along.

What I didn’t: Unfortunately, Take Me Home Tonight isn’t quite as good as any of those other classic films I just mentioned in the previous paragraph. It goes through the motions, but it’s missing something. It might have to do with the lack of depth in the high school crush character, which plays more like a porn star fantasy than anything else. Or maybe it just needed better writing.

Finally, I can’t talk about the downside of this movie without wondering what the hell happened to Anna Faris in this movie. As bad as her collagen injections look now, she looks like she’s been punched in the mouth in this movie. In fact, all the women look sub-par in this flick, including Teresa Palmer. Maybe they needed a better make-up artist because they all have huge bags under their eyes.

Who is gonna like this movie: The home video crowd in about three months.

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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