Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: May 6, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr grabs his codpiece and cape, then gets hammered in the cineplex with Thor. He also suffers from wedding overload with two new movies, Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom. Though he probably should have put his shirt back on before seeing all the chick flicks. Finally, he takes a more esoteric and educational look at the Spanish Civil War drama There Be Dragons. Spoiler alert: There are no dragons in the movie.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Head over to Fat Guys at the Movies and listen as Kevin is joined in the Magical Studio in the Sky by FSR’s box office guru Jeremy Kirk, also from The Golden Briefcase.

Studio: Paramount

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

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

What it’s about: Based on the Marvel comic book hero, Thor tells the story of a Norse god who is cast out of Asgard for disobeying his father. When Thor lands on Earth, he is found by a group of astrophysicists who learn about his history and powers. However, when Thor’s mischievous brother Loki tries to usurp the throne, Thor must rise up once again and become a hero.

What I liked: Growing up, I was a DC kid. Sure, I knew about Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, but I really never read their comics. I had a peripheral knowledge of the bigger Marvel characters like Thor and Iron Man, but I really hadn’t experienced either of them until the modern films.

This played to my advantage while I watched Thor because I wasn’t bothered by any of the changes that were made in the character and backstory (unlike pretty much every Superman or Batman film that has come down the pike). Director Kenneth Branagh did a fine job brining a newbie like myself up to speed as to what Thor was and where he came from. He does it with a pretty kick-ass (if not murky and cartoony) action sequence at the beginning of the film, and it kept my attention.

The performances were as good as you could expect from some relatively shallow writing, but this was all forgivable in a summer blockbuster context. Even with Branagh’s Shakespearean influences in this film, it’s pretty darn simple. But he keeps things light, which is nice to see. After all, every superhero movies doesn’t have to be The Dark Knight.

Finally, considering this is a post-converted 3D film, it still looked pretty good. It’s not as good as a shot-for-3D film, and I’m pretty sure the 3D effects aren’t necessary for everyone, but it’s clear that the process has come a long way in the last year or so since Clash of the Titans.

What I didn’t: The only complaints I really have about the film are ultimately forgivable. Natalie Portman pretty much phones in her performance, as does Stellan Skarsgard. Kat Dennings has some funny moments, but she feels really out of place at times.

As I said previously, the first 20 minutes of the film has that fake CGI smoke grayness to it, which fortunately goes away when we come to Asgard and later when the New Mexican desert sun rises. I’m not sure how Branagh could have done the look differently, but this along with the light depression of 3D and too much movement made things a bit difficult to resolve. Fortunately, this was the first action sequence in the film and not the last one, so there was still 90 minutes of movie to help overcome the fault.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the big summer blockbuster.

Grade: B+

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material

Starring: Kate Hudson, Ginnfer Goodwin, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesfield and Steve Howey

Directed by: Luke Greenfield

What it’s about: Ginnifer Goodwin plays Rachel, a mousy girl who has had a crush on a friend from law school for years. When she doesn’t take her shot with him, her best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson) does. Eventually, he becomes engaged to Darcy, but when Rachel and he have an unexpected fling before the wedding, things get really awkward.

What I liked: It was in focus and competently edited.

What I didn’t: The core problem with this film was the slate of unlikable, wretched and pathetic characters in it. As each one was introduced in the opening scene of Rachel’s birthday party, I hated them more than the next. What is meant to be cute and quirky comes off as pathetic and whiney.

I think Ginnifer Goodwin is simply adorable, but it’s clear that they’re trying play her up as the “ugly” girl. The only thing missing is the pair of dorky glasses to complete the Hollywood illusion. Sadly, when you place her up against Kate Hudson’s face on a 20-foot movie screen, her wrinkles start to show, and you realize that a pretty face doesn’t keep you from being unattractive, narcissistic pariah. And even though Goodwin is cute as a button, her voice is as grating as listening to Jennifer Tilly recite Shakespeare.

The rest of the cast is a mess, either falling into painful cliches or offering nothing to enjoy. Even the presence of John Krasinski can’t save thing, considering he plays yet another version of Jim Halpert, complete with the unrequited attraction to Goodwin’s Pam-esque character.

At least in the Twilight movies, all the moping and angst is balanced out by some vampire and werewolf action.

Who is gonna like this movie: Women who want to feel better about themselves by watching people with more pathetic lives than theirs.

Grade: D-

Studio: Tri-Star

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content

Starring: Paula Patton, Angela Bassett, Laz Alonso, Tasha Smith and Julie Bowen

Directed by: Salim Akil

What it’s about: When two young lovers decide to quickly get married before one has to start a career overseas, they face the clash of their families. The bride’s family comes from old money and lives the high life. The groom’s family lives in Brooklyn from paycheck-to-paycheck. They all first meet on the eve of the wedding, and their indifferences threaten to tear everything apart.

What I liked: Let’s just be frank about this… I was surprised as hell at how much I enjoyed this film. I was dreading another ensemble wedding movie with forced comedy and cliches. But while there were plenty of things we’ve seen before, there was a lot of heart and passion behind this film.

The cast is what makes this work, considering there are several big names (like Angela Bassett and Mike Epps), but no one tries to wrestle control of the comedy from anyone else. It’s well timed and quite funny throughout. Plus, the film’s heart is in the right place and becomes sweet and endearing on many levels.

If you’re going to see one of the wedding-themed counter-programming choices this weekend, jump the broom instead of borrowing something.

What I didn’t: I’ll admit, with any movie like this, you’re going to find old conventions and gags that have been overdone. But there’s a laugh-rate that keeps steady throughout, and any of these more contrived moments quickly pass to make way for better material.

Who is gonna like this movie: Someone who likes a good-spirited relationship comedy.

Grade: B+

Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for violence and combat sequences, some language and thematic elements

Starring: Charlie Cox, Wes Bentley, Dougray Scott, Unax Ugalde and Olga Kurylenko

Directed by: Roland Joffé

What it’s about: Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, two childhood friends grow up to find themselves on either side of a fight about faith. One is a priest while the other is a soldier, making them enemies in the ideology war of the time. Told in flashbacks as one of their sons tries to piece together his father’s life, the family secrets are revealed that affect lives.

What I liked: There are some really solid moments to this film, most of which hinge on the actor’s convictions. The film brings to life an era of history that is lost on many people in the mainstream, mainly because the Spanish Civil War gets overshadowed by the more encompassing World War II.

There Be Dragons offers an interesting insight into a somewhat modern and western religious conflict, which seems less possible today but is eye-opening nonetheless because it only happened about 80 years ago. The story effectively gives the feel of what it might have been like to watch this conflict erupt around you, catching anyone of faith in the crossfire.

What I didn’t: While competently acted and containing some emotionally gripping scenes, There Be Dragons is needlessly convoluted at times. Between the flashbacks, narration and jumping chronology, the film becomes hard to follow. Also, like other historical films like The Miracle of St. Anna, the writing tries to tie things together on a more personal level which never quite work against such a grand backdrop.

Who is gonna like this movie: History and religious buffs.

Grade: C

Want to see what Kevin had to say about Thor on TV? Check out his weekly movie segment 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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