Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: October 8, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr horses around this week with the legendary racehorse from the 1970s, hoping he too can go home with Diane Lane. After racing out to see Secretariat, he wonders if Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel would be anything more than a pretty couple.

Then he gets down on his knees and prays: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I beg you skip My Soul to Take.”.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Neil Miller returns to the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.

Download this Episode

Studio: Disney

Rated: PG for brief mild language

Starring: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, James Cromwell and Kevin Connolly

Directed by: Randall Wallace

What it’s about: In the late 60s, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) inherited part of her father’s horse farm. When the inheritance tax threatened to financially cripple her, she pins her hopes and future on a young colt who was the offspring of two champion racers. In 1973, she almost literally bets the farm for the horse to win the biggest races in history.

What I liked: Disney has a long traditional of inspirational sports movies, and Secretariat fits right in this mold. It has all of the elements – and underdog story, an unlikely hero, a strong historical precedence. Like Miracle and Remember the Titans, Secretariat is one of those films that are meant to inspire.

The elements of filmmaking are great in this movie, especially the cinematography of the racing scenes. I don’t know squat about horse racing, and I was able to follow the film with no problems, and it kept my interest throughout. Some of the choices in showing the key races were interesting (like playing one of the races out at Chenery’s home rather than at the track), but that helped the pacing of the film.

What really holds Secretariat together is the acting. I’ve always adored Diane Lane, and she does a fine job in this role, giving us a strong female hero. There’s also a pretty enjoyable performance by John Malcovich as the horse’s trainer. Sure, he’s just playing a version of John Malcovich, but he’s damn entertaining about it.

What I didn’t: Like any formula movie, Secretariat pushes all the right buttons. However, it can also fall pretty quickly into cliche. That happens all over the place in this film, often times overplaying its hand. There is a point in the movie where we just have one too many Oscar clip moments for Diane Lane. I think Secretariat is a fine movie, but the push to get Lane (and some other actors) onto the short list for award season is a bit too obvious at times.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who want to be inspired.

Grade: B+

Studio: Warner Bros.

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

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks and Jean Smart

Directed by: Greg Berlanti

What it’s about: Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel play godparents of one of their mutual friends’ daughter. When those friends are killed in a tragic car accident, they find themselves as the guardians of the infant daughter. Even though they can’t stand each other, they struggle to live under the same roof and raise a child they never wanted together.

What I liked: On the whole, Life As We Know It hits most of the right marks for a romantic comedy. You’ve got the couple who initially don’t like each other. You have plenty of moments where they can fight and get embarrassed. There’s a conflict as they try to start other relationships. And, oh, you have a cute baby, which generally does well in films like this.

Josh Duhamel does a good job as the likeable lead, and it’s clear he’s trying to branch out in his theatrical leads as something more than “that other Army guy from Transformers.” Duhamel is unthreatening to men and good eye candy for the ladies. He holds up his end of the bargain.

In regards to Katherine Heigl… well, read on…

What I didn’t: The viewer’s attitude towards Katherine Heigl is where this film is going to sink or swim. I really don’t like her. After she rocketed to fame with Grey’s Anatomy, she has exhibited an arrogant smugness in everything she’s done. All of her rom com leads have been playing second fiddle to a better and more likeable star (and that includes Seth Rogen, for crying out loud). So, I didn’t like her in this movie, and she’s in something like 90% of it.

Also, the premise of this movie is a bit heavy for a light romance. It takes the film damn near a half-hour to get to the accident, so the first half of the movie is a real downer. Not exactly what the doctor ordered for date night.

Finally, in a lot of these light romances, it’s the secondary cast that really carries the humor. Sadly, this isn’t the case with Life As We Know It. While I generally like most of the supporting actors, their characters are about as warm and likeable as the characters in Old Dogs.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of Katherine Heigl’s rom coms.

Grade: C-

Studio: Rogue Pictures

Rated: R for strong bloody violence, and pervasive language including sexual references

Starring: Max Thieriot, Nick Lashaway, Denzel Whitaker, Jessica Hecht and Frank Grillo

Directed by: Wes Craven

What it’s about: Sixteen years ago in the town of Rivertown, a multiple personality serial killer known as The Ripper murdered a bunch of people. The Ripper’s other personalities fought him and turned him in, only to have the evil personality murder his family. That very night, he died in a fiery ambulance crash, but his body was never found. At midnight on that fateful night, seven babies were born. Some say The Ripper’s seven souls went into those babies. Now with the babies as teenagers, one of them thinks he might be the reincarnation of The Ripper. Yeah, that’s the actual plot. I just lost IQ points regurgitating it.

What I liked: Well, I like Wes Craven. Sure, he’s made some crap over the years (Anyone remember Deadly Friend? There’s a reason you don’t). But he’s responsible for some brilliant horror classics – from the 70s-era video nasties Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes to Freddy Krueger in the 80s to Scream in the 90s. So I like the guy on the whole.

But I hate him for giving us this movie… and making me spend $13.50 to see it.

What I didn’t: Rarely does a movie come along that is such a colossal failure at all stages. From the writing and directing of Craven (with incomprehensible dialogue, clueless fight sequences and randomly composed kills with no gore value), it was awful. But past that, the acting was terrible… laughable, even. The cinematography looked like it was ripped from the original Last House on the Left. Even the costume design of the killer looked like leftovers from Halloween Express in November.

The movie is so bad that I would actually recommend it to aspiring horror filmmakers, for no other reason than to show them how not to make a good film. And, it also shows that no matter how awesome and iconic you are, you are still completely capable of leaving a turd in the punch bowl.

Finally, I shame Craven for the unnecessary and lazy 3D experience. People who know me understand that I am a champion of 3D. I would see almost any movie in 3D and never complain about the process. But not only is this a post-conversion afterthought process, it’s executed as badly as the rest of the film. There’s no depth and no quality. Unlike Piranha 3D, which was conversion but still was very effective, this is slapped together. Watch this movie with your 3D glasses, and you’ll think The Last Airbender looks like Avatar.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who thinks they can make a horror movie better than Wes Craven can.

Grade: F

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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