Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: September 24, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is coming at you in eye-popping 3D, and like money, he doesn’t sleep. He sets his time machine way way way back to 2002 to pick on Kristen Bell in high school.

The story is loosely chronicled in You Again. Kevin also practices some insider trading with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps then takes flight with a bunch of CGI owls from Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

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

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Studio: 20th CENTURY FOX

Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Michael Douglas and Carey Mulligan

Directed by: Oliver Stone

What it’s about: It’s been 23 years since we saw Gordon Gekko on the big screen. Now Oliver Stone brings him back to weigh in on the 2008 financial crisis. This new sequel follows another Wall Street whiz kid (Shia LaBeouf) who is trying to stay ethical amid dirty dealings in the financial world. He’s also engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter and secretly becomes the protege of the man who coined the phrase “Greed is good.”

What I liked: Call me crazy, but I like Gordon Gekko. I wouldn’t let the guy hold onto any of my money, but as a character on screen, he’s one of the best out there. Sure, Michael Douglas has gotten a little old, but he still has it. When Gekko is on screen, smarming it up, it’s great to watch. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and not enough of Gordon Gekko.

There are some great shots, especially those featuring the skyline of New York City. And the movie makes a hell of a trailer. But… um… yeah.

What I didn’t: The original Wall Street was the last great down-to-earth movie from Oliver Stone before he went totally bat-shit crazy with flicks like JFK, Nixon and Natural Born Killers. It seems like he’s really trying to capture that magic again. For the most part, Stone plays it straight, but he just can’t resist throwing deliberate artsy-fartsy shots in the movie along with some of the most blatant, heavy-handed symbolism around. Seriously? Do we really need multiple shots of bubbles bursting or dominoes falling to get the point? Does Stone think his audience is really that dense?

Nothing against Shia LaBeouf, but his storyline (the bulk of the plot, mind you) was just boring. He’s no Bud Fox by any stretch of the imagination. We never get to see that kind of corruption and redemption, which is what made the original Wall Street so compelling.

Maybe Stone is getting too nice in his old age. He doesn’t want to write about truly mean characters. He pulls his punches with Gekko, and he still tries to give a politically correct glimmer of hope with LaBeouf’s character by making him all about finding a new green energy source.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the original who don’t mind a trimmed down, watered down Gordon Gekko.

Grade: D

Studio: Warner Bros .

Rated: PG for some sequences of scary action

Starring: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia and Miriam Margolyes

Directed by: Zack Snyder

What it’s about: Two warring factions of owls are at odds. One of them has enslaved the other, and one of the newly captured escapes with several others to find the legendary Guardians, a clan of owls that bring peace to their world. Based on the popular book series, this 3D CGI film is adapted by Zack Snyder.

What I liked: I really didn’t know much about the story of this film from the trailers, so it was like I was going in cold. And while I’ve seen a lot of the story elements before – one group enslaving another, someone escaping, finding a legendary protector, the younger characters learning about a bigger world, the fight for freedom – they are all handled pretty effectively in this film.

The film runs a lean 90 minutes, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Being a film about talking animals, it’s immediately appealing to kids, but it has a dark side and edge to it that should capture the imagination of grown-ups as well. Think Harry Potter with feathers. On the whole, this film was a fun ride and had enough of a journey to watch that I wasn’t bored.

But one of the best parts of this movie is its look. The computer animation is simply stunning, featuring some shockingly photorealistic elements. And with Snyder at the helm, he takes full advantage of the 3D effects. You can expect plenty of slow motion action shots, and they come across looking great. If you were impressed by the scope and beauty of the dragon scenes in Avatar and the training sequences in How To Train Your Dragon, you should enjoy the look of this film as well.

What I didn’t: Like any children’s movie, there are elements that come across as cheesy and overdone. In particular, the owl family has a snake caregiver who seem forced in this film. I could have done without here. There’s also an out-of-place pop music montage in the middle that could have been scrapped had it not been so critical to the marketing plan.

But all in all, this film makes up for these flaws in scope, beauty and thrills.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and animation fans.

Grade: A

Studio: Touchstone

Rated: PG for brief mild language and rude behavior

Starring: Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Odette Yustman and Betty White

Directed by: Andy Fickman

What it’s about: Take a time machine back to the ancient days of 2002 and see when Kristen Bell’s character was a high school nerd. It’s eight years later, and she discovers that her brother is marrying her high school nemesis (Odette Yustman). As she tries to come to terms with this, we learn that her mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) had a similar adversarial relationship with the fiancée’s aunt (Sigourney Weaver). And let the hilarity ensue… or not.

What I liked: I like looking at Kristen Bell and Odette Yustman. They sure are pretty.

Beyond that… I’ve got nuthin’.

What I didn’t: You Again lays on the comedy with the subtlety that we saw in Old Dogs. It’s an overacted, overwritten, underintelligent pile of crap. The premise is thin to begin with… thinner than Yustman’s scrawny legs in her cheerleader outfit. It relies on forced slapstick and in-you-face sight gags to sell the movie. But it’s all in vain.

Aiming for the chick flick crowd, there’s nothing in this film for the chicks. Yeah, it has some cat fights and taps into the overused stereotypes of bullying, but there’s no subtlety and nothing appealing about any of the characters. Finally, it strives for a happy ending so much that it ignores its own problems.

If You Again were a high school nerd, I’d give it a swirly and shove it into the lockers.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who like free movies, if my screening was indicative of anything.

Grade: D

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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