Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: September 9, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads into the MMA ring to battle Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, after being trained by a strung-out Nick Nolte who looks like he’s ready to have an aneurysm at any moment.

Then he is sent into a bird flu panic when someone coughs on him at the airport. Not wanting to suffer the same fate as Gwenyth Paltrow, he takes a road trip down to the Louisiana bayou where he runs into a hillbilly redneck alligator mutant. But at least he didn’t have to see Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Rudie Obias from The AuteurCast joins him in the Magical Studio in the Sky to chat about the new movies of the week.

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Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for disturbing content and some language

Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

What it’s about: A highly contagious new illness with a huge mortality rate breaks out in the human population and spreads worldwide. The world falls into chaos as the CDC and the WHO try to fight against it, against a backdrop of conspiracies and politics.

What I liked: With the panic about bird flu and the recent swine flu outbreak, Contagion is definitely topical. And if you don’t believe that, go see the film in a crowded theater and witness the reaction of people if someone starts coughing.

The subject matter behind Contagion is the most powerful aspect to the film. Sure, it has a great cast, but you can expect that from a Steven Soderbergh flick. It’s the virus that’s the star of the film, though, which has fascinated me since seeing Outbreak fifteen years ago.

Soderbergh uses his trademark documentary style to frame the film, and this offers something more realistic than Outbreak or some TV movie-of-the-week about a contagious bug. I commend him for opting for avoiding highly sensational but cliche plot points, which offers a greater level of realism. However, it’s really the “what if” factor that makes this film work.

What I didn’t: While I enjoy Soderbergh’s movies, his aforementioned documentary style seemed to soften the blow of this movie. At times, it felt like watching a news report, complete with an out-of-place newscaster narrating the scene. This made the film more clinical than emotional, which felt like a missed opportunity. After all, with a movie like this, you would want to have your audience bathing in Purell when it’s over, not just walking out of the theater and touching the handle of the EXIT door without thinking twice.

Who is gonna like this movie: Audiences who like a more grown-up thriller… and germaphobes.

Grade: B

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Kurt Angle and Kevin Dunn

Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

What it’s about: Two brothers find their way into a Mixed Martial Arts competition in Atlantic City, where they not only have to face each other in the ring but also deal with their personal family history.

What I liked: I know this film is getting tons of great reviews, and the acclaim is pouring in. I can respect that. It isn’t the first time that a movie received accolades while I was left cold. As the first strike at award season, I will tip my hat to the film. While I may not like it at all, I can appreciate it.

What I didn’t: After last year’s The Fighter, I never shook the feeling that Warrior was trying to capture lightning in a bottle. And while I loved director Gavin O’Connor’s Miracle several years ago, this film just didn’t work for me.

The characters are one-dimensional, each having an obsession they must overcome. I can appreciate that, if it weren’t hammered home with incessant references to Moby Dick, which comes across as the film trying to prove its intellectual worth like a white trash cousin getting “all up in your face” when they think you’re looking down on them for not finishing high school.

The film slathers on every sports movie cliche, ripping off fighting films from Rocky and Raging Bull to more modern bouts like Million Dollar Baby. It comes across at times as an unabashed commercial for the entire sport of MMA. And while I know there’s a lot of fans of that sport out there, I just have no interest in it.

Finally, the movie is nauseating, but not from a violence perspective. The cinematography is vomit-inducing, making Paul Greengrass’s films look like they were shot for a corporate video. It’s one thing to use camera movement to put the viewer in the action, but if they can’t hold still for a simple head shot, it’s overdoing it. But I do take heart that at least Michael J. Fox has a long career ahead of him as a camera operator for movies like this.

Who is gonna like this movie: Apparently everyone else in the critical world except me.

Grade: D

Studio: The Bubble Factory

Rated: R for bloody violence and grisly images, some sexual content and graphic nudity

Starring: Serinda Swan, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Amanda Fuller, Sid Haig and Mehcad Brooks

Directed by: Fred M. Andrews

What it’s about: Six attractive twentysomethings head down to Louisiana for a weekend getaway. They make a pit stop in the bayou where they go looking for the local monster legend, Lock Jaw, a hybrid of hillbilly and alligator. Of course, when they find him, things get really ugly.

What I liked: I have a soft spot in my heard for b-level horror films. As far back as the 80s, these movies started to be released directly to home video or cable rather than getting a theatrical run. So I like the fact that audiences can actually go to the movie theater and see a flick like Creature.

This film is like Hatchet with gator teeth and less overt gore. It’s a simple slasher film, but it hits most of the marks. There’s plenty of boobs, blood and twisted backwoods story elements. Feeling more like a sequel to Wrong Turn rather than the original film, Creature is campy, silly fun.

What I didn’t: There are plenty of problems in this film, from stilted acting and bad dialogue to cheesy creature effects and gore. But considering its place in the cinematic landscape, they are mostly forgivable.

Sure, there are continuity gaffs in the film, including one scene where a guy is shot in the knee then later is sprinting through the woods like nothing happened, but it is these unintended bad movie moments that actually give it a level of charm.

Creature doesn’t have the budget, self awareness or production value of a movie like Shark Night, but it has an honesty behind it, for better or for worse.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of b-movie horror flicks..

Grade: B-

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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