Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: January 27, 2012

Kevin Carr's Weekly Report Card

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr tapes some alcohol bottles to his knuckles and gets ready to brawl with wolves. Unfortunately, he first drinks all the booze in the bottles and ends up passing out in the snow. When he wakes up, he brushes himself off and heads downtown to climb on the ledge of a tall building. The police are called to try and save him, but Kevin ends up jumping when he learns that Katherine Heigl is brought in to talk him down. Fortunately, Kevin survives the fall and stumbles to the local multiplex to check out this week’s new movies.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined by FSR’s own Editor of Something Rob Hunter to chat about the new movies of the week.

Studio: Open Road Films

Rated: R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language

Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson and Frank Grillo

Directed by: Joe Carnahan

What it’s about: On a trip from the Arctic Circle back to Anchorage, Alaska, a plane crashes with a crew of oil refinery workers. The survivors find themselves in the middle of the frozen wilderness, surrounded by wolves who think their hunting territory is being threatened. The men embark on a quest to find shelter, protection and rescue, while trying to avoid become dinner for the wolves.

What makes the grade: While The Grey doesn’t necessarily tread fresh ground, it’s an extremely well-made movie. Your basic man-versus-nature film, The Grey puts its characters in an impossible yet utterly realistic situation, leaving them to their own devices to survive. There are several bloody, intense scenes, and the film works as much as an actioner as it does a drama.

But with all of this danger content, the film has a heart… and I’m not just talking about the hearts that get ripped out by the wolves. Star Liam Neeson is the key to this, and he raises the level of quality of The Grey from a basic thriller to a touching drama.

Also, having traveled to Alaska, I appreciated the beauty of the land and the surrounding. But as beautiful as nature is, it is also exceedingly dangerous at times. Director Joe Carnahan doesn’t shy away from the uglier side of the natural world, and The Grey becomes a demonstration on how Alaska can kill you a thousand different ways.

What fails: Like any film that features a group of characters facing a non-human threat, the focus on the characters’ humanity can be a bit much. The film has some heart, yes, but sometimes that heart is laid on a bit thick. Case in point, before the plane crash, Neeson’s character writes a letter to his wife, and he spends at least three or four scenes pondering it. This just gets tedious at times. I know what Carnahan is trying to do with it, but he doesn’t quite know when to stop it.

Finally, while I enjoyed the film, it’s a bit silly for Carnahan to now be demanding a re-release in October for next year’s award consideration. It’s a good movie, but it’ll be forgotten in award season next year regardless. It’s not that good. Carnahan is a good filmmaker, but he’s also an egomaniac (like many other of his colleagues, I suppose).

Who is gonna like this movie: People who want to see an intense man-versus-nature drama.

Grade: B+

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Rated: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language

Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie and Ed Burns

Directed by: Asger Leth

What it’s about: Sam Worthington plays an escaped convict who climbs out onto the ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel and threatens to jump. The police send in a team to try to talk him down, and soon it becomes apparent that there is something going on besides a suicidal jumper.

What makes the grade: Man on a Ledge reminds me of the film Cellular, which starred Chris Evans and Kim Basinger back in 2004. It’s an entertaining movie that has some good thrills. It employs some nice action sequences in it and has enough things going on in the plot to justify its running time.

It’s also competently acted, and yes, I’m including the typically dull Sam Worthington in this mix. The cast seems to know they’re making a basic crime thriller, so they don’t throw down Oscar clip moments that make the movie look silly. In short, there are all the elements in this film to make it not a waste of time to watch on a lazy Saturday.

What fails: However, Man on a Ledge is nothing more than a film that isn’t a waste of time to watch on a lazy Saturday. As inoffensive and attractive as Sam Worthington is, I don’t know of anyone (besides James Cameron, maybe) that he really lights a fire under. He may be the “it guy” in movies now, but he just can’t carry a film without giant blue Na’vi surrounding him or fighting a computer generated Kraken.

For as enjoyable and entertaining as Man on a Ledge is, it offers nothing new. It is predictable down to the last frame, exemplifying the height of minimalist storytelling, at least from an original idea perspective.

Who is gonna like this movie: Someone who wants a distraction that will be forgotten in mere minutes.

Grade: B

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity

Starring: Katherine Heigl, John Leguizamo, Daniel Sunjata, Jason O’Mara and Patrick Fischler

Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson

What it’s about: Katherine Heigl stars as Stephanie Plum, the lead character in Janet Evanovich’s best-selling book series. Plum is fired from her job at Macy’s and must take a job as a bounty hunter to make ends meet. When she tries to collar an old boyfriend who skipped bail, she finds herself in the midst of a dangerous murder mystery.

What makes the grade: One for the Money reminds me a bit of last fall’s What’s Your Number? That movie wasn’t that good, but its stars Anna Faris and Chris Evans were so charming in it, they helped elevate it to a watchable level. If Anna Faris was the star of One for the Money, we might have had the same effect. Unfortunately, the star is the irritating and arrogant Katherine Heigl.

I can respect the original source material, even though I haven’t read it myself. But from what I gathered from the film, it has some punchy characters and an entertaining story. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a mid-90s piece of pop literature that a housewife might read on vacation. This type of story is a fun, light read that deserves a strong audience.

But it has no place being a major motion picture.

What fails: At best – and that’s if you don’t find Katherine Heigl an annoyance of epic proportions – One for the Money is a mildly entertaining Lifetime TV movie. The script is rocky, jumping around from plot element to plot element sometimes with very little sense, and containing godawful dialogue like, “You’re ancient history. Like the pyramids.” Yeah, they use that little ditty twice in the film, actually.

But the fatal error in this film is its reliance on Katherine Heigl, who doesn’t have a shred of believability as a hard-nosed, smart-talking girl from New Jersey. She might be doing that accent okay, but her acting (as it is often) is so disingenuous that it’s hard to sit still through the film.

I suppose if you are okay with Heigl as an actor, this movie isn’t terrible… but she’s only slightly less annoying than Jennifer Lopez, who is only slightly less annoying than waterboarding.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of Evanovich’s books and people who don’t mind Katherine Heigl.

Grade: D

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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