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WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language.

Starring: Catherine Keener, Max Records, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose and James Gandolfini

Directed by: Spike Jonze

What it’s about: This adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book tells the story of young Max (Max Records), who is constantly getting in trouble at home. One night after being punished, he runs away to a magical land where he meets a tribe of Wild Things and becomes their king.

What I liked: I loved this book as a child, and I was thrilled to see that this has been given a faithful and inspired adaptation. Bringing a picture book to life on screen is different from adapting a novel because instead of trimming things down, the screenwriter must embellish on the original story. Spike Jonze does a brilliant job hitting all the major points of the book but adding a brand new story to the mix.

Where the Wild Things Are deals with some heavy issues, including loss, friendship, heartbreak and the loss of innocence. In this sense, it’s more appropriate for a grown-up who has been through all this but still remembers the book fondly.

In the age of CGI robots blowing shit up, it’s nice to see a throwback to traditional creature effects. While the faces and other elements of the film were enhanced with computer graphics, the characters were furry, real and tangible.

This all helped to make the movie relateable and strangely realistic. Jonze resists the urge to explain anything about the movie, and that’s one of its strengths. It’s the story of a child told from a child’s point of view, and it works.

What I didn’t: Some of the movie’s subject matter is pretty dark and dreary. This makes sense because Max is on the verge of puberty and is dealing with uncontrollable emotion. However, this element of realism might not be appropriate for all ages. Where the Wild Things Are can be bipolar at times and does have some moment of dragging in the middle which could bog down younger kids, so keep that in mind.

Who is gonna like this movie: Grown-ups… who used to be kids (which is everyone).

Grade: A-

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN

Studio: Overture Films

Rated: R for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language.

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney and Leslie Bibb

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

What it’s about: Gerard Butler plays a man whose wife and daughter are murdered. Jamie Foxx plays the prosecutor who cuts a deal, letting one of the killers walk with only five years in prison. Butler’s character isn’t happy with the outcome, so he brutally murders both killers. Then, after being arrested and put in jail, he starts picking off one-by-one the people involved in what he considered to be an injustice.

What I liked: As a husband and father, I can totally relate to Butler’s character. I can’t say that I wouldn’t take similar retribution on anyone who went after my family And with all the goofy court outcomes we’ve seen in this country (e.g., O.J. Simpson and the Menendez boys), I can’t say that Butler’s character doesn’t have a point. Anyone frustrated with the corrupt criminal justice system will find this movie appropriately cathartic.

F. Gary Gray delivers a solid action thriller with some really neat twists and the single most awesome on-screen death since Amanda Detmer was hit by a bus in Final Destination. He starts off making a movie that had the potential to be the next Se7en.

What I didn’t: Unfortunately, Gray cops out with his film. He doesn’t have the balls that David Fincher had when he made Se7en and goes for a conclusion that really isn’t very satisfying at all. I found myself rooting for Butler’s character through pretty much the whole film and saw Foxx’s character as the one that needed to be adjusted.

Like I said to some friends on Twitter after seeing the movie at an advanced screening: It’s 90 percent awesome and 10 percent just okay.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the stars and badass legal thrillers.

Grade: B+

THE STEPFATHER

Studio: Screen Gems

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality.

Starring: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard and Sherry Stringfield

Directed by: Nelson McCormick

What it’s about: This remake of the 1987 cult classic stars Nip/Tuck’s Dylan Walsh as a serial killer who targets widows and divorcees, marries them, then slaughters the family after things get bad. Sheesh… talk about a complicated exit strategy. His new targets start to get suspicious which causes him to go on a somewhat random killing spree, crave peanut butter and cancel newspaper subscriptions.

What I liked: Normally for a movie like this, I say something snappy like, “At least it was in focus.” The problem is that this doesn’t even apply for The Stepfather. Too many scenes had characters go soft when the focus puller dashed off of set to shoot smack. Seriously, folks, they couldn’t even keep their own movie in focus.

The only plus was the fact that Amber Heard spends much of the film in either a bikini or her underwear. I’m all for this, but like Transformers 2 which was a giant dicktease of a movie with no payoff, The Stepfather never delivered anything more than a butt cheek peeking out of her panties. Considering this girl has no problem taking her clothes off in front of the camera, I was disappointed. Screw you, PG-13 Screen Gems turds!

What I didn’t: Everything else. Where to start?… No one sees the early warning signs… No one believes the late warning signs… The soundtrack is overproduced, giving the goofy looking Dylan Walsh a rumbling sustained note “I’m a killer” musical theme… There’s no subtlety whatsoever… The cops talk about how bloody the crime scenes are, but there is really no blood… The plot is a house of cards… Sela Ward’s sister is in a lesbian relationship, and I’ve seen better lesbian acting at www.ButtHunger.com… The movie is more predictable than an episode of Dora the Explorer… And all people do in this movie is swim, take showers, eat dinner and kill people.

And all this added to the fact that the guy wasn’t actually a stepfather (because he wasn’t married to Sela Ward’s character)! I know this is splitting hairs, but that just shows how apathy ruled on this movie from script to final cut.

Who is gonna like this movie: Idiots.

Grade: F


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