Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card for 11.20.09



Studio: Summit Entertainment

Rated: PG-13 for some violence and action.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone

Directed by: Chris Weitz

What it’s about: The not-so-epic Twilight saga continues with Bella bellyaching about how much she wants to become a vampire. Edward realizes that if he sticks around, he (or someone in his family) will kill and eat her, so he leaves to find himself. Bella falls into a depression until the hunky Jacob Black becomes her BFF but, surprise surprise, he’s actually a werewolf. And Bella wants to know what this all means for her.

What I liked: The second half. Seriously, once the claws come out with the wolf pack and we later get to see the Volturi (i.e., the awesome Italian vampires), things really pick up. The film turns into less of a teenage angst fest and looks more like a vampire movie. Particularly with the Volturi, Michael Sheen mops the floor with the rest of the cast in terms of acting. Too bad he wasn’t in the entire movie.

As for the rest of this film, there are some significant improvements on last year’s Twilight, the main elements being the make-up and the special effects. The vampires don’t just look like they’re padded down with baby powder, and the werewolves are pretty cool, even if they are blindingly obvious CGI models.

What I didn’t: The first half. Jesus Christ on a freaking crutch, could that Bella Swan be more pathetic. If I had been watching this movie on television, I would have turned it off in the first hour. In the beginning, she constantly nags Edward to make her a vampire. Then she cuts her finger and holds it up in front of the vampires, innocently saying, “It’s just a little blood.” Then she hits depression mode the likes of which has never been seen in a film, complete with alienating her friends, staying bedridden for months on end and waking up screaming about how much it hurts her heart. I found myself wishing a 60s-era Connery James Bond would walk in and smack her around a bit just to get on with the show.

With that said, if you’re going to have a lesser half of a film, better make it the first half. But still, I’d find myself so much more into the Twilight saga if we just got rid of Bella and Edward stopped being such a douche. Team Jacob all the way, people!

Who is gonna like this movie: Twi-hards, Twi-moms and their dates who want to get laid.

Grade: B-


Studio: TriStar Pictures

Rated: PG for mild sci-fi action and some suggestive humor.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Gary Oldman and Seann William Scott

Directed by: Jorge Blanco

What it’s about: An alien world that inexplicably emulates 1950s America is wrapped up in paranoia about an invasion of brain-sucking extraterrestrial are shocked when an American astronaut lands in their back yard… and the hilarity ensues (or at least it should, in a perfect world).

What I liked: The concept is actually pretty funny, even though the film completely botches it. The animation is decent, although the bulbous aliens don’t quite work from a design concept level. But hey, they’re worlds better than the talking termites in Delgo.

Oh, and my kids really liked it, which is really the target market, after all.

What I didn’t: To make a good movie, you need a good plot and good characters. Planet 51 delivers neither of these. There’s a randomness to the entire film, throwing jokes at the screen that never quite stick. Dwayne Johnson slathers on the cheese in a role that makes me long for the January release of The Tooth Fairy.

The story is a real stretch. I get the idea to turn 50s paranoia on its ear, but even in the context of an animated movie, it’s a real stretch. Apparently the astronaut doesn’t realize that the planet has life because the roving robot sent as a scout only collected rocks. Yeah… that barely works even for a cartoon.

And speaking of the roving robot, when it decides to bond with one of the aliens, it looks like it’s humping him to death. That’s an awkward moment with your kids in an animated movie.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids… and that’s about it.

Grade: C-


Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references.

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Kathy Bates, Tim McGraw, Ray McKinnon and Quinton Aaron

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

What it’s about: Michael Oher is a homeless teen in Memphis who is taken in by a wealthy white family. They eventually adopt him and help him bring his grades up enough that he can play football. This is the true story of Oher, who is now a player for the Baltimore Ravens.

What I liked: It might seem like a back-handed compliment to say that I didn’t hate this movie, but it’s an accurate statement. This movie was something I was dreading from the moment I saw that trailers, but the film itself isn’t as melodramatic as the trailers lead on. It is an inspirational story, and it’s a feel-good movie. For the most part, it manages to achieve this without being too schmaltzy.

The acting is pretty good, with Sandra Bullock pulling off the rich, southern mom. Too bad she kinda steals the show from Oher’s character.

What I didn’t: There’s no doubt about it… The Blind Side is a button pusher. Sometimes, these buttons are pushed a little too deliberately and it becomes a little shameless in this respect. Some of the scenes of Bullock’s sassiness are over the top and less than believable, but who am I to judge Hollywood’s retelling of a true story.

If you’re hoping for a big football movie, you’ll be disappointed. The story hits certain elements of football, but that’s only about 25 percent of the film. But that doesn’t stop it from giving some gratuitous ego boosts to known college coaches and recruiters.

Who is gonna like this movie: Inspirational sports movie junkies.

Grade: B-


Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language.

Starring: Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd and Lenny Kravitz

Directed by: Lee Daniels

What it’s about: Clarisse “Precious” Jones is an overweight, illiterate teenager in 1987 Harlem who is pregnant with her father’s child. She is kicked out of school for being pregnant and, against the advice of her caustic mother, joins a tutoring program so she can get her GED.

What I liked: This movie does have a good message and it will inspire its viewers. We’ve all heard the critics in this country stampeding to the chance to give the movie a glowing review. It’s good, but it’s a victim of its own hype at times.

The stand-out parts of this movie come from the performances of Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe as the title character. Other roles are given more hype right now, but let’s not take away Sidibe’s work on the movie. She does a great job in her role, and she deserves her accolades.

Mariah Carey has been given some kudos for her underplayed role as a social worker, but it is Mo’Nique who shines as the evil mother that allows abuse to happen to her daughter.

What I didn’t: Our illustrious executive editor Neil Miller has referred to this movie as “poverty porn,” and he’s absolutely right. There’s more social issues in this movie than a very special episode of any given 80s sit-com. About two-thirds through the movie, another social issue bomb is dropped on Precious, and I literally rolled my eyes. All we need now is for Somali pirates to be written into the film, and we’d have it all covered.

One other problem with this movie… where were all the psychic warriors? I thought this was Push!

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who has ever considered joining an Oprah book club.

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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