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AVATAR

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver

Directed by: James Cameron

What it’s about: 150 years in the future, a paralyzed Marine named Jake Skully is sent on a mission to the faraway planet of Pandora where a corporation wants to mine the extremely rare mineral “unobtainium.” The indigenous population of Pandora includes the Na’vi, a race of eight-foot-tall aliens, and scientists have found a way to project the mind of human subjects into genetically modified Na’vi avatars. When Skully gets an opportunity to join a Na’vi tribe, he soon finds himself at odds with his mission and his sympathies for his new friends.

What I liked: This year has been an exciting time for moviegoers because it has brought back the cinematic experience. I don’t care if you own a 50-inch plasma television with a high-end Blu-ray player and 7.1 surround sound. You cannot experience films like My Bloody Valentine 3D, Paranormal Activity and now Avatar to their full extend without seeing it in a theater. It is for this reason that I consider Avatar to be the must-see event film of the year.

James Cameron has created a visual spectacle with incredible action sequences that crush anything Michael Bay gave us with Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen. He is also a master of pacing, and this makes the 160-minute running time of the film not only bearable but fleeting at times.

The selling point to this movie is the special effects, which are simply amazing. I have been throwing around the term “crap-your-pants awesome” a lot with this movie, and I stand behind this. Watching Avatar in the IMAX in 3D, you will see things that you have never seen before – and aren’t likely to see again anytime soon.

What I didn’t: I will admit that the thinly veiled (or rather completely unveiled) connection between the Na’vi and the Native Americans is a bit tired. Similarly, the concept of pushing aside a population because of a resource beneath their land is a none-too-subtle allegory for oil. This is Cameron’s worldview, folks. If you didn’t think you were going to get a certain amount of preaching, you are just plain stupid.

You need to go into this movie accepting the fact that Cameron’s storytelling isn’t at its best, nor are the characters, or even the actors behind them for that matter. After all, Sam Worthington is a far cry from Michael Biehn, and Sigourney Weaver is a far cry from Sigourney Weaver c. 1986.

Still, who is going to see this movie for the plot and characters?

Who is gonna like this movie: Fanboys, fanboys, fanboys.

Grade: A

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual references and momentary violence.

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant, Sam Elliot, Mary Steenburgen and Elisabeth Moss

Directed by: Marc Lawrence

What it’s about: Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant play Manhattanites getting ready to divorce. When they witness a Mafia hit, they are put into the witness relocation program and dropped off in the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming. They have to deal with the sudden rural, small town world and the fact that they can’t get back in touch with their businesses in New York. And to make matters work, they have to deal with each other just when they thought their divorce was going to go through.

What I liked: There are some laughable moments in this film, many of which come from the trailers. Hugh Grant steals pretty much every scene from Sarah Jessica Parker, using his self-deprecating nature and quiet mugs at the camera.

For counter-programming against a film like Avatar, this movie will work. It’s not as awful as Made of Honor, but not as clever as Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. So if your wife or girlfriend isn’t interested in a trip to the IMAX screen, at least Did You Hear About the Morgans? might get you laid… if you’re lucky.

What I didn’t: In three words… Sarah Jessica Parker. I don’t have a problem with her, per se, but she was just shrill and excruciating in this movie. It was her story, and her characters was a moron. She was a brilliant businesswoman but couldn’t believe that a discount shack in Wyoming would sell a sweater for $15. She’s on the cover of The New Yorker, but she doesn’t understand that you don’t need to bring an evening gown into the witness relocation program.

This fish-out-of-water comedy has been done before – with a very similar plot in For Richer or For Poorer with Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley, and even as a much more effective film this summer with Sandra Bullock in The Proposal.

Remember guys… this movie is really here just to get you laid this weekend. Did I already mention that?

Who is gonna like this movie: The counter-programming demographic and people who don’t want to see eight-foot tall blue aliens and U.S. Marines kicking the shit out of each other in glorious 3D.

Grade: C+

UP IN THE AIR

Studio: Paramount

Rated: R for language and some sexual content.

Starring: George Clooney, Vera Fermiga, Anna Kendrick and Jason Bateman

Directed by: Jason Reitman

What it’s about: Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate consultant who is hired to lay off employees of a company in the red. Because of a weak economy, his business is booming, and he spends more than 90 percent of the year traveling. He likes it this way, but soon his worldview is challenged when he meets a sultry woman who also travels for a living, as well as being forced to show a young upstart in his office the advantages of firing people in person.

What I liked: Like Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking, Up in the Air deals with very similar themes about a man doing a nefarious job and loving it. It also shows a light-hearted, yet totally relatable, look at the plight the American office worker is facing.

The performances make this film work. Clooney is getting a lot of credit, and deservedly so. He carries the film on his shoulders, but it is Anna Kendrick as the girl trying to revamp the firing industry that really steals the show. She shows a vulnerability and relatablility that makes her a perfect foil for Clooney.

Finally, the coolest part of the film has to be the individual firing sequences. As someone who has suffered corporate layoff as well as spent quite a bit of time on the road, I found a lot of familiarity in this movie, and it has a strange warm feeling that shouldn’t be there, considering the subject matter.

What I didn’t: The biggest problem with a movie like this that is getting tons of praise during award season is that it might not live up to the hype. Up in the Air is a fine movie, but it’s not the best of the year. And if you go in with your expectations too high, you might not find the love that everyone else has.

Or maybe you will. Give this one a whirl.

Who is gonna like this movie: General movie fans and award movie aficionados.

Grade: A-


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