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ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG for some mild rude humor

Starring: Zachary Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee, Justin Long and Matthew Gray Gubler

Directed by: Betty Thomas

What it’s about: Alvin, Simon and Theodore return to the big screen in this follow-up to the 2007 Christmastime hit. In this installment, after injuring their surrogate father Dave in a music tour accident, the chipmunks are sent back to L.A. where they have to lead a normal life. Included in that normal life is high school, where they learn some life lessons about popularity and bullies. Meanwhile, smarmy record producer Ian Hawke (David Cross) has found a new singing sensation – the Chipettes.

What I liked: Despite fears of losing my street cred, I will admit that I really dug the first Alvin and the Chipmunks. A lot of this had to do with the fact that I brought my kids along with me, and they loved the movie. Similarly, this film has a special place in my heart simply because of its cuteness factor and the effect it has on my kids.

I grew up in the 1980s, so I remember the old television cartoon for this franchise. Those shows were nothing special, but they were a part of my childhood, so when The Squeakquel come out looking more like an extended episode of that series, I had a certain degree of nostalgia.

Ultimately, The Squeakquel has what most kids will consider high art: cute animals, zany action, some well placed fart jokes and at least one scene where someone gets hit in the nuts. If you don’t find that fun, you won’t like this movie.

What I didn’t: The Squeakquel has lost a certain amount of freshness from the original, so use that as your benchmark. Regular grown-ups (i.e., those who aren’t interested in kids or what they find interesting) will roll their eyes at so much in this movie. The characters are a bit forced, and much of the high school moments seem random and patched together, as if they were aiming for a High School Musical with buck teeth and fur.

Let’s face it, if the first Alvin and the Chipmunks made your brain bleed, you’ll want to skip this one… or at least have a medic waiting in the wings.

Who is gonna like this movie: Pretty much kids and anyone who wasn’t traumatized by the first film.

Grade: B-

SHERLOCK HOLMES

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong and Eddie Marsan

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

What it’s about: Guy Ritchie gives us a punchier, more modern Sherlock Holmes story with Robert Downey Jr. taking on the role as the classic detective. The abrasive Holmes is ready to part ways with Dr. Watson (Jude Law) when they learn that an executed serial killer has apparently come back from the grave. Holmes uses his brilliant powers of logic, reasoning and deduction to solve a mystery that will launch London into the modern age.

What I liked: As much as I respect Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original source material, the rather stuffy character of Sherlock Holmes definitely needed a face-lift for today’s audiences. Guy Ritchie definitely went out for this effect, putting his edgy style he has honed since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to good use.

But beyond Ritchie’s distinctive flavor of filmmaking, the real catch to this movie are the actors, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, to be exact. Downey Jr. and Law both give a unique interpretation of the characters, making them both sexy and charismatic in their own ways.

The look of this film is pretty unique among other films of the genre, and with the exception of some rather awful green screen work, it’s a neat film from a visual standpoint. You’re not going to see many films like this in the theaters today.

What I didn’t: As much as I liked the updated look, feel and flavor of this movie, things seemed really murky, especially in the beginning. I’m not just talking from a cinematography perspective, though that did seem to weight the picture down at times. But even the plot itself seemed overly cumbersome, and I found myself at several points trying to remember why the characters were doing what they were doing.

Fortunately, the second half of the film is better than the first, and the movie does build to a rather powerful and explanatory climax.

The only other real complaint I had was with Rachel McAdams, who just phoned in her performance like Suzanne Somers from a bad episode of Three’s Company.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr. and modern versions of classic tales.

Grade: B+

IT’S COMPLICATED

Studio: Universal

Rated: R for some drug content and sexuality.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski and Lake Bell

Directed by: Nancy Meyers

What it’s about: Meryl Streep plays a woman who strikes up an affair with her ex-husband years after their divorce. Suddenly finding herself to be “the other woman,” she has to reconcile this tryst with her new suitor (Steve Martin), her kids and herself.

What I liked: On the whole, I really do like the films of Nancy Meyers. I’m not in her target demographic, but movies like Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday are some of the sweetest, warmest films I’ve seen. Meyers brings her own friendly touch to this film, having a lot of fun with her actors.

On a certain level, I do appreciate what Meyers was doing with this film, and that is making a teen sex comedy with people in their 50s and 60s rather than teenagers. I get it, and it works for an audience of people in their 50s and 60s, I’m sure.

Finally, I will give kudos to Alec Baldwin, who is always game for a good comedy. I really didn’t want to see that much of the man (we damn near get to see both his 30 Rocks), but he gets an A for effort.

What I didn’t: If you’re not a huge fan of the stars, and mainly Meryl Streep (which I’m not), you’ll come up short with It’s Complicated. It’s Streep’s movie, so you really have to like her to enjoy the film.

As much as I like Meyers’ work, I do wish she’d get over her divorce with Charles Shyer. It’s gone from providing story seeds to just bogging down her work. She’s stopped being subtle a long time ago.

This movie makes it about half-way. Some actors, like Steve Martin, are simply wasted in the role (and literally wasted in one scene, featuring the old people smoking a joint that goes on way too long). Others are just too nice to make it work all the way.

Who is gonna like this movie: Old people.

Grade: C+


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