Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: October 21, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in a frilly lace cravat and some leather boots, grabs his sword and takes a trip to France to become a Musketeer. Unfortunately, he seems to be almost 400 years too late for those kinds of shenanigans. So he hops the English Channel to become a spy with MI-7.

Of course, no one told him that MI-7 was actually nothing more than propaganda. So he heads back home for a good night’s sleep, and to make sure that happens, he videotapes himself throughout the house. While he doesn’t witness any paranormal activity, there are many unspeakable things that can be seen on them.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Fozzie Bare from The Podcast Podcast returns to the Magical Studio in the Sky to talk about this week’s movies with Kevin.

Studio: Paramount

Rated: R for some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use

Starring: Brian Boland, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown

Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

What it’s about: This prequel of a prequel shows where the paranormal activity began for the girls from the first two films. Taking place in September 1988, the girl’s mother and step-father set up a bunch of cameras in the house to document strange occurrences.

What I liked: I really enjoyed the first Paranormal Activity, but I thought the second was a weak imitation. Perhaps I’ve just come accustomed to these films for what they are that this latest installment seemed decent enough. Like the previous film, I did appreciate the fact that the story shows great respect for what had been seen before, and there was some care taken to make this film mesh with the other two.

The Catfish team falls into the groove of Paranormal Activity rather nicely, and there are some ways the scares are ramped up. Still keeping relatively restrained from too many special effects, this movie delivers the scares with some excellent imagery and creepy moments. Look for the dust settling, the sheet ghost and the Bloody Mary sequence for some really solid moments of eeriness.

Also, whatever you think of the first 75 minutes of this film, the last 10 minutes really pack a punch, making up for any lost ground.

What I didn’t: Although quick and fun, and a bit of an experience to see with a live audience, Paranormal Activity 3 is nothing more than another retread of the same story from the first film. There’s plenty of overused jump-scares in the beginning, and it does seem a little silly to just get creeped out at a shadow at a window.

I secretly look forward to the day when the teenagers of tomorrow will look at their parents, roll their eyes and scoff, saying these movies were nothing to be scared of.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the series.

Grade: B

Studio: Summit

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure action violence

Starring: Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans

Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson

What it’s about: In what must be the 42,302th iteration of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, director Paul W.S. Anderson gives a different spin on the story. Three disbanded Musketeers, along with the young upstart D’Artagnan, try to stop the evil Cardinal Richelieu from starting a war.

What I liked: In some ways, I’m a sucker for Paul W.S. Anderson, but he’s been forsaking me lately. (After all, have you seen Death Race?) Still, there are some enjoyable things about this movie that the director did right. The first thing is the 3D element, as Anderson is one of the best directorial 3D craftsmen out there, probably in the top 3 or 4 alongside James Cameron. The problem that Anderson faces is his script, actors and dialogue.

Still, the action sequences are fun, as long as you forget any cinematic history and how they tend to borrow from everything ranging from The Matrix and Mission Impossible to the more out-of-the-box rip-offs from The Last Airbender and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. In the end, at the very least, The Three Musketeers is appealing to watch (granted you see it in a theater that has the brightness settings correct).

What I didn’t: The script to this movie is simply godawful. It has anachronistic dialogue that would sound bad coming from a modern cop film. The story and character interaction is needlessly convoluted. And while I have never read Dumas’ original novel, I’ve seen plenty of the films, and I don’t recall a lot of the high-end effects scenes from those.

But it’s the actors that really drive this movie into the dirt. The actual Three Musketeers (Matthew Macfayden as Athos, Luke Evans as Aramis and Ray Stevenson as Porthos) are decent, Christoph Waltz is wasted as Richelieu. To make matters worse, Milla Jovovich’s portrayal of Milady is so terrible that it’s no surprise she’s banging the director. Finally, I cannot talk about the acting in this film without shaming Orlando Bloom, whom I’m convinced thought this film was a comedy, considering how badly he portrayed the Duke of Buckingham.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who only care about the action and look of the film, but not the substance.

Grade: C-

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG for mild action violence, rude humor, some language and brief sensuality

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Dominic West, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike and Burn Gorman

Directed by: Oliver Parker

What it’s about: Bumbling British spy Johnny English is brought out of exile to take down three international assassins.

What I liked: I’ve enjoyed Rowan Atkinson’s comedy for years, particularly his work on Black Adder and Mr. Bean. Eight years ago, he starred in the first Johnny English which, despite its international success, was a bomb in the states and didn’t connect with me in any way. But both that film and this new one offer a few nice things in terms of slapstick and goofy moves that you’d expect from Atkinson.

What I didn’t: Unfortunately, in the spy spoof game, there’s not a lot of new ground to cover. Not only does this film rehash a joke from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, it barely breaks out of the Get Smart routine. Part of the problem is that English isn’t bumbling enough. To a degree, he’s a competent spy, but he just screws up sometimes.

That’s the core problem with this movie. It plays out like a lesser spy movie with a dash of humor thrown in. It doesn’t go far enough. Where British humor is often silly and over-the-top, this one is too restrained. Plus, it featured a gaunt and weirdly mannish Gillian Anderson putting on her best Gwenyth Paltrow accent.

Still, this movie is already raking in the dough overseas, but then again, so did The Tourist last year, and look what a steaming pile of poop that movie was.

Who is gonna like this movie: The British.

Grade: C-

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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