Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: February 3, 2012

Kevin Carr's Weekly Report Card

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads out to the drab English countryside to settle a woman’s estate only to find the place haunted. Fortunately, Kevin had already crawled down a mysterious hole and gained super powers, so he’s able to fend off the evil spirits. For a fleeting moment, he considers using his new powers for good, like to save a family of gray whales trapped under the ice in Barrow, Alaska. However, his fear of the 30 Days of Night vampires keep him at home. He then decides to use his new powers to read the subtitles of The Hidden Face so he can enjoy the copious amounts of pretty Colombian breasts.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined by Fozzie Bare to celebrate 250 episodes of what should be everyone’s favorite podcast (or at least somewhere in the top 10).

Studio: CBS Films

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, David Burke and Shaun Dooley

Directed by: James Watkins

What it’s about: Daniel Radcliffe plays a lawyer in the late 1800s who takes a job settling the estate of a dead woman. However, once he visits the estate, he realizes that the woman is still lurking about as a vengeful ghost.

What makes the grade: Like last year’s Insidious, The Woman in Black relies heavily on atmosphere and creepiness to work. And it does to a large extent. The set design and cinematography captures the eerieness you’d expect from a Hammer movie, and the film takes its time to draw out the rather sparse story in order to build suspense and throw in plenty of jump-scares.

Radcliffe does a fine job being someone other than Harry Potter, and he carries the film well with a modicum of dialogue. It’s a slow burn of a film and quite a diversion from the recent yet tired popular trends in horror, like found footage and torture porn.

What fails: The biggest downfall of this movie is going to be the audience you see it with. With plenty of slower, quieter moments, you’re gonna find the standard bored American audience texting, tweeting and talking with little regard for those around them. This can make an otherwise decent (though not great) film a chore to sit through. And that might lead to this being a better rental than anything else.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who can appreciate a basic but effectively creepy film.

Grade: B+

Studio: Universal Pictures

Rated: PG for language

Starring: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Tim Blake Nelson and Mark Ivanir

Directed by: Ken Kwapis

What it’s about: Back in the late 80s, three gray whales became trapped under the ice in Barrow, Alaska. In an attempt to bring them safely to the sea, an unlikely partnership among a whaling village, media outlets, Greenpeace, an oil company, the Federal government and a Russian icebreaker develops. This is the (mostly) true story of these events.

What makes the grade: Like last year’s Dolphin Tale, Big Miracle is a very cheesy button-pusher about people trying to save the adorable animals. It works as a family film and offers something different than farting CGI rodents and overblown cartoons. It’s really hard to go wrong with the family crowd when making a movie about saving marine life. Big Miracle means well, and that helps it along quite a bit.

Oh, and Dermot Mulroney plays a helicopter pilot from Kenai in this movie, which gave me flashbacks to The Grey from last week. That guy’s starting a career as the go-to Alaska hero.

What fails: As cute as the story is, it lays things on pretty thick, so your cheese tolerance level needs to be high. Also, like anything Hollywood does, it glorifies its own efforts over those of others (and if you don’t believe me, read the Wikipedia page for “Operation Breakthrough” to see how the media may not have been the heroes portrayed in this film). The characters are nothing great though not too annoying or problematic that they will bore the audience.

Who is gonna like this movie: Children and families, especially on Super Bowl Sunday.

Grade: B-

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw and Anna Wood

Directed by: Josh Trank

What it’s about: Three high school assholes get super powers and become super assholes.

What makes the grade: I’d say the idea was sound for this film, but it’s nothing more than your basic superhero origin story in which someone gets super powers, learns how to use them and then fights a bad guy.

The last 15 minutes of this film might have passed for an okay super villain origin story if the kids didn’t channel the acting of Hayden Christians.

What fails: First, I’m done with found footage movies. They are no longer original, interesting or innovative. And putting crappy digital effects into them doesn’t save them either. Second, speaking of the effects, these have the quality of a poor television program on basic cable. I could see the harnesses when the kids flew, and there was a green screen moment that approached the quality of the roof sequence in The Room.

But all the technical warts aside, Chronicle fails because it doesn’t put a damn interesting thin on screen. The main characters are shallow, stupid, insipid people, which may be realistic to a sense in that many teenagers can be accused of this. However, I don’t get into movies with those kinds of characters.

At least five or six times throughout the film, the audience is reminded why they have to keep filming. Didn’t that technique fall out of favor with The Blair Witch Project? And many of these excuses – including a second and utterly pointless character who films everything she sees – make very little sense.

Full of logic flaws, bad effects and some of the most dreadful characters I’ve seen on screen in months, Chronicle is an exercise in teenage narcissism. Sigh… when Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, he becomes Spider-Man. When these a-holes get super powers, they play pranks on people at a Toys R Us. That’s not a compelling film, there.

Who is gonna like this movie: Probably a lot of teenagers who think they are the center of the universe.

Grade: D-

Studio: Fox International

Rated: R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language

Starring: Clara Lago, Martina Garcia and Quim Gutiérrez

Directed by: Andrés Baiz

What it’s about: A young woman begins a relationship with an attractive but brooding maestro. Soon, she learns that there’s a secret in his house, explaining the mystery of his last girlfriend who has gone missing.

What makes the grade: The Hidden Face is a relatively simple movie, but it manages to make a relatively simple story mighty complex. It deals with trust issues in relationships and the unpleasant emotions that emerge during these relationships. From the emotional angle, some scenes are more cutting than you would imagine if you were just told about them, and if you let yourself think about it, they can be pretty raw.

The secret behind the film is also pretty inventive, and it’s not something I’ve seen a million times before. Once revealed, it doesn’t necessarily keep you guessing, but it will add deeper meaning to many of the scenes you’ve already seen.

Oh, and the two female leads in the movie are simply adorable… and naked at least once. (And you thought I was getting respectable there for a moment.)

What fails: There are some points in the movie where its own pretentious subject matter gets the best of it, particularly when examining the romance of music. Also, the beginning of the film appears to be a more humdrum relationship drama, but if you stick with it, you’ll get something more.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of international cinema who enjoy a unique thriller.

Grade: A-

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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