Category Archives: June 2012

Ted: Once Upon a Time… for adults

Ted (MACFARLANE) and John (WAHLBERG) in TED. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

If my toys came to life when I was a child, I would never have left my bedroom. This is the premise of Ted, a movie where the impossible becomes possible because of a childhood wish for a teddy bear to come to life.

Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane has conjured a fairy tale no child should ever watch, but every adult can indulge in. Alongside two of his fellow Family Guy writers, the script delivers mountains of hilarious one-liners, 80’s references and gags, while adding a touch of heart to keep the mayhem from getting out of control. In his live-action directorial debut, MacFarlane looked like a veteran and the box office numbers will prove it.

Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane and Mila Kunis balance the constant, memorable humor and demanding emotional moments effectively. Mila Kunis in particular delivers some of her best work trying to reconcile the fact that she is in a relationship with a man who will not grow up.

Seth MacFarlane’s voice-over and motion capture of the adorably dirty Ted is simply, perfect. The CGI of the Snuggle look-a-like convinces you that you’re watching a living stuffed animal doing the most outlandish things imaginable.

This movie will keep you laughing well after the credits roll and you’ll want to own it when it hits shelves at your local store.

Bottom Line: Get ready to laugh… and then laugh some more.

Grade A-

Runtime: 106 mimutes
3D: No

The Amazing Spider-Man: Well worth the reboot

Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man. In theatres July 3, 2012. Courtesy of Sony Pictures

How many of you are wondering why Spider-Man is being rebooted only five years after the absolute garbage that was Spider-Man 3? Well, if the latter half of your own question doesn’t give you a hint, here’s the answer you’re looking for: In order for Sony to hold the rights to the web-slinging franchise, they had to make a movie within a certain number of years and time was running out. Fortunately for us, The Amazing Spider-Man successfully reboots the dying franchise and fixes all of the character errors running rampant the original trilogy.

In this reboot, high school genius, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), struggles with the loss of those closest to him and deals with his newfound arachnoid powers.

Correcting Sam Raimi’s production faults of the past was a high priority in this reimagining. The fresh new faces were perfectly cast with the talented Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) delivering a far superior Peter Parker than his predecessor, Tobey Maguire. Matching his excellence in performance is Emma Stone (Easy A), whose subtle character nuances are not something you can teach at drama school.

Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) nailed the character development. Where his direction, and the script from a trio of writers, falls short is in the development of the villain. Had Dr. Connors/The Lizard’s journey been further elaborated upon, he would have been seen as more than your run of the mill mutant monster.

The special effects are fantastic in every aspect except for the CGI rendering of The Lizard, who looked out of place when compared to more accurately rendered characters like The Hulk in The Avengers.

In the end, the solid story and depth left me hungry for a sequel.

Bottom Line: This is Peter Parker as he should be. Definitely venture out to watch this in IMAX 3D on Wednesday, July 3, 2012.

Grade B+

Runtime: 136 minutes
3D: Yes

Jaws: Restoration adds beauty to the terror

Catch the fully restored Jaws at TIFF Bell Lightbox starting June 29th. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

It is said that a fear of sharks is primal in most human beings. With masterful direction and one of the greatest musical scores, Steven Spielberg’s original run of Jaws terrified audiences and induced unprecedented phobias among moviegoers. Thirty-seven years later, this classic horror has been given a much needed restoration from the original beaten up stock and the results are impeccable. Rather than explain it all to you, I’ll let the professionals give you the scoop in the video below.

Simply put, the restoration makes the movie look like a period film shot today. They’ve also avoided any George Lucas style digital “upgrades” to replace any of the practical effects. While present day audiences have been desensitized to brutal violence, Jaws still manages to wrap you in a blanket of fear. Not something many horrors of today will be able to claim 30 years in the future.

The only problem with this movie is the lack of knowledge about the behavior of sharks during its production. Peter Benchley, author of the novel the movie is based on, has mentioned he would have never written the book had he known about the real behavior of sharks. This is important for all those who treat the fictional film as a source of facts.

With that in mind, you’ll want to treat yourself to a magnificent example of filmmaking. The Hitchcockian influenced direction from Steven Spielberg is brilliant, as is the editing by Verna Fields and the performances from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss.

Bottom Line: Jaws’ flawless face lift deserves to be revisited by every fan of great cinema.

You can find the restored re-release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto or in select local theatres on June 29th.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: A fun historical fantasy ride

Benjamin Walker and Dominic Cooper star in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

What are the first words that come to mind when “vampire” and “movie” are mentioned together these days? Any of these ring a bell: Bad writing, awful acting, glittering nonsense, ridiculous romance? None of these words will be uttered after you’ve watched Timur Bekmametov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Mixing fiction with history, this movie follows “Honest” Abe’s vengeful quest to rid the USA of vampires.

Going into this movie, it’s hard to wrap your mind around such a fantastical concept. Luckily, director Timur Bekmametov (Wanted) and novelist/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows) pull off the adventure with style.

Audiences will be equally satisfied if they’re looking for either a killing spree or a solid story. Both writer and director balance the bountiful violence and important character development to make this an entertaining film, and not just a blood bath.

Surprisingly, there are also terrific performances to be found with the cast. No actor felt out of place, with Benjamin Walker leading the way as the 16th president. Walker’s performance commands your attention with his portrayal of a great man dealing with loss, love and leading a nation through civil war.

There is a multitude of incredible fantasy-based action choreography to sink your teeth into. However, the CGI can vary from seamless to distracting at times.

You’ll want to take the 3D journey that not only provides depth to the picture, but also a lot of non-distracting, in-your-face moments as well.

Bottom Line: Take the fictitious ride with one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known and you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

Grade B+

Runtime: 105 minutes
3D: Yes

Brave: DisneyPixar is back

Kelly MacDonald voices Princess Merida in BRAVE. Courtesy of Disney Pictures

Standards have been set extraordinarily high for animated films over the last decade. We’ve been wonderfully spoiled with spectacular work from DisneyPixar studios, with movies that went far beyond the usual fairy tales of the old days (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up). Fast Forward to 2011 where we witnessed the less than impressive sequel, Cars 2. Are Disney and Pixar returning to greatness or diving deeper into the pit of reckless disaster with their latest movie Brave? The conclusive answer is: They’re back!

In Brave, we follow a young Scottish princess named Merida through her desperate battle for freedom from the claws of tradition and her unrelenting mother.

Sure enough, a simple story with phenomenal attention to detail and a talented production team make this movie an absolute delight.
All of the voice actors squeezed everything out of their acting arsenal to deliver the perfect trio of humour, emotions and fantasy.

Most impressive of all is 36 year old Kelly MacDonald (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), who plays the young and feisty Merida. She managed to perfectly portray her adolescent character, without becoming a caricature of an annoying teenager. Luckily, the studio avoided a disaster when they lost out on their first choice of Reese Witherspoon for the lead character.

Three directors/writers worked on bringing their script to life and it looks like they may have the Oscar for Best Animated Film in the bag.

Complementing the filmmaker’s vision is the jaw-dropping animation. Not only are the detail-rich backgrounds a photo-realistic heaven, but the movement is incredibly smooth – Particularly with Merida’s gorgeous red curly hair.

Bottom Line: The best animated movie of the year!

Grade A

Runtime: 100 minutes
3D: Yes


BRAVE Coin Archery Game PDF

BRAVE Merida Wisp Maze PDF

Prometheus: A step below greatness

Logan Marshall-Green, Noomi Rapace, and Michael Fassbender star in Prometheus. Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

It’s difficult not to become completely encapsulated in an epic horror/sci-fi the likes of Ridley Scott’s Alien from 1979. With the standards set from that film, any movie associated with it will be viewed under extreme scrutiny. Luckily, Prometheus separates itself from the original by focusing on the science and adds elements of horror to spice things up.

In Prometheus, a scientific discovery leads to a galactic exploration to find the origins of humanity. What they find when they reach their destination is nothing close to what they expected.

Ridley Scott, the once legendary director, has returned to where his major success had initialized with classics like Blade Runner. With the aid of writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindeloff, Scott takes us on a journey that explores man’s greatest mystery: Where do we come from? Both director and writers achieve an incredible level of thought provoking ideas and thrilling storytelling. However, they also left a lot of unexplored venues which will prevent this movie from reaching the stratospheric acclaim of its predecessor.

Casting for this movie hit an almost perfect score with an excellent ensemble of actors to portray the various archetypes. Michael Fassbender is yet again phenomenal in his role as the multi-layered, intriguing android. Alongside him, Noomi Rapace shows equal skill in manifesting her character’s emotions (very reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in 1979). While the rest of the cast was great, Charlize Theron completely lacked everything that was required to make her performance memorable. Mind you, it is hard to be memorable when your character appeared to be tacked on haphazardly.

The cinematography is beautiful, but the musical score lacked atmosphere to really provide punch to crucial moments.

Scott’s use of the added 3rd dimension works phenomenally. The entire film viewed through 3D glasses delivered the most realistic “looking through a window” effect to date. Definitely worth the additional cost.

Bottom Line: No matter how great this film appears to be, the nagging flaws keep it from becoming an epic classic.

Grade B+

Runtime: 124 minutes
3D: Yes

Cosmopolis: Cronenberg’s lost it!

Robert Pattinson and a host of other actors star in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. Courtesy of eOne Films

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Oscar winning writer/director David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, Crash, The Fly) has delivered numerous critically acclaimed films making fellow Canadians proud…until now. His latest film, will undoubtedly have most people asking “Has he lost his mind?”

In Cosmopolis, we follow a 28-year-old billionaire as he ventures through a large city meeting with a plethora of unusual people, in the comfort of his high-tech limousine.

It is simply baffling that Cronenberg could deliver such a load of mindless trash to the viewing public. The adapted screenplay of Don DeLillo’s novel is completely void of any kind of cohesion. The character’s motivations and actions are senseless, but does it really matter when we are unable to relate to them anyway? Any fan of his past work will most likely be staring at the screen thinking this is a convoluted mess, that is, if they haven’t already decided to walk out of the theatre.

Every line of dialogue read by the vast cast sounds as if they’re reciting a cheap philosophical novel. Robert Pattinson (Twilight, Remember Me) looks as if he’s constipated throughout most of the film. The only performance that felt worth watching is Paul Giamatti’s (Rock of Ages, Cinderella Man) – Even if the above mentioned scene is a total disaster.

From a technical or artistic standpoint, there are absolutely no redeemable aspects to this movie.

Bottom Line: David Cronenberg should be paying people a handsome fee to sit through this drivel.

Grade F

Runtime: 108 minutes
3D: No

Snow White and the Huntsman: $175 million disappointment

Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart star in Snow White and the Huntsman. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Earlier this year, Mirror Mirror failed (in every conceivable way) to reimagine the classic fairy tale. However, hopes were very high for the second, darker take on the classic Brothers Grimm tale, Snow White and The Huntsman. Unfortunately, our hopes have been shattered and the blame lay in the hands of many.

This film attempts to give the age old tale some back story while adding more magic and throwing in a lot of CGI action.

If you’re thinking to yourself those sound like the right ingredients for this kind of endeavour, you’d be right. The problem rests with the people involved in making the film. Put simply, they hadn’t the foggiest idea what they were doing.

Starting with inexperienced director Rupert Sanders, whose resume up until now included a handful of overrated shorts and commercials, seemed painfully ill equipped to translate his brooding ideas to film. The question on everyone’s mind after seeing this dismal attempt will inevitably be: who at Universal Pictures thought giving Sanders a whopping $175 million budget was a good investment.

I would have liked to have seen the writers and director elaborating on the backstory of the evil queen, maybe then we would actually care about what was happening to the characters when the drama begins to unfold.

The performances by the primary cast further polluted the film. Kristen Stewart had as much charisma as a rock, even when she was seemingly forcing herself to show more. You’ll also find more chemistry in a kindergarten class than between Stewart and her male co-stars, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin. Shockingly, this wasn’t the worst performance in the film. That shameful title goes to Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron (Monster), whose countless attempts at delivering child-like temper tantrums were painful to sit through.

The only thing worth mentioning were the enchanting seven dwarfs, who were fully grown actors convincingly shrunk down to miniature size.

Bottom Line: This big budget movie has nothing to offer but big time disappointment. Save your money and watch paint dry – Far more entertaining.

Grade D

Runtime: 127 minutes
3D: No

Moonrise Kingdom: Hits all the right notes

Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman stars as Suzy and Sam in Wes Anderson’€™s MOONRISE KINGDOM. Courtesy of eOne Films and Focus Features

Martin Scorsese was once asked where audiences would find the “next” Martin Scorsese. His answer: “Look to Wes Anderson, the young director of Rushmore.” That’s extremely high praise and a lot of pressure when a legend such as Scorsese knights you in such a way.

In Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, he collaborates with Roman Coppola to tell the tale of a young couple’s escape from the watchful eyes of their guardians in order to be with one another.

This off-beat story is multi-layered, original and wonderfully engaging. There is welcome subtlety in Anderson’s and Coppola’s story telling that manages to grab at you pulling you in with fervour; all of that without employing blatant, obvious symbolism. This is what an art-house film should be!

On top of this, the sheer quantity of talent present in the film representing the quirky, charismatic characters demanded the highest level of direction. Anderson brilliantly allows each actor to showcase their talents, while adding his own personal flair to spice things up.

Every member of the cast, including Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jason Swartzman, and Harvey Kietel brought their A-game. The young first-time actors playing the love-struck couple, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both displayed a very natural, youthful innocence.

The only flaw can be found in the lack of enunciation from both Hayward and Gilman. Anderson should have caught this during the shooting process as it was difficult to understand the youngsters during a few scenes – Gilman in particular.

Bottom Line: Prepare to have your expectations exceeded while being wrapped in a beautiful film about love in its most innocent form.

Grade A

Runtime: 94 minutes
3D: No

Full cast photo of Moonrise Kingdom. Courtesy of eOne Films and Focus Features