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Tuesday: Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots is far from greatness, but it manages to be an enjoyable and worthwhile film.

Puss in Boots
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After being introduced in Shrek 2, Puss in Boots was forced to endure other sequels in the franchise. However, he has finally scored his very own film. Dreamworks has been hit and miss with their animated motion pictures. When assessing Puss in Boots, the first thing that came to mind was that Dreamworks was simply attempting to cash in by releasing a mediocre feature for Puss. Even though it isn't a masterpiece, it could have been much worse.

Before meeting Shrek, Puss in Boots was an outlaw cat who got in trouble and swept women off their feet. Puss comes across Humpty Dumpty, a former friend who betrayed him years ago, who has returned to offer the cat a chance to claim magic beans. Jack and Jill currently have the magic beans, which are the key to a gold egg-laying goose. The plot isn't very strong, but a ground-breaking story line shouldn't be expected from Puss in Boots. While this movie appears to be a children's film, it's equally for adults. A large problem with Shrek is that the pop culture references feel as if they're trying way too hard. These references are much more subtle in Puss in Boots and gives a more natural flow to it. The humor is hit and miss. The times where it's funny, the laughs are more of chuckles. Puss is a lovable character and I'm glad to see he finally is receiving the recognition he deserved all along. Even if you aren't a cat person, it's difficult to not genuinely like the character of Puss.

The movie Puss in Boots was natively created in 3D. There isn't very much that flies off the screen, but the depth is good. The animation is great as it presents an impressive amount of detail, even with the tint of the 3D glasses. This isn't the best animation out there, but it still has a fantastic amount of clarity that's quite memorable. Audiences will find themselves absolutely immersed by the sound design. The speakers are utilized to their full potential. The visuals are great.

After being skeptical about the results of Puss in Boots, I ultimately enjoyed the film. It's a fun film that never takes itself too seriously. The comedy is there and is as silly as viewers should be expecting. Fans of Puss are sure to be smiling in his or her seat watching this adorable, yet sly cat do what he does best. Puss in Boots is far from greatness, but it manages to be an enjoyable and worthwhile film.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: Water for Elephants

Thursday: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is simply alright, nothing special.

Water for Elephants
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The circus setting has been a famous theme since essentially the beginning of the existence of filmmaking. However, it's interpreted very differently from one movie to the next. The tones explored from each movie heavily range from gloomy and sad to adventurous and exciting. Water for Elephants is an adaptation from a novel, but often feels like the filmmaker was trying all too hard and watched too many circus films before creating this drama. In this Depression-era melodrama, veterinary student, Jacob Jankowski, joints a celebrated circus as an animal caretaker. However, he faces a dilemma when he's transfixed by the beautiful and married performer Marlena. A similar bond with an elephant brings together the young pair, but the warmth between them sends Marlena's cruel husband, animal trainer August, into a frightening fury. While the screenplay wasn't bad, it certainly has its issues. The pacing could have been sped up a little bit and some footage could have been taken out to keep the pace a bit more smooth. There are times that the plot simply drags and it leaves the audience just wondering when the next predictable story development will occur. However, the dialogue is decent. There are some lines of tacky Hollywood-esque clichés, but they aren't as bad as they could have been. I would have appreciated seeing more development in Marlena to get to know her more as a character. There are times where the movie has a similar story arch in how it unfolds as films such asTitanic. Otherwise, Water for Elephants boasts a decent script.

The film sports a more than capable cast. Reese Witherspoon is an outstanding actress, although she has been placed in too many crappy films. When she's given the correct character and a strong script, she shines bright. However, I didn't feel the magic she conveyed in movies such as Walk the Line. Robert Pattinson is Jacob and while I'm not a fan of his, he's decent here. My primary issue with the two of these actors is that the relationship doesn't feel authentic. The chemistry simply isn't there. While they fit the roles physically, I never felt absolutely convinced of these actors in the roles. Christoph Waltz plays August. He is surely the strongest performance to be seen in Water for Elephants. He's much more convincing than any other actor seen in this film.

Director Francis Lawrence has created a visually appealing piece of cinema. He utilizes the visuals of the circus very well. This is surely the strongest portion of the film. The CGI is incorporated into the movie quite well. Despite the fact that Water for Elephants is a drama, the audio is superb. The dialogue scenes are never difficult to hear and James Newton Howard's score is mixed very well. There's quite a bit of dynamic range displayed in this movie and the bass is strong, deep, and punchy. Those who have a home theater system are sure to be pleased with the technical portion of the disc.

The best way to describe Water for Elephants is to take away almost all of the emotion and passion that could have been placed in the film with decent dialogue and performances that leave much to be desired. My expectations weren't set very high for this film, but I had hoped for something decent. While this isn't a masterpiece, it isn't a piece of garbage. Water for Elephants is simply alright, nothing special.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: Our Idiot Brother

Saturday: Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother isn't the most memorable of films, but it's a decent movie.

Our Idiot Brother
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The title and the film itself are very similar. They're both very direct and get to the point. It doesn't get much more straight-forward than Our Idiot Brother. A lot of modern comedies try way too hard to be funny, which makes the movie come off as forced. Audiences aren't able to click with a piece of cinema that comes across as trying too hard to be something it isn't. Fortunately, Our Idiot Brother doesn't fall into this category. It knows what type of movie it is and simply flows.

Ned is a seemingly clueless idealist who must rely upon his three sisters for shelter and support after he's dumped by his fed-up-girlfriend and loses custody of his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. As he wreaks havoc on his sisters' lives, Ned's earnestness shines through until his siblings realize that family ties take priority over wealth and position. The story itself is very simple and the character arches are extremely familiar. However, the film isn't trying to have shocking twists and turns. Ned is a charming character and it's hard to not enjoy the role. Our Idiot Brother focuses on the drama between Ned and his sisters as he moves from one sibling's house to another. The comedy isn't the constant and laugh-out-loud humor some may be expecting, but has much more comedy that will make you chuckle. Nevertheless, this is a fun movie that moves naturally and never drags. This is a feel-good comedy that stresses the important of the connection of family.

The cast can truly make or break a film such as this. The connection between the characters is crucial, as is the chemistry between the actors. Fortunately, this group of actors gel together quite well. Paul Rudd is as believable as he is likable as Ned. His sisters are played by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily mortimer respectively. The performances by them feel natural. A cast that overacts could have absolutely destroyed Our Idiot Brother, but this talented group of actors do the screenplay justice.

Even though it isn't ground-breaking, Our Idiot Brother is a solid film. Viewers are sure to walk away from this one feeling warm. The characters and the story itself are very predictable, but it doesn't ruin the fun to be had along the way. However, the movie does present how society judges the goodhearted yet misunderstood. There are many different perspectives held around the world and Ned's is a sweet, yet naive one. Our Idiot Brother isn't the most memorable of films, but it's a decent movie.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: The Eagle

Sunday: The Eagle

The story has been done before...the previous attempt was a bit better.

The Eagle
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There was a time where even epic fighting films focused more on its characters and less on the CGI. The Eagle attempts to bring audiences back to this method of filmmaking. However, the movie feels as if it cut quite a bit from the battlefield. Character-driven or not, I believe that the brutal fighting that occurred in this time period should be portrayed as is. The Eagle certainly tried to rake in extra cash by giving the film a PG-13 rating. Even the unrated cut is very tame and felt like a PG-13 rated film. This takes away a lot of believability as battle is brutal and violent and should be treated as such.

Haunted by the disappearance of his father, who vanished with the Roman Ninth Legion on an expedition into the north of Britain, centurion Marcus Aquila sets out to unravel the mystery and recover the legion's eagle standard. In the wilds of Caledonia, the soldier and his British slave counter fierce native tribes and other dangers. The introduction may have portrayed me as primarily being disappointed by the lack of violence in the war scenes. However, this is a small issue compared to how I felt regarding quite a bit of the screenplay. The story feels oddly familiar as it's almost identical to Centurion, although it was done better in that movie. The film focuses upon the two central characters, Marcus and his slave. Marcus isn't too interesting and the dialogues that occur between him and his slave, Esca, are disappointing. I find this time period to be very engrossing, but the script simply doesn't do it justice. Each plot turn is predictable. There isn't anything here that most audiences haven't seen before. What's the use of making The Eagle a character-driven film when the main role isn't very interesting to start with? This is the question I continued to ask myself throughout the running time.

With the filmmakers trying to make the two central characters engrossing, the actors casted are crucial. The primary character, Marcus Aquila, is played by Channing Tatum. He just might be part of the issue why the character simply didn't draw me in. His performance is robotic. There is very little emotion and isn't too convincing in the role. However, Jamie Bell is a completely different story performing his British slave, Esca. He's absolutely believable in the character and handles the mediocre dialogue very well. If a stronger leading actor was cast along with Jamie Bell, perhaps the audience would find the story a bit more natural.

While a lot of the movie deals with dialogue, there are a few battle sequences. However, the few that appear aren't going to satisfy action fans. As previously mentioned, this a tame movie. Since Universal Studios wanted to appeal to younger audiences, the movie has an extremely small amount of blood. During the scenes that would be violent, the editing quickly cuts away to another scene. Sugar coating such events in a movie that's meant to make viewers feel as if they're there doesn't necessarily work. Audiences who own a home theater system won't be complaining about the sound mixing. The surrounds are mixed quite well into the mix and the dialogue remains clear throughout.

As the credits began rolling, I was left a bit unsatisfied. The story has been done before, the main character isn't interesting, and the battles feel flat. In terms of acting, Jamie Bell truly saves the movie. I found myself becoming much more fascinated by his character than I ever did with the leading character. Unfortunately, The Eagle is forgettable when it could have been pretty good. If you're interested in a film revolving around this time period, Centurion is a bit better.

My Rating = Two And One Half Stars

Next movie: The Island

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