The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Copyright 2016 Illumination
Copyright 2016 Illumination

Most of us probably think — or wish — that our pets are like Max (voice of Louis CK) in “The Secret Life of Pets” who lives with Katie (Ellie Kempner). “I’ve got big plans,” he tells his neighbor Gidget (Jenny Slate). “I’m going to sit here by the door and wait for Katie to come home.”

But we know better. We’ve come home to inexplicable disarray and disappearance. And in this cute romp filled with colorful characters we get to find out about the parties, the mischief, and the adventures and misadventures our furry and reptilian best buddies get up to when we’re off at work or out with friends. There’s an odd sourness to the story and it gets lost when the animals leave their homes, but the premise, the animation and the and outstanding voice performances make it worth seeing, if not right for the littlest kids.

The story is uncomfortably close to the original “Toy Story.” Max is Woody, the reliable, loyal, loved and loving star of the show who is not at all happy when a new rival (huge, furry Duke as Buzz Lightyear) comes to live with him and Katie. Just as in “Toy Story” Max and Duke end up away from home and in trouble. But in this case, the scenes outside of the apartment are not as intriguing and the adventures, well-staged as a matter of mechanics, do little to enhance the story. Max and Duke meet up with a gang of “flushed pets,” abandoned animals (does this sound like “Toy Story 3?”) led by Snowball, a tiny, fluffy white bunny hilariously voiced by Kevin Hart. Pursued by Snowball and the dogcatchers, Duke and Max have to find a way to get home before Katie gets back.

Individual moments are very funny, even joyous, but the storyline wavers in tone, with references to killing owners, a supposed hero whose motivation has to be a crush rather than friendship or honor, a sad offscreen death that is unearned, unnecessary, and distracting, and a disability that is played for humor. The motive and resolution for the villain are unsatisfying, and the best jokes are directed at the adults in the audience. Our furry friends deserve better, and so do we.

Parents should know that this film has extended peril and action, references to killing humans and animals, a sad offscreen death, disabilities portrayed as humorous, and some potty humor.

Family discussion: What does your pet do when you are away? Which do you like better, dogs or cats? Why didn’t Max like Duke?

If you like this, try: “Zootopia” (also featuring Jenny Slate) and the “Toy Story” films

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3D Animation Talking animals
Central Intelligence

Central Intelligence

Posted on June 16, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, scenes in bar
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action-style violence, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images and sounds and torture
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 17, 2016
Date Released to DVD: September 26, 2016 ASIN: B01H4FJQ2G
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers

There’s not much intelligence of any kind, central or otherwise, in this silly spy comedy, but what did you expect from a movie based on the sight gag of pairing man mountain former WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with pocket-sized pepperpot comic Kevin Hart? But its good-natured script by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber and the pleasure of watching the appealing stars enjoying themselves make it work.

Hart, something of a straight man for a change, plays Calvin, a one-time high school all-star voted Most Likely to Succeed, now an accountant working in a building with a huge inflated gorilla in front of it, and just passed over for promotion. He adores his wife, Maggie (“The Game’s” Danielle Nicolet), but is disappointed in himself.  His wife wants him to go to couples therapy, but he is reluctant. “Black people don’t go to therapy.  We go to the barbershop.  Or we watch the movie ‘Barbershop.'”

Just before the 10th high school reunion he has refused to attend, he hears via Facebook from a classmate now known as Bob Stone (Johnson), who lists his “likes” as unicorns, cinnamon pancakes, and guns. In high school he was known as Robby. He was very overweight and awkward. Bullies grabbed him in the locker room shower and threw into the gym naked in front of the whole class. Calvin was the only one who was kind to him, handing him his letter jacket to cover up.

Now Bob is handsome and muscular, but not intimidating because he is wearing a unicorn t-shirt, a front-facing fannypack, and jorts.  It seems all he wants from Calvin is a chance to thank him.

But then he punches out some bullies in the bar.  He’s really good at it. And then he asks Calvin to help him with a “forensic accounting problem.”  He asks to spend the night on Calvin’s fold-out couch (Maggie does not seem to be around). It’s a little weird, but then it gets scary. The next morning the CIA shows up because, according to Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan, playing it very straight), Bob Stone is a traitor and a threat to national security who is about to deliver some very dangerous computer codes to the highest bidder.

All of this is just to set up a zany series of chases, shoot-outs, captures, and escapes, with a terrified Calvin trying to figure out who is telling the truth and stopping in the middle for many, many pop culture references, a marriage counseling session, and a visit to the ringleader of the guys who bullied Bob in high school (Jason Bateman).

The good spirits and anti-bullying message are sullied by some uncomfortably unkind “humor,” especially concerning a surprise cameo appearance that consists only of her being swept away by Johnson’s body and having crossed eyes.  I’m pretty sure that punching a bully is not the message of empowerment that we should be getting here.  But they’re no more serious about the message than they are about the storyline.  This movie is about hanging out with Johnson and Hart as they goof on their own personas, and that is silly fun.

Parents should know that the film includes some comic nudity (bare tushes), potty humor, strong language, and extended action-style violence with torture and some disturbing sounds and images. Characters are injured and killed.

Family discussion: What is the best way to prevent bullying? Why didn’t Calvin achieve what he thought he would?

If you like this, try: “Spy” and the original “The In-Laws”

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Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Scene After the Credits Spies

MTV Movie Awards Tonight!

Posted on April 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Tune in to MTV tonight for the annual movie awards show, this year hosted by Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. The awards and speeches will be silly and there will be way too much promotion of teen-friendly upcoming films but some of it is fun and there will be some premieres and exclusives including:

Generation award presented to Will Smith
Comic Genius award presented to Melissa McCarthy.
Performances by Ariana Grande and Halsey

· Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Eddie Redmayne, who stars as Newt Scamander in the film, will present never-before-seen exclusive footage
· Suicide Squad: “Generation Award” recipient Will Smith, along with Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne, all stars of the film, will present the never-before-seen footage
· Captain America: Civil War: “Captain America” himself, Chris Evans, will be on-hand to present an exclusive scene from Marvel’s highly-anticipated action-adventure blockbuster

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Awards Television
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