Home

Posted on March 26, 2015 at 5:59 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Comic/cartoon-style/sci-fi peril and violence, no one badly hurt but some mildly scary images
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: March 27, 2015
Date Released to DVD: July 27, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B00XRDYK1C
Copyright Dreamworks 2015
Copyright Dreamworks 2015

“Home” is a cute and colorful movie about an alien invasion with an important safety tip concerning one of the most destructive forces in the universe, causing utter devastation to every known life form. Yes, it is hitting the dreaded “send to all.”

This is the catastrophe that strikes Oh (Jim Parsons), part of an alien invasion by the Boov, a civilization known for their primary cultural attribute — running away from danger, from problems, and from learning that some of what they believe about the universe may not be right. They are led by the egotistical Smek (Steve Martin), never in doubt and always willing to cut off any disagreement by smacking his fellow Boov with his “susher,” a staff topped by a rock he grabbed during his last unsuccessful negotiation with a terrifying armored alien Commander of a race called Gorg. The Gorg want to destroy the Boov, so the Boov are constantly seeking planets where they can hide. Earth seems homey, so they vacuum up all of the humans and send them off to Australia and settle into their new domicile.

The Boov are not much for socializing, but Oh wants to make friends. He sends out invitations to a housewarming party, but accidentally hits “send to all,” and “all” somehow includes the Gorg. Oh has just alerted their worst enemy to their location. This is one too many mistakes for him (Boov are allowed just three and he is well over that), so he runs away. And that is how he meets Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna), a plucky middle-schooler with a cat named Pig. Tip was missed by the Boov vacuums because Pig was on her head so she was not identified as human.

When Oh fixes Tip’s car and promises to help her find her mother, the two of them (plus Pig) go off on a wild ride that includes an upside-down floating Eiffel Tower, plugging themselves into the Boov brain trust network (with a very funny joke about passwords), and, of course, learning a little bit about each other and themselves.

It’s nice to see a person of color as the lead in an animated film and Rihanna gives a warm, spirited vocal performance as Tip, who shares her West Indies heritage.  The character design is cute but uninspired. Same for the storyline. But it is bright and colorful — literally. The Boov turn a crayon box of colors to show their emotions. And the briefly glimpsed Gorg add some zingy sharp angles. Playful touches start right at the beginning, with Oh fishing off the Dreamworks logo. The Slushious car, decked out with convenience store staples, is a hoot. And kids will enjoy seeing Oh learn about life on earth, something they know a little about.

Parents should know that this film has some potty humor, mild peril, and cartoon-style violence, and some sci-fi-style scary images.

Family discussion: When do you feel “sad-mad?” Why did Tip decide to be friends with Oh? What was the best thing about the Slushious car?

If you like this, try: “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Megamind” and the book that inspired this film, The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex.

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3D Animation Based on a book Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy Science-Fiction
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The Big Year

Posted on October 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm

“The Big Year” would be a lot better if it didn’t try so hard to be The Big Movie.   This over-Hollywood-ized take on the real-life story of passionate-to-obsessed birders (don’t say “bird-watchers”) makes us wish for a documentary instead.  Everything they do to make it “mainstream” and “accessible” and appealing to a mass audience just erodes the specificity that makes this world intriguing.  And the trailer misrepresents the movie, making it look like the usual wild comedy we associate with Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson when instead it is mostly a drama with a few awkwardly inserted moments of slapstick.  Just about the only comic moment not highlighted in the trailer is when a newlywed couple we see only once arrives on a remote island, his not having told her that what she thinks is going to be a romantic honeymoon is in a place where they will be staying in a barracks with no electricity or running water so he can see some birds.

Each year, extreme birders compete to see who can see the most birds from January 1 to December 31 by doing what they call “a big year.”  Winning requires expert knowledge because they have to be able to instantly identify hundreds of species, often based only on a quick glimpse from a long distance or even just from hearing a trill.  It requires absolute, unquestionable integrity.  No refs, no umps, no certifiers from the Guinness Book of World Records.  It is on the honor system.  And most of all, like all world-class endeavors, it requires a level of ambition, determination, and focus that can cause serious damage to friendships, marriages and careers.

Martin plays a very successful corporate executive who has postponed retirement twice.  His company begs him to stay, but he knows he cannot delay any longer if he wants to give the big year a try.  With the warm-hearted support of his wife and grown son, he decides to give it everything he has.  Black plays a software engineer at a nuclear power plant who continues to work full-time while he tries to break the all-time record set by Bostick (Wilson), a builder on his third marriage, to a wife who is trying to get pregnant.  Bostick promises he will not do another big year, but when it seems that the other two are closing in on his record, he can’t stand it any more.  And all three of them are off on a literal wild goose chase.

The scenery is gorgeous.  The birds (at least the less obviously CGI birds) are lovely.  But the personal lives of the three men are predictable and not very compelling.  Screenwriter Howard Franklin zigs where he should have zagged, sticking with the real stories when he should have been shaping a more involving story arc, and failing to convey the real heart of the story, what it is that makes these people so passionate.  We get a moment or two when a character explains why one species is his favorite and when all three of the main characters are briefly so transfixed by the sight of eagles mating that for a moment they forget all about competing and record-setting.  We never know what makes us want to watch birds.  But we do know what makes us want to watch movies and this one does not have enough of it.

(more…)

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Based on a book Based on a true story Comedy Drama
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It’s Complicated

Posted on April 27, 2010 at 8:00 am

Forget the accents. Forget the anguish, the steely resolve, the iambic pentameter. All hail Meryl Streep for what she is best at — comedy. She spins screenplay straw into movie gold, turning yet another fungible Nancy Meyers saga about a beautiful and accomplished middle-aged woman triumphing over a womanizing man into a miracle of warmth, heart, and wisdom just from the power of sheer acting genius and being the truly and deeply glorious person that she is.

Meyers does have a talent for, in the words of one of her movie titles “What Women Want.” She knows that there is an eager audience for a story about a middle-aged woman who is so universally adored that even her ex-husband, the hound who left her for a gorgeous young woman (cue the slo-mo stroll in the midriff-revealing sarong) can’t get enough of her and admits that he was crazy to let her go. What could be more satisfying than that?

One of the wisest and most entertaining books ever written about movies is Stanley Cavell’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, where he discusses the power of movie romances that bring estranged couples back together. As beguiling as it is to think of the freshness of first falling in love and the pleasures of learning everything about one another, there is something even more deeply satisfying about the idea of falling in love with someone with whom there are no illusions, and especially having that someone fall in love with you. Anyone can fall in love with what we think we know or with someone we’ve seen at his or her best. But when it’s someone we’ve seen at his or her worst; that’s got to be love for sure.

Or, it can be something satisfying in a different way — payback.

Streep plays Jane (as in plain?), divorced for ten years from Jake (Alec Baldwin, perfecting the art of the appealing but infuriating male) finds herself in bed with him following a tipsy dinner when they are in New York together for their son’s graduation. She can’t resist the chance to feel pursued, validated, desired. The spark they once had is still there. And she would be inhuman if she did not feel a little triumphant about his preferring her to his beautiful young wife.

But there are (grown-up) children to consider. Being back together frees Jane to admit that she was not blameless in their break-up. It allows her to allow Jake to see her (literally) as she is, not as he remembers. And it opens her heart to some other possibilities, including the shy architect working on the addition to her house — including the dream kitchen to replace a kitchen already pretty darn dreamy.

Meyers, astutely profiled by Daphne Merkin in the New York Times Magazine, seems to be the only person in Hollywood today interested in and capable of connecting deeply to an audience of women who want more from a movie than frothy rom-coms or sex and shopping. Rare in the world of chick flicks, there are no trying-on-clothes montages or makeovers. Her movies feature capable women with good friends and loving families. The most preposterous fantasy in her films may not be the gorgeously decorated settings or even the swains in pursuit but the unequivocally devoted friends and especially children and even the prospective son-in-law — take another look at the way Jude Law’s little girls fall into instant love with Cameron Diaz in “The Holiday.” Like Jane in this film, who considers and then rejects the idea of a little cosmetic surgery, Meyers’ women start out fine with who they are and then get even more so.

Streep is what Meyers’ women want to be — supremely warm and nurturing (watch the way she keeps feeding everyone exquisite but apparently completely non-fattening meals), self-aware, and able with a little adorable struggle, to impose some boundaries in a very familiar way. She fills in what Meyers’s slightly calculating formula leaves out and makes this movie as guilty a pleasure as those chocolate croissants she whips up that make her date fall for her as we already have.

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Comedy Date movie Romance
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The Pink Panther 2

Posted on June 23, 2009 at 8:00 am

I have seen taxidermy livelier than this moribund mess which further sullies the reputation of the original series of films starring Peter Sellers as well as those of everyone associated with this unwelcome sequel to the awful 2006 Pink Panther.

Steve Martin returns as Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling (except when he isn’t) gendarme whose physical and social clumsiness somehow always end up saving the day. This time, a super-thief who leaves a calling card saying simply “The Tornado” has stolen precious artifacts that are central to the pride and identity of European countries. French Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese, with an English accent) is directed to put together a “dream team” of top international sleuths, and despite his best judgment (and jealousy) of Clouseau, he is added to the team. The team includes a snobby (surprise!) Brit (Alfred Molina), a very romantic (surprise!) Italian (Andy Garcia), a Japanese expert in (surprise!) technology (Yuki Matsuzaki). The author of a book on the Tornado turns up to offer her expertise (the always-exquisitely lovely Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). They bicker and pratfall in various beautiful locations, most notably (but not even a little bit interestingly) at the home of The Tornado’s notorious art dealer, played by the top “What is he doing in this mess” award-winner, Jeremy Irons. Second place goes to Lily Tomlin, who once appeared with Martin in the delightful All of Me) but now has to make do as an instructor in culturally sensitive behavior who gets to throw in a “tut-tut” here and there.

The movie is spiritless in concept and limp in execution. It almost feels static as scenes — and attempted gags — are all but stationary. A restaurant burns down twice. Not funny either time. A man tells us — twice — that if something happens he will wear a tutu. It does and he does. But it isn’t funny. Clouseau is very dim or very clever, very sincere or very offensive. Not funny either way. A man shampoos another man’s hair and they discuss the fact that jojoba is pronounced “ho-ho-ba.” Funny? Don’t think so. It is supposed to be funny that Clouseau makes insensitive comments but the movie itself is insensitive on gender and ethnicity — not to make a point and not with any wit, just because it is careless and clumsy. More unforgivably, it is just dull.

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Comedy Remake Series/Sequel
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