Entries in Family (24)

Thursday
Nov172016

Queen of Katwe- review

 

“Queen of Katwe” (2016)

Directed by  Mira Nair

Starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o

Running Time 124 Minutes, Rated PG

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Mark this in the Disney ‘feel good’ movie category.  Is that such a bad thing?  Rhetorical question, so don’t answer. Also, I can’t hear you talking at your screen anyways.  Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” is the latest underdog story of people rising to heights that they weren’t meant for, or there wouldn’t be a movie made for them.

I’m pretty sure we see young Ugandan actress Madina Nalwanga grow up before our eyes as Phiona Mutesi, a child living in the slums who when we meet her can’t read but against all odds reaches the tops of being a chess champion.  Phiona comes from such poverty that the other poor kids tease her for being so poor, but she takes a liking to the game and excels with the help of local church leader and all around good guy, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), and the tight grip of her stern, but loving, single mother Nakku (Lupita Nyong'o).

 

All the notes of a weepy movie playout, and guess what, I needed some tissues throughout.  Those paint by the number notes will only get you so far, it’s the tremendous work of David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o  that take you past the cliches and transcend them.  

As far as being a ‘sports’ movie (which it wants to be at times) in the lines of chess counterpart “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, it is but a pawn bringing zero tension to the outcome.  Don’t go to “Queen of Katwe” for ESPN highlights, but if you like heartwarming tearjerkers than this film will do.  

Romans 12:12

 

Tuesday
May102016

Jungle Book- review

 

“The Jungle Book” (2016)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Idris Elba

Running Time 106 Minutes, Rated PG

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

A film that is 99% CGI, with a cast of characters that are 99% animal, never felt so human. Good for Jon Favreau, here’s a director who relishes and understands his lead characters’ rise from turmoil but truly finds the joy of life and their surroundings.  Iron Man’s Tony Stark becoming a hero from the wrenches of war mongering, Chef’s Chef Casper reinventing his career from the public ashes, and now The Jungle Book’s young boy Mowgli overcoming a ferocious Tiger who killed his adopted father of sorts and keeping home right where it’s always been.  Favreau not only brings the light at the end of the tunnel in his films, he’s got it blazing all the way through so you can find your way home.  

“The Jungle Book” is visually a feast, setting a new standard of delivering so much so thoroughly.  What stood out for me was that you could feel the weight and strength of each wild animal.  When a young boy is running from a Tiger, you can feel that tiger closing in with a palpable realness, and that delivers a lot of tension in Rudyard Kipling's well known classic.  

 

Set in the jungles of India, Mowgli (a terrific Neel Sethi) is a mancub literally raised by wolves.  Peace in the animal kingdom is ruptured when a man-hating tiger named Shere Khan (voiced by an intimidating Idris Elba) vows that Mowgli shall not live.  When Mowgli’s tutor, Bagheera (appropriately voiced by Ben Kingsley) tries to get him to a man-village, the young boy is separated, and in one of the films many fantastic action sequences, ends up in the company of the lovable and lackadaisical bear Baloo (Bill Murray).  Murray is as great as you would expect, not hamming it up too hard and leaving heartfelt performance that reinforces the jungles loving ecosystem for the most part.  

Among the other colorful cast entries is Scarlett Johansson using her sultry voice to play the hypnotic Boa Constrictor Kaa, Lupita Nyong’o as the loving protective wolf mother Raksha, and the brilliant addition of Christopher Walken as King Louie, the giant Orangutan who wants to misguidedly rule the jungle.  While Murray’s “Bare Necessities” song feels seamless into the movies storyline, Walken’s “I Wanna Be Like You” is definitely a bit more staged and inorganic, but I’d rather it be a bit inorganic than not in the film at all.

Beware that Favreau’s version is definitely darker and more intense than previous interpretations.  While it ratcheted up the stakes for this viewer, it’s PG rating definitely borders PG-13, and that could be tough for the wee little ones who attend.  But like I said, Favreau is behind the wheel and this film’s light will definitely shine through for all ages.      

 

Monday
Apr042016

Zootopia- review

 

“Zootopia” (2016)

Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba

Running Time 108 Minutes, Rated PG

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I don’t have any kids at this moment, but when I do, “Zootopia” will be a must viewing for them.  Until then, I’ll just have to enjoy the latest animated Disney triumph.  “Zootopia” is by far the best animated family film that tackles racism, and in an un-cookie cutter way, and the many complexities that come along with such a prevalent subject.  I truly believe children can come out of this film with a better grasp on understanding why racism and stereotyping is wrong and hopefully so can some adults.  What’s also important is that this film is not black and white, and I’m not talking about the animation (which that isn’t either), it reminds us that while we try to remove the sliver of wrongdoing wood from someone else’s eye, let us not miss the plank in ours.  

Zootopia is a bustling metropolis that prides itself on socializing every type of animal and uniting the presence of animal prey and animal predator.  They’ve moved past their prehistoric instincts, a model for the racial utopia many of us so crave.  It’s this ideology that inspires a small town bunny named Judy Hopps (spunkily voiced Ginnifer Goodwin) to be the first bunny cop in Zootopia, which after much resistance from her family and peers her hard work prevails, and she becomes part of the force.  

 

Judy’s open heart is challenged when she comes across a scam artist named Nick Wilde (a swarmy Jason Bateman) that she stands up for at first but is taken advantage of soon after.  All her life, her family has warned her to be weary of foxes, and she makes such an effort to think for herself so she is all the more hurt when scammed by Nick but again, what’s so good about this film is that she isn’t the saint she thinks she is.  She still holds onto fox spray, not any other kind of animal spray, just fox spray because she hasn’t been able to drop all her prejudices that she thought she was better than.  The two have to work together on solving a case that is making predator animals revert back to their prey hunting ways (I told you this was some heavy stuff).

It’s also entertaining to boot.  This really is spectacular animation, capturing almost every animal from the Arc with such detailed locales.  The lessons are great, but there is a fun detective noir vibe you can't deny.  I will say that what separates “Zootopia” from being as entertaining as the likes of “Frozen” and “Lion King” is that the heart strings aren’t pulled quite as much when it comes to the main characters’ dynamic.  And even while the message is great, it’s not perfect.  I think the best intentions were there throughout, but just like Judy, Zootopia’s filmmakers were clouded in preconceptions.  We’re told how bad preconceptions and stereotypes are, but then we’re slapped with a joke about how bunnies reproduce like… well… bunnies, and how slow sloths are which are...well...preconceptions and stereotypes.  Also, for a film that champions diversity so highly, there is only one major character who is black, Idris Elba as Police Chief Bogo.  Octavia Spencer has a much smaller part as well, but besides that, the cast is predominantly very white...just saying.  

More importantly, I’m just saying that “Zootopia” is a film, a very good film, that does a very great good with it’s message.        

Acts 10:34-35

 

Monday
Jun092014

Maleficent- review

 

“Maleficent” (2014)

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley

Running Time

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I, unlike my wife did not go through a huge disney princess phase in my life (although I did watch my VHS “Beauty and Beast” copy every single day for a summer).  I could barely remember the “Sleepy Beauty” tale; something about a young princess who has been cursed to sleep forever at her 16th bday by hands of a mean ol’ witch lady until a prince thinks it’s ok to put your lips on someone elses while they’re sleeping.  

Disney’s mammoth CGI summer film headlining Angelina Jolie wants to sell you, I mean tell you how that mean ol’ witch lady, better known as Maleficent, came to be so mean, and why you should sympathize on her side.  My wife, who knows the story’s details considerably better than I just let on, commented that she was content with the previous film’s simple good versus bad thru line and basically feeling that Mal is a necessary evil for love’s ultimate power, however creepily expressed, to shine through.  To that I say, “sure I concur with that”, but Angelina Jolie and some delightful special effects put a spell on me to make the film passable for a watch.

 

Maleficent's origin story plays out as such.  There were two kingdoms, one run by humans (who, in an ever growing fantasy film trend are the villain) and the other populated by fairies, trolls, and pixies (smaller than fairies duh).  Unlike the humans, the sweetly magical beings don’t need a king to rule them as they’re a fun loving democracy of sorts.  When a young boy named Stephen wanders off into fairyland of the Moors, he meets up with young naive, albeit wearing a bit too much make up at that age, Maleficent.  The two crush on each other, but as time goes by an older Stephen (Sharlto Copley) decides his career path to being king is more important than love and thereupon taking something very special from Maleficent.  This hardens Maleficent’s heart and now we can understand why she did what she did.

The biggest criticism to be had for this film is that it all feels so unnecessary of a story.  The spin on the well known fairy tale may do it for some, but not for I.  What did do it for me is Robert Stromberg’s ‘good enough’ grasp of directing but more so him playing to his visual effects strengths (“Life of Pi”) and creating the film’s dazzling visuals.  Even more a dazzling visual is Angelina Jolie herself.  With razor sharp cheekbones, a bone white complexion, and massive black horns stemming from the top of her head to boot, Jolie is wonderfully wicked as the dark sorceress.  Cackling with a fierce tone and never missing a comic beat, Jolie was the big reason “Maleficent” did not put me to sleep.

Jolie was the big reason “this” did not put me to sleep.

Proverbs 3:24

 

Tuesday
Apr012014

The Muppets Most Wanted- review

 

“Muppets Most Wanted” (2014)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey

Running Time 107 Minutes, Rated PG

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Everyone knows a sequel is never quite as good”, is the first musical number trying to let us know they still have that meta ‘we can laugh at ourselves’ attitude.  Unfortunately, that song is spot on, and I’m glad they can laugh at themselves because I certainly didn’t.

2011’s The Muppets was a hit and really funny one at that.  A large part of that is thanks to actor Jason Segel, who was able to capture the infectious good times spirit of the Jim Henson’s singing and dancing gang and remind us that life is a little better when there’s muppets in it.  “Muppets Most Wanted” has the singing and dancing, but it doesn’t have Segel nor the joy he helped bring to the big screen, instead we’re left with a follow-up that’s bogged down by repetitious plotting and way more would be jokes that not even Fozzie the Bear would approve of.  

 

The Muppets get duped by a charading musical manager by the name of Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to take the show international which is only a ruse to rob museums and banks with the help of the world’s most dangerous frog, Constantine, who uses his identical likeness to Kermit the Frog and pulls the old switcheroo with Constantine posing as Kermit and Kermit thrown in a Siberian Prison that’s guarded by the bullish Nadya (giving Tina Fey a chance to sport her Russian accent).  

Sadly, the musical numbers which were such a delight in “The Muppet Movie” all hit a flat note for me, especially Ricky Gervais’ mailed in attempt at song and dance.  Tina Fey looked to be having a bit more fun with her role, and now she can cross off doing a dance number with Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, and Jemaine Clement from her acting bucket list.  Ty Burrell does the best he can with his best Inspector Clouseau attempt, but that’s still nothing to win me over.  The slew of cameos flail as well, in particular a lame Christoph Waltz dancing the Waltz made me cringe just a bit.  

This is not the Muppets I most wanted.  

This is not the Muppets “this” most wanted.

Psalm 62:10

 

Sunday
Dec292013

Saving Mr. Banks- review

 

“Saving Mr. Banks” (2013)

Directed by John Lee Hancock

Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks

Running Time 125 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Saving Mr. Banks” gets Disneyfied big time and that didn’t go down with a spoonful of sugar for this reviewer.

I’m no Disney hater, but there’s something off putting about a Disney film about the making of a disney film that sparkles or shall we say fibs up the real life characters’ actual truths with enough fairy dust to cover the whole magic kingdom.  Although there’s fine acting, moments that move, and that light hearted wonder that Walt Disney himself so embodied, Saving Mr. Banks comes off as more of a self congratulatory and self promotional by basically cramming the Mickey Mouse brand down our throats.

For 23 years, Walt Disney (played by none other than Mr. Tom Hanks), the man that built the ‘Greatest Place on Earth’, has been trying to no avail to capture the film rights to beloved children's novel ‘Mary Poppins’ written by the dour old bird P.L. Travers (prickly played by Emma Thompson).  With Travers’ finances in trouble and the risk of losing her house looming she is reluctantly convinced to meet Walt Disney and discuss the possible adaptation in sunny California. Travers, unimpressed, remarks that the sunshine state is filled with the smell of chlorine and sweat.  From there it’s a relentless and tedious back and forth struggle of wills between Disney and Travers from their different sides of the tracks - P.L. insists on being called Mrs. Travers (even though she was never married), and Walt Disney may only be called Walt because “Mr. Disney was his fathers name”- oh me oh my, let the differences play out (yeesh).

The film goes back and forth between Mrs. Travers and Disney as they duke it out while through on going flashbacks the book’s inspiration is played out  with the tragedies of her childhood taking place in 1906 Australia. The film’s title, “Saving Mr. Banks”, refers to her father, wonderfully and heartbreakingly played by Colin Farrell.

The lovable Hanks plays the lovable Disney with the ability to not make him too soft or too corny in John Lee Hancock‘s soft and corny film.  Thompson does her best to avoid the cranky repeating british schtick before her character finally ‘warms up’, and to her credit when her Travers does finally ‘warm up’ you’d have to be six feet under for that not warm your heart and put a pep in your step.   If the studio heads wanted a little extra sap for the film they picked the right director in Hancock, the “Blind Side” director knows a thing or two about sap. Hanks absolutely kills his ‘I understand where you’re coming from’ monologue almost making me forget how sappy that scene really is.   

As for those fibs.  The film slaps on that Disneyfied happy ending having Travers somewhat enjoy the 1964 screening of Mary Poppins when truth be told she absolutely despised it, walking out of the film before the credits. Travers went as far as to put it in her will and testament that if Mary Poppins was ever turned into a staged play that not a soul from the films production could be associated with it.  That wouldn’t be a very storybook ending if they kept it real.  It’s fine to omit or change things up a bit, just watch the fantastic “American Hustle”, but when you’re selling a product that is supposed to purposely elevate the magic of an existing brand, well, I just won’t be hustled like that.

I just won’t be hustled like “this”.  

Exodus 20:12

 

Saturday
Dec072013

Frozen- review

 

“Frozen” (2013)

DIrected by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee 

Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel

Running Time 108 Minutes, Rated PG

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Winter Is Coming- along with catchy tunes.

In the spirit or perhaps the business prowess of Pixar, we get a animated short film appetizer before the main course.  “Get A Horse” is a Mickey and Minnie Mouse led short that’s voiced by Walt Disney himself (hand picked lines from Disney’s vault of early cartoons).  It’s a pretty cool short that mixes black and white with new school computer generated effects.  The short’s villain- a big meanie of a cat snarls to Mickey to “Make way for the future” with Mickey responding “Get a Horse” as to say that Disney might color between the lines with today but the tried and true wholesome storylines of the past are here to stay.

The latest Disney full length animated film has it’s horse, or shall I say horses.  The Disney go to staple of princesses in distress gets doubled as not one but two royal young ladies are at the center of “Frozen”.  

Loosely based off of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with a script from Wreck It Ralph’s scribe Jennifer Lee, the princesses are sisters in the kingdom of Arendelle.  Elsa (voiced by Broadway vet Idina Menzel) has magical powers with the ability to create ice and snow with the touch of her hand.  As young children, Elsa accidentally strikes her younger sister Anna (voiced by the likable “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” star Kristen Bell) with said powers.  It takes a Troll King to save young Anna but in the doing so her memory of Elsa’s powers are erased.  With great ice powers comes great ice responsibilities, and so Elsa, who can’t control her X-Men like Storm powers, dons Rogue-like gloves to conceal her dangerous touch, which with Phoenix like emotion can rage out of control (if I need the testosterone stylings of something like X-Men to help me relate to estrogen Disney storylines than so be it).

Over song we see the sisters grow up with the lonely Anna not knowing why her big sister has kept her out of her life.  It’s not until Elsa’s coronation do the two briefly reunite.  Harmony isn’t for long as after only maybe an hour together and only one song sung Anna decides to get engaged to the young prince Hans (Santino Fontana), sending Anna and big sis Elsa into a fight that unleashes her not so secret powers in front of the kingdom’s people and mistakenly throws Annendale into a permanent winter.        

The rest of the film has Anna searching for her run away sister with the help of woodsman ice cutter Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his lifelong reindeer buddy, and a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad who was in Broadway’s production of Book of Mormon) who serves as the obvious but effective comic relief.

The animation is gorgeous, and the snowy exteriors reach their pinnacle with the creation of Elsa’s mountain top ice castle.  The songs are mostly sing-along-able with Menzel’s booming voice highlighting the catalog with the woman empowering “Let it Go”.  There are surprises that come out of nowhere, sometimes that works and sometimes not so much.  

The kiddies, especially the young little princesses in the theaters will eat “Frozen” up on a chilled spoon, and its something the parents can feel good about them consuming.   

and its something the parents can feel good about “this” consuming.

 

Monday
Nov252013

The Best Man Holiday- review

 

“The Best Man Holiday” (2013)

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

Starring Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa

Running Time 123 Minutes Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I got misty-eyed about 5 times and cackled another 5 times- that’s good enough for me.

I didn’t see 1999’s “The Best Man” that came out 14 years ago, but thanks to returning director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike Lee’s cousin), we get a carefully well done outline of what happened back then and where originals characters are now.  Not all the personal intricacies resonated initially but the strong cast more than made up for it by being able to deliver their past and present relationships so clearly and more importantly, entertainingly to the screen.

“The Best Man Holiday” is a rewarding soap opera that doesn’t skimp on the emotional bon bons and is a welcomed gift to unwrap for the holiday season.  Lee delivers an unwatered down film that impressively balances faith, family, and friends with a realistic biting edge.  Lee unapologetically addresses Christians who are in different places of their walk, and he mercilessly does so without slathering them in the thick corniness that faith-filled films are polluted by.  When a strong Christian man loses that which is closest to him, said man may look to God, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be angering confusion vented, and even, apply earmuffs now, an f’ bomb let out.  As a Christian, I respected that, connected with that, and was moved by that.

We’re reintroduced to Harper (Taye Diggs), who once published a best-seller, but has struggled since and is finding himself in financial crisis that he’s secretly keeping from his pregnant wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan).  Harper reluctantly accepts Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) Christmas weekend invitation, who is now the uber rich star running back for the New York Giants.  Once best friends, Lance hasn’t really ever gotten over the fact that Harper had sex with his now wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) while they were engaged (understandable), but his Christians duties call for forgiveness.  

Among the other invitees; Julian (Harold Perrineau) who is fretting over losing the biggest donor at the private school he headmasters for because of his wife Candace’s (Regina Hall) stripper past coming to surface.  Mia’s best friend and successful tv producer Jordan (Nia Long), whom Harper also has a past with.  Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) is a single catty cougar reality tv star who forgets that she’s also a mother and Mia’s raunchy brother Quentin (Terrence Howard), who gets some of the film's best lines.  

Sometimes the misunderstandings play out like a Three’s Company’s episode, but all the actors bring their A game making it impossible not to get caught up in their lives.  I definitely will be putting “The Best Man” on my personal que, and lets say, in another 14 years, we meet up with these characters again, you can count on my price of admission.

you can count on “this” price of admission.

Matthew 18:20

 

Monday
Mar252013

The Croods- Review

 

“The Croods” (2013)

Directed by Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders 

Starring Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone

Running Time 98 Minutes, Rated PG

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/moviewithmitch.com

The story may be somewhat simplistic, you could even call it crude, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a blast.  Fast paced rip roaring fun, The Croods is great animated fare that will please the family friendly.  

“The Croods” doesn’t have the political propaganda of the Happy Feet franchise, and that’s just fine by me.  Just some slapstick humor and action with a father/daughter dynamic at the heart that’s set to some amazingly gorgeous Avatar-esq background.  

The Croods are a Neanderthal family with their head of the cavehold, Grug (Nicolas Cage), doing his best fatherly duties to keep them alive, which is a full time job.  His motto: “Never not be afraid”, is there to keep his family always weary of anything new and alive.  His eldest daughter, the teenaged Eep (Emma Stone) is a curious one and wants to live her life and not just survive it.  Also part of the family is his thick son Thunk (Clark Duke), momma Ugga (Catherine Keener), Grug’s mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman) that Grug wouldn’t mind if she passed away, and the hyper baby Sandy.  

When a Cro-Magnon drifter hipster named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and his pet monkey, Belt, come along, he warns Eep of the impending doom of the end of the world and becomes her first crush. When the Earth literally opens up and swallows their cave, the Croods must rely on Guy and his advanced brain much to the dismay of Grug. Grug must learn that Eep isn’t his little cavegirl anymore all while trying to outlive the exotic dangers all around.

The Croods zips along with some furious Wile E. Coyote style antics and is benefited by great voice work all around, but especially from Ryan Reynolds, who should continue to do animated fare and the crackly voiced Catherine Keener, who just exudes motherly love.  Be careful, this might just sneak a tear or two out of you as Grug’s evolution as a father and family man does more emotionally than last year’s Oscar winning (boo!) Brave was able to accomplish.  

You’d have to be a caveman not to enjoy The Croods.

You’d have to be a caveman not to enjoy “this”.

Genesis 2:7

 

Saturday
Mar092013

Oz the Great and Powerful- review

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Running Time 130 Minutes, Rated PG
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

A prequel to one of the grandest and most beloved films of all time, huh?...ok...nothing like setting your sights higher than over a rainbow.  

Where Victor Fleming’s 1939 masterpiece taught us the value of appreciating where we came from, Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful focuses on the journey of a man who wants to be great but first must learn to be a good one.  Raimi has some extraordinarily big red slippers to fill by taking on a film that tells the story of how the wizard ever came to the land of Oz- before Dorothy ever clicked her heels three times to make it home (massive spoiler alert..sorry) in The Wizard of the Oz.   

If I was to pick from five directors to take on a project of this magnitude, and in particular, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Raimi would be on that shortlist.  What an amazing amount of pressure Raimi must have felt trying to live up to the original.  To say the least, the Evil Dead and Spider-Man director does not suffer from munchkin sized cajones.  On that note, I will say that try as Mr. Raimi might, Oz the Great and Powerful is nowhere near the magic of the original.

The original should never have been the measuring stick, that ‘s just unfair, but at the same time, I think it’s fair to ask for more than Sidney Lumet’s campy The Wiz starring Diana Ross and DYK was written by Joel Schumacher...weird.  Overall, this journey down the yellow brick road is visually tremendous, dazzlingly beautiful, and once it finally gets into its groove becomes a delightfully adventurous ride that has Raimi’s signature style all over.  

James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, the ethically challenged traveling magician who gets caught up in a Kansas tornado of his own and transported to the magical land of Oz.  Oscar, who also goes by the name of Oz, quickly becomes toted as the hero to fulfill the prophecy to free the good people by ridding the land of a few certain wicked evils.  If successful, Oscar will become king of the land with the riches and fame he so covets.  Oscar is a flawed man indeed, but he is also a man who knows he’s a charleton who aspires to be a better man.

What Oz the Great and Powerful really suffers from is a weak opening act.  Screenwriters Michael Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire do well with enriching and filling out the details of the world of Oz but lost is the original’s enchanting charms.  Even with Raimi’s technicolor tribute, making Kansas black and white that actually looks stunning in 3-D, the emotional and adventurous hook doesn’t come till well into the movie.  

The good news is that the adventure and fun does come eventually.  The price you pay with prequels is that you fill in the blanks with already established elements from the original, but what Kapner, Lindsay-Abaire and Raimi get right are their original creations.  Accompanying Oscar on his quest are a bellhop monkey servant, splendidly voiced by Zach Braff, and a tragically orphaned girl made from china who comes closest to grabbing the spirit of the original by helping our troubled wizard wannabe learn what it is to become a kind human.    

James Franco spends plenty of his screen time grinning like an idiot and trying to get his eyebrows under control as the flimflamming magician.  Easily the easiest to look at of the Apatowidites, Franco made an admirer out of me with his dramatic turn in 127 Hours and showed off his bravo comedic chops in Pineapple Express, but a film of this grandiose nature seems to bring out the limitations in him (as did the huge stage of hosting the Oscars which, as we all know, did not go that well and probably cause Mrs. Hathaway a spell of binge drinking).  Long paragraph short, Franco is still no slouch in his role, but it also gives me pause for his longevity.

The real shine of Oz are the three witches, even though some shine in crystal white and some in a darker shade of emerald green.  Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams are so strong as the female leads.  Weiz sinks her nose into playing the big sister to Mila Kunis, who in turn uses those big eyes of hers to make her own journey down a different path.  Williams, who has become one of my favorite actresses of her young generation, brings an adorable grounding to her good witch Glinda.  

With a beginning that felt like it must have come from any other director, Raimi delivers on his strengths from the second half on.  A PG rated film that had moments that truly gave me frights (the monkeys are more evil) and suspense that sizzled all the way to the climax, Raimi’s Oz may not have been great but at times was powerful.

“this” may not have been great but at times was powerful.  

Colossians 1:14

Sunday
Nov042012

Wreck-It Ralph- review

“Wreck-It Ralph” (2012)
Directed by Rich Moore
Starring John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman
Running Time 108 Minutes
3 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

For me, it’s Galaga.  I’d always go tilt with pinball machines, with Street Fighter I’m just randomly pushing buttons, I’m lucky to ever make it to level three of Donkey Kong, but as far as arcade games go, but I’m not too shabby at Galaga.  Arcades have been a dying breed for quite some time now, but to get my fix now, I go to Rusty Quarters (great name) in Uptown.  Also worth a roll of quarters is the nostalgic animated “Wreck-It Ralph”.

“Wreck-It Ralph”, a family film for the young kiddie gamers of today and their 30-40 year old parents who were the first generation of arcaders and household gaming systems.  The elders in attendance will giggle reminiscing at the multitude of childhood references that include Mario Bros., Contra supercodes, and even the adventures of putting mentos in a diet cola two liter. The kids will eat it up because they're easy to please (sorta like grown up audiences at Michael Bay movies).  Beyond getting to see the characters that made our thumbs calice as children onscreen, there isn’t nearly as much code as their could have been.  

Approximately 9 feet tall and coming in at 643 pounds, Ralph (voiced by the lovable John C. Reilly) has a bit of a temper and spends his time wrecking things.  In particular a penthouse tower that has to be fixed by Felix (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer) with his magical hammer.  The film plays like Toy Story for videogames as this is merely Ralph and Felix’s day job who have been the main videogame characters at an arcade for 30 years now. When the arcade closes, all the characters have their own lives as they’re all able to travel and meet with characters from all the other games.  

The game Ralph is in isn’t called “Wreck-It Ralph” but rather “Fix-It Felix Jr.”.  See, Ralph is the villain, and he’s tired of it, yearning to be the hero and adored the way Felix is.  In a very funny grown up touch, Ralph goes to a “Bad-anon” group counseling meeting for villains where the zombies, Bowser, and Pac Man’s ghosts chant a mantra, “one game at a time.”

From there Ralph game hops in search of a medal to prove he too can be a hero.  Along the way, he breaks into a Halo-esq game that I think tries to comment on how violent games are today.  In that game we’re introduced to a hard boiled commander voiced by Jane Lynch that Felix eventually takes a liking too.  Momentum is grounded to a halt when Ralph breaks into Sugar Rush, a Mario Kart style game that introduces Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitch that’s not allowed to race.         

In the second act Wreck-It Ralph suffers from a very unfunny, punny screenplay from Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee that relies way too heavily on dootie humour instead of the clever ‘videogame character in real life problem world’ they so nicely set up.  Silverman’s rambunctious Vanellope is supposed to be adorable, but instead, just wore me out.  I’m no monster though, as the finale tugged my game controller chords.  

“this” tugged my game controller chords.

Romans 15:1-2

Monday
Oct082012

Frankenweenie- review

“Frankenweenie” (2012)
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short
Running Time 87 Minutes, Rated PG
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmich.com

It’s really nice to see something from Tim Burton that feels like vintage Tim Burton.  Burton has been in my doghouse for quite some time now; so smart move, on his part, by going back to his stop-motion strengths.  The patent weirdness is alive and well in “Frankenweenie” but so is the heart, something that’s been sorely missing since his last stop-motion flick, 2005’s “Corpse Bride”.  

Back in 1984 when Burton was working for Disney they let him direct a 29 minutes short by this same title. That “Frankenweenie” didn’t get to see the light of day as it had the same morbid infatuation with death that this 2012 version does, but Burton has a little more swag with Disney- I’m sure Alice in Wonderland making a billion dollars globally will do that.  I will say, that I very much loved his macabre touch, but this film might be too scary for children under 7 or 8.Also, if you haven’t had the death talk with your little ones previous to seeing the film, then you’ll, no doubt,  have it afterwords.

The young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) has only one friend, his dog Sparky.  They spend all their time together making little home movies, that is until tragically Sparky is run over by a car.  Victor, not able to move on, uses what he learned from his science teacher (voiced by Martin Landau and looking like the great Vincent Price, who, of course, was in Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands”) and applies the power of lighting to reanimate Sparky.  

“Frankenweenie” is full of hilarious spoofs of all of horror from the obvious monster movies of the 30’s, Godzilla, to even more recently “Gremlins”.  Add Danny Elfman‘s wonderfully haunting score and the great choice to have it all in wonderful black and white, and you really notice all the little details.  

have “this” all in wonderful black and white, and you really notice all the little details.  

John 20:29

Monday
Aug202012

ParaNorman- review

“ParaNorman” (2012)
Directed by Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Starring  Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated PG.
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Norman is young boy who has his problems.  He’s constantly picked on by the kids at school, his popular sister thinks he’s nuisance, his father doesn’t understand him, and oh yeah, Norman can see and communicate with dead people.  Norman (voiced by Let Me In child actor Kodi Smit-McPhee) doesn’t mind his conversations with the passed away, it’s the living who treat him like a freak that has him being a loner.  That is until his New England town of Blithe Hollow is in grave danger of being wiped out by a 300 year-old Witch’s curse, and it’s up to Norman to save the day.

“ParaNorman” is being sold as John Hughes meets John Carpenter, an out cast coming of age comedy with the pulpy thrills and chills of classic fright fests before.  Don’t be fooled by the PG. rating, there are heavier themes than the usual Ice Age film and successful scares to keep your little ones up at night.  This should be expected of director Chris Butler who worked on both “The Corpse Bride”, which I liked very much, and the even darker “Coraline”, which I’ve heard is a sin that I haven’t seen yet.  

The Hughes archetypes are all there.  A tremendous acting collective besides Kodi Smit-McPhee consists of Jeff Garlin as frustrated father, Leslie Mann as her usual mother type, Anna Kendrick plays the superficial sister, Tucker Albrizzi plays the glass half full pudgy Neil who also gets teased and wants to be Normans friend, and Neil’s gym rat older brother Mitch is voiced by Casey Affleck.  Besides that you’ve got Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse getting to play against type as Alvin the bully and the awesome John Goodman as Norman’s creepy old uncle with similar paranormal talents.  

The thing that got me the most about “ParaNorman” were the details.  Animated in the time-extensive style of stop-motion, Butler and co-directer Sam Fell fill the screen with so much going on.  Little jokes of dead birds with soda can rings around their neck, the light that shines from behind Norman’s thin ears, the imperfect designs of the family station wagon, the amazing witch’s arrival effects, the great character dialogue such as Leslie Mann’s mom character venting “you promised me a meal that someone else microwaved”  tells so much.  

“ParaNorman” dips in clever energy once the curse takes effect, but brings it back up for the finale that has scares, laughs, and most of all heart.  Here’s a film that’s not exactly great but anything but normal.

Here’s a “this” that’s not exactly great but anything but normal.  

 

Monday
Jul162012

Ice Age: Continental Drift- review

“Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
Directed by Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
Starring Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo
Running Time 94 Minutes Rated PG
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

To enjoy the “Toy Story” franchise you have to be within the age range of 100 years and younger, to enjoy the “Ice Age” franchise you have to be 8 years or younger.  Repetitive storytelling that uses a basic life lesson or two- in the case of Continental Drift it’s knowing who your real friends are.  You can almost hear the cashing of checks when any of the actors lifelessly voice out a slew of generic dialogue.  

So all of you 8 and unders out there who read my reviews regularly, I want to tell you that you can do better than the mediocre efforts of “Ice Age: Continental Drift.  Wait, a second, my beautiful wife who also serves as my editor, cop show enthusiast, and my official stat checker tells me I don’t have any 8yrs and younger readers.  In that case this is one of those reviews that really has no merit. The Ice Age films make money ice over fist and will continue to get made until parents stop taking their 8yr old and unders to the movies, and that’s a lose-lose for everyone.  

This time around Scrat the frantic acorn hungry saber toothed squirrel, who is easily the best thing going in all four films, accidentally sets off the division of Pangaea to the seven continents we know so lovingly know.  As land starts to break apart the overbearing Mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), the hard-edged Saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and the intelligence-challenged sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) get separated from their family and pack.  Drifting away at sea, the three must battle a no good monkey pirate captain named Gut (Peter Dinklage) and the tides to get back home.

The voice actors really do disappoint. Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, and new arrival Wanda Sykes are already extremely grating to my ears, but give them 3rd rate corny dialogue, and I started to get a bit nauseous.  Nicki Minaj is added for no other reason but to give her an IMDB acting credit, as well as Jennifer Lopez because this is a 20th Century Fox movie, and she works for 20th Century Fox’s “American Idol”.

The silly but not so inspiring hi-jinx made the kids in theater laugh; so good for them.  Would I have been joyous if the little tikes would have come out of with grumblings of the recycled state of Hollywood fare and how their age demographic wasn’t being respected?  Heck yeah I would have, but, then again, my mother would have appreciated it just as much if I didn’t come out a little dumber every time I watched a “Beavis and Butthead” episode.

“This” didn’t come out a little dumber every time I watched a “Beavis and Butthead” episode.

 

Monday
Apr022012

Mirror Mirror- review

 

“Mirror Mirror” (2012)
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer
Running Time 106 Minutes, Rated PG
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

More like the squarest of them all.

Take the director of strongly R rated fare “The Cell” and last year’s awful “The Immortals” and let him adapt a treasured children’s classic.  Unless you are Martin Scorsese, than it’s a pretty hard feat to pull off.  Tarsem Singh is no Scorsese (wow Mitch thanks for that incredible film insight), but he does have a uniquely strong flair for the visual flair.  Tarsem Singh has put his imaginative look on Mirror Mirror, but almost everywhere else the film falls flat.  Plagued by showstopping bad cheesy humor and stilted performances there’s more magic in the recently purchased LA Dodgers.  

I’m sure the studio was stoked to land Julia Roberts as the wicked Queen, and I’m sure she was probably excited to jump on the fairytale film bandwagon but it’s also very apparent she wasn’t able to carry it into filming.  She looks tired and unconvincing as evil, something she’s never been able to strongly deliver.  A couple of her patent giggles are undeniably charming as ever, but her chemistries with both Lily Collins (not Roberts fault) and Armi Hammer (both their faults) are as white as lies.  

With the hook of being told from the Queen’s perspective, the classic Snow White tale doesn’t offer much new to its viewers.  Gorgeous costumes draping their players and vivid sets for them to play in is nowhere near enough to create a lasting impression.  Dance halls fall flat on the floor, the Queen’s reflection is a bore, and the love triangle almost made me snore.    

As for the mistreated beauty Snow White, she’s played by Phil Collins’ daughter Lilly Collins.  She was not Suss-suss-suitable (sorry, couldn’t resist) for the role.  The dainty actress’ voice never raises above a whisper, in fact the only part of her that spoke out were her bushy eyebrows (a bit off putting).  She looked quite outmatched by Roberts and far from showing a love that a kiss could bring back to life (a scene that I found very odd and uncomfortable).  

The talented Armie Hammer (The Social Network, J. Edgar) isn’t able to take the stupid silly and make it playful funny as the charming Prince.  There’s an embarrassing 20 minute sequence where Hammer is subjected to playing out a puppy love spell that has him yelping and playing fetch to not even a giggle.  The Queen’s cougar antics over the Prince also stop the story on a dime.  

Always tragic when this happens, but Mirror Mirror’s credit sequence is the best part of the film.  It was a mistake of Tarsem to save all the fun till the end.  If he could have given that same energy throughout I might be reviewing a classic, instead I’m reviewing a reject film.

Instead I’m reviewing a reject “this”.

 

 

Proverbs 31:30

Monday
Feb202012

The Secret World of Arrietty- review

“The Secret World of Arrietty” (2012)
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett
Running Time 94 Minutes, Rated G.
3 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

By no means is 2D animation dead, and “The Secret World of Arrietty” lets us know that.  The hand drawn detail is exquisite, as every blade of grass that we see and every new room we enter resonates a fuller experience.  The adult viewer will acknowledge and appreciate the difference in style from 3D, and even though the story doesn’t pack the punch the visual craftsmanship does, kids won’t miss a beat enjoying this film.

From the revered Studio Ghibli, I’ve only caught the fantastic Princess Mononoke while embarrassingly missing Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, among others.  Studio Ghibli along with legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, have a reputation for the fantastic.  Miyazaki serves only as a screenwriter here, allowing Hiromasa Yonebayashi to take the directing reigns.  Maybe it’s the quiet traits of Yonebayashi, or maybe it’s Mary Norton’s timeless novel, “The Borrowers”, that the film is based upon, but while the animation is totally engaging, you can’t help but hope for a shot of Pixar adreniline in this ‘less-than-usual’ fantastic fare.  

You may say that tiny sized humans who live in secret from us normals (whom they call “beings”) is absolutely fantastic, but the mild manner in which the story is told keeps the adventure enjoyable but mild itself.  The story of Arrietty Clock (voiced by Bridgit Mendler), a 14-year old ‘borrower’ who’s coming into her own while making home with her worrisome mother (voiced by Amy Poehler) and stoic father (voiced by Poeler’s real life husband Will Arnett) in the basement of a “being’s” countryside estate, only borrowing what’s necessary to survive.  “The Secret World of Arrietty” is delightfully imaginative as we see scotch tape used for mountain climbing, a pin needle as a sword, and a chip bag clip used as a hair clip.  

When the young sickly ‘being’ Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) moves in with his aunt he finds out about Arrietty and her family’s existence.  Arrietty’s boldness and positivity help Shawn to get new found strength for life.  I will say there is a weird hint of romance between the two that gives me the creeps, but I’m sure it’s unintentional.  The light FM inspiration ballads also didn’t mesh with me and put me in too relaxed of a state. Overall though, a heartwarming tale with gorgeous old fashioned animation is enough to see what the secret is all about.

Gorgeous old fashioned animation is enough to see what “this” is all about.  

 

Monday
Feb062012

Big Miracle- review

“Big Miracle” (2012)
Directed by Ken Kwapis
Starring Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski
Running Time 107 Minutes, Rated PG.
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

The uplifting true story of the survival effort for a family of three Grey Whales trapped in the ice covered arctic waters at the top of Alaska near the city of Barrow in 1988 was enough to capture the attention of the world. It’s too bad “Big Miracle”, the film based on those events needed to clutter it up with so many ineffective human elements.  In the vain of director Ken Kwapis’ previous effort “He's Just Not That Into You”, “Big Miracle” unsuccessfully tries to weave character upon character and ideology upon ideology.  Whether it’s man vs animal, old world vs new world, white culture vs Inupiat culture, poor vs rich, tree huggers vs oil drillers, young reporter vs old reporter, US vs The Soviet, or Drew Barrymore’s overacting vs John Krasinski’s underacting, the good intentions of man coming together against nature’s plight has it’s shining moments, but in the end drowns from the film’s gaudy theatrics.   

The event is true, but emotions elicited come off so false.  “Big Miracle” ‘s leads have plenty to do with that. When local newsman Adam Carlson, played with that gosh darn charm that is on it’s last legs from John Krasinski, uncovers the whales in peril, it quickly becomes national attention.  In one of her worst performances Drew Barrymore is Rachel Kramer, a Greenpeace activist extraordinaire who also happens to be Adam’s ex-girlfriend.  Since there probably aren’t too many house cat’s in Barlow, Barrymore has settled her Rachel to be the ‘crazy whale lady’. She is so over the top with gut-wrenching plea after another, Barrymore is a whale-sized Debby-Downer.  

Every news affiliate with a microphone and a bad 80’s hair cut heads up to the tiny city including a young L.A. go-getter by the name of Jill Jerad (Kristen Bell) (who is still getting work to my bewilderment) that catches Adams attention, much to the dismay of Rachael.  Rival to Rachael, oil tycoon J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson) sees the opportunity to help his public image by funding the whale’s rescue.  In fact, and something the script and director point out, the film is one big PR publicity stunt after another.  Saving the whales, known as Wilma, Fred, and Bam-Bam is important to everyone, but even more important is what these whales or this story can do for them.  Even the Regan administration gets in on it to put a cap in their eight years of office by sending the stern Colonel Scott Boyer played by the stiff Dermot Mulroney to help out.

“Big Miracle’s” biggest moment should leave you blubbering in your seat, but, by then, we’ve heard too many over-sentimental speeches and petty snickering to feel the full effect.  

We’ve heard too many over-sentimental speeches and petty snickering to feel the full effect of “this”.

 

Tuesday
Jan172012

Joyful Noise- review

“Joyful Noise” (2012)
Directed by Todd Graff
Starring Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton
Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated PG-13
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Can I get an Amen for “Joyful Noise”?  The spirited acting may elicit some hand raising, but an Amen for this overall bloated uninteresting tale of a small town choir, oh hell no!  Like trying to figure out if your pasta’s done, director Todd Graff, who whiffs after his previous decent Camp and Bandslam, throws so many different plot thread noodles at the wall in hopes that they stick only to forget to add any meat or sauce to bring it together.  Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton get to show off their pipes, but it’s hard to imagine what they saw past that with this cluttered corn-pole script.

Latifah plays newly appointed choir master Vi Rose Hill, a strict traditionalist mother of the blooming teen Olivia (Keke Palmer), who also sings in the choir, and Walter (Dexter Darden), who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome.  Vi works two jobs as her husband ran away to the Army in one of the films half-finished story lines.  In her first big screen film since “Straight Talk” in 1992, Dolly Parton brings her famous bust-line... I mean waistline as G.G. Sparrow, a rich granny who backs the choir not only with her solo’s but also with her checkbook.  When her grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) pops up we’re constantly told by town members, including the weary Vi, that he’s never been a good seed, but we’re never actually told why or much of his past that looms so large.  I guess we should leave those details to the Lord.

“Joyful Noise” wants to sell you on it’s musical numbers, but I’m not buying.  Besides a lovely duet late in the film with Parton and Kris Kristofferson and a decent finale at the ‘battle of the gospel choirs’, the other musical numbers (and there’s plenty) are truly uninspired and fall as flat as the Sunday morning Glee rejects they really are.  Props to the film for not being afraid to say the J-word (Jesus), but as “Joyful Noise” tries to pull off hip-christian themed entertainment, there are mixed messages throughout as most of their music shies away from mentioning God. One such song is their pop usage of MJ’s “Man in the Mirror.”  In one of the more just plain weird scenes I’ve witnessed in a while, a romance erupts between background choir member Earla (Angela Grovey) and fellow robed member Mr. Hsu (Francis Jue), only to find out their passion was too great as their one-nighter brings death to poor Mr. Hsu with the official cause of death being high blood pressure, giving Earla a “reputation” if you know what I mean.

There are plenty of these “what the what what?” moments that do nothing more than make us wonder how they got two hours of film to feel like five.  That’s too bad, cause I rather enjoyed Dolly Parton’s wisdom dropping goofy granny.  I’m not suggesting this, but if you’re bored you can have a better time with the film by playing a drinking game where you drink every time Parton’s G.G. makes a po-dunk life analogy.  Lines like “trying to fool me is like trying to sneak sunshine past a rooster” are more fun after a shot.  In the end, “Joyful Noise” has too many sour notes to be worth listening to, or watching for that matter.

“This” has too many sour notes to be worth listening to, or watching for that matter.

 

Monday
Nov282011

The Muppets- review

“The Muppets” (2011)
Directed by James Bobin
Starring Amy Adams, Jason Segel and Chris Cooper
Running Time 98 MInutes, Rated PG
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

What’s lean, green, and the very opposite of mean?  That’s right, it’s the “Rainbow Connection” muppet himself, Mr. Kermit the Frog.  It’s been 12 years since Kermit and friends Mrs. Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, and the rest of Jim Henson’s beloved pint-sized characters have been on the big screen.  Mega fan Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) co-writes the screenplay, produces, and stars in a successful introduction for a new generation of youngsters. While it may not be everything it’s older fans treasure, it will still easily win them over.  

Brothers Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter grew up loving the Muppets.  Walter is their biggest fan who doesn’t seem to realize growing up that he too is a Muppet.  When Walter tags along to Gary and his demure shop teacher girlfriend Mary’s (great casting choice of Amy Adams) L.A. vacation, Walter takes a tour the Muppets' rundown theater and overhears Tex Richman’s (Chris Cooper) evil plan to tear it down in search for oil.  Walter must get Kermit, who’s become a recluse in his dusty old mansion, to bring the band back together in order to put on a show and raise the 10 million dollars to save the theater.  

For the most part Segal gets the essence of the Muppets right. He delivers corny light-fare entertainment with plenty of winks for the adults watching.  When traveling becomes too time consuming they know it’s time for a montage and who wouldn’t want to travel by map like Indiana Jones when that only takes a few seconds.  The musical numbers are more hit than miss, and I’m looking forward to a hopeful nomination of “Life Is A Happy Song” that would get Segal, Adams, and the rest of the Muppets performing at the Oscars.  

It’s not all rainbows and lily pads though.  For whatever reason, Chris Cooper's villain material just didn’t catch on.  He got just as many laughs as he did in “American Beauty” and a when he performs a little rap diddy it made me wanna ‘walka-walka-walka’ right out of the movie theater.  Director James Bobin’s rush to the third act showed what he thought of his A.D.D. young viewers and I was less than impressed with the films wasted cameos.  Sure, this may have been the first time I’ve laughed at Jack Black since Tropic Thunder, but if you’re gonna have N.P.H. show up than use him.

All in all “The Muppets” is a delicious smorgasbord of fun at the movies.  It’s a happy return that will hopefully have more happy returns in the future.  

“This” will hopefully have more happy returns in the future.

 

Monday
Nov282011

Hugo- review

“Hugo” (2011)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz
Running Time 127 Minutes, Rated PG
4.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

The man who’s movie body count can rival just about any other directors' through out history gives us a remarkable family film in “Hugo”.  That man, Martin Scorcese, directs a deeply personal and incredibly heartwarming ode to cinema that, of all things, properly uses today’s often maligned advancement in CGI and 3D.  I was so enthralled with the fact that kids will actually have such enriching story to get lost in, I almost overlooked that I was just as lost.

When Scorcese was just a little boy he was quite often sickly, keeping him inside much of the time.  The films lead character Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is also very distanced, living alone literally between the walls of a train station.  Scorcese’s introduction to Hugo and the world he inhabits is visually breathtaking as CGI images of a bustling 1930’s France.  Through flashbacks we find out Hugo discovered his love of fixing things from his clock-making father played by Jude Law who was lost in an explosion.  

The colorful characters are so full, they’re not just good guys and bad guys, they’re mostly broken people recovering from the Great War.  Emily Mortimer plays the flower lady, Lisette, who the Station Inspector Sacha Baron Cohen fancies when he’s not rounding up another wayward child to be thrown into the orphanage. These are just some of the broken characters that Scorcese and screenwriter John Logan masterfully allow Hugo to fix.  Hugo is played by the outstanding Asa Butterfield, I’m always amazed when young actors are so talented in a craft that specializes in reflecting emotions and Butterield is amazing as Hugo.

More broken than anyone is Georges Méliès, played by the great Ben Kingsley who is sure to land a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role here.  Kingsley perfectly shows Méliès at first as an old man sad from the past's losses.  As Hugo and Méliès’ adventure seeking goddaughter Isabelle, wonderfully played the accomplished young actress Chloë Grace Moretz, discover Méliès past, Scorcese magically treats us with a beautiful experience that will leap from the screen and onto your heart.  

Based on a true story from Brian Selznick‘s book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”, is a cinephile’s cinematic dream.  As a cinephile myself I was fascinated as the mystery's details unraveled, but I have no doubt that Scorcese was able to universally make it for everyone to enjoy.  “Hugo” is not only one of the best films of the year but is easily the best family film I’ve seen in this young century.  “Hugo” is amazing!

“This” is amazing.