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Authors Posts by Tabari McCoy

Tabari McCoy

Tabari McCoy
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Columnist - Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. An award-winning stand-up comedian who also works as the public relations director at Cincinnati Museum Center, Tabari McCoy is the creator of McCoy on Movies, a blog about movies for film fans. The blog is written by someone who also likes movies that is smart enough to know his opinion isn't always the right one but is willing to express that opinion in public. McCoy also used to review movies for his college paper and a major metropolitan publication, so that helps add to his "street cred." Contact him at tmccoy@cincychic.com. You can also check out more of his work on his blog at McCoyonMovies.BlogSpot.com and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy.

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"So is this as awkward as you — and all the people we hope see this movie — imagined it would be?" Nicole (Nicole Weaver) and Matt (Matt Bennett) share an intimate moment in "The Virginity Hit."

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Matt Bennett, Zack Pearlman, NIcole Weaver, Jacob Davish, Justin Kline,Krysta Rodridguez, Harry Zittel, Seth Barrish, John McLeaish, Savannah Welch and Sunny Leone (yes, THAT Sunny Leone!)

 

WRITER: Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland

 

DIRECTOR: Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland

 

WEB SITE: TheVirginityHit.com

 

THE PLOT: Like essentially every teen comedy involving young males attempting to lose it, "The Virginity Hit" centers around a group of friends — Zach (Zach Pearlman), Justin (Justin Kline), Jacob (Jacob Davish) and Matt (Matt Bennett) — who, after each one has sex for the first time, gather to smoke a bong. (Hey, it’s not a complex plot.)

 

Matt, however, has never smoked as he is the last one of the group who has never had sex. But that’s going to change soon enough, for he and his girlfriend of two years Nicole (Nicole Weaver) plan to have sex in the near future. But when Matt hears a rumor about Nicole, that plan goes awry.

 

What results is a raunchy journey in self-discovery, sex and why adult film stars and YouTube can have SERIOUS side effects on a young man’s life in and outside of the bedroom.

 

THE TAKE: "The Virginity Hit" is one of those movies that is reflective of the times in which it was originated — and by that I mean the frank way in which its young cast freely and graphically talks about, desires to have and regards sex in general. With shows like "Teen Mom" and "I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant" on the air, if you are really shocked about what is said and shown in this movie, you are either [A] out of touch with today’s teen and/or [B] not watching a lot of television/looking up Web sites that you can’t view at work and/or while your parents are in the room. In addition, the film also shows how technology has changed the way we live our lives and how that now, thanks to the ability of the Internet to store limitless embarrassing moments of our lives, you may never be able to truly escape your past.

 

All that being said, the film does put a new spin on the things anyone at this age likely has when it comes to sex: the feeling of being left out, the concerns over the act itself and the effect one simple action — "doing it" or not "doing it" — can have on a young person’s psyche. And ladies, keep in mind that this film is coming from the modern MALE teen point of view, so be prepared to be a bit "shock and awed" if you are the type that’s more akin to watching re-runs of "Friends" than say something like "The Sopranos."

 

Thus, let me be clear on this: Unless your significant other is the type that watches adult entertainment with you, goes to adult "fun parties" or is so open-minded they could infuriate commentators on both MSNBC and Fox News, "The Virginity Hit" is also not a good date movie. Likewise, all you "hip" parents that feel you can watch anything with your kids, please be forewarned that unless you REALLY want to have conversations about pornography, "sexting" and why it’s never a good idea to do what a woman you just met tells you while you’re naked, you might be better served watching this one with other adults — and then signing little Timmy or Suzy up for summer camp later.

 

The film certainly has its sweet and sad moments (such as those involving the relationship between Matt and his parents), but overall, this is a comedy first and foremost — and it will push the limits of what you may consider good taste (and, thanks to the YouTube-inspired cinematography, your sense of balance)!

 

PARTING SHOT: Make no mistake about it, "The Virginity Hit" is raunchy, at times as juvenile as its young cast and doesn’t really break any new ground, but it’s pretty sweet — in a raunchy, juvenile sort of way.

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):


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PHOTO CREDITS

Patti Perret © 2009 Columbia Tristar Marketing Group, Inc.

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KEY CAST MEMBERS: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten and Paolo Bonacelli

 

WRITER: Rowan Joffe, adapted from Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman

 

DIRECTOR: Anton Corbijn

 

WEB SITE: FocusFeatures.com/film/the_american

 

THE PLOT: Adapted from the 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman, "The American" stars George Clooney in the title role as Jack, a man who… well, let’s just call him a man who is very good with his hands who often has to use them to do his job (or save his own skin). In other words, he’s an assassin.

 

After having his time in Sweden interrupted in a most harsh manner, Jack travels to Rome where he meets up with his contact Pavel (Johan Leysen) who sets up for him to hole-up in the hilly Italian countryside. While lying low, Jack takes on a new assignment: constructing a specialized rifle for a mysterious new contact, Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). That assignment, of course, is not without its complications, as Jack unexpectedly befriends local priest Father Benedeto (Paolo Bonacelli) and liaisons with Clara (Violante Placido), a beautiful woman of the night who longs for passionate romance. SassyMoma-In-Story-GIF.GIF

 

Once Jack sees Clara for who she truly is, he comes to realize a different existence might be a better way to live. Whether or not he’ll be alive to see it, however, remains to be seen.


THE TAKE: To put my thoughts on "The American" into an analogy: If I were given a paint-by-numbers kit that, once I was finished with it, I would have painted an exact replica of the Mona Lisa, is it a work of art or simply a very well done, visually appealing yet uninspired copy of a true work of art? If you feel that the latter is true, you have just summed up how I ultimately felt after watching this film.

 

Let me explain: There is no problem with the acting (which is fine all the way around), the cinematography (which is stellar) or even the film’s soundtrack (which effectively sets the mood properly). And having not read the late Mr. Booth’s novel, I cannot say for certain that it is the film’s source material. No, the problem is that the film, which moves a bit too slowly at times, is extremely… familiar.

 

In talking with my fellow critic friend after the film, I struggled to remember the film that had a character similar to that of Clooney in "The American," a character with a similar take on his job, desire to transcend it and a woman’s affect on it. Hours later, I remembered — "Heat" and on a remotely similar level, "The Professional."

 

OK, let me stop you right now. "Heat," "The Professional" and "The American" are three completely different films, but the archetype of the main character in all is one we have seen countless times before, just tweaked and adjusted ever-so-slightly for each film. And in "The American," the archetype is compelling enough to keep you watching, but the familiarity of his world fails to deliver a completely satisfying experience by the film’s end.

 

While the film is essentially a throwback to film days of yore (if the film’s theatrical movie poster isn’t a tip off, well, it should have been!), it ends up having an old vibe for the wrong reason: A story that no matter how well told, is one we’ve seen before. While many others may (and likely justifiably so) praise the cast and crew’s work, the actual story itself is ultimately a facsimile of a work of art no matter how you cut it.

 

PARTING SHOT: While the film will definitely interest many in vacationing in Italy and having a torrid romance, "The American" is not in the same class as the foreign films it seeks to imitate.

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

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KEY CAST MEMBERS: Will Ferrell; Mark Wahlberg; Eva Mendes; Michael Keaton; Steve Coogan; Ray Stevenson; Damon Wayans, Jr.; Rob Riggle with Samuel L. Jackson; Dwayne Johnson; and the voice of Ice-T

 

WRITER: Adam McKay and Chris Henchy

 

DIRECTOR: Adam McKay

 

WEB SITE: TheOtherGuys-Movie.com

 

THE PLOT: Set in New York City, "The Other Guys" begins by introducing us to NYPD detective stars Christopher Danson (Dwayne "I’m no longer ‘The Rock’" Johnson) and P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson). The superstars of the department, the duo is the among the most celebrated officers in the city’s history given their bravado, care free attitude and ability to always get the job done.0110Fence_INSTORY.gif

 

You know who’s not? Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), two desk jockeys who are the joke of their department. But what happens when Gamble and Hoitz find themselves in a position to change their fortunes and make a name for themselves?

  

And that name will keep them from just being known as "The Other Guys."

 

THE TAKE: Here’s something I shouldn’t admit: There are times when, as a critic, I just don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to talk a movie in the way it deserves. This, however, isn’t one of those times because "The Other Guys" really doesn’t deserve much energy or enthusiasm as its cast and crew don’t seem like they put much into it.

 

Like many others who have bought their DVDs and watched their films repeatedly on cable (or satellite as the case may be), I love many of Ferrell and McKay’s past efforts. "The Other Guys," however, is just an exercise in excess (big name stars), bare bones writing (just about all of the jokes and the thin storyline) and poor execution (Mark Wahlberg, as a whole, just doesn’t have great comedic chops anymore and, for lack of a better description, is just trying too hard).

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Save for the last 30 minutes, "The Other Guys" is essentially a mess of slapped together jokes and wacky characters that just don’t flow well. The main storyline isn’t interesting, the one that is (Will Ferrell’s character’s past life as "Gator" in college) isn’t given enough development and many of the supporting characters (Eva Mendes as Ferrell’s wife, Michael Keaton as the police chief/Bed, Bath and Beyond manager) aren’t given enough time.

 

Of course, this wouldn’t be as big a problem if the laughs were bigger. They just … aren’t. "Cop Out," which came out earlier this year didn’t do that well as it wasn’t great in terms of the somewhat weak story (ditto), the jokes ("Cop Out" had more laughs as a whole, but the ones here are slightly bigger) and the acting (even by comedy standards) is weaker here than its predecessor. Dare I say it, there are times when the film is kinda, well, boring. And when you have one of the best talents — comedic or otherwise — in the game today in a movie, you should never have that thought come to mind.

 

PARTING SHOT: While the movie is funny at times, there are other films that are worth watching much more than "The Other Guys."

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

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PHOTO CREDITS

Photo courtesy of Macall Polay. © 2009 Columbia Tristar Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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KEY CAST MEMBERS: Angelina Jolie; Liev Schreiber; Chiwetel Ejiofor; Andre Braugher; and a bunch of people to push computer buttons, yell and scream and shoot and/or get shot at

 

WRITER: Kurt Wimmer

 

DIRECTOR: Phillip Noyce

 

WEB SITE: WhoisSalt.com

 

THE PLOT: If you haven’t figured it out yet from all the ubiquitous advertising that’s been around for months, "Salt" star Angelina Jolie is the title role as Evelyn Salt (originally written as a male character), a CIA officer sworn to be loyal to America and do her duty (I mean, it’s not like they would let her be a CIA officer if she didn’t, right?). Unfortunately for ol’ Salty, when a Russian defector accuses her of being a potential presidential assassin (ooh, that’s not going to go over well at the company picnic!), she finds herself in a heap of trouble.

 

That leads her to go on the run … And as the story takes all the twists and turns you might expect, it all leads her CIA buddies like Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) – seriously, Peabody?! – and enemies (as well as possibly the audience) asking the same question that also serves as the film’s URL – "Who Is Salt?"

 

THE TAKE: Uh, ever seen a movie that left you with more questions than answers? How about one that looks like the writer and director saw a similar, more successful version of a couple of years ago and said "We’ll flip this part and this part and it will seem like a fresh new movie!"? You will if you choose to see "Salt," which despite the best efforts of the film’s cast (or at least Jolie’s) and crew, fails in the place where it all started, i.e. the writer’s room.

 

Since it’s impossible to not delve into the plot deeply without giving away most of the movie, let’s just say "Salt" has a few problems that I just overcame. [1] The end result of the film could have likely been avoided with Salt simply telling someone what the deal was before bullets started flying [2] Salt’s reasons for her actions ultimately, given the events of the film, seem flimsy and [3] Implausible in the first place as I doubt the person who motivated her to act the way she does in the end would have as much power to help her in the film’s first act (I told you this is hard without giving away everything).

 

Throw in the fact that the film’s action sequences should result in MUCH more damage to Salt than they do – Yes, it’s kinda ludicrous how little physical harm she takes in certain instances, even by action movie standards. See "Casino Royale" with Daniel Craig on how to do it right – and you’ll see why Salt kind of implodes on itself more often than not. Jolie is not the problem with the film at all. It’s all of the factors above.

 

To paraphrase what my friend Erin said after the advance screening we attended, "Salt" REALLY wants to be "The Bourne Identity." The lead character has plenty of opportunities to prevent the events that play out in the film and you never really shake that feeling, which in turn hinders the ability to enjoy the film.

 

If an actor does a great job in a not-so-great movie, guess what? It’s still a not-so-great movie. Then again, Ejiofor and Schreiber – who you can tell are really, really trying — just don’t work in their roles.

 

*NEW!* PARTING SHOT: If you’re going to the theater expecting "Salt" to deliver anything but a mindless 90-minute shoot ’em up cheap thrill, you might want to watch it while keeping a grain of one in mind.

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

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PHOTO CREDITS
Photo courtesy of 
Andrew Schwartz, SMPSP

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KEY CAST MEMBERS: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite

 

WRITER: Christopher Nolan

 

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

 

WEB SITE: InceptionMovie.WarnerBros.com/

 

THE PLOT: In order to keep this is as simple as possible, the plot of "Inception" goes something like this. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man with a very, very special and unique talent. Cobb, like his partner-in-crime (literally) Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), specializes in stealing ideas and secrets from the one place 99.9 percent of people on the planet have no control over protecting: their dreams. You see, Cobb and Arthur have the ability — through a series of mental techniques, serums and devices — to enter your subconscious while you are dreaming and find out more than you ever wanted anyone to know about you.0110Fence_INSTORY.gif

 

This — the planting of a simple idea in someone else’s mind so that they come to think it is their own, which they will then carry out in real life — is called "inception." ("Ahhh … Now I understand the film’s title," you say to yourself. You’re welcome.)

 

Knowing of the duo’s talents, Saito (Ken Watanabe) is interested in hiringthem to do a job, which will be no simple task: Planting an idea inside the mind of Robert Fischer, Jr. — Saito’s main business rival — to break up the empire he will inherit upon the impending death of his father (Pete Postlethwaite) and become his own man (and prevent the company from becoming an even bigger superpower in the process).

 

To do this one last job, Cobb needs to assemble a new dream "architect" — which leads him to visiting his father-in-law (Michael Caine) who introduces him to a young student (Ellen Page) capable of doing the job. Next, he needs a talented "forger" (Tom Hardy) who can impersonate Fischer’s godfather (Tom Berenger) and "chemist" (Dileep Rao) on the team as well. With everyone in place, Cobb hatches a plan to meet Fischer, put him to sleep and plant the idea.

 

Sure, there are some risks involved — like what happens to someone who dies in a dream when they are this deeply asleep and what not — but those can be prepared for and controlled (usually). There is just one problem, however, that can’t: Mal (Marion Cotillard), Cobb’s deceased wife who seems to pop up at the most inopportune times within dreams.

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THE TAKE: There is a term occasionally used to describe something that messes with you in such a mind-boggling way that you feel different after experiencing it. Since it has profanity in it (Password: two words, sounds like your brain and a term used for sex), I will not use it here. Also, if you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (or want a test to see if you do), "Inception" may or may not be the best way to spend 150-plus minutes trying to sit still and follow along what right now, next to "Toy Story 3," is possibly the only film worthy of Oscar consideration come award season next year.

 

"Inception," much like the mind itself, is a maze located inside a puzzle wrapped inside a cage, and writer/director Christopher Nolan ("Memento", "The Dark Knight") is a master at revealing the key to an audience.

 

Let me say this in regards to the film’s cast: While some may find Cotillard or DiCaprio slightly off-putting at times for a variety of reasons (Mine? A little too melodramatic too early in a scene one time too many), the cast as a whole does an exceptional job at what they are supposed to do: Draw you deep into the story, illustrating the integral role each plays within a dream (which in turn helps draw the audience into the dream playing out onscreen while pondering their own).

 

It is Nolan, however, who is the star of this dream as the world he creates in "Inception" is carefully crafted out from start to finish. Visually, the film creates a wonderment without the need for 3D or over-the-top implausible sequences, but rather by playing with the ideas of sounds, shape and structure. Likewise, he draws performances out of his cast (minus the aforementioned issue) that create characters that interact well with one another (in terms of both the film’s plot and its progression). The result is a creation of visual high art that – like the concept simple to the story told in the film – shows how a simple idea can manifest itself to something much bigger and greater once it is planted.

 

*NEW!* PARTING SHOT: "Inception" is the first film released this year that should have its director dreaming of Oscar gold come award season.

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

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PHOTO CREDITS
Photo courtesy of 
Stephen Vaughn © 2010 Warner Bros. Pictures. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Admit it – you want to lead an army of minions, too! Gru (voiced bySteve Carell) leads his little yellow followers in the entertaining (anddare I say, cute) 3D venture that is DESPICABLEME.



KEY CAST MEMBERS: Steve Carell, JasonSegel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, MirandaCosgrove, Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Jack McBrayer and Julie Andrews 

WRITERS: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio; based on a story by Sergio Pablos 

DIRECTOR: Chris Renaud and PierreCoffin 


THE PLOT: A film that beats the upcoming Will Ferrell-helmedMegamind into theathers in the "let’s focus on the animatedsupervillian" genre, Despicable Me stars Steve Carell as the voice ofGru. A supervillian by trade, Gru, his mad scientist assistant Dr. Nefario(a very well camoflauged Russell Brand) and his army of little yellow oneand two-eyed minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin except for two voiced byco-director Chris Renaud and Jemaine Clement of Flight of theConchords fame) have a plan that they are sure will push them to the topof the underworld: Stealing the moon.


 There’s just two little problems standing in their way: [1] Mr. Perkins(voiced by Will Arnett), the head of The Bank of Evil (formerly LehmanBrothers) that funds all his projects won’t give him a loan and [2] isdeciding to back Gru’s new, younger rival criminal Vector (voiced by JasonSegel). 


Seemingly down and out trying to find a way to inflitrate Vector’s compound,Gru gets an idea when he sees Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier) andMargo (Miranda Cosgrove) – three little orphan girls from whom his rival isbuying cookies. Adopting the girls from Ms. Hattie (voiced by Kristen Wiig),Gru devises a scheme to use the girls as a distraction to get the covetedshrink ray he needs from Vector to complete his plan. If Gru is lucky, hemight just finally impress his mother (voiced by Julie Andrews), too. 


But what happens when Gru finds out that being a parent – evil or otherwise- isn’t what he expected? You’ll have to see the movie to find out!


THE TAKE: If nothing else, I can say this about Despicable Me:I want a minion in real life so bad after seeing this movie – and given howentertaining, dare I say "cute" the film is as a whole, I suspect I will notbe alone in that sentiment. To use another analogy, if Toy Story 3 isthe Mercedes of this summer’s animated offerings thus far as it offers acomplete fit, finish and overall experience, Despicable Me is a MiniCooper – compact, quirky and fun to drive around even if it doesn’t have theoverall horsepower or quality of its larger, more established rival.


Other than the minions (which are really the best thing about the movie byfar), the other thing that makes Despicable Me not desipcable towatch is its overall light-hearted nature. From whimisical little jokes togood-natured characters and a fine voice performance as a whole by the cast,the film – while not mindless entertainment – is effective in accomplishingon what it sets out to deliver: Engaging, entertaining entertainment that isnot so juvenile or sappy that adults can’t enjoy it and not so complex thatchildren can’t, either. The story takes enough twists and turns to keep itfrom being totally predictable and the performances help breathe life intoeach character, giving them their own needed nuances effectively.


Viewers will also be pleasantly surprised to discover that DespicableMe, unlike a lot of films trying to make extra $$$ by capitalizing onthe current trend, actually benefits from the use of RealD 3D. Co-directorsChris Renaud and Pierre Coffin do a good job of mixing in the 3D so itactually adds to the experience rather than trying to be theexperience of the film itself. (The credits also play with the notion of 3Dthat is as entertaining as the film and definitely worth sticking aroundfor.)


I hate to stress/abuse the word "cute," but it really does sum up the filmquite well – and since when has being cute been a bad thing? It’s certainlynot despicable … But Despicable Me truly is. 





PHOTO CREDITS
Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment / © 2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

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KEY CAST MEMBERS: Steve Carell, JasonSegel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, MirandaCosgrove, Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Jack McBrayer and Julie Andrews 


WRITERS: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio; based on a story by Sergio Pablos 

DIRECTOR: Chris Renaud and PierreCoffin 


THE PLOT: A film that beats the upcoming Will Ferrell-helmedMegamind into theathers in the "let’s focus on the animatedsupervillian" genre, Despicable Me stars Steve Carell as the voice ofGru. A supervillian by trade, Gru, his mad scientist assistant Dr. Nefario(a very well camoflauged Russell Brand) and his army of little yellow oneand two-eyed minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin except for two voiced byco-director Chris Renaud and Jemaine Clement of Flight of theConchords fame) have a plan that they are sure will push them to the topof the underworld: Stealing the moon.


 There’s just two little problems standing in their way: [1] Mr. Perkins(voiced by Will Arnett), the head of The Bank of Evil (formerly LehmanBrothers) that funds all his projects won’t give him a loan and [2] isdeciding to back Gru’s new, younger rival criminal Vector (voiced by JasonSegel). 


Seemingly down and out trying to find a way to inflitrate Vector’s compound,Gru gets an idea when he sees Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier) andMargo (Miranda Cosgrove) – three little orphan girls from whom his rival isbuying cookies. Adopting the girls from Ms. Hattie (voiced by Kristen Wiig),Gru devises a scheme to use the girls as a distraction to get the covetedshrink ray he needs from Vector to complete his plan. If Gru is lucky, hemight just finally impress his mother (voiced by Julie Andrews), too. 


But what happens when Gru finds out that being a parent – evil or otherwise- isn’t what he expected? You’ll have to see the movie to find out!


THE TAKE: If nothing else, I can say this about Despicable Me:I want a minion in real life so bad after seeing this movie – and given howentertaining, dare I say "cute" the film is as a whole, I suspect I will notbe alone in that sentiment. To use another analogy, if Toy Story 3 isthe Mercedes of this summer’s animated offerings thus far as it offers acomplete fit, finish and overall experience, Despicable Me is a MiniCooper – compact, quirky and fun to drive around even if it doesn’t have theoverall horsepower or quality of its larger, more established rival.


Other than the minions (which are really the best thing about the movie byfar), the other thing that makes Despicable Me not desipcable towatch is its overall light-hearted nature. From whimisical little jokes togood-natured characters and a fine voice performance as a whole by the cast,the film – while not mindless entertainment – is effective in accomplishingon what it sets out to deliver: Engaging, entertaining entertainment that isnot so juvenile or sappy that adults can’t enjoy it and not so complex thatchildren can’t, either. The story takes enough twists and turns to keep itfrom being totally predictable and the performances help breathe life intoeach character, giving them their own needed nuances effectively.


Viewers will also be pleasantly surprised to discover that DespicableMe, unlike a lot of films trying to make extra $$$ by capitalizing onthe current trend, actually benefits from the use of RealD 3D. Co-directorsChris Renaud and Pierre Coffin do a good job of mixing in the 3D so itactually adds to the experience rather than trying to be theexperience of the film itself. (The credits also play with the notion of 3Dthat is as entertaining as the film and definitely worth sticking aroundfor.)


I hate to stress/abuse the word "cute," but it really does sum up the filmquite well – and since when has being cute been a bad thing? It’s certainlynot despicable … But Despicable Me truly is. 


RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

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PHOTO CREDITS
Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment / © 2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

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Now that martial arts is back in vogue on the big screen, is it only a matter of time before they remake The Last Dragon with Charlie Murphy in the role of Sho’Nuff?! 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel, Shaun Toub and Katharine Houghton 


WRITER: M. Night Shyamalan, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko 

DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan 



THE PLOT: Based on the Nickelodeon cartoon of the same name, The Last Airbender begins by introducing us to Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), a pair of teens living in the Southern Water Tribe. You see, in this world, there are four types of tribes (or societies, if you will) based on the elements of fire, water, earth and wind. Katara and Sokka live in the Southern Water Tribe, one of several nations fearful of the Fire Nation led by Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis). Ozai is determined to make the Fire Nation the greatest empire in the land with help from his right hand man, Admiral Zhao (Aasif Mandvi). 

Not joining Ozai, however, in his quest to take over is Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), his disgraced son who has been banished from the Fire Nation for violating his father’s wishes. He is now on a quest with his Uncle Iroh (Shaun Toub) to capture the Avatar and regain his pride in the process. 

What or who is the Avatar, you ask? He is Aang (Noah Ringer), the last member of his tribe of Airbenders who can manipulate the wind with great, drastic effects. The Avatar can also manipulate (or "bend") the other remaining elements with training and is obligated to use his powers to maintain peace in the physical world over all the tribes. But upon learning he could never have a family, Aang ran away from his duties and training to become the Avatar, leading to the Fire Nation’s rise in the first place. 

So what happens when Katara and Sokka free him from the icy depths of their region so he can reclaim his rightful place in the world and take on the fire nation before they can try and do more harm? You’ll have to watch M. Night Shyamalan’s big comeback film to find out! 

THE TAKE: "The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts" – I don’t remember where I learned that, what subject (I believe it was math) it was supposed to apply to … What I can tell you, however, is why it’s relevant to The Last Airbender: For while the individual parts of the film aren’t great on their own, they collectively add up to a film that is better than it is not. 

Airbender could be subtitled "A Tale of Two Hours." For the first hour of the film struggles to find its legs due to a mix of weak acting, mediocre action and dialogue, the second hour rectifies these problems very well. Just like the recently released Robin Hood, you’ll find yourself somewhat bored by the first half of the film, but if you can stick it out all the way through, you will be rewarded with a film that is more fulfilling than you first suspected it would be. 

 To use another analogy, The Last Airbender is like a boxer who comes in with a championship pedigree, slacks off for a couple rounds, almost gets knocked out and then charges back to defend its title. Sure, the film has a built in fan base given the success of the TV series on which it is based and appeals well to children, but until the film picks things up, the first hour is straight-up dull. Luckily, the second half corrects the problem (I don’t know how many ways I can say the same thing) and makes it worthwhile while setting up the sequel(s). 

While Shyamalan has been largely to blame for the failure for his last couple of pictures seeing how he created, directed and ultimately wriggled every ounce of control over them, Airbender does much to re-establish him as visual auteur. Sure, the film is not perfect, but it’s FAR more engaging than his last couple of works in all aspects – and that is the best news anyone who remembers paying to sit through the torture of The Village or The Happening as I did. 

 So, much like its director, Airbender proves it can be worthy of your time; what the future holds for both, however, remains to be seen.

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

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PHOTO CREDITS
Industrial Light & Magic / Paramount. © 2010 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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KEY CAST MEMBERS: The voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Emily Hahn, Laurie Metcalf, Blake Clark, Timothy Dalton, Javier Fernandez-Pena and too many more to name! 


WRITER: Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich; screenplay by Michael Arndt

DIRECTOR: Lee Unkrich 


THE PLOT: A film that picks up essentially where it would in the real world (the last film being released in 1999), Toy Story 3 re-introduces us to our familiar gang of friendly fun faces in the form of Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jesse (Joan Cusack), Ham (John Ratzenberger), Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris, respectively), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and Barbie (Jodi Benson). And much like their legions of fans, the toys’ owner Andy (John Morris) has grown up. In fact, he’s now a 17 year-old getting ready to head to college. 

 While Woody seemingly lucks out as Andy just can’t seem to leave him behind, the rest of the gang is heading to the attic … Or so they think. For due to an unfortunate mix-up, Woody and company end up at Sunnyside, a neighborhood day care center where they will be played with endlessly by young children who will love them for ever and ever. 

Unfortunately, not everything is bright in Sunnyside. For some of the children play rough – very rough – and that’s not good for Woody and the gang, who get stuck in the room with the rough and tumble toddlers. But there’s a bigger problem looming … Lots’O Hugging Bear (Ned Beatty), Sunnyside’s iron pawed ruler.So what will become of our favorite plastic and stuffed playthings? Only Pixar knows! 

THE TAKE: I can count the number of less than excellent films Pixar has released on one finger – Cars – and there are plenty of people (mostly those not old enough to have a driver’s license, ironically enough) who like that movie more than yours truly. Why do I bring that up? Because with Toy Story 3, the company proves that not only is there life in this franchise, but that they are quite possibly the best studio making films today – and I mean that. 

When you make a sequel, the common practice is seemingly to take everything that worked before and just make it blow it out more. But if the Shrek franchise has proven anything other than it can still make a buck, it’s that bigger isn’t always better when you lose the heart of what made you so enjoyable in the first place – especially if you fail to break any new ground and expand the story. 

Toy Story 3, however, is not only bigger with its 3D element, but it may be better than Toy Story 2 as it examines new nuances with the characters (aging, the need to be needed, family, connections, the joy of being a child) without ever being heavy-handed, sappy and most importantly, corny. 

 The humor is great, particularly Michael Keaton as Ken, Barbie’s new would-be suitor (the character serving as a great way to add to a movie without doing too much), the story progresses as just the right pace and the journey to the film’s apex is an enjoyable ride with twists, turns and well rounded characters you root for and/or against more than some films starring real people. But if you enjoy real (or "reel," if you prefer) entertainment that’s family-friendly, funny and heartwarming, Toy Story 3 is a film you can play with over and over again. 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):
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PHOTO CREDIT
Photo courtesy of ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

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"Sex and the City 2"


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Chris Noth, John Corbett, Jason Lewis, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Willie Garson, Mario Cantone and a bunch of clothes you probably can’t afford!

 

WRITER: Michael Patrick King with Candace Bushnell (characters) and Darren Star (series creator)

 

DIRECTOR: Michael Patrick King

 

WEB SITE: SexandtheCityMovie.com

 

THE PLOT: Uh, since I’m still recovering from the hangover of this movie, I think the plot (if this movie has one) goes a little something like this: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is married to Big (Chris Noth), but married life isn’t full of bliss as she imagined as she awaits for the publication of I Do, Do I?, her latest book on her first two years of being hitched. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is now in her 50s. And she’s got all the medications to make sure she ages gracefully.

 

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has a boss (Ron White – yes, Ron White!) that doesn’t respect her, so that’s making it hard on her at work despite her rekindled relationship with Steve (David Eisenberg). And Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has two crying children who only seem to respond to their new Irish nanny (Alice Eve). Given the nanny’s propensity for not wearing a bra, though, Charlotte is worried her husband Harry (Evan Handler) might stray.

 

However, once Samantha’s old flame Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis) surfaces, Samantha’s ways of getting what she wants surface too. Samantha’s wants result in the fab four taking what they feel is a much-needed trip to Abu Dhabi, a revelatory trip for all involved &mdsah; especially once Carrie runs into a former flame (John Corbett) when she is least expecting it.

 

THE TAKE: OK, let’s get this out of the way, shall we? [1] I know I’m not the film’s target audience being a heterosexual African American man; [2] I did watch some of the TV series (including the well done Paris finale) and [3] I saw the first "SATC" movie and enjoyed it more than my female friend (who shall remain nameless to protect her identity!) did and [4] a man wrote and directed this movie. Now, with all that out of the way, if you want to simply believe that this movie is going to make for a fun girl’s night out, will be great regardless of what I say and/or I have no clue what I am talking about, stop here.

 

Seriously, this is your last chance to turn back.

 

This movie more often than not is a blasé, boring exercise in excess that’s about as stylish as slapping a Coach or Dooney & Burke logo on a band-aid and considering it high couture. Having had a full 24 hours to digest what I saw and despite all its legions of fans who will likely prefer to tear my head off verbally than actually understand my points, I’m going to simply try to explain why this movie is bad (because it really, really is).

 

Other than the chance for our four main characters to get together, there really is no main central driving force to give the movie any heart. Sure, their respective relationships are maturing. Sadly, Carrie and Co. are not. If anything, they seem to be regressing for the most part throughout "SATC 2," coming off as spoiled; often clueless; and dare I say it, unpleasant to be around (or in this case, watch).

 

Yes, I know that "Sex and the City" always has been about indulgence, but the level of opulence displayed in this movie is beyond ridiculous with a real sense of entitlement coming through. Remember, ladies, bigger is not always better.

 

This wouldn’t be so bad if the characters seemed to be facing real problems other than superficial ones they are creating themselves. While Charlotte is fretting about a braless nanny, Miranda is upset because her boss doesn’t value her voice (welcome to the real world, sister!). Meanwhile, Samantha is fighting nature so that she can keep on having a bunch of sex, and Carrie wants "sparkle" in her and Big’s relationship. Neither she nor he takes any real time to examine what may be causing them real distress, so the movie could have looked at a couple of real relationship issues here: the problem of maintaining one’s independence while functioning as a couple, how to keep the spark in a marriage, etc. While the first movie did this, this one just opts for tired clichés like distance making the heart grow fonder.

 

Comedy wise, there are a few moments where the characters try and succeed to deliver on the humor, but they often are distracted with a quick cop out moment of clarity or, worse yet, a tawdry, cheap or tired one-liner, usually in the form of Samantha making some sort of sexual joke. And much like a lot of Samantha’s sexual escapades, the jokes come off tawdry and cheap.

 

Now, I’m sure at this point some of you are saying, "Well, isn’t the fashion at least good?" In two words, not really. I’m no Anna Wintour, but I know bad when I see it — and if Tim Gunn hadn’t made his misplaced cameo at Anthony’s and Stanford’s wedding and stuck around to see some of the outfits, he would likely agree. (Don’t get me started on that whole sequence. My gay friend that attended the preview screening found it offensive. I just thought it was ridiculously excessive for the sake of it, but I’m sure others will disagree.) Not to be a mean girl (get the joke?), but there’s nothing "fetch" about anything they are wearing, especially when another cameo makes fun of the fact that one of the characters is too old to be wearing what she is wearing!

 

The gay wedding sequence (and since all the characters both straight and gay kept calling it a "gay wedding" for comedy’s sake, I’m calling it that, too) is the least of the film’s offensive concerns. That (dis)honor would go to the movie’s handling of the culture clash that happens once the girls arrive in the Middle East.

 

In case you’re wondering with my first name, I am not Muslim, not that that should matter. However, King and company better hope the folks over at New Line Cinema (the film’s distributor) have a really good PR department or they might be in for a devil of a time fending off criticism for the depictions of the Middle East and Muslim culture, despite Miranda’s repeated attempts to prevent it and the kindness Carrie shows to her butler (Raza Jaffrey) at the girls’ hotel. There is one specific scene I would like to discuss to illustrate my point, but that’s a MAJOR spoiler, and I don’t do spoilers.

 

So let’s recap: Is "Sex and the City 2" lacking in heart, emotion, story and humor and at the same time heavy on the ridiculous (even for these characters) and length (its 2 hours and 20 minutes feel even longer watching it), as it fails to break any new ground or advance the characters in any fashion we haven’t seen before? Yes — and that should make you say "no" when it comes time to decide whether or not to purchase a ticket to see it.

 

This movie is especially the chick flick version of "Ocean’s Twelve/Thirteen." The original stuck to its core, whereas this one loses its way by falling for the old "bigger and bolder" formula and failing miserably at every turn.

 

In chatting via Facebook with another female friend of mine about how I was struggling to eloquently explain why this movie was bad, she said something poetic: "Hasn’t ‘Sex and the City’ run its course? It was great, but must it go on and on?"

 

No. It really must not. Like a lot of good things in life, this one has run its course.

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PHOTO CREDITS

Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema

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