Saturday, November 24, 2012

Miracle on 34th Street

Released in 1947 Miracle on 34th Street is one of three post-war films that used Christmas to tell a parable about the struggle between optimism and cynicism that occurred in America after the WWII.

Each movie, Miracle On 34th Street, It's A Wonderful Life and The Bishop's Wife tell the story of a person who has lost their way and finds redemption through the influence of magical messenger of goodwill.

In 1946 the war was over and there was a sense of relief and optimism in the country. Americans could start looking forward again.  Yet hundreds of thousands of American husbands, fathers and sons died in the war. Countless GI's returned home to high unemployment and labor strife. The war also revealed the dark side of human nature in the form of the Holocaust. In addition there was much uncertainty about the new cold war and the atomic age that was just beginning. Hope and prosperity were living side by side with anger, bitterness, cynicism and fear.

In the movie Doris Walker represents the new American. Cynical, hard-bitten, practical and unhappy. The two paths before her are demonstrated by Fred Gailey, the lawyer next door, a cheerful, optimistic man who believes in the both the goodness of humankind and the law, and Mr. Sawyer, the "psychiatrist", who represents the mean, bitter, angry person she is becoming.

Susan, Doris'  daughter, represents the future. The possibility that faith, hope and all the "intangibles" could be lost to her generation.

Susan is not the only child who needs saving. In a small but emotionally charged and poignant scene a little dutch girl is comes to visit Santa Claus. The woman with the girl explains she does not speak English. She is a war orphan living alone in Rotterdam and just recently adopted and brought to America. This girl represents the two worlds of the film. In the war she lost everything family, friends and home. But she has a new life awaiting her in America, if she will be open to it. You can see the sadness on her face as she sits on Santa's lap. Yet she also has hope, and when Santa sings to her in Dutch a her faith and hope are rewarded.

Sawyer and those like him can never be saved, but through the intervention of Santa Claus, Doris and Susan and the little Dutch girl have their lives pointed in a new direction, one of hope, happiness and possibility for the future. By the end of the film the entire city of New York has been transformed by Santa Claus.

If you put Miracle on 34th street in the context of the time period when it was made you will see that it is much more than a story about a girl who does not believe in Santa Claus.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Movie Must See List

During a recent facebook discussion I commented that I had not seen Thelma & Louise yet and a few friends stated that I needed to see it. I mentioned it was on my "to watch" list but I have not found the right moment, to which one friend responded"just watch it" or something like that. I belive every film buff has a "must watch" list

The list of films I want to see numbers in the hundreds, but this list consists of a movies that have gained some cultural or cinematic significance. There is a mix of classic films and modern films.

Some of the movies on this list, such as A Streetcar Named Desire have been on my list for years. I have avoided watching them on home video because I want to see them in a theatre, the way they were meant to be seen. Raging Bull was on my list for many years but I waited until I had a chance to see it in a theatre, in all its black and white cinematic glory, and it was worth it. Unfortunately it is getting harder and harder to find theatres playing older and classic films.

In looking at my list there are some very important films on here that I can't believe I have not gotten around to watching. It is time for me to make a serious effort to shorten this list.

So here is a selection of movies from my "must watch list". The movies are not listed in any particular order:

Wuthering Heights - Classic film from 1939 on AFI's Top 100 list. 

Black Hawk Down - from director Ridley Scott 

Bull Durham - supposedly one of the best baseball pictures ever!

Ed Wood - Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

Carlito's Way - Pacino and Penn together.

Donnie Brasco - Pacino and Depp together.

Heat - Pacino and DeNiro together

The Deer Hunter - 1978 Best Picture Winner, one of the four Best Pictures I have not seen.

Do The Right Thing-Considered Spike Lee's best work.

Malcolm X - Lee and Denzel Washington working together.

Flag Of Our Fathers - Part one of Director Eastwood's look at WWII from 2006

Letters From Iwo Jima - Part two of Eastwood's look at WWII and nominated for Best Picture

Gran Torino - Eastwood returns to the big screen.

Harold and Maude - a cult classic everyone tells me I must see.

The Hurt Locker - 2009 Best Picture Winner - One of the four Best Picture winners I have not seen.

Out Of Africa - Best Picture winner from 1985. It's reputation has diminished but it is still a Best Picture and worth viewing.

Platoon - Another Best Picture winner. I keep hoping to catch this in a theatre rather than on home video.

Reservoir Dogs-My Quentin Tarantino list of shame begins with Reservoir Dogs

Jackie Brown - Continues with Jackie Brown

Kill Bill Vol. 1- followed by Kill Bill

Add caption
Kill Bill Vol. 2- and finally ends with Kill Bill 2

My Left Foot - Daniel Day-Lewis one an Oscar for his performance

Nashville - One of Robert Altman's masterpieces.

Raising Arizona - The first film by the Coen Brothers and the only film of theirs I have not seen.

Sophie's Choice - one of Meryl Streep's best roles

A Streetcar Named Desire - An American Classic and also on the AFI list.

Thelma & Louise - Oscar winning film from Director Ridley Scott

There Will be Blood - Daniel Day-Lewis' other award winning performance and one of the best films of 2007

This Is Spinal Tap - Rob Reiner's classic comedy and one of the best "mockumentaries" ever made.

And that is my list in all its glory and shame. I am still proud to call myself a film buff even with these glaring omissions. But it's time to fire up the Blu-ray or to start downloading and shorten this list.

What's on your list?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

84th Annual Academy Awards

Once again it's time for the Academy Awards, the Super-Bowl for movie buffs. Tonight's front runner is the B&W, silent film The Artist, which is highly entertaining. But it's essentially the same story that was told in A Star Is Born or Singin' In The Rain. The performances are great and it might just win, but like many past Best Picture Oscars it will go to the wrong film.

This year the Oscar deserves to go to either The Descendants, a deeply moving human story starring George Clooney or Hugo, Martin Scorsese's 3D love letter to the magic of movies. I would be happy if either picture one, but if I had to pick one, I would pick Hugo because it took me completely by surprise when I saw it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tintin is a European flavored, animated, version of Indiana Jones.

Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest director's in Hollywood history tackles motion capture animation with the same level of expertise that he puts into everything else that bears his name.

From the opening credits, that are very reminiscent of the opening titles for Catch Me If You Can, Spielberg takes you on a global adventure that is fun and exciting, with all the production values you would expect from a master film maker.

Go see it!

Rating - The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn ***stars

Notes - I do not understand how Tintin was passed over for a Best Animated Motion Picture nomination and Kung Fu Panda 2 received one. I also don't know how long the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can continue to ignore the work of actor Andy Serkis. This year alone he played Captain Haddock in Tintin and Caesar, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes to perfection. And his roles in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong were simply groundbreaking. Look for him again later this year when he returns as Gollum in The Hobbit.

War Horse

Men have been riding horses into battle for almost 5,000 years. Visit almost any city or town in America and, in the town square or park, you will find a statue of a horse carrying a gallant and heroic warrior into battle. Often a sword will be held high or the horse will be sculpted, rearing up, and ready to charge. From the knights in shining armor, to the cavalry of the American west, the horse has been an instrumental part of man's war against man.

War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg, occurs during the period when man replaced the horse with mechanized means of making war. When trucks and tanks became more efficient methods for fighting and killing, and the noble soldier on horse back became obsolete. Spielberg captures this moment in history,
in an amazing and horrifying scene, that leaves the audience breathless.

The film is about a boy named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and horse, a very special horse, named Joey. Both live idyllic lives in England until they are tossed into the maelstrom of WWI, the great war, the war to end all wars.

Albert has known Joey since the day he was born. Just looking at him Albert knew Joey was a special horse. Through a quirk of fate, mostly due to his father's stubbornness, Albert ended up owning Joey and the two, horse and man, form a bond of trust, respect, understanding and love. That bond is tested when war comes to England and, as result of his father's stubbornness again, the two are separated when Joey is sold to the Army. But, Albert vows to find him and bring him home.

The film follows Joey on his odyssey through the battlefields of France, first with the English and then with Germans, and for a brief respite, with a French farmer and his grand-daughter. During his journey Joey is fortunate to encounter men who recognize him to be a magnificent animal, "a miracle horse", and not just a disposable beast of burden in the vast war machine.

Albert comes of age and also goes to France. The centerpiece of the film is a battle in no man's land which Spielberg recreates with the same gripping horror that he created in Saving Private Ryan. There is a sequence when Joey, terrorized from the battle, races through the carnage of the battlefield and it is one of the best scenes Spielberg has ever shot. And then comes a lighter, yet perhaps more profound moments in the film, when because of Joey, a  brief truce is called. This scene reminds us that war had different rules once. That in the midst of hostility, civility could be recognized.

Through chance, coincidence, or perhaps fate, Joey and Albert cross paths again, but it is unclear if either will survive long enough to return home to England.

From a technical aspect war Horse is a magnificent film. Writing, cinematography, set design, costumes, and music all meet the high standards one expect from a Spielberg film. he is working with longtime collaborators John Williams, Janusz Kaminski and Michael Khan. the film is based on a children's book by Michael Morpurgo and the stage adaptation playing the UK and New York City. With an entirely British cast, including Emily Watson and Tom Hiddleston, the film has very few familiar faces which may account for it's moderate success at the box office.

War Horse is an overly sentimental film. In fact, it has received much criticism because of the way Spielberg tugs at the audience heartstrings. Overly sentimental war films went out of style during the Vietnam error. War movies became harsh and gritty, and sentiment was replaced with realism.

War Horse is a movie that reminds us more of the films of John Ford, then Oliver Stone. War Horse is an homage to the great  films of Hollywood's golden age, An old fashioned epic drama reminiscent of the great works of David Lean. And if you are going for sentiment no other director  pulls on your heartstrings as well as Steven Spielberg.

War Horse received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, but with no director nomination for Spielberg it's chances for winning are slim

Rating - War Horse ***1/2 stars

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Ides Of March

The Ides Of March is a political drama directed by George Clooney and starring Clooney as a man running for President of the United States. Ryan Gosling his his idealistic deputy campaign manager who learns some startling secrets about the candidate.

I wanted more from The Ides Of March that it was capable of delivering. I felt that it's central message, politics corrupts, was not quite a big revelation. I thought it unrealistic that an experienced political hack, working on a presidential campaign could be so naive about what goes on during a campaign. After all, Presidential campaigns last years now. The movie takes place in March of the primary season, that means the Clooney character has been running for office for at least 12 months and probably longer yet the Ryan Gosling character still views everything through rose colored glasses.That alone cause the film to lose what impact it could have had.

The Ides of March has some strong qualities. Once again Clooney shows he can deliver a solid, well directed film. The performance are strong, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti in supporting roles as long term politicos and the film does capture the sense of a campaign as it slogs through a cold and bitter Ohio winter. But overall, it's tale of innocence loss did not add up to much or strike me as too realistic. I lost any idealism I had about politician's thirty years ago, so how did this astute campaign manager keep his?

Rating - The Ides of March **1/2 stars

The Help

The central subject mater of the film The Help is not  racism. Yes the film takes place in the south, in the sixties. And yes racism is a theme throughout the film, and also drives part of the plot, but racism is not the what this movie wants to talk about. Every criticism hurled at the film because it simplified race relations in the south didn't really understand the movie. the Help is about women. Women and the relationships they have with each other, with their children (in the case of the maids, as surrogate mothers), with their community, with their men and with themselves.

Based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Sockett the movie stars Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, a black maid to a white southern family, who has spent her entire life raising a generation of other woman's children. Emma Stone is "Skeeter" a young woman, fresh out of college with a journalism degree who has returned home to discover that  Constantine, (Cicely Tyson in a small, but powerful performance) the woman who raised her, is no longer employed by her family and her mother won't tell her why. Octavia Spencer is Minny Jackson, another black maid, who has a "smart mouth" and finds it difficult to hold a position for long. If it wasn't for her cooking nobody would hire her.Minny is currently employed in the home of Hilly Holbrook,(Bryce Dallas Howard) a woman whose racial beliefs extend to the idea that the law should require homes with black help to have separate bathrooms.

The way Hilly and her friend Elizabeth treat "the help" inspire Skeeter to write a book about black women in the south. She begins by asking the maids about their real life experiences working for white families. At first they are reluctant to participate, but shocking events in the community convince them to tell their stories. The book becomes something that touches and changes all their lives.
The Help is a woman's film with some really good roles for female actors. There are 16 female roles and along with Davis, Spencer, Stone, Howard and Tyson, the film stars Allison Janey, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Ahna O'Reilly, Jessica Chastain and in another small but memorable role, Dana Ivey.

The film is party drama and part comedy and handles the balance nicely. the humor is found in every day life situations and these woman laugh even as they struggle to survive day to day. It is a typical heart warming message movie that Hollywood does so well and I was not surprised when it was nominated for best picture this year. equally unsurprising is the 3 acting nominations for Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. All three were excellent. Davis has already one the best acting Golden Globe for her performance.

Rating -The Help ***1/2 stars

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Midnight In Paris

When you think of Woody Allen you think of his biting, satirical and very funny comedy-dramas about modern relationships. Most people forget about the whimsical  and fantasy elements he has woven into some of his films. One of his best works is the fantasy comedy The Purple Rose of Cairo and another is the highly acclaimed Alice. In these films he takes ordinary people and lets them experience something magical in their lives. In Purple Rose of Cairo a movie character steps off the movie screen and into the life of Cecilia a depression era waitress. In Alice a wealthy New York socialite goes on a magical journey of self discovery through the herbs and powders of a mysterious Chinese doctor. Even his film a Midsummer's Nights Sex Comedy had an element of fantasy and magic about it.

In Midnight In Paris Allen takes us on yet another magical journey, this time with dissatisfied screenwriter Gil Pender, who is in Paris with his fiance Inez, a very funny Rachael McAdams and her very conservative parents. Gil's life is not going as it should and one night, during an inebriated midnight stroll Gil is invited into the back of a cruising antique automobile and driven straight into 1920's Paris. There he rubs elbows with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway and Cole Porter. He is even introduced to Gertrude Stein and convinces her to read a novel he is working on. Stein introduces Gil to Pablo Picasso and his mistress Adriana

Gil is intoxicated by this journey into the past and returns every night at midnight for another trip to a different era. He feels more at home in the roaring twenties then he does in his own life in 2010. Soon romantic entanglements ensue as Gil falls for Adriana and has difficulty explaining to his fiance where he goes each night.

Once again writer, director Allen finds the perfect blend of comedy and fantasy. Owen Wilson is the excellent as the Allen alter ego. You hear him saying lines of dialogue, especially in scenes with his fiances parents, and you can easily picture Allen delivering the same lines twenty years ago.

Midnight In Paris is both romantic and whimsical. It is full of wisdom and enchantment and teaches us how important it is to learn from the past, but to live in the present.

Rating: Midnight In Paris **** stars

The Muppets

I have no problem admitting that I love The Muppets. they are cute and cuddly and have a zany sense of comedy that appeals to my sensibilities. Plus Kermit embodies everything that is good about people who dream and hope and try to do the right thing.

I watched The Muppet Show when I was a kid and I still remember the first time Kermit rode a bicycle in 1980's The Muppet Movie, so the kid inside of me was delighted to hear they were making a new Muppet Movie.

The movie takes place in present day. The hey day of the seventies and eights is over. The Muppet Studio is closed and the performing troupe have all gone their separate ways. A muppet named Walter, who has dreamed about being a part of the Muppets since he first saw them on TV with his older brother Gary, the very human Jason Siegel. Gary is in love with Mary, and hopes to marry her some day. When Gary, Mary and Walter vacation in Hollywood they learn that the old Muppet theatre is about to be torn down and Walter makes it his mission to reunite the Muppets and save the theatre by putting on a show.

Needless to say, after some trials and tribulations, and much comic shenanigans, Walter gets the Muppets together and nostalgic hilarity ensues. The film includes some notable guest stars such as Chris Cooper and Jack Black and includes cameos by Niel Patrick Harris, Emily Blunt, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Arkin, Willie Nelson, Selena Gomez and Mickey Rooney

It does not matter how old you are, if you are young at heart, you will like The Muppets and watching them will fill you with a little happiness and joy. If you are not young at heart, if you are as ornery and disagreeable as Staler and Waldorf, the two muppet hecklers, The Muppets are not for you ,and never will be. 

Rating: The Muppets ***stars (warning you will leave the theatre singing a happy tune.)

Mission: Impossible -Ghost Protocol

I gave up on the Mission Impossible franchise. They lost me on the very first film back in 1996, when they made Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight) an IMF traitor and a double agent. The Jim Phelps I knew from the TV series, played by Peter Graves, would never betray his country. This was an outrage! The films redeeming grace was Tom Cruise in a strong performance and Brian De Palma's directing.

The John Woo directed Mission: Impossible II and created a bloated and stylized mess. Dougray Scott starred as  an IMF traitor and double agent. Are you sensing a trend? Again Tom Cruise gave an excellent performance as Ethan Hunt, but the rest of the film was  one slow motion action shot after another. It seemed silly and pretentious.

Director J.J. Abrams brought some class back to the series with Mission: Impossible III, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was a great villain, but the script lacked originality. Would you belive another IMF agent (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) was a revealed to be a traitor and a double agent. I mean really! How well do they screen people before being allowed to join the Impossible Mission Force? Again Tom cruise gave a solid performance but after three films the franchise was already showing its age.

So when I heard they were making another film this time starring both Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner I saw it as a lame attempt by paramount to reboot the franchise and hand it off to Renner. Instead directed Brad Bird (Pixar) reinvented, reinvigorated and restored the film series to what it should have been from day one; a thrilling edge of your seat spy caper full of intrigue cons, gadgets and cool disguises. Cruise had a script he could bite his teeth into and Bird created set pieces that were new and original, including dazzling stunts on the outside of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai and a dizzying fight inside a parking garage in Mumbai.

Mission; Impossible 4 is all action from the moment the film opens. the film is not bogged down by inter-personal conflicts and a writer's or director's need to add a love interest to the mix.

Cruise is excellent. he embodies super spy Ethan Hunt the same way Daniel Craig embodies the new James Bond. His support team played by Renner and Paula Patton add just the right balance and Simon Pegg is perfect as the newly promoted field agent who provides just the right balance of comic relief.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol caught me by surprise. I went to see it because it was free and it was playing in IMAX. I had low expectations and found myself on the edge of my seat as the 2 hour and 18 minute adventure rushed by.

Rating Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol ***1/2 (the best of the Mission: Impossible series)

Hugo 3D

Hugo surprised me. I had no expectations for the film and I was not expecting to leave the theatre magically transformed after seeing what turned out to be one of the best movies of the year. The Academy also thinks it is one of the best  because they honored recently it with 11 Oscar nominations.

I had very little advance knowledge of the film. I had seen the trailer and I knew it was directed by Martin Scorsese so I thought it would probably be good. I knew it involved a boy who lived in a train station in Paris and that it had something to do with a mechanical man. But other than that, I knew nothing. I assumed the mechanical man was named Hugo ( I was wrong) and I assumed it was an escapist, magical, fantasy film (well it is, but not in the way I thought). I also knew it was in 3D. Now I am not a 3D hater. In the right hands and on the right film it can be a fun movie going experience. I knew that Scorsese had a special affinity for 3D so that alone was enough to get me to go see the movie and see how one of the great master's of film making would use this technology.

 I love movies and I love going to the movies and Hugo captured everything about the art of movie making that makes it magical. I don't want to give away any details about the movie. The story is about a boy who lives in a Paris train station.  He crosses paths with a toy merchant, played by Ben Kingsley who runs a small toy shop in the station and the two learn they have something in common. I don't want to give away any more of the story than that because Hugo should be a fresh discovery for everyone who watches it.

Scorsese master's 3D in a way that makes for beautiful and sometimes stunning images. Howard Shore provides a score both playful and evocative. Hugo is a delight not to be missed.

Rating Hugo ****stars

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

I thoroughly enjoyed Guy Ritchie's reinvention of Sherlock Holmes in 2009. I had no problem with his
re-imagining of Holmes as part detective and part action hero. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law seemed perfectly matched as the famous detective and his side kick Dr. Watson. the first film had an engaging thriller with the right amount of comic banter thrown in. And Mark Strong as Count Blackwood was a suitable adversary for Holmes to pursue.

So it was with some anticipation that I awaited the sequel. This time Holmes would be matching wits with his most famous nemesis Professor Moriarty played by Jared Harris. The first film already established the characters and set up the next film so I was looking forward to jumping right into the action.

And the movie does not disappoint there are action scenes galore. The film jumps from what set piece to another. The entire time having Holmes talk. Whether he is providing dialogue or voice over he talks. Rapidly. Events unfold and Holmes is explaining, describing or just plain pontificating.
The talking is so consistent and fast paced that its frequently hard to understand what is being said, especially when it is combined with the various explosions, gunfights and fist fights that occur.

There were only three scenes of any real interest and each of them occurred when Holmes and Moriarty had direct contact with each other. No special effects just good acting a decent script that allowed the humans to show through the barrage of special effects. Jared Harris is excellent as Moriarty.

Director Guy Ritchie must have felt the need to up the volume on everything. There are even more slow motion scenes that last forever. There is a particular scene in a forest where the characters are fleeing from while explosions are going on all around them. Ritchie delights in showing every tree, and branch, and leave explode in excruciatingly slow motion. Scenes are played and then replayed, and then replayed again as the action is explained. It was all over done, noise without substance, and it left me bored. the movie had a been there, done that feel about it.

Rating Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows ** stars

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Adjustemnt Bureau

I caught up with The Adjustment bureau on Blu-ray this weekend and I wish I had seen this film in the theatre. I really enjoyed this sci-fi suspense film that explored the blurred line between free will and destiny.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a NY politician who crosses path with a woman (Emily Blunt) whom he has an immediate attraction to, on the same night he loses election to the U.S. Senate. Months later, by chance, their paths cross again and this time he gets her number.

But they were pre-ordained never to meet again and the chance happened because one of the "caseworkers" who manages his destiny slipped up. because of the slip up, David also witnesses the caseworkers in action, something no human is ever supposed to see.

John Slattery stars as Richardson, the leader of this group of men from the Adjustment Bureau who manage life's plan and makes sure it stays on track. he gives David two choices. Never see Elisa again and never reveal what he has seen, or have is mind scrambled so he remembers nothing and people will think he has gone insane. Another caseworker, Harry (Anthony Mackie) the one that slipped up, gives David a more detailed explanation of what the caseworkers do and warns David not to attempt to defy them.

But three years later David meets Elise again and this time he is determined to be with her despite what the Bureau claims is his destiny. 

On the one hand The Adjustment Bureau is a romantic thriller and on the other hand it is a metaphysical discussion about free will and destiny. Do we choose what happens to us or is it all pre-ordained and we are just following a script somewhere. The film carefully balances these themes in a refreshing way, while the thriller aspects of the story keep you in suspense.

I really enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau. It was fast paced and didn't dumb things down for the audience. Damon and Blunt were excellent together and the story used CGI to create some cool visuals of NYC that can be accessed through some very unique doorways.

At The Movie House rating *** stars

The Green Lantern

The Green Lantern is the second of three super-hero movies coming out this summer. The special effects laden super-hero action picture has become a summer staple since Batman in 1989, and every year the studios search for a new character to launch a franchise with. The crash and burn pile is littered with the bodies of Dick Tracy, The Shadow, The Rocketeer, The Phantom and Daredevil. 

Fortunately for Warner Brothers The Green Lantern avoids death in his first outing. The film has made $101 million dollars in it's first 17 days of release so The Green Lantern may survive to appear in a sequel about three years from now.

The Green Lantern is not a terrible movie, it's just a terribly predictable movie. I had to control myself to not blurt out lines of dialogue or state obvious events that were about to happen. But at this point aren't all super-hero movies predictable? The film is a full blown summer popcorn picture, a spectacular show of sight and sound without a lot of substance. The substance that is there is found in the charm of Ryan Reynolds performance. As test pilot Hal Jordan and then later as the newly christened Green Lantern he brings a freshness and sincerity to the movie that rises above the predictable stuff.

Like any first super-hero film, the movie is bogged down with telling the origin of the super-hero and filling in a lot of back story which can slow down the pacing. Hopefully if Warner attempts a sequel, they can create a faster paced adventure for The Green Lantern with the same balance of action and comedy that worked for this film.

Once again the 3D technique is used to full advantage to add spectacular depth to the film, especially in the scenes on planet Oa and enhance the movie going experience.

if you enjoy super-hero movies, big summer action pics or you are under the age of 21 you'll have a fun time at The Green Lantern other wise you should skip this film and wait for Captain America later on this summer.

At The Movie House rating **1/2 stars - recommended with reservations

Cars 2

Cars 2 is the latest full length animated feature from the creative geniuses at Pixar. It is a sequel to the 2006 hit Cars and features all the favorite roadsters, except the Hudson Hornet played by Paul Newman, and introduces a couple of new characters.

Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) has had a successful career as a stock car racer, but know he has excepted a challenge to participate in an international Grand Prix. His best friend Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) travels along as part of his pit crew and becomes mistaken for an American spy.

Cars 2 is a spoof on the James Bond Movies of the 60's with the cars having unique gadgets of their own. The new cars are a Finn McMissle (Micheal Caine) a British secret agent and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) his able bodied assistant. 

Mater is the real star of the movie as the British agents mistake him for an American spy in disguise. When his antics embarrass McQueen and cause him to lose the first race in Tokyo, Mater and Lightning are on the outs. It's not until they reach London at the conclusion when they repair their friendship and save the day.

Many critics have given the film poor reviews because they compare it to Pixar's outstanding films such as Up, Toy Story 3, Wall-E and Ratatouille, and that's not really fair. Each film should be based on it's own merits not the merits of previous work. The movie is fast paced, highly inventive and has lots of funny moments. Kids should love it, but for me a little bit of Mater goes a long way. The film lacks the originality of the first film and the story while the spy story is a funny satire, the relationship story between the two buddies felt old and tired. Good but not great work from Pixar.

The Pixar team does an excellent job of using 3D technology to great benefit and I saw the film in IMAX 3D and from that aspect it was great experience.

At The Movie House rating **1/2 stars. Recommended with reservations.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Time to catch up on my movie notes. Last week I saw the final installment of the NCM Fathom's presentation of Lord of the Rings. This is the first time I have seen the extended version of The Return of the King and I can say, without a doubt, even at almost four hours long, it is a better film. I understand the restraints of not being able to release films that 240 minutes long, but by extending the three films director Peter Jackson has created a truly epic masterpiece. The added footage adds nuances and depth of character that were missing from the shorter films. The Two Towers is a much better film because of the added footage and to be honest I was so engaged with Return of the King I could not tell you what was original and what was added. Nothing felt out of place. The flow of the narrative was so smooth that it felt as if the movie was always assembled this way.

If you missed seeing these three great films in their theatrical debut this month I highly recommend you go out and purchase the newly released Blu-ray versions immediately.

At The Movie House rating - LOTR: Return of the King **** stars.