February 2011 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 2/11/2011
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in February of 2011. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
In Stratford-Upon-Avon on Verona Drive, two neighbors…Red Garden owner Mr. Capulet (voice of Richard Wilson) and Blue Garden owner Miss Montague (voice of Julie Walters)…are in a war to have the best-looking garden. Their weapons are their yard decorations…more specifically their garden gnomes. The story isn’t about the neighbors though…it’s about the gnomes, who come to life whenever humans aren’t around (a la the Toy Story toys.) Lady Bluebury (voice of Maggie Smith) is the ruler of the Blue Garden, and she has a lawnmower drag racer son named Gnomeo (voice of James McAvoy.) Gnomeo has a goofy best friend gnome named Benny (voice of Matt Lucas), and they are in a racing rivalry with fellow gnome Tybalt (voice of Jason Statham) and his deer friend named Fawn (voice of Ozzy Osbourne.) Tybalt is the cousin of Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt), daughter of overprotective Red Garden ruler Lord Redbrick (voice of Michael Caine.) Redbrick is so controlling of Juliet that he literally has his daughter stay on a pedestal to avoid being chipped. Juliet’s best friend is a romantic Scottish frog fountain figure named Nanette (voice of Ashley Jensen.) While up in a tree, Juliet peers over the garden wall and sees the heart-shaped Cupid’s Arrow orchid in an abandoned backyard greenhouse across the alley that runs behind the yard. In order to prove that she isn’t so delicate, she disguises up like a ninja and ventures out of her garden to get the orchid and plant it in the Red Garden to one-up the Blues. Meanwhile, Gnomeo…disguised as a guerilla, while Benny is disguised as a sunflower…is after the same orchid as revenge for a disastrous lawnmower drag race in which Tybalt cheats and destroys Gnomeo’s lawnmower. Gnomeo and Juliet meet, but since both of them are in their costumes, they don’t realize that one is a Red and one is a Blue. They are immediately drawn to one another…but by the time that they find out the truth of who each other are, they have fallen in love. They realize that Red/Blue love is forbidden, so they meet at a garden shed supervised by a plastic pink flamingo named Featherstone (voice of Jim Cummings) who has been locked up for years and pines for his own lost love. They keep their love a secret from others while still supporting each other’s Red/Blue agenda. That becomes difficult to do…especially when Redbrick introduces Juliet to a suitable Red suitor named Paris (voice of Stephen Merchant) whom he thinks is perfect for her. The original writer of Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare (voice of Patrick Stewart), makes a cameo as a statue in a park who argues with Gnomeo whether the original unhappy ending is better or worse than this movie’s obvious happy ending. As a gnome says at the beginning, the story has been told before…a lot! This version is cute though. I don’t think that it has to have a tragic ending to be a good movie. A few Shakespeare in-jokes will go over most children’s heads (the neighbors’ mailboxes are 2B and not 2B, with a red slash over it; a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Movers truck; a Tempest Teapot truck; etc.), but parents will like them. Other non-Shakespeare cameos include Dolly Parton voicing a big-busted gnome who starts the lawnmower race, and Hulk Hogan voicing a mega-lawnmower called the Terrafirminator that replaces Gnomeo’s destroyed lawnmower. I’m not sure why executive producer Elton John decided to score the movie with his old hits instead of coming up with all new songs, like he did for the 1994 film The Lion King (there are two new songs though called “Love Builds a Garden” and “Hello Hello” that he performs with Lady Gaga.) That just seems lazy. Of the two G-rated films coming out this weekend (the other one being Justin Bieber: Never Say Never…which is also in 3D), this is the one that I think parents will not only tolerate, but enjoy as well. If you’re going to see a love story this weekend…why not see one with garden gnomes in it?
In 120 A.D., Flavius Aquila (Aladár Laklóth) led the 5,000 centurions of the Ninth Roman legion beyond Hadrian’s Wall (a.k.a. “the edge of the earth”) into Caledonia (now known as Scotland) and disappeared, along with legion’s Golden Eagle standard. It is thought that they deserted, and that’s why they are gone. Twenty years later, Roman centurion Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum), Flavius’ son, arrives to take command of a Roman outpost in rural Britain. Before Marcus can do anything, the local Britons attack his troop, and he is badly wounded. He is sent to recuperate in the home of his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland.) When he wakes up, he finds out from Lutorius (Denis O’Hare) that he has been rewarded for his bravery…and that he has been given an honorable discharge from service because his injuries are so extensive that they don’t think he could be an effective leader anymore. He hears a rumor that the Eagle has been spotted in Caledonia…so he decides to go there to retrieve it (and possibly find his father.) He wants to get the Eagle to clear his father’s good name and prove that he isn’t a deserter. He goes alone with only his slave, the Caledonia native-born Esca (Jamie Bell), whom he rescued from a local gladiatorial contest. As they venture into Caledonia, they run into the Seal Prince (Tahar Rahim), the leader of a native Pictish tribe. Esca, who knows the language, pretends to be the master and that Marcus is his slave in order to save both of their lives. They eventually escape, and then they run into Guern (Mark Strong), a mountain man who once fought alongside Marcus’ father. Guern might have information where to find the Eagle, so the three carry on and try to find it and get home before they are killed. I was a little biased going into the movie because I’m not a big fan of Tatum (whom I call “Richard Gere, Jr.”, because of his bad acting.) While I admit that I liked his small comedic role last month’s The Dilemma, I usually don’t like his movies. The other thing that concerned me was that it was rated PG-13. Like PG-13-rated horror movies, sword-and-sandal movies are boring without the excessive blood and guts. While this movie had a little of it, overall it wasn’t exciting. In addition, the fight scenes were a little too shaky and chaotic (it seems like director Kevin MacDonald went to the Paul Greengrass school of shaky hand-held camera work.) I will applaud Bell’s work though. This kid has been regularly consistent in his acting, and he is a highlight of this humdrum movie. If you are a fan of Tatum though, and you don’t mind a wimpy gladiator movie, by all means…check it out.
The Garde…nine human-looking children from the planet Lorien…came to Earth when they were babies just after the Mogadorians, their species that are their enemies, wiped out their planet. They all have a Cêpan (a guardian) to protect each of them. All of them eventually develop telekinetic “Legacies” (a.k.a. special powers), and each one has Legacies unique to them as they grow up. The Mogadorians want to kill all of them, but the Garde are protected by a charm, which only allows them to be killed in a set order. Number One was killed in Malaysia, and Number Two was killed in England. The movie begins with Number Three (Greg Townley) and his Cêpan (Reuben Langdon) getting killed by a Mogadorian beast. Meanwhile, Number Four, a.k.a. Daniel Jones (Alex Pettyfer), is hanging out on a beach in Florida with other teenagers when a circular scar is burned into his right ankle…the third of three such scars symbolizing the deaths of the first three members of the Garde. Henri (Timothy Olyphant)…the Cêpan who poses as his father…moves them from Florida to Paradise, Ohio to get away from the Mogadorian Commander (Kevin Durand) and his army, who intend on killing “John Smith” (Henri changes Four’s name from Daniel to John to protect his anonymity.) A small green lizard stows away in their truck bed as they move into a in a foreclosed farmhouse outside of town. The lizard secretly morphs into a cute puppy beagle, and when John sees him, he names the puppy “Bernie Kosar” (after the former Cleveland Browns quarterback.) Despite Henri’s objections, John decides to enroll in the local high school. He meets former cheerleader-turned loner photographer Sarah Hart (Dianna Agron), and they have an instant connection. Unfortunately, her quarterback ex-boyfriend Mark James (Jake Abel) and his cronies try to mess with John…like they already do with Sam Goode (Callan McAuliffe), a school science nerd who believes his father was abducted by aliens…but John stands up to him. Following an altercation between John and Mark at an amusement park, Sam finds out the truth about John, but Sam keeps John’s secret. When the Mogadorians ultimately find John, he uses his emerging Legacies (which also include producing light from his hands, a resistance to heat and fire, and the ability to communicate with animals) to fight back. The more powerful Nicole, a.k.a. Number 6 (Teresa Palmer), helps him in the fight with her Legacies of invisibility and the ability to control the four basic elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.) D. J. Caruso (the director of the 2007 Rear Window remake Disturbia and the 2008 action flick Eagle Eye) directed what I consider another winner. I remember watching the trailer for Eagle Eye and thinking that the movie lived up to the excitement of the trailer. I feel the same way about this movie. It’s an adaption of a young adult novel of the same name by Pittacus Lore, the pen name of authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes. It’s the first of a proposed six-book series…so if the movie becomes successful, we might see a sequel (the ending certainly warrents it.) While Pettyfer doesn’t come even close to looking like a teenager (he’s 20 years old), he does a good job playing the hero. Agron is playing another former cheerleader (though, unfortunately, she doesn’t sing like she does on the FOX TV show “Glee”), but she gets to do some action (she is no stranger to action though; she had a brief role on NBC’s “Heroes” playing…a cheerleader.) Olyphant is good, but the whole time I was thinking that he was being restricted from jumping into the action himself (since he’s done many action/thriller roles…from 1997’s Scream 2, to 1999’s Go, to 2000’s Gone in 60 Seconds, to 2003’s Dreamcatcher, to 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard and Hitman, to 2009’s A Perfect Getaway, to 2010’s The Crazies, and HBO’s “Deadwood” and FX’s “Justified.”) The real find though is Australian actress Palmer. It may be the fight choreography, but she is exciting to watch. I do hope that we will be seeing an upcoming adaptation of the book’s upcoming sequel The Power of Six, because this one is a great beginning of what I hope will be a successful movie franchise.
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