July 2010 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 7/14/2010
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in July of 2010. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
Over a thousand years ago, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) were apprentices of Merlin (James A. Stephens.) Both Balthazar and Maxim loved Veronica, but she chose Balthazar. This angered Maxim, so he conspired with Merlin’s archrival sorceress Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige) to raise the dead and enslave all of mankind. She mortally wounds Merlin in his struggle with her, but Balthazar is able to trap her and Maxim in a Russian nesting doll called the Grimhold. Unfortunately, to keep her safe, he had to put Veronica in the Grimhold as well (because she had absorbed Morgana’s soul into her.) Merlin’s dying act was to grant Balthazar immortality so that he can find “the prime Merlinian,” a boy who would become Merlin’s successor, and give him a dragon ring, which will give the boy Merlin’s powers. Balthazar traps other evil sorcerers in the Grimhold while trying to find the prime Merlinian, who will be able to defeat Morgana once and for all. Fast forward to 2000 in Manhattan, and 10-year-old Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) is trying to impress Becky Barnes (Peyton Roi List), one of his fellow classmates on a field trip. She gives him a note, but he loses it in the wind, which ends up in Balthazar’s curio shop called the Arcana Cabana. Balthazar realizes that Dave is the prime Meridian, but Dave accidentally releases Maxim out of the Grimhold. Balthazar and Maxim battle it out, and they end up in a large mystical vase…traumatizing young Jake. Ten years later, the 20-year-old Jake (Jay Baruchel) is a physics student in NYU who lives with his roommate Bennet (Omar Benson Miller) and is still pining for the 20-year-old Becky (Teresa Palmer.) Balthazar manages to escape from the vase first, and he tracks down Jake in order to train him, though Jake is skeptical at first. Maxim then escapes from the vase and uses evil wizard Sun Lok (Gregory Woo) and the Criss Angel/David Blaine-like magician Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell) to help him find the Grimhold and release Morgana. Balthazar needs to get Dave ready for the battle, but Dave is preoccupied by his attraction to Becky. Loosely based on the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Disney’s 1940 classic film Fantasia…which in turn is based on the late 1897 symphonic poem by Paul Dukas and the 1797 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ballad…Cage came up with the idea and decided to make a film around it. He used his National Treasure director Jon Turteltaub to make the movie…and I thought it turned out great. Despite a section of the movie where Jake performs a spell to make his cleaning equipment do his work for him, this isn’t a remake. This is the second movie this year where Cage teams up with a geek (Aaron Johnson in Kick-Ass) to defeat bad guys. While not as cool as that movie (which benefitted from hilarious dialogue), it was impressive with its special effects. That is something that I’ve always appreciated about the movie’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer…even with his clunkers, they have amazing special effects (same goes with Michael Bay films.) The movie is a little dark for a kid’s film (very little ones shouldn’t go), but there is enough humor and action that the young and old can enjoy.
A married lesbian couple, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), live in a chic LA neighborhood and are the mothers of two children conceived by means of artificial insemination. Joni (Mia Wasikowska) was born to perfectionist wine-drinking doctor Nic, and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) was born to freethinking landscape design architect Jules. Joni is a valedictorian who is heading off to college, while Laser just hangs around with his idiot friend Clay (Eddie Hassell.) When Joni turns 18, her 15-year-old brother Laser asks her to contact the sperm bank in order to meet their biological father (he can’t do it himself until he turns 18.) She finds out that their bio-dad is Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a motorcycle-riding locavore restaurant owner and organic gardener who is currently sleeping with his hostess Tanya (Yaya DaCosta.) Paul is surprised at first, but he is actually okay with getting to know them. They invite him to dinner, and Nic is apprehensive about him, while Paul has Jules design his backyard as her first project. Paul gets closer to the family…and to Jules sexually. While Jules’ hired gardener Luis (Joaquín Garrido) works in the backyard, Paul and Jules have an affair. When suspicions arise, it could be the end of their little family. This is writer/director Lisa Cholodenko’s fourth film (she co-wrote the screenplay with Stuart Blumberg.) I haven’t read any production notes about it, but it must be inspired by her own experience mothering a child via a sperm donor (she is in a relationship with musician Wendy Melvoin, one-half of a Prince associate group Wendy & Lisa.) Either way, it was a fun little indie flick that I suspect will get much Oscar buzz. The whole cast is great. Bening does her first significant role in years, and Moore is making up for the Fatal Attraction-in-reverse movie Chloe (both films ironically have her getting naked and having sex with a woman.) After her breakout role as the title character in this year’s Alice in Wonderland, this will probably be the role that will get Wasikowska some respect. After being in several family-friendly flicks over the years, this might be the role that will help Hutcherson transition into more adult films. Ruffalo had another great role this year with Shutter Island, and this movie just brightens up 2010 for him. Bening and Moore have great chemistry, and it’s hilarious to see them do odd things like watch gay male porn while they are making love. You might want to seek this one out before the award nominations come in.
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