June 2012 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in June of 2012. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
White and the Huntsman
King Magnus (Noah Huntley) and Queen Eleanor (Liberty Ross) were the rulers of the kingdom of Tabor. They had a daughter named Snow White (Raffey Cassidy as the young Snow White.) When Eleanor died, Magnus married the beautiful but evil sorceress named Ravenna (Charlize Theron.) On their wedding night, Ravenna kills Magnus, imprisons Snow White, and seizes control of the kingdom with her brother/loyal servant Finn (Sam Spruell.) Meanwhile, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) has became a beautiful young woman, and Ravenna, vain about her own beauty when she looks at and talks to her Magic Mirror (voice of Christopher Obi), wants to cut out the heart of her stepdaughter in order to maintain her beauty. Unfortunately, for her, Snow White has escaped and has run to the Dark Forest where her magic doesn’t work there. She orders a widowed huntsman named Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to retrieve her. Eric finds her, but he realizes that Ravenna’s intentions are not pure. He, Snow White, and a band of eight dwarves (Ian McShane as Beith, Bob Hoskins as Muir, Johnny Harris as Quert, Toby Jones as Coll, Eddie Marsan as Duir, Ray Winstone as Gort, Nick Frost as Nion, and Brian Gleeson as Gus) defend themselves against Ravenna’s malevolent army.
This is one of two Snow White movies that have come out this year (the other one being Mirror Mirror from March), not to mention the ABC TV show “Once Upon a Time,” so I think that we are in the middle of a mini fairy tale craze. If you include the Canadian import “Lost Girl” on Syfy, the NBC show “Grimm,” and Sookie Stackhouse being a fairy on HBO’s “True Blood,” we’re lousy with the magical tales. Not all of these projects are necessarily good though. Snow White and the Huntsman is probably the worst of them all. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It’s just that the other projects are so much better. Comparing Huntsman to Mirror, for example, there are vast differences in style. Both have decent special effects (slight edge to Huntsman in that department), but Mirror was just more fun. I liked that Mirror didn’t take itself too seriously. Huntsman was a little too serious. In addition, Stewart always looks so depressed in everything she’s in, but Mirror’s Lily Collins is like a ray of sunshine. Theron did make a more wicked queen than Mirror’s Julia Roberts, but Roberts didn’t take herself so seriously, which made it more enjoyable to watch. If you see only one Snow White movie this year, see Mirror Mirror (but rent Snow White and the Huntsman on DVD when it comes out.)
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Our heroes…Alex the lion (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (voice of Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (voice of David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippo (voice of Jada Pinkett Smith)…are still in Madagascar. They still want to get back to the Central Park Zoo in New York City, but their way to get there…a chopper manned by the penguins and two chimpanzees named Mason (voice of Conrad Vernon) and Phil…is in Monte Carlo currently. The animals, including their lemur friends King Julien XIII (voice of Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice (voice of Cedric the Entertainer), and Mort (voice of Andy Richter), travel to Monte Carlo to make the penguins and chimps take them back to NYC. They catch up with them, but Monaco Animal Control officer Captain Chantel DuBois (voice of Frances McDormand), who wants to put their heads on her wall (especially Alex’s head), chases them. They escape, but their chopper crashes. They hitch a ride with a circus train, where they meet Vitaly the tiger (voice of Bryan Cranston), Gia the jaguar (voice of Jessica Chastain), Stefano the sea lion (voice of Martin Short), and Sonya the bear (voice of Frank Welker.) These circus animals want to impress a promoter from NYC in order for them to perform in America, so our heroes lie and say that they are American circus animals. After the chimps disguise themselves as the King of Versailles and buy the circus with their Monte Carlo winnings, the zoo animals head off with the circus animals on a European tour with the hopes of making it to America. Meanwhile, DuBois is still tracking them…thirsty than ever to mount their heads on her wall.
I believe that the Madagascar franchise is starting to get a little worn out. While the animation is good (it’s the first one released in 3D), the writing is getting stale. Maybe it’s seeing months of trailers of Rock performing “Afro Circus” in a rainbow-colored wig ad nausea, but I wasn’t quite as entertained as I was with the first two movies. Even the penguins, who are usually my favorite characters, weren’t as funny (except when they had a pillow fight and Skipper, voiced by Tom McGrath, thought that they had murdered baby birds.) I don’t want to give away the ending, but let’s say…there is really no need for a Madagascar 4. The movie is obviously going to be a hit, so there is really nothing for the main characters to do anymore. I know that there is a spin-off called The Penguins of Madagascar to be released in 2015, but as far as Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria go…I think that we can end their chapter.
Back in 1987, a small-town girl from Oklahoma named Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) travels to Los Angeles with the hopes of being a famous singer. Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) is a barback at The Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip who also dreams of being a famous singer-songwriter. When Drew sees a thief steal Sherrie’s suitcase containing all of her favorite rock albums, he tries to catch the thief, but fails. He helps Sherrie get a job at the club as a waitress. The owner, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin), and his manager, Lonny Barnett (Russell Brand), are concerned about their unpaid taxes, and so they hope that the act they booked… Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), formerly the lead singer of the metal band Arsenal…will make them enough money to clear up their debt. Meanwhile, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the religious conservative wife of Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston), organizes a protest against the performance, because she thinks that rock music leads to sex and drugs. As Sherrie and Drew start to fall in love, a misunderstanding between Sherrie and Stacee involving Stacee’s manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) and Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Åkerman) threatens to tear the young couple apart.
I haven’t seen the hit Broadway play that this movie is based on, but if I had, I think that I would love it. It’s probably because I really liked this movie. Sure…the acting is a little cheesy, but the singing and the music was so good. I am a little biased though, because I absolutely love metal…especially ‘80s hair metal. My late friend and fellow movie critic Reggie McDaniel said that you bring in your own baggage to a movie, which includes your taste of music. For example, we both loved the 2006 movie Dreamgirls, mainly because I like all types of music and Reggie was a big fan of the Motown sound. On the flipside, Reggie hated the 2008 movie Mamma Mia! because he didn’t like Abba (I’ve been a fan of Abba all of my life, so I liked it myself.) The point is…if you like hair metal, you’ll like Rock of Ages. The highlight has to be Cruise though. He is a mix of Jim Morrison (the trippiness) and Axl Rose (the ego.) Yes…he can actually sing as well. Not that I would want to buy a Tom Cruise album (other than the soundtrack of this movie), but, unlike George Clooney lip-syncing in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Cruise uses his own singing voice. Adam Shankman, who most people know as one of the judges on the FOX show So You Think You Can Dance, directed this movie. He also directed one of my other favorite musicals…the musical adaptation of the Broadway play Hairspray (which, in turn, was adapted from the 1988 John Waters movie of the same name.) Since I loved both the PG-rated Hairspray and the PG-13-rated Rock of Ages, I’d be interested to see if he could do an adaptation of the Broadway plays Avenue Q or The Book of Mormon…both of which would surely garner an R rating. On a side note…I was a little disappointed that actual song “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard wasn’t in the movie (other than in the background sung by the original group.) Apparently, the song isn’t in the original play either because the record label would not grant a license for it.
In the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch, a rebellious princess named Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) defies her parents, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson), by winning an archery competition, with the prize being Merida’s hand in marriage. She was going to be married to the son of either Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane), Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), or Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson), but she came in disguise to compete in the archery competition. Fergus is actually impressed with Merida’s skills, since he taught her survival skills after losing his leg by a bear named Mor’du years ago, but the win causes tension between Merida and Elinor, who thinks that Merida should be a proper young lady. During an argument with her mother, she slashes the family tapestry in anger and flees from the castle. She follows some will-o’-the-wisps to the hut of an old witch (voice of Julie Walters) posing as a wood carver. The witch makes her a cake that is supposed to change her mother in order to get her out of the arranged marriage. She comes back to the castle and gives her the cake, which does change her mother…but not in the way Merida intended (the cake also changed her little silent triplet brothers Hamish, Hubert, and Harris.) Merida tries to fix the problem before the “change” becomes permanent.
This is the first Pixar movie where the main character is a female. I liked the movie…probably better than the other Pixar movies where the main characters are human. Visually it was impressive. The 3D definitely adds to the enjoyment. Apparently, Reese Witherspoon was supposed to voice Merida, but I’m glad that they went with an actual Scottish actress (her most famous role so far has been as Margaret Schroeder in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”) This one will certainly appeal to girls looking for a strong female character. While it’s certainly not my favorite Pixar movie (that honor still goes to 2003’s Finding Nemo), I do believe that it’s the frontrunner for the 2012 Oscars in the Animated feature category. The short that precedes it, the Oscar-nominated La Luna, was probably the most boring Pixar short to date. It tried to be sweet, but it ended up being dull. My rating is only on the movie itself, but if I were to give the short a rating, it would be one star.
A lonely Boston boy named John Bennett (Bretton Manley, John as a kid) receives a teddy bear on Christmas in 1985 whom he names Ted. John wishes on a falling star that Ted (voice of Zane Cowans, Ted as a kid) was real, and he gets his wish. Ted freaks out John’s parents Joe (Ralph Garman) and Gina (Alex Borstein), but they accept him as a member of the family. Ted becomes a bit of a celebrity (he even ends up appearing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.) Over the years, Ted spirals into drugs and booze, and he becomes a has-been. Fast forward to 2012. Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane) still lives with John (Mark Wahlberg), who is now a car rental employee. He has been in a four-year relationship with his live-in girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), an office employee working for Rex (Joel McHale), her manager, who would love it if she would dump John and start dating him. She loves John, so she puts up with Ted. When Ted’s drinking and drugging start messing with their lives (after he plays Truth or Dare with a few prostitutes), Lori tells John to make Ted move out and get a job. The teddy bear does just that…getting a job working for Frank (Bill Smitrovich) at a grocery store and dating his shallow co-worker Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth.) John still seems to hang out with Ted though by making excuses to get out of work to hang out. One night, Ted lures John away from a house-warming party that Rex is throwing to meet Flash Gordon star Sam Jones (playing himself) at a wild party involving cocaine and karaoke. That was the last straw for Lori, and Ted’s manipulation of John threatens to drive the couple apart. Meanwhile, an obsessed fan of Ted named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) wants to give Ted to his weird son Robert (Aedin Mincks), and so he starts stalking the bear.
I’ve been a big fan of everything MacFarlane has done so far. His FOX cartoons “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Cleveland Show” are some of the funniest shows on network TV. I knew that his humor would be brought to the big screen eventually (of course, I thought it might be a “Family Guy” movie though.) When I first saw the trailers for Ted, I was excited, because MacFarlane’s distinctive voice always cracks me up. Other than being the voice of Ted (which included motion capture of his physical features), he also wrote, directed, and produced the movie. He brought in friends like Garman, Borstein, and Kunis to play roles in the movie. It’s weird that Wahlberg has more chemistry with MacFarlane than with Kunis. If you’re not a fan of MacFarlane’s work on TV, then you might not like (or might be offended by) Ted. Very little offends me, but toilet humor for the sake of toilet humor can be stupid or boring. Not so, in the case of this movie that takes the toilet humor to outrageous but hilarious heights.
SEE THIS MOVIE!
Catch this movie at the theater if you can...
Wait until it comes out on video...
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Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!