Limited Release

For an avid movie goer (who doesn’t reside in NYC or LA) nothing is more frustrating than watching trailers of a movie that actually looks pretty good but is only showing in a limited release. It’s like false advertising. Why do theaters advertise movies that they won’t be showing? It’s a crime really.

This week has no less than six new releases for the weekend and only two are showing nation wide. While I’m thankful for the opportunity to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I’m fairly certain, given the previous track record of the series, that it’s going to be a let down. I’ll pass on Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in The Tourist which might be a career mistake you’d expect from Jolie but not Depp. The movies I really want to see this weekend are packed full of talent: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams in The Fighter, along with Helen Mirren in the Shakespearean adaptation entitled The Tempest, and a new odd Swedish film that could be rather humorously bad in Rare Exports. I’ll pass on The Garden of Eden.

In my frustration I found a few reasons excuses why some of the films you want to see won’t be available on the big screen.

1. NYC and LA are the two largest cities in the US and both have a population of 9 million each (which is more than Utah, Missouri, and Wyoming combined). That means the theaters will have a higher yield per showing.
2. The film has to open in NYC and LA to be eligible for an Oscar.
3. Independent and Art house films with modest budgets tend to have a lower distribution and appeal to the smaller communities of these two film going towns.
4. Theaters have to buy the roles of film (which cost upwards of thousands of dollars) and have a limited number of screens to rent out. Theater owners are going to want to fill their theaters with the average movie goer, which you’ve got to admit, probably doesn’t have a delicate pallet for good movies.
5. Good movies rely on audience approval to garnish box office numbers while bad movies rely on viewer ambiguity to make all their money on the opening week.

While all of these are fairly good reasons I’m putting my chips on the last two. This is why movies like Skyline get a wide release while I have to drive five hours to NYC to see 127 Hours.

Basically, there is no other excuse other than money. So, while I’ll be watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I’ll be wishing I was in NYC or LA watching The Fighter.

Good luck with your movie choices this weekend.

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Tangled

With a lot taken from The Little Mermaid, a dash from Beauty and the Beast,  and a hint of Aladdin, Disney’s latest retelling of classic literature is sure to capture a large box office yield, but will it survive the test of time in the memory of audiences? While it doesn’t seem likely that they will be able to beat out Toy Story 3 or even Megamind in sales, let’s hope that Tangled sets the mark of a new era in Disney’s future in quality animation.

Tangled is Disney’s 50th animated feature. – Really, there’s been that many? How come I can only think of a handful of good ones? – With so many failures in the past decade to recapture the old traditional values of the best animated features of the late 80’s and early 90’s, Tangled does a remarkable job at reminding us of those great features but will probably fall short of remaining in our loving memory any more than Anastasia did. Still, it’s far better than last years The Princess and the Frog.

Tangled is the classic retelling of the German fairy tale, Rapunzel. Like most of their recounting of traditional literature, the story is drastically changed. Disney’s Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is a princess with magical hair given to her by a magical flower during her mother’s pregnancy. An old maid, dependent on the power of the flower to maintain her youthfulness, kidnaps the princess and locks her in a tower deep in the woods and raises her as her own daughter. When Rapunzel turns 18 and asks to go out into the world, Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) tells her she will never leave the tower. Then comes in her unlikely rescuer, a handsome young bandit with an inflated ego and a desperate need to escape his pursuers, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) finds the tower and climbs the walls to hide out for a while. Rapunzel sees Ryder as her means of escape and quickly forges a contract with the bandit to get to the source of a mysterious annual light show. The adventures of the journey fill the rest of the story as Rapunzel and Ryder share a romantic ‘wrong side of the tracks’ love story. Rapunzel uses her winsome charm and beautiful locks to get herself out of a heap of trouble and into the hearts of her audience.

While the story is not as profound or memorable as some of the best pieces in Disney’s history, this adaptation of Rapunzel is clever, funny, and heartwarming. The story has been on the draft books since Walt Disney himself first pondered the idea in the 1940’s. I can’t imagine what a story so predominantly about hair would have looked like in the 1940’s or even in 2000 for that matter. The technology and picture quality has enhanced so much over the years the there really hasn’t been a better time to tell the story until now. Disney’s Real D 3D technology brings this story to life with astounding visuals and eye popping color. It’s definitely worth paying the few extra bucks.

The characters are a mixture of contemporary personifications and classic figures. The two non-speaking roles, Maximus a ‘by the book’ horse with good intentions and Pascal a chameleon companion to Rapunzel, harken back to the classics while Rapunzel and Ryder imitate more modern day characters. Mother Gothel and the cut-throat duo are nebulous in how they are portrayed. While they are the obvious antagonists to the story, they are handled softly so as to give then more complexity. The empathetic gang of thieves who find their hearts dream are a clever addition to the story as well.

The humor and circumstances in Tangled create the perfect atmosphere for good old fashioned entertainment. Though the music and singing are often forgetful and won’t make a top musical favorites of any list, the story itself is hilariously funny and perfectly suited to make kids, and adults alike, laugh out loud.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. Share it with a kid or a kid at heart and enjoy the ensuing laughter.

This film is rated PG for brief mild violence and is playing everywhere.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Reviews:

We’ll be back later with more reviews.

Enjoy the holidays.

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The Next Three Days

The writer and director that brought us Crash, Casino Royale, and Million Dollar Baby attempts to bring us another thoughtful thriller with The Next Three days, but Paul Haggis misses a few key ingredients.

When Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years, her husband (Russell Crowe) will do anything to get her out and prove her innocence. After tracking down ever legal means of doing so, John Brennan resorts to a prison escape, but he has to do it within the next three days before his wife is transfered.  Acquiring the council of a convict who had escaped from prison seven times (Liam Neeson) John begins to orchestrate the intricate plan of escape. Once the escape is in motion, several police officers and detectives are hot on his heals to stop him.

The story here is a little hard to believe. The coincidence of the murder and the little information given about the crime that put Lara behind bars in the first place is somewhat confusing. Along with that, there were several other things that just didn’t fit well in the flow of the story. Casting Liam Neeson as a seven time veteran escape artist who wrote a book about it and is walking the streets, Seriously? John Brennan selling furniture to fund the escape but keeping his iPhone, Mac Book, and Prius; an annoying distraction. Ultimately, there was a lot of unnecessary attention given to points that made the story less relatable and more far fetched. Finally, the ending and conclusion to the whole murder fiasco is a huge let down. It’s almost like they ran out of creativity after they created Liam Neeson’s character.

The cast is not short of amazing actors and interesting roles, but the compelling characters are underdeveloped while Russell Crowe is showcased in a rather mediocre perspective. There is no reason why Crow needed to put on an extra 50 pounds for this movie. Jason Beghe and Aisha Hinds, the detectives keeping a watchful eye on John Brennan, were actually quite interesting and would have added more appeal if they had been given more of a key role in the film. Elizabeth Banks offers a decent performance, offering some believability to her predicament, but even she was sort of a lesser character in the story.

This is the second prison type movie this year based on a lot of the same themes: Loved ones separated by prison, a murder that the convicted party may or may not be guilty of, and their loved ones doing whatever they can to get them out. I’m speaking of Conviction and though I wasn’t thrilled about that film, I’d strongly recommend it over The Next Three Days.

I give this film 2 out of 5 stars. The star power is not enough to light up this movie.

This film is rated R for violence, drug material, language, and some sexual and thematic elements.

This film is in theaters, but you might want to save your money.

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127 Hours

Academy Award winner, Danny Boyle, follows up last years Oscar winning Slumdog Millionare with a limited release film entitled 127 Hours. It’s already been out for a couple weeks and is slowly starting to gather attention for it’s brilliance in artistry. Though it has been coasting under the radar at the box office, this film is sure to gain a wide audience as word gets out.

127 Hours is the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco) and his five day brush with life. Aron is a mountain climber and adventure junky with a passion for the freedom of the outdoors. When Aron takes a weekend off and runs out the door for a new adventure, he has no idea about the trying circumstances that he’s about to face. Going out into the wilderness on his own, without telling anyone where he is going, Aron finds himself trapped when a bolder falls on his hand and pins him to the canyon wall. Isolated and injured, Aron must cope with his injuries, the elements, hunger, dehydration, and insanity if he’s going to make it out alive. 127 Hours is the story of his amazing adventure and remarkable survival.

This movie is extremely rich and compelling. Knowing that this is a true story definitely helps relate the seriousness of what is taking place on the screen. Several movies have attempted to convey a story about isolation and they tend to struggle with finding enough intrigue to actually keep an audience interested. Danny Boyle gives us enough of the back story interspersed with the focus of Aron’s survival to keep the viewer interested and invested in the development of the events.

You can never really prepare yourself for one of Danny Boyle’s films. No matter what you think you’re going to get, he is sure to surprise you. Boyle’s remarkable ability to tell a story is showcased through several different avenues of cinematography, sound, and dialogue. The premise seems fairly straight forward and simple, but when Boyle combines all the layers of his immense artistry, the movie comes together to become an astounding feature. 127 Hours if very much an abstract piece, with some completely unique techniques, but every aspect of this film drives home the theme of survival with excellent precision.

James Franco does an incredible job at handling this movie on his own considering his closest co-stars were a rock and a camcorder. The subtle nuances he adds to the character really bring the authenticity this story needed to connect with the viewer. Franco’s role is extremely touching and will grab your heartstrings.

This is one of those films that you are guaranteed to walk away from provoked emotionally. There is no way to sit through the film and not experience what Aron endured as he struggled to survive for five days. With that said, however, I must warn you that this film is extremely graphic in depicting the extent that Aron was willing to go to survive. Though I found the disposition of the film helpful in experiencing the true nature of perseverance, many will be repulsed by the visual images and audible sounds of the gruesome events. Still, I think this film is well worth the value offered in that it drives home the point of courage and the lengths people will go to survive.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. This is well worth a 5 hour drive to NYC.

This film is rated R for language and disturbing violent and bloody images.

This film is in theaters, but temporarily at a limited release.

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