Saturday, June 23, 2012


Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson
Running time:  100 minutes

First, let my say from the get-go:  Parents, make note that this is NOT a G rated movie!  There are scary scenes that can definitely frighten younger and/or sensitive children.  I saw at least two families leave the movie theater because their children were scared by the large, loud, angry bears.

There, I got that warning out  of the way.  Now, let's talk about the movie.  Did I enjoy it?


Did my thirteen year-old daughter enjoy it?


Did my eighteen year-old, Pixar-loving son enjoy it?


In fact, if I hadn't been writing this review, I might have left before the movie was over.  It just isn't up to Pixar standards -- not by a LONG SHOT.

In summary, Merida is the daughter of Fergus, King of the Scottish clans. She's a feisty, active girl whose personality and desires don't match those befitting a princess.  Her mother, Elinor, is a strong queen and steadfast in her determination to groom Merida toward the fate of marrying a boy from one of the other clans - a fate (surprise, surprise) that Merida fights, by seeking the help of a witch to "change" her mother and thus change the direction of her own destiny. Unfortunately, the change is quite literal, and Elinor is transformed into a monstrously large, black bear. Merida must face her own pride and mend the horrible mistake she has made before the spell becomes permanent and she loses her mother forever. Does this happen? Yes. (surprise, surprise)

Now, it's not the predictability that makes Brave a yawner of a movie (literally - I yawned several times).  Most good kids movies - especially Disney and Pixar films - are predictable.  But it's the characters and the execution of the storytelling that make those movies shine and compels us to buy the DVD as soon as it's released (and watch it over and over again).  The characters in Brave are flat and stereotyped. There isn't one character, not even Merida that really tugs at the heart strings or makes you wish you knew them.  As for the storytelling - that is where I am especially disappointed.  The premise of a young, strong girl successfully fighting and overcoming obstacles while coming to a deeper understanding of being true to her roots, is a fantastic plot. We need more movies with strong female character role-models for girls and that is why I was so excited about Brave.  Sadly, for me, Pixar just didn't pull it off.  Not this time.

That being said, I saw some people in the theater who seemed to enjoy the movie.  If you saw Brave and thought it was worth seeing, please leave a comment and share your opinions.

My recommendation though:  if you want to see a good movie, rent any of the Toy Story movies or Up.  You'll have a much better time.  As for me, I'm going to pretend Brave didn't happen and hope that Pixar raises their standards back up for their next release.

Reviewed by Karen Cantwell

Friday, June 8, 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Rated PG for mild action, rude humor
Starring Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer
Running time:  85 minutes

The Zoosters are back and funnier than ever!  Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Gelman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) plus the usual sidekicks, the Penguins, the Monkeys, King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) are up to their usual hilarious hijinks.  We all really, really, really liked this movie!

This was some fine summer entertainment especially when you take advantage of the $6.00 ticket prices before 12 noon at AMC.  My 5 year-old daughter, visiting Nana and I opted for the non-3D version mostly because of the added cost but also because my girl ends up taking the glasses off halfway through the movie.  I could see how 3D could add to the experience with its adrenaline-raising car chases and gravity-defying circus performances if you’re willing to fork over the extra cash.

Those loveable lost zoo animals are still trying to get back home to New York City.  This time their adventures take them there via Monte Carlo, Rome and London after they team up with a has-been circus while on the run from French animal control captain, Chantel DuBois.  She is a very crafty, hilariously pear-shaped villainess who hunts down Alex with iron will purpose just so she can add his stuffed head to her wall collection.

Meanwhile, Alex is shaping the circus into a Cirque-du-Soleil-worthy show, and some new characters are introduced: a cranky Russian tiger, Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) who once performed impossible feats, a beautiful jaguar, Gia (Jessica Chastain) who catches Alex’s eye and they end up performing beautiful trapeze acts together, and a slightly-below IQ average, sea lion ringmaster, Stefano (Martin Short) who just wants to have the greatest show on earth.  But to me the most amusing was the romance between King Julien (that silly little lemur) and the tricycle-riding circus bear.  You’ll be LOL’ing a lot with those two.

This is a movie that can be enjoyed by all.  Your little ones, your tweens and teenagers, the visiting cousins and family.  I sat next to a solo teenager and behind some college-looking kids, and we all laughed together while the younger ones giggled right along with us.  There was even applause at the credits and that, I think, says it all.  It was fabulous fun, so move it (ha, ha…get it?) to the theater for this summer must-see!

Reviewed by Beth Balberchak

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Crooked Arrows Shoots and Scores!

Rated PG-13‎
Starring Brandon Routh, Gil Birmingham, Crystall Allen, Chelsea Ricketts, Alexandra East
Running Time: 105 minutes

A mixed-blood Native American, Joe Logan, eager to modernize his reservation, must first prove himself to his father, the traditionalist Tribal Chairman, by rediscovering his spirit. He is tasked with coaching the reservation's high school lacrosse team which competes against the better equipped and better trained players of the elite Prep School League.

I have to premise this review by saying my son has played lacrosse for three years, and the more I learn about the sport, the more I love it. High-action agility combine with amazing stick skills and just enough physicality to make things interesting.

So when my son’s league sent around the Crooked Arrows trailer, I knew it was a “must-see.”

Lacrosse originated with the Native Americans near 1200 AD. The film centers on a down-on-their-luck reservation lacrosse team and the man roped into being their coach, a former lacrosse star himself who has turned away from the game to help run a casino.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few sports movie cliches here, and many of you can probably guess what happens, so I will not focus on the plot details. However, the lacrosse action scenes and the overriding Native American spirituality theme pushed aside my writerly cynic.

It is really a movie about not only honoring lacrosse’s Native American roots, but our roots as a country as well. About the Native Americans taking back their game and, as a result, getting respect back for their people, respect that is long overdue.

The movie is rated PG-13, which is spot-on. There are only a few iffy lines, but one has to do with a female body part, so I would recommend it for any child who has already had “the talk.” Otherwise, most families aged 11 and up would probably enjoy this feel-good sports movie.

In the film, one of the tribal elders tells the story of the crooked arrows. Each is different and does not fly straight or follow the same path, but eventually all find their own way. It’s really a valuable lesson, whether in life or on the lacrosse field.

Reviewed by Karen Wojcik Berner

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