LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

A children's movie that is probably too intense and violent for little
kids; just what you'd expect from the director of “300”. The themes
are small-fry versions of every mythic tale from Star Wars (“Use the
force” becomes “Use your gizzard”) to Lord of the Rings to the Bible
to whatever. How you respond to it will depend on if you thrill to
these kind of good vs. evil, brother-against-brother, protege-
surpassing-his-mentor-in-bravery adventures. Me: I'm a sucker for
talking animals. And the execution is meticulous. Have animated
feathers ever looked so, well… feathery? Thrilling battle scenes
(there are a lot of them) ingeniously convey carnage without actual
gore. And the cleverly named lead character Soren's facial expressions
(complimented by Jim Sturgess' voice) are standout. — Jeff Schultz

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS

Money never sleeps, but the audience sure does in this godawful sequel
that clocks in at a murderous 2 hours 9. It's as exciting as an
Economics 101 lecture — but without the laughs. It's good actors
giving bad performances in one-dimensional roles, including at least
two clearly Jewish bankers whose tics and cadences are at best
stereotypical and at worst something darker. (Eli Wallach, G-d forbid
this should be your last picture!) Yes, Michael Douglas survives
intact, his magnificent face all experience and weather. And yes, the
film looks dazzling, with aerial photography especially that finds a
new way to frame New York. But this is Oliver Stone wanting it both
ways: portraying Street tycoons as rapacious, immoral predators, and
yet wrapping everything up in innocence and sweetness. A crock. A
waste of time. — Jeff Schultz

SHREK FOREVER AFTER

In the Pixar era, we have gotten spoiled with what they can do with animated films (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, etc). That may be why there was so much venom directed at the latest and final Shrek film. While it does not hold a candle to those and other Pixar classics, Shrek is still an entertaining and sweet ride. This one focuses more on the characters we've grown to love (or hate, depending on your perspective) and gets back to the basics that made the original so good (I was not a real fan of the last two). Less is more, and unlike something like Despicable Me, Shrek coasts on the vocal talents of everyone involved. Much like the superhero genre, there are levels of good. This may not hit The Dark Knight level but it certainly isn't Ghost Rider. Shrek is more like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Far from a masterpiece but still fun.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Storm Curry.

EASY A

Every now and then there's a movie with side performances away from
the main action that are so spectacular, they alone are worth the
admission price. I defy anyone to name a funnier, more lovable, more
perfectly pitched comic duo than the actors who play Emma Stone's
parents, Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. Every moment of every
scene they're in is just so damned good, you almost wish they were the
stars. But credit to Emma for showing the kind of promise we used to
see in Lindsay. Her sharp-as-a-tack edge never bleeds over into
bitterness as she navigates a plot about acceptance that meanders too
much and occasionally loses the point. But the filmmakers get a solid B
+ for their ambition. Throw in Penn Badgley's hunkitude and Dan Byrd's
geeky charm and you've got a John Hughes movie reimagined for the next
generation. Bravo. — Jeff Schultz

ON NOT DRINKING THE KOOL-AID

I never read a review before I post my own here. And the truth is,
when I then check out what critics are saying, I kvell a bit when
their opinions echo mine. (Alan's and Stormy's as much as any of the
“Cream of the Croppers”). So it's a bit flummoxing, those times when
I'm utterly and completely at odds with the consensus. Currently, this
is the case with THE TOWN. The last time I'm guessing was THE
HANGOVER. Two movies that not only didn't impress me, but which I
actively disliked. To leave a theatre thoroughly convinced you've just
seen a turkey — only to find others falling over themselves to praise
it — is disconcerting. Only a delusional egotist would dismiss, say,
a 93% RT rating. And yet film history is full of examples of films
praised (or reviled) at the time of their release, only later to be
reassessed. That's why this blog is so much fun: because so rarely do
the three of us come down on the same side. — Jeff Schultz

DEVIL

For as long as it stays in the cramped confines of a stuck elevator
car, this Shyamalan-produced thriller has a nifty, scary-story-by-the-
campfire feel. Then it morphs into a morality play, and it's here
where M. Night's loftier pretensions keep the movie from being simply
a great cheesy scare. TV actor Geoffrey Arend makes the most notable
impression in a cast of nobodies. There are no scares and not much
gore to speak of. The best violence is audio only, carried out in the
dark. And that message-y ending goes down more like medicine than
satisfaction. — Jeff Schultz

THE TOWN

It's set in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, but they could
have named it Dullsville. Nothing in this thrice-told tale will seem
unfamiliar; it's one more go-round for the criminal-trying-to-get-out-
of-The-Life story. And since the trailer provides the entire set-up,
all that's left during the movie itself is to watch unfold what you
already know is going to happen. Ben Affleck's sensitive thug is
actorish and unconvincing, right down to the you-gotta-be-kidding-me
ending which feels like a studio-imposed note of hope and is about as
authentic as the Southie accents that come and go throughout. Jeremy
Renner fares best: you have to look closely to realize it's him. But
alas, you know his fate before ten minutes have gone by. And Jon Hamm
is his usual magnetic self, but he pretty much comes off as Special
Agent Don Draper. I am NOT down with THE TOWN. — Jeff Schultz

"FLAMINGO" BY BRANDON FLOWERS

There is a tendency for music critics to categorize. This one swaggers and prances like Jagger. That one is outrageous like Madonna. If a songwriter tells stories about young people trying to escape their working class lives, taking to the road in search of a better existence, they are immediately compared to a young Springsteen. Such is the case with Brandon Flowers, lead singer/songwriter of The Killers. On his first solo outing, Flowers talks about his hometown Las Vegas in a way that Bruce talked about New Jersey. There is something to the comparison, but it's the kind of weight Flowers can't carry and shouldn't have to. FLAMINGO is a good CD. Flowers is a talented songwriter who knows how to draw images about escape and the desert like only a Vegas native could. But he sometimes gets bogged down in what seems to be an effort to be the modern day-West Coast Boss. So, in the end that's where the Springsteen comparisons fall short. There is a lot to like about this CD. “Only the Young”, “Jilted Lover & Broken Hearts” and the fantastic “Crossfire” are fantastic stories about being young, embracing it, but knowing that it won't last. Much like love. Flowers is very talented and deserves to be judged on his own merits, so buy the CD and enjoy it for what it is. Because it is worth owning. — Alan Yudman

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"HURLEY" BY WEEZER

People have criticized Rivers Cuomo for writing hook-filled pop songs. The question is “what's wrong with that?”. The answer is NOTHING!! Weezer's latest, “Hurley” is pop art. Every song has an infectious hook and the clever lyrics that Cuomo is famous for. Take “Ruling Me” for example. The second verse begins “We first met in the lunchroom, My ocular nerve went pop zoom.” Who else uses “ocular nerve” in a pop song? The song is an ode to obsession and fantasy. And frankly, I can't get it out of my head. Obsessed with a song about obsession. My therapist will have a field day with that one. Obsession seems to be the theme of many of the songs. “Memories” pines for what used to be, “Trainwrecks” asks what's wrong with being a slacker. There is art and heart here. And if it makes you tap your foot, or burrows into your consciousness, what's wrong without that? Keep going Weezer, we need you!

— Alan Yudman
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THE TOWN

Say what you will about Ben Affleck as an actor but, as a director there is no doubt, the man has definite talent. Ben first demonstrated his ability in the under-appreciated “Gone Baby Gone”. He grows and expands on that in THE TOWN. Affleck has a definite talent for story telling. To prepare for this movie I re-watched “Heat”. Both movies have similar themes. A criminal looking to get out after one big score and a law enforcement officer determined to stop him. “Heat” had more style and got us more in the heads of the two leads. THE TOWN is more interested in the criminal. We learn all about what it means to be a “Townie”, and how tough it is to get out of the life. Affleck's touch with actors is obvious as he gets the best out of the ensemble. Jeremy Renner stands out as Affleck's best friend and partner. The Oscar nomination he didn't get for “Hurt Locker” should come his way for this supporting role. Affleck has a great touch for the action set pieces, for the tender moments and the intensity of an interrogation. Simply put, Ben is a director to watch in years to come. If The Academy is going to once again nominated 10 films in the best picture category, it is not unreasonable to expect THE TOWN to receive a nod based on the competition seen so far this year. — Alan Yudman