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Quickie Review: Dolittle

I often skip the “kids movies” since my nieces and nephews have aged out of them. But I will generally make an exception for animation, musicals and anything with Robert Downey Jr. Dolittle has the latter. After years of playing Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, and other PG-13 and R-rated characters, Downey wanted to make something his younger kids could see. Thus, we have Dolittle – a sweet, harmless, sometimes goofy film reminiscent of the family-friendly comedy adventure films of my youth. It won’t displace the 1967 Rex Harrison version (with music!), or Eddie Murphy’s 1998 take on the classic tale; but for a new generation, this re-imagining of the doctor who can communicate with animals is superficially satisfactory. It’s got enough heart and animal shenanigans to entertain the kids and placate most of the adults in tow.

Review: Life Itself

Don’t let the trailer fool you. Life Itself is not This Is Us. Yes, it is a multi-generational family drama written and directed by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, and yes, you will need tissues. But even Fogelman will tell/warn you that Life Itself is darker and heavier than his serial television weep-fest. It’s a melodramatic soap opera of a film that tells the story of two families – in New York and Spain – whose lives are connected by tragedy. It’s heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting even as it seeks to manipulate our emotions with a heavy-handed theme that ‘Life’ is an unreliable narrator of our story. The film is broken up into “chapters” to drive the point home.

The 33

Hard to believe it’s already been – and only been – five years since the internationally-televised live dramatic rescue of 33 miners outside Copiapó, Chile. It’s a story that was ready-made for Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood jumped on having it made into a major motion picture (starring Antonio Banderas as the miners’ de facto leader, super ‘Mario’). The problem is, The 33 doesn’t quite rise to the level of major motion picture, despite the very real and captivating narrative and characters in play. It’s ultimately a feel-good, but fleeting account of what was happening above ground, and below, after a massive explosion at a 100-year-old gold and copper mine left 33 men trapped 20,000 feet below the surface. The ordeal lasted for 69 days. And rescue was never a sure thing.

Ruby Sparks

I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing about it, except that Mainstream Chick had seen it and thought maybe as the Arty One, I would get something from it that she did not. Sadly, that is not the case. It is simply one of those interesting concepts that never makes the leap to the screen. The movie stars Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) as Calvin, a “genius” writer who’s had one early mega-success, but now struggles with severe writer’s block. So his therapist suggests he write just one page, which he is given permission to do badly. And that night a vivid dream about a kooky girl he meets in the park inspires him to run to his old fashioned typewriter, and the prose just pours out onto the page.

Haywire

Mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Gina Carano plays the lead and does all her own stunts in Steven Soderbergh’s latest action flick Haywire, which comes off feeling kind of Bourne-lite. In it she is surrounded by a pretty yummy collection of today’s high powered male stars: Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, even Michael Douglas. And that is the problem with the film. Carano is not an actress, and she really cannot hold her own with the big boys.

The Skin I Live In

I have to admit two things up front. I am not usually a fan of Pedro Almodóvar, and the descriptions of The Skin I Live In did not lead me to believe I would change my opinion. “A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.” Ugh! But since the awards season is upon us, and it is showing up on a lot of lists, I decided to give it a look. And surprise!

Puss in Boots

Like a lot of people in the northeast, I got shut out of going to the movies Halloween weekend because of a freak October snowstorm. So what did I go to see this past weekend? Puss In Boots! That’s right, the cartoon cat seduced me, and I obviously wasn’t alone. Puss won the box office for the second week in a row even though Tower Heist was expected to take the top spot.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Woody Allen’s latest is set in London and in early voiceover we are treated to a quote from Macbeth. “Life’s but a walking shadow …a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Woody might have been reviewing his own film. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger isn’t really full of sound and fury but ultimately isn’t about anything except life. It takes a family and follows their individual stories as they split up, marry, lust from afar and get on with it.

Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter

The first Shrek was truly special; a twisted fairy tale with a fairy-tale twist that worked on so many levels- for kids and adults.