Camp Rock

I begin this review with a simple question: why? Why did they have to make this rotting piece garbage, why did they make it a musical, and why did this even happen?

Mitchie Torres is an aspiring, talented musician who wants to go to Camp Rock, a music camp. (obviously) Meanwhile, rock star Shane Gray is on a roll of bad behavior and is sent to Camp Rock as a counselor. Mitchie lies her way into a friendship with the “popular” girls, and I can honestly say without exaggeration it pains me to write more about it.

I get it. High School Musical goes off and makes a bazillion bucks, then Hannah Montana doubles that amount. So now Disney Channel decides to exploit the Jonas Brothers and make them into a TV movie to unleash upon the 10-year old girls. And yet I sit here, with my little sister watching this stuff, suffering all the way. And so I ask, why?! F

Wall-E

Pixar has struck gold for the ninth time. 13 years, 9 masterpieces. That’s a track record that no other studio or filmmaker has never made, and possibly never will. What started with a light-headed but classic adventure about living toys has now evolved into a deep, topical film that touches on so many levels it deserves the words – instant classic.

Wall-E is a robot built to clean up Earth, after it becomes polluted beyond control. 700 years later, he’s the last thing on Earth at all (humans have fled to a giant spaceship, The Axiom) and all he’s been doing is cleaning the Earth. That all changes when a probe robot comes to Earth named Eve, and Wall-E is instantly smitten with her.

They begin a friendship and Wall-E develops a crush on Eve. But Eve is called back to the Axiom, and so Wall-E follows her there and his adventure there just might change the way everyone there thinks, and proves that robots too can love.

The incredible part of the movie is that the robots’ “voices” aren’t voice artists, they’re actually household, everyday noises blended into a voice. That is so revolutionary and just, well, cool. And here’s another thing – I cried three times in this movie. There. No shame. I cried for the story. I cried for the sheer beauty of the animation. I cried because I feared Pixar would never top this masterpiece.

See it. See it. Why? Because if you don’t you’ll miss the best film of the year. A

Kung Fu Panda

Jack Black – kung fu master. That very thought is both questionable and hilarious, but then again, the entire concept of Kung Fu Panda is questionable and hilarious. The story of a lovable, overweight panda becoming a kung fu legend is more original than it seems.

Po is a well-intentioned but goofy panda in ancient China who works as a waiter but has only one dream – to become a kung fu master. However there are three major problems with this – One, he is stuck as a waiter at a family-owned restaurant. Two, he knows no kung fu whatsoever. And third, he’s completely out of shape and overweight.

Meanwhile, Tai Lung is a dangerous tiger who’s been locked up in prison for 20 years for trying to steal the fabled Dragon Scroll that apparently holds the secret to eternal power. When he breaks out to take it, the wise Master Oogway knows only the Dragon Warrior can fight it and now must pick the Dragon Warrior. By an accident Po is made the Dragon Warrior, and must train to fight Tai Lung.

It’s charm is unique, partially because there’s no pop culture references anywhere. It actually does rely on plot and action, and definitely humor. Jack Black provides a great voice and an awesome catchphrase – Skadoosh. The action sequences are actually pretty creative, and another good part of the movie is the cast. Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman…They all show great comedic timing…

Now that the Shrek franchise is kind of tired out, I think Dreamworks Animation has found a new franchise. Kung Fu Panda 2, here we come! A-

The Love Guru

Mike Myers was once my favorite comedian. In the day of Austin Powers, SNL, and Wayne’s World he could do no wrong, and relied on physical humor and wordplay. The Love Guru, however, has very few gags that actually work, and I don’t think there’s a single joke in here that isn’t potty humor. Forget Narnia. This is the biggest disappointment of the year.

Pitka is a self-help guru who comes to America to become the next Deepak Chopra, but always finds himself at #2. So when the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jane Bullard, comes to him to resolve an issue, he can’t help but take it up. The star hockey player, Darren Roanoke’s playing ability has sharply decreased ever since his wife left him, for a rival player, Jacques Grande. (Played by Justin Timberlake, and he steals the show). Pitka’s job is to get Darren and his wife back together so that the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

I laughed about five times out of the hundreds of failed jokes Myers cracks, and the problem is that it’s either potty jokes or cracks at Hinduism. The saviors of this movie are Justin Timberlake as a French hockey star and Stephen Colbert as a hockey announcer – they steal every scene they’re in, even against Mike Myers. But the problem is just the timing. The comedic timing is so poor in this movie, and I think the problem is that Mike Myers chose a first-timer to direct it.

The Hinduism aren’t so much offensive as annoying – there were many opportunities at greatness in this movie. And none were taken. D

The Incredible Hulk

The original 2003 Hulk was bogged down by melodrama, too long a running time, and the fact that Nick Nolte had more time on-screen than the actual Hulk. This fixes everything where the original went wrong. It tosses out the director and the entire cast, and makes one of the best actors around into the Hulk. It runs a half-hour less than the original, and it’s character driven AND action-packed at the same time.

Dr. Bruce Banner is experimenting with gamma rays and it goes horribly awry, but the side effects only occur when he’s angry. Unfortunately, when he’s angry, he turns into a 9-foot tall green hulk who has no control over what he does. He goes on the run, and his girlfriend Betty is deeply saddened.

Five years later, he’s a fugitive from the US Army and has been trying to find a cure for years. The Army finds him in Brazil, and Bruce flees back to America to find a cure. But Emil Blonsky, a soldier hot on Hulk’s tail is exposed to Hulk’s gamma rays and becomes The Abdomination, a giant beast bent on killing Hulk!!

Yes, that’s quite a back-story, but it’s also quite a movie. It’s not nearly as good as Iron Man, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s much better than about 9 out of 10 of the recent superhero movies out there, and also has a heart. The true problem is that it’s all essentially just a set-up, but I will say what I will never say for the original – it’s one awesome action movie. B

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan

Adam Sandler decides to dub an Israeli accent for his new comedy, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. This gets into its preachy moments from time to time but overall is his funniest since 2004′s 50 First Dates, and succeeds in not being offensive – instead being just plain funny.

Zohan is an Israeli counter-terrorist agent who hunts down his country’s enemies and kills them swift and efficiently. But while he loves serving his country, he tires of all the violence and dreams of being a hair-designer. So when chasing a famous terrorist ‘The Phantom’, he fakes his own death and moves to New York City under the alias Scrappy Coco, and gets a job at a Palestinian hair salon. He loves his new job, but becomes famous locally and risks exposing his alias.

Yes it’s a completely idiotic and unrealistic premise, but that’s the beauty of the whole movie. Zohan is essentially a superhuman, and several hilarious scenes build off of it. But the weaknesses lie in the back plot.

A tacked-on romantic subplot that’s forced and contrived bogs down the movie, and the end just makes it all too soft and melodramatic. But Adam Sandler does much more right than wrong here. B-

Son of Rambow

One of the coolest moments of my life occurred in my screening of Son of Rambow. Last year I participated in a summer camp where I could make a movie at the Michigan Theater, and given the subject matter of Son of Rambow, at the Michigan Theater during the screening they asked me to speak about this camp. I had the pleasure of speaking in front of an audience that included my school librarian, my best friend, and my family.

It’s rare that a movie comes along like Son of Rambow. It has fun, has laughs, has its share of action, pays tribute, but moves along with a great plot and vibe that, in my opinion, ranks this amongst the greatest movies of the year.

In 1980, Will is a young, quiet British schoolboy who belongs to a strict religion. Lee Carter goes to his school, and is a bully in every sense of the word. Will goes over to Lee’s house and the two watch Rambo together. They decide to make a remake of it together, and although they couldn’t be more different and initially hate each other, they realize their friendship matters more than anything. But they begin to fight over the movie, and other people want in on it.

This is such a great movie. It’s just got this spirit to it that many movies lack today, and that’s ambition. It has great performances by all, and a witty script. See this. You won’t regret it. A

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was an action-packed, if too long movie that was entertaining, even if it didn’t quite reach the heights it set out to achieve. This sequel, Prince Caspian, loses much of the action and entertainment that drove the first one, and doesn’t reach the heights it sets out. It’s the biggest disappointment of the year.

Peter, Lucy, Edmund and Susan are four children whose previous adventure to a magical kingdom named Narnia left them kings and queens of that land, and a year passes and they are mysteriously thrust into Narnia again. But whilst a year passed for them, 1300 passed for Narnia, and it has been thrust into chaos and violence.

They meet a prince named Caspian whose evil uncle has tried to have him killed, and together they form an army to rebel against the corrupt kingdom and restore Narnia to peace and tranquility. But things are not so simple, and prove quite deadly for all things good…

It seemed destined for another sequel to happen, for the original was a good movie and made $750 million. But after this, they should either make the next Narnia a masterpiece or leave the franchise dead in the water. The dialogue is wooden, the action sequences stale and it doesn’t follow the book, which was a major strength of the first.

I’m sorry, I love fantasy franchises as much as the next person, but this one is close to dead in the water. C-