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Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted Now America’s Most Wanted!

I sometimes have trouble with animated movies.  I’m not gonna lie.  I know it doesn’t fit with the whole “mom” thing I have going, but I have sat way too many times in crowded, kid filled movie theaters, wishing I was doing something more entertaining, like poking knitting needles into my eyes.

I saw the first Madagascar movie, and it was good.  When I say it was good, I mean it was tolerable.  When it came time to see the sequel, I left that to the husband.

Am I glad I didn’t miss this movie!  The theater was packed, and I barely remember a minute when the kids weren’t roaring with laughter.  Or was it the grown ups?  Or was it me???

Here’s a bit of the story – life in Africa isn’t nearly as appealing as life in the big apple, and our band of affable animals (most notably Alex {Ben Stiller}, Marty {Chris Rock}, and King Julien {Sacha Baron Cohen}) have decided to head to Monte Carlo to meet the penguins and high tail it back to New York.  As you might imagine, they do not roll out the carpet at the Grand Casino to welcome our happy little group.  This is where the fabulous Frances McDormand comes in.  Voicing the head of animal control, Captain Chantal DuBois, McDormand goes on a cross continent trek to snag Alex, hoping to add him to the decor of her PETA challenged home.

The chase leads our homeward bound heroes straight into the circus, and if you think it’s been fast paced fun up until now, wait until you see what they do to a circus!  The colors, the lights, the real feel of an amazing Cirque du Soleil-esque performance – absolutely amazing!

There isn’t a minute of downtime in the whole film, and the jokes the kids don’t catch, the grownups certainly will.  There’s a quick debate over the pronunciation of the word “nuclear”; King Julien (who is in love with a big, burly bear) remarks about preferring women with hairy backs; and there’s even a reference to Shock Jock Howard Stern, when a penguin randomly callsl out “Bababooey”.

June 8th is the release date for this movie, and you should be lined up at the door to see it.  Now – go wait, right now.  It is seriously that good.

The Hunger Games – A Review

I can think of only one other movie during which I could barely eat popcorn.  It was The Passion of the Christ, and I was so riveted to the events transpiring before me on the big screen, that it was tough to eat popcorn.

And tonight was the second time a movie was so compelling, I could barely think of eating popcorn.

If a movie distracts me from food, it must be good.

So, if you’re like me and have not yet read the books, the basic premise of the film is that a drawing is held, children are chosen to compete in the Hunger Games, and that’s about the last time your arse is going to see the back of your seat – you’ll be planted firmly on the edge.

I want to say, having not read the books, I was a little afraid I might be missing something, but as far as I could tell, they did an excellent job of condensing the book into two hours.  I had no trouble following the story, and the movie has really motivated me to read the books.

There is no way you could pack more emotion for the characters than they did in this film.  From the start, you are rooting for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), the movie’s heroine.  She is at once a fierce competitor and a compassionate caregiver.  You love her from the first scene.  Hell, ten minutes in, I wanted to BE her!  Josh Hutcherson is the perfect Peeta, Katniss’ male counterpart.  I alternated between feeling my heartstrings tugged and wanting to toss him off of a cliff.

They expertly lay the ground work in the film, so you get a complete picture of everything, and then the pace is fast and furious.  You may want to consider that if you are seeing the film in IMAX – there was at least one case of motion sickness during our showing.

Another warning – if you’re not familiar with the books, the goal of the competitors in the Hunger Games is to eliminate the competition.  This does not mean spelling bigger words, check mating, or claiming all of their checkers.  Please be cautioned that this may not be a movie you want to take young children to – although there were dozens of them at the theater tonight, all of whom were familiar with the books.  I’m waivering on whether or not Eilis is old enough.

There are two fabulous performances by Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci.  Woody Harrelson is especially memorable in his portrayal of Haymitch.

I cannot give this movie enough thumbs up – not even if I had a few spares.  This was a movie I would gladly see again.

War Horse – A Movie Review

by Guest Blogger Brighid Skamarakas

So Eilis and I went to go see the press premiere of War Horse on Thursday. I vaguely remembered seeing the trailer and it not looking totally awful (although maybe not interesting enough to warrant the purchase of a full-priced ticket.) But when she asked if I wanted to go I said sure. I have to say I was pretty impressed. The story is cutesy, as to be expected, but there were actually some very powerful and very funny scenes. The movie certainly does a good job of highlighting the multinational impact of the Great War, the humanity of the soldiers on both sides, and the hardships endured by troops and local civilians alike. It was a nice departure from the heavy, depressing movies being churned out a lot lately but not so light and fluffy that you wish you were sitting in one of those depressing movies. There were quite a few familiar faces, including Mr. Weasley from the Harry Potter films. The theatre was full of happy tears and sniffling at the end and several scenes even garnered a few cheers. Based on the trailer alone I probably wouldn’t have forked over the ten bucks but I can now safely say that if you’re looking for something the whole family can appreciate this holiday, War Horse is worth the Visa gift card from grandma. War Horse is in theatres December 25.

Hop – A Sarcastic Mom’s Movie Review

Growing up during the dawn of time, as I did, I recall how incredibly excited I used to get over holiday specials.  Christmas, of course, was the bonanza season of holiday specials, but Easter had a couple.  We’d sit, with my Dad, and get all into Peter Cottontail; but of course, the all time favorite Easter special was the religiously significant “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!”

Yeah, Easter movies and television geared towards children are about as religious in nature as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.  It’s always been that way.  Kids don’t really want to sit for an hour or more and watch the crucifixion of a significant historical figure over differences in religion and a struggle for power.  I may be wrong, but it just doesn’t scream “warm and fuzzy” – like an Easter bunny.  And besides, doesn’t Veggie Tales cover that somewhere?

So that was kind of a long way to tell you that I was not disappointed that Hop wasn’t loaded with religious significance.  I didn’t expect it to have any, unlike some other reviews I’ve seen.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bit disappointing.

Here’s the story – the Easter Bunny is getting on in years, and he’d like to pass the responsibility of world (well, except for China) sugar high induction on to his come of age son EB.  EB, however, has decided that he is destined more for a life of rock stardom, and he sets off to realize his dreams where young, rebellious, determined to make their own way in the world rabbits all go – Ireland – Hollywood.

Coincidentally, a young man(Fred) living in the neighborhood already finds himself the victim of an Intervention, as his family makes the determination that he is not rebellious or determined enough, and they want his arse out the door, on his own, and not mooching off of Daddy’s dime.  This poor, now homeless young man is forced to stay in a multi-bazillion dollar mansion as a house sitter for his sister’s boss.  Yeah, he learned his lesson.

The two wayward young adults meet each other accidentally, and hilarity ensues.  Well, okay, it doesn’t; but there is some humor – twice, I heard a line uttered by the amazingly talented Russell Brand that made me laugh out loud (I think his comedic timing is impeccable).

My girls loved the movie, but it fell a bit flat for me.  It seemed a little bit rushed to come to the conclusion, and in the end, I’m not sure real dreams were fulfilled – except for Fred’s father, and honestly, for a man who wanted his son to find “steady” employment, I’m not sure how he ends up so freakin’ deliriously happy about Fred’s new very part time gig.

I don’t think the characters were very well developed, and the sub-plot of the evil villain Carlos (who obviously  has not seen the You Tube videos of what happens to Peeps put in the Microwave – that might have helped keep him in his place) wasn’t very well thought out at all.  There was no real affection for Fred or EB, so honestly, if they had both ended up homeless on Hollywood Boulevard, selling fake Godiva chocolate bunnies, I’m not sure the end of the movie emotions would have been any different.  Instead of a weepy, happy, awwwww feeling, it was more of a “so that’s what happens to them – let’s go get sushi.”

I will say though that Russell Brand is the highlight – his lines are hysterical in a couple of spots, funny in others, and the big bonus here is that as much as I love Russell Brand, he’s damn scary to look at.  I’m glad I got the opportunity to enjoy his movie without actually having to watch him.  I won’t be so lucky when I go next week to see “Arthur”.

For kids – I’d give the movie a thumbs up.  Seriously, who’s making Easter specials anymore?

For grown-ups – Don’t expect the big laughs you found in Despicable Me.  If you didn’t have to take the kids, I’d tell you to go see something else, but what the hell – it’s Easter time, the kids will be excited to see the movie, you’ll be the hero Dad or Mom for taking them, and if you’re lucky, they’ll leave you alone the whole rest of the evening so you can tend to your virtual farm in Farmville as a reward.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Tron Legacy Movie Review – Thoughts from an Un-Geek

Let me go on record now as admitting that I did not see Tron.  I did, however, see this guy, which was quite scary, so you should all be super happy that I was able to overcome the trauma and see Tron Legacy.

I also want to add that there are limitations to my review when it comes to this type of movie.  It’s not my thing.  Jim, however, was beyond thrilled to have a chance to see the movie; and Eilis, who had said she wasn’t sure she wanted to go at all when she thought we were seeing Narnia, was nearly as excited as her father.

Let’s start with the fact that they do a fair explanation of the background story, for those of us that opted to spend our Friday nights back in 1982 going to see Cyndi Lauper in concert.  I felt like I was fairly caught up when the new storyline kicked in.

But then it all became just a little bit too familiar.  As Kevin Flynn was standing there, I kept saying to myself “What’s familiar about him?”  Then it dawned on me that his clothes came from the Jedi Goodwill Store.

The whole film felt “borrowed” to me.  I saw glimpses of The Matrix, Star Wars, and maybe even a little Harry Potter.  And the storyline felt old, like I had seen that somewhere else, too.

The best thing about the movie is the soundtrack, but once Granuaile fell asleep, it was more of a distraction than an enjoyment.

And your review from a certified Geek?  Jim declared this a movie he would definitely not pay to go see 🙁

On the plus side, we got a cool poster and Dove chocolate samples.  The whole evening wasn’t a bust!