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THE HOT ROCK, CINDERELLA LIBERTY, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL and DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BLOOD TIES: FAMILY BONDS

In BLOOD TIES the setting is New York, the time is 1974 and the problems faced by one family are more than they can surmount before the final credits role in this film. The story looks at one family that has many dysfunctional problems yet somehow bonds before the end of the film.

Billy Cruddup stars as Frank, a NYPD detective on the rise with more than one problem. His first revolves around his ex Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), a woman he gave up to their difference in race. Now married to a small time crook claiming to be straight, Frank still wants to be with her. Was it enough for him to send her husband to jail? That's a question never quite answered. His other more major concern is his brother Chris (Clive Owen). At one time close the two have drifted apart as Chris became more enmeshed in the criminal world, the opposite of his brother.

As the film opens Chris is being released from prison on a furlough program. While sister Marie (Lili Taylor) is glad to see him, Frank is a bit more hesitant. Chris has decided to be as straight as possible but between seeing his old friends and having problems at the day to day job he chose you know it won't be what he wants. Old habits are hard to break and eventually Chris is bound to return to his criminal escapades.

All of this doesn't bode well for Frank. With Chris living under his roof the rest of the NYPD doesn't look kindly on the situation. For Frank's family, in particular his ailing father (James Caan), their only hope is for Chris to do well. Unfortunately they also tend to turn a blind eye to anything that Chris might be involved in that isn't on the up and up.

Chris slowly gets back into his old ways. After a failed attempt at starting a new business, he gets involved with a crew of robbers. He visits his children and their mother Monica (Marion Cotillard), an ex-junkie who peddles her body on the street to support her and the kids. He meets a new flame where he works (Mila Kunis) and using the money he made robbing an armored car he marries and tries to set up a business, even if it is a whorehouse with his ex in charge.

For Frank things aren't going as well. Having Chris as his brother puts him on a bad path in the department. Getting back involved with Vanessa results in little more than her ex bringing violence into their lives or at least the threat of it. These two items combine to make the story of Frank one of family, both his blood relations and the family he chooses. The decisions Frank makes will affect both. Whether this is for the better or not isn't seen until the final scene of the film.

The movie captures the feel of New York 1974 with ease, never going for the most obvious depictions we normally get like Studio 54, instead offering us the small time clubs where low level criminals would hang out. In so doing they appear to be big time but in small locales. The costumer involved in this film deserves extra note, capturing the clothing of the ear without going overboard as well. That's the one thing that stands out when capturing the time line here. Not one piece goes over the top and yet it feels like not only the era the film takes place in but the movie has the look of films from that time.

There isn't a false note in any of the performances here. Cruddup does a great job portraying Frank as a man who wants to do the right thing and yet finds himself at odds because the one person he may have to place under arrest is his older brother. Owen does a great job as well making Chris a character who is willing to do bad things and yet tries to do the right thing at the same time. There is no way this can work and it's just a matter of time until things explode.

The movie never opened big, at least in this area, and from what I recall opened day and date on On Demand when it was released. With all the drek that is being released these days it's sad since this movie offered more drama and story than most coming out. Then again it sometimes feels like little more than explosions, CGI cartoons and sappy love stories are all that make the multiplexes these days. Let's hope that movies like this are paid enough attention that more are made and shown in theaters.

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JACK RYAN, SHADOW RECRUIT: RYAN REDUX

You can't be a fan of movies or the modern thriller novel without knowing who Tom Clancy is. While working as an insurance salesman he wrote novels in his spare time, eventually creating a genre all to himself, the technological thriller. The best known character among those created by Clancy was Jack Ryan, a hero for our time.

Ryan has been played by several great actors over the years starting with Alec Baldwin in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. Harrison Ford took over the role in both PATRIOT GAMES and A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. The last person to play Ryan was Ben Affleck in SUM OF ALL FEARS after which Ryan disappeared for a while. That's all changed with Chris Pine taking on the part in JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT.

Rather than carry on with an incredibly younger Ryan the producers decided to take us back to how Ryan came to be where he was at in the earlier films, a prequel. We open with Ryan attending college only to hear of the bombings of the twin towers which results in his joining the Marines. When his helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan Ryan is taken off the battlefield. The heroic rescue of his fellow Marines from that crash as well as a dissertation he was writing prior to leaving college catches the eye of Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) who recruits Jack into the CIA.

Working as an analyst with little to know training as a field agent, Jack is placed undercover in a banking institute with the intent of finding hidden assets that terrorists might be using. In so doing he discovers a discrepancy in a joint investment with a Soviet group led by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). The only way to find out if this is a problem or not is for him to go to Russia and investigate there. Needless to say this is not the safest venture for an analyst.

At the same time Ryan is trying to carry on his romance with Cathy Muller (Keira Knightly), the nurse from his time in rehab and now a doctor. While he wants to marry her, she holds off. His mysterious ways have her wondering if he's hiding something from her but working for the CIA is not at the top of her list. With the promise of meeting her in Paris in a few days, Ryan sets out for Russia.

His arrival results in an attack by his escort that leaves the assassin dead in Ryan's hotel room. Calling for help, he meets up with Thomas in a park and goes from analyst to field op. The arrival of Cathy back at his hotel results in her discovering his secret. After a few twists and turns she then becomes involved in the operation against Cherevin. As the story unfolds the plot turns out to be a plan to collapse the American dollar and send the U.S. into a new depression surpassing any that have occurred before. Now it's up to Ryan to end the plot.

The updating of the character works well here, setting up a possible series of films for Pine in the lead that would be worth carrying on. The movie moves along at break neck speed and yet offers a fantastic combination of story and action that most films fail to achieve. They usually go for one or the other. Here, they meld well in an action hero that uses his brain as well as his fists.

The acting is above what we usually expect in a spy film. Costner does a great job as Jack's mentor. Branagh (who also directed) is a slimy villain with a certain amount of charm. Knightly does a great job as Ryan's love interest who finds herself in the midst of things and stands by her man. Pine shows his acting chops here offering a performance that shows he's not a one note character by the name of Captain Kirk. No where does a sense of that character blend into this one.

As I said the film offers plenty of action and a plot that you have to pay attention to in order to understand. It's a treat to see a movie that actually doesn't dumb down for an audience. With any luck this movie will not be the only time we see Pine as Ryan and many more movies will follow. With the amount of books Clancy wrote there is plenty of source material to work from, even if this film bypassed those. In the end this movie is not just one to watch but one you'll come back to now and again. That makes it one worth adding to the collection. Now I need to go back and update the rest to blu-ray as well.

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SMALL TIME, BIG HEART

Every once in a while a small film is released that goes unnoticed by most and yet deserves so much more attention than many of the flashier big name titles that tend to take up 3-4 screens at the local multiplex. Often these films are filled with heart and emotion and steer clear of all the combinations of mega-explosions and special effects. They are films to be treasured and sought out. So let me guide you to one called SMALL TIME.

Christopher Maloni stars as Al Klein, a used car salesman who's feeling older with each passing day. Along with his best friend Ash Martini (Dean Norris) they do great business at the lot. But it's his personal life that Al finds upsetting, filled with regrets. None of those is bigger than the life he couldn't provide for his ex-wife (Bridget Moynihan) and son Freddy (Devon Bostick).

On his son's graduation day from high school, Al and Ash try to make sure they're there on time. Alas it isn't so but, being the great salesmen they are, they fake their way through it. A clear bond between Al and his son is shown here in subtle ways that only deepen as the film moves forward. This is plain to see when Freddy shows up to talk to Al about the possibility of going to work for him. While his mother wants him to go to college, he feels he can learn more about the real world working for his father.

While the parents disagree on this concept, his mother ends up allowing him to follow through with the plan. Freddy moves in with Al and the two find themselves catching up on lost time. His first days at the car lot are filled with mistakes and fumbles and a few lost sales. But this turns as his time at the lot progresses.

But as Freddy's sales skills increase so does his disrespect for the people he deals with as well as those around him. Al seems to be the only one who notices this. Having lost the only thing that mattered to him all those years ago, is he willing to let Freddy fall into the same lifestyle that costs him what was most important to him?

The movie has a calm cool atmosphere to it, moving along at a steady pace that allows the story to unfold in a manner that suits it well. Some might see the change in Freddy as fast but in truth it's just that the storytelling going on here is so seamless that it only feels that way. The combination of script, directing and acting come together here so perfectly fit that it feels the movie is over before it began. It leaves you wishing you could see what happens down the line.

The three male leads here all do an amazing job. Meloni is a master of playing things close to the chest, never revealing all that his character has going on inside of his mind with wasted words. Instead he offers ponderous gazes that convey everything we need to know. Norris turns in another great performance to match those of the past with his character being the more brazen and fun loving of the two. Ash is not someone looking down the line at what is to come but only in the here and now. Al and Ash are two sides of the coin that combine to make a single unit. Both have something to offer Freddy. The problem is Freddy realizing which is the most important and that the two can co-exist and should with neither wiping out the other. Bostick as Freddy does an equally great job with his character making him timid at first only to find himself swelling with far too much hubris later on.

Another great thing about this movie is the film's director and writer, Joel Surnow. Known by most for his creation of the series 24 he's also been a writer for years having worked on THE EQUALIZER, FALCON CREST, LA FEMME NIKITA, THE COMMISH and MIAMI VICE. Now he takes a turn at something a little different and does an amazing job.

There are plenty of laughs in this film and a number of tender moments as well. It's that combination of the two that make this a film worth watching. It's a film that could be shared between a father and son that would lead to a great conversation. It might have not been a box office smash, but it is a movie that needs to be seen.

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TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON 1: A GLIMMER OF HOPE IN A CRUEL WORLD

Movies have changed over the years. In their earliest form they depicted the hero as a rough and ready customer who was out to save the world or at least some portion of it. When censorship rules eased up we suddenly had the anti-hero, a person who was flawed to a large extent but who did the right thing in the end, sometimes unwillingly for the right reasons. It seems that these days we have a combination of the two making its way into movies. Such is the case with TRUE DETECTIVE.

TRUE DETECTIVE is a new series on HBO and has just been released on DVD. Word has it that the series will continue with a different story to tell using new characters each season. That bodes well for viewers since it allows some great actors to make their way into stories that take more than 2 hours to tell and gives them free rein to do their best. That happens here with both Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey.

The duo star as Louisiana State Police detectives called in to investigate strange murder. The body of a young woman has been found tied to a tree in the middle of a field, a crown made of antlers on her head, stab wound to her body and strangled. Around the body are tripod type sculptures made of twigs giving it the appearance of a satanic ritual. While the murder forms the center piece of the series, it isn't exactly what the show is about. It's more about the two detectives investigating the murder as well as others that tie into it.

The tale unfolds jumping back and forth in time, from the initial investigation in the late 1990s to a new investigation taking place in 2012. Both Det. Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Det. Rusty Cohle are being interrogated by two current State Police detectives but we have no idea why. These two men are far different than the ones who did the initial investigation. Marty now owns a security company and Rusty, well, no one knows where he's been. As the new detectives question them and get their stories, we learn what happened. By episode five all of that changes and suddenly we're caught up and trying to find out just how much was real and why things went the way they did. 

Marty is a pretty straight forward type detective. He covers the scene, looks for clues and runs the evidence with the hope of catching the killer. We get glimpses of Marty as a stand up family man who in reality has a girlfriend on the side. He loves his family and yet finds himself often arguing with his wife instead of being there for them. This is the flawed hero, a man who wants to do what is right yet continues to make mistakes that affect all around him.

Rusty handles things in a more unusual way. Prone to offering philosophic quotes and metaphysical observations on the world, he views things his own way. We get the idea that this stems from his years as an undercover agent investigating drug rings which led to usage of their product. But it's not just that. There is much more to Rusty than drugs or alcohol. His family past is troubled to say the least and the time undercover did take its toll. But Rusty is the one of the pair that truly wants to find the truth. His search for the truth is what pushes them forward in the past and in the present.

The film depicts the boys of the south as both sophisticated in some instances and backwoods yokels at other times. Neither one is condescending to the south and appears to represent the various extremes of one end to the other well. There are people that fit both of these types. The thing is discovering which ones are the truly terrible and which are honest. Don't be surprised to find that members of both classes fit both good and bad.

The thing that makes this series work though is a combination of elements that blend together to perfection. The work of both leads is fantastic with an unwrapping of layer after layer of their personalities that gives us a glimpse into who they are. Those glimpses give us a depth of character that a 2 hour film would not allow. Both actors are up to the task and turn in great performances.

The direction and storytelling are above par as well. The story unfolds in time, moving along at a snails pace but never feeling like it is. Instead it allows the story to percolate to a boil by the end episode. We get a few clues here and there that allow us to perhaps figure out the result, but never so intrusive as to harm the story being told. And in a world where there are not always black and white heroes and villains, this movie offers us a chance to see those grays come into focus to give us those two distinct colors (or lack of) when depicting the detectives and the killer. No poor victim murderer is found here. Instead there is pure evil. The way that is put together here makes for a great series.

Not having HBO this makes me look forward to their next season and its release on DVD. Perhaps it's better to watch something like this binge fashion where you get the opportunity to watch from start to finish. If you wondered, yes it does include the usual requirement for a made for pay cable series i.e. gratuitous nudity. But if you can get past that you're in for a treat when watching this, if for nothing else than the performance of both lead actors. This one is worth watching.

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THAT AWKWARD MOMENT: AWKWARD IS AN APPROPRIATE TITLE

It seems that every child star, especially if they come from the Disney studio, feels the need to prove that they've grown up, that they're now adults, by either shedding clothing or hurling foul mouth invectives in the movies they make once they exit their teen years. If that were all it took to be an adult then pre-teens across the globe would be considered adults. Alas it seems we are destined to revisit this trend over and over again, this week presenting itself in the movie THAT AWKWARD MOMENT.

The story revolves around three friends several years after their college days. Jason (Zach Efron) is the more womanizing of the three, moving from casual relationship to casual relationship with ease. Daniel (Miles Teller) is his right hand man, another carefree male on the prowl aided by his female friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). Lastly is Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), the only married one of the group who opens the film being told by his wife that she wants a divorce. Adding insult to injury the man she's been having an affair with is her lawyer.

In a show of camaraderie the three young men pledge to remain single together. To celebrate their oath they head out to the usual watering hole with the intent of hooking up for a night of casual sex. Mikey goes along but still reeling from his news takes things slow. Daniel, with an assist from Chelsea, finds someone for the night. And Jason winds up with a lovely young lady named Ellie (Imogene Poots) and finds himself having a better night than expected but due to a misreading of clues thinks Ellie is a hooker.

Things get a bit more complicated the next morning when Jason and Daniel (co-workers for the art department at a publishing company) find that Ellie is the new representative for one of the book companies they deal with. Realizing his mistake, Jason apologizes and tries to make it up to Ellie. So much so that he soon finds himself falling in love with her in spite of the promise he made to his friend.

But he's not alone. Daniel suddenly discovers that Chelsea just may be the perfect match for him as well. Their budding romance moves forward with the exception that he doesn't share it with his two friends. But neither does Mikey when he starts to get back together with his ex. All three seem to have found the perfect match at the exact wrong time.

Of course in the world of movies this means that one or all three will eventually screw up the relationship and whether or not they straighten things out and end up together isn't revealed until the last few minutes of the film. Is it a happy ending? Watch to find out.

The movie uses a tried and true cut out technique in the way it's written, a pattern that feels familiar to anyone who's seen a movie in the last 30 years. All the beats are there with very little new added with the exception of an overuse of the F bomb and a few uncomfortable sexual escapades that are discovered by various friends and family. I kept thinking this felt like just about every other movie about young couples in today's world and in the end that was kind of sad, not because it had been done before but because it made me wonder if this was what being single was all about in today's world. If so then it's a truly sad world out there with no hope for romance, connecting with someone or a sense of what is right or wrong.

The acting by all casts members was actually pretty good here, much better than I expected. Standing out among them for me was Davis as Chelsea. Her approach to so many scenes is lighter than some of the rest and makes it more believable. While one would think this film is centered around Efron, which it is to some extent, it actually gives all the leads plenty of shared screen time which makes the story just a little more believable.

Fans of Efron will certainly want to see this film, especially those who can't wait to get a glimpse of his bare behind (lots of press releases shared this photo). But the movie will also have the effect of boosting the careers of all involved. In the long run the film is forgettable at least and yet still a bit entertaining in the end. Will it hold up to repeated viewings? Doubtful. But it will offer a nice entertainment for adults.

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JOE: SOMETHING IS MISSING

When viewing a movie most people subconsciously realize that the film is only good if the sum of all parts comes together. A great performance can be missed when the cinematography is lousy. A bad director or screenwriter can take a wonderful story and butcher it to make the movie intolerable. If all parts are bad then the turkey and rotten tomato awards raise their heads. Knowing that a single part is good doesn't make up for the bad. Such is the case with JOE.

Nicolas Cage stars as Joe, a foreman for a group that kills trees to be cut down by a lumber company. He works hard, plays hard, drinks hard, treats his crew fair, but in the end is an honorable working stiff. Into his world comes Gary (Ty Sheridan).

Gary's family is far from good. His father is a raging alcoholic prone to violence and anything for a drink. The family is a set of drifters moving from town to town, living in abandoned homes as a way to have a roof over their heads. Gary approaches Joe hoping for work. Joe gives him that opportunity and Gary proves he can hang in with the rest of them. When he brings his father along to work as well we see the man has no interest in actual work and would rather just take the money from his son who earned it.

Joe takes a liking to the boy but avoids getting in the middle of a confrontation. He has a past that involved jail time and a hair trigger temper that explodes later in the film. Joe might be able to keep that anger in check but the bigger the bond he forms with Gary, the more likely we'll see it erupt before the end of the film.

But there are other things in Joe's life that cause him trouble as well. Another man in town with a scarred face continues to plague Joe. We first see him following Joe and next see him shoot him with no clue what is going on. Later we find out Joe hit him in front of a bar full of patrons a few days earlier. This same character runs into Gary and his father on a backwoods bridge, insults Gary's family and ends up beat down by him. This sets the stage for the final confrontation of the film, a sequence that provides both Joe and Gary with choices that will affect both of their lives forever.

As the movie progresses it seems more intent of showing us glimpses of the characters instead of presenting a story. We see Joe visit a local whorehouse. We see him take in a young woman; I'm still not sure who she was or how they knew one another. That's the problem with much of the film. So many bits and pieces are there but we have no way of knowing why or how. In watching the extras I learned more about what I just watched than I did while watching it.

The movie feels disjointed, as if something were missing. Not just missing but parts missing as if sequences were cut from here and there to make the film fit a time slot while at the same time sacrificing story. We see a car pull up beside Joe and the woman look at him and then glance away as if she knew him. I had no clue until watching the extras that this woman was Joe's ex-wife. A sequence having the two of them meet at the post office was cut from the final film which would have let us know that. Instead we just see some stranger looking at Joe and then looking away.

The majority of the film feels like this. Thinking back I don't think a clear line of storytelling runs until perhaps the last 30 minutes of the film. Then for me, as a lover of books and writing, comes the unforgivable sin. The screenwriter talks about how he changed the ending of the book because that's what he thought the writer was going for. What that means is "I love the source material but I think I can make it better". They do this a lot in film and it rarely is the case. Instead what could have been a good, solid story is suddenly put together piecemeal so that you're left wondering what the story actually was.

Cage does a fine job as Joe turning in another great performance as he is prone to do. The fact that the putting together of the film makes his character seem to have a split personality doesn't help, but he shines through anyway. Sheridan, an up and coming young actor on the rise, finds himself in that same boat. It was hard to judge how well he did due to the helter skelter storyline.

I've read some review of this film that praised Cage and talked about how great this movie was. While watching it all I could do was bring up the time stamp to see how much longer it was going to be till it ended. For me those who praised it did so because of the usual reasons. It portrayed a blue collar worker who was anti-authority so if you have that mind set you love him. It showed a backwoods world that was incredibly stereotypical of Hollywood's belief in what the world looks like between LA and NY. What would make a great movie is if those making them actually lived in that part of the country and saw it was nothing like they depict except in the most obscure corners.

In the end this movie, though having an actual end, left more questions than it offered answers. It told a story that rambled over too many areas without focusing on one until near the end. It offered a good performance in a bad movie. I can only recommend this to Cage fans. Everyone else might want to look for something else.

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13 SINS: WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

It's always nice to see a small film with no buildup get released and then discover that it's better than some of the big name titles coming out. Sure we all want to see the major releases but those small flicks often offer some great storytelling that outweighs blockbuster titles. Such is the case with 13 SINS.

Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) is as far down on his luck as you can be. About to be married and expecting a child the company he works for decides to fire him. Their reason is that he isn't cut throat enough, that he doesn't have the gumption it takes to be a go getter. This means that he won't have insurance so his mentally disabled brother won't be taken care of. At the same time his father is facing eviction from his apartment and will have to move in with him as well. At the end of his rope, Elliot has no hope.

Then while sitting at a red light a cell phone begins ringing. He finds the phone sitting on the car seat and a mysterious voice tells him if he is willing to play a game then he can earn $100. All he has to do is swat the fly in his car buzzing around his head. He does so and a text alert tells him he now has $100 in his account. The voice tells him there is a game consisting of 13 obstacles and he's just passed the first one. If he eats the fly, he gets more money and moves on towards the next event. Bon appetite!

Elliot thinks things are going well now. He has the chance to get himself out of debt and to move on with his life. He gets another call that lets him know that once the game begins he can't back out. To do so means he forfeits everything he's won so far. He agrees only to find the tasks more and more outrageous, eventually putting his life on the line as well as his freedom when certain felonious events are asked of him. Just how far is Elliot willing to go?

The end prize is $6,000,000. On top of that the voice tells him that all traces of his crimes will be erased and he won't end up in prison. But halfway through the 13 events he is told that should he now quit he not only forfeits the money but is on his own when it comes to the police. Arson, moving a dead body and more await Elliot, but only if he carries on, all the while being watched through various means by the mysterious voice.

The movie develops with each new request of the voice, forcing Elliot to move on to more and more events that could lead him down a path of no redemption. But each one of these events not only puts more money in his pocket, with the first batch they begin to change Elliot from the milk toast that he begins as to someone to be reckoned with. But as each item gets more and more violent his willingness begins to falter. Will he complete all 13 items?

While watching this movie you can't help but ask yourself would I be willing to do what Elliot has done? Would I have even started following these tasks? Or would I simply have allowed the world to come crashing down on me with the hand that life had dealt? It's not an easy answer to come up with. If you've ever felt at wits end you know that there are times you might do anything. But that's the true word that comes into play, anything. Would or could you do anything?

The movie is well made and the pacing is great with each new item laid out and the consequences of each there to witness. As Elliot goes from willing contestant to possible patsy you wonder if he will actually succeed at these tasks. And if he does, will those responsible for the game actually follow through? In the end the movie holds your interest from start to finish.

There are some gruesome and gory moments here but most are fairly light compared to things seen on TV these days (with one possible exception involving and amputation). As the world becomes a crazier place these days with people seeming to do things thought unheard of at one time, you begin to wonder if perhaps the game is actually being played today. Keeping that thought in mind, if someone calls your cell phone and asks you to swat a fly? Hang up.

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CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2: A FEAST FOR THE EYES

I didn't get a chance to see the first film in this series (I'm assuming more will come) but I did know enough to know what it was about. So walking into this one didn't leave me wondering for the first 20 minutes what was going on. It also helped that they sort of give you an idea from the start as well.

The folks of Swallow Falls have been relocated while a clean up of their food filled city is underway. Hero/inventor Flint Lockwood, the man who created the machine that turned items into food, now works at The Live Corp Company, owned and operated by his hero, Chester V, and responsible for the town's cleanup. There he will work alongside some of he greatest minds in the world creating all sorts of wonderful things. Or so he thinks.

One of Flint's first assignments is to return home to not only clean up the problem there but to find his original invention. It seems that it not only has created food from the skies but has also begun turning food into living beings. Not the hamburgers from cows sort but living breathing combinations of food stuffs into new creatures. In so doing Chester V also puts a wedge between Flint and his friends, something we know will eventually be corrected and at which point our unknowing hero will realize was a mistake as he uses them to help save the world. Yes it seems that Chester V actually has evil plans in store for Flint's invention and Flint and the gang must unite to put a stop to said plans.

Really the movie boils down to a simple story and that actually works in its favor. Rather than overcomplicate things it makes the movie easy for both kids and inattentive parents to follow. The real treat here is the visual imagery that is on display. The animation is fantastic (even though I'm not a huge CGI animation fan) and the colors on display make you ooo and aahh about once per minute. The combining of food into animals is amazingly inventive and works well within the guidelines of the story.

But the true test of how good a kid's film is lies in its ability to not only take us somewhere we've never been before but to make us want to visit it again and again. For myself I found the world presented here one that I'd love to see over and over again. Keeping it fresh will be the hardest part. Keeping it a feast for the eyes the easiest. In the end both kids and adults will find this one a movie worth adding to the collection.

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WHO IS HARRY KELLERMAN AND WHY IS HE SAYING THOSE TERRIBLE THINGS ABOUT ME? : DATED AT BEST

There are some movies that prove that no matter how talented the actor seen front and center may be they can't always save the movie they are in. Those moments also make you wonder what that actor was thinking when they signed on to make that particular movie. Such is the case with Dustin Hoffman in this movie.

The story centers around George Soloway (Hoffman), a pop songwriter who has trouble connecting with anyone on a personal level. Sure he may go through the motions but does he really love anyone other than himself? For that matter does he even love himself? Moving in and out of fantasy and reality, we get to see this tormented artists try and reconcile his life and the changes that superstardom results in. I have a hard time dealing with people talking about tormented artists having lived through hearing about people actually tortured in various wars in my lifetime.

As George lives his life and worries about his own existence and stardom someone is trying to mess with that same life, the title character of Harry Kellerman. There are hints as to who he might be that are muddled at best and misleading at worst, but in the end it makes sense as to just who this culprit is. The problem is as disjointed as this film is by that time you find yourself not caring.

This is one of those movies that fans call ahead of it's time and art but in the end are just confusing and boring. They will tell you how wonderful it was to see a film with a disjointed timeline or that doesn't use the standard narrative structure. When I read reviews like that it usually says to me "I don't get what the heck is going on here but I don't want to appear unintelligent so I'll heap more praise and follow the rest of the lemmings".

I would say that Hoffman does do a great job of acting here even if the end result is boring but that might make someone think it was worth watching. Perhaps if you were a die hard Hoffman fan that might make it worthwhile. I thought that the movie was pretentious and more than that put on display an example of the worst of the time period it was made. There are some movies that when you watch them you can immediately narrow down the decade it was filmed in and when they're really bad you can almost note the year. This is one of those films. 1971 never looked worse for movies than this one.

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