Name: mutuel

Most Recent Reviews by mutuel

Chimpunks meet their match in female singing sensations

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakqual (G) * * *

Curtain Call!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Strike when the iron’s hot. 20th Century Fox must have known they were onto a good thing when they brought cartoon characters The Chipmunks to the big screen last year. Kids everywhere will be cheering their return in Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakqual, free spirited fun drawing children of all ages to Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking), Empire Oakridge Cinemas, , Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City cites all over B.C.

You did not need to see the first big screen Chipmunks film to appreciate the zaniness of this second installment. Back for more merry mayhem are Alvin, Seymour and Theodore. Under the watchful eye of their human “caregiver” Dave the trio have been given their walking papers – straight off to school. On screen for far too little time is Jason Lee ( A Guy Thing) who continues to have problems with Alvin, the rag tag leader of this pack of rodents. Unfortunately for the boys Dave has relinquished day to day control over the lads to one of his relatives, Toby, who has more than his hands full as their legal guardian. Sad sacks and nerds everywhere will be able to relate to the plight of Zachary Levi whose a perfect foil for the wild and crazy shenanigans of Alvin and co.

Use of school property and that whole academic peer pressure thing seems tailor made for comedy and director Betty Thomas (I Spy) milks those scenes dry. Competition with jealous suitors for the fetching babes at the high school are right up Alvin’s alley and some new animals with an equally unique ability to sing make life even more eventful for the chipmunks.

Kids will howl at the jokes and those high-pitched voices of these critters. Adults will buy into the love story and the corny romance as children everywhere should get chuckles over the stupidity of the entire exercise. Sly references to a host of popular film characters and movie genres further ups the ante in this fun-fest outing that just whizzes by. Parents who value decency will surely appreciate there is no bathroom humour at all on display though I did find the film makers’ use of a handicapped person a touch on the tasteless side and tacky at best.

Being in the public eye and the whole paparazzi phenomena and fan worshipping of that oh so elusive thing we all call stardom is also well tackled here as are the usual jocks and rock and rollers that figure prominently in this whimsical comedy. Sophistication goes out the window in these Chipmunk stories and the novelty has in no way lessened or gone out of style. Look for a big box office return for this sequel and a third movie not to be too far in the offing.

No scary scenes, hidden images or great morals arise from this film making it harmless if not meaningless fun that children below ten will surely embrace. Even teens will get a hoot out of the zesty musical numbers and the romantic interludes thrown in to ensure a nice ride for whole families and a swell Christmas treat for the little ones.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Downey stellar as British Sleuth

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Reviewed by mutuel

At the Movies

Sherlock Holmes (PG) * * * *

Elementary!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Advance notice on Sherlock Holmes looks like a lock for Warner Brothers to finish the year off with a bang. Just like the summer the studio unleashed the mega successful The Hangover with little star power or buzz word of mouth is sky high for Guy Ritchie’s latest journey. Check out all the fun at the Empire Oakridge Cinemas, Empire Esplanade 6, Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City cites around B.C.

Back with a vengeance is Robert Downey, Jr. who dazzles as Sherlock Holmes. Unlike the classic more serious Basil Rathbone classics for Universal Studios from the 1940s this new look at an old hero is high camp in the extreme. After a lackluster somber effort in The Soloist Downey is in firm command as the hip and slick sleuth from the Isles who locks horns with an evil madman out to, you guessed it right, take over the world.

Deduction is Sherlock Holmes forte and he has ample time to piece together scores of clues as London is under more than a fog. Apparently a British nobleman who goes by the name of Lord Blackwood has created quite a stir. Cold and calculating is the sincere portrayal by Mark Strong (Body of Lies) whose use of the art of black magic strikes fear into all he encounters. Bent of power the only thing apparently standing in Blackwood’s way is a determined private eye who doesn’t exactly get along with everyone.

Odd man out in this piece is Dr. Watson. Jude Law (Alfie) nicely pulls off the role made famous by Nigel Bruce in the Rathbone series and is a perfect foil for Downey here. Together these two are wonderful as Ritchie directs a free wheeling free for all in this 128 minute outing that truly excels in production values.

Danger is everywhere in this movie but you need to pay attention as scores of “small” details all link up thanks to that brilliant mind of Britain (dare I say the world’s) top sleuth. Make no mistake about it, little humour is utilized here. But the tone is definitely more free-spirited and engaging than the no-nonsense original series that expanded the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hero further afield. Downey will do likewise for a whole series of new fans that will get a kick out of his quick reasoning.

Fast and furious is the pacing but even more rapid are some of Holme’s musings. Often those words will fly by and go over the heads of many in theatres which is a minor quibble with the presentation. Stylistically you get a great look of old London here complete with horse and carriage through fares. Close calls and heroics are well choreographed and the tension and suspense really never lets up.

A very smart story featuring science, crime, the occult and a mystery villain all come into play in this flambouyant film whose bouncy music will also reel you in. Look for a sure fire second outing for this new Law/Downey team and a franchise in the making, much like the latter’s success with Marvel’s Iron Man.

Canadian talent also gets some notice here with rising star Rachel McAdam (Red Eye) quite appealing as a British lass caught in this intricate web of intrigue spun by your typical megalomaniac.

Fun from start to finish Sherlock Holmes is a rock em sock em affair that pulls no punches and offers an engaging time out of those winter doldrums.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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The Young Victoria Breathes life into British History

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

The Young Victoria (PG) * * * *

Weighty Rule!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Power corrupts and absolute control can be quite the aphrodisiac. Back in time we travel to ye old Britain to explore the early budding of a woman destined to be a queen in The Young Victoria, a sharp fine tuned drama from Alliance Films now reaching all the right platforms at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.

Mention period pieces and few do it as well as the Brits. Let’s return to the early and middle nineteenth century to see what was going on in fabled England. Torn between two lovers aptly describes the family machinations of various pretenders to the throne. Kept away from the limelight, out of sight and out of mind is Victoria. Played stylishly by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) it’s not hard to be in her camp. Now fatherless and with a mother from hell Victoria is literally “caged” in a palace far away from other members of her family. Standing on guard for thee though not necessarily this queen in waiting is the lord of the house, Sir John Conroy, a rather dubious sort done up in the ultimate heel tradition by a vexing Mark Strong (Body of Lies).Ooh, he does nasty real good! .

Lots of intrigue resides in our lady’s court. Plans to “influence” the next legitimate seat on the throne derive from two diverse sources. On the one hand a German relative wants to mould Victoria in his fashion and sends his young son Albert to woo her. Well acted by Rupert Friend (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) their affair is long in the making. Earlier on a love trap is set by another relative and handsome Paul Bettany (Wimbledon) scores well as the mischievous Lord Melbourne.

Any way you look at The Young Victoria you’ll be impressed by its immense style. Surely a fortune must have been spent on the set designs as the homes on display are elegant beyond belief. Trappings of wealth including lavish gardens, visits to the Opera, fine paintings and huge halls for entertaining make up just a miniscule part of this wondrous look at history. Expect at the very least a nomination for an Oscar for costuming as the attire of these women and men are truly breathtakingly beautiful.

Strong performances by one and all make The Young Victoria a shining example of history in the making. Told as a true story you can’t help but get caught up in all the palace intrigue, government revolts and competitive family branches all hoping to influence the next Queen of England. Director Jean-Mark Valleen has truly outdone himself in recapturing an era of history and fleshing it out with talented actors who carry their burdens flawlessly here.

Sparring big time occurs with these jealous folks. Scant fits of humourous rage from Jim Broadbent’s (Iris) uproarious undertaking of King William hardly shields the evil manipulations that drive this movie forward. Friend and Bettany each deserve leading man status as pivotal males battling for Victoria’s heart. Above all else Emily Blunt turns in a charming performance as the mixed up young woman hoisted into a world of politics she knows nothing of while trying to balance her own confused personal life. Despite all the wealth and power you’ll be glad your problems pale in comparison to the trials and tribulations facing this young woman. With The Young Victoria you get a quite fulfilling birds’ eye view into history and the lifestyles of the rich and oh so famous for a fully engaging 100 minutes in this well paced movie.

Read more reviews by ROBERT at www.moviereviewssite.com.

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Avatar soaring Entertainment

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Avatar (PG) * * * * *

Lost Generation!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

You have to be good to pull off a 150 minute movie and enthrall people. Few have the proven track record of a James Cameron (True Lies) to command such respect. Besides having the biggest hit of all time, the acclaimed Titanic director seldom rests on his laurels. Now, after being absent from Hollywood for a number of years Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox unleash Avatar on the world. Small segments of this film were previewed to audiences at select film/comic events over the past year. Expect the world to fall head over heels for this fantasy that is now gripping locals at the Park Theatre, the Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City Theatre across B.C.

Worth the wait this spectacular blockbuster shows just how good a writer and director Cameron truly is. Story-wise, this 3-D shot movie concerns a plot involving a mysterious planet inhabited by strange creatures and the humans that literally want to “pillage” the land for their own purposes. Odd isn’t it how this sort of “fictional” film can parallel world events. As world leaders converge on Copenhagen to discuss climate change and the effects of global warming one could say Cameron has beat them all to the punch in a tale that looks at how the human race can inflict untold damage on pristine territory – only land that holds unbelievable promise for the future.

Sent down to weed out the elements and to farm this new territory is former G.I. Jake Skully. Served up in fine fashion by Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) Skully comes across as a sympathetic character. To descend into the new alien territory Skully and team enter into some medical chamber where they are “bonded” with partner aliens. So on the ground, amidst this indigenous species, Skully winds up in a rather precarious state. After bonding with the locals will he continue his employer’s plan to wrest control of the region or will he in fact turn the other cheek and rebel against his own species? This is the dilemma he faces and this provides the gist for the whole story.

Fantasy runs rampant in Avatar and the imagination here is tremendous to behold. Through special effects that dazzle Cameron truly takes us to a brave new world populated with a new alien form that will keep you riveted to the screen. Apart from Skully the other notable who winds up being “cloned” in this new territory is the team doctor/scientist, Grace. Back for another kick at the can is Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) who is as forceful and blunt as ever as the tough talking woman who at first is suspicious of her new team member but over time decides to “tolerate” him.

You will believe in this new world as unbelievable attention to detail has gone into each and every frame of this trend-setting film. Said to have been ready for filming for years Cameron had to wait until the technology was able to bring forth the new effects and the masses will be starstruck by what he’s achieved here. More importantly, it’s the story that really reels people in and never lets up. Tension abounds in this pressure-cooker of a tale that’s full of love, romance, power trips, double crosses, evil corporate heavyweights and mad generals out to rule the world.

Watch out for the impressive work of Stephen Lang (The Men Who Stare at Goats) who burns fire as the macho Colonel Miles Quaritch. Let’s just say this guy has an itch to inflict pain and leave it at that. Aiding and abetting this loose cannon who believes in the shoot first talk later approach to foreign affairs and diplomacy is site director Peter Selfridge, a selfige man indeed ably presented by Giovanni Ribisi (Pubic Enemies) with considerable gusto and panache. Once the final showdown commences pitting man against nature with humans and aliens piling it on you’ll have little time to catch your breath. Full of brand new creations concerning wildlife and fauna Avatar comes across as being a monumental milestone in creative filmmaking and will spark lots of debates long after its impact has subsided.

Cutting edge special effects combine with an underdog theme that’s new and refreshing to make Avatar the best film of the year and likely on its way to give Titanic a good run for its money when it comes to the popularity sweepstakes. Yes, it may be a touch long, maybe 10-15 minutes but there is so much going on in this movie it truly does take your breath away and will open your senses to a new dimension. Shot in 3-D remember to put on those glasses to catch more of the eye-popping effects. Special symbolism also surfaces in this movie that looks to have some religious/cultural overtones. Smart from start to finish Avatar is a stellar story full of warmth and humanity that collides with brute force in a tale of oppression and survival that’s sure to be long remembered after experiencing this striking vision first hand.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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British Newcomer Christian McKay Sensational as tempermental Welles

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Reviewed by mutuel

At the Movies

Me and Orson Welles (PG) * * * *

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Zac Efron

Genre: Drama

Studio: E1 Films

Audience Suitability: PG

Rating: * * * *

Release Date: Dec. 11, 2009

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Theatrical Genius!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Casting directors are pivotal parts to moviemaking. Choose the right actor and it can go a long, long way to making a movie or play or television production a success. Behind the scenes credit is earned by the choice of Christian McKay who plays the lead in Me and Orson Welles, a very impressive, sleek looking tale from E1 Films now captivating audiences at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking).

Legends are hard to portray. Off we go to the fun year of 1937 where we see dare I say a “fledgling” director try to helm a play on Broadway. Critics can tear a play apart as we all know. New kid on the block Orson Welles proves anything but a pushover in a rather bold effort to bring Shakespeare to the stage – and by extension to the masses.

Director Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly) is a brilliant filmmaker and who better than him to present a new version of a bonafide superstar of the arts. Long before today’s overrated superstars was the visionary Orson Welles. For almost two hours we get to see a brilliant re-enactment of Welles in all his glory as the ambitious one tries to mount a new version of Caesar.

What’s so entertaining about this movie is watching and listening to the determination of a director who uses every trick in the book, and then some, to get his way. Arrogant in the extreme you get to see what makes Orson tick and heaven help anyone who dares question “the boss.”

Big time drama unfolds when an upstart named Richard Samuels joins the show. Young at only 17 somehow Samuels manages to wiggle his way onto the stage and not before long a tug of war develops between the rookie and the seasoned vet who has a winning way of wooing people over to his side – or dispatching them with one fell swoop.

Christian McKay Dead Ringer for one of a kind visionary Genius

Huge drama envelops the production as we are taken behind the scenes to see how Welles operates with his drive to perfection. Cast as the creative genius is Christian McKay who takes your breath away as Welles. Facial expressions tell it all along with very sharp defined dialogue as you feel the power and force that this man wields. Minor diversions here come by way of Sonja Jones, a secretary on a mission. Bubbly Claire Danes (The Mod Squad) seems to be in her element as a girl Friday willing to give her all for the success of the show.

Where a bit of miscasting may have occurred relates to Zac Efron (High School Musical) who plays the rookie actor. Now Efron is a fine actor, to be sure, only here his appearance seems like a lure to his legions of teenage girl fans and takes away from the real strong, forceful acting of the lead players who obviously have a lot more to work with.

Classy Tunes add to appeal of Great atmospheric Julius Caesar production

Watching Shakespeare can be a tricky affair. Ben Chaplin (The Water Horse) brings a lot to the plate as a nervous performer and the other supporting cast is all fine tuned. Perfect musical accompaniments with great tunes a la Gershwin and Cole Porter add to the impressive atmosphere of the movie. You don’t need to like Broadway theatre to enjoy the staging of a great master’s determined effort to pull off a success.

Bottom line on Me and Orson Welles is that it’s so good you’ll think you’re watching the real thing and listening (really sitting in) to a giant of the entertainment world and its history.

For more reviews by Robert go to www.moviereviewssite.com

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