There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave cynical audiences annoyed. But for those who leave their bah-humbug attitudes at home, it's a wonderfully entertaining take on a classic. In 1843, when Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, the holiday was a fairly low-key religious festival. But the book helped create a cultural phenomenon that is still growing. And this enjoyable film recounts how it was written in six short weeks.
At the time, Dickens (Legion's Dan Stevens) was Britain's most famous author. But his last three novels failed to sell. Desperate for a hit due to financial pressures, he decides to write a Christmas book, something that had never really been done. But he's distracted by the fact that his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) is pregnant and his parents (Jonathan Pryce and Ger Ryan) have dropped in for a noisy visit. As he plans this new book, the central figure of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) is inspired by someone he meets, as are the rest of the story's characters and settings. But he's struggling to complete the tale, and time is running short.
The film basically proves the resilience of Dickens' iconic novella, because it has remarkable power even when turned inside-out by this script. Director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) gives the film a twinkly, often comical tone but doesn't shy away from the darker corners or some strongly emotional moments. And the script includes quite a bit of biographical detail about Dickens' life without making it too melodramatic. With his book, Dickens wanted to address Britain's harsh labour practices and the greediness of capitalism, urging people to be kinder to each other. So he reinvented Christmas as a time of year to reach out to those less fortunate.
Continue reading: The Man Who Invented Christmas Review
Charles Dickens might be one of the most legendary authors in history, but it wasn't always plain sailing for him. In fact, ahead of the release of his 1843 novella 'A Christmas Carol', his career was already suffering. Dan Stevens plays the author in 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'; a tale all about how he went from failing writer to a festive miracle.
It's the early 1840s and London author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is suffering a bad case of writer's block. His last three books have been total flops, and the pressure to write a magical new story to grip the public has never been so high.
Before long, however, his new tale begins to develop in his head; a Christmas story about a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge (personified by Christopher Plummer) who is challenged by a series of mysterious apparitions. The characters develop beautifully, but before long he starts to hit another roadblock when he can't work out how to finish it.
Continue: The Man Who Invented Christmas Trailer
By Rich Cline
Virtually impossible to market, this film isn't nearly as wacky and rude as its cast and crew suggest. Despite the presence of Rogen (Pineapple Express) and Streisand (Meet the Fockers), plus writer Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love), director Fletcher (The Proposal) and producer Goldberg (Superbad), this is actually a warm, gentle comedy about the relationship between a mother and son. Sure, there are moments of inspired silliness, but you're more likely to feel a lump in your throat than a stitch in your side.
Rogen plays the science nerd Andrew, who has just invented an organic cleaning product and is taking a cross-country trip to find a buyer. In a moment of weakness, he invites his meddling mother Joyce (Streisand) to join him on the road from New Jersey to San Francisco. She doesn't know that he has discovered that her old flame now lives in California, and he hopes that sparking her love life might get her off his back. But their time together takes some unexpected turns, which change their relationship forever.
Even in the film's goofier segments, such as a ridiculous beef-eating contest Joyce enters in Texas, Fletcher and Fogelman keep the characters likeable and grounded. Streisand is especially impressive, delivering a layered performance that mixes broad one-liners with more internalised emotions. She's much more than just a pushy Jewish mother: Joyce is a middle-aged woman with needs of her own and real love for her son. Meanwhile, Rogen plays Andrew as a nice guy with social issues. So instead of rooting for Joyce and Andrew to sort out their relationship, or even for Andrew to sell his invention, we are more interested in whether Joyce will be able to reignite her personal life.
Continue reading: The Guilt Trip Review
Andy Brewster is an inventor who is determined to sell his brand new product by embarking on an 8-day 3000 mile road trip. To kick off his journey, he flies out to visit his mother Joyce who happens to be the extremely embarrassing and over protective kind. After learning that she has remained single since he last saw her and acknowledging that she hasn't had any kind of romance since he was 8-years-old, Andy takes pity on her and, to her utmost delight, invites her to accompany him on his trip across the States. Not against his expectations, Joyce proves a lot to handle with her poor driving skills, extreme naivety and constant warnings particularly against hitchhikers. However, he has a better time than he expects as he and his mother get to know each other more deeply than they have ever done before convincing him that, as much as he'd like to think not, he still needs her around.
This is a wonderfully heartfelt comedy about how the love of a parent never becomes unwanted or unneeded. Directed by Anne Fletcher ('Step Up', '27 Dresses', 'The Proposal') and written by Dan Fogelman ('Cars', 'Bolt', 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.'), 'The Guilt Trip' will hit cinemas on February 22nd 2013.
Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Adam Scott, Yvonne Strahovski, Colin Hanks, Brett Cullen, Casey Wilson, Danny Pudi, Dale Dickey, Miriam Margolyes, Nora Dunn, Amanda Walsh, Michael Cassidy & Robert Curtis Brown.
Continue: The Guilt Trip Trailer
The Guardians of Ga'Hoole are sworn to protect the innocent from trouble and vanquish evil. Soren is a young owl who's grown up listening to his father tell the stories of The Gaurdians. His dream is to one day join his heroes and be a part of that noble life he's learnt so much about.
Welcome back, Potter.
The beloved Harry Potter returns to screens, a scant year after his most debut, with the film version of book two in the unfathomably popular Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately, while the Potter-obsessed will likely find few faults with the film, this sequel captures much less of the original's magic. (And while I've not read the books, I understand the same can be said for the second novel as well.)
Secrets finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) back at home with his Muggle family on summer vacation, locked in his room (though no longer under the stairs). Before long, Harry is set to return to Hogwarts -- despite the insistence from his uncle that he is no longer allowed to study magic. But a daring prison break, courtesy of the Weasley family -- including Harry's best bud Ron (Rupert Grint), gets Harry back to school, despite the meddling of a Yoda-like "house elf" named Dobby (very obvious CG). The masochistic Dobby tries to convince Harry that his life is in danger if he returns to Hogwarts -- though in reality his life appears more in danger due to Dobby's "helpful" meddling.
Harry of course does return to Hogwarts, where all his familiar experiences await him. Hermione (Emma Watson) is still the class brain. Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is still the school clown. Snape (Alan Rickman) is still Snape. The new additions to the cast include a new Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), a narcissistic wizard with questionable ability, as well as the father of Harry's platinum blonde archrival Malfoy, Lucius (Jason Isaacs).
While the cast is still in fine form (the exception being a shockingly haggard Richard Harris as headmaster Dumbledore; Harris died a few weeks before the film's release), it's the story that is decidedly lacking in this episode. The titular Chamber of Secrets is a legendary room inside Hogwarts fabled to hold a menacing creature. It can only be opened, we're told, by an heir to the Slytherin family. When a mysterious message appears on the Hogwarts walls in blood, Harry begins hearing hissing voices, and students begin to turn up paralyzed. It appears the Chamber of Secrets has been opened -- and suspicions fall on Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) as the heir. Or is it Harry?
What follows is another nearly-three hours of exposition as Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to crack this riddle, Nancy Drew-style, while the body count at Hogwarts keeps rising. Mercilessly padded, the movie drags us through ages of all-too-familiar territory: a Quidditch match ends predictably; spells go awry; the trio works on a potion together; one-note characters appear only to say their line and soon exit the story. Finally, invariably first-on-the-scene Harry coincidentally discovers a blank diary -- it's amazing how much coincidence drives the plot -- that leads him on a circuitous path to discover the Chamber, just in time for a final showdown with what looks astonishingly like a miniature-golf hazard.
Jeez, I'm bored just writing about it. So much of Secrets is so unnecessary that my audience was way ahead of the circuitous yet ultimately very simplistic story. Kids spent the three hours running up and down the aisles -- only their parents had the fortitude to stay with the plot. That said, this installment is much funnier than the original, and it has a bit more of a grown-up sentiment to it. Still, it's going to take more than an ominous voice in the walls and a flying car to keep even the most patient adults interested in a three-hour movie.
Chamber of Secrets is enjoyable for many of its stretches, and it's unfortunate that director Chris Columbus (giving up the reins for episode 3) didn't take more chances with the source material, excising the many irrelevant parts and adding in a bit of his own vision. As such, we have a movie that plays out in fits and starts of fun alternating with boredom. Sad to say, the kids will probably want to leave midway through this one and ask you to replay the original on DVD when you get home. Poor Harry, when we see you again (in two years' time), I hope you'll have regained a bit of your magic.
As with Potter #1, the film comes to DVD in an exhaustive and impressive two-disc package, headlined by one of the most aggressive 6.1 channel audio tracks I've ever had the privilege to hear on DVD. This film thankfully makes it much easier to find the deleted/extended scenes, all of which are well worth checking out and add a bit of depth and flavor to an otherwise so-so movie. There are also tons of games for the kids and a few interviews for the adults, including one with J.K. Rowling.
Try putting right down the middle of the course.
Despite great talent, fame and fortune eluded the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani during his brief life. A drunkard and a drug addict, Modigliani lived in squalor and died a relatively obscure figure of the Paris art scene of the early 20th century. Now, more than 80 years after his death, with a single one of his portraits recently fetching $8 million, Modigliani has finally achieved the ne plus ultra of artistic success: He is the subject of a feature film, writer-director Mick Davis's aptly titled Modigliani.After a brief prelude, the film picks up Modigliani's story in 1919, the year before his death, at a time when modern art was flourishing in Paris. Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, and Jean Cocteau haunted the cafes at night as their fame and influence spread over the globe. It is here, in a café, where Modigliani (Andy Garcia) makes his entrance, drunkenly hopping onto a table and publicly ridiculing Picasso with the question, "How do you make love to a cube?"
Continue reading: Modigliani Review
Here it is, November of 1999, and I thought we weren't going to get a good end-of-the-world, Satan-conquers-all apocalypse movie (Dogma doesn't count). Whew! End of Days arrives just in time (no pun intended) to quench that Linda Blair thirst.
If you know the basic plot of End of Days ("Satan visits New York in search of a bride") the question you'll be asking isn't, "Is this a bad movie?" Rather, it will probably be, "How bad can it be?"
Continue reading: End Of Days Review
So why is Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown) Dreaming of Joseph Lees? Well, because this movie probably put her to sleep, for starters. While Fox's promotional material touts Lees as "sensual," "feverish," and "macabre," the reality is the movie is "boring," "sedate," and "limp." In 1950s England, Morton's Eva finds herself lusting after childhood buddy Lees (Rupert Graves), the devilishly handsome geologist (woo hoo!) with tales of adventure. Too bad she's also got farmer Harry (Lee Ross) trying to win her affections by getting pummeled in the boxing ring. And he's her cousin (okay, that's macabre). How the movie ends is neither surprising nor particularly interesting... nor is how it gets to that point. Fans of overwrought period pieces will likely be taken by the moody wandering of this picture. Saner viewers will not be.
Continue reading: Dreaming Of Joseph Lees Review
In his second big-screen outing, adolescent wizard Harry Potter is blessed with enough cinematic magic to overcome several of the very same problems that left last year's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" feeling a little protracted and rambling.
Sure "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" spends twice as much screen time on atmosphere and adventure scenes than on plot and character. But this time around every episode seems relevant, which is a vast improvement over last year's film, bloated as it was with Quidditch matches and monster moments that didn't advance the plot one iota.
Returning director Chris Columbus retains the enchanted ambiance as Harry heads to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year of instruction in the black arts. But nothing is ever easy for our young hero, as unseen forces seem to be conspiring against him -- not the least of which is some kind of elusive beast that's loose in Hogwarts' halls, turning students to stone.
Continue reading: Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets Review