Michael Barnathan

Michael Barnathan

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Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters Review


Good

There can't have been a very big demand for a sequel to 2010's The Lightning Thief, but at least this is another adequate adventure for the teen demigods. Much more child-friendly than the first movie, this episode is essentially just a series of heavily animated action set-pieces strung together by the flimsiest of plots. At least it has a sense of energy and some jagged humour to keep grown-ups engaged.

At Half-blood Camp, the refuge for the children of gods with mortals, Percy (Lerman) continues his rivalry with hot-shot Clarisse (Rambin). And when the protective barrier around the camp is poisoned, it's Clarisse who leads a mission to find the healing Golden Fleece in the Sea of Monsters. But Percy knows that he's the subject of a prophecy about the fleece being used to resurrect the destructive Chronos, and that his nemesis Luke (Abel) is up to something evil. So Percy takes his friends Grover and Annabeth (Jackson and Daddario), plus his newly discovered cyclops half-brother Tyson (Smith), and heads off on his own quest.

Despite a few close calls in which characters come close to death, we're pretty sure nothing nasty will happen to these young franchise characters. But director Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) never hangs around long enough for us to realise that there isn't actually any suspense or intrigue in the plot. The film's pace is frantic, as the characters bolt from one crazy scenario to the next, often without bothering to logically connect the two. Several scenes could be cut without changing the story, while others are pure indulgence, such as Fillion's extended cameo as Luke's parcel-delivering father Hermes.

Continue reading: Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters Review

The Help Review


Excellent
A strongly issue-based story gives a terrific cast plenty to play with in this hugely engaging drama about the American South in the 1960s. And while the film kind of skims the surface, it's a story that still needs to be told.

After graduating from university, Skeeter (Stone) returns home to Jackson, Mississippi, to seek work as a journalist. But one theme from her childhood haunts her: the maid (Tyson) who actually raised her. But her similarly raised close friends (Howard, O'Reilly and Camp) now take their own maids for granted, and Skeeter wonders why this story has never been told from the help's point of view. After finding an interested New York editor (Steenburgen), it takes awhile to convince Aibileen (Davis) to tell her story, especially as both know it will upset the status quo.

Continue reading: The Help Review

Percy Jackson & The Olyimpians: The Lightning Thief Review


Good
To say this film has heavy echoes of Harry Potter is an understatement.

Although, the Greek-gods premise lets the filmmakers indulge in some visually whizzy sequences that keep this rather lightweight action movie entertaining.

Percy (Lerman) is a New York teen whose mother (Keener) has never told him that his father is the god Poseidon (McKidd) and his best pal Grover (Jackson) is actually a protector satyr. When Zeus (Bean) discovers that his lightning bolt has been stolen, he blames Percy. So Percy has to learn quickly who he is so he can find the lightning thief and restore peace to feuding brothers Poseidon, Zeus and Hades (Coogan). In addition to Grover, he gets help from a professor-centaur (Brosnan) and his fellow demigod Annabeth (Daddario).

Continue reading: Percy Jackson & The Olyimpians: The Lightning Thief Review

Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian Review


Weak
Shawn Levy has no soul. Perhaps put another way, he is one of the few filmmakers working today who lacks the requisite motion picture magic to make his fantastical ideas sing. Now that's nothing new to anyone who's seen his hamfisted hackwork in such incoherent remake comedies as Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther. He's also the Nachos, Flanders Style of visionaries, unable to bring a lick of wonder to his tedious kid flick Night at the Museum. Now he's back with another baffling, sure-to-be crowd pleaser, and while Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian has much better effects than the prior outing, the story -- and some of the casting -- seems geared toward destroying any amount of visual goodwill accrued.

It's been a few years since Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) worked as a night watchman at the Museum of Natural History in New York. He has since become a highly successful infomercial pitchman. When he learns from the statue of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) that most of his favorite exhibits, including the miniatures of cowboy Jedediah Smith (Owen Wilson) and Roman Emperor Octavius (Steve Coogan), are being "decommissioned" and taken to the Federal Archive in DC, he's sad. A late night phone call from his "friends" has him headed to the nation's capital and breaking into the Smithsonian. There, he discovers Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), evil brother of Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), who wants a fabled golden tablet so he can take over the world. With the help of Gen. Custer (Bill Hader) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), Larry must stop the resurrected despot and save the day.

Continue reading: Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian Review

Jingle All The Way Review


Bad
Jingle All the Way, the Christmas-themed 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy, is ideal for kids because it's broad and silly. As for the adults watching, they should make sure their eggnog contains a little extra rum. I understand that the movie is for kids -- after all, Christmas is the ultimate kids' holiday -- but can the adults have some fun? For director Brian Levant the answer is no, meaning any viewer over the age of 10 is in for some rough sledding.

For the movie's hero, Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger), his current situation is slightly less trying. A workaholic, Howard has become a lousy husband and father, missing a series of obligations and special events. His young son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd), takes Howard's absences especially hard.

Continue reading: Jingle All The Way Review

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Review


Good
The NBA hands out a Most Improved Player Award at the end of each season. Hollywood does not have an equivalent distinction, though Fantastic Four director Tim Story would be a worthy candidate for this year's prize if it did.

Story's name was attached to the original Four film in 2005, but that discombobulated blockbuster based on the classic Marvel Comic books felt like meddling producers suggested the film to pieces before the finished product reached theaters. Critics and comic fans responded in kind with opinions that were not so kind, but Four turned a large enough profit to secure a punched ticket to sequel land for Story and his cast.

Continue reading: Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Review

Rent Review


Excellent
Whatever happened to the glut of movie musicals that the success of Moulin Rouge and Chicago was supposed to have unleashed upon us? Although the door for the long-moribund genre was indeed nudged open by those films, it fortunately never opened wide enough to subject us to the like of Mamma Mia! The Film or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Reloaded. Instead, studios have been fairly scrupulous about what they'll let through, and with the arrival of Rent, that's proved to be a good thing.

When Chris "Mrs. Doubtfire" Columbus was announced as the director of the evergreen 1996 rock musical - which updated Puccini's starving-artists opera La Bohème to the East Village in the late 1980s - it seemed like a bad joke. Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese had been buzzing around the project for years and getting the show's fans all excited, only to run into the usual budget/artistic/Miramax problems, not to mention a cast that was slowly getting past its prime. Handing the play over to the family-friendly Columbus seemed like admitting that the subject matter - a welter of squatting artists, homosexuality, heroin addiction, AIDS, and untimely deaths - was going to get watered down. Somehow, that didn't happen. While he's made the musical considerably cinematic, Columbus has also shown a surprising appreciation and fidelity to the source material; he should have tried directing something without children years ago.

Continue reading: Rent Review

Rent Review


Excellent
Whatever happened to the glut of movie musicals that the success of Moulin Rouge and Chicago was supposed to have unleashed upon us? Although the door for the long-moribund genre was indeed nudged open by those films, it fortunately never opened wide enough to subject us to the like of Mamma Mia! The Film or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Reloaded. Instead, studios have been fairly scrupulous about what they'll let through, and with the arrival of Rent, that's proved to be a good thing.

When Chris "Mrs. Doubtfire" Columbus was announced as the director of the evergreen 1996 rock musical - which updated Puccini's starving-artists opera La Bohème to the East Village in the late 1980s - it seemed like a bad joke. Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese had been buzzing around the project for years and getting the show's fans all excited, only to run into the usual budget/artistic/Miramax problems, not to mention a cast that was slowly getting past its prime. Handing the play over to the family-friendly Columbus seemed like admitting that the subject matter - a welter of squatting artists, homosexuality, heroin addiction, AIDS, and untimely deaths - was going to get watered down. Somehow, that didn't happen. While he's made the musical considerably cinematic, Columbus has also shown a surprising appreciation and fidelity to the source material; he should have tried directing something without children years ago.

Continue reading: Rent Review

Monkeybone Review


Terrible
Despite Fox's attempts to market this film on the coattails of director Henry Selick's success with Tim Burton vehicle The Nightmare Before Christmas, be thou not fooled. Monkeybone bears none of the charm or character of its predecessor. The story of a cartoonist (Brendan Fraser) who falls into a coma and enters a world where the star he created, Monkeybone (who is -- get this -- both a monkey and a metaphor for the cartoonist's own penis), this film lacks as much in the way of creative inspiration as it does in taste.

It's not that the unending stream of preschoolish fart and pecker jokes are offensive, they're just tiresome and invariably expected. And they persist, from the opening scene to the entirely unsurprising conclusion. Fortunately, though, the film has some subplots. Unfortunately, they're absolutely senseless.

Continue reading: Monkeybone Review

Bicentennial Man Review


Good
Robin Williams wants -- and needs -- nothing more than to have his own The Truman Show -- a Hail Mary to ward off permanent stereotyping. Typecast as a goofy loudmouth in throwaway films ranging from Mrs. Doubtfire to Fathers' Day to Flubber, you have to look back all the way to The Fisher King in 1991 for his last great starring role.

Bicentennial Man aims to turn that all around by making Williams something we can relate to once again. Ironically, that's not as a human: It's as a robot.

Continue reading: Bicentennial Man Review

Michael Barnathan

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Michael Barnathan Movies

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Movie Review

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Movie Review

There can't have been a very big demand for a sequel to 2010's The Lightning...

The Help Movie Review

The Help Movie Review

A strongly issue-based story gives a terrific cast plenty to play with in this hugely...

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Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Movie Review

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Movie Review

The NBA hands out a Most Improved Player Award at the end of each season....

Monkeybone Movie Review

Monkeybone Movie Review

Despite Fox's attempts to market this film on the coattails of director Henry Selick's success...

Bicentennial Man Movie Review

Bicentennial Man Movie Review

Robin Williams wants -- and needs -- nothing more than to have his own The...

Cheaper By The Dozen Movie Review

Cheaper By The Dozen Movie Review

Can someone please pull Steve Martin's career out of the past? Once wild and crazy,...

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