Magic Lantern Milestone: My 100th Post!!!

So here it is! Magic Lantern Film’s first real milestone — my 100th post on this website!!! I thought I would take a moment and reflect on my mighty blog and share some thoughts with you. First, as you know, I have always had a tremendous love for film. Ever since I was little, I have had an immense passion for theatre and motion pictures. But that isn’t what compelled me to start this website. I never even really gave the idea much thought, if any at all. Last year, I was inspired by a friend of mine who posted his “Top 10 Horror Films of the Decade” on his personal movie blog. He had posted it on Facebook and I gave it a read. I never looked at a film blog before this. I thought, “That’s pretty cool. I would love to start my own, especially as I tend to have rather loud opinions of my own on anything movie-related.” So I asked some questions, created a WordPress account, and wrote my very first post on December 26, 2009The 10 Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009).

I didn’t write another post until February, exactly two months later. I had no followers, of course (with the exception of a couple of close friends and family members). I didn’t realize at the time that it was something I wanted to keep up on a semi-regular basis. For this second post, I wrote about my personal thoughts on the nominations for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. It wasn’t until April 2010 that I really began to immerse myself into this blog. I started learning a bit more about WordPress and graphics and such; I began to write movie reviews and add other features to the site (movie polls, and the weekly “Gimme 5” feature that was given to me by Raul Duke). I saw that a few of the other sites had Podcasts, so I thought to do something a bit different. I started my own Video Web Rants to try to do the same thing, but on a more personal level (I need to get back to doing that more often and I certainly will, especially as the Oscar race begins to heat up). I started finding other film blogs and reading their opinions. I had no idea that there were so many movie bloggers out there! An entire sub-culture of people who have the same passion for movies as I do — and we communicate regularly on each other’s sites. All of these terrific movie blogs with voices of their own — all intelligent, creative, distinct, and pretty damn good writers. It has been my pleasure to get to know all of these movie lovers a bit via cyberspace. I won’t name them all, but my BlogRoll lists a good number of these excellent film blogs and the knowledgeable people behind them.

The blog takes up a good deal of my time and very often I get frustrated, wondering why I am even doing this. I don’t get paid (yet). The audience is a bit limited. I could be doing any number of other things. But then I get a few comments on a particular post, or people chime in on a weekly “Gimme 5” and it all seems worth it. I love going to the movies…I love writing about movies; I enjoy creating these Top 10 Lists, despite how much time it takes to research and write it all out.

It is also amazing to see just how many visitors the Magic Lantern Film Blog gets. Since March 2010, the number of visits to the site has grown exponentially each and every month — and it has continued to grow. That is very encouraging to me and puts a smile on my face when I see the statistics. I hope that trend continues. I also hope to keep adding to the site, bit by bit. A few goals I have for the near future are (1) to hire someone (much more knowledgeable than me) to create a new layout to the site and make it look much more appealing (2) to be linked to sites such as Amazon, Netflix and such where readers can make purchases (3) to produce the video web rants on a regular basis with much higher quality (4) connect to even more film bloggers and their sites, and (5) to continue the trend of having more and more people find the blog and to find it interesting enough to keep coming back to it.

So that is it! 100 posts. Sounded like a round enough number to resemble some sort of minor accomplishment. I hope to get through the next 100 in much quicker fashion. Thank you to everyone who has visited the site and many, many thanks to those who have bookmarked it and continue to read on a regular basis. As always, I would love to hear from you — your own thoughts and opinions on writing a blog, or any honest thoughts you have about this one in particular. I am always looking for constructive criticism to help make this site even better. Any questions you have, I’ll take those too.

Thanks again!!!

Gimme 5: Bad-Ass MoFos

Unfortunately, I’ve been out of the loop this very busy week because of my sister’s wedding (yea…today!!!) — and will be out of commission for the weekend trying to sober myself up. What would make me oh-so-happy would be to see a whole bunch of great input on this week’s “Gimme 5” when I check back in on Sunday night. 🙂

For this week, I’d like you to share 5 of your favorite bad-ass movie villians! They can be who you think are the five most villainous characters in cinema — or simply five baddies you enjoy/love the most. There are no rules here — so you pick! I know there are so many great ones, so if you want to go over five, be my guest. So, doing a complete reverse from last week’s gushy 5 Love Stories, this week, I want you to:

GIMME 5 BAD-ASS MOFOS!!!

#1. Amon Goth (Schindler’s List)
(the epitome of evil incarnate)
#2. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)
(“I would say he doesn’t have a sense of humor.”)
#3. Booth (In the Line of Fire)
(Malkovich is more than a worthy adversary here – and great fun to watch!)
#4. Frank Booth
(creepy, immoral, violent, perverse, vulgar…Hopper had it all here — and an oxygen mask to boot!)
#5. Lex Luthor (Superman)
(Gene Hackman, of course. He is so delightfully wicked in the original. Kevin who?)

Honorable Mentions: Bill the Butcher (Gangs of New York) and Jack Torrence (The Shining)

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!!!

Gimme 5: Favorite Love Stories

Me and My Sister Donna!

I figure I’d go from posting your 5 favorite hotties last week (some great feedback on that one everyone — much thanks!), to something a little bit more sentimental this time around.  

This “Gimme 5” is in honor of my super-awesome and beautiful sister, Donna who is getting married in exactly one week. CONGRATULATIONS, DONNA AND RICH!!! As you can imagine, there’s all this love in the air and I wanted to keep that vibe going and fuse it into my humble little film site. And really…who doesn’t love a good movie romance anyway? Some of the most popular movies belong to the ‘romance’ genre: romantic comedies, sweeping epic romances, romantic mysteries, adventure, and on and on. And yes, Annie Hall would no doubt be in my Top 5, but in the spirit of trying to mix things up, I’ll leave it out this one week. But just once!!! 

So for this week, keep that summer lovin feelin’ and:

GIMME 5 FAVORITE LOVE STORIES!!!

I will start…

1. City Lights (1931)
Chaplin’s timeless classic where his Tramp falls for a beautiful blind girl
2. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Hepburn and Grant make a terrific couple in this screwball comedy
3. Il Postino (1994)
Combine this beautiful love story (with the breathtaking Maria Grazia Cucinotta) and my favorite poet, and it’s easily one of my favorites
4. Serendipity (2001)
Yes, it’s utterly fantastical and cheesy — and I fall for it every time.
5. Reds (1981)
A gloriously filmed romantic epic of John Reed (Warren Beatty) & Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) is passionate & inspired  

Honorable Mentions: Beauty & the Beast (1991) and The Fisher King (1991)  

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Dinner for Schmucks” (***)

As a general rule, I am usually very wary of seeing movie remakes, especially ones adapted from very enjoyable/strong foreign films that Americans tend to treat with less than respectable hands. So my expectations were not so very high going in to see Jay Roach’s comedy Dinner for Schmucks – a film inspired from Francis Veber’s wonderfully warm and witty 1998 French film, Le diner de con (The Dinner Game). Deep down, I must admit that I didn’t very much want to like the movie – mainly because I am such a fan of the original and consider myself somewhat of a purist. However, I let the movie do all the work and much to my surprise, Dinner for Schmucks holds its own in many aspects and succeeds at being one of the stronger comedies released this year, providing many laughs throughout.

Tim (Paul Rudd) is a rising executive who wants to move up in the world – he wants a cushy office on the 6th floor where the big boys play and a bigger salary to better provide for his artistic and sophisticated girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak). Tim feels her rejections to his marriage proposals (two in two days) stem from his lack of success in the business world. When Tim impresses his shallow and ego-maniacal boss (a very effective Bruce Greenwood) at a meeting, he is invited to astound him further at an upcoming dinner party which he hosts each month. The dinner however, has a sinister twist to it, as it is rather, a competition among the invited guests to see who can bring the biggest idiot with him to entertain and amuse the snobbish and well-to-do elite. If Tim can bring an A-1 moron, that promotion is as good as his.

Tim struggles with his conscience and after seeing Julie’s utter displeasure in this tasteless sport, he resolves not to go through with the dinner. Until, that is…he meets Barry (Steve Carell), the perfect idiot sent from Heaven above. Tim sees this as a strong prophetic sign and decides to invite Barry to the dinner. Of course, Barry makes the mistake of showing up at Tim’s one night early — just enough time for numbskull Barry to ruin just about everything in Tim’s life, including his relationship with Julie.

There is a lot that works here, and most of that stems from the chemistry between Rudd and Carell, who have worked with each other before. Rudd plays the straight, sarcastic guy here, while Carell gets the bulk of the laughs with his ridiculous stupidity and, for the most part, it works. Barry is just a pathetic character — he’s lost his wife (who he loves unconditionally) to a rival co-worker (Zach Galifianakis) at the IRS, he has absolutely no friends, and he spends most of his time working on his mouse caricatures — something he is quite skilled at and has an enormous passion for. We should have tremendous empathy for Barry, especially as he is being used here for the sadistic amusement of others — and we do…a little bit at least. A lot of the comedy here is a bit over-the-top, especially in the film’s supporting characters, and that is what keeps us from having absolute compassion for this guy. It plays out a bit unreal, which hurts the film. Jacques Villeret played the idiot in the original film and was absolutely perfect — his facial features and gestures alone moved you near to tears. That is what this American remake is missing.

Jemaine Clement and Judy Punch are very strong in their supporting roles. Clement plays Kieran, the narcissistic artist with the animal magnetism who Tim is very jealous of. Clement does a very nice job at giving the character some heart and conscience beneath all of the bravado – and his connection with Barry is a humorous one. Punch plays the imbalanced and delusional Darla, a one-night stand from years ago who is obsessed with Tim and comes back to wreak more havoc in his life, all thanks to Barry’s snooping. Punch comes off like a deranged, psychotic Courtney Love (is there any other kind?), and is perhaps more upsetting than funny. Kristen Schaal deserves mention here, playing Tim’s assistant Susana. Schaal only has a handful of short scenes here, but is delightfully funny and makes the most out of what may have been a thankless role in another actor’s hands.  Galifianakis plays Barry’s nemesis, Therman, and I have to ask — is anyone tired of this guy yet? It seems to me, this guy just plays the same thing over and over and for me, the moment has surely gone. Therman claims to be a mind-reader and uses this fraudulent talent to possess complete control over poor Barry. An envious rival of Tim’s (Jon Livingston) invites Therman as his own idiot and the two jackasses go mano-y-mano.

The telling scene in this film is when Barry is making his presentation at the actual dinner. Here, Barry is showing off his most impressive works (the evolution of man, the Wright Brothers, Vincent Van Gogh — all depicted by his crafted rodents), and as Tim’s colleagues are secretly laughing at and mocking Barry, we look at Tim and therein lies the key to the movie’s success or failure. Rudd makes this work with great subtlety as Carell forges ahead, completely oblivious. It’s after this key moment that the dinner gets completely out-of-hand and goes too far over the edge, trying to get as many laughs as it can from the variety of invited idiots as the house goes up in flames.

I must say that I laughed out loud quite a bit — and the audience around me seemed to take great delight in it as well. And beneath the slapstick humor and absurd supporting cast of characters, Roach manages to give the film some heart, which is imperative in order for the movie to work at all. It may not be as warm or sincere as its predecessor, but it does provide many laughs and amusing moments throughout. It’s also worth watching Rudd and Carell play off one another. Definitely worth seeing if you need a laugh.

Rating:    
Year:        2010
Director:  Jay Roach

Gimme 5: Famous Crushes!

Here’s a fun & easy one for you and just about everyone can sprout off at least five — so no excuses this week! We all have those actors and actresses who we just love to look at…those men and women who we think are simply hot, hot, hot! From those handsome and gorgeous men and women in those early classic films to the sexy and dazzling stars of today, I am asking this week for you to:

GIMME 5 CELEBRITY CRUSHES:

 

I Will Start:

1.  Ingrid Bergman
(never to be duplicated; never to be matched)
2. Scarlett Johansson
(a stunning blend of 40’s Hollywood and present day all rolled into one)
3. Jessica Biel
(She doesn’t make many good films at all, but The Illusionist is terrific & so is watching her in it!)
4. Christina Hendricks
(it won’t be long before she starts doing big time films…trust me)
5. Diane Keaton
(the tie, the hat, the vest…the epitome of sexiness forever tattooed in my head — and
she still looks dynamite!
)

My apologies to the beautiful Marisa Tomei!!! You’d be perfect on anyone’s Top 5 List!!!

Now It’s YOUR Turn!

Gimme 5: Seriously Shitty Sequels!

I just posted a list of 10 movies to look forward to over the last few months of this year and included in this list is Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. This is of course, a sequel to the original that was released 23 years ago. I’m not a fan of sequels, especially the ones without much reason for them, the ones that are made so blatantly for money purposes. The trailer for Stone’s sequel is quite captivating and I am very much looking forward to seeing where Gordon Gekko goes from prison. But it got me to thinking about sequels in general and all the ones (as there have been oh-so-many) that have simply stunk up the screen. So for this week’s “Gimme 5” feature, I am asking you to share your own thoughts and, off the top of your head:

GIMME 5 SERIOUSLY SHITTY SEQUELS!!!

I will start…(in no particular order)

1. Caddyshack 2 (1988)
everyone but Chevy was smart enough to bail out
2. Ocean’s 12 (2004)
so bad Clooney had to apologize for it when the 3rd came out
3. The Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions (2003)
I get a two-fer here!!!
4. Staying Alive (1983)
bad sequel, but does make for an awesome comedy!
5. Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
campy in the worst way possible; Michael Caine to this day says he only did it for the money…

Now it’s YOUR Turn!!!

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Inception” (** ½)

Christopher Nolan’s Inception was perhaps the most widely anticipated movie of the summer; a summer besieged with lackluster remakes and sequels; a summer filled with mediocrity. Acknowledging the depth of Nolan’s past work (in particular, Insomnia and Memento), I too was looking forward to seeing this new sci-fi thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, though I remained cautiously optimistic. Now, the film has had an impressive opening weekend at the box-office and has received a tremendous amount of critical and public acclaim. And though it is at times an engaging and entertaining film, it falls well short of its pre-perceived hype that had already declared it a “masterpiece” before it was even released. In fact, there is no reason to even be thinking of throwing around the overused “m” word in this case – the word is so recklessly thrown about too much as it is. But, I digress…

Inception is an easy enough movie to explain, however hopelessly wearing and nearly impossible to follow. That is because this is a film about dreams and nearly everything that we see here is a dream, or a dream within a dream — or as arduous as it sounds, a dream within a dream within another one. It’s an easy out for Nolan and he takes full advantage of it, believing that he is giving the public something to mull over and analyze, when really, he has a full-proof “out clause” for any perceived hole in the story, of which there are a few. Nothing needs to be logically explained here — it’s all surrounded by dreams…the writer’s ever-tempting “fall back.”

Set in the near-future, technology has now advanced to the point where people can enter into and access the dreams of others. Enter Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), a thief who specializes in entering people’s subconscious minds and extracting their ideas and thoughts. Cobb is fighting his own personal demons which build in the various dream sequences throughout the course of the film. Living from job to job, he wants nothing more than to be able to enter his home country once again and be reunited with his two small children, who he hasn’t seen in years. Enter the mysterious business tycoon, Saito (Ken Watanabe) who presents Cobb with a very intriguing proposition and the chance to return to his children for good: rather than extracting an idea from someone’s mind, Saito wants to hire Cobb to implant the seed of an idea into the mind of the wealthy heir of a gigantic business conglomerate (a wooden Cillian Murphy). This process — called “inception” — has seemingly never been done before, though Cobb insists it can be done and takes this one last risky job for a chance at redemption. “Assemble your team!” Saito shouts out from his private helicopter and with that, we are introduced to Cobb’s team of professionals.

Let’s start with that team, shall we? A fine collection of actors who are given very little to do. Nolan is not interested in giving these characters any depth whatsoever and we learn almost nothing about the entire lot. The result is that we are left with uninteresting, 2-dimensional characters who we have no emotional connection or investment in. His right-hand man and trusted associate Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), meticulously plans out all the intricacies of the mission, his forger (Tom Hardy) takes on various identities within the dreams, and Yusef (Dileep Rao) is their chemist who makes sure that everyone is properly in a deep sleep. But Nolan needs someone to explain all of his rules about the dream state to the audience, so he has Cobb hire a new architect (Ellen Page), someone who creates the structural design of the dream world. The dialogue in these parts, is a bit stiff as it really only exists to explain and narrate to the audience what is actually going on. Rao and Gordon-Levitt are fine, though kind of just “there.” Hardy actually brings a charm and certain suavity to Eames, the forger. Watanabe, though very fitting, is very hard to understand throughout because of his thick accent and a lot of dialogue is lost. Clarity is always a good thing. Ellen Page is simply a complete misfire here and brings almost nothing to the role of Ariadne. She plods along throughout the movie with little emotion and I just never bought into the silly idea that Cobb’s associates, who have worked with him for years, aren’t aware of his volatile mental state as it concerns his wife (who haunts him in each and every dream) — but the girl who has been on the job for a few days knows all about it and continues to pester Cobb to let the others in on his little secret. Marion Cotillard plays Cobb’s wife, and as we come to expect, she is quite captivating here and keeps our attention on her whenever she appears. The scenes between husband and wife are very well done and it’s the only time DiCaprio really gets to work his acting chops. Cotillard’s presence is pervasive, even in those scenes which she is not in. Michael Caine is wasted in his two scenes and it is a wonder why he even needed to play such a thankless role other than having worked with Nolan before.

Of course the special effects here are remarkably impressive, but at this point, isn’t that to be expected? I don’t really count that as such a major plus at this point, knowing how far technology in film has come. We watch DiCaprio and Page calmly sit outside a Parisian bistro as the city is blowing up all around them. Very cool to look at indeed, but when you know the two actors are sipping cappuccino in front of a green screen, it takes something away from the experience. The art direction truly stands out as does Hans Zimmer’s score. Lee Smith has the very tiring and impossible task of making sense of all of this and does a commendable job.

I must say that I was very much engrossed in this movie for the first hour. I loved the dynamic of Cobb and his wife and the idea of inception struck me as original and compelling. Everything is set up pretty well and I’m waiting to see how this mission will take shape. It’s when the team puts their “mark” (Murphy) under sedation that the film slowly begins to go south…and boy do I mean slowly. I have never minded a long film in my life, so long as it’s engaging and worth the time. The last hour of this movie just lumbers along at a painstaking pace you can’t wait for it to end – and that is never a good sign. What takes 40 minutes here can easily have taken 20 minutes, but I fear that Nolan falls so in love with his own vision that it comes back to bite him. Memento is the much tighter, smarter film; not to mention, the more entertaining of the two.

I have read a number of glowing reviews over the past couple of days and I wonder to myself if they were watching the same muddled mess I was watching. There is the idea that people were going to fall in love with this film no matter what they saw (which certainly happens). Perhaps compared to nearly every summer movie out there, this simply looks more impressive than it is based on comparison alone (which happens as well). I know that Nolan has a devout following and this is yet a third hypothesis. Look, I don’t think this a bad movie by any stretch — and I will certainly give it another viewing, which I feel it deserves. But I like to remain truthful and honest in my criticism and as much as I wanted to love it too, I cannot get past the many flaws that are quite clear in this work. In many ways, this is a cold movie — in mood, narration and approach to its audience. In areas it has remnants of The Matrix and Dreamscape, two films that I would give much higher recommendations to. In the end, I know this film will wind up on nearly every critic’s Top 10 list of the year, and I know when I see that, I will still be shaking my head wondering why….hoping that this too will be a dream that I am suddenly waken out of.

Rating:      
Year:          2010
Director:   Christopher Nolan

Gimme 5: Your Five Favorite Nic Cage Films!

OK, so today marks the release of one of the year’s most anticipated films and I know many (including myself) that are going to see it this weekend. So for this week’s “Gimme 5,” we’ll focus on THAT OTHER film being released today…that’s right — The Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring the one and only Nicolas Cage! Now the trailer for this didn’t look all that bad and I will most likely catch it when it is released on DVD. An Oscar-winner, Mr. Cage has a long and impressive resume (despite films like Ghost Rider, The Wicker Man and a few others) dating back to his feature-film debut in 1982 in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

So for this week, I am asking you movie-lovers to:

GIMME YOUR 5 FAVORITE NIC CAGE MOVIES!

I will start…

5. Face/Off
4. Adaptation
3. Wild at Heart
2. Leaving Las Vegas
1. Matchstick Men

(this was actually much tougher than I thought it would be…)

Now, it’s YOUR Turn!!!

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Cyrus” and “Despicable Me”

While every film nut is desperately awaiting the release of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, I was able to take in a couple of movies this weekend to try and fill in the void. Now, I am not nearly as confident as everyone else seems to be about Nolan’s latest work (I remain cautiously optimistic), but I was expecting to see two good films in Cyrus and the new animated feature Despicable Me. It’s odd because I would rate each film 2 ½ stars, but would recommend the “strong” 2 ½ star film, while suggesting you wait to catch the other on DVD or if it’s playing on cable. I’ll start with Jay and Mark Duplass’ dark comedy, Cyrus.

Cyrus has a lot going for it, starting with its impressive cast of John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener and the gorgeous Marisa Tomei. Reilly plays John, who has been divorced for seven years and is still not quite over the hurt of it all. His life has been in a tailspin since, as he lives in a shoddy little apartment and doesn’t ever get out and socialize much. He meets the girl of his dreams in Molly (Tomei) and they hit it off quite well. That is, until he meets her 21-year old son, Cyrus (Hill) who has a lot of twisted Oedipal issues going on inside that little eccentric brain of his. A battle of wits begins between John who is trying to get closer to this wonderful woman he has just met and Cyrus, who will do anything within his power to see that he is out of their lives forever.

I must say that Hill is pretty convincing here in a darker role that we are not accustomed to seeing him in. The way he looks at his nemesis throughout is pretty freaky, with eyes that just seem to pierce through the screen. Reilly is perfect for playing the lovable, awkward loser and his chemistry with Tomei is convincing enough, though I not sure if I ever really bought into them hooking up in the first place. You see, they meet at a party and watching him try to speak to a few of the women there is pretty painful to watch. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but I didn’t find it very humorous as I just sat and squirmed in my seat watching his failed attempts at finding his soul mate. The idea that Molly would be turned on by this was far-fetched to me. I also felt that the Duplass brothers could have taken this premise so much further (as they wrote and directed the film together), but settled for a fairly predictable 2nd and 3rd act. You could surely see how this was all going to play out.

I guess in the end I didn’t find the film to be all that funny. Sure, there were some funny moments between Reilly and his counterpart and I thought his first scene with Tomei was charming and witty, but it felt much more like a drama to me, which is absolutely fine. Also, I didn’t find the abnormally close relationship between mother-and-son here to be all that realistic. I give the Duplass brothers credit for not going over-the-top here, as they could have easily done. Instead, they go for real, genuine moments and the motives of the characters are believable throughout. This is not a bad film by any means – I just felt there could have been so much more and even with all the crap that is permeating theatres at the moment, I would recommend that you see this one at home rather than pay the $10 in the theatre.

Rating:
Director: Mark and Jay Duplass
Year: 2010

To view the trailer for Cyrus, click here.

Universal Pictures’ new animated feature Despicable Me (which grossed an astounding $60m in its opening weekend) is a very different kind of comedy, of course. I must first say that I enjoyed this film very much and laughed quite a bit. Steve Carell is the voice of Gru, a super villain who takes great delight in all things wicked. At the moment, he is facing stiff competition from an up-and-coming, younger villain in Vector (voiced by Jason Segal) who has just stolen a world-famous Egyptian pyramid. So Gru is now in the midst of planning the world’s greatest heist of all – with the help of his army of little minions, he plans on stealing the moon! Vector steals the almighty shrink ray from Gru, so now Gru must find a way into the very secure home of his worthy archenemy. To do so, Gru adopts three little girls from an orphanage who want nothing in life but a loving parent. Gru seems to have faced many great trials in his life, but nothing compares to the challenge of these three sweeties who see something in Gru that no one else ever has.

Carell’s voice for Gru is terrific and made me laugh throughout. He’s got a lot of great lines here and is the source of most of the film’s comedy. The actions of his many little yellow minions also made for some great comedy. The three little girls are adorable, especially the voice of Elsie Fisher’s Agnes, the youngest of the lot. Seeing the relationship between the devilish Gru and the girls grow is also rather sweet.

Compared to other animated films though, Despicable Me sadly falls a bit short and that lies with the prescribed storyline. The character of Gru was funny, but not much else really is. I enjoyed it, but could not help feeling that so much more could have happened here. I think kids will certainly love the film and have a great experience with it. However, I’m not so sure about most adults. Most of the new animated features work on both levels, engaging an adult audience just as much as the kids they appear to be catered to. Despicable Me doesn’t offer much more than a very funny front man and the crazy little minions (who I loved) — but no other characters really stand out. I don’t know if I am nit-picking on an animated film, but I also felt the way in which Gru learns to love the three girls was far too easy and not fully developed. All in all though, it is a sweet film with a big heart and I would highly recommend taking kids to see it. Looking at it a bit more critically, it just misses measuring up to some of the “better” animated films such as Happy Feet, Over the Hedge, or Monsters, Inc.

Rating:
Director: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Year: 2010

To view the trailer for Despicable Me, click here.

Gimme 5: Your 5 Favorite Animated Flicks!

I chose the theme for this week’s Gimme 5! feature in honor of the release of Despicable Me,which stars the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Miranda Cosgrove and Kristin Wiig. The film opens nationwide today and as a fan of animated features, I remain very excited to see it.

The Pixar animated film Toy Story 3 was released on June 18th and has already made an astronomical $313 million at the box-office and is still steadily rising. In recent years, animated features have proven that they aren’t just for children anymore — with many showing more originality, intelligence and humor than most of the dreck that comes  out of Hollywood.

So for this week’s Gimme 5!….

Gimme Your 5 Favorite Animated Movies!

I Will Start…

5. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
4. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
3. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
2. Dumbo (1941)
1. The Iron Giant (1999)

Now It’s Your Turn….

A Few Words About Mel Gibson

Oh, Mel…looks like you’ve done it again.

In 2006, when he was arrested for DUI, he shocked us all when he ranted that, “”The Jews are responsible for all wars in the world” and admitted to saying as much on Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer. Four years later, poor Mel is on the proverbial crucifix again and up to his neck in more negative press. Radar Online first broke the exclusive story, revealing that Mel was taped going off on a racist and vulgar rant towards Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of their baby daughter, Lucia. On the infamous tape, Mel is alledged to have called Oksana a “bitch,” a “fucking fake,” and “an embarrassment” to him. Most damaging of all, he tells her: “You look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of ni**ers, it will be your fault.” Later, more news. It was discovered that Mel had actually hit this woman and is even caught on tape declaring that she “fucking deserved it.”

I am not writing this article to vilify or voice my negative opinions about Mr. Gibson. In fact, on the contrary. I’m writing in response to the many movie-goers I have seen since this discomforting story broke denouncing his work and claiming to boycott his future films. Whatever. I think these people are hypocrites. Seen a Hugh Grant movie the past few years? How about Eddie Murphy? Did you go see Christian Bale in The Dark Knight or the superfluous T3 after his vulgar, moronic and mean-spirited 4-minute rant against a helpless crew member? Watch any Tom Cruise flicks after he tried imposing his personal religious beliefs on others? Any Russell Crowe fans still out there after all his violent outbursts? Or we can look to just about any Hollywood celebrity or musician that feels it their civic duty to vociferously spew their immaterial political opinions every four years. And on and on we go.  

All I know is that if we boycotted every movie or concert of our favorite artists from music and film who said/did something wrong or stupid, then we wouldn’t be seeing a whole hell of a lot of movies or buying into much music at all. I for one have tremendous respect for Mel Gibson as a filmmaker and as an actor so I will gladly continue to pay my money to see his work. Part of what was coined the ‘Australian New Wave,’ this is the man responsible for bringing the magnificent Oscar-winning Braveheart to the screen — snatching up two well-deserved Academy Awards in the process. The highest paid celebrity in 2004, he has mostly chosen projects that revolve around characters fighting for justice or seeking revenge. I loved his performances in Payback, The Man Without A Face, Lethal Weapon, and The Bounty opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins. He did a terrific job tackling William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and showed off his charm and famous sense of humor in What Women Want. Whatever you may think of his Apocalypto, I thought it to be gorgeously filmed and a pretty impressive achievement.

I can’t stand political correctness. Not much offends me. What does offend me is when narrow-minded people are offended by material deemed politically incorrect. We’ve all lost our tempers at some point. We’ve all said things to others in the heat of the moment that we surely do not mean. It happens. We’re human. Some of us are more emotional and volatile than others (Gibson admits to being guilty of this in his GMA interview). The difference is that we don’t have paparazzi following us everywhere; nor does anything we say/do make the newspapers or electronic media. No one cares what we say. But they certainly do care what Mr. Gibson has to say. That’s where he gets screwed, and yes, that’s the price one pays for worldwide fame and making that kind of money.

So I really don’t care what Mr. Gibson says in the privacy of his own home. That’s his business, not mine. Where people do have a right to be upset is his admittance to striking a woman. That ain’t cool. I have no idea what was going on between the two, what was being said or how it came about, but I personally don’t believe in ever hitting a woman. I have never done it and don’t think I ever would. But let’s not all get on our soap boxes and condemn him, pretending that we were there and know what happened. These are the same small-minded people who ask me with a sour face, “How can you like Woody Allen? He’s a pedophile!” Or how I can pay good money to support a Roman Polanski film. It’s actually pretty easy. I love their work. I admire them as artists. I don’t give a shit about their personal lives.

I am sorry to see this all happening to Mel Gibson. I have always enjoyed seeing him on-screen and I respect him as an artist. I know that when Jodie Foster’s upcoming movie The Beaver comes out (in which he stars), I will most certainly go and try not to let the tabloids deter me from doing otherwise. Chin up, Mel!

Postscript: 7/9/10: After listening to the 2-minute heated exchange of the actual tape today, I do find it conspicuously odd that Oksana remains so terribly calm throughout. Sounds as if she had planned to set poor Mel up all along.

Results from the Tom Cruise Movie Poll!

This was tough, with no film standing out as the clear odds-on-favorite…and the results show as much. After one full week of polling, I waited, but the tie was not broken. And the winners are Jerry Maguire and Rain Man.

Here are the final tallies:

       Rain Man 13%        Jerry Maguire 13%   Interview w/ Vampire 10%  Risky Business 10%

Thank you to everyone who participated!!!

If you have any ideas for future movie polls, please feel free to comment or send me an email. And don’t forget to become a fan of Magic Lantern Film Blog on Facebook by clicking here!!!

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