Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

The Descendants                  Grade: A+ 

Moneyball                            Grade: A

Martha Marcy May Marlene      Grade: A

The Ides of March               Grade: A

The Way                               Grade: A

Margin Call                          Grade: A

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

Take Shelter                        Grade: A

In Time                                Grade: A-

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

50/50                                   Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Melancholia                       Grade: B+

Like Crazy                           Grade: B+

Into the Abyss                   Grade: B

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

My Week with Marilyn     Grade: B

J. Edgar                               Grade: B-

Hugo                                   Grade: B-

Anonymous                        Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

The Muppets                      Grade: C+

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1      Grade: C

Immortals                           Grade: C

Jack and Jill                       Grade: D

Arthur Christmas             Grade: D

Happy Feet 2                    Grade: D

Real Steel                          Grade: D

The Rum Diary                  Grade: D

Hugo


If you've ever heard Martin Scorsese speak you know he loves movies.  Sure, one would assume most film directors love movies, but that guy really loves movies.  He's known for his passion for the classics and his Herculean efforts towards film restoration.  And knowing all that you can't help but appreciate this love letter to the earliest years of film.  Although at times it's difficult.

Hugo Cabret is an orphan living in a train station in Paris who stumbles upon a mystery when he happens upon a robot and crosses paths with a few strangers in this family adventure film.  The problem with this film is it takes way too long to get to the heart of the story, or at least my opinion as to what the heart of story is.  There's too much time focused on Hugo and all of the peripheral characters, none of which I found myself caring about.  Nevertheless, Scorsese is a master filmmaker, so the shots are admirable, the visuals are a treat, and his first use of 3D is a success.  And Sir Ben Kingsley is always a pleasure to watch.  And of course, as a film buff, I totally appreciate the homage to early film.  So I'm willing to forgive this one it's faults.  I just wish we could get Scorsese and longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker to head back to the editing room.

Grade: B

The Muppets

It seems like the perfect idea.  After 12 years of muppet-free films, it feels like the appropriate time for a reboot.  After all, there's a whole generation of kids who might otherwise grew up muppet-less. (Sure, there have been some TV movies and specials, but no feature films since 'Muppets in Space' in 1999).   And who better to write and star than Jason Segal whose film writing debut 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' featured an instant classic Dracula puppet show?  Segal is admittedly a lifelong puppet fanatic, and after years of pursuing this project he finally got what he wanted.  So did it all come together as great as we all hoped?  Unfortunately I don't think so.

Jason Segal plays Gary, a man torn between spending time with his girlfriend Mary, played by Amy Adams, and his brother Walter, a muppet.  When Gary and Mary head to L.A. on an anniversary trip, Walter tags along to pursue his dream of visiting the Muppet studios.  Once there they end up helping the muppets reunite in order to save the studio from an evil corporate suit played by Chris Cooper.

Unfortunately while the premise of getting the proverbial band back together is a decent one, the execution is flawed.  The writing is kind of weak, the songs are somewhat forgettable, and new muppet Walter lacks the unique traits of the classic characters.  As usual the celebrity cameos, which are consistently the best part of any muppet movie, are fun but they don't make this film a must see.  Yet it's still light entertainment and it's hard to come down too hard on the muppets.

Grade: B-

Arthur Christmas


I don't have much more to say about this one that I didn't already say when I panned 'Happy Feet 2'.  I just don't understand why animated films are generally so lame these days.  (I did like 'Rio' this year and 'Tangled' and 'Toy Story 3' last year so I'm not completely down on the genre, but there's definitely more bad than good.)  But this one is particularly disappointing because we only get two Christmas films this year.  (Thankfully 'A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas' is a winner and potentially a future Christmas classic.)  But this story about Santa, his Elf military operation, and a young descendant named Arthur who helps save Christmas, is totally disappointing.  I had a sinking feeling when it opened with a music video of Justin Bieber covering 'Santa Claus is Comin' to Town'.  Wow.  Painful, just painful.

Grade: D

My Week with Marilyn


This is the true story of Colin Clark's experiences surrounding the production of 'The Prince and the Showgirl', the 1957 film featuring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier.  Clark was 23 years old at the time and this was his introduction to Hollywood, as well as to the charms and troubles of Monroe, played by Michelle Williams.  Newcomer Eddie Redmayne plays Clark, and Kenneth Branagh plays Olivier.

On paper this one has Oscar written all over it.  It's a biopic (albeit that only spans a very short period of time) of an iconic Hollywood figure.  It stars Oscar nominees Williams and Branaugh and also features Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench in a supporting role.  It's a coming-of-age tale.  And executive producer Harvey Weinstein will undoubtedly employ his trademark iron-fisted aggressive Oscar campaigning.  But really, this one just isn't as good as its potential.  It's good, and everyone does their job satisfactorily, but it's just not a must-see.  Williams may get nominated but she surely won't win.

Grade: B

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 11/18/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1', 'Happy Feet 2', 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', and 'Beginners'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/111811-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

The Descendants                  Grade: A+ 

Moneyball                            Grade: A

Martha Marcy May Marlene      Grade: A

The Ides of March               Grade: A

The Way                               Grade: A

Contagion                            Grade: A

Margin Call                          Grade: A

Take Shelter                        Grade: A

The Help                              Grade: A-

In Time                                Grade: A-

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

50/50                                   Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Melancholia                       Grade: B+

Like Crazy                           Grade: B+

Paranormal Activity 3        Grade: B+

Into the Abyss                   Grade: B

London Boulevard             Grade: B

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

J. Edgar                               Grade: B-

Anonymous                        Grade: B-

Johnny English Reborn      Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

Drive                                   Grade: C

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1      Grade: C

Immortals                           Grade: C

Footloose                           Grade: C-

Jack and Jill                       Grade: D

Happy Feet 2                    Grade: D

Real Steel                          Grade: D

The Rum Diary                  Grade: D

The Thing                          Grade: F

The Descendants


George Clooney plays an affluent man living in Hawaii.  But his life is far from paradise.  His wife is in a coma from a recent boating accident.  And his two daughters are both distant and acting out.  And when he finds out his wife isn't coming back, he needs to tell her friends and family so that they may say their proper farewells before she goes.

This is the first film from director Alexander Payne since his success with 'Sideways' in 2004, for which he won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.  Like in that film he balances drama and comedy here perfectly, although the drama in this one is much heavier and much more poignant.  Payne really hit the mark in every way, particularly in casting Clooney as the lead and in choosing Hawaii as the location, which became a central character for the movie, just as wine country was in 'Sideways'.  And the whole cast is perfect.  Clooney is at the top of his game, playing a much more relatable every-man role than his equally impressive performance as a slick politician in 'The Ides of March'.  He consistently proves he's worth every bit of his status and reputation in Hollywood as a movie star and a true actor.  And the rest of the unlikely cast including Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Robert Forster, and two relative unknowns, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, are all pitch perfect.  Quite simply, this is one of the best films of the year and likely to score an Oscar Best Picture nomination.  Go see it if you're ready to laugh and cry.

Grade: A+

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1


Alrighty, Twihards, here it is:  the beginning of the end.  It's time to finally see the long awaited wedding of your beloved Bella and Edward.  And yes, you get to see Taylor Lautner's legendary abs one more time, yet (thankfully) only for a few moments at the beginning.  And the drama, oh the drama, continues unabashedly.

OK, so I did my homework and got caught up on the first three prior to seeing this first part of the fourth and final book.  And I must admit, I don't get what all the fuss is about.  (Although admittedly I'm not a teenage girl so I'm clearly not the target demographic.)  Yet I enjoy a good romance as much as the next guy, but there really isn't one here.  There just isn't a well developed attraction between anyone.  There's only a nauseatingly superficial love triangle.  And to say the cast is weak is an understatement.  It just seems like they cast based upon who has the nicest hair, rather than who can actually act.  And there also isn't really an epic storyline of good vs. evil like you get in the far superior Harry Potter series, although I see traces of something coming.  So the first three managed to come in below my already lowered expectations.  However I did at least see an improving trend, with the third film being the only one with a semblance of a story arc.

But now after seeing the fourth I've finally figured out how to view these movies.  Of course they don't hold up against other great series like the aforementioned Potter, but the main problem is they just don't belong on the big screen.  It's more like watching a tween vampire show on the WB or CW network.  If you saw these films on your couch as two one-hour episodes each you'd find them passably entertaining.  And that's what this fourth installment was for me:  passably entertaining.  But who cares what I think?  The female dominated audience cheered and had a good time.  This one's critic-proof and will surely dominate at the box office this weekend.

Grade: C

Happy Feet 2


In general, I'm not a big fan of animated films.  And I find kids' films to be the hardest to grade because I'm an adult.  But it just seems to me that animated films for kids just aren't what they used to be.  I still have extremely fond memories of 'The Jungle Book'.  Every character and every song and every scene is just so memorable.  And the characters all had personalities of their own.  They weren't just animated versions of Brad Pitt or Matt Damon.  In fact, I still don't know who voiced them and I don't want to know.  To me, they were and still are just Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera.  Is it just me or have things changed significantly for the worse?

This sequel to 'Happy Feet' is another continuation of the penguin bandwagon started by 'March of the Penguins'.  This one's basically about an awkward penguin who needs to come into his own.  And he is given that opportunity when a threat to their home arrives.  But this weak plotline seems basically like an excuse to have extended penguin song and dance routines, and while those musical numbers are the best part of the film, they really aren't that good.  Furthermore, the 3D is lame, and even the vocal stylings of Pitt, Damon, Elijah Wood, and Robin Williams don't help.  This one's a dud.  Sorry, kids.

Grade: D

Into the Abyss


The best thing about doing what I do, watching so many movies day in and day out, is that you get to step into so many different shoes and experience life through so many varied subjects.  Just a few days ago I was at the top of the world as one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in America in 'Margin Call'.  And tonight I was at rock bottom, seeing the world through the eyes of a real man on death row with only eight days to live.

In this tragic documentary from Werner Herzog ('Grizzly Man', 'Encounters at the End of the World', 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams'), Herzog interviews the men responsible for killing three innocent people.  They broke into a gated community, killed an ordinary woman in her own home, and then murdered her son and his friend just so that they could steal a car.  Three people lost their lives over a f---ing car!  The murderers were only teenagers at the time, and now it's ten years later and one of them is serving a 40 year sentence in prison and the other is on death row and scheduled to die just eight days after this interview with Herzog.  It's hard not to take this movie seriously.  You get an up close and personal interview with the convicted murderers, the family of the victims and of the killers, and a death row employee.  It makes you think and it makes you feel, mainly about life and death.

This is a well made doc that doesn't shove a death penalty agenda down your throat, but rather let's you decide what to think.  Nevertheless I just can't recommend rushing out to the theater to see it unless you're a real Herzog buff or you have a dark side you need to feed.  It's by nature a buzz kill.  And that's what makes assigning it a grade so difficult.  This is a specialty film for a niche audience.  It can't really be compared to the other films in theaters now.  And maybe that's the answer here.  Don't see it in the theater on date night.  This is a film that doesn't need to be seen on the big screen.  It can wait for a home viewing, at a time when you're ready to feel bad and ready to think and ponder life and death.  That is if you're the type of person who can appreciate this kind of viewing experience at all under any circumstances.  I suspect not many are.

Grade: B

Sunday, November 13, 2011

London Boulevard


Colin Farrell is just out of prison.  And although he has every intention of going straight, he quickly gets sucked back into the underworld due to the bad influences surrounding him.

This one has all the elements that would make a fantastic entry in the British crime genre.  The screenplay was written by the same writer as 'The Departed' and it has a great cast including Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, and Eddie Marsan.  But yet, sadly, it doesn't achieve it's potential.  And it's the writing that's to blame.  With the exception of a few interesting lines of dialogue here and there, it just isn't up to snuff.  And that's particularly disappointing because the cast are all at the top of their game.

This film is in limited release in theaters and is also more conveniently available on Video on Demand.

Grade: B

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Immortals


So who's been waiting for a combination of Greek mythology and shirtless buff guys preparing for a large scale battle?  Well not me, but if you were then you're in luck because welcome to '300' meets the 'Clash of the Titans' 2010 remake.  Theseus is a mortal peasant who has strong leadership abilities and mad warrior skills, and he doesn't know it but he's the chosen one by the gods to do battle with evil King Hyperion, played by Mickey Rourke.  But Zeus, king of the gods, won't allow the other gods to interfere with the human conflict, so Theseus is on his own.

I like the idea of Greek mythology but there really hasn't been a movie on the subject nearly as good as the original 'Clash of the Titans' from 1981.  Sure, many will watch that Ray Harryhausen stop-motion special effect classic now and turn their noses up at it.  But those people are dead wrong.  It's still a fantastic film 30 years later and much, much better than this one, even with cheesy special effects in 2D.  'Immortals' is passably entertaining if you happen to find yourself in front of it, but it's really not worth your time.  Skip it and (re)watch the original 'Clash'.

Grade: C

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 11/11/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Jack and Jill' and 'J. Edgar'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/111111-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

Moneyball                            Grade: A

Martha Marcy May Marlene      Grade: A

The Ides of March               Grade: A

The Way                               Grade: A

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

Contagion                            Grade: A

Take Shelter                        Grade: A

Margin Call                          Grade: A

The Help                              Grade: A-

In Time                                Grade: A-

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

50/50                                   Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Melancholia                       Grade: B+

Like Crazy                           Grade: B+

Paranormal Activity 3        Grade: B+

London Boulevard             Grade: B

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

J. Edgar                               Grade: B-

Anonymous                        Grade: B-

Johnny English Reborn      Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

Drive                                   Grade: C

Immortals                           Grade: C

Footloose                           Grade: C-

Jack and Jill                       Grade: D

Real Steel                          Grade: D

The Rum Diary                  Grade: D

The Thing                          Grade: F

Jack and Jill


Adam Sandler is up to his regular shenanigans again, but this time you get twice the stupidity for your hard earned dollars because he plays brother and sister twins!  Now I ask you, is there any possible way a movie with that premise couldn't suck?  And an even better question is, what compromising photos does Sandler have of Columbia Pictures executives to make them greenlight this obvious disaster?

Well, here's the premise:  Adam Sandler plays Jack, a successful commercial director who has it all, including a beautiful wife, played by Katie Holmes, two precocious kids, and an amazing home.  But he has two problems.  One is his annoying and clingy twin sister, Jill.  And the other is that his biggest client, Dunkin Donuts, wants him to get Al Pacino to appear in their commercial.  Well, fortunately for Jack, Pacino takes a liking to his sister, and then zany comedy ensues.  Or it least a few fart jokes.  And, to paraphrase a line from Sandler's 'Billy Madison', we are all dumber having seen this film.

Ever since the brilliant talk show spoof, 'The Larry Sanders Show', it has been a rite of passage for actors to play themselves in an unfavorable light.  A shining example of this is Neil Patrick Harris in the 'Harold & Kumar' films.  Pure brilliance.  But somebody really needs to advise Mr. Pacino about picking and choosing his moments.  This was not the right one for him.  I could actually see his legacy fade as I watched him fawn over Sandler in lipstick and a dress, and a single tear rolled down my cheek.  But back to the man responsible for this insult to our intelligence.  When 'Zookeeper', which was produced by Sandler, was released earlier this year I made a new rule that Kevin James must stop starring in films, and Sandler must stop enabling him by producing them, and preferably stop starring in them himself.  I stand by that rule, but I now amend it to also include Al Pacino.   HOOOO-AAAHHH!

Grade: D

J. Edgar


On paper this movie has Oscar written all over it.  It's a biopic and Oscar loves a biopic.  It stars three time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio as the titular character and features Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench as his mother.  And it's directed by four time Oscar winning director Clint Eastwood.  But does it live up to expectations?  Sadly, it does not.

Let me cut right to the root of the problem.  Clint Eastwood is quite possibly the most overrated director in the history of filmmaking.  This is not to say he's the worst director, mind you, but just the most overrated.  Let's have a quick walk down memory lane.  He won the Oscar for 'Mystic River' and 'Million Dollar Baby', both extremely overrated and way too melodramatic.  He made 'Gran Torino', which was overrated and way too unrealistic.  And most recently he made 'Invictus' and 'Hereafter', both overrated and way too dull.  And now this, a story about J. Edgar Hoover and the birth of the FBI, with really interesting material like the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and a proven lead actor, and yet it's almost, but not quite, a bore.  (Robert DeNiro was guilty of the same crime when he directed 'The Good Shepherd' detailing the start of the CIA.  Perhaps actors should stick to acting.)  So stop the madness!  Stop giving this guy awards for turning what could be great films into mediocre ones.  I'm sorely disappointed.  And yet, even under Eastwood's poor direction, and even with abyssmally distracting and downright laughable makeup for the aged Hoover and his right hand man Tolson, there's still a really interesting story here.  And that makes it worth a watch for film buffs and biopic fans alike.

Grade: B-

Melancholia


Who's ready for the latest feel-bad film from legendary and notorious Danish director Lars Von Trier?  This one is told in two parts and preceded by a somewhat painfully long classical music scored montage giving you a flavor of what you're about to see and the pacing with which it will be told.  Part one deals with the wedding reception of a melancholic Kirsten Dunst to Alexander Skarsgard.  Part two focuses on an approaching planet to Earth, aptly named Melancholia.  A great supporting cast includes Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Stellan Skarsgard, John Hurt, and Charlotte Rampling.

This is a tough movie to grade because some will love it and some will hate it.  Some will leave the theater melancholic, some may leave euphoric, and many will stumble out with a deer-in-the-headlights WTF kind of look.  And that's not atypical for reactions to Von Trier's work.  I have a love-hate relationship with his films.  I hated 'Antichrist' fairly strongly, considering it the quintessential 'torture porn' masquerading as art.  But I loved 'Dogville' and 'Manderlay' which I believe to be totally original and innovative.  And I first became a fan of his when I came across his Danish TV mini-series called 'The Kingdom', a 'Twin Peaks'-esque medical horror which was later adapted in the U.S. as the inferior short lived series 'Kingdom Hospital'.  Regardless, love them or hate them, his films always inspire thought and conversation.  Afterward you actually want to talk, debate, and perhaps complain to the people you went with about it.  And how often does that happen?  So for that reason alone this film deserves high marks.  Just buyer beware.  I personally don't think this one's as important as Von Trier would have us believe.

Grade: B+

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Margin Call


Sure, we've already seen some quality films about corporate America, downsizing, and the crash of the financial and real estate markets, like 'Up in the Air', 'Inside Job', and 'Too Big to Fail'.  Those were all great, but I don't think any of them quite hit the level of intensity and realism you get with 'Margin Call', which tells the all-too-real tale of one nameless investment banking firm just realizing they were on the precipice of disaster in 2008.

While 'Too Big To Fail' and 'Inside Job' do a better job of explaining what caused the financial meltdown, this one seems to get the impact on those that caused it just right.  You get a sense for what life was really like for yuppie fat cats on Wall Street pre-crash.  You get a true idea of the hierarchy and at all levels you can feel their increasingly megalomaniacal obsession with money and power.  (I love the way the film begins with the lower level analysts and continuously introduces you to people higher up on the food chain.  And when you finally get to the top it's just mesmerizing watching Jeremy Irons chew the scenery, in the best performance I've seen from him to date.)  And you can almost taste the fear as things go awry and crumble in just one day.  I found myself simultaneously angry at them, envious of them, and relieved I'm not them.

The powerhouse testosterone-filled cast includes Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons, and Demi Moore.  (No offense on that testosterone reference, Ms. Moore, but you're basically just one of the guys in this one.)  And they all give some of the best performances of their careers, largely due to unbelieveable writing and a tight, tense story that takes place in one day, primarily in one corporate office setting, that makes this feel like a well-crafted play.  This one's for the 'Glengarry Glen Ross' crowd.

Unfortunately this great film is only in limited release in theaters but it's also available for a short while on Video on Demand.  It astounds me that a movie this good only gets released in a few hundred theaters while 'Puss in Boots' reigns supreme in almost 4,000.  That makes me almost as angry as I am at Wall Street.

Grade: A

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Skin I Live In


Famed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is back, reuniting with Antonio Banderas who he directed in the late eighties in films like 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' and 'Tie Me Up! Tie me Down!'.  Casual movie fans don't know Almodovar's work (many others of which star Penelope Cruz) but real film buffs are aware of his repertoire.  This time get ready for an original and disturbing thriller in Spanish with English subtitles.

Banderas stars as a famed surgeon who has been experimenting with skin replacement surgery for burn victims.  He has created a new type of skin that is stronger and better than regular human skin, but he's only been allowed to test it on animals.  I won't say anymore since this one should unravel for you on its own, but I will say that Almodovar doesn't make it easy on you.  He keeps a lot of things a mystery until the proper time for them to be revealed.  And that's the genius of the film.  But he also revels in making you increasingly uncomfortable.  I found myself wishing the end would come sooner just so I could escape the discomfort.  But many times when you think it's finally over, it's not.  So, while I found the movie refreshingly original and extremely well crafted, I can't help but think that however many hours Almodovar spends in therapy now, he needs more.

Grade: B+ (Although it may deserve an A-)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - Fox 35 Orlando 11/4/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Tower Heist', 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas' and 'Crazy, Stupid Love'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/110411-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

Moneyball                            Grade: A

Martha Marcy May Marlene      Grade: A

The Ides of March               Grade: A

The Way                               Grade: A

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

Contagion                            Grade: A

Take Shelter                        Grade: A

Margin Call                          Grade: A

The Help                              Grade: A-

In Time                                Grade: A-

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

50/50                                   Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Like Crazy                           Grade: B+

Paranormal Activity 3        Grade: B+

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

Anonymous                        Grade: B-

Johnny English Reborn      Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

The Big Year                       Grade: C+

Drive                                   Grade: C

Footloose                           Grade: C-

Real Steel                          Grade: D

The Rum Diary                  Grade: D

The Thing                          Grade: F

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas


Well, we witnessed them embark on a quest for White Castle burgers and escape from Guantanamo Bay, and now those two loveable scamps, Harold & Kumar, are back again to put you in the Christmas spirit in this very crass, and very funny stoner comedy.  And this time they're in 3D!  Now, ordinarily I'm not pro-3D, particularly in serious, quality, well-made movies like 'Harry Potter'.  But here it's absolutely essential.  You can almost feel yourself getting high from the smoke seemingly being blown right in your face.  Don't you dare go see the 2D version!  And as for merging Harold & Kumar with Christmas?  Genius.  Well, truthfully I wasn't completely on board with it for the first half but the second half more than compensated for it.  And three words: Neil Patrick Harris.  Not unexpectedly, NPH steals the show.  In fact, this is his best appearance yet.  So while I don't think this movie hits it's full potential, it's very enjoyable, gets better as it goes along, and you leave the theater wanting more.  That's rare.  I think it even has the potential to be a Christmas classic.  (I said the same thing about 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation', 'Scrooged', 'Elf', and 'Fred Claus'.  OK so that last one didn't take off, but I really liked it.)

Now while I'm in a pretty great post-film glow right now, as a critic I must end with some criticism.  I don't understand why they released this film so early.  It's hard to fully appreciate the whole Christmas theme when it's barely November.  Nevertheless, since last year was virtually holiday movie free (with the exception of 'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale') I'll gladly take one whenever they release it.

Grade: A-