Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dragon Boy

Dragon Boy

Dir: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Jon Benjamin (as the dragon), Danny DeVito

Runtime: 45 mins

Do your children a favor and throw out all their DVDs, and go buy Dragon Boy (but wait for it to come out on DVD first). Dragon Boy is a movie adaptation of E. Thompson Thayer's bestselling children's book.

War has broken out between the dragons and the humans. Dragons are flying around, setting all kinds of stuff on fire. A dragon (Jon Benjamin) is just about to destroy this guy's house, but this little kid (Highmore) comes out and says, “Hey, don't do that.”

The dragon is surprised that the boy can talk. “You can talk!” says the dragon.

“Of course I can talk,” the boy says, suddenly realizing that he is speaking to a dragon. “I didn’t know dragons could talk.” At that moment the dragon and the boy know they are going to be friends forever. Unfortunately, the dragon has already murdered the boy's family. “It’s okay, they were just my foster parents. I never knew my real mom and dad.”

“How old are you?” the boy asks the dragon. “I’m only 400 years old,” the dragon says shyly, embarrassed of how young he is. “But I’m really strong for my age!”

“400! That’s even older than Old Man Grover down at the feed store! I'm only 11.”

“11! I was still in my egg when I was eleven. You humans sure are strange.”

The boy was thinking the same thing, except about dragons.

The dragon takes the boy back to Dragon Mountain. “Blasphemy! You can’t bring a human here!” says the Dragon King.

“But he’s my friend!”

“Nonsense! We shall eat the human!”

All the dragons started cheering at the wise and fair judgment of the Dragon King. The dragon is torn between seeing his new best friend getting devoured by dragons, and rescuing him. The other dragons are about to eat the boy, but before they can, he swallows his friend all at once. But he really just hides the boy under his tongue. The dragons fall for it, and the boy is saved.

It turns out that dragons are really the good guys, and that the human kingdom was really evil the whole time. The dragons are trying to break into the castle, so that they can take down Morlock (DeVito), who is an evil wizard. He’s been controlling the human king this whole time with a mind control spell.

It also turns out that the boy and the dragon had the same dragon dad, and they are actually half-brothers.

In the end, they defeat Morlock, and teach everyone that dragons aren't as bad as everyone thought. The boy and the dragon fly off into the sunset in search of their dad. Does this mean there will be a sequel down the road? This reviewer hopes so.

4½ out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fired Up

Fired Up

Dir: Will Gluck

Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto, Sarah Roemer


Fired Up takes you on a wild school bus ride into the secret lives of these goddesses, these human paradigms, these cheerleaders.

What makes cheerleaders so amazing and great? Why are we so obsessed with cheerleaders? Why do we want to be around them all the time? What makes us want to kidnap them so badly? How is it legal that a judge can force me to stay at least 500 yards away from a public high school? It really doesn't seem fair, especially when my taxes help keep it running.

As movies have proven, it is every high school girl's fantasy to get on the cheerleading team, and it is every high school boy's fantasy to get with the cheerleaders, which sometimes requires that he pretend he's really into cheerleading so that they will let him go to Cheerleading Camp.

Fired Up shows us cheerleaders in all their glory, and yet paints them as human beings, as someone you could approach after school and offer her a ride home in your convertible.

4 out of 5 stars.

Watch the trailer here

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th
Dir: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Derek Mears, Robin Williams
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins

Another group of attractive, debaucherous, semi-likable young adults. Another massacre at the hands of masked villain, Jason Voorhees (Channel 101 star, Derek Mears). But this time Jason is depressed. Massacres have lost that massacre-y luster they once held. A single tear rolls down his hockey mask.

The blood is barely dry when a station wagon pulls up. It's none other than Dr. Richard Vanderstein (Robin Williams) and his family. Vanderstein is an eccentric, unorthodox psychiatrist from LA, but for the next week, he's just a family man on vacation with his wife Krystal (Charlize Theron), and their son and daughter.

Mostly out of habit, Jason goes to kill them in their sleep. He hovers over the bed, about to kill Theron, but something just isn't right.

“Can't do it can you?” Robin Williams says. He's sitting in the corner of the room, puffing his trademark corncob pipe. “Don't feel bad. I've tried to do it myself a few times.” Jason just stares.

“Not much of a talker, are you?” says Williams. “That's okay. Listen Jason. I'm a psychiatrist, and I want to help you. There's so much in life. You can't let it pass you by.”

Skip to a later scene: Robin Williams and Jason are sunbathing in the nude (except for the hockey mask of course). “Anyone can kill someone, Jason,” says Williams, “God knows I have. And God knows I'll do it again too. But it's moments like these. Just two guys in the middle of the wilderness. That's what makes life worth living.”

The rest of the movie is about uncovering the layered onion that is Jason Voorhees. He was drowned as a child, and that's bound to create some psychological issues down the road. If only Jason can just learn to let his past go, and learn to love.

Oh, and apparently Jason is also a genius at math somehow. He can multiply huge numbers in his brain, and so towards the end of the movie he gets a job as a professor at MIT. We flash forward five years, and he's winning this prestigious math award. And they ask him, “Is there anyone you want to thank for your success?” And Robin Williams leans forward in his chair, anticipating the praise he rightly deserves. “No,” says Jason, “It was all me.”

Robin Williams thinks he was betrayed, but it turns out that it wasn't really Jason up there, but a malfunctioning android that Jason built to accept the award on his behalf. The real Jason swoops down from the rafters, where he was controlling the robot until it went haywire, and then he and the robot fight it out right there in front of everyone. It looks like the robot is going to win, but Robin Willaims shouts, “Jason! You have to believe in yourself!” And then Jason totally starts believing in himself, and he beats the robot!

“I'd like to thank Dr. Vanderstein,” Jason tells the crowd. Everyone on screen starts cheering, and everyone in the theatre around me started cheering too. I would have cheered along with them, but I was too busy weeping with joy.

“Jason,” I whispered under my breath, “You son of a bitch. Well done.”

Well done.

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

He's Just Not That Into You

Dir: Ken Kwapis
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 mins

We all know that if a gentleman caller is “into you” he will make a business deal with your father, and acquire some land or some fat goats in exchange for the burden of taking care of you. If he’s not into you, he’ll probably burn down your farm and steal the goats. Either way, he’s getting some goats out of this.

Although He's Just not that into You felt somewhat contrived, (mainly because people were getting together without any sort of goat-related transactions. Are we just to assume that these transactions are being negotiated off screen?) the book that this movie was based on has a lot to offer in terms of tried and true relationship advice. I offer some of my favorite passages here:

“Men love it when you show you are committed. If he's not returning your calls, it's probably because you haven't called him enough times in a short enough span of time. Call him again, and if doesn't answer, immediately hang up and call again. If you manage to call him more than 60 times in one hour, he'll be very impressed, because that's more than one call per minute!”

“Pretend that you are pregnant. This will bring you closer together, and give you something to talk about during those painfully silent breakfasts. When he realizes you aren't really pregnant, just stuff a pillow under your shirt, and say 'Yes I am; just look how fat I am with this baby!' If done correctly, you can keep this going for at least a couple of years.”

“Men: Women love spontaneity. Tell her to dress up real nice because you're taking her out to the fanciest place in town. On the way there, say you changed your mind, and you have a better place to go to. Go to a McDonalds, and take off your fancy clothes in the car (make sure you wear a set of normal clothes underneath). She'll be the fanciest person at McDonalds! While you're eating your Big Macs, make sure to tell her how nice she looks. Women love to be complimented on how nice they look.”

“For guys or gals: Slowly (and subtly) chip away at your Significant Other's self esteem. A good way of doing this is by sending him/her anonymous letters in the mail that say mean things about the way they look, and/or their hygiene. The best part about being close to them is that you can figure out what they're most sensitive about, and really focus in on that in the letter. Make sure you don't put a return address, or sign it, or else they might figure out it's you. Also, practice acting surprised when they get the letter to divert suspicion. Say something like 'They do have a point,' about the letter (always make sure you pretend to read the letter first before you comment about it).

The less confident they feel about themselves, the more they will feel like you are their only option.”

“Finally, proper goat management is the key to any successful relationship. The fatter the goats, the better. If you don't have goats to trade, you've got a relationship headed nowhere.”

That last part about the goats wasn't really in the book, but I added it because it needed to be said.

3 out of 5 stars.