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Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Wild

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, William Shatner, Jim Belushi, Eddie Izzard, Janeane Garofalo.

Synopsis: "The Wild" follows a teenage lion from the New York Zoo who gets accidentally shipped to Africa and freed. His friends at the zoo including an older lion, a giraffe, an anaconda, and a squirrel must unite to bring him back.

The Wild
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Review: Samson (voice of Keifer Sutherland), the lion king of the Bronx Zoo, entertains his cub, Ryan (Greg Cipes), with stories about his days ruling the roost in Africa. Ryan wants to be just like his dad but hasn’t, yet, found his roar. Samson tells him to be patient but the lad knows that the only way he will develop his own ferocious growl is to get to “The Wild.”

The Wild,” in addition to lion cub Ryan’s desire to find his roar, starts out, when the last of the tourists and keepers leave for the day, with the denizens of the Bronx Zoo taking over the place. The big event that all the animals attend is a curling contest between the penguins and Samson and his team – a street-wise New York squirrel named Benny (Jim Belushi); the zoo’s merchandise star, a koala called Nigel (Eddie Izzard); the quick-witted and pragmatic giraffe, Bridget (Janeane Garofalo; and, the slow-witted but willing 21-foot long anaconda, Larry (Richard Kind). This portion of “The Wild” has nothing to do with the story and eats up a considerable amount of the film’s 85-minute run time.

Once this extended bit is finished, “The Wild” finally gets to its point. Ryan, wanting to return to his dad’s roots, gets out of the zoo and falls asleep in an animal-shipping container on the lot next door. Samson, when he realizes his son is missing, goes into a panic and frantically searches for his cub. He locates the boy but is too late as he helplessly watches the container get hauled away. Samson may be king of the zoo but he is woefully unprepared to go into the city to find his boy.

Benny, the street-savvy squirrel, steps in and, with the help of some local pigeons, finds out where the container is heading – to the docks to be shipped back to Africa. Samson and his team set off across the city to save Ryan before the ship sails. But, again, they are too late as they watch the freighter, with the container on board, pull away from the dock. Ever resourceful, Samson and the rest take over a tugboat and set off in pursuit. The chase will take them all the way to Africa. Further adventures ensue when a gang of wild wildebeests decides, at their leader Kazar’s (William Shatner) insistence, that they stop being prey and become predators, endangering Ryan and Samson’s lives.

The Wild The Wild The Wild The Wild
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As I watched “The Wild,” especially hearing Keifer Sutherland give voice to Samson (he channels Albert Brooks), all I could think of was the far superior Finding Nemo (2003).” A father’s search for his missing son is the same premise for both animation features but the earlier film benefited from much better, more imaginative writing (by animation veteran Andrew Stanton who penned such other great anime as Toy Story,” Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.” and also directed “Nemo”). With “The Wild,” visual effects supervisor Steve “Spaz” Williams (“Spawn,” “The Mask,” Terminator 3”) takes the helming reins but lacks the story telling skills to engross the viewer. The result is a film that will appeal to younger kids but fails to reach that important demographic, “for all ages.”

Having a visual F/X guy at the helm does make for an interesting film to look at. ”The Wild” does a credible job in creating detailed, though cartoon-like, creatures – and there are a lot of them – that look great. Unfortunately, the story, by a slue of writers (Ed Decter, Mark Gibson, Philip Halprin and John J. Strauss), feels like it was done by a committee and has few laughs. (Well, maybe a chuckle or two but not much more.) I found myself sitting, stone faced, as the “jokes” fell flat, making “The Wild” seem far longer than it is.

The talents giving voice to all the critter in “The Wild” is impressive but has some problems. Keifer Sutherland and Greg Cipes, the most prominent voices in the film, lack any luster in their characters. Both are overshadowed by the sidekick voices by Garofalo, Izzard, Kind and Belushi, who do their best with the weak dialog and weaker jokes. Patrick Warburton gives distinctive and amusing voice in the relatively small role of Blag, Kazar’s lieutenant.

The Wild” is the kind of film that is better left to video rental. It lacks the charm and humor of the other CGI animations mentioned and only the kids will take to it. My recommendation? Watch “Finding Nemo” again. I give “The Wild” a C.

*Review by Robin Clifford, Reeling Reviews

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

'Ice Age' sequel will melt your heart

Scrat is back and global warming will never be the same.

The 2002 animated comedy Ice Age was about three prehistoric animals who become unlikely friends: Manny the woolly mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary).

They put aside their natural aversion for one another to help reunite a human child with its tribe.

Lovable as those characters are, the breakout star of Ice Age was the sabre-toothed squirrel named Scrat, who was desperate to secure a lone acorn.

Scrat was in that film for less than five minutes, but it made him a sensation and guaranteed him a bigger role in the sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown.

Ice Age: The Meltdown
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Once again Scrat opens the film, but this time he doesn't disappear. Every 15 minutes or so he's back with another death-defying attempt to get that elusive acorn.

His trials land him in a school of piranha and an eagle's nest, fighting tooth and claw with a hatchling.

Scrat's a winner and so is his new film.

It's filled with so much humour and sweetness, it's impossible to savour it all in one viewing.

When we meet Manny, Sid and Diego, they're enjoying the effects of global warming with their neighbours in a lush little valley guarded by a towering wall of ice.

Everything seems idyllic till Fast Tony, the pessimistic armadillo, points to all the vultures circling the valley.

From their vantage point high in the sky, they can see how fragile that wall of ice really is, releasing the dammed-up water that will soon turn the valley into a lake.

The animals must flee once again, this time to higher ground.

On the way, they meet Ellie (Queen Latifah), possibly the only female mammoth left in the world. That's the good news. The bad news is Ellie thinks she's a possum.

This silly case of mistaken identity yields great laughs, especially when we also meet Ellie's adopted daredevil brothers, Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck).

Just think of The Lion King's Pumba and Timon and you'll have an idea of what to expect from Crash and Eddie.

Latifah is the ideal choice to pair with Romano. He's so laid back and she's wildly enthusiastic. Their attempts at courtship are hilarious.

Leguizamo's Sid is still wonderfully manic and has a great moment when Sid is worshipped as a Fire God.

Leary's Diego is the only one of the original trio who suffers a setback in the sequel.

The crafty villain who learned to be a friend is still dripping with sarcasm, but he's turning into a pussycat, which is quite unlike Leary.

The story moves very quickly and the animation is bright and stylish.

The youngest of children will love the visuals, while adults and older children will savour the jokes.

One of the film's many highlights is a vulture version of Food Glorious Food from the musical Oliver!

Ice Age: The Meltdown is a joy from start to finish, as nutty and irreverent as its tiny hero Scrat.

(This film is rated PG)

Official Web Site

*Review by LOUIS B. HOBSON - Calgary Sun


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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

A sharp and smart satire of Washington double-talk, with Aaron Eckhart burning the screen as a glad-handing tobacco lobbyist.

Thank You For Smoking Thank You For Smoking
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To make satire work is an act of will.

To truly savage a topic through sarcasm and humor, the satirist must fight the urge to get sentimental in the final reel. Let up on the subject's neck, even for a moment, and you lose the outrage that fueled the enterprise in the first place.

In "Thank You for Smoking," director/screenwriter Jason Reitman has a lot of will. He nimbly adapts Christopher Buckley's novel into a scaldingly funny send-up of corporate callousness and Washington double-dealing.

Our hero, if you can call him that, is Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), smooth-talking spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies - the industry-funded lobbying group that works tirelessly to not prove that smoking has any ill health effects. When he's not double-talking about "personal responsibility" on TV or before a congressional committee, he's lunching in wood-paneled luxury with his pals Polly (Maria Bello) and Billy Jay (David Koechner), who as representatives of the alcohol and firearms industries have dubbed themselves "The Merchants of Death."

Thank You For Smoking Thank You For Smoking
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Nick is starting to question whether his dealings - like persuading a Hollywood exec (Rob Lowe) to write cigarettes into his latest sci-fi blockbuster, or paying hush money to a cancer-stricken Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott) - are delivering the right message to his son, Joey (Cameron Bright). Meanwhile, he's romancing an ambitious reporter (Katie Holmes) while also dodging a health-crusading senator (William H. Macy).

Reitman (son of "Ghostbusters" director Ivan Reitman) makes an assured debut, moving swiftly and confidently through Buckley's story. He aims at targets all around, less like a shotgun and more like a multibeamed laser. He may let Big Tobacco off the hook a bit, but that's largely because he's going after bigger game - the merry-go-round of hypocrisy that permeates all sides of every Washington debate.

Eckhart ("Suspect Zero," "The Core") ably carries the weight of the movie, wide smile and dimpled chin set firmly in every scene. He perfectly embodies Nick's sharklike talent to keep moving forward, never playing defense when a good offense will do the trick. Eckhart provides the fire that lights up the slow-burn humor of "Thank You for Smoking."

*By Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune


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Monday, April 10, 2006

Scary Movie 4

Starring: Anna Faris , Leslie Nielsen , Regina Hall , Carmen Electra , Simon Rex

Scary Movie 4 Scary Movie 4
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Synopsis: What do you get when you mix fearless comedic genius with the latest box-office blockbusters? You guessed it. On April 14th, the Scary Movie gang is back with the most hilarious and irreverent installment yet! Scary Movie 4 is set to invade a theatre near you with outrageous send-ups of "War of the Worlds," "The Grudge," "The Village," "Saw" and "Saw II," "Million Dollar Baby" and much more. Legendary comedy director David Zucker ("Airplane!," the "Naked Gun" franchise, "Scary Movie 3," and "Ruthless People") and producer Bob Weiss reunite to take aim at some of the best fright films, the latest box office hits, music, current events, pop culture, and your favorite celebrities.

Anna Faris and Regina Hall are back as the loveable, dim-witted Cindy Campbell and her self-serving, sex-crazed pal, Brenda, respectively - joined this time around by Craig Bierko ("Cinderella Man"), as the cute-but-utterly clueless Tom Ryan. Together, they battle to save the world from a ruthless alien invasion.

And, in true Scary Movie tradition, the outrageous celebrity cameos are non-stop.

Those featured include: Carmen Electra, Shaquille O,Neal, Dr. Phil, Bill Pullman, Chris Elliott, Molly Shannon, Michael Madsen, rappers Chingy and Lil' John, Leslie Nielsen returning as our fearless Commander in Chief, plus many, many more surprises. In Scary Movie 4, nothing - and we mean NOTHING - is off limits!

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Sunday, April 09, 2006


Stars Mo'Nique as Jazmin Biltmore, a smart-mouthed aspiring fashion designer. PHAT GIRLZ is an edgy comedy about two frustrated plus-size women obsessed with their weight while struggling to find love and acceptance in a world full of "hot bodied" babes. The PHAT GIRLZ are thrown a major curve ball when they meet the men of their dreams in the most unexpected of ways...

Phat Girlz
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Starring: Mo'Nique ("The Parkers"), Jimmy Jean-Louis (TEARS OF THE SUN), Godfrey (SOUL PLANE), Joyful Drake (BEAUTY SHOP), Oscar nominee Eric Roberts (RUNAWAY TRAIN), Jack Noseworthy (UNDERCOVER BROTHER) and Kendra C. Johnson in her feature film debut, PHAT GIRLZ marks the feature directorial and screenwriting debut of Nnegest Likke and was produced by Bobby Newmyer (TRAINING DAY, THE SANTA CLAUSE, SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE) of Outlaw Productions and Steven J. Wolfe (TWIN FALLS IDAHO) of Sneak Preview Entertainment. The film was executive produced by Steven Imes and Mo'Nique of 10 Times Greater Productions, and co-produced by Outlaw Productions' Michael Glassman.

-- "Phat Girlz made me laugh and cry. It makes you realize that the status of being skinny is not everythin. That some cultures like thick women. 4 stars for keeping it real."

-- "'Looks moronic' - Looks like a pretty bad movie. Doesn't seem anything but a horrible running joke that she's fat and she likes food. OK, we can see that, we don't need to see this less than amusing comedian for two hours."

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