Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More like "YAWN of the Dinosaurs"

Rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril.
94 minutes
** out of 5

When you go into a franchise having only seen one of the two previous features and the last time you saw the original was upon its initial release 7 years ago you can bet that there’s going to be some confusion on who characters are. Luckily, with an animated feature film it makes things a little easier as you only really have to remember which celebrity voice is who and it all comes flooding back.

I avoided seeing “Ice Age: The Meltdown” when it was released in 2006 because it just seemed way more of the same with more fart and poop jokes thrown in. I knew this was probably what I was bound for as the case of diminishing returns generally runs rampant when the original product wasn’t that great to begin with. And it certainly doesn’t raise one’s expectations when there are already fart and poop jokes in the trailer.

So what does one get upon entry? Well one thing for sure is a movie presented in the newly fadded 3-D format. This adds absolutely nothing to the presentation. Part of the problem with showing Computer-animated films in this format is that the image, for the most part, is already greatly three dimensional to begin with. If a movie is simply being presented in 3-D to up prices of tickets sales as this one is, it automatically pales in comparison to something as eye-popping as “Up,” “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Coraline.” Even the horror remake “My Bloody Valentine 3-D” put this effect to better comical use than the creators of “Ice Age 3.”

This time out we find Manny (voiced again by usually funny-man Ray Romano) and his partner Ellie (Queen Latifah) gestating their first offspring together. They aren’t the only ones facing changes in their current status however. Scrat has found the love of his fight, er, life in Scratte. It’s love at first nut for this pair which is also the abundance of their relationship. Continually fighting for what is apparently the last acorn on earth while some variation of “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by Lou Rawls plays in the background.

Also we find Diego (Dennis Leary) possibly leaving the herd as he nearly has a heart attack trying to chase down some dinner along with Sid (John Leguizamo) coming to terms with his true feminine side as he discovers some frozen eggs, unbeknownst to him to belong to a T-Rex mommy who is anything but pleased to find them gone missing.

As we plunder the “depths” of children’s comedy (everything from penis to gay jokes, harty har har) we discover the so-called plot of this plodding excuse for time filler till next year’s “Toy Story 3” or even the re-release of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” both newly presented in 3-D to tide us over until Pixar’s June 2010 release of awesomeness. The “plot” of this is that Sid has been captured by the mother T-Rex and has taken him to a sort of Lost World (right underneath their feet above!). How an entire world of dinosaurs remains hidden beneath the so-called ice age going on at surface level is a true blunder of story telling. Anyway, Sid has been taken away and now everyone must band together to find him and bring him back to the frozen tundra’s above where he “belongs” even though it surely seems like everyone he’s “friends” with wouldn’t mind for a second if he truly went missing but I digress.

The only new character I believe we get here is a cringe worthy character named Buck. This should have been the best character in the movie as being voiced by Simon Pegg of “Spaced,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Star Trek” fame. However, you don’t even realize it’s him until the character is halfway through with his need for the story and by the time you do figure out who the voice belongs to he has nothing funny left to say. Not that he did before or you may have noticed his voice way earlier.

If you’re looking for Pixar quality here, you won’t even come close to Dreamworks. After all, when the only films Fox has been able to churn out are three “Ice Age” films and “Robots” from 2005 which that one movie was better and more original than all three of these “Ice Ages.” If the cinematic gawds were to truly do us a favor, it would cast Blue Sky Studios back to whence they came, the ice age of filmdom.

Hankies hankies everywhere and plenty of tears will fall

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, sensuality, language and brief teen drinking.
109 minutes
Warner Bros.
*** out of 5

By now everyone has seen enough previews of this to know if it may be for you or not. I know there are plenty of other choices to pick from right now playing at your local megaplex. And yes, it is not what you could call the feel good movie of the year. But if it piques your interest and you have a box of tissues handy you definitely can find more than you may have expected.

"My Sister's Keeper" comes from the director of “The Notebook,” Nick Cassavetes, and I’m sure it was intended to be the weeper of the year. Especially when you count in the fact that its based on a best-seller about a child with cancer and her mother’s over-dedicated efforts to keep her alive in spite of everyone’s best interest.

Sara Fitzgerald (Cameron Diaz) and her husband Brian are told that their daughter, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) has cancer and will probably not live past the age of five. Neither of them are a match for any kind of surgeries and neither is her brother, Jesse (Evan Ellingson). A doctor suggests they have a test tube baby that they could genetically alter to make absolutely sure that the new child would be an exact match for Kate’s operations. And thus, Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) is born.

We first meet Anna as she is going into the law office of Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) with a collection of $700. She explains that she wants to be medically emancipated from her parents even though she knows what it could mean for her sister Kate. After a freak out episode when Sara is served and receives Anna’s request she remains totally mind boggled as to why Anna would not want to help her sister anymore. This is the first so-called twist even though it may be a twist most viewers will see a mile away whether they want to admit it or not, much the same as Sara’s character.

The story is told through an interesting use of flashbacks which in the long run never really add anything to the story and actually wind up just being confusing in some parts. Such as Sara shaving her head to get Kate out of bed and then nowhere else in the movie is there even any hint that she had to grow her hair back. The true meat of the movie comes not between the two sisters but between Kate and a boy, Taylor (Thomas Dekker) who she meets in chemotherapy. This is how teenage romantic natured films should be handled. Not the glowering, stare-happy wannabe “vampires” of the “Twilight” universe. Stephanie Meyer could learn a thing or two about how to write an entire saga from watching maybe ten minutes total of this film.

Some supporting characters really give their all and almost basically play themselves which is way more than fine when you’re talking about Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack. Cusack plays the judge presiding over Anna’s case and has lost a daughter of her own and quite surprised Campbell Alexander when he finds out that she’s back on the bench. The heartbreak in Judge De Salvo shines thru in every scene she’s in and as always she’s just a wonder to watch on screen.

I’m sure the outcome to everything in the film will not surprise anyone, but luckily the cast, even Jason Patric included, gets some kind of chance to shine throughout. Yes, even Cameron Diaz is afforded her first chance to actually act in quite some time. So bring some hankies, a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold, because if you’re the target audience you will probably be moved to tears. I just couldn’t help but wonder when all was said and done though, is it really that cold in Montana in the middle of August?