MOVIE REVIEW: Ramona and Beezus

pleasant, sincere, likable, wholesome

I knew it would hapen eventually: I take the daughter to a movie that doesn’t scare her (cf. Princess and the Frog, Despicable Me) or totally bore me (Alvin and the Chipmunks 2).

Ramona and Beezus is a story based on Beverly Cleary’s apparently popular children’s book series, which I had never heard of; obviously, I live in a cultural desert. Ramona Quimby (Joey King) is a nine-year-old middle child, stuck between her beautiful high sister Beatrice, who baby Ramona had dubbed Beezus (Selena Gomez – Wizards of Waverly Place) and the new baby.

Ramona, her rambunctious, free-spirited imagination on high, doesn’t know how to draw inside the lines. This is alternately interesting and frustrating to Beezus and to the parents, Robert (John Corbett – everything from Northern Exposure to My Big Fat Greek Wedding to Sex and the City) and Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan – Six Degrees). Ramona does have an ally in her Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin – Ed, Big Love), who relates to being the younger sister. Bea is horrified to learn that Hobart (Josh Duhamel – Transformers) the boy who broke her heart in high school is back in town, and Bea and Ramona agree to keep Hobart at arm’s length.

Meanwhile, in school, Ramona cannot be bothered with traditional rules, such as spelling, much to the consternation of her teacher, Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh – Grey’s Anatomy, Sideways).
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Movie Review: Salt

Oh, look, there’s the building I used to work in! Did they manually change the highway signs or did they just correct them digitally?

I’ve been known to be a self-confessed art-house snob when it comes to movies. Interestingly, our local art house, the Spectrum Theatre, was showing Salt, the new Angelina Jolie
movie that was filmed, in part, in Albany, NY, rerouting traffic for a couple weeks last summer.

Let me state from the start that Salt isn’t the type of movie the wife and I tend to see. We’ve never viewed any of the Jason Bourne movies, for example. When you see a lot of a certain genre of movie (or listen to a certain genre of music), it develops one’s critical eye (or ear). Still, Salt is what we decided to see on Monday night date night.

I thought, after an intense flashback scene, the beginning of the movie was slow, giving a lot of exposition; I never felt that way again. Salt was an adreneline rush of action and tension from about 12 minutes in until the end. About 3/4 of the way through, my wife whispered, “I’m exhausted,” and I knew just what she meant.

This is one of those Cold War dramas that seemed farfetched until the recent Russian spy scandal in real life; the difference is that this group is far more competent, insulating themselves even in the halls of government.

I started reading the reviews Continue reading “Movie Review: Salt”

The Scenario

Hair in my food?

I found this at something called Monday Mayhem, only the URL spells it “mahem”. Whatever. It’s rather like Sunday Stealing except the lists tend to be shorter. I thought this one from January was rather interesting.

1. You see a strange car pull up to your neighbor’s house every day at lunch time. You accidental glance into the window of the house and notice that your ‘happily married neighbor’ is fooling around! What do you do?

Well, it depends very much on my relationship with the neighbor and the neighbor’s spouse. It might be that I would do absolutely nothing at all if I didn’t know them well. If the one fooling around was my friend, I probably would mention it to him/her. If the neighbor’s spouse was my friend, I would almost certainly mention it, not to my friend, at least initially, but to the cheating spouse, with a recommendation to end the affair; whether I told my friend would depend on the actions of the person “fooling around”.

2. You are at the mall and a mom with really annoying screaming little kids is walking in front of you. She goes to give her kids a quarter for the giant gum ball machine and she accidentally drops a $10 bill and doesn’t realize it. What do you do?
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Who WERE those three heartless Rotten Tomatoes heartless critics who didn’t like Toy Story 3?

OK, let’s get my singular complaint out of the way. My wife and I both felt that the 3-D did not particularly enhance Toy Story 3, at least when we saw it at the Madison Theatre in Albany last week. I had not read Roger Ebert’s otherwise positive review of the film, which ends, “Just don’t get me started about the 3-D.”

That said, this may be my favorite of the three Toy Story movies, and we own the first two on something called VHS. It starts with a flashback scene of Andy (voice of John Morris) playing with his toys, followed by present-day Andy getting ready for college. What should he do with his frankly neglected buddies? His mother (Laurie Metcalf) has an idea that he doesn’t much care for. Andy decides to take Woody (Tom Hanks) along with him to college, and put the others in the attic, but miscommunication ensues, with nearly unfortunate results.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal back on February 19 that describes the plot this way: “In Pixar’s coming movie ‘Toy Story 3,’ Woody the cowboy and his toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, leaves for college.” Well, not quite Continue reading “MOVIE REVIEW: Toy Story 3”

MOVIE REVIEW: The Karate Kid (2010)

Mr. Han, the taciturn maintenance man, teaches Dre kung fu. So why is this movie called the Karate Kid?

It’s date night. It’s been a while since we had one of those. I let my date pick the movie; I mean, I suppose I could have vetoed it, but I’m generally disinclined.

First, we go to dinner at a local restaurant/bar named Junior’s. The food’s OK, but it’s one of those places with about a half dozen TVs. The truly weird thing is that three of them were on the same ESPN channel, but that the broadcast at the bar was about seven seconds AHEAD of the the sets in the dining area. It was a College World Series game. Batter swings on the bar TV, batter swings on the restaurant TV. Outfielder catches the ball in the bar, outfielder makes the catch in the restaurant. ESPN logo in the bar…well, you get the idea.

So, what will we see? The choices:
Jonah Hex, the adaptation of the DC comic book; she doesn’t know Jonah Hex
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the adaptation of an apparently popular video game that I never heard of, that’s on its last night, before being replaced by the Cruise/Diaz film, Knight and Day
Shrek Forever After, apparently the last in the franchise. We saw the first two; I would have seen this.
The A-Team, the remake of the 1980s TV show that I seldom watched
Toy Story 3 (“in Disney 3D”), the third in that series; we own the first two on video. DEFINITELY would have seen this.
Killers, that Ashton Kutcher dog, which had the honor of being the only item that wasn’t a sequel or remake.
But she picked The Karate Kid , which was fine by me. I figured she was a big fan of the original. But in fact, she hadn’t seen the original with Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita or its two follow-ups, and neither had I.

So, I’m seeing this not in the context of the previous films, but as an entity on its own.

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith from The Pursuit of Happyness) has to leave home in rundown Detroit because his widowed mom Sherry (Taraji P. Henson from Benjamin Button) got a job in Beijing, China. We know Detroit’s run down because we see ALL the boarded-up buildings. They arrive at their dwelling, where at least most of the people speak English, including a cute Chinese girl, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han) practicing her violin. Unfortunately, this flirtation is not appreciated by the building bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), who enjoys administering a beatdown (or two, or three).

Dre is FINALLY rescued by Mr. Han, the taciturn maintenance man who teaches Dre kung fu, or so Dre can participate in a wushu tournament. (So why is this movie called the Karate Kid? As Sherry says at one point, “Kung fu, karate – what’s the difference?”) Obviously it’s a ploy to extend the brand, and, I’ve read, it’s pretty faithful to the original.

What I liked: the performers; the use of China (Forbidden City, Great Wall and other locations as backdrop). What bothered me: too long (2:20) by about 20 minutes. Surely, we could have gotten the lesson about hanging up your clothes (an homage, I understand, to the original’s “Wax on, wax off”) sooner. One less beatdown of Dre would have been nice too. And it’s a sports movie, so, even if I didn’t see the 1984 film, the ending is not a shock.

Still, it had enough heart to recommend this film, produced by Jaden’s parents, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rotten Tomatoes score of 69% (as of this writing)
Roger Ebert’s positive review

A bit off the point, but Jaquandor links to a Ralph Macchio makeover (NSFW).