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I think Tim Burton is a genius. The Walt Disney Co. has a history of genius. By the definition of transitive property, the melding of these two powers should have made the remake of Frankenweenie mind-blowing genius. Maybe this was a case of too much of a good thing.
Frankenweenie was originally a live-action Tim Burton short film...and it probably should have stayed that way. The new movie is a feature-length 3D IMAX stop-motion animation extravaganza that looks bigger yet feels like less. The expanded plot has the same basic storyline -- kid brings beloved dead dog back to life after it’s hit by a car -- but the additional hour feels belabored and not very well written. Characters are underdeveloped (and, in one case, following a big part in the beginning, completely disappear), jokes are overdone, and it looks like Tim Burton might be running out of original ideas -- some of the characters look nearly identical to characters in his other movies.
I did love that they kept the remake in black-and-white — it ties the picture back to the original classic Frankenstein films, and gave the movie a retro film noir. Not many others in the theater agreed with me, though. Black-and-white is a tough sell.
This Burton-Disney reunion -- the original Frankenweenie got Burton fired from Disney, according to WIkipedia, for being too scary for tots -- might have been a fabulous idea in theory, but it didn’t result in the sort of eye-popping, fantastic work I was expecting. While Frankenweenie suggests the originality Burton is known for, Disney’s need to dull down the original’s sharper, scarier edges makes it feel like it’s trying too hard yet not trying enough.
(**) -- Alex White
Taken was one of the biggest surprises of 2008, a short, fast and relentless thriller about a retired CIA agent’s desperate hunt for his kidnapped daughter that became a huge international box office success. I was looking forward to the sequel, but the junky Taken 2 has zero surprises and is laughably ridiculous in spots. Even that might’ve be okay escapism if the action scenes weren’t shot in a chaotic and headache inducing rapid-fire editing mix of close-ups and cutaways, where it’s impossible to tell who’s doing what to whom or what the hell is going on. All that said, Liam Neeson’s remains that rare screen talent who is both movie star and genuine actor, and his screen charisma and intensity kept me mildly interested all the way through to the totally predictable climatic standoff with the head villain. (**) -- Tom Siebert
Pitch Perfect is recommended for Gleeks (Glee Geeks) and reality television singing competition addicts. Anna Kendrick, (The Twilight saga and Up in the Air) stars as a reluctant co-ed attending a college her father chose for her, in lieu of following her dream of moving to Los Angeles to DJ and produce music. She begrudgingly appeases her father’s urging to get involved and experience college life by joining an all-girl a capella group. Far edgier than the group’s membership, Kendrick’s character propels the traditional singing group into the 21st century, mashing up funky beats with old school and contemporary pop hits.
Honestly, I’m a sucker for an underdog comedy with a dominating female cast, but the Kay Cannon’s script, full of puns and wordplays with ‘a capella’ (i.e. aca-ward), gets real old real quick; a lot of those gags should have stayed in the editing suite. The standout for me was Rebel Wilson as “Fat Amy,” the only character providing genuine comic relief in the movie.
Although the movie is completely predictable, with its mish-mash of singing, dancing, romance, heartbreak, and reference to the '80s movie, The Breakfast Club, Pitch Perfect is an agreeable crowd pleaser, but not one for the books. I could have overlooked the predictability of the film, if there were stronger vocal performances, but unfortunately I’m pulling a McKayla Maroney and say that I was not impressed in this regard.
I admit I was toe-tapping and head-bobbing through most of the performances, while patiently waiting for a breakout vocal performance, but it never name. Since this is, after all, a musical comedy, I would have loved to be blown away by the singing. Instead, I did my best to enjoy the movie for its quirky characters, stereotypically politically incorrect jokes, awkward situations and feel-good payoff. -- (**1/2) Theresa Pham