While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Take This Waltz is beautiful maddening and sexy just like its protagonist Margot (Michelle Williams). Margot speaks like a toddler to her husband Lou (Seth Rogen). She's moody but playful and she has cutesy and symbolic neuroses like insisting on taking a wheelchair at the airport because trying to make her flight is the sort of limbo that makes her anxious. As she explains to a handsome stranger named Daniel (Luke Kirby) she's afraid of connections she's afraid she'll get lost and no one will ever find her. Almost everything about her is childish from her bright yellow raincoat to her junior high insults ("retard " "gaylord") to her shrieking embarrassment when she pees in the pool during a water exercise class.
"What's the matter with you " asks Daniel "generally?" That's the crux of the movie. What is the matter with Margot? Even Margot doesn't know the root of her restlessness. It seems the only person willing to call her on it is her sister-in-law Geraldine an alcoholic in recovery who is already anticipating her own failure.
Take This Waltz relies heavily on chance and metaphor but the emotional intensity can make you willing to take that leap. Williams carries the film as Margot while Rogen gets an excellent chance to show his emotional side as Lou a lovable bear of a man. Kirby plays Daniel with an easy heady sexuality that makes Margot's decision understandably difficult. Sarah Silverman drops her bad girl comedian persona and really shines as acerbic but insightful Geraldine.
After Daniel and Margot meet at a historic village (she's rewriting the tour book for the tourist destination and he's who knows a fan of colonial history) Daniel is seated next to her on the plane. He also happens to live down the street from her and Lou. By the time he's began to wonder what Margot's deal really is they're knee deep in a heated emotional affair. Their attraction is immediate and palpable an irresistible force felt off screen. Daniel verbally consummates their affair with an unforgettably hot monologue.
Lou on the other hand isn't quite on the same page as Margot when it comes to their sex life or future children. He's knee-deep in a chicken cookbook so the couple and their family and friends eat almost nothing but different chicken dishes at every mean. You can only eat so much chicken right? Daniel on the other hand is new. "New things are shiny " Geraldine tells her in the communal gym shower as the women are soaping up after that pool incident. "New things get old " comments a woman nearby. This is one of the strongest scenes in the movie where women of all ages shapes and colors scrub down unapologetically and talk amongst themselves in a private/public space.
Take This Waltz is a more realistic portrayal of an erratic young woman who in a different writer's hands would be one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Even though Margot wears adorable onesies and has the playfulness of a child she also hurts a lot of people and is screwed up for no apparent reason. It's not always clear why these men are attracted to her and you can tell they aren't sure themselves but it's interesting and painful to watch it all unfold. Take This Waltz is beautifully shot full of buttery sunlight and lush parks and sweetly decorated abodes. Polley rolled the dice on a difficult protagonist and comes up a winner.
S10E3: Here we go again, another audition episode and things are really hitting their crazy, ridiculous stride in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Steven Tyler is really getting comfortable and loosening up with his fellow judges. Oh, you thought he was loose before, did you? Well, he’s really let himself go now. His facial reactions and emphatic gestures are loud enough on their own but he still opens his mouth and says something crazy almost every time. While I want to hate him I can’t help but enjoy the insanity – even if it does mean shamelessly plugging his own music and forcing Randy to attempt to sing “Sweet Emotion.”
“Well hellfire, save matches, fuck a duck and see what hatches.” –Steven
The first batch of Idol hopefuls was a bit of a mixed bag delivering us a down-home, old-fashioned country singer, an aspiring radio D.J. who should probably stick to talking, and a 15 year old who cried her way to Hollywood.
First up is Scott McCreery, the 16 year old baseball-loving kid who somehow has the country-singing voice of a much older man. He sang two country songs for the judges with a rich, deep, twangy voice and earned himself a golden ticket – even though this is generally a pop music competition, not a country music jamboree. Still, the kid’s got talent, and his singing made Steven utter that bit about fucking a duck, so you know he’s good.
From the good, to the bad and the downright ugly we go. Joe Repka trekked from his college in Toledo, Oh. to bond with Ryan Seacrest over their mutual love of talking on the radio and then there’s that pesky audition process too. Before Joe jumped into his painful rendition of “For The Longest Time,” Joe’s granny admitted to Ryan that she’s tone-deaf. I guess it runs in the family because the kid could not carry a tune and he’s apparently hard of hearing too, because while the judges were telling him what’s up, he kept singing. Really? Go home, dude.
Before this batch had run its course, we found ourselves listening to the stylings of 15 year old Emma Henry who sang a sweet, raspy version of “True Colors.” She was alright, but as Randy pointed out, she’d get swallowed up in Hollywood. I don’t know how accurate his claim is that Idol is the greatest “talent competition in the world” though, especially after the girl cried so hard they gave her a ticket anyway. Simon would not approve.
“What was terrible?” –Rejected Contestant
“Pitch, tone, sound…everything about singing.” – Randy
It wouldn’t be an audition episode without a montage of crazies and there were plenty to go around this time. First we had the terrifying woman in a floor length black coat which was open enough to reveal hot pants, a bandeau top, and knee-high black boots; no, she couldn’t sing. Then we had the confrontational guy, the guy who massacred “Bad Romance” and then thought it would be cute to ask Randy for a sip of coke (not cool, dawg), the guy who did a back flip into a cameraman, and of course the crazy dude in a silver, shiny outfit and a giant toothbrush. Come on. That’s not even funny. NEXT.
“All of the isms jumpin’ off.” – Randy
“None of the wasms.” -Steven
Alright, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this next girl will probably come close to winning this entire competition because, to put it bluntly, she rocks. I was a little put off when her little pre-audition vignette got a tad melodramatic – Naima Adedapo is a great singer but cleans toilets at a concert venue instead of performing – but once she started singing “For All We Know” my apprehension was gone. She’s got a strong voice and sounds like an actual singer that should get paid to sing.
Next, in the wave of goodies is Jerome Bell, the babely bar mitzvah singer who sang “Let’s Get It On” and went straight to Hollywood with no ifs, ands, or buts. Then, the auditions got into a wave of 15 year olds, which of course led Ryan to explain that Idol changed the age to 15 so that they could potentially find the next Justin Bieber – really? That kid can barely sing a song with more than 6 different words in it (and I accept that I may now receive Twitter death threats from his fans). Thia Megia started off the streak with a bluesy, strong, mature performance of “Chasing Pavements” as a montage of other 15 year old golden ticket winners gained musical accompaniment from Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen.” How original.
“I actually think he’s going to point the gun at me. I think he’s going to shoot me.” – Ryan
Okay, things didn’t get suddenly serious on this episode of Idol, but they did take a nose dive for a bit. Is anyone else bothered by the fact that these contestants are coming in waves of bad and good? Remember when we could play the guessing game about who’d be great and who would suck, and sometimes we’d be completely wrong? Where is that game? I want it back, American Idol.
First up is a man who has to be doing this to get on television, Nathaniel Jones the Civil War reenactor. Nevermind the part about how his dad can’t be a hippee because “hippees believe in sex,” the dude went on TV and pretended he couldn’t tell present day from the 1860s and then sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in a ridiculous falcetto voice (though, he was actually in tune). This guy knew he’d get on TV, so he went crazy. Case closed, moving on.
Quickly, because it was just sad, another dude, Mason Wilkinson, was so bad he had to be faking. He had to turn around for 15 seconds to compose himself before he could sing the worst thing I’ve heard in a while. Steven said he “didn’t know people were like that,” and it’s because they’re not. Dude was faking. Next.
“I’m in love with this president. Not in a Monica Lewinski, Bill Clinton, intern sort of way.” –Contestant
Mary DeWolf Swenson, whose name sounds made up and is good at everything so she can withstand me making fun of her name for two seconds, is a Harvard grad, White House Intern and now one of the contestants going to Hollywood. She sang beautifully, she’s tall, blonde, pretty, smart. Boom, White House Barbie goes to Hollywood.
Next is Tiwan Strong, who despite his ridiculous all-white linen getup, sang beautifully and like the contestant from last week, had a John Legend-esque quality to his voice and according to Steven “a sparkle in his eyes.” Now you’re hitting on dudes, Steven?
Then came the friend-less singing certified public accountant who sings for fun at weddings and FUNERALS. Talk about depressing; this guy wasn’t crying but his story was not pretty. I’m on the fence about his actual vocals because his voice is a little creepy even if he is technically a good singer. Once again, I agree with Steven who said he was “disturbingly great.” I cannot hate Steven no matter how much I try. Damnit.
“I wanna fucking punch those people in the fucking face.” –Rejected contestant
Before we get to the last three happy faces of the night, I’m going to round up the rest of the baddies, starting with the most explosive of them all, Vernika Patterson. First of all, I want to take credit for calling this one. A contestant sang Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You” and like I said before, was delusional enough to think she could sing it. The sad thing is that her vocals weren’t even the ridiculous part. When the judges told her no, she indignantly insisted that she’s better than half the singers out there (yes, because half of them were selected because they are so bad; where have you been for the last 10 years?) and then accused the judges of eliminating her for not being “skinny like half of these females” before storming out of the audition. No, sweetie. They said no because you suck, not because you have the wrong body type.
This of course leads into a montage of rejected people crying and yelling and screaming and cursing as camera men try to follow them after they’ve had their dreams crushed. I thought this bit was a little fucked up; sort of like the producers just sitting around laughing at the misery their audition process has created. But then again, did I turn it off? Nope. I watched every last second. Mission accomplished, Fox.
Two more bad auditions to go. Second to last was Albert Rogers the 3rd…yeah okay. He claimed to be a cross between Usher and Luther Vandross but sounded more like a tone-deaf toddler in the bath. Sorry dawg, you’re not going to Hollywood.
Last but not least, Fox found their golden promotional ticket in Green Bay Packers super-fan, Megan Frasier. She gave them an opportunity to mention the Super Bowl on Fox and fulfilled the necessary element of any stop in Wisconsin: a visit with a cheesehead. (That’s what they’re called, I’m not that mean.) She also sang “Baby” in an operatic voice. This is where I throw my hands up. It’s auditions like this that make me feel played.
“You look like one of my…nope. Not gonna say it.” –Steven
Finally, we’ve got the last three good ones, and they’re good. First up is Scott Dangerfield a student teacher with an awesome name. He’s wiry and geeky, but packs a punch, belting out tunes with a strong, bluesy voice. I’m looking forward to hearing more from him in Hollywood.
Then we have the Steven Tyler superfan, Allyson Jados. She’s the one who looks like one of Steven’s – well, he’s not going to say it – but I will. GROUPIES. She’s a pretty good singer, even if the only words she knows from “Dream On” are “dream” and “on.” Steven sang with her, gave her a hug and thanks to Randy’s “no” gave the deciding vote to send her to Hollywood. How many other people can say they got that kind of treatment from their Idol? Not many.
“What kind of a guy would I be if I left her when she needed me the most?” –Contestant
In true Idol fashion, they saved the most emotional contestant for last. Chris Medina is a Starbucks barista and a SAINT. His fiancé, who was also a barista when they got engaged, suffered a horrible accident that left her permanently disabled and with brain damage, yet he stays by her side day in and day out. After his audition, the judges wanted to meet his fiancé and while it was touching, it was a bit odd because they weren’t quite sure how to act around her. Even so, the story is truly sad and I’m sure there will be lots more about the saintly Mr. Medina in the weeks to come.
Whew. Didn’t think you’d make it to the end did you? These episodes are long for sure, but just think; the more audition episodes we work through, the closer we get to Hollywood week and the closer we’ll be to the actual competition which is kind of exciting, right?
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.