Monday, April 30, 2012


Family movie night!  Plus: wise-cracking, talking animals.  Minus: basically a romantic comedy.

Zookeeper is a fun movie, as you might expect, with the goofy Kevin James and a bunch of live-action talking animals.  James plays Griffin, a zookeeper who loves his job and loves the animals.  They love him back, and when they overhear him talking about taking another, higher-paying job so he can get his girl, the animals make it their mission to help him get the girl while keeping him at the zoo.  They break their animal code of silence and talk to Griffin.  His interactions with the animals are the best parts of the movie.  Their romantic advice doesn't quite help him out but gets some laughs.  The monkey says to throw poop; the wolf says to mark the territory by peeing.
A conference with the animals.
Other than the funny, slapstick, poop- and pee-humor (which my 10-year-old loved), the story is a pretty standard guy loses the girl, gets the wrong girl, loses the right girl, gets the right girl back romantic comedy story line.  Griffin's not a bad guy, but I was still wondering why both of these beautiful women were crazy about him.  They can both do much better.  All-in-all, Zookeeper is an entertaining but not great movie, with funny parts and a decent do-what-you-love, be-who-you-are message.

Bottom line, 2 stars.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

X-Men: First Class

I'm not a big comic book reader, but I'm always a sucker for comic book movies.  I've never read X-Men comics, but the movies are pretty good.  X-Men: First Class gives the back story of the X-Men, telling us where they came from, how they got together, why Dr. X and Magneto are enemies, why Dr. X is in a wheelchair, how Beast got to be blue and hairy, and more.  But more than just giving these back stories, the movie itself tells a good story.

I especially enjoyed the James McAvoy as the young Charles Xavier.  He captures Patrick Stewart's charm, brilliance, humility, generosity, and leadership in a younger, more winsome version.  I now realize that one reason I must have liked him so much is that he played the wonderful Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Dr. X with hair, and not in a wheelchair.
Yes, it's a comic book movie, but it has great effects, a story and heroes you can get behind, multiple levels of relationships to develop and characters who mature, and, of course, some rollicking action scenes.  And, to top it off, we learn what really happened with the Cuban missile crisis!  Comic book fan or not, I recommend that you check it out!

Bottom line, 3 stars.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Midnight in Paris

I'm not one of those film snobs who thinks Woody Allen is a comic genius, but, well, he is a comic genius.  His films are almost without exception funny, entertaining, touching, and on a higher plane than the typical mainstream comedy film.  In Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson plays a young Woody Allen.  OK, he actually plays Gil, a screenwriter who wants to be a novelist, but the character and Wilson's portrayal perfectly capture the Woody Allen from his earlier films: whiny, struggling with his identity, insecure, but funny and lovable.

A night on the town with Gil's literary heroes.
While on vacation in Paris with his fiance and her parents, Gil fantasizes about what he considers the golden age of Paris, the 1920s, where Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, and other luminaries interacted.  The clock strikes midnight, and he's transported to that time, meets his heroes, and even gets Gertrude Stein to read his manuscript.  His nightly forays into the past increasingly distance him from his fiance and deepen his love for the city of lights.
I have no love for Paris, and have always scorned those who romanticize the city.  But Midnight in Paris invokes a longing for a city I've only visited briefly, a nostalgia for a time about which I know little, transcending time and place for a reflection on contentment, idealization of the past, and making the most of your present. 

Bottom line, 3 1/2 stars.