Fitz’s New Rule of Thirds for Movie Reviews

Hey there…

Though I’ve seen a few films at the theater recently, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to write reviews of them. But one of the strangely consistent things I’ve found is that most of them aren’t complete. If there’s a weak beginning, middle, or end, I find myself not really loving a film.

Let’s take the last four films I’ve seen:

I’ll start with the one I saw today – Faster starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton. After reading some of the great reviews, I was expecting to be blown away – and I was, for all but the last third. The beginning is amazing – setting the stage for Driver’s (Johnson) revenge road trip. After 10 years in prison, Driver is out to kill all of the people involved in the death of his brother after a heist. Even the middle is great as Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) gets involved and we start to learn more about the the heist. But somehow in the last third, Driver loses site of the prize and grows a heart. It took the wind out of the movie for me.

Let’s move to Tangled, the latest animated feature from Disney. From the trailers, I was actually looking forward to this one. In it, we see Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) who’s been locked in a tower for years by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) so Gothel can stay forever young courtesy of Rapunzel’s magical hair. When Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) hides out in the tower after a theft, it opens a big can of worms as the damsel in distress wants to see the world… With this one it’s the beginning that bored me to tears along with the fact that Murphy tries to sound like Ursula (Pat Carroll) from The Little Mermaid. Gothel as a character made me cringe whenever she was on screen. Once she was mostly out of the picture, I enjoyed the interplay between Rapunzel and Flynn – even the music!

Then there was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, which is the beginning of the end for the Harry Potter series. By far, this is one of the most action-packed of the series to date. The running and magical battles seemed to be non-stop… until we got to the last third of the film. I nearly fell asleep when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) were hunting for the Horcruxes, teleporting from place to place and waiting for their magical batteries to recharge in-between. Though I understand that they’re teenagers and meant to wallow in self-pity or ego from time to time, I felt like I was watching any episode of Days of Our Lives or 90120… I suspect that the dip towards the end was due to the fact that they had to split the movie into two parts, but still – I was hoping for a little more excitement heading to the end of part 1 and didn’t get it.

Of all of these films, RED is the most complete. Though the beginning is a bit slow, it was a slow burn that led to a satisfactory middle and a fantastic end. I’ve heard from people who said they didn’t like it, but to me it was a perfect action movie with great characters and dialog that never went over the top.

So here’s my new rule… On a scale of one to four stars, I have to factor in the rule of thirds. If one third sucks, that’s a star right off the top. If the whole movie is horrible, that’s three stars off the top with one left for other things like the music, special effects, acting, and so on. But it’s not worth misleading anybody if one third or more of a given movie isn’t worth seeing.

Is this over the top? I don’t think so. Movies should be graded as a whole entity.

What do you think? Leave me some comments whether you agree or disagree…

–Fitz

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Critics’ Choice Mashup for the week of December 1, 2010

Hi all…

This is a new weekly web show from the Critics’ Choice group talking about the latest movies with brief interview clips of their stars. The first episode focuses on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Tangled, Love & Other Drugs, plus brief bits on Burlesque and Black Swan. Though it’s short, I think the show does a great job expressing an opinion with class and a bit of style, so check it out below!

These should be released every Wednesday for a while and you can see more on CriticsChoice.com.

Thanks for reading!

–Fitz

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Book Review: Starlighter by Bryan Davis

Hi there…

Every now and then, a new young adult (YA) book comes to my attention to read. As a parent, I’m always on the lookout for well-written fiction with positive role models. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that YA is based in the real world and fairly boring for those of us a bit older than the target audience. Though the real world can be exciting in and of itself, I tend to look for a bit more of an escape for my eldest daughter.

Though the Eragon and Harry Potter series both have kids in leading roles, except for the first couple of books I never really felt they were aimed at the pre-teen market. Starlighter, the first in the new Dragons of Starlight series from author Bryan Davis seems to be tailor made for younger readers.

Starlighter focuses on two main characters from two different worlds linked by history – Jason Masters, newly appointed bodyguard to the governor; and Koren, a slave to the whims of dragons. Each seems built to be a hero and save the day.

Jason’s brother Adrian is the bodyguard to the governor. When Adrian goes on an adventure to discover the truth behind a conspiracy that’s lived in rumor and half-truths for a generation or more, Adrian leaves Jason in his role as bodyguard to Governor Prescott and gives him a message tube with a cryptic message. The message opens a can of worms that leads Jason on a wild ride through dungeons, caves, and into a whole new world…

Elsewhere in the solar system, Koren is discovering that the dragons of her world may also be keeping secrets. For generations, her people have served the dragons tooth and claw – mining, cleaning, raising more children as slaves. The dragons say they are protecting her people, but Koren discovers many of them are waiting for the prophecy of a mysterious black egg to come true. Unfortunately, the prophecy may also lead to the destruction of her world.

As with much young adult fiction, these characters are larger than life with amazing resolve and fantastic skills to keep them alive on their perilous journey between worlds. Along the way, they meet other characters like Randall Prescott, son to the governor who turns out to be an ally; Elyssa, a girl thought kidnapped by bears who can see glimpses of the future; and Tibalt, a crazy prisoner with riddles containing clues to what they should do next.

With 400 pages, the book moves quickly with great descriptions to help readers visualize each step of the way – from the smell of the noxious gas released during mining, to the rising cold waters as the group is trying to figure out how to open the gateway between Jason and Koren’s two worlds. Davis’ writing style reminded me a bit of The Eye of the World – the first book in Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series.

By the end of the book, I was left with many questions and wondering what Jason and his friends would do to survive the trouble they find in the dragon world of Starlight, so I’ll definitely be interested to see what happens in the next book of the series. However – I would definitely recommend this book to younger readers instead of adults seeking more complex themes.

That’s not to say that Starlighter isn’t an enjoyable read. The concept of a pair of worlds bound together through a shared history and the enslavement of humans by dragons is not something I can recall in other fantasy fiction. However, it’s pretty easy to see who the good guys (and dragons) are and who isn’t helping out the characters as they chug along.

If you have a pre-teen interested in a fantasy story with swords, magic, and dragons – I’d definitely recommend you pick up a copy of Starlight for their enjoyment. Davis has a gift for storytelling I’ll be sharing with my daughters soon!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great books from Barnes & Noble below!

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