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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DVD Review: Aliens in the Attic

Hi all!

Did you watch the trailers for Aliens in the Attic when they were on television and in movie theaters and cringe inwardly? I was there with you. This flick had all the earmarks of a trainwreck… A mix of animation and live action? Check. A young cast trying to expand their careers? Check. Alien invasion? Check. The list goes on… But was it really as bad as people said? Not really. Some parts were actually funny and others were almost touching.

What’s the story then? A teenage boy, Tom (Carter Jenkins), and his family – father Stuart (Kevin Nealon), mom Nina (Gillian Vigman), and sister Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) – go on vacation with their extended family. Cousin Jake (Austin Butler), twins Art and Lee (Henri and Regan Young), young sister Hannah (Ashley Boettcher), uncle Nathan (Andy Richter), and grandma Rose (Doris Roberts). Yes, it’s a big family reunion. Slimy boyfriend Ricky (Robert Hoffman) even drives up in his fancy car to surprise Bethany.

Unfortunately, they have some univited guests who start causing havoc. A group of aliens arrive as a scouting party for a bigger invasion force.

Many of the funny scenes were shown in the trailers, including the battle royale between Grandma and Ricky as mind-controlled puppets. All of the scenes where Ricky and Grandma were implanted with the mind-control device were really quite amusing. There’s something about idiot boyfriends and sweet old grannies going toe to toe that is absurd enough to keep you laughing. The fact that the mind control didn’t work on the children was a fun plot device to keep the battles mainly between the kids and the aliens with the adults only occasionally getting in the way.

The aliens had a lot of personality as well, considering that they were CGI. Voiced by Thomas Haden Church, J.K. Simmons, and others, each had his or her own way of looking at the world. And though they were about 2 feet tall and kind of mean, they were violent in mainly cartoonish ways – so this was never too scary for my kids.

It also seemed that writers Mark Burton and Adam Goldberg had a good grasp of using what was at hand in the house for the warfare between the kids and the aliens. The kids were putting together potato guns and using firecrackers in the air ducts to keep the aliens with better technology at bay.

Most of the almost touching moments were between Stuart and Tom. Theirs was a father-son relationship that had become strained as Tom tried to deal with being a smart geek in school who was always picked on by the cool or athletic kids. To rebel, he decided to fail his classes to try and fit in with the “cool” crowd, which only succeeded in making his parents upset with him. By the end of the film, Tom decides he’s ok with being a smart kid, since it was his smarts that helped save the planet from the pint-sized aliens.

Really it wasn’t too bad. And my two girls (ages 4 and 8) giggled their way through most of it, so I think they had fun too.

In addition to the movie, there are a number of features included on the DVD. Ashley Tisdale is featured in the “Introduction to Film,” the “Introduction to Special Features,” and “The Ashley Encounters” segments. The “Alternate Ending” didn’t work as well for me as the actual one they used in the movie, and the Deleted Scenes didn’t add much, but were probably fun to film for Tim Meadows, who played the Sheriff.

The Gag Reel was fun, and shows that all the kids and adults had a good time filming. I really liked the “Behind the Zirkonians” short, which was done as a motion comic book. The animators must have had a good time pulling it together. And in “Meet the Zirkonians” you have an interactive feature that tells you various things about each of the four alien characters. For example, who knew Tazer was “single and looking”?

But the “Kung Fu Grandma” faux-commercial was my favorite feature. I had no idea that mind controlled grannies had so many special moves.

All in all, Aliens in the Attic was a fun movie to share with my kids. Find it at a rental store near you!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Aliens in the Attic at Amazon below!

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