Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This is a different kind of animated film, with a different idea. There are TWO superheroes on the planet, and, of course, one's bad and one's good. And the film shows why MegaMind chose to become bad: Metro Man, that goodie-two-shoes, beats him in tasks and popularity every step of the way. It didn't help that they were the same age and went to school together.

If you're a fan of the Superman story at all, you'll laugh in the first quarter of the movie as they make comparison after comparison. It's a really clever send-up of our boy in red and blue.

So, Metro Man, he of the good looks, and MegaMind, he of the bulbous blue head, meet toe-to-toe over many years, with Metro Man winning every single time. Except the last time. MegaMind is finally king.

But, gosh, that's boring. No one to pit yourself against means a lonely existence. And the one girl you really like, Roxanne Ritchie, kind of pines for Metro Man and won't pay you a second glance. Until something kinda weird happens.

There is generally enough action -- you know, people trying to kill each other -- throughout the film to keep kids interested. And there's enough dialogue and funny punch lines to keep adults engaged. And the voices -- Will Ferrell as MegaMind, Brad Pitt as Metro Man, and Tina Fey as Roxanne -- really punch it. I recommend this movie for both kids and adults.

Thumb's up.

Winter's Bone

Seventeen-year-old Ree lives in her parents' Missouri house. She takes care of her much younger siblings as well as her mother, who seems to be suffering from depression and/or Alzheimer's. Dad is gone, missing. They're barely making it when the sheriff shows up and explains to Ree that her father posted the house as part of his bond. If he doesn't return by the time of his hearing, the house will be forfeited to the bailbondsman.

She knew Dad occasionally cooked some meth from time to time, but had no idea he was in this much trouble. Her uncle, Teardrop, tries to convince her that his brother is dead and to give up the search. But Ree is determined to find him and save the house for the family. She really cannot see any other way out of this fix, so she goes to relative after relative, each of them tougher and meaner than the one before, and all of them trying to impress on her, sometimes in a physical way, to leave well enough alone.

This is a brilliant movie. You as the viewer feel the cold coming into a November Missouri as well as the cold frost from her near and distant relatives. You ache for her, because she's growing old before her time and she knows she, as well as the two kids and a helpless mother, will be homeless before too long. You feel her determination, and you know she's not going to give up.

It's a mystery. It's a character study. You may have a weird uncle in your family, but you've never had relatives like this, cousins who are involved in nefarious activities and maybe they don't want some little girl poking in their business for all kinds of reasons.

The movie is also a study of how women are treated. what their roles are in this rural setting. Most of the women we see have no real power of their own -- they don't have a car, they don't have any money -- but they wield their own power within the clan. It's a fascinating portrayal of rural but modern women. You sense that Ree is different, but there really isn't much escape for her, even if she manages to keep the family together.

Thumb's up for what is one of the best films I've seen all year.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Red. "Retired. Extremely Dangerous." Yep.

Our story starts out innocently enough as we follow Frank Moses through a normal, boring day. Big house and it's just him. He's obviously retired and doesn't know what to do with himself. But every once in awhile, he calls the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), who issues him his government retirement check. He gets to talk with one OPM specialist, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), who, after issuing him a replacement check for the one that was "lost" in the mail, gets down to details of her own boring life. Frank decides that it's time that he meet Sarah and pay a visit to D.C.

But suddenly things change when Frank's life is threatened. We learn that Frank was a highly experienced CIA operative before retirement. To give you any further details would spoil the fun - and I do mean fun - so I'll just add that he brings in old buddies, some who used to be enemies, from the old days. Actors portraying these roles are Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and others. And Karl Urban is sharp as the agent going after all these REDs.

This is a laugh-a-minute movie when you're not wondering how they're going to get out of the next prickly situation. It's taut action combined with great dialogue, dialogue that goes miles in explaining who each character is, why they're there, why they were good at what they used to do.

Bruce Willis shows his softer side. Helen Mirren is still sexy as she wields some automatic weapon that will never stop firing. Did I mention this movie was fun? Explosive AND fun. See it.

Thumb's up.