Archives for posts with tag: family

It’s good that Dakota Blue Richards has figured out what to do with her life and has a solid gig on “Endeavour,” because the beginning of her career was a series of bad fantasy movies in which she was an irritating child, first Golden Compass and then this, and Secret of Moonacre is even worse than Golden Compass. I’m guessing the original book wasn’t much cop, either.

Maria Merryweather (Richards) is a Victorian orphan, and her father left her debts and a magic book. Her governess, Miss Heliotrope (Juliet Stevenson), takes her to live with her uncle Benjamin (Ioan Gruffudd) in the country. He has an enormous and beautiful house, bad manners, and unexplained misery. Maria is obnoxious and inevitably gets lost in the great big forest where Uncle Benjamin has expressly forbidden her to go.

MV5BMjIzMTM3MjY0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTA0MzQ4Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_The magic book tells Maria about a longstanding curse on the area, which is called Moonacre. Some witch (Natasha McElhone) had some magic pearls, and the two families (the De Noirs, which I am not making up, and the Merryweathers) want control of them, so there are five hundred years of Capulet-Montague nonsense and when the next moon rises the whole place will fall in the sea, I think. Tim Curry is the current head De Noir, and his minions or possibly sons are emo steampunk morons. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but also some things are over-explained. And there’s a big dog that sometimes turns into a black lion.

There are a lot of tiny dumb things–how Maria’s bustle and train are just the frame with no fabric, how Juliet Stevenson is ludicrously under- and mis-used, the possible love story of Maria with a De Noir son/minion–but they get lost under the giant pile of stupidity.

Director: Gabor Csupo
Rating: PG & PG-13
Length: 103 minutes
Score: 1/5

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Sometimes you’re in the mood for bad romantic comedies. It’s like bad Chinese food. You know there is good Chinese food, and you could eat that, but what you want is greasy General Tso’s and an extremely dodgy egg roll. These movies are that, but for the eyes and brain.

MV5BNmRjYWE3OTQtYzEwOC00OWM4LTk3MzktZTUyZTgzNjY4NDc0L2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Ostensibly, the premise–four young women who are best friends forever, share a magical pair of jeans, and support each other through all of life’s vicissitudes–is charming. Bridget (Blake Lively) has lost her troubled mother, Carmen (America Ferrera) discovers that her father is about to remarry into a perfect family in the Carolinas, Lena (Alexis Bledel) puts her foot into unexplained family nonsense in Santorini, and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is an irritating so-called rebel with terrible dress sense. She makes films, obviously. Some of these are real problems, and some of these deserve sympathy, and every single one of these people acts like a total dickhead.

It doesn’t help that only America Ferrera, of the four, is able to deliver her lines with any hint of conviction. At least we’re mostly used to that. She, however, is saddled with the worst nonsense. Her parents are long-divorced, and her dad (Bradley Whitford) has failed to tell her that he’s going to get married to a lady with two kids of her own. Which isn’t great, but, honestly, what can you expect of Bradley Whitford? So she goes to visit, and the new family is a little dippy and clueless, but Carmen’s self-involvement borders on the solipsistic. Because the new family is skinny and blond, Carmen decides that their lives are perfect and that her dad is trying to pretend she doesn’t exist. And this, after she learns that the son goes to visit his dad in a rehab facility every month. She throws a hissy fit and then a rock at their window.

Elsewhere, Bridget works out her daddy issues in the most hackneyed way possible, Tibby has to deal with mortality (but finds a very cute boyfriend in the person of Leonardo Nam’s Brian), and Lena makes out with Kostos (Michael Rady).

MV5BMTMwNDYyMTY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzAwMjY2MQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_In the second movie, they’re all at fancy colleges (two Ivies, RISD, and NYU for Tibby because rebellion; she also works in a video store). This has not lessened their gyroscopic tendencies. They all have increasing secret pains which they don’t talk about and then scream at each other for not knowing about, and it is tiresome to a degree.

And then, movie-style, unearned rewards are thrust upon them.

Director: Ken Kwapis (1) & Sanaa Hamri (2)
Rating: PG & PG-13
Length: 119 minutes & 119 minutes (for reals)
Score: 2/5

This is a family movie, and is therefore sort of terrible. I guess? We seem to cut “family” movies a lot of slack because ostensibly they are made for children, and children lack critical reasoning skills. This is the standard explanation, but I submit that the real lack of critical reasoning skills betrayed by this movie is evenly divided between the studio and the lead actors. I have no idea why either Ioan Gruffudd or Toni Collette agreed to be in this, and I know Mr. Gruffudd makes a lot of terrible movies, but Ms. Collette is definitely a real actress who can turn rôles down. Also Richard E. Grant! What the hell!

Apparently, this was originally called Foster, which is more mysterious but also less cloyingly terrible, so I wish they had stuck with that. Alec (Mr. Gruffudd) and Zooey (Ms. Collette) Morrison are married, work in absurdly cutesy jobs (Alec owns a toy factory and Zooey has a book shop), have a beautiful house somewhere in Britain where it’s always sunny, but are not happy. This is because their son died in an accident some years back, and they have not managed to have another child.

That is an unbelievably sad thing to happen to someone, but this movie addresses it in a way that will make children go “huh?” and adults puke. When the Morrisons consider fostering a child, one arrives on their doorstep: a preternaturally calm and well-informed being called Eli (Maurice Cole), who wears a suit and a fedora and prefers CNN to cartoons. He teaches them many lessons about…something, bails out Alec’s failing toy manufacturer with a laughably awful suggestion, gets Alec and Zooey to reconnect at LegoLand, befriends Richard E. Grant the homeless man, and then disappears without a trace, leaving Zooey being sick on Christmas morning. Show me a child that can grasp what’s happening, or care. Once you have any capacity for comprehending what the stakes are, the facile, saccharine response is almost insulting. Is it religious? It has some stabs at it, but never commits.

“Embarrassing” is the first adjective that comes to mind.

Stray observations:

  •  Why is Richard E. Grant here? Why is he homeless? Why does he believe in fairies?
  • Seriously, where do these people live? And how do they afford that beautiful house near those beautiful gardens?
  • The child is adorable on his own merits, but his world-wise schtick gets old quickly.

Director: Jonathan Newman, who also directed The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and I think I just figured some things out
Rating: PG
Length: 90 minutes
Score: 2/5

Um.

The rundown: London, 1885. Charity (Michael Sheen) arrives, wounded, at the British Museum, spinning a tale to Mr. and Mrs. Mundi (Ioan Gruffudd and Keeley Hawes) and their children Mariah (Aneurin Barnard, yes, a boy) and Felix about a box that turns stuff into gold. Otto Luger (Sam Neill) is evil and on the hunt for it. Mr. and Mrs. Mundi belong to some sort of bureau that protects such things. So the Mundis are kidnapped, then Felix and Mariah are sent to some sort of workhouse, then Felix disappears, then Charity gets Mariah a job at a hotel that Luger owns somewhere in the in the middle of the North Sea where they’re digging for the Midas Box. Mariah meets a girl, hijinks ensue. Lena Headey runs the staff at the hotel, and is Luger’s henchman. She looks great but is mostly pointless.

Did you want that to make sense? Me too.

Everyone’s capable, and the Lord knows I’ve seen worse stuff starring Ioan Gruffudd, but this movie is offensively stupid. The ending even tries to set up a sequel! Laughable. LAUGHABLE. You don’t care about any of the people, there’s way too much going on, and–even though Michael Sheen really tries to sell it–you don’t really feel like the stakes are remotely important.

Stray notes:

  • Mariah is a crappy older brother. He’s always promising not to lose Felix, and then invariably losing him.
  • The hotel is attractively Art Nouveau. If there were fewer shenanigans, I’d stay there.
  • To prove that Mr. Mundi is some kind of antiquities person, the movie more or less starts with a slightly fictionalized defense of having the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum (but here they’re the Someone-else Marbles in the London Museum). A little odd.

Director: Jonathan Newman
Rating: PG
Length: 100 min.
Score: 1/5.