“Ice Age: Continental Drift” (Animation/Comedy: 1 hour, 26 minutes)
Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah and Wanda Sykes
Directors: Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier
Rated: PG (Violence and crude humor)
Movie Review: Manny (Romano), Sid (Leguizamo) and Diego (Leary) are separated from their herd by continental drift. They find themselves floating on a small iceberg crossing vast bodies of water. While at sea, they encounter dangerous sea creatures, ruthless pirates led by Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and a cantankerous stowaway, Sid’s Granny (Sykes).
This is the fourth “Ice Age” film in the series that started in 2002 and drifts into becoming “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The film spoofs a number of other films and literary works, too: the Ewok scene from “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” (1983) and a pre-battle moment from “Braveheart” (1995). The film also features the Greek mythological Sirens as depicted in Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Plato’s theoretical city of Atlantis. However, this film most appears like an animated version of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films that started in (2003).
From this aspect, “Continental Drift” has an inconsistent plot. The writers put too much into one screenplay. The screenplay often mixes multiple storylines. The mixture is funny frequently but messy often.
In addition, new characters are present. While most of the new players barely influence the film, a few manage to score. Sid the Sloth’s Granny, voiced by a very entertaining Sykes, steals the scenes at times. Sid is very fun and provides much of the comedy for the three main characters, which includes Manny and Diego. Sykes was a perfect match to play grandmother to Leguizamo.
Captain Gutt is an ape. He is keenly voiced by “Game of Thrones’” Dinklage. Gutt adds adventure to this overly complex feature as its main antagonist.
Otherwise, too much is happening here. This screenplay takes its cues from famous scenes of other, better photoplays. Sure, it entertains, but it is not the best of the “Ice Age” franchise.
Grade: C (It drifts overboard.)
“The Dark Knight Rises” (Action/Science-Fiction/Crime: 2 hours, 44 minutes)
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, some sensuality and strong language)
Movie Review: Based on creator Bob Kane’s characters, Christopher Nolan’s direction of the Batman films has rejuvenated the cape crusader, making him a worldwide blockbuster since “Batman Begins” (2005). He and his brother, Jonathan Nolan, have written carefully planned screenplays that flush out Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman more with each film. This latest screenplay, Christopher Nolan’s third as director, is too grand, but its entertainment value is also grand.
This film takes place about seven years after the events displayed in the masterful “The Dark Knight” (2008). A crime-ridden Gotham City is no more. The city is peaceful. That changes when Bane (Hardy) emerges. He is a brutish terrorist intent on destroying Gotham City’s status quo. Bruce Wayne (Bale) must become Batman once more to protect Gotham City, which now identifies Batman as enemy number one.
Regardless of what Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, the character of Bane, who originated in 1993, has nothing to do with Mitt Romney. Now, Limbaugh compares Romney to Batman. If Romney was Batman, he could easily win the presidency as Batman has more fans than Mr. Romney and President Obama.
People flock to the caped crusader as if he is real and someone they know. Batman is what many want to be, an intelligent billionaire and superhero who defeats bad people with an arsenal of sleek weapons. Nothing is bad about that. Sign me up.
While not as good as “The Dark Knight” (2008), “The Dark Knight Rises” still manages to hold its own. Its problem is that the Nolan Brothers offer up too much. This is not a bad thing totally, but the film has a very large cast of top-notch actors. It also has great action sequences and neat technological devices that should make many think, “I want one of those.”
This film has many diversions. Additional characters are plentiful. A number of flashbacks to this film’s prequels are present. The Nolan Brothers also attach themes about class warfare. This includes what appears to be an Occupy Wall Street-type of moment. These diversions are plentiful, but they do lend themselves to the story, one with many facets.
This is a subtraction because this many characters are distracting at moments as Nolan tries to make each equally valuable. This also extends the film to its lengthy 2 hours and 40 minutes. Combine the trailers for other films, and this film is three hours roughly. No minute is uninteresting.
Despite the wide array of players and eye candy, “Rises” still manages to entertain like the best of summer action films. The multiple characters are plenty but worth following. Nolan is superb at making his cast interesting. Each person is intriguing, and his or her relationships are engaging. This drives the film.
Bale is intense as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Bale brings a sense of realism that is genuine. Hardy is always good as a villain or the ill-tempered persona. Noteworthy is his role as a boxer in “Warrior” (2011). The talented Caine provides good drama. Gordon-Levitt (“Inception,” 2010) and Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose,” 2007) are impressive. Oldman and Freeman are superb actors. They are worthy here too. Hathaway, in her own accord, is charming as the Catwoman.
“The Dark Knight” (2008) was smarter as screenplay. “Rises” is predictable, if audiences are keen. The problem is this plot is smart at some moments and not very keen similarly to the mildly elementary manner of that 1960s Batman television show.
Still, it works without a dull moment. “Rise” remains very engaging entertainment. Nolan knows how to make characters both intense and gratifying. He also does not pull punches. When his characters are good, he allows them to be just that. When they are evil, Nolan allows them to be very malevolent.
Nolan acknowledges this is the last of the Batman movies with him at helm. Yet he leaves plenty of stories for development here. This photoplay introduces major players and leaves audiences hanging as to what these people do next. This does not feel like the end, but merely a beginning for more films to come. No doubt, more movies in this series will find welcoming audiences, too.
Grade: B (It rises to meet expectations.)
“Damsels in Distress” (Drama/Comedy: 1 hour, 39 minutes)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton and Adam Brody
Director: Whit Stillman
Rated: PG-13 (Strong language, sensuality and sexual innuendo)
Movie Review: A spontaneous Lily (Tipton) is a sophomore, university transfer student to Seven Oaks College. There, she meets a caring but know-it-all Violet (Gerwig), a quiet Heather (Carrie MacLemore) and Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who think all men are playboys. The three are very eccentric, young women who counsel each other in matters of love while rescuing others from depression at a Suicide Prevention Center. While Lily appears the odd ball, she becomes a part of the group with ease.
This film’s setup portrays these four women as damsels. The men of their lives are the distress. These women fall for men with obvious flaws. Frank (Ryan Metcalf) is oblivious as if he has done drugs one too many times. Xavier (Hugo Becker) is still finding his religion. Fred Packenstacker (Brody) is a liar, and Thor (Billy Magnussen) is still learning his colors, literally.
The characters, mainly Gerwig’s Violet, spout philosophical, psychological, societal relationships, and religion as pretentiously as a sophomore at an elite university. These characters are odd, although interesting. The problem is their peculiar behavior leads to a few relationships. That is it. “Damsels in Distress” is like a quick trip to nowhere fast.
While the characters are original and engaging, they are all wacky to the point one has to wonder how they tolerate each other. Even more, Seven Oaks college campus appears a modern campus, but the characters behave as if they are back in the 1960s.
Distressing as the characters are, this film does show that sometimes life is about experiences. We meet people, and life continues. A few actors, mainly the ladies here, are good. Greta Gerwig is the main standout. She is superb. Her character is convincingly irritating.
Ultimately, this film appears to thrive on being weird. It starts as a drama and concludes as an awkward musical briefly.
Some note that Whit Stillman’s films are an acquired taste. His screenplays as a writer are often strange characters interacting. Movies, unless part of a series of sequels, are a one-shot production. They cannot be an acquired taste.
Grade: C (The damsels are good actresses. The rest is distressing.)