“Rise of the Guardians”
This is “The Avengers” - holiday-style animation. A kickass coming together of beliefs – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost take on the evil Boogeyman as he tries to take advantage of children’s fears and make them lose faith in what they believe. It’s a great cast of voices with Chris Pine, Alex Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher. Pine and Jackman are really putting out a nice string of films that balance diverse audiences. There’s a bunch of video-game-type action. The movie has a sweet sentimentality and a clever use of mythology. There are moments of utter sappiness but it’s a movie for kids and it’s a holiday movie of sorts – even though it covers two holidays and everyday in between. No need to guard you or the kids from this one on Easter – worth a watch.
“Robot and Frank”
Actor Frank Langella is timeless and fearless. At 75-years-old, Langella doesn’t play it safe on career choices. It’s really a shame this film was overlooked at the Oscars. Just goes to show you that Oscar ignores sci-fi – even when the sci-fi format is used to tell a story with heart and importance. This movie excels at that. Newbie director Jake Schreier and TV writer Christopher D. Ford put together a beautiful little movie about age and a man trying to adjust as time leaves him behind. But perhaps the star of the film is Peter Sarsgaard’s voice as the robot – he gets an A for intonation and the tone evolves as the film goes on. James Marsden, Liv Tyler and Susan Sarandon all take turns throwing up alley-oops for Langella to slam home. A special movie that you may need to search for but it’s definitely worth a watch.
“End of Watch”
Oh, where did they go wrong? This movie should’ve been a critical hit by going with the “Cops”-style reality show on the rough streets of South Central L.A. It stars the sturdy leading-man Jake Gyllenhaal and the usually dependable Michael Pena, but the acting feels too static and stilted. It was written and directed by David Ayer, who also wrote the Oscar-winning “Training Day,” but it feels overly-plotted, trying to identify every problem with the police force and the streets they protect. This is more like Ayer’s last film – the horrible “Street Kings.” The style is not consistent to its form, leaving you thinking too much as the film goes on. The shame is that all the parts were there but they jammed more in and threw off the timing and synchronicity. Where it should feel hard-hitting, gritty and raw, it feels heavy-handed, intentional and aiming for cheap sentiment. Put an end to thoughts of watching this one – take a pass.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge