Rise Of The Guardians
Rated PG for mature themes and scary action sequences.
Mythological Figures Fight For Kids’ Innocence In Enchanting Animated Adventure
When the Boogeyman (Jude Law) hatches a diabolical plan to dash the dreams of sugarplums dancing in tykes’ heads and to steal baby teeth left under their pillows at bedtime, it’s clear that something must be done. For, if left unchecked, it’ll just be a matter of time before the evil schemer will quash kids’ belief in the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman.
Fortunately, these beloved mythical figures have already united to fight their longtime adversary by forming The Guardians, an association dedicated to the preservation of the innocence, imagination and sense of wonder of children all over the world. And at the direction of their sage inspirational leader, The Man In The Moon, they proceed to implore Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to sign-on as an indispensable addition to their ragtag team.
Initially, Jack proves a rather reluctant superhero, between his immaturity and a traumatic feeling of inadequacy resulting from his invisibility. But he ultimately succumbs to his earnest confederates’ relentless pressuring that, “You cannot say no!” and “It is destiny!”
With greatness thus thrust upon him, will Jack rise to the occasion to spearhead the charge against the Boogeyman? That is the pivotal question posed by the premise of Rise Of The Guardians, an enchanting fairytale loosely based on The Guardians Of Childhood series of best-sellers by William Joyce.
This action-oriented, animated adventure marks the auspicious directorial debut of veteran storyboard artist Peter Ramsey, who makes novel enough use of state-of-the-art 3-D technology here to warrant an investment in goggles for an amplified enjoyment of all the eye-popping special effects. Nevertheless, at heart, the picture remains a sweet story with a universal message about the importance of protecting children’s innocence.
Although aimed at the very impressionable, still-believing demographic, Rise Of The Guardians is apt to resonate with kids of any age with an intact sense of wonder and awe. Yes, Virginia, there is not only a Santa Claus, but a Tooth Fairy, a Jack Frost, an Easter Bunny, and a Sandman, too.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 97 minutes
Universal Soldier 4: Day Of Reckoning
Rated R for profanity, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity and pervasive gruesome violence.
Crime Victim Turns Vigilante In Mind-bending Revenge Flick
John (Scott Adkins) was sadistically beaten with tire irons and left for dead by three assassins dressed like ninjas during a home invasion. When he came out of his coma nine months later, all he could remember about the attack was how his wife and daughter had been murdered right in front of his eyes by a creep who had the nerve to taunt him.
In fact, their assailant, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) even had the temerity to remove his mask and show his face. As he recovered from his wounds, John realizes he doesn’t have much to live for with his family gone. So, he decides to take the law into his own hands, rather than wait for the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.
That is the deceptive point of departure of Universal Soldier 4: Day Of Reckoning, a high body count splatterflick ostensibly revolving around an embittered vigilante bent on revenge, à la Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Directed by John Hyams, the film is the fourth in a grisly franchise launched way back in 1992.
The plot thickens while John is searching for Deveraux, when he finds himself being relentlessly hunted by a mysterious figure (Andrei Arlovski). Furthermore, getting to Deveraux proves easier said than done, since he is protected by an army of rogue Universal Soldiers in his capacity as high priest of the Unisol Church Of Eventualism.
Previously, these liberated Unisols had been remote-controlled sleeper agents, operating under the thumb of the government like latter-day Manchurian candidates. But trust me, trying to sort out this complicated storyline isn’t worth the time, since just about everybody is about to get gutted or have his head lopped off.
Appreciation of this installment doesn’t depend on any knowledge of what’s transpired in the earlier episodes, since this bloody free-for-all is designed for that demo of film fans with an insatiable appetite for gratuitous gore. So gruesome, it makes Peckinpah look like Winnie The Pooh.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Running time: 113 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening November 30, 2012
Killing Them Softly (R for violence, drug use, sexual references and pervasive profanity). Screen adaptation of the George V. Higgins crime thriller of the same name about a hit man (Brad Pitt) hired to investigate the heist of a mob-protected poker game. Cast includes Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Sam Shepard and Max Casella.
Beware Of Mr. Baker (Unrated). Warts-and-all rocktrospective revisiting the rise and fall of Ginger Baker, from his glory days as the drummer for Cream and Blind Faith to the self-destructive behavior which led to the loss of his fortune and his withdrawing from the world into a fortified compound somewhere in South Africa.
California Solo (Unrated). Midlife crisis drama about a retired British rocker (Robert Carlyle), living in L.A., forced to clean up his act when he finds himself facing deportation after being arrested for driving under the influence. With Danny Masterson, William Russ and Kathleen Wilhoite.
The Collection (R for profanity, graphic violence, grisly images and brief nudity). Horror sequel to The Collector finds a survivor (Josh Stewart) of the sadistic serial killer’s (Randall Archer) previous spree now leading an assault on the madman’s lair in order to rescue the daughter (Emma Fitzpatrick) of a wealthy businessman (Christopher McDonald). With Lee Tergesen, Navi Rawat and Johanna Braddy.
Elza (Unrated). Roots drama about a Parisian-Caribbean woman’s (Stana Roumillac) return to her native Guadeloupe in search of her long-lost father after completing her master’s degree. With Vincent Byrd Le Sage, Christophe Cherki and Sophie Berger. (In French with subtitles)
Ex-Girlfriends (Unrated). Messy romantic dramedy, set in NYC, about a dude (Alexander Poe) desperate to rekindle a relationship with an ex (Kristen Connolly) who discovers that she and another former girlfriend (Jennifer Carpenter) are currently both dating the same guy. With Noah Bean, Teddy Bergman and Liz Holtan.
My Brothers (Unrated). Irish road drama, set in County Cork over the course of Halloween weekend in 1987, revolving around the raucous sibling rivalry which surfaces among three brothers (Timmy Creed, Paul Courtney and TJ Griffin) trying to replace their dying father’s (Don Wycherley) favorite wristwatch while riding around in a stolen bread truck.
Parked (Unrated). Unlikely-buddies drama about a lonely, middle-aged man living in his car (Colm Meaney) who gets a new lease on life when he’s befriended by a 21-year-old stoner (Colin Morgan) who introduces him to an attractive music teacher (Milka Ahlroth). With Stuart Graham, Mark Butler and David Wilmot.
Silent Night (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, graphic violence and brief drug use). Holiday-themed horror flick about a serial killer in a Santa Claus suit who goes on a bloody rampage around a quiet Midwestern town on Christmas Eve. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King and Donal Logue.