6 Reviews in one package

After going over and over and over the math, with these 6 films, my official count now stands at 99 films seen theatrically in a year. Avatar will be the 100th.

Armored – 1 star

Laurence Fishburne, Matt Dillon, Jean Reno and Columbus Short star in this tale of good guys gone bad when a team of armoured truck guards decide to plan the perfect heist, but it all goes awry when rookie guard Ty (Short) backs out last minute and throws a wrench into their plans.

Formulaic and derivative to it’s core, this film brings nothing new to the table. The characters go through a motivational shift that, by movie’s end, is still unexplained. I suppose you could sweep it all up with good, old fashioned greed, but I still want to know what made these seemingly good characters, who we like early on in the film, go so bad. Why did they want the money? The acting isn’t bad, but it’s just not very good.

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day – 3.5 stars

This is one of those films that you either get or you don’t. Writer/DirectorTroy Duffy re-teams with Billy Connolly, Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus to continue the story of the vengeance seeking MacManus clan. 8 years after their initial spree that spilled the blood of the worst criminals all over the streets of Boston, the Brothers are called out by the son of crime boss Yakavetta, to answer for their “sins.”

Featuring returning favourites and a fresh cast (including Judd Nelson, Clifton Collins, Peter Fonda and Dexter‘s Julie Benz), fans of the original will definitely not be disappointed by the sequel. It features the kitschy, over-the-top action that repeated viewings of the original on DVD have made us accustomed to. It’s light on actual plot, but wasn’t the first one, too?

Brothers – 4 stars

Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the roles they were born to play, the titular brothers. When Tobey’s Cpt. Sam Cahill goes missing, feared dead, in Afghanistan, Jake’s ne’er-do-well Tommy Cahill steps in to comfort his grieving widow Grace (Natalie Portman). This leads to complications upon Sam’s rescue and return home.

Maguire really comes into his own as an actor with this role. His intense, bombastic portrayal of a mentally and emotionally scarred vet frightens you at the same time it pulls you in. To balance that out, Gyllenhaal turns in a quiet, understated performance as the brother, that engages with something bubbling just beneath the surface. Each performance more subtle than we’ve seen from these two before.

Everybody’s Fine – 3.5 stars

Robert De Niro stars as a recent widower trying to re-connect with his now grown kids (Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore) in this feel good movie just in time for the holiday season.

The performances were all fine. It’s really one of those “Hey, call your dad” kinda movies. But in the end, it felt a little hollow for how by the numbers it was. Yes, De Niro and Rockwell did a lot with a little (even Barrymore and Beckinsale were engaging), but it really could have been anyone in those roles, and I don’t know if anyone would have known the difference. Which is too bad, because I really like Rockwell’s work.

Invictus – 3.5

Morgan Freeman stars as Nelson Mandela, which has to be the role of a lifetime, in this inspiration film that crosses international sports with a politically and culturally fractured nation.

And in that respect, it’s very good. It shows the impact that even the most seemingly insignificant event can have on a country and it’s people. And the last effects of that event. And both Freeman and his co-star Matt Damon play their roles to perfection.

But can we stop pretending that Clint Eastwood is god’s gift to directing already? He keeps getting such high marks for his directing, but the last thing he did as a director that really impressed me was Mystic River. Though to be fair, I have yet to see Letters From Iwo Jima. Everything else? Meh.

The Princess and the Frog – 4 stars

Disney’s first traditional hand drawn 2D animation film in five years is also their finest in 15. Set in Jazz-era New Orleans, visiting Prince Naveen has a run-in with local voodoo practitioner, which turns him into a frog. Naveen must find a Princess to kiss in order to reverse the spell, but a case of mistaken identity (they’re at a costume ball) leads to waitress and aspiring restauratrice Tiana also becoming a frog following said kiss, and then go on a journey to be human again.

So, Disney isn’t one for groundbreaking plot, what’s new? It’s beautifully drawn, some of the best animation we’ve seen out of the House of Mouse in ages. The voice work from Anika Noni-Rose, Bruno Campos and Keith David is fun and lighthearted, with the perfect amount of liveliness. The only real problem comes with the songs. Back in the day, the songs worked to move the story along. Unfortunately, they just seem awkwardly juxtaposed into the film for the sake of having songs.

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