Saturday, November 19, 2011

Twitards, Rejoice!

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Los Angeles, California

First comes love, then comes marriage.... then comes the parasitic fetus, killing you slowly from the inside out while mind-melding with your new husband and alienating the local K9s. But only if you're Bella Swan, and you're in The Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn, Part 1! This long awaited installment of the fanatically beloved vampire melodrama hit theaters this weekend, and unless you're "mature" or "capable of critical thinking", it does not disappoint. Just when you think that Twilight was sooooo five years ago, Breaking Dawn opens and you remember why you gave up your social life for this franchise in the first place.

This movie has it ALL!! Bella & Edward finally get married. They finally bang. She gets insta-preggers with a half vampire baby who is drinking her blood while in utero. Jacob tells his pack to fuck off. Edward chews the baby out of Bella's tummy, and Jacob falls in love with a five-minute old. Bella dies on the operating table, and Edward bites her all over!! Is she gonna make it? Did Edward turn her in time? Either way, they put her holocaust-worthy corpse in a blue minidress, just in case she pulls through. There are not enough exclamation points in the world to do the plot justice, folks.

Were there any dumb parts, you might ask? Boy, were there! For one thing, the Cullen's "cousins" from Alaska who flew in for the wedding were the skankiest bunch of trannies I've ever seen on the big screen. I guess when author Stephanie Meyer indicated that they were breathtakingly beautiful, she may have been being facetious. Bella's dress looked spectacular from every angle except the front, where some random seams ran diagonally over her boobs instead of under them. The scene where Bella announces the baby's name, Renesmee, was truly snort-worthy. However, in KStews defense, no one, not even Dame Judi Dench, could've delivered those lines any better, it's just a ridiculous plot point that can't be avoided, and no one's fault but Stephanie Meyers's. And finally, the only truly unwatchable scene: Jacob and Sam throw down, as CG wolves, and have a grumble-dog power struggle that ends in Jacob's rejecting Sam's alpha status, forever. Trust me, it's worse than it sounds.

All in all, it was a sheer delight to get to go from such ethereal and magical moments, such as the wedding & honeymoon, to the gross bloody horror that was the birthing of Renesmee. Hair & makeup did not shy away from transforming Bella from a luminous ingenue to a sickly, sallow corpse bride who guzzles blood from a sippy cup. And for any jerks who only tuned into previous installments for the high-speed fight scenes, you'd best look elsewhere, there's very little of that in Breaking Dawn. But if you like love, and marriage, and don't mind a little Rob Zombie in your OBGYN, then you just might agree; Breaking Dawn felt just as satisfying on film as it did in print.

Summary: How can Part 2 possibly top this one? All the good stuff already happened. I guess a little full frontal might help (Lookin' at you here, Summit).

Wags: 5/5

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drive: Silent, But Deadly!

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

Trust me. I look really, really cool when I’m in the car with my mom, windows down, tongue hangin’ out, ears blowin’ in the wind. But nobody, and I mean NOBODY, looks as cool as Ryan Gosling does in his new movie Drive. This totally rad, totally unexpected film is not your average action flick, and Gosling is not your average action star. He’s part Samurai, part Steve McQueen, part cute patootie, and 100% Cool Dude, from the opening credits in their hot pink Dirty Dancing font, all the way to the drive-off-into-the-sunset-with-guts-hangin’-out finale. He could give cool lessons to Spuds MacKenzie, and everyone knows Spuds is the world’s coolest dog.

This Cannes Film Festival favorite tells of the story of a lonely stuntman-slash-getaway driver who finds love and companionship with his neighbor lady and her young son. But when her no-good husband comes home from jail, our hero has to help him pull off one last heist in order to settle his debts from the clink and keep the family safe. Obviously, things don’t go according to plan, and they get mixed up with some real dangerous dudes. But no sweat! Ryan Gosling can just kick their heads in, no problemo, and if he has to kill the whole Hollywood mafia in order to keep his new friends safe, well then, so be it.

Do you like suspense? Drive has it in spades, featuring some of the nail-bitingist chase scenes of all time. The real-time driving effect makes you feel like you’re right there in the car, quietly maneuvering the streets of LA, avoiding the cops at all costs. The violence was pitch-perfect – well-timed, unexpected, and with consequences to boot. Gosling plays the strong, silent type with the kind of noble stoicism that is so hard to come by in Hollywood. He makes everything look easy, and everything feel important, all at the same time. Albert Brooks as head of the Hollywood Jewish mob scene was positively threatening, and Bryan Cranston seemed right at home the grease-monkey-turned-father-figure. Even Carey Mulligan was appropriately doe-eyed and not at all nauseating. Every studio in town should listen up and take some serious notes. This is how you make an action movie that people remember.

Summary: Put your driving gloves on, grab a toothpick and haul ass to your local theater. Drive is not to be missed!

Wags: 5/5

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Contagion Infects You...With Fun!

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

Would you like to watch Gwenyth Paltrow puke up some goop and die? Well, then Contagion is the movie for you! Half Outbreak and half Dawn of the Dead, Contagion marries the best parts of boring cellular science with the joyous delights of watching spoiled white ladies convulse and die. This is one bio-thriller will have you paws-ing the next time you go to drink out of the toilet.

This particular contagion begins with the unfortunate moment where a bat poops and a pig eats it. A supervirus is born. Fast forward to grocery store looting, neighbor-on-neighbor violence, and a government quagmire that promises a vaccine, but fails to deliver. The very future of the human race rests firmly in the hands of a diverse team of scientists & officials who try (and fail) to deal with the two key issues at hand: how to keep the virus from spreading, and how to keep information from trickling out into the public and causing mass hysteria, a problem almost as dangerous as the virus itself.

Boasting an all-star cast with Steven Soderbergh at the helm, Contagion did a decent job of exploring pretty much every angle of a global catastrophe. Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Lawrence Fishburn, John Hawkes and even ol’ Gwennie all earned their paychecks with believable performances. Jude Law & his fake tooth were passable as the unethical blogger trying to make a buck by claiming he was cured by a big fat placebo. Props to Soderbergh for showcasing the supremely talented Jennifer Ehle as CDC researcher Dr. Ally Hextall. Anyways, I’m still not sure what the moral of the whole story is, but in the event of a vaccine shortage, I now know that the best thing to do is to howl mercilessly, push your way to the front of the line, and bite anyone in the way. Or just run to Canada.

Summary: Worth $10 for the Gwenyth Paltrow autopsy alone.

3/5 Wags

Monday, September 12, 2011

Warrior Holds Its Own

By Karl Scarano-Schulze, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I’m lucky to have a nice home where I don’t have to fight any big dogs to earn my kibble. Sure, sometimes I like to wrestle with my dad, but it’s all in good fun. But for some dogs I know, fighting is a way of life. They have to stay lean & mean, ready to throw down at any moment, if they want to be top dog. Those guys should go see Warrior.

Warrior is about two estranged brothers who grew up fighting in the mixed-martial arts style, and were both trained by their mean ol’ dad. But then they grow up, and even though their dad is a little better now, life in general has gotten a whole lot tougher. So even though Tommy and Brendan don’t even speak to each other anymore, they wind up as underdog competitors in the world’s most high-profile MMA tournament. Tommy, the nice one, just wants to win some money to save his family home. But Brendan has some much deeper anger issues that he’s trying to punch away. When the tournament winds down to its final two contenders, well, just guess who they are. It’s brother versus brother in the fight of a lifetime!

Much like The Wrestler and last year’s The Fighter, Warrior is mostly dysfunctional family dynamic with a redemptive boxing match at the very end. But unlike those other two, this time it’s the family stuff that falls flat, and the fight scenes that are much better than average. The last half actually does a pretty good job of making up for a tedious beginning, and the big climax is surprisingly emotional. The casting of Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte was positively inspired – these two look like just the grizzled, worn out, cauliflower-eared father/son combo that you’d expect. Tom Hardy turns in a respectable performance, but just looks a little to GQ to be perfectly believable. And he can’t hold a candle to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dicky Ecklund. But I sure wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, either, so don’t tell him I said that!

Summary: Takes forever to get interesting, but the ending packs a punch.

Wags: 3/5

Friday, August 26, 2011

Moanin' and Groanin' For Conan

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

Yowza! Helloooo, Jason Momoa. Nice bod you've got there. Great hair, super white teeth, furrowed brow. What's that? I should be paying attention to your new movie, Conan The Barbarian? Oh, right, okay, sorry 'bout that. Is there a sex scene?

Let me back up a bit - first of all, this movie takes "topless" to a whole new level. Momoa is easily a 38DD pectoral. Then throw in a whole bevy of topless, jiggling, grateful slave girls, and you've got yourself one heck of a 3-D experience. For fans of Conan comics, there were plenty of beheadings, torture scenes, and horses being knocked over while their riders get maced in the face. The nice blend of nudity, gore, and violence made it a pleasant change from its recent adventure brethren - I'm looking at you here, Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans (2010).

Unfortunately, there are 112 minutes of plot to sit through, and only 3 minutes of topless cavorting. And then there's the casting... Ron Perlman as Conan's warrior dad? He looks like he's got blonde dreadlocks, for christsake. Rose McGowan saunters onscreen as the black witch with the promisingly creepy bald head, only to blow it by opening her mouth and delivering her lines in a kewpie-doll-meets-Valley-Girl voice. The Jodi Foster look-alike they cast to play the romantic lead was a little lackluster, although her body double during the graphic sex scene was a perfect ten. And if that doesn't make a lame movie instantly watchable, this dog doesn't know what will. Overall, Conan The Barbarian equates to little more than 2 hours of eye candy, for the ladies and the tramps alike. But oh, how sweet it is!

Summary: "I live, I slay, I love Lisa Bonet, and I already spent my Game of Thrones money".

Wags: 3/5

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fright Night Sucks, And I Don’t Mean Blood

By River Shaughnessy, Top Critic
Denver, Colorado

Once again, this dog got tricked by a solid 74% Rotten Tomatoes score, and an endorsement from the not-on-his-A-game-lately Roger Ebert. It’s only August, so having high expectations for a horror movie was probably a mistake from the get-go. If it were any good, they would’ve waited until October to release it, right? But after watching the newly re-imagined Fright Night, I can’t help but wish this film had met a more gruesome fate. The studio should’ve buried this corpse, or at least have sent it straight to DVD. Or straight to hell for all I care!

This movie sucked. It was really, really bad. Colin Farrell seemed convinced that his acting talent would be the sole redemption of a schlocky script and shallow, empty characters. He lays it on thick, and overacts in every scene, ensuring that his supporting cast comes across even more wooden than they might have done on their own. And let’s be honest – Anton Yelchin was only good in Star Trek. He was born to play Chekov, but doesn’t work as your average American teen. So even though there are plenty of reasons to hate the first half of the film, just wait until they introduce the comic relief! One horrible Russel Brand/Criss Angel knock-off, plus a vampire Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Someone stake me already.

The most disappointing thing of all is that this movie specifically opted for an R rating, and then wasted it. Sure, they drop the F bomb a few times, but the gore was too little, too late, the scares were basically non-existent, and there was zero nudity to speak of whatsoever. The spookiest thing about Fright Night were all the boooooooos you heard when the credits roll.

Summary: Perhaps the shittiest vampire movie since 2004’s Van Helsing.

Wags: 1/5

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Poo

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

Monkeys are, unfortunately, perfect for experimentation since they resemble humans so closely. Sadly, beagles are also ideal, since we're small, sweet, and trusting of humans. I have several good buddies who spent their formative years locked in cages for the good of humanity. Maybe this is why I'm so sensitive to the topic of animal testing. Supposedly PETA approved this seventh Planet of the Apes installment, but speaking strictly as an audience member, I choose to file this movie under "cruel and unusual punishment".

Cutey science guy Will (played by James Franco) works at a big drug company seeking a breakthrough medication for Alzheimer's. When a setback results in the head honcho demanding that they start over (and euthanize all research subjects), Will sneaks a baby ape, Caesar, home and proceeds to raise him as his own. We're basically along for the ride as Caesar grows into a rebellious, but still loveable, teenage genius. But when the ape shit finally hits the fan, you've been so inundated with how sympathetic the monkeys are and how evil the humans are, you can basically just sleep through the final battle and assume that the monkeys will triumph.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was remotely watchable, but only as an air-conditioned matinee or a rental (and frankly I'm surprised that the director was able to resist the temptation to hurl 3-D feces in our faces). As an explanation of how Mother Nature replaced man with monkey, ROTPOTA had some really neat, surprisingly plausible plot points. But it still ends up nearly unwatchable due to the lame dialogue and lack of comic relief. Andy Serkis deserves a fat cut of the box office receipts for essentially carrying the entire movie. My pitch for hollywood's next blockbuster? Forget the humans entirely and invest in a one-man Andy Serkis show.

Summary: Hollywood, quit this monkey business while you're ahead.

Wags: 2/5

Monday, August 1, 2011

Charming, Funny, Love

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I’ll preface this review by saying this: I have a huge crush on Ryan Gosling. I pretty much go into heat every time I see his gorgeous face. However, I don’t love every single movie he’s ever been in. Sure, most of them are gems (Lars and the Real Girl, anyone?), but if he did a bad movie, I’d be the first to admit it. For example, I really suffered through the otherwise critically-acclaimed Blue Valentine. So now that we’ve established that I can remain impartial in the face of physical perfection, let’s move on to my review of Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was great!

Like dozens of rom-coms and chick flicks who came before, this one explores the complex relationships of a few interconnected couples. Cal (Steve Carrell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) are struggling in their marriage – she cheated, and he just gives up. Hopeless, and with nowhere to turn, Cal finds solace at the neighborhood bar, where he is impressed by the machismo of fellow bar patron, Jacob (Gosling). Jacob takes Cal under his wing, re-training him in the art of female seduction, and helping him re-capture his lost manhood. Needless to say, what Cal re-captures is his love for his wife, and his commitment to winning her back. Meanwhile, their youngest son is in “love” with his babysitter, who is in turn in love with an older guy (here’s a hint: It’s Cal!). The eldest daughter, Hannah, is in love with a stuffy boring jerk, but after being spurned, she decides to take a walk on the wild side with none other than her father’s confidant, Jacob.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, the magic is in the details. The writing is fast-paced and smart, both sad and terrifically funny in just the right ratio. The characters feel rich and authentic – how many movies have you seen lately where the characters feel convincingly like real people? Carrell and Gosling each shine in their own way – as a comedic duo, they hit all the marks without crossing the line into unbelievable. And as usual, Emma Stone is clever and likable – a nice break from the typical wooden Hollywood starlets being shoved down our throats, and her chemistry with Gosling is undeniable. The romantic scenes are a far cry from The Notebook, but will still quicken your pulse in all the right ways. In short, the film moves right along, the characters are easy to root for, and even though you probably won’t cry, you’ll definitely laugh. And if you’re anything like me, you might just swoon.

Summary: Watch for the best shirt-take-off-scene since Twilight’s New Moon. (You know the one).

Wags: 4/5

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Captain America: The Worst Avenger

By Karl Scarano-Schulze, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I felt a little guilty last week when I realized that I know very little about Captain America. I’m sure he’s kinda important on the grand scale of superheroes (unlike Green Lantern, who I still know nothing about, thanks to one of the most forgettable movies ever made). Hell, I love America as much as the next pup, so going to see Captain America: The First Avenger seemed like a great way to support our troops without getting my paws dirty. Plus, it’s really hot outside, so it seemed like a win/win.

But apparently, I didn’t know anything about Captain America, because there’s nothing to know. He sucks! He was skinny, but then the government gave him steroids, so his powers are on par with Barry Bonds’s. He did a few song-and-dance numbers for an off-Broadway production, and is still a virgin. He has a big shield, but shoots bad guys with those puny little girl guns. He didn’t help kill Hitler, but he did help kill Hitler’s friend. Who was mad at the world because he got a bad chemical peel, so he’s going to destroy it by harnessing the awesome power of blue.

Another empty, hollow summer blockbuster with zero heart and even less excitement. Chris Evans, playing the title role as well as his alter ego, Steve Rogers, was absolutely flat – from his painful one-liners to his passionless onscreen kissing, to his needlessly-uncomfortable motorcycle stunts. Hugo Weaving, as Red Skull, was genuinely threatening and maniacal – when he still had his face on. The moment he took off his human visage, the rubbery red latex underneath made him about as terrifying as Jim Carrey in The Mask. Cap’s ragtag bunch of battle buddies were such offensive stereotypes, I wouldn’t be surprised if Captain Ireland was demanding reparations. Onscreen love interest Peggy Carter had a great rack, but they didn’t show it often enough to make her character interesting. I didn’t go to film school, but my animal instincts indicate that set design and art direction were sub-par. And if you were sticking around just for a sneak peak at next summer’s The Avengers – don’t waste your time. It was just too little, and way too late.

Summary: You’ll sympathize with the Nazis – when they’re biting down on their cyanide capsules.

Wags: 2/5

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the End of an Era

By River Shaughnessy, Top Critic
Denver, Colorado

Second only to The Simpsons, Harry Potter and his pals have been the most beloved fictional characters of my lifetime. Since first picking up "Sorcerer’s Stone" in 1997, it’s always just been a matter of time until I could sink my teeth into a new adventure – whether on the printed page or the silver screen. Sure, it’s been four years since the final book in the series was released, and boy, that was a bittersweet end to a truly magical time in this dog’s life. And although I’ve known for quite some time that the final film in the Harry Potter franchise was due out this summer, I’m not sure I fully realized what an emotional roller coaster it would be. But then the previews ended, we faded in, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

It’s hot out, and I do most of my breathing out of my mouth, so I won’t waste too much breath telling you about how the movie was pretty much perfect. How an ensemble cast of this caliber will likely never be replicated. Or how watching these kids grow up into truly talented young actors has been as practically rewarding as raising pups of my own. The truth is, it’s hard to turn a critical eye to something that has had such a profound effect on the imaginations of kids and adults of all ages, in every corner of the globe. So how did Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 stand up to it’s predecessors as well as the book it was based on? Like only Harry Potter could – with courage and grace.

Too many people deserve congratulations for the triumph that this final installment truly was. Trying to imagine the movie without Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Warwick Davis and so many others would be like watching a symphony without any instruments. While naturally the kids deserve a tremendous amount of credit for maturing onscreen and honing their craft the way they did, the incredible supporting performances only made the young wizards that much more watchable. And while I’m sure director David Yates had his work cut out for him, he did something I really appreciated it a filmmaker. He made it seem effortless, as if the shit really did hit the fan at Hogwarts, and he just happened to be there to capture it all on film. The only time I was pulled out of the moment for a second was to delight in the fact that they'd finally conjured a role for my darling Kelly MacDonald, as Rowena Ravenclaw’s ghost-daughter, Helena. But what I appreciate most is perhaps the finite end of the story and the franchise. No sequels, no prequels, no spinoffs. Bittersweet as it may be, this is the end of the road for Harry and his pals, and I wish them nothing but the very best. Accio, tissues.

Summary: Harry goes out with a bang, a sob, and a standing ovation.

Wags: 5/5

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heart Attack!

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I know, I know. It’s hard to get excited about alien invasion movies these days. Every month, there are more to choose from, each one with a bigger visual effects budget than the last. Who needs another one? Not me, and certainly not the moviegoers at last night’s screening of Attack The Block – hands down, the best adventure of 2011 so far. No A-list stars. No kissing. No green screens. No problem!

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Attack The Block is a genius little 85 minute sci-fi/comedy/horror/adventure flick about some inner-city British kids who have to defend their neighborhood from some very analog, puppet-like, bloodthirsty creatures from outer space. They’re thugs! They’re British! They’re pitch-perfect, authentic, and incredibly winning. Let’s just say that in comparison, they make the pretty-damn-good Super 8 kids look like the Mickey Mouse club. The story just works - it’s simple, the writing is effortless, and the performances are spot-on. And what a treat it was to realize that we didn’t sign up for saving the entire planet! It’s us against them, for the salvation of the apartment building, and every minute is a funny, scary treat.

Shaun of the Dead fans will recognize Nick Frost – the films only recognizable star and resident pot grower. The lead ruffian, played by mini-Denzel Joe Boyega, shows a surprising amount of depth and complexity for a first-timer. His character, Moses, demonstrates subtleties that haven’t been seen in Hollywood since god knows when. His stoic performance only served to enhance the dynamic of the group, without beating you over the head with the whole delinquent-with-heart-of-gold cliche. But the real star here is probably writer/director Joe Cornish who proves that when it comes to movie making, it still pays to KISS – keep it simple, stupid! So do yourself a favor, take a break from the big budget Hollywood blockbusters. Get yourself an extra large buttered popcorn, plenty of soda, and settle in for the pure summer fun that is Attack The Block. You can thank me later.

Summary: Just say "No" to Hollywood schlock. Say "Yes" to Attack the Block!

Wags: 4/5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Horrible Bosses: Promotions All Around

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

I'm just a simple dog at heart. The history of modern cinema as I see it is as follows: first, Caddyshack, then, the Princess Bride, then nothing for about 20 years. Then Judd Apatow came along and filled a huge void in cinema with his gross-out comedy/buddy pics. While it didn't exactly break new ground in movie-making, Horrible Bosses was a satisfying little adventure that had enough of an Apatow-directed Office Space feel to keep me entertained for 100 straight minutes. Granted, I brought my own popcorn (have you tried Orville Redenbacher's new Pop-Up bowl?? genius!!), and I would have paid $10 alone just to see Colin Farrell's awesome comb-over. But the movie itself combined a mediocre caper setup with a pretty talented cast to produce a genuinely fresh romp worthy of buying on Blu-Ray for the outtakes alone.

Nick, Kurt, and Dale are three working-class stiffs in the middle of a recession who decide that with no other options available, they need to solve their problems with upper management using a little homicide. As a currently unemployed beagle, I really sympathized with their plight. Stuck in dead-end jobs with abusive bosses and no other way out, I found myself on-board with the killings almost from the get-go. The most enjoyable part of the movie is the early reveal of just how loathsome these bosses truly are. A particularly entertaining Jennifer Aniston really seems to relish her role as the potty mouthed man-eating dentist, and rightly so. (Despite the fact that her plotline was ridiculously implausible, her tarty little outfits more than made up for it.) The boys consult a local tough guy for advice (a surprisingly lively Jamie Foxx), then enthusiastically bumble through operation surveillance. Hijinks ensue.

A big congrats goes to director Seth Gordon, former documentarian of King of Kong fame, for proving that he can be just as winning with fiction as he is with non. Underdog it ain't, but Horrible Bosses invoked enough sympathy for their likeable leads and hatred for their repugnant bosses that I found myself rooting for a successful triple homicide. And, miracle of miracles, I gained a nugget of respect for Jennifer Aniston.

Summary: Head and shoulders above anything we’ve seen from Bateman or Aniston in the last 5 years.

Wags: 3/5

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ruff Day For Michael Bay

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

Personally, I don't think it's very likely that advanced alien life forms are comprised of gears and hinges, sheet metal and turbines. Even today, this kind of technology is already becoming antiquated. Don't get me wrong - I get why it works from Hasbro's perspective. Transformers are the ultimate playthings of little boys around the world - familiar, yet sophisticated. Powerful, yet relatable. But I couldn't help but ponder why this would be such a powerful draw as to compel Michael Bay to dedicate his life and career to a line of 80s action figures. Then it came to me. It's so clear! "Michael Bay" is actually just three little boys, standing on each other's shoulders, wearing a trench coat and pretending that they're one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.

Case in point: Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. From the bad acting, to the schmaltzy script, to the over-the-top action sequences, to the wide pans of Rosie Huntington Whitely's impeccable body and empty, soulless expressions, this movie is only suitable viewing for boys under the age of 10. We're still stuck with Sam Witwicky, who is now 3 months out of college and unable to find a job in DC, as saving the world, twice, doesn't count as job experience. Meanwhile, something top secret happened on the moon a long time ago, and some other shit hits the fan at Chernobyl. Yadda yadda yadda, Sam has to help Optimus Prime and pals stop the Decepticons from opening a time/space portal, transporting their dying world into Earth's atmosphere, and enslaving all humans. For some reason, Patrick Dempsey is hot for this idea, and helps the Decepticons carry out their evil plan.

But did any cool cars turn into giant robots?, you might be asking. Yes, of course. And John Malkovick was there, and Frances McDormand, and John Turturro, and nobody died if you knew their name. A couple of modern rock ballads were sprinkled in, only confirming my suspicion that Michael Bay is made out of kids. You were never sure when you were watching the dramatic climax, everything that happened, at all, happened at level 10 intensity. Did I mentioned it's 2 1/2 hours long? That's 150 loud, slow, tedious minutes of robots punching each other to death.

Summary: Oh, but if you don't pay money to see this movie, it means you hate America.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Green Lantern Holds No Flicker Of Interest

By Carl Scarano-Schulze, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

Sometimes I think watching a terrible movie can be as much fun as watching a good one. Every now and again, I like to just sit back and howl about how much the studios spend to make these big-budget action flicks that honestly deserve be buried in the backyard. But then I see the box office grosses for these movies, and I get sad. Because it’s partly my fault. I forked over my own hard-earned money to see a terrible movie, and it just encourages studio heads to make more of them.

This review is about Green Lantern, although it could easily be about Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which I’m sure we’ll be barking about soon enough. Honestly, I knew fuck-all about Green Lantern’s backstory before they started heavily promoting this movie. You too, huh? Well, in a nutshell, a human fighter pilot basically gets drafted into a squadron of intergalactic space cops to protect the universe from evil forces that wield fear as a weapon against peaceful alien races. Our hero says a little poem, and is granted a magic ring that grants him powers like super strength and flying, but also the ability to mentally manifest his will & imagination. And even though he’s kind of a bumbling bore at first, he ends up saving the universe when all of the elder, more experienced space cops fail to get the job done.

Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan only has one mode – smirky. I didn’t give two shits whether he lived or died – just like Hal didn’t give two shits about any civilians who lived or died, as long as it wasn’t his busty gal-pal, Carol. Blake Lively as Carol Ferris was too hot and leggy to be taken seriously. The story & script had all the complexities of last Saturday morning’s episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Good is good, evil is evil, flying is neat, and monsters are scary. Speaking of scary, this movies only redeeming quality was Peter Saarsgard’s perfomance as the villainous Hector Hammond. He injected some much needed talent into the casts’ otherwise dreadful performance. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough to make it watchable. For a movie relying heavily on special effects, they were nothing if not cringe-worthy. But perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh - all in all, Green Lantern is exactly as entertaining as your favorite screensaver.

Summary: In brightest day, in blackest night, Green Lantern is nothing but painfully trite.

Wags: 1/5

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hail Malick, Full of Grace

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

It's not often you get to see two movies for the price of one. The Tree of Life is one of those rare and ambitious double features, bringing us one tale of a mid-century American family, and a far more abstract film featuring a shit-ton of experimental footage of volcanos, cell divisioin, underwater currents, and various other nature scenes that hint at creation.

The Tree of Life is (sort of) the story of a family with 3 boys (and their dog) in Waco, Texas. The eldest grows up to be Sean Penn, who's all kinds of bitter about his stifling disciplinarian father and free spirit mother. Mr. O'Brien (played by a most effective Brad Pitt, although Heath Ledger was originally attached to star) mesmerizes as the frustrated and oppressive father, alternately thrilling and horrifying. Mrs. O'Brien (played by the ethereal Jessica Chastain) floats through the movie, quite literally, like an angel.

My biggest beef is the insertion of 20 long minutes of nature-based creationist footage stuffed into an already non-linear narrative. But there's a reason I'm a stay-at-home beagle and not a fancy Hollywood director. Leave it to Terrence Malick to blow my mind and leave me begging for more. Dropping an extended nature montage into a movie with an already shaky space/time continuum takes a big pair of stones. Terrence Malick has 'em without question.

Weird aside: Mr. Malick actually had the cojones to send out specific projection instructions with every copy of his film, insisting that every mall-dwelling, minimum-wage earning, pimple-faced teenage projectionist follow his guidelines exactly. (crap like "Proper standard (5400 Kelvin)” and “foot Lambert level is at Standard 14.” Huh?)

Summary: Love it or be totally confused by it, but at least admit it's important.

4/5 wags

Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8 Was Doggone Great!

By River Shaughnessy, Top Critic
Denver, Colorado

Remember when movies had original stories, compelling characters, and memorable moments that made you really feel something? I sure do. And there’s a word for it now, apparently. “Spielberg-ian.” It describes nearly all of your favorite movies from the mid to late 80s. But all good things must come to an end, and Spielberg can only churn out so much movie magic. Enter JJ Abrams, dishing out a healthy dose of nostalgia that will have you home, instant-streaming E.T. before you can say “close encounters of the third kind”. Such is Super 8.

And really, what is there not to love? You’ve got your ragtag bunch of adorable kids – think Stand By Me or The Goonies. Abrams goes the distance and casts real, authentic looking kids, with acting chops to boot. When their small town is shaken by a horrific train wreck, this motley crew has to piece together the clues immortalized in their grainy Super 8 film footage to find out exactly what went down. Because things are starting to get weird! First, all the dogs run away (what?!?!). Then the electronics start acting goofy, and the Army rolls in with something major to hide. People start going missing, even their plucky gal-pal Alice (played a hastily-maturing Elle Fanning). But hey, when you’ve got a mischievous alien running amuck in your town, you just can’t trust grownups to take care of business.

Super 8 was a breath of hot, fresh, summer air. But the real beauty of Super 8 lies in what it’s not – not a sequel, not a comic book adaptation, not a star-studded Chevy commercial, and not an remake of an 80s television show. What it IS is a solid, entertaining, purely fun summer movie. JJ Abrams may not be the second coming of Jesus H. Spielberg, but he’s good enough for this dog.

Summary: Two words: Kid Power! Four more words: Quit hogging the popcorn.
Wags: 4/5

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

X-Men Prove To Be Just OK-Men

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I remember getting chills the first time I saw the trailer for X-Men: First Class. I capital-L Loved the idea of a prequel that explored the initial friendship between Magneto and Professor X, along with the founding of the infamous Academy for gifted pups. The casting was tremendous, an all-star lineup featuring some very promising up-and-comers. So much to look forward to! So why did this film not work for me? Has working as a doggy critic made me overly doggy critical?

To be fair, the film did have many things going for it. Michael Fassbender simply transforms into a troubled young Magneto, every moment he spends on screen is a moment to be enjoyed. The scene in which he pulls the sub out of the water is was positively inspired. James McAvoy is decent as recent-grad Charles Xavier. He lacks the stoicism of the Patrick Stewart Professor X that we all know and love, and the writers attempts to inject swagger into his character didn’t quite ring true. It was hard to be truly afraid of Kevin Bacon as the films main antagonist – his German was solid, but his little piggy nose kept making me laugh. If Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Mystique fell a little flat, then January Jones as Emma Frost was positively painful. The special effects of Emma in her crystallized state were reminiscent of my old Myspace page graphics. Rose Byrne as a human CIA operative was useless, and that fluttering stripper and her fire-loogies should have been cut from the film altogether. Thank the Hollywood Gods that they didn't make this one in 3D.

Was it a waste of 2 hours? Absolutely not. It was highly entertaining, making it easy enough to ignore some of the more gaping plot holes and inconsistencies in the script. Was it this summer’s best? Methinks not. Maybe Magneto could triumph in a one-on-one fight against Thor, but Thor had the better movie, paws down.

Summary: Call me when production’s wrapped on X-Men Babies.

Wags: 3/5

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lots of Weiners + Very Few Laughs = Hangover 2

By Carl Scarano-Schulze, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

Sorry, but I’m feeling a little emotional today. It’s more than my puppy brain can process. Maybe it’s just the post holiday-weekend blues. Or maybe it’s because Hangover Part II was so painfully unfunny. What happened to my beloved wolfpack? How could a movie with so much going for it deliver so very few laughs?

Another wedding, another bachelor party. Only they’re not in Vegas, they’re in Bangkok. And instead of losing the groom, they lose the bride’s brother. And instead of Ed Helms losing a tooth, he gets a face tattoo. And instead of a tiger, there’s a monkey. And instead of El Helms marrying a hooker, he gets buttf*d by a tranny. And instead of stuck on the roof, the guy they lost is stuck in the elevator. There’s still Mike Tyson, but this time, he’s singing and dancing (what?!). Instead of discovering the incriminating photos at the very end, they… the incriminating photos at the very end.

It’s the exact. same. movie. From the opening scene, to the closing credits. Ken Jeong makes me want to claw my eyes out. The writers deviated from the original plot only to inject slightly more full-frontal male nudity (wieners galore). Their idea of a super Zach Galifinakis gag is having him mispronounce “Louis Vuitton”. Not exactly the laugh riot you were expecting. All in all, a truly awful sequel that will no doubt become an even more depressing trilogy. That’s Hollywood.

Summary: There’s not enough pot in the world to make Hangover II worth seeing.
Wags: 1/5

Monday, May 23, 2011

Midnight In Paris is Très Manifique!

By Sir Jasper Barone, Top Critic
Shropshire, United Kingdom

Most American dogs just don’t get it. Sure, New York City has a certain energy to it. Parts of California have nice weather. But bloody hell! Your whole country isn’t even a quarter century old yet! Just face it. You may think you know a thing or two about charm. But trust this ol’ hound when I tell you – nothing you have stateside can measure up to the majesty of grand ol’ Paris.

If you don’t believe me, just go check out Woody Allen’s latest tour de “france”, Midnight in Paris. Sure, this film is chock full of A-list American actors turning in inspired performances, but the real star of the movie is the city of lights herself. When struggling writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) accompanies his uptight fiancée and her parents on vacation, he spends his first days yearning for the fantasy Paris experience – café living, rubbing elbows with art and literary greats, walks in the rain, the whole works. Luckily for us, he gets his wish almost immediately! At the stroke of midnight each night, he is magically transported to 1920’s Paris, in the company of a ragtag group of pals including, F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, and more. It’s no surprise that he spends his mornings questioning why he has to return to the present at all!

Woody Allen does a tremendous job of immersing the viewer in Gil’s nighttime adventures – those scenes he has to spend in the modern, daylight hours are positively painful. You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting the sounds of the clock striking twelve. This film is sure to be a welcome treat for any Francophiles, romantics, literary types, amateur sculptors, or wannabe ex-pats. In the same way that Vicky Cristina Barcelona had you yearning for the Spanish countryside, you’ll be equally rushing to book that one-way ticket with Air France. So go ahead; say "au revoir" to summer’s heavy handed action blockbusters, and "bonjour" to a roaring good time.

Wags: 4/5

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Fucking Cat Presents: Weekend Box Office Roundup

Bridesmaids Gets Hammered
By Sammy Miller, Guest Contributor
West Hollywood, California

Boy, is my face red. I was so sure that Bridesmaids would steal the top spot away from Thor this week, I told everyone down at the Wok n’ Roll that I’d give up hamachi handrolls for a month if it didn’t pull in at least $40MM. Oh well, I guess it’s back to tuna tartare for this feline… Ugh, how very pedestrian.

Thor has proven to be a mighty contender after all, raking in an impressive $34.7MM in it’s second week in theaters. Who knew that the American public had such a soft spot for blonde hunks with big hammers? Someone get Mike Holmes on the line, I’ve got a script he might be perfect for.

All the single ladies, all the single ladies… must have had bigger and better things to do this weekend than seeing Bridesmaids. Even though the latest Apatow rom-com practically made a profit due to a relatively small budget, it hardly lived up to its more traditional predecessors-in-matrimony. With only $26MM, even that god-awful adaptation of Mamma Mia opened stronger.

That silly mess that Paul Bettany starred in failed to draw the crowds…. Priest only managed $14MM. Wait a minute, are we sure that this one isn’t just Legion 2? I could swear that I’ve seen this before.

I swear, this is the very last time I bet on the box office. Unless it’s a sure thing. Or I’m feeling lucky. That reminds me, I’d better call my bookie about next weekend’s Pirates opening. Ciao for now!

Bridesmaids Says “I Do” To Poo

By River Shaughnessy, Top Critic
Denver, Colorado

Personally, weddings and bridal stuff make my butt itch. I hate having to take a flea bath, putting on a fancy collar, and spend my night getting poked and prodded by sticky ringbearers and flower girls. The whole idea of a wedding makes me want to run and hide under the bed. Hey, I’m not a tomboy. I’m just one modern bitch.

That’s why this weekend’s Bridesmaids was such a breath of fresh air – finally, a comedy that’s not afraid to point out how ridiculous the whole bridal charade really is. Comedic she-genius Kristen Wiig finally thrusts herself into the spotlight as Annie, a down-and-out thirtysomething who gets roped into playing maid of honor to her childhood best friend (Maya Rudolph). Her casual approach to the pre-wedding planning becomes a constant source of humiliation, as she’s repeatedly upstaged by the bride’s fanciest new friend, Helen. Convincingly played by Rose Byrne, Helen is detestably determined to coordinate a picture-perfect wedding as pretentious as it is pukeworthy , and she doesn’t care who she has to manipulate in order to get there. Throw in a hilarious Jon Hamm as Annie’s sleazy boy toy, and you’ve got yourself an all-star cast and plenty to laughs to go around.

Another solid product from producer Judd Apatow, Bridesmaid’s features some of the best elements of both Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin. Some of the gags get a little tedious, but there’s real magic in the improv, and Wiig’s ability to tow the line between outrageous and sympathetic manages to tie it all together in a shiny pink bow. But it’s the healthy dose of poop jokes, sex scenes, and drunken tirades that make this memorable movie what it is – a celebration of actual comedy, not just grrrrl power.

Summary: Don’t call it a chick flick – Bridesmaids is a heavy hitter, and perhaps the best comedy of 2011 so far.

Wags: 4/5

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Megan Fox Career Killer

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

Sometimes in life, a movie comes along that you know is going to be so god-awful, it becomes required viewing. A movie that will be a lasting and permanent source of embarrassment for all those involved. A movie that will echo through the ages as nothing but a steaming turd pile that will forever blemish the art form that is film. This, my friends, is Passion Play.

Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Kelly Lynch, Rhys Ifans, I have just one question for you all. Why? What was it about this story that you found so compelling, you just had to participate? You’ve got Rourke as your trumpet-playing drifter with a heart of gold. Megan Fox is a circus sideshow freak – a lovely winged ingénue, a bird woman or perhaps a real angel. Their totally gross love is as unwarranted, as inexplicable as it is puke-worthy. Bill Murray phones in an unusually painful performance as the powerful town crime boss, hell bent on stealing the angel and somehow profiting from her awesome wingyness. With a plot that bad, why bother acting, right?


For any train wreck lovers out there, with a morbid curiosity powerful enough to prompt you to sit through the first hour, I’ll tell you this. Do not give up. Finish the movie. I wanted to turn it off when the kissing started too. However, the last 5 minutes of Passion Play can easily be considered one of cinema’s most unintentionally hilarious payoffs. Thrice did I rewind, laughing my tail off every time.

Summary: Only suitable for the most masochistic of viewers. Hey, I’m a dog. I know turds.

Wags: 1/5

Monday, May 9, 2011

One Divine Hammer!

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

I normally don't do superhero movies unless Underdog is heavily featured,
but I'll make an exception for Thor. I had my doubts about the casting of Chris Hemsworth, who initially seemed like too much of a pretty boy for me, but he actually nailed it. He has the height, abs, and stubble to pull off the role of Viking prince, first born son of Odin. I bet in modern times he'd roll like a lumberjack with a big pack of Siberian Huskies. He started out spoiled rotten, but emerged funny, charming, and totally worthy of the awesome power of the hammer. I spent a fair amount of the movie fantasizing about asking Thor to take me to the park, since I'm convinced the man can throw a tennis ball a friggin' mile. I can really see why Natalie Portman wanted to hump him so badly.

Granted, the plot has a few minor issues, and I grow weary of Anthony Hopkins trotting out his "stodgy old king in a fur coat" routine. But after a shaky start, there were laughs aplenty and enough heart to keep me interested. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Thor enters a pet store demanding a horse, is denied, and then requests a dog large enough to ride. Hilarious!

The cast of supporting characters added a surpising amount of depth to the narrative, with Kat Dennings a real standout as the surly best friend. The script took full advantage of the potential for culture shock-related silliness when someone from a Viking realm is dropped into modern times. The story stayed essentially true to the Marvel comic, and the directing was competent, no small feat when weaving CG effects into a full-length feature. (Don't bother with a 3-D version, though, since the movie was clearly not filmed in 3-D and it was added as an afterthought.) I prepared myself for the stuffy Kenneth Branagh of the Hamlet days, but instead got a director with the perfect blend of melodrama, humor, and knowledge of the proper way to drape a loincloth.

Summary: This dog died and went to Valhalla.

Wags: 4/5

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

RUFF CROWD EXCLUSIVE - Pirates 4: On Lamer Tides

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

With it’s May 20 release date fast approaching, you won’t find many other Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides reviews floating around the web. Could it be that the all-mighty Disney is worried that the fourth installment of its big budget franchise won’t live up to its predecessors? My highly-developed dog senses tell me the answer is “yes”, although they really don’t have to be. Even though this summer-blockbuster-season-kicker-offer isn’t particularly spectacular or memorable, it’s perfectly watchable and nearly exactly what you’re expecting. And from what I’ve learned about American audiences, this typically translates to record-breaking box office grosses.

Last night’s critics screening was packed to the gills to see our old pal Captain Jack Sparrow in his latest adventure – the search for the fountain of youth. We’ve got plenty of familiar characters along for the ride, and few high-profile new ones as well. Geoffrey Rush reprises his role as Barbosa, but the notable new additions include Ian McShane as the infamous Blackbeard and the pretty noticeably pregnant Penelope Cruz as his daughter and Jack’s will-they-or-won’t-they love interest. (Seriously, are they still insinuating that Jack is straight? Have you seen him run?) There are just enough swordfights and narrow escapes for series enthusiasts, but the most welcome addition in this dog’s opinion was a really enjoyable bit with the gorgeous but bloodthirsty mermaids.

But on some level, it’s hard to ignore that Disney completely fails to up the ante here. After the visual assault that was the climax of At World’s End (seriously, there was a LOT going on during that maelstrom), On Stranger Tides seems like a bit of an anticlimax for Jack & friends. In fact, there’s not a single moment of genuine fear for Jack’s overall wellbeing. Female audiences won’t have the Will/Elizabeth love story to root for, and as a villain, Blackbeard doesn’t instill half the terror of Davy Jones. So was it good? No, not particularly. Was it good enough? Sure, as long as your standards are nice and low.

Summary: See it for a matinee – it’s exactly $8.50 worth of fun.

Wags: 3/5

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Fucking Cat Presents: Weekend Box Office Roundup

Just Furious
By Sammy Miller, Guest Contributor
West Hollywood, CA

I had the strangest nightmare this morning. I dreamt that the fifth installment of the Fast & The Furious franchise had a record-breaking opening weekend. It was terrifying – there were people lining up around the block to see it, and it ended up grossing over $83MM domestically. I woke up in a cold sweat, but then immediately chuckled to myself and calmed down. It was only a crazy dream! Vin Diesel isn’t culturally relevant anymore! There’s no way that people still care about a ragtag bunch of meatheads who have been doing the same bad one-liners and silly stunt-driving tricks since 2001.

The good news is that Disney’s squeaky-clean PROM didn’t find an audience either. It raked in only $4.7MM domestically, and the week-over-week dropoff is sure to be more dramatic a Miley Cyrus temper tantrum. If the studio thought that they had another High School Musical on their hands, they’re in for quite the rude-awakening.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night didn’t even crack the top ten. Bringing in well under $1MM, this cat thinks that history’s worst Superman, Brandon Routh, better ask Lucky Strike bowling lanes if he can have his old job back.

Needless to say, I’m positively exhausted. Think I’ll pop a CAtivan and try to catch a few more z’s before my dinner reservations. Ciao for now!
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