Earlier this year, I started running this column every once in a while so I could write about movies and TV shows I didn't feel compelled to write entire reviews/articles about. Well, there are a few things I've seen lately...
Dreamworks has had a banner year as an animation studio, first with the terrific How to Train a Dragon, and now with Megamind. Megamind (Will Ferrell) is a career super-villain who was sent to Earth by his loving parents, Superman-style, as his home planet was on the verge of destruction. As his spacepod careens through the galaxy, another spacechild has been shipped off by his parents, as well. This is Metro Man (Brad Pitt). The two land on Earth and are raised very differently: Metro Man by rich, loving parents, and Megamind by a group of criminally insane convicts in a prison. The two are destined to become mortal enemies. The story begins typically enough, with Megamind staging an elaborate plot to kill his nemesis, but gets all sorts of messed up when he's actually successful.
The film is a kid-friendly reflection on good and evil for our cynical times, and Will Ferrell makes the most of his vocal abilities, giving Megamind a maniacal cuddliness that is much needed to offset the real dangers that come in the film's final act. Tina Fey voices Roxie, the Lois Lane reporter, and is her typical self, which is always good. What I loved most, though, were the characters/performances of Jonah Hill as Tighten, and David Cross as Megamind's sidekick, Minion. They are original creations, and make the movie something worth seeing in the theatre.
As with Megamind, Dreamworks is on a roll with How To Train Your Dragon, which -- had Toy Story 3 not been released -- would be the best animated film of the year. This is a great coming of age story about a wimpy Viking boy named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) who wants to be a dragon slayer like his father (Gerard Butler), but turns into a savior. The animation is stellar, with or without the gratuitous 3-D, and the story is compelling thanks to a central character we can really sympathize with and love.
I loved Queen Latifah in The Last Holiday, but the charisma which saved that mediocre script is not enough to save this pathetic crap. The story is waaaayyyy to simple (and predictable): Queen Latifah plays Leslie, a phyiscal therapist who's a huge New Jersey Nets fans. She meets-cute and falls for basketball superstar Scott McKnight (Common), but he falls in love with her gold digging sister, Morgan (Paula Patton). After he has a potential career-ending knee injury, she's called in to save him. You probably know what happens next. I did. Besides, the basketball action is notably awful, which, for me, is a cardinal sin.
From the crew that brought us the wickedly funny Super Troopers, Beerfest is a major disappointment. Two brothers, in Germany to honor their grandfather's passing, come across a back-room Olympic Games of sorts known as Beerfest. Super drinkers from around the world come together every year to participate in an array of drinking games to defend their nation's drinking pride. After being humiliated by the monstrous German team, the brothers return home to the U.S. with one mission: assemble the best drinking team the U.S. of A can offer.
The premise was interesting, as far as absurd comedies go, but the execution is weak. The film's humor is derived mostly from been-there-done-that drunk jokes and pathetic racial stereotypes. With Super Troopers on their resume, you'd assume the boys from Broken Lizard would be able to do more. Instead, the movie plays like it was written over a drunken weekend, with breaks in between writing sessions to play rounds of beer pong.