Sunday, July 7, 2013

Despicable Me 2: Umm No Comparison

Theatrical poster courtesy of Wiki
Despicable Me 2: Review

If you have your expectations set on astronomical, like I did, for the highly anticipated sequel to Despicable Me, what you will find is the trap that most films run into. They were simply unable to replicate the masterpiece. The story sets out with Gru sustaining as a fairly low key and committed single dad who's traded his villain status for the manufacturing of jellies and jams. Meanwhile, his old lifestyle inevitably catches up to him when a new ominous mission falls into his lap. Contrarily, he's been recruited by the AVL (the Anti Villain League) and reluctantly assigned a sidekick. Gru rebounds into action but this time it's to save the world. But, figuring out just who's responsible for the colossal sized mischief brewing, is gauging up to be more baffling than he anticipated.

It's not that Despicable Me 2 is a bad film. Looking around in the theater there were apparently more adults in attendance than children. DM2 was successfully able to produce a lot of new comedic lines that are still as equally entertaining for adults as they are for youngsters. For instance, Steve Carell's voice over performance for Gru, doesn't disappoint with a few hilarious one liners. My favorite one is when Lucy (v.o.'d by Kristen Wiig) is hallucinating that Gru is a baby in his mother's arms who looks at her and says, "I just did a Boom Boom!". Elise Kate Fisher, as Agnes, is almost as funny and adorable as she was before, and the mischievous, jovial Minions were amusing especially in the song sequence towards the end of the movie.  The other familiar and outstanding bonus is the soulful Pherrell Williams' contribution to the sound track.  Mr. William's hit "Fun fun fun!" song in the original soundtrack, was surprisingly outdone by his new recording, "Happy". It really does make you feel happy! While it was playing, I looked around the theater, to see almost all the kids and many parents rocking in their seats. I found this to be one of the only elements of DM2 that surpassed DM1.

This film's challenge is that the first Despicable Me was so good! The writing was excellent. All the scenes no matter how quirky and seemingly unrelated all worked together harmoniously. It was consistently funny. And, the plot was strong: Gru tries to exploit 3 little orphan girls to help him swipe a shrink-ray from Vector to steal the moon; and instead he falls in love with them and gives up his life of crime for that of a family man. In DM2, I think the plot was a little too busy. Gru's undercover for the AVL with his new sidekick Lucy, trying to find out who in the mall is posing as a shop owner and up to no good. Meanwhile, he's heavily distracted by Margo who's discovered boys. Under his nose half of his Minions are disappearing, and he's having terrible luck with dating. Plus, we all know that the beyond hilarious Kristen Wiig, and the award winning Benjamin Bratt are more than capable of wonderful performances. However, combined, they didn't measure up to Jason Segel's Vector character (Gru's rival villain) in the initial film.  

Despicable Me 2 is still an adorable flick for kids, it's just not an incredible nor memorable work of art. Also, it lacks enough consistent humor and content to simultaneously captivate us grownups.

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 Skittles!


Little Lee's Review:

Despicable Me is one of my most favorite movies of all time! So, I was so happy to see Despicable Me 2. I was laughing at Gru dressed as Gruzinkle-Bell for Agnes' princess birthday party and when the Minion was dressed up like Lucy on the phone with orange hair. It was really funny when Lucy called the Minions, "Munchkins". Oh! and the wig Gru was wearing on his date that was on backwards is seriously gonna make you laugh. I liked DM2 but my favorite is still the first Despicable Me!! No question!

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 Skittles!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Monsters University: Accepted!

Theatrical release poster, courtesy of Wiki
Monsters University review: 

Adorable is the parody created from typical college life as we know it, to Monster University. Pixar films begins this prequel of Monsters Inc. on a school trip to the Scare Factory, where Michael Wazowski declares as a young monster that he wants to be a scarer! And what an exciting and prestigious venture this is! But it wont be easy. The business of scaring children as they slumber, is as difficult as it is dangerous. There's a precise skill level to inducing terror into kids undetected and unscathed. Where does a nonthreatening yet determined young monster find this set of training? Well, a university of course! However, Mike soon finds out that not only is his hard work not enough but it's also contributing to his unpopularity.

 Overall this film is pretty cute and clever from the strict curriculum and rival fraternities, to learning the responsibility that comes from gaining one's independence. MU presents the monster's alma mater experience to be much like a humans. Comedy is in the details from the elementary monsters on the school bus singing, "…the wing bone's connected to the horn bone…" to Art, the purple, shaggy, inverted "U" shaped monster, voiced by Charlie Day, yelling, "I can't go back to jail!", after he was cornered by the authorities. Also, Pixar doesn't disappoint with it's high level of artistic creativity that went into this wonderfully bright, colorful and alluring animation. It's one of the highlights of this film. Other highlights include the unexpected instances when the pitiful underdogs of O.K. (Oozma Kappa) fraternity are able to triumph and shock everyone in the Scare Games competition. It's pretty endearing.

There were a few set backs with this movie. The voice of Billy Crystal was far from that of a young freshman's. When elementary age Mike transitions into collage age Mike, it's strangely noticeable that Crystal's voice doesn't fit. And, with all the layers of camaraderie and competitiveness, unlike Monsters Inc., it's hard to find the actual point of Monsters U. The rivalry between Mike and Sullivan, voiced by John Goodman, lasts for almost the entire film. When they finally learn from their mistakes and attempt to climb out of the deep hole they dug themselves into, there's only about five minutes left before the credits.

For the sheer thrill of competition and the excitement that goes into the art form of scaring, kids will like attending Monster's University! I doubt it will be their favorite movie but, they'll laugh, be dazzled by the fantastic 3D animation, and digest several valuable lessons about what not to do in school. However, it really is for kids alone. Monsters U. lacks enough inside humor and depth to be thoroughly entertaining for adults. 

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 skittles

And in the spirit of education and entertainment, if you are planning to be in the Brooklyn, NY area on July 27th, 2013, the Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center, located at: 650 Fulton Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11217, is holding their 2013 Children's Health Fair for The Wellness & Resources Expo.  I will be among the exhibitors with my children's book: Qualities, that promotes confidence and self-esteem. Expect fun, freebies, education and entertainment for the kids!



Little lee's review

Monster's University was crazy and exciting. Mike and Sulley got into so much trouble because they wanted to be better than each other. But when they finally learned to work together they started winning. I love all the different ways the monsters had to scare kids. But I'd never want them to come into my bedroom to wake me up! My favorite monster is Squishy's mom! She was funny and like my mom so embarrassing! I think you'll really really like MU (whether you're a big chicken or not :-)


I give it 4 out of 5 skittles!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wiz of A Wiz!

Oz The Great and Powerful
When someone asks, "Are you the Wizard?", you say Yes! The new prequel spin on the classic: The Wizard of Oz takes us on an exciting crusade with gull and clever tactics as we discover how he became a wiz of a Wiz.

Writers, David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner do a charming job, with keeping this new prequel carefully aligned with the original Oz. Aside from the given characters and set that would need to stay true to tie the two films together, they make other similar choices from The Wizard of Oz. Both films start off in the ordinary, black and white, Mid-West and advance to the magical, colorful and beautiful land of Oz. Like Dorothy, Oscar also helps a few oddly familiar individuals that he meets along his journey, that turn out inevitably, to be loyal companions. And, if you've ever wondered, Oz, The Great and Powerful answers these questions: How did the Scarecrow come to be? Where did the Tin Man come from? How did the Lion get to be cowardly? And, how did the Wizard of Oz first arrive in Oz?

Speaking of the Wizard, When you're good you're good. James Franco is wonderful with the things he does as Oz. Because! Because! Because! Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, "Oz" for short, starts out as a deceptive sideshow magician who never met a pretty face he couldn't sweet talk. His quest to be great, however, takes a colorful upgrade when he's swept into one of Kansas' apparently frequent twisters. Since the original Wizard, that starred Frank Morgan, was a shorter role and wasn't as developed, Franco's choices smoothly blend in new layers that bind well with the original. Specifically,  Franco's deeply etched smile, that appears across his face with every white lie he tells, is absolutely hilarious and so exaggerated, that it's almost humanoid.  His performance is solid and credible divulging what it takes to be great.

Disproportionately the beautiful Mila Kunis, who portrayed Theodora, the wicked witch of the west, gave a mediocre portrayal of the mean, green antagonist.  Mila, who's widely known for bringing sass and flare to her roles did not seem connected to her slighted character.  It is quite possible however, that her lacking portrayal stemmed from her makeup and prosthetics that were reported to demand four hours to apply, another hour to remove, and furthermore damaged Kunis' skin to the degree that it took nearly two months for it to recover (according to Wikipedia). But at the end day, as an audience, we expect to hate or at least strongly dislike the evil, broom-flying villain, who's goal is to kill the Wizard and any innocent bystanders in her way.

Tony Cox who played Knuck, the disgruntled Emerald City guard, and Zach Braff who starred as Frank and Finley, the assistant and the jovial flying monkey, both delivered clever and noteworthy family friendly humor.

As the youngest supporting actress in this movie, Miss Joey King, portrays real depth as China Girl and Wheelchair Girl giving one the best performances within the cast. Her commitment will make you laugh and almost cry.  Adding to China Girl's spellbinding personality is her remarkable animation that looks so believable, that if you didn't already know China dolls weren't real, you wouldn't discover it from this film. Be sure to look out for her fluid movements that can easily be overlooked.

However, there are reasons why classics aren't born everyday.  For starters, The Wizard of Oz, one of the most famous movies of all time, was released in 1939 when the concept of a Technicolor film was fresh and new. So, even with the level of today's cinematography, animation, special effects, and 3D technology, it doesn't even come close to the wow factor of reinventing the "color-wheel".  That isn't to say however, that Oz, the Great and Powerful doesn't do a lovely job with its cinematography, brilliant bold cascading rainbows, and design.  Also, with Oz's lineup of enchanting and enjoyable cast members, they still aren't comparable to the Wicked Witch of the West, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion's degree of raising the bar that added to the classic's magic.

Overall, Oz, the Great and Powerful blends well with the original Wizard of Oz and adds to "There's no place like home" with To be great, first you have to be good! Does Oz have the makings to be a classic? No! However, is it an entertainingly good film that leaves you with a wonderful warm feeling? Absolutely!  It's a fantastic film for adults and kids alike!

I give it 3.75 out of 5 Skittles.

Little Lee's review:
 
Oz was excellent! First, he was in trouble with this really big guy when the screen was black and white. Then he got away and ended up in a whole other world with real magic and colors.  And, you think that it would be easy from there but, NO! He had biting fairies, witches, and killer flying monkeys trying to get him! SMH But, it was really funny and Finley, the good monkey, was my favorite. This movie was great because it made me feel like I don't have to have special powers to make magic happen!

4 and a half out of 5 Skittlessss!!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Live reading of the children's book: Qualities in NY

Interested in self confidence, empowerment and a fun time for the kids?

Author/ illustrator, Ambre Anderson will be reading her new children's book, Qualities live this Saturday, December 1, 2012 in Brooklyn.  

Feel free to bring the family to the free reading event for the book entitled: Qualities, at the Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center in Forte Green at 650 Fulton Street, Brooklyn NY 11217, 11-1pm.

Anderson will also be teaching arts & crafts following the book reading. Free giveaways! Hope to see you there!
For more info: www.ArtworkbyAmbre.com or www.BrooklynPlaza.org

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 Movie Review

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2- Heck Yeah!!

Bella is new and improved as a vampire after childbirth killed her mortality. And although her union with Edward was fully excepted amongst the vampire community, their new baby Renesmee  (a composite name of Renee (Bella's mother) and Esme (Edward's "mother")) wasn't so lucky.  After a false accusation, the new family is in grave trouble with the powerful Volturi who only happen to be the largest vampire regime. Even still, the Cullen's are prepared drive a stake through anyone who threatens their family.

There are certain details of this film that one has to accept in order to appreciate it. First, aside from the Vampires requisite to drink blood, the Twilight saga movies focus on the majestic viewpoint of vampires rather than their dark side. And, when assessing the situation in that way, it makes it easier to digest that teenage Bella was literally dying to be a vampire in order to be with Edward, unbeknownst to her parents and only has to loose her soul to do it. Furthermore, even with Bella and Edward being married, there's no way around the fact that Twilight glorifies teenage pregnancy.

Regarding the topic of appropriateness for young impressionable teens, this film warrants at the least a conversation to your youngsters on issues like, intense sexual content, violent murder and teen defiance.

If these details can be accepted or moved past for the sake of fiction, this film is awesome! I've seen the previous films in the Twilight saga and I thought they were captivating at times but, I've never been impressed this much. For starters, it continues to evolve the intense Romeo and Juliet type romance, with a twist. However, the writing in Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 seems to be the best yet. I found myself laughing out loud. The storyline is more witty, interesting, cleverly done and the action scenes are completely unexpected. 

Even the actors gave better performances. The highlight performances for me, were from the beautiful Kristen Stewart, who plays, Bella Swan. Not only did she give a believable performance as an incredibly strong vampire in such a tiny frame, but she made it funny and fascinating to watch. Also giving an always reputable performance was Michael Sheen, who plays Aro, one of the 3 leaders of the Volturi. There's something about his malicious depiction that is so grimy, yet you'll love to loath him! Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward was funnier than I ever remember him being. Taylor Lautner who's character is Jacob, gives another vigorous performance and the other wicked actor that amplifies inhumanity is Dakota Fanning.

I saw this movie surrounded by a packed theater of energetic Twilight fans. It was almost as equally entertaining to watch the film as it was to be amongst the energy of the crowd for Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. And especially all the boisterous fans who were anti- Volturi. Of course the second Jacob took off his shirt, girls in the audience went bananas. Aro and his crew got an equal amount of rowdy boos.

Overall, if you've never seen any of the Twilight saga films, this is the one to see. If you're a fan already you will be blown away with how this final movie goes out with a blast. Go see Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2; it's worthy! Surprisingly, one of my favorite films this year!


I give it 4.5 out of 5 skittles.

Ambre A.

(This film wasn't reviewed by Little Lee due to mature content.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Welcome Back Nemo!

Finding Nemo: Movie review (Adult's review) 


Back with a 3D splash is Finding Nemo 3D.  Whether you saw it the first time or not, this "classic" feel good flick is worth revisiting. You think you've got an ocean of problems? Marlin, a very small clown fish has to leave his home to find his only surviving son in the endless deep blue, before the unthinkable happens. Accompanying his journey are his one and only clue, his countless fears and his mild amnesia suffering side kick.

This is one of my favorite animated films with many memorable highlights. Albert Brooks, who plays Marlin, renders such a heart felt performance as the sensitive and caring father. As Marlin pushes onward deeper and deeper into the unknown sea, you can't help but root for the little fella as he barely makes it through each calamity by the scales of his fins.

Dori, played by Ellen Degeneres, delivers an upbeat performance with her suitable for all ages comedy that's always popular. And, her lovable character is also rather charming despite her two minute long memory setback. Besides, Dori's "Just keep swimming" mantra is pretty catchy.

Another great quality that Finding Nemo has is its slew of memorable phrases. Some in particular include the  "Mine Mine Mine" of the pigeons and the aquarium captives calling themselves the "WannaHockaLoogie" tribe.  And, I love the way this film connects all living things as the message of Marlin's incredible quest, to save his wet behind the ears son, gets spread from the fish in the ocean, to the birds in the sky.

In regards to the movie being in 3D, I thought it was well done, meaning I could clearly see the difference, but not all together necessary. Overall, the visual effects seemed insignificant. It's a great film; so in that regard it stands on its own. With the exception of flicks with special effects like Avatar, lately, most 3D films seem to raise prices higher than they do eyebrows. But, it all boils down to your preference. And, let's face it. A lot of kids get excited about the fun in 3D.

It's a great film for parents and kids alike. If you haven't seen it in a while, it's a pleasant recap. Finding Nemo has a strong storyline of determination, forgiveness and courage. The actors do a wonderful voice-over job. And the animation is beautifully created. Plus, if your child is under the age of ten and you don't have the DVD at home, it will be a new wave for them! I give it 4 out of 5 Skittles for What To See PG.


By Ambre A.


In the spirit of empowerment and confidence for kids, the Huffington Post contributor, author/ illustrator Ambre Anderson will be appearing on Fox Morning News in Baltimore, Maryland this Monday October the 29th at 9:30 am. She will be discussing her new children's book entitled, Qualities. Feel free to tune in if you'll be in the area and check her out.


Kids review for Finding Nemo 3D (Kid's review)
 
I LOVE FINDING NEMO!!! The blue fish Dori was hilarious and driving the dad fish Marlin totally crazy the whole time. But, Marlin never gave up looking for his son Nemo all the way to Australia. The turtles are really old and still surfing and joking around and the sharks have serious mental problems. Oh the last thing is it's in 3D so you get to wear the glasses! You're gonna be happy you saw this funny movie that makes you think about what's going on under water on your next beach visit!! I give it 5 out of 5 Skittles.

By Little Lee

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Won't Back Down: Movie review

I'll back up, Won't Back Down

Overview
Even a first grader can comprehend that Adams elementary school isn't making the grade. With part of the teaching staff only there to get a paycheck and union rules protecting educators whether they perform well or not, action needs to be taken.

Bursting out of the constraints of inferiority and leading their rallied mob, come two women who won't accept a second rate education for their children.  Nona and Jamie are a teacher and parent duo who utilize Parent Trigger Legislation to do the unthinkable and takeover their kid's under-performing elementary school. Although from  different backgrounds,

the women share the same driving force, a special needs child who's getting left behind. So they plunge themselves knee deep in the red tape of the bureaucracy's protocol to make their visions a reality.

This gripping nail biter kept my blood pressure pumping the entire film. Aside
from Chinese, Jamie and Nona are told in every way, by the school system, how
impossible it will be to make a change at Adams and how extensively their
efforts will be in vein. It instantly becomes compelling to witness each
problematic stage of their process as they approach them fearlessly together
with vitality and strength.

Believability
Although this isn't a true story, it is said to come from the compilation of true events
like the turnaround operator, Green Dot public schools that took over Locke
High school in Watts, CA. Won't Back Down (previously titled: And Still I Rise,
Learning to Fly and Steel Town) portrays similar voices of people empowering
themselves to revamp failing inner city public schools with their best efforts. 

Some of the controversy surrounding the story claims it's motive
is to privatize the nation's school system which threatens the teachers unions
and it suggests reconstructing the school system into a money making opportunity.
Furthermore, some protesters argue that charter schools don't always deliver the
better education that they promise, teachers and their unions are painted in a bad
light and the laws stated in the film aren't true. 

However under law, charter schools can be shut down when they don't perform,
giving them an urgency to achieve that public schools don't have. Also, the
details of many takeover rules for teachers and school systems are regulated
on a state by state basis. I won't begin to say that I know a great deal of
charter school laws. But, as Hollywood fictional stories go, it probably wouldn't
be a good idea use the facts of the film to take over a public school or form an
uneducated opinion on the real people involved.

Highlights
In general, I can appreciate a story where regular people don't take no for an
answer and vigorously work to unite others to change a flawed system.

The ambition and spunk in such characters is refreshing and motivating to see.
Jamie Fitzpatrick, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, skips into every scene
literally with enthusiasm as the tenacious advocate for her beloved daughter.
Although the hurdles of taking over her child's school are piled against the
underprivileged, two job working mom, her performance is tireless, creative
and high spirited.  

Nona Alberts, played by the SAG award winner and Oscar nominee, Viola Davis,
did not fall short of bringing her expected class and strength to the teacher/
parent role. Her less is more approach gains understanding for her character's
dilemma and warrants respect for her performance. She graciously depicts a
mother who searches for a better education for her son while she concurrently
deals with a failing marriage and a thankless teaching job.

In addition to Nona and Jamie, Michael Perry, played by Oscar Isaac, gave a
refreshing performance as the brightest eyed and bushiest tailed teacher at
Adams elementary. His innovative way of using his guitar to stimulate, and
entertain the kids all while teaching them mathematics, was one of the
highlights of the film.

But don't misinterpret, the movie does have it's flaws. Some scenes and facts were
less than believable at times. One example is, when the women knocked on
countless parent's doors for their petition, but they all seemed to be located
within the same housing building. Another is the speech that Jamie stood up and
gave to her daughter with her back turned to the chairman in the middle of the
hearing. It just seemed pretty unlikely to have a one on one moment in a public
forum. However, I didn't feel Won't Back Down's accuracy issues took away
from the film as a whole.

Overall
Won't Back Down focuses on one way people have fixed the problem and created  a
decent learning environment for children who didn't have that option previously. 
Let's face it. The poor performance records of so many inner city public schools
don't come as a shock anymore. I applaud a storyline that aims to make a
difference and especially the real people who influenced it. The movie doesn't
make it seem easy. But, if positivity, determination and a strong desire are the main
ingredients of what's needed to change the world, one corrupt school system at a
time, then this film graduates cum laude.

Appropriateness
In regards to the PG rating, I think the details of policy and technical fine print are
a little over the heads of most children. And, these particular details are a good portion
of the film. However, the feeling of hope and determination, are also widespread
through the movie and are conveyed  clearly enough for even a youngster to
understand. 

I give it 4 out of 5 Skittles.