Geetings dear readers. I hope you're enjoying General Conference, as I am. Should you head out to the movies this Columbus Day weekend, I've got reviews of a couple of anticipated new releases for you: Tim Burton's return to stop-motion animation, Frankenweenie (which is a remake of a short film he did in the 80's), and Taken 2, the sequel to the surprise hit that made Liam Neeson the AARP's leading action hero. As always, you can “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to be notified when new reviews are posted.
FRANKENWEENIE REVIEW (GRADE: B+)
A triumph of animation, character design, and retro film-making style, Frankenweenie gives us a Tim Burton film reminiscent of the director's deliciously weird early efforts, with plenty of nods to black-and-white monster films. Essentially a heartwarming, boy-and-his-dog version of the Frankenstein legend, the central story is entertaining enough (if about ten minutes too long in the middle), but it's the wonderfully bizarre supporting characters that disturb (in a good way) and amuse the most. The final half hour in particular is a delight, though it may frighten very small children (then again, our six-year-old and two-year-old had a ball). While Frankenweenie doesn't quite have the emotional heft it aspires to, it has more than many of Burton's films, and it offers plenty of terrifically stylized fun. With this film, ParaNorman, and Hotel Transylvania, 2012 has been a wonderful year for family-friendly Halloween films. (See also my list of “Seven Stellar Tim Burton Films”)
CONTENT OVERVIEW:Frankenweenie is rated PG. It contains no foul language or sexuality. A young girl holds dried cat feces in her hand (the texture is disturbingly visible). A dead dog is brought back to life; his appearance is stitched-up and body parts fall off randomly (played for humor). Several deceased pets are brought back to life; some of them become monsters that terrify people (including a fairly intense transformation scene).
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: We needn't fear science or the questions it poses. “Religion and science have sometimes appeared in conflict. Yet, the conflict can only be apparent, not real, for science seeks truth, and true religion is truth. There can never be conflict between revealed religion and true science. Truth is truth, whether labeled science or religion. All truth is consistent. There is no conflict—only in the interpretation of fact. It is well to remember that when men make new discoveries in their energetic search for truth, these will always be in harmony with all fundamental and eternal truths. Yes, truth is always consistent, whether it is revealed directly from God to man, through his inspired prophets, or comes from the laboratory through diligent searching of his children and through the influence of the Spirit of the Lord upon them” (Ezra Taft Benson).
TAKEN 2 REVIEW (GRADE: D+)
A muddled, nonsensical mess, Taken 2 is a thoroughly unnecessary sequel. The first film was no masterpiece, but offered a satisfying exercise in wish-fulfillment fantasy as a protective father with a “particular set of skills” brought the hurt on sex-traffickers who'd kidnapped his daughter. While this film starts out promisingly, with the family members of the deceased swearing revenge on ex-CIA operative Byran Mills, it quickly disintegrates into a series of saccharine and unbelievable character arcs, gaping plot holes, questionable logic, placeholder music, laughable dialogue, and poorly-shot, poorly-edited action sequences. The film has to its credit one spectacular car crash, a decent fight scene towards the end, and the fact the Liam Neeson has the gravitas elevate anything he's in. Otherwise, this is a plodding affair (no surprise, given that director Olivier Megaton brought us the similarly uninspired Transporter 3 and Colombiana). With unresolved plot threads leaving the door open for another film, let's hope Taken 3 is more focused and thoughtful.
CONTENT OVERVIEW:Taken 2 is rated PG-13. There's a handful of moderate profanities. A young woman and her boyfriend passionately kiss; he starts unbuttoning her blouse, but her father shows up before anything happens. A young woman swims in a bikini. A man is tortured and stabbed in the leg. Many villains die from being shot, stabbed, or having their necks broken. A villain threatens to place a young woman in a brothel to be abused. A disturbing scene finds a woman's neck cut, not fatally, but enough that she's hung upside down to slowly bleed to death (SPOILER: she is rescued, but it's unsettling nonetheless).
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Family is worth fighting for (Nehemiah 4:14). It is moral to offer mercy to our enemies in combat (Alma 44:6-7).