Co-Host of The Insider, Louis Aguirre’s, Family Friendly Holiday Movie Reviews:
“NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: Secret of the Tomb”:
Okay, so yes, we’ve seen these gags before, and the novelty has worn thin, but there are things that made “Night at the Museum: the Secret of the Tomb” very enjoyable, and surprisingly emotional time at the movies. Ben stiller once again reprises his role as Larry the night watchman turned special events producer at the Natural History Museum in New York, where at night all the museums exhibits magically come to life. In this final chapter of the trilogy, the source of the magic the Egyptian Tablet of Ahkmenrah, is beginning to corrode jeopardizing the exhibits from ever coming back to like ever again. Ben and Teddy, Attila, and yes, even Dexter the Monkey, travel all the way to London to the British museum to save the tablet and all the exhibits. The movie works number one because it brings in Aussie funny girl, Rebel Wilson, to play the night watch person at the British museum. Rebel improvises the whole thing and steals every scene she's in. I love her. She’s hilarious. In fact, there's not enough Rebel Wilson in the movie as far as I'm concerned. Also very funny and a great addition to the cast Dan Stevens, who we last saw as Cousin Matthew on Downton Abbey. Not only is Cousin Matthew alive, he's hilarious as a Sir Lancelot exhibit that comes to life at the British Museum. Forget the historical inaccuracy (Lancelot was not a real person); he's terrific in the movie and actually provides some of the films biggest laughs. But the real reason the movie works is the late comedian Robin Williams, who in one of his last film roles, appears once again as Teddy Roosevelt. I cannot believe how emotional I got watching this movie just seeing Robin up on screen; especially his last two scenes in the movie- where his character is saying goodbye. It's so prolific, knowing that this is one of the last movies Robin made. It almost becomes a fitting tribute to him. I know it's the third one, I know some of the jokes seem stale (the plot even more ridiculous than the first two) but this movie has heart and it still makes you laugh. I saw it in an empty theater at an early press screening. There were only two of us in there. I was totally engaged just like I was for the first one, which I saw with my nieces and nephews who loved it. Most kids will love this movie and this franchise. I say take the family, see it on the big screen and if you're a fan of Robin Williams, bring the Kleenex.
I really wanted to like Annie more. Truth is, it's just a mess. If you're a fan of the original, you're probably not going to like this movie. I didn't like the new arrangements of some of the classic songs we love, I didn't care any of the new songs they added to the score and was ticked they actually cut some of the original numbers by Broadway legends Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Director Danny Gluck actually co-wrote some of the songs; Gluck is clearly not a fan of the musical. There's no heart, there's no soul in any of the new songs.
Secondly, by taking Annie out of Depression Era and into modern day New York, the filmmakers have sacrificed Annie's charm and even a bit of her innocence. Quvenzhane Wallis is adorable but lacks the vocal chops to be able to pull the role off effectively. Loved her in Beasts of the Southern Wild, not so much in Annie. Cameron Diaz is campy and over the top, but you can tell she's having so much fun with her take on Miss Hannigan. She’s still a drunk, but this time she is craving fame instead of love. I will say Jamie Foxx makes awesome Daddy Warbucks, or as he's called in the reboot, Will Stacks. Daddy Warbucks never had so much swagger. Bottom line if you’re fans of the original 1977 Broadway musical stay away. If you or your kids have never seen Annie, you might like it and may even embrace this new Annie. It’s suitable for the whole family. But I say save the fifty bucks and the trip to theater and get a DVD or download the original 1982 version starring Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, & Aileen Quinn.
"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”:
Not quite the epic ending we got when director Peter Jackson masterfully brought his Oscar winning Lord of the Rings Trilogy to a close with The Return of the King. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies struggles with its ambition to be what its predecessor was, but doesn't quite have enough meat to pack a similar punch. Remember, Jackson originally wanted to make The Hobbit a two-parter but stretched J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel into three films. What happens is that Jackson pretty much hit all the major plot points in the first two Hobbit movies and leaves us with very little in this third installment, which he stretches to 2:24 minutes. Basically three things happen, Smaug the dragon destroys Lake Town, Bard the bowman defeats Smaug, and then the Elves and Dwarfs join forces with the lake-men to battle the Orcs and Wargs over possession of the Lonely Mountain and all of its treasures. If what I just said means nothing to you, you will probably not like this movie or much less have any idea what's going on. However, if you're a fan of the series or the books, how can you possibly stay away? Fans of The Hobbit will love this. It feels epic and grand. The first 20 minutes opens with Smaug's destruction of Lake Town, and the special effects are riveting. They're going to blow you away. But unless you have an emotional connection to these characters then you're not likely to care that Thorin's turning toward single-minded selfishness and a that the peace of Middle Earth hangs in the balance. Superbly acted by Sir Ian Mckellan, Cate Blanchette, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom and Richard Armitage, the performances will keep you engaged and Jackson is a master of making really beautiful movies, with sweeping vistas and mind-blowing special effects. It's beautifully shot. But I kept checking my watch, waiting for Bilbo to make it back it back to the shire. It’s way too violent and scary for younger kids. I think the tweens will love it. The battle scenes and the opening 20 minutes with Smaug are pretty epic and should be experienced on a large screen or 3-D Imax. The DVD version of this just won't cut it.