Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Alec Baldwin and a whole boatload of other celebrities
Madagascar 2 gets right into it your kid’s favorite lion, zebra, giraffe and hippo are stuck on Madagascar for about ten minutes before they’re literally slung away from the lemurs in a plane the penguins patched together. (If I’ve lost you, don’t worry. You don’t need to see the first feature to follow this one.) Away they go, headed back to New York. Well, almost. They hit terra firma in Africa, surrounded by tons of other zebras, lions, hippos and giraffes. Turns out Alex the lion was born there and floated his way into New York.
If Madagascar was a play on coddled critters being thrown into their natural environment, the second installment is all about finding family and knowing who your real friends are. In other words, another chance to make animals do stupid crap and make kids laugh. If you’re over about 12, you’re probably not in this movie’s target demographic, but you should be able to stomach it just fine if you have to take someone who is. B+ (Joe Allison)
Role Models (l to r) Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd and Jane Lynch
Role Models Starring Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Elizabeth Banks and Jane Lynch
Familiar faces from comedy hits like American Pie and Superbad abound in this feel-good flick wrapped in off-color clothing. While the humor is decidedly blue, this film exposes a soft, white underbelly in the end. Rudd and Scott are pitchmen for an energy drink company called Centaur, enlisted to go around to schools hawking the product and urging kids to stay off drugs. Straight man, Rudd, is fed up with the mundane job he feels is beneath him. After a progressively more chaotic and violent string of school appearances, the two are dealt two options termination and jail time or 150 hours of community service. The latter choice leads them to a Big Brother-type mentor program for disenfranchised youth (led by Lynch’s hysterical ex-cocaine addict social worker character). Here they meet their ‘littles’ a socially retarded sci-fi dork (Mintz-Plasse) and a foul-mouthed 10-year-old with a major attitude and daddy issues (Thompson). The duo learn lessons by helping the kids resolve their issues. The meat of the film is the time spent between the kids and adults, with some great laugh-out-loud moments. Rock and roll (particularly Kiss) plays a huge role in the story’s resolution. It’s a bizarre twist but fits well with the rest of this multi-layered comedy. B+ (Kevin White)
Gran Torino Starring and directed by Clint Eastwood
Eastwood is a crusty old curmudgeon, who has no use for much of anyone. His language is filled with racial slurs especially for anyone Asian, with “gook” being the main choice (the most positive term he uses).
Having served in Korea, he has many haunting memories. His long-time neighborhood now has a mostly Hmong population (from Cambodia/Laos/China). He quickly loads his rifle when a kid even steps on his lawn.
A series of incidents bring him face-to-face with his next-door neighbors. The film is an insightful look at racism, gangs and the ability to change. B+ (Linda Hollar)
Quantum of Solace Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko and Judi Dench
Everything you’ve heard about this movie is true. Every single bit of it. All of the small touches that make Bond recognizable have been discarded for QoS. No “Bond. James Bond.” No “shaken, not stirred.” But the big items are still there, like really attractive women and sweet cars. The plot? It’s not really important. To sum it all up: Bond is looking for vengeance over his dead woman from Casino Royale and a failed assassination attempt on M. That’s it. It’s all tacked together in the form of action, action, action, five minutes of story, repeat, repeat, repeat. Like I said, I can’t tell you something you don’t already know about this movie. There’s no real mystery, no real espionage, none of the brain games that made the last one great and rebuilt Bond into something better than a gadget freak. That idea has been abandoned for a completely Bourne-oriented movie. Bond’s an ass-kicking machine this time, without a doubt, and Quantum pays tribute to previous Bond films in all sorts of ways. Most notably to Goldfinger. And that’s fine if you just want crazy shaking cameras for a couple of hours and a couple of gasps saying “ewwwwwww.” B- (Joe Allison)
Joe Allison Best movies of 2008
This in no particular order. The Dark Knight and the presidential election both overshadowed everything so much that people won’t remember much else about 2008 in terms of movies. (Joe Allison)
• Charlie Bartlett For those who liked Stranger Than Ficiton, Juno or Little Miss Sunshine.
• The Dark Knight It’s hard to know if anything else was good besides Heath Ledger’s Joker, because it was such a great performance.
• Wall-E The yearly shoo in animation from Pixar. Notable for not beating you down with its environmental message.
• Wanted Requires a strong suspension of disbelief, but it has one of the most poetic stories every used in an action film.
• Kung Fu Panda One of the biggest surprises for me this year. It was a really good Kung Fu movie with Jack Black dropped in.
Linda Hollar’s Best movies of year
• Stop Loss
• The Great Debaters
• Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (documentary)
• Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot
• The Dark Knight