Featuring reviews of new and recently released family-oriented films and movies by United Parenting Publications film critic, Philip Murphy.
Monster House: In this animated comic adventure, DJ, a bright 12-year-old, uses a telescope to spy on the spooky house across the street. His parents think he's nuts, but his dorky pal Chowder and he are sure that something is rotten inside old man Nebbencracker's house, especially after their basketball disappears over there. Even their smart new friend, Jenny, who has all the moxie of a Harvard MBA, knows something's wrong there. But, as usual, the adults are clueless.
From Cliffy to Cars: "First they get the emotion, and then they get the motion, which is the opposite of the way most studios work," claims well-known character actor John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff on the hit TV show Cheers for many seasons. Ratzenberger is speaking about Pixar Animation Studios, the computer generating animators who have cranked out seven hit movies over the last 10 years. From Toy Story to The Incredibles, Pixar has been batting 1,000 percent with both the box office and critics, and Ratzenberger has been with them every step of the way, being the only actor who has the distinction of having voiced a character in every one of their movies.
Superman Returns - Up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... it can't be! After all this time? Following a mysterious absence of several years, the Man of Steel (played by newcomer Brandon Routh) returns to Earth to discover that the world has gone on without him, and so has his old flame Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), who has moved on with her life. Or has she?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Jack is back! Or, more precisely, Captain Jack Sparrow (exuberantly played by Johnny Depp) is back, along with the cast and crew of the original Pirates of the Caribbean, for not one, but two, sequels to make up a trilogy of Pirate pictures. The second adventure, Dead Man's Chest, opens July 7, and the third installment, which is still being filmed, will hit screens in 2007.
The Shaggy Dog Returns... with a New Bone to Pick: Mining their vault, Walt Disney Pictures has resurrected one of their golden oldies from the 1950s, The Shaggy Dog, which starred Fred MacMurray as an allergic, dog-fearing mailman and his son, played by Tommy Kirk, who magically morphs into a sheepdog after being cursed with an ancient amulet. The film was a big hit and ushered in a whole era of live-action family features from Disney, including Flubber, Old Yeller, Pollyanna and many more.
Aquamarine: For Tweens Only - To begin with, I am not the audience for this film. I am a middle-aged man with a wife and two kids. This film is targeted at "tweens," kids between 9 and 12 en route to being teenagers, and, more specifically, girls. Some of the concerns affecting tweens are: "How do I fit in?" "I really like this guy, but he doesn't know I'm alive," "When is my body going to fill out?" and so forth. Current role models and dream dates are Alexis Bledel from The Gilmore Girls, Ashlee (Jessica's younger sister) Simpson of 7th Heaven, and Chad Michael Murray of One Tree Hill. So this is a limited universe that this film is dealing with, and one exclusively inhabited by middle-class white people.
Stellar Voice Cast Adds to Magic of Animated Doogal: There is a legend that tells of three magic stones, which if used for ill could be combined t o create a force so powerful that it could freeze the sun! When the evil sorcerer Zeebad (voiced by John Stewart) escapes from his ancient prison, he vows to wreak havoc on the world by icing over the planet. The only one who can stop him is an unlikely fellowship of friends led by an intrepid fur ball of a dog named Doogal. Such is the outline of this "new" animated film, which is actually a reworking of a British TV show called The Magic Roundabout.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again … with a New Look! Steve Martin is Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a man who strikes fear into the hearts of criminals, bystanders, his colleagues – and anyone else who happens to be in his vicinity. Because the clumsy Clouseau is so accident-prone he tends to make mayhem out of the simplest encounter with everyone and everything.
King Kong (PG-13): What would you say to the notion that Peter Jackson made The Lord of the Rings movies as a stepping-stone to doing King Kong? Sound far-fetched?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: "In dark and evil times like these Harry, soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy." So intones Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) ominously to Harry Potter, in this fourth adventure based on the best-selling books by author J.K. Rowling. (If you or your children haven't yet read the books or seen the previous three films, you might want to stop here, do so, then proceed ahead.)
Yours Mine & Ours: The new remake of Yours, Mine & Ours suggests that Hollywood filmmakers seem convinced that the simple plot ploy of "too many kids to deal with" will result in entertaining comedic fare, but this new film starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo is too predictable and simple minded.
Wallace & Gromit Come to the Big Screen: The animated duo's first full-length big-screen adventure, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, stars Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) in all his inventive obtuseness, and Gromit, in his silent and long-suffering role as Wallace's canine sidekick. Plus, it features some intriguing new characters and humorously highlights their unique approach to pest control, which involves bunnies and a powerful vacuum.
The Greatest Game Ever Played: Disney’s press release for The Greatest Game Ever Played proclaims: “From the studio that brought you Remember the Titans, The Rookie and Miracle and director Bill Paxton, comes a story of courage, passion and of the greatest American sports hero you probably never heard of …” Sound interesting? Well, it is. In fact, it’s very good, and better yet, it’s true!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has sold over 13 million copies in 32 languages, renowned film producer Richard Zanuck (Driving Miss Daisy, M*A*S*H, Butch Cassidy, etc.) tapped visionary director Tim Burton (Big Fish, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands) to take us on another tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. This new version claims to be closer to the original story than the 1971 film version that starred Gene Wilder.
Howl’s Moving Castle: Most children spend a good deal of time imagining what it would be like to be all grown up. Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), the shy 18-year-old heroine of the animated feature Howl’s Moving Castle, gets to find out first hand what it’s like when the vile Witch of the Waste (voiced by Lauren Bacall) casts a spell on her that transforms her into a 90-year-old woman.
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