High School Musical 3: Senior Year

The wildly popular Disney Channel series comes to the big screen in “High School Musical 3”. Sure, “High School Musical 2” was okay, but given my none too glowing reviews of “High School Musical” and the recent disasterpiece “Camp Rock”, I was very skeptical about this. Just a note: If you are a boy under the age of 10 or a girl under the age of 17, you will love this movie.

High School Musical is made for the tween girls and little kids, and takes no shame in declaring so. And true, a couple of songs are pretty catchy, and Zac Efron’s a real talent to watch out for in the future. The dancing choreography is energetic and very very “Disney.” But also, it’s really, really predictable. (Well, OK maybe that’s not too surprising) The acting is pretty dang wooden for the most part, and the dialogue isn’t too great either.

It’s the senior year at East High for all the characters of the past “High School Musical” movies. People are both anxious and sad for school to be over, and are choosing their colleges. So as a goodbye, they organize a final show to put on. But with Gabriella off at a Stanford visit, frictions between Troy and Chad beginning, and Sharpay as always trying to sabotage everything, can it really all come through okay?

Reading that synopsis, you likely already know the ending. But I admit, some parts of the film are a really good time at the movies. Some other times, you want to throw stuff at the screen. C+

W.

Josh Brolin does a powerhouse performance as our 43rd President in the biopic, W. Oliver Stone has long stood as one of the most liberal and controversial filmmakers of our time. JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, and Natural Born Killers are prime examples. So when he decided to take on the conservative George W. Bush, one would expect a complete trashing of Bush in this film. Oddly enough, that’s nowwhere near the case.

Stone makes the film in a bit of a weird energy. The mood, pace, and editing shift with Bush’s age. So in the scenes of his 20’s, 30’s, the editing is quick, rapid-fire, and over-saturated. Then in the 1990’s and his presidency, cinematography darkens, and the editing slows down. But the one constant in the film? Josh Brolin. Brolin doesn’t just act like Bush, for 2 hours he IS Bush.

It intertwines between Bush’s young fraternity days and then jumps back and forth to his Cabinet meetings. The film works its way up to modern days, including Bush’s drunken times, meeting his future wife, Laura, and his attempts to live up to his father. This father-son dynamic is used a bit too much in the film, and becomes a bit too sympathetic. This is shown in a dream sequence at the end that feels a bit arbitrary.

The cast is great everywhere. But most especially Brolin as Bush and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell. Wright inhabits the role actually pretty fiercely, as he plays Powell as becoming increasingly agitated with the policies around him. I wish we saw more of him. But Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney is actually genius, it’s a great idea, although he’s on for little more than 5 minutes.

And so the film ends with a dream sequence of Bush in a baseball field. The ball is pitched, and Bush is looking around, trying to find it. Actually a pretty nice metaphor. B+

Ghost Town

British comedian Ricky Gervais gets his first American starring role in the supernatural comedy, Ghost Town. Sure, he’s a pretty big star on British TV, and has had a bit role in Night at the Museum, but ultimately, he’s pretty unknown to America. Undeservedly.

He is so funny because he doesn’t try to be. Sure, he makes jokes, but generally there’s no real punchline, no real attempt to be funny. He’s just a normal guy, albiet a very very mean normal guy. Greg Kinnear also stars, and these aw-shucks roles he inhibits fit him perfectly.

Bertram Pincus (awesome name) is a selfish, mean, misantrophic dentist. He does anything possible to avoid people. But that changes when during a routine operation, he dies for seven minutes. He wakes up a changed man. How? He can see dead people.

Enter Frank Herilhy. He’s also a selfish, self-satisfied guy who’s cheating on his wife. He suddenly dies in a freak accident, and pesters Pincus to stop his wife from marrying a complete jerk. Eventually Pincus gives in to help out, but he begins to fall for Frank’s wife, who thinks Pincus is a complete jerk. How to deal with this?

Ricky Gervais, like I said, is pitch-perfect in this role. Tea Leoni brings some depth to an average role, she’s actually really funny. Even cameos from SNL regular Kristen Wiig bring good laughs. The script is also great, from Jurassic Park/Indiana Jones writer David Koepp. (He also directs) The problem?

For such a complicated premise, one wouldn’t expect it to become predictable. But unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens in the last half-hour. It becames really easy to guess what will happen next. Some characters seem arbitary, and sometimes there’s really obvious Hallmark moments.

But the very ending is poignant and sweet, and it’s often hilarious. If it’s still playing, be sure to catch it. B

Eagle Eye

Eagle Eye is the new action thriller from the star and director of last year’s hit, “Disturbia”. Lately paranoia and terrorism thrillers have been through the roof in quantity, and relatively few in quality. “Eagle Eye” is very unrealistic, with a twist half-way through that brings to mind “2001: A Space Odyssey”. (It sounds really weird I know, just see it and you’ll get it)

However, it’s also thought-provoking, packed to the rim with fine performances, and although the action is rare it is also quite impressive. Shia LaBeouf is one of the if not the best actors working today in Hollywood, seriously this guy can act. He’s thrown into a situation that is completely ludicrous and he shares the same reaction we have: What the heck?!

Jerry Shaw is a 21-year old slacker in Chicago. He’s relatively harmless, works in a copy shop, and makes most of his money playing cards. But when his twin brother Ethan, a decorated soldier is killed, Jerry is heartbroken. Things only escalate when he gets home.

He walks in his apartment and finds bombs, guns, ammunition, and deadly chemicals. He gets a call from a mysterious woman stating that the FBI will be there in 30 seconds. Sure enough, the FBI shows up and arrests Jerry. Jerry escapes, and along with a single mother also in the “game” must find out who is doing this, and why?

Jerry is a believable character, and that is essentially what holds this movie together. If there is a weak point in the film, it is the last half-hour. First the big twist, then a chain of events that blow way out of proportion and then some just bounce back as if nothing happened.

It’s good entertainment with some intriguing political undertones – complex enough for the adults to dig but action-packed enough to satisfy the teens and kids. B+