Movie Reviews: Red Riding Hood, Mars Needs Moms

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RED RIDING HOOD.  106 mins.  PG-13.  Directed by Catherine Hardwicke.  Written by David Johnson.
Full disclosure: I walked out of Red Riding Hood at about the 1 hour 15 minute mark, and though I didn't get to see the big twist (just who is the werewolf?!), I honestly couldn't care.  Though it bears no relation to the Twilight franchise other than the director (Hardwicke) and an actor or two (Billy Burke), Red Riding Hood is obviously going after the same female demographic by mixing gothic horror with teenage romance.  So, what was it that led this viewer to walk out?  Let's count the ways (in no particular order - pick your poison): (1) everything looks like it was shot on a soundstage - the production design, though set largely outdoors, feels canned and claustrophobic; (2) the costume color scheme is just weird - bright colors mixed with brown and white, shot through some sort of Glamour Shot lens; (3) Amanda Seyfried's (playing Valerie) inconsistent voiceover narration; (4) the inept script, laboring to create viewer interest in a mystery that's full of red herrings and anything but mysterious; (5) Gary Oldman's hammy over-acting (and constant shouting) as werewolf hunter-extraordinaire Father Solomon - it's as if his character on Friends got a big screen gig; (6) the fact that Father Solomon enters town with a giant metal elephant and nobody says anything about it; (7) the boring male suitors dueling for Valerie's affection - Shiloh Fernandez, you are no Robert Pattinson; hell, you're not even Mario Lopez; (8) the fact that the werewolf speaks without moving its mouth - why does the werewolf have to talk?; (9) it makes you wish that the werewolf was a mentally challenged Adrian Brody in a costume a la the Oscar-worthy-in-comparison, The Village; and (10) the utter lack of suspense, chemistry, pacing, or anything remotely resembling entertainment.  Red Riding Hood is bad - comically bad - the worst studio film released so far in 2011.  * star.


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MARS NEEDS MOMS.  88 mins.  PG.  Directed by Simon Wells.  Written by Simon Wells & Wendy Wells.
I know I might be in the minority on this one, but I dig motion capture animated films.  I'm not saying that I prefer them to live action or traditional CG-animation.  I wish as much as anyone that Robert Zemeckis (credited here as a producer) would get over his fascination with the technology and go back to making real movies again.  But there's something about the dimensionality and the nearly (but not quite) life-like quality of motion capture, as well as the ability to incorporate characters into action sequences in a thrilling, you-are-there manner, that just sits well with me.  Mars Needs Moms, based on the children's book by Berkeley Breathed, is no classic.  Though purportedly epic in scope - how can it not be when most of the movie is set on Mars? - the movie is fairly simple and slight, and at under 90 minutes, short.  The young protagonist, Milo (Seth Green), is your typical movie adolescent - constantly butting heads with his mom (Joan Cusack), until a group of female Martians whisk her away to assist with raising their own newborns.  With the help of a fellow human in space, Gribble (Dan Fogler), Milo sets off to rescue Mom and gains a better appreciation of her along the way.  The aliens are cute, the production design is dark and cruddy (made even worse by 3D), and the story elements are overly familiar.  What Mars Needs Moms lacks in surprise, it makes up for in technical achievement (the end credits offer an interesting peek at the motion capture process).  Most pre-teen kids will have fun with the movie.  Everybody else?  Depends on how much you could stomach The Polar Express.  If barely at all, this Mars doesn't need you.  *** stars.

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  • Correction? If you walk out of a movie, isn't that an automatic ZERO stars?

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