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Anna Karenina by Joe Wright (2012)

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The reviews have not been great of this film, but I think they could be more wrong. Not only is the story good, and well acted, especially Kiera Knightley, but the visual method of telling the story, putting it in and out of a play, so scene changes are theatrical with sets moving and going around a stage is unbelievably stunning. The wonderfully moving camera highlights this, and makes this one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen. Keira Knightley plays Anna Karenina, a mother with kind husband (Jude Law). Anna goes to Moscow to help save her philandering brother’s Marriage (Matthew Macfadyen from Spooks) to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) is in love with a cavalry officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) son of a countess (Olivia Williams). When Anna meets Vronsky there is instant attraction, and an affair starts which leads to her downfall. Really one of the most visually stunning films i have seen in a long time. I already have enjoyed most of Wrights films other than Atonement, and this visually stunning film is one of the best. A must see if only for the visuals, and it is better than just that.

The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)

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I have to preface this by saying the only Paul Thomas Anderson film I liked was Boogie Nights. They always feel pretentious and overwrought, and this feels the same to me. I just didn’t like any of the characters, and honestly if you are doing something based on the early years of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard (here callee The Cause and Lancaster Dodd player by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) i would rather have it have the Hubbard character be the lead, instead of a psychotic and useless ex WW2 Navy man, Freddie Quall played by Joaquin Phoenix. I never understood why Dodd had anything to do with Quall, or why anyone would! And with no motivation given to Dodd and nothing good about Quall, I don’t get the point of the film. Not only that, but what a weird film to be the first film shot in 65 MM since Far and Away! And likely had a much bigger budget because of it, but at least on DVD didn’t look very impressive! I would skip this one!

On the Road by Walter Salles (2012)

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The big screen adaption of Jack Kerouac’s 1959 novel of the same name is an acting tour deforce, and a look into Kerouac and his beatnik drug taking friends in the years just after World War 2. Sal Paradise (Sam Riley in the Kerouac role), through his beatnik friends meets the crazy and enigmatic Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund from Tron Legacy in the Neal Cassady role) and his 16 year old wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart in her best acting roll yet, and yes she does get naked). Dean is crazy, bisexual, drug taking, and girl crazy, impregnating another girl Camille (excellently played by Kirsten Dunst. We follow there travels, which Sal documents, as they meet other crazies with cameos by Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard and Amy Adams. We see Sal entangled with the crazy Dean and eventually pulling away and being himself and writing about his friend. Amazing performances and a really good if sad film. A slice of life, but worth checking out for sure.

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Wreck-It Ralph by Rich Moore (2012)

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Disney’s latest computer generated film is an ode to old video game with cute and enjoyable characters, and an enjoyable story. It may not be Pixar, but at least with all it’s in jokes an older audience can and will enjoy this film. Really a good movie with great video game cameos. John C Reilly voices Wreck-It Ralph a video game villain who is the equivalent of Donkey Kong. He gets sick of being a villain and goes out to win a medal and prove his goodness in other games, jeopardizing his whole game. Ralph ends up in a shooter, and then a girls racing game where he befriends Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) a glitch, and helps he to fulfill her dream of racing. A cute and enjoyable animated film.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey HFR Dolby Atmos by Peter Jackson (2012)

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10 years later, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings has started, and Middle Earth is back. I worked for 3 years on LOTR, and love the films, so of course I enjoyed this. Martin Freeman as Bilbo is fantastic, and it is so great to see Ian McKellen back as Gandalf the Grey and Andy Serkis as Gollum. Also cool to see Richard Armitage from Spooks and the first series of Strike Back and Aidan Turner from Being Human, but the coolest is the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown. And while I couldn’t follow most of the Dwarves, all the cameos such as Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Ian Holmes as old Bilbo, Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel make this such an extension of the previous films that it is a joy. Of course not all is great.

First off the Dolby Atmos surround was unbelievably good. Best sound I have ever heard! Wow! The issues and greatness were from the HFR or high frame rate. Jackson decided to shoot the 3D at double the normal 24 frames per second frame rate and shoot at 48 frames per second. The biggest upshot is that fixes the stuttering issues which are so apparent in 24 fps 3D, making this the best and smoothest 3D I have ever seen. In fact my motion sick wife had no complaints about the 3D for the first time ever. And another upshot that blew me away was the clarity. 48 fps means almost zero motion blur, so the clarity was stunning! It looked like a completely new format, so sharp and clear it was amazing! Of course that same thing also caused issues. First off at first it did have a very video feel, though that lessened as it went on, but the weirdest and most jarring problem with HFR is that something of the high frame rate caused many shots to look sped up, and the issue persisted throughout the film, though was not there in wide shots, which looked maxing, nor in battle scenes, which looked amazing and so clear. It was jarring and weird though. I wonder if it is the lack of motion blur that does it. And it did seem to bother me less, so maybe it can be gotten used to. And I want to get used to it, because I loved the clarity. And while others have complained about it making the effects look bad, I actually thought it improved them! And I I loved the lack of camera stutter, if only the weird speed up thing wasn’t there. And looking at the DVD screener the issue is not there at all. So it did bother me, but I still want o see the next one in HFR, so I guess I liked it. I would see it again that way in fact (the DVD looked so incredibly dull compared to HFR, and I wonder how the blu-ray will compare?). An interesting experiment. Weird, but I enjoyed it, and would like to see it again that way, so…

Promised Land by Gus Van Sant (2012)

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Matt Damon’s passion project co-written by his co-star John Krasinski does have an important environmental message about fracking, but it’s heavy handedness and mediocre story actually harm the message to me. If not for Damon this never would have been made and probably wouldn’t have been. The HBO documentary on Fracking does a much better job than this, as I never like hero or villain, and the twist is just too heavy handed, even if things like it actually happen. And I just didn’t like the characters enough to make me care, and I am really against fracking! Damon plays Steve Butler a man who sells fracking to small towns, and has the best record of anyone in the company since he grew up in just such a town, but one whose factory closed and decimated the town, so he believes he is helping these people, by exploiting them. He and his partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) bribe officials and try to get enough townspeople to sell even if they don’t get town council approval, and don’t believe any of the bad stories about the technology, or at least ignore them. They run into trouble when Dustin Noble (Krasinski) comes into town to fight them. I was not too impressed, and wouldn’t recommend this film at all.

Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski (2012)

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Honestly after the Matrix I thought the Wachowski’s had kind of lost it, which is why this movie took me by surprise. While I don’t really get all that is going on here, with the 6 connected stories, but I enjoyed them, and enjoyed the resolution. In fact I can’t believe that this isn’t the favored winner for makeup (not even on the short list to be nominated, which is probably down to the bullshit charges of yellow face, when everyone is playing different races throughout the ages in this film, o interconnect the stories, not at all racist), as the fact that many of the actors show up in each story as completely different people, and even play different races. Amazing makeup and production value! Wow! The six stories are in the South Pacific in 1849, Cambridge, England and Edinburgh, Scotland in 1936, in San Francisco, Ca 1973, UK 2012, Neo Seoul, Korea in 2144, and Hawaii on post apocalyptic Earth around 106 years after the 2321 fall. The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturges, Doona Bae, Ben Winshaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. Many in all 6 stories. Wikipedia has an awesome chart of who plays what in which story. Not best picture, but I greatly enjoyed this film, and highly recommend it. Another must see!

Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson (2012)

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I am a huge Wes Anderson film, at least from The Royal Tennenbaums on (and especially THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISOU), so I was bound to love this quirky coming of age tale. And it is very much about the kids, even if it is still in the quirky alternate world of Wes Anderson. And this is another classic, with awesome performances by Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Francis McDormand, Jason Swartzman, Harvey Keitel and the kids Jared Gilman as Sam Shakuksky and Kara Hayward as Suzy Bishop. This is the story of Sam a young orphan Scout who runs away with a girl he met the year before Kara, and the adults searching for them and how their lives change. A lovely little story in Wes Anderson’s quirky alternate reality. Bruce Willis proves he really can act, and everyone has great moments, though Murray as Kara’s father drunkenly chopping a tree is a highlight. One of the better films of the year! A must see!

ParaNorman by Chris Butler and Sam Fell (2012)

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I wish I had seen this stop motion follow up to Coraline in 3D at the theater. Not only is the artwork and animation amazing, and the level of detail fantastic (I love how the ears glow like flesh when light hits them from behind), but the story and it’s issues of bullying is sad and hard hitting, and pretty dark for an animated film. We follow young Norman, a kid who can see the ghosts of the dead who have not passed on, and is picked on, not only by his family, but by kids at school. Norman must save the town when an ancient curse arises, and the homeless guy who had taken care of it dies, so zombies are bought back and cause havoc. It is sad, with great characters, awesome artwork, and a great story. This is a must see!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower adapted from his own book by Stephen Chobsky

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I really enjoyed this film and am blown away that a novelist could not only adapt his own book so well, but also direct so well. And the performances are great here. Not only Longan Lerman as Charlie Kelmeckis, and Emma Watson doing an American accent as Sam, but the breakout is Sam’s gay step bother Patrick played by Ezra Miller. An enjoyable story where an outsider Freshman who not only had problems as a kid, but whose best friend has recently killed himself, but is taken in by two outsider seniors and there friends. It is of course rocky as Charlie falls for Sam, and sad as no matter what the seniors will be gone next year. It really shows the problems of being a punt outsider, and is an enjoyable coming of age film that is worth checking out.

Silver Lining Playbook by David O. Russell (2012)

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An enjoyable twist on a romantic comedy, the story of a man who has lost it, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper). He was put in a mental hospital after attacking his wife’s lover. His mother Dolores (Jackie Weaver) has him released into her custody, not just for him but for his boomy father Pat (Robert De Niro who is finally acting gain, and excellent as the slightly crazy father). Pat meets the crazy and recently widowed Tiffany Maxwell (an excellent Jennifer Lawrence) and the two start an off kilter relationship, him using her to try and get a note to his wife, while she uses him as a dancing partner. The performances drive this film, and are worth seeing. The two leads are excellent, as is De Niro. The story is not to deep, but works. Still a rom com, but a pretty decent one.

Searching for Sugar Man by Malik Bendjelloul (2012)

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This is a fantastic feel good documentary about an incredible unknown musician in the US named Sixto Rodriguez whose songs became the South African theme songs in the struggle against Apartheid. In the US Sixto made only 2 albums, which though featuring impressive lyrics, never went anywhere. Fans in South Africa thought Rodriguez was dead, having killed himself on stage at the end of a concert, but amazingly eventually found him alive and well in Detroit, with no idea of his celebrity in South Africa! Sixto then makes a trip o South Africa with his incredulous daughters, and the manual laborer sang to sold out concerts in South Africa. A heart warming story with fantastic music by Sixto, an amazing musician who could have been the next Bob Dylan! I want his 2 albums!

Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow (2012)

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I was excited for this one after the Hurt Locker and with the subject of the hunt or Osama Bin LAdden, but while it is a decent thriller, I wasn’t too impressed. And even worse is the ending, the raid on Bin Ladden’s camp, which is done in realistic lighting, making it so dark you have no idea what is going on. In fact you are begging for them to cut to cut to the green night vision goggles the soldiers wear so that they can see, but they don’t show that view enough. Jessica Chastain plays Maya, an obsessed CIA agent who never gives up on the search for Bin Ladden or his messenger, and finally locates him in Pakistan. The film is brutal especially the first half hour which deals with torture, and getting info on Bin Ladden’s main messenger. Maybe it is the coldness of Maya, but I was never really drawn into the characters here, and not being able to understand most of what happens at the end made the big moment seem mostly like a dud. An OK film, but I was not as impressed as I thought I should have been. Maybe too much hype hurt it a bit or me. Still worth checking out, but I thought it would be better.

Les Miserables by Tom Hooper (2012)

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The big screen adaption of the amazing and moving musical is a complete and total failure other than the amazing supporting actress performance of Anne Hathaway, who will likely get the Academy award for her impressive performance. The main problem of he movie is how bad so much of the cast is at singing, especially the 2 leads who should be the best. Both Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe are awful (though Jackman may be be a hair better), and their performances drag the film down. As do those of Helena Bonham Carter, Sasha Baron Cohen though Amanda Seyfried is pretty good as the mousy Cossette. Other than side performers, and Hathaway and Seyfried, the performances are so bad that the moving play and songs are rendered flat, and I was completely pulled out of the story. And while the costumes and locations and sets are great, the lighting is so flat it is not interesting at all. It looks like they are using those lighting blimps to make it all flat and even, which is easy, but completely unimpressive. I can’t recommend you waste your time on this one.

Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino (2012)

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Went and saw Quentin’s new movie on Christmas Day, and loved it. Probably the most over the top violence I have ever seen. An enjoyable story of a slave, Django played excellently by Jamie Fox, getting his chance at revenge against the Southern Plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the old Slave who helps him, Stephen played by Samuel L. Jackson, who purchased Django’s wife, Brumhilda Von Shaft played by Kerry Washington, thanks to the help of a German Bounty Hunter Dr. King Schultz, played by Christopher Weitz. Quentin proves his love for old Westerns and still makes something fresh and new. Honestly I really loved the film. Fun and funny. Well worth checking out, though very much a guy movie.

And Spike Lee is a tool for his comments on the film, but after he made racist comments at a talk he gave while I was at USC, I haven’t really listened to a word he says.

The Dark Knight Rises by Christopher Nolan (2012)

Don’t let the horrible tragedy that happened in Colorado keep you away from this epic film. Nolan has done a great job ending his trilogy, and make a must see superhero film. Sure this film seems a little more standoffish, with your main characters not quite as like-able, but overall this is a very good and enjoyable film and well worth checking out. And the ending is relentless action, even if at times it does take a little while getting there. The film looks great, and Tom Hardy is awesome (and huge) as the evil Bane. Now one big twist I figured out way too early because of my comic book knowledge (though I have never read any Bane storylines), but overall this is still a good and epic superhero film.

The Movie starts with a CIA pickup of a rogue nuclear scientist Dr Leonid Pavel (Alon Abutbul) as well as 3 men who work for a mercenary known as Bane. The CIA Agent (Aiden Gillen) files the flight plan with only one of the mercenaries on board, and starts trying to get information out of them, but the 3rd one is fact Bane (Tom Hardy) with his strange facial mask. A huge cargo plane come in overhead and men drop on ropes and shoot the passengers, and attach lines to the smaller plane, ripping it’s wings off. They put some of Leonid’s blood into a cadaver, and Bane orders on of his men to stay, as they drop the plane, making it look like a crash that killed everyone aboard. Meanwhile Gotham City has become a much safter place to live thanks to the lie of Batman’s that Harvery Dent was a hero and not a villain. The city passed a Dent Act which allowed Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his police force to take out organized crime in the city, but Gordon feels guilty about it, even as he gives speeches, and has prepared a speech with the truth, but ends up not giving it. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse in his own mansion after losing half of his and much of rich socialite Miranda Tate’s (Marion Cotillard) money as well. The death of Rachel still doesn’t sit well with him. Wayne’s Butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) sends up a woman to deliver food to Wayne, while the speeches go on outside, but she is in fact Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) the cat burglar, and though Wayne confronts her, she has stolen his finger prints and his mother’s pearl necklace.

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The Amazing Spiderman by Marc Webb (2012)

Spiderman was the first comic I ever picked up, and I read comic books for a long time (and do again now after a long stretch starting in college), and Spiderman is still my favorite comic book character. That being said I really hated the Sam Raimi directed Spiderman movies with Toby Maguire. I just felt they didn’t get spiderman at all, and were more example of Fox studios not getting the characters. Well that has changed because Marc Webb’s 3D Spiderman is pretty much spot on! I mean sure I have a few complaints (where is Spiderman’s signature line, I mean WTF!), but overall not only does this get the characters, but it is pretty damn superhero movie as well. And I like how it spends so much time building up the character before Spiderman is even seen. This is really a must see, and honestly I loved it in 3D, but it was shot that way on RED Epics, and looks great for it, though it also looked great in 2D. I am pysched that they have already greenlit 2 sequels, and am looking forward to them because this series has some serious potential! One major complaint is the score is not very good, and tends towards very cheesy at some moments, and that does bring it down a bit.

A young child, Peter Parker (Max Charles) finds his father’s home office broken into. His father Richard Parker (Campbell) grabs some hidden documents and his wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz), and they rush over to his brother’s house and leave your Peter with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Peter’s parents are never seen again, and he grows up and is going to high school (and now played by the British Andrew Garfield, who is a bit too old, but I think his love for the comic really helped). Peter is smart, and not very popular, being bullied by the jock Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka), though he does get noticed by the lovely Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone who is excellent here as the brainy blond). At home Peter finds his father’s briefcase, and in it the secret packet of hidden documents, which are from Oscorp, and have all his research in them. Peter learns his father worked with a Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) at Oscorp, who is working on a formula to try and replace his missing arm, and to “cure” the world. Peter sneaks in pretending to be someone else, and going in for an internship, but Gwen is giving the tour, so he tries to hide, but when he answers questions for dr Connor’s he is noticed, and she asks him to not get her in trouble. Peter sneaks away anyway, and goes into a lab where they are making biocable using genetically modified spiders, and one gets in his shirt and bites him. On the subway ride home, he starts sticking to things, and shows great strength, getting in a fight and jumping onto the ceiling, so he rushes home!

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…

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Mass Effect 3 Extended Endings

Honestly I should have known that these endings would not change anything fundamentally, and would not be at all what the fans wanted, but I still had some hope, but it was all dashed today when I watched the extended endings of Mass Effect 3. That is it for me with Bioware games forever. They ruined this series, and made every excuse to not change their endings, though they did in these endings (so much for Artistic Integrity, if that was so important then why did the mass effect relays completely blow up in the old ending and now just get injured but not explode, as that is a huge change). You can view them all at Kotaku and see for yourself.

CONTINUES AFTER THE BREAK.

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Seriously, that is the ending to Mass Effect 3?

I have been a huge fan of this series since the first, so have put in a good 70+ hours into this series, and have thought it was easily the best game ever made. Great gameplay, great graphics, a compelling story, excellent voice acting, and an incredible universe. I got Mass Effect 3 when it came out, but am married and working 50+ hours a week so was taking it slower than the previous games, and slowed even more when I heard about the awful ending. I started playing multiplayer, and going slow, finishing ever side mission. And I was still loving the game, and even thinking how it would be fun to play through as an adept. Now today I finished the game, and honestly have no desire to play again, the ending ruined it for me.

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…

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Titanic 3D, by James Cameron 1997/2012

OK I admit it, I am a fan of the film Titanic, and saw it 3 times in the theater originally and even owned the Laserdisc, so I wanted to see it in 3D, and Kelly, her sister and I went to the Arclight Sherman Oaks to check it out.

Now the Arclight Sherman Oaks is a different story. As there are a number of problems there that bother me. First off being that for $18 a ticket this movie should not have been shown on a tiny screen! And then the 3D glasses, while active (for higher resolution) have yet to be clean any time I have sene a 3D film here, and if you try and clean them the film on the lenses just gets worse and looks smeared which does not help the 3D experience at all. Not only that they have cheaped out and don’t even have napkins out, they hand you some if you get popcorn! For the ticket price, they can have napkins out! Anyway, back to topic.

I have to say the $18 million dollar 3D convert of Titanic is fantastic! The film looks really damn good, and the 3D was damn near perfect (except it always looked funny in the dissolves). And most of the film held up pretty well with a few exceptions. The big fly around of the ship in the daylight didn’t look very good, and the digital people are downright awful. And most glaring is the face replacement in the scene with the flooding corridor which looks beyond awful. And it was interesting to see that Cameron didn’t even remove the camera reflection from a glass door when Jack is going to the rich dining room for the first time. Strangely though I do hear that he did update the stars so they were correct for that position and time (as some scientist had been complaining since the film first came out). Honestly if a 3D upconvert can be this good, I can see it working on a lot of films, but at $18 million a pop I don’t think this level of upconvert will happen too often, and if they are going to do it they should do it right.

As for the film, it still holds up pretty well. Sure there are problems, but nothing too bad. The Romance doesn’t go on too long before you get Kate Winslet naked (and in 3D! Nice) and when the romance is really heating up the ship hits the iceberg and the action starts in. My biggest problems with the film are with the wrapper, as the whole thing with the old woman bothers me. Especially her dropping the priceless diamond into the sea instead of giving it to her family! And it is not only that, as we see her wheelchair bound for the whole film, not even able to get out of the helicopter and yet she walks fine to drop the diamond into the ocean! Why not put the diamond on after telling her story and die, and then go down into the ocean with her friends instead of dropping the diamond and doing it.

John Carter 3D by Andrew Stanton (2012)

Honestly from the add campaign I had not been expecting much from this film and probably would have waited for Netflix, and then been sorely disappointed to have not seen it in the big screen in 3D, because this is a great film. Honestly Disney should have held onto it and released it as a summer tentpole, because it is that good. I can only think that the ad campaign is at fault, because this easily blows the Star Wars prequels out of the water. The story is great, and epic, the action is over the top fun, the effects are fantastic, with realistic 3D creatures, and the 3D was awesome, especially in IMAX 3D. I mean this is really a must see in 3D, and really a must see. It has romance, action, adventure. Everyone could enjoy this film, and should have if they released it right, though hopefully it’s international box office will help buoy the film as it is not doing too well (though better than expected by a bit). I hope Andrew Stanton of Pixar fame (he directed WALL-E gets other films off this, and I also hope this gets a sequel, though with the not so great box office it may not).

I will finish the review soon, but just wanted to get this up quickly after seeing it this weekend.

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