Drive Thru Review (2012)

Welcome to the Drive Thru Review, that home on the web where Joe's condensed reviews (or mini-reviews) can be found. These are those movies that Joe saw, but didn't get to devote full reviews to. 

No critic gets to every movie out there, but alas, here are some of those that fell through the cracks. Check back, as these are updated regularly...

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (C-)
Think Like a Man (C+)
Dark Shadows (C-)
Snow White and the Huntsman (C+)
Ice Age: Continental Drift (C+)
Step Up Revolution (D+)
Sparkle (B-)
Rock of Ages (B+)
Madagascar 3 (C+)
Lockout (C+)
6 Bullets (C+)
The Lorax (C-)
Resident Evil: Retribution (C-)
Stolen (D+)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (C-)
Rated: PG (for mild action, rude humor and some language)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a 3D stop-motion animation project from the creators of Chicken Run, starring Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, and Jeremy Piven.

It's about the "Pirate Captain" (Grant) who sets out on a quest to defeat his rivals "Black Bellamy" (Piven) and "Cutlass Liz" (Hayek) for the coveted Pirate of the Year Award. The Captain and his crew go from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of anti-pirate Victorian London when the Captain comes to learn a valuable lesson on the meaning of what should be valued most.

This isn't really a bad movie, but it is questionable whether or not younger audiences would be drawn to watch this 88-minute ride of rather weak comedy where nothing is ever really done to make the long (and predictable) journey worth the view. There are some genuinely funny moments, but the production overall feels a little washed up.
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Think Like a Man (C+)
Rated: PG-13 (for sexual content, some crude humor, and brief drug-use)

Four buddies get together and conspire to turn the tables on their women when they discover the ladies have been using Steve Harvey's relationship advice book against them. With Chris Brown, Gabrielle Union, and Kevin Hart - and Steve Harvey himself under the direction of Tim Story (Fantastic Four, 2005) - Think Like a Man is a romantic comedy/drama that has a lot in its corner.

Though it isn't raising the bar in what it does (and depending on your point of view, it may even appear a bit misogynistic), but what it does it does rather well. We get what we want with sound performances and even a few hard-hitting truths in what may at first seem like just more of the usual "comedy-from-pain" black dramady. Romantic junkies should pay special attention here, as should those who get into the psycho-analyzing side of relationships.
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Dark Shadows (C-)
Rated: PG-13 (for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language, and smoking)

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have done a lot of movies together, and here they are again in Burton's latest mess-fest called Dark Shadows, which is based on the 1966 Gothic soap opera series about vampire "Barnabas Colins" (Depp) and his family estate.

In 1752, Colins is imprisoned and in 1972, he is set free and returns to his ancestral home where he finds his dysfunctional descendants in need of his protection from the evil witch, "Angelique Bouchard" (Eva Green) who imprisoned him. Old pro Michelle Pfeiffer reemerges (stunningly as ever) as "Elizabeth Collins Stoddard."

But this film won't remerge as anything, but will instead flop in the muddy banks of its own failure. It isn't hard to see what Burton had in mind, but despite the effort at making a stylishly funny re-invention, all we have here is a dud. Depp behaves and looks like someone halfheartedly putting on a performance at a Halloween costume party (with way too much makeup on) and no one around him ever seems to notice.

This very misguided effort features some truly sensational chemistry between Depp and Green with one love-making segment that is both disturbing and hilariously funny, and there are a few light laughs now and again. But ultimately, this project needed to be buried and have a stake driven through its heart long before it hit theaters.
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Snow White and the Huntsman (C+)
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality)

Snow White and the Huntsman is a new twist on the old fairy tale, with the "Huntsman" (Chris Hemsworth) ordered to find "Snow White" (Kristen Stewart) and take her into the woods to kill her. Becoming her protector and mentor, the Huntsman and seven dwarves take on seemingly impossible odds in a quest to vanquish the "Evil Queen" (Charlize Theron).

It sounds like a fairy tale sure enough, but it has little in common with the one we came to know growing up and is the second 2012 film with the Snow White tale being made into something other than what it is. And "other than what it is" describes this film perfectly as it feels more like Joan of Arc than Snow White.

The cast - along with the vividly real and artistically enchanting settings - are splendorous, and even an emotionally blank Hemsworth fits into his part in an unintentionally workable way. Charlize Theron gives a near-perfect performance that will have viewers perpetually on edge. It's hard to say what it is, but dark, grim, horrifying, and yet uplifting are other ways to classify this movie. This is less true towards the end as the story begins to even further drift away from what it started out to be. But make no mistake; this is quite an entertaining film on all levels (if freakishly so).
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Ice Age: Continental Drift (C+)
Rated: PG (for mild rude humor and action/peril)

Manny, Diego, Sid, Peaches, and yes, the whole gang is back. This time, they unexpectedly find themselves on a tretcherous journey to survive when their continent is split in two, forcing them to embark upon an adventure in search of a new home and one another. Using only icebergs as ships, they encounter huge sea creatures and pirates in this (the fourth) misadventure aimed at families, and particularly, the younger viewers.

This quest enjoys the added voice talents of Jennifer Lopez (as “Shira”), Wanda Sykes (as “Granny”), and Patrick Stewart (as “Ariscratle”), among others. While the story joins the other movies in being ordinary without attempting to separate itself in what it accomplishes, we get the same elements that either attract or repel audiences in general.

“Peaches” (Keke Palmer) is the “whatever!” prehistoric animal equivalent of a modern girl. When her father warns her to stay away from the falls, she disregards him as overprotective and overbearing, but when the unpredictable catastrophe occurs, it all becomes a matter of fighting to survive and remembering what matters most.

Ice Age may not be much of a movie – and again, because it doesn't really try to be – but when we start to grow weary of yet another inane child's comedy, this film gives off the distinction of even better pacing and humor than previous films, and with Peter Dinklage (as “Captain Gutt”) in the role of an especially memorable chimp pirate captain who more than separates himself from the bland regurgitation of humdrum characters here.
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Step Up Revolution (D+)
Rated: PG-13 (for some suggestive dancing and language)

Step Up Revolution is another dance-obsessed waste of tape on inner-city kids and…*sigh*…dancing. Following in the spirit of the two previous movies, Step Up Revolution is about “Emily” (Kathryn McCormick) whose aspirations to become a pro dancer get a chance to come to life when she meets “Sean” (Ryan Guzman), the leader of a New York street dance crew called “the Mob” whose homes are threatened by Emily’s father (Peter Gallagher) as he threatens to tear down and rebuild the neighborhood.

Even with memorable and impressionable faces like Peter Gallagher’s and performances from Guzman and Cleopatra Coleman that give us at least something to like, we never get the slightest impression that any of this would happen. Yes, a lot of security and law enforcement officers aren’t doing their jobs with public takeover dance-offs happening all over the city for art and protests.

The only thing the film even slightly does well is incorporate the duplicitous nature of human identity and the impulsivity of striving to conform, but beyond that, this definitely-not-boring silliness goes nowhere. While not bad enough to be laughable, if you are watching for anything other than the dance moves, you will not be impressed.

Amidst the passionless romance and kids jumping around like kangaroos, this movie is worse than the first two films, but in this critic’s opinion, even the moves aren’t offered up to us with enough focus to appeal to very many.
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Sparkle: Set in the 1960s, three sisters form a singing group and soon become local sensations with major label interest, but fame becomes a challenge as the close-knit family begins to fall apart.
Director: Salim Akil
Starring: Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Whitney Houston
Drama | Music

The characters are too shifty, as is the plot, but despite a few notable problems, there's something touching - and yes, sparkling - about the movie Sparkle. B-
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Rock of Ages: A small town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise
Comedy | Drama | Musical | Romance

Featuring classic rock tunes while totally defying conventionality, the beautifully remastered rock tunes are resold to us all over again, and with new life, as Rock of Ages revisits the age of hair bands. This is a great film with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise at his best. It could be one of the best films this year. B+
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Madagascar 3: Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple. Their journey takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent - Madagascar style.
Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock
Animation | Adventure | Comedy | Family

Not the greatest of this year's animated line-up, but its story packs a punch with likable (and funny) characters that keep us entertained. C+
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Lockout: A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president's daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.
Directors: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare
Thriller | Action | Sci-Fi

It has problems with the script and the cliche-ridden "tough guy" lines never stop coming until it's done, but the story's theme has potential if you go in viewing it as nothing but a mindless action excursion. C+
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6 Bullets: An ex-mercenary known for finding missing children is hired by a mixed martial arts fighter whose daughter has been kidnapped.
Director: Ernie Barbarash Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bianca Bree, Kristopher Van Varenberg
Action | Crime | Thriller

When old-school action celebs do what we remember them doing best, we are happy. Such is the case with 6 Bullets, a direct-to-DVD action flick with enough fighting and violence to entertain us on an uneventful Sunday afternoon. C+
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The Lorax: A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it, he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
Director: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito
Animation | Comedy | Family | Fantasy

Not really memorable or endearing enough for kids, but lends itself as by-the-numbers animated entertainment for those absolutely obsessed with saving the planet and great graphic art. C-
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Resident Evil: Retribution: The Resident Evil movies are just like their undead video game characters in that they positively refuse to stay dead. And with retro-looks, its story gets yet another lease on "life" in this (5th) visually impressive, but abysmally dumb action-packed waste. If only we could handle the hammy performances and silly, base-level dialog--and brain-exposed monsters and giant creatures wielding their axe/meat tenderizers!
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez | See full cast and crew
Action | Horror | Sci-Fi

Video games will just never have a leg up in the transition to movies, but despite borrowing heavily from Terminator, this is one of the better - dare I say - of the lame duck RE films. Just don't go in expecting much more than mindless combat with a flimsy story to hold it together. But this one, believe it or not, almost makes us care what happens. And when we remind ourselves that this is a fifth installment, we find ourselves a little closer to being impressed. C-
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Stolen: A master bank robber goes to prison for 8 years, and when he gets out, an old ally wants the $10,000,000 they sought at the time of the heist, holding his young daughter captive. He has 12 hours to come up with the money.
Director: Simon West
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Malin Akerman, Josh Lucas
Action | Thriller | Drama

A new low for everyone involved, this bank robber thriller never even tries to get up off the ground enough to be called a "guilty pleasure" action film. If the weak performances don't get you, the smarmy "tough guy talk" in the script will. This one has some of the worst dialog in any movie in the last few years. D+
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