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Movie Beat: Dreamworks’ ‘Home’ a nice cinematic surprise
by JENNIFFER WARDELL
Mar 28, 2015 | 313 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
© 2015 - DreamWorks Animation LLC.
© 2015 - DreamWorks Animation LLC.
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Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor

Screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, based on the book by Adam Rex

Directed by Tim Johnson

Starring Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones, Brian Stepanek and more

Grade: 

It’s rare when a kids’ movie pleasantly surprises me like this. 

Much like the squishy little alien in the commercials, Dreamworks’ new movie “Home” is quite a bit weirder than it appears to be from the trailers. Though it takes a little while to settle into the movie’s unexpected groove, once you have, it also proves to be sweeter, more profound and quite a bit funnier than I had thought it would be. It’s a breath of fresh air in the realm of kids’ movies, and one you’ll be glad to experience. 

The movie’s first trick is to flip the classic dynamic we’ve all come to expect from alien/human buddy movies. Instead of a lone alien lost on earth, helped by a nice human, “Home” kicks off with the most adorable alien invasion ever shown onscreen. 

The aliens take over the entire planet in the first 15 minutes, vacuuming up all the humans and depositing them in a “human” community in Australia that looks like a planned suburban community on a massive scale. 

Tip, voiced by Rihanna, is a human pre-teen who escaped the vacuuming and is trying to find her mom. Oh, the alien voiced by Jim Parsons, accidentally imperiled his entire species by accidentally hitting “send all” on a housewarming party and alerting the entire universe to where his house is. The two run into each other while on the run, and Oh learns that the world isn’t at all like his supreme overlord said it was. 

The road trip that follows, though more traditional than the scenario that got them there, is both inventive, sweet and funny. Oh and the other aliens’ cluelessness is a reliable source of humor, and the sheer absurdity of some of the situations made me laugh out loud more than once. 

There are also some very nice moments between Tip and Oh, ones that very clearly show two people slowly learning to reach past an immense cultural divide. 

There’s also a lot of interesting themes about hope and bravery, and watching both Tip and Oh struggle to find the courage inside themselves – and what that means – is actually really beautiful. It turns out that some things are true no matter what species you are. 

Both actors do excellent voice work, with Rihanna communicating both Tip’s toughness and very reasonable vulnerability. Parsons’ voice is ideally suited for Oh’s more comedic moments, but he’s also good at communicating tenderness and wisdom during more serious moments. 

Steve Martin also makes a surprise appearance – his first in a movie since 2011 – and hits it out of the park as the voice of the alien boss Captain Smek. 

The movie has already received a lot of recognition for being the first 3-D animated film ever made to have a non-white lead – Tip is given Rihanna’s childhood in Barbados, along with an enterprising single mother who scrimped and saved to give her daughter a better life. Seeing her onscreen, living a life that so many people in the audience will be able to relate to in one degree or another, makes the complete lack of characters like her in other kids’ movies stand out in stark relief. 

It’s not as pleasant a surprise as all the other ones “Home” delivered, but I hope it’s one animation studios listen to. 

 

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Life and Laughter: Multitasking Myth
Mar 27, 2015 | 373 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Peri KINDER
Peri KINDER
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By Peri Kinder
I’m terribly efficient. That doesn’t mean I’m efficient. It means I’m terrible at being efficient. I always imagined myself to be a high-functioning multitasker but only recently learned that’s not possible. 

For instance, I’ll start writing a brilliant column, only to remember I didn’t make my online credit card payment. So I’ll jump to that site to pay down some Christmas bills when I realize I never tossed the laundry into the dryer. 

I’ll head downstairs to take the slightly sour-smelling towels out of the washer and remember I was supposed to order pizza for dinner. So I grab my phone to order a half-veggie/half-heart disease pizza when it hits me that I never took my multivitamin (for two weeks straight). As I run back up the stairs to swallow a pill the size of a mango, I remember that my column is due in two hours, so I head back to my computer.

That’s not multitasking. It’s having an attention-deficit-disorder seizure. Instead of actually completing a task, I have a multitude of jobs half-done at all times.

People brag they can do several things at once. I can also do several things at once; I just do it really poorly.  

In order to save time, I’ll brush my teeth while putting on deodorant. I clench the toothbrush between my teeth, trying to open the antiperspirant with one hand. Then my electric toothbrush shakes out of my mouth, hits the floor and sprays toothpaste and spit all over the bathroom rug. Instead of saving time, I’ve added 10 minutes to my routine.

Or I’ll decide to make a salad and try to make only one trip from the fridge to the counter. I’m carrying olives clasped under my chin, spinach squeezed between my knees, peppers balanced on my elbow and mushrooms perched on my head. 

My husband walks in and asks, “What are you doing?”

“Making a salad,” I hiss because I have a bag of walnuts clamped between my teeth.

He watches as I walk pigeon-toed across the kitchen and try to place everything on the counter. If I was in a sitcom, there would be a laugh-track as I juggle all those items before I hit the floor and everything lands on my head.

As he leaves the room, he says, “Enjoy your salad. And you left the fridge open.”

(I sense a poisoning in his future.)

Dr. Glenn Wilson, a real-life psychology professor at Gresham College, says these situations can actually lower your effective IQ by 10 points. Many studies prove the human brain isn’t designed to do several things at once. My dog (who doesn’t have a human brain) already knows this.

Ringo the Dog does the opposite of multitasking. He spends all his attention sniffing one pile of leaves thoroughly before moving on to the next urine-soaked shrubbery. But I can make cookies, scrub bird droppings off the back window and change my grandson’s diaper all at the same time. Of course I’ve burned the cookies, smeared the bird poop and put the diaper on backwards. Ringo does everything right the first time.

So now that I’ve wasted time debunking the benefits of multitasking, I really need to get dinner started. But a catchy tune dances across my mind. I bring up iTunes and spend 30 minutes downloading songs. Then I remember I need to sub a cardio class this week, so it’s over to YouTube to get new ideas for the BOSU ball . . .

(Peri Kinder’s new book, a collection of her award-winning Life and Laughter columns, is now available. For more information, email her at perilynn04@msn.com)

 

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Movie Beat: Will Ferrell’s “Get Hard” surprisingly deep nonsense
by JENNIFFER WARDELL
Mar 27, 2015 | 411 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
© 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity, and drug materiel

Written by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and more

Directed by Etan Cohen

Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson and more

Grade: 

Sometimes, a movie can fulfill all your expectations and still manage to completely surprise you.

When I saw the trailers for “Get Hard,” the new movie starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, I assumed it would be another ridiculous slapstick comedy where Ferrell flailed his way through life and somehow managed to succeed at the end. I only knew Kevin Hart from “About Last Night,” where he was the wisecracking friend in the middle of a very wacky, dramatic relationship. He’d be the “smart” one, Ferrell would be the naïve one, and together they’d stumble through a tangle of disaster and sex jokes.

All of this turned out to be 100 percent true, but what I didn’t anticipate is that the movie would also some surprisingly insightful commentary about racial perception, the ignorance of wealth, and class interaction in the middle of all the dick jokes. There’s actually enough to write a pretty lengthy college essay, but it’s all woven so delicately into the middle of the humor that you’ll still be chuckling even as you realize that something much deeper is going on.

The plot starts when Will Ferrell’s character, a hotshot investment guy, is suddenly arrested for securities fraud and sentenced to 10 years in maximum-security prison. While his gold-digging wife and former boss/future father-in-law pretend to investigate the frame job, Ferrell looks for someone who can help him survive in prison.

He asks Hart’s character, who owns the small car washing firm that handles the company’s cars, assuming that he went to prison because he’s black. Hart’s character is naturally angry – he’s the type of guy who’s never even gotten a speeding ticket – but he needs $30,000 to move his family to a better neighborhood and so agrees to help.

The results include a stunning amount of prison rape jokes, jokes about shoving things up your posterior, and a scene where Ferrell attempts to give another man a blowjob (you don’t see much – it’s mostly Ferrell’s reaction) and more of Ferrell’s but than I ever wanted or needed to see in my life. There are also plenty of more classic slapstick scenes, including a training sequence where the much shorter Hart is used in place of barbells.

Some of these moments I winced at, but there were plenty of others when I laughed (a bit with Hart, an impromptu flamethrower and a warehouse full of racists was pretty impressive). Other moments I laughed when I shouldn’t have, such as a scene where Ferrell accidentally gets a homemade shiv stuck in his forehead. To the movie’s credit, though, I was never actually ashamed to be laughing like I was during “Horrible Bosses 2.”

Once you get past the jokes, however, there’s some real stuff in here. Hart is a much more excellent actor than I gave him credit for, giving the character some real believability and nuance without sacrificing the laughs, and I will definitely be educating myself on his other movies as soon as possible. Ferrell is the same guy he always is, but here his character eventually reveals an awkward sweetness to match his incredible ignorance. Alison Brie, as it turns out, makes a surprisingly excellent villain.

The biggest surprise, though, is that I actually learned something from “Get Hard.” That’s a lot more than I ever expected from a movie that includes this many jokes about naked men. 

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© 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
slideshow
© 2015 - DreamWorks Animation LLC.
© 2015 - DreamWorks Animation LLC.
slideshow
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