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February 2009 Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 2/6/2009

Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in February of 2009.  Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.

Go directly to my review of Coraline and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Coraline Review

Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning) is an 11-year-old girl who’s just moved away from Pontiac, Michigan into the Pink Palace Apartments in Ashland, Oregon.  The old boarding house…which she moved into with her parents, Mel (voice of Teri Hatcher) and Charlie (voice of John Hodgman)…is boring to her.  Part of her boredom is because her parents are too busy on their computers writing text for a gardening magazine and therefore don’t have time to pay attention to her.  To make matters worse, Mel won’t let her go out and plant seeds in her garden because she would get dirty, which is ironic…since they are writing for a gardening magazine and the rainy Oregon conditions are perfect for gardening.  The other tenants are a little too eccentric or weird for her.  Wybie Lovat (voice of Robert Baily, Jr.), the annoying grandson of the home’s owner (voiced by Carolyn Crawford), is the only other kid in the house…but he wears a skeleton mask with a three piece turret lens when outside and a hand made motorized bike which he uses to patrol the woods.  A black cat always accompanies him.  Former British actresses turned oddball spinsters April Spink (voice of Jennifer Saunders) and Miriam Forcible (voice of Dawn French) own several stuffed Scottie dogs and talk in theater jargon.  Retired but still active circus performer Mr. Bobinsky (voice of Ian McShane) is a blue-skinned Russian giant who lives on a steady diet of beets.  One day, Coraline finds a doll with buttons for eyes in her image given to her by Wybie by a small hidden door in the wall.  She opens the door but is disappointed that it’s been bricked shut.  She finds out that, at night, the door opens a tunnel that leads to an alternate world with an identical house…with some delightful differences.  Her Other Mother (also voiced by Hatcher) and Other Father (also voiced by John Hodgman) are attentive and fun.  Wybie is nice, helpful…and can’t talk.  Spink and Forcible put on acrobatic shows for the very much alive Scottie dogs who are the members of their audience.  Bobinsky is the ringmaster of a circus of rats.  In this alternate world, Wybie’s cat can speak (voice of Keith David.)  Actually, Coraline and the cat are the only living creatures that don’t have buttons for eyes.  While that is a little weird to her, she shrugs it off because this alternate world is cooler than her real world.  The more and more that she goes back to the alternate world, the cooler it becomes.  After a while though, she starts to become a little suspicious, especially when the Other Mother starts becoming a little possessive and insists that she replace her eyes with buttons.  When Coraline discovers that three ghost children (voices of Aankha Neal, George Selick, and Hannah Kaiser) may have been former victims of the Other Mother, she realizes that some things may a little too good to be true.  Henry Selick directed and wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2002 teen horror novella of the same name.  If you watch it you may think…shouldn’t this be called Tim Burton’s Coraline?  No…because Burton had nothing to do with this movie (he didn’t even produce it.)  Some people don’t realize that…while Burton produced and co-wrote Coraline’s obvious inspiration, 1993’s cult stop-motion hit The Nightmare Before Christmas…Selick directed Nightmare.  He went on to direct 1996’s Oscar-nominated live action/stop-motion movie James and the Giant Peach and 2001’s live action/stop-motion critical and commercial flop Monkeybone.  This movie is stop-motion as well, but it’s Selick’s first movie using 3-D technology.  While the 3-D is cool, it’s only the cherry on the top of a very cool but dark kiddie movie (it may be too dark and scary for some sensitive younger tykes.)  The story is interesting, and the vocal work is perfect.  They couldn’t have picked a better voice to be the title character than Fanning.  Why this girl has yet to get an Oscar nomination has been a mystery to me for years.  Hatcher does a great job transitioning from Mel to the scary Other Mother effectively.  David is one of those voices, like James Earl Jones or Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy), who is a delight every time you hear him.  The supporting voices are great as well, including the re-teaming of French & Saunders.  Another thing that I noticed is that the music was hauntingly appropriate as well.  When I watched the end credits, I looked for Nightmare’s Danny Elfman, but I found out that the music was composed by French composer Bruno Coulais, whose only other recognizable project in America was the 2001 documentary Winged Migration.  I know that kids will like the movie, but like Nightmare, I can easily see this movie appealing more to Goth teens.  The title character is practically a Goth girl herself, so she might end up appearing on dark T-shirts in the same way that Nightmare’s Jack Skellington does today.  Whether you see this 2-D or 3-D, with kids or not, just see it…because it’s destined to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category next year (I called this year’s frontrunner, the Oscar-nominated Wall-E, so go with me on this one.)


Confessions of a Shopaholic Review

My girlfriend is a shopaholic, or as she likes to call it, a “sale-aholic.”  She won’t buy just anything, but when she finds a bargain, she can’t resist taking advantage of it.  Unfortunely, those “bargains” stack up, and she gets into debt.  I took her to this movie hoping that she might see the light…but I don’t think that it worked.  That doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of this movie though.  Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) is a journalist who writes for a gardening publication called Gardening Today!...but she would actually like to write for Alette, a fashion magazine run by Alette Naylor (Kristin Scott Thomas.)  After the folding of her magazine, she decides to go for it and apply to Alette.  Alicia Billington (Leslie Bibb), a tall blonde who was already working for the magazine’s publishing company, Dantay-West, already filled the position from within, so Rebecca is bummed.  When she learns though from the gay front desk secretary Allon (Stephen Guarino) that business nepotism at the Dantay-West magazine empire run by Edgar West (John Lithgow) is very internal and that she would have to work her way up, she applies for a writing job at Successful Saving, a financial publication at Dantay-West run by Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy.)  His immediate boss, Ryan Koenig (Fred Armisen), doesn’t like him, but Luke has a loyal but timid administrative assistant in Hayley (Julie Hagerty.)  He wants to have the magazine go in another direction, so he hires Rebecca in the hope that she will be able to entice the average reader instead of just people interested in investing for a living.  He only hired her because she had accidentally sent him an article about shopping for fashion on a budget (written while drunk on tequila), intended for Alette, while also writing a letter to Luke on advice on how he could dress better.  She had met Luke earlier before her interview with him at a hot dog stand with the intention of getting some cash to buy a green scarf that she figured she had to have in order to impress her prospective employers at Dantay-West.  The actual interview with Luke was a disaster, but after getting her article about budgetary shopping, he decides to take a chance on her.  The ironic thing about Rebecca though is that she has a sickness…shopping addiction.  She grew up with financially conservative parents, Jane (Joan Cusack) and Graham (John Goodman), who always dressed her in inexpensive but practical clothes…so when she became an adult, the compulsion to buy anything that she wanted was exorbitant.  Her rich but financially responsible roommate Suze (Krysten Ritter), who is due to marry her boyfriend Tarquin (Nick Cornish), thinks that she needs to go to Shopaholics Anonymous, since she has accumulated over $16,000 worth of credit card bills, and she is constantly being hounded by debt collector Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton.)  The support group is headed by Miss Ptaszinski (Clea Lewis), and later by the more aggressive Miss Korch (Wendie Malick), but it doesn’t seem to be helping Rebecca’s compulsion.  On the positive side though, her column…under the pen name “The Girl in the Green Scarf”…becomes a hit, ironically influencing many to spend wisely.  Soon she is being courted by Alette Naylor herself for her fashion sense and appearing on the local morning talk show hosted by Martha Lockyear (Christine Ebersole) about her column…all the while hiding her compulsion from everyone, including from Luke, whom she is falling for.  The movie is based on the best-selling chick-lit books Confessions of a Shopaholic (published in 2000) and Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (published in 2001), both written by English author Sophie Kinsella.  While the movie is fun to watch with a date, I would encourage any guy who has a girlfriend or a wife to have them watch it…even if they go alone.  I’m only basing this on my own experience, because even though there are some straight guys who have a shopping compulsion as well (theater actor Yoshiro Kono and former basketball player John Salley are two males in the shopping support group), it’s usually women who tend to spend beyond their means.  I was lucky in that I had a banker mother and an accountant father who attempted to teach me the value of a dollar…so I managed to squeak by even in the leanest of times.  The ending is predictable (if you’ve seen almost any chick flick ever made), but I still think that it might be an eye-opener for some with the same compulsion.  Between this movie and last week’s He’s Just Not That Into You…women are getting some hard truths taught to them cinematically, which can only help with the relationships with their respective male significant.


Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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