Well, this week’s column is for you. Below are my thoughts on three great movies you can watch from the comfort of your living room. Just add them to your Netflix queue or swing by a Redbox kiosk. (Then send your own review to firstname.lastname@example.org after watching.)
(Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references.)
Who’s in it: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp and Brittany Snow.
What it’s about: Beca (Kendrick) isn’t interested in fitting in at her new college; she’s just biding her time until she can move to Los Angeles and become a music producer. That changes after she is drawn to the Barden Bellas, one of the school’s prestigious a cappella groups. Beca quickly clashes with the Bellas’ hierarchy, but even their leader (Camp) can’t deny that the newcomer’s talent for mash-ups could lead them to a national title.
The good: “Pitch Perfect” would’ve been a contender for my Best of 2012 list if I’d seen it during its theatrical release. I was a performing arts kid in high school, so the flick is right in my wheelhouse. The script is smart and hilarious, the characters are deeper than the one-note cartoons on “Glee” and the music is outstanding. I don’t understand why Kendrick isn’t a superstar already. She is consistently one of the best aspects of every movie she’s in, from Oscar contenders like “Up in the Air” to disposable junk like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “Twilight.” As great as Kendrick is, Wilson comes close to stealing the entire movie. Every line she utters is pure gold. “Pitch Perfect” kept a grin on my face for almost two hours straight.
The not-so-good: A couple of scenes misfire due to an overindulgence in gross-out humor. But that’s a minor quibble as long as you don’t have an ultra-weak stomach.
(Rated PG-13 for language, alcohol abuse, some sexual material and drug use.)
Who’s in it: The better question is who’s NOT in it. The film features a ton of recognizable young actors, including Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, Chris Pratt, Scott Porter, Oscar Isaac, Kate Mara, Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Mackie and Lynn Collins.
What it’s about: A group of old friends meet up to attend their 10-year high school reunion. They include Jake (Tatum), who is planning to propose to his girlfriend (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, his real-life wife) when he runs into his old girlfriend (Dawson); Cullly (Pratt), a former jock who wants to apologize to all the people he bullied in school; Marty (Long) and A.J. (Max Minghella), best friends who become rivals competing for the hottest girl in the class (Collins); and Reeves (Isaac), a rock star who is hoping to run into his former crush (Mara).
The good: “10 Years” is being billed as a comedy, but that’s a bit misleading. There are plenty of funny scenes, but it’s actually a fairly realistic depiction of a high school reunion. That means glorious reconnections as well as awkward run-ins that don’t go anything like the scenarios certain characters have in their heads. The standout sections include Jake’s struggle to align his past and present, and Reeves doing his best to establish a genuine connection with his crush while everyone else is fawning over him. The second one has a wonderfully sweet karaoke number that genuinely surprised me.
The not-so-good: The film drags in spots, particularly during the never-ending conversations between Marty and A.J. There’s a nice (albeit predictable) resolution to their story, but wow does it take forever to get there. I was also bummed that Porter doesn’t get more to do. He’s an amiable presence in the flick, and his character’s subplot was much more compelling than others who got more screen time.
(Rated PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language.)
Who’s in it: The voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
What it’s about: Norman (Smit-McPhee) is an odd kid, treated like an outcast by almost everyone – even his parents. What they don’t understand is he acts the way he does because he can communicate with the dead. It’s a talent that comes in handy when the town comes under attack due to a witch’s centuries-old curse. Now his community is overrun with zombies and an angry mob, and only Norman – accompanied by his sister, his sole friend, his friend’s jock brother and the school bully – can put things back to normal.
The good: “ParaNorman,” in the style of creepy kid flicks like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline,” is an enjoyably bizarre film that features quirky characters, a simple-but-important message (that isn’t shoved down viewers’ throats) and tons of inside jokes for horror fans. The voice cast is top notch, particularly McPhee, Albrizzi and Kendrick, and they do justice to the funny, heartwarming script by Chris Butler (who co-directed with Sam Fell).
The not-so-good: It’s a bit slow getting started and it might be too intense for younger kids. There are also a few jokes that might cause some raised eyebrows on adult viewers, but they should fly right over most children’s heads.