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By: Jeffrey Ford
By: Jeffrey Ford

Previews of The Expendables 2, ParaNorman, The Odd Life of Timothy Green and Sparkle

 

Four films enter into the multiplex battle where only one can come out on top. Will it be the aging action stars trying to reclaim past glory? Can a zombie tale for kids take a bite out of the competition? Will a kid from a garden bear fruit? Or will three Motown sisters sing the blues for the rest? First up to the podium will be John Rambo making his case.
 
THE EXPENDABLES 2
 
Mr. Church reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job; their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat. *
 
The Good – Sly Stallone brings back the crew for another go round at bringing back the action movies of yore. I love the older 80’s style action films. There is not much better than grabbing a pizza, a six pack and a stack of Schwarzenegger’s DVDs on a random Tuesday night. They deliver mindless fun and I am always looking forward to the next film to arrive that fulfills that very minimum quota.
 
The Bad – The first one failed to live up to its early promise. Yes, it did include many of the older generations’ action heroes, but the plot ended up a generic mess that did little to excite, and for all the promotions of a bad ass crew, many of the supporting characters were relegated to more of a cameo appearance. With the return of the Governator and the Muscles from Brussels, this may strike the chord the previous film strived for, and for that I remain hopeful.
 
The Ugly – I’m imaging the medical bills these stars are racking up. Many of them already qualify for Medicare. 
 
The Expendables 2 is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout.
 
PARANORMAN
 
A misunderstood boy, who can speak with the dead, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse. *
 
The Good – It may be August, but we are getting one of the first tastes of Halloween. This animated film contains ghosts, witches and zombies with just a dash of The Monster Squad. There is also a heavy dose of early Peter Jackson, with a pinch of Dead Alive and a tablespoon of The Frighteners.
 
The Bad – Then again, it seems just too much like The Frighteners.   Peter Jackson’s initial attempt at a Tales from the Crypt movie seemed to have been a heavy influence on this production, to the point where it may be hard to separate the two. The basic premise may differ but the broad strokes remain. The reason this is bad is that I wasn’t a big fan of The Frighteners. If it reminds me of something I don’t like, it has a major uphill battle for me.
 
The Ugly – I know kids can take a lot more than what they are given credit for but this is still a zombie apocalypse tale from a kid’s perspective. There might be some restless nights for both kids and parents alike.
 
ParaNorman is rated PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language.
 
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
 
A childless couple buries a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears. *
 
The Good – I admit it. I was smiling throughout the entire trailer. The tale of the boy born from a garden seems just whimsical and quirky enough that it appeals but not so far overboard that many other films of these ilk fall prey. The trailer makes it appear that it falls on just the right side of a good Wes Anderson film (Moonrise Kingdom) and shies away from a bad one (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).
 
The Bad – There is almost always the downside. Something tragic will occur in the end to try and manipulate the tear ducts. I fell hard for Bridge to Terabithia, but a film with that type of ending was a nice warning shot for something like The Odd Life. If I’m going in, I’m going in with my guard up. The end that I’m thinking of may not come to pass but I am still keeping an eye out for it.
 
The Ugly – So If Timothy Green was born from a garden, then when he gets sick do you take him to a doctor or do you spray him with Weed B Gon?
 
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.
 
SPARKLE
 
Set in the 1960s, three sisters form girl group and soon become Motown sensations, but fame becomes a challenge as the close-knit family begins to fall apart. *
 
The Good – It seems like a generic beware what you wish for tale, as three sister’s form a Motown singing group that struggles with the sudden fame that is thrust upon them. If it is generic, then why I am I putting it in the good category? Even though it appears to strike all the marks of the rise and fall of fame, that story arc is still something I like. If done right, as in Crazy Heart or Walk the Line, then I can easily find myself gleefully going along. I also love the old Motown sound so I’m always willing to give it a listen.
 
The Bad – Unfortunately, it also falls under the cloud of Whitney Houston. Her recent death casts a large shadow over the entire production that I’m not sure the film can escape. It takes a rare film to eclipse the tragic passing of one of its headliners, something that I believe Sparkle may not have.
 
The Ugly – I was thinking of including my vocal rendition of “The Greatest Love of All”, but that is beyond ugly and digging into borderline torture.
 
Sparkle is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking.
 
That will do for this week. Tune in next time when a bike messenger tries to avoid a hit and run. Until then, I’ll be back with my patented splits kick.
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