PARANORMAN is a stop-motion masterpiece. It’s that rare thing: A true family film that is scary, funny and sometimes even emotional. Norman is a kid that can see ghosts. He has to fight zombies – and worse, doubting adults – to save his family, friends and town. This labor intensive film – 24 hand adjustments for each second of film – is a visual feast that’s rich in all the things that make a movie worth seeing, including an unexpectedly fine soundtrack. It’s from the same team that did CORALINE. Big recommend.


Set in London during the early 1920s, the story’s about a young woman, played by Rebecca Hall (remember her as the magician’s wife in PRESTIGE?), who wrote a book exposing supernatural hoaxes. When she’s called to investigate a boy’s boarding school where her recently deceased fiancé taught, she finds a young boy’s. The good story and great production values make this heartbreaking gothic tale a satisfying experience that hues true to the traditions of the genre.


When a childless couple bury a box in their garden with all their wishes for a baby and an infant pops out, you’d think the neighbors — or someone — would be curious about their new acquisition. And when the kid sprouts branches and leaves, you’d hope the parents would see a reputable dermatologist for some ointment regarding his fungal condition. Well, sad to say there’s also no medication I know of that can make this exceedingly contrived and weird film palpable to an audience that seeks the heartwarming, inspiring fable it thinks it is, but is not.


From Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the husband and wife team that directed LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, this one’s about a relationship challenged, blocked writer (Paul Dano), who literally dreams up a flesh and blood girlfriend (Zoe Kazan). What’s more, the writer can control her by what he types on his manual typewriter. This is a lesser effort than their previous, award winning film. Dano and Kazan are the couple on screen and in real life. Kazan also wrote the screenplay. For me, the big questions raised in the set-up and premise are not answered. However, Kazan is a charmer on screen; Dano, not so much. In a terrific Q&A at Cinemas Palm d’Or, director’s Dayton and Faris spoke openly about all aspects of the film’s production as well as reasons they decided to leave some key elements of the story ambiguous. A fun movie, but oddly unsatisfying.

In this follow-up to Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 film, testosterone almost oozes off the screen as Jonathan Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Liam Hensworth and Arnold Schwatzenegger (among others) do their manly thing. Oh yes, Yu Nan gives a distaff balance as Maggie. The over-the-top action never lets up and this movie is a whole lot more fun than it deserves to be. Although it’s tough and self-deprecating, I’m not sure everyone on screen was aware of the tongue-in-cheek tone of this enterprise. Sometimes it almost seems like a comedy. Simon West directs with an eye for a huge action and bits of intentional humor — although it’s played straight. The story is about the Expendable team taking revenge on a mercenary who murdered one of their own. Shot on location in Bulgaria, Hong Kong and New Orleans, the film has an epic, international look that amplifies the relentless pacing.

And for home theater:


Roger may be Norway’s most accomplished headhunter, but he lives way beyond his means. To support his lifestyle, he steals art. One day, his beautiful gallery owner wife introduces him to a former mercenary who has in his possession an extremely rare and valuable painting. Roger, decides to risk everything and steal it. However, this act sets off a series of events he could never have imagined and makes him a hunted man on a desperate run to save his life and uncover a much greater conspiracy that paints a bigger picture of what is actually going on. Once this seductive thriller grabs you, it does not let go. Subtitled. Blu-ray. From Magnolia.

Listen for my movie updates on KNWZ 94.3 during Michael Knight’s Friday morning show. RobinESimmons@aol.com