A new review from The Movie Snob.
Tim’s Vermeer (B). This documentary actually came out last year. It is the story of a Texas inventor named Tim Jenison and his years-long project to (1) figure out how Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer painted such amazing paintings, and (2) see if he could recreate a Vermeer painting himself. His buddy Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) is both narrator and participant in the film. (Teller is the director.) It is an interesting little movie (only 80 minutes long) with lots of amusing moments as Jenison gets sucked deeper and deeper into his hobby or obsession or whatever it ends up being. Worth seeing, if you have even a modicum of interest in painting and art and that kind of stuff. Or if you saw and liked Girl With a Pearl Earring, starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.
A DVD review from The Movie Snob.
Interview (F). Well, this movie proves yet again that you shouldn’t buy a DVD just because you see it on sale for $3 at Big Lots. Although, in my defense, it seems like I did read a favorable notice of this 2007 release somewhere, and the DVD cover indicates that someone, possibly an insane person, gave it four stars. Anyway, it is a remake of a Dutch film by Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by a Muslim in 2004. Steve Buscemi (The Big Lebowski) directs and stars as Pierre, a political journalist whose fortunes have ebbed to the point that he has to agree to interview a TV starlet named Katya (Sienna Miller, Stardust). She’s an hour late, he is unprepared and insufferably rude, but despite the rocky start they spend the whole evening together, gradually revealing more and more of their true selves. Both Pierre and Katya are quite unpleasant, the revelations are dull, the characters’ moments of connection are unbelievable, and the whole thing is just a waste of time. The bright side is that it’s only 84 minutes long. And the behind-the-scenes features were okay, but that’s just in comparison to the movie itself. I’m going to give the DVD to Goodwill, and I urge you not to buy it.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Thor: The Dark World (C-). I really liked the first Thor movie, for reasons that now escape me, but the sequel pretty much left me cold. There’s lots of blizzblazz about Dark Elves and a once-every-5000-years convergence that’s going bring the nine realms (or are there seven?) into contact with each other, and a super-weapon called Aether that looks kind of like red food coloring that’s immune to gravity for some reason. And there’s lots of CGI and titanic battles in which Thor’s hammer sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I did chuckle at some of the wry remarks by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Kat Denning’s character, but otherwise there just wasn’t much to enjoy in this loud comic-book movie. I say you can skip this one.
A stage review from The Movie Snob.
Venus in Fur. This was my first trip out to Circle Theatre in downtown Fort Worth, just a couple of blocks from Sundance Square. The Dallas Morning News gave this 2010 play by David Ives a thumbs up a few weeks ago, mentioning that the actor and actress involved won last year’s local critics’ best-acting awards for their performances in The Taming of the Shrew. Well, this play isn’t exactly Shakespeare. Chris Hury plays Thomas, a playwright who is at his wits’ end because a full day of auditions has yielded no actress worthy to play the lead in his new play, Venus in Fur. He’s about to go home when in bustles an actress named Vanda (Allison Pistorius), hugely late and tossing off excuses and profanities in a way that doesn’t suggest huge reservoirs of intelligence. She begs him to give her a chance and read some lines with her, and he relents. Suddenly, Vanda is a different person—commanding, barely needing the script, and easily slipping into and out of the European accent the play calls for. The rest of the show is I guess what you would call a “psychosexual drama” (with some humorous moments) as the parties act out various scenes in Thomas’s play and Vanda messes with Thomas’s head in between those scenes. It’s much racier than I was expecting. Vanda spends most of the 95-minute run time in a small, black-leather outfit, and the play-within-a-play is apparently based on the 19th century novella Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch—whose name and works give us the word masochism. The play-within-a-play is pretty tedious stuff—pretentious pseudo-philosophical pornography, I would call it—but the scenes in which Thomas and Vanda interact directly are sort of interesting. And I will say that the actors are quite good and really give it their all. On the whole, I can’t recommend this one, but I will keep my eye on Circle Theatre for future productions (especially one coming this fall: Fellowship! The Musical Parody of The Fellowship of the Ring).
New from The Movie Snob.
Pompeii (B). It’s not often I willingly see a movie its opening weekend, but what can I say–I love stuff about ancient Rome, and that especially includes the doomed resort city of Pompeii. So, despite the poor reviews, I caught a matinee of this new release and quite enjoyed it. And why not? Take Titanic, chop out almost 100 minutes of boring stuff, substitute a volcano for the iceberg, and voila! You’ve got a perfectly serviceable B movie. Kit Harington (TV’s Game of Thrones) stars as a slave-turned-gladiator. Kiefer Sutherland (Stand By Me) co-stars as a slimy Roman senator. Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) is the poor little rich girl caught between them. Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) has a couple of scenes as the girl’s mom. There’s lots of gladiatorial violence, and lots of CGI fire and brimstone. Turn your brain off for 98 minutes and enjoy the ride. Oh, and enjoy some pictures of the real Pompeii, circa 2007:
A new review of an old movie, by The Movie Snob.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (B-). The Magnolia Theater in Dallas continues to show classic movies on Tuesday nights, and I took advantage of the opportunity to see this 1953 release this past Tuesday. As I understand it, the movie was not based directly on the 1925 novel by Anita Loos (reviewed here), but on a stage musical version of the novel. Marilyn Monroe (All About Eve) plays Lorilei Lee, a blonde gold-digger from Little Rock, and Jane Russell (The Outlaw) plays her best friend Dorothy Shaw. The plot (Lee wants her rich dork of a boyfriend to marry her; his father doesn’t) is a fairly thin excuse for some passable musical numbers and a boatload of mild double-entendres. If you ever wondered where Madonna got the idea for her “Material Girl” video, look no further than Monroe’s show-stopping performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Not bad.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Philomena (A-). I’m a practicing Catholic, so movies portraying any of the Church’s many scandals are painful for me to see. Nevertheless, this is undeniably a good one. As you probably already know, it is based on a true story of an Irish woman who, way back in the 1950s, got pregnant out of wedlock, had nowhere to turn except a Church-run home for girls in such situations, and was badly mistreated there until the nuns finally took her toddler son away and adopted him out to an American couple. Much later in life, the woman, Philomena, teamed up with a British journalist named Martin Sixsmith to try to find out what happened to her son. This is their story. The amazing Judi Dench (Pride & Prejudice) really makes the movie as Philomena, but Steve Coogan (The Lightning Thief) is not bad as Sixsmith either. I had thought Cate Blanchett was an Oscar lock for Blue Jasmine, but I think Judi Dench gives her a run for her money in this film. Director Stephen Frears adds another success to his impressive resume (The Queen, Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity).