Underworld

From the Movie Snob.

Underworld. (C-) I can say with a great deal of certainty that this is the loudest movie I have ever seen. Not that I expect a movie about the centuries-old war between vampires and werewolves to be quiet and peaceful, mind you, but during the fight scenes the director turns the volume up to 11. By the end, I was covering my ears to avoid discomfort. The heavy-metal soundtrack, or whatever the kids call this non-musical noise these days, added to the painfulness. Anyhoo, the movie itself was pretty lackluster. The movie frequently grinds to a halt to allow various characters to give expository monologues about the origins of the war and the current goings-on in the vampire and werewolf camps. Kate Beckinsale shoots for “tough and ruthless” but comes off mainly as “cute” as the spunky vampire Celine, a professional werewolf-killer who would rather be out pumping the enemy full of silver bullets than dealing with her effete and decadent kin back at Creepy Vampire Mansion. Since she’s only about a third as large as anyone else in the movie, I thought the moviemakers wisely opted to minimize her participation in the frequent bone-crunching fights between blood-suckers and shape-changers. Bottom line: this one’s for hardcore vampire and/or werewolf fans only.

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Lost in Translation

From the Movie Snob.

Lost in Translation. (B) I wanted to like this movie more than I did. Bill Murray is a world-weary Hollywood movie star with a stale marriage. He finds himself stranded in a posh but sterile Tokyo hotel for a week while he shoots some whiskey ads for a fat paycheck. Scarlett Johansson is an angst-laden 25-year-old newlywed whose photographer husband mostly leaves her stranded at the same hotel. Unable to connect or even communicate with the culture around them, they strike up a friendship. The buzz about Murray’s great performance is justified, and the movie does a good job of conveying the weird feeling of isolation and dislocation you get when you are left alone in a strange place with too much time on your hands. But the movie is driven, if that’s the right word, by imagery and atmosphere, and there’s not a whole lot of plot, which I guess is why it ultimately left me cold.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

From the Movie Snob.

If you don’t make it to Blockbuster Video until fairly late Saturday evening, the pickins are going to be slim, and you probably deserve whatever you get. This weekend, what I got was the atrocious How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Am I the only one who has noticed that modern romantic comedies are seldom funny and almost never romantic? The premise of this movie is ludicrous to begin with, and it is completely predictable from the beginning to the end (almost two painful hours later). (I did get a kick out of the two babes who set Matthew McConaughey’s character up for a fall — they slink around together like those two Siamese cats on Lady and the Tramp, and they’re just as mean.)

I won’t bother you with the plot and stuff, but I have to remark on what the movie-maker apparently believes passes for realistic dating behavior among young single people these days. Sure there are people who start their relationships by having sex within the first day or two of knowing each other, but do such women really get horrendously upset and depressed when such men don’t seem to be hearing wedding bells within a week? (And stop calling to boot?) Do that many couples, after knowing each other for about a week, proceed to take a shower together in the fellow’s parents’ house, with his very young nieces and nephews running around no less? Somebody help me out here.

The Life of David Gale

From the Movie Queen:

The Life of David Gale. (B+) This film was based on the true story of a Harvard-educated, Rhodes scholar (played by Kevin Spacey) who was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death in, of course, Texas. The week before his execution, he asks a reporter, played by Kate Winslet, to come interview him for his story that he has previously never given. It is through their interviews that the story is told. It was compelling and definitely not typical. I really enjoyed it and appreciated the strong acting by both Ms. Winslet and Mr. Spacey. It is certainly worth a rental.

Dirty Pretty Things

From The Movie Snob:

Dirty Pretty Things. (A-) I can’t remember the last new release that I thought was worthy of any sort of A, and maybe this one is really more of a B+. But it was very good, let’s leave it at that. It’s about illegal immigrants in London, although any large Western city could probably be substituted for London without changing the story. They live on the margins of society, and because they are wanted by the authorities they have almost nowhere to turn when unscrupulous people abuse and take advantage of them. In this story, a gentle doctor from Nigeria named Okwe works days as a cab driver and nights at the front desk of a hotel. On the rare occasions when he sleeps, he flops on the couch at the apartment of Senay (played by Amelie‘s Audrey Tautou), a young Turkish woman who is legally in England as an asylum-seeker but illegally working as a maid in the same hotel where Okwe works. The film is gritty and occasionally hard to watch (it involves the black-market trade in internal organs), but the story and characters are compelling.

The Adventures of Robin Hood; Swimming Pool; About a Boy

From the desk of the Movie Snob:

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). (B) A newly restored print was recently shown at a local art house theater for a couple of weeks. It’s pretty corny by today’s standards, but a lot of swashbuckling fun nevertheless. The packed theater broke out into applause at the end. Robin and Marian give a couple of speeches about the glories of a united England that are oddly anachronistic but surely reflect the concerns of the film-maker’s day, when the shadow of Nazism was already advancing across the Continent.

Swimming Pool. (B-) Sarah Morton is an older British woman, a writer of popular mystery novels, and a soul badly in need of a holiday to recharge her batteries. Her publisher lends her his French villa for a vacation, and it is as sunny and beautiful as London is cold and rainy. But soon after she arrives at the villa, an unexpected houseguest also moves in – her publisher’s beautiful and troubled teenaged daughter, Julie. Sarah gradually moves past her irritation and into curiosity about Julie’s mysterious past and present, and she switches from the book she had been writing to one about her housemate. Some decent suspense and atmosphere, but overall the movie doesn’t really add up to much.

And off the shelf . . . I’ve picked up a lot of DVDs on sale lately, and this long Labor Day weekend actually sat down and watched a couple. I find that the Hugh Grant flick About a Boy stands up to repeated watching very well, with Hugh turning in a fine performance as a shallow, womanizing, trust-fund baby who slowly opens himself up to the idea of caring about other people through a chance friendship with an odd and friendless 12-year-old boy named Marcus. Well worth your time.