Tropical Rainforest

From the Movie Snob:

Tropical Rainforest. (D) While home for Thanksgiving in Little Rock, Arkansas, I visited Arkansas’ only IMAX theater and saw this science documentary. According to the Internet Movie Database, it was made in 1992, which was apparently before the makers of IMAX documentaries thought their products needed to be interesting. The film consisted mostly of long shots of trees and other vegetation, with wildlife and human scientists making only sporadic appearances. There was a strong don’t-destroy-the-rainforests message too, which was fine but didn’t make the film any more interesting. My sister, who is a biology Ph.D. student, gave it a B-, but I have to respectfully dissent from her opinion.

Elf

From That Guy Named David:

Elf (B)

Will Ferrell could possibly be the funniest person alive. His portrayal of Buddy the Elf had me laughing throughout this movie. While, generally, I’m not a fan of the Christmas movie genre (with the exception of Christmas Vacation, which is a staple at my home during the holidays), Ferrell’s performance made this otherwise cheesy movie enjoyable. I still can’t stand James Caan, and this movie did nothing to change my opinion of him; however, Ferrell’s performance was the spotlight and definitely the highlight of this movie. This is a good movie to see if you have a couple of free hours on a Saturday or Sunday during the holidays.

Shattered Glass

A review from The Movie Snob:

Shattered Glass. (A-) Hayden Christensen, all is forgiven. This young actor was a blank as the adolescent Darth Vader in the last Star Wars movie, but he is dead-on as journalist Stephen Glass in this independent flick. The ingratiating Glass is well-liked by his equally youthful colleagues at The New Republic, and he pleases the older folks who run the magazine with colorful and lively pieces that fit their worldviews to a T. But then questions start to crop up about some of his sources, and the answers only lead to more questions. I found the movie compelling (especially because it is based on a true story and apparently adheres very closely to the truth), and the performances were excellent. Don’t let this one get away.

While taking in an episode of VH1’s Top 100 One-Hit Wonders (well, maybe several episodes) today, I saw an advertisement for a program that no observer of The Movie Court will want to miss. Apparently American Movie Classics is going to run some sort of program about Nicole Kidman on the Monday after Thanksgiving. I know you won’t want to miss an opportunity to learn more about one of the finest actresses of our time.

The Human Stain

A review from The Movie Snob:

The Human Stain. (C) This is a difficult movie to review because it contains several twists and turns that the moviegoer will prefer to learn about only by watching the movie and not by reading a review. I will comment, however, on the one aspect of the movie that everyone should already know about before he or she walks into the theater, which is that the characters played by stars Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman get romantically involved. I wasn’t buying it. He’s a 70ish college professor of classics, and she’s a (gorgeous) 34-year-old janitor at the same college, and she seems to be only semi-literate to boot. Although Hopkins’s attraction to her is believable (after all, she is Nicole Kidman, and he is a living male human being), the love story is not, and the “ick” factor is high. Moreover, although the twists and turns in the movie’s plot are interesting in the abstract, they are not compellingly translated onto the screen. Average at best.

Love Actually

From the Movie Snob:

Love Actually. (B-) This is roughly 12 different movies about love, mostly of the romantic variety, crammed into a little more than two hours. Most of the dozen different plots intersect the others only tangentially (e.g., Laura Linney works in the same office as Alan Rickman, who is married to Emma Thompson, who is the sister of Prime Minister Hugh Grant . . . .). Inevitably, all of the individual stories are short-changed, and I really wished the director had chopped out some of the less interesting (and even unpleasant) story-lines and focused on the best two or three. Then the director could have explored some of the more interesting issues about love: the tension between romantic and familial love, the effects of infidelity and the temptation to infidelity, love across class and cultural lines, loss of a loved one, etc. But these issues have to compete with too much silliness and too much emphasis on the sexual aspect of love, so what’s left is a long, inconsistent romantic comedy with, admittedly, quite a few laughs along the way. And what’s with this song by Dido that seems to show up on so many soundtracks? I think it’s called “Here With Me,” and it was the theme song for the WB television show Roswell, then it was on the soundtrack for the movie Bounce, and now it crops up in this movie too. I like the song, but come on.

Elf

A review from new Court member Movie Man Mike:

Elf (B+)

I went to this movie not expecting much. I thought it was going to be one of those movies filled with school yard humor and offensive bodily noises. I was pleasantly surprised. The cast is really quite colorful, with Ed Asner in the role of Santa Clause, Bob Newhart in the role of Papa Elf, James Caan in the role of the father, and Mary Steenburgen as the wife to Caan. Will Ferrell’s portrayal of a human raised as an North Pole Elf, who is suddenly thrust into the midst of humanity as he seeks his origins, makes for some great comedy. Zooey Deschanel, a Christina Applegate look-alike, plays the love interest of Ferrell with convincing disinterest. This cute little story started out like a Christmas classic, then it switched gears and went into its sitcom mode, and it finished a bit like a Christmas classic–so much so that it brought a tear to my eye. I recommend it for anyone looking for a lighthearted, funny film.

Scarface; Finding Nemo

Movie reviews from That Guy Named David:

Scarface (B+)

I’m a little embarrassed that it took until my 28th year on this earth to see this movie, but I finally got around to watching it last night when I realized I really didn’t care about Philadelphia vs. Green Bay. Of course, I knew the catch phrases from the movie, but I was impressed with some of the aspects of the movie that I didn’t even know were a part of it. For example, the performance by a young Michelle Pfeiffer (who I wasn’t aware had a part in this movie) was very impressive. The only reason it is not an “A” is because I thought the ending was a little overdone; however, I thought the performances were entertaining, and the movie kept my attention through its duration.

Finding Nemo (A-)

I’m not as much of a dork as the Movie Snob in that he will go see Disney movies on Friday nights by himself (which if you ask me is a little disturbing). That being said, if I would have known that this movie was as good as it turned out, I probably would seen in the theatre. Very impressive animation, story, performances (by voice of course), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My favorite character was the Ellen DeGeneres fish Dori. However, I can’t think of one aspect of this movie that I didn’t enjoy. A little sappy at the end, but watching a good, sappy movie with your girlfriend on a rainy Sunday evening is not such a bad thing sometimes (as long as it doesn’t become a habit).

Rejoinder from the Snob: I saw Brother Bear on a Sunday afternoon with friends — not alone on a Friday night!

The Matrix Revolutions; Brother Bear; Best in Show

Some new reviews from the Snob:

The Matrix Revolutions. (B-) Left to my own devices, I would not have seen this movie opening weekend. I didn’t even see the first Matrix in a theater, and when I finally saw it on video I thought it was a very good flick but not earth-shatteringly good like some folks thought. But some friends of mine were all gung-ho to see Revolutions a.s.a.p. (e.g., Aimee, whom I mentioned in my recent review of The Matrix Reloaded), so we saw it Friday night, in IMAX format. I thought this was a decent movie, with much less of the endless impenetrable philosophizing that characterized Reloaded. I won’t say anything about the plot, but to me the Christian references seemed much stronger in this movie than in the last one. My friends and I also thought we detected several references to other sci-fi classics. We all thought there were some homages to the Alien movies, one scene reminded Aimee of something from the last Star Wars movie, and I am pretty sure that one incident was an intentional reference to something from Frank Herbert’s classic Dune series of novels. Anyway, there’s lots of shooting and stuff, and I was amused every time Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith graced the screen. “Hellooooo Mister Anderson . . . .”

Brother Bear. (C) Although this wasn’t really my idea, I was happy to tag along with some friends to see the latest Disney offering. My impression was that this is a perfectly fine movie for the kids, probably even less scary for the littler ones than the average Disney flick. Just a couple of fight scenes involving bears, nothing too over the top. It had some nice messages, like that love is really important, and some rather more questionable implications, like that bears only kill people because people kill bears. I’m no nature-science guy, but I’m a little dubious about that one. Anyway, it’s nice for kids, but for adults it doesn’t rival classics like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. And the Phil Collins soundtrack is fairly painful.

…and from the Snob’s shelf o’ DVDs…

Best in Show. (B) I’m a big fan of This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and A Mighty Wind, but I always thought of this one, about wacky characters competing in a fancy dog show, as the weak link. I saw it once in the theaters and never watched it on video. But I picked the DVD up on sale somewhere and finally gave it a viewing the other night. I was pleasantly surprised at how many laughs it packs, and there are some very funny moments in the deleted-scenes feature as well. I especially liked one deleted scene of Parker Posey and that other guy as the tightly-wound yuppie couple. They’re apparently in therapy somewhere, and when they start unloading on each other about their various family members it is very funny. I still say this is only the fourth-funniest movie in this “series,” but it is worth a second look.

The Best of REM (music review)

Another CD review from That Guy Named David:

The Best of REM: In Time 1988-2003 (B+)

As a child of the late 80’s/early 90’s, I was in my teenage years when REM blew up after Out of Time with “Losing My Religion,” etc. I had been a bit of a fan for several years when my first serious high school girlfriend (kinda an oxymoron) turned me on to Eponymous, which documented their greatest hits off Murmur, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document, and the early college radio material. While, for the most part, I am still a bigger fan of their earlier material, I found this c.d. contains almost all of their post-Eponymous hits. I was a little disappointed that this album contained such lame songs as “Stand” and “Electrolite,” while omitting “Radio Song,” “Drive,” and “Texarkana.” However, the inclusion of pure greatness, such as “Man on the Moon,” “Orange Crush,” “Daysleeper,” and “Nightswimming” made up for it. Plus, the c.d. contains a few new songs, including “Bad Day,” which is probably the best REM song I have heard in the past several years. While I probably have most of these songs on various c.d.’s, this compilation was well worth the buy.

Pearl Jam

That Guy Named David submits the following CD reviews for your edification:

Pearl Jam – State College, PA, May 3, 2003 (A+)

As an admitted Pearl Jam fanatic, I must say that I have listened to quite a few of their performances over the past 12 years. I’ve also seen them in concert on every tour through Texas (with the exception of the No Code tour). This concert is by far the best performance I have ever heard from this band. The concert is made up of 36 songs and 3 1/2 hours of some of the best Pearl Jam music that they have recorded. Highlights from the show include a version of “Daughter” with a “Highway to Hell” and “Another Brick in the Wall” tag in which the crowd gets involved and is as loud as the band, an acoustic set by Eddie Vedder including the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Gimme Some Truth,” and the closing of the show with CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” and the regular closing number, “Yellow Ledbetter.” In addition, there are performances of songs from every album, rarities, covers, pretty much everything a fan would want from this band. Amazing.

Pearl Jam – Mansfield, MA, July 11, 2003 (A-)

During this tour, Pearl Jam played Mansfield, MA outside of Boston on 3 different nights. In those 3 nights, they tried to play as much of their collection as possible. This 3-c.d. performance is the last performance in Mansfield and, included with the staples that you will hear at most Pearl Jam shows, there are quite a number of songs that I have never heard of them playing live. The performance begins with a 12-song acoustic performance before the opening band goes on (in other words, they were the opening act for the act that opened for them). They then come back with a 33-song set that includes some favorites of mine that aren’t normally played in concert (including “Why Go” and “Tremor Christ”). The only problem I have with this concert is the acoustic set is incredibly good, while the regular concert set is a bit monotonous. Overall, it’s an out of the ordinary performance and nice addition to the collection.

Pearl Jam – Madison Square Garden, July 8th and 9th, 2003 (B-)

Normally, I would have to say that 5 c.d.’s worth of concert material from Pearl Jam would be considered a musical delight on the grandest of scales. However, this collection just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it was just Pearl Jam overkill. I did thoroughly enjoy the rendition of “Indifference” with Ben Harper (an incredible artist in my opinion), but the c.d.’s just don’t flow enough for me. The first night’s performance was exceptional, the second was pretty bland. There are much better performances out there if you are considering buying Pearl Jam concerts (see reviews above).

Mystic River

A joint review from Elder Statesman John and the Movie Snob.

This weekend we both saw Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood, and we both liked it. Although we find the rhapsodic critical praise for the movie a bit overblown, there is no question that Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon turn in Oscar-caliber performances.

(WARNING: the following review CONTAINS SPOILERS.) The movie is set in a blue-collar area of Boston. At the beginning, we see Penn, Robbins, and Bacon’s characters as children, playing hockey in the street. Robbins’s character is abducted and sexually abused by two men posing as police officers. He escapes a few days later, but not surprisingly the episode severely damages him and destroys the trio’s friendship. Fast forward 25 years. Bacon is a cop, Penn is an ex-convict running a corner store, and Robbins is, well, it’s not clear what he does for a living, but he is visibly haunted (consumed, even) by the ghosts of the past. Yet, somehow he is married and has a young son. (It is one of the movie’s weaknesses that it makes Robbins’s character pretty seriously messed up but gives him a very normal-seeming wife and child.) A new and terrible crime in the neighborhood pulls all three men back together. Great performances by the leads (and by Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney, as Robbins’s and Penn’s wives) elevate the movie well above the mark set by the Law and Order-style plot.

Movie Snob: I was ready to give it a B when I walked out of the theater, but this film has really stayed with me since then. It’s at least a B+, maybe an A-. Still, Unforgiven remains my favorite Clint Eastwood movie. Postscript–Laurence Fishburne gives a nicely understated performance as Kevin Bacon’s partner on the Massachusetts State Police.

Elder Statesman: Very good movie, which I recommend. That said, however, it’s not pure greatness. Penn and Bacon are superb, as they generally are. I was not as taken with Tim Robbins’s performance as some were. I would call it like the Snob: somewhere between B+ and A-.

Chicago (stage review)

Stage review from the Snob.

Chicago. A local repertory theater is currently featuring a production of the smash musical, and I saw it Halloween night. My background–loved the movie, but had never seen the stage show before in my life. I was expecting it to be much more different from the movie than it was. In fact, I didn’t really notice any substantial departures from the movie, except that the musical has a few more songs. Anyhoo, I thoroughly enjoyed it. On the small stage, the choreography had to be sharply curtailed, but the music was great and the vocals were generally good. Sometimes the vocals got too quiet to hear, but I imagine it is difficult to keep the performers well-miked in the kinds of costumes that prevail in a show like this.