Cheaper by the Dozen; Something’s Gotta Give

From the Movie Snob:

I hope all the faithful Court watchers out there are having a happy and safe holiday this year. Naturally, I’ve been putting some time in down at the local multiplex. Getting together with family often means seeing some movies I have already seen before, and this year I saw two repeats: School of Rock and Freaky Friday. These are great family movies, and they are also members of that small subset of comedies that are actually funny all the way through. Watch them on DVD if you missed them at the theaters.

Cheaper by the Dozen. (C-) As I seem to be doomed to repeat forever, I think Steve Martin is a very, very funny actor, but his material is almost never as funny as he is. This bland family flick really lets him down. As the father of twelve children and coach of a successful small-town football team, Martin is stranded with virtually nothing funny to do. Because there are so many children, none is given enough screen time to earn much good will from the audience, and the would-be laughs are mostly tired sight gags. Nothing offensive here to dissuade you from taking your kids to this movie, but they will probably be as bored as I was.

Something’s Gotta Give. (B) As you’ve probably already heard, Diane Keaton does a terrific job in this movie. Jack Nicholson plays a wealthy and unusually hip 63-year-old New Yorker who never dates women older than 30. Circumstances arise that require him to spend a lot of time with Keaton, who is the mother of his current girlfriend-of-the-week and is a successful if neurotic playwright. You can imagine what happens after that. Not an earth-shaking film, but definitely a pleasant one.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

From the desk of the Movie Snob:

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. (B+) Saw it last night with some friends from work. This three-hour-and-twenty-minute spectacular had a lot of good stuff in it, but somehow the whole was less than the sum of the parts. Some parts felt a little underdone, while others (particularly the ones in which the director tried to create a little emotion) seemed too long. (The huge battle sequences were probably too long too, but that was okay.) Some have complained that the movie has too many endings (there was an audible groan from the audience around the time the third “ending” gave way to the fourth), and I think they have a point. (Still, I think the book has even longer epilogue than the movie.) That’s all I can say without giving plot points away to the uninitiated, but the bottom line is: good movie, but less might have been more.

Pieces of April

Another one from the Snob:

Pieces of April. (B) Katie Holmes plays a young woman (April) living in a run-down apartment somewhere in New York City. The movie begins with her waking up on Thanksgiving morning, and it quickly develops that she is going to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged family, who are driving in from somewhere out of town.  (Patricia Clarkson costars as April’s mom.) April’s not much of a cook, and a crisis immediately arises when she discovers that her oven doesn’t work. The film cuts back and forth between April’s frantic search for an oven, the doings of her boyfriend out running a mysterious errand of some sort, and her dysfunctional family’s fitful daylong odyssey towards April’s apartment. Although it had some funny stuff, I thought it was more of a drama than a comedy. I liked it.

In America; Opal

New from the Movie Snob:

In America. (B) Melodramatic movie about a poor Irish family that moves to New York City and tries to deal with a recent family tragedy that has left the parents (Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton) in a state of shock. Terrific performances from all the actors, including the two little girls, but it gets a little too sentimental and a little hokey at times. Still, worth a look.

This weekend I also got out to a local theater and saw a production of a new or newish musical called Opal that is apparently based on a true story. The action is set in an Oregon logging camp in 1904. A little French girl named Francois is washed ashore after a shipwreck, and her parents are nowhere to be found, so she is entrusted to a rather bitter single woman who renames her Opal. Although Opal endures some taunting for her foreign ways, her whimsical way of looking at the world wins her some friends as well. It’s no Man of La Mancha, but it’s not half bad.

Under the Tuscan Sun

From the Movie Snob:

Under the Tuscan Sun. (C-) I like Diane Lane and wanted to see this movie before it disappeared from the theaters. I shouldn’t have bothered. This is an unexceptional movie about a sad American woman named Frances who moves to Italy and is mostly sad there too. Sure, the surroundings are beautiful and the neighbors are colorful, but Frances is still sad. You see, she wants an m-a-n of her very own, and she has trouble finding one even though she has Diane Lane’s good looks and charming personality as bait. In sum: nice scenery, thin characters, weak script. Check out the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries instead (see review below).

Battlestar Galactica (Part 1)

Nick at Nite takes a look at a new pop culture phenomenon:

Battlestar Galactica (Part 1)

Wow. It doesn’t get any better than this . . . well perhaps it does. It is pretty hard to top the original, one of the greatest science-fiction melodramas of all time, yet this mini-series comes close. It doesn’t have Lorne Green, but it does have Edward James Almos. Mr. Almos is almost as good as Mr. Green. The epic battle between good and evil, between man and Cylon, is so mesmerizing that I actually watched it four times last night and that is not just because it was on the Sci-Fi channel and was replayed back to back to back to back. The original was a big hit because it came along at the height of Star Wars hysteria; this recreation will be a big hit because it does not have Jar Jar Binks in it. I especially enjoyed the early homage in part 1 to the original design for the Cylon (a schematic for Cylon showing the creepy red computer eye floating back and forth across its helmet). Other good things about this mini-series: (1) it is not Shogun; (2) it is not The Thornbirds; (3) it is not about the civil war and Patrick Swayze is not in it; (4) it is not reality television – the only way to get kicked out or voted off is to be blown up; and (5) it proves that all shows from 70s can be remade. I am still waiting on that Starsky & Hutch film.

Freaky Friday; Elf

From the desk of the Movie Snob:

Freaky Friday. (B+) I saw this movie with, and at the instigation of, my younger cousin Diane. From this fact, you might reasonably infer that Diane is about 13, but in reality she is a young-hearted 27. Still, I remembered reading good reviews back when this flick first came out, and I have never seen the original, so I was game for it. It was indeed a very good movie, and although I suppose it was aimed at the young-adolescent crowd I found plenty to enjoy. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a stretched-too-thin mother of two who is just a couple of days from getting married, and Lindsay Lohan is her unhappy fifteenish daughter. They magically switch bodies, and each has to cope with the other’s various crises while simultaneously trying to figure out how to switch back. Curtis was rightly praised for her portrayal of a teenager trapped in a middle-aged woman’s body, but I thought Lohan also gave a fine performance, especially in one hilarious scene near the end. If you missed it in the theaters, check it out on video.

Elf. (C+) I must regretfully dissent from the more strongly positive reviews previously posted by my brethren on the Movie Court. This flick started out amusingly enough as Will Ferrell plays a human being raised by elves in Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, and I liked the homages to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Then Ferrell sets off for the Big Apple to find his real father, a crusty hardcase played by James Caan. Once Ferrell got to New York, his elf-out-of-water antics wore on me pretty quickly, and in the last thirty minutes or so the movie tries to evoke all sorts of holiday cheer without really earning it. On the plus side, Zooey Deschanel is cute, and I was also glad to see Bob Newhart in action as the head elf who is also Ferrell’s foster father. Harmless enough diversion, but frankly you’d probably be better off watching A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time.

Love Actually; The Quiet American; and several more

The triumphant return of Movie Queen Maggie:

Love Actually (A-) I loved it—loved all the actors—enjoy all their films, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Notting Hill…who can complain about Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in the same movie??!! It was the ultimate girl movie because there were about 7 love stories all going on at once and it had the added bonus of being well-written, well-acted and really funny! I think it is a must-see for all. Boys, take notes and pay special attention to the whole note card at the door thing—girls loved it and will now expect something like it (David, are you paying attention??)!

The Quiet American (A) Great film with Michael Caine (no surprise) and Brendan Frasier (big surprise) about Saigon during the Vietnam war. It was an interesting story with beautiful cinematography and very strong acting. Michael was nominated for an Oscar for his role and deserves it. It is definitely worth the rental fee.

Legally Blonde II (F) Quite possibly the worst movie ever made. I can sum up what I thought of it in one sentence…I had to really consider whether or not I would rank it below the wonderful cinematic genius of Wet, Hot American Summer. YUCK! Bob Newhart—what were you thinking??!!

Terminator III (B) I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I groaned when my husband brought it home from the video store and wondered, again, why I ever let him go there alone. But, I actually enjoyed it. The special effects were great and the lead, Ben Stahl (I think that is his name), who is now starring in the HBO original series, Carnival, gave a very solid performance. So, all of that plus you get to hear Arnold, now Governor Ahh-nold, say really cool lines like, “I am unable to comply.” I mean, what more could you want from an evening of entertainment??

Daddy Daycare (D) Even though I loved the kid humor, I mean who can resist adorable kids being goofy, this was a very poor flick. Eddie Murphy had his funny moments—but the story was so tired and predictable it just couldn’t be overcome by the presence of cute kids and Eddie. It can certainly be missed.

Bruce Almighty (C) I liked the idea of the story, God giving someone his powers, but it was quite simply a poor movie. Jim Carrey was, well, Jim Carrey and no one else in the movie did anything they should be proud of (Morgan Freeman, sir, you seriously took a step down for this one). It had some funny scenes, most of which you have already seen if you saw the previews, and there were some relatively neat special effects. Other than that, it was forgettable and certainly skippable.

Bad Santa

From Elder Statesman John:

Bad Santa. (D+) Plainly, this is supposed to be a sort of anti-Christmas movie—a tale about a foul-mouthed and boozy department-store Santa played by the ubiquitous Billy Bob Thornton. It had gotten mostly good reviews so I was ready for some hearty laughs. I was sorely disappointed. Maybe it was my mood, my age and/or my good taste, but I found very little to enjoy. There were a couple of funny lines/scenes but they weren’t real funny. The drunk sour-puss schtick was never particularly clever and the suspension of logic necessary to embrace the plot was something I couldn’t handle. Two bright spots: the late John Ritter does a nice turn as a squirrelly store manager and the gal Billy “romances” is good-looking and even charming, begging the question why she’s so smitten with a Bad Santa.

The Cat in the Hat

From Mike the Movie Man:

The Cat in the Hat. (D+) This is one movie that should never have been made. Yes, it will probably bring in a pretty penny for the studios, but Theodor S. Geisel, aka, Dr. Seuss, has got to be rolling over in his grave. The film tries to be something for everyone, but ultimately it is neither appropriate for the kids, nor appreciated by adults. Unlike movies with mass audience appeal such as Shrek, the adult humor in this movie is not presented simultaneously with the kiddie humor. So when an adult joke is lobbed out there, the adults in the audience are laughing and the kids are left to question and focus on what was so funny to the adults. Not good. And if you just want to see it for the adult humor, sans the kids, don’t bother. The adult humor is few and far between. As for the acting and the voices, Sean Hayes was passable as Mr. Humberfloob and the voice of the fish. Amy Hill was pretty good as Miss Kwan, the baby sitter. Alec Baldwin was annoying as the neighbor Quinn. Mike Myers had a few humorous moments, but was mostly trite. And Kelly Preston, as the mom, did not stand out at all. Thing One and Thing Two were mildly amusing for about 2 minutes. All in all, whoever thought they could bring to life a cutesy rhyming children’s storybook was smoking too much kitty litter. I would not even recommend this one when it comes out on video/dvd.