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.