From The Movie Snob:
Dogville (C-). This is a weird and very dark movie. I use the word “movie” loosely, because it’s really a filmed play with the actors moving around on a single stage the whole time. The set is minimalist, with the houses of the tiny town of Dogville represented solely by white outlines on the stage floor. Nicole Kidman (beautiful as ever) is Grace, a fugitive from mobsters who happens upon Dogville as a hiding place, and the townspeople are at first suspicious, then welcoming, and then start to turn suspicious again. Much ado has been made of the film’s anti-Americanism (the director is Danish), but the setting is so generic, and all the characters except Grace are so reprehensible, that I detected a more universal message: all humanity is loathsome, not just Americans. Be warned that there are some scenes of extreme cruelty that, although not graphic in Kill Bill style, are still hard to stomach. Only the strangely satisfying ending rescued this movie from a much lower grade.
A View From Mars:
Man on Fire (B-). To state that this is just another, typical Denzel Washington movie would more or less be an accurate description. However, this is not neccessarily a bad thing. This time around, Washington plays a grittier lead in the form of John W. Creasy. He was in the military anti-terrorism field, ’til his personal demons relegated him to “hittin’ the sauce.” Christopher Walken plays his ex-military buddy who now resides in Mexico and has acquired Creasy a cushy bodyguard job protecting the 10 year old daughter of a well-to-do Mexican industrialist in a Mexico that is very susceptible to kidnappings. Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam, Cat in the Hat) plays the very adorable, yet wise beyond her years, little girl ‘Pita. Of course, the inevitable happens (without it, there would be no movie) and ‘Pita gets kidnapped, putting a very upset Creasy on the trail of those responsible. What worked for me was the chemistry and bond between that of Washington’s Creasy and Fanning’s ‘Pita; without this, you probably couldn’t care less where this movie goes. The “make or break” factor somewhat relies on having a believable kid actor who can actually match her acting chops against a former Oscar winner. Walken is a bit underused for my taste, being that I’m a big fan of his. He is merely relegated to the friend who emphasizes what a stud Washington used to be. I appreciate Tony Scott’s (Top Gun, True Romance) ambition in trying to elevate this relatively genre movie into something more. It’s not bad at all; although it seems to last longer than its 2 hour and 15 minute run time. If you’re in the mood for a revenge story and you’ve already seen Kill Bill (which is better in all aspects), then by all means, indulge in this cookie-cutter Denzel flick.
The Movie Snob on the performing arts:
Last weekend a friend and I took in a performance by a Dallas-area institution–an all-male chorus called The Vocal Majority. It was a fairly random decision, based largely on the fact that there were very few other options that weekend. I wasn’t entirely confident that we had made the right decision because The Vocal Majority’s main claim to fame is that it has won some international barbershop competition 10 times. I just wasn’t sure I was up for an evening of barbershop-quartet-type music. But as it turned out, we both really enjoyed it. The chorus is huge, maybe 120 men, and they were very talented and polished. For me, the highlight of the evening was their rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I hadn’t even known that the march had words to it, but their stirring performance brought the crowd to its feet. Also, I should mention that the Eisemann Center in Richardson, where the concert was held, is a very nice venue; I look forward to going back for other kinds of performing arts in the future.
That Guy Named David meditates on killing Bill:
Kill Bill Vol. I and II (B+).
As a kid, I remember watching Bruce Lee’s movie “Enter the Dragon” and being mildly entertained. Then, in college, my roommate was a big “Kung Fu” freak, so I watched countless episodes of David Carradine wandering through the Old West beating the hell out of anyone that got into his way, all the while remaining Zen-like in his search for some everlasting truth. Well, Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” takes these kung fu spaghetti westerns and transforms them into a 21st century hit. The movie begins with the Bride (Uma) being beat to a pulp and shot by a gang of assassins (Vivica Fox, Lucy Lui, Michael Madson, and Daryll Hannah) and Bill (Carradine). Without giving away the movie, let’s just say that Uma goes on a bit of a rampage after she awakes from her coma, seeking revenge upon the aforementioned killers. Vol. I contains a ton of violence, but it almost has a comedic effect in the way it is portrayed. Vol. II picks up right where Vol. I leaves off and does a great job of answering all the questions raised in Vol. I, without all the heads and limbs being chopped off. I absolutely love watching Tarantino movies, and this one is no exception. Go see this, but unlike the idiot in the movie theater in row 2, leave your kid at home.
From the desk of The Movie Snob:
Hellboy (B-). Decent action movie, apparently based on some comic book I’ve never heard of. Basically the title character is a creature from another dimension. He’s about seven feet tall, has red skin and devil-like horns and tail, and is immensely strong. Fortunately, he was raised by a kindly professor after he crossed over into our universe, and now he spends his time fighting other monsters from other dimensions who are interested only in killing people and, if possible, bringing on the apocalypse. Sure, Hellboy has issues; he doesn’t always get along with his “dad,” and he has a troubled romantic past with psychic firestarter Liz Sherman (Selma Blair, The Fog). (But he’s immune to fire, so they’re really made for each other.) All in all, a visually striking movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s kind of like a cross between Underworld and Men in Black. Worth a look.
A movie review from The Movie Snob:
Ella Enchanted (B-). First, let it be said that I think a good children’s movie can be entertaining for folks of all ages. Some of my favorite movies have been aimed primarily at children – Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast come to mind. Anyhoo, this flick starring Anne Hathaway of The Princess Diaries (which I did not see) is not in that elite company but is a perfectly nice little film. Hathaway plays Ella, a girl whose fairy godmother has blessed, or, more accurately, cursed her with the gift of obedience. The spell compels her to obey any command from anyone around her, which leads to all sorts of problems. Things only get worse when Ella’s unpleasant stepsisters find out about the curse, and finally Ella sets out to find her fairy godmother and try to persuade her to take back the gift. Fairy-tale conventions abound, such as the handsome prince, his evil uncle who schemes to rule the kingdom himself, a magic book with crystal-ball-like powers, ogres, giants, elves, etc. And the evil uncle has a talking snake advisor who seems to have been lifted straight out of Disney’s animated Robin Hood. But the conventions are updated with some modern consciousness, such as Ella’s earnest preaching against the laws of the kingdom that discriminate against the aforementioned ogres, giants, and elves. So it’s a nice little movie that definitely has its heart in the right place. I liked it.
A DVD review from The Movie Snob:
Le Divorce (D). There is very little to enjoy in this 2003 Merchant-Ivory release. Naomi Watts (King Kong) is Roxeanne, an American poet married to a French painter. They live in Paris with their little girl, and Roxeanne is pregnant with their second child. The very day that Roxeanne’s younger sister Isabel (Kate Hudson, Almost Famous) arrives for a visit, the painter husband walks out on daughter and pregnant wife to be with his “true love.” (In a nice feat of timing, he walks out just in time to leave in the taxi that Isabel arrived in.) Although Roxeanne is understandably upset, impetuous Isabel can’t help soon starting an affair with a married man of her own. The distasteful main plot is accompanied by two stupid subplots about a deranged guy who seems to be stalking Roxeanne and a painting that may or may not be a lost masterpiece worth millions. The movie is bad, bad, bad. Avoid it.