Intimate Strangers

From The Movie Snob:

Intimate Strangers (B-) (French w/subtitles). William Faber is a middle-aged, never-married tax attorney in Paris. He is a quiet, unassuming fellow who lives in the same apartment, behind his office, where he grew up as a child. One day, however, an attractive woman named Anna comes to his office without an appointment, tells him briefly about her marital difficulties, and leaves abruptly after making a follow-up appointment. Faber belatedly realizes that she mistook him for the psychiatrist whose office is down the hall on the same floor. Anna realizes her mistake almost as quickly, but she nevertheless continues to see Faber and tell him ever more intimate details about her marital and psychological issues. I guess the idea was to build up some romantic suspense, as Faber becomes obsessed with Anna even while starting to doubt the truth of the lurid things she tells him. I thought it was an interesting premise, but the execution was somehow lacking. Although I think we’re supposed to wonder how much of Anna’s stories are fabrications or fantasies, the director actually dispels a lot of the mystery by showing stuff right on screen that would have been better left unshown, or at least ambiguous. At least in my humble opinion.

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Code 46

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

Code 46 (D-). I invited some folks from work to see this movie with me last night. Thank heaven none of them took me up on it, because it was terrible. It is set in the near future, and Tim Robbins plays an insurance investigator assigned to go to Shanghai and find out who is forging or stealing travel passes from a mega-corporation called The Sphinx. (Apparently in the future, no one can travel without one of these passes, called papelles, which are basically some sort of travel insurance.) In Shanghai (where everyone basically speaks English, but with lots of words from various other languages thrown in), Robbins quickly figures out that Samantha Morton’s character, Maria Gonzales, is the thief, but he inexplicably falls in love with her (despite his wife and child back home) and doesn’t turn her in. Consequences ensue. Almost everything about this movie annoyed me. The sound quality was terrible, so I couldn’t understand a bunch of the dialogue. Robbins and Morton had no chemistry. And while most of the movie is just dull or annoying, there is at least one startling scene that is unexpectedly and revoltingly misogynistic. Avoid this movie.

The Bourne Supremacy

Slumming with The Movie Snob:

The Bourne Supremacy (B-). Matt Damon reprises his role as Jason Bourne, the amnesiac assassin with a heart of gold. Well, if not gold, then at least silver or bronze. I thought this was a decent spy/action flick except for one thing — the director used way too much hand-held camerawork during the action sequences, which left me disoriented and headachy. As That Guy Named David mentioned, this movie has nothing in common with the book by Robert Ludlum except for the lead character’s name. This was also largely true of The Bourne Identity. I read Identity years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so if you like these movies I encourage you to pick up the book. The sequels, as I recall, were not nearly as good, which may be why the moviemakers have completely abandoned them as source material.

Alice in Wonderland

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Alice in Wonderland (B-). I own about 60 movies on DVD, most of which I have never watched. Last night I had some free time, and the 75-minute running time of this Disney classic was the perfect way to fill it. It was definitely a psychedelic experience, quickly calling to mind the trippy Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit.” There’s not much of a plot, as most of the movie is simply the title character roaming around Wonderland and meeting one fantastic and nonsensical character after another. But the visuals are striking, a few scenes calling Fantasia readily to mind (especially the singing flower garden). It’s worth watching once.

The Reformation: A History (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob:

The Reformation: A History, by Diarmaid MacCulloch (2003). As in, the Protestant Reformation. At a mere 683 pages (of text; 792 including notes and index), this book may strike fans of Bill Clinton’s recent autobiography as being a lightweight work, but it was plenty big enough to start me on the road to carpal-tunnel syndrome. Anyhoo, I quite enjoyed this work of popular history. The first 100 pages give the political and cultural context in Europe leading up to the outbreak of the Reformation in 1517. The next 430 are a traditional historical look at the major players and events from 1517 until about 1700. And the last 150 are an examination of the effect of the Reformation on the culture, in matters ranging from the treatment of witches to attitudes regarding sex and marriage. The author is well-suited to write an objective study, describing himself in the forward as the descendant of a long line of Scottish Epsicopalian clergy but being himself someone who does “not now personally subscribe to any form of religious dogma.” He does a good job of trying to present the controversies of the era as the participants understood them, with little 21st century editorializing.

Hellboy; Bad Santa; The Bourne Supremacy

Reviews from That Guy Named David:

Hellboy (D)

I rented this movie because (a) my girlfriend was not in town and this is the kind of movie that there is no way in Hell she would watch (no pun intended), and (b) the honorable Movie Snob chose to go see this over Kill Bill 2 a few months back when we went to the movies and actually gave it a decent review. I should have known that (a) my girlfriend is much smarter than I am, and (b) the Snob has some very jacked-up taste in movies. Simply put, I’m considering petitioning Blockbuster to get my $3 back after watching this dud. I should have known in the opening scene where people and Hell-Boy are coming in and out of the porthole to Hell that this was not going to be worth wasting an hour and a half of my life. Ugh.

Bad Santa (C+)

I had read good reviews on this movie, but the Elder Statesman had said it was weak (and we generally agree to an extent on most movies). Well, I think my opinion was somewhere between the reviews and John’s take on the movie. There were scenes that made me laugh based upon the absolutely pathetic state of Billy Bob Thornton throughout the movie. I also thought a few of the scenes where he launched into f-bomb tirades were relatively entertaining. That being said, the story was weak, and there were way too many loose ends and unanswered questions dangling out there at the end of the movie to make this movie enjoyable for me. Mindless entertainment to some degree, but not something to watch with the folks or if you actually want a little substance in your movies.

The Bourne Supremacy (B+)

Like the idiot I am, I made sure that I finished the book prior to going and watching the movie. Turns out, however, that there is not one fact from the book that is a part of the movie. Oh wait… the lead character’s name is Jason Bourne (and even that is a little different from the book). Be that as it may, however, because this movie was about 10 times better than the book of the same title but different story. I gave this movie the same grade as the last Bourne movie, but I think that I liked it a little more. About the same amount of action (and a really cool car chase towards the end of the movie), but there was a little more substance to the story this time around. Currently, I am reading The Bourne Ultimatum, so if this last movie is any indication, I am looking forward to the next Bourne movie that is nothing like the book in which I am engulfed right now.

Little Shop of Horrors (stage review)

From The Movie Snob, a review of the traveling production of the Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors.

*** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT ***

If you haven’t seen the 1986 movie version and you like musicals, you should skip this review and get a copy of the movie immediately. My little sister and I both loved the film, starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin, and I had high hopes for the live production. They were mostly satisfied, but I have to say that the movie strikes me as a more satisfying work. Of course, the plot is basically the same in both: a run-down florist on Skid Row employs a hopeless nerd named Seymour and a good-hearted blonde named Audrey. Unfortunately, Audrey is dating a sadistic dentist, and the shop is on the verge of bankruptcy. The shop is saved when Seymour discovers a very unusual plant, which he names “Audrey II,” and customers start flocking to see the thing. Things get weird when Seymour finds that the plant needs human blood to survive, and even weirder when the now-gigantic plant starts talking to him — and demanding more and more food. In both versions, Seymour is torn between the desire to maintain his newfound celebrity (and budding romance with the human Audrey) and revulsion at what it will take to keep Audrey II alive and drawing the crowds. But I remember him being a significantly more sympathetic character in the movie, as compared to the musical in which he takes a noticeably more active role in finding “plant food.” Maybe that’s why the musical ends with everybody, including Seymour, getting eaten by Audrey II (who is ultimately revealed to be a space alien bent on world conquest), while the movie ends on a happier note befitting its less sordid hero. Still, the music can’t be beat, and the performances were fine, so check out the musical if you get the chance.