The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (C+). This is a very odd comedy from the same creative folks behind Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. And I’ll say up front that I really disliked Tenenbaums. But I decided to give The Life Aquatic a chance for a couple of reasons: (1) the previews made it look like a kinder, gentler movie than its immediate predecessor, and (2) I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Jacques Cousteau, the obvious inspiration for the character of Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). At the beginning, the movie sets up two tidy little plots with a lot of comic potential: (1) Zissou has decided to embark on an Ahab-like quest to kill the mysterious beast, a “jaguar shark,” that ate his best friend, and (2) Zissou meets his adult son Ned (Owen Wilson) for the first time and impulsively invites him to join his crew aboard the Belafonte. So I was expecting the movie to be one part action flick, one part father-son-bonding flick. And I guess it sort of was, but after the set-up the plot just kind of wanders around from one tangent to another, leaving the two main threads dangling for so long that you begin wonder if the movie will ever find its way back. Anyhoo, it’s not a bad movie if you don’t mind the lack of narrative momentum. There are some decent laughs, and the movie boasts a good cast including Angelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Willem Dafoe.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

A new review from Movie Man Mike:

A Series of Unfortunate Events. (B-) To begin with, the most unfortunate event was that I went to see this movie at the theater. It will be more enjoyable if you don’t pay full price for it. J.K. Rowling has nothing to fear from this little upstart of a film series. The cast of this movie was promising, with Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman, and an actor who looks suspiciously like John Cleese, but who is not credited as John Cleese. With the exception of Jude Law, who narrates, each of these actors plays intriguing and humorous characters. The story seemed to drag a little, which was surprising since it appears that the producers tried to fit 3 of the books into one movie. One thing missing from this film were some of the laughs. Most of the humor was mildly amusing. This movie might appeal more to children, but I personally would not recommend it for children because it’s a little dark given that it begins with the children learning that their parents were killed in a horrible fire. The rest of the film involves attempts to place the children with various relatives and the scheming of one relative, Count Olaf, to acquire the children’s inheritance even if it involves the killing of other relatives. The whole time I kept worrying about the impact of this film on my impressionable nieces and nephews. Leave the kids at home, and if you rent it, watch it after the kids have gone to bed.

Spanglish

From The Movie Snob:

Spanglish (B). I saw this, the latest film from writer-director-producer James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets, Broadcast News) with my parents and sister on Christmas Day, and everybody liked it. Spanish actress Paz Vega (think an attractive version of Penelope Cruz) plays Flor Moreno, a young Mexican woman who decides to relocate from Mexico to Los Angeles with her young daughter, Christina, after her husband walks out on them. After living and working solely within L.A.’s Hispanic community for six years (never learning English), Flor decides that she needs to make more money and becomes a housekeeper for a wealthy Anglo family, the Claskys. This all happens in fairly short order, and the rest of the movie is about the culture shock that both families experience as a result of the change. Tea Leoni delivers a stand-out performance as the unhappy woman of the house, Deborah Clasky. She was downsized out of her job not too long ago, and she is a miserable homemaker. Not surprisingly, she is making her whole family miserable as well. Adam Sandler is less convincing as the man of the house, a four-star chef who is really too nice and too good-hearted to be true. But the friendship that blossoms between him and the similarly down-to-earth Flor (rimshot) is certainly believable. Personally, I liked Spanglish much better than Brooks’s As Good As It Gets, but probably not as much as Broadcast News. My mom liked it much more than I did, my sister not as much. See it, and see whom you agree with.

Flight of the Phoenix (2004)

From The Movie Snob:

Flight of the Phoenix (2004) (C). This remake is a very average action/adventure flick starring Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, and Miranda Otto. An oil exploration site in the middle of Mongolia is getting shut down, and Quaid plays the hard-bitten pilot who is sent to ferry the crew and some equipment back to Beijing. (His character reminds me some of Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, now that I think about it.) They run into a sandstorm, and the cargo plane crashes fairly gently in the Gobi Desert, leaving the plane wrecked but almost everyone on board alive. The survivors then have to choose between (1) sitting still, conserving their water, and hoping that someone finds them before the water runs out, and (2) trying to build a working plane out of the wreckage to fly themselves out, at the cost of a lot of toil and a lot of their precious water. Cliches abound, but it’s an okay movie, I guess.

Ocean’s Twelve

That Guy Named David weighs in:

Ocean’s Twelve (C)

As an admitted fan of Ocean’s Eleven (the re-make), this movie was on my list of “must-sees” over the holidays. After sitting through 2 hours of this dud, however, the expectations were not even close to being met. Basic premise: Ocean (Clooney) and his gang have 2 weeks to get casino boss Terry Benedict’s (Garcia’s) money to him or they will be killed. Now, maybe it was just me, but I thought the whole idea behind Ocean’s Eleven was that they pulled off this great heist without having Benedict know it was them behind it. Well, that premise of the first movie is destroyed in the first 20 minutes of this movie. And after the new premise is revealed, the story fragments about 50 times and then makes a very weak attempt at the end to pull everything together. Simply put, they were trying to hard to make an intricate, complex caper and failed miserably in doing so. The great part of the first movie was that the story was relatively simple to follow, yet the details of the heist itself were interesting and kept your attention. The sequel, however, seemed to get bogged down at times and then would try its damndest to be clever and send the viewer on loops that were unnecessary and took away from the story. And don’t get me started on the Julia Roberts role (you’ll understand when you watch the movie). Weak. Wait till it comes out on video.

Closer

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

Closer (C). This dark movie charts the relationships that form and dissolve and (possibly) re-form between two British guys (Clive Owen, the ubiquitous Jude Law) and two American women (Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman) over a four-year period. I freely admit that I have a hard time liking movies about unlikeable people, and at least three of the four protagonists in this flick are pretty unpleasant human beings (only Portman’s character is somewhat sympathetic). But my real problem was suspending disbelief that these four lovebirds could say and do the things they do and not kill (or at least maim) each other afterwards. Obsession, verbal cruelty, and betrayal are the hallmarks of these “love affairs,” and there is so much graphic sexual dialogue that you’ll forget there’s not a single sex scene in the movie. Definitely not a movie to see with your parents. Good performances offset the weak script to some extent, so I call it a C.

Alfie (2004)

A review from The Movie Snob.

Alfie (2004) (B+). I never saw the old Michael Caine version of this movie, so I had no preconceptions going into the dollar movie theater where I saw this flick. (There were maybe four people in the whole auditorium; I guess everybody else was down the hall watching Anaconda 2.) Anyhow, this is basically Jude Law’s movie. He plays Alfie, a British bachelor living in New York. He works as a limousine driver, and his hobby is having sex with virtually any attractive woman that crosses his path. And he makes a running commentary on his life directly to the camera for the entire movie, which I suppose some would find irritating; personally, I didn’t mind it. To me, the movie bore more than a passing resemblance to the Hugh Grant movie About a Boy (which I also enjoyed very much). Both examine the situation of the middle-aged, unattached male in modern society, although About a Boy is a much lighter and essentially comic take on the subject than Alfie is. Is the middle-aged bachelor a figure to be envied or pitied? I thought this was a very good and realistic attempt to answer that question.