DVD review from That Guy Named David:
Cold Mountain (B+)
This is the third time I have rented this movie, but for whatever reason, I never got around to watching it the other two times. I probably should have because it was a quality flick and I would have saved about eight bucks. Anyway, I’m sure that most visitors to this board have seen the movie, so I won’t bore you with a summary of the storyline. I was impressed with the performances by all the actors that did not win an Oscar for this movie. In other words, Renee Zellweger was absolutely horrible in her portrayal of Ruby, Nicole Kidman’s live-in after the death of her father. I am pretty sure I cannot point out a finer example of overacting. At first, I thought that it would wear off a little, like Kevin Costner’s British accent in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves; however, it was almost as if she got a head of steam as the movie went on and the accent got thicker, the mannerisms became accentuated, and my annoyance level went through the roof. On another note, the movie did a great job of visually portraying the scenes that were eloquently described in the book, and I was impressed with the way that the story moved forward without bogging down considering the length of the movie. I have respect for the movie, as I thought it was entertaining and kept me interested despite having read the book; however, after having Zellweger win for that ridiculous portrayal and DiCaprio nominated for an equally ridiculous portrayal of Howard Hughes, I am quickly losing my respect for the Oscar voters.
A DVD review from That Guy Named David.
The Alamo (D).
Several months ago, I wrote a review for The Day After Tomorrow in which I stated that I should know better than to rent a movie that has Dennis Quaid as the primary star power. Well, I should stick to that formula even with movies where he is one of a few “stars” on display (Billy Bob Thornton and Jason Patric are probably the biggest stars in this dud).
I read an article in Texas Monthly that blasted this movie, saying that it was an incredibly over-budget flop of a movie, so I figured that my expectations were reduced to the point where I would actually enjoy it. I was wrong. Everyone knows the story of the Alamo, and, at least in Texas, everyone should be aware of the details of the fight for independence by Sam Houston and the gang. So, in order to make the story interesting, I would think that the “powers that be” in Hollywood would have been able to put something together than doesn’t track the PBS special I saw in my 7th grade Texas History class. Nonetheless, that is exactly what this unbelievably long and boring docu-drama accomplishes. Thornton is horrendous in his portrayal of Davy Crockett (I actually laughed out loud when he said “taters” in one scene). Patric is decent as Jim Bowie, but he disappears from the movie when he comes down with pneumonia leaving the flick to Thornton, Quaid, and a nothing of a screenplay. There came a point in the movie where I was actually praying that the Mexican army would just hurry up and take the Alamo because I was missing the first half of the Louisville-West Virginia game. As a native Texan who actually enjoys Texas history, I implore you not to see this movie. It doesn’t do justice to the actual story and could bore you to the point where you don’t care about the history it tries (without any success) to portray.
A DVD review from the Movie Snob:
God Is Great, and I’m Not (D). First of all, a few observations about Blockbuster Video. Is Netflix about to run the corner video store out of business? I went to my local Blockbuster store yesterday for the first time in probably six months, and I was amazed. Aside from the “new releases” displayed on the walls, it seemed like most of the shelves were empty. And the new releases themselves were a vast collection of dreck. Maybe 3/4 of the titles were terrible, direct-to-video-looking horror movies like “Endangered Species” and “Tomb of the Werewolf” or soft-core murder-mystery junk. It was appalling. I’m kind of bummed because, although I don’t rent movies very often (obviously), I’d prefer to have a decent selection when the mood does strike.
Still, I hoped maybe I’d gotten out with a winner in this French comedy starring Audrey Tautou. Alas, no. She plays Michele, an emotionally fragile 20-year-old fashion model who is on an intense, if perhaps shallow, spiritual quest. When she starts dating a handsome older man named Francois, she quickly ascertains that he’s Jewish and abandons her recently acquired Buddhism for Judaism instead. Francois, being a non-practicing Jew who is somewhat paranoid about anti-Semitism, is mostly annoyed by this, but he and Michele make a go of it for quite a while. Although the premise has some promise, the movie is just not very good. Maybe I’m just a dumb American, but it seemed like too many things were left unexplained – or maybe French people just naturally behave in an inexplicable manner. I dunno.
DVD review from The Movie Snob:
Braveheart (B). Last time I was feeling under the weather, I took advantage of my down time to watch a long epic movie that I had missed in the theaters, namely Titanic. So when I came down with a bad head cold last week, I decided to take in another long Best Picture that I had missed, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. It wasn’t a bad flick, but I don’t think I liked it as much as I did the very comparable Gladiator. You’ve probably already seen Braveheart, so there’s no point in my summarizing the plot, but I will say that Gibson’s 13th century Scottish patriot William Wallace seemed to have some pretty anachronistic ideas about freedom, tyranny, and the duties of a government to the governed. And according to the “making of” documentary on the DVD, the historical Wallace was more of a medieval savage than Gibson’s philosophical, Latin- and French-speaking Wallace. On the plus side, the battle scenes are very impressive, and the villages and castles seem very true-to-life, meaning very primitive and constantly surrounded by mud and filth. Made me glad to be living in 21st century America, that’s for sure.
A book review from The Movie Snob:
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson (1980). I had never heard of this novel or this author until I started reading reviews for Robinson’s new novel, Gilead. Every review contained gushing praise for Housekeeping, and one reviewer even called it one of the ten best American novels of the twentieth century. So I decided to check it out, and I thought it was a pretty good book. It’s about a girl named Ruth, her younger sister Lucille, and their unusual extended family. One day when they are just little girls, their mother takes them to their grandmother’s house, leaves them on her porch, and apparently commits suicide by driving off a cliff and into the cold depths of Fingerbone Lake. The girls grow up in the little town of Fingerbone, cared for first by their grandmother, then briefly by two great-aunts, and then by their aunt Sylvie, an eccentric free-spirit who was basically a hobo before having responsibility for the two girls thrust upon her. The book is as much about mood and atmosphere as it is about plot, and the lake (glacier-carved out of the mountains long ago in a remote and wild part of Idaho) is virtually another character in the book. Definitely worth a look.
A new review from The Movie Snob:
Robots (C). I saw this movie on an IMAX screen the other day, and I have to say that it left me cold. The story was pedestrian: in a world populated entirely by robots, the head of a giant corporation is planning to generate major profits by discontinuing the manufacture of spare parts and focusing solely on “upgrades”–designer replacement parts that will turn every robot into a gleaming, silvery new Ken- or Barbie-looking robot. Every robot, that is, except for the poor robots who can’t afford the upgrades; it’s scrap-metal time for them. A plucky band of heroic ‘bots stand up for the rights of the downtrodden, yada yada yada. Seeing it on the IMAX screen actually hurt my enjoyment of the movie; the animation is so elaborate, and there is so much going on all over the screen, that I simply couldn’t see it all. I guess the kids will like it, but Robots is no Ice Age.
A book review from The Movie Snob:
V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (published 1961).
The magazines I read ordinarily take note of the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature for one reason only: to observe that the Prize has gone, yet again, to a no-talent nobody from the Third World who will promptly never be heard from again. But the magazines made an exception to the rule not too long ago when the Prize went to V.S. Naipaul, who is ethnically Indian but was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. The respectful write-ups that Naipaul received inspired me to pick up a copy of this book, which is apparently his most famous novel. The main character, Mohun Biswas, is apparently closely based on Naipaul’s own father, and the novel has a biographical flavor. Biswas is born into dire poverty in the impoverished rural countryside of Trinidad, and although he manages to escape the crushing life of the agricultural laborer, he has no real idea how to improve his lot in life beyond a meager hand-to-mouth existence. The turning point of his life comes when, as a very young man, he is unexpectedly cornered into marrying one of the daughters in a large and wealthy Indian family, the Tulsis. The rest of the novel is basically the saga of how he tries to assert his own individuality against the aggressive conventionality of his Tulsi in-laws, most symbolically by trying to earn and save enough money to buy a house of his own. It is a well-told story, with close attention to the nuances of class and caste that Biswas spends his life struggling against. He is an appealing character — sympathetic without being saintly, intelligent but a bit gullible and naïve. I thoroughly enjoyed it.