Cold Mountain

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.

The Alamo

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.

God Is Great, and I’m Not

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.

Braveheart

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.

Housekeeping (book review)

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.

Robots

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 House for Mr. Biswas (book review)

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.

Saw

A new review from Nick at Nite:

Saw

My review of a movie as creepy and scary as this can only mean one thing, my wife is out of town and I got to rent whatever I wanted from Blockbuster. Some movies are so disgusting and depraved that they are morally reprehensible. For example, the movie Heathers teaches us it is okay to kill high school students that we do not like – this is bad – and the movie thus has no redeeming value; or the movie In the Army teaches us it is okay for Paulie Shore to make movies – again, this is bad – and the movie has no redeeming value. Saw is creepy and depraved . . . if it inspires any copycats, then I would be totally wigged out – and the movie has no redeeming value. It is the type of horror movie that bothers us because it could happen, it has some plausibility.

Some specifics about the movie. It is scary. It is not particularly gory. There are several grisly murders. It is supposed to be a thinking man’s horror, suspense, mystery film. It is a less sophisticated version of Se7en with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman (one of only two movies where I have ever seen people put popcorn down because they were so emotionally involved in the film – the other is Schindler’s List). If you get particularly spooked during this movie, as I did, then keep thinking to yourself isn’t that actor Cary Elwes? Wasn’t he in The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights? As for the film, I did not see any of the plot twists, of which there are many, coming. I was surprised three or four times at the end of the film – I thought I saw it coming, but really did not. I have still not figured out several things that happened in the movie. So I have some questions for anyone who will answer them. First, what was Cary Elwes doing that he should not have been doing? Second, why did the killer do what the killer was doing? Third, what did Adam do that got him in his situation?

I give this movie an A-.

The Jacket; Saw

A View from Mars:

The Jacket (B). I’m not exactly sure as to why I sought this movie out but I happened to catch a trailer for it and thought to myself that I would eventually need to see it as it deals with one of my favorite genres, time travel. Adrien Brody stars as a Gulf War vet who was mistaken for dead (think Jacob’s Ladder) and then later rehabilitated through some military experiments that probably were not on the up-and-up. We soon flash forward to Brody’s stereotypical adjustment to life after the war, as he’s hitchhiking to who knows where. During this journey, he stumbles across a small girl and her inebriated mother on the side of the road and helps them fix their truck, establishing him as the saintly loner. This same journey leads to a dead cop’s body, and predictably Brody is found guilty and sentenced to a psychiatric ward where he again is subjected to more experiments. This is where the time travel begins, through the unique medium of a straight jacket and morgue drawer no less, and you are left to wonder what is real and what is imagined. I found this movie satisfying enough as long as you stay away from trying to incorporate Stephen Hawking’s “Grandfather Paradox” into the story, where as you go back in time and kill your grandfather then you were never born which leads to how you were able to go back in time to kill him in the first place. Good rental, maybe matinee, not worth full price late night admission.

Video review

Saw (B+). This may go down as my highest rated rank of a movie in the horror/scary category and I’m not ashamed to say so. The movie races off the blocks with 2 men chained by foot at opposite ends of a nasty looking warehouse basement room with a dead man in the middle. Neither of the men know exactly how they got there or why. They soon find out that they are pretty much pawns in a game that will eventually lead to someone else’s murder or death for themselves. The movie paces itself back and forth between the 2 men trying to figure out this “game,” and the detectives on the case of this demented games master who actually has never murdered anyone, only forced the players to do it in the interest of saving their own lives. I have to hands down admit that I truly enjoyed this story and was very glad that the ending exceeded my expectations as I thought I knew where it was heading but was surprisingly wrong. Great rental for any night.

Jeepers Creepers 2

A review by Nick at Nite:

Jeepers Creepers 2

What does it say about my life that last night I actually watched an hour and twenty minutes of a movie called Jeepers Creepers 2? What does it say about my life that last year I remember watching an hour and twenty minutes of a movie called Jeepers Creepers? Finally, what does it say about my life that both of these movies are an hour and thirty minutes long – meaning I did not see the end and I am still doing a review? Loser . . .

Well because I know the title of the film I saw last night was Jeepers Creepers 2, I assume that the evil, reptile, human thing survived the first movie and that our heroes died in the first movie. I know they died because they appeared in a vision to the hot chick during the movie to warn her about the evil, reptile, human thing. Anywho, the evil, reptile, human thing apparently awakens every 23 years and needs to eat 23 human beings (mostly teens). At least, I think he eats them because that is what I remember from the first movie. Favorite part of the movie, evil, reptile, human thing has part of his head ripped off and rips of a teens head and somehow attaches it to his head … very moving. The kids are saved or almost saved, I didn’t actually see the end, by a farmer who has been hunting the evil, reptile, human thing for the last 23 years – since his son was killed by the evil, reptile, human thing.

This movie has lots of death, no nudity, one decapitation, several vision sequences, two flashbacks, a harpoon slinging tow truck, a high school basketball team, and much weirdness. I give it a “B+.”

Hitch

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

Hitch (C-). The genre of romantic comedy has not produced too many good movies in recent years, let alone outstanding ones. Only a few come to mind — About a Boy, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Wet Hot American Summer. Unfortunately, the latest Will Smith vehicle joins the bloated ranks of the mediocre. Smith plays the title character, a self-styled “date doctor” whose job is to help hapless fellows woo the objects of their affection. Among Hitch’s most hopeless clients is a clumsy overweight shlub of an accountant who’s in love with a celebrity heiress. This aspect of the film at least delivers a few laughs. But the primary plot concerns Hitch’s own relationship issues with a guarded, cynical gossip columnist named Sarah (Eve Mendes), and this storyline isn’t particularly funny or romantic. Will Smith is undoubtedly talented (was there any other reason to see the Men in Black movies?), but he needs better scripts than this.

The Simpsons – Season 3

DVD review from The Movie Snob:

The Simpsons – Season 3 (B). I started watching this collection before they released Season 5, and I have to say that it was better than I expected it to be. There are some lackluster episodes, but there are some gems too, containing hints of the true greatness that would blossom in seasons to come. Here are some of the highlights:

Like Father, Like Clown. The Simpsons learn that Krusty the Clown is estranged from his father, a strict Jewish rabbi. Bart and Lisa make it their mission to change Rabbi Krustofsky’s opposition to his son’s chosen profession.

Lisa’s Pony. To buy Lisa’s love (how many times has he had to do that?), Homer buys her a pony and takes a night job at the Kwik-E-Mart to pay for it.

I Married Marge. Perhaps the first of the excellent “flashback” episodes. In this one, Homer tells the kids the story of how he got Marge pregnant, married her in a casino wedding chapel, and landed a job at the nuclear power plant.

Colonel Homer. Probably the best episode of the season, in which Homer fights with Marge, spends the night at a redneck bar, and discovers a dishy blond singer-songwriter named Lurleen Lumpkin. He becomes her manager, and she throws herself at him with reckless abandon (although it takes him a while to notice).

Bart’s Friend Falls in Love. A great dual-plot episode. A new girl moves to town and comes between Bart and Milhouse, while Homer tries to lose weight by listening to a subliminal-message tape. Unfortunately the mail-order company was out of “Subliminally Slim,” so they actually sent him “Vocabulary Builder” instead.

The Aviator

A new review from That Guy Named David:

The Aviator (B+)

I cannot stand Leonardo DiCaprio. He was good in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He was decent in The Basketball Diaries. And he has proceeded to overact in every movie since then. The only actor in Hollywood who has made more by consistently overacting is Tom Hanks, which makes Catch Me If You Can one of the worst films ever made (small exaggeration, but still a bad movie). As to The Aviator, I thought that it was a very good movie, despite the lackluster performance by its star. Cate Blanchett was dead-on as Katherine Hepburn, and I appreciated the development of that relationship during the hour or so in which it was the focus. I also thought that Alan Alda was tremendous in his portrayal of the over-zealous, bought-off Senator who made the mistake of targeting Howard Hughes. I’m not familiar enough with the story of Hughes to know what was real and what was “Hollywood”; however, from things that I have read, most of the script was accurate to a degree. If they could have only cast a better leading man, I would have enjoyed the movie more. I am sure that Keanu Reeves was available.