Millions; Sahara

New reviews from The Movie Snob:

Millions (B-). Apparently this indie flick has gotten lots good reviews, but I thought it was just slightly better than average. A little boy named Damian is struggling to cope with the recent death of his mother, and he is fixated on religion and the saints. In fact, he sees and has conversations with various saints (he can rattle off the years in which they were born and died like baseball statistics), and he always asks them if they’ve met his mother in heaven. Into his fantasy world crashes a very real gym bag stuffed full of money. He thinks it came from God and wants to help the poor with it, while his more pragmatic older brother Anthony has other ideas. Interesting concept, but it just never gelled for me, and there are some pretty scary scenes that make this movie altogether inappropriate for younger kids.

Sahara (C). Plot summary is superfluous with a movie like this. Matthew McConnaughy does his Indiana Jones impression. Steve Zahn cracks wise as his trusty sidekick. Penelope Cruz is (ahem) an earnest U.N. doctor. Lots of stuff gets blown up real good. Have at it.

Notes from Spain

Notes from abroad, by The Movie Snob.

I just returned from a week’s vacation in Spain with my little sister Janet and her friends Lisa and Akito. We didn’t see any movies while we were there, but I thought the readers of The Movie Court might be interested in a few observations. (Actually, we could have watched The Forgotten on one long train ride, but it was dubbed into Spanish, which I don’t speak. Moreover, Janet had seen it and said it wasn’t very good. All the movies on the airplanes were either duds or ones I had seen before.) It was really a whirlwind tour—we spent a couple of days in Madrid, about a day in Granada, a couple of days in Seville, and then back to Madrid. Here are a few things that my traveling companions and I noticed.

Baseball caps. Akito and I were just about the only people I ever saw wearing them. I thought mine might help me blend in because it bore a Spanish logo, having been purchased for me in Costa Rica by Janet a couple of years ago. I don’t think it worked. Spaniards tended to be pretty nicely dressed all the time.

Everybody in Europe speaks English. Actually, this turned out to be a myth. Even in Madrid we rarely ran into folks with much grasp of English. Fortunately Akito had a working knowledge of Spanish, so we sent him to do most of the inquiring and negotiating that was involved in our trip. Please don’t send me any hate mail for being a linguistic imperialist—I’m not saying Spanish people should know English. I was just under the misimpression that more of them would know it.

Madrilenos are skinny. I didn’t really notice this on my own, but Janet called it to my attention. Even though there were shops selling pastries and ice cream everywhere we went, and even though they seemed to do a good business, we saw virtually no overweight people in Madrid. This was not so true in the south of Spain, in Granada and Seville. Janet remarked that the same pattern holds true in the USA. I resolved to devote some thought to the subject over a Big Mac and fries. Speaking of which . . .

McDonald’s. Not as ubiquitous as in the States, but I think I saw a couple in Madrid (along with a KFC and at least one Burger King), there was one in Seville, and there was one in the smaller town of Cordoba between Granada and Seville. I ate under the golden arches only twice, which was a pretty good display of restraint, by my standards.

Children and dogs. Having read several articles lately about Europe’s birth dearth and how Spain and Italy in particular have sunk well below the replacement level of reproduction, I was not expecting to see many little Spaniards. However, we actually saw quite few strollers being pushed around by youngish Spaniards, mostly women. Then I assumed that they were probably all only children, but then I noticed at least a few families with two children in tow. Even more surprising to me was the huge number of dogs in the cities, even Madrid. We saw tons, many being walked on leashes, but also plenty that stayed reasonably close to their owners without being on a leash.

Bad experiences. Virtually none. Late one night on the metro in Madrid, I was spotted for an American by a drunk young man who put his arm around my shoulder and chatted me up in profanity-laced English. I gathered that he was a professional skateboarder who had been to America once and had broken his arm. He was much amused when I told him that I was from Texas. I suppose I should have argued with him when he opined that Texans are all “ignorant hillbillies,” but because he was so intoxicated that he nearly toppled over every time the train stopped and started, it didn’t seem worth the argument.

All in all, we had a great time. I did get antsy not being able to see any movies, though….

The Boys and Girl from County Clare

A new review from The Movie Snob:

The Boys and Girl from County Clare (C). Also known as My Big Fat Irish Music Competition. This is a blandly pleasant movie about two estranged Irish brothers, circa 1966. The younger, Jimmy, left for Liverpool 24 years earlier, and he and John Joe haven’t spoken since. Now, Jimmy is coming back with a band of musicians to compete in the all-Ireland Ceili music competition — which John Joe’s band has won the last two years. There are romantic complications when the gal who is John Joe’s star fiddle player takes up with the fellow who is Jimmy’s flute virtuoso. And more complications involving Jimmy and the fiddle player’s mother. It’s all very Irish (to the point that I couldn’t even understand what they were saying sometimes), and all very predictable. Still, it’s nice to see that Colm Meaney is working steadily even years after his Star Trek: The Next Generation gig ended.

Before Sunrise; Before Sunset

New DVD reviews from The Movie Snob:

Before Sunrise (B). I saw Before Sunset, the sequel to this movie, in the theaters without ever having seen the original. I finally rectified that this past weekend, not that there was a whole lot of back-story to catch up on. Two young twentysomethings, an American named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a Frenchwoman named Celine (Julie Delpy), meet on a train that is about to pull into Vienna. He is catching a flight home to the USA first thing in the morning, and she is supposed to go on to Paris. But he convinces her to jump off the train and spend the evening and night roaming around Vienna with him. They ride the Ferris wheel, go to some clubs, and have lots of earnest twentysomething-type conversations about life, the universe, and everything. Oh, and maybe they fall in love too. This movie is not for the shoot-em-up crowd (sorry, Nick at Nite), but if you enjoy nostalgic trips back to your days of youth (hello That Guy Named David), this is the movie for you.

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

Before Sunset (B-). After watching Before Sunrise, I went back and watched Before Sunset again. Nine years have passed since Jesse and Celine met on that train to Vienna, and we all wonder whether they kept their promise to meet again in Vienna six months later. In the sequel, we find out pretty quickly that he showed up, but she didn’t. But now Jesse is a best-selling author visiting Paris on a book tour (promoting a novel that is a thinly fictionalized account of that night in Vienna), and he nearly has a heart attack when Celine shows up at a book-signing event. His flight back to America leaves in only a few hours, and the movie is shot pretty much in real-time, following them around as they catch up with each other, discuss why she didn’t show up, and not-so-subtly try to figure out if the magic is still there. Nine years on, they have both been bruised a little by life, maybe a little too much considering they’re only about 32. After this second viewing, I decided that the sequel was not as convincing as the first one, but still not a bad movie.

Off the Map; Dear Frankie

New movie reviews from The Movie Snob:

Off the Map (B+). I really liked this quiet, slow-moving movie about an eccentric family living in the New Mexican desert. The story is told from the perspective of Bo, a precocious little girl of 11 or 12, who is the home-schooled only child of Charlie (Sam Elliott) and Arlene (Joan Allen). They live literally “off the map,” out in the middle of nowhere, without electricity or telephone, mostly bartering for the things they can’t make themselves. Oh, and Arlene likes to garden in the nude. Anyway, the plot meanders a bit but focuses on two crises: first, Charlie is sunk deep in a paralyzing depression that he can’t explain or escape, and second, an IRS agent comes nosing around to inquire why the family hasn’t filed tax returns in seven years. A few surprising things happen, but mostly the movie is content to just watch these odd but decent folks try to deal with their problems and live their lives the way they like. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Dear Frankie (B). The appealing actress Emily Mortimer (Bright Young Things, Lovely and Amazing) stars in this manipulative but still enjoyable little melodrama. She plays Lizzie Morrison, a single mother who is constantly uprooting and moving her deaf 9-year-old son Frankie and her chain-smoking mother from place to place in England. The movie is slow to reveal what really happened to Frankie’s dad, but we quickly learn that Lizzie has raised Frankie to believe that his father is kept away because he’s a sailor on a globe-trotting ship called the ACCRA. She keeps up the charade by writing letters to Frankie, ostensibly from dad, but the plan goes awry when Frankie finds out that a real ship called the ACCRA is actually on its way to drop anchor briefly in their seaside town. So, with a friend’s connivance, Lizzie finds and hires a complete stranger to pretend to be Frankie’s dad for a day while the ship is in port. The premise is a bit far-fetched, and as I say I felt a bit manipulated, but it still jerked a couple of tears from me.

The Ring 2

A View From Mars:

The Ring 2 (D-). I don’t quite know where to start and it’s all I can do to contain myself from just bashing this movie entirely and it’s because of this mindset that I’ve yet to review a movie this horrible. However, if it will save my fellow reviewers a few bucks, then why not let you learn from my bad experience. The basic premise pretty much stays away from the winning formula that made the first movie profitable; which is in dealing with what happens to the characters after they view this neo-art house scary video. The second installment more or less deals with Naomi Watt’s kid and his “interaction” with the little girl stuck in the well from the first one. The “video” is virtually non existent and leaves you wondering what the heck happened to all the extra copies that somehow reappeared to kick start the opening moments for part 2. This movie is not scary, it’s not suspenseful and it’s not worth your time, money or effort. Stay away!