Magnificent Desolation: Walk on the Moon

A new review from The Movie Snob

Magnificent Desolation: Walk on the Moon in 3D (C-). A trip home to Little Rock means a trip to Arkansas’s only IMAX theater. I was kind of surprised to find the theater was already showing the current Tom Hanks project Magnificent Desolation, about the Apollo moon missions. I was less surprised to discover that Arkansas’s only IMAX theater is apparently incapable of showing 3D movies, because the version we saw was not in 3D. Anyhoo, although the movie deployed a few interesting facts and factoids, it really was not very memorable. There was some decent footage of the lunar surface, but I was never sure when we were seeing actual footage and when we might just be seeing fancy CGI footwork. Not really worth the effort. At least we went on family night, when $5 gets you your ticket plus a coke and a small bag of popcorn.

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The Fog (2005)

From The Movie Snob:

The Fog (2005). (D-) You are probably wondering why The Movie Snob ventured into terrain usually surveyed by The Movie Court’s intrepid reporter Nick at Nite. Well, I’m home in Arkansas for the holidays, and my kid sister likes all kinds of scary movies, and this re-make is currently playing at the dollar theater. So we wasted 100 pennies and 100 minutes of our lives on this terrible, and terribly unscary, flick. The plot makes very little sense, so explication is beside the point. Basically, a mysterious fog harboring malevolent and homicidal spirits invades a quaint little fishing town on an island off the coast of Oregon. Selma Blair and the guy who plays Superman on Smallville and some blond chick that my sister says is on Lost race against time to figure out what the spirits want and hopefully stay alive. On the plus side, the ghosts have a flair for unusual killing methods. I’ve never seen a movie character die from a severe case of dishpan hands before. Steer clear of this turkey.

Kiis, Kiss, Bang, Bang; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

New reviews from Movie Man Mike.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. (B+) Violence, foul language, romance, and comedy all add up to a very entertaining movie in this case. I went to this movie not really knowing what to expect, but it starred Val Kilmer and Robert Downey, Jr., so I figured it was worth checking out. I have to say that Robert Downey, Jr. was great. It was worth the money to see his performance. Downey acts as the narrator for this film, as he explains a very bizarre set of circumstances that begin when he–as the main character–is in the process of fleeing the police after robbing a toy store. Before he knows it, he finds himself being cast in a new Hollywood movie as a detective. Kilmer is a gay private detective who is assigned to Downey to give him some tips about the detective business. As the story unfolds, Downey is drawn into a mystery of his own that you’ve just got to see to believe.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (B) Okay. I admit it. I am a fan of the Harry Potter series. The mere fact that they had released the next installment was enough to get me to the theater. I certainly enjoyed the film, although I can now see why everyone has been saying (for as long as the book was released) that this one is a bit dark. No doubt about that. In fact, the ending left me feeling a bit worried for the future, whereas prior films in the series left filmgoers with a more upbeat feeling. One thing that kind of bothered me about this film was seeing Harry and his friends growing up–in fact, so much so that I now wonder whether it’s time to find actors of a younger age. However, of all the characters, Harry seems to have maintained his child-like appearance the most. Another aspect of this film that bothered me was that there was a lot that happened, some of which I probably didn’t catch because I didn’t read the book. This film seemed a little more thrown together than the prior films in the series, but I was certainly riveted to the screen because the storyline was that kind of story. All in all, I would say that the film is a success as I found myself wanting to go buy the next book in the series to read what happens next. You go, J.K. Rowling!

Pride & Prejudice; Walk the Line

New reviews from The Movie Snob:

Just in time for the holidays we have been graced with two exceptional movies for your consideration.

Pride & Prejudice (A). It is apparently very difficult to make a bad movie from a Jane Austen novel. I loved both the delightful Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma and the wonderful Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and I have greatly enjoyed updated versions of JA’s work such as Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary. (Okay, the version of Mansfield Park from a few years ago didn’t stay with me, and the recent Bollywood Bride & Prejudice was a bit of a misfire. But still, they weren’t bad.) This P&P may be the best of them all (although I’ll confess I’ve never seen the popular A&E version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle). Keira Knightley is charming as the intelligent but headstrong Elizabeth Bennet, and Matthew MacFadyen adeptly handles the difficult chore of making Mr. Darcy simultaneously unlikable and sympathetic. Great supporting performances too, including Rosamund Pike as the lovely but shy oldest Bennet daughter Jane (hard to believe Pike was also the icy villainess in that James Bond movie with Halle Berry), and Judi Dench as Darcy’s monstrous snob of an aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourg. If you have the slightest fondness for costume dramas or romance, you must see this movie.

Walk the Line (B+). I simply don’t know how to write a review of the new Johnny Cash biopic without comparing it to Ray. Both are great movies featuring great performances, and the subjects’ lives had more than a little in common. Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t really look much like Johnny Cash to me, but he still does a heck of a job, and I was blown away when I learned after seeing the movie that he did all of his own playing and singing. Reese Witherspoon is, if anything, even better as June Carter, the great love of Cash’s life. Her singing and playing are phenomenal as well. But if memory serves, I gave Ray an A-, while I just can’t elevate this one into the “A” category. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because Cash’s life just wasn’t as vividly eventful as Charles’s. Like Charles, Cash had big problems with drugs and family life, but unlike Charles he didn’t have crosses to bear like blindness and racism. I guess being madly in love with one woman when you’re married to another (with several children to boot) would be pretty bad, but Cash spends so much of the movie bottoming out on booze and pills that he lost a little of my sympathy and interest. (Although I recall reading that Ray gave the life of Charles a bit of a whitewash, so maybe a more honest movie would have lost a point or two in my book.) But if you’re even a casual fan of Johnny Cash’s music (and I’m the casualest), you’ll enjoy this movie. Plus you’ll probably get to check off several of next year’s Oscar nominees in one movie.

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam

From The Movie Snob:

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam (C-). I’ll add only a few words to Movie Man Mike’s thorough review below. I saw the film on his recommendation, and it just didn’t work for me the way it did for him. I appreciated the fact that it was a labor of love for the film-maker, and that clearly showed through. But I just couldn’t get involved in the story, and the acting seemed a little amateurish. Good to see C. Thomas Howell still getting work, though.

The Keeper; Turtles Can Fly

Movie Man Mike delivers two new reviews:

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Kayyam. (A-) Run, don’t walk to see this movie as you only have a limited time to see it at the theater. This film is so “independent” that it has no distribution company and it is currently only showing on one theater in the whole United States. Filmed in Uzbekistan, this film’s setting is split between modern-day America and ancient Persia. The film is about a young boy whose family has migrated to the United States from Iran. The boy is awed by a story his sick brother relates to him which takes place in Persia. His search to uncover the ending of the story leads him to appreciate the value of preserving heritage and culture, and he makes a meaningful discovery about himself. This film is one of the better films I have seen this year.  I was fortunate enough to go to this film last Saturday (even though I could find almost no reviews about this film). As it turns out, the director and one of the actors were at the theater to talk about the film and answer questions. Unless this past weekend’s attendance was high enough to justify extending the showing of the film, it will only be at the Inwood Theater until Thursday of this week. After that, you probably won’t get to see it again until it comes out on DVD in March of 2006.

Turtles Can Fly. (C+) This was my weekend to see films set in the Middle East. This film is set in Northern Iraq just prior to invasion of Iraq by the United States. It depicts a group of children led by one boy, named Satellite. It shows what the children do to survive, which consists mostly of deactivating land mines and bartering them for food or technology. A brother and sister and a small child show up as refugees in the children’s camp and begin to create problems for Satellite. Satellite has a crush on the sister, and he soon learns that the brother, who has no arms because of an encounter with a land mine, is clairvoyant. The film has a tragic ending and it’s one of those films that isn’t really wrapped up in a nice neat little bow as we Americans seem to like. Also, the message and the meaning of the title are not really clear. As I watched the film, I kept wondering whether it was supposed to be a depiction of any sort of reality of the conditions in Iraq leading up to the war. All in all, I had mixed feelings about having spent my money to rent this one.

Zathura; Shopgirl; Laurel Canyon

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

Zathura (B). I never saw Jumanji, but I get the idea that there is more than a passing resemblance between these two movies (based on books by the same author, I believe). Here, the protagonists are 10-year-old Walter and his 6-year-old brother Danny. Their parents are divorced, and they fight incessantly. When their dad leaves them alone in the house for a few minutes, Danny finds a beat-up old board game in the basement called “Zathura: A Space Adventure.” When he and Walter start to play the game, they are more than a little surprised to discover that their house has been ripped from the Earth and has become some sort of spaceship, orbiting a Saturnlike planet. Every time one of them takes his turn in the game, new dangers — or opportunities — arise, and it becomes apparent that they have to successfully finish the game in order to get back home. There are all sorts of heart-warming (some might say treacly) messages about the importance of family and working together and stuff like that, and on the whole it’s a pretty good family-oriented movie. It is a little too long (113 minutes) and a little too scary for younger kids, and there is a little bad language that should have been excised. But it has some funny moments and generally keeps moving along at a nice adventuresome pace. I say check it out.

Shopgirl (C). Screenplay-writer Steve Martin swings and misses with this slight movie about a romance between young Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes) and much older man Ray Porter (played by — what do you know? — Steve Martin). Mirabelle spends her days looking forlorn behind the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles, and we are told up front that she is a lost and lonely soul from Vermont, anonymous and adrift in the big city, with a boatload of student debt to boot. She meets a friendly but eccentric (and not very clean-looking) fellow named Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) in a laundromat, and he is immediately smitten. But then she meets Ray, a computer tycoon who jets back and forth from Seattle, and soon Jeremy is out of the picture. Or is he? All three characters in this romantic triangle have issues, and Ray’s in particular remain opaque throughout. I just never felt invested in any of the characters, which spells doom for a romantic drama like this. Also, the Puritan in me can’t help objecting to how quickly and easily these people jump into bed together. O tempora! O mores!

Laurel Canyon (B-). I saw this movie on DVD and liked it a little better than I liked Shopgirl. Sam (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend Alex (Kate Beckinsale) are freshly minted Harvard M.D.’s, and she’s writing a dissertation on fruit flies to get a Ph.D. as well. He takes a residency in L.A., and they plan to stay in his mother’s house, which is supposed to be empty. To Sam’s great dismay, it is not. His mother Jane (Frances McDormand) is a record producer, and she and the band are in the house, working, drinking, and smoking pot. Nevertheless, Sam and Alex move in, and soon enough the sheltered Alex is forgetting all about her fruit flies and experimenting with all sorts of bad behavior. Sam is simultaneously tempted to stray by a second-year resident at the hospital where he is working. The message I took away from the movie is, “Don’t move to L.A., you’ll go crazy and mess up your life.”