John Simon on Film (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001, by John Simon (2005). Don’t let the stuffy title fool you; this is merely a collection of movie reviews—658 pages worth. I am familiar with Simon’s work because he used to publish some of his reviews in National Review, but don’t let that put you off. Political considerations play little or no role in his judgments, and the dust jacket notes that he has also written reviews for publications like New York magazine and the New York Times Book Review. I sought this book out because few reviewers wield as wicked a pen as Simon when a film, actor, or director gives offense. A few examples. Of The Last Temptation of Christ, he writes, “It is too bad that various religious groups have seen fit to persecute it and thereby provide invaluable free publicity to a movie that could have died promptly of its own boring ineptitude.” Of Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck, “with his mauled-looking ears, naturally punky hair, and watery, bulging eyes, Cage should be not his name, but his address.” Of the director of The Piano, “Jane Campion prides herself on leaving much unexplained. She has every right to be proud; at leaving things unexplained, Miss Campion is a champion.” Okay, maybe the shot at Cage’s looks is a little cheap. And to be fair, Simon praises lots of movies too (more foreign films than American, I believe). If these soundbites appeal to you, track down this book.

Just Friends

A new review from The Movie Snob:

Just Friends (B-). It isn’t Citizen Kane, but this new romantic comedy is not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. The protagonist is Chris Brander, played by previously-unknown-to-me Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool). In the set-up, we learn that in high school Chris was badly overweight, terribly dweeby, and best friends with cute, popular Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart, The Butterfly Effect). His attempt to become more than “just friends” with the fair Jamie goes badly, and after graduation Chris flees their home town in New Jersey for the West Coast. Fast forward to 2005. Now Chris is a skinny, successful, and very cool record executive, and around Christmas he is assigned to escort pop starlet and Britney lookalike Samantha James (Anna Faris of Scary Movie fame) to Paris and to land some recording deal with her. An emergency landing in New Jersey leads to Chris and Jamie’s reconnection and the usual rom-com trials and tribulations. The romantic main plot is average, but I thought that Faris’s performance as a ditzy yet psychotic pop star was hilarious. She stole every scene she was in. Worth seeing.

Harry Potter; Arrested Development

New reviews from Nick at Nite:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I’ll admit it, I am hooked. At first I refused to read the books. I simply would not buy into the hysteria. Like Trix, it was for kids. Plus, it was British and we all know Britain hasn’t had anything good besides Gwyneth Paltrow in a very long time. (She is British, isn’t she?). One night I was starving for something to read and the only thing I could find was the first Harry Potter book I had originally purchased for my wife. Fifteen pages in and I was sold. A magical story about wizards, witches, goblins and such – I simply could not put the book down. It is not The Lord of the Rings, but it is still pretty darn good. I look forward to the movies and each new book. I have not been disappointed by any. The old axiom that the book is always better than the movie it still true as it applies to the Harry Potter series – but the movies hold up pretty well.

As the books, and movies, progress they have gotten longer, better, and more mature (not in any deviant, unhealthy way). It is as if they were intended to mature and age at the same rate as the kids the books were originally targeted at. The Goblet of Fire isn’t for small kids. People die. There is significant violence. He who must not be named makes an appearance and is generally evil and scary. I do have some complaints regarding the movie versus the book. It leaves out some significant issues. First, what about SPEW. The group started by Hermoine to protest the treatment of the house elves. And second, what about the weird relationship between Hagrid, and the “she won’t admit it, but I am a Giant” Headmistress from the creepy, all girl’s Stepford wives’ school. All in all, I think it works very well. They need to get the rest of the movies finished before the kids get too old. They stopped being cute kids after the first movie, now they are just awkward teenagers. I give it an “A.”

Arrested Development (TV series)

Call, write, take a hostage, go on a hunger strike, do what you must, Arrested Development must be saved. I have finished watching seasons one and two on DVD and confirm what the sophisticated critics have been saying for two years … this is the best show on television (Lost is a close second, but I am only half way thru the first season on DVD). At first, I had no interest in watching. It has Jason Bateman (Hancock) in it. It is on FOX and is not Football or Baseball. This story, the story of an older brother who runs the family business while trying to protect his family is sure brilliance. From the father, who is imprisoned for building tract homes in Iraq, to brother Gob, the magician who rides a Sedgway scooter, to the one-armed, slow-witted brother, to Tobias the never nude … it is funny at every turn. Here is my suggestion. If you have not seen it … rent the first disc of season one. Watch all of the episodes, if you don’t think it is funny, send me, The Movie Snob a request for your money back. You have my money-back guarantee on this one. I give it an “A+.”