Jane Eyre, by Irving’s Lyric Stage

Theater review by The Movie Snob

Jane Eyre. Lyric Stage, based in Irving, Texas, continues its tradition of putting on quality musicals you probably haven’t seen before by bringing the 1999 Broadway musical Jane Eyre to the Irving Art Center. Perhaps you’ve seen a film version or read the book by Charlotte Bronte. It’s pure melodrama. As the story begins, Jane is a poor orphan girl, being raised by her horrible aunt. When she’s about 10, her aunt has enough of her and gives her to an orphanage, which, though strict, does give her a good education. When she is of age, she becomes the governess at Thornfield, an estate owned by the dour Rochester. She and Rochester have a connection, but he is also being pursued by a gold-digging aristocrat, and worse, there is a mysterious secret hovering over Thornfield like a dark cloud. This show is definitely worth seeing. The performances, especially by the actresses playing Jane (as a girl and as a grownup) and the fellow who plays Rochester, are quite fine, and the plot is both soapy and serious enough to suit all tastes. The songs are both numerous and good, but candidly, they don’t really stick in the head afterwards. Still, this is another victory for Lyric Stage, and if you enjoy musical theater you should definitely make the time to see it. It runs for a couple more weeks, I think.

The Notorious Bettie Page

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Notorious Bettie Page (B). I knew very little about 50’s era pin-up model Bettie Page, but I wanted to see this movie for two reasons: (1) it has gotten some pretty good reviews, and (2) it stars the lovely Gretchen Mol (Laggies). Mol was touted as The Next Big Thing a few years ago, and even though she never became a superstar I have enjoyed her work in other movies. Anyhoo, this is the story of a pretty girl from Nashville, Tennessee, who moved to New York City to be an actress but instead found herself modeling for men’s magazines that catered to, ahem, a variety of tastes and interests. And although she never found success as an actress, she achieved her own brand of fame (or notoriety) as the “pin-up queen of the universe.” In an amusing role-reversal, David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck) plays puritanical Senator Estes Kefauver, who is conducting hearings into the harmful effects of pornography just before Playboy and its imitators swept the field and obsoleted the small-time operators that the likes of Page worked for. The film is an interesting slice of American life in a bygone era, but Mol’s enthusiasm and good looks are what really make it work. Page’s personality was an unusual combination of Christian fundamentalism and total lack of inhibition in front of the camera, and Mol nails it. Good movie.

Elevator to the Gallows

From The Movie Snob:

Elevator to the Gallows (B-). Originally released in 1957, this is a French film directed by Louis Malle and sporting a cool-jazz soundtrack by Miles Davis. Jeanne Moreau (The 400 Blows) plays Florence, a woman married to a shadowy, rich, and powerful war profiteer. She is having an affair with Julien, one of her husband’s employees. Julien successfully pulls off their plan to murder Florence’s husband and make it look like a suicide, but as he makes his getaway he realizes he has left a clue at the scene of the crime. When he goes back to retrieve it, everything goes awry — he gets stuck in an elevator, his car is stolen by two no-good teenagers who go off to do some crimes of their own, and Florence wanders around Paris all night looking for her missing lover. It kept me wondering how everything would turn out, and it’s an economical 87 minutes long. Not bad.

American Dreamz

The Movie Snob sounds off.

American Dreamz (D). I wanted to see this movie because it got a good review in the Dallas newspaper and because I enjoyed director Paul Weitz’s last two efforts — In Good Company and especially About a Boy. (I never saw his earlier masterpiece American Pie.) This movie has some laughs, but the humor curdles when Weitz also weaves in a tasteless plotline about a suicide-homicide bombing. I have never seen American Idol, but the unifying element in this movie is a clone of that show called American Dreamz, hosted by the unctious and self-loathing Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant, Love Actually). In one strand of the plot, Mandy Moore (Tangled) plays a ruthless, white-trash Britney wanna-be who will do anything to win the contest, including play with the affections of her hapless dope of a boyfriend (a solider who is injured on his first day in Iraq). In another, Dennis Quaid (Soul Surfer) plays a clone of our current President, complete with a doting wife (Marcia Gay Harden, Whip It) and a Machiavellian Cheney/Rove figure played by Willem Dafoe (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). And finally, the most unlikely figure of all is Omer, a nice, show-tune-loving guy from the Middle East who wants to be a terrorist because his mother was killed by an American bomb. He washes out of terrorist training camp in the opening scenes, and he is sent to America to await further orders — which would never come except that he becomes a contestant on American Dreamz at the same time the President agrees to appear on the show as a guest judge. The terrorism stuff makes the film way too dark, and at 1:45 it is also at least 15 minutes too long. Skip it.

Out of The Silent Planet (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob.

Out of The Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis. I’ve never read the world-famous Chronicles of Narnia, so maybe it’s a little odd that I decided to pick up the first book in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy instead. The premise has long intrigued me. Suppose that on another planet there is a race of sentient alien beings that never experienced the Fall from the original state of grace and thus never got kicked out of their own Eden. What would they be like? And what would they make of human beings? That is the thought experiment that underlies Out of the Silent Planet, and, I assume, the other two books in the space trilogy. Professor Ransom is kidnapped by two other human beings, taken aboard a spaceship, and flown to the planet of Malacandra, where his captors intend to turn him over to the dominant local species. He escapes, and his adventures on Malacandra form the rest of this short (158 pages) novel. I thought it was very interesting, and I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

Thank You For Smoking

A new review from The Movie Snob

Thank You For Smoking (B-). This is the first non-IMAX-documentary film that I have seen in forever! What has happened to me? Anyway, this movie is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, son of famous right-wing journalist William F. Buckley, Jr.  Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole) is the chief lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, the chief lobbying organ of Big Tobacco. He is completely amoral and yet amazingly charming as he goes on the Joan Lunden Show and cozies up to the standard-issue “cancer kid” far more easily than the stiff, indignant public-health-watchdog guy does. The movie has plenty of amusing moments, such as Naylor’s weekly meeting for drinks with two other lobbyists, for alcohol and firearms, who collectively refer to themselves as the “MOD Squad,” for “merchants of death.” William H. Macy (Fargo) is dead-on as a humorless Vermont senator who abhors smoking and wants to put a hideous skull-and-crossbones on every pack of cigarettes. Rob Lowe (St. Elmo’s Fire) is good as a Hollywood producer who’s completely willing to get movie heroes, rather than villains, smoking again — for the right price. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts, and I walked out confused as to what the message is, if any. Lobbying is bad, I guess. Worth a look.

The Seed of Chucky

A new review from Nick at Nite.

The Seed of Chucky

This is the worst movie ever made. I kid you not. Part of the plotline has a demon-possessed doll trying to artificially inseminate Jennifer Tilly (Bullets Over Broadway), who in a stretch is playing Jennifer Tilly in this film. Remarkably, Ms. Tilly stinks even while trying to play herself. Brings to mind two questions. First, who pens a screenplay intended for Jennifer Tilly? Second, does the casting director still have a job? Much mayhem, gore, and hilarity ensue as Chucky strives to keep his family and wanted family together. Stay away from this movie at all costs. It is a bomb.

Sharks in 3D

A new review from The Movie Snob

Sharks in 3D (B). This IMAX flick is pretty good. It’s a little slow at first — there is a montage of scenes of a gigantic school of herrings or something that is pretty cool for a while, but then you’re like, where are the sharks? Don’t worry, eventually they do show up. The stars of this production include sand tiger sharks, reef sharks, hammerheads, great whites, manta rays (another long non-shark montage), whale sharks, and the awesomely bizarre sawfish. There are a couple of pretty tense sequences when dolphins and sea lions encounter some pretty nasty-looking sharks. All in all, a good documentary, though perhaps a notch below Deep Sea 3D.

Good Night, and ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

New DVD review from The Movie Snob

Good Night, and Good Luck (C). I finally got around to seeing this Academy Award nominee starring George Clooney (The American) and Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner) the other night, and, to put it bluntly, I was disappointed. It should have been an exciting story: a band of fearless journalists takes on a tyrannical regime, even though they risk being arrested, tortured, shipped off to a gulag, or maybe just summarily shot. Oh wait, that was Stalin’s Russia. Well, in McCarthy’s Amerika maybe they didn’t risk getting shot or deported or even roughed up a little bit, but they might have gotten fired. Anyhow, I thought this movie had almost no dramatic tension, and even at 90 minutes felt padded with musical interludes and superfluous subplots. Skip it.