Superman Returns

The triumphant return of A View From Mars

Superman Returns (A-) It may be egotistically fitting that my first review in a long, long time coincides with this particular movie. First, let me say that this movie, more than any other in recent memory, took me back to my childhood. From the opening credits to the last shot of Superman, I had a smile on my face that still reappears as I write this and is highly attributable not only to this movie, but to my high regards to the Superman mythology. By now you know the plot revolves around Superman (Brandon Routh, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) returning from his 5 year hiatus, Lex (Kevin Spacey, Beyond the Sea) doing what he does best and Lois (Kate Bosworth, Beyond the Sea) taking on the role of motherhood. Routh pulls off the titular role and at times is almost surreal in his channeling of Christopher Reeve. I won’t get into the plot details, but much is made that this movie could very well be part 3 (in director Bryan Singer’s mind, the original part 3 and 4 never existed…Quest for Peace or Richard Pryor anyone?) and the subtle tributes to the first 2 originals are a nice touch. Is the film flawless? No, but then again, what movie is, especially for a comic book adaptation in which one has to suspend disbelief that a man can fly. For this reviewer, I recommend this movie and overall, I think this film reminds me why it is that I love movies as much as I do.

An Inconvenient Truth

New review from The Movie Snob

An Inconvenient Truth (B-). As a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, I was not terribly enthusiastic about watching Al Gore preach for an hour and a half or so. He did grate on me, but the subject-matter of the movie is undeniably interesting. His argument is simple: the temperature of the earth changes in direct correlation to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Thanks to human activity, principally the burning of fossil fuels, the level of CO2 is now at an unprecedented high, and it is continuing to rise. This will lead to large-scale climate change and probably turn central Florida into beachfront property. The science and the graphics were interesting, but where was the balance? Is the scientific literature on warming really as unanimous as Al makes it out to be? And what are we supposed to use to replace fossil fuels? I think the elephant in the corner there is nuclear power, but Al won’t say that for fear of alienating his green allies. And I was annoyed at the digressions into Al’s personal life–his son’s life-threatening accident as a six-year-old, his working on the family tobacco farm. Judging from this film, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Gore in ’08….

X-Men: The Last Stand; The Da Vinci Code

Nick at Nite actually goes to the movies for a change:

X-Men: Seriously, The Last Stand

Perhaps it was just too much to hope for three excellent movies featuring a merry band of mutants. Everything about this film seemed a little tired to me. Even the outrageous special effects had a been-there, seen-it-before feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I love big explosions and Famke Janssen just as much as the next guy, I just wished for a little more after the first two films. Is it just me or has Halle Berry been the star in only one good film? And was the film really good or was it just controversial? I digress. Here the X-Men must fight their own. A battle of mutants ensues. If you love or loved comic books, then you will enjoy this movie. If you still love comic books and you are over the age of thirty, move out of your parents’ basement. If you are a casual X-Men fan and saw the movies because they were big summer blockbuster movies . . . I say save your money for Superman Returns. I give X-Men a “B.”

The Da Vinci Code

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

Well, ain’t that a poke in the eye. This sounds crazy, but the book almost seems less controversial to me now. (Spoiler) When Robert Langdon looked at Sophie Neveu and proclaimed her the “the direct descendent of Jesus Christ …” I almost heard the critics laughing at the Canne film festival and organized religion the world over screaming for another screening of the Passion of the Christ. Perhaps because the book was longer and located in the fiction section, the book just seemed like a fun read. It has been two years since I read the book, and I honestly could not remember how it ended. This should perhaps be a reflection on the quality of the book. The movie … well it was a fun watch, I like a good mystery and Ron Howard can tell a good, if formulaic story. The scenery is very cool and the pseudo-history lessons are interesting. If you can set aside your religious leanings and are not easily offended, I say go see this movie. If you have a thin skin and thought the book “was based on real life events,” then you should stay away. I give this movie a “B.”

Big Daddy; more Sketches of Frank Gehry

From The Movie Snob:

Big Daddy (C). Has Adam Sandler ever made a really good movie? I have avoided some of his most successful movies (The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison), being convinced that watching them would kill many more brain cells than I can afford to part with. But the ones I have seen have pretty much left me cold too (Anger Management and Spanglish come to mind). Only The Wedding Singer sticks in my memory as being a decently entertaining flick. Anyway, in Big Daddy Sandler plays his typical childlike character, this time named Sonny Koufax. An amiable lug, he is about to lose his very attractive girlfriend Vanessa (Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer) because he refuses to grow up and get a job. Fate drops a five-year-old boy on his doorstep, and Sonny pretends to have adopted him to try to impress Vanessa. The first half of the movie has some laughs as man-boy Sonny tries to raise real-boy Julian, with many misadventures. The second half descends into maudlin tedium as Sonny’s paternal instincts come to life and he decides its time to grow up. Mediocre.

Sketches of Frank Gehry (B). Has there ever been a bad documentary about an architect? Based on the two I have seen (this one and My Architect), I would say the answer is No. This is Sydney Pollack’s first documentary, about the architect who designed the world-famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Gehry is still alive, and he gets plenty of screen time. He seems like a nice enough guy, but the footage of his buildings is what made the movie for me. Are they great? I don’t know, but they are certainly spectacles. For human interest and drama in addition to great visuals, My Architect is a much better movie, but that is probably because its protagonist, Louis Kahn, was a much stranger and more troubled individual than Gehry is. Anyway, check out Sketches, but don’t miss My Architect.

The Guggenheim, Bilbao.

Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles.

Sketches of Frank Gehry

A new review from Movie Man Mike

Sketches of Frank Gehry. (B) I am not much for documentaries, but I really enjoyed seeing this one, and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in architecture. Sydney Pollack, who is a long-time friend of Gehry’s, does a great job of directing the film, interviewing Gehry, and bringing Gehry and his work to life. The list of cameo appearances by famous people makes one begin to wonder if this is a Robert Altman film. I really found it interesting and humorous that Gehry’s shrink speaks about Gehry and their relationship. But, of course, the most fascinating aspect of the film was seeing Gehry’s product and seeing how he gets ideas for something and then how he and his staff make it come to life. I was left with the feeling that I need to go see some of his architecture first-hand. And, this review would not be complete if I did not mention that the musical scores for the film were excellent.

The Pink Panther

DVD review from Nick at Nite

The Pink Panther

After having seen this movie my only conclusion is that one of the producers of the movie must have a series of compromising photographs of Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, and Beyoncé. Nothing else could possibly explain why this movie was made. Well, money. Money could explain it. Remarkable to me that at this point in their careers any of the three of these actors need any money. Kevin Kline’s wife is an actress … they must have gobs of moo-laa. Steve Martin is not married and has no children … he probably has a few million stuck in his sofa. Beyoncé? Isn’t she the only one that really was Bootylicious and as such doesn’t she have all of the cash from her all-powerful girl group? I was so thoroughly disappointed with this film that I am going to stop asking for the advice of the sixteen year old working at my local Blockbuster. Save yourself the time and pain. Rent the original Pink Panther. Not any of the sequels. The original. Get some popcorn. Put on some clothes from the late 70s or early 80s and have a good time. I give The Pink Panther with Steve Martin a “D.” I give The Jerk an “A.” I give the original Pink Panther an “A.”

The Skeleton Key is not The Champ

Reviews from Nick at Nite

The Skeleton Key

I blame the time I wasted watching this movie on The Movie Snob. He would not tell me how it ended and it forced me to watch it when it came on HBO this weekend. The plot centers on Goldie Hawn, no wait, not Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson’s character being hired to take care of an elderly couple in an old plantation house in a Louisiana swamp. Much voodoo ensues. It is supposed to be creepy. I only found it moderately so. Movie has three plot twists. I sniffed out the first two much too soon. The third plot twist I never saw coming. My guess is the movie might not have been much of a hit because of the last of these plot twists. Since you can catch it on cable now, I saw watch it if you have access. If you have to rent it, rent something else. I give it a “C.”

The Champ

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

I watched a few minutes of this movie this weekend while my son was taking a nap. I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid. I also remember crying my eyes out. Makes me wonder if I should have seen it when I did, but that is water under the bridge now. This 1970ish movie features a very young Ricky Schroder (TV’s NYPD Blue), a middle-aged Jon Voight (National Treasure: Book of Secrets), and a still very good looking Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde). The plot centers around a washed-up boxer who is trying to make one last comeback because he needs the money. Things don’t go so well for him in the end. It is a heartbreaker. Ricky Schroeder’s meltdown at the end of the film is so convincing, if you aren’t welled up by the end you are a robot. Very good film. Underrated. If you happen to catch it, I recommend watching for a few minutes. It will suck you right in. I give it an “A.”

A Prairie Home Companion

New review by The Movie Snob

A Prairie Home Companion (B). I saw this movie last weekend, but I’m only now getting around to blogging about it. It’s just a comfortable little movie with a few laughs and a lot of nostalgia. I’ve never listened to Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio show of the same name, but the premise of this movie is that his radio station up in Minnesota has been bought out by some soulless Texas corporation, and the action all takes place during his last show from this old-timey theater. It’s a variety show with performers like a past-their-prime sister act (Lily Tomlin, Nashville; Meryl Streep, Hope Springs) and a couple of joke-telling and singing cowboys (Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri; John C. Reilly, Walk Hard). A very skinny Lindsey Lohan (Mean Girls) shows up as Streep’s suicide-obsessed, bad-poetry-writing daughter. Kevin Kline (My Old Lady) is on hand as Guy Noir, the theater’s bumbling but dapper security chief. And Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman) shows up as the corporate heavy from the Lone Star State. An enjoyable wisp of a movie.

United 93

Movie review from The Movie Snob

United 93 (A). This one almost got away from me. I really wanted to see it on the big screen, but I kept putting it off because I was never in the right frame of mind to see such a serious movie about such a grim subject. In case you have been living in a monastery for the last six months, this is a movie about 9/11, with its focus on the only hijacked plane that did not successfully reach its target. The film is extremely well done. It is split between the events on United Flight 93 on one hand and various air-traffic and military control centers on the other. At first the people on Flight 93 are oblivious to the events in New York and Washington, while the air-traffic folks are increasingly frantic to figure out what is happening and which airplanes in the air have been hijacked. Then the four terrorists on Flight 93 make their move, and we watch as the passengers gradually figure out what is happening (thanks to cellphone technology), find a pilot among their number, and decide to try to save themselves. This movie grabs you by the throat and never lets go.

Review Potpourri from Movie Man Mike

Lots of reviews from Movie Man Mike:

Current releases:

An Inconvenient Truth  (A-). I had not planned to see this movie, but I wound up seeing it anyway. Man, am I glad I went to this. Yes, I have read many stories in the past year or two about global warming and the fact that scientists are now in agreement that the earth is getting warmer. But, this movie really takes the facts and makes them into a sobering picture of where our planet stands today. There are a few “political statements” in the movie, but it would be difficult to make this film without some reference to politics since it’s the political climate that controls the environmental climate–and this movie hopes to change both. I am glad to see Al Gore has gotten back to the subject he cares so deeply about, and his presentation is very smooth and compelling. I recommend this movie for all lovers of the planet.

Kinky Boots  (B). I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It was recommended to me by my neighbor, who happens to be the manager of the Angelika theater. This is a film about finding your place in the world and learning tolerance. Following his father’s death, Charlie Price reluctantly takes charge of his father’s shoe factory, only to discover that the factory is in deep economic trouble. Charlie’s efforts to save the factory result in a chance meeting with a drag queen, Lola. Together Charlie and Lola devise a scheme to transform the factory, and save the jobs of all its employees. The story is a lot of fun and very entertaining. Lola, played by Chiwetel Ejifior (Serenity) is a brilliant show-stealer.

On DVD:

Prime  (B). I never saw this film at the theaters, and I can’t imagine why. It’s cute and it’s a romantic comedy—a combination that generally does well at the box office. The film stars Meryl Streep (A Prairie Home Companion) who plays a Jewish therapist, and Uma Thurman (Percy Jackson . . . The Lightning Thief) who is one of Streep’s patients. The film begins with Thurman’s having broken up with a serious boyfriend. She soon meets a much younger man, who turns out to be Streep’s son. That’s when the story gets very strange, comical and interesting as Streep violates her ethical obligations and Thurman tells all sorts of private details to Streep during their sessions, to the point that Streep is unable to take it any longer. The story is one of personal growth, and love and learning. It was well worth the rental price.

On the stage:

Bombay Dreams (C). I was not impressed with this Summer Musical. Somewhere in the show there was a story that had potential, and maybe that was the “idea” that Andrew Lloyd Webber is credited with. The setting for the musical is Bombay, India. The story focuses upon themes of love, cultural class, and fame and fortune. The main character is a young man from the slums who has a dream of making it big in film. He succeeds in his dream and forgets about the friends and family in the slum, who were the motivation for his dream in the first place. As one might expect, he is shocked into acknowledging is roots and saving the community he grew up in. None of the musical numbers in this show are particularly memorable (at least not in a way you want to remember them). The cast had a few good vocalists, but this was not a good platform for showcasing their talents. I do not recommend this musical.

9 to 5

DVD review from The Movie Snob

9 to 5 (C). This was my first time to see this artifact from the last year of the Jimmy Carter presidency. It is quite the product of its time. Our protagonists are Violet (Lily Tomlin, Nashville), Judy (Jane Fonda, Monster-in-Law), and Doralee (Dolly Parton, Steel Magnolias), who are all employees of a massive company called Consolidated something-or-other, and who are all put upon by their boss, Franklin M. Hart, Jr. (Dabney Coleman, WarGames). The jokes weren’t all that funny — for example, seeing the girls sitting around and getting high on a single marijuana cigarette, or “joint,” just wasn’t that amusing. Nor were their various fantasies of how to do their boss in. But I was entertained by Hart’s casual and clueless sexism, Jane Fonda’s enormous glasses, and the sight of a guy standing in a hospital corridor lighting up a cigarette as casual as can be. And by the fleets of typewriters in view at the office. Somebody’s going to have to explain to Generation Y what those things are.

Brokeback Mountain

DVD review from That Guy Named David

Brokeback Mountain (D)

When my fiancé rented Brokeback Mountain, I thought that, because it was nominated for multiple Oscars (and was the favorite to win going into the night of the awards), I would enjoy this critically-acclaimed movie. I based that initial opinion on the fact that (1) I am open-minded; (2) I am considered by most to be a pretty liberal, card-carrying member of the Democratic Party, (3) the movie was put out by Focus Features (Lost in Translation, The Pianist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Wet Hot American Summer), and (4) I believe gay couples should enjoy the same rights as married couples and find the floating of a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as offensive and nothing but pure politics for Republicans to energize their base every election year. All that being said, this movie is horrible. Yes, I get that it is groundbreaking in the sense that it has a few major movie stars in a homosexual relationship that Ang Lee had no problem dissecting at every level. However, to me, the story was hollow and boring. Basically, it is 2 guys who go off together to the mountain to round up sheep for a few months, become a couple, leave the mountain, get married to women thousands of miles apart, have kids, get back in touch, and then take annual “fishing trips” to Wyoming to rekindle the flames of their time on the mountain. Heath Ledger’s accent reminded me of Sling Blade, and I thought both main characters overacted their roles. To me, this movie was nothing more than an over-hyped attempt by Hollywood to put out a “controversial” product and see how many eyebrows it could raise. My eyebrows, however, were lowered along with my eyelids as I damn near fell asleep watching this dud. As the great poet Flavor Flav once said, “don’t believe the hype.”

The Break-Up

From The Bleacher Bum:

The Break-Up has serious star quality with Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, John Favreau, Vincent D’Onofrio, and five other easily recognizable faces, and all gave solid performances. Vaughan and Favreau made me laugh out loud several times. Aniston and Adams were smart, lovable, entertaining and looked good. However, the movie is hampered by the script and the director. Scenes which were supposed to be funny were serious, and ones that were supposed to be serious were funny. It lost its way very quickly, and the actors were left with very little to work with. This movie is a date movie that is not enjoyable for two people on a date.

Movie Scale:
Homerun
Triple
Double
Single
Strikeout

The Break-Up: Single

Hostile about Hostel

DVD review from Nick at Nite

Hostel

With all of the hype that surrounded this movie last year, I was sucked into renting it from my local Blockbuster when my wife and son went to West Texas to visit my mother-in-law. I thought, Tarantino is associated with this, it must be good. I could not have been more wrong. Honestly, I was bored, not scared. Anyone can be bloody, gory, and gross on film; it takes real talent to be scary. Cutting off body parts, throwing up bile, and torturing people to death . . . honestly, it has been done before. There is no uncharted territory here. I thought I was renting an on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, a sleep-with-the-lights-on type of movie, not a TNT Saturday-afternoon movie. The plot is as follows: two American teens and a teen from Iceland go looking for girls in Eastern Europe; they find some partially nude girls who lure them one at a time into an unusual torture den where customers pay for the right to kill people; and some die and some escape. It is rated R for partial nudity and extreme violence. I give it an “F.”

Poseidon

A new review from Nick at Nite

Poseidon. If you have seen the original, stay at home. If you have not seen the original, then buy a ticket for this movie. It is just as good as the original, but does not really add anything new. It is honestly less of a remake and more a modernization. The Carpenters have been replaced with Fergie (Nine). Gene Hackman is now Kurt Russell (Big Trouble in Little China). The older couple is now Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) (he is such a great actor he can play the role of two people). The boat is newer and fancier. The special effects are crisper. Well some of them are. I give it an “A” if you have not seen the original. I give it a “C” if you have seen the original. No new ground here.

A History of Violence

DVD review from Nick at Nite

A History of Violence

Good movie. I won’t give away any of the plot because I don’t want to ruin it. It is a somewhat methodical movie with moments of high energy. It is very well-acted. Viggo Mortensen (Appaloosa) is very good. The actress that plays his wife is even better (Maria Bello, The Company Men). It is a violent movie. I would not let a child anywhere near this one. If you rent the DVD make sure you watch the extras. The description of the differences between the US and international release is very interesting. The making of featurettes are worth a watch. Short and to the point, they add to the experience. I give it a “B.”