Neil Young: Heart of Gold; The Break-Up

New reviews from That Guy Named David

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (C)

This was an “intimate musical portrait” of Young produced by famed director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, Caged Heat). In renting this one, I was under the impression it would be similar to No Direction Home, Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan, which I consider to be one of the best documentaries put out in the last few years. I was mistaken. Heart of Gold is merely a concert film, and not a real good one at that. The film documents a performance by Young at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on his Prairie Wind concert tour a few years back. That’s it. That’s everything. And while I enjoy Young’s music (and therefore, didn’t really mind watching the concert), it fell far below my expectations. Perhaps if I had realized I was going to be watching Young sit in one spot on a stage and play the guitar for an hour or so, I would have enjoyed it more. Oh well…

The Break-Up (D)

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

Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat) and Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust) meet. They move into a condo together. They break-up. They stay living in the same condo and continue to fight. They sell the condo and go their separate ways. The end.

I just saved you $3.50. If it wasn’t for a brief view of Aniston’s butt as she walks naked down a hall, this would get the same grade as Anaconda.

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Borat

New review from The Bleacher Bum

BORAT: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Instant Cult Classic or Worst Movie Ever. The movie is a fake documentary starring Sasha Baron Cohen (Talledega Nights). Mr. Cohen is a British comic who portrays Borat, a reporter from Kazakhstan, who comes to America to make a documentary. It is not a real documentary, but it is a series of very uncomfortable encounters between Borat and unsuspecting people in America during his roadtrip. Most of the people that the movie shows, or exploits, are from the South (several scenes were filmed in Dallas, Texas). Moviegoers will either completely hate it or love it, and there is no in-between. The humor is not mainstream at all. It is a must-see for people who like any of the following: The Office, Pulp Fiction, Van Wilder, Dumb and Dumber, Arrested Development, or The Ticket. And be prepared to be offended greatly, while you are crying because you are laughing so damn hard.

Bleacher Bum Movie Scale
Homerun
Triple
Double
Single
Strikeout

BORAT: 3-run Homerun

Casino Royale

New review from Movie Man Mike

Casino Royale. (A-). For those who were growing tired of the Bond series, take heart. The series has been given a jump-start, thanks to the new-improved Bond star, Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens). Craig was considered by many to be a controversial pick because he is blonde (albeit dishwater blonde), and has a slightly rougher look about him. Believe me, though, he carries it off well. I did not see the original film starring Peter Sellers and David Niven, so I can’t compare, but the film compares very favorably to most any other Bond film. And, with one or two forgivable exceptions, the dialogue avoids those horribly distracting puns that have become such a mainstay of the series in recent years. To be sure, the film has good chase scenes, hot Bond girls, and a very toned Bond (Craig is not a bit shy about showing off his physique). The film takes place at the beginning of Bond’s career, but it is set in modern time. The plot keeps a good pace so that your interest never drops off. I wholeheartedly recommend this film and I am already looking forward to the next Bond film which is in preproduction and is due for a 2008 release. Since Daniel Craig is a mere 38 years old, I figure we can get several more good years out of him in this franchise.

Excellent Women (book review)

Review from The Movie Snob

Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym. I was unacquainted with Pym’s work when I read a short magazine article praising her novels. So I decided to give her a try, and I found this novel at the local Borders bookstore. According to the cover blurb, it is “written with the wit and style of a twentieth century Jane Austen.” I can’t go quite that far, but I enjoyed the story well enough. The setting is London shortly after WWII; the first-person narrator is a thirtyish woman named Mildred Lathbury whose unremarkable life principally revolves around her local Anglican church. Some newcomers on the local scene upset the quiet routine of Mildred’s life, particularly a couple with marital difficulties that moves into the flat below hers and a young, attractive widow who seems to have designs on the somewhat clueless bachelor vicar of Mildred’s church. The book is not bad, but it is really more interesting as a window into a vanished era than as a narrative. Among the cultural artifacts: the narrator chronically thinks of herself as a “spinster” simply because she is unmarried at age 30, the characters find the idea of the married couple’s getting divorced scarcely thinkable, and the local Anglican church is important, if not central, to the life of the surrounding community. It was truly a different world in those days.

Flushed Away

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Flushed Away (B-). My mom and I just saw this new animated feature, which I believe is from the same people who make the Wallace and Gromit movies. Roddy St. James (voice of Hugh Jackman, Australia) is a pet mouse who lives a life of luxury in Kensington, London. Poor Roddy unexpectedly finds himself flushed into the London sewer system, where mice have built their own little miniature civilization. He enlists the aid of a ship captain named Rita (voice of Kate Winslet, The Reader) to help him get home. Meanwhile, the sinister Mr. Toad (voice of Bill Nighy, Love Actually) has a plan to get rid of all the mice and rats in the sewer system for good. There are plenty of narrow escapes and daring rescues, and the visuals are great, but the movie as a whole is only slightly above average. The omnipresent slugs who provide a musical chorus/commentary on the action are a highlight.

Stranger Than Fiction

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Stranger Than Fiction (B-). This new Will Ferrell movie may look like a comedy from the trailers, but it really isn’t — it’s more of a morality tale. Ferrell (Casa de mi Padre) plays Harold Crick, a polite, soft-spoken, mildly obsessive-compulsive IRS agent whose apartment is even more sparsely furnished than my house. His completely routinized existence is suddenly upended when he begins to hear a woman’s voice simultaneously and accurately narrating his life as he is living it. The voice belongs to Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson, Men in Black 3), a novelist living in the same city who is plagued with writer’s block as she tries to write a novel about Harold Crick, a polite, soft-spoken, mildly obsessive-compulsive IRS agent. She has no idea that Crick is a real person, and Crick becomes more than a little upset when he hears the voice toss off the observation that his death is imminent. He spends the rest of the movie (a) trying to find the mysterious narrator so he can talk her out of killing him and (b) trying to make something of the potentially very short remainder of his life. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) does a nice job as a free-spirited bakery owner that Crick first audits, then romances; Dustin Hoffman (Barney’s Version) plays a literature professor that Crick consults to help him in his quest. More interesting than entertaining.

The Dallas Wind Symphony

From The Movie Snob

Last night I attended my first concert by the Dallas Wind Symphony, an ensemble composed entirely of wind instruments and percussion (except for one string bass, a pianist, and a harpist). It was an enjoyable evening. The highlight was a piece called Circus Maximus: Symphony No. 3 for Large Wind Ensemble, written by John Corigliano in 2004. As it happens, the Dallas Wind Symphony commissioned the piece, and Mr. Corigliano was in attendance at the concert. Fortunately, the composer took the stage and explained the piece before we heard it, or else I would have thought it was mostly a horrendous cacophony of noise. It was still pretty cacophonous in parts, but at least I had a sense of what Corigliano was trying to do, and there were some very nice parts as well. Some of it was a little overboard — for example, he had some players scattered throughout the concert hall, playing from the seats. Hopefully no patrons were seated immediately in front of the rogue trumpeters. At one, a six- or seven-piece marching band came playing down one of the main aisles on the floor, crossed in front of the stage, and then departed up the other aisle. And the piece ends with a rifle shot. Otherwise, it was very traditional. An interesting taste of the modern music scene.