Once

A new movie review from The Movie Snob

Once (B+). This little Irish film has apparently been getting pretty good reviews. The protagonists are charmingly referred to in the movie and the credits simply as the Guy and the Girl. The Guy (played by one of the guitarists in The Commitments) is a middle-aged Irish guy who plays the guitar, writes his own songs, and sings on street corners. The Girl is a noticeably younger woman from the Czech Republic who also loves music, plays the piano, and sings and writes songs. A delicate friendship is born after the Girl strikes up a conversation with the Guy. They play and sing together, and each gets to know a little about the sorrows the other has experienced. Will they act on their attraction to each other? How many movies have turned on that question? This is a better rendition of that age-old theme than many, and the music isn’t bad. Worth a look.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (B). Director Frank Capra (You Can’t Take It With You) re-teamed with Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo) and Jean Arthur (Shane) for this tale of a decent but apolitical guy (Mr. Smith, played by Stewart) who is unexpectedly appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. The senior senator from his state, at the direction of the political boss who basically runs the state, is on the verge of pushing through an appropriations bill that has hidden within it a dam project that will make the boss fabulously rich. Unfortunately, the innocent Mr. Smith decides to try his hand at bill-writing and proposes to build a camp for poor boys–exactly on the site of the dam project. This sets up a memorable showdown between Smith and the political machine. The depiction of corruption in the Senate was apparently quite controversial at the time. Completely corny, but still an enjoyable film.

You Can’t Take It With You

DVD review from The Movie Snob

You Can’t Take It With You (C). I continued my survey of “The Premiere Frank Capra Collection” with this movie, starring an exceedingly young Jimmy Stewart (Rear Window). He plays the only son and heir of a heartless tycoon. Somehow, Stewart’s character has grown up to be a decent guy with no interest in business or banking, even though he has been groomed to take over his father’s business. Instead, he is in love with his secretary, played by Jean Arthur (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). His girlfriend, we come to see, lives in a big house full of eccentrics, headed up by Grandpa, played by Lionel Barrymore (Grand Hotel). When he finally takes his parents to meet her family, fireworks ensue. Will love conquer all? Will the old tycoon see the wisdom of Grandpa’s carefree ways? Pretty mediocre stuff, although it is interesting to try to figure out Capra’s views on economics, since the Great Depression was still gripping America when this film came out.

Fracture

New from The Movie Snob

Fracture (C+). Despite a warning from my sister that this legal thriller was pretty mediocre, I spent a chunk of my Sunday afternoon on it. It stars Anthony Hopkins (Noah) and this hotshot newcomer Ryan Gosling (The Big Short), and the Dallas Morning News reviewer gave it a B. Plus, it co-stars Rosamund Pike, who played the icily gorgeous femme fatale Miranda Frost in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. So it seemed to have potential. Anyhoo, Sir Anthony plays a brilliant aircraft engineer who discovers that his much-younger wife (Embeth Davidtz, Schindler’s List) is having an affair. He shoots her in the face, but she survives, and he insists on representing himself in the subsequent trial for attempted murder. Gosling is the D.A. who draws a case, a cocky lawyer who’s about to quit prosecuting in favor of a job with a big corporate law firm. But the alleged perpetrator has a few surprises for him in the courtroom. I was never bored, but I didn’t leave satisfied either. Go see the German flick The Lives of Others before it disappears from the Inwood Theater instead.

P.S. This is post number 601 on The Movie Court!

Waitress

New from The Movie Snob

Waitress (B-). This little movie has its heart in the right place but never really takes off. Jenna (Keri Russell, Felicity) is a waitress in a diner in a small Southern town. She’s sad because she’s married to Earl (Jeremy Sisto, Clueless), a childish, loutish, potentially violent loser of a husband and because she’s just found out that she’s pregnant, which complicates her plan to squirrel away enough money to run away and never come back. Nathan Fillion (Serenity) plays the new ob/gyn in town, and he and Jenna have an affair that brings her temporary relief from her sad existence. Andy Griffith (The Andy Griffith Show) plays the owner of the diner and dispenses homey wisdom. OK but not great. The movie’s sad coda is that writer/director/co-star Adrienne Shelly was murdered in NYC in November 2006.

Rocky Balboa, 28 Weeks Later

Two new reviews from Nick at Nite

Rocky Balboa. I pity the fool who don’t see this movie. Gone are all the stupid storylines. No match with Hulk Hogan. No match with evil Russian. No match with kid from down the street. This is a stripped down version of Rocky. Like the original Rocky, the focus in this movie is the character and his common sense, charisma, and gentle nature. This movie is good for all the reasons that the original was good. Don’t dismiss Rocky Balboa because they misfired in Rocky III and Rocky IV – act like they never existed and put this movie in the DVD queue. You won’t be disappointed. It is a good bookend with the first movie and nice way to see Rocky go off into the sunset. Plus, as much as we knock Stallone. Remember his Oscar? Remember what it was for? Well, there is a little glimpse of that in this movie. I give it a “B.”

28 Weeks Later. First, a tirade. Went to the movies at 10:10 on Saturday night. I don’t know what people are thinking, but there were a ton of little kids out at this time seeing movies. Worse, there were some in 28 Weeks Later. This is not Mary Poppins. What is the world coming to? I remember when I was a teenager I would go to the late movie, we went because no one else did. Why aren’t these kids at home, sleeping? Almost seems like child abuse to me. Second, the movie. Not as good as the first one. I don’t think this one is directed by Danny Boyle. However, it is quite good. It is essentially a continuation of the first movie. The focus is on different characters that survive the first 28 days of the “rage” that is portrayed in the first movie, only to be subjected to a disastrous turn of events 28 weeks later. Recall the “rage” is a infectious disease that was spread from infected monkeys to humans when a science experiment went tragically wrong. The “rage” almost instantly turned the infected into the flesh eating Zombies (is there any other kind of Zombies?). Apart from a Jaws 4-like Zombie that is able to track down his prey, this movie is believable, scary, entertaining, and fun to watch. We follow two kids who return to London 28 weeks after the original infection has wiped out the British population. The Zombies apparently all starved to death because they had no food. The kids were away on a school trip at the time of the original infection. A U.S. led NATO force is helping the repatriation of British residents who were away at the time of the original infection. The U.S. led NATO force establishes a green zone just like in Iraq and it has numerous problems just like the green zone in Iraq. I enjoyed the movie. Check it out. I give it an “A.”

Spider-Man 3 – take two

From The Movie Snob

Spider-Man 3 (B-). I don’t have too much to add to Mike’s analysis. This movie is pretty much more of the same — too much more, at 2 hours and twenty minutes in length. It’s just too long. And after seeing Spidey get slammed through walls and into steel girders for the 20th time, I started to think come on, he’s not Superman for crying out loud. And I go back and forth on whether Kirsten Dunst (Midnight Special) is actually attractive or not; this movie had me more in the “not” category. Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) was much more fetching. But you be the judge.

Spiderman 3

New review from Movie Man Mike

Spiderman 3: C+. Sequels. Rarely is a sequel as good as, or better than, the original. Spiderman 3 is no exception. Of course, the film had some great fight scenes and some great special effects. And with three villains, you figure the deck is stacked against Spidey. But, the plot and character motivation suffered a great deal in this film. Some of the scenes were just downright awkward the way they were presented. I don’t want to give anything away, but you’ll know what I mean when you see the exchange between Harry and the family butler, or the scene between Mary Jane and Peter on the bridge in the park. Or maybe, like me, you will question the timing of Aunt May’s visit to Peter’s apartment where she pops in, doles out a dose of platitudes and says, “toodle-loo,” without so much as a cup of tea or a goodbye hug. All this said, I did find the film entertaining, even if the Sandman is a bit lame as a villain. I would say it’s worth the price of a ticket, and I predict that many others will be paying to see this show as well.

Shut Up and Sing

From That Guy Named David

Shut Up and Sing (A-)

Continuing my jaunt through the genre of musical documentaries, I picked up this one the other day which chronicles the backlash to Natalie Maines’ statement regarding George W. Bush in the weeks preceding the invasion (or “liberation,” should you vote Republican) of Iraq. In case you were in a coma or on another planet back in the spring of 2003, our country was making its allegedly rock-solid case for sending hundreds of thousands of troops and spending billions of dollars to take over a country in an area of the world that is known for not being too friendly to the good ol’ U.S.of A. The country was rallying, Congress was actually agreeing, people were tying that yellow ribbon around the old oak tree, dogs were loving cats, etc. It was at this time that Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, a group that had sold more records than any female group in music history, committed herself to eternal damnation by commenting on a stage in England (the U.S.’s biggest ally) that she was ashamed the leader of the greatest country in the history of civilization was from her home state of Texas. Blasphemer!!! Hanoi Jane redux!!!! This documentary does a fantastic job of showing the snowball effect that this one, relatively benign comment had on sending the careers of the Dixie Chicks into a tailspin. Its strength is demonstrating the dynamic between the artists, who believed the reaction was completely overblown, and their handlers (managers, publicists, sponsors, etc.) who were trying to keep the band afloat during a time when the entire country music industry (and large portion of the country) began turning their back on the group. The documentary does an exceptional job of showing how the group, based upon this one comment, became demonized by the section of this country that sees everything in black and white. USA – good; people who disagree – bad. “You’re either with us or against us.” Dixie Chicks = communists, traitors, terrorists, sluts, etc. The most poignant portion of the film dealt with the group’s reaction to a death threat against Maines, in which it was communicated to her that she would be shot and killed on a stage in Dallas in the summer of 2003. In dealing with the backlash and threats, the documentary does a good job of demonstrating how it all brought the group closer and led to the production of their most-recent album (which is their best in my humble opinion and one of the best records I have heard in several years). If you like their music, a definite A. If you don’t (or think they are communists), you probably won’t grade it as high.

The Namesake

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Namesake (C+). I think the local critic gave this movie a significantly higher grade than I am willing to give it. It is the story of the Ganguli family, of India and America. After surviving a horrific train wreck in India in the 1970’s, young Ashoke Ganguli gets an arranged bride, the lovely Ashima, and they emigrate to America. They have a boy they name Gogol and a girl they name Sonia. Then the movie fast-forwards about 20 years and focuses more on Gogol’s efforts to reconcile his Indian heritage with his American upbringing. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s kind of shapeless and unpredictable — rather like life, I suppose.

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, by Andrew Roberts (HarperCollins 2007). Winston Churchill wrote a four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples that ended in 1900. In this 650-page tome, Roberts aims to tell the rest of the story. And that story, in his view, is the story of how Great Britain and the other English-speaking countries of the world united to face down three mortal enemies in the twentieth century (the Kaiser’s Germany, the Axis Powers, and the Soviet Union) and may yet combine to face down a fourth, that being militant Islam. I like popular history, and I’m as big a fan of the Anglosphere as anybody, but Roberts’s book contains almost too much boosterism even for me. For a history of the twentieth century (that has a broader scope and is more fun to read) try Paul Johnson’s Modern Times instead.

Wicked (stage review)

From The Movie Snob

Wicked. The national production company of the phenomenally popular musical Wicked returned to Dallas recently. I bought my tickets over a year ago, after last year’s run sold out. From the looks of the crowd, this one was sold out too, and the crowd was even rowdier than the one for the Kelly Clarkson concert I saw last summer. Wicked is the story of how a green girl named Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West in the merry old land of Oz. Turns out that she and Glinda the Good were actually friends back at school, had a crush on the same guy, etc., etc. It was a fine production, and the actresses who played the two leads have fine voices, but the story and the songs never really took flight for me. And I wasn’t too sure that the story entirely fit with the facts we know from The Wizard of Oz. (They definitely do not fit with the history of Oz as told in the other delightful Oz books written by L. Frank Baum.) But the audience loved it, and I enjoyed it pretty well too, so I can’t knock it too much.