The Last Legion

The Movie Snob fesses up:

The Last Legion (C). Can you imagine a swords-and-sandals epic starring Colin Firth, of Bridget Jones and Pride & Prejudice fame, as a Maximus-style Roman warrior? No, you can’t. Nobody’s imagination is that good. Instead, you have to go see this cheesy-in-a-good-way flick. In the waning days of the Roman Empire, 12-year-old Romulus (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, The Maze Runner) is crowned emperor only hours before the city is sacked by the barbaric Goths. The boy Caesar is taken prisoner and has to be rescued by a rag-tag band of survivors. These include doughty Aurelius (Firth), a hippie-looking philosopher played by Ben Kingsley (Transsiberian), and a beautiful warrior from the east named Mira (Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai, Bride and Prejudice). The group decides to head off to Britannia, I guess because they all have British accents already anyway, and on the way they discover Julius Caesar’s own sword, which bears an inscription something like “ES CALIBUR.” Hint! Hint! Firth looks embarrassed throughout, which is amusing during the fight scenes and inexplicable during the scenes when the exotic Mira is making goo-goo eyes at him.

Daniel Deronda

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Daniel Deronda (B+). I didn’t realize it when I had my girlfriend Netflix this DVD, but this is actually a BBC miniseries rather than a movie. But Entertainment Weekly recommended it, and I enjoyed it just like EW said I would. It is 1870s England, and Daniel Deronda (Hugh Dancy, The Jane Austen Book Club) is a handsome young man trying to decide what to do with his life. He has been raised by a rich aristocrat, Sir Hugo (Edward Fox, The Importance of Being Earnest), whom everyone assumes sired Daniel out of wedlock, but Hugo has never talked to Daniel about it, and Daniel does not even know who his mother was. In a parallel story, Gwendolyn Harleth (Romola Garai, I Capture the Castle) is a young woman whose father is dead and whose family is falling on hard times. She foolishly marries a wealthy but cruel man for his money, but she seems to have an instantaneous bond with Daniel when they first encounter each other. And for three and a half hours, the stories of her marriage and his quest to find himself unfold, with some unexpected twists and turns. I liked it.

The Bourne Ultimatum

From The Movie Snob

The Bourne Ultimatum (B+). For what it is, this movie is very good. Matt Damon (The Martian) reprises his role as Jason Bourne, a man who has lost most of his memory but possesses a startling array of skills that would be characteristic of, say, a top-secret CIA agent of some sort. As in the first two movies (as best I can recall), he’s on the run from the CIA because some top brass are afraid that Bourne will spill some of their ugly little secrets. But plot is almost superfluous; what counts are the action sequences in which Bourne must outfox his shady pursuers over and over again. These chase scenes are even more over the top than in the last movie, but everything is filmed so convincingly that I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Three New DVD Reviews from Nick at Nite

Disturbia

Rear Window for the teen set. It is not exactly the same as the Alfred and Jimmy masterpiece, but it is pretty close. Teenager is placed in Martha Stewart lockdown at his house for three months over the summer after he punches his Spanish teacher. Teenager starts to spy on his neighbors and watch the goings on in the neighborhood. Of course, the goings on are bad goings on, and our teenager must deal with it. Even though it is a copy, it isn’t all bad. This is worth a rental. I give it a “B.”

Ocean’s Thirteen

Ocean’s Fourteen, Ocean’s Fifteen, Ocean’s Sixteen . . . as far as I am concerned they can keep making these movies until the end of time. I know it is a formula. I know it is campy. I know it is a continuation of a remake from the original rat pack. Still, I like ’em. These heist films are fantastic. The how-did-they-do-that and comedic bent make them better than the fare you normally see at the cineplex. Sure, my wife likes Pitt, Clooney, and Damon, but that is not main reason we like these movies. We have fun at them. Isn’t that what it is all about? You know, it looks like the actors had fun making this movie. I give it an “A.”

The Ex

I don’t know how I feel about this movie. It has a bunch of actors I like. Jason Bateman (Disconnect), Zach Braff (TV’s Scrubs), Charles Grodin (So I Married an Axe Murderer), Amanda Peet (Gulliver’s Travels), and Mia Farrow (The Great Gatsby). It has some laughs, I always like that. But, it also had some of those fleeting moments of uncomfortableness seen in What About Bob? (why won’t Billy Murray leave Richard Dreyfuss alone?), The Break Up (when it this gonna get funny?), and Swingers (did he really call ten times in a row?) that make my stomach hurt. I watched this with my wife, she kept saying she was going to be very unhappy if it did not have a happy ending. My point is this, when people make movies that are supposed to be funny, they need to be funny, when people want to make dramedies (dramas that have some funny moments), they should clearly label the DVD case or film poster as such. I give a “C+.”

Hairspray

New review from The Movie Snob

Hairspray (B-). I am not familiar with either the original John Waters movie or the stage musical on which this movie is based, so I approached it with no axe to grind. Set in Baltimore circa 1960, it is the story of an overweight high school girl who dreams of dancing on a local television show sort of like American Bandstand. And it is a story about the civil rights movement and integration. And for some bizarre reason it stars John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) in a fat suit as the protagonist’s mother. I enjoyed it for a while, but I thought the movie sort of lost steam when the desegregation plotline moved to the fore. Still, worth a look, especially if you are fan of musicals.

Stardust

From The Movie Snob

Stardust (B+). This is a very enjoyable fairy tale starring Claire Danes (Shopgirl), Michelle Pfeiffer (Dark Shadows), Robert de Niro (Everybody’s Fine), and some fellow I’ve never heard of named Charlie Cox (Casanova). In 19th century England there is an old stone wall with a breach in it, and on the other side is the magical kingdom of Stormhold. Tristan (Cox) is an amiable young man from the real world who crosses over in search of a fallen star. Unbeknownst to him, in Stronghold, a fallen star is not a lump of space-going rock but a living, breathing person—in this case a woman named Yvaine (Danes). An evil witch (Pfeiffer) is also looking for Yvaine in order to cut out her heart and gain immortality, while several potential heirs to the throne of Stormhold are after the royal jewel Yvain wears around her neck. And so the three separate but converging quests niftily wend their way to a satisfying conclusion. Parents should take the PG-13 rating seriously, however, because of some adult humor and some violent images.

P.S.   Looking back at this movie on IMDB in 2016, I see that it has a lot more famous people in its cast, including Peter O’Toole, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Henry Cavill, Rupert Everett, and Ricky Gervais.  I didn’t notice it at the time!

Alaska: Spirit of the Wild

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Alaska: Spirit of the Wild (B). I saw this IMAX movie back in Arkansas last week, and heaven only knows how old it is. Charlton Heston (Antony and Cleopatra) narrates, and I thought he had retired from public life years ago on account of Alzheimer’s disease. Anyway, with Heston at the helm you can be reasonably assured you’re not going to get an ultra-Green piece about how we are destroying all the wildlife in the great white north. It is a celebration of Alaskan fauna, and a beautifully filmed one, but it is not overly sentimental. Global warming gets nary a mention. Worth seeing.

Wordplay

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Wordplay (C). This is a documentary about two things—the making of the New York Times crossword puzzle, and the annual tournament to see who the best solver of New York Times crossword puzzles is. It is reminiscent of the superior Spellbound, which is a documentary about the national spelling bee, but it just isn’t as good. Maybe because the kids in Spellbound were more likable (generally) than the odd birds who compete in the crossword tournament. Maybe because we’ve all done spelling bees at some point along the way, so we can sympathize more. Whatever the reason, Spellbound is a better movie, in my book. Still, Wordplay isn’t bad.

Sunshine (two views)

Nick at Nite and The Movie Snob sound off on Sunshine.

Nick at Nite: If you are not a science fiction fan or a particularly ardent supporter of Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), you may want to stay away from this one. However, if you can get past the repeated blinding shots of the sun – the shots that make you feel like you are inside a microwave oven looking out the glass into the kitchen – and set aside your “that doesn’t pass the smell test” attitude, you are likely to enjoy this movie. Danny Boyle, the director of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, brings us this science fiction disaster flick that is part 2001: A Space Odyssey (art house) and part Deep Impact/Armageddon (popcorn movie). The movie is set fifty years in the future, when our sun is dying and the planet is freezing. A spaceship is sent to the sun to deliver a payload intended to recharge it (I think it is a big bomb). Things run amok for the crew of the spaceship when it receives a distress signal from another spaceship that was assumed lost after failing to complete an identical mission seven years earlier. There are a series of interesting plot twists and some really cool special effects. This is the critical point – DO NOT GO SEE THIS MOVIE IF – when you leave a movie like Superman, Star Wars, or The Princess Diaries and say to yourself “there is no way that could ever happen” and as a result you don’t like it. It is a SCIENCE FICTION film. If you want to see SCIENCE REALITY, go see March of the Penguins or one of Al Gore’s power point presentations. I give this an “A-.”

Movie Snob: I could not suspend disbelief at the end of the movie, so I did not like Sunshine nearly as well as Nick did. That said, the first two-thirds of the movie are an effective blend of 2001 and Armageddon, with hints of Alien and Solaris thrown in for good measure. The special effects are pretty darned good, with lots of impressive shots of this massive heat shield being pushed straight into the sun by a long spindly spaceship that looks sort of like the one from 2001. The acting isn’t bad, with a crew of astronauts getting pushed to its limits by the strain of a long, desperate voyage that is likely a suicide mission to boot. And it’s always nice to see Rose Byrne (I Capture the Castle, Troy) working, even if she is not at all dolled up for the part. I give it a C.

The Bourne Ultimatum

New review by Nick at Nite

The Bourne Ultimatum

I loved this movie. A good spy thriller is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. So few of these films are made that it is a special treat when one is released. So often sequels are a significant disappointment. Superman IV, Jaws III and IV, Back to the Future II and III, Matrix Revolutions, Three Men and a Little Lady, Bambi II, Rocky III and IV, Rambo II and III, Nine to Five II, Sense and Sensibility II, Taxi Driver II, The Fog II, and Braveheart II. It is nice when a sequel comes along that lives up to the hype and is actually better than its predecessors. Here we find Jason Bourne still struggling to figure out who he is and who is to blame for making him into the lethal killing machine that he has become. Most of the questions unresolved by the first two movies are answered in this film. The chase sequences are amazing. There is not a ton of dialogue from Mr. Bourne, but we don’t really need it. Matt Damon was asked, “is there any chance for another sequel?” He responded, “yes, we will call it the Bourne Redundancy.” Here is hoping they can find a way to do it. When it ain’t broken why fix it or change it. I give it an “A.”

The Number 23, The Pathfinder

DVD reviews from Nick at Nite

The Number 23

I miss Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Not the sequel. The original. “Finkelstein is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkelstein” — that was funny. The Number 23 is not funny. It is a quirky film with a strange little story about a book, its author, and the obsession it brings out in some readers. Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty) plays an everyman who becomes obsessed with the book after his wife buys it for him on a whim. As Carrey grows more and more obsessed with the book he starts to lose his mind, endanger his family, and must confront his own murky past. The movie has a significant twist. See if you can guess it. This is worth a rental if you can’t find the other new release you wanted. I give it a “B.”

The Pathfinder

This is more my speed. Did you know that the Vikings first came to this country 600 years before anyone else? Did you know that one of their great warriors and his men were stranded leaving only a single child as a survivor? Did you know that this child would be rescued by Native Americans and eventually grow up to fight a different group of Vikings that threatened his adoptive Native American tribe? Well, now you know. Lots of action including sword play, archery, blood, bear fights, and other excitement. Story is told in a very odd way. The Vikings speak whatever language it is Vikings speak and everything they say is subtitled. Meanwhile the Native Americans speak English with no subtitles. I did not realize that before the English settled on this continent the native inhabitants already knew how to speak English. Perhaps Martians are to blame. Honestly, if you are going to go to the trouble to have some of the guys speak a strange and different language, why not have them all do it. I give it a “B.”

Premonition

DVD review from Nick at Nite

Premonition

I had a Premonition this movie would be terrible and indeed it was terrible. Sandra Bullock, has she ever been in a good movie? Am I being too cruel? My wife loves While You Were Sleeping. Millions of moviegoing fans enjoyed Speed. Even I thought The Lakehouse was not bad. Premonition, well it is just a dumb, hard to follow film. In short, the movie follows a desperate woman’s attempts to save her husband’s life after she learns he is going to die. Apparently, the days in her week are all out of order and if she can just get to the day where her husband is still alive and warn him everything will work out. I was so bored. Do not see this movie. I give it an “F.”