Disturbia

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Disturbia (C). I do not remember Rear Window very well, having seen it only once a long time ago. But I remember it well enough to know it was a lot better than this remake. (Is this movie considered a remake?) Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) plays Kale Brecht, a troubled youth whose indiscretions (like slugging his Spanish teacher) land him in house arrest for the summer. He starts watching his neighbors, who just happen to include the lovely Ashley (Sarah Roemer, The Grudge 2) and a guy who may be a serial killer. Ashley doesn’t mind that Kale spies on her when she goes swimming, and as a reward he sends his dorky best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo, Rocket Science) to go break into the maybe-murderer’s house instead of Ashley. Oh, and Trinity from The Matrix is Kale’s mom (Carrie-Anne Moss, Pompeii). Humdrum.

2 Days in Paris

New review from The Movie Snob

2 Days in Paris (C). I thought French actress Julie Delpy was cute enough in those movies with Ethan Hawke, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Here she not only stars but writes and directs. And her parents play her character’s parents. Perhaps a little outside assistance would have been a good thing. Anyway, Delpy plays Marion, a 35-year-old photographer living in New York, and the hirsute Adam Goldberg (Zodiac) plays her boyfriend Jack. They’ve been together for two years, but this is the first time she has taken him to Paris to meet her parents and sister. For a while it’s not a bad little movie, very conversational, like her movies with Hawke. Then it turns all melodramatic, as Marion seems to have a past with every Parisian guy they run into. It’s okay, nothing special.

Evan Almighty

New review from The Movie Snob

Evan Almighty (B). I didn’t hear such great things about this movie, so I waited until it got to the dollar theater to see it. (Which, by the way, now costs $1.75.) I was pleasantly surprised, perhaps because my expectations were so low, or perhaps because Steve Carell (The Way Way Back) and Morgan Freeman (Batman Begins) lift the quality of any movie they appear in. It’s not really a comedy, even though there are some funny parts, but it’s more like a modern-day fairy tale. Carell plays Evan Baxter, a newly elected congressman who ran on the slogan “Change the World” and is naive enough to mean it. But his plans are derailed when God (Freeman) appears to him and directs him to build an ark. He resists, but God is not easily denied, especially since He can give you Old-Testament-prophet style hair and wardrobe any time He wants. The lovely Lauren Graham (Bad Santa) provides suffering and support as Baxter’s wife. I enjoyed it.

The Lives of Others

DVD review from Nick at Nite.

The Lives of Others

I finally saw this because two of my friends said, “it is the best movie of the year.” Frankly, my friends are smarter and more sophisticated than me, because I would not call this the best movie of the year. I get it, I get it. This is a story about how hard it was for folks having to live in secrecy. It is about how some folks working for the government listened in on ordinary folks, how nothing was private and how everyone was always on edge. No, no, this is not about George Bush and his treatment of ordinary citizens living in America. This is about the East Germans and their treatment of playwrights and other trouble makers living behind the iron curtain. I am not going to give away much of the plot – because it is a very good story. If I based my critique just on the story, acting, and moviemaking, it might prove to be one of the best movies of the year. I will tell you why I was not too keen on the movie and it is embarrassing. I didn’t like the fact that it was in German. I found the German to be a little grating. I know. It needs to be and should be in German. It was set in Germany. It makes the story more believable. It makes the story seem more real. I am totally embarrassed about my critique and feel like an ethnocentric idiot. Also, I cannot seem to square this with my great admiration for Das Boot and Run Lola, Run . . . except that there was so much action in Das Boot and Run Lola, Run that the language did not seem to get in the way. What I have decided is that French, Spanish, and Italian (the romance languages) are a little easier on the ear. Thus, explaining why I think Pan’s Labyrinth was the best foreign film last year. I give The Lives of Others an “A” if you speak German and I give it a “B” if you prefer the romance languages.

Vacancy

Nick at Nite knows horror.

Vacancy

Luke Wilson (The Skeleton Twins) and that girl from the Underworld movies star in this under-budgeted, boring, low-rent horror film. Honestly, I am not sure that I understand to whom this movie is intended to appeal. It is not a slasher movie. It is not a suspenseful movie. It is not a scary movie. I think it is intended to be one of these, but it ends up being none of them. Basically, our unhappily married couple ends up with car trouble in the middle of the deserted backwoods in some unidentified state. They end up staying at a very creepy, very dirty, uninhabited hotel. Once in their room, weird things happen. Someone knocks on the door, yet when they open the door, no one is there. Someone calls on the phone, yet when the answer the phone, no one is there. They try to go to sleep and decide to pop in a video tape they found in the room “to help them sleep.” Turns out the video is of a murder that happened in the very room they are in. Then, they must escape. Bored? So was I. Don’t watch this movie. If you want something suspenseful, go see a Hitchcock film. If you want something gory, go see a George Romero flick. If you want a slasher flick, try Hellraiser. This just doesn’t cut it. I give it a “C.”

December Boys

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December Boys (B-). My cousin dragged me to this little movie starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. It’s set in Australia in the 1960’s. Four orphans at a boys’ orphanage run by nuns get to take a holiday at a seaside village. They stay with a kindly older married couple. The oldest (Radcliffe) discovers girls, or at least one girl named Lucy (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies). The other three are caught up in the possibility that a young childless couple in the village might adopt one of them. It’s a pleasant enough little movie, although my cousin was outraged by a theological atrocity committed at the very end.

In the Shadow of the Moon

New review from The Movie Snob

In the Shadow of the Moon (A). This is an excellent new documentary about the Apollo astronauts, still the only men ever to have walked on the moon. There are lots of clips from recent interviews with the astronauts, along with tons of NASA footage, much of it apparently never seen before. I was only 1 year old when Apollo 11 made the first moon landing, but I was still moved by the courage of the astronauts and the adulation the world poured on them after their feats. Notably absent — any new footage of Neil Armstrong, who has apparently become weird and reclusive since the historic flight. But this is still a fine movie for people who have any interest at all in this sort of thing.

Mystery Street

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Mystery Street (B). My perusal of “Film Noir Volume 4” continued with this 1950 flick starring Ricardo Montalban (The Naked Gun) as a Boston detective hot on the trail of a killer. This movie actually plays like a forerunner of CSI, as the criminal investigation begins with the discovery of a skeleton on Cape Cod. The cops turn to a doctor at Harvard Medical School to help them decide whether a crime was committed, and then to catch the killer. Elsa Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein) turns in an overwrought performance as a landlady who tries to make a few bucks off the crime, but otherwise this is not a bad movie at all.

The Simpsons Movie

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Simpsons Movie (B-). If this movie had come out 10 years ago, I would have been among the first in line to see it. But I fell out of love with The Simpsons tv show a long time ago and haven’t seen an episode in at least six or seven years. Thus, I barely caught it in the theaters. I was rather pleasantly surprised, then, when I actually laughed out loud a few times during the show. Sure the plot contained some, shall we say, familiar elements. (Homer’s idiocy causes a major catastrophe; Marge considers leaving him; Bart realizes that Flanders is a better father than Homer; Lisa has a crush on a environmentally conscious boy.) Still, the measure of a comedy is whether it makes you laugh, and this one did, more than once. Sure, the Simpsons’ glory days are long gone. Homer can only become the union rep or a NASA astronaut once. But check out this movie (at the dollar theater, if necessary), and take a little walk down memory lane.

Superbad

From The Movie Snob

Superbad (D+). Am I just a puritan, or have movies become seriously deranged when it comes to bad language and blatant sexual content? There is a decent story buried in this movie, under many layers of garbage. Seth (Jonah Hill, Hail, Caesar!) and Evan (Michael Cera, Juno) are best friends. They are also high-school seniors on the verge of graduating and going their separate ways, Evan to Dartmouth and Seth to some state school. They are not very popular, but they get invited to a party and promise in return to supply some alcohol. They also hope to “score” with two girls in particular, or at least Seth does; Evan actually seems to want to date the object of his desire in a more traditionally romantic fashion. But getting the alcohol turns into a quest of Odyssean proportions, which the movie uses nicely to expose the strengths and weaknesses of the boys’ friendship. But the good stuff is buried under so much foul language and unnecessary crap that I just couldn’t enjoy it. I could blame it my being almost 40, but I choose to blame the filmmakers.

Becoming Jane

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Becoming Jane (B+). You really can’t go wrong with a movie based on one of Jane Austen’s novels. So how about a biopic about the Divine Jane? Turns out that it is a decent bet as well, although my understanding is that very little is actually known about Ms. Austen’s life, so this is probably a work composed mostly of speculation. Anne Hathaway (Interstellar) is Jane as a young woman. She lives with her middling-to-poor family, eking out a living in rural England circa 1800. A wealthy bachelor is taken with her, but she cannot even imagine marrying except for love, and she is decidedly not in love with him. Then a saucy Irish law student named Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland) crashes into her social milieu, and they clash right away. If you know Pride and Prejudice, you might guess what happens next. But what happens after that? Give Becoming Jane a chance and find out.

Act of Violence

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Act of Violence (C). Again acting on the advice of Entertainment Weekly, I picked up this box set of DVDs called “Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 4.” I’m not even that into film noir, but because EW gave it an A-, here I am. Plus, it was like $45 for 10 movies, so I figured, “Why not?” Anyhoo, the first one I watched was Act of Violence, a film from the late 1940’s. A World War II veteran (Van Heflin, Shane) is settling nicely into life in a small California town, with a pretty young wife (Janet Leigh, Psycho) and new baby. But then a menacing stranger shows up looking for him, and he pretty much goes to pieces over a dark secret in his service record. To what lengths will he go to protect his family and keep the secret buried? Not bad, and nicely short at 82 minutes.

Herodotus’ Histories (book review)

Book review by The Movie Snob

The Histories, by Herodotus. Barnes & Noble has put out a nice, cheap line of classics in hardcover format. (I’m guessing they’re all public-domain works.) So I thought I should give this classic a whirl. This particular translation is by G.C. Macaulay and dates to 1890. It is, as you expect, rather formal in tone, so it takes some effort to read. And most of the proper names become a blur in short order. Example: “From Lipoxais, they say, are descended those Scythians who are called the race of the Auchatai; from the middle brother Arpoxais those who are called Catiaroi and Traspians, and from the youngest of them the ‘Royal’ tribe, who are called Paralatai . . . .” But you can kind of let the proper names drift by and still enjoy the story of how the Persian Empire tried and failed to conquer Greece in the years up to and including 479 B.C. It’s not quite as sensationalistic as the movie 300, but there are plenty of battles (including the Battle of Thermopylae, depicted in 300) and interesting stories, mostly about treachery and revenge.

The Invasion

New review from The Movie Snob

The Invasion (C). I have never seen any prior version of this tale of body-snatching aliens, so I went in with no preconceptions — just a little joy that I was finally going to see a new Nicole Kidman movie. On the plus side, she is still one of the most beautiful women working in Hollywood, in my humble opinion. On the minus side, there is the rest of the movie. After a space-shuttle disaster rains debris down on a huge swath of the United States, it isn’t long before people start . . . changing. Like, getting all weird and unemotional. This quickly comes to the attention of D.C. area psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Kidman, Australia), who is soon on the run from the creepy pod people with her little boy Oliver, who coincidentally might be the key to defeating the titular invasion. Even suspending disbelief, I found the movie unbelievable, and the action sequences might have been pretty good if they hadn’t been edited into incomprehensibility. Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) is given nothing to do as Kidman’s friend/love interest. Skip it, unless you are as into Nicole Kidman as I am.