New review from Nick at Nite
Resident Evil: Extinction
This was too much even for me. I am sucker for Zombie films. I am even more of a sucker for end of the world Zombie films. I was just not impressed with this, the third installment in the Resident Evil series. In hindsight, I guess one would expect that a movie trilogy based on a series of video games would eventually run out of steam. Without any explanation needed, the plot was a little thin. The Umbrella Corporation is still bad. Most people are sick from the Zombie virus released in the first and second movie. Now the entire world is somehow sick. Query. How does a planet get sick? Anyhow, a movie like this usually makes up for a lack of plot with an increase in action sequences. Did not happen here. Bottom line: not very good. Rent the first movie. It is actually quite good. I give it a “C.”
New review from The Movie Snob
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (B+). John C. Reilly (Chicago) stars in this spoof of the rock-star biopic — Walk the Line is its primary target, with a couple of little jabs at Ray thrown in for good measure. Plot synopsis is pointless; what matters is whether you enjoy movies like Talladega Nights, Airplane!, and This Is Spinal Tap. If you like comedy that is keenly observant but also involves a lot of aggressive stupidity, you will probably like this movie. Or if you’re a big Jenna Fischer (Blades of Glory) fan, like I am; she co-stars in the Reese Witherspoon role. I should also warn you that this movie includes some of the most gratuitous nudity imaginable. But what do you expect from a film co-written by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)?
DVD reviews from Nick at Nite
Oddly entertaining film. This indie comedy explores what happens when rampaging zombies are domesticated. The setup is clever, if somewhat predictable. The dead rise, humans battle the undead in a zombie war, scientists discover how to rekill the undead, and then the same scientists learn how to domesticate the undead to perform society’s more mundane chores. So, rather yearn for the taste of human flesh, the undead take out the trash, deliver mail, mow the lawn, wash the car, and carry groceries. Things get complicated when one of the undead gets a little too close to a boy and his mother and the scientists’ company, ZomCom, is forced to step in. I give it a “B-.”
Ah, I don’t get it. I know, I know it was supposed to be outrageously funny. To be fair some of it was, but I found most of it to be unremarkable. Perhaps I am just nostalgic for Weird Science and The Breakfast Club. This story about a couple of high school misfits with potty mouths just didn’t do for me the same thing that 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up did. Is it worth a rental? Probably. Make sure you are watching with people who are not alarmed by too much boys-being-boys-type talk. I give it a “B-.”
DVD review by The Movie Snob
Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (A-). I think my family has discovered a new Christmas tradition, and that is to watch this movie every Christmas Eve. I intended to see this movie when it was in the theaters but never got around to it, and then my sister said we just had to watch it with our parents. I was skeptical because my parents do not like cussing or raunch of any sort in their movies. Although there is a fair amount of cussing in this movie, even they were guffawing throughout this send-up of NASCAR and the Tom Cruise vehicle Days of Thunder. Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) is hilarious as dim-bulb NASCAR champ Ricky Bobby, whose winning ways are threatened by a menacing French driver (Sacha Baron Cohen, Les Misérables) and a crash that may keep him from ever racing competitively again. John C. Reilly (Chicago) is great as the best friend and sidekick who steals Bobby’s sponsor, wife, and house. To me, this movie approaches the greatness of Airplane! and This is Spinal Tap.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
They Live by Night (C). The back of the DVD case says it all: “Young, in love — and up to their necks in classic film-noir danger.” Bowie Bowers (Farley Granger, Strangers on a Train) is a 23-year-old convict. He busts out with two other hardcases, and while they’re lying low, he meets Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell, The Best Years of Our Lives), the young niece of one of the other cons. They fall in love, and for a while they manage to get by, keeping a low profile and living off the money Bowie saved from the threesome’s last bank heist. But his two buddies blow all their dough and need Bowie to help them pull another job, and this starts him on the dark, noirish road to his final destiny. Not as good as some of the other films in this film noir collection, but not terrible. Also features Ian Wolfe, who guest-starred in a couple of episodes of the original Star Trek series and also appeared in Witness for the Prosecution.
New review from The Movie Snob
Juno (A-). The ample buzz around this little movie is, to my mind, completely justified. I guess it’s sort of being billed as a comedy, but it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. There are some things you smile or chuckle at, but I thought it was a very thoughtful movie about serious issues and about characters you easily come to care about. Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand) plays 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, a precocious, pint-sized high-schooler who seduces her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera, Superbad) and promptly gets pregnant. She considers and quickly rules out an abortion, tells her dad and stepmom in a great scene, and decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple that is desperately seeking to adopt (Jennifer Garner, Danny Collins; Jason Bateman, Paul). The movie basically takes us from conception to delivery, and Page carries the film like a pro. Sure, there are minor imperfections. Juno is a little too sophisticated for a 16-year-old. Although she and Paulie are supposedly best friends, it seems like they never talk about this rather significant development in their relationship. But these are just quibbles about a movie I really enjoyed. I’d also single out Garner, an actress I have never cared for, for a very nice performance. But they’re all good. Go see it. (But do be warned — it is pretty crude in spots. The PG-13 rating seems a little generous to me.)
From the desk of The Movie Snob
The Final Inquiry (D). I’m a fan of the swords-and-sandals genre, so I was curious when I saw an ad for this movie in the Dallas Morning News. The ad promised that it would be here for only one week, in only one theater, and though it opened on Friday there was no movie review in the paper — or anywhere else that I could find. It wasn’t even listed on Metacritic.com. But the premise sounded promising enough — the aging Roman emperor Tiberius (played by none other than Max von Sydow, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is curious about the growing cult of Jesus of Nazareth, so he sends a trusted general, Titus, to Jerusalem to investigate. Apparently this is some sort of Italian production being released here by the “Fox Faith” arm of the Fox empire, and although the website bills this as a cross between CSI and Gladiator, it lacks the quality and production values of those programs. In fact, it’s just not very good. Titus’s investigation is hindered at every turn by Pontius Pilate (played Hristo Shopov, the same actor who played Pilate in The Passion of the Christ!), who is in full CYA mode. Titus falls in love with a Jewish Christian named Tabitha (played by Penelope Cruz’s kid sister Monica). Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV) plays Titus’s faithful German slave Brixos. It’s a pious effort, but, as I say, it’s just not very well done.
New review from The Movie Snob
Beowulf (B+). For best results, I recommend that you see this movie the way I did if at all possible — in 3D at an IMAX theater. Under those conditions, the visuals are so spectacular that you won’t mind the deficiencies in the story-telling and Angelina Jolie’s odd accent too much. The 3D effects are very good, and the weird computer animation they use is head and shoulders better than the same technique was back when they made The Polar Express. Anyhoo, this is a 21st-century embellishment of the tale of Beowulf. Well, embellished as compared to the child’s version I once read eons ago. As I recall, a giant named Grendel plagued the land of King Hrothgar until the mighty hero Beowulf came along and took care of business. And then Grendel’s mother, who was some sort of dragon-like creature, came along to avenge her son, and Beowulf had to settle her hash too. In this retelling, Grendel’s mom is, well, Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), and things go a little differently. I got a kick out of it, but be warned that there is some pretty gross stuff — squeamish folks will want to close their eyes, especially whenever Grendel is on the scene. But if you liked 300, you should like this.
Movie Man Mike gives us our first look at this controversial movie
The Golden Compass: B. I enjoyed this movie, but I was sorely disappointed in it at the same time. The story did not translate well to the screen. The script of this film is so tightly cut that the audience never gets the full flavor of the events and the characters and the relationships between the characters, as they are developed in the book. Visually, I really liked the film. And, having read the book, I followed the story line, but I felt almost cheated by the lack of depth and I found myself wondering if others who had not read the book could follow its fast pace. I have to wonder if it would have been better to break the book into two full-length feature films so that the storylines and the characters could be better developed. Lord Asriel, played by Daniel Craig (The Invasion), is such a prominent figure in Lyra’s (Dakota Blue Richards) life and mind, it is incredible that he has all of about 5 minutes of screen time. One of my favorite characters, Iorek Byrnison—a bear (voice of Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes)—was probably what made it worth the price of admission to see the film. With reservations, I give this film a lukewarm recommendation.
The triumphant return of That Guy Named David!
Shrek the Third (C)
My nieces and nephew were in town over the weekend, so we went kid-friendly with the video rental and got the most-recent addition to the Shrek family. In short, the movie was decent but nothing to celebrate. Maybe I am just “Shreked-out,” but I just did not find myself enjoying this movie. I think the writers/directors attempted to re-hash many of the same themes and dialogue that made the first two successful. However, they failed to add any new, interesting characters, and the story was not creative enough to keep my attention (or the attention of the kid-folk) throughout the movie. They should have stopped at 2, instead of trying to complete the trilogy.
Ocean’s Thirteen (C+)
Speaking of bad attempts at completing a trilogy, we also rented Ocean’s Thirteen over the past weekend. In Thirteen, the writers had the unique idea to bring together a bunch of mega-moviestars, put them in Las Vegas, have them put together and execute a complicated burglary of a major casino, all the while avoiding (a) being killed and/or (b) ending up in jail. Sounds like winner, huh? Well, it was… for Ocean’s Eleven made in 1960 and remade in 2001. Not so much for the one re-remade in 2007. Seriously, can someone please think up an original idea in Hollywood these days? Had the weather been half-decent, I would have been kicking myself for wasting 2 hours on a Sunday watching this dud.
New from the desk of The Movie Snob
Margot at the Wedding (C). You’d think that a movie starring the radiant Nicole Kidman (The Human Stain) and the incredible Jack Black (whom I once recognized as the comedic genius of our time) would be totally awesome. Not so much, at least to me. Director Noah Baumbach made a bit of a splash with his last feature, The Squid and the Whale, which I did not see, but I wasn’t going to miss this one. Kidman plays Margot, a successful writer of short stories, who is dragging her young-adolescent son Claude to her sister Pauline’s wedding. Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Spectacular Now) is marrying Malcolm, who, since he is played by Jack Black (Gulliver’s Travels), is by definition a somewhat buffoonish character. It quickly becomes clear that Margot is a terror. She excels at verbally hitting people where it hurts, and we are not surprised to hear that she caused the end of Pauline’s first marriage by strip-mining family woes for her fiction. The movie has some funny moments amid the tension and hostility, and the dialogue is generally good and believable. But it doesn’t really add up to anything much that I could see.
Nicole’s Margot is up a tree without a paddle
DVD review from The Movie Snob
The Big Steal (B-). My stroll through the Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 4 continues with this entry, starring sleepy-eyed Robert Mitchum (Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison) and Jane Greer (Against All Odds). The setting is Mexico. Greer is chasing her fiancé, who skipped town with $2,000 of her money. She runs into Mitchum, who is chasing the same guy, and another hardcase is chasing him. One of the movie’s pleasures is the way it only slowly divulges why these guys are chasing each other — and the fact that you don’t know whether to believe Mitchum’s story or not along the way. He and Greer team up in their pursuit, and some decent screwball-comedy-style banter ensues. So it’s an unusual movie, but an enjoyable one.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Illegal (B-). Another entry from my film noir collection, this 1955 flick offered some pleasures. Edward G. Robinson (Soylent Green) plays Victor Scott, the hugely successfully D.A. of Los Angeles. After he sends an innocent man to the chair, he quits his job and hits the sauce. But a lawyer of his talents can’t stay down for long, and his seedy new criminal-defense practice takes off — and lands him in the pay of the mob! A young DeForest Kelley (Star Trek‘s Dr. McCoy) has a couple of scenes as the innocent guy Scott sends to the deathhouse (he takes it pretty well, all things considered). Blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield (The Loves of Hercules) plays the moll of the top mobster in one of her first film roles. Not bad.
From Nick at Nite . . . of course
Consider this a public service announcement. Do not go see this movie. It is depraved and debased. It has no redeeming quality. That said, for some reason I allowed this movie into my Blockbuster queue and watched it on delivery. Why did I watch it? My only explanation – I watched it because I am a sucker for sequels and “knowing what happened next.” In short, the same premise as the last movie. Rich men and women bid for the rights to torture and kill unsuspecting young people lured to a hostel located behind the old iron curtain. The ending is a unique twist, it is quite shocking. I don’t know how most people even get to the ending. To get to the end of the movie you must sit through a gory, depraved scene that was so gory and depraved that I was stunned this movie is rated “R,” I cannot believe anything more than a “C” list actor would be in it, and I am a little embarrassed to say I saw it. If you must watch this film, I recommend watching the first ten minutes and then fast-forwarding to the end … you’ll see the bad guy get his just deserts, but won’t have to watch all the crap to get there. I give it “U,” for unwatchable.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Is there anything left to tell here? In each film in this series, a crazy dude with a chainsaw and strange family kills everyone that gets trapped in their creepy farm house. Sometimes it looks like someone might get away. They never do. I recommend this movie to no one. If you have seen any of the films in the series, just think about it for a minute and it will be like you saw this movie. Consider this my Christmas gift to you … I am giving you the hour and a half that it would have taken you to sit through this film. I give it a “F.”
Movie Man Mike’s latest DVD review
Snow Cake. A-. What a great find this movie was. The acting in this was superb. Alan Rickman (Love Actually) stars as a Alex, a quiet and mysterious man who has some dark secret in his past that involves prison time. Against his initial judgment he picks up a hitchhiker, Vivienne (played by Emily Hampshire, The Returned). Vivienne is both endearing and annoying as a character, and you are almost sorry to see her go when she does. But her departure leads Alex down a road where he has to confront the ghosts of his own past when he meets Vivienne’s mom, Linda (played by Sigourney Weaver, Cedar Rapids). Linda is autistic. Her interactions with people and her views of the world are fascinating because on some levels she seems so wise. Through her, Alex eventually is able to exorcise the demons of his past. I highly recommend this rental, if for no other reason, for the characters and the acting.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Bella (B). It is very difficult to give this movie a grade because it doesn’t really feel like a movie. It has characters and a plot like a regular movie, but it feels more like an advocacy piece or a commercial. A Hispanic man who looks incredibly like the standardized image of Jesus is sitting on a beach. Although I didn’t really realize it at the time, the movie almost immediately kicks into flashback, or two distinct flashbacks. In one flashback, a long time ago, the man (Jose, played by Eduardo Verástegui, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2) has just become a professional soccer player in New York City, and he is gleefully driving somewhere with his manager in a big, fancy car. In the other flashback, not so long ago, Jose is working as a chef in a nice restaurant, where Nina (Tammy Blanchard, Into the Woods) is a waitress. Nina is a young, single woman who has just found out she is pregnant, and she gets fired for chronic tardiness. After she gets fired, Jose walks off the job to talk with her. They spend the rest of the day together, gradually revealing more and more about themselves to each other. Although part of the drama is learning what happened to Jose’s soccer career (which is no surprise, as the movie telegraphs it very early on), the main drama is whether Nina is going to have an abortion. Which takes me back to my opening remark–Bella is hard to view as a movie because the filmmakers’ main goal is plainly to persuade; entertainment is secondary, or even incidental to their purpose. That said, I thought it was a reasonably well made film, but then I am in agreement with the filmmakers’ pro-life, pro-adoption message. I’d be curious to hear about the reactions of people who are pro-choice or on the fence.
New review from Movie Man Mike
Waitress. B+. I wanted to see this movie when it first hit the theaters, but I never made it. It lived up to my expectations. The characters are all oddballs living in smalltown USA . My favorite character was Andy Griffith, who had the best lines. He plays an old grouch who owns several businesses in town, including the restaurant where the main character, Jenna, works. Jenna (Keri Russell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is in an awful marriage to Earl. Earl (Jeremy Sisto, Clueless) is this controlling, nasty guy who cares only about himself. You got to love a writer who can dream up a character like Earl, and it’s scary to think that there are probably more Earls out there than one would like to believe. Jenna gets pregnant and meets Dr. Pomatter, played by Nathan Fillion (Serenity), a very versatile actor. If you’ve never seen some of the roles Fillion has done, you’ve missed out. He’s good. Jenna’s real talent in life is inventing and baking pies. Much of the comedy in the film comes from the pies she dreams up to represent various situations she finds herself in. Some of the pies sound awesome and I found myself wanting to try them all just to see how they taste. If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted comedy, this one is worth the price of the rental.