From the desk of The Movie Snob
Get Smart (B). I am totally unfamiliar with the television series on which this action-comedy is based, but the previews looked reasonably funny, and I like Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) a lot despite his recent misstep Dan in Real Life. I was expecting a lightweight comedy with lots of slapstick. The movie was decently funny, but it is also is surprisingly action-packed, with stunts and explosions worthy of–dare I say it?–a James Bond movie. Carell makes a good Max Smart, who is made out to be a savvy intelligence analyst (i.e., paper pusher) at top-secret spy agency CONTROL, but a little too clueless (and uncoordinated) to be a great field agent. But a sneak attack by KAOS forces Max’s boss (well-played by Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine) to deploy Smart to Russia, paired up with the more competent and highly attractive Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway, Ella Enchanted). Much like Inspector Clouseau, he generally succeeds despite himself. Worth a trip to theater, especially for a matinee.
New review from The Movie Snob
WALL•E (A-). I enjoyed the heck of this movie, which boasts a good story and great animation. Several hundred years in the future, the Earth is a polluted, trashed-out wreck of a planet. The people are all gone, but one little robot, called a WALL•E (who reminds me of a miniature version of Number Five from the classic Short Circuit), still gamely goes about his business, which is compacting garbage into little cubes and neatly stacking the cubes into skyscraper-sized piles. But over the centuries he has developed a soul, and he has a little house strung with Christmas lights where he stores little treasures he has collected from the refuse (e.g., a Rubik’s Cube) and frequently watches a videotape of a romantic scene from some old musical (Hello, Dolly, I read somewhere). Then, one day, a rocket ship drops a little white probe on Earth right in WALL•E’s neighborhood. Acronymed EVE, the softly rounded but heavily armed probe quickly wins WALL•E’s silicon heart. When EVE returns to space, the smitten WALL•E follows her, we find out what has happened to mankind in the hundreds of years since we left Earth, and the adventure really begins. Could be the best Pixar picture yet, and that is saying something.
DVD review from Movie Man Mike
Flawless (A-). I think this film originally aired on TV, or it had some kind of limited release in the U.S. and never really did much at the box office. In any event, the movie is a pretty good thriller. The film is set in the 1960’s, and Demi Moore (Indecent Proposal) plays a female executive who works at the London Diamond Corporation.She is a smart, hard-working executive who’s trying to make a mark in a male-dominated world. Michael Caine (Children of Men), who is rarely ever bad in any role, plays a janitor working nights at the London Diamond Corporation. He convinces Moore that they should stage a diamond heist. I won’t give away any of the story, but the story line is a good one and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This film is well worth the price of the rental.
Book review from The Movie Snob
Narcissus Leaves the Pool, by Joseph Epstein (Mariner 1999). I really enjoy the work of essayist and story-story writer Joseph Epstein. I see his stuff mostly in Commentary and The Weekly Standard magazines, but he also publishes elsewhere, and this book is a collection of previously published essays. I can imagine that his writing would not appeal to everyone — his style is more ornate than most popular writers, and he loves to drop names and show off how well-read he is. Except that I don’t think it’s really showing off; he’s just exceptionally well-read and has a gift for working references into his own observations. Opening the book to a random page, for instance, I see references to Noel Coward, Evelyn Waugh, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Sir Laurence Olivier. His subjects include aging (I think he was around 60 when he wrote that essay), name-dropping, sports, the pleasures of reading, and Anglophilia, American style. The last piece is a beautiful tribute to his dear friend and mentor Edward Shils. This book is not a bad place to start if you’d like to give Epstein a try.
DVD review from Nick at Nite
Death at a Funeral
Ah, British humor. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I wish they would just slow down and speak “American.” It took me five minutes to adjust for the lack of a southern drawl and then I got into the movie. This is a traditional British farce minus the cross dressing and Benny Hill. The movie follows a family trying to bury a father and husband. Hilarity ensues when some LSD is accidentally consumed at the funeral. A surprise mourner and some potty humor also provide for cheery and awkward moments. Give it a whirl. I call it an “B.”
A rare visit from our own resident Comic Book Guy
With the success of the X-men and Batman franchises, it’s no surprise to me that Marvel and DC are mining their library of lesser heroes for movie fodder. Seems like the pattern is good movie – bad movie. (e.g. X-Men 3 – Awesome. Ghost Rider – Blows). What amazes me is how they attract top notch talent for these gigs. This jewel stars the likes of Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. and the ever so lovely Gwyneth Paltrow. For those of you who didn’t bother with the comic – Tony Stark (Downey) is a playboy genius engineer turned weapons mogul. After being injured by his own weapons while visiting a war zone (how IRONic), has a change of heart (literally) and becomes Iron Man to make amends for his company’s wrongdoing. You know the drill. Hero has traumatic event. Hero develops super powers (or super skills, or both). Hero takes on Villain. Hero prevails. Cool special effects and explosions fill the space between plot development. Formulaic? Sure. Just another variation of the Batman theme – although Batman is way cooler than Iron Man – but it works. And this one works well. Yes, the plot is predictable and you have to suspend disbelief but c’mon… that’s why you go to the movies, right? Bottom line: this one is awesome (and for those comic book fanboys out there – look for the Stan Lee cameo and the veiled hints of more superhero movies to come). Just remember the pattern: Iron Man. Good. The Hulk? Will probably blow. But that’s good news for the next one – The Dark Knight. Should be awesome. ‘Nuff said.
Book review from The Movie Snob
Dave Barry’s Money Secrets, by Dave Barry (Crown 2006). Probably 90% of America is already familiar with Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize winning humor columnist who has also written a fair number of books. (Over 20, according to the list at the front of this book.) If you don’t like his shtick, there’s no reason to think you’ll like this book. Personally, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but then I also thought his Guide to Guys is one of the funniest books ever committed to paper. He’s not always funny — I thought Dave Barry in Cyberspace was not very good at all — but I think he is in good form in this outing. For example, he compares Alan Greenspan’s appearance to that of the world-famous groundhog Punxsutawny Phil, he sprinkles the same picture of financial guru Suze Orman (sporting a slightly crazed smile) liberally throughout the book, and he makes fun of lots of things like the bottled-water craze, reality TV, and Donald Trump. Read the financial quiz on the back of the dust jacket, and if you find it amusing you can buy the book. Maybe even for $5.99 at Borders, like I did. Dave Barry would approve.