Scary Movie (F). Okay, so I saw this whole Scary Movie trilogy on sale for $13 at Walmart or someplace. I figured it had to be worth that low, low price, didn’t it? Nope, at least not judging by the first entry in the series. The idea was to spoof Scream, with a side order of I Know What You Did Last Summer thrown in for good measure. Which was not a bad concept, but somebody decided it would be even better to smother the spoof elements under layer after layer of crude sexual humor, both visual and verbal. Really, I felt assaulted by this tasteless and offensive movie. Director Keenan Ivory Wayans deserves a stern talking-to by a grandmotherly figure of some sort. Anna Faris (The House Bunny) stars.
Scary Movie 2 (F). Horrendous. Possibly even more offensive than the first one. How did they get people like James Woods (Ghosts of Mississippi) and Veronica Cartwright (Alien) to appear in this repellent film? (Tim Curry’s appearance is somehow less surprising.) It is superior to the original in only two respects — it is six minutes shorter (only 82 minutes), and it features an attractive actress named Kathleen Robertson who kind of reminds me of Kate Beckinsale (The Last Days of Disco). I apparently have seen Robertson before, in an independent flick called XX/XY, but I don’t remember it well enough to recall her. Anna Faris (Just Friends) returns.
This evening The Borg Queen and I went to see Carrie Underwood in concert at Nokia Theater in Grand Prairie. Safe to say, it was not my idea. But I figured it would be a pleasant enough evening, and I was right about that. Clearly I, a 40-year-old guy, was not the target demographic, a fact Ms. Underwood cheerfully acknowledged during her set. Anyway, an opening act called Little Big Town played for about 45 minutes or so. I was totally unfamiliar with their music, which seemed like pretty ordinary, middle-of-the-road country music to me. They did do a decent cover of “Life in a Northern Town,” the old 80s hit by Dream Academy. Then Carrie eventually made her way onstage and played for 90 minutes or so. I thought she had an engaging personality, great looks, and a decent voice. The only songs of hers that I knew were “Jesus Take the Wheel” and the one about destroying her cheating boyfriend’s car, and she also did covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” and Guns n Roses’ “Paradise City.” I had a good time, and the scads of country music fans there seemed to as well. In fact, I sat next to a woman with three little girls who said this was their second time to see her this year. So there’s a testimonial from a true fan for ya.
Feast of Love (C+). This is an independent film based on a Charles Baxter novel of the same name and directed by Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer). This ensemble piece is set in Oregon and is basically a commentation on love in its various incantations–friendship, father-son, father-daughter, husband-wife, brother-sister, and married man-mistress. There is also a homosexual relationship between two women, played by Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions) and Stana Katic (Quantum of Solace). The two main characters are Harry Stevenson (Morgan Freeman, Evan Almighty), a professor on leave after his son’s death, and Bradley Smith (Greg Kinnear, Heaven Is For Real), a good-natured coffee-shop owner seeking a relationship where his love can be returned. Morgan Freeman, who is a confidant to many of the characters in the movie, narrates at times about love and its effect on people. This is a thought-provoking movie that tends to linger in your thoughts after it’s over. Although it dragged in the middle, I thought it was a charming movie honest to reality with interwoven themes of spirituality. I would have given this movie a higher grade, but I dinged it for some unnecessary and graphic nudity (i.e., don’t watch this with kids). The movie also stars Radha Mitchell (Henry Poole Is Here), Jane Alexander (Kramer vs. Kramer), Billy Burke (Ladder 49), Alexa Davalos (The Mist), and Toby Hemingway (The Covenant).
Rachel Getting Married (B). This one has been getting rave reviews, but I wasn’t entirely sold. Maybe it’s because the title is so reminiscent of Margot at the Wedding, which starred the incomparable Nicole Kidman. But this one stars Anne Hathaway (Get Smart), who is quite the up and comer. Hathaway plays a gal named Kym, a former drug addict who’s been in and out of rehab for years. As the movie opens, she’s getting out of some rehab facility to attend the wedding of her older sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister). This, of course, sets the stage for all sorts of awkward behavior by the self-absorbed Kym. The performances are good, and I guess Hathaway was believable as a former junkie with a tenuous grip on sobriety, but even at less than 2 hours this movie felt a little long to me. Especially the wedding and the after-wedding party, which felt like they were filmed in real time. I’ll be curious to see if Hathaway gets an Oscar nod for her tortured-soul performance. It worked for Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) way back when.
Fiorello!. I’ll be brief, because I saw this Irving Lyric Stage production on its last night, and your chance of seeing it is probably slim to none. But I mention it to plug for the ILS, which never fails to put on top-notch productions of musicals that are a bit off the beaten path. Like this one, which had a successful Broadway run starting in 1959 but is hardly a household name. It’s about the rise to power of New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the early 20th century, and it is probably a little corny in places by today’s standards. But it’s an enjoyable show, and the ILS did a fabulous job with it. The theater where they do most of their productions is quite small, which makes for a pleasantly intimate theater experience. Check out their website and give one of their shows a try.
Appaloosa (C+). Ed Harris (The Human Stain) directs and stars in this new Western also featuring ViggoMortensen (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) and Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain). Harris and Mortensen are long-time pardners Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, out riding the range. We soon come to learn that they are lawmen for hire–when a town sprouts up too far from civilization and gets menaced by forces of evil too big for local law enforcement, it hires Virgil and Everett, who are handy with shooting irons and learned everything they know about law enforcement by watching Gene Hackman’s character in Unforgiven. So they get hired by the town of Appaloosa in the New Mexico Territory to deal with a low-down varmint named Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons, Dungeons & Dragons) and his gang. But long about that same time, a pretty little widow-woman named Mrs. French moves to Appaloosa and turns Virgil’s head. Adventures ensue. It is a good-looking movie, and you can almost feel the grit of the blowing dust down the streets of Appaloosa, but the story is just not all that gripping. I didn’t even recognize pasty ol‘ Lance Henriksen, the android Bishop from Aliens, as another gunslinger that Virgil ‘n’ Everett have to deal with.
Be Kind Rewind (B-). This recent release was written and directed by Michel Gondry, who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So I was expecting something pretty weird and off-the-wall. This flick had some odd elements, but it’s a much more straightforward movie. And basically a sweet one as well. Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon 4) runs a decrepit old video store in Passaic, NJ that’s about to be condemned. He leaves town for a while, leaving the store to be run by his employee Mike (Mos Def, Monster’s Ball). While Elroy is gone, Mike’s bumbling and paranoid friend Jerry (Jack Black, School of Rock) accidentally erases every video in the store, and they try to keep the business going by reshooting their own versions of whatever movies get requested. To their surprise (well, maybe not Jerry’s), people actually like their productions. The film had some laughs, like watching the two buddies film their own version of Ghostbusters. And a couple of high-powered actresses drop in (Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby; Sigourney Weaver, Ghostbusters). An enjoyable enough little movie, but nothing to particularly write home about.
Silas Marner, by George Eliot. I was looking around the house for something new to read, and I decided to give this book a try. I had bought it on sale for a dollar in a hard-cover “Borders Classics” edition, and it wasn’t too daunting in size (171 pages). And I had never read George Eliot before. Anyway, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I quite enjoyed it. It is a simple tale about a mysterious fellow named Silas Marner, a young weaver who has moved to the little English village of Raveloe around 1800. He keeps to himself in his little cottage outside of town, and the villagers talk about his odd ways but send him enough work for him to live. Meanwhile, the son of one of Raveloe’s leading citizens is hiding a secret that prevents him from marrying the woman he loves. And from there the tale unfolds very nicely. Why is Marner such an odd, solitary fellow? Can anything draw him out into the world of human relationships again? What will become of the tormented son of the forbidding Squire Cass? I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know, and I felt satisfied at the end of the tale. I recommend it.
A Girl Cut in Two (C). I decided to see this French movie based on the good grade it got from the Dallas Morning News — I didn’t read the whole review, just enough to assure myself that it’s not some sort of slasher flick. Anyhoo, it’s a sad movie about a girl who chooses badly in love and pays the price. Gabrielle (played by Ludivine Sagnier, who was Tinkerbell in the recent live-action Peter Pan) is a pretty, young weathergirl in the French city of Lyon. She attracts the interest of a loathsome man, Charles Saint-Denis, who is a successful novelist, well into his 60’s, and married. Inexplicably (to me), Gabrielle falls in love with him. Gabrielle’s mother, with whom she still lives, is justifiably concerned, but she seems to lack the resources to get in Gabrielle’s face and demand she face the fact that the old lecher’s promises to leave his wife mean no more to him than his wedding vows did. When he finally tires of Gabrielle, she makes a second disastrous decision, to submit to the advances of a wealthy but unstable man about her age who has been chasing her and denigrating Saint-Denis the whole movie. Gabrielle’s education in the school of hard knocks is hard to watch, but at least the director didn’t pretend that “enlightened” European attitudes about sex and marriage inevitably lead to a blissful utopia.
I hated this movie. Generally, it is about Charles Schine (Clive Owen, Children of Men) meeting Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston, Management) in a chance encounter on a train. Although both of them are married and each has a daughter, there is an immediate attraction between the two of them. Before you know it, they end up at a back-alley hotel to consummate their affair. But, they get interrupted when a stranger breaks into the room to rob them. The stranger, LaRoche (Vincent Cassel, Black Swan), ends up essentially haunting Schine, threatening to expose the affair to his wife, threatening his family, and extorting considerable amounts of money out of him. Although the concept was semi-interesting, the execution was awful. Schine acted completely contrary to human nature throughout the movie. Then again, if his character responded the way a person would be expected to respond, the movie would have ended pretty quickly. Granted, there are some unexpected developments, but the annoyance of the rest of the movie makes the whole thing an utter disaster. I really like Jennifer Aniston, but I have to say don’t waste your time on this movie – you’ll just end up skipping scenes to get to the end like I did. Also, be forewarned there is a rape scene.
I went into this movie with extremely low expectations. In fact, I didn’t want to see if for a long time because I’m not one for violent movies. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this movie. It is about a radio journalist, Erica Bain (Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs) who, along with her fiance (Naveen Andrews, TV’s Lost) are brutally attacked in Central Park by a gang of thugs. Bain survives, the fiance doesn’t. The remainder of the movie is about what happens to her and her struggle following the attack. I can understand why this movie is characterized as one about revenge. But what I found enthralling was how the film portrayed the transformation of a person after a sudden, unprovoked, and violent attack; the loss of innocence, and the “death” of the person that was and the involuntary creation of a new person filled with rage attempting to regain a sense of control and justice. Jodie Foster gave an excellent performance filled with raw, honest emotion. Although I had my suspicions, I never really knew where the story was going to end up or what was going to happen next. This certainly is not an uplifting movie. It is very dark, and one to watch more if you’re a student of human nature.
An American Carol (D-). I hoped that this comedic attack on brain-dead leftism would be good, but I feared that it would not. My fears were realized. I had hope at the beginning, as “Sweet Home Alabama” began to play and the opening shot showed Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun) cooking burgers at a Fourth of July cookout. Alas, he begins telling his grandkids a story, and that story makes up pretty much the rest of the movie. Loosely based on A Christmas Carol, the tale is about a slovenly left-wing documentarian obviously based on Michael Moore. In the midst of his campaign to abolish Fourth of July celebrations, he is visited by the spirits of JFK, General Patton (Kelsey Grammer, TV’s Cheers), and George Washington (Jon Voight, Anaconda), and they endeavor to show him that there is much more right than wrong with America. The movie’s heart is in the “right” place, from my perspective, but I chuckled maybe twice the whole time, and the whole thing had a real amateurish feel to it. To my chagrin, I cannot recommend it.
High Noon -Turner Classic Movies – High Noon is an American classic movie and western. It was released in 1952. On the day he gets married and hangs up his badge, lawman Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) is told that a man he sent to prison years before, Frank Miller, is returning on the noon train to exact his revenge. Having initially decided to leave with his new spouse, Will decides he must go back and face Miller. However, when he seeks the help of the townspeople he has protected for so long, they turn their backs on him. It seems Kane may have to face Miller alone, as well as the rest of Miller’s gang.
I was influenced to watch this movie by Bill Clinton. When Clinton left office, he was asked in an interview what movie would you advise George W. Bush to watch to prepare for being President of the United States. Clinton said that he would recommend High Noon. Now, I see why. Gary Cooper is terrific. He is literally scared to death, but his fear takes a back seat to do the right thing. However, doing the right thing is replaced by a sense of loneliness when he can’t get anyone to help him, including his friends. Cooper’s face tells the entire story. And his look at the end is priceless.
Bleacher Bum Movie Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout