Arrested Development – Season One

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Arrested Development – Season One (B+). I never watched this show during its run, and I kind of regret it now. It is a frequently amusing soap-opera spoof about the Bluth family, a wealthy California clan whose wealth comes from a home-construction company run by George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor, Paul). In the first episode, however, George is arrested for suspicion of illegal business dealings, leaving his one responsible child, Michael (Jason Bateman, Juno), to try to run the company while simultaneously managing his conniving mother Lucille and his three ne’er-do-well siblings George, Jr. (called G.O.B., pronounced Jobe), Lindsey, and Buster. As well as his son, George Michael (Michael Cera, This Is the End), his sister’s bizarre husband Tobias, and his slacker niece Maebe. The Buster character is not particularly funny, but the rest are a hoot, like the glassy-eyed Will Arnett (Blades of Glory) as inept magician G.O.B. Soap opera staples like forbidden crushes, blackmail, unexpected adoptions, and twins materializing out of thin air all play their parts. Also, there are lots of great guest stars, such as Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind), Julia Louise-Dreyfus (TV’s Seinfeld), Judy Greer (American Dreamz), and, in a recurring role as the family’s terrible lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn, Henry Winkler (Night Shift).

I laughed out loud frequently as I worked my way through the first season, watching straight man Michael try to raise his son and save the company without letting his family drive him insane. Oh, and I got a kick out of the often-hilarious “scenes from next week,” which were never part of the next episode but often explained why stuff from the episode you just saw had no real consequences.

To me, this was one of the funniest exchanges all season, when several of the family members are meeting with their lawyer Barry about what will happen at George Sr.’s arraignment in court.

Barry: “You all just have to show up and pretend to be a happy, loving family.”

Lucille: “For how long?”

Barry: “Ten minutes.”

Lucille (with eyes narrowed): “See if you can get it down to five.”

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Valkyrie

New review from The Borg Queen

Valkyrie – C+. I was dragged to see this movie by my brother, I’m not really a fan of war-related movies. As is clear from the previews, this is about a group of men relatively high in the Nazi regime that conspire to assassinate Hitler. Despite my disdain for Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow) since the beginning of his couch-jumping, Scientology-preaching, antidepressant-loathing episodes, I’ll admit that the acting in the movie was all in all pretty good. The story line is interesting, but has an obviously undesirable end. At the end of the movie, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why, rather than concocting an elaborate assassination attempt, did these men not just shoot Hitler when they were near him? Maybe I missed something. In any event, the movie managed to hold my attention throughout the duration, which is saying something seeing how I generally don’t like these movies.

In a Summer Season (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

In a Summer Season, by Elizabeth Taylor (Virago Modern Classics, orig. (c) 1961). No, this is not a book by the fabulous star of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but a novel by a British author who lived from 1912 to 1975. I think I read about her in Atlantic magazine as being a fine but underrated author, so I made a note and got this book for Christmas. Obviously it is a quick read, checking in at 221 pages. It is also an enjoyable read, although I thought the ending was a little contrived. It is the story of Kate Heron, a widow in her 40s who lives in a small village an hour from London, who was left well off by her husband, and who has married a handsome but directionless man ten years her junior. This last detail in particular has many of the other characters’ tongues wagging and causes Kate herself some consternation. Apparently her work has been compared to Jane Austen, and I can see why; the book is full of close observations about the various characters, and events click into place in a satisfying manner. I enjoyed it a lot.

Amazing Journeys

New review from The Movie Snob

Amazing Journeys (B+). I’m back in Arkansas, and that means a trip to the IMAX theater out by the airport. This current offering is a cut above your average IMAX nature film. It is about the amazing annual migrations undertaken by various species of animals–monarch butterflies, birds, grey whales, and others. Great photography and interesting facts combine for a fun and educational experience.

A Secret

Movie review from The Movie Snob

A Secret (B+). This French movie (Un Secret in its native language) is a meditation on dark passions and dark deeds. The central character is a child psychologist named Francois, but most of the story is told in flashbacks to World War II, to Francois’s childhood in the 1950s, and to his adolescence in the 1960s. His parents never speak of what happened to them during the war, but the young Francois finds some mysterious clues in the attic, and eventually a close family friend tells the adolescent Francois the story of his parents, and about the brother he never knew. I’ll say no more so that you can enjoy the same feelings of surprise, even shock, that I did as the events unfold. The movie itself is not graphic, but be advised that it does incorporate some graphic old footage from the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Role Models

New review from The Movie Snob

Role Models (B). Okay, there’s no denying that there is lots to disapprove of in this movie. Gratuitous nudity. Vast quantities of crude and obscene language. Most of it said to, in front of, or by children. It is rated R for a reason. All that said, I laughed a lot at this movie. Paul Rudd (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) delivers another solid comedic performance playing Danny, a guy in his mid-30’s who makes his living pushing an energy drink called Minotaur on schoolchildren under the guise of a “stay off drugs” campaign. He loathes his life, consequently driving away his attractive lawyer girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games) and getting into a legal jam that requires him and his partner Wheeler (Seann William Scott, American Pie) to put in 150 hours of community service or go to jail. They wind up in a Big Brothers type program, in which Danny mentors a nerd who’s into live-action Dungeons & Dragons in the park every weekend, and Wheeler draws a younger black kid with an amazingly foul mouth. The gal who runs the program is a crazy ex-junkie played by the irreplaceable Jane Lynch (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), who made my jaw drop almost every time she opened her mouth. Not for all tastes, but I think you’ll like it if you liked, oh, I don’t know . . . The 40-Year-Old Virgin?

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (C). Star Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) is perhaps the finest child actor working today, but even she can’t elevate this mediocre movie above, well, mediocrity. Breslin plays the title character, a happy girl and aspiring reporter whose idyllic life takes a turn for the worse when the Great Depression costs her dad his job. Dad leaves home to look for work in Chicago, and Mom takes in boarders to help make ends meet. Kit and Mom befriend a couple of hobos who do odd jobs around the house for food, but when some valuables and the hobos go missing it doesn’t look good for their new friends. Despite a fine cast (including Stanley Tucci, Jane Krakowski, Julia Ormond, and Joan Cusack), the movie somehow falls flat. Cusack in particular overacts shamelessly and spastically.