Confessions of a Shopaholic (D-). Long-time readers of The Movie Court know I don’t really go in for chick flicks. Independent films (Henry Poole Is Here), bawdy comedies (Stepbrothers, Role Models), foreign films (A Secret), documentaries (Under the Sea 3D), and rough-and-tumble action fare (Quantum of Solace, Inkheart) are much more my cup of tea. So I don’t know what possessed me to see this movie about a New York girl with a credit-card-debt problem, who miraculously lands a job writing a financial column for a magazine edited by a handsome Brit. Isla Fisher (Definitely, Maybe) is cute and game, and I have it on good authority that Hugh Dancy (The Jane Austen Book Club) is a good-looking fellow, but this movie is simply terrible–long, boring, and simply not funny. And a remarkably fine supporting cast (John Goodman, Arachnophobia; Joan Cusack, School of Rock; Leslie Bibb, Iron Man; John Lithgow, 2010; Kristen Scott Thomas, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen; Julie Hagerty, Airplane!) is truly and utterly wasted. Save your money. Save your time. Save yourself.
Henry Poole Is Here (B). Luke Wilson (Old School) plays the title character, a middle-aged guy who looks like he is just about to implode. As the movie opens, he wearily buys a nondescript house in a nondescript California suburb, buys a shopping cart full of liquor and junk food at the supermarket, and looks like he is settling in to drink himself to death. But then his curious neighbor Esperanza (Adriana Barraza, Babel) pays him a visit, and she becomes convinced she sees the face of Christ in a water stain on the side of his house. And then Henry meets his other next-door neighbors–the lovely Dawn (Radha Mitchell, Finding Neverland) and her troubled six-year-old daughter Millie. (Does anyone really name their daughter Millie these days? The only Millie I have ever known is 60+ years old now.) What is Henry’s secret sorrow? And is there really a miraculous image on the side of his house? I was drawn in by this little movie, and if my little description remotely appeals to you, I urge you to give it a try.
Pride & Prejudice (Repertory Company Theatre). Well, I didn’t see this play in time for my review to help anybody decide to see to it. It ran from Feb. 13-22 at the Promenade Theatre on Coit Road in Richardson. But I case say that the production was of high quality and that I’ll definitely be willing to see RCT productions in the future. This play was adapted from the Jane Austen novel by James Maxwell, and it’s pretty faithful to the novel as best I can remember. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have larger parts than I remember them having in the novel, and Mrs. Bennet in particular is an over-the-top character who is really played for laughs. The actors in the major roles all did splendidly, especially Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, and only a couple of the minor players wobbled a little bit. The acoustics were generally good, although it seemed like a couple of people were inadequately miked. The Promenade Theatre is a small one, only 9 rows of seats or so, so there’s probably not a bad seat in the house. And at $20 ($25 for musicals), an RCT show is not a bad bargain. I urge you to give it a try.
Under the Sea 3D (B). I have weakness for IMAX documentaries, and this one is yet another beautifully filmed journal of encounters with remarkable critters like cuttlefish, sea snakes, leafy sea dragons, stonefish, sea lions, and even a great white shark. The movie was shot in Indonesian and Australian waters, and Jim Carrey (Disney’s A Christmas Carol) provides narration that is only slightly more lively than Daryl Hannah (Splash) gave us in Dolphins and Whales. Although the movie is good, it is also exactly what you expect, Maybe it’s time to give the oceans a rest, boys.
Home sick with nothing to do, I watched this movie from my Netflix selection. I was hoping for some mindless, action-filled entertainment with some jokes intermixed. My expectations were low, and I was still relatively disappointed. This movie just didn’t hold my attention, especially in the middle, and I found myself waiting for it to end. Though I typically like mindless action flicks, this one was, I guess, just a little too mindless. And I don’t remember laughing at any jokes, though I think a couple of eye rolls occurred. Skip it.
Step Brothers (B-). How do you rate, much less review, a movie that is as unrelentingly crude, that is as aggressively stupid, and that is as completely nonsensical as this one? Especially if it makes you laugh out loud several times along the way? The “plot” is preposterous. Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) and John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights) are Brennan and Dale–two 40-year-old men who still live at home with their single parents, played by Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Mary Steenburgen (Parenthood). Their world is upended when their parents meet and wed. Brennan and Dale act like they are about 9 years old. At first they hate each other, then they become best friends. Brennan has a successful younger brother named Derek who makes his family sing “Sweet Child of Mine” like a hymn while they ride in their SUV. Derek’s wife hits on Dale quite enthusiastically after he punches Derek in the face for being an arrogant jerk. Brennan falls in love with his therapist. Brennan and Dale go on job interviews together, with predictable results. None of it makes any sense, but as I said, I got some laughs out of it.
Tales, by H.P. Lovecraft (The Library of America 2005). I have long been curious about the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, who lived from 1890 to 1937 and was apparently a successful writer of “weird tales.” I became aware of his work in my youth thanks to the game Dungeons & Dragons. One of the several handbooks involved in that game was called Deities and Demigods, and it presented mythological figures not only from standard sources such as Greek, Norse, and even Egyptian mythology, but also from modern authors such as Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber. But one that really captured my attention was the “Cthulhu Mythos,” based on Lovecraft’s work. The gist seemed to be that there was a pantheon of immensely powerful, hideous, and evil beings that existed somewhere–on Earth? deep underground? in another dimension?–in a sort of hibernational state. Obscure and degraded human cults retained a vestigial knowledge of these ancient terrors, worshiped them, and tried to revive them to wreak their havoc on poor humanity. Cthulhu himself was some sort of immense octopus-headed dragonlike creature, and even to gaze upon him or the other abominations was to risk full-blown insanity. Pretty impressive stuff.
But the 800 pages of tales collected here generally left me cold. It’s pretty much the same thing over and over again. An intelligent man (women are virtually nonexistent in these stories) dabbles in forbidden lore or gets sucked into learning the black arts, and his lust for knowledge threatens to unleash a cataclysm of evil on the whole human race. Or an explorer discovers traces of an incredibly ancient and alien civilization that existed on earth long before the dawn of man. Lovecraft is amazingly inarticulate when he tries to describe the horrible things these poor guys encounter. For example: “The Thing cannot be described–there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order.” Well, okay–so Cthulhu is scary, then? And he uses the adjective “Cyclopean” in almost every single story. (Was Lovecraft’s middle name Polyphemus? I wondered.) And to put the icing on the cake, he comes off as racist, especially in the earlier stories, and sure enough the “chronology” in the back of the book reveals that as a teenager he once wrote a poem decrying abolition, based on the works of some white supremacist. I really cannot recommend this book; only a single story, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” struck me as even slightly above average.