Fame (2009)

The Movie Snob offers up a new review.

Fame (C+). Let’s say it up front: I never saw the original 1980 movie, nor the TV series that ran from 1982-1987, so I can’t tell you if this reincarnation is better or worse than its predecessors. I can tell you that it reminded me of A Chorus Line, albeit a tame, after-school-special version. In the opening scene, hundreds of kids are auditioning to try to get into a New York City high school for the performing arts. Then we follow a handful of those who make the cut through all four years of their high school experience. Given that it’s only 107 minutes long, the movie feels rushed throughout. The veteran actors who play the teachers (e.g., Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth) have only a few minutes of screentime; most of the movie consists of song-and-dance performances by the young stars, connected by talky scenes to establish two-dimensional characterizations and cliched conflicts. Actually, I was reasonably entertained by the performance sequences, but the Borg Queen saw it with me and said that even they were lackluster. I thought it was okay for a matinee, but I think the Queen would tell you to avoid it at all costs.

Pandorum

Another review from the pen of Movie Man Mike

Pandorum (B). This sci-fi/horror film was a little heavier on the horror side than I anticipated. It was extremely suspenseful. I was exhausted by the end of it. The story is set in the future when Earth’s natural resources are becoming rapidly depleted. Earth discovers another far away planet that is about as close to Earth’s own conditions as possible. A space ship with thousands of humans is launched on a multi-year journey to start a colony on the new planet. “Pandorum” is the name that was given to a type of psychological space sickness that seems a little bit like paranoia. The movie opens with flight crew Bower (played by Ben Foster) and Payton (played by Dennis Quaid) waking up from suspended animation to discover that something is wrong with the space ship. Bower heads towards the ship’s reactor to reset it and get the ship going, but he encounters some very unexpected obstacles along the way. This was a thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi film that fits well within this “B” category of films. If you don’t see it at the theaters, it would make a good rental.

9

Movie Man Mike bestows a review on us.

9 (not “District 9”) C+. The theme of this film is a common one—man-made machines take over the earth and exterminate all human life. I was taken in by the film because it (a) is a Tim Burton film, (b) is animated, and (c) had cool music to go with the trailer I watched online. I never heard the same music that I heard as part of the trailer. Visually the movie was captivating. The animation was great. At the end of the day, however, I wasn’t “wowed” by the story. The writers did nothing new with this old theme and the resolution of the story-line left me wanting. I was interested to see that the theater I saw this in was not very full, but it had a mix of children and adults. Yet, after watching the film, I am not really sure who the film’s target audience is. Maybe teens? This one is more of a rental, if you are inclined to see it.

The Informant!

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Informant! (B). Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) plays Mark Whitacre, a biochemist and executive at agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. The company suspects industrial sabotage by a Japanese competitor, and the FBI gets involved. But when an FBI agent (Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame) goes out to Whitacre’s house to install a recording device on his telephone, Whitacre drops a bomb: ADM is involved in an international price-fixing conspiracy. He agrees to turn informant and help the Bureau build its antitrust case by wearing a wire. But Whitacre has some . . . difficulties with truth-telling, as it turns out, making the FBI’s job that much more difficult (to say nothing about the challenge Whitacre poses to his own lawyers). I thought it was an entertaining little film, kind of like Catch Me If You Can. On a side note, one of the FBI people is played by Ann Cusack, sister of John and Joan, and even though I couldn’t remember ever seeing her before, there was no mistaking the Cusackness of her voice. Also, old-school comedians Tom and Dick Smothers make cameo appearances.

Freaks

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Freaks (B+). This 1932 film is apparently now considered a classic. Directed by Tod Browning (Dracula), it is a straightforward story of love and deception in a traveling circus troupe. It shocked contemporary audiences, and is still pretty shocking today, because much of the cast was made up of actual “circus freaks”: people suffering from various chronic handicaps and deformities, such as Johnny Eck, who was born without legs, and Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Anyway, the circus’s ballerina seduces a midget named Hans, and when she finds out he is secretly wealthy, she concocts a plot to marry and murder him for his money. But the freaks look out for their own…. It is not a subtle film, but it is still an interesting and effective one.

The Haunting (1963)

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Haunting (B+). Usually these old movies aren’t so great, but this one was a pretty effective chiller. Hill House is a big, creepy house with a dark past — irresistible to a gung-ho professor with an acute interest in the supernatural. He recruits two women, plus the brash young man who stands to inherit the place, to move into the place with him and help him investigate any unusual phenomena. One of the women, Eleanor (Julie Harris, East of Eden), is already a little unhinged when she arrives, and the weird goings-on soon threaten her fragile sanity. Or is everything already all in her mind? The movie is surprisingly scary. Director Robert Wise (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) makes do with minimal special visual effects and virtually no things that jump out and go boo. Camera angles and sound effects effectively create an atmosphere of paranoia and dread. If you like scary movies, this one is worth seeing.

House of Wax (1953)

DVD review from The Movie Snob

House of Wax (C). No, this isn’t the remake starring Paris Hilton; this is the 1953 original starring Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) and featuring a young Charles Bronson (Crime Wave) as Igor. Price plays Henry Jarrod, a fey and eccentric master sculptor of wax figures who refuses to sensationalize his work so as to pander to the crowds. His business partner wants out, and when Jarrod refuses to let him torch Jarrod’s display room so as to collect the insurance money, the partner beats Jarrod senseless and leaves him in the burning building. Soon thereafter, a mysterious and disfigured villain starts stealing bodies from the morgue and terrorizing a young woman who’s a dead ringer for Marie Antoinette. Jarrod himself reappears, wheelchair-bound and crippled, to open a new wax museum devoted to shocking and appalling its patrons. But how does he make his new creations so lifelike? It’s not scary at all by today’s standards, but it held my interest reasonably well.