Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (C). This is the 1941 black-and-white version starring Spencer Tracy (Adam’s Rib) as the good doctor and the evil Hyde, and co-starring the lovely Lana Turner (The Postman Always Rings Twice) and the luminous Ingrid Bergman (Notorious). I don’t really remember the original Robert Louis Stevenson story, but the movie is a rather slow and plodding affair. The benevolent Dr. Jekyll hits a dead end in his research and unwisely uses himself as an experimental subject. The result is the unleashing of his own inner demons, in the form of Mr. Hyde. While Jekyll’s fiancee (Turner) is away on an extended trip, Hyde takes up with–and terrorizes–a poor barmaid (Bergman). Can Jekyll put the genie back in the bottle? Of course the movie is very clean, but there is some surprisingly suggestive imagery, especially in the dreamlike sequence when Jekyll first transforms into Hyde. Anyhoo, it’s still a much better movie than the terrible Mary Reilly starring Julia Roberts and John Malkovich. Yuck!

A Serious Man

A new review from The Movie Snob

A Serious Man (B). I skipped the last couple of offerings from the Coen brothers, but the reviews for this one caught my attention. Our local critic called it a modern retelling of the Book of Job, so I was intrigued. Setting aside a weird but interesting prologue, the movie is a slice from the life of a nondescript Jewish college professor named Larry Gopnik, circa 1967. Unlike Job, who is presented as being very rich and very holy, Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg, Men in Black 3) seems to be a very ordinary guy–decent enough, but not particularly virtuous. Some things start to go wrong in his life, and he begins to question whether there is any justice in the universe. Is there a God behind it all? And if so, what is He trying to tell poor Larry, who repeatedly protests, “I didn’t do anything!” But then, could that be the very reason his life is starting to fall apart? I really got engrossed in the movie and was eager to see how it all played out for poor Larry, but the ending let me down a little bit. In hindsight, though, it’s probably not a bad ending. Anyway, I enjoyed it, and if you see it in a thoughtful frame of mind I think you will too.

Surrogates (our 1000th post!)

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Surrogates (C+). Disposable sci-fi/action fare starring Bruce Willis (Bandits) (good grief — this is the first Bruce Willis movie I’ve seen in like 8 years). The premise is certainly interesting. In the near future, no one ever leaves the house; instead we plug into a computer network and use very realistic androids called surrogates to go out and do everything for us. Naturally, the surrogates tend to be rather better looking than their human owners; moreover, there’s no requirement that your surrogate be the same age, race, or sex as you are. Anyhoo, there’s a shock to the system when two androids get gunned down and, despite “foolproof” safety systems, their human operators die at the same time. Willis, who’s an FBI agent, follows the clues to a reservation of “Dreads” (humans who view surrogates as abominations and refuse to use them) and beyond. When his own surrogate gets destroyed, he has to pull his pasty, out-of-shape self out of his chair and do some literal footwork to find out who is behind all the shenanigans. The lovely Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) plays Willis’s wife, and Radha Mitchell (Henry Poole Is Here) plays his FBI partner.

Oh, and they used exterior shots of the Bank of America building in downtown Dallas as the headquarters for the sinister corporation VSI. Cool!

And that, friends, is The Movie Court’s 1000th post. How about that?

27 Dresses

DVD review from The Movie Snob

27 Dresses (C). A surprisingly high number of recognizable faces show up in this by-the-numbers romantic comedy. Jane (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up) loves weddings, which is a good thing because she has been a bridesmaid 27 times. She’s also in love with her boss George (Edward Burns, She’s the One). But her kid sister Tess (Malin Akerman, Watchmen) swoops in and sinks her claws into George, while simultaneously Kevin (James Marsden, X Men), a newspaper wedding columnist, starts getting into Jane’s head. Two musical montages and one horrible barroom rendition of “Bennie and the Jets” later, we finally get to see who ends up with whom. On the whole, the movie is not horrible, but it’s not great either, and it is definitely a tad too long. Moreover, the terrific Judy Greer (Elizabethtown) is criminally underused as Jane’s best friend. See it if you must. You’ve been warned.

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

Book review from The Movie Snob

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, by Christopher Caldwell (Doubleday 2009). I’m not sure why, but I find this subject (generally, Muslim immigration and declining Western fertility) very interesting. Canadian Mark Steyn writes a lot of columns about Western and Muslim demographics, and of course he’s a big doomsayer, but a lot of what he says sounds plausible to me. This book is like a big, expanded version of one of Steyn’s columns, and these are the main points I took away from it: (1) Europe now has a lot of Muslims living in it, and (2) although a lot of Europeans don’t like it, (3) no one really knows what to do about it. At the same time, many European political elites do not acknowledge that there is any “immigration problem,” much less that anything needs to be done about demographic patterns. (Interestingly, American-style affirmative action is apparently just now getting started in some parts of Europe.) Caldwell ends his book with the line, “When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.” I guess the next few decades will tell if this generalization pans out.

Whip It

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Whip It (B). Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut stars current It Girl Ellen Page (X Men: The Last Stand) as Bliss Cavendar, a misfit high schooler not unlike the title character in Juno. Bliss is stuck in the tiny Texas town of Bodeen, her mom insists that she compete in local beauty pageants, and she is just generally depressed with her lot in life . . . until she discovers roller derby. Before you can say “elbow pads,” little Bliss has survived open tryouts and joined the Hurl Scouts, a team in the Austin roller derby league. It strains credibility how quickly Bliss makes the transition from Barbie skates to league stardom, and how hard she falls for a homely, grungy singer in a two-bit rock band. But I can’t deny that I enjoyed watching the last-place Hurl Scouts claw their way up the standings for a climactic Bad News Bears style battle with the reigning Holy Rollers. And who didn’t get a little misty-eyed when Bliss’s disappointed mama nevertheless shows up to watch the big game? Well, I didn’t, but I bet a lot of people did.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (B-). I was hanging out with the Borg Queen this evening, and I did not object to her putting this recent release on the old DVD player. It is yet another reworking of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Matthew McConaughey (Mud) stars as Connor Mead, a successful fashion photographer and even more successful practitioner of the art of casual sex. But Connor is no shallow hedonist; he has a fully worked-out anti-marriage philosophy. His boorish defense of this philosophy gets him into trouble when he shows up for the festivities the day before his younger brother’s wedding. But then the ghost of his dear departed Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas, Solitary Man) appears to Connor, and the customary three apparitions thereafter try to show Connor the error of his philandering, loveless ways. Jennifer Garner (Juno), who is not my favorite actress in the world by a long shot, plays the One Who Got Away.  Emma Stone (Zombieland), whom I like a lot, appears as one of the ghosts. Diverting fluff.