Gods Behaving Badly (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips (2007). I remembered hearing some good things about this novel when it came out a couple of years ago, so when I had the chance I picked it up from one of those bargain booksellers. (I think it was Daedalus–fittingly enough for a book based on Greek mythology.) What if the ancient Greek gods and goddesses were real, and what if they were living in a crumbling old flat in modern-day London? In Phillips’s novel, Apollo has a cheesy psychic show on cable TV, his sister Artemis is a dog-walker, and Dionysus runs the hippest nightclub in the neighborhood. But the centuries are taking their toll on the deities, and they are getting the uneasy feeling they might not be so immortal after all. When Apollo falls in love with a mere mortal woman named Alice (with an assist from one of Eros’s arrows), an unlikely series of events threatens disaster for everyone. A cute premise and a breezy read.

Dial M for Murder

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Dial M for Murder (B). I acquired this Hitchcock classic as part of a “Turner Classic Movies” four-pack. It’s a pretty good little flick. The lovely Grace Kelly (Rear Window) plays a wealthy woman who is married to a British ex-tennis player but in love with an American mystery writer. Her husband is wise to her affair, but he is most distressed by the possibility that he will lose the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. So he contacts a weaselly fellow he knew in college, and with the utmost urbanity he recruits him to commit the perfect crime–murder! I can say no more without perhaps committing unforgivable spoilers, so I’ll just say it’s a good movie. But I do think there is a rather big implausibility in the middle of it. Enjoy!

Hotel for Dogs

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Hotel for Dogs (C+). Your options can get pretty limited when (1) you’re trying to pick a movie that both you and The Borg Queen will be able to tolerate, and (2) you’re renting out of one of those “Red Box” machines. Last night, this is what we ended up with, a Nickelodeon/DreamWorks production about a brother and sister who turn an abandoned hotel into a refuge for an ever-growing pack of stray dogs. The dogs are cute, and the movie is generally entertaining enough. Lisa Kudrow (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) has a thankless role as the siblings’ unpleasant foster mother; Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) fares somewhat better as their exasperated social worker/case manager. The star is a pretty, teenaged actress heretofore unknown to me named Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew); she reminds me of a young Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs).  (Apparently she is the niece of Julia Roberts, who is no favorite of mine.)  Anyhoo, this is a decent, family-friendly movie, even if it won’t win any Academy Awards.

The Messenger

A new movie review from The Movie Snob

The Messenger (B-). The Dallas Morning News gave this movie a glowing review, so I hurried on out to see it opening weekend. It was good, but far from great. Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster, X-Men: The Last Stand) is back in the States after being injured in Iraq, and for the last three months of his enlistment period the Army assigns him to the task of notifying the next of kin of soldiers who have been killed (whether in combat or in accidents). He is paired up with a veteran notifier, Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson, Zombieland), who is a recovered alcoholic and perhaps a touch crazy. The notification scenes really work–I’ve read that Foster and Harrelson weren’t told what was going to happen in those scenes, so their reactions would be more authentic. But the rest of the movie, such as Montgomery’s tentative relationship with a war widow (Samantha Morton, Code 46), generally didn’t feel all that authentic to me. So it’s kind of a mixed bag of a movie. And is it just me, or does Ben Foster’s voice sound just like Michael Douglas’s (Romancing the Stone)?

Rome and Jerusalem (book review)

From The Movie Snob

Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, by Martin Goodman (Vintage 2007). I have really taken a shine to popular history books about ancient Greece and Rome, and this recent book is squarely in that vein. The focal point of this book is the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire in 66 A.D., and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70. After a brief sketch describing the fall of Jerusalem, Goodman spends most of this book comparing and contrasting almost every aspect of Roman and Jewish culture in the decades leading up to the disaster, trying to understand why such staggering violence erupted after many decades of relative peace. At the end of the book, he describes the aftermath of the struggle, the political reasons that led Rome to take the unusual step of forbidding the reconstruction of the Temple, and the response of the young Christian movement to the events and aftermath of 70 A.D. It is a long and dense book–557 pages of very small type–but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

(Untitled)

Movie review from The Movie Snob

(Untitled) (C-). This is an intermittently amusing independent comedy about the New York art scene. The hirsute Adam Goldberg (2 Days in Paris) plays Adrian Jacobs, a composer of atonal musical works in which metallic buckets are commonly featured instruments. His brother Josh (Eion Bailey, Almost Famous) churns out colorful cloudscape paintings for hotels and doctors’ offices, but he wants to be taken seriously as an artist. And then there’s gallery operator Madeleine (Marley Shelton (Scream 4), who’s a dead ringer for Heather Graham of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), who dates Adrian while using Josh as her meal ticket so she can afford to show cutting-edge art involving stuffed opossums hanging from a chandelier, or the aptly titled piece “Light Bulb Going On and Off.” There are a few chuckles to be had–I especially enjoyed a scene in which a filthy rich “collector” invites a girl to his place, and she conks her noggin on some very artistic blue squares sticking out of the wall in an inconvenient spot–but the movie drags a bit even though it’s only 96 minutes long.

The Ugly Truth

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Ugly Truth (D). It stank. Now, don’t get me wrong. It is possible to make a good movie in which a prim and proper woman is thrown together with a rough-around-the-edges rogue, and erotic tension ensues. Think of classics like Gone With the Wind, The African Queen, and The Empire Strikes Back. But by no means think of this recent DVD release starring Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up) and Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera). She’s Abby, an uptight morning-TV-show producer; he’s Mike, a crude Howard Stern type who’s foisted on her in order to boost ratings. Mike is supposed to have unique insights into what makes men and women tick, but in reality he’s just a foul-mouthed boor with a uniquely low opinion of men and women alike. In the real world, Abby would respond to this walking hostile work environment with a lawsuit, but in this cretinous film things turn out differently–perhaps because, just beneath the surface, Abby is almost as vulgar and unpleasant as Mike is. This movie will not only waste your time, but I honestly believe it will make you worse as a person. I lament that it grossed $89 million in this country alone. Avoid it.

9

New review from The Movie Snob

9 (C). I caught this animated feature at the dollar theater, and that was about the right price. In a post-apocalyptic world, a handful of tiny, human-shaped “people” huddle together in a bombed-out church where they seek sanctuary against a few destructive robots still roaming around in the debris. Each has a number painted on its back, and 9 is the last one to show up. What happened to all the human beings? Are the little people alive, or are they mechanical themselves? And who made them? Well, I guess those are the questions you’re supposed to be asking yourself during this flick. Although the visuals were interesting, the story was not all that engrossing, and it kind of falls apart in mystical mumbo-jumbo after a while. They have some decent acting talent supplying the vocals (Jennifer Connelly, Elijah Wood, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer), but only John C. Reilly’s character stands out. I guess it would be worth a Netflix, if you have nothing better to watch.

Impact

DVD review from The Borg Queen

Impact

B-

This is an above-average made-for-TV miniseries about an asteroid that hits the Earth’s moon, starring Natasha Henstridge (Species), James Cromwell (fondly known to me as Dr. Zefram Cochrane), David James Elliott, Stephen Culp, Benjamin Sadler, and Samantha Ferris (all individuals with numerous one-episode appearances on various TV shows). At first, the damage to Earth resulting from the asteroid seems relatively minimal, but subsequent unusual natural disturbances suggest otherwise. Soon enough, a team of scientists determines that the moon is on a crash-course with Earth, leaving only 39 days for Earth to avoid certain complete obliteration. I give this movie props for making efforts to be different from other impact-based disaster movies. Although there were elements of predictability, the movie did bring something new to the table in this genre. The special effects were also pretty good. The acting was B-caliber (of course, some were better/worse than others), there were some good personal story lines along the way, and I even shed a few tears (of course, that was a malfunction relating to my Borg implants). Overall, I enjoyed the miniseries. It is long (190 minutes), but good enough for a quiet night (or two quiet nights) in.

The Oozing Skull

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Oozing Skull, brought to you by Cinematic Titanic (D+). This was apparently the first DVD release by Cinematic Titanic, which is a gang of some of the creators of Mystery Science Theater: 3000. It works just like MST3K; they play the movie and riff on how bad it is. You can see their silhouettes as they do it. The Oozing Skull is truly a terrible movie, about a mad scientist who is hired to perform a brain transplant to save a dying president from somewhere in the Middle East or Asia. But the riffing is just not all that entertaining. I think the MST3K guys may just have been a little rusty, because when I saw them live here in Dallas a while back, they were just hilarious. Give this one a pass.

Overboard

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Overboard (D). Some young friends of mine insisted that I needed to watch this 1987 Kurt Russell-Goldie Hawn flick. In fact, one of said friends actually loaned me the DVD. Oh, my. This is one of the worst movies I have seen in a while–maybe since the execrable Hello Again, starring Shelley Long. I know this movie came out 22 years ago, but surely the use of amnesia as a key plot device was worn out even back then. Anyhoo, Goldie Hawn (Housesitter) plays a ridiculously wealthy witch of a woman who cheats Kurt Russell (Big Trouble in Little China), a blue-collar carpenter, out of a weekend’s wages. When she falls overboard from her yacht and gets amnesia, Russell gets revenge by claiming to be her husband and dragging her back to his hovel to clean, cook, and take care of his four monstrous boys. Crude sexual humor is sprinkled throughout, and we are treated (?) to a lengthy inspection of Hawn’s white behind in the early going. I was also offended by the lame cover-band version of the ZZ Top classic “Legs” at the opening of Russell’s dream business–a miniature golf course. Wretched, wretched stuff. Avoid at all costs.

Zombieland

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Zombieland (B-). I’m no horror-movie buff, but I’m kind of developing a taste for zombie movies — or at least ones that have a sense of humor about them, like Shaun of the Dead and this current release. As our movie begins, the zombies have already conquered America, leaving only a very few human survivors. There’s Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, Adventureland), a neurotic fellow of about 25 who has developed roughly 31 rules for staying alive in Zombieland. There’s Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, Management), a buff crazy dude who loves to kill zombies. And there are sisters Wichita (Emma Stone, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, No Reservations). Despite some friction, the four team up and head out west, where they have heard there might not be any zombies. Apparently the zombies hordes have been depopulating themselves somehow, because there really aren’t all that many zombies around, and the movie is largely a road-trip movie with some decently clever dialogue and a truly bizarre but entertaining sequence involving an extended cameo by a major Hollywood star. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some gross zombie stuff too, but not as much as you might expect. Cute little Abigail Breslin is starting to grow up, so we’ll see how she segues into older roles. And Emma Stone was much more attractive than I had any reason to expect from her past roles.

If you go see this movie, be advised that there is apparently a final scene after the closing credits, or so I have read. I didn’t know that, so I didn’t stay for it. Dad gum!

Charlie Bartlett

The Borg Queen reviews another DVD release

Charlie Bartlett – B

I enjoyed this movie because it was different and generally well acted. It is a story about a rich teenage boy with a relatively unstable but likeable mother. He gets kicked out of private school and enrolls in public school, where he finds that his easy access to psychiatrists, and therefore prescription drugs, puts him in a position to become the counselor for the student body. The cast includes Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Hope Davis (The Hoax), and Kat Dennings (The House Bunny). It is a charming, honest story about Charlie as he learns to adapt to his new school, befriend a bully, develop a relationship with the principal’s daughter, and deal with the relationship he has with his mother and his non-present father. It also has subplots about the principal (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his struggles to acquire the respect of his students, cope with alcoholism, and repair the relationship with his daughter. It is not Oscar-worthy, but it is a good flick for a night in.

Obsessed

The Borg Queen assimilates this DVD

Obsessed – D+

It was slim pickings on my netflix queue. This movie was entertaining enough for a run-of-the-mill single-white-female-type flick when I had absolutely nothing else to do, but there was nothing new about it. This is a story about a temporary secretary (Lisa) who becomes obsessed with a rich, married executive (Derek). All of the typical things occur–such as Lisa attempting to corner Derek into an “encounter,” threats to the family, etc. But the story was the same story we’ve seen multiple times before, and it didn’t have any edge to it at all. To say that the characters were underdeveloped would be a compliment, as I don’t really believe they were developed at all. The acting was also mediocre, and I thought Beyonce (who played the role of Derek’s wife) was sub-par.