Leap Year

A new review from The Movie Snob

Leap Year (D). Metacritic.com reveals that I am not alone in wondering whether Hollywood is capable of making a decent romantic comedy any more. I’m not complaining about the formula; the formula is fine. I’m complaining about Hollywood’s apparent inability to make a formulaic movie that is believable. Here we have Amy Adams (Julie & Julia), cute and likable as ever as Bostonian Anna Brady. Anna’s boyfriend of four years won’t pop the question, so when he goes to Ireland for work, she chases after him in order to capitalize on a quaint Irish tradition that a woman can propose to a man during a leap year on February 29th. But inclement weather causes Anna to land rather a long way from Dublin, and before you can say It Happened One Night, she’s off on a road trip with the brooding Irish hunk Declan (Matthew Goode, Stoker) as chauffeur. So far, so good — It Happened One Night is a fun movie even after all these years. But Declan is such a jerk, and Anna is such a ding-dong, and so many ridiculous things pile up at the end of the movie that you just want to shake Amy Adams and ask why she doesn’t demand a better script.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

New from The Movie Snob

Fantastic Mr. Fox (B+). I was unfamiliar with the children’s book this movie is based on, but I still got a kick out of the movie. Filmed in claymation, it is basically the story of an escalating war between Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney, The Peacemaker) and three mean farmers. In this world, foxes, badgers, possums, beavers, and rabbits live basically like civilized people (except they live mostly underground). The problem is that Mr. Fox cannot resist his natural urges to steal chickens and whatnot from the farmers, despite having promised his wife (voiced by Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!) long ago that his stealing days were over. The movie is a treat visually, and the quirky dialogue and plot are perhaps no surprise given that the movie is directed by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums). The finger-snapping rat voiced by Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) steals every scene he’s in. An odd, amusing, and entertaining little film. Even the soundtrack is odd, including the seldom-heard “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys and a track by the almost-forgotten Bobby Fuller Four (known almost entirely for “I Fought the Law”).

Sherlock Holmes

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Sherlock Holmes (D+). Based on the reviews I had seen, I expected Sherlock Holmes to be mediocre–but I didn’t expect it to be this mediocre. As played by Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), the supersleuth is not only a genius at deduction but also a formidable practitioner of the martial arts. With Dr. Watson (Jude Law, The Holiday) in tow, Holmes investigates a bizarre case in which a hanged murderer has apparently risen from the grave and threatens to take over England with an army of the undead, or something like that. Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers) has very little to do as American con artist Irene Adler. Choppily-edited fight scenes and overwhelmingly brown and gray cinematography do not add to the enjoyment. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the best 2 hours and 15 minutes of my life.

The Maltese Falcon

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Maltese Falcon (B). Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca) plays San Francisco private eye Sam Spade in this 1941 release. A beautiful and distraught woman hires him and his partner, Miles Archer, to tail a man who has supposedly run off with her sister. Next thing you know, Archer and the man he was tailing both turn up dead, and the woman’s story about her sister is exposed as a lie from start to finish. Turns out instead that she and some other underworld types are in a race to find a fabulous gold-and-jewel-encrusted totem from the Middle Ages called the Maltese Falcon, and Spade will need all his wits to figure out what’s going on and save his own neck. Not a bad little story, although Mary Astor (Little Women), who plays the femme fatale, didn’t really strike me as all that gorgeous. Sam Spade is a much meaner, colder character than Philip Marlowe, the private eye Bogart played in The Big Sleep. This film also stars Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, who would go on to appear with Bogart again in Casablanca, and Elisha Cook, Jr., who would appear with Bogart in The Big Sleep and would also turn up as a guest star on the original Star Trek TV series. Worth a look.

Guard of Honor (book review)

From The Movie Snob

Guard of Honor, by James Gould Cozzens (1948). Last year, I read a piece by a critic who singled out this long and forgotten novel as one of the very best English-language novels about World War II that there is. So I sought out the Dallas Public Library’s old, yellowing copy and gave it a try. I really liked it. Perhaps unusually, it is not about battle; it takes place entirely within the U.S., and primarily at an army air force base in Florida. There are lots of characters, but they are vividly drawn and pretty easy to keep straight. Two of the most important are non-career-military guys: a 60-year-old judge named Colonel Ross and a 38-year-old magazine editor named Captain Hicks. They are thoughtful men, and although they don’t necessarily buy into the honor-and-duty culture of the military, they do respect it and even understand its necessity during dark times like the war. A substantial part of the plot concerns unrest among African-American soldiers caused by the segregation of the officers’ club. (This was supposedly based on an actual event.) In sum, I thought it was an interesting and well-written book.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Postman Always Rings Twice (D). This is the 1946 original, not the 1981 remake starring Jack Nicholson (Wolf) and Jessica Lange (King Kong). I guess it’s considered a classic of film noir, but I just didn’t buy it. Lana Turner (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) is a gorgeous blond femme fatale. She plays Cora Smith, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage to a man who is much, much older than she is and a doofus to boot. A drifter blows into their roadside gas station/restaurant and takes a job there. Forbidden passion flames between the drifter and Cora, and they hatch a scheme to take hubby out of the picture–permanently. But things don’t go according to plan, and things spiral out of control. This movie just didn’t work for me, especially the ending, but it’s almost worth watching just for the lovely Lana Turner. Almost.

42 Up

DVD review from The Movie Snob

42 Up (B). The Borg Queen and I continued to watch this series of British documentaries that started in the early 1960s with 7 Up. This 1998 installment checks in with the folks from all walks of British life at age 42 — my own age, actually. As you might expect, there are not too many dramatic changes from the last installment, when they were all 35. But there are a couple of surprises that are saved for near the end that are, well, fairly surprising. I find myself wondering about one of the boys who has not participated in probably the last three installments–he went on to become a writer, I think, and then to work for the BBC, and he apparently permitted the filmmakers to use a couple of up-to-date photographs of him in the movie. I just wonder why he wouldn’t go all the way and appear in the movie already.