DVD review from The Movie Snob

Troy (B). I saw this movie once back when in was in the theaters, and I bought the DVD not too long after it came out, but I only recently got around to watching it. Clocking in at 2 hours and 43 minutes, it’s barely shorter than the Trojan War itself! (Especially as portrayed in the movie, in which the War seems to take about two weeks after the Greeks arrive on the shores of windy Ilion.) I like the movie, despite its many obvious departures from the Iliad. Brad Pitt (Babel) makes a brooding Achilles, Eric Bana (Star Trek) is an admirable Hector, and Peter O’Toole (Stardust) is pitiable as aging King Priam, ever-trusting that the gods will reward him for his piety. Chief among the film’s demerits is the goofy love story between Achilles and the captured Trojan priestess Briseis (Rose Byrne, I Capture the Castle). But if you like swords-and-sandals epics, I don’t see how you could fail to like Troy.

The Eclipse

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Eclipse (C). Part romance, part ghost story, this strange Irish hybrid doesn’t fully work as either. Ciaran Hinds (Race to Witch Mountain) plays Michael Farr, a sad widower with two kids, a dog, and a job as a woodworking instructor at a college in a smallish Irish town. He volunteers to help with a literary festival, where he meets Nicholas Holden, a successful novelist and jerk played by Aidan Quinn (Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius), and Lena Morelle, a warm, decent woman who writes ghost stories, played by Iben Hjejle (High Fidelity). Michael’s acquaintance with Lena comes in handy, because he has started to suffer from ghostly apparitions of the “Boo! Scare ya!” variety. Maybe I’m a little sensitive, but to me the ghostly encounters were sufficiently scary to knock the subtle drama of the Michael-Lena-Nicholas triangle right off its feet. But the acting was good, and I have wanted to see Hjejle in more movies ever since High Fidelity. She was in a little-seen but worth-seeing movie called The Emperor’s New Clothes a few years ago. It was certainly more enjoyable than this odd (and short, at 88 minutes) movie.

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Clash of the Titans (B+). I’ll begin by confessing that the 1981 original version of this movie was very important to me in my youth. I was about 13 years old and way into science fiction and fantasy, not to mention Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t see many movies back in those days, but I think I managed to get to this one at least twice. I’m sure the special effects were terrible, and the story made a hash of Greek mythology, but Perseus’s quest to find a way to save Princess Andromeda from being sacrificed to the monstrous Kraken was good enough to fire my imagination, especially since it involved the snake-haired Medusa, giant scorpions, the winged horse Pegasus, and heaven knows what else that I have since forgotten. Plus, even though the film was rated PG (or else my parents never would have let me see it), there were a couple of fleeting examples of female nudity. How that got past the MPAA, I will never understand. Maybe they loved Greek mythology as much as I did.

Anyhoo, enough reminiscing. This remake departs from the old version in many ways, but I don’t think the departures bring it any closer to mythological accuracy. In this version, mankind is rebelling against the capricious Greek gods, which somehow works to the advantage of Hades (Ralph Fiennes, The Reader) in his secret plot to overthrow Zeus (Liam Neeson, Batman Begins). As in the original, the Greek city of Argus gets cursed to be destroyed by the Kraken unless Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos, The Mist) is sacrificed to the beast, and Zeus’s son Perseus (Sam Worthington, Avatar) goes on a quest to stop the curse from coming true. A sad-faced gal named Io (Gemma Arterton, Casino Royale), who’s laboring under some curse of her own, tags along with Perseus and his merry band and offers him pointers on how to slay Medusa. The movie doesn’t make any sense, but I just went along for the ride and enjoyed it just fine. I will say that I remember the original Medusa being a lot scarier than this CGI-looking version. The original one slashed her own arm open so she could poison arrows with her own blood, for crying out loud! It’s fun to pick out the many other familiar faces along the way. There was reliable old Pete Postlethwaite (The Usual Suspects), plus Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), Polly Walker (TV’s Rome), and even Nicholas Hoult, all grown up from his performance in About a Boy, as one of Perseus’s faithful followers. Go with low expectations, and you’ll be entertained.

Oh, by the way, I heard the 3D version was terrible, so I opted for the 2D version and liked it just fine.

When You’re Strange

Move review from The Movie Snob

When You’re Strange (B+). This is a documentary about The Doors, a 60’s era rock band that, according to the narration by Johnny Depp (Chocolat), still sells a million albums a year. I’m probably the perfect audience for the film–somebody who has long liked The Doors’ music but has never been interested enough to read a book about them and doesn’t really know their history. The entire movie consists of archival footage and photographs of the band, in and out of concert, and the narration traces the band’s arc from 1965 to 1970. Of course the film focuses heavily on lead singer Jim Morrison, who drank himself to death at age 27, and there are lots of clips of Morrison driving through a desert, apparently from a film project that was never completed. The narration gets a little banal at times, but otherwise this is a solid, enjoyable film . . . if you like The Doors.

Love Happens

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Love Happens (D). This is what happens when you rely on The Borg Queen’s Netflix subscription, people! I like Jennifer Aniston (Management) as much as the rest of America, but dang she has made some bad movies. This recent bomb stars Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking) as self-help guru Burke Ryan, whose specialty is grief counseling. His own wife died in a car crash three years earlier, and now he is on the motivational-speaking circuit touting his book, entitled A-OK. But Ryan is plainly not okay as he blows into Seattle (where his wife died) for one of his gigs. He meets Eloise (Aniston), a local flower-shop owner fresh from a break-up, and tentatively goes after her. The movie is all over the place tonally — the tentative romance gets no more screen time than Ryan’s grief-therapy encounters with a seminar-goer named Walter, and on top of that Ryan has to deal some with his deceased wife’s father (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now). Painful stuff.

The September Issue

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The September Issue (B). This is a documentary about Vogue magazine and its legendary editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. (Wintour is supposedly the inspiration for Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.) The cameras just kind of follow her around as she does her things, which are primarily (1) going to fashion shows, and (2) making snap judgments about what pictures will and won’t go into her magazine. The movie is more interesting when it follows Grace Coddington, who is one of Anna’s top lieutenants. It’s kind of fun to watch Anna torture Grace with her arbitrary decisions. Anyway, it’s not the most earth-shattering topic, but it’s an enjoyable documentary.

How to Train Your Dragon

Movie Man Mike favors us with a review

How to Train Your Dragon (B+). This is a surprisingly good animated film for both adults and children.  I saw this in 3-D and the special effects are quite good.  This film is rated PG, but I’m not sure why. I don’t recall any bad language or “adult situations.” I suspect that it got a PG rating only because “G” ratings have more of a drag on a film’s marketing than a PG rating. The storyline in this film is original and entertaining. Hiccup is the son of a Viking king. The Viking’s village has been plagued for centuries by dragon attacks. The King takes great pride in killing dragons, but poor Hiccup is this very small guy who pretty much embarrasses his father. Hiccup wants to fit in though and manages to shoot down a night fury dragon, which is a terror-of-a dragon, but which had never before been seen by a Viking. From that point on, Hiccup learns many secrets of the dragons and becomes a champion of the village as a result. The animation in this film is great, and so are the voices of the characters. I heartily recommend this film.

MST3K: Volume XVI

DVD review from The Movie Snob

MST3K Volume XVI. Another collection of four episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Corpse Vanishes. (D) This episode was from MST3K’s first year on regular cable TV, and sadly it is just not very good. Kevin Murphy had not yet taken over as the voice of Tom Servo, so that was a big strike against it right there. The movie is a lame horror movie starring Bela Lugosi (Plan 9 From Outer Space) as a mad scientist who kidnaps young brides and uses their blood to keep his frightful hag of a wife alive. There’s also a short, an episode from an old-timey space opera called “Commander Cody and the Radar Men from the Moon.” Lame episode, best forgotten.

Warrior of the Lost World. (B) This is a much more solid effort from a few years later. The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a bearded nonentity rides around on an annoying talking motorcycle and begrudgingly helps some rebels against a fascist dictatorship led by the always-reliable Donald Pleasence (Pumaman). I was astonished to see Persis Khambatta in the credits—she played the totally bald navigator in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and I thought she had virtually no other film roles after that. Then I started thinking maybe this was a renamed version of a terrible movie I saw back in the 80’s called Megaforce, which she was in, but no, apparently that was a different terrible movie. Anyway, this was a pretty entertaining exercise for the guys on the Satellite of Love. As a special bonus, we get a short interview with the director of Warrior, and to his credit he doesn’t really try to defend his movie.

Santa Claus. (B-). Not a bad episode. This is a Mexican Christmas tale depicting Santa as a snoopy old guy who lives in a castle on a cloud with a doddering old Merlin and lots of children from all over the world. A junior devil named Pitch is sent to Earth on Christmas Eve night to tempt children to behave badly and try to impede St. Nick’s progress with diabolical pranks. Amid all the goofiness is a surprisingly touching story about a poor little girl named Lupita who just wants a dolly for Christmas. (Even Tom Servo has to concede that she is “aggressively cute.”)

Night of the Blood Beast (B-). Another decent but not spectacular episode. In this old black-and-white sci-fi movie, a rocket pilot returns to Earth–dead. And a hideous alien has somehow stowed away on his ship. The other five people who work at NASA try to figure out what is going on when the dead guy comes back to life and is revealed to have alien babies incubating inside of him. Some decently funny riffs from Mike and the robots.

Shutter Island

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Shutter Island (B-). I’m generally not one much for twisty psychological thrillers, but what the heck — it’s Easter! Martin Scorsese again directs Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), who plays federal marshal Teddy Daniels. When the film opens (in 1954), Teddy and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count on Me) are on their way out to Shutter Island, a creepy asylum for the criminally insane run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, Species). It seems a female prisoner (Emily Mortimer, Match Point) has disappeared into thin air, and everyone on the island seems to be covering up some big secret. Teddy has a lot of baggage himself (the murder of his wife and his participation in the liberation of Dachau have taken their toll), and the place starts to get under his skin in a big way. The movie is more suspenseful but less scary than I had expected from the previews, which was a relief. Worth a look.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Alice in Wonderland (B). I don’t really remember the original Disney animated version of this movie, but my vague recollection is that it was long on visuals and short on plot. This new version is much more plot driven. After a brief prologue with Alice as a young girl, we catch up with Alice (Mia Wasikowska, The Kids Are All Right) as a young woman facing a marriage proposal from a dorky aristocrat. Of course she soon finds herself back in Wonderland, but it is rather different from when she first visited it.  The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, The Astronaut’s Wife) is apparently just kind of hanging out. The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club) rules like a tyrant, while the good White Queen (Anne Hathaway, Get Smart) flits around her castle ineffectually, waiting for a champion. Unfortunately the obvious choice–Alice–thinks the whole thing is just a dream! It felt kind of like The Wizard of Oz, souped up into more of an action movie. I enjoyed it. Oh, the 3D effects were okay, but I don’t think they made the movie or anything.