From the desk of The Movie Snob
ABBA – The Music. Last night the Borg Queen and I went down to Dallas’s Meyerson Symphony Center and enjoyed a concert by an ABBA tribute band called Waterloo. (You can see their official website at http://www.abbathemusic.com.) We got a little nervous at first — they did the second song and most of the third in Swedish! But then they switched back to good old American for the rest of the concert, so all was well. They had two guest stars in tow — musicians who had actually played with the real ABBA back in the day! They were a saxophonist and a drummer, and they seemed to enjoy sitting in on a few numbers. For the most part the band did sound reasonably like ABBA, and they mimicked some of the band’s costumes and choreography from their old music videos. They did pretty much every song that hit the American charts, with a couple of minor exceptions. Lots of people were standing in the aisles, waving their arms in time with the music. In short, a good time was had by all, even us folks in the nosebleed seats.
From the Movie Snob
Toy Story 3 (B+). I enjoyed the first Toy Story but never got around to seeing the second one. But I don’t think that really affected my enjoyment of this latest edition, which is getting rave reviews. Andy is getting ready to go off to college, so he’s packing up his toys to store them in his mom’s attic. A mix-up occurs, and instead they are packed off and donated to a day-care center. It seems like a great break for the toys — until they are consigned to the play room for the toddlers, who play a little too rough for the toys’ taste. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can) comes to the rescue! All this stuff is good but not particularly great. The ending, though, has the heart that the rest of the movie lacks. I got a little misty, I won’t deny it.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
The Philadelphia Story (C+). In this 1941 release, Katharine Hepburn (Adam’s Rib) plays Tracy Lord, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite who is two years divorced from another upper-crust fellow named C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby). Tracy is on the verge of remarrying, to a rather dull and earnest self-made man named George Kittredge (John Howard, Lost Horizon). Dexter gums up the works by smuggling a tabloid reporter and photographer into the Lord house to document the nuptials, and the reporter (played by Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Tracy unexpectedly hit it off. This movie was apparently adapted from a Broadway play, and the dialogue gets a little speechy at times. But it’s not a bad movie, and I did kind of look forward to finding out whom Tracy was going to end up with.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Adam’s Rib (D-). This 1949 film stars Spencer Tracy (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and Katharine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby) as Adam and Amanda Bonner, a blissfully married couple that happen to both be attorneys. Their marriage comes under heavy stress when Adam is assigned to prosecute a woman for shooting and wounding her unfaithful husband, and Amanda decides to represent the defendant as part of her crusade for equal rights for women. The movie is terrible. The tone shifts back and forth abruptly from serious to unfunny comedy, the courtroom scenes are ridiculous, and there are inexplicable boring stretches like when Adam and Amanda have a dinner party and show everyone a dull home movie about the time they bought a farm in the country. Skip this one at all costs.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Ondine (C). This Irish movie is about a fisherman named Syracuse (Colin Farrell, Crazy Heart). He’s a sad sort of guy — he’s a recovered alcoholic, his marriage is busted up, and his precious little girl Annie is in a wheelchair and has serious kidney disease. But his luck seems to change when his fishing net pulls in a seriously waterlogged woman with a strange accent. She calls herself Ondine and at first begs Syracuse not to let anybody else see her. He lets her stay as the seaside cottage his ma used to live in, but Annie sniffs out his secret soon enough and becomes convinced that Ondine is really a selkie — a sort of water fairy that can change shape from a seal to a human, or something like that. Is she really? And if so, will her selkie husband come try to take her away from Syracuse and Annie? I can go along with this kind of fairy-tale stuff, but as my grade shows this movie didn’t really work for me. I will add that I thought Ondine was only moderately pretty, but she has a great figure, and the director doesn’t neglect to show it off….
Movie Man Mike chimes in on a summer blockbuster
Iron Man 2 (B+). The general rule for sequels is that the second movie is not as good as the first. Not so with Iron Man 2. The sequel is at least as good as the first and probably better. Where the first movie was focused upon introducing the character and the concept, the second movie is able to develop the character further and bring some new challenges to Iron Man. This is a great Summer film because it’s full of high-stakes action scenes. The conflict in this movie comes from the fact that the military sees the Iron Man technology as a potential threat and it wants the technology for its own purposes. Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr., assures the military that the technology is safe in his hands. Little does he know, a Russian villain named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has the technology, and he develops his own super-suit. Add to the mix Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who’s an arms dealer desperate to get the U.S. Government’s business, and you have a recipe for a potential catastrophe. The cast has a lot of surprising big names (also Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson), all of whom play their parts well and add flavor to the mix. If you don’t see this at the theaters, you should at least rent it. And if you haven’t seen the first one, check it out too (although it’s not a prerequisite to understanding and following the second film).
Movie review from The Movie Snob
Solitary Man (B-). Michael Douglas stars as Ben Kalmen, a 60-year-old New Yorker who’s part Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas in Wall Street) and part Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past). You see, Kalmen was once a hugely successful owner of car dealerships and had a lovely family, but he threw the business away through crooked business dealings, and he busted up his family by deciding to chase every woman who crossed his path. When this movie catches up with Kalmen, he is desperately chasing one last shot to get back into the world of business, and he is still chasing every woman who crosses his path. Douglas is perfect for the role, and there are nice supporting turns by the likes of Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland), Danny DeVito (Other People’s Money), and Jenna Fischer (TV’s The Office). But even though Douglas convincingly portrays Kalmen in all his bleak soullessness, something about the movie just didn’t quite ring true to me. The movie gave me the impression that Kalmen was a stand-up guy not all that long ago, and I didn’t buy the ostensible reason he changed from New York’s “honest car dealer” into a fraud and a lecher. But on the whole it was still a decent movie, albeit about a pathetic guy.
Book review from The Movie Snob
Cheating at Canasta, by William Trevor (Viking 2007). I picked up this collection of short stories at Half-Price Books for $6. At the time I could remember that I had read some of Trevor’s stories before, but I couldn’t remember how well I liked them. Probably not the best sign, but I bought it anyway. I thought these dozen stories were pretty decent. Some of the characters are a little odd, but there are some affecting and relatable stories too, like one about a widower who keeps a promise to his wife to return to their favorite restaurant in Venice. I reckon I’ll always prefer novels to short stories, but this book wasn’t bad.
Movie Man Mike sounds off with a DVD review
The Blind Side. (A) This is one of those feel-good Hollywood stories that will choke you up. But unlike many movie in this genre, this one choked me up right from the beginning and throughout. With Sandra Bullock narrating the replay of the old Joe Theismann football play that ended his career, you see quickly the central importance of football in the lives of Leah Anne and Sean Tuohy. But the real story isn’t about the sport; it’s about the character and class of Michael Oher. Michael Oher comes from a family so broken and dysfunctional that only a very few people could understand and identify with it. Probably the most amazing aspect of the story is not that the Tuohys take Oher in with the goal of lifting him up and helping him, but he lifts the whole Tuohy family up and changes them–for the better. The characters in this film are rich and wonderful. From Leah Anne Tuohy’s (Sandra Bullock) bull-headed determination to little SJ’s (Jae Head) comic relief. Aside from the story and the characters, the film may be worth watching just to hear some of the hilarious lines in it. I feel sure that Hollywood may have embellished this real life story for the big screen, but it’s worth watching in spite of the embellishments and it left me a fan of Michael Oher. He is a role model, and I wish him continued success on the football field and in life.
That Guy Named David makes a triumphant return to The Movie Court!
Get Him To The Greek (C-)
Maybe I just don’t like British comedians. No, that can’t be it, because I enjoy John Oliver (from the Jon Stewart Show) and have laughed occasionally at Monte Python. Okay, maybe I just don’t like Russell Brand. Yeah, that’s probably it. Oh, and I’m not a big fan of that Jonah Hill kid either. And adding Puff Daddy to the ensemble really didn’t do it for me. My wife told me after the movie that she was tempted to just walk out around 30 minutes before the asinine conclusion. I wish we would have. I understand the idea was to try to capture a little of what resonated with everyone in The Hangover (which I thoroughly enjoyed); however, this one missed the mark for me. I just don’t find Russell Brand very funny. And considering the whole movie revolved around him trying to be funny, I would say that probably had a bit of role in what I didn’t like. So, the movie sucked. Don’t see it. Instead, I recommend watching The Hangover again.
Movie review from The Movie Snob
Mid-August Lunch (B). This is a charming little (75 minutes) Italian movie about a tiny slice of real life. Gianni (played by director and writer Gianni Di Gregorio) is a ordinary Italian guy on the high side of 50. He’s out of work and getting into financial trouble with the condominium where he and his elderly mother live. The Italian mid-August holiday is coming up, and the condo’s administrator offers to cut him some slack if he’ll take the administrator’s own elderly mother in for a couple of days. He agrees, and the administrator shows up with his mother — and his Aunt Maria. Before long, a fourth elderly woman is added to Gianni’s boarding house. There are no murders, sex scenes, or laser-shooting robots in this movie; just a glimpse of a couple of days in the lives of Gianni and these four elderly ladies (played to perfection by four non-actresses, as it happens). Worth a look.
Book review from The Movie Snob
Blue Angel, by Francine Prose (2000). I read this novel based on a recommendation I saw in Commentary magazine, and I thought it was a pretty good book. The protagonist is Ted Swenson, a formerly successful novelist who has settled into a placid existence as a creative-writing professor at a small, private college in Vermont. He is a pitiful creature, somehow both completely self-absorbed and yet an utter mystery to himself. He has a lovely wife he seems incapable of appreciating and a sullen daughter who has gone off to college elsewhere. His world is suddenly upended when one of his students, a punked-out girl named Angela Argo, unexpectedly shows a wild talent for writing — and a not entirely scholastic interest in Swenson himself. As I said, I enjoyed this book, although Swenson is such a clod that it is hard to believe he could have ever written the critically acclaimed novels that supposedly made his reputation. Also, the book makes me want to see the old Marlene Dietrich movie The Blue Angel, which is frequently mentioned in the story.