A second opinion from The Movie Snob
Iron Man 2 (C). I think Movie Man Mike gave this sequel high marks, but I just can’t go there. In fairness, I had a slight headache when I entered the theater, so maybe I wasn’t in the best shape to see a loud action movie. But my head was POUNDING by the time I left. Anyway, if you saw the first Iron Man, this is basically more of the same. Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder) reprises his role as Tony Stark, a zillionaire businessman with a suit that gives him superpowers. Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) steals most of his scenes as metal-mouthed villain Ivan Vanko. Scarlett Johansson (He’s Just Not That Into You) has surprisingly little screen time as girl-from-legal/secret-martial-arts-expert Natalie Rushman. Anyhoo, it’s loud, lots of stuff blows up, and the cuts are edited so fast you really never know what’s going on. Stay through the end credits for a scene that I guess hints at the contents of Iron Man 3.
The Movie Snob reports on a recent release
Eclipse (D-). Seriously, do even teenaged girls really like these terrible Twilight movies? They are s-o-o-o slow! Nothing ever happens, and when it does, it’s very seldom. In this latest installment, human Bella (Kristen Stewart, Zathura), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson, New Moon), and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautin, New Moon) hang around and yak incessantly about who’s in love with whom, who’s not in love with whom, and if and when Bella is going to get changed into a vampire herself. Blah blah blah it goes. Meanwhile, really evil and good-looking vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, Terminator: Salvation) is inexplicably kept off the screen virtually the whole movie. So is the other attractive gal vampire Alice (Ashley Green, New Moon). What is up with that? This was a really painful experience. Avoid it!!!
DVD review from The Movie Snob
49 Up (B-). Well, the Borg Queen and I are finally up-to-date on this series of British documentaries. To recap, in 1964 some British filmmakers rounded up a gaggle of 7-year-olds from various social classes. They interviewed them all about their attitudes, their likes and dislikes, and their expectations for the future. The result was the first entry in the series, 7 Up. Every seven years since then, director Michael Apted (Amazing Grace) has gone back, found those same kids, and interviewed them again for a new film. (I think they were mainly made for TV, but imdb.com shows that 49 Up got a short theatrical release in the U.S.) As of 2005, when this one was made, the people are all about 49, and time has been hard on some of them but pretty good to others. It’s an interesting experiment, but I have to say the series gets less interesting as it goes on. People just don’t change as much after they’re 21, or at least 28, and after 28 Up each episode has seemed kind of the same: people have mostly married, maybe had kids, maybe divorced, and probably lost a parent or two. The kids from the lower classes have generally had a tougher time than those from the upper classes. The most interesting part after the early episodes is that one of the participants, who was a really cute and happy-seeming child, developed mental illness, and you always wonder what each new episode will bring for him. For that reason alone, I hope they do make a 56 Up here in the next couple of years.
Book review from The Movie Snob
Lord of the Changing Winds, by Rachel Neumeier (Orbit 2010). Full disclosure — Ms. Neumeier is a cousin of mine, so I may be prone to partiality here. Disclaimer aside, I thought this was a really good fantasy novel. It’s subtitled The Griffin Mage: Book One, but it reads like a stand-alone book. In a world where magic is real, three human kingdoms exist side by side: Linularinum, Feierabiand, and Casmantium. Kes is a teenaged girl in a small village in Feierabiand, where nothing much ever happens–until a band of griffins (half-eagle, half-lion, all-killer) swoops out of the sky and begins to change the lush and fertile fields of Feierabiand into the scorched and lifeless desert they prefer. What is the cause of this unwelcome invasion? The mystery only deepens when a wizard appears and sweeps Kes away to the griffins’ new home. I thought this was a good story, well told, and even better than Neumeier’s debut novel The City in the Lake. One quibble — did the griffins’ names really need to be such jawbreakers? Try saying “Opailikiita Sehanaka Kiistaike” three times fast! And that’s just one griffin! Quibble aside, I highly recommend Lord of the Changing Wind and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Movie Man Mike is the first member of The Movie Court to see
Inception (A). Loved it! I don’t know who dreamed up the story idea for this movie about dreams, but it made for a fascinating experience. The dream-within-a-dream concept gave the writers a lot of liberties to show multiple timelines and storylines with some bizarre events that could only happen in dreams. The story format opens up opportunities for the viewer to question what may or may not be reality versus dream. The special effects were great. There are some nice action scenes created by the subconscious minds of the dreamer when the subconscious realizes that there may be some foreign element invading their dream space. And the actors are really good. Main characters Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are very good in their roles as dream invaders. If I had to find flaws in this film, it would be two things: They don’t really go into a lot of depth to explain this whole shared dream technology other than to say that it was devised by the military—as if that explains it. Second, Ellen Page, as Ariadne, is a little too quick to grasp the concept of dream invasion and she is a bit young and green to be advising Cobb (DiCaprio) about his psychoses. This is a criticism of the character, not the acting, which was otherwise good.
One thing that may have been a bit of a private joke on the part of the producers was the choice of music that the characters used to signal to the dreamers that time was running out in the dream. They used the music of Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, but she also appears in this film as the deceased wife of Cobb. I can’t help but to think this was not a coincidence.
By all means, go see this film and don’t wait for the rental, as it’s probably better viewing on the big screen.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Despicable Me (B). The name of this animated movie and the trailers for it that I saw a hundred times were both strikes against it. But it got a good review in the Dallas Morning News, so I was game for it. Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) voices a villain named Gru. Although he aspires to supervillainy, he doesn’t really have what it takes. (Instead of stealing the actual Statue of Liberty, he steals the one from New York, New York in Las Vegas.) To accomplish his supreme feat of supervillainy–stealing the moon itself–he first needs to steal a shrinking-ray gun from rival villain Vector. Here’s where the real beating heart of the movie, which is totally missing from the trailers, comes in–to get access to Vector’s lair, Gru adopts three adorable little orphan girls who have sold Vector a bunch of cookies and will be admitted to the lair when they deliver them to him. If you don’t think the girls will melt Gru’s heart–eventually–you don’t know movies. I saw the 3-D version, but it didn’t add a whole lot, in my opinion.
A new review by The Movie Snob
Cyrus (B-). This is an odd little movie. The premise is simple. Sad sack divorced guy John (John C. Reilly, Chicago) starts dating attractive Molly (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler). They get along great, but the fly in the ointment is Molly’s oddly close relationship with her 21-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill, Get Him to the Greek), who still lives at home. You could take this set-up over the top and wind up with a comedy along the lines of Stepbrothers (which also starred Reilly). Or you could make Cyrus totally unbalanced and make some sort of Psycho-type flick out of it. But Mark and Jay Duplass, the directors of Cyrus, play it straight — Cyrus is maladjusted but he’s not crazy, and his relationship with his mom is weird but not perversely so. I liked it well enough, and I certainly wanted to see how things were going to turn out.
A book review from The Movie Snob
American Austen: The Forgotten Writing of Agnes Repplier (John Lukacs ed.,ISI Books 2009). How in the world did I come across this book of essays by forgotten writer Agnes Repplier? I got it as a free selection when I joined the ISI Book Club. Agnes Repplier lived in Philadelphia from 1855 to 1950, never married, and made a living as a writer/essayist. According to the dust jacket, she was “as esteemed in her own time as such writers as Dorothy Parker, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton.” Hmmm. Anyhoo, her writing is very polished and pleasant to read, but only some of the essays in this book really held my attention. I enjoyed the one about her days as a convent schoolgirl, and her essays about writing and the literary way of life, and the group collected under the heading “biographical sketches.” But her essays about Philadelphia, America, and politics did not really strike my fancy.
From the pen of Movie Man Mike
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (A-). Whew! Let me say this story wore me out. I was exhausted and needed a drink after watching it. The plot was so riveting, I pretty much forgot that the film is subtitled. It begins a little slow, and it’s a little confusing at one point when they lay out all the members of the Vanger family, but if you can stick with it, it is well worth it. Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, who is the girl with the dragon tattoo, and she is a fantastic character. I would never want to meet her in a dark alley. Salander is a computer hacker and is an unlikely partner to reporter Mikael Blomqvist, who is hired by Henrik Vanger to solve the mystery of his niece’s death 45 years afterwards. But the partnership produces some interesting leads, and the plot quickly thickens. Let me warn readers in advance that there are a couple of scenes with graphic sexual violence. I was not aware that the scenes were in the movie beforehand, and it caught me off guard. I totally understand the director’s decision to put these scenes in the movie, because you cannot totally understand the dimensions of Lisbeth’s character (assuming that is possible at all) without those scenes. Even if you don’t catch this movie at the theaters, by all means rent it on DVD,
A new review from Movie Man Mike
The Last Airbender (C+). I liked the idea for the story for this film. I liked the special effects in this film. But its downfall is in the acting. The acting is reminiscent of an after-school special. I was impressed with the acting of relative newcomer Noah Ringer, who played a Dalai Lama-like character. Aside from Ringer’s performance, the performances of the others don’t support a big-budget, high-profile film like this. I wouldn’t waste my money seeing this in the theaters. Wait for the DVD.
Movie Man Mike gives us his take on a recent release
Toy Story 3 (B+). This was a well-made film. It’s a good addition to the prior two installments in this series. There were some very funny moments that made me laugh out loud. Andy, the owner of the toys, is grown up and going off to college, so it’s fitting that the story and humor in this film mature somewhat for the audiences who have also grown up with Andy. The addition of Ken (Michael Keaton, Beetlejuice) and Barbie (Jodi Benson, The Little Mermaid) was cute, but one of my favorite moments had to be when Mr. Potato Head became Mr. Soft Tortilla Head.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Get Him to the Greek (D). I know, I should have listened to That Guy Named David and skipped this movie. But I saw a decent review. Then I read that it features Rose Byrne (I Capture the Castle) as a pop diva, and I kind of like her. So I gave it a shot. To be sure, I did laugh a few times. But the film is wildly uneven in tone. The comic side involves the trials and travails of a nerdy record-company employee (Jonah Hill, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) as he tries to escort a washed-up British rock star (Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) from London to L.A. within 72 hours (in time for a big comeback concert). But there is a lot of somber, dark stuff about drug addiction and romantic betrayal too, which makes you not want to laugh when the movie tries to turn funny again. Also, like most or all of these Judd Apatow productions, this movie is stuffed to the gills with vulgar language and sexual perversions of various kinds, so probably no one really ought to watch it. Unlike That Guy Named David, though, I did like Sean Combs as the over-the-top record-company president or whatever he was. I take it Mr. Combs is a person of some note in the music industry in real life?
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Woman of the Year (C-). In this 1942 release, Spencer Tracy (Adam’s Rib) plays Sam Craig, an ordinary guy who’s a sportswriter for a New York City newspaper. He crosses paths with Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story), who also writes for the paper but is otherwise out of his league in more ways than one — she’s wealthy, she’s on familiar terms with political leaders around the globe, she speaks about seven languages, etc., etc. But they fall in love after he takes her to a baseball game, and the question inevitably arises whether a romance can work for long when the woman’s achievements are so much greater than the man’s. The first half of the movie is pretty good, and the early going of the romance is well done. But the picture falls apart during the second act to such an extent that I can’t really recommend it.
A movie review from The Movie Snob
The City of Your Final Destination (B-). This is the latest from director James Ivory (Howards End), so if you’re expecting a talky drama, you’re right on the money. A young literature professor type named Omar is desperate to write an authorized biography of deceased author Jules Gund, but the trustees of his estate (his widow, his mistress, and his brother) send him a letter denying him permission. Omar’s pushy girlfriend Dierdre pushes him into going to meet them face-to-face (and unannounced) to try to change their minds. The hitch is that they all live on a ranch called Ocho Rios — in Uruguay! But Omar goes, and he uncovers some familial secrets as he gets to know the widow (Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me), the brother (Anthony Hopkins, The Wolfman), and the mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg, 21 Grams). It’s not a bad story if you like this sort of thing, but Omar is such a wishy-washy dishrag of a dude I just wanted to slap him after a while.
A book review from The Movie Snob
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. I had long heard of this 1868 novel, but I didn’t really know anything about it until I bought this “Wordsword Edition” paperback at Half-Price Books for a dollar. It’s a mystery, and according to a back-cover blurb by T.S. Eliot, it is “[t]he first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.” At 434 pages, it is certainly plenty long, but I enjoyed it well enough or I would never have finished it. The Moonstone is a huge diamond from India, captured by a British soldier during the conquest of India and sacred to the “Hindoos” as Collins refers to them. The possessor of the Moonstone wills it to his niece Rachel Verinder, and it is given to her at a party on the evening of her 18th birthday. That very night, it is stolen! Was it taken by the mysterious Indian jugglers who had been seen in the neighborhood? Or one of Rachel’s relatives, or servants, or Rachel herself? A detective who bears some resemblance to Sherlock Holmes is called in on the case, but circumstances prevent a prompt resolution. Anyhow, it’s undoubtedly a little corny by today’s standards, but I liked it. I also enjoyed the introduction by some British professor guy, which I read after I had finished the novel. For a dollar, it was well worth the price.