Letters to Juliet

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Letters to Juliet (C-). OK, I was supposed to pick up something from a Redbox that I thought The Borg Queen would like, so my options were severely limited. As it turned out, we wound up watching DVDs of “The Office” instead. But I decided to go ahead and watch this subpar romance before I returned it to the Redbox. The movie is based on an interesting factoid: there is a little courtyard in Verona that is said to be the courtyard of Juliet (of Romeo & Juliet fame), and lots of lovelorn people apparently write letters to Juliet seeking advice. They leave the letters there, and a band of local people actually read the letters and write them back, signing themselves “secretaries of Juliet.” (All this is covered in an extra on the DVD.) I thought that was kind of interesting, especially since I’ve actually been to that courtyard. So anyhoo, an engaged couple from America go vacationing in Verona, only the guy is so caught up in interviewing suppliers for a restaurant he wants to open in New York that the girl (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia!) has to entertain herself. She finds out about this secretaries-of-Juliet business, and then she just happens to find a letter in the courtyard that has been there for fifty years. (Those careless Italians!) And when she writes the letter-writer back, the letter-writer (an elderly British woman) actually shows up in Verona, escorted by her very eligible grandson Charlie (who looks a lot like Ryan Philippe, Crash). The girl and the two Brits set off across Tuscany together looking for the Italian beau that the British lady jilted 50 years earlier, and it unspools predictably, though not believably, from there. Worth skipping.

The American

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The American (B). Be warned: this is a grim movie. George Clooney (Burn After Reading) stars as Jack, who is some sort of international criminal and probably an assassin. In the opening scene, something goes wrong for Jack in Sweden, and he hightails it to Italy where his truly evil-looking boss directs him to lie low in an little hill town and await further instructions. His next job comes soon enough; he is to custom-build a rifle and silencer capable of being quickly disassembled and hidden in a briefcase. In the meantime, he is befriended by the town’s old Catholic priest and develops a more-than-professional relationship with a prostitute named Clara. But, given Jack’s line of work, trouble is never far away. This is not a fast-paced action movie, as the movie posters have misleadingly suggested, but more of a psychological portrait of a bad man whose wicked deeds have almost, but not quite, extinguished his humanity. The movie definitely held my attention, but it is certainly not flawless. Although the film is set in Europe, the Hollywood convention of portraying prostitutes as beautiful, disease-free women with hearts of gold is alive and well. And I am still befuddled by something that happens during the film’s climax; the motivation for a critical act by one of the characters is totally opaque to me. But on the whole, I thought it was a good movie.

Postscript. Okay, having read some messages on the imdb.com board for this movie, I now understand the ending better. Things apparently didn’t happen the way I thought they happened….

A Letter to Three Wives

DVD review from The Movie Snob

A Letter to Three Wives (B). This is a 1949 film that was written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz of All About Eve fame. So you’d expect it to be well-written and have a lot of snappy dialogue, and, sure enough, it does. The set-up is this: in an unnamed small town, three female friends meet on a Saturday morning to help chaperone some underprivileged kids on a big boat-and-picnic outing. They are expecting to be joined by their friend Addie, but instead a letter is delivered to them on the pier just as they are departing, and in it Addie announces that she is skipping town that very day–with one of the three friends’ husbands! The rest of the movie consist mostly of three flashbacks, as each of the three friends ponders a particular incident that might cause her husband to be the one that’s running away with Addie. And then at the end, the truth is revealed. Although, truth be told, I thought the ending was just a tad bit ambiguous, and the comments on the movie at imdb.com tell me that I wasn’t the only one!

I bought this movie as part of a 4-pack of “Studio Classics” from 20th Century Fox. (Isn’t it remarkable how inexpensive DVDs have gotten?) The DVD for this movie also includes an episode of the TV series “Biography” about one of the stars of A Letter to Three Wives, Linda Darnell. It was pretty interesting too.

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (B). How in the world did I come to watch this 1957 film directed by John Huston (The African Queen)? Well, I’ll tell you. I was flipping through an old book of Roger Ebert movie reviews, and I happened to read his review of Six Days, Seven Nights, starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche as a mismatched couple stranded on a deserted South Pacific island. Ebert said that this old movie was a much better take on the same basic premise. So I looked it up. Robert Mitchum (Where Danger Lives) stars as Corporal Allison, a Marine who is washed up on a South Pacific island during WWII. He discovers that the only person there is an Irish nun, Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr, From Here to Eternity). When the Japanese show up, they have to hide out in a cave, and of course some romantic tension begins to build between the two. I would agree with my fellow film critic that this is a better film than Six Days, Seven Nights, but it is undermined a little bit by some unbelievable stunts that Corporal Allison pulls in the course of the movie. But it’s definitely enjoyable and worth seeing.

Tom Petty (concert review)

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Two of my college buddies and I went out tonight and rocked out the way only three 40-something geezers can do.

1. Maple & Motor Burgers and Beer. We started out at this relatively new Dallas burger joint. The Dallas Morning News raved about it, and I like it fine but don’t really quite see what the fuss is about. My buddies, Jim and Mark, had never been before, and they were favorably impressed by the burgers. And don’t get me wrong, the food is fine. I just don’t think it’s the end-all of burgers. There were a couple of guys playing live music, and we enjoyed their rendition of “The Waiting.” I wonder if they also went to the Tom Petty show….

2. ZZ Top. I was never a huge fan of this band, which played maybe 45 minutes or an hour as the opening act. And the first half of their set was older bluesy stuff I had never heard before, so it was kind of lost on me. Also, one of the two bearded frontmen told some long rambling story that I totally missed the point of. But I enjoyed it when they played their three hits from “Eliminator” back to back to back, and they wrapped up with “La Grange” and “Tush,” which were fine. Not bad for an opening act.

3. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Now I saw these guys once before, I guess it was 10 years ago or more — they had The Wallflowers as their opening act back then. And I have to say, I think that show was better, definitely more energetic. Tonight, Tom Petty and the band were so laid-back as to be positively languid. Maybe Petty’s voice has gone downhill some, but he definitely wasn’t as yowlly as some of his songs (“Refugee,” for example) really call for. In fact, his vocals were occasionally kind of muffled and lost in the music. But I should hasten to add, it was still a pretty good 90-minute set. The crowd did quiet down when he did three or four in a row from the new album “Mojo,” but he had plenty of audience enthusiasm for the rest of the set, which included “Free Fallin,” “Listen to Her Heart,” “Learning to Fly,” “Breakdown,” “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” and “I Won’t Back Down.” And there was noticeably more energy in the encore, which consisted of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “American Girl.”

(500) Days of Summer

DVD review from Nick at Nite

(500) Days of Summer

500 Days of I am a Little Sad and Bored. I really wanted to see this movie, so much so that I put it off for nearly a year. Reason. None. I think it was destiny. Like our protagonist, I was “destined” to see this movie – well after it had been released to the theaters, on DVD, pay per view, and your local cable provider. Here is my beef. I like quirky. I am even known to tolerate a romantic comedy. However, I am usually not too happy to invest an hour and a half in a movie that is not some sort of an escape. This movie was quirky. It was not romantic comedy. Perhaps it is the inner teen in me lashing out over failed relationships, but I really do not need to see another one on the screen. It is just too true. This is why I hated The War of the Roses and What About Bob? (I know What About Bob? is not a romantic comedy – it still makes me angry). If I want to see something serious, I’ll watch a biopic or catch shark week. If I want to watch people fall out of love, I’ll follow couples to the mall. It is faster and less painful. I give (500) Days a Summer a “B” for bummer.