Atlantic City

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Atlantic City (B-). Although this 1980 release scored five Academy Award nominations, I found it a little dated and a little cheesy; nevertheless, I still enjoyed it. Burt Lancaster (From Here To Eternity) stars as Lou, a sad, older fellow who used to run around with gangsters but now spends his time running numbers (what does that mean, exactly?), running errands for the obnoxious widow of another gangster, and spying on Sally (Susan Sarandon, Solitary Man), the attractive woman in the apartment next to his. (Although they’re next-door neighbors, somehow they have facing windows he can spy on Sally through.) Sally’s no-good husband (and her dippy sister, who’s carrying hubby’s baby) blows into town with some cocaine he stole from some mobsters in Philly, and he hits Lou up to help him fence the stuff. The mobsters don’t take long to track the stolen goods to Atlantic City, and someone’s bound to get hurt. As thrillers go, it ain’t The Fugitive, but it’s not a bad little movie. The DVD comes with virtually no extras, but I paid $3 for it at Big Lots!, so I guess I can’t complain.

The Tourist

Nick at Nite goes sightseeing with The Tourist

The Tourist.

Sadly, this movie is not receiving a fair shake. Everyone wants to complain – Jolie and Depp have no chemistry, it is not an action film, it is not a romantic comedy, it doesn’t know what it is – well those complainers should come down from their ivory towers and give this film a chance. The Tourist is not the best movie ever made, but it is entertaining and worth the price of the ticket to a first run feature. It reminds me of some of the better 70s or 80s thrillers (not meant to be ironic). Think Three Days of the Condor and Robert Redford. The movie has some action, a plot, some twists, a few laughs, and a ton of scenery to chew on. Jolie plays the girlfriend of a financial thief. Depp is the hapless tourist that is thrust into Jolie’s intrigue. The co-star of this movie is Venice. Wow, I want to go there. I give this move an “A.” Ignore the other reviews. Go see it.

The Fighter

New review from The Movie Snob

The Fighter (B+). Mark Wahlberg (I Heart Huckabees) stars in this based-on-a-true-story movie about Mickey Ward, a boxer from the blue-collar Boston suburb of Lowell, Mass. Ward has grown up in the shadow of his older brother, Dickey (Christian Bale, Reign of Fire), who never fulfilled his potential as a boxer and has now descended into crack addiction. Worse, Dickey and the boys’ mother Alice (Melissa Leo, Everybody’s Fine) are terrible managers for Mickey and get him into fights he can’t possibly win. But then Mickey starts dating a tough bargirl named Charlene (Amy Adams, redeeming herself from Leap Year) who teaches him to stand up for himself, and he has a shot at building a real boxing career. It’s not the most original story, but the plot does throw a couple of minor curveballs to keep it interesting. And the acting is fine all the way around, especially Bale as the drug-addled and semi-crazy Dickey.

Black Swan

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Black Swan (B). I wasn’t as bowled over by this movie as Movie Man Mike was, but it’s definitely worth seeing if you’re into freaky, psychological shenanigans. Natalie Portman (The Other Boleyn Girl) stars as Nina, a ballerina on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Her smothering mother (Barbara Hershey, Hannah and Her Sisters) and mean director (Vincent Cassel, Birthday Girl) don’t help matters any, but you get the feeling that most of Nina’s demons are the result of her own desperate quest for perfection. It’s not a horror movie, but there are a couple of startling moments. It’s worth seeing, and Portman gives a gutsy performance.

Sense and Sensibility (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen. I saw the movie version starring Emma Thompson (Dead Again) many years ago and loved it, but I’ve never seen it again, and I had never read the book either. It was Austen’s first published novel, and it is not on the same level as some of her others, but it is still an enjoyable read. It’s about two teenaged sisters, Elinor and Marianne, whose father dies and leaves their financial prospects rather uncertain. Elinor is intelligent, practical, and grounded, while Marianne is romantic and impetuous. This being Austen, of course both sisters fall in love, and the twin love stories drive the plot. Willoughby, the dashing young man of uncertain character who sweeps Marianne off her feet, is certainly one of the Austen’s most lively and vivid creations. I definitely want to watch the movie again after reading the book (even though, as a friend recently remarked to me, Emma Thompson had to be at least 20 years too old to play Elinor).

Peyton Place

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Peyton Place (C+). This 1957 production scooped up nine Academy Award nominations without a win. Although melodramatic and soapy by today’s standards, I thought it was still a decently entertaining (if long, at 156 minutes) experience. It’s 1941, and Peyton Place is a lovely, quiet New England town–on the surface. The film focuses on a handful of teenagers who are graduating from high school, and a handful of adults such as the school’s new principal and the attractive widow who runs the town’s dress shop (played by Lana Turner, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). A major theme of the movie is the adults’ concern and fear over their kids’ growing curiosity about sex–they probably come across as puritanical prudes to modern generations, but there’s no doubt they were prescient about what the future held. And considering that the movie was made in 1957, I thought it was a pretty forward-looking attempt to reckon with a range of difficult subjects, from sex education in the schools to domestic abuse and rape. Worth a look.

Pillow Talk

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Pillow Talk (F). Oh, my! This was my first Doris Day movie, and I was amazed at how bad it was. I thought it would be fluffy and corny, but I assumed it would still be a little bit entertaining. Not so much. Day (Lover Come Back) plays Jan Morrow, a happily single interior designer in NYC. Rock Hudson (Lover Come Back) plays Brad Allen, a womanizing songwriter who happens to share a party line with Morrow. (Back in the old days, if you can believe it, people sometimes had to share their home telephone lines with complete strangers. This was called a “party line,” although it seems like it wouldn’t be much of a party to share the line with someone who monopolized it all the time.) Anyhoo, Morrow and Allen argue a lot over his excessive telephone use, but then he chances to see her in real life. She’s a cute blond, so he adopts a false identity and sets out to woo her. Tony Randall (Lover Come Back) plays Jonathan Forbes, Allen’s chum and competitor for Morrow’s affections. The movie is completely lacking in wit, and the few songs showcased in the film are terrible. Don’t waste your time on this dog!

Great Books (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf and other Indestructible Writers of the Western World, by David Denby (2d ed. 2005). Denby, a movie critic for upscale Northeastern magazines, went to Columbia University back in the early 1960s. Columbia, then as now, had a core curriculum that required all students to read the great books of Western civilization from Homer on down. In 1991, he went back and took (or I guess audited) the two basic Western civ classes again, and then he wrote this book about the experience. I enjoyed the book, probably because I had to read many of the same books during my own college experience, and because Denby is an engaging writer. A pretty liberal guy himself, Denby casts stones both at the radicals who want to abolish the idea of “great books” entirely and the conservatives who want to teach those books as establishing in stone a single set of moral ideals. And it’s amusing to read him argue with each of the great authors in turn — there’s hardly a one Denby doesn’t get the better of by the end of the chapter. And although Denby seems to want to appreciate the great books for teaching us to widen our perspective and to refrain from demonizing those who disagree with us, there are a couple of short startling passages where he demonizes away at the heartless right-wingers out there. But I enjoyed it, on the whole.

Black Swan

New review from Movie Man Mike

Black Swan. (A). Visually haunting and amazing. The images in this film stayed with me for days and visited me in my dreams. This film has been nominated for 4 Golden Globe awards and it is receiving some early Oscar buzz—and rightly so. Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a devoted, aspiring ballerina, who lives under the shadow of a controlling, suffocating mother, played by Barbara Hershey. Nina finally gets her chance to prove herself as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake when Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) is put out to pasture. But director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) has doubts as to whether Nina has it in her to also be the black swan-a darker, more sexual character. The pressure of it all pushes Nina into unexplored territory physically and mentally. The entire cast of this film is brilliant, including free-spirit Lily (Mila Kunis), who pushes Nina to the brink. At the end, you’ll ask yourself, where reality begins and ends. You gotta see this one. It’s good. My one criticism of this film are the little gasps of fear that come out of Portman during some of the dance scenes. It’s a bit annoying and probably not needed to express the emotion of the character.

Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C+). Bear in mind that I have never read the Narnia books, so I can’t comment on the movie’s (un)faithfulness to the source material. I approached it hoping merely for a decent fantasy-action movie, with perhaps some Christian undertones. Well, the Christian undertones were pretty minimal, as far as I could tell, and as a fantasy-action movie it was pretty mediocre. The two younger children from the first two movies are transported back to Narnia, along with their pain-in-the-neck cousin Eustace. There they join the crew of the Dawn Treader, a ship commanded by Prince Caspian from the last movie. The Treader is on a quest of some sort, but I was a little hazy on what prompted the voyage. Anyway, they get direction soon enough, with the ultimate goal being an evil island somewhere out off the edge of their map. So they go island-hopping and have adventures on the way. It was a decent-enough flick, but it’s doesn’t remotely compete with The Lord of the Rings trilogy in quality. It’s rated PG for fantasy violence, and the climactic battle with a sea serpent would probably be too intense for the little ‘uns.

Love and Other Drugs

New review from The Movie Snob

Love and Other Drugs (D). This movie just isn’t very good. Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway, Get Smart) is an attractive but bitter young woman suffering from stage one Parkinson’s disease. Her path crosses that of Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal, The Good Girl), a soulless pharmaceutical sales rep whose only hobby is having lots of meaningless sex. Since Maggie has closed the door on love and is ready to self-medicate her despair with meaningless sex, it is truly a match made in hell. Let’s don’t forget all the other loathsome people in this movie, like Jamie’s pathetic younger brother, a Jack-Black-lookalike who sleeps on Jamie’s couch despite being a multimillionaire (yeah, right), and a doctor played by Hank Azaria (Godzilla) who is, apparently, obsessed with having meaningless sex. The movie is padded out with scenes about the pharmaceutical industry and the shocking secret that pharma companies are out to make lots of money. But the main plot is the unpleasant and unconvincing romance betwen Maggie and Jamie. There’s lots of gratuitous nudity. Skip it.

The Town

New review from The Movie Snob

The Town (B). The critics have really liked the latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck (Argo), and I have to say I liked it too. Affleck stars as Doug McCray, the leader of a small band of bank robbers from the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) costars as McCray’s trigger-happy right-hand man, James Coughlin. In the opening bank robbery (in which the gang is heavily disguised), Coughlin takes a bank manager named Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) hostage. Although the gang later lets her go unharmed, Keesey also turns out to be from Charlestown, and Coughlin is concerned that she might be able to I.D. them later. McCray refuses to let Coughlin snuff her, and he contrives to meet her so he can try to find out if she saw anything that could identify the robbers. She’s a sweetie, and soon enough McCray is hooked. Meanwhile, hard-as-nails FBI man Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm, TV’s Mad Men) is tightening the net around the gang. Although the movie is not quite believable in spots, I still thought it was a good heist movie, with some better than average car chases, shootouts, and the like.

The Walking Dead (season one)

New review from zombiemaster Nick at Nite

The Walking Dead

The problem with a television show is that it is hard to sustain momentum. Unless each and every episode can stand alone – Law & Order, MacGyver, Jersey Shore – your show must convince the viewer to return week after week (or at least to hit the record season button on their DVR). The Walking Dead succeeds where The Event, Flashforward, and Silver Spoons have failed. I confess. I love Zombie movies. Like teenagers to Twilight, I dart from one Zombie movie to the next with bated breath. The Walking Dead gets it right. Compelling stories, scary Zombies, creepy scenery, and a more than passable cast. This is a longer, chewier 28 Days Later. In fact, when I watched the premiere I had the impression that it was just a rip off of 28 Days Later. Seriously, a guy wakes up in a hospital and the world is overrun by Zombies? I was mistaken. It is an original story and any similarities are only minor. The Walking Dead is based on a comic book series that was developed independently from 28 Days Later. My only disappointment is that the season is already over. Here is the good news. The complete season is already available for sale at Amazon. If you did not see it, go buy it. I give the series an A+.

Godzilla (1998)

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Godzilla (1998) (F). I won’t even try to explain how I came to watch this amazing facsimile of an actual movie. It is simply 2 hours and 20 minutes of terrible. How they got old pros like Jean Reno (Ronin), Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap), and Hank Azaria (The Simpsons Movie) to appear in this stinkbomb is beyond me. Matthew Broderick (You Can Count on Me) stars as a dweeby scientist who has to help the military stop Godzilla from destroying New York, while simultaneously trying to reconnect with the woman who broke his heart eight years earlier. No sci-fi/action movie cliche goes unused, and I never once came close to the edge of my seat. A computer program could generate a better movie than this. Bottom line: I didn’t care for it.