The Way Back

New movie review from The Movie Snob

The Way Back (B+). Australian director Peter Weir (Witness) brings us this ode to human endurance. It’s based on a possibly true story (apparently there’s some controversy about this) about a small band of people who escaped from a Siberian gulag during WWII and walked all the way to freedom in India. Jim Sturgess (The Other Boleyn Girl) plays the group’s leader, a thoroughly decent young Polish fellow named Janusz whose wife was tortured by the Soviets until she accused her husband of being a spy. He is joined by several others–a hard-bitten American (Ed Harris, National Treasure: Book of Secrets), a Russian thief (Colin Farrell, Ondine), and a few more. Along the way they are joined by a Polish teenager who’s also on the run, an orphaned girl named Irena (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement). I really enjoyed it, although it’s certainly sad in parts. Ronan, whom I’ve liked ever since seeing her in City of Ember, is probably too pretty to be playing a supposedly starving orphan, but she certainly makes it believable that the men would adopt and protect her like a daughter. I think the film’s definitely worth seeing.

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The Privileges (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee (2010). I enjoyed this recent novel, although the ending left me a little let down. It’s about modern life, but a very narrow slice of it. The first chapter is about the wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey, two people from ordinary backgrounds who are themselves not at all ordinary. Smart, charismatic, and well-educated, they are impatient to get on with their lives together. They are completely certain their lives will be amazing — and they are. They have two kids, Adam becomes a fabulously successful finance guy in NYC, and the novel just dips into various periods in their family’s history from then on. An interesting and well-written look at how the elites, or at least our elites, live. But the characters are (perhaps intentionally) a little flat. Introspection is not the elder Moreys’ strong suit, although that is not so true of their son. Worth a read.

Somewhere

New review from The Movie Snob

Somewhere (C). This new movie from director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) won a “Golden Lion” award at the Venice Film Festival, whatever that means. I thought it was a promising but ultimately disappointing little movie. Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, World Trade Center) is a successful Hollywood actor, but he’s existentially stuck. The fast sportscar, the booze, and the beautiful women don’t fill the void any more. He’s fond of his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning, The Door in the Floor), but he just doesn’t see her that much. Coppola just kind of follows Marco around and observes like the proverbial fly on the wall. She shows the emptiness of his life pretty effectively, as he lives at a hotel that is apparently a known hangout for Hollywood types. (Benicio del Toro (The Wolfman) randomly appears at the hotel, sharing an elevator with Marco.) But then some scenes never really seem to go anywhere — a long scene of Cleo ice skating, for instance, or a short scene in which Marco’s car breaks down. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, either. It’s nice to see Ellie Kemper from TV’s The Office in a movie, though.

Pride & Prejudice

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Pride & Prejudice (A-). This is the 2005 remake of the beloved Jane Austen novel, starring Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go) as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen (Robin Hood) as Mr. Darcy. Being a big Austen fan, I was predisposed to like it, and I still do. On watching the DVD, I was surprised to see Carey Mulligan (An Education, Never Let Me Go), whose career is quite hot at the moment, in the small role of Kitty Bennet. Apparently this was Mulligan’s first movie. The movie also features Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day), who would also appear with Mulligan in An Education. Anyhoo, it’s a lovely adaptation of a great story. The “behind the scenes” extras on the DVD are not particularly insightful, but they do give a few facts about Austen and make it clear that the cast of the movie really enjoyed working together.

The Bishop’s Wife

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Bishop’s Wife (B). This black-and-white 1947 release stars Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby) as Dudley, an angel wandering around a big city just before Christmas doing good deeds for people. He drops in on Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven, Murder by Death) and his lovely wife Julia (Loretta Young, The Farmer’s Daughter). You see, the good Bishop has been neglecting his marriage because he is so consumed with trying to raise funds to build a magnificent cathedral. So you expect Dudley to gently set the Bishop’s priorities straight. The pleasant surprise is that Dudley is not your usual saccharine kind of angel; he’s much more smug and self-satisfied with his little magic tricks. What’s more, he seems to have an appreciation for the fair Julia that is more than strictly cherubic! I enjoyed it. This disc had virtually no extra features, but it did have the movie’s trailer, which is one of the oddest I have ever seen.

Tangled

A new review from The Movie Snob

Tangled (B+). The latest animated Disney offering is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, the girl who lives in a tower and has such long hair that it reaches all the way down to the ground. In this iteration, her hair also has the magical power to heal wounds and confer eternal youth, which is why a nasty old crone named Gothel kidnaped her as a baby and has raised her to believe that the outside world is a dangerous place she should never venture into. On the eve of her 18th birthday, Rapunzel gets her first visitor ever, a dashing thief named Flynn Rider, and adventures ensue. Although I thought it dragged a little toward the end, I enjoyed it overall, and it features wholesome Disney themes like having self-confidence, following your dreams, and making sacrifices for others. The animation is gorgeous–I saw the 2D version, and I hear that the 3D version is not worth paying extra for. And although there are no talking animals, Rapunzel’s pet chameleon Pascal is cute, and the horse Maximus steals every scene he’s in. Featuring the vocal talents of Mandy Moore (American Dreamz), Zachary Levi (TV’s Chuck), and many others.

Riverdance

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Riverdance. Apparently I’m one of the last people in America to see this production of Irish music and dance. My mom and I saw a matinee performance at Verizon Theater here in Grand Prairie, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s about a two-hour show (including the intermission), and it consists of a few sung musical numbers, a few instrumentals, and of course the famous Irish dancing itself. The songs were pretty, but not especially memorable; the instrumentals were more impressive; and of course the dancing was amazing. I guess the show as a whole is supposed to tell the tale of the Irish people, but it was pretty vague and abstract for the most part. Which was fine; you go to see some impressively thunderous and synchronous dancing, and the cast did not disappoint.