The Rum Diary

A new review from The Movie Snob

The Rum Diary  (D).  This movie is a total snooze.  According to a Q-and-A on, it is based on an unpublished manuscript by journalist Hunter S. Thompson that Johnny Depp (The Astronaut’s Wife) found in Thompson’s basement in 1998 while Depp was living with Thompson in preparation for filming Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  If the novel is as dull as the movie, there’s a reason it had remained unpublished.  Almost nothing happens.  The year is 1950.  Depp plays Paul Kemp, a writer who responds to an ad and goes to work for a struggling newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  He befriends a sozzled colleague named Sala who raises roosters for cockfighting on the side.  He’s enlisted in a land-grab scheme by a slimy American played by Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole).  He falls in love with the slimy American’s fiancee, a sizzling blond named Chenault (Amber Heard, Zombieland).  And he drinks enough rum to knock out a horse.  Otherwise, nothing much happens.  Skip this turkey.

Community (Season One)

From The Movie Snob

Community (Season One)  (B+).  I saw maybe half of the episodes of the first season of this sitcom when they aired, but I liked watching them on DVD much better.  The star of the show is Joel McHale, who is apparently some sort of TV show host on the E! network.  In Community, he plays Jeff Winger, a slick and smarmy lawyer whose law license has been suspended because it turns out he never went to college.  So he has enrolled at Greendale Community College to try to get his law license back.  In the pilot episode, he decides to chase after an attractive blond classmate named Britta and accidentally finds himself enmeshed in a Spanish study group with six other oddballs and misfits, and comedic stuff ensues.  Jeff’s six amigos are generally pretty funny.  Of course there’s Britta, who turns out to be a perpetually offended feminist killjoy who dropped out of high school, joined the Peace Corp, and is now going to college in her late 20s.  The two kids of the group are Troy, an empty-headed high-school football star and prom king, and Annie (cute Alison Brie), a driven student who landed at Greendale because of an unfortunate Adderol addiction in high school.  Perhaps the funniest character is Abed, a Middle-Eastern fellow of indeterminate age and Aspergerish tendencies who frequently comments on the action by relating everything to something he has seen in the movies or on TV.  Shirley is a divorcee in her 30’s who is going to school to further her goal of starting a brownie-making business.  The only character who really doesn’t work for me is the group’s oldest member, a successful but utterly clueless businessman named Pierce, played by Chevy Chase (Caddyshack), whom I have never found to be all that funny.  Pierce is racist, homophobic, and, in short, not funny.  Anyway, the humor of the show is often absurdist as Jeff has to learn to deal with his six new friends, Greendale’s squirrelly little Dean Pelton, assorted weirdo teachers (such as Spanish teacher Senor Chang (Ken Jeong, The Hangover)), and romantic entanglements with various good-looking students, teachers, and guest stars.  Perhaps inevitably, the show is a bit vulgar and a bit crass, but I still enjoyed it a lot.  The DVDs have quite a few extras–commentaries on every episode, an extended version of one episode. extra shorts, and outtake reels.

Margin Call

A new review from Movie Man Mike

Margin Call (B).  With a cast like this one, you would expect great things from this film, but the cast is just one part of what makes a good film.   This film is set in New York City in 2008, and tells the story of the early days of the financial meltdown.   Actually, that’s just the problem.  We all pretty much know what happened.  We’re living it and we read about it, right?  The story doesn’t really add much of anything to what we know, so the story is a bit thin.  Having said that, the performances were just as you would expect—riveting.  Jeremy Irons could read the phone book and draw an audience.  Kevin Spacey was brilliant as always.  Zachary Quinto (from the TV show “Heroes” and Star Trek) and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) both give solid performances.  If there’s a weak link in the performances, it’s Demi Moore.   She’s billed as almost a guest star (“with Demi Moore”), but she’s one of the key actors in the story.  At the end of the day, this film is probably worth seeing for the performances, but it’s more of a rental than a must-see at the theaters.

The Ides of March

The Movie Snob reviews a recent release.

The Ides of March (B-).  This political drama stars the ubiquitous Ryan Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love) as Stephen Meyer, a talented and idealistic member of a presidential campaign team who gets a crash course in hardball politics in the run-up to the Ohio Democratic primary.  His candidate and apparent hero is Michael Morris (George Clooney, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) who is the governor of Pennsylvania and sounds like Barack Obama would sound if he didn’t have to worry about polls and elections.  Rounding out the cast are luminaries like Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages) as Morris’s top campaign adviser, Paul Giamatti (Win Win) as Hoffman’s counterpart in the opposing camp, Marisa Tomei (Crazy, Stupid, Love) as a reporter for the Times, and Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler) as a luscious young intern on the Morris campaign team.  The movie kept my interest pretty well, but the whole thing got a little lurid and overheated for my taste.  It’s got a lot in common with the classic Robert Penn Warren novel All the King’s Men, so if you like The Ides of March, do yourself a favor and check a copy of All the King’s Men out of the library.

Catholicism (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, by Father Robert Barron (2011).  It seems like there are lots of books out there designed to be one-volume introductions to the Catholic faith, and it would be difficult to single one out as the best book on the subject.  But this one had a lot of impressive recommendations on the back of the dust jacket, so I thought I would give it a try.  It is good, but I can’t say I was blown away.  Now, as I understand it, the book is just sort of an offshoot of a ten-part documentary film project on Catholicism that Father Barron has recently released on DVD after three years of planning, writing, traveling, filming, and editing.  I have seen only a short snippet from that film, but I thought it was pretty impressive.  Of course, a film can bring you the sights and sounds of Catholicism’s holy places and artwork like no book can possibly hope to do.  So I can recommend the book only lukewarmly, but I expect the film version might be quite a bit better.

Cowboys & Aliens

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Cowboys & Aliens  (C+).  I decided to check this bizarre-sounding flick out at the dollar theater, and I’d say that I about got my money’s worth.  The premise is right there in the title:  the time and place is the Old West, and the good townspeople of wherever they are suddenly come under attack by spaceships carrying nasty War of the Worlds type aliens.  Humanity’s salvation may lie in the hands of a gunslinger named Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig, The Invasion), who stumbles into town at the beginning of the movie with a bad case of amnesia and an alien weapon shackled around his wrist.  Will he team up with Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford, Regarding Henry), the mean old guy who has the town under his thumb?  And what is the deal with the beautiful and enigmatic Ella (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy), who seems to know something about the aliens?  The movie has lots of problems, such as unnecessarily gruesome violence and torture scenes and unduly disgusting aliens, plus the unbelievability that a bunch of cowboys (later joined by not a few Indians) could mount a plausible counterattack on the aliens.  But it had a few decent moments too, and that Olivia Wilde is definitely all right in my book.


The Borg Queen transmits this DVD review

Trust – A

This movie grabbed my attention from start to finish. It stars Clive Owen (Children of Men), Catherine Keener (Capote), and Liana Liberato (Trespass), and was directed by David Schwimmer (TV’s Friends). It is about a 14 year-old girl that meets who she believes to be a 16 year-old boy in a teenage volleyball chatroom online. Over a period of months, they become close and she comes to trust him, believing he is the only one that understands her. She believes that they have fallen in love. He slowly reveals he is older – at first he’s 20, and then 25. When her parents are away taking their eldest son to college, he takes the opportunity to meet her at a mall. He turns out to be over 35 years old. Although she is obviously upset and scared, he cleverly uses the trust he’s developed with her to keep her engaged. At first he just walks around the mall with her (where the girl’s best friend spots her), then takes her to an ice cream shop, and then he gets her into his car and takes her to a motel, where he assaults her. The best friend reports everything to the school, and from there the FBI gets involved – and the parents discover what has happened. The remainder of the movie is about the turmoil the girl goes through realizing she was a victim of an online predator who never loved her, and the turmoil her parents go through realizing they did not know what was going on and that they were unable to protect her. The acting was excellent and portrayed the destruction of innocence – for the girl and the family – extremely well. The movie wasn’t dark, just realistic – and reminded me why I’ll never let my daughter have a computer in her room. This movie was made by people who truly care about the subject, and they have my respect. I recommend this movie for every parent, especially fathers.