The Movie Snob sees his last movie of 2011.
Hugo (B). The critical acclaim made me a little afraid that my expectations for this movie had gotten too high. Then I talked to a friend of mine who saw it, and her review of it was very “meh.” So that lowered my expectations nicely, and when I finally got around to seeing it, I enjoyed it rather nicely. Hugo (Asa Butterfield, TV’s Merlin) stars as Hugo Cabret, a young orphan who lives in the walls and among the clockworks of a Paris railroad station between the wars. He lives hand-to-mouth by stealing from various vendors in the station, while avoiding the gimlet eyes of the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). He’s also trying to fix an automaton that’s pretty much all he has left to remember his dad (Jude Law, Alfie) by. His thievery brings him to the attention of Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley, BloodRayne), the elderly gentleman who runs a wind-up-toy shop in the station, and his spunky goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, (500) Days of Summer). Melies is connected to the automaton somehow, but he refuses to explain, so the kids do some sleuthing and have some adventures, and in a way the whole thing is director Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the movies. I enjoyed it.
A book review from The Movie Snob
Cold Skin, by Albert Sanchez Pinol (2002). I got this short novel for Christmas a few years ago. I had read a favorable review that, as I recall, described it as a scary story set in an creepy old lighthouse. So I think I put it on my Amazon wish list, got it for Christmas, and forgot about it until recently. I thought it would be a good read over the holiday, so I pulled it out. Before I started, I read the blurb on the inside of the dust jacket, and when I saw that the blurb described it as “an internationally acclaimed tour de force of darkness and sexual anxiety,” I thought uh-oh. I thought it was okay, and kind of creepy at first, but the creepiness wore off pretty quickly. The unnamed first-person narrator is apparently a youngish man who has become disillusioned with life in Europe. He has signed up for a year-long stint as a weather observer on a remote island near Antarctica where the only other inhabitant is the weird caretaker of a creepy old lighthouse. And once the ship leaves the narrator on the island, he quickly learns that he and the lighthouse guy are not alone . . . at least at night. It’s a weird and reasonably interesting tale (and it does involve some weird sex), but that’s about I can say for it.
DVD review from The Bleacher Bum
AVATAR: Expectations can be harmful or helpful to a movie. I expected to see an epic, not just a movie. What I saw was only a very beautiful and very cool moving painting. For the first third of the film, I was amazed at the visual images that James Cameron created. I appreciate his attention to detail from the color of the flowers to the look and language of the aliens to the weaponry of the massive gunships. However, at the forty-five minute mark of the film, I stopped thinking, “This movie looks and sounds wonderful,” and I started thinking, “Shouldn’t there be some semblance of a story or plot?” The movie did accomplish four things: 1) it showed that James Cameron has not lost his fastball; 2) it showed that the technology of movies has no bounds; 3) it showed that my LG plasma HD TV really kicks ass; and 4) it showed that I probably should have seen the movie in 3D. I would have graded the movie a C+. However, Avatar made me feel so proud about my television and surround sound that I upgraded it a B-.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Puss in Boots (C-). This was a disappointment, as I recall the reviews being pretty decent. As everyone knows, Puss from the Shrek movies gets his own starring vehicle here. Voiced by Antonio Banderas (Evita), Puss gets caught up in all sorts of adventures in a quest for magical beans that will grow a magical vine to a magical castle in the clouds, yada yada yada. There’s lots of running madly around, punctuated by long pauses for boring exposition. Personally, I did not find it very entertaining, and it felt a lot longer than 90 minutes. The Borg Queen thought it had a couple of bits that made it inappropriate for kids, so I’m not sticking the “family friendly” label on it.
A new review from The Movie Snob
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (D+). Okay, let’s get this straight–I just took my goddaughter to this movie as sort of a pre-Christmas treat. I missed the previous movies in this series, but I gather that somehow this ordinary guy named Dave (Jason Lee, Heartbreakers) is the manager of and father figure to six juvenile chipmunks (three male, three female) who can talk and sing in amazingly annoying, highly synthesized voices. Why bother to hire actual actresses like Christina Applegate (Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead) and Anna Faris (The House Bunny) to voice animated chipmunks if you’re just going to distort their voices beyond recognition? Anyhoo, the lame plot involves the chipmunks going on a cruise, then getting marooned on an almost-deserted island that just happens to be an active volcano. The mischievous chipmunk Alvin learns lessons about responsibility, blah blah blah. I guess little kids like this stuff; there’s nothing here to entertain the adults.
A new review from The Bleacher Bum
The Walking Dead, Season 1: One of my pet peeves is whenever someone says, “The movie isn’t near as good as the book.” Really? (please note the sarcasm that follows) You mean to tell me a 500-page novel that takes about a month and a half to understand and comprehend is better than a 130-minute running movie? I am shocked. I mention this because a television series is more like a novel than it is a movie. With a television show, characters can be developed on an intra-personal and interpersonal level, background stories can be explained in detail, and situations can evolve into about seven different storylines and subplots. Movies are incapable of this. In my opinion, the recent television dramas of HBO, AMC, Showtime, and F/X have already killed the standard drama series of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. The cable networks can get away with so much more than the over-the-air networks. And if I was involved in the movie industry, I would be greatly concerned with popularity of dramas such as The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Mad Men, Weeds, Californication, and……The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead is currently in its second season on AMC, and ironically, it was created, written, and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile). The show picks up right after the world’s apocalypse. In the Atlanta area, everyone seems “dead,” except for about 100 survivors and about 250,000 zombies. The survivors are led by sheriff deputy Rick Grimes and his partner Shane. The humans are just trying to survive by hiding out and living primitively, while trying to escape the hordes of zombies aka “walkers.” The zombies only care about eating the flesh of the living. The show is more about the human spirit, the desire of humans to exist and survive than it is about the zombies. The first season is only six episodes, but there were about 600 instances where I was asking myself: “What the hell would I do in this situation?” I recommend it, but it is not for children, persons with weak stomachs….or it is not to be watched while eating human flesh. Grade: B+.
DVD review from Movie Man Mike
Red. (B). I rented this film recently because of its cast: Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and more. This is a light comedy about a group of over-the-hill retired secret agents. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) learns at the beginning of the film that the CIA has put out a hit on him and that starts the ball rolling. He contacts some of his former “associates” to try to find out who’s behind it and why. While it’s not a rolling-in-the-floor-laughing movie, it does have its humorous moments. My favorite scene is watching the elegant Helen Mirren in a white-sequined formal dress operating a machine gun on a tri-pod. What an image that is. And, at 66 years of age, Bruce Willis looks great and can still deliver an action film. This film makes for a pretty good rental.