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.
A new review from Movie Man Mike
The Descendants. (B-). Meh. I was underwhelmed by this film. I’ve been hearing the buzz about Clooney’s Oscar-caliber performance and so I decided to check it out. Yes, Clooney gives a solid performance as the grieving husband in the wake of the coma-inducing accident sustained by his wife. I actually thought Shailene Woodley, who played the daughter, gave an even better performance. Part of the problem here is that Clooney’s role wasn’t really written to be Oscar caliber. The writers injected a little black comedy into Clooney’s misfortune when he learns that his wife had been having an affair with another man and she intended to divorce him before she sustained her injuries. Frankly, watching the sordid details of this poor man’s misfortune play themselves out on the screen was not all that entertaining. Perhaps it was because it seemed all too possible and real. In any event, I wish I had saved the price of admission and my time. I wouldn’t have missed much.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
The Muppets (C-). Seems like this movie has been getting good reviews (Metacritic score 76), so I was kind of excited about seeing it. I’m old enough to have watched “The Muppet Show” during its TV run, and I remember really liking it. But this movie, I’m afraid, was a rather dull affair. Jason Segel (I Love You, Man) plays a guy from Smalltown, USA who has a younger brother named Walter who just happens to be a muppet. He also has a long-time sweetheart played by Amy Adams (Enchanted). The three of them take a trip to L.A., where they find to their horror that the old muppet studios are about to be destroyed by a dastardly oil tycoon (Chris Cooper, Great Expectations). So they go on a quest to reunite Kermit, Fozzie, and the whole gang to put on a telethon to raise the money to save the studio. It’s sincere and earnest and frankly pretty dull.
It makes me wonder if the muppets TV show was really any good either. The only sketch I really remember from it, and I do remember it vividly, is a musical number by a woman guest star in which she’s dressed up as a little girl and sings about how her family kidnaps anybody unlucky enough to stop by their house. It’s still pretty funny; just search on youtube for “muppets” and “you’re always welcome at our house,” or something like that.
Comic Book Guy revisits the zombie apocalypse.
Walking Dead (Season 2) For those of you haven’t been watching this (or anything else on AMC) you are missing out on some quality basic cable television. AMC has produced a string of series with solid production, interesting characters and story lines, and decent special effects. I’ve been watching Mad Men, The Killing, Breaking Bad and Walking Dead this year. All of them worthwhile, but I particularly like this series. Yes, it’s based on a comic book and yes, it has zombies (two great things that go great together) but don’t let that put you off. The series follows a small band of survivors in a post zombie apocalypse (“ZA”) as they make their way across the south, in search of… what? Well, that’s the question. This isn’t a neatly wrapped package where our intrepid adventurers set off in search for the cure, or the cause of the ZA. It’s not even really about the zombies. It’s about what has meaning when civilization collapses. It’s about what makes us human. It’s about what you believe in, when reality as you know it has changed so fundamentally that you have no choice but to question those beliefs. All of it adds up to quality TV. If you missed Season 1, go back and check it out on DVD before you dive into this season. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you like zombies. I give it a solid B+.
A TV review from Comic Book Guy
Game of Thrones (Season One). Granted, I’m a big fan of science fiction and fantasy. After all, I worked in a comic book/science fiction & fantasy bookstore. But even if you don’t consider yourself fan(boy), consider giving this series a view. It’s based on the first book of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Ice Series of the same name. It’s an epic set in a medieval world where seasons can last for decades and mythical creatures (and possibly magic) exist. The series follows several families and their quest for control of the Kingdoms that make up Westeros. I originally tuned in for the fantasy but stayed with it for the story line and characters. It has all of the things that you expect from HBO: very high production values, sharp writing and excellent acting. Think Sopranos meets Middle Earth. I give it an A, as in Awesome. Catch it now so you’ll be ready for season 2 when it starts in April, 2012.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
My Week with Marilyn (C+). In 1956, Marilyn Monroe went to England to film a fluffy comedy with Sir Laurence Olivier. By chance, the movie was 23-year-old Colin Clark’s first job in the movies (as a third assistant director, meaning a gofer). About 40 years later, he wrote a memoir and claimed to have gotten to know Ms. Monroe pretty darned well during the shoot. And now there is this movie about Clark and Monroe. It’s a pretty slight story, and I imagine most people are like me and have never even heard of the movie in question (The Prince and the Showgirl). Michelle Williams (Wendy and Lucy) is getting raves for her performance as Marilyn Monroe, and I would agree she does a good job of playing Marilyn as a lost and insecure soul who could still make magic in front of a camera. There are some pretty big-name actors in the movie, such as Kenneth Branagh (Dead Again) as Olivier, Judi Dench (Quantum of Solace) as some big-deal British actress, and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) as Lucy, the cute wardrobe girl that Clark fancies before Marilyn turns his head. But somehow the movie just never grabbed me–it’s perfectly watchable, but not particularly memorable. I imagine Williams will get some love come Oscar time, though.
Another DVD review from The Movie Snob.
Room Service (D). This is my first Marx Brothers movie, and I cannot say I was much impressed, or even entertained. Groucho Mark stars as Gordon Miller, a theatrical entrepreneur who’s trying to find a financial backer for a play called Hail and Farewell. The problem is that, despite having no backer, he has hired about 20 actors and actresses and put them up in a swanky hotel where they and he have run up a $1200 bill. (This was 1938, so I guess that was a lot of money.) The blustery hotel manager won’t let them leave without settling up, making it hard for Miller and his right-hand man Harry Binelli (Chico Marx) to find a backer and get their play opened up properly. The play’s author, a penniless rube on the run from a collection agency, also shows up and complicates matters. A young Lucille Ball has a small part as the leading lady in the play-within-the-movie. The humor is just way too broad and unfunny. On the plus side, the movie is only 78 minutes long.
A DVD review from The Movie Snob.
Heartbreakers (D-). This 2001 movie is part of The Borg Queen’s DVD collection, and the cover alone looked so terrible that I have teased her endlessly about owning it. Eventually she persuaded me that I needed to watch it before making fun of it/her anymore, so I did. Oh my goodness, it is atrocious! Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer) star as mother-daughter con artists whose signature con is for Weaver to marry a rich dope and Hewitt to seduce them so that Weaver can get a big divorce settlement. There’s gotta be easier ways to make a living, right? Gene Hackman (Unforgiven) plays a disgustingly emphysemic old tobacco tycoon who becomes their latest mark. Nothing about this movie is funny; the opening sequence in which we see the gals play their trick on Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) is absolutely painful. Oh, and did I mention that Weaver feigns a horrible Russian accent for some unexplained reason when she goes after Hackman? I guess that was supposed to be funny somehow. Both Weaver and Hewitt display acres of cleavage, and the camera positively leers at them the entire movie. I’m thrilled that this is David Mirkin’s last directing credit for a feature film, according to IMDB.com. He should be horsewhipped.