Museum Hours

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Museum Hours (B-).  This is a different sort of movie.  The plot is minimalist, serving mainly as an excuse for director Jem Cohen to hang out in the Kunsthistorisches art museum in Vienna, Austria.  A Canadian woman named Anne (played by Mary Margaret O’Hara, who is the sister of Catherine O’Hara of Home Alone fame) travels to Vienna when her cousin who lives there becomes seriously ill.  The cousin turns out to be comatose, so Anne has a lot of time on her hands, and she befriends Johann (Bobby Sommer), who is an English-speaking guard at the art museum.  To say the movie moves languidly is an understatement.  There are lots of shots of paintings and sculptures, and also lots of artsy exterior shots of Viennese streets, buildings, trees, and trains.  For a while, the movie forgets about the two main characters entirely and listens to a museum tour guide telling her group about the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.  Kind of an interesting experience, but it did start to feel a little long after a while.

Drinking Buddies

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Drinking Buddies  (B).  The Dallas Morning News gave this independent dramedy a good review, but I almost let it slip through my fingers—I had to skip out of work a little early a few days ago to catch it before it disappeared from the theaters.  I found it a worthy effort.  It’s basically about a couple of co-workers who dance interminably around the edge of romance.  Kate (Olivia Wilde, Cowboys & Aliens) and Luke (Jake Johnson, Safety Not Guaranteed) work together at a small brewery, and they have an easy camaraderie about them.  But they are both in serious relationships, she with Chris (Ron Livingston, Office Space), and he with Jill (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect).  Then the two couples go off to a cabin for a weekend getaway together, and you start to wonder if things might—or should—get rearranged a bit.  Olivia Wilde gets to play a real person for a change, and she’s pretty good.  The dialogue seems pretty realistic, and the characters (except for Chris, who’s kind of a dud) are pretty likable.  Check it out on Netflix or Pay Per View or wherever technologically savvy people get their movies these days.

The World’s End

New from The Movie Snob.

The World’s End  (B-).  This is a crazy little movie from the same team that brought us Shaun of the Dead (which I liked) and Hot Fuzz (which I have not yet seen).  Simon Pegg (Star Trek Into Darkness) stars as a middle-aged ne’er-do-well named Gary King.  Having nothing better to do, King decides to round up his four best mates from his teenaged days, drag them back to their small hometown in the British countryside, and attempt to complete a legendary 12-pub crawl called The Golden Mile.  The movie starts out seeming to be a thoughtful story about lost youth, trying to go home again, the sacrifices entailed in growing up, etc.  Then it suddenly turns into a Stepford WivesBody Snatchers type affair, and the half-sozzled quintet find themselves fighting for their lives (and, in King’s case, fighting to finish The Golden Mile).  The lovely Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) appears as the sister of one of the buddies, and Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day) unexpectedly shows up for a couple of scenes as well.  It’s a bit half-baked, but I still got a kick out of it.

Bicycle Thieves

The Movie Snob checks out a classic.

Bicycle Thieves  (B+).  Last week the Angelika hosted a free special showing of this 1948 Italian classic directed by Vittorio de Sica, and because “free” is my middle name, I took advantage of the opportunity.  The first thing I learned is that the Italian title of the movie is accurately translated “Bicycle Thieves” rather than “The Bicycle Thief,” as I had always heard before.  Anyway, I enjoyed it, although I feel more than a little strange giving this world-renowned classic the same grade as the recent version of The Lone Ranger.  It’s a simple tale: in post-WWII Italy, employment is hard to come by, and Antonio Ricci (first-time actor Lamberto Maggiorani) has a wife and two small children to support.  He is lucky enough to get a job as a poster hanger, but his bicycle is critical to his livelihood, and the film’s title is enough to tell you what catastrophic event sets the plot of the movie rolling.  It is a touching film, especially in its depiction of the relationship between Antonio and his little boy, Bruno.

The Heat

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Heat (C+).  I must say that I patted myself on the back for waiting until this one showed up at the dollar theater before rushing out to see it.  It’s a thoroughly predictable buddy-cop movie, with the “twist” that these cop buddies are women!  Sandra Bullock (Forces of Nature) plays the tightly wound, by-the-rules cop, and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) plays the free-wheeling, somewhat crazy cop.
Because it is rated R and stars McCarthy, you know there is extreme profanity.  It’s too long and predictable, but I still laughed a few times.  If you like McCarthy’s shtick, as I do, you should like this movie OK.

Short Term 12

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Short Term 12  (B).  According to Flixster, this indie flick has a 99% favorable score on Rotten Tomatoes, so I expected to like it.  And in fact I thought it was pretty good.  It’s about a group home for teenagers who are so troubled that they can’t be placed in foster homes.  And it’s about the four twenty-somethings who work there–officially just to keep the kids safe and prevent them from running away, but unofficially serving as the kids’ friends, confidantes, and therapists.  And it’s really about Grace (Brie Larson, The Spectacular Now), who is sort of the leader of the quartet of adults and who is plainly nursing some dark secret from her own troubled past.  As I say, it’s a pretty good movie, but, as the reviewer in The Weekly Standard has pointed out, it seems to prettify the whole situation to an unbelievable degree.  In particular, the kids in the group home don’t seem nearly as troubled as they should be if their behavioral problems prevent them from being placed in foster homes.  Then again, as the WS reviewer said, if the movie had been honest on that point, it would probably be too heartbreaking to watch.  It’s worth seeing, but there are better indie films out there — like The Spectacular Now, for example.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters  (D).  The previous entry in this series, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, was a box-office dud in America, and justifiably so. Unfortunately it did well enough overseas to beget this even duller and dudlier sequel.  If you are new to the material, it’s easy enough to catch up: the Greek gods are real, they still enjoy romancing mortals, and when a deity has a child with a mortal, that half-blood child inherits some mythological powers and needs to go live at Hogwarts for demigod training and for protection from evil forces.  But of course, they also occasionally leave their sanctuary to go on quests that are theoretically (but not actually) magical and exciting, or else there would be no movies.  Here, our nominal hero, Percy (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), leads a small band on a quest to find the golden fleece.  Lerman makes a bland and mopey hero, and the wall-to-wall CGI effects do nothing to add interest.  Seriously, the 1963 stop-motion Jason and the Argonauts was way more exciting.  A few brightish spots: I kind of enjoyed the scene with the ironclad Confederate warship and zombie crew.  Nathan Fillion (Serenity) adds a splash of charisma as Hermes.  And although I’m not sure she can act, Alexandra Daddario (The Lightning Thief), who plays Athena’s daughter Annabeth, is a total knockout.

In a World . . .

New review from The Movie Snob.

In a World . . .  (B).  Remember that lackluster Meryl Streep movie called It’s Complicated?  It featured a slinky gal who played Alec Baldwin’s trophy wife or girlfriend or something?  Well, that actress is named Lake Bell, and she wrote, produced, and stars in this interesting little independent dramedy.  Bell plays Carol, who is around 30 but still lives with her dad—until he kicks her out to make room for his new and much-younger girlfriend.  Dad is a big fish in a small pond, that pond being Hollywood’s voiceover industry.  Carol is following in her father’s footsteps but without terrific success; mainly she works with actresses as a voice coach.  But then she lands a real gig doing a voiceover for a movie preview, and her career starts to take off.  It’s a pretty amusing little movie, but there’s serious stuff in it too, like some marital difficulties being faced by Carol’s sister and her husband, and dad’s inability to be proud of rather than competitive with Carol.  Worth a look.

The Lost Continent (book review)

A rare negative book review from The Movie Snob.

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, by Bill Bryson (1989).  I found this paperback on a books-for-sale table at a public library.  The price was 50 cents, and I still got ripped off.  The author, as the back cover says, was born in Des Moines, but once he was grown he made tracks and wound up living in England for almost two decades.  At some point he decided to go back to Iowa and then continue on with a driving excursion throughout America, and this is his travelogue of the experience.  I quit after about 70 pages and chucked the book into a recycling bin.  I found Bryson insufferably condescending and not even remotely amusing.  He believes that all small-town Americans are overweight morons, and he enjoys telling us every time his belief is confirmed.  He writes about the South as if it were a third-world country and the KKK were running every city and town south of the Mason–Dixon Line.  I found him thoroughly obnoxious.  He probably has a regular show on NPR.