From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Sisters (D). Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (both from Baby Mama) reteam for a lewd, crude comedy about two sisters who throw a party at their childhood home after their parents (James Brolin, Catch Me If You Can, and Dianne Wiest, Dan in Real Life) announce that they’re selling the place. They pack the house with all their old high-school friends, now in their 40s, and hilarious, R-rated, drug-and-alcohol-fueled hijinks ensue. Or at least that was the plan. The movie is mostly unfunny, often painfully so, and there is so much vulgarity splayed across the screen that I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone. The thing is almost 2 hours long and feels much, much longer. Do not reward bad behavior. Please skip it.
A new review from the desk of The Movie Snob.
The Big Short (B+). This movie is entertaining and infuriating and unnerving at the same time. It’s sort of an educational movie in that it tries to explain, at least in broad outline, what caused the housing bubble and the following economic crash in 2007. (Greed, stupidity, and lack of oversight all seem to have played large roles.) When the jargon starts to get too complicated, director Adam McKay lightens the mood by pausing and bringing in Margot Robbie (Z for Zachariah) and Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers) to explain and simplify things for us. But the movie is mainly entertaining because it focuses on a handful of financial outsiders and oddballs who figured out not only that the bubble was bound to burst (and even roughly when it would happen) but also how to cash in when it did. These characters are well played by Christian Bale (American Hustle), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Brad Pitt (Troy), and especially Steve Carell (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) as a tightly wound money guy who starts out thinking that the whole world is full of crooks and frauds and eventually realizes he still wasn’t cynical enough. It’s not at all what I would have expected from McKay, director of Talladega Nights and Anchorman 2. All in all, it’s a solid movie, but one that left me a little angry and a little nervous about the future.
New from The Movie Snob.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (D+). I was around 10 years old when I saw the original Star Wars in its original theatrical run, and I have been a fan ever since. But despite all the critical acclaim and crazy box office this new movie has reaped, I just didn’t care for it.
Seems like everyone else is being careful to avoid spoilers, so I’ll be careful too in case there is still someone out there who hasn’t seen it. Suffice to say, even though it looked like the Rebellion had completely routed the bad guys at the end of Return of the Jedi, thirty years later bad guys are still pretty much running the show in that galaxy far, far away, requiring a new generation of plucky heroes and heroines to rise up and save the day. I’ll admit liking a few things about the new movie. The actress (Daisy Ridley) who plays the new heroine, Rey, is pretty likable. There were a few homages to the original Star Wars that brought a smile to my face. But on the whole, I didn’t feel the magic. It just felt like a lot of breathless running hither and yon (and at 135 minutes, there’s a lot of running to be done). I thought the two main bad guys were pretty badly miscast (Domhnall Gleason, Brooklyn, and Adam Driver, While We’re Young). Oscar Isaac, who was so good in Ex Machina, is wasted in a tiny role here. And I know this is science fiction, but director J.J. Abrams conjures up some technology that seems way, way, way beyond anything even hinted at in previous Star Wars movies. (I thought he committed the same sin in Star Trek Into Darkness.) Finally, I found myself thinking all too often, This is just goofy. In short, I thought the movie was a big disappointment.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Spotlight (A*). It’s time to try to catch up on at least a few Oscar-bait movies, and this is the one I sought out today. It is a terrific movie but a painful and even sickening experience. That’s because it is about the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal that became headline news in early 2002. More specifically, it is about a handful of reporters who worked for the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” project and who did the investigative reporting necessary to write the stories that finally forced the Catholic Church to confront the scandal. The movie features fine performances by Michael Keaton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again), Liev Schreiber (The Painted Veil), and even Rachel McAdams (The Family Stone), who is not usually one of my favorites. I put an asterisk on the grade only to note that my opinion in this case is very much contingent on how strictly the filmmaker stuck with the facts, and I am in no position to make that call. Assuming director and co-writer Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Visitor, The Station Agent) stuck closely to the facts, I think this movie is a very impressive achievement. If he didn’t, my opinion of the movie would change quite a bit.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
She Loves Me, by the Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. I saw this musical three years ago over in Fort Worth and liked it quite well. (Click here for that review.) If you like old-fashioned romantic musical comedy, this is one you should see if you get the chance. The main plot is that two lonely people have fallen in love by writing to each other through a lonely-hearts club, but unbeknownst to them they have also started working together at the same perfume shop—and they can’t stand each other in real life. (The movie You’ve Got Mail is loosely based on the same premise.) Anyhoo, this production’s run ends tomorrow, so my main point is to say a few words about GLCT, which I had never experienced before. In a nutshell, I liked it fine and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. The facility is old and a little time-worn, and the sound system was a little spotty at times. But the theater itself was fine (and cozy, seating maybe 100-120 people I would guess). The performances were mostly good, and a couple of the guys could really sing. And at $22 for a full-price ticket, it won’t break the bank. I’ll be back next time they do a show that catches my eye.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Spectre (B+). This is my favorite James Bond film in a long time. Although it is about two and half hours long, I never looked at my watch. The opening action sequence, set in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead, had me on the edge of my seat, and really all of the action sequences held my interest very well. Daniel Craig (The Invasion) seems completely at home as 007. Although I have apparently seen this installment’s “Bond girl,” Léa Seydoux, in a couple of movies (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Midnight in Paris), I have no memory of her in those films. Here, however, I thought she was quite memorable. I didn’t think Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes) was given enough room to stretch his legs as the head villain, but he did what he could with his few minutes of screen time. I’ll be interested to see if Craig signs on for another installment. I saw somewhere that Spectre has grossed over $800 million worldwide, so I have to think he’d be welcome.
A book review from The Movie Snob.
Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy, by Olivia Manning (1960, 1962, 1965). This is a trilogy of novels that I found in a single brick-sized paperback at Half-Price Books. I thought it was a very interesting read. It is the story of a newlywed British couple, Guy and Harriet Pringle, who find themselves stuck far from home at the outbreak of World War II. Specifically, they are in Bucharest, Romania, where Guy teaches English at a college. They hang out with other expatriates, observe Great Britain’s waxing and waning popularity with the Romanians as the Nazi shadow creeps ever closer, and generally wonder what will happen to them if and when the Germans decide to occupy their host country. Apparently the books are strongly autobiographical, and sure enough they do read very much like reportage rather than fiction. Although the writing is perfectly good, it’s really the “you are there” quality of the books that kept me turning all 924 pages. (The individual books are called The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, and Friends and Heroes, if you want to try just one.)
A new movie review from The Movie Snob.
Brooklyn (B). This new movie has generated tons of critical acclaim and lots of Oscar buzz for its star Saoirse Ronan (City of Ember), who also happens to be one of my favorite young actresses. But as my grade indicates, I liked it; I didn’t love it. It’s a straightforward and rather old-fashioned coming-of-age/romance tale. Around 1950, a young Irish woman named Eilis (Ronan) is leaving her little seaside town in Ireland, where her prospects are poor, for New York City. Her beloved older sister Rose has helped pay for Eilis’s passage, and Rose will stay behind and care for their widowed mother (who doesn’t seem like great company, so Rose is quite the martyr). A kindly priest (Jim Broadbent, Another Year) has arranged for a job and a boarding house to be waiting for Eilis on her arrival. She’s badly homesick for a while, but Eilis is a plucky gal, and the attentions of a nice young man named Tony ease the pain. Life throws some curveballs at Eilis, and the rest of the movie is seeing how she deals with them. This is Ronan’s picture, and I thought she gave a good performance. And yet, somehow I was never quite swept away–never quite forgot I was watching a movie. I think maybe the character is part of the problem. Eilis is smart and seems to be basically nice, but she is pretty quiet, takes her time to make her mind up about things, and definitely doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve. So she’s kind of hard to relate to or root for. We’ll see what the Academy’s voters think soon enough….