That Thing You Do!

The Movie Snob goes back in time.

That Thing You Do!  (A-).  Today was way too cold to venture out and do anything, so I decided to revisit this old favorite.  I could hardly believe it was released in 1996!  Anyway, if you like feel-good movies, you should keep this one within arm’s reach at all times.  Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) wrote, directed, and starred in this rags-to-riches story about an Erie, PA garage band that hits it big circa 1964, with the help of a mostly benevolent manager (Hanks).  Tom Everett Scott (Hallmark TV’s Christmas Connection) plays the band’s drummer, a good-natured jazz-lover; Steve Zahn (Sahara) is the goofy guitarist; and cute little Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) plays the girlfriend of the band’s moody leader Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech, Flight 7500).  The film also features Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde) in a very early role as the drummer’s girlfriend.  Bryan Cranston (Argo) also pops up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role (as astronaut Gus Grissom!).  The DVD also contains a short making-of featurette, two trailers, several commercials, and two music videos of songs from the movie.  This movie is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, so get yourself a copy!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Movie Snob heads for a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi  (B-).  Okay, Episode VIII in the ongoing space/soap opera about the Skywalker family is here, and the critics are generally loving it.  Put me down with the small band of dissenting critics.  On the plus side, it is better than the last installment, The Force Awakens, if only because it is not a slavish remake of an earlier movie.  On the down side, it is still somewhat derivative of its predecessor The Empire Strikes Back, with an evil empire on the march, a rebellion on the run, and a would-be Jedi seeking training from a wise mentor.  Worse still, it is a solid two-and-a-half hours long, with as many false endings as The Return of the King from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Still, I appreciated that writer–director Rian Johnson did try to throw some new wrinkles at us.  Mark Hamill (Star Wars: A New Hope) is a surprisingly crotchety Luke Skywalker.  The late Carrie Fisher (When Harry Met Sally) presents a stoic Rebel leader but doesn’t really have that much to do.  And our quartet of new main characters (Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron) gets split up for most of the movie, which means a lot of jumping back and forth.  I think the movie would have been much better if the first half had been trimmed a bunch, and the exciting stuff at the end stretched out a bit.  But it’s already made almost a billion dollars worldwide, so what do I know?

Coco

Merry Christmas from The Movie Snob!

Coco  (C+).  This new Pixar feature is getting a lot of critical acclaim, but I must say it left me fairly cold.  The setting is interesting: Mexico on the Day of the Dead.  A boy named Miguel comes from a long line of successful shoemakers, but he yearns to become a musician.  Unfortunately, his great-great-grandpa was a musician who walked out on his wife and small daughter to pursue his dream, and the family has banned all music ever since.  But Miguel persists in pursing his dream on the sly, and through a series of unlikely events he gets catapulted into the land of the dead.  He then rushes from place to place, meeting various deceased ancestors and trying to get back to the real world before the sun rises again.  The visuals are pretty cool, but I thought the songs were unmemorable and the plot was tiresome.  I didn’t recognize any of the voice actors, but they included Gael García Bernal (Letters to Juliet) and Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner 2049).

The Disaster Artist

A new review from The Movie Snob.

The Disaster Artist  (B+).  So, back in 2003, an odd and mysterious fellow named Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, starred in, and bankrolled a very odd movie called The Room.  It was a laughably terrible melodrama and should never have been heard from again.  But, somehow, it became a midnight-movie cult classic.  I even saw it in a Rifftrax live show back in 2015, although I apparently failed to review it for this site.  The Room really is jaw-droppingly bad.

Now James Franco (Oz the Great and Powerful) directs and stars in this new movie about Wiseau and the making of The Room.  I thought it was very funny, all the more so because it is (based on) a true story.  Franco disappears into the Wiseau role, with his weird European accent, strange awkwardness, and apparently bottomless bank account.  We see Wiseau primarily through the eyes of his best friend Greg (Dave Franco, Nerve), a wannabe actor who puts up with Wiseau’s weirdness and accidentally inspires him to create The Room.  A remarkable list of people signed on for cameos or roles that were barely more than cameos, including: Alison Brie (TV’s Community), Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), Zac Efron (High School Musical 3), Sharon Stone (Total Recall), Melanie Griffith (Working Girl), and Judd Apatow (director, The 40-Year-Old Virgin).  Is the movie just a cruel joke as Wiseau’s expense?  I don’t know.  I’ve read that he approves of the movie, and IMDB says he even had a cameo in it that I missed.  In any event, The Room has supposedly made him a lot of movie over the last 15 years, so I guess he’s doing all right.  I thought the movie was a hoot.

Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (book review)

A book review by The Movie Snob.

Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, by Anthony Esolen  (Sophia Institute 2014).  I found this book a let-down.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but I think I was hoping for something like a legal brief.  Something that would say, “Here are the principles of Catholic social teaching, and here is how we derive them from the more fundamental principles of the Faith and from the Bible.”  But that’s not what this is.  It’s largely a survey of the social writings of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903).  Esolen’s style isn’t logical and precise; it’s literary and emotional and reminds me a little of G.K. Chesterton.  In sum, I didn’t find it particularly helpful.