Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

New movie review from The Movie Snob

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids  (C).  This was my first time to see this 1989 “classic,” so my grade is a little generous to factor in the era in which it was made and the fact that a geezer in his 50s is not the target audience.  That said, it’s really not very good.  Rick Moranis (Little Shop of Horrors) plays an absent-minded scientist type who’s also a suburban father of two.  He’s trying to invent a shrinking machine, which he unwisely keeps in his house’s attic.  Through a mishap, his kids and the two boys who live next door get shrunk down to a size smaller than an ant.  When the tiny kids accidentally get thrown out with the garbage, they have to cross the now-immense back yard to return to the house and then somehow draw their parents’ attention to their plight.  The kids’ adventure part of the story is okay, but throughout the movie the humor is generally terrible.  Extra demerits for the next-door dad character (Matt Frewer, Dawn of the Dead (2004)), a stereotypical boor who hounds his sensitive older son to be a football player and is otherwise generally unpleasant.  The lovely Marcia Strassman (TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) plays Moranis’s wife.  I didn’t recognize any of the child actors, but The Borg Queen informed me that Jared Rushton was in Big.

Monsters University

A movie review from The Movie Snob,

Monsters University  (C).  I only dimly remember the 2001 animated film Monsters, Inc., and I think I liked it OK.  Twelve years later, Pixar came out with this prequel, which I just saw.  The little green one-eyed monster Mike (voice of Billy Crystal, The Princess Bride) has the ambition to be a “scarer” when he grows up, and he gets into Scare School at Monsters University.  There he quickly gets crossways with another freshman, a big, blue, natural-born scarer called Sully (voice of John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane).  And then it gets very predictable: opposites Mike and Sully are both kicked out of the program.  Desperate to get back in, they team up, join the lamest fraternity on campus, and try to carry their fraternity to an underdog victory in the Scare Games in hopes of being let back into Scare School.  Lots of vocal talent, including Steve Buscemi (Fargo), Nathan Fillion (Serenity), and the formidable Helen Mirren (The Queen) as the crusty old Dean Hardscrabble, can’t lift this overly long (104 minutes) movie above mediocrity.

Smallfoot

More Movie Snob mutterings….

Smallfoot  (C).  This animated feature has some things going for it.  It’s a reverse-perspective story about a community of yetis who live high in the Himalayas and view humans (“smallfeet”) as legends.  Then, one day, an ordinary yeti named Migo (voice of Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street) actually encounters a human (a crashed airplane pilot), leading him to begin questioning the village’s quasi-religious origin story and other odd traditions.  In a nice touch, the “villains” are not thoroughly villainous.  For example, there’s a (human) nature-TV star who’s losing his integrity because old-fashioned shows like his can’t compete with modern reality TV, and the pope-like yeti village leader actually has a reasonable motive for preserving the yetis’ ignorance of the real world.  And yet . . . the execution is off, somehow.  Few of the jokes really landed, and I didn’t think the handful of songs were very good.  In sum, a pretty bland experience.

Spies in Disguise

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Spies in Disguise  (B+).  This Christmas 2019 animated feature totally slipped under my radar, but I saw it on “streaming” or something last weekend, and I was astonished at how funny it was.  Will Smith (Hitch) voices Lance Sterling, an ace secret agent in the mold of James Bond turned up to 11.  Tom Holland (Captain America: Civil War) voices Walter, a young nerd in the spy gadgets section of Lance’s agency.  After Lance gets framed for stealing some top-secret something-or-other, he turns to Walter for help—and accidentally gets turned into a pigeon.  (The movie was apparently inspired by a short called “Pigeon: Impossible.”)  So Walter and pigeon Lance go chasing after the bad guy, while the agency is chasing them.  I laughed out loud several times at the many James Bondian references and other random funny stuff (like a girl pigeon who falls in love with pigeon Lance and helps take out bad guys while actually intending to target the agency gal who’s leading the hunt for Lance).

Ralph Breaks the Internet

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Ralph Breaks the Internet  (B).  I remember enjoying Wreck-It Ralph and thinking it had a surprisingly sweet story about friendship at its core.  In this sequel, video-game characters Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly, Talladega Nights) and Vanellope (voice of Sarah Silverman, School of Rock) leave the video arcade behind and enter the worldwide web on a quest to find a replacement part for Vanellope’s arcade game.  The visualization of the internet is a highlight of the movie, as little avatars of the human users scuttle around from eBay to YouTube (or a lookalike) to everything else.  Vanellope falls in love with a Grand Theft Auto-inspired neighborhood ruled by a tough gal called Shank (voice of Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman).  In the most inspired part of the movie, she finds herself in Disney’s sector, which is populated by Star Wars characters, Marvel characters, and, of course, Disney princesses (many voiced by their original actresses).  The movie starts to drag by the end (an hour and 52 minutes? really?), but it is still definitely worth a look.

Emma. (2020)

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Emma.  (B+).  Did we really need another movie of the beloved Jane Austen novel?  I guess the box office will tell.  This is a fine and, I believe, faithful adaptation of the book, so being an ardent disciple of the divine Miss Austen I quite enjoyed it.  Anya Taylor-Joy was an interesting choice for the title role; her large, wide-set eyes give her a somewhat exotic appearance that may have worked better in her other movies like The Witch and Split, but she does a good job on the whole.  In this version, I think Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn, Clouds of Sils Maria) at least looks quite a bit younger than he was in the novel (and the familiar 1996 movie version starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam), and perhaps as a result this Emma–Knightley combination actually generates a little romantic heat.  What else to say?  The music stands out; there’s quite of bit of it, and a lot of it sounds like religious music of the period (or at least some long-past period).  In this version, Emma’s older sister and her family come to Highbury for a visit and make a vivid impression; I don’t remember them from the book or prior movies.  Anyway, if you like Jane Austen, or period pieces, or romantic comedies, I think you should like this movie.

P.S.  Yes, the title of the movie really does have a period at the end, which I noticed on the opening title card.  According to Wikipedia, “The title of the film has a period attached to signify it being a period piece.”

Knives Out

A new review by The Movie Snob.

Knives Out  (B).  Director Rian Johnson (Star Wars Episode VIII) got quite a cast to sign on for this stylish new mystery movie.  The whole Thrombey family has gathered at the spooky old country home of wealthy patriarch Harlan (Christopher Plummer, The Fall of the Roman Empire) for his 85th birthday party.  Then, as so often happens after these dreary affairs, the maid finds poor Harlan dead in his study.  Was it suicide or foul play?  The list of suspects is long:  Harlan’s uptight daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis, Freaky Friday), her caddish husband Richard (Don Johnson, Tin Cup), Harlan’s hangdog son Walt (Michael Shannon, Man of Steel), Harlan’s needy, new-agey daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense), plus a few grandchildren (including Chris Captain America Evans) and a couple of servants.  Enter private investigator Benoit Blanc, who is played by Daniel Craig (The Invasion) and sports the broadest Foghorn Leghorn-style southern accent I think I have ever heard.  Blanc quickly attaches himself to Harlan’s nurse Marta (Ana de Armas, Blade Runner 2049) as possibly possessing the key to the whole affair.  It’s a fun and twisty ride.  As is normal in mystery or caper films, I didn’t really understand what happened, even after it was all explained, but happily there’s this amazing new website called google.com that helped me find people to explain it to me after the fact.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour (B).  The principal creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Hodgson, is on the road doing live shows in venues around the country.  I think I heard this is supposedly going to be Hodgson’s last road show.  Anyhoo, my sister and I caught the show last weekend in Dallas’s fancy opera house.  The show is basically a live recreation of an episode of the MST3K TV show, with Joel and his two robot sidekicks (Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo) riffing on a terrible movie and occasionally taking little breaks to do (allegedly) comical skits.  The terrible movie for our show was a cheesy 1986 Karate Kid rip-off called No Retreat, No Surrender (featuring a young and villainous Jean-Claude Van Damme, Timecop), and the riffing was very amusing.  I’d probably give the show a B+ or an A- based on the riffing, but the skits were unfortunately unentertaining (just like they usually were during MST3K’s TV run).  Note that Joel is the only person from the original show involved in this production; the robots are voiced by two new guys, and two new actresses participated in the skits.  I think it was a pretty clean show, too, if you’re thinking about taking the kids.  Definitely worth catching if they come to a town near you.  Looks like they’re about to do a bunch of shows in Florida if you’re down that way!

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIX

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIX

Untamed Youth (B).  This delightful youth-exploitation film from 1957 stars blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren (Girls Town) as a would-be rock-and-roll singer.  Unfortunately she and her sister are arrested in some backwater burg, and the crooked judge sentences them to be slave labor on a farm run by the judge’s co-conspirator.  Entertaining episode, and the disc features a short interview with Mamie as a bonus feature.

Hercules and the Captive Women  (C).  This is a cheesy European Hercules flick from 1961.  The title is inapt because there are no captive women in evidence.  Sure, the evil queen of Atlantis is trying to sacrifice her daughter to the gods throughout the whole movie, but that’s just one woman.  (Apparently the movie was sometimes called Hercules Conquers Atlantis.)  Anyway, this is a pretty average outing for Joel and the robots, and the extras on the disc are also unremarkable.

The Thing That Couldn’t Die  (A-).  Now we’re getting somewhere!  Mike and the bots have a great time skewering this 1958 horror cheapie.  A cute-ish blond girl is doing a little water-witching around her aunt’s dude ranch when she discovers an old chest containing the 400-year-old head of some evil guy who got himself executed by Sir Frances Drake.  The head can hypnotize people into doing its evil bidding, and of course its top priority is getting the water witch to find his long-lost body!  The riffing is great, and even a couple of the host segments are funny as Mike encounters the supposedly super-intelligent Observers.

The Pumaman  (B+).  Another fan favorite, this is a super-cheesy 1980 superhero movie about a guy who supposedly has the powers of a puma and who must use them to fight evil forces led by the great Donald (Halloween) Pleasence (whose name is misspelled Pleasance in the credits).  The guy is more Greatest American Hero than Superman, and his Aztec mentor constantly has to bail him out of trouble.  The extras on the disc are a bit unusual.  One is a complete and unriffed version of The Pumaman; why anyone would want to watch it, I can’t imagine.  The other is a lengthy interview with the actor who played the Pumaman.  He was a New York City lawyer who tried acting for about ten years and then went back to lawyering.  He was a good sport to be interviewed for the disc because he really didn’t appreciate the MST3K guys making fun of this movie!

Destry Rides Again (1939)

Another classic reviewed by The Movie Snob.

Destry Rides Again (B).  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this 1939 Western starring Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation) and Marlene Dietrich (Witness for the Prosecution)—I had never heard anything about it and saw it pretty much on a whim.  But I must say that I rather enjoyed it—much more than the Dietrich movies in “The Glamour Collection” that I watched so long ago.  It’s rather tongue-in-cheek, as Westerns go.  It’s set in a typical rough-and-tumble Western town, with a typical villain, his typical gang of ruffians, and an atypical saloon songbird named Frenchie (Dietrich) who helps the villain fleece people in crooked card games.  When the town’s sheriff disappears under not-very-mysterious circumstances, the new sheriff sends for assistance in the person of Tom Destry (Stewart), son of a well-known lawman now deceased.  But Destry quickly becomes a town laughingstock when he refuses even to carry a gun.  Can he defeat the bad guys with nothing more than his wits?  And maybe woo Frenchie on the side?  It’s sort of goofy, but enjoyable.  Worth a look, especially since it’s only 95 minutes long!

Rifftrax Live: The Giant Spider Invasion

The Movie Snob takes in another Fathomevents event.

Rifftrax Live: The Giant Spider Invasion  (A-).  This is the last Rifftrax Live event of the year, and it’s a good one.  The opening short clip is fairly meh; it’s a bizarre explanation of how the nation’s telephone system worked back in the days of party lines and rotary phones.  Did I mention it involves lots and lots of creepy marionettes?  But the main event more than makes up for the lackluster appetizer.  The Giant Spider Invasion is a uniquely terrible 1975 monster movie starring Alan Hale (Skipper on TV’s Gilligan’s Island) as the sheriff of a small town that’s getting invaded by some extraterrestrial tarantulas and one truly giant spider that will eat you if you cooperate by climbing up into its mouth.  They riffed this movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it was one of the all-time great MST3K episodes.  This all-new riffing experience from the Rifftrax guys was just as funny.  If you can’t catch it at the theater (there’s an encore performance tomorrow night), it’ll be worth downloading from the Rifftrax website.  Warmly recommended . . . unless you have arachnophobia.

The Muppet Movie

New review from The Movie Snob.

The Muppet Movie  (C).  I’m continuing my romp through the classics with this recent offering from fathomevents.com.  Although I enjoyed the muppets TV show in my youth, I never saw this, their first theatrical release, which came out in 1979.  Turns out I didn’t miss all that much.  It’s the story of how Kermit the Frog (voice of Jim Henson) decided to follow his dream of being an entertainer, left his swamp, and hit the road for Hollywood.  It’s a road-trip movie, with Kermit picking up a band of oddballs (Fozzie Bear (voice of Frank Oz), Miss Piggy (Oz), Gonzo (Dave Goelz), etc.) along the way while simultaneously being pursued by a fast-food-frog-legs entrepreneur (Charles Durning, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) who wants Kermit to be his front man, er, frog.  The jokes and sight gags really aren’t all that funny, but the frequent musical numbers tend to be better (especially Kermit’s wistful “The Rainbow Connection”).  There are loads of celebrity cameos, including Edgar Bergin, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Big Bird, and even Orson Welles, but only Steve Martin’s rude waiter is very funny.  I’m glad I saw it, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.  (I might look for “The Rainbow Connection” on iTunes, though.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Movie Snob finally returns to the movies.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (B).  Well, I’m trying to get back into the swing of regular moviegoing, so I decided to see if the Magnolia Theater is still running its classic-movie series on Tuesday nights.  Lo, it is, and I caught this 1969 Western this past Tuesday.  I had never seen it before and still don’t quite know what to make of it.  It stars Paul Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as the outlaws of the film’s title, and as best I can tell from extensive Wikipedia research the movie is actually fairly true to history.  It’s the late 1890s, and Butch, the Kid, and their Hole in the Wall gang are making a living robbing banks and trains—until they irritate some big plutocrat and he hires a very dangerous posse to bring them to justice.  So, in the interest of self-preservation, they make some unusual career choices after that.  Although IMDB.com categorizes the film as “Biography, Crime, Drama,” it has a strong comedic element, with Newman providing lots of amusing dialogue, Redford being amusingly laconic, and an oddly jaunty soundtrack playing in the background.  (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” won an Oscar.)  And yet, there is quite a bit of shooting and killing, albeit with very little blood visible.  Katharine Ross of The Graduate fame drops in for a while as the Kid’s love interest, but Butch shows more interest in her than the Kid ever does, and really this movie is a bromance between Butch and the Kid from start to finish.

Anyway, the film held my interest, but I still think it’s kind of an odd bird.  It’s #73 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the 100 greatest American movies, so I guess it’s a classic.

Rifftrax Live: Star Raiders

A new review from the Movie Snob.

Rifftrax Live: Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine  (B).  The movie riffers were at it again recently, and, although you can’t see it in the theater like I did, you can download this treasure directly from the Rifftrax website if you so choose.  The show opens with a short about telling the truth (although the real lesson seems to be “don’t throw rocks at a towel hanging on a clothesline right in front of a window”).  It’s fine.  The feature is a low-budget sci-fi movie that I have to assume went straight to video.  Casper Van Dien of Starship Troopers fame stars as Han Solo Saber Raine, a roguish mercenary/spaceship pilot who gets hired to help rescue a prince and princess who have been captured by some bad guy in a mask.  Yes, it is a cheesy Star Wars rip-off in the vein of Krull or Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, but somehow it got made in 2017.  The riffing was average, but the fact that it was ripping off a beloved 40-year-old movie from my childhood made the movie strangely endearing to me.  And Casper’s blond sidekick was kind of cute.

Rifftrax: Octaman

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Rifftrax: Octaman (B-).  I caught the latest Rifftrax live show last night, and if you are so inclined you can catch a rebroadcast at your local theater on April 24.  As you call tell from my grade, I’m not going to insist that you go.  It’s OK, but it’s not one of the gang’s greatest hits.  The appetizer is a short featuring McGruff the Crime Dog in an anti-drug screed.  It’s fine.  The main event is a monster movie that resembles a lamer version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  (No surprise, since writer-director Harry Essex also wrote the screenplay for . . . Creature from the Black Lagoon.)  The riffing was fine, but it never reaches giddy heights.  Octaman is only 80 minutes long, so the whole show was only about an hour and thirty-five minutes long.  One of the funniest bits was the song the guys sang at the very end of the show recapitulating the whole movie in three short verses.  Let’s see if the next Rifftrax live show, Star Raiders on June 6, is better.

Mystery Science Theater: 25th Anniversary Edition

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

I have more time on my hands these days, so I’m digging into my large collection of unwatched Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs.  This collection, which would be Volume XXVIII but for the 25th Anniversary Edition tag, contains six episodes rather than the usual four.  I think the last two episodes described below had already been released on DVD as standalone episodes.  Anyway, let’s get to this solid but not spectacular collection….

Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition (Volume XXXVIII).

Moon Zero Two  (B-).  This first-season offering features a 1969 production from Hammer, the famed low-budget British horror studio.  The movie is a cheesy “western in space” set on the moon in the early 21st century.  A charisma-free space jockey is recruited for two seemingly independent jobs—help a nefarious plutocrat crash a sapphire-laden asteroid into the far side of the moon and help a beautiful woman find out what happened to her missing brother, a mining prospector on . . . the far side of the moon.  Although the movie is generally terrible, the core ideas aren’t awful, some of the special effects seem pretty okay for the era, and female lead Catherine Schell really is gorgeous.  (She would go on to appear in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and TV’s Space: 1999, and she kept acting regularly into the 1990s.)  Anyway, the riffing started out pretty strong in this one, but it petered out as the movie went along.  Hence, the lukewarm grade.

The Day the Earth Froze (B).   This is a decent episode.  It starts with a short about a trip to the circus.  The main course is a weird old Finnish-Soviet movie based on a Finnish fairy tale.  A witch kidnaps a fair maiden to coerce her brother, a famed blacksmith, into building the witch a gadget called a “sampo” that can apparently make whatever you want it to.  Then the fair maiden’s boyfriend tries to steal the sampo, leading the witch to steal the sun, thereby threatening to freeze all the nice villagers.  Solid riffing, solid episode.  The real prize on the disc, though, is a short documentary featuring interviews with the original cast members about how MST3K first got started on a local cable channel in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  It really was interesting.

The Leech Woman  (C).  The riffing is only average on this weak 1960 horror movie about a woman who gets hooked on a potion that temporarily restores youth—but unfortunately requires an ingredient that can be obtained only by means of murder!  Extras on the disc include a decent documentary about many (or all?) of the people who acted or provided voice work on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a short interview with Mary Jo Pehl about her life post MST3K.

Gorgo (B).  Next up is a cheesy 1961 Godzilla ripoff set in Ireland and London.  Decent riffing makes for an above-average episode.  One of the movie’s stars, William Sylvester, actually went on to have a major role in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Heywood Floyd. And Leonard Maltin makes a special guest appearance on MST!

Mitchell (B).  This was the last MST episode featuring Joel Hodgson as its host.  Joe Don Baker (Mud) stars as Mitchell, a disheveled slob of a cop who plays by his own rules, bucks the police chief, and makes it his mission to nail some sleazy guy for murdering another sleazy guy who was burglarizing the first sleazy guy’s house.  Pretty good riffing, plus Linda Evans (TV’s Dynasty) co-stars in the movie and has to endure a sex scene with the unappealing Baker.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (B-).  This was the first MST episode to feature Mike Nelson, who had been a writer for the show for a while, as the host.  The film is a 1962 horror movie about a doctor who has been dabbling in unorthodox experiments.  His love for weird science pays off when his fiancée is decapitated in a car crash; he puts her head in a lasagna pan and keeps it alive in his laboratory while he creepily trolls various nightclubs for a suitable replacement body.  Amusingly, the final title card at the end of the movie changes its name to “The Head That Wouldn’t Die.”  The disc contains a short feature about Joel Hodgson’s leaving MST and a short interview with an actress who appeared (very briefly) in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

Rifftrax: Space Mutiny

The Movie Snob is back.

Rifftrax: Space Mutiny  (B+).  Ahoy, gentle readers!  I have not blogged in a while, owing to various family-related issues that have kept me out of the theaters.  But my sister was in town last week, and we managed to hit the multiplex for the latest Rifftrax live show.  You can catch a re-broadcast of it this coming Tuesday, June 19, and I give this one a hearty thumbs-up.  The opening short was pretty lackluster, something about a boy and his dad visiting a mysterious magic shop that may actually be magical!  But the main event is Space Mutiny, a 1988 sci-fi cheesefest that was actually riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1997.  The riffers did a fine job, but the movie alone would have provided plenty of laughs.  The plot is largely incomprehensible, but it’s something about a mutiny aboard a giant spaceship that happens to look exactly like the 1978-79 era Battlestar Galactica.  Don’t miss it!

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

The Movie Snob finally makes it back to the megaplex.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle  (C).  Ugh!  I’m on Day 10 of a cold.  So I looked for some cinematic comfort food, and I settled on this sleeper hit that’s still hanging on from the Christmas season.  According to IMDB, it has grossed about $370 million domestically on a $90 million budget, so not bad.  I didn’t see the 1995 Robin Williams version, so I had no expectations (except that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be likable, which he of course was).  It was a mediocre experience—utterly predictable, but with a few amusing scenes here and there.  Four high schoolers get sucked into a video game, where they are given new bodies reflecting their in-game avatars.  It’s somewhat entertaining that they are cast against type: the nerd becomes beefy Johnson (Moana), the jock becomes diminutive Kevin Hart (The Five-Year Engagement), the awkward loner girl becomes Lara-Croft-esque Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy), and in the oddest twist the beautiful social-media queen becomes . . . Jack Black (Gulliver’s Travels).  They have to complete a quest to “win the game” and escape back into the real world.  The suspense is less than minimal, but as I mentioned there are a few laughs here and there.  And Gillan is very attractive, so there’s that.  Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content, and some language (most of the latter two arising, I believe, from the situation of a high-school girl’s consciousness getting stuck inside a middle-aged guy’s body).

Metropolitan

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Metropolitan  (A-).  Well, your reviewer was feeling a bit under the weather, so I wanted something light and cheery.  I had fond memories of this 1990 indie flick but hadn’t seen it in years, so I pulled down my unwatched Criterion Collection DVD and gave it a spin.  Suffice to say, it was as good as I remembered it being.  It is about eight young people—four girls and four guys, early college-age, as best I can tell—who gather almost every night in Manhattan over one Christmas break to go to various debutante parties or balls or whatever they are.  We don’t see too much of the parties themselves—the focus is on the after-parties, where the youngsters earnestly discuss all sorts of things you might not expect, like Jane Austen, the existence of God, and the relative merits of the bourgeoisie.  Hm, I’m not really selling the movie very well.  There are plenty of romantic complications too as sweet and inexperienced Audrey gets a crush on group newcomer and professed socialist Tom, who is still hung up on his ex-girlfriend Serena, who was last known to be dating the repellent Rick Von Sloneker.  And the dialogue really is very funny, at least if you think it’s funny to hear lines like “Ours is probably the worst generation since the Protestant Reformation” delivered by very young people with drop-dead seriousness.

Writer-director-producer Whit Stillman went on to make two other excellent films in the 1990s, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, (starring Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale).  Enough people took notice of his work to result in the 2002 publication of a book called Doomed Bourgeois in Love: Essays on the Films of Whit Stillman.  Stillman then went quiet for a long time.  Then in 2011 he released Damsels in Distress, which I thought was good but not as good as his prior work, and then in 2016 he released the better Love & Friendship.  IMDB.com doesn’t show that he has anything new in the works, but I’m holding out hope.  If you are new to his work I recommend you start at the beginning and give Metropolitan a try!

The 39 Steps

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

The 39 Steps  (B).  Well, I intended to see a movie at the theater today, but I got some bad information from the internet and wound up seeing nothing.  So I decided to get some use out of my DVD collection and pulled down The Criterion Collection edition of this 1935 Hitchcock thriller.  Robert Donat (Goodbye Mr. Chips) stars as Hannay, an ordinary Londoner caught up in a web of intrigue when he takes a beautiful woman back to his flat one evening and she turns out to be a spy—and gets herself murdered that very night!  Suddenly, Hanney is on the run—wanted by the police on suspicion of murder and by sinister spies who are trying to steal British military secrets.  On a train to Scotland he has a meet-cute with Pamela (Madeleine Carroll, Secret Agent), and they later team up to try to foil the foreign plot.  The film is not terribly suspenseful but has some pleasant romantic-comedy aspects to it.  And at 86 minutes, it’s quite efficient.  I didn’t watch all the extras that Criterion packed onto the disc, but a short feature about Hitchcock’s film career in England before moving to Hollywood was interesting, and a critic’s discussion of The 39 Steps itself was also interesting and entertaining.

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!

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.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (B).  This is a tense, Coen-esque drama/black comedy from Martin McDonagh, who also wrote and directed Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges.  Frances McDormand (Fargo) stars as Mildred Hayes, a small-town divorcee who is consumed with grief over the unsolved rape and murder of her teenaged daughter Angela several months earlier.  Frustrated with local law enforcement, she rents three billboards just outside of town and posts an inflammatory message aimed at police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, War for the Planet of the Apes).  Willoughby is offended but understanding; his violent, racist underling Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Laggies), on the other hand, is infuriated and liable to lash out in any available direction.  The ripples spread through the small town of Ebbing as Mildred persists in keeping the billboards up, and secrets are gradually revealed.  Great performances from the three main actors, and nice supporting work from some others as well, including Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent), Abbie Cornish (Limitless), and Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom).  But a couple of noticeable flaws (such as Willoughby’s weird use of extreme profanity not just around but at his two adorable little girls) keep this movie out of the top tier, in my opinion.  Still, worth checking out.  Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

Lady Bird

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Lady Bird  (B+).  Indie actress Greta Gerwig (Mistress America) wrote and directed this indie dramedy about a high-spirited girl’s tumultuous senior year in a Sacramento Catholic school and her rocky relationship with her mother.  I enjoyed it, and it moved along with a brisk 94-minute run time.  Saoirse Ronan (The Way Back) shines as the title character (she’s named Christine McPherson, but she insists on being called Lady Bird), and we follow the ups and downs of her experience in Drama Club, her crushes, her relationship with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbor 2: Sorority Rising), her college aspirations, and most of all her relationship with her mother, a hard-working and long-suffering psychiatric nurse (Laurie Metcalf, TV’s Roseanne).  Based on Ms. Gerwig’s IMDB biography, I’d say this movie has a strong autobiographical component.  It also has a 94 score over on Metacritic.com, so what are you waiting for?

Thor: Ragnarok

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Thor: Ragnarok  (B-).  Of the making of comic-book movies, there is no end.  But, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, you could do worse than seeing the third movie focused on second-tier Marvel hero Thor of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman).  The story is the usual fare—a rising supervillain threatens massive destruction unless the heroic guy and his sidekicks can somehow save the day.  And the fight scenes, spaceships, and explosions are also the usual dull, video-game-looking affairs.

So what’s to like?  In a nutshell, it’s the comedy.  I laughed out loud more times during this movie than in any number of straight-up “comedies” I could name.  Fanboys may not appreciate the meta-jokes that poke fun at the silliness of the whole enterprise (like an offhanded joke about Loki’s goofy headgear), but I laughed every time.  Weaselly Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island) is back and always fun to watch.  Jeff Goldblum (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) is a hoot as the flamboyant impresario of a planet that looks like a giant garbage dump.  As the villainous Hela, Cate Blanchett—a two-time Oscar®-winning actress for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator, don’t you know—chews the CGI with a vengeance and sprouts some mighty impressive antlers whenever she gets ready to kill a bunch of people.  Plus there are fun cameos to watch for, and some other Avengers put in small or not-so-small appearances.  This movie was directed by Taika Waititi, a New Zealander who also directed and starred in the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.  This movie was even funnier.