Frozen II

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Frozen II  (C).  I must say that this sequel to the Disney juggernaut Frozen left me cold   <rimshot>.  Maybe it’s because the first film really wasn’t set up for a sequel, but this one felt tacked on and arbitrary.  Despite the previous film’s happy ending and Arendell’s apparent prosperity under Queen Elsa’s benevolent rule, the Queen is restless and unhappy, imagining that she hears a siren song calling her north.  It turns out the royal family has a complicated backstory—as a boy, the girls’ father, King Agnarr, accompanied a mission to an enchanted forest in the north, and for some unknown reason hostilities broke out between the Arendellians and the locals.  Agnarr was the only Arendellian to escape before a wall of mist (reinforced with a magical force field) sealed the forest off from the world.  Now Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf (somewhat more amusing in this film) must somehow penetrate the mist (which they easily do by the simple expedient of having Elsa go first) and find out what’s going on inside.  There’s a lot of running hither and yon, and lots of magical “explanations” that made no sense to me.  Plenty of songs, most of which are OK.

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.

Big Hero 6

A new DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Big Hero 6  (B).  I finally saw this Disney film the other night, and I thought it was good.  The Borg Queen took me to task for not giving it an A grade of some kind, but there’s no way it compares with Disney’s greatest films.  (A few examples: The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Zootopia, and even Moana, which has risen considerably in my estimation since I reviewed it in these pages.)  Also, I suspect Big Hero 6 would play better on the big screen; its futuristic setting was pretty but not immersive on the TV.  Anyhoo, this is basically a superhero origin story.  Teenaged Hiro is a genius at robots but really comes into his own only after his older brother dies in a mysterious fire and a shadowy villain starts stalking the streets of San Fransokyo.  Hiro teams up with his brother’s nerdy science friends and with Baymax, a big balloony robot that Hiro’s brother had been working on when he died.  With a few modifications, Baymax goes from cuddly nurse robot to high-flying action hero, and eventually it’s time for a showdown with the big bad.  I was entertained.  If you like superhero movies, Big Hero 6 is worth your time.

Richard Jewell

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Richard Jewell  (B).  This is a solid, interesting little movie about a real-life event that I only dimly remember.  A nail-bomb exploded in downtown Atlanta while that city was hosting the 1996 Olympics, killing one person and injuring over 100 (per wikipedia).  According to the movie, the federal criminal investigation turned up no real leads, and the FBI decided to focus on Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the bomb before it exploded and seemingly saved lots of lives by alerting law enforcement and helping evacuate the area.  (The actual bomber was identified and apprehended only years later.)  Director Clint Eastwood (Jersey Boys) portrays Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser, I, Tonya) as a real odd duck—hugely overweight, socially inept, living with his mother (Kathy Bates, Midnight in Paris), and yearning to be a real policeman.  Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies) is an unscrupulous reporter dying for a scoop after the explosion, and Jon Hamm (Bridesmaids) is the integrity-challenged FBI agent who tips her off that Jewell is a person of interest.  When she breaks the story, Jewell goes from hero to presumed villain in no time flat, and he turns to the only lawyer he knows, a solo practitioner played by Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back), to help him fight back.  Hauser and Rockwell turn in fine performances, and the movie vividly demonstrates how the combined power of the government and the media can unjustly destroy an ordinary guy’s life and reputation (and really upset his mama).

Little Women (2019)

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Little Women (2019) (A-).  I haven’t seen any of the numerous prior dramatizations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, and I haven’t read the book itself in decades, so I was a fairly clean slate.  I just remembered it was the story of four sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) living with their mother “Marmee” in the North while their father was off with the Union army in the Civil War.  Director and adapter Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) complicates the narrative by making the “present” some seven years later and having headstrong sister Jo (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) remember the Civil War-era events in extensive flashbacks.

At first, I didn’t care for the movie very much, but it quickly grew on me.  I think it was mainly the story—the little domestic squabbles, setbacks, and victories—that won me over.  Aside from Ronan, who’s always good, and Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated…) in a small but fun part as the girls’ rich and crusty spinster aunt, I thought the acting was merely adequate.  Emma Watson (This Is the End) didn’t have a lot to do as oldest sister Meg.  Laura Dern (Star Wars Episode VIII) mostly just beams happily at her wonderful daughters.  And I thought Amy, the youngest sister, was miscast.  I vaguely remember her as a flighty, spoiled, kid-sister type in the novel, but Florence Pugh (Midsommar) is a sturdy, husky-voiced gal who seemed more mature than all three of her “older” sisters.  I expect she’ll be a better fit for her part in the upcoming Marvel movie Black Widow.

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.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The Movie Snob fulfills an obligation.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker  (C-).  And so we come at last to the end of the nine-movie Skywalker saga, and not a moment too soon for this reviewer.

Spoilers follow!

As at least one critic has observed, in Episode IX director J.J. Abrams does his level best to ignore or undo everything that happened in Episode VIII.  Although the Resistance seemed to be whittled down to about 5 or 6 people by the end of Episode VIII, Episode IX kicks off with General Leia (Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally…) back in charge of a typical, seemingly well-manned rebel base.  Villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Frances Ha) destroyed his Vaderesque mask in the last movie, but he solders it back together for this one.  The painful love story between Finn (John Boyega, Pacific Rim: Uprising) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran, XOXO) is mercifully dropped.  That stuff about Rey (Daisy Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express) being the orphaned child of a couple of nobodies? Mm, not exactly.  And so on.

But there is some continuity:  Episode IX continues the recent tradition of strip-mining the original trilogy for material.  Remember how Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, The Return of the Jedi) got killed when Darth Vader hurled him down a bottomless air shaft?  Well, you can’t keep a good Sith Lord down, and fifty years on he is rested up and ready for action.  But before we get to the inevitable showdown with Palpatine, our heroes have to go on a tedious quest looking for the Magic Crystal of BlizzBlazz that will reveal Palpatine’s secret hiding place.  None of the main characters is very interesting.  I think Adam Driver is a terrible villain.  Poe (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina) and Finn are just dull.  Rey is cute and kind of fun to watch if only because her Force powers far outstrip anything we ever thought even a trained Jedi could do, but she spends pretty much the whole movie scowling.  C-3PO is actually kind of entertaining in this outing, and I loved the little muppet guy who has to crack 3PO’s droid head open to get at some secret Sith data.  Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back) pops up for a couple scenes, looking genuinely amused at being in the film.  None of it makes much sense, but I thought the climactic battle between Rey and Palpatine was kind of cool.  And the final scene, when Rey goes to Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home on Tatooine, warmed the heart of this old original-trilogy-loving geezer.

Bombshell

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Bombshell.  (B)  I had time to squeeze one last movie in before the end of 2019, so of course I opted for the one starring the flawless Nicole Kidman (Aquaman).  It’s based on the sexual-harassment scandal that engulfed the Fox News organization in 2016 and ultimately took down CEO Roger Ailes (played here by John Lithgow, Confessions of a Shopaholic).  I’ve never watched Fox News and paid no attention to the scandal, so it was all rather new to me.  The incomparable Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, a Fox personality who first got demoted, then got fired, and then sued Ailes individually for sexual harassment.  Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde) plays Megyn Kelly, an even higher-profile Fox newswoman who has to decide whether to protect her very successful career or come forward to corroborate Carlson’s story with her own account of Ailes’s misconduct some ten years earlier.  And then there’s Margot Robbie (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), who plays a wide-eyed up-and-comer who’s currently being victimized by Ailes.  Although the movie was interesting, I think it suffers from the fact that Robbie’s character is fictional (a composite of several women, I’ve read).  The main suspense of the action is whether any women who work at Fox will come forward to substantiate Carlson’s claims, and the movie sort of sets you up to expect that Robbie’s character will be the one to come forward because, unlike Kelly, she’s suffering from Ailes’s misconduct right now.  But then she doesn’t, presumably because she’s not a real person and the movie wanted to stick closer to the facts.  Anyway, I thought it was worth seeing, and I note that Theron and Robbie have picked up Golden Globe nominations for their performances (though not Kidman, criminally).

Also, I was again impressed by the Alamo Drafthouse’s pre-show entertainment, which included clips from Kidman’s first film, BMX Bandits, and a comic bit from Funnyordie.com in which Theron pretends to be practicing an Academy Award acceptance speech in her bathroom mirror.

Christmas Wedding Planner (TV movie)

Happy holidays from The Movie Snob!

Christmas Wedding Planner  (A).  Well, my sister doesn’t have cable, so I couldn’t watch a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie before the holiday rolled around. Fortunately she does have Netflix and we were able to make do with this little treat—commercial free, too! It checked off most of the critical boxes:

  • A cute and quirky heroine to root for. In this case, her name is Kelsey, and she is trying to kick off a wedding-planning business by arranging her cousin Emily’s Christmas wedding to the lackluster Todd.
  • An unattractive, uncharming romantic interest for the heroine. This role is filled by Connor, who starts showing up at Emily’s pre-wedding events uninvited.  He tells Kelsey that he’s a PI who’s been hired to look into this lackluster Todd guy for Emily’s protection.
  • Musical montage. Kelsey reluctantly agrees to help Connor, since he’s looking out for her beloved cousin Emily, and they indulge in said montage while doing a stakeout on the sinister yet lackluster Todd.
  • C-list celebrities in minor roles. Here, Kelly Rutherford (TV’s Melrose Place and Gossip Girl) and Joey Fatone (boy band NSYNC) fit the bill.

With all the ingredients in place, this 86-minute Christmas confection is ready to please.  Kelsey and Connor experience the obligatory misunderstanding that briefly drives them apart, but everything hurtles to a satisfactory conclusion. Well, satisfactory for all except poor Emily, who winds up not a Christmas bride but a maid of honor at Kelsey and Connor’s Christmas nuptials instead. But even Emily really seems pretty okay with it, so we don’t have to feel guilty about shedding wedding tears of joy for the winsome Kelsey and the homely Connor. Happy holidays!

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (B).  I saw this 1983 sci-fi B-movie in its theatrical release, and it left such a big impression on my teenaged self that I could still vividly remember certain scenes and lines today.  So you can imagine my glee when I was killing some time at a Fry’s Electronics and found the Blu-ray for around $9.  I watched it last night, and it was just as cheesy as I expected it would be—but I still enjoyed it.  A spaceship blows up out in deep space (an accident caused by something it really seems like they should have anticipated), and three passengers (attractive women all) escape in a lifeboat and crash on a desolate world where a plague decimated a human colony and turned the whole place into a Mad-Max-ish sort of environment.  (I think they filmed the crash scene in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, if I’m not mistaken.)  A scuzzy Han-Solo-ish space jockey named Wolff (Peter Strauss, XXX: State of the Union) is in the neighborhood and could use the reward money, so he lands his ship and starts rolling across the desert in his Mad-Max-ish SUV.  He picks up an orphaned scavenger named Niki (Molly Ringwald, one year before Sixteen Candles came out and two years before The Breakfast Club) and discovers that an old acquaintance named Washington (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters) is also on the planet searching for the lost ladies.  After some encounters with hostile but not especially competent local mutants, Wolff, Niki, and Washington end up at the Thunderdome-like enclave of the villainous cyborg Overdog (Michael Ironside, Starship Troopers), who has captured the lost ladies, and a climactic showdown ensues.  Strauss and Hudson don’t seem to be taking the movie all that seriously, but Ringwald really commits to her role, spewing amusing space slang a mile a minute and generally acting like a petulant American teenager the whole time.   And did I mention it’s only 90 minutes long?

So that’s what you’re in for if you can find this lost gem!  You’ve been warned!

Ad Astra

The Movie Snob sees a current release!

Ad Astra  (C).  This movie has done very well with other critics—currently scoring 80 out of 100 on metacritic.com—but I was underwhelmed.  It’s a sci-fi flick set in the near future.  Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading) stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut so unflappably cool he makes Neil Armstrong look like a bowl of quivering jello.  Strange, deadly energy pulses from Neptune start threatening life on Earth (and on the moon and Mars, which have been colonized), and it seems that Roy’s father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman), who disappeared on a scientific mission to Neptune years before, may have something to do with it.  Before you can say “2001,” Roy is blasting off from Earth on a mission to contact dear, old dad and, with luck, save the world(s).  Lots of critics have compared Ad Astra to Apocalypse Now, which is fair, but to me the more obvious comparison is the 2007 space thriller Sunshine.  Anyhoo, I found the movie visually appealing but much lacking in the story and character departments.  Roy is so locked down he is hard to empathize with.  Donald Sutherland (Forsaken) pops up in a small role, and Liv Tyler (That Thing You Do!) has the tiny and thankless task of flashing on the screen a few times as Roy’s estranged wife.

Cool Hand Luke

The Movie Snob takes in another classic.

Cool Hand Luke (B).  I think it’s hard to rate a movie that is well-made and interesting but also bleak and depressing.  That’s how I found Cool Hand Luke, the 1967 film starring Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and co-starring George Kennedy (The Naked Gun) in an Oscar-winning supporting performance.  Newman plays the title character, a decorated war veteran who lands himself on a prison road gang in the deep South after drunkenly vandalizing a bunch of parking meters.  Luke’s blasé attitude and ability to absorb punishment make him an object of suspicion among the prison guards but admiration among his fellow prisoners, who are led by a loud-mouthed fellow called Dragline (Kennedy).  In Luke’s shoes, I’d do my best to keep my head down and survive my two-year sentence, but after his ailing mother dies he starts the shenanigans that will get him in increasing amounts of trouble with the sadistic Captain (who has the famous line “What we have here is failure to communicate”) and his goons.  What’s Luke’s deal?  He’s plainly made out to be a Christ figure, and the movie kind of plays like a drawn-out Garden of Gethsemane sequence.  But what’s his message?  Love thy neighbor doesn’t seem to fit.  Resist authority?  What about rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?  Even if Luke’s punishment was excessive, he did vandalize public property, after all.  And why is he so rebellious?  He alludes to having grown up without a father, and maybe his wartime experience affected him somehow, but I still didn’t really get his motivation.  I guess some people are just ornery by nature.

Watch for Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider), Harry Dean Stanton (Escape from New York), and Wayne Rogers (TV’s M*A*S*H) in small parts as fellow prisoners.  Apparently Joe Don Baker (Mitchell) was in there too, but I didn’t spot him.

Yentl

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Yentl (C).  Hm, seems to me that the Magnolia Theater is pushing the limits of what counts as a “classic” in its Tuesday night classic-movie series.  Nevertheless, onward!  This was my first time see this 1983 musical starring (and directed by) Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl).  What can I say?  If you want an extra-hearty helping of Ms. Streisand, this is the movie for you.  The movie is set in “Eastern Europe” in 1904 (I think that’s what the caption said), and Streisand plays Yentl, a young Jewish woman who scoffs at marriage and wants only to be allowed to study Torah.  Alas!  Such study is reserved for men!  But that’s little obstacle for plucky Yentl, who skedaddles from her small town as soon as her dear old dad dies, disguises herself as a man, and joins the yeshiva in the next town over.  She soon falls for her passionate study partner Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride), but he’s madly in love with his fiancée Hadass (Amy Irving, Traffic).  Oh, and there’s the little detail that he thinks Yentl is a man (although he does seems to get kind of handsy in after-school horseplay with his younger study partner).  As the melodrama builds, Yentl pushes her cross-dressing scheme surprisingly far.  Anyhoo, the movie was okay, but I didn’t think much of the songs, and I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief at the idea that Streisand (then 40ish) could pass for a Jewish man too young to grow a beard.

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!

Lolita (1962)

The Movie Snob takes in another classic(?)

Lolita  (B).  This past Tuesday evening I took in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita at the Magnolia Theater.  I’ve never read the book, so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but of course I knew the gist of the story, so I was prepared for a squirm-inducing experience.  A snooty, middle-aged British academic named Humbert Humbert (James Mason, A Star Is Born) moves to a small American town for a summer, and he immediately falls into a lusty obsession with his landlady’s under-aged daughter, who is named Dolores but nicknamed Lolita (Sue Lyon, The Night of the Iguana).  I read on the internet that she’s 12 in the book, but Lyon was 15 when the movie was filmed and looked older to me.  Skeezy things ensue, and Humbert and Lolita wind up traveling across country together.  Shelley Winters (The Diary of Anne Frank) is memorable as Lolita’s pathetic, desperate, and widowed mother.  Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove) turns in a scene-stealing performance as a bizarre character named Clare Quilty.  I hardly know what grade to give this odd movie about an untouchable subject, but I will say I was never bored and didn’t squirm all that often.

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.

David Crosby: Remember My Name

A new review from The Movie Snob.

David Crosby: Remember My Name (B).  I caught this new documentary and learned a few things about music legend David Crosby, who is somehow still alive and making music at 76 despite doing an astonishing amount of drugs up into at least the 1980s.  For example, his father was Floyd Crosby, a photographer who won a Golden Globe for cinematography for High Noon.  He was a founding member of The Byrds, which I should have known but don’t think I did.  He didn’t like The Doors because Jim Morrison was rude to him once.  And none of the other members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are on speaking terms with him.  The film does a good job of conveying the trippy music scene of the 60s and 70s.  But it left me wanting to know more about Crosby’s personal life.  Like, what happened to his brother, who is mentioned as also being into music when they were kids?  And I think he mentioned in passing that he’s not on speaking terms with his daughter.  What’s the story there?  But it wasn’t bad, and I appreciated the efficient 95-minute run time.

Easy Rider

The Movie Snob takes in another classic(?)

Easy Rider  (D).  I saw this one courtesy of Fathom Events’ classic film series.  I went in knowing virtually nothing about it except that (1) it stars Dennis Hopper (Giant) and Peter Fonda (Ulee’s Gold) and (2) it’s some kind of “hippie movie.”  Boy, is it!  In a quick opening, we see Billy (Hopper) and Captain America (Fonda) make a killing in a cocaine deal in what is apparently Los Angeles.  After that, they saddle up their motorcycles and hit the open road for New Orleans, where they hope to be in time for Mardi Gras.  On their quest, Billy is twitchy and paranoid, while Captain America is laid back and philosophical.  They visit a commune that seems destined for starvation.  They smoke a lot of marijuana.  Most memorably, they are joined for part of their journey by a small-town alcoholic attorney played by Jack Nicholson (The Shining), in what was apparently his break-out role.  The movie gets progressively darker as it goes along, but I won’t spoil the ending despite its being 50 years old this year.  Although it’s a pretty efficient piece of moviemaking–it’s only 95 minutes long–and it got nominated for two Oscars© and several other awards, I couldn’t appreciate it.  I just kept thinking things like Do these guys ever shower?  Or brush their teeth?  What do they smell like after all these days riding motorcycles through and sleeping in the desert?  I was pleased to read critic David Thomson wrap up his review in the book “Have You Seen . . . ?” this way:  “And it is unwatchable–unless you are benefiting from the illegal substances it advocates.”

Funny Girl

Another movie review from The Movie Snob.

Funny Girl  (B).  I was back at the Magnolia Theater this past Tuesday night for The Big Movie — the 1968 musical that was Barbra Streisand’s first movie role.  In fact, I think this is only the second Streisand movie I have ever seen, the first being What’s Up, Doc?, which I saw on network TV a couple of times when I was a kid.  Anyhoo, Funny Girl is a biopic about real life entertainer Fanny Brice, who performed in Ziegfeld’s Follies in the early 20th century.  Streisand turns in a rip-roaring performance as Brice and tied with Katharine Hepburn for the best-actress Oscar™.  Omar Sharif (Dr. Zhivago) co-stars as the suave gambler who sweeps her off her feet.  It was an entertaining movie, but not quite top tier in my book.  It’s two and a half hours long, which is kind of long but not long enough to justify the 15-minute intermission we were forced to sit through!  Anyway, I say it’s worth seeing if you like musicals.

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.

Cruel Intentions

New from The Movie Snob.

Cruel Intentions (D).  I wanted to go see a movie, but no current releases were really grabbing me.  I noticed that this flick was in re-release for its 20th anniversary, and I remembered seeing and liking Dangerous Liaisons (on which it was based) many, many years ago, so I gave it a try.  Well, it’s not so great.  Sarah Michelle Gellar (I Know What You Did Last Summer) and Ryan Phillippe (Crash) star as conniving and wildly promiscuous step-siblings who love to seduce and ruin other young people.  None of it is believable in the least, but Gellar and Phillippe’s interactions are somewhat amusing, and it’s also entertaining to watch Gellar try and fail to be a convincing bad girl.  Reese Witherspoon (Just Like Heaven) is okay as a wholesome Midwestern gal that Phillippe sets out to ruin and accidentally falls in love with.  Poor Selma Blair (Hellboy) has a thankless role as a dimwitted naif that Gellar’s character wants Phillippe to ruin.  Not worth the $14+ I paid to see it, that’s for sure.  I usually go to matinees; when did normal movie tickets get so expensive?

Aquaman

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Aquaman (D).  Nicole Kidman (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) stars in a beautiful romance about two star-crossed lovers.  She’s royalty from the undersea kingdom of Atlantis; he’s a humble lighthouse keeper in Maine.  One stormy night in 1985 he finds her on the shore, badly wounded in the course of escaping from an arranged marriage to some king or other.  He nurses her back to health, she eats one of his goldfish, they fall in love, and a baby boy is born.  But alas!  The Atlanteans catch up with her, and to protect her husband and her son she must return to the ocean and become a fugitive.  But, she tells her husband, if she ever finds a way to return to him, she will appear at the end of their dock at sunrise.  She swims away.  The end.

Ha!  If only!  Unfortunately the director spends only about ten minutes on the Kidman love story and then assaults us with over two hours of sublimely ridiculous blather about the superhero Aquaman (Jason Momoa, TV’s Baywatch: Hawaii) and his quest to recover the super-duper magic trident of Old King Blizz Blazz, take his rightful place as king of Atlantis (which involves one-on-one combat strongly reminiscent of Black Panther), and stop an all-out war between the Atlanteans and the human race.  On the plus side, Aquaman does have a gorgeous sidekick in the person of Princess Mera (Amber Heard, The Rum Diary).  On the minus side, there is everything else.  And, by the way, Princess Mera seems every bit as competent as fishboy.  Why can’t she grab the golden trident and take care of everything?  Is it just because she’s a girl?  For all their awesome technology, the Atlanteans sure aren’t very woke.

P.S.  If this movie means that Nicole Kidman is going to start appearing at comic cons, I take it all back.