Disney’s A Christmas Carol

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (B). This is Robert Zemeckis’s latest foray into the new-fangled motion-capture animation that also went into Beowulf and The Polar Express. I saw the 3D version, and I recommend it because the visuals of this movie are easily its strongest point. Indeed, the ghost of Jacob Marley, the black steeds pulling the carriage of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, and the disintegration of the Ghost of Christmas Present are all sufficiently intense and frightening that this movie is not really appropriate for little kids. And I gather that the movie is more faithful to Dickens’s story than some other adaptations have been, which is probably a good thing. And yet . . . the weird CGIness of the movie really kept me at arm’s length throughout, and I didn’t leave the theater with any warm Christmasy feelings–just a vague admiration for the technological proficiency behind the movie.

I will add that The Borg Queen started out watching the movie with me but left halfway through. She was getting motion sick from the swooping camera work (although personally I think the $5 package of Twizzlers she had before the movie also contributed to her ill health). And she generally disliked the movie as well, commenting, as many people have, on the unsettlingly dead appearance of the CGI characters. That flaw was really true of The Polar Express, in my opinion, and it is true of many of the characters in this movie too, especially Scrooge’s nephew Fred and his employee Bob Cratchit. The Scrooge character (voiced by Jim Carrey, The Truman Show) is much more lifelike, but the unreal quality of the other characters definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the film.

Under the Sea 3D (IMAX)

New review from The Movie Snob

Under the Sea 3D (B). I have weakness for IMAX documentaries, and this one is yet another beautifully filmed journal of encounters with remarkable critters like cuttlefish, sea snakes, leafy sea dragons, stonefish, sea lions, and even a great white shark. The movie was shot in Indonesian and Australian waters, and Jim Carrey (Disney’s A Christmas Carol) provides narration that is only slightly more lively than Daryl Hannah (Splash) gave us in Dolphins and Whales. Although the movie is good, it is also exactly what you expect, Maybe it’s time to give the oceans a rest, boys.

Yes Man

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Yes Man (C). I am not the biggest Jim Carrey (Disney’s A Christmas Carol) fan in the world, but I went ahead and saw this movie — even paid full price! As I gathered from the previews, Carrey plays some ordinary, middle-aged schmoe who says “no” to everything until something happens that makes him do a 180° on that policy. Personally, I’m an ordinary, middle-aged schmoe who says “no” to pretty much everything, so I thought I should see what I’m missing. The movie unfolds pretty predictably — almost as predictably as if Carrey had continued to say “no” to everything, in fact. A bright spot is Zooey Deschanel (Elf), not because she turns in a particularly great performance, but just because I think she’s as cute as a button. But she’s also like 20 years younger than Jim Carrey, so that’s kind of hard to believe, maybe even a little creepy. Anyhoo, nothing special about this one, and some crude humor that should make parents take the PG-13 rating seriously. (Fionnula Flanagan of The Others should be ashamed of herself!)

The Number 23, The Pathfinder

DVD reviews from Nick at Nite

The Number 23

I miss Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Not the sequel. The original. “Finkelstein is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkelstein” — that was funny. The Number 23 is not funny. It is a quirky film with a strange little story about a book, its author, and the obsession it brings out in some readers. Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty) plays an everyman who becomes obsessed with the book after his wife buys it for him on a whim. As Carrey grows more and more obsessed with the book he starts to lose his mind, endanger his family, and must confront his own murky past. The movie has a significant twist. See if you can guess it. This is worth a rental if you can’t find the other new release you wanted. I give it a “B.”

The Pathfinder

This is more my speed. Did you know that the Vikings first came to this country 600 years before anyone else? Did you know that one of their great warriors and his men were stranded leaving only a single child as a survivor? Did you know that this child would be rescued by Native Americans and eventually grow up to fight a different group of Vikings that threatened his adoptive Native American tribe? Well, now you know. Lots of action including sword play, archery, blood, bear fights, and other excitement. Story is told in a very odd way. The Vikings speak whatever language it is Vikings speak and everything they say is subtitled. Meanwhile the Native Americans speak English with no subtitles. I did not realize that before the English settled on this continent the native inhabitants already knew how to speak English. Perhaps Martians are to blame. Honestly, if you are going to go to the trouble to have some of the guys speak a strange and different language, why not have them all do it. I give it a “B.”

DVD reviews from CBG

CBG reviews DVDs:

Fun with Dick and Jane

Remake of an allegedly funnier 1977 version staring George Segal and Jane Fonda. Maybe I should have seen the original because several people told me it was better. In this 2005 release, Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni play the upwardly mobile couple who are forced to turn to a life of crime after his company collapses from fraud. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood, but it wasn’t that funny. Fraud, armed robbery, petty theft and vandalism don’t usually make me laugh. Even when Jim Carrey is the perpetrator. Even when the victims deserve it (and only a few in this movie do). Carrey is a great physical comedian and although he works it here – his pratfalls aren’t enough to carry the film. Likewise, as charming as Ms. Leoni may be, she doesn’t hold my interest for 90 minutes. Even as social satire, it falls short of the mark. My advice? If you didn’t see it when it first came out, don’t bother now.

Judgment: C

Find Me Guilty

Vin Diesel plays a Jackie DiNoscio, a mobster who defended himself in connection with a massive RICO case against the mob – apparently, the longest mafia trial in history. Billed as a courtroom drama, based on the actual trial, I had high hopes for this film. What’s not to like? The Mob? Courtroom drama (as if you see a lot of that in real life)? So what’s not to like? Vin Diesel for one – he apes his way through this with some pseudo-Italian accent (?) and mannerisms. How about a flat story story line to follow it up with. Ultimately, what disappointed me about this film is what it said about us and pop culture generally. Why do we root for the mobster? He’s a CRIMINAL, engaged in drug dealing and other illegal activity? Why do we sympathize with the mob? Again, they’re CRIMINALS. Why is the government so incompetent? Who thought a 2 year trial was a good idea? How does a pro se litigant get the better hand on a federal prosecutor? Too many questions – I know, it’s only a movie. But this one is based (loosely) on a true story. If it was me, I’d add the holy trinity of cinematography (sex, violence and special effects) those are things that work for Vin (Check out XXX). Instead, this film is guilty – of being predictable, furthering stereotypes and well, starring Vin Diesel (without the trinity). Maybe I should have watched The Chronicles of Riddick.

Judgment: C+

Swept Away (Italian with Subtitles)

*** spoiler alert *** spoiler alert *** spoiler alert ***

The original title in Italian is “Travolti da un insolito nell’ azzurro mare d’agosto” which I’ll bet translates to more than just “Swept Away.” (I think it’s something like “Overwhelmed by the Destiny of the Unusual August Blue Sea.” Okay, we’ll stick to Swept Away.) The plot is simple: Uptight, abusive rich lady (Raffaella) on a private Mediterranean cruise gets stranded on a deserted island with a lowly ignorant crew member (Gennarino) after she insists on going out against his advice. Now the tables are turned. After hurling insults and attacking each other, they fall in love and well, attack each other. Made in 1974, the film still holds up, particularly if you know anything about Italian culture. This film works the dialectic: male v female; rich v poor; north (Raffaella is from Milano, Gennarino is Sicilian); communists v capitalists. Since it wasn’t made in Hollywood, you’ll be unhappy with the ending if you like everything to work out at the end. If you’re into Italian cinema, there’s a lot out there to see before this. Even so, worth the rental. Certainly see this version instead of the remake (starring Madonna) – advice I should have followed with Dick and Jane (see above).

Judgment: B

Fun (?) With Dick and Jane

DVD review from Nick at Nite

Fun with Dick and Jane

They should have called this movie Bored with Dick and Jane or Saddened with Dick and Jane, certainly not Fun with Dick and Jane, Enjoying Dick and Jane, or Pleased with Dick and Jane. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find a good comedic release. This could have been it. It had Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni, decent actors in their own right, and was based on a remake of a moderately funny movie. Honestly, I thought Jim Carrey was very funny in some of his past roles. I laugh every time I think about Ace Venture realizing that … “Einhorn is Finkelstein, Finkelstein is Einhorn … (cue theme music from The Crying Game).” Tea Leoni, she is as cute as a button. So I thought, why not this movie? I’ll tell you why not. Armed robbery is not funny (a central plot point). Armed robbery is scary. If it is not in Raising Arizona and you are not stealing diapers, it is not funny. The misfortune of all of the employees of Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia, etc … also not funny. Save your money and time on this one. Go for a walk, read a book, or just watch a rerun of TV. You’ll have more fun.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A new review from Movie Man Mike:

A Series of Unfortunate Events. (B-) To begin with, the most unfortunate event was that I went to see this movie at the theater. It will be more enjoyable if you don’t pay full price for it. J.K. Rowling has nothing to fear from this little upstart of a film series. The cast of this movie was promising, with Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman, and an actor who looks suspiciously like John Cleese, but who is not credited as John Cleese. With the exception of Jude Law, who narrates, each of these actors plays intriguing and humorous characters. The story seemed to drag a little, which was surprising since it appears that the producers tried to fit 3 of the books into one movie. One thing missing from this film were some of the laughs. Most of the humor was mildly amusing. This movie might appeal more to children, but I personally would not recommend it for children because it’s a little dark given that it begins with the children learning that their parents were killed in a horrible fire. The rest of the film involves attempts to place the children with various relatives and the scheming of one relative, Count Olaf, to acquire the children’s inheritance even if it involves the killing of other relatives. The whole time I kept worrying about the impact of this film on my impressionable nieces and nephews. Leave the kids at home, and if you rent it, watch it after the kids have gone to bed.