Genius

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Genius  (B).  This movie isn’t doing too well with the critics (current score of 56 over at metacritic.com) but I think they are somehow overlooking the fact that Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) is in the movie.  Just kidding!  Anyhoo, perhaps my low expectations led me to enjoy it more than I otherwise would have.  It’s a biopic about editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech) and novelist Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow).  Back around the year 1929, Wolfe was a manic would-be writer out of North Carolina with a married mistress (played by Kidman), and Perkins was a buttoned-down family man with five daughters.  The movie basically just tells the story of their sometimes-difficult relationship as Perkins shaped Wolfe’s thousands of pages into manageable novels that met mainstream and critical success.  Other authors that Perkins edited also pop up, like a washed-up F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce, Memento) and a macho Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West, 300).  And the always-welcome Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes) has a small part as Mrs. Perkins.  I thought it wasn’t a bad movie.  It may have helped that I had actually read one of Wolfe’s novels, Look Homeward, Angel; you can read my review here and see if it sounds like your cup of tea.

Side Effects

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Side Effects  (B).  The latest film from Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!) is an interesting and twisty little movie.  I can’t say too much about the plot because of its twistiness, but the set-up is this.  Emily (Rooney Mara, The Social Network) is a depressed young woman patiently awaiting the day her husband Martin (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street) will get out of prison for insider trading.  Martin gets out of prison, but Emily’s depression gets worse.  She comes under the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, Hugo), and they begin a trial-and-error search for an anti-depressant drug that will work for her.  That’s about as much as I can say without depriving you of the pleasure of seeing what happens next, and next, and then next after that.  It’s kind of a thriller, but a little too low-key for that label to be really accurate.  Catherine Zeta-Jones (Rock of Ages) also stars as a tightly wound psychiatrist from Emily’s past.  It’s much better than the 2005 film of the same name starring Katherine Heigl (Side Effects), that’s for sure!

Sherlock Holmes

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Sherlock Holmes (D+). Based on the reviews I had seen, I expected Sherlock Holmes to be mediocre–but I didn’t expect it to be this mediocre. As played by Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), the supersleuth is not only a genius at deduction but also a formidable practitioner of the martial arts. With Dr. Watson (Jude Law, The Holiday) in tow, Holmes investigates a bizarre case in which a hanged murderer has apparently risen from the grave and threatens to take over England with an army of the undead, or something like that. Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers) has very little to do as American con artist Irene Adler. Choppily-edited fight scenes and overwhelmingly brown and gray cinematography do not add to the enjoyment. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the best 2 hours and 15 minutes of my life.

The Holiday

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Holiday (B). In my opinion, romantic comedy is very difficult to pull off, so The Holiday‘s “B” is a very good grade coming from me. Cameron Diaz (The Other Woman) plays Amanda, a hard-charging entrepreneur living in L.A. who is so emotionally repressed that she hasn’t cried since she was 15. Kate Winslet (All the King’s Men) is Iris, a British newspaper writer who is emotionally destroyed when the man she loves gets engaged to another woman. On the spur of the moment, the two find each other through a home-exchange website and decide to swap houses for the Christmas holiday. Diaz meets Graham (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes); Winslet meets Miles (Jack Black, Bernie). Romantic-comedy hijinks ensue. I would pick some nits — at 2 hours and 18 minutes, it is way too long, and there are some draggy scenes that should have been trimmed. Although I believe that Jack Black is one of the comedic geniuses of our time, he is a fish out of water in this picture. Still, on the whole, I quite enjoyed it.

All the King’s Men

Movie review from The Movie Snob

All the King’s Men (C). Although this movie is based on my very favorite novel, I steered clear based on the drubbing it took from the critics (and at the box office). But my cousin just read the book and cajoled me into seeing the film at the dollar theater. Thanks to my very low expectations (and the low price), I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it still wasn’t very good. The story is a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of Louisiana demogogue Huey Long as seen through the eyes of one of his cronies, a disaffected journalist from a genteel background named Jack Burden. There were some casting errors; Jude Law (Genius) is too good-looking to play Jack, Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland) is all wrong as Jack’s childhood sweetheart Anne Stanton, and Patricia Clarkson (Cairo Time) is likewise wrong as political operative Sadie Burke. Sean Penn (The Interpreter) is not too bad as the Huey Long character, Willie Stark, but for some reason he delivers his political speeches as though he suffers from some serious neurological impairment, bobbing and ducking and weaving seemingly uncontrollably. Director Steven Zaillian (A Civil Action) tried to cram way too much of the book into the movie, so the action moves forward in a very jumpy fashion, leaving key events and motivations underexplained. Still, if you know the book well, you will be able to follow the movie easily and may even get some enjoyment out of it. Low expectations will also help.

AVP; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

DVD reviews from Nick at Nite:

AVP

This movie combines two of the world’s greatest science-fiction franchises, the “no one can hear you scream in space” Alien series and the governator (Arnold and Jess Ventura) vehicle Predator, into one film. However, without Ripley and either of the governors this movie isn’t quite up to snuff. The Aliens are not very scary anymore and for God’s sake the Predator is not our friend. Apparently the difficulty of coming up with a new fifth story in the Alien series proved so difficult that the writers chose to go with no story at all. It has worked in other franchises, Superman IV, Star Trek V, The Karate Kid III, and The Godfather III, however, just because it worked for these great films did not mean it would work here. This movie stinks. I recommend it to no one. If you are into this kind of stuff go and buy the box set from the first Alien series and rent the first Predator movie, you will be much happier with the originals. I give this movie a “D.”

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow

This is the only movie that Jude Law made last year that is worth seeing. I haven’t seen any of the other movies he made last year, but I am guessing they stink because based on the previews they were not action movies. This movie could have been called Sky Captain and The World of Not Ever Going to Happen But Still Looks Really Cool in a Movie. My guess is they chose the shorter title because it fits on the movie poster better. This is a visually stunning film. The 1940s futuristic robots, dirigibles, and rockets were very cool. I am still not sure what it was about because I could not divert my eyes from the next cgi effect. Needless to say, bad guys want to do in the world and it is up to Sky Captains from all over the planet to save the day. It is a little Indiana Jones at points. I really liked it. I give it a “A-.”

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.

Closer

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

Closer (C). This dark movie charts the relationships that form and dissolve and (possibly) re-form between two British guys (Clive Owen, the ubiquitous Jude Law) and two American women (Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman) over a four-year period. I freely admit that I have a hard time liking movies about unlikeable people, and at least three of the four protagonists in this flick are pretty unpleasant human beings (only Portman’s character is somewhat sympathetic). But my real problem was suspending disbelief that these four lovebirds could say and do the things they do and not kill (or at least maim) each other afterwards. Obsession, verbal cruelty, and betrayal are the hallmarks of these “love affairs,” and there is so much graphic sexual dialogue that you’ll forget there’s not a single sex scene in the movie. Definitely not a movie to see with your parents. Good performances offset the weak script to some extent, so I call it a C.

Alfie (2004)

A review from The Movie Snob.

Alfie (2004) (B+). I never saw the old Michael Caine version of this movie, so I had no preconceptions going into the dollar movie theater where I saw this flick. (There were maybe four people in the whole auditorium; I guess everybody else was down the hall watching Anaconda 2.) Anyhow, this is basically Jude Law’s movie. He plays Alfie, a British bachelor living in New York. He works as a limousine driver, and his hobby is having sex with virtually any attractive woman that crosses his path. And he makes a running commentary on his life directly to the camera for the entire movie, which I suppose some would find irritating; personally, I didn’t mind it. To me, the movie bore more than a passing resemblance to the Hugh Grant movie About a Boy (which I also enjoyed very much). Both examine the situation of the middle-aged, unattached male in modern society, although About a Boy is a much lighter and essentially comic take on the subject than Alfie is. Is the middle-aged bachelor a figure to be envied or pitied? I thought this was a very good and realistic attempt to answer that question.

I Heart Huckabees; What the #$*! Do We Know!?

The Movie Snob sounds off:

Have a touch of the existential blues? There are some films in current release that are just what the doctor ordered for people in our condition….

I Heart Huckabees (B). An impressive cast comes together for this philosophical comedy. The main character is a deadly earnest young fellow named Albert (Jason Schwartzman) who works for something called the Open Spaces Coalition or some such thing; his passion is the defense of undeveloped woods and marshes; and his current enemy is a mushrooming chain of department stores called Huckabees. But Albert is having a philosophical breakdown, proximately caused by his multiple coincidental encounters with the same Sudanese refugee, but encompassing the eternal questions about the meaningfulness/meaninglessness of life, the universe, and everything. More pressingly, he is getting squeezed out of his own organization by a smooth-talking Huckabees man named Brad (Jude Law). Albert turns to Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian (Lily Tomlin), who are self-styled “existentialist detectives,” and they assure him that everything is connected and meaningful. They introduce him to fellow searcher Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), a firefighter who is convinced that everything involving the use of petroleum is tainted with evil. Tommy and Albert are then beset by a mysterious Frenchwoman, Caterine (Isabelle Huppert), a former associate of Bernard and Vivian who now preaches that the universe is actually blind, cruel, and chaotic. Trying to figure out what Albert is up to, Brad goes to the existentialist detectives himself, with consequences that threaten to upset the equilibrium of his relationship with live-in girlfriend and Huckabees model Dawn (Naomi Watts). Not surprisingly, there are few philosophical answers on offer, and the possible existence of theological ones is not even considered. But the cast digs into the late-night-college-dorm-sounding script with gusto, and there are some laughs along the way. And Naomi Watts is always pleasant to watch.

What the #$*! Do We Know!? (B-). This is a very odd, very independent little movie that’s really two movies in one. The more important seeming part is more or less a documentary–a bunch of short clips featuring a bunch of talking heads, mostly doctors and physicists. They try to explain, in lay terms, the state-of-the-art thinking in two fields: the bizarre world of quantum physics, and the more fathomable but amazingly complex world of cellular biology and biochemistry. (Interestingly, genetics is left completely alone.) Their ruminations are frequently illustrated with cool animated effects. The other, less successful part of the movie is a series of vignettes about a depressed photographer named Amanda (Marlee Matlin), whose life more or less embodies whatever topic the talking heads are discussing at the moment. It’s an interesting film, and the weight of the “scientific” opinion surveyed in the movie definitely seems to side with the view that there is an underlying unity and connectedness to the universe. But the moral implications of their theorizing are murky, and a couple of the talking heads seem to want to jettison talk about right and wrong, good and evil, altogether. What is supposed to replace them, I’m not sure. The theological implications of their speculation are equally nebulous. A few of the heads clearly express belief in some sort of God or at least godlike rational substructure to reality, but no one has any kind words for religion or traditional views of God. Like Huckabees, the movie is long on questions and short on answers. Maybe they’ll get to the answers in the sequel, probably called something like Not a Whole %&@! of a Lot.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

From The Movie Snob:

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (B-). I was a mere lad when the Age of Special Effects was inaugurated by a little movie called Star Wars. (Excuse me, I mean Episode IV: A New Hope.) I can remember some movie reviewer’s embarrassing himself back in those days by considering whether a movie could succeed solely on the strength of its special effects and answering “yes” based on the seemingly contrary evidence of Disney’s Tron. At the risk of similarly embarrassing myself, I’ll cautiously venture that the FX actually do justify the existence of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. As you may have read, this movie was shot entirely against blue screens, so that virtually everything, except the actors and a few foreground props, is entirely computer-generated. I thought the movie looked great, and there is a plot of sorts as intrepid pilot Joe Sullivan (Jude Law) and intrepid reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) team up to fight a mysterious villain who periodically unleashes unstoppable giant robots on the world’s major cities.  Angelina Jolie pops up wearing a cool eyepatch. The script, unfortunately, seems to have been computer-generated as well, so the movie’s charms are entirely visual. You’ve been warned.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

View from Mars:

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (C+) I went to see the “gimmick” that is Sky Captain with an open mind and I must admit I was a little disappointed. OK, I get the whole 1930’s, 40’s retro angle with the sepia/technicolor look, but what about story? At times, I can appreciate the grandeur that is becoming CGI infested movies, but when 95% of your whole movie is shot against bluescreen, it can become a little too much. Jude Law plays the titular character and Gwyneth Paltrow plays the Lois Lane/Katherine Hepburn female lead, Polly Perkins. They are more or less literally called upon to save the world and your action ensues from there. This is an escapist movie that lacked in story appeal. The one high in this movie, was the interaction between Law and Paltrow in their rendition of His Girl Friday, but this is probably due more to their acting talents than what they are given in this story. It does receive points for its uniqueness in style, but I hope this does not become the mainstream and instead is just another trendy Hollywood fad that will fade away soon.

Cold Mountain

From the Movie Snob:

Cold Mountain. (B+) I don’t know why, but I was distracted throughout this movie by constantly trying to figure out what had been changed from the book, which I read years ago when it first came out. It is certainly an engaging plot, reminiscent of The Odyssey, in which a wounded Confederate soldier (Jude Law) deserts in 1864 to try to return to the woman he loves in a small rural community in western North Carolina near Cold Mountain. The performances were good, although Nicole Kidman stays a bit too fresh and clean to be entirely believable as a hard-scrabble farm owner with only one helper (Renee Zellweger). I enjoyed it, but it just doesn’t make it into “A” territory.