Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Just a few weeks after seeing Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting, I finally sat down and watched this. The two of them are simply marvelous together. They made this movie as good as it was. The movie doesn't have much going for it in terms of plot - nothing much really happens, as the characters just run around being chased by the law. But the characters are interesting, primarily made interesting by Newman and Redford themselves. About half an hour into the movie, I wasn't sure I was so thrilled about it, but as I began to just enjoy the conversations and tune out the bits I didn't like, I decided the movie as a whole is well worth watching. Good stuff. 3.5 stars.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Firewall (2006)

I'm not a big fan of the straight action flick, but for some reason this movie intrigued me, so this evening I sat down and watched it. It was one of those movies that's exactly like every other action/thriller (more thriller than action... no real "let's duke it out" scenes until the very end) . . . fairly enjoyable, but absolutely nothing that really caught my attention. (As opposed to, say, Panic Room, another thriller/action that actually *did* interest me all the way through.) This was passable, but I got confused among all the different faces. The fact that one of the guys kept changing accents didn't help at all.

It was also difficult for me to follow who was in on what plans, and what the bad guys were doing for what reason. On the other hand, this did appear to use actual computer technology, as opposed to some other computer movies that clearly don't have a clue how these things work. At the very least, it was showing an actual computer screen - the Windows search, for example, actually looked like a windows search, rather than some impressive made-up window with giant letters saying "CAN I HELP YOU?" on it.

Bottom line: If you're a fan of the genre, you'll probably like it a lot more than I did. If you're not a fan of the genre, you'll probably like it as much as any of the others of its kind. *shrug* 2.5 stars.

The Producers (2005)

I had mixed feelings on this. I absolutely adored the original movie, and I absolutely adore musical theater and movies that have an abundance of musical theater people in them... but somehow this never quite clicked for me. Even musical moments that clearly should have been spine-tingling ("I Wanna Be a Producer," for example) simply weren't. I sat there thinking, "I should be enjoying this a whole lot more than I am." Just another example, I guess, of how something with a lot of energy on stage often loses that energy when it transfers to the screen.

Not to say this is a bad movie, though. I still enjoyed it, although never at any point did I think it was spectacular. There were a few moments that made me giggle, and the cast was all very good. The most surprising to me was Will Ferrell. He's one of those people I keep expecting to be really obnoxious in a movie, and then I watch it and think, "Actually, that was pretty good." The same happened here. This was a great part for him... made me laugh a few times.

And let's not forget to make a brief mention of the performances of Roger Bart, who's one of my Voices, and Gary Beach, who isn't one of my Voices but is still a musical theater person, and Uma Thurman, who isn't a musical theater person but also did a good job in her role. 3.5 stars.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

There are no words for this movie. I saw this on a MST episode and kept giggling all the way through, and not because of the comments, either. This movie was truly bad enough on its own. However, it made me laugh so hard that I'm giving it a full one star instead of the half star it would have gotten had it been less entertaining as a bad movie. The scene where Torgo was hitting on the wife while she just stood there looking shocked and screaming her husband's name had me almost in tears, I was laughing so hard. Good stuff, good stuff. Dialogue isn't as beautifully atrocious as Plan 9, though. 1 star.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Before Sunrise (1995)

If there's one thing Richard Linklater can do, it's write dialogue. It was evident in Waking Life and it's evident here. There's not very much plot in Before Sunrise. Basically, two strangers meet on a train and decide to spend the rest of their day/night together. The majority of the movie is spent just listening to their conversations with each other. They're not particularly realistic - these people are witty even when their awkward, and always ready with a profound anecdote that applies to the situation. But even without that realism, the conversations are still FASCINATING. In the first ten minutes, I was hooked, and I stayed interested for the rest of the movie.

I'm never a big fan of the "love me tonight, for tomorrow we part" stories... However, this one redeemed itself in a few ways that I'm not going to mention now because I suppose they might be construed as spoilers. And because it redeemed itself and it stayed so beautifully interesting all the way through, it gets rated quite high. 4.5 stars.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)

This movie was advertised as a comedy, which it certainly wasn't. It was much more of a lighthearted drama. That small issue taken care of, I very much liked this movie. Mosly because it didn't AT ALL give it the standard Hollywood treatment of "large kid" movies. You want to know what life in a large family is like? Don't ever, ever watch Cheaper By the Dozen 2, or Yours Mine and Ours. Watch this. The mom was carefully attentive to all their children, and nobody started screaming when someone threw up on the floor or started throwing paint around. Actually, come to think of it, NO ONE threw up on the floor or started throwing paint around. Shocking as it may be, that doesn't happen regularly in a large family's home.

With that soapbox out of the way, I really did like this movie. This woman was an incredible mother and a faithful wife, even in a situation where most heroines of today's movies would have taken the children and left. The scene where she talks with her sixteen-year-old daughter is fascinating, as it flies in the face of many of today's ideas - that a woman's life is wasted if she stays at home taking care of children.

I'm not sure who else would enjoy this, though. I'm trying to think who I could recommend it to and can't actually think of anyone. It's fairly slow and laidback and casual in the way it presents its material. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I'm not sure anyone else would. 4 stars.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Let me start off this review by saying I'm a huge-ish fan of Tim Burton's. His lighter movies have a fantastic touch to them ("fantastic" is clearly not used here to mean "very cool") and his darker movies have a wonderful dark beauty to them. His movies also handles morbid humor really well... straddling the line perfectly between "Oh, gosh, that was hilarious" and "Oh, gosh, that was disgusting." I also loved Corpse Bride, which, of course, this was compared to the most. But on to my actual evaluation of this particular movie.

Corpse Bride had a lovelier story and seemed fuller in its telling of it. This was an amusing story, but there wasn't enough of it to fill a seventy-minute movie. So they just inserted lots of exposition in singing. Let me make this clear - if you're one of those people who is bugged by characters randomly bursting into song... you will NOT like this movie. I think there was more singing than there was dialogue. Didn't other me all that much, except that I kept expecting something to happen and then it never did. Maybe if I hadn't been expecting something plot-heavy I would have had a completely different take on it. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments (I laughed hardest when the child opened up his Christmas present to find a shrunken head inside) that definitely made it worth watching, but I think I would have been more interested if they had just cut all the songs and presented it as a 15-20 minute short. 3.5 stars.

*batteries not included (1987)

I was somewhere in the middle on this film, I think leaning more toward a 2.5 than a 3. While it had some moments that made me smile, they were all "guilty pleasure" smiles. Like, "I know this is ridiculous and silly but I can't help being slightly charmed by this." However, the movie as a whole felt disjointed. There were too many stories going on without any actual complete resolutions on any of them. The street thug who turned out to be not so bad, for example. His story ends very abruptly, and this movie was too overtly sentimental to get away with NOT finishing his story. Was it a more serious drama, it could have left him hanging, but not in this movie. So I was amused in moments but largely unimpressed by this film, although I would imagine younger audiences might like it. They're not likely to think, "Oh, this is disjointed." The youngest one I watched it with was thirteen, and she seemed to enjoy it. 2.5 stars.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

High Fidelity (2000)

I'm a big fan of Nick Hornby's writing, and had already read the High Fidelity book. I was unsure as to how the movie would be - would it keep the same rambling, blog-like conversations about music? Would it transfer as a story from Britan to America? Would it try to Hollywoodize the whole thing instead of keeping it the charming meandering story it was? The answers, by the way, are yes, yes, and no. This was the PERFECT movie adaptation - a great adaptation of a great book. What struck me is that almost every single character was instantly the way I'd imagined them. Those actors just NAILED their character. (The one exception for me was Ian.) This is not your typical romantic comedy. It's slow, it's laidback, it's meandering, it's philosophical, and it's completely charming. There aren't many more good things I can say about this movie. I can't figure out ways to put them all into words. Great stuff. 4.5 stars.

Crash (2004)

What a fascinating movie. This movie took all these different stories about racism and told them in a fresh way, avoiding most of the cliches. That's pretty impressive. I'm not sure I'd call it the best picture of 2005, but it was certainly well done. My main argument with it, though, was that many of the stories felt incomplete. The Sandra Bullock story, for example, left me wanting more of it to be told, as did the story of the Asian couple. When compared to my favorite movie, Love Actually, which also consisted of several intertwining stories, that one did a much better job of telling the stories satisfactorily. Although many of the stories in Crash were satisfactory, there were too many that left me going, "Wait- what? What about them?" 4 stars.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Beyond the Sea (2004)

This wasn't hugely high on my list of "movies to see," but within about ten minutes of putting it on I realized it was going to be a movie I really, really enjoyed. It's difficult to find a word that accurately describes the feel of this movie, but I think the closest is "fanciful." Even when looking at the difficulties in this man's life - his rocky marriage, his disillusionment, his unusual family relationships - there's still something magical and free that jumped out at me every time he took the stage. The sequence early on in the movie where Bobby decides to go to New York to try and make it big is one of the loveliest moments I've seen in a movie in a long time. Something about it just struck home for me... I definitely got chills.

I must also say Kevin Spacey was absolutely superb in this role. Sometimes when actors take on roles as singers they don't come across as at all natural. That was not the case here.

This is definitely an artist's movie, or a movie for people who like biographies. 4 stars.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Doogal (2006)

The trailers had me thinking this was a worthless movie. However, a friend recommended it, and I dutifully went out to rent it. After the first fifteen minutes I left the room, instructing my family to let me know if it got better. Apparently it didn't. I tried to finish it again later, but still couldn't find anything to recommend it to me. I love animated movies and I love spoofs, so obviously this can't be all me "not getting it". There appears to be no humor and very little actual story. The dialogue is amazingly stilted, not to mention cliched ("Don't worry, Florence. I'll get you out of there. I promise." "I believe in you, Doogal. You're my best friend." That's the kind of nonsense we get in here). 1 star.