Monday, July 30, 2007

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

This was my favorite of Tennessee Williams' plays for a long time, and this is quite a good movie adaptation of it. By the end of the movie each character is distinctive, even the more minor ones, which is helped by both a good script and good actors. I wasn't sure about Elizabeth Taylor at first in this role, but she turned out to do a fairly good job... and Paul Newman is great as Brick. It's very much a movie version of a play, but it's very well done. 4 stars.

Frantic (1988)

While this movie is not as well-crafted as Chinatown, I found it more enjoyable, at least throughout the first half. The ending is a bit muddled and sort of rambles off into nowhere, but the first hour of the movie is intelligent and interesting. Good, but not fantastic. 3 stars.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

While this is a thoroughly solid movie, I was hoping for something more. I'd heard so many recommendations for this movie that I was expecting to absolutely love it... and I didn't that much. It definitely had its funny moments, but it wasn't spectacular at any point. Still, if you're a fan of zombie movies you'll probably get a kick out of this. 3.5 stars.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Okay, you can make a cartoon version of Hunchback. That's not impossible. You can even give it an ending without everyone dying (as long as you don't pair Quasimodo with Esmeralda). That's trickier but could still be workable. What you CAN'T do is insert singing and dancing gargoyles. That just doesn't work for this story, sorry. I love to hear Jason Alexander sing, but... no. No, no, no. Talk about yanking you out of the movie. I suspect they were just inserted to try to make the movie more kid-friendly, although that doesn't actually work because the movie is still too dark to really work as a child's movie.

*However*, if the gargoyles (and the few other out-of-place comments or jokes) had been removed from the movie, it would have been quite good! It may be a lightened version of the story, but it's still there, and it's beautifully done. The musical sequences in particular were lovely. "Out There" was my favorite - it captured Quasimodo's total isolation from the world in a way that worked really well for me.

Disney, you ALMOST got it right. If those stupid gargoyles hadn't been in there, this movie could have quite possibly gotten four and a half stars. But because I had to sit through their antics and silly song (okay, I actually like the song, but only when out of context), you lost a star and a half. *shakes head* So close, so close. 3 stars.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

Plot: Lovers' lives are complicated by city law, feuding faerie royalty, and... love.

I've always been a fan of Shakespeare, and A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorites. This adaptation isn't perfect but is quite fun all the way through. I'm not sure why they decided to switch the time to the early 1900s... It didn't add much to the movie, but what it did add seemed perpetually out of place. However, the cast is good, and aside from that minor quibble, it's well done. Plus, MUSICAL THEATER PERSON SIGHTING! That's Gregory Jbara playing Snug! 3.5 stars.

Clash by Night (1952)

This is rather an unusual movie... It clearly leads you in one direction and then yanks you back the other way at the last minute. The movie doesn't play very interestingly, with melodramatic lines and predictability up until the end. It appeared to be a noir movie, so I was expecting a noir ending... and then didn't get it. It was so unexpected that I'm still not sure whether I was pleased or disappointed that it went a completely different route. The ending, however, was the only noteworthy thing about the entire movie... Not really recommended. 2.5 stars.

The Lion in Winter (2003)

It's amazing how twisted these characters are. You can never be sure if anything they're saying is sincere or if it's just all a scheme. Solid performances by Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, and a very good script (virtually identical to the original, to my recollection). However, if given a choice between watching this remake and the 1968 version, go with the older one. While Stewart and Close are good, Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn are even better. 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Breach (2007)

I don't generally like spy movies, or movies based on true stories, but this was a very solidly well-made thriller. I enjoyed it fairly well. Fascinating performances from Chris Cooper and the always-good Laura Linney. (Ryan Philippe plays the protagonist and is bland, but not distractingly so.) Definitely worth seeing if you're a fan of the genre, and possibly even if you're not. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Noises Off... (1992)

A friend recommended this movie, and so I decided to check it out. For the first forty minutes, I found myself thinking, "This is fairly entertaining, but not fantastic." By the end of the movie, however, I had changed my mind. This is one of the funniest things I've seen in awhile. The first half of the movie is mostly setup and some mild chuckles, while the last half is hilariously zany and had me laughing out loud several times. Definitely recommended! 4.5 stars.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

I found the first half hour of this ridiculously cheesy and kept giggling at inappropriate moments. However, as it kept going, I realized it was the dialogue itself that was the difficulty - the story was actually somewhat interesting. With that in mind, I was able to actually enjoy the movie. To my huge surprise, Tom Cruise was the most interesting character (Brad Pitt was far, far too emo, Kirsten Dunst too irrational and Antonio Banderas' eye makeup kept making me burst into laughter). And the ending was satisfying. So... I mildly liked it, but only because I ignored everything that made it nonsense. 3 stars.

Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

Definitely superior to the silly 2005 remake. It starts off somewhat blandly, but about halfway through it starts picking up and from there to the end is solidly fun, if never hilarious. I wouldn't watch it again, but it was definitely worth seeing once. 3 stars.

Hollywoodland (2006)

This movie should have been much more interesting than it was. The storyline with the detective, however, was mostly boring. Very run-of-the-mill. I wanted to return to the flashbacks more than I wanted to see the "present" timeline of the story. Ben Affleck, surprisingly, turned in a fantastic performance -- much better than anything I've ever seen him do. Too bad the moviemakers didn't concentrate solely on his character and cut out the other plotline. 2.5 stars.

We're Not Married! (1952)

I'd never even heard of this movie before, but it turned out to be quite a charming little flick. It tells the stories of five different couples that find out they're not legally married. Some are delighted to get the news... others, not so much. Each segment is fun and, overall, sweet, although it's got a lot of cynicism along the way. The Fred Allen/Ginger Rogers plotline was wrapped up a little too tidily to convince me, but other than that, quite fun. 3.5 stars.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

I'm not sure why I started watching this. I expected it to be horrible. But then it wasn't quite as bad as I'd anticipated. It actually has its good moments. John C. Reilly steals the show throughout most of the movie. At its best, it's funny. At its worst, it's not stupid or annoying or obnoxious... simply not funny. That's pretty impressive. I wouldn't recommend it unless you're a fan of the genre or stars anyway, but it was far from being painful to watch, which was my expectation. 2.5 stars.

That Thing You Do! (1996)

One of Anna's recommendations. I found this fun, fluffy, and totally forgettable. One of those movies that, although they're great when you're watching them, don't stick long in your mind. Still, I can see why people like this. It's unendingly good-natured and has some fairly catchy music as well. (The music will probably stick with me far longer than the actual movie.) 3.5 stars.

The Roaring Twenties (1939)

This film is definitely a genre film. It fits that genre perfectly and is a great movie within that genre. To people who don't like the 1940s gangster movies, however (*cough* me), it's good but not great. James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart both turn in very good performances, and Priscilla Lane is fine as the innocent young girl... Nothing that blew me out of the water, but well done. Very solid. 3 stars.

Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster (1966)

Such SILLINESS! I'm not a fan of monster movies on the whole, but this one kept me interested with outrageously strange dialogue and plot devices. (My favorite bit of the script: "Where's my rifle?" "I thought it was a toy. I started playing with it and it broke." ...WHAT?! I had to pause the movie at that point because I was laughing so hard.) If you like monster movies or deliberately watching poorly made movies... this one's worth checking out. The MST3K version is pretty good, too. 2 stars.

The Goodbye Girl (1977)

I liked the remake of this movie, and I liked the musical, and I like Neil Simon... it makes sense I'd like this as well. And I did. I always warm immediately to these characters, no matter what their flaws may be. Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason did a good job of bringing that likeability to the screen. And Neil Simon's dialogue is just always charming... witty without being too obviously scripted. This is a fun one. 4 stars.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Almost Famous (2000)

This is primarily one of those nostalgia movies that recalls the values and attitudes of a past generation. American Graffiti is one of those movies. This one's mostly about the music of the 70s. Now if I had lived through the 70s or was a fan of 70s rock, this movie would probably capture my attention far more. But the fact is, I didn't find a whole lot to grab onto. It was also one of those rambling dramas that feels deep but I can never find anything to connect with. (Think American Beauty. ...Why am I only referencing movies starting with "American" in this review?) Overall, I was disappointed... but then, I am hardly the target audience. 2.5 stars.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Painted Veil (2006)

I was hoping for this to be more substantial than it was. It has a great premise and good actors, so why was it so bland? The script is melodramatic, with wooden characters, and comes to an abrupt end with no satisfying resolution. 2.5 stars.

The Fountain (2006)

This movie may not be the easiest to understand I've ever seen, but it's certainly one of the most beautiful. Stunning visuals throughout that truly bring to life the beauty of the stories being told. I'm still not entirely sure of the actual plot of the movie, but, surprisingly, that didn't at all detract from my enjoyment of the movie. Hugh Jackman is quite good in his role, Rachel Weisz is very capable in hers. There really are very few words to describe this other than "beautiful." I definitely plan on rewatching this again someday. 4.5 stars.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Bus Stop (1956)

Definitely pretty dated, and the heavily accented version of "That Old Black Magic" made me go "Huh?" But it's still a fun movie... one of those comedies that make you smile fondly more than laugh out loud. Not nearly as good as The Seven Year Itch or Some Like It Hot, though. 3 stars.

The Mistress of Spices (2005)

I thought Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice were decent movies, but nothing special. This one, however, is a charming romantic drama with magical fantasy elements that drew me into the story right away. The whole movie feels like a beautiful fairy tale and, except for one slight moment of "Wait, what?" at the end, was really well done. Definitely worth watching! 4 stars.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The In-Laws (1979)

This is one of those fun comedies that are entertaining but there's not much to say about them. Peter Falk and Alan Arkin play off each other perfectly in their roles, and there are definitely a few very funny moments in this. It isn't going to stand out as a great movie at any point, but it's very solid as fluffy entertainment. I'd certainly recommend it, especially if you're a fan of either of the lead actors. 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Although I can't at any point say I actually enjoyed this movie, there's no denying it is beautifully made. The ending is wonderfully ambiguous, made to fit both the fantasy and the bleak realism, which are contrasted with each other in very shocking ways. It is a masterpiece of a movie. And yet I didn't actually like it. I was never drawn into the story. But because it was so wonderfully made, I am going to boost it up from my usual "Good but didn't like it" 3.5 stars to 4, because it fully deserves at least a 4. So, 4 stars.

The History Boys (2006)

It's been awhile since I found a movie I liked this much. It's based on the play, which won six Tonys and intrigued me when it was first put on Broadway. The dialogue is brilliantly written and held my attention from the very beginning. The stories are touching and, although I would have liked to become more familiar with some of the characters, they were all interesting and made me want to know what happened to them at the end. (The ending was wonderfully satisfying.) Overall, an incredibly good movie. 4.5 stars.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bruce Almighty (2003)

I was worried that this movie would be offensive to me as a Christian, but in the end it turned out it wasn't at all. Nor was it offensive to me as an artist. Heh. It was a perfectly watchable movie with a few very funny moments. Not spectacular, but definitely fun for one viewing. 3.5 stars.