Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stardust (2007)

Although I'm not a huge fan of the fantasy genre, this is a really well-made movie with a lot of originality behind it. It's not just the same old stuff, there are some interesting twists and visual moments in here. It actually makes me mildly interested in reading the original novel it's based on. 3.5 stars.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Whenever I watch this again, it might possibly get a 4 1/2, but for now I'll play it safe and give it a 4. This is a fairly marvelous adaptation of Sondheim's show. Tim Burton was the ideal person to direct this story. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter may not be amazing singers, but they're certainly competent, and their acting is so compelling it's easy to overlook any flaws in their singing. (After all, it's not Phantom, where the entire point is the voices.) I thoroughly enjoyed this, and will definitely watch this again when it comes out on video. See, Hollywood? You CAN make great musical adaptations! 4 stars.

Disturbia (2007)

"Inspired" by Rear Window, but not a remake, huh? It's closer to the original than some movies that *are* officially remakes. But the movie is quite good. Shia LeBeouf turns in a great lead performance. The plot builds at a good pace and gives us a satisfying ending. I wasn't on the edge of my seat... but I *was* nodding appreciatively. Heh. A very solid thriller, and definitely worth seeing. 3.5 stars.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Brief Encounter (1945)

This story unfolds nicely, but it all seems fairly aimless. I think that stems from telling the story as a flashback. It led me to expect more from the end of the story than I was given. The final shot of the movie is a nice one, but when the credits rolled I thought, "What? That's it?" However, I would have been content had the first 5-10 minutes of the movie been cut, as well as the narrating voiceover. Remove the flashback element, and it's a perfectly well-told tale of their love. 3 stars.

Superman II (1980)

Well... this is more of the first Superman. The cheesy dialogue has been toned down a bit, but other than that, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the two. The same problems are in this movie... but it's still fairly entertaining. So, yeah. See my review for Superman. 3 stars.

Fracture (2007)

A very solidly put-together thriller. Anthony Hopkins plays a very Hannibal Lecter-esque character, and, of course, does a wonderful job with it. This movie didn't blow me away, but for an evening of quiet entertainment, it certainly serves its purpose. 3.5 stars.

Jane Eyre (1997)

Jane Eyre is a nice story, but *must* she be made into either a radical feminist or helpless wimp? Surely there's a middle ground where she can be slightly vulnerable but quite sensible and capable of doing her own thing? She wasn't completely helpless in the books. This version of the movie felt completely disjointed and backwards... A definite disappointment. 2 stars.

Play It Again, Sam (1972)

This isn't quite as solid as some of Woody Allen's other comedies. I can think of quite a few that I enjoyed more than this. This one seemed to wander aimlessly around until the end, when it suddenly all came together to create a lovely, lovely ending that paid tribute to one of my favorite movies of all time. So without the ending, it would have been a disappointing three stars. The ending moves it up to three and a half. Worth seeing if you're an Allen fan... Don't if you're not. 3.5 stars.

Superman (1978)

The idea of comic book stories being told seriously had not yet caught on, I see. This feels so much like a cartoon version of the story, but it's not completely consistent. At times it's working hard to be taken seriously, and then it turns around and has a moment of cartoon slapstick comedy. It was a fairly entertaining watch, but the uber cheesy dialogue and odd tone keep me from saying it's really a good movie. 3.5 stars.

Dan in Real Life (2007)

I saw this movie because, hey, guess who's in it? NORBERT! But anyways. Ahem. This movie is really a very, very good movie overall. Steve Carell is a very convincing, likable character who finds himself tangled up in situations he really doesn't know what to do about. Juliette Binoche turns in a slightly wooden performance, but everyone else in the cast does a great job. (Including Norbs. But ANYWAY.) The drama is fairly believable, the characters are likable, the dialogue is smooth, and the ending is satisfactory, although not *totally* satisfying. Definitely worth watching. 4 stars.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Christmas Carol (2004)

Plot: An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by ghosts on Christmas Eve.

I got this because, hey, it had an abundance of musical theater people in it, AND it had music by people who wrote songs for musical theater! However . . . meh. The silliness of it all! The songs were goofy and overdramatic, the back story was goofy and contrived, the lyrics were (primarily) goofy and forced and . . . erm, yes, the entire movie can be very nicely described as "goofy". One of my absolute favorite moments - at the end, Scrooge appears to be taking the entire town to Fred's dinner party. That is NOT the way to get in good with your nephew. Oh, and the kid, also near the end of the movie, who Scrooge sends to buy the turkey. He makes the funniest faces in the entire world. My sibs and I spent more time making fun of it than we did actually watching the movie. 3 stars.

A Christmas Carol (1938)

Plot: The timeworn Dickens' story about the old merchant Scrooge and how his own disappointments in life shape his view that both life and men are not worthy of his notice or concern. But the dessicated gent is about to get his comeuppance when he imagines he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

This feels oddly like a filmed theatrical version. Everything is very over-the-top. I suppose there's an aspect of the Christmas Carol story that is always over-the-top, but I wasn't terribly fond of this version, with the theatrical intoning of the lines and the dramatic switch in character without much transitioning. The Alistair Sims version triumphs quite a lot over this. 2.5 stars.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)

The second Santa Clause movie was fairly obnoxious, mostly due to the annoying actress playing Mrs. Clause. She's in this movie less, and therefore it's less obnoxious... But it's still a ludicrous movie that isn't worth watching. It offers only a few more laughs than the horrendous second movie, and it may not be totally annoying, but it certainly isn't very entertaining. The ending scene is one of the most stupidly slapped-together moments ever. 1.5 stars.

The Christmas Shoes (2002)

Let me preface this by saying I passionately hate this song. PASSIONATELY. I want to viciously chop it up into little pieces and burn it and then bury the ashes underground. So it's no surprise that I wasn't a fan of the movie. Its plot hangs together very thinly indeed, just a vehicle to try to make people feel sad and have their heartstrings tugged at. But ya know what? It's pointless. Because the kind of people who need to learn this lesson are the people like me, who scoff at the silliness of the story. So... yeah. There's not a whole lot of point to it. And it isn't even acted terribly well. So meh to it forever. 1 star.

The Nanny Diaries (2007)

I'd read the book awhile ago and wasn't terribly impressed... but after watching the movie, I want to re-read it, because the movie is quite, quite good. I was especially impressed with Laura Linney as the self-centered mother whose world is falling apart around her. The child actor is neither too intelligent nor too stupid - he seems like a genuine kid. The movie builds convincingly and ends satisfyingly, without being either bleak or sappy. It didn't blow me away, but it was pretty satisfying, and definitely worth seeing. 4 stars.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Brother Bear (2003)

This certainly wasn't Disney's finest hour. It's a tired old story that's been told many times, and there's only a tiny little twist on it this time around. The young cub is fairly annoying as child characters go. However, some of the visuals are simply amazing. Who says we need computer animation to do visually stunning movies? Pfft. And I did rather like the ending. 2.5 stars.

Anastasia (1997)

Maybe I just got a kick out of all the musical theater people in it, I don't know, but I liked this movie a fair amount. I can't quite figure out why, though. I must say it would all be vastly improved without Rasputin and his little creature, though. They may have been comedy relief, but, MAN, they were annoying. 3.5 stars.

Evan Almighty (2007)

While theologically this is closer to the mark than Bruce Almighty was, it's far less funny. The movie reminded me far more of The Santa Clause (also pretty unfunny) than anything else. There are a few good moments, and I still like Morgan Freeman's portrayal of God, but the ending is cheesy and the few moments aren't quite enough to make up for all the jokes that fall flat. 3 stars.

The Game Plan (2007)

Oh, boy. A cocky celebrity connects with a child who warms his heart. Nope, we have NEVER seen this movie before. Except we have. Multiple times. Although this movie isn't *terrible*, it certainly doesn't have anything going for it. Madison Pettis is annoyingly precocious, the plot is predictable every step of the way, and there are far too moments that clearly went like this in the writers' minds: "Hey. You know what would be funny? If we could make the main character look stupid. How about [insert dumb idea]? Okay, yeah, I know there's no plot reason whatsoever for that to happen, but, hey, it'd make him look stupid! And it might be funny!" Except it's not. 1.5 stars.

Surf's Up (2007)

The mockumentary has caught on as the hot new thing. (Possibly because of The Office, w00t w00t.) However, that only works when you make it important that it's a mockumentary. You can't just take a bland movie and say, "We'll make it a mockumentary!" and have the movie be better. That decision here seems to be completely unfounded. There's no reason this couldn't be just a normal movie. In fact, I think it would've benefited from that. The mockumentary does best with a kind of dry, subtle humor for it to be truly awesome. Applying it to a wacky cartoon just makes the whole thing kind of weird. 2.5 stars.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)

Um. I can't remember why I watched this. I think it was just sitting around on TV and I didn't move. I guess it's not a terribly *bad* movie if you take it for what it is: a movie based on a cartoon. Don't expect anything great as you watch this, and that's what you'll get. It does have a moment or two that's mildly funny. 2 stars.

High School Musical 2 (2007)

Reuniting all the characters from the first movie... and paying attention to a couple more characters, instead of just Troy and Gabriella. Yay! The plot in this one, however, is pretty much nonexistent. The original one had a single strong plot going for it, while this one seems too busy cranking out excuses for musical numbers to try and form a coherent plot. But, you know what? It doesn't really matter. It's not a masterpiece, but it does have a few great songs (the one Chad and Ryan sing on the baseball field is a blast) and, overall, will definitely be enjoyed by fans of the first one. 3 stars.

The Country Bears (2002)

This is one of the most bizarre movies I've ever seen. It was made in 2002, but it was clearly meant to be made as a Disney live-action musical in 1963 or so. It feels *exactly* like one of those. It has a lot of Jay-Wardesque humor that is totally different than I've come to expect from children's movies these days -- in a good way. Not a terrible movie, by any means... although it does have enough "Wait, what, huh?!" moments to make it only okay. 3 stars.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

High School Musical (2006)

All right, it may have a totally cheesy plot, and maybe Vanessa Anne Hudgens is a terrible actress... but there's something fundamentally lovable about it. Maybe it's the silly teenager in me, but I grew to enjoy this movie quite a bit. The dance sequences are pretty fun, the songs are entertaining... It even has a moment or two that's kind of funny. So I dub this a fairly guilty pleasure. 4 stars.

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

Did the filmmakers go out of their way to make this movie as unoriginal as could possibly be managed? It's not even terribly *bad*, it's just the least original movie that's ever existed. Ralph Fiennes is a wonderful actor, but you wouldn't know it from this. 2.5 stars.

Hoot (2006)

Oh, boy. This movie doesn't have an agenda at ALL, oh, no. It's not an environmentalist motivational speech thinly wrapped up in a stupid plot. And it doesn't really matter that the kids in the movie can't act because, after all, if your ONLY goal is in pounding a message into people's heads, you certainly don't need good actors for that. 1 star.