Saturday, November 29, 2008

License to Wed (2007)

I am not one of those people who get all upset every time someone makes a comedy that points a finger at something resembling religion. I loved Bruce Almighty and the musical Altar Boyz, and I would love to see Saved!. But this movie was offensive on religious grounds as well as comedic ones. Robin Williams as a member of the clergy is just about the scariest thing I can think of, and his religion-based humor was not only tasteless, but also just boring. Mandy Moore plays a mindless zombie who floats through the movie without putting any thought at all into how she's acting or what she's saying. Surely she has to realize that these "exercises" are the requests of an insane man, and no rational person would subject themselves to them. Which is why John Krasinski earns the movie's 1 star, as he accurately portrays an average, sensible, ordinary guy, who realizes that trying to reenact a fight he and his fiancee have never had is hardly the building blocks for a good relationship. He reacts with appropriate shock and confusion when his fiancee loses all her personality and opinions and doesn't see why it should be a problem for him to suddenly carry four screaming kids around a grocery store, two of which are fake. Unfortunately, he plays it so well that there's no way he can make the ending ("oh ho ho, you meant well all along!") plausible. What nonsense. 1 star.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Wedding Date (2005)

This movie starts off promising. The characters are given personality that is neither too quirky nor too cliched, and I began wondering how this was going to play out. (It's a romantic comedy -- it'll never be TOO difficult to figure out what happens, but this promised to be an interesting meander through the formula.) However, about 30-40 minutes in, the characters lost what made them interesting and turned into stereotypes in stereotyped relationships with stereotyped awkward/heartbreaking situations. Lovely beginning, but the ending is far from being a good example of the genre. 2.5 stars.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

For a superhero movie starring Edward Norton, this was distressingly lackluster. Heck, for *any* movie starring Edward Norton, this was distressingly lackluster. Except for a brief moment at the end which made my entire family sit up and go, "Oh!" there was very little about this movie that stood out. It wasn't necessarily a *bad* movie -- just far away from my expectations of its awesomeness. 2.5 stars.

Squirm (1976)

When a terrible writer puts a squicky idea down on paper, hands it off to a terrible producer who cries, "YES! THIS IS THE MOVIE I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!" and passes it off to a terrible director, who casts terrible (and most likely to stereotype the south) actors in the roles, then uses terrible special effects to portray the plight of these terrible characters, accompanied by terrible music that has little or nothing to do with what's actually happening in the movie... THAT'S when you get this movie. So... future scriptwriters, be warned. Worth a single star because of laugh value. The MST3K version of this pretty much rules. 1 star.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Flawless (2007)

This movie wasn't quite flawless, but it was made so nicely that it really is difficult to find much to complain about in it. On the other hand, it's also difficult to find something to shower praises on. It's a clever, intelligently made thriller that makes use of all the talent and potential of its two actors, has an interesting plot and a plausible ending, and yet I find myself barely able to remember it. It's a good, pleasant watch but not much more than that. 3 stars.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The two stars I'm giving this movie are solely for the first 30-40 minutes. It starts off promisingly, with great moments mocking the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s. And "Time Warp" might be one of the most bizarrely funny thing ever in musicals. Tim Curry's entrance is bizarre, but distinctive and memorable. But then the plot begins to descend into madness and it becomes interesting as nothing more than an experiment in absurd shock value. The songs remain fairly decent, but the utter crap that is the rest of this movie's plot mean that the first two stars for the first 30 minutes are the ONLY stars this movie is going to get. Too bad, because those first 30 minutes promised something much more substantial than we ended with. 2 stars.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

RocketMan (1997)

If Adam Sandler made a children's movie, this would be it. I get the same squicky, uncomfortable feeling from this painfully unfunny movie that I do from every typical Sandler flick. I watched it for fifteen minutes and got so icked out by it that I turned it off, came back a day later and tried to continue. This time I got twenty minutes in before it made me start feeling like a miserable human being for even watching the movie, so I turned it back off and I have no intention of going back and finishing it. Unless it ends with an incredible ending that incorporates a song written by Jason Robert Brown and every character in the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny... I can't imagine the internal pain of sitting down to watch the rest of it. No, thank you. 0.5 stars.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

In this film, you can see hints of the filmmaker Alfred Hitchchock would become in later years. There's a great moment (that, unfortunately, then plays out with much too much self-awareness) where the main characters infiltrate a worship service in search of the bad guy. Trying to blend in, they pick up a hymnal and sing along, and then quietly *sing* clues to each other. "That woman to our riiiight..." Although it gets sillier as the scene goes on, the idea is very much the Hitchcock I know and love.

The execution, however, leaves much to be desired. Hitchcock has brilliant ideas here, but awkward casting and sound effects bring the movie down to at times a nearly unwatchable level. If the quality of the 1950s version could be crossed with the ideas of this one, we might have a very, very interesting movie.

But then again, whatever the original lacks, it also doesn't subject us to hours of Doris Day singing the same three verses of "Que Sera, Sera" over and over again. 2.5 stars.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

This is not the movie it thinks it is. While it's supposed to about de Niro's character, the star of the film is very clearly Michael Moriarty and his character, scheming and working to make things go smoothly for his friend. It also isn't quite as touching as it thinks it is. It's too scattered and confused to tell the intimate story it's attempting. It's not a BAD movie, it just overreached. 3 stars.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thr3e (2006)

Such a nice try. The problem with the movie here is the same problem that all Ted Dekker's books have. He's good at coming up with intense situations for his main characters to be in, but he can't satisfyingly finish it to save his life. This is a terribly disappointing ending (with absolutely no basis in reality, may I add) and tries to throw a twist or two in to make the ending less cliched, but it only makes it more disappointing when the final result IS that cliched answer.

On top of that, the acting of the two main girls is abysmal. They speak as if they're just reciting lines. And let's not even talk about the actress portraying the hero's aunt, who is vaguely reminiscent of Sinbad of the Seven Seas' Jaffar with her verbal overacting and physical gyrations. Could she play a more stereotyped character if she tried? (To be fair, some of that is the fault of the script/book, but still...)

This is a cheap Christian knock-off of many other, better movies. The Christian worldview is a cool one and a nice one to explore, but it is NOT best explored through this mess of a movie. 1.5 stars.

Get Smart (2008)

I've only seen the show once or twice, so I came to this not knowing what to expect. All I knew was I really liked Steve Carell and the couple episodes of the show I'd seen were good.

The movie gets off to a very rocky start with a bland, heard-it-before story of a rookie trying to make it in a competitive field, but gains its footing halfway through when it hits the actual mission part of the story. When Carell and Anne Hathaway are actually fighting off villains and discovering their secret, it's enjoyable. When they're musing over their personal lives and possible relationship, it's not. 3 stars.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Company: A Musical Comedy (2007)

At last! Stephen Sondheim's 1970 comedy that completely changed musical theater for at least a decade and a half is somewhere on DVD! And it's not disappointing in the least. Raul Esparza makes Bobby a very real person rather than a stereotype, and there are several "people to watch" in the ensemble cast of his married friends. (Kristin Huffman and Elizabeth Stanley in particular impressed me.)

Sondheim paints an intriguing picture of modern marriage and relationships through the eyes of Bobby, who wants to get married but sees how his friends' marriages have just made life far more complicated for them. His final musical number, where he hammers on the piano in an effort to work out exactly what this all means to him, is a stunning portrayal of someone finally coming to grips with the fact that love is always worth it.

A very minimalistic set allows for the slightly avant-garde script to truly shine. Characters unconnected to the current scene burst in and perform songs. An interesting choice here is that all the performers are not just performing vocally, but as the show's orchestra as well.

This show continues to be one of my favorites by Sondheim, and although this is not a perfect production, it captures what people love about this show - brilliant music, brilliant script, and a look at what love means in a modern day time. This is no 1960s romantic comedy. This is a new genre that nobody can quite classify. 4 stars.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Penelope (2006)

This was a very nice try, and had it been handled skillfully could have been a very sweet modern fairy tale. But poor characterization and awkward story transitions left the story feeling lopsided. Catherine O'Hara was the highlight of all the actors, playing the obsessive mother with just the right mix of comedy and tragedy. (Reminds me ever so slightly of her work in For Your Consideration.) Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon, and James McAvoy? Some very good actors wasted on this movie. 2 stars.