Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Doll's House (1973)

Plot: A wealthy woman's attempts to help her financially troubled husband go unrewarded.

This is some good acting right here. Claire Bloom is absolutely splendid as Nora, and Anthony Hopkins creates a brilliant contrasting character. The dialogue of Ibsen's play allows them to explore these characters deeply and honestly. Simply a superb version of the classic play, and definitely one to see. 4 stars.

Once Upon a Mattress (2005)

It's hard to watch this light and fluffy musical and not smile. It's such a good-natured, pleasant show. There's nothing here that makes it stand out as a thing of brilliance, but it's quite enjoyable. This is a fantastic cast, as well... I particularly enjoyed Denis O'Hare's portrayal of the awkward but sweet Prince Dauntless. Carol Burnett gets to return to this show, where she once originated the role of Princess Fred, but this time around she gets to breathe life into the difficult Queen Aggravain. Very fun family-friendly musical about living happily ever after. 3.5 stars.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ghost Town (2008)

When I saw Ricky Gervais' name attached to this film, I was remembering The Office. Extras. Night at the Museum. He creates and plays roles in fluffy comedies that leave you smiling at the end but not a lot of thought with afterwards. This was not that. It was a comedy, yes, and it left me smiling at the end, but it also left me with the feeling that this was far more substantial a movie than I expected.

Gervais' character is not a jerk (as the trailers seem to imply) but just someone who's a loner and gets easily annoyed by stupidity in people around him. His solution? Avoid them altogether. This soon becomes a non-option as he is pushed by a demanding ghost (played brilliantly by Greg Kinnear) into the life of the ghost's widow.

There are plenty of laughs in here -- the scene where Gervais finds out that he died on the operating table but was resuscitated is hilarious -- but there's also a very moving love story, as well as the story of someone who genuinely does change to care about the people around him. A lot of movies try to do this convincingly and fail. This one doesn't even seem like the type that *should* try, and yet it succeeds.

I went in expecting popcorn entertainment and although my life wasn't changed drastically by this movie or anything like that, I came to care about the characters and the story in a much deeper way than I thought I would. Definitely a worthwhile movie. Possibly could grow to becoming a favorite. 4 stars.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Duane Hopwood (2005)

This has to be one of the most depressing little movies I've ever seen. And yet nothing seemed to come of it. The first half is a nice portrayal of this guy's "loser" life, but then it just stops and meanders for another fifty minutes. It appeared to try to be manufacturing some sort of "happy ending" at the conclusion of the film, but this happy ending was all a lie because in reality, nothing had been solved and only one thing had even been in the slightest resolved. The subject of Duane's drinking habit is tossed to the side an hour into the movie, although that first hour kept promising us this was a major issue. Apparently not THAT major.

I will say, however, that David Schwimmer was remarkably good in this. I haven't seen him in much else apart from Friends, where he played Ross, a character who was forced to be constantly depressed because the writers kept toying with and then destroying his love life for ten seasons. But while his suffering there was comic, Schwimmer makes an elegant transition here to portraying real suffering, real denial, real pain, without the audience being able to laugh at him. Kudos to him. I was going to give this movie just 2.5 stars, but his unexpectedly great performance earns another half a star. 3 stars.

My Friend Irma (1949)

My siblings and I had never seen a Martin and Lewis flick. We'd seen Martin and Lewis separately, in other films, but never together. So I figured it was about time we saw one. (It was coincidence that we ended up with this - their first.) With most of the comedy teams of the old movies (well, okay, and the comedy teams of the new movies too) you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. This is probably the case with these too... but hey, it was pretty good entertainment while you were watching! It did have a moment or two that made me laugh out loud, and those alone made the movie worth seeing. 3 stars.

The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968)

This movie was a lot of fun for being a war movie. It had a great setup, great characters (the one Italian guy was hysterical), and even a happy ending. And yet with all that I can't actually remember that much about it. But I do seem to remember it was quite good. And I guess I'm going to have to leave it at that. 3 stars.

Three Guys Named Mike (1951)

I saw a portion of this on TV when I was about eight, back when we had TV reception. Ever since then I've wondered from time to time about "that movie where the airplane stewardess had three guys named Mike who all wanted to marry her". So when I was at my grandfather's house and was browsing through channels for something to watch and saw this... I shrieked, "OH MAN! I saw this when I was little and always wanted to know how it ended!" So I jumped over to that station and watched it from beginning to end. The story behind this being told, on to the review. It was... eh, okay. I didn't much care for the heroine, she seemed pretty oblivious/naive/something. She doesn't even seem to have an inkling that the guys like her, even though they're asking her out on dates and stuff. I will say, however, that the ending surprised me. She didn't go for the guy I thought she would. Now that's a plus on a romantic comedy. Surprise "No I think I'll marry this guy" twists always are fun. 2.5 stars.

An Easter Carol (2004)

Eh, I've seen better Veggie movies. It got rather hokey at times, although I did enjoy Rebecca St. James' accent and the "Boids" song (a tribute to The Music Man's "Rock Island", perhaps?). But I wouldn't own it or anything. 2 stars.

Gidget (1959)

*blink* Goodness. A surfer movie. Haven't seen many of those, actually. I think my parents generally shielded me from them, and this must be why. This movie had like... three seconds of anything actually interesting to watch. The rest of the time I amused myself by laughing at the whole thing. I mean, really, HOW can you take a movie seriously when its leading man goes by "Moondoggie"? Come on now... 1 star.

The Glass Menagerie (1973)

Reading a play is never quite as fulfilling as seeing it on stage. However, since there are no performances of The Glass Menagerie anywhere around, I was willing to settle for a movie production of it...and I was not disappointed. A dark play, after Tennessee Williams' style, it delves very carefully into issues such as hopes and expectations, a fear of growing old, the yearning to be something more... All four cast members put in superb performances and made their characters incredibly real. This goes on my list of great movies, definitely. 4 stars.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

Although this is not one of the great sporkings the MST3K crew has done, it's definitely not one of their bad ones either. Several moments made me laugh out loud. The in-between bits are also great, from the opening where Crow tries to tunnel through outer space, to the ending where everyone laughs heartily at a piece of terrible news before realizing they shouldn't be laughing. If you've never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000, but you like making fun of bad movies, or, if you're like me, sitting around listening to wittier people do so, this is a great one to watch. Good intro to the TV show or addition for those who already fans. 4 stars.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Barefoot in the Park (1967)

Neil Simon's dialogue is as snappy as ever in this film adaptation of his play. Robert Redford and Jane Fonda both are well suited to it, and manage to create characters who are fascinating to watch interact, in all their idiosyncrasies and unexpected connection to each other. By the end, as everything comes to a head, we do want to see these two smooth out their rough past. Although this is not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination -- some plot points seem awkward and unnecessary -- there are some near-perfect moments, such as when Redford first gets a glimpse of the home which they are to share. He goes around discovering everything that is wrong with it, despite Fonda's attempt to put a good face on it. Definitely worth watching once. 3.5 stars.

Cyrano de Bergerac (2008)

One of the greatest love stories ever, destroyed by one person. Most of the cast is quite good. Daniel Sunjata's Christian is sufficiently fluffy for us to believe his character. Kevin Kline, although he occasionally appears to be uncharacteristically (for Cyrano) mocking himself, is very charming in the title role. The translation used is not my personal favorite, and some of my favorite monologues have been chopped in half, but the overall beauty of the story and the language is still kept intact. However, the instant Jennifer Garner opens her mouth, all illusion is lost. She speaks all her lines as an obvious theater "newb," making bizarre theatrical gestures that do not in the least complement the lines, and overenunciating each word with the painstaking awkwardness of someone in a middle school production. Her voice is distractingly unsuited to the classical poetic sound of the story. She may be able to pass as an actress on screen, but on stage, where all camera magic and re-takes are stripped away, she is painfully exposed as having very little to offer. There is no reason either Christian or Cyrano should pine for the love of this bizarre, flailing Roxanne who insert soap opera inflections into each line. If only someone more able had been cast in this role, this would have been a very rewatchable version of my beloved story. 2 stars.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cyrano de Bergerac (2005)

There was not a lot of music worth paying attention to in here. I like opera, but this was less than fabulous. However, Roberto Alagna sang his part marvelously and the story is still one of the best love stories ever to grace the stage or screen, so I give it a gracious medium rating. Other versions of the story are probably worth seeing instead, however. 2.5 stars.