Thursday, May 27, 2010

Looking for Some Good Video Rentals?

John AdamsI wouldn't normally have so many movies to review but when we flew to India in March the Air France seats each had DVD players built into the headrests and with a total of 60 hours in the air I confess I did see a bit more television than I normally would watch (I also knitted a hat and read a book. Sixty hours, people, sixty hours).

Take my reviews for what they are--an opinion. And probably not that intelligent of an opinion, I tend to have erratic reactions to movies and you never know what I'll like and what I'll hate. But doesn't that just prove that I'm human?

1. John Adams
We borrowed this HBO miniseries from my sister on her recommendation and expected to love it since we're typically big on historical dramas. We would have seen it on cable when it came out but without actually having cable that was difficult.

Everything about the movie was flawlessly executed--casting, cinematography, story, attention to detail, etc.--and we did like it quite a bit though I liked the first disc and the time up until the Constitution was signed the best. Once things were in place and the war over, once he'd left for France things slowed down quite a bit and I found it less interesting. By the time he'd retired from politics and was no longer president I found it bordering on boring until finally as an old man he was grumpy and irritating until I caught myself wishing he'd just get on with it and die already (he lingered for quite a few episodes it seemed).

One part I found interesting was the relationship between Adams and his children. Essentially he was absent for most of their lives and the effect that had on the parent-child bond seemed as pertinent today as it did two hundred years ago. All in all a good film and a solid B grade.

Oh, though I forgot. I hadn't paid much attention to it being an HBO movie (hadn't seen a rating on it) until we got to a part that had a scene of tar and feathering where they stripped a man down and edited nothing (if you get what I'm saying). I'm not sure why they felt it was necessary--it's not as if we need to see that men 200 years ago are anatomically the same as they are today--and it irritated me. I wouldn't have watched it if I'd known about it. Seemed pretty pointless and tasteless.

Duplicity2. Duplicity
This movie left me feeling kind of sad. I've always liked Julia Roberts and while I didn't necessarily expect much from this corporate spy thriller/comedy I still expected to like Julia. Don't tell anyone I said this but she looked kind of old. Old and irritating.

Now don't get me wrong--I'm about the same age as she is and there's nothing wrong with a woman aging. I much prefer it to the alternative but your favorite movie stars aren't supposed to remind you of your own mortality. She looked wonderful for her age, wonderful for a woman with twins, wonderful for any woman (much better than I do) but I think the part would have been better with a younger, fresher actress.

It's just kind of sad to see a 40-ish woman chasing a younger guy and still absolutely unsure of who she is or what she is supposed to get out of life as a character. I guess I'm saying you expect to be more grounded by that point in your life and it distracts from the plot. If there is one in this movie.

But besides that the movie was stupid. Or maybe I was--I had a hard time following the twists and turns until I felt as if I was reliving the first Mission Impossible movie and the only thing of which I was certain was that there had to be one last final twist to jerk you around once more. I turned it off before that point so I don't know if it came through. A D from me.

Conversation3. The Conversation
I can't remember where I learned about this movie but I looked it up at the library and put it on hold. It's from 1974 and stars Gene Hackman as an audio surveillance pro who overhears a conversation between a couple in the park.

The statement Coppola makes (did I mention it's a Francis Ford Coppola film? He made it in between Godfather movies) about privacy and the ethics of surveillance are so 21st century that you'd swear the man had a crystal ball in front of his director's chair.

The cast, the director, the promise of a thriller all lured me in but the film wasn't what I'd hoped though I feel I need to give an explanation. It's a different type of film from the loud-mouthed action flicks we have today--there's no pounding music or car chases or gun fights or things that we've been programmed to expect from movies. I'd say it was completely boring but I think it's more that this film has the feel of a short story set to the screen. I could totally imagine reading the story and being interested but visually, as a movie, it felt small.

There are things along the way that string you along, hoping that it'll get more exciting really soon and the ending was better than I had expected but still--it's a quiet, introspective and psychological film and I don't know if anyone out there would like it after being trained with the likes of the Bourne movies. I give it a C- but then I have the unsettling suspicion that if I were just smarter I'd give it a B+.

New in Town4. New in Town See? This shows I am a stupid movie goer because I kind of liked this one. Not LOVED, but liked in a let's-kill-two-hours-on-a-plane kind of way. It's completely formulaic, predictable and cliche. It's not well acted and not particularly funny or cute but then it has two big things going for it. 1. It has Harry Connick, Jr. and 2. It's clean.

Rene Zellweger is a corporate hot shot assigned to close down a company plant in the middle of Minnesota (I forget where, but I swear I've been there) and it's a culture clash film with her high heels being eventually traded in for steel-toed boots as she learns to . . . you get the idea.

Totally predictable. But clean and not unpleasant. Though it was funny--Grace saw it just before I went down to Nashville and saw HC Jr. in person at Blissdom and she really didn't "get" it. To him he was just a hairy lumberjack because he spends most of the movie covered in facial hair. I had to assure her that there was a musician under there somewhere.

A B movie. And I liked her shoes.

Knowing5. Knowing
See that look on Nicholas Cage's face? It's been trademarked I think because you see it in every. one. of. his. movies.

And none of them will even come close to the perfection that he attained in Raising Arizona but we won't discuss that here. Instead we'll just say that Knowing isn't a horrible movie. It's just different from your typical world-is-going-to-end movies. To me it felt kind of like The Ring meets Deep Impact where you've got freaky supernatural things going on coupled with all life on the planet about to be snuffed out in a second.

I liked Deep Impact but I did NOT like The Ring so it's fifty-fifty on this one. I'll give it a salute for being a little different and not having any stupid, completely unbelievable solutions for the earth's predicament (would you care to upload a computer virus to your mother ship? or shall we just melt the aliens with water?) And I kind of liked the end in a weird way just because it was different.

It could be worse and I don't know that it could be any better so I'll give it a B-.

Amanda Bynes6. Sydney White
Have I ever confessed to you that I'm an Amanda Bynes fan? I know it's kind of like admitting that I like to dress up in my old prom dresses and pretend I'm a princess while I do my housework (I don't) but I can't help myself. She's cute and her comic timing is quite good. She's kind of a modern-day Gidget only with a killer figure.

She's the Man is pretty funny if you haven't seen that one but we're here today to discuss Sydney White. Sidney's mother has died and she and her father are very close when she leaves for college to pledge as a sorority sister in the same sorority where her mother had been a legend.

But Sidney doesn't fit in with the snobby girls and ends up with seven little geeky friends and . . . it took me half way through the movie to discover that it was a retelling of Snow White.

Yes, I'm slow. Anyway, it's rather funny and sweet. It's not high drama but compared to the duds I've been dealt lately I'll judge it to be an A-.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day7. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
There are reasons why this movie should be at the top of my list--it's sweet, clever, cute, well-made, entertaining and perfect for Amy Adams' particular brand of flaky/froofy. It's one of those movies that comes along that's quite a treat and you enjoy it and think "Why don't they make more movies like this one?"

But then, for whatever reason, the people who make movies think the rest of us are ignorant enough not to recognize a quality production so they think that they have to add a few things here and there to get us to watch instead of letting the movie speak for itself.

The movie is so sweet and squeaky clean except for a scene of nudity that is merely thrown in so that the film doesn't get a PG rating and that disappoints me. Not only does it disappoint me but it reminds me that I need to be better about looking up a movie's content before I bother to check it out of the library. I'd give it an A but for that irritating scene.

Cloverfield8. Cloverfield
I don't think this one was supposed to be a comedy but it was so ridiculous that all you can do is laugh. And not in a nice way. When I borrowed it from my sister I had no idea what it was about so to find out I was watching a Godzilla remake was surprising.

Then to find out it was a Godzilla remake with Godzilla as a proliferating alien preying on promiscuous and unrealistically good-looking teenagers living way beyond their incomes in Manhattan was even funnier.

But then I've never been much of a monster movie fan. It's a horrible character flaw I'm sure. A D.

Time Traveler's Wife9. Time Traveler's Wife
I'd heard so much internet buzz about the book I was up for killing two hours on the plane with the movie. It was edited down to a perfect "G" rating so I don't know if the original was clean or not but it makes for a interesting take on the time-travel scenario.

Rachael McAdams plays a woman who, as a girl, meets up with a guy who time travels. End of story. Kind of--things jump forward and backward as they get more and more involved to the point where you can't tell when their relationship starts and when it ends--if it ends.

Very confusing but not unpleasantly so. For me casting is a big part of a movie and I like McAdams and Bana and it all kind of worked for me. Though the biggest problem with any kind of time travel movie is that there are always inherent problems with the plot--holes here and there where you say, "But if he/she/they can travel through time why don't they just do X??" Because if you can travel through time you have the power to ultimately undo any conflicts that may arise which completely implodes said conflict at the bottom floor. Or don't people who write time-travel books realize this?

But putting that all aside I still liked it enough to give it a B.

Confessions of a Shopaholic10. Confessions of a Shopaholic
Am I the only one out there who positively can't tell any difference between Isla Fisher and Amy Adams?? I swear it's like they cloned a Disney princess and think we can't tell what they've done.

But despite this case of double identity I liked this one. Again, it's very predictable and girly. In fact, Andrew gave Spencer quite a hard time when he came home and found his son watching this with me. It has a sweet little message about not valuing yourself through shopping and the problems that arise from materialism.

I suppose it's Hollywood's way of capitalizing on the economic issues of overspending and consumer debt and I guess I'm glad that someone in this country is making money on the situation because the rest of us aren't.

But if you're in the mood for perky, pretty and plenty of shoes then this is the film for you and I wouldn't begrudge you one moment of blissful oblivion. A B flick.

Crash11. Crash
Ah, finally a movie that gets a solid, resounding A. Feels as if I've been mired in pathos doesn't it?

My sister had an edited copy of this movie and brought it home with her for the summer several years ago and all my family had seen it and swore I'd love it but it was only until our trip that I finally saw it. It's one of those cast-of-thousands film where they take a dozen stars and wind them over and around and through the plot, without any one of them having more than ten full minutes of actual screen time. But it all works so well you end up being caught up in each story and you feel as if you've had an epic adventure by the end credits are rolling.

Plot? It centers around a car crash (hence the title) and each of the characters is somehow touched by the incident. The theme is that of racism: how it's everywhere and unavoidable and colors every moment of our experience and while that may sound terribly dismal (it is rather) the film has its inspiring moments.

Brendan Fraser plays the politician, Sandra Bullock his wife. Don Cheadle the L.A. detective, Matt Dillon the racist LAPD officer. Tandy Newton is the producer's wife to Terrance Howard's producer and yada, yada, yada . . . A solid A with solid performances and a story that will make you examine yourself and wonder how well you really know your own soul.

Push12. Push
Sigh. Back to the duds. Seriously, avoid this movie as if your television might leak toxic fumes once the DVD is inserted into your machine.

I think it was trying to capitalize on the popularity of Heroes but it was boring, bizarre, digitally graded to the point of a video game, disjointed . . . what else can I complain about? How about the disturbingly freaky bulgy-eyed Chinese guys? Seriously folks, avoid this one at all costs. It took me all of 20 minutes to figure that out.

If you need more to convince you I'll just say that it's as if an amateur camera man was paid to follow Dakota Fanning around Shanghai for a day and he kept tripping over his shoelaces. I hate that shaky-camera thing that's all the rage now, the only film I will tolerate with it is the Bourne movies--I'd suffer through any amount of bad camera work for that trilogy--but it's a supernatural world of people with special powers where the government is the bad guy and there are all sorts of stereotypical scary Asian gangsters that chase the heroes through alleyways. Grim I tell you, very very grim.

Up in the Air13. Up in the Air
This one, however, is a gem. Again, I saw this fab film on Air France where it was edited down to a G rating which begs the question that if, in its clean and family-friendly form, it's such a wonderful and high-quality story then why in the world did the producers feel the need to smut it up? It seems to me it's the equivalent of stocking your soda with caffeine. It adds nothing to the body of the movie and only is designed to addict you to the junk.

But enough ranting . . . back to the movie. George Clooney is great as this middle-aged corporate chop shop who finally hits that mid-life crisis despite his insisting for so many years that "he's fine this way."

Great story, great cast, the ending is interesting and satisfying in its own odd way and it somehow made me feel better about my own life after watching it. Though, oddly enough, I really identified with the whole thing and found myself easily slipping mentally into the story.

Definitely an A.

201214. 2012
HAHA! This is the movie that made had me rolling in the aisle--it's simply hysterical. And if you haven't seen this YouTube spoof on the movie then click over right now and get your dose of culture.

In a nutshell the plot is this: the world is coming to an end because the Mayans--who as we all know are responsible for such amazing contributions as the first manned flight to the moon, the cure for polio, the Sistine Chapel, and Beethoven's 5th symphony--oh, wait! I forgot. The Mayans didn't do any of that. They were too busy conquering neighboring tribes and ceremonially eviscerating them.

Anyway, because the Mayans were such a technologically and culturally advanced civilizations it behooves all of us to take notice of their prediction that the world will end in 2012. Or at least that's how a bunch of internet geeks have interpreted things.

But the world is coming to an end and our heroes have ten minutes to drive to safety as California falls into the sea. And that's pretty much it.

I had free access to it on the plane and about the time the broken-down RV was jumping the Grand Canyon at 115 mph with a pyroclastic fireball gaining behind them I had a hard time seeing the screen through my tears of laughter so I turned it off. I hope they survived.

Bright Star15. Bright Star
I love, love LOVE period movies and will see anything that guarantees Empire waists so I eagerly selected this Jane Campion movie in my little personal video player between Turkey and Iraq.

It's the true story of the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne but the movie starts out with me wondering what she could possibly see in him (he's emaciated and sickly and slightly effeminate. Hardly your Mr. Darcy) and then continues with me wondering what he sees in her (she's grating and rude and proud and the kind of person who tells you exactly what she's thinking. I've never liked people who do that).

The plot is slow, laborious and the romance seems terribly unbelievable given the main characters. There's a lot more chemistry and interest between his roommate and Fanny--maybe that would have livened things up--but I gave up before that even became a possibility. In fact, if you go to Wikipedia and look up the movie instead of giving you paragraphs of plot and subplot all it says is this: "For three years, poet John Keats carries on a love affair with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, which is cut short by Keats's death." That's it. Shows you how boring the movie truly is.

Anyway, I was so disappointed I cried then I turned it off--or I think I might have tried New Moon (that's how desperate I was) but could only stand ten minutes before my eyes began to bleed.


BUT . . . lest you think I'm an old movie curmudgeon I did see Sherlock Holmes and LOVED it. I didn't bother to review it because you've probably all seen it but I expected to hate it and had a nice surprise. I love movie surprises. It's not as over-the-top action as the previews make it out to be and if you've read the original stories it actually follows their essence fairly well. Holmes is a martial arts-style expert and boxing champ and only when the movies put in Basil Rathbone did the character become so wimpy and weak and solely-cerebral. I think it's a refreshing remodel but it did make me wonder why all Sherlock Holmes movies seem to be required to deal with the Egyptian occult? That's so totally been done before but I'll let it go for now.

And of course I'm eagerly awaiting the summer blockbusters. Knight and Day, The Last Airbender, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Prince of Persia, Iron Man 2, Letters to Juliet, Clash of the Titans, How to Train Your Dragon, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Toy Story 3, Inception, Despicable Me, The Avengers, The Hobbit . . . I'd love to see them all. Can you tell I love action movies? It's because I identify with them so whole-heartedly. My life is very exciting I tell you.

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Peruby said...

Just watched Paul Giamatti in "Cold Souls" - I like him as an actor, but the movie left me cold. I agree with you on Duplicity and Nic Cage (LOVED Raising Arizona), I loved Crash, hated Push, very disappointed in 2012.

We saw Iron Man 2 last night.It was loud and I don't feel it had the "hero" aspect the first one did. Rourke plays his character well (if you can stand to look at him).

Jeana said...

I love when you write about movies! Time Traveler's Wife had some nudity--I don't remember if there was anything else objectionable. It's been a while and I wasn't thinking about whether it would be appropriate for kids or not.

A big theme in it is fate. The book went into how he couldn't change things that were destined to be. The things he did change by time traveling were things he was destined to change that way. Which sounds really cheesy when I write it here, but the way it's written is really beautiful, how both characters go through a time where they resent that they seem to have no choice about who they marry, then eventually accept that this is who they would choose and the life they've been given is the best one they could hope for. Anyway, for me that was enough explanation for why he didn't change things.

Jules said...

I've only seen John Adams out of all of these. Thanks for the reviews. I am writing them down on my list to rent....

Kathy G said...

You've sure been busy watching movies!

I saw Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with a group of women. Not a movie I would have picked, but I'm glad I watched it. I agree with you about the gratuitous scenes.

A good chunk of Up in the Air was filmed in St. Louis (where I live) and I enjoyed seeing all the local landmarks (some of which filled in for supposedly out-of-town locations). However, I saw it with someone who had recently been downsized, and that was a BIG mistake. They could relate all too well.

Patricia L said...

You gave Sidney White an A- ? I'm not sure I can be your blog friend anymore. hee hee. I felt like they really beat the Snow White parallels to death.

Love how honest you are in your reviews.

Janelle said...

Some of those I am interested in, but most not. I'm surprised to hear you say you like Amanda Bynes. I think she can't act worth beans. You probably wouldn't like Shopaholic much if you'd read the book first. Like The Nanny Diaries, it was an absolutely awful adaptation. Very disappointing.

[Stacia] said...

Robin Hood was also fantastic!

TJ said...

i also saw john adams. and i had a different take on the tar and feathering just made it SO real to me. yeah, the guy is naked, but it seems to me the way the LDS church shows it is so NOT the way it actually happened, it was nice to see what really went on, and how difficult and painful as well as emotionally scarring the whole thing was. and how the mob mentality just took over everything, and those that were standing by could do nothing about it.

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

Here's something super sad: Clive Owen is three years older than Julia Roberts. (Though I haven't seen Duplicity, so I don't know that's who you mean for sure. Pity, I thought the premise could've been interesting.) (I feel like Sandra Bullock is waaay too old to play Brendan Fraser's wife,but IRL she's only 4 years older than him.)

Perhaps they chose to use the full nudity in John Adams to show just how humiliating it was. Dunno; seems like you could get that without it. Could be that they showed it b/c it's HBO, too.

Did you spot Harrison Ford in a small part in The Conversation? He built something for Coppola and got roles in that movie and Apocalypse Now.

Sherry said...

I'd loved Up In The Air, too. I'm still miffed that Anna Kendrick didn't take home the Oscar for her role. She earned it.

Time Traveler's Wife was so-so. The book wasn't as "epic" as everyone I know claimed it to be, and the movie was about the same. I wanted to love it because Rachel McAdams is captivating, but it was just "okay".

2012 was a fun movie to see in the theater. It is pretty ridiculous, but those special effects on the big screen were amazing! :)

Your summer "movie to-do" list looks about like mine. I've been setting aside money so that I can go on the 2 for 1 nights at the local theater. I'm a nerd and HAVE to see some of these on the big screen. There's just something a little magical about the movie theater for me, so yeah... LOL

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I just started reading The Time Traveler's Wife and I'm enjoying the book so far...I tried to watch the movie this winter with my husband but I fell asleep! I will blame it on cold medicine! ;)

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

p.s. am so with you on Isla Fisher and Amy Adams

Reno said...

I've added some movies to my netflix queue- so thanks for the reviews! I agree with you about the plot of Duplicity- but one comment. Julia Roberts is younger than Clive Owens. So she wasn't really chasing a younger guy in the movie.
I did see 2012 and liked it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, hey you are featured today on TCB, yay for you! I am not much of a movie buff...because I can't sit still long enough, hahaha ;) Sometimes I'll take the kids to a movie but usually it's my husband! Some of these look good though, I might have to check them out.

Jamie :)

Lara said...

Regarding Duplicity: Yes indeed the final twist came through. The whole thing was so stupid, and I'm seriously angry about wasting an eight dollar ticket and two hours of my life on it. :)

Anonymous said...

We're watching John Adams and loving it. Highly recommend. Also just saw Invictis and recommend it also!

Elizabeth said...

I totally agree with the comment about Nicholas Cage. Ugh. We despise that guy. I didn't like Knowing. I thought they went very creepy, almost horror flick, for no good reason and then when the movie was over I was like "what the heck?" I loved Raising Arizona. I also like The Family Man in spite of him.

I watched the Time Travelers Wife. I liked it but having read half of the book I knew kind of what was going to happen. The book was very raw in places. I'm not commenting on New Moon, I'm a die hard Twilight fan. lol. Although I understand why someone wouldn't like it.

I've fallen in love with the BBC Robin Hood. It's a great series that only ran for 3 seasons. But it's available online on netflix.

caroline jaffe-pickett said...

Thanks for this list, very informative and I'll use it as a guide when next looking for flicks. Totally agree with you about Up in the Air and Shopaholic. Wondering if you are also a fan of Sophie Kinsella's books? I have read the whole Shopaholic series and she has 2 new ones out. Also, what about Walter Kirn's novel, "Up in the Air," that was the basis for the movie?

Krista said...

It sounds like New in Town might be a bit similar to Up in the Air? We watched Up and LOVED it... of course except for that one scene. Kind of wish we'd had the G rated version. But watching the deleted scenes actually added a whole 'nother dimension to the movie. Did you see those?

Michemily said...

Yep, I put them down on my list, too. I'm assuming since you have the cleaned-up version of Crash, I won't be able to see it. :( Oh, and I also love Amanda Bynes.

Nadia said...

Thanks for the recommendations. Was looking for something to watch tomorrow night ;).

J at said...

I'm going to call you out on Duplicity, because Clive Owen is a few years OLDER than Julia Roberts. And I love seeing a woman of our age still getting the fun roles. Tired of the young things getting them all, and the women in their 40s etc. being relegated to aunt/mom/wife of the star. Not that I loved the movie. It was OK, but not fabulous or anything.

I saw the Conversation when I was far too young to do so, in the theater. I was scarred by the scenes of blood in the toilet and down the walls. Very disturbing. Had I been over 8 or 9, it might not have disturbed me as much. I wonder what my mom was thinking? Anyway, I've heard it's good, but I'm not really interested in finding out. Since all I remember is the blood and the guy playing some instrument and kinda going mad.

I agree with you on Knowing, and I adored Up In the Air as well. :)

Oh, and Time Traveler's Wife was pretty good, but if you haven't yet, you might really enjoy reading the book. Really very good.

Stephanie said...

Tim & I watch a movie about once every 6 months so I REALLY appreciate good movie recommendations. If we're going to spend 2-3 hours watching a movie, we want it to be outstanding. :)

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Kim said...

I was in the right mood when I watched New in Town, and I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would! I drove my family crazy for about a week afterwards, because I kept using the word "tapioca" with a broad Minnesotan accent.

Jane Hamilton said...

Wow! looks like a 'movie-watching' marathon you had going there!

love your list! Some I wish I'd seen (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), and some I've seen and equally loved (Confessions of a Shopaholic & Crash)and some I hated too (2012 - just didn't do it for me).

Take a look at my top movies list: