Sunday, November 25, 2007


What's not to like in this sweet and funny spoof of fairy tales gone right? It wouldn't work any other way than to cross the lines between animation and reality. Amy Adams is the strongest link in the magical chain. Her face is all innocence and charm. She never drops her pose. She sings most of the songs herself and does a lovely job. Patrick Dempsey is even more charming than Prince Charming -the better to win the heart of the lost princess-to-be (Giselle) . And speaking of Prince Charming, the hilariously camp James Marsden does a twinkling turn as the Prince. The only weak link is Susan Sarandon as the wicked witch. She seems woefully miscast- especially with her poor delivery of her dialogue. But look past that and enjoy the warmth of this movie. It had enough storyline to keep the little ones quiet in the theater, but enough sight gags and humor to keep the adults happy. It should have ended before Sarandon came on at the end as that was truly the logical moment. The ending was like the extra sequin on a costume that turns a fancy thing into something a little garish. So ignore the end, and enjoy the trip.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No Country for Old Men

The Coen Brothers strike with a screen version of Cormac McCarthy's book- and they strike with a bloody, violent, graphic, heart thumping vengeance. A modern day (1980s) western composed of white drug runners, border Mexican drug gangs, and people who live in the rugged and conveniently lawless areas of the west Texas-Mexican border , it uses the talents of Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin to bring it grittily to life. The body count is large for such a "small" film. The title tells the story. No one expects to live a long life here and when money comes in an opportunistic form- well, what is there to lose by taking it? Ah, Bardem-a more heartless villain has never appeared in film. With the exception of the vile Natural Born Killers, there just isn't another person as cold, disconnected and methodical as the villain played by Bardem. The story has a very nuanced reference to the VietNam War and how it has produced killers like the ones portrayed by Bardem and Woody Harrelson (botoxed and smooth as a baby butt). It is hard to watch yet you will watch it- every gory, bloody, bone crushing second of it. And the end? It made perfect sense.

Friday, November 9, 2007

American Gangster

Probably the best movie we've seen so far this year. Violent, gritty, moral and amoral. A movie where, finally, there is no equivocation about good and evil. And a movie where the audience leaves feeling there is some justice in the world. The human propensity to addiction is difficult to digest- most humans have the ability to be addicted- to have their lives ruined by substance abuse. And we pity the weak. But we have no sympathy for the dealer- the supplier who cares for nothing but his money. Russell Crowe does a fantastic job here- controlled, decent, and yet his ex-wife sees his doing his job as evil as a drug dealer's because it means he ignores his child. She could not be farther from the truth, because a man as hard working and decent as this character is a role model for a child. The script is so well written that it doesn't tip you off - you sit hoping that the ending will be just. Go see it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl

David Arquette's ringer, Ryan Gosling, plays Lars- a guy whose mother died during his delivery, whose father was distant and whose older, now guilt ridden brother, left home and left Lars to the cold old man. Now that dad has died, Lars lives in the garage next to his brother and his brother's charming wife, played by Emily Mortimer. Lars is shy around women but not so shy that he can't order a mail order doll- not a nasty blow up doll, but an expensive, choose your own options, real doll- with correct anatomy. It's creepy but everyone in his life and town realizes that if Lars won't give it up, they may as well accept it. It's an odd premise, and an oddly sweet movie about people who love and accept somthing as real because someone they love accepts something as real. As Lars begins to feel again, a little jealousy over an office mate creeps into his delusion, and he begins to become human again. It starts with arguing with his doll and ends with his freedom. It's a little weird, a little sweet and, well, different.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dan In Real Life

Dan writes an advice column called "Dan in Real Life". He's a widower with 3 daughters- all playing typecast roles for a reason- who goes to Rhode Island for the family weekend and meets his brother's new girl (Juliette Binoche) in a book store, only to fall in love without realizing who she is. It goes on from there. Steve Carrell is really wonderful in this because the role was written for him. The story is very sweet, contrived and predictable - all those things make the movie just swell! And I mean that. It is about a family, contains no stupid political motivations, ends up the right way (oh come on, you KNEW it would), and makes people laugh out loud. It's been critiqued as being "not real life". Well, I'm sure those film critics thought A Wonderful Life, Sleepless In Seattle were ALL documentaries or something. Why should any romantic comedy be like real life? Who the hell would watch that? The semi-recent spate of crummy romantic movies (usually involving Dianne Keaton or Sarah Jessica Parker or Cameron Diaz) has almost ruined the genre. But when we watch this movie, we wish that was our wise and funny mom and dad, and that we could lose a spouse with such grace and dignity, and that our kids were rebellious without being possessed (oh okay, mine were not possesed- not at all- but you know what I mean). And that is what this movie does. The only thing it didn't have was fireworks at the end- over a scenic lake. But it was close. Alex pronounced it wonderful. And if it feels odd- that's because it feels like a PLAY and not a film. That only adds to the experience.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Before I start, let me state the obvious here: Natalie Portman needs to eat something and Jason Schwartzman can't act. In the short that preceeds the film, Portman poses completely naked and she is positively skeletal- not thin, but skeletal. Each rib is well defined. It is a horrifying look for a beautiful young woman. Schwartzman, like his cousin Sofia Coppola, is so flat in another way and untalented in everything he does that he is the poster child for Hollywood entitlement. Maybe he could be seen as having anorexia of acting? He was awful in his first film and will be awful til the last. Guess all the acting talent in that family went to Nick Cage. Now down to the story- I think this movie is the best one that Wes Anderson has done. If you don't like Anderson's films, you won't like this one. But it has the predictable quirky characters doing quirky things and yet, it doesn't have the strange feeling of "the characters are odd because they have to be" of the Royal Tannenbaums or the lameness of The Life Aquatic. A lot of faces will look familiar, and that is part of the fun. Finding Anderson's friends from previous films in the background is like a cinematic where's waldo. India is such a different country from ours- some of the most meaningful religious rituals, yet some of the most polluted areas in the world. As if the soul is more important than the quality of life. It is so homogeneous in population that gringos stand out like poppies in a rice field. Because of their homogeneity, the culture is rich, but also ripe for the lampooning. Was Anderson making fun of the depth of their rituals or the stupidity of the people who use those rituals in a superficial way and then think they are more spiritual? I don't know. But I do love the color of marigolds, and the movie is full of it. It is more quirky than funny, and more superficial than deep, and more light than dark. We saw it in a packed theater where some people (older) were compelled to talk back to the screen and laughed out loud. Another mystery to ponder.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

If there is a more understated actor than Casey Affleck, I'd like to see him. Bogart is the closest to it, with so little expression but a whole lot of vocal inflection and eye contact. I can't figure out what makes this guy so good, because he is so BORING to look at on screen. Yet, you sit mesmerized by something about him. Maybe waiting for him to DO something? When he finally hits someone in this film, even that seems to out of place. But back to the movie. Gone Baby Gone is a very good movie because it has to be compared with all the bad ones. Ben Affleck directs it and it has his same slow tempo. There are a few times when the viewer just has to wonder WHAT exactly the film is about- it is about the abduction of a child, or police corruption, or the death of a cop's kid, or a romance between two people who don't agree on right or wrong? There is also a strange plot diversion with a pedophile in a dilapidated house- well, that was manipulative and didn't belong in the film. It had one too many story lines. But other than that, the film has a good story- gripping and poignant, and brings up some important points about our treatment of child abusers in our country and how neighbors and neighborhoods can protect them. Also, in the end, the viewer is left to decide whether the bad guys were good and the good guy was bad or not. That alone makes the film worth seeing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A different critic used the word indulgent to describe this movie. And I have to say that 2 1/2 hours of sepia tones and longing looks and pregnant pauses does get to be a literal pain in the ass. No other way to put it. Luckily, I was at one of those luxurious theaters with padded leather chairs and great ice cream and my friends Liz and Brian. Brad Pitt looks older and worn out- like his character. He does a great job with the sadistic Jesse James. Casey Affleck does a great job staying in character as the dim-witted but determined Robert Ford. The James gang comes across as thugs and Jesse is the biggest thug of all. When Robert Ford finally shoots him, we are relieved it's over. We have, after all, waited for 2 1/2 damn hours to see it. Ford's end is sad but the viewer doesn't care because we only like movies that have honor among their thieves. Not one of the James' gang has honor. It's always interesting to see films that remind us there was not always a photo on the nightly news or internet or a 911 number when the bad guys were in town. This is a brutal, somewhat vicious film that moves at a snail's pace- intriguing, but nonetheless annoying. The book is actually probably faster to read since it is a paperback and is relatively short! Spoiler alert: you will have to look at Mary Louise Parker on the big screen and that takes courage. BUT if you like Brad Pitt and/or Casey Affleck, they are on the screen for a looonnngggg time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Michael Clayton

Is it a morality tale, a suspense film, a commentary on legal manipulations and corporate greed? Why, yes it is. D)All of the above. It is smartly done and well written. It is appropriately dark in most of the scenes. Clooney appears appropriately weary, though I think that has gotten easier as he comes closer to 50 in real life. He plays a man of flaws, a man who sees himself as the janitor of the law firm- cleaning up messes and making bad things go away. The first hour of this film requires your full attention. Do not plan on getting up for popcorn or a bathroom visit. If you do, you will be quite lost. I thought it was needlessly convoluted in a few spots, but Alex liked it as did 90 percent of the critics. Maybe I have gone to too many light weight movies lately. Of course, the corporation is evil and cancer causing- Clooney can't do a film without some political statement. I had the feeling I was watching a Grisham remake. There were holes in the veracity of the storyline- big holes. BUT perhaps it is, after all, just a story and the writer can do as he or she pleases. I do highly recommend this film- and if you like visuals, it is fun to watch the former Sexiest Man Alive juxtaposed by the Homliest Woman Alive, Tilda Swenson. Yikes! I guess in Hollywood they feel that you can only be believable as a smart, conniving businesswoman if you look like someone made your face in a pie plate. And is it me or has Clooney gotten a new nose- shorter and less broad? Well, go see it. Enjoy the absolutely lovely acting job done by the child who plays Clooney's son. He's a natural.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Across the Universe

This is a musical (all Beatles music done as cover) about the 60s, and judging by the songs used, the early 70s. The timeline is a little weird, so if you actually were of record purchasing age during that time period, the use of the songs during specific events where the songs weren't out yet can be disconcerting. I want to dislike Evan Rachel Wood. Mostly because she sleeps with Marilyn Manson, and really, what could say more about her than THAT? But except for her incredibly nasal singing, she is a good actress and she seldom gives in to the simpering crap you get from Scarlett J. There are some stellar cameos- the best for me was the one by Joe Cocker, who looks very worn and very ancient. Which says something about the lifestyle of the 60s. I have to mention Dana Fuchs here- she does the character who is a Joplin rip-off. She really pulls it off. It's hard to describe how this film is done because there is so much imagery (some beautiful and some ridiculous- everything from strawberry bombs to Greek chorus masks). Was it an homage to Fellini as well? What I took away from it is that the writer must have taken some of the famous people of the time, like Joplin and Hendrix, and mixed them with the drug use and anti-war demonstrations, then got a bunch of Beatles songs and made a movie? Is that correct? At any rate, it IS a film. Not a documentary. It has a beginning, middle and an end. I bought the sound track because I like good covers. It's good enough but not really like being there. Which, by the way, was no picnic.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the Valley of Elah

Well, let's see, it stars Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones, and it is about a soldier murdered when he comes home from Iraq. So what, exactly, do you think the gist of this one will be? They tried so hard to keep from looking anti-war. After all- the movie credit says the movie is dedicated to "all the children". The soldiers are the people who were once kids now turned into killers by war- they even run over a kid. The kids in Iraq (oh never mind the ones whose parents or grandparents were murdered by Saddam) are victims. Well, crap all, everyone in this movie is a victim. I felt like one because I was watching it- good grief this is a SLOW movie. Oh my, slower than Congress, slower than a turtle scratching it's face, slower than the grocery line on Saturday. I was so BORED in spots. The performances- including a chilling close up of Sarandon's decline (and I mean in real life not the character- showing you what anger does to a person's face)- are just wonderful. But the movie felt like real time. And that is never a good thing. But it is okay - okay enough to see in a theater if you don't get the big drink.

3:10 to Yuma

A good western is hard to come by. They often come across as trite and laden with cliche. The Unforgiven was a great western. This is not great but it is good. It does have some hilarious moments where the gun fight is so unrealistic that you find yourself groaning. I know I could be a better shot than some of those people. But because of the cast-Russell Crowe and Christian Bale being the big guns in this- the western is better than it would have been had they cast Johnny Depp and Leonardo di Caprio. There is a lot of action- almost too much. If this many people got killed in the west, then we'd be sitting in a bar in St Louis rather than living on the west coast. I liked it much more than Alex did.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The King of Kong or a Fistful of Quarters

There is not a better documentary showing most of the various aspects of human behavior. This is about a guy from Redmond named Steve Wiebe (wee-bee), who decides to be the world champion in Donkey Kong. This involves presenting a videotaped score of his million point game done in his garage in front of his wife and kids. Steve seems unaware that there is a cadre of worshippers of the current point holder- one Mr Billy Mitchell. Steve isn't allowed to use his legal score because one of Mitchell's "enemies" sold Wiebe the motherboard that runs his personal Kong machine- and there is suspicion that Wiebe is a cheat. It is basically true throughout the documentary that Wiebe is, especially at first, seemingly the ONLY honest person. Mitchell is allowed to submit a very suspect tape that beats Wiebe. And the oddball group of adolescent-like adults are thrilled that their erstwhile bullying leader and hero can keep his record. Mitchell has obviously been beaten. Mitchell is allowed to get away with tape submissions while Wiebe is forced to play live. Mitchell doesn't agree to play Wiebe in a live game, but drones on and on in the film about how live play is the only real thing. He doesn't see his own stupidity. When the time comes for the match, Wiebe has a family in tow, but Mitchell brings along a wife who looks like she could be being paid to be there. Mitchell does not play live. Wiebe has everything that Mitchell does not- but he has to win this title. In the end, it boils down to the Guiness World Record people, a record keeper for the gaming industry, and the honest determination of Wiebe not to let a bunch of childish, poor sports beat him. One classic scene has Wiebe showing up randomly to eat at a restaurant that is coincidentally owned by Mitchell. One of the weenie adults whines to Mitchell on the phone "we didn't invite him". Ah, memories of junior high. Wiebe is a successful science teacher in Redmond WA, and he is a role model for kids of all ages. is the official site.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Well, yet another guy flick from Apatow. I did admit I laughed in spots, but in general, I'm not sure a woman should be reviewing this film. If guys are that rude, that clueless and that gross, then maybe it's a good thing that girls stay out of their bonding groups. This is not suitable for kids under the age of 15 or so, and then it better be a pretty knowledgeable kid. Was it funny? well, yes. Was it 4 or 5 star? well, no. It was happily vulgar and childish and improbable. If you like that, and you have never grimaced in a film by Adam Sandler or looked at your watch during an American Pie, and thought Wedding Crashers was Oscar worthy, then this movie is perfect for you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Did you ever see A Midsummer Night's Dream- the film version from 1935? Then you know the dreamy sort of fairy tale aura that a movie can have. That is what this movie is- a fairy tale. It has several inventive comic touches - most involving dead brothers. Yet again, Michelle Pfeiffer is here appearing creepy and frozen as a younger woman and creepy and rotting as an old witch. Take your pick. There is romance and sweetness. At spots it is a bit boring. And of course it is totally predictable-not a surprise in the entire script. But it is a little lovely, and a little sweet, and a little comic- not bad for a film that is straight out of a short fairy story. BUT I would not recommend it for children- the gore is still gore and unless you want to be up all night, don't bring the little ones.

The Bourne Ultimatum

I loves me some Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Every time. There must be about a 50 point IQ difference between Damon and Affleck. There is no other explanation as to why Damon can appear so smart and intense in films and Affleck seems dumb or smarmy. This is so much fun. The action is non-stop, the plot is easy to follow, and the result is exactly what you expect it to be. I never read the book, because why would I? There's some American logic for you- but if Damon is going to be in the movie, then I don't actually CARE about the book. Good for you Matty. Oh- Hollis and Alex both did not like the hand held camera shots. I was watching Matt Damon and I didn't notice.

The Simpsons Movie

Weeellllll, other critics have given this hugely positive reviews. I cannot do that. I think it was mildly entertaining, though Spencer said she thought it was not good, and that she was very disappointed. And if you cannot please a 9 year old, then you cannot please a 90 year old and there goes half the audience that would see this. I thought it was a mundane story, funny at times, but not funny enough. The edgy wit was not there for me. I expected more and yet, somehow, I knew it wouldn't be that great. It's okay. But okay is enough for some people.


Oh yeah. This is the return of the movie musical. It is a lot of fun- as any John Waters based creation would be. There is a formerly unknown actress playing the lead of Tracy. And what a lead she is- like Totie Fields singing on crack. Never mind that she will take her cute little roly poly self back to anonymity. John Travolta has a mystifying role as Tracy's mother. I know it is tradition for that role to be played by a man, but Travolta looks entirely too comfortable as this woman. The goofy Christopher Walken is the dad and the rather vapid Amanda Bynes is the best friend. It is cute and clever and the music is great. It makes everyone who sees it walk out happy- despite the overuse of botox by Michelle Pfeiffer, which is rather depressing. Awwww, go see it then get the CD and have fun singing along.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This is a rather dark film, but then every one of the books at this point are. The problem with this film is that the book cannot be captured in one movie. So many details are left out. SO many emotions are explained in the book that really cannot be conveyed in such a short time. As a film version of Cliff's notes, it is a good movie. Certainly Daniel Radcliffe is a far better actor now than the miserable actor he was in the first one. The usual special effects are there. If you haven't read the book, then the movie will seem spectacular. So I will have to say it is a very good movie. But the book is better. As I am sure will be the case for the last few movies of this series. If you liked Harry before, you will like this now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Knocked Up

Well, Alex thought this was funny. But then he has never been knocked up. I liked the plastic vulva at the end of the movie- and the fake baby - couldn't they find someone like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears to be the body double for that? I mean, come on. It was faker than the one in Dr T and the Women. Some people have praised this film because the couple actually keeps the baby and tries to learn to like one another so the child can be brought up knowing its parents. The problem here is not that, but that Katherine Heigel, a very pretty woman, has a one nighter with the nastiest looking dude in non-rural America. This guy is so gross that not even a drunk skank would go home with him. The premise is so dumb. If Heigel was going to have a one night stand, there is NO WAY someone of her character's education and looks would have to settle for a big, fat, unkempt, boring and childish idiot like the character she beds. I don't know Seth Rogan, but I hope in real life he is not as gross. He was like a human Shrek, underbite and all. Alex laughed out loud most of the movie as did most of the other guys. I just sat there kind of puzzled, feeling sorry for Heigel, and wondering how human nature could have made this big mess for her character. I feel like Scrooge. I KNOW everyone else in America likes it and takes it at face value. But how could a grown woman not be on the pill? Or sleep with someone so yucky? Or even tell the guy if she wanted to keep the baby? It was just more like a mystery movie to me than a comedy. Sorry.

You Kill Me

We heard a lot about this movie-so we went to see it. It stars Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni. It is supposed to be a comedy. I didn't think it was funny. I thought it was rather boring, in fact. I was so disappointed. Good thing we went to dinner at Morton's after. I find Tea Leoni a very boring actress- her voice is flat and her face is flatter. I never feel anything she is supposed to project. It is implausible that she would befriend a hit man. Kingsley does a fantastic job in this role, but the role is hackneyed. Who goes to an AA meeting and says they are a killer and NO ONE reports it. It is supposed to be funny but it comes across as contrived and manipulative. It was a waste of our money. I think it got all those stars because Kingsley is in it.

Live Free or Die Hard

YEAY! Bruce is back as Bruce the bad boy working for the good of mankind. A doomsday (ludicrous but who cares) scenario involving computer hacking occurs. Bruce saves the day. What more is there to know? Die Hard is one of my most favorite movies of all time. And this one is better. The explosions and car chases and helicopters and guns- what more could a girl ask for? Bruce looks great- maybe a little botox around the cheeks (face)- and he is in great form. It is as if Die Hard was yesterday. I can't recommend this movie enough. If you like action films, then this is a must see for 2007. KABOOM!


Oh my, finally a very charming animated film about rats. I loved it. I do NOT love rats, due to an unfortunate infestation of norwegian river rats at my very first home in New Orleans. They are filthy. And disgusting. So I could not have watched this if there were animatronic rats- but these are cute little cartoon rats. The dialogue is good and the plot moves right along. The French are very French and so some of the lines are a little, well just a little, mean spirited toward them. But it is all in good fun. I'd love to see an audience of French viewers see this one. I wonder how the translation will go? But it is a fun 2 hours. I think the kids in the audience liked it a lot.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Last King of Scotland

If this doesn't scare the pants off of you then you aren't wearing any. Hands down, Forrest Whittaker does the best acting job of the year as Idi Amin. If you want to know why Africa cannot get it together and cannot keep it together, look at the politics of the continent. The wholesale intimidation by slaughter and torture seems as natural as a herd of antelope. This movie is powerful and intense and very adult. It is gruesome and cruel. And it is fascinating. I don't plan on going to Africa any time soon.


This is a little soap opera of a movie with a real beginning and middle and end. It was fun to watch. Penelope Cruz is just luminous in this. Normally I think of her as being the homely little sister of Salma Hayak. But she is really lovely and very easy to watch in this. It's a girl movie in a lot of ways- with women being strong and holding on to one another. It is a multigenerational film. It is subtitled- but soon you will be speaking Spanish just like they are. I'd recommend it.

The Painted Veil

This is an intriguing film about an unhappy woman who is forced to follow her epidemiologically minded husband (Edward Norton) into the cholera epidemic raging in a section China. If you can stand the slow pace, sit back and enjoy the scenery and costuming. It is a beautiful film to watch. Say what you will about really skinny girls, but all 100 pounds of Naomi Watts looks fantastic in the costumes. Her dresses were fabulous- and quite unbelievable in the hot and humid region of China she is learning to grow in. I thought it was a little bit of a snoozer in spots- so be prepared with some popcorn and diet coke. Since Edward Norton is such a great actor to watch, there is a real reason to go see it.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

This is, like most real fairy tales, a violent, bloody and intense story. During WWII, a desperate woman marries a sadistic Spanish army captain, gets pregnant and moves with her young daughter to an encampment in the woods. The captain is a vicious and cruel man. And the daughter escapes into a world of fairies (not the cute kind like Disney) and ogres. There is nothing cute in this movie- it is dark, full of scenes of torture and gore and hate. It is evil that the child is trying desperately to escape. She performs tasks in a magical world- one where she says "I am not afraid". Truly, she is a very brave little girl indeed. What in this film is real and what is not? You can form your own opinions. Does the little girl really do things? Or is she locked into a world of make believe to protect herself from the horrible world around her. This is a movie that seems to get better the more I think about all of the nuances. It is not for children- in fact, Alex and I both had to look away in some of the torture scenes. There is a great deal of blood and adult issues. Not for kids at all. But it is a very intense and moving experience to be in the audience.