March 31, 2008

...Saved (2004)

Saved is a wonderfully directed and intelligently written film set in a parochial school that teaches tolerance while bemoaning the hypocrisy of born-again Christians. The acting is top-notch with Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, and Eva Amurri especially deserving of shout outs. I laughed, I cried - it became a part of me.

March 30, 2008

...Premonition (2006)

Plot holes a plenty in this Memento-esque story about a woman who has the titular Premonition. Sandra Bullock is a good actress and this movie did keep me guessing but, although the ending was semi-satisfying, it is ultimately typical Hollywood fare. A routine script and mundane direction stand out so expect some lame television movie and you will be pleasantly surprised.

March 29, 2008

...Funny Girl (1968)

Very rarely do a role and an actor become so entwined in popular culture that it is difficult to discern where one begins and the other ends; Barbra Streisand picked up a richly deserved Oscar statuette for accomplishing just that in Funny Girl. The ugly duckling that makes it against all odds story is universal in appeal, and La Streisand tears the roof off the sucker in musical number after musical number [People, I'm the Greatest Star, and I'd Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Be Happy With Somebody Else) to name a few]. Though the film loses steam towards the end, Streisand, like a juggernaut that takes a locomotive and tugboat to see her man, never does.

March 28, 2008

Moon Over Broadway (1997)

Moon Over Broadway is a fascinating look inside the creation and production of the Broadway comedy, Moon Over Buffalo. Carol Burnett is not portrayed in the best light and neither are director Tom Moore nor playwright Ken Ludwig - all three showing a lack of ability in their respective jobs. It's Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's willingness to let actions speak that make this film a must see for theater, documentary and Burnett enthusiasts.

March 27, 2008

...Children of Men (2006)

Children of Men is an excellent, post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller with a smart script that doesn't shrink from beginning to end. Clive Owens, Julianne Moore (in a small yet pivotal role), Michael Caine (ditto) and Clare-Hope Ashitey are excellent. This one had me on the edge of my seat.

March 26, 2008

...Jericho, Season 1 (2006)

Jericho, Season 1, begins as an excellent, post-apocalyptic vision of what happens to a small Kansas town (the eponymous Jericho) after a series of nuclear bombs hits the United States. The script meshes elements of mystery, romance, and fear as well, if not better than, Lost. Unfortunately, much like Lost in season 2, Jericho goes off-balance about two-thirds of the way through season 1 - making me understand why there was no real audience for it.

March 25, 2008

...The Invisible (2007)

The Invisible takes so long to get started that I was shocked when the ending had a sweet tone. The script definitely has issues but it takes an interesting premise (limbo between life and death) and manages to make a little something out of it. The acting is fine (especially Marcia Gay Harden) but I think they could've lowered the annoying let's-make-an-alternative-rock-soundtrack-like-Garden-State quotient.

March 21, 2008

...Straw Dogs (1971)

Straw Dogs is a visceral experience in movie viewing with an intensity, from the first frame, that is rarely seen (or felt) in mainstream film. Dustin Hoffman, Susan George and the lesser-known supporting actors are excellent in this story of an American man, his British wife and the pack of farmers/hunters (the titular dogs) that harass them. This is a great film (though not for all tastes) that director Sam Peckinpah has layered for repeat viewings.

March 20, 2008

...Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)

Bunny Lake is Missing is well-acted (Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea, Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward) and well-written so why is it not more exciting or mysterious. Is director Otto Preminger really a bad director? It's not that the puzzle is easy to figure out or that the black and white cinematography is poor; it's just that there is no tension, leaving no real payoff when the film ends.

March 18, 2008

...Poseidon (2006)

Yes, it's got a big, fuckin' wave; yes, a ship turns over on New Year's Eve; and yes, some make it and others don't but, those similarities aside, Poseidon, the 2006 remake of the 1974 adventure, is predictably void of anything resembling the excitement or originality of the original. It settles for Emmy Rossum as a vapid, prattle-on girl, Kurt Russell as her annoyingly right-wingesque father, and Richard Dreyfuss - ridiculous as a fussbudget, wimp of a gay man on the verge of suicide (shades of Boys in the Band) that I would like to murder myself. Although watching Josh Lucas doing his best Gene Hackman impersonation alarmingly made the trip almost palatable, I'd still rather see Maureen McGovern (singing The Morning After) than Stacy Ferguson (aka Fergie) doing her shtick with whatever piece of crap was put in front of her.

March 17, 2008

...The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

An excellent cast, a believable script, and a fun industry to dissect coalesce to make The Devil Wears Prada an extremely watchable and charming movie. Meryl Streep straps on the sunglasses for a merry-go-round performance, alongside Anne Hathaway's believable transformation, Emily Blunt's comic foil, and Stanley Tucci's gay, giving this movie something for everyone. I even shed a few tears - lovely.

March 16, 2008

...How To Marry A Millionaire (1953)

How to Marry A Millionaire is an absolute charmer with three lovely leading ladies (Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable) playing exquisitely with their respective glasses, hamburgers, and snow suit. The film has the airiness of a musical (although it's just a plain old light comedy) and four men who hold their own against our leading babes (Dick Powell, Rory Calhoun, David Wayne and Cameron Mitchell). Catch this one anytime you can.

March 15, 2008

...Big Love, Season 2 (2007)

In Season 2, Big Love has gotten even better with more complex characters and more fundamentally outrageous situations. The pacing is red hot and, aside from the lead actors, supporting players Mary Kay Place, Brian Kerwin, Grace Zabriskie and others help to bring this very human and very disturbing story to life. This is one thought-provoking and intriguing television series.

March 14, 2008

...The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

The Honeymoon Killers is writer/director Leonard Kastle's one attempt at filmmaking, and it's a doozy. In cinema-verite style, with black and white photography, and emotionless, resonating performances by Shirley Stoler and Tony LoBianco, the film focuses on the sensational 1940s-era murderers referred to as the Lonely Hearts killers. Mistakenly perceived as an exploitation film, there is no blood to speak of and only implied violence but the sum is one movie you won't soon forget.

March 12, 2008

...Donnie Darko (2001)

Even after multiple viewings, Donnie Darko never fails to enthrall. The metaphysical premise of the film is fascinating, the acting is phenomenal (except Drew Barrymore whose teacher doesn't ring true but gets kudos for being an executive producer), and the emotional resonance of the script left me in tears. Writer/director Richard Kelly's first feature film, although probably not for everyone, is intelligent film fare with style, and this theatrical version is required viewing BEFORE taking in the re-imagined Director's Cut, a fascinating film in its own right.

March 10, 2008

...Waitress (2007)

Waitress is a slight film that received the bulk of its media coverage because of the untimely death of its writer/director/actor Adrienne Shelly. The script uses ridiculous character motivations to move the story forward and the film is composed with static, mundane shots and stage bound editing. It reminded me of a mash-up of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Baby Boom with none of the realism of the former and none of the charm of the latter.

March 8, 2008

...The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990)

Not as well-done as San Francisco and not as campy as Earthquake, The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake is a four hour television mini-series that manages to maintain some interest. The political situations are rote (should we tell the public?) and the familial situations are typical (where is my daughter?) but the special effects are decent and, in a disaster movie that's what is needed. Joanna Kerns (as the seismologist?), Ed Begley, Jr. (as her assistant??) and Richard Masur (as a sleazy reporter - OK) stand out but ultimately this is just one step above typical TV fare.

March 7, 2008

...The Number 23 (2007)

The self-proclaimed scary thriller The Number 23 is not particularly scary nor is it particularly thrilling, but it does boast Virginia Madsen (as her blonde self and in a brunette wig), and a surprisingly hot Jim Carrey with tats. Other than that, there's not much to recommend: the 23 phenomenon is ridiculous, the script has plot holes galore, and the cinematography and art direction bring darkness to the plate. Oh, the dog is cute if you like dogs.

March 5, 2008

...Bonjour Tristesse (1959)

There but for the grace of Deborah Kerr goes Bonjour Tristesse, a piffle about pretentious French people (played by British and American actors) and their summer on the Riviera. The self-absorption runs knee-deep in this display of vapid character flaws and brings to mind current magazine darling Paris Hilton. I found myself not caring about the wet and amorous exploits of the fictional teenager who's father pours her champagne and who won't learn from her experiences.

March 4, 2008

...Man of La Mancha (1972)

Man of La Mancha is such a beautiful and powerful musical about Miguel de Cervantes and his creation, Don Quixote, that one would assume a studio could phone a filmization home by hiring talented filmmakers. One might also assume that the filmmakers, in turn, would hire actors who can sing and the result would not have the pacing of a tortoise. One would be wrong.

March 2, 2008

...My Little Chickadee (1940)

Not as classic as I would've hoped, My Little Chickadee is almost two movies in one: Mae West tames her men while handling a six-shooter, and W.C. Fields drinks his hootch while playing cards. The two Hollywood icons are fine but the script doesn't necessarily use their specialties to best effect. Still and all, if you're interested in Hollywood history, this is a piece worth seeing once.