Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

In a Nutshell: Eh. Cute, I guess. First one was much better.

Quick Plot: Princess Mia is preparing to take the throne, but first she must outwit a conniving Parliament leader attempting to install someone else as king, all while thwarting a law that demands she get married in order to rule.

In Detail: Like I said, the first one was better. For me, it seemed Mia was just going through the motions instead of "becoming," which was the charm and fun of the first film. Most of the repeated jokes (like the hair dresser guy) were just not funny this time around, the clumsiness seemed much more forced and out of place, and I never felt anything genuine coming from the love interest at all. He came off smarmy no matter what he did. However, this one was much more satisfying in terms of what Julie Andrews gets to do and be, so that was worth it.

Will I Buy It? No.

The Princess Diaries

In a Nutshell: Quite cute! A pretty good message for tweens, though I disagree with parts of it. Excellent vehicle for Dame Julie Andrews; she is perfection, as always.

Quick Plot: A geeky teenage outcast suddenly learns that she is a princess and destined to rule a small European country, but there is much to learn about behaving royally.

In Detail: This really is a very cute movie, and I highly enjoyed it. I have the sequel recorded and waiting to be watched, if that tells you anything. Anne Hathaway is really very charming, and she does awkward as well as she does regal. I don't like the fact that they felt the need to change her looks *quite* so much; I think it sends a poor message about judging by appearances. That said, though, it still sticks pretty close to the "be true to yourself" message. But the best part of the whole film is watching Julie Andrews finally be the queen we all know her to be. Watching her imitate Mia's walk had me rolling in the floor! And Hector Elizondo is his always-wonderful understated self; I greatly enjoyed watching him interact with both Hathaway and Dame Julie. A fun light movie, great for a (young) girls' night in.

Will I Buy It? Probably not, especially just for myself.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

In a Nutshell: Fun and quirky, and I liked the message. Great for tweens, despite what you might think of Miss Lohan and her behavior of late.

Quick Plot: A New York City teen is transplanted to Jersey, creating much real and imagined drama in her life. But if she can *just* get in to see her favorite band at their final concert, life will be complete.

In Detail: It was a lot of fun, and I liked it fine. With what little I've seen of both of them, I think between Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan, Lohan is the better actress. If she'll just grow up and get over herself (and stop taking after Paris Hilton), I think she'll make a remarkable actress. I also liked the message of the film. The Princess Diaries bothered me because they seemed to emphasize fitting in, most particularly with her appearance. Here, the message was "be yourself and don't worry so much about what others think." I was a little concerned about some of her behavior, particularly the lying, but it turned out fine. Not only did she lose friends and respect for lying, she also got grounded for various things she did that were against the rules. Be yourself, but obey the rules, and live up to your obligations. Sounds like a fabulous teen message to me!! I could have done without the musical interlude every 5 minutes or so (do we really need a different song chorus *every* time we change scenes?), but some of it was quite good. I don't think they integrated the concert storyline and the school musical storyline very well, but that's okay. It was a low-budget kids' film, there's only so much you can expect. I was most irked by the fact that the title song, performed at the end of the school musical, had absolutely *zero* to do with anything in the musical itself. It was simply tacked on because there was singing involved. It is clear, however, that it was meant as a vehicle for The Divine Miss L, and she clearly worked hard on it. The outfit was a little much, as were some of the others in the film, but if that's my only complaint, then it can't have been that bad. :-)

Will I Buy It? Hmm, I'm not sure. Since I have a boy, I'm not sure he'd appreciate it like he should, and besides, it may all be irrelevant 10+ years from now anyway. Cute, but not something I would watch again just for me.

Kaena: The Prophecy

In a Nutshell: Visually stunning! A true piece of eye candy with incredible CG rendering. Story interesting, execution okay to good. Worth seeing if you are into animation and/or CG.

Quick Plot: A high-spirited teenager discovers the secret of her dying world. Can she convince her people of the truth, even though it goes against all of their historical beliefs, and lead them into a new era?

In Detail: I saw this movie quite a while ago (close to a year, maybe?), and I have in fact seen it several times, but I hadn't thought to write it up until just now. It has recently started coming on our movie channels again, though, which is what reminded me of it. In fact, had it not been for our movie channels, I never would have seen this movie. (Have I mentioned I love our movie channels?) I was hunting for something to watch and I saw this title, which I had never ever heard of. Then I saw that it was animated (how could I not have heard of it?), and then I saw that Richard Harris and Kirsten Dunst were the main voice cast. Excuse me? Turns out it is one of the very last things he did, and the film is dedicated to him. Anyway, I flipped it over about 40 minutes into the film, and I was simply astounded by what I saw. (Keep in mind that my first exposure to this film was on a hi-def channel.) It is just jaw-droppingly beautiful in its crafting and detail. It was created in France (with an originally French voice cast) by game programmers, and it shows, both in visual imagination and skill. It is also clearly made by some men who need to get out a little more (evidenced by her costume (or lack there of); I've seen much worse, but still). LOL It was originally a 3-D movie, which I can imagine was completely mind-blowing. The creatures are amazing, the story is okay, but it is worth seeing purely for its visual beauty.

Will I Buy It? I don't know. I can't say that I love the movie, but I find myself watching it more often than not if I catch it on. If I found it for the right price, I would probably buy it.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

In a Nutshell: Good movie, excellent performances, but didn't live up to the hype.

Quick Plot: (If you don't know by now, then you have been living under some huge whopping rock for way too long.) Two cowboys begin a forbidden and secret romance that spans several decades.

In Detail: Wow, what to say about this movie. I don't really know. Lots of folks have seen it already, lots of others won't see it for any reason, and still others have lots of questions. If you have some specific questions you would like to ask me about it, email me and I'll get back to you. For me, I'll just review it like I would any other film.

It was very good, but not great. It is one of those films (and I have seen several) where the performances were excellent, but the movie as a whole didn't live up to those performances. My hat is off to Heath Ledger; he was simply amazing. So restrained, so understated, and yet you could just feel his pain and torment flowing from the screen. Jake Gyllenhaal was good, but Ledger was better. It doesn't help that there is something about Gyllenhaal's character that I really didn't like, though I can't really put my finger on it. The movie is very slow, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most emotional dramas are. But ultimately, I was disappointed. No, disappointed isn't quite right; unsatisfied is probably better. For that kind of build-up and that amount of time and emotional investment in the long and drawn out drama (again, not a necessarily a bad thing), there just wasn't enough pay-off. I should have cried. I should have been bawling. Instead, I barely got misty. I'm all for subtle, but to me, there should have been more. More how or more of what, I'm not sure. It was just missing something. Good, worth seeing if you're interested, but not the great cinematic masterpiece I was expecting.

Will I Buy It? Unlikely. I wouldn't watch it often enough to make it worthwhile.

An Ideal Husband

In a Nutshell: Excellent! Totally my kind of movie. Charm, wit, twist and turns, beautiful people saying wonderful words, and with delightful British accents to boot. What more can you ask for?

Quick Plot: A conniving woman bent on increasing her own wealth uses cunning and blackmail to convince a former acquaintance to push a detrimental building plan through Parliament, wreaking much havoc on his reputation and his marriage.

In Detail: I do believe that this is the first Oscar Wilde production I have ever seen, and if they are all this good, then it will certainly not be the last. Superb casting, exceptional delivery, and stunningly beautiful to behold, this is simply my kind of movie. They just don't write banter like this anymore. I am out of compliments to give to the cast. Let's just say they were all amazing and leave it at that. I will provide you with their names, though, in case you have forgotten who is in it (it *has* been quite a while since this film was out): Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, and Rupert Everett. Not to stereotype, but this is very much a Victorian chick flick, and I'm not sure how much a "traditional" male would appreciate it. But if you like snappy and fun dialog driven period films, this one is a definite must! It is quite a slow movie, but that is in no way a bad thing! It gives you time to digest the performances and all of the glorious words being used. This is not a movie to watch with lots of background noise; you have to *listen* or you'll miss most of the good stuff. And it is so worth it!

Will I Buy It? Yes! Though it is on the "to buy when we have the money" list, not the "rush out and buy it immediately" list.

Finding Neverland

In a Nutshell: Very good. Excellent performances all around, and bring plenty of hankies!

Quick Plot: The story of J.M. Barrie and the events and people surrounding his creation of the most famous boy who never grew up.

In Detail: I greatly enjoyed this film. Johnny Depp is simply magnificent. He always is, but to me, this was an even more stunning performance because it was so calm and reasonable and rational, and yet magical and captivating as always. When he is on the screen, you simply cannot take your eyes off of him, and it has nothing to do with his looks. He is just totally enthralling. Kate Winslet is her ever-wondrous self, though this is becoming a common character type for her to play. Still, she plays it to perfection. Freddie Highmore was also wonderful; Hollywood needs to keep an eye on that one. The editing and art direction for the shifts from imaginary to real, and the weaving of the real into the imaginary story is so fantastic, it is worth watching just for those moments. And last, but not least, it is quite the tear-jerker. Have plenty of hankies or tissue on hand before starting the film. Wonderful movie!

Will I Buy It? I'm not sure. I don't get in the mood for tear-jerkers very often, but this one was so very good, I just might have to pick it up anyway.