Monday, July 17, 2006

Superman Returns

In a Nutshell: I liked and enjoyed it a lot. As an homage to the original films, it is perfection. On its own, it needed a little help.

Quick Plot: After being gone for several years in an attempt to find his home world, Superman Returns, to find Lois has moved on, and Lex hasn't changed one bit.

In Detail: This film is a beautiful love note to the Christopher Reeve films. It was very carefully crafted with shots and scenes taken *directly* from prior movies. Just watching the opening credits is enough to put a goofy grin on your face if you are a fan. It is difficult for me to judge this movie as a separate entity, for some reason. Maybe Bryan Singer does too good of a job? Had this been the first of the "superhero boom," people would be talking about how amazingly wonderful it is. But after such fantastic films as X-Men and Spider-Man, this one falls a little short. Still, it is a very good movie, and absolutely worth seeing in the theater. I am exceedingly impressed with Brandon Routh. I am a huge Christopher Reeve fan, so I was already prejudiced against him, but he really won me over. Kevin Spacey rocks, as always, and the guy who played Jimmy Olson was perfection. Kate Bosworth was quite a departure, but I think I like her take on things (well, mostly). And I was thrilled to see so much of James Marsden here, since his part was smaller in X-Men (I didn't even know he was *in* Superman until the opening credits started running). I was very unhappy with that whole set-up, but it was handled quite gracefully. And I swear he was hired simply for his ability to deliver one particularly cheesy line *without* you rolling your eyes; it was pretty amazing. All of this is not to say that the film didn't have flaws. While no particular scene seemed overlong, the film still seemed to drag here and there. I think it was in my favor that I hadn't seen the prior films in quite some time, so there was no direct comparison, just gentle reminders. Any scenes or lines that seems a bit hokey compared to the rest of the movie (even for a Superman film) is probably a scene from the older films redone. I also think some of the storyline intersplicing was wonky. It just didn't flow very well. But overall, a fine film.

Will I Buy It? I'm not sure. I want to say yes, but I know that DH didn't like it as much as I did, so we'll see. Maybe we'll wait for the next one.


In a Nutshell: By general animation standards, it is a very good movie with some stunning visuals. By Pixar standards, it is a little bit of a disappointment.

Quick Plot: Lightening McQueen, hotshot rookie of the racing scene, gets lost on his way to the final race, meeting a group of misfit small town cars who challenge his perceptions.

In Detail: I think, had this been the first Pixar film, everyone would be completely raving about it. Following such a phenomenal string of Pixar films, though, it would have been exceedingly difficult for this one to live up, and it just doesn't quite manage. (I am also tainted because I think The Incredibles is one of the best movies ever made, so that was not in Cars' favor.) I think it has some pacing issues, definitely too long and slow for little children. I think the story is just too ordinary for a Pixar film. I mean, I know we in America like our predictable films, but that is one of the things that made Pixar great: fresh and original versions of the predictable. But my biggest disappointment: I didn't really laugh out loud. A few chuckles, sure, but not the belly laughs I am accustomed to. I will say that I think people who are into cars and racing will probably get more out of it than I did. I have no doubts there are some references that I missed. Still good, still worth seeing in the theaters. Just not quite up to their usual standards.

Will I Buy It? Yes. It is still some of the best film making out there today, and still great for kids.

X-Men: The Last Stand

In a Nutshell: Quite good, with a few surprises even, but not up to the supremely high standards set by the first two.

Quick Plot: Once again, humanity has attracted the ire of Magneto, this time over the development over a "cure for mutation."

In Detail: Hmm... what to say of this film. It is good, and it is worth seeing. I think it was a little light on plot, but it was still handled very well. I am a bit irritated with how a couple of other things were handled, but nothing I can expound on here. Email me if you've seen it and you want to know. Had this been the first in the series, people would be raving about how wonderful it is. But with the bar set so very high by the first two, it was simply too much to live up to. And one more thing: WATCH TO THE BITTER END OF THE CREDITS!!! It will knock your socks off.

Will I Buy It? Most likely.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Titanic (1953)

In a Nutshell: Not very historically accurate, but oddly compelling nonetheless.

Quick Plot: The trouble and strife of a fictitious family on board the ill-fated maiden voyage of the famous luxury liner.

In Detail: I was extremely interested in finally seeing this film. It is *the* classic version of the story, and I can clearly see its influence on James Cameron in his versions. Some shots were taken almost frame for frame from this film, which I consider a very nice touch on his part. The historical accuracy is rather pitiful, though. The costumes are off (too much 50s style comes through), the sets, though lavish, are not even close to the pictures we all know by heart (not even an accurate grand staircase, for goodness sake), the ship doesn't break apart (though there is still some controversy as to whether that happened above or below the water)... I could go on and on. But still, for all that, it really is quite a good movie, with the kind of intense and layered performances that you simply don't see these days. There are many characters who are obviously supposed to be other people (like a Molly Brown type who isn't named that), and with the historical inaccuracies, if you just renamed the ship and thought of it as a sort of take-off on the Titanic story, I think it would come off much better. The special effects are also quite excellent, all things considered, years if not decades ahead of their time. Worth seeing if you like classic movies or are a Titanic buff (so you can pick it apart, hee-hee).

Will I Buy It? I may, simply because I'm a Titanic nut. On its own merits as a film? Probably not. Too many classics are better, IMO.

Ocean's 11 (1960)

In a Nutshell: Shockingly, I was bored out of my skull! We watched about 45 minutes of it and were falling asleep. We didn't even finish it! A huge disappointment.

Quick Plot: Eleven friends who know each other from World War II service plan to rob five of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas in one night.

In Detail: Not a lot of detail to give, especially when we only watched about 35% of the movie. I was so stunned. We started watching it around 8 PM, and by 8:45, we were both falling asleep in our recliners. The movie was just that slow and boring. I had heard such great things about it, and besides, this is THE Rat Pack, ya know? Surely their greatest film is worth watching, right? Sadly no, it just wasn't for us. I wanted a heist film. Instead, I got 45 minutes of backstory that wasn't even very interesting about characters I didn't care for at all. This is one of the few times I have ever preferred the remake to the original. If someone can convince me that it is worth a retry, I might reconsider, but at the moment, I am just fine never finishing it.

Will I Buy It? No.

Holiday Inn

In a Nutshell: Cute premise that unfolds in a very standard fashion, typical of 40s rom-coms. Still, it's Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire; how bad can it be?

Quick Plot: A singer separates from his dancing partner to open a country inn that is only open on holidays, with themed shows for each one.

In Detail: An enjoyable 40s musical rom-com, interesting in the premise department, but rather boring in execution. There are some interesting historical aspects to it, though, like Roosevelt's attempt to change the date for Thanksgiving, or Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday being separate holidays (i.e. no President's Day). Also, the war footage shown during the Independence Day number was from World War I, with biplanes and everything! The film was only made in 1942, so there probably wasn't much WWII footage to go around yet, certainly not in Hollywood. And if you do get a chance to see it, keep this in mind while watching the drunk dance: legend has it that Astaire had two drinks of bourbon before the first take, and one drink of bourbon before each additional take. The 7th and final take was the one used. Method dancing, anyone? LOL A good one if you like these kinds of movies, but not the best example of the genre I've seen.

Will I Buy It? Unlikely.

Addendum: The more I see this one (it has started popping up on our movie channels), the more I like it. If I can find it for a good price on DVD, I'll probably get it.

Dangerous When Wet

In a Nutshell: No, not a thriller; an Esther Williams musical from 1953. Pretty typical of the era. Nothing to rave about.

Quick Plot: A small-town farm girl is convinced by a slick promoter to participate in a contest to swim the English Channel.

In Detail: Ah, but what is there to say of this movie? A very straight forward 50s era musical, though I do like Esther Williams (much prefer Take Me Out to the Ballgame, though; at least it has Sinatra and Kelly). It was interesting to finally get to see Fernando Lamas in action, though. I had heard much about him, but had never actually seen him in anything. I actually think he'd make a better seductive bad guy than leading man. Ah well. Nothing inspiring or amazing here, most especially the music, which was dismal. It was quite lacking in both quality and variety (there were like only three songs repeated over and over in the whole thing). This film is probably best known for the underwater dream sequence with her and Tom and Jerry (mouse and cat, respectively; and yes, this *is* an MGM picture, why do you ask?). If you like this kind of thing, then it's fine to watch, but nothing to go out of your way for.

Will I Buy It? Couldn't even if I wanted to (and I don't). It is not available on DVD at all or VHS (except in Canada, apparently).