Tuesday, June 19, 2007


In a Nutshell: Wow, not at all where I thought that movie was going to go. It was one of those strange movies where I thought it was quite good, but I'm not sure if I liked it.

Quick Plot: A wife and mother lives the days before and after her husband's fatal accident out of order. Can her foreknowledge of his death help her prevent it?

In Detail: This really did not turn out to be the movie I was expecting. From the previews, I thought they were going one way with it, and it didn't turn out that way at all. More like a chick-flick thriller, if you can imagine such a thing. Not in a bad way. I like chick flicks! And it certainly kept me guessing. My best friend and I went to see it while she was visiting, and about half-way through, I leaned over to her and said "my brain hurts!" She just nodded in agreement, LOL. I spent much of the movie going, "okay, but wait...." Lots going on, lots to keep track of, if you like that kind of thing. I still have one little issue that I can't quite make fit, but I'll live.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. Worth renting (we did the dollar theater, and it was definitely worth more than that) or catching on television, but don't go out of your way.

The DaVinci Code

In a Nutshell: Better than I was expecting (haven't read the book), but the reveal came *way* too early.

Quick Plot: Robert Langdon is drawn into a mystery full of symbols and danger, as a violent sect tries to destroy The Holy Grail.

In Detail: I had something here about the politics of this whole thing, but I deleted it. I'll just leave it at this: this is a work of fiction, both the film and the book. A well researched one putting forth an intriguing theory, I'll admit. Kind of like the one about men never really landing on the moon and all the footage being faked. Believe it, don't believe it, it doesn't matter. You have to decide for yourself. Okay? Now then, where were we? Ah, yes.

I found this quite an enjoyable movie. Must more a suspense film than a mystery film, which surprised me. And it stars Alfred Molina, which long-time readers of these musings know is a huge plus in my book! Ian McKellen is his usual grandiose and glorious self. I still think Tom Hanks was not the best choice for Langdon, but he managed better than I thought. You see, The DaVinci Code (which I have not read yet) is the *second* Robert Langdon novel. The first, which I have read, is Angels & Demons, and I loved it! So I was familiar with the character already. (BTW, everyone I know who has read both novels prefers A&D to Code.) He did a decent job here. The female lead was just sort-of there. Didn't love her, didn't hate her. But to be the female lead, I think she should have been a little more... engaging? Oh well. But as I said at the beginning, my biggest bone to pick with this movie is the reveal. I thought the whole thing was given away much much too early, though for once, DH didn't pick up on it. (Strange. He usually gets it before I do. He had The Sixth Sense figured out by the time Willis and Osment first met!) He did have it figured out by the end, but I felt like they had out and out *told* you much earlier than that. Took much of the tension out of the rest of the movie, but it was still a fun ride.

Will I Buy It? I don't know. Probably not, though I said that about National Treasure, I think, and ended up watching it so much on television that we now own it and watch it frequently. Guess we'll have to play wait and see on this one. I still say probably not, though.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

In a Nutshell: Disappointing. I am very unhappy with this film overall. If I could have Pirates 1 and 2, and just forget 3, I would (but that would make the end of Pirates 2 rather bothersome, no?).

Quick Plot: Too much plot for its own good! One of my many complaints. Will looks to free his father from Davy Jones. Will and Elizabeth can't quite get it together. The crew tries to retrieve Jack Sparrow (excuse me, *Captain* Sparrow) from Davy Jones' Locker with the help of a Chinese map and an old friend. And Beckett seeks to destroy all the pirate brethren and bring order to the high seas. And I left out a ton of sub-plots. See, too much!

In Detail: There really isn't much detail I can give without spoiling a whole bunch of the movie. Truly not much I feel I can share. I am just very unhappy with this movie overall. The best part of the whole film should not be a glorified cameo. It was too long and too hard to keep track of who was doing what where and when. There was too much that I feel was brought in out of the blue that should have at least been somewhat incorporated or hinted at in 2; there were a lot of "where the heck did that come from?" moments for me. And there were way too many things that were meaningless. Things they made a big deal out of that turned out to be nothing (or were ultimately ignored), and my largest irritant: meaningless death(s). You want to kill that person(s), fine, but they deserve better than the death(s) they got. It was like the writers painted themselves into a corner, and instead of working out something smart and surprising, they just said "okay, we're done with you, off with your head" (figuratively speaking, of course). And the big moment near the end totally irritated me, but not for the reason you think (has nothing to do with wanting the obvious, it is the lack of choice; was that vague enough, or so vague it made no sense?).

But I will say this for both the movie and the franchise. I've talked about it before, but I have to say it again. It is rare that I see a film that causes me to sit stunned in the theater with my mouth hanging open in shock. In the POTC franchise, that has happened to me not once, not twice, but THREE times!! Once per film, in fact. Now *that* is saying something. Not sure what it's saying exactly, but given that it is a rare occurrence, for the filmmakers to make me do that three times in three movies, that's impressive.

For those who want my spoiler-iffic list of grievances (it's long, I warn you, even by my standards), please feel free to email me, and I'll send it out to you. Please note that it is not in "official" musing form. It is really just a long rambling email to my best bud and my brother, so it isn't necessarily logical and coherent. Anyway, if you're interested, I'll send it to you. But only if you ask, and please, I beg you, only if you have already seen the movie. Oh, and if you missed the coda at the end after the credits (did you know each of the three Pirates films has one?), I hear it is up on YouTube. Just FYI, since I know at least one person who missed it (hi, Kelli!).

Will I Buy It? I don't know. I'll have to see it again to decide. I can't imagine that we won't, just to have "the end" of Pirates 2, I guess. But on it's own merits, were it not part of a trilogy or if the other two could stand alone? No, I wouldn't buy it. (Yes, folks, it irritated me that much!)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spider-Man 3

In a Nutshell: Quite good, definitely worth seeing. I liked it better than DH, who read the comics growing up. To him, Spidey 2 is far superior; I thought this one was only slightly less good.

Quick Plot: Peter is riding high on the public's love for Spider-Man, but his fame attracts unwanted attention from not one, but three villains, while simultaneously alienating the people he loves most.

In Detail: As I said, quite a good movie. Though packed with action, it was lacking in some originality that the first two had. They also moved a little more away from the "rules" they set for themselves in the first two films. I'm all good with willing suspension of disbelief, as long as you follow the rules that you lay down, and that was missing some here. Spider-Man is not invincible. He smashes into a wall, he's going to hurt and bleed and break something, not walk away with barely a scratch (no matter which suit he's wearing). And what happened to spider-sense? That seemed to be missing (yes, I know about Venom not triggering it in the comics, but Peter seemed not to have it at all in this film no matter who he is fighting).

I did like that the story was more personal, less about an outside foe and more about things happening close to home and heart. But I think they were trying too hard with Sandman. I actually could have done without that whole storyline. Given that the movie did have three villains, I think they juggled all of the various story lines admirably well. But in the end, it was just too much to handle. Just cut one (or two) and make another movie! I did love some other aspects of the movie, such as them finally getting to have some fun with each other on screen. It did add some unnecessary length to the film, but it was hilarious! There was another thing that I thought was excellent that I wish they had done more of, but I can't tell you because it would ruin a plot point. If you've seen it and you're dying to know, email me and I'll tell you. And I have to give credit to Topher Grace. This was not his usual role, and he clearly relished it!

As you may recall from my review of Spider-Man 2, I loved each of the piece-parts of the movie (villain, Peter and Harry, Peter and MJ, etc), but I thought the whole didn't quite work together as well as it should have. For Spider-Man 3, unlike most of the critics, I felt that the pieces worked and flowed much better here, though each of those pieces was generally not as good as Spider-Man 2. Weird, I know. It doesn't make sense to me either, but that's how it stands IMO. Definitely see it, though! Oh, and there's no coda at the end, so no reason to sit through all of the credits if you don't want.

Will I Buy It? Most likely, unless DH truly objects.

Chicken Little

In a Nutshell: Cute little movie, though it was a bit light on plot. Not nearly as bad as the critics lead me to believe. This is the first Disney movie I ever missed seeing in the theaters, and now I'm a bit sorry I did. Far from great, but also far from terrible.

Quick Plot: After an embarrassing incident claiming the sky was falling, Chicken Little is working to repair the damage to his reputation and his relationship with his father. Just as he begins to make headway winning respect and affection, history repeats itself as a piece of the sky falls into his life.

In Detail: I was looking for something very light to watch one evening last week, and this definitely fit the bill. In fact, it was almost too light. It was as though they stretched each scene by 10-20% to make a full length feature. Some song filler is fine, but it does not make a whole film. The stuff they had was good stuff! I just wish they had expanded on it a bit. There were also some great zingers in there just for the adults that will be lost on the kidos. The beginning of the film is the best part, especially for those folks readily familiar with the full body of Disney feature animation. Too funny! I bet it was amazing in 3-D! (My brother says it was.) Worth seeing or renting, especially for children.

Will I Buy It? Don't know. In our pre-child days, I don't think I would have bought it just for DH and me. I might let my son see it on TV to see if he likes it before deciding. Goodness knows, we could use some new films for him to watch over and over (and over and over and....).

Addendum: We did finally buy this movie, and at least for age 3-4, it is one of our son's favorite movies! It has grown on us a lot, too.

The Bridge

In a Nutshell: I stumbled on this one late night on IFC (dangerous, I know; that is the Independent Film Channel, for those unfamiliar), just moments after it started. It really was like an accident, you just can't not look once you start watching. Very powerful, and very unsettling.

Quick Plot: Taken directly from IMDb, because I couldn't have said it better. "This is a documentary exploration of the mythic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, the most popular suicide destination in the world, and those drawn by its call. Steel and his crew filmed the bridge during daylight hours from two separate locations for all of 2004, recording most of the two dozen deaths in that year (and preventing several others). They also taped interviews with friends, families and witnesses, who recount in sorrowful detail stories of struggles with depression, substance abuse and mental illness."

In Detail: I really wasn't sure I wanted to watch this. In fact, I'm still not. I thought it was going to be awful, and it was very emotional, but it was also fascinating. Listening to how differently each person felt about what had happened to the person they knew; it was an amazing study of human nature, grieving, family, and friendship. I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well. I'm not sure I can. And I absolutely cannot recommend this film to everyone. You have to decide if it is something you think you can handle; I know not everyone can. I won't lie, it is hard to watch. But I'm not sorry I did, and it is one of those things that has stuck with me far more than I thought it would. Very haunting.

Will I Buy It? No. I don't care to see it again.


In a Nutshell: A good no-brainer type film. I like Nic Cage in this type of roll, I like Julianne Moore, and it is based on a Phillip K. Dick story. Makes you think a little, but don't think too much or you won't have any fun!

Quick Plot: Cris Johnson can see about 2 minutes into the future, and the government is "requesting" his help in finding a nuclear bomb that has been smuggled onto US soil. Cris is only interested in finding "her," the only thing he has been able to see farther away than 2 minutes.

In Detail: A nice popcorn flick, mostly forgettable after you walk out of the theater. Still, it was a perfectly pleasant diversion for an afternoon after the spring drought at the movies. Certainly was the most promising thing out at the time! And we really did enjoy it. Just don't over-think it. The plot holes are huge, and even the logic starts to unravel if you try and use your brain too much. Just hop on and enjoy the ride. Nicolas Cage excels at these straight but slightly off-beat characters, and Julianne Moore is her usual serious but excellent self (but if she's going to continue being in action movies, the woman has *got* to learn how to run! LOL). For Jessica Biel, who has recently stated that she wants to be taken more seriously in Hollywood, this is a step in the right direction (certainly better than "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"!), but she needs rolls with more meat and less, er, flesh (no, no nudity, just a lot of looking at her and not much doing on her part).

Will I Buy It? Probably not. We have other movies of this type (including others by Phillip K. Dick) that we prefer. This was not a stand out in any aspect. Worth catching on television or DVD, but don't go out of your way.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Music & Lyrics

In a Nutshell: Very very sweet, and really quite funny. If you're an 80s music fan, you will enjoy it even more!

Quick Plot: A former hit 80s band member is asked by the hottest pop star in the world to write a new song, and she wants it in just a few days. There's just one problem: he doesn't "do" lyrics. But he accidentally discovers that his plant care girl does.

In Detail: We really really liked this movie, probably more than it deserves. When we saw the previews last month, we were just dying laughing and absolutely had to see it. It is a romantic comedy, and proud of the fact, done with style and class. It wasn't fall-in-the-floor funny as we thought it might be. It was a bit more subtle than that. And there wasn't any stupid or gross-out humor, which was very nice. And you have to pay attention to what is being said. Hugh Grant has some great zingers said in typical British-mumble fashion towards the very end of some scenes, but if you aren't listening, you'll miss it. (Like the girl sitting in front of us who was constantly leaning over to her significant other and asking "what did he say?" Drove me nuts!) The best part, though, was the music. The movie is plenty enjoyable on its own, but 80s music fans will be especially tickled with the music. It is such a fabulous homage to that era, very well done. And possibly the best compliment of all: DH and I both have been singing one of the songs constantly since we saw it! "I said I wasn't gonna lose my head, but then POP! goes my heart...." Oh, one more thing. VH1 fans should most definitely stay for the credits! They do a Pop-Up Video version of the video that is shown at the beginning of the film. Now THAT was fall in the floor funny! The stuff shown after the video is interesting, but not really important, so you don't have to stay. But the Pop-Up video thing is great and absolutely worth waiting for.

Will I Buy It? I don't know. I would say yes, there is a serious chance that we might. But I can tell you we will definitely be buying the soundtrack!

Shall We Dance

In a Nutshell: Not what you expect (not a traditional rom-com, or much of a rom-com for that matter), but still quite good. Needed more Stanley Tucci! Worth seeing.

Quick Plot: A bored lawyer signs up for ballroom dance lessons (without telling his wife) after spotting a beautiful instructor in the window on his way home.

In Detail: This is really not a romantic comedy at all. It has some romance, and it has some funny parts (some *very* funny parts), but it is primarily a drama. Going into it with that knowledge I think would have helped me with this movie; I kept getting tripped up by it not going where I thought it was going to go. I do think less blond chick (Bobbie) and more Stanley Tucci would have helped a lot (I adore Tucci in roles like this). I definitely think I need to see it again. I liked Gere okay, I thought Jennifer Lopez was quite good, the peripheral characters were fun. But to me, the master performance in this film is Susan Sarandon. She is always amazing, but this one was quite subtle and layered. She also gives one of the most powerful quotes about marriage I have ever heard. The whole film was worth that one line, and it is so powerful (to me, at least), that I will give it to you here: "We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'." Amen. Worth seeing.

Will I Buy It? Not at this point. I definitely need to see it again with different expectations. Perhaps that will change my mind.


In a Nutshell: Blah and boring. Neither overly romantic nor comedic. Don't bother.

Quick Plot: An aging tennis pro and a young rising superstar strike up a romance prior to the international competition, much to the delight of his friends and the chagrin of her father.

In Detail: In the "tell us what you really think" department, there is very very little to tell. Not very funny. Not very romantic. Not much chemistry. Not much plot. Even the footage of the tournament wasn't compelling. Just totally blah. Seriously, don't waste your time.

Will I Buy It? Nope.


In a Nutshell: Sweet, good, but not great. The right style, but it lacked something I can't quite put my finger on.

Quick Plot: A well-born Victorian lady becomes so involved while playing cupid for her friends that she almost misses out on love herself.

In Detail: Not much detail to give, really. It was a quite good film, very sweet, very Victorian (Edwardian?), though I hear it does waver a bit from the source material (don't all films?). It was rather early in Gwyneth Paltrow's career, 2 years before Shakespeare in Love, I believe, and it shows. She certainly has blossomed. That British accent of hers has been perfection from the start, though (you *do* know she is American, right?). There is even a small appearance by Ewan McGregor, and he sings! Really needed to cut the hair, though. LOL I am not a big Toni Collette fan, though, and this film didn't help her any in my estimation. The surprise was seeing Alan Cumming in an essentially straight role. No creepy kiddie show host, no psychotic computer genius, no midnight blue makeup and tail; just a very understated performance. (Extra points if you can name those three films.) A very sweet film, worth seeing if you like this sort of genre.

Will I Buy It? I don't think so. There are too many other Victorian rom-coms out there that are much better.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

In a Nutshell: I quite liked this movie! Funny, but not really a comedy. Very sweet and touching.

Quick Plot: As a writer struggles to finish her first new book in years, a man begins to hear his life narrated. He is the person she is writing. So which of them is in control of his destiny?

In Detail: As I said, I liked this movie quite a bit, probably more than it really deserves. I love Emma Thompson, who is her usual slightly off-center self here. Dustin Hoffman practically steals the film. And Will Farrell genuinely surprised me. He was very sincere and understated, and even very funny, but not in the usual Will Farrell way that I despise. The film is a bit uneven in both pacing and tone, but overall, it works. Definitely worth a rental!

Will I Buy It? Not sure. I'll need to see it again to know if it is worth multiple repeat viewings.

Addendum: We did indeed see this movie again, and it has quickly become one of our favorites, so we bought it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

In a Nutshell: Not as good as the first, but could it ever have been? Too long, generally speaking, but still a rousing good time!

Quick Plot: Will and Elizabeth are arrested for helping *Captain* Jack Sparrow escape from prison. To win their freedom, Will must strike a deal with the East India Trading Company to acquire Jack's infamous compass, or they will both be hanged.

In Detail: Okay, so the plot description leaves a lot to be desired, but there is a ton of stuff in this movie! Almost too much, I'd say, especially when we waste so much time on cannibals. I understand the purpose of that whole sideline was to allow Will to catch up to Jack, but come on! You could have cut 15 minutes right there, easy. That was really my biggest complaint about the film. It wasn't quite as "smart" as the first one, and it sometimes felt a bit disjointed (see remark about being too much stuff in one film). The absolute best scene in the film is when they are on the island with the chest. Between the three men with swords, and the two swords for two pirates and a lady, it is absolutely fantastic and comes closest to capturing the magic of the first film. And for anyone who left the theater before literally the last 15 seconds of the movie finished rolling, you deserved what you got. There is something to be said for a film franchise that has left me open-mouthed twice in two films! I just psyched myself out. I know who is one of the stars of the next film, so I assumed he would be it, so I was stunned about who it really was even though I really should have known. The second film is often the weakest of a trilogy (with some notable exceptions), and I hope that is the case here. Looking forward to being "At World's End" this summer!

Will I Buy It? Already did!

The Pursuit of Happyness

In a Nutshell: I'm a sucker for Will Smith, so that's really all I needed to know to see this movie. Still, it is very well done, even unusually understated for this type of "rah-rah" true(ish) life film.

Quick Plot: A single father struggles to make ends meet in order to pursue the chance to become a stock broker to finally be financially stable, and perhaps then be truly happy.

In Detail: Not really much to tell. You don't go to this type of film to be surprised, and there is nothing surprising here. Except how much that child looks like his mother! Sheesh! (For those who don't know, the boy is the real-life son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.) It really makes me want to read the autobiography the film is based on. From interviews, I understand that the scene with them locked in the subway bathroom (because they are evicted) is true; the Rubik's Cube is not. :-) If you like this kind of movie, or Will Smith, then see it. Otherwise, skip it.

Will I Buy It? Probably not, but I'm glad we saw it.


In a Nutshell: I really wanted to like this movie, and I think kids might (though one of the kinds of bad guys were really creepy to me), but I just really didn't. Very disappointing.

Quick Plot: Can one boy accept his destiny as the last of the Dragon Riders and save his world from the evil king?

In Detail: You don't really need me to tell you the plot do you? It is Star Wars blended with Lord of the Rings on dragons. There, no need for you to see the movie now. How can a movie with this much potential be so.... boring?! Seriously, it was boring. I could not have been more surprised. I looked at my watch 3-4 times in the first 30 minutes. Not a good start. And everything was so disjointed. It's like someone went through and ripped out "the important pages" from the book and just filmed those, almost like a checklist. Voice over for extremely brief backstory, check. Introduce villain, check. Introduce pretty girl, check. Introduce hero, check. Introduce mentor, check. Introduce dragon, check. Circumstances send hero out on quest, check. There was no depth of any kind. The film's primary redeeming feature is Robert Carlyle, and he just isn't in it enough to make up for the rest of the film. Not even Jeremy Irons is enough to rescue it for me! And John Malkovich is just... distracting. They should have given Jeremy Irons *his* part and found someone else for the mentor, IMHO. I was just not impressed at all, except with the effects which were amazing. If I didn't know better, I'd think they'd hired a real dragon! There were times when the "real" dragon seemed to be on a blue screen with a computer-animated rider, but still, she was simply stunning. Rent it if you must.

Will I Buy It? I don't care to see it again.

Casino Royale

In a Nutshell: I have issues with some Bond particulars, but on the whole, a quite acceptable addition to the franchise. And surprise, surprise: I see Mr. Craig's potential, that's for sure. Give him a "real" James Bond film (this was not it), and he will make a very good 007 indeed.

Quick Plot: Bond's first adventure as Bond. There is really nothing else of importance.

In Detail: Hmmm.... what to say here. I will say that it is a movie worth seeing. Whether or not on the big screen is up to you and your status as a Bond fan (though if you are a true Bond fan, you've already seen it, haven't you?). And it was not as bad as I expected it to be. On the contrary, it is quite a good spy/action film. What it is NOT is a James Bond film. I agree with whichever reviewer I read who said it feels more like The Bourne Identity than a James Bond. Don't get me wrong, I liked The Bourne Identity. But it is not James Bond. Casino Royale had its moments where it "felt right," but they were few and far between. I understand that there were to be differences, seeing as this was supposed to be his first case (don't get me started on how they made that work (or didn't, as the case may be)). It wasn't the gadgets or lack there of, it wasn't the girl (generally speaking, I liked her as a Bond girl), it wasn't anything specific. It just felt "off" somehow. The surprise in all of this was Daniel Craig. Much to my surprise, he has the potential to become an excellent James Bond. I just hope they give him a better film next time.

Will I Buy It? Yes, but only because I'm a lifetime Bond fan.