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.