It's been several years since I read Stardust but I recall thinking that it was a nice little fairy tale, although nothing particularly astonishing. I feel more or less the same way about the film. The story seems to have survived the transition from print to screen pretty well, and if it doesn't have quite the same magical feeling as it did on the page, well, it's hard to imagine how it could. Well, maybe not--Pan's Labyrinth certainly managed it. But Stardust is, on the whole, a much fluffier story than Pan's Labyrinth so the fluffiness of the movie is appropriate. The only thing I didn't particularly care for was Michelle Pfeiffer's performance, and I know I'm in the minority there. She certainly looked the part but I've just never been particularly impressed with her acting abilities. Everything else, though, was pretty good and I particularly liked the humor elements, which I thought made for a lighthearted and fun film.
Viewed: 8/9/2007 | Released: 8/9/2007 | Score: B-
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
In my review of the last installment of this series I found myself hoping that the next one would be better. Now that it's here, I find myself both relieved and disappointed. I did think that this one was better than the previous one but it still left something to be desired. The problem is that, for the most part, I'm not sure what it really could have done better. The whole thing seemed very rushed to me and, of course, a lot of the book was left out. But that's simply unavoidable when adapting such a long book for the screen. I still didn't like Michael Gambon as Dumbledore but, in fairness, I think he also improved. The performances in general were pretty good, and Imelda Staunton in particular stood out as the odious Dolores Umbridge. Really, I think that the problem was more with me than the movie--having read the book and seen the more complete story there was probably little chance of my being satisfied with the film. I think that's probably borne out by the observation that nearly everyone I know who saw the film without having first read the book liked it.
Viewed: 7/12/2007 | Released: 7/10/2007 | Score: B+
That's right, I just gave four stars to a Michael Bay film about giant, transforming robots based on an 80's toy line. The fact that I also own and love the 1986 animated movie should tell you a bit about the place Transformers held in my childhood esteem. Still, it wasn't just nostalgia that made me love this movie. OK, yes, that was a big part of it. I had very little hope that this movie wouldn't make the kinds of changes that invariably piss me off but, on the contrary, I was impressed by how respectfully the source material was treated. (And, really, the cartoon wasn't exactly Shakespeare--treating it as reverentially as people, including me, do is more than a little silly.) I particularly loved that Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, was brought back to reprise his role. But apart from merely appealing to my inner 7-year-old, there was plenty to appreciate as an adult. It goes without saying that the special effects and action scenes were top notch. The acting, though, was also quite good. Shia LaBeouf has a real talent for comedy, I think. What was even more surprising is how good the robots themselves were. Between the excellent voice acting and animation, the Transformers really did come to life for me, managing to make me both laugh out loud and get choked up. (OK, so I'm a little ridiculous. I can deal with that.) Of course, the film wasn't without its flaws. More than once I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the human technology in the film. (Giant, sentient, shape-changing robots? Yeah, of course that's fine. Connecting a 40's-era radio to a modern desktop PC in under five minutes with no schematics or specialized equipment? I can't roll my eyes hard enough.) And then there was the fact that, as usual, the producers picked a very pretty girl with absolutely no acting ability as the female lead. Still, at the end of the day it's an action movie--we can forgive it a few mistakes as long as the rest is suitably awesome. And it was.
Viewed: 7/7/2007 | Released: 7/2/2007 | Score: A
There's not really much I can say to really flesh out a review for this one, because it's essentially the same movie as the previous two. At that, though, I do have to say that it was pretty good--certainly better than the second one although still not quite as good as the first. Like the second film, the heist portion of Ocean's 13 wasn't particularly captivating but, fortunately, this one did a much better job with the comedy. By now the characters have become familiar and while their relationships more or less repeat the same patterns from the previous films, this time around it feels comfortable instead of stale.
Viewed: 6/8/2007 | Released: 6/7/2007 | Score: B
I think I like Judd Apatow's movie sensibilities. I was realizing as I sat down to write this review that a lot of the things I liked about Knocked Up were also things I liked about his previous film, The 40 Year Old Virgin. Both films somehow managed to combine raunchy humor with genuine emotion in a way that, miraculously, works very well. I was laughing really hard for a lot of the movie and yet I still found myself really caring about the relationship between the two main characters. I liked pretty much the entire cast. The closest I came to having a complaint was with Katherine Heigl, and that wasn't so much because she was miscast or did a bad job as just that I found it the slightest bit jarring to see her in this kind of movie when I'm so used to seeing her in Grey's Anatomy. The one warning I'd put out there is that there are a few shock scenes that are about as gratuitous as anything I've ever seen in a comedy, so just be aware that you might see a few things you'd rather not. Still, if you liked The 40 Year Old Virgin, you'll like this one.
Viewed: 5/31/2007 | Released: 5/31/2007 | Score: A
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
I was so tempted to give this one zero stars. I almost did, but I decided to give it a sympathy star only because of one particularly awesome cameo. But, seriously, this is not a good movie. Both Juliette and I were really bored the whole time--she fell asleep several times, only waking up because of loud cannon fire or some such. I had been hoping that At World's End would do better than the second movie but, if anything, it was worse. The script was just all over the place. It almost seemed like it was written by a roomful of overeager kindergarteners who were playing the game where everybody takes turns writing one sentence and then passing it on to the next kid. What's more, they didn't even really try to write any new jokes, they just kept reusing the same schtick from the first movie. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm over it by now. The worst part is that the end of the movie gives a really obvious lead-in to another sequel. Thankfully, that last part is mitigated by the fact that this movie was so bad that there's simply no way I'll see a fourth one. (Yes, I do see the irony here.) I figure that a lot of you are like me and will have to see this one just to finish things off after the cliffhanger at the end of Dead Man's Chest, but just be aware that this movie sucks.
Viewed: 5/25/2007 | Released: 5/24/2007 | Score: D-
I don't think that Waitress quite deserves all the hype it's been getting but it is a very cute film. Afterwards, I commented to Juliette that the supporting characters were mostly written as one-dimensional and kind of over the top, almost as archetypes instead of characters. We had Cheryl Hines as the sassy friend and Adrienne Shelly as the insecure friend, Andy Griffith as the crusty old man who turns out to have a good heart, Lew Temple as the grouchy boss who turns out to have a good heart, Nathan Fillion as the sweet but bumbling new guy in town, Eddie Jemison as the plucky nerd who wants the insecure friend, and Jeremy Sisto as the evil, selfish husband. On reflection, though, I think it actually works OK for the movie's tone and style of humor. I was actually a little confused by my reaction to Nathan Fillion's character, who I found endearing despite the fact that I had some serious moral reservations about his main plot actions. I guess that means he did a good job in his performance. Juliette's only complaint was that she wished a bit for a different ending. I think that the ending she wanted--which, probably, is the ending most people will want--would have been more of a feel-good ending, but we both agreed that the movie as written made its point better. Anyway, if you're looking for a nice, cute movie to take a date to, you might want to check this one out.
Viewed: 5/17/2007 | Released: 5/24/2007 | Score: B-
For being a sequel to a sequel, it wasn't bad. Still, that's not setting the bar very high. The main problem, as has been noted by plenty of other people, was that the writers tried to pack too much into one movie. There were simply too many villains. A movie based around any one of the bad guys could have worked well--each had enough pathos to make a deeper exploration possible--but, as it was, the script felt very rushed. I also felt that the silly parts of the movie went over the top. I was rolling my eyes instead of chuckling. On that one, though, I was certainly in the minority in the audience at the showing I saw.
Viewed: 5/4/2007 | Released: 5/3/2007 | Score: C+
Year of the Dog
Molly Shannon's performance in this film got a lot of hype from the critics and, truth be told, she did a pretty good job. It wasn't enough, though, to make me like the movie. The thing is, if you're not a dog person, I can't think of what you might like about the movie. And even though Juliette and I both love dogs now, the film really only appealed to us for its cute factor. It was just too weird. I think that the film probably wants or expects the audience to sympathize with PETA-style animal rights activism--it certainly treats human relationships, parenthood, and "normal" career development as shallow, annoying, stupid, or pretentious. But then, the other big animal lover in the film is portrayed as neurotic and ridiculous, and no matter what the protagonist says, by the end of the film you're still left with the feeling that her life is empty and unfulfilling. The ambivalence creates a film that neither has the strength to stand on its convictions nor the depth to create a particularly interesting character study.
Viewed: 4/27/2007 | Released: 4/12/2007 | Score: D+
The Lives of Others
I'd been wanting to see this one since before the Oscars so I was pretty happy this past weekend when we finally got around to it. I can see why it won the Oscar--the film is freaking brilliant. I mean, not only was the acting amazing but I was fascinated by the glimpse it provides into life in East Germany. I have only some vague memories of news reports of the Berlin Wall coming down but I remember how much it affected my mom, who kept saying how she never thought it would happen in her lifetime. I was too young to appreciate the significance of it, but this movie has really sparked an interest in me to learn more about that part of history. I think that's one of the highest compliments I can give a film, really. It may be out of theaters already in your area, but if you get a chance to rent it you should definitely check it out.
Viewed: 4/20/2007 | Released: 8/2/2006 | Score: A