Archive for July, 2007

The Simpsons Movie
The Summer Flick We’ve Been Waiting For

You would think that after eighteen years there wouldn’t be anybody left to lampoon or any more jokes to crack. But the beauty of The Simpsons is that the show has always been patterned after life, and as long as we’re all still here, there is daily creation of more material. Think about it. How many times everyday do we hear someone say, “Who thought that was a good decision? How stupid can a person be?” All Groening, Brooks, and the rest of their writers have to do is live with their eyes and ears open and this franchise could run forever. They have plumbed the mine of human civilization and haven’t even yet hit the mother lode.

A Talk with Jeremy Davies
Rescue Dawn Costar Talks Herzog

“Above all,” says Davies, “we wanted to honor what Dieter went through, of course, but [also] what every soldier went through—or goes through—in any war. And the last thing we wanted to look like was a content, well-fed, and pampered Hollywood actor who had just walked from his trailer five feet off-camera. So there are certain realities that are very necessary; and I don’t think it was taken to the extent of— Certainly nothing— It wasn’t taken too far. Let’s put it that way. We didn’t have luxuries, mainly because the budget was so low. So we didn’t have trailers. But we were okay hanging out with it. Again, because we wanted to honor what every man and woman in uniform goes through.”

Arctic Tale
A Throwback to Disney Nature Films

Arctic Tale is fiction with a purpose. As kid-friendly as the film is, you might not much care to have your children emotionally persuaded that the ride home in the SUV after the film is causing little bears and walruses to die. Again, as much as this film may look like a documentary, it bears little resemblance to the rather open-ended and apolitical March of the Penguins. It proudly wears its Global Warming certification on its sleeve—which may work very well for you and your kids. Or it may not. One thing is for certain. The narration amps up the certainty of global warming by convincing us of the animals’ own awareness of the situation.

No End in Sight
More Meaning with Less Moore

One definite thing this film has in common with Fahrenheit 9/11 stylistically is the video clips of the men in charge—most notably Donald Rumsfeld—looking like goofy fools who dance around the subject when asked direct questions. The film also points out that for the most part, the men making the big decisions were all men without military or managerial experience, who rarely—if ever—left Washington and don’t speak a word of Arabic. I found No End in Sight to be both informative and entertaining. At about 90 minutes, it is the proper length for this kind of documentary: long enough to feed us a good deal of information and short enough to keep us interested in it.

My Best Friend
A Drama Disguised As Comedy

While some crow may be eaten with humor, the crow eaten here comes with relish. Danny Boon hits all the right marks as Bruno, and the prolific Daniel Auteuil may have never delivered a more subtle dramatic performance—even in a full-on drama. Not once are Bruno and François played as unsympathetic buffoons, stereotypes, or straw men to be laughed at. These are characters you can take seriously. Seriously.
If you like dramas with a sense of humor, and are interested in seeing how two men go about becoming true friends—and don’t mind the idea of dramatic tension being generated by an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (in French, with English subtitles)—My Best Friend may prove very entertaining.

No Reservations
Or Very Few, Anyway

I understand that this film is a remake—of the 2001 Italian film Mostly Martha—and by definition not original, but even though I had never seen the original, I still felt like I had seen No Reservations before. So the film and I may have gotten started out on the wrong foot—but that doesn’t mean it is not without its charms. Zeta-Jones and Eckhart are good as Kate and Nick and a good match for a film like this, but I would have enjoyed to have seen these two talented movie stars provide us with a little more screwball action in the kitchen. The film is set up for it, but never really takes advantage.

Deep Space Epic May Be Deep Sixed

The opening acts of Sunshine are a stunning portrayal of space flight. The visual effects, especially of the Sun, are superb and completely engrossing. Even the science seems to hang together with only minor suspension of disbelief. The premise is easily grasped; there is little that is more engaging that a crew of talented, brave astronauts facing danger and possible death to save humanity. It’s a recurring theme throughout the film, weighing the lives of the crew against the whole of mankind. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes in the third act, as Sunshine manages to completely jump the rails. Without revealing too much, let’s just say the plot takes a 90 degree turn, abandoning the epic story of man’s nobility and achievement to become a sort of “slasher film in space.”

Ten Canoes
A Tough Slog Through The Swamp

Ten Canoes is a film that teaches old but universal lessons. The pre-release press notes describe this film as “unlike any you have ever seen.” In my case, at least, they are right. I have never seen a film like this before. It is my guess that none reading my review ever has either. Further, it is my guess that none of us ever will again. Because it is exceedingly boring. Unfortunately so. The problem with Ten Canoes is that it rehashes these lessons in such a laborious, tedious, and lethargic way. Minygulu’s interminable lesson makes about as much headway as a soap opera, and the surprise ending is so anti-climactic I felt I should send someone a bill for my time

Everything In Its Proper Place

What surprised me most about Hairspray is that, quite frankly, I enjoyed it. The casting, though eclectic, is superb, turning a movie about “standing out” into a balanced, artful ensemble effort. Nikki Blonsky as Tracy bubbles through her role with unfailing optimism—which I found refreshing in the face of the stick-thin actresses who dominate the Hollywood scene. John Travolta also surprised me in his understated drag as Tracy’s mother, Edna. Aside from the phenomenal casting, director Adam Shankman pulls the film together in a tightly-wrapped package, and hairsprays it into stark submission. Not a hair, not a word, not a movement is out of place.

A Talk with Ravetch and Robertson
Creating a “Wildlife Adventure” on Film

“One of our objectives with the film,” says Arctic Tale co-director Sarah Robertson, “was to celebrate the qualities of bear and walrus. And I think that kids and adults alike will see, and will be impressed, that walruses hug and cradle their babies—and that bears can find communal ways to live, and that aunties will put their lives on the line for babies. These are just celebrations of these amazing animals, and hopefully, that’s what’s coming out of the movie. And even to extend that thought, that even we, ourselves—using the animals as metaphors—should be bold like bears, and take initiative to find new ways to live.”

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