Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie and Television Reviews

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

I remember this movie getting bad reviews. I also vaguely remember seeing it when I was younger and liking it. But I’m older now and wasn’t sure what I would think. The premise is silly–young woman (Daisy) goes to older doctor to use hypnosis to quit smoking. While under hypnosis young woman slips into a past life and skeptical doctor must prove this isn’t the case, that Daisy is either pretending to be Melinda or is psychotic and he ends up falling in love with Melinda . . . but not Daisy. Lovely music beautifully sung by Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand, neither of them remarkably attractive but with the ability to deliver a song so perfectly that you can’t help but fall silent and listen.

And let me say that those hands! Barbra Streisand has the most beautiful hands.

No, this is not a clever movie. Nor is it brilliant. It’s cute and you get to see Streisand be clumsy and funny as well as serene and seductive.

I read on wikipedia that they’re making a revival of this musical but with significant changes from the original. For one, the main character, Daisy, will now be a young gay man. One could argue how different from the original can it be when Daisy was played by Barbra Streisand but that would just be silly and snarky.

Shrek Forever

Rob and I never saw the third Shrek movie but the first movie we saw together in a movie theater, back before large screens made me ill, was the first Shrek movie.  Of course we saw the second one in theaters as well.  Skipped the third because of the miserable reviews.  Which brings us to the fourth in the Shrek movie franchise.

Think Shrek meets It’s a Wonderful Life.  When Shrek, overwhelmed with the duties of family life, trades a single day of his life to be a real ogre again, he soon realizes that this one day is actually a day in a world where he never existed.  What happens to Donkey if he never meets Shrek?  What about Fiona who is never rescued from her tower?  What changes occur because one change is made in the past?

Adorable.  Fun.  Moments of gross boy-type humor.  And a sweet ending but . . .

Why did Puss have to be fat in the Shrek-less reality?  I look forward to the day when fat humor is as discomfitting and cringe-worthy as the racist imagery I saw in those holiday cartoons I reviewed or at least giggle-worthy as the sexism of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  For now, it seems to be a last bastion of tolerance.  At least that is my hope.  I may be overlooking an obvious offense somewhere else in modern media that will eventually come to light in my consciousness.  For now, I’m tired of the fat jokes and I think they need to end.

The Color of Magic

I love Terry Pratchett and I typically use any of his Discworld books as a way to balance out some of my more intense reading.  But being this is a year dedicated to my reading only books by women I can't indulge, even though I'm reading some pretty heavy things right now.

So whew!  And double whew!  Discworld is on dvd.  And just as silly and wry as the books.  I am sure I missed more of the humor watching it (with interruptions thanks to Rob and dogs and such) but I chuckled.  I was a little disappointed by DEATH but every other character lived up to my imagination.  A fun frivolous bit of fantasy escape.


I don't know how many times I've seen the Rosalind Russell/Natalie Wood movie but I remember hearing about this made-for-television remake when it first aired and thinking Bette Midler was an ideal casting choice for Rose, the penultimate stage-mother.  Cynthia Gibb does a fine job as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee.  She recalls Natalie Wood so much, however, that it feels more like an homage than a performance of her own.  She's pretty and more talented than this role allowed her to be.  And why does Christine Ebersole get shuffled into a minor moment?  I love her.  I want more of her every time I see her.  But of course, this is Bette Midler's show and her ability to belt out a song is dazzling.  And she's surprisingly unsexy except when she's singing the final song.  The rest of the cast pretty much serves as filler as we wait for her to sing yet another ditty or belt out a show-stopper.  Now when will they release Sam Mendes' Cabaret on dvd here in the US?  Is that really too much to ask?

Despicable Me

I didn’t honestly want to see this movie.  The previews didn’t have me chomping at the bit to watch it.  So imagine my surprise when I liked it.  I didn’t love it.  Don’t need to have it for my very own but . . . mostly it is cute and fun.  Enough adult content to make it entertaining for those parents who find themselves suffering from other films or dvds with only childish content and cute enough for young ones.  Three orphan girls give little girls characters with whom they can identify and little boys will love the goofy boy humor throughout.  I think this movie is a family winner for one and all.

The Princess and the Frog

Well, this was a disappointment.  Typically, after watching a Disney movie I find myself humming a song or two or giggling as I reflect on some moment that made me laugh before or even recalling a line or two.

Ummm . . . yeah . . . not so much.  I didn’t hate the movie but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to watch it again.  I even wonder what feminists are saying about the “princess” of this film, how she is driven to build a restaurant but is told by her daddy to not forget the important things in life.  Hmmm.  Does this movie celebrate the working woman or undercut itself?  I don’t know.  I didn’t like it enough to figure it out or dislike it enough to think it through.  Altogether, a forgettable film.

Here are some links to other people's thoughts on the movie since I didn't care enough to really think about it.

Ned Kelly

Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom as Irish outlaws in Australia?  What's not to love?  This movie is based on a novel, Our Sunshine, which I've never read nor heard of before seeing this film.  My feelings about the film are ambivalent, at best.  It is hard to say whether Kelly and his gang were rebels along the lines of Robin Hood or simply thugs who terrorized the community.  The movie shows them murdering people mostly for revenge and the implication is that these Irish immigrants have no other recourse in the face of an established authority that simply will not allow for any other option.  But for every atrocity, an act of generosity is also performed, and mostly they are portrayed as desperate young men living in desperate times.  The final confrontation is brutal.  Interestingly enough, the myth surrounding the Kelly Gang is enough to contextualize the ambiguity one experiences while watching this film but the facts blurring into myth are probably more interesting than this film.

Don't Bother to Knock

Marilyn Monroe is, as always, luminous.  She plays a sexy and vulnerable woman.  (Yeah yeah yeah . . . when does she not play a sexy vulnerable woman, you ask?  Well, there are a few, very few, examples where she's still sexy but not quite so vulnerable.)  This time, she's darker, however, and not only vulnerable but also dangerous.  (Oh wait.  She's done that before too.)

I found the movie contrived and a bit claustrophobic, with an overwrought plot that I found mostly predictable and only redeemed by Monroe and Widmark taking it all so seriously.  Melodramatic and a good distraction but everyone involved deserved better.  (Also worth mentioning, this is Anne Bancroft's first film.)

Cairo Time

After Rob watched this movie one day, he suggested I should watch it, believing I would enjoy it very much.  He was absolutely right.  It is a lovely film, gentle and subtle.  Delicate throughout.  I don't know what it is about the film.  I can't say I loved it or that I would even highly recommend it and yet I want to own it because it is something . . . I don't know.  Something that just fits my personal taste in such things.  That hardly is a way to write a review, and commending something in such vague terms hardly makes it seem like a must-see.  I was engaged in it from beginning to end and the character development seemed like a ballet.  I also loved the music which, I am beginning to realize, has an impact on my overall appreciation of a movie.


Greta Garbo . . . need I say more?

She is perfect in this role, wonderful and funny.  I laughed aloud several times.  It is, of course, a highly propagandist film and the political climate it comically explores was far more complex.  Even in the context of its time, with contemporary hindsight, there is so much funny about this movie that it is deserving of the term "cinema classic" and I immediately wanted to watch Silk Stockings.  Unfortunately, my library doesn't have a copy.  Oh well.  I guess I can wait for it to eventually show up on TMC or something.


And Rob and I finally sat down to watch this movie.  His mother's been wanting us to see it for a while and I was resistant.  I am not into the white man converting to the ways of the indigenous people and just assumed this was a rehash of Dances With Wolves which, truth be told, I found ponderous and forgettable.

Okay, so the truth is, that is pretty much what this movie is.  But it also has some truly stunning special effects and for every ounce of predictability (and we're talking tons of it in this movie), I still caught myself getting teary and emotionally caught up.

I couldn't help smirking a few times at the "subtle" political messages and the New Age themes woven throughout the film's narrative but that wasn't enough to depreciate the film altogether and while I may not run out and buy it, if I were to find it on sale someday I could see myself adding it to the collection.  I'm a sucker for sci-fi stuff.  I like Michelle Rodriquez.  But to put my positive response in perspective, when I read they are making sequels with plans of making this into a trilogy franchise, I said aloud, "Crap, they're making sequels."

Hmmmm . . . maybe I didn't like it all that much after all.

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