Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Aladdin Movie Review

Tania Says:
Oh Aladdin. I use to love you and your movie. Maybe I have seen you too much – maybe we needed more space. Maybe it is because I saw a dear friend in a magical stage version of your little tale and that was more entertaining. Maybe I am just cynical and it isn’t you at all but it’s me.

Okay – we watched Aladdin and I was honestly a little bored. I liked the songs and stuff but I have never realized how slow it is until the Genie shows up AND usually I hate Robin Williams. I mean – I really think he is on crack. I do enjoy some of his dramatical work but his crazy improve, look at me stuff isn’t funny to me. Yet, I found the movie improved when he showed up – go figure! And I actually think Gilbert Godfrey as Iago has some entertaining moments. Maybe the magic of this film is that they can take annoying actors and make them mildly funny. Maybe it is because we don’t have to actually look at said annoying actors and that makes them funny. Either way, it is an unusual phenomenon and one I would like to explore further. Maybe a Disney cartoon is the way to make Dr. Phil and the little kid from Heros less annoying.

Anyway – the movie is fine I guess. I am probably selling it short because of the millions of times I watched it back in the day and the millions of times I popped the cassette tape of the soundtrack into the car “stereo” and listened to the music. The movie is a welcome addition to any household with children. I guess it teaches you to be yourself and all that stuff.

Josh says:
Well, after seeing the stage version at the Children's Theatre, I was expecting Jasmine to be....well......hotter. I guess that's one of the downsides to movie adaptations of Musicals (it was a musical first...right?), it's so hard to find the right talent in Hollywood.

I actually didn't hate this movie as much as I thought I would. Understand though, that this means that I actually sat through the entire thing with only occasional, fleeting thoughts of suicide.

It's not so much that Jasmine wasn't the hotty I was hoping for (she actually ended up looking really cartoony for some reason?). It's not just that I find Robin Williams to be one of the most annoying human beings on the planet (sickeningly, he's one of the most enjoyable things about this movie). It's not even that Gilbert Gottfried is one of a select few that stand ahead of Robin Williams in the quest for "America's Most Annoying Celebrity" (why isn't this on Fox?). It's more simply just because I HATE MUSICALS AND I HATE DISNEY CARTOON MOVIES!!!!!!!!!!

Don't get me wrong, I like a good cartoon. You really can't argue with the greatness of The Simpsons or Family Guy, I even like some less adult, more old school stuff. Animaniacs? Love it. Pinky & The Brain? Come on now. I just think that Disney has been robbing the American public blind for a long time now by marketing trash to little kids in such a way that makes it hard for them, nigh, impossible for them to resist.

Save your kids, save yourself and save the art of movie making. Stop propelling movies like this to the top of the box office charts year after year.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kramer vs Kramer Review

Tania Says:
This movie won Best Picture in 1979 and I can completely understand why. It is definitely a product of its time and of the changing world we were living in in 1979 (well – maybe I hadn’t been living in the world that long but from what I know about the time – it seems a good representation.)

Dustin Hoffman (who rules!) is an overworked father spending many hours at the office to bring home the bacon (his words, not mine). Meryl Streep is the oppressed wife whose only identity is that of a stay at home mom taking care of the kid and the house. Dusty comes home one day and is shocked to find out that Meryl is leaving and NOT taking the kid and poof – she is gone.

The story is then about Dustin turning into a real father and realizing the most important thing in the world is to take care of the kid. Of course, Meryl comes back and wants the kid and a courtroom battle ensues. It sounds dull in today’s society and it is a little slow but I can imagine that at the time a single father and a mother running off to “find herself” was something new and something that was starting to really happen in the world. The performances are certainly enough to keep the story interesting – especially Hoffman who has an amazing transformation over the course of the film which is pretty cool to watch. The kid (Justin Henry) does a fantastic job for a 6 year old. He and Hoffman share a real connection that grows over time.

Meryl Streep actually drove me crazy – well not her, but her character. I thought she was whiney and I got really frustrated when she was all wishy-washy and like, “I don’t want my kid, wait, now I want my kid.” Geez woman! Make up your mind – it’s a kid not a hamster! Now, I am not a mom but I can’t imagine a mom (or a dad really) just up and leaving their kid. And then I really can’t see why that mom should have any opportunity to even try to get the kid she abandoned back. Anyway – I am sure that is the reaction I was suppose to have and they got it out of me so I guess that was a victory.

I did like the movie though and was glad I watched it just for the Hoff alone!

Josh Says:
Not sure what to say (again) about this one. I liked it. I mean, it's a classic and it's classic for a reason, well, two reasons. Hoffman & Streep, but that's probably not news.

I guess the one thing that bugged me was the whole court case. It seemed that the Hoff either had an extremely bad lawyer, the Judge was a moron or (and most likely) both. I mean the whole case is about who is a better parent or whatever so to 'prove' that he's a bad parent, they show that he is screwing up at work over and over again BECAUSE HE MAKES THE KID A PRIORITY and the judge and Hoff's lawyers seem to be like 'oh yeah, good point, he's a bad worker" or whatever. COME ON.

The whole scene just seemed a bit to absurd to me.

I guess though that the idea is that the legal system and perhaps society as a whole are so predisposed to the concept of Mother's rights that even the most inane argument to that affect will be accepted so as to ultimately allow 'justice' to prevail and to reunite the Mom (no matter how flawed) with the kid.

The more I think about it, if that's the tone and premise of the movie, it seems at least somewhat likely that the writer was a mysoginist but that's probably going a few too many layers deep for our one reader (thanks mom!!!).

Oh yeah, one last thing. Though I think this movie was good, possibly even very good, I am appalled at the injustice perpetrated against the rightful Best Picture of 1979. Apocolypse Now was a far more revolutionary, ground breaking movie than this and easily should have prevailed.

*Edit: also - this movie doesn't have nearly enough Affleck. In fact, it gets a big ZERO Affleck points.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Shakespeare in Love

Tania Says
Love this movie. Seriously. I know it is probably because I am a huge theater geek but all the inside Shakespeare jokes and watching the kids put on a show sure makes me happy! Again, if you don’t know the story – it is about Shakespeare writing Romeo and Juliet and finding his muse that helped him create the play. Of course, it isn’t smooth sailing and they end up as star-crossed lovers as well and it is all so romantic and period and I love that stuff. And at the end he ends up writing Twelfth Night which I love and I feel all smart because I recognize Twelfth Night!

Now, I have seen Romeo and Juliet more then any other Shakespeare play and I really love it. I don’t love it because of all the mushy Romeo and Juliet crap but because it is really very funny and teaches a great lesson about what hate can do to someone as well as what love can do. And it has one of the best Shakespeare characters EVER – Mercutio. You know who I want to see really play Mercutio? Affleck because he is freaking hysterical in this movie. Without a doubt my favorite Affleck performance. Affleck’s character is really a leading man type and there are great jokes about how the play is named Mercutio so he will play the role but seriously, Mercutio is the best. Josh and I saw Romeo and Juliet last summer at Williamstown and we loved it each time Mercutio was on stage and considered leaving when he died. Also, when we saw Romeo and Juliet at the Guthrie Mercutio was snorting cocaine the whole time! Come on! Would you rather be whiney Romeo or the guy snorting coke in leather pants? Anway – this review isn’t about the greatness of Mercutio so I will move on.

The movie is just great fun and although it has a sad ending it all seems ok somehow because getting there at all was a triumph. Joseph Fiennes is great as Shakespeare. He has these soulful eyes and the language just trips off his tongue. Paltrow is fine. I don’t understand all the fuss because her accent seems a little labored when compared to the actual brits in the film. But she looks pretty and can handle the language. The supporting roles are all super fine – the previously mentioned Affleck, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, and Judy Dench, who won an Oscar for the 6 minutes she is on screen. I know this movie isn’t for everyone (my parents would hate it! I think they feel they have given enough time to Shakespeare by coming to see my shows) but if you love Shakespeare, period films or a good love story then check it out. It won an Oscar you know?

Josh Says:
See Tania's review, take out all of the hyperbole tone it down about three notches and that's about where I am. I liked the movie a lot. Love might be too strong. I thought everyone (except Paltrow) did a great job (ok, Paltrow wasn't bad). My biggest quibble with this one is there's just not enough Affleck but I felt the same way about the next movie we'll be reviewing................

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stand By Me: Movie Review

Tania Says:
I cannot count the number of times I have seen this movie. I loved this movie when I was growing up – but really what teenage girl didn’t? I will always remember watching this movie many, many times with my best friend Sarah and quoting it even more. I hadn’t seen it in forever though so I was excited to revisit it again. And – it is still wonderful! And touching. And funny.

In case you don’t know what the movie is about, it follows 4 friends as they take a long walk to see a dead body. Wow. That description makes it seems really dull but it isn’t because it is about growing up and family and friendship and it pretty much rocks. The four boys are Wil Wheaton (my close personal friend), River Phoenix (Oh River. How I loved you? I think I wrote you a fan letter. Did you get it?), Jerry O’Connell (How happy is he that he grew up hot?) and Corey Feldman (Poor, poor Corey. Will you be back for Surreal Life all-stars)? Also appearing are a young Keifer Sutherland and John Cusack. So you can imagine why it was a teenage girls dream. All of the boys do a great job – even Felddog (Sarah and I read in Bop that Corey Haim called Corey Feldman Felddog and Feldman called Haim Haimster.) I will also lament the loss of River Phoenix. Seriously, he would have been another Johnny Depp but he loved his drugs. And my buddy Wil – ok, so I played in one online tournament with him (and got mentioned in his blog) but I really don’t know him or have a reason to pimp him BUT he does a great job with perhaps the most difficult role. For a kid, he has a lot going on, a dead older brother that was clearly the family favorite which in turn creates a horrible family dynamic, he also has to deal with growing up to be Richard Dryfuss. Seriously though, the film is narrated by an older Gordy so he has to react to that and be aware. AND – he gets a leech on his privates. Yuck. Jerry O’Connell is basically comic relief but he is HILARIOUS – so it’s all good.

It was fun to revisit it again (Josh and I could both remember lines before they happened AND I still turn away during the pie eating scene!). It is just a great coming of age story with a lot of charm and heart. It is classic to me.

Josh Says:
What can I say? I love the Wheaton. When he's not writing about us in his blog (ok, you kind of have to hunt for it but we're Maureen73 referred to in this entry, a sad reference actually), we're watching his movies and writing about him in ours.

I too have watched this movie more times than I care to count, or even could if I wanted to. More than perhaps any other movie watching experience, this one was very nostalgic. It wasn't too far into the movie before I realized that, though I could no longer recite the movie verbatim right along with the characters, I was but one second behind throughout the entire film. And it's a good film. A film that anyone of any age can watch. In fact, I was surprised and very pleasantly so at how well the movie has aged (and even more impressed at how Jerry O'Connell has aged, who knew the fat kid from Stand by Me would be dating a super model in 2007).

Though obviously a timeless story, stylistically this movie has held up incredibly well. As an example, the lard ass scene is just so brilliantly out of place and surreal that it fits right in with some of the pseudo-eclecticly-avant-garde (huh?) stuff that's coming out of Hollywood and and indies alike time and time again these days.

The big downer of course, is the whole River Phoenix thing. I mean, what a wonderfully talented kid and what a tragic story. You can't help thinking about it as you watch him, so young but so obviously serious about 'acting'. I pretended to myself that Joaquin was in fact River Phoenix and that we didn't miss out on a potentially brilliant career, but rather, we are in the midst of it, reincarnated or simply deferred to Jaoquin (see Cash if you have any doubts about his skills, or our Gladiator review for that matter).
It's a rare cinematic experience that can make Corey Feldman bearable, and this movie, believe it or not, does that and a lot more.

And this concludes my cheesiest review ever.

P.S. Wil - See you on the felt!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Movie Review: Stalag 17

Tania Says:

I wasn’t exactly jazzed about watching this war movie set in a German Prison camp during WW II. The description said it was about the American prisoners trying to escape – it all sounded a little too Hogan’s Heroes to me which is a show I have never found very funny. However, Hogan’s Heroes was not based on this movie – there was a lawsuit and everything. Anyway, that coupled with the fact that I am not a fan of war movies made this movie sound really unappealing.

Once we started watching it though I realized it isn’t really a “war movie” because there really aren’t any battle scenes and the movie is actually a lot lighter then it seemed it would be with the subject matter it was tackling. Anyway, I actually kind of liked it!

The movie is about American prisoners in a German Prison camp – but it looks like the happiest prison camp I have ever seen. But of course, they still want to escape and all their escape plans and fun times seem to be foiled by some mole in there camp who is giving the German guards info. The movie then is pretty much about trying to find the stoolie. The cool part is that they really keep you guessing and by the time they get to the reveal of the insider it was a surprise to me because I was clueless as to who it was. Then the stoolie gets his comeuppance and that is the end of the movie! It’s a fun movie with little bits of seriousness thrown in. I read somewhere that people where offended that a movie was made about WW II that was a comedy but I think that is sometimes a necessity – see MASH. This movie reminded me of MASH in way just because they were making a comedy out of a sensitive subject but I enjoyed it more then MASH because the guys weren’t as mean. Some of the comedy in Stalag 17 isn’t that funny and there are some annoying guys in it who are meant to be comic relief but aren’t. Overall though, I am glad I watched it because it really is not a movie I ever would have rented but I am glad I saw it!


Josh Says:

This is one of the few movies that I’ve watched since the movie The Usual Suspects (I AM NOT SAYING I ENJOYED THIS AS MUCH OR IN THE SAME WAY AS THE USUAL SUSPECTS) which had me completely clueless as to who the villain was an genuinely surprised at the end. Unlike The Usual Suspects, however, they are able to do this by essentially keeping the villain out of the main story line, thus exonerating him of all suspicion, which in my opinion is cheating.

I could have done without some of the campier humor such as that bearded guy’s entire part, but understanding that this was a result of the period in which it was made I was able, for the most part, to get past it and ended up really enjoying the story.

There are some interesting tidbits about this movie that illustrate how much power the studios in Hollywood used to have back in the “Golden Age”. For instance, this was by a long shot Billy Wilder’s most successful film, however he made very little money. The reason for this was because the studio informed him that he has lost money on his previous film and the losses would be deducted out of his share in this film. A great little racket the studios had whereby they could enter a project with virtually no risk at all.

Another interesting tidbit is that William Holden, who would end up winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for this film, actually refused the role (as did Charlton Heston previous to that) but the studio forced him to play the part. Though this obviously turned out well in his favor, it really shows that even twenty years in, SAG had a long way to go in terms of providing it’s members with protection against the powerful studios.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Movie Review: Shadow of a Doubt

Tania Says:
Believe it or not, I have never seen a complete Hitchcock movie. I have seen parts of them or bits and pieces but I have never watched one from beginning to end. So – this was my first. It’s very sad that I haven’t seen a Hitchcock film before but I am excited that I get to see a bunch now that are all on the list! And I am glad that Shadow of a Doubt was first because I really liked it and it made me excited for more.

If you haven’t seen Shadow of a Doubt, it is about a small town family who are living a small town life. Charlie, the family’s teenage daughter, is especially bored with the small town life and hopes things change for the family when her exciting Uncle Charlie comes to visit. When Uncle Charlie arrives everyone is so excited and things are going great and then young Charlie starts to figure out that her Uncle may not be all that great and in fact could be a serial killer. The movie does a great job of walking that line of “is he or isn’t he?” and you can feel the suspense as Charlie looks for more and more clues. This is what I always imagined a Hitchcock movie would be – suspenseful, a little creepy and intriguing. I thought this movie hit all those notes. It is an earlier Hitchcock film so some of the dialogue is clunky for sure, and the name Charlie is spoken a little too much (170 times!!!!) and some of the scene transitions or editing is choppy and a little incoherent but overall it is a really good movie.

Theresa Wright plays young Charlie and I think she does a great job. She’s charming and spunky in the beginning and plays the transition from being Uncle Charlie’s biggest fan to his not biggest fan really well. Joseph Cotton plays Uncle Charlie and also does a great job on that same fine line of “is he or isn’t he?” I think he is sufficiently creepy. Also in the film is a very young Macdonald Carrey who is known to me forever as Dr Tom Horton on Days of Our Live.

I think this was a great movie to initiate me into the world of Hitchcock and I am excited to see more.

Josh Says:

******Please note that Tania used the name Charlie 9 times in her review above.*********

I was really excited for this one. I've seen quite a few Hitchcock movies and remember looking forward to watching reruns of the old Alfred Hitchcock presents series as a kid with my parents. That this is widely documented as his personal favorite and one that I hadn't seen had me going into it with some pretty high expectations.

To say I was disappointed would probably be an overstatement. I liked this movie. I just didn't love it the same way as I do Rear Window, M for Murder, Psycho, The Birds or even the Revenge episode of Hitchcock Presents.

As with any good Hitchcock work (and it is good, please don't get me wrong), it's all about the story and much less about anything else. Like any of his other works, you are tightly riveted to the story and constantly trying to get one step ahead of him, anticipating the great reveal, second guessing yourself all along the way only to find out that............ok, no spoilers.

James Cotton was really good and most definitely creepy enough for the part, Theresa Wright does a pretty good job as the young girl with the bright fairy tale view of the world. The most under-rated performance has to be that of Patricia Collinge as the mother. She's just perfectly oblivious and obedient in that way that I always picture the Moms of the 40's and 50's but assumed they never talked about, at least not in the negative light that I thought she was portrayed here.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Hitchcock (who isn't) but if I had it to do over again, I'd go into it without the knowledge that it was his favorite film as the expectations that brought were bound to go unfulfilled.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Movie Review: Amadeus

Tania Says:
I can’t believe I have never seen this movie. I love this movie! Seriously, I am all of a sudden obsessed with this movie. How could I have never seen it?

For those of you who are weird like me and missed this movie for 20 years – go rent it and watch it and make your life a little better by having watched it. It is about the supposed rivalry between Mozart and Salieri ( also a composer) – well really, the rivalry is all on Salieri’s side but he spends the whole film being jealous of and trying to sabotage Mozart. F Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce play Salieri and Mozart respectively and both of them are perfectly brilliant. What happened to both of them? And what happened to the chick who plays Mozart’s wife? She is awesome and I looked her up on IMDB and now she is guesting on Grounded for Life. Anyway – back to the stars – Tom Hulce plays Mozart as a spoiled brat, mildly na├»ve kind of kid who knows he is brilliant. The way he plays this is both annoying and completely endearing. You can’t help to feel for him when things don’t go his way. I read somewhere that Mozart’s laugh was described at different times as “an infectious giggle” and like “nails on a chalkboard”. I wonder how an actor can take those descriptions and come up with something that works but Tom Hulce comes up with the perfect laugh – at first you want to giggle along, then you start to kind of chuckle at it, then you want to kill him. It goes beyond his laugh though – he just does a masterful job.

F Murray Abraham does as well. He also makes you feel sympathy for him because he is always in Mozart’s shadow and then as he becomes more and more jealous he gets more and more evil and you stop feeling sorry for him but you still feel something for him. It is hard to explain. You feel for him because he is so troubled and instead of working on his own craft he spends his time trying to ruin Mozarts.

I am gushing in the most incoherent way but that is how much I love this movie.

It is also just plain beautiful to look at. Even though it was filmed in the 80s and film quality itself has come a long way since then, the scenery and costumes and sets are all stunning and seem perfectly period. The Opera sequences are great fun as well. I know I am way late to the party on this one and that makes me sad but perhaps I can inspire one person who is as late as me to give this movie a try.

Josh Says:
I suck at writing good reviews. I mean, if you haven't seen this movie, see it. If you don't, you're missing out.

You're missing out on one of the greatest performances in cinema by F. Murray Abraham as Salieri.

You're missing out on a wonderfully unorthodox, almost over the top performance by Tom Sulce.

You're missing out on the visually stunning costumes, architecture and scenery.

You're missing out on the best biographical film piece ever made (is that title selling it short though?)

Most importantly, you're missing out on the incredible hilarity of picturing Mark Hammill in the role that he lobbied heavily for, Mozart.