Monday, June 23, 2008

DVD Roundup

I've seen 3 movies lately on DVD - too much of a hassle to make it to the cineplex on time for movies right now. I was very disappointed by 2 of them, but found one I'd been avoiding surprisingly good. Coincidentally, Hillary Swank starred in two of them. P.S. I love you and The Nanny Diaries were both victims of the same problem - overly focused on a single main character that was too boring to want to watch for two hours. P.S. I love you had a clever gimmick - Gerard Butler, the love of Hillary Swank's young life, dies of a brain tumor. However, he's put in motion a series of letters to come to Swank after his death helping her deal. He plans a trip, some nights out, etc. and she still wallows in grief, despite her girlfriends' attempts to cheer her up and help her move on. There's even a totally unbelievable love interest in Harry Connick Jr. I rented the movie hoping to see more of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (from Grey's Anatomy) but he's only in it for a few minutes, and does a TERRIBLE Irish accent. So boring, uninteresting love story. 2 stars/LAMBS

The Nanny Diaries might have been more interesting if I hadn't read the book and hadn't lived in New York City. Scarlett Johansson plays "Annie" the Nanny of Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti's Upper East Side couple. Johansson wants to be an anthropologist so the movie is riddled with her voice-overs explaining the anthropological significance of the stupid parenting and anti-parenting maneuvers of the X's. It's basically Johansson acting shocked by the appalling behavior of rich people who should be parenting their kids and not cheating on their spouses, and Linney and Giamatti pretending their a good couple and great parents. They yell at each other and act shocked. The reason Johansson pretends to care is the well-being of their kid, Grayer, who the movie barely makes obvious as a good kid worthy of her fights. Another uninteresting, non-funny family drama. 2 stars/LAMBs

The movie I was surprised to find I actually liked was Freedom Writers, with Hillary Swank and Patrick Dempsey. Swank plays an idealistic new teacher in a school that seems to have only a single class for her to teach (I'm guessing she has others, but we only see one). She has to fight with Imelda Staunton (channeling her "Doloris Umbridge" character from Harry Potter) to get permission to teach the at-risk kids outside of the curriculum. She works with them to understand their lives of gang violence, racial threats and poverty. She realizes their overall education has suffered when she tries to relate a racist picture a student drew to the beginnings of the Holocaust. When they don't know what it is, she begins a curriculum to help them across their lives - from cultural education to history and writing. They read "The Diary of Anne Frank" and become inspired to meet one of them women who helped her - Miep Gies. It's a good movie that does more to follow and understand the lives of the students than most movies like this. Swank isn't particularly inspiring as she lets her own life fall completely apart to help her students, but the students and the actors portraying the students are all terrific. They find inspiration from school to help deal with their own lives and in non-cliched ways become better people. I liked it. Not terrific, but pretty great. 3.5 stars/LAMBs

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4 comments:

Cinexcellence said...

Hilary Swank's best movie is still Buffy. :)

Jess said...

I couldn't agree more!

Cat said...

This is so helpful! I love Hillary Swank but heard awful things about P.S. I Love You. With your negative review in addition, I will definitely give that a miss. But with my love of both the Freedom Writer leads, I'll put that on my Netflix queue. Also, unrelated, thanks for the Friday Night Lights show recommendation! Have watched the first two eps and really enjoyed...

It stinks that the Nanny Diaries is so bad! We watched the majority of the Paul Giamatti Laura Linney John Adams this weekend, and they are phenomenal in that. What a waste of talent!

Jess said...

Be careful - Patrick Dempsey's role in Freedom Writers is a thankless role. He's basically the nagging husband throughout. Still beautiful though.