Friday, November 30, 2007

Ben Stiller is best alone

A Night at the Museum is a funny kids movie. If you've never been to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, this is a much funnier way of touring the place, with the exception of their new Hall of Biodiversity, which rocks and is not in the movie at all. Basically Ben Stiller becomes the new night-time guard at the museum, replacing Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs. The first night he's left with a list of instructions, the first of which is "Throw the Bone". This gimmick of the instructions was really funny and should have been kept up rather than watching Ben Stiller try to settle disputes between the wild west and the roman empire in his weird comedic way. However, there are lots of really funny moments throughout, including how they figure out how to save the day when the previous guards try to steal the pension they were denied. There are all kinds of special effects that are really effective and funny, but the overall feel for the movie is very kid-centric. It's all the benefits of the museum while sitting on the couch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Random rant...

I can't tell if this is only due to the Writer's strike, but is it weird that Bones showed its Christmas episode last night? This happened last year with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (a moment of silence for its unfortunate demise) - their Christmas episode aired on December 4th, and then they ran repeats for 3 weeks. The same thing with Bones and House - no new episodes until the new year now. How hard would it be to run the reruns NOW, and then the Christmas themed episodes AT CHRISTMAS! Done ranting...thank you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Definitely Enchanted

It's pretty much impossible that you haven't seen the previews for Enchanted everywhere for the past few weeks. Which means, you've already seen the first 20 minutes of the movie. Personally, I was a little annoyed that I already knew so much of the movie from previews alone - considering I hadn't gone out of my way to watch them. However, after the stuff I'd already seen was over, the movie is delightful. It had an unexpected ending and lots of funny characters that were never even seen in the previews. The squirrel, Pip, can't speak when he's brought into our world, and his miming techniques are awesome - he mimes the entire scene of the bad guy giving our princess a poison apple. Amy Adams was a scene-stealer in Junebug and finally gets her leading role and plays the naive ingenue perfectly. She starts out seemingly insane with her hopes for a good world, and while some of that wears off, she's still a fount of optimism that seems to imbue everyone around her. McDreamy is terrific as the workaholic divorce-lawyer father who can't believe Adams insanity. Oh, and when she makes all her clothes out of his curtains, the result is priceless. A wonderful movie for kids and their parents, boys AND girls.

My cup of geek love overflows

This week 3 stars from Buffy and Star Trek appeared on 3 different shows, and did it with flair. Eliza Dushku played a Britney-inspired starlet with problems on Ugly Betty. Seth Green played a patient of McSteamy's on Grey's Anatomy, who hit on Meredith's sister before his neck started bleeding. And finally, Wil Wheaton played an evil comic book collector on Numb3rs. It was just fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bee Movie is better than a B

Bee Movie just mostly for adults. There are small things that will appeal to kids - all the bees dressed in various outfits only in black and yellow, stirring honey, the small fry wanting to fly with the big kids, and a bee trapped under a glass. The rest of the story is really meant for the adults accompanying the kids - being trapped in the same job your whole life, not having a right to fight against abuse, the global significance of the loss of bees for pollination. However, the number of jokes that go along with all the bigger messages makes it a really fun movie for any holiday weekend. Jerry Seinfeld is the main voice of the movie, with a few sidekicks in Matthew Broderick as his best friend since kindergarten (a week ago in Bee world), Renee Zellweger as his mixed-species love interest, and John Goodman as the evil lawyer trying to prove that bees have no right to their honey. The rest of the cast is terrific based on the list but I have to say I didn't notice their talent for the most part. Chris Rock has a few seconds as a mosquito, and Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld's Puddy) as Zellweger's human boyfriend are fun. Overall it's a good movie with lots of sly humor and themes geared more towards adults than kids. Also, the animation is really terrific.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The return of Project Runway

Tonight the best reality show on TV returns for its fourth season. Project Runway on Bravo returns with Tim Gunn, fashion guru, and Heidi Klum, supermodel. This show has been more and more fun with each season. There's no viewer participation - only official judges who have real experience in fashion decide who stays and who goes, and while I don't always agree with who they pick at the end, they do tend to get rid fo the least talented each week. There's lots of bitching and infighting, but the challenges are always fun to watch. They had to design a whole dress out of recyled material like bags and bottle caps, and paper. They've designed useful fashion for dressing for airplanes for hours and arriving impossibly fresh. And my favorite,a "garden party dress" out of garden supplies including flowers and leaves. The challenges are always kooky, but speak to the individual styles of the designers as well as thinking outside the box. Plus, Tim Gunn makes it work by advising them all how to improve. Watch it and judge for yourself...Bravo, Wednesday 10pm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lions for Lambs

The new Redford/Cruise/Streep movie is a rarity in Hollywood today: a movie for grown-ups that includes no sex, romance, or even much swearing. Yet this movie is still completely made for grown-ups. It's written more like a play in three locations interspersed in real time - a senator's office, a poli-sci professor's office, and a mountain in Afghanistan. There are only 6 real characters, and most of what they do is talk. Cruise is a young senator who is telling a veteran reporter, played with the expected brilliance of Streep, about how he planned a new "strategy" for winning the war on terror. He seems to be arguing all the standard points on that side of the argument, but he does it with a genuine attitude that is lacking in real-life politicians. Streep questions him at every point, and their discussion is a well-written debate on how the war should be fought and won. They bring in topics that always get pushed aside, like the role of the media in the war, and why the same questions keep getting asked. The second location is Redford (who also directed really well) talking to a student about why he's stopped attending his class. The kid, Andrew Garfield, is terrific holding his own against Redford. There are flashbacks to his presence in class, and he even gets to explain why he stopped buying Redford's argument's about the political landscape of today. When asked why Redford cares if he attends his class Redford tells him about 2 other students with the same potential as Garfield, who took a project Redford assigned and decided to enlist after they graduated. While Redford said he was "disappointed they enlisted, he revered their reasons for doing it." That is the final location, watching these two former students begin to take a snow-covered mountain in Afghanistan, implementing the new strategy Cruise is describing to Streep. Overall, the story is well choreographed, showing the real-time causes and effects of decisions in Washington, while recognizing that these are real people who are remembered by others back at home. The acting is terrific, and the movie doesn't try to preach as much as make you think about what you know and what questions aren't being asked. It didn't change my mind, but it definitely opened it a bit further.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two new cute movies

In honor of election day, I took the day off and went to the movies. I wasn't in the mood for anything super-hyped, and was finally at a cineplex that offered more than 2 movies. So I saw Martian Child with John Cusack and Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell. Both were really good and triggered the same sense of goodness and hope. Martian Child tells the story of an adopted child who thinks and acts like he's from Mars. Cusack plays the recently widowed (is that even the right word for a man who lost his wife?) adoptive father of 7-year-old Dennis, who wears sunglasses and sunblock 'beacuse Earth's sun is too sunny', and a weight belt because 'Earth's gravity is weak' and he doesn't want to float away. Dennis is so convincing throughout that you're not sure he isn't a little bit Martian, but his masking his attachment and abandonment issues this way make the story and its resolution more hopeful than incredibly sad. Cusack is wonderful as the new parent who is also a famous sci-fi writer who understands what it means to be a "different" kid and helps Dennis 'learn to be human'. The movie could easily have spilled into cliche and schmaltziness, but it stays very genuine and convining all the way through. When Dennis proves he can taste color by identifying M&Ms with his eyes shut, you really start to believe he has some Martian qualities. Also, Amanda Peet and Joan Cusack (as John's sister) are terrific supporting cast. They have funny bits and help John see some of the problems with Dennis that need to be dealt with and argue the "society" line of conformity with the best of intentions.

Dan in Real Life similarly tells the story of a man raising his 3 daughters since his wife passed away. Steve Carell is terrific as the dad of teenage girls who watches in disbelief as they go through teen angst and first love. Dan's huge family is gathered at the family home on the Rhode Island shore for the weekend. Dan is sent out for the paper and meets the woman of his dreams (Juliette Binoche in her best character ever, in my opinion) - they chat for hours. However, when he gets home she's beaten him there because she is Dan's brother's new girlfriend! Dane Cook plays the brother very convincingly - some humor, but obviously the family screw-up. The weekend is full of the awkwardness that Carell is perfect for, and he an Binoche keep falling love while trying to deny it. There are lots of funny bits, including a family talent show, and Carell's continuing run-ins with the same cop for traffic violations. Very good movie, with fun and romance.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Golden Age

The new Elizabeth: The Golden Age does a good job of continuing where the previous movie left off. England's at war with Spain, and the new world has been discovered and Walter Raleigh, a common pirate, has come to court to gain Elizabeth's favor. The sets and costumes are wonderful, but the overall pacing and set-up of the movie make it less consuming than the first one. Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh is terrific, and whenever he's on the screen, you can't help being stunned - whether seducing one of the Ladies in waiting, or counseling Elizabeth herself. Cate Blanchett doesn't exhibit as much of the strength and power that came through so well in the first one, and in The Aviator. She alternates between nearly in tears and upset about random things and giving wonderful speeches that inspired her people. I don't think it's her acting that doesn't work, but the editing and direction. Scenes that might have made it more clear where her emotional stuggle was coming from (the impending war with Spain, inability to marry) were obviously cut, so she seems weepy for most of the movie. It's a great story overall, and the war with the Spanish Armada is pretty amazing. Overall, if the first movie was a 5, this is about 3.5.

Addendum: I remembered another example of why the directing was bad. There's a great scene where Elizabeth is inspiring her troops - saying how they'll defeat the Spanish Armada. She looks good - long hair, armored suit, and sitting on a horse. However, in the 90 second speech, the horse wouldn't stand still EVER. She circled and circled and circled, not pacing in front of her troops (the scene in Braveheart was brought to mind). All the director should have done was hold that stupid horse still and let Cate Blanchett speak her heart out to rally the troops - she could barely speak and the best scene was destroyed. Argh....