Monthly Archive for March, 2005

28 Up

28 Up (3/31/05) Netflix (1985 ***½) Directed by Michael Apted. Robert Ebert called this series one of the 10 best films of all time and an important use of the medium. As the series progressed it became increasingly fascinating. Watching these “children” at age 28 made me think about where I was at that age, what I was doing twelve years ago. I think about the circumstances into which I was born and how that’s affected the subsequent path my life has taken. There have been so many decisions, right and wrong, along the way. Ah well, enough reminiscing, back to the film. The production values kept improving, which was sort of telling. There was an aspect to the project itself aside from the lives of the subjects. One can’t help but wonder how the series had affected their lives. It was disappointing to see two of the subjects elected not to be interviewed for the 28 Up film. I suppose they had their reasons, and hopefully they’ll both be back.

Melinda and Melinda

Melinda and Melinda (3/27/05) Hollywood Arclight (2004 ***) Written and directed by Woody Allen, starring Radha Mitchell, with WIll Ferrell and Amanda Peet. Richard Roeper called this the best Woody Allen movie in fifteen years. Maybe it was; Woody’s had some pretty poor showings lately. The high concept at work in Melinda and Melinda was that there is actually little difference between comedy and tragedy. What difference there is mostly depends on your point of view. I found both comic and tragic sides of this tale flat. The dramatic storyline seemed like a simulation of a drama and the comic version just seemed like reheated Allenesque hash. You should know it pains me to write these words, seeing as how much I love Woody Allen’s past work: His movies fill about half the slots in my all-time top-ten list.

Dot the I

Dot the I (3/26/05) Hollywood Arclight (2003 ***) Written and directed by Matthew Parkhill. My girlfriend went to see the San Francisco premiere the previous night. The director was a friend of a friend of hers, and so for me that was three degrees of separation. This was awfully good for a first offering and I wondered what the production was like. The performances were convincing, but mostly people are going to be taken with the twists and turns of the plot. For the most part I saw them coming, not quite a mile away but perhaps half that distance. Overall it was still quite entertaining and I was reminded of another first-time effort: Steven Soderberg’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

Cellular

Cellular (3/25/05) Netflix (2004 **½) Directed by David R. Ellis, starring Kim Basinger and Chris Evans. I found myself losing interest halfway through this movie, not a good reaction to a film that’s supposed to be a thriller. I suppose it would be entertaining for the young adult audience it was intended for. So why did I rent and watch it? Roger Ebert’s review indicated they did a lot of “clever” things with cell phones. I am currently working on a story involving a cell phone and thought it might help with that. As it turned out… not so much.

21 Up

21 Up (3/23/05) Netflix (1977 ***½) Directed by Michael Apted. The Up series gets increasingly interesting as it goes along. Watching this program had a unique effect on me as a viewer. It made me think about my life and the lives of others in a very different way. Taking these snapshots of a set of lives at seven-year intervals was very much like a form of time travel. The relative comparisons between the lives was heart-rending at times. As a viewer I observed decisions made by the individuals and the effects of individual personalities. As they grew, some of the children were definitely on a path toward happier lives than others. It was so sad to think that Neil, who began as a happy, vivacious child went on to become a young man with such a sad demeanor and outlook on life. I can’t imagine not continuing to watch this series. One negative note: I wish to hell the DVD had been closed-captioned. It was incredibly frustrating for me to watch, knowing I could only comprehend about 60% of the thick English accents made worse by atrociously-recorded audio.

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kind Hearts and Coronets (3/13/05) Netflix (1949 ***) Directed by Robert Hame, starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness. Price played a man eighth in line to become Duke who decides to kill all the family members who stand in his way. Guinness played all the intermediate family members. It was fun in that dry English humor kind of way. I had a hard time hearing the dialogue because of my bad hearing and the fact the closed captioning kept cutting in and out, so it only worked about 30% of the time.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (3/12/05) Netflix (1969 ***) Directed by Ronald Neame, based on the novel by Muriel Spark, starring Maggie Smith in the title role. This was one of those rare “classic” movies I have never seen. I expected something akin to To Sir, With Love or Goodbye Mister Chips, about a beloved teacher, and was surprised when the story went in the opposite direction: Jean Brodie did have a significant effect on her “girls,” but was far from positive. I was also surprised by the nude scene between the male art teacher and one of his 17-year-old students; I had accepted the 1960’s production values and wasn’t expecting it. One final note: It was especially odd to watch this film after seeing Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies playing a variation of the same character.

Robots

Robots (3/11/05) Hollywood Arclight (2005 ***1/4) Directed by Chris Wedge, co-directed by Carlos Saldanha. I went to see this with the other Dreamworks character TDs (technical directors) at the Arclight at Sunset and Vine. It was a 5:25pm showing on a Friday evening, so everybody got to leave work early, which was cool. I had been anxious about driving to Hollywood, not arriving late, etc. I’d only seen one other movie at the Arclight (In Good Company) and it had been a madhouse. But enough about the theater. What about the movie? I was generally entertained and dazzled by the visuals and was frequently surprised by the high caliber of Blue Sky’s animation. That’s not necessarily a good sign, because it may mean I’m getting an attitude because I work at Dreamworks. Anyhooo, as good as the animation was, I got a headache watching the film. I thought it was visually rich but it was very repetitive. Someone at work said it was gorgeous but they wished things stopped moving long enough to actually look at the world. I thought the story was weak but the writing was polished. The individual dialogue was well done but it was all superficial. At no point in the film was I “moved.” There was nothing genuine. Too bad.