Monthly Archive for March, 2007

Blades of Glory

Blades of Glory (3/31/07) Glendale Mann 4 (2007 ***) Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck. My wife and I went to see this on the Saturday evening of its opening weekend. The theater was very full, which actually added to our enjoyment. We got as big a kick out of some of the audience reactions as anything happening onscreen. It was a pretty good comedy and I laughed out loud many times, even though I was occasionally embarrassed at what I laughed at. I was also pleasantly surprised that Will Ferrell shared as much of the limelight with his less famous co-star Jon Heder as he did.

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night (3/30/07) Netflix (1934 ***½) Directed by Frank Capra. It’s been years since I’ve watched this classic film, a film often listed high on lists of all-time great films. Winning five academy awards, it was the film that put Capra on the map. I didn’t realize until watching the DVD’s bonus featurette prior to the movie that (A) the film was shot in four weeks to accommodate a window in Claudette Colbert’s schedule and (B) Colbert thought the film was a dog the whole time she worked on it. Knowing about the short shooting schedule made me more conscious of the economical measures Capra and the producers took, and it was all the more impressive what they were able to do while working within tight production constraints.

Meet the Robinsons

Meet the Robinsons (3/30/07) El Capitan Theater, Hollywood (2007 ***½) Directed by Stephen J. Anderson. I was fortunate enough to see this film as a special Dreamworks Animation 3-D screening. This was my first time inside the beautiful El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard, an experience in its own right. Based on the trailers and commercials, I didn’t have very high expectations of the film and I was pleasantly surprised. In terms of animation history, this was the first non-Pixar Disney film to bear the hint of John Lasseter’s thumbprint. While it was clear the story had “had some work done,” it still managed to show a hell of a lot of heart. Hopefully it will be rewarded at the box office for its efforts.

MI-5, Series 4

MI-5, Series 4 (3/24/07) Netflix (***¼) (SPOILERS) About two thirds of the way through this, the fourth season of the British TV show Spooks, another major character died. On one hand it added a certain tension for the audience, knowing any of the characters could die at any time. On the other hand, after awhile it became increasingly tempting to stop investing emotionally in the characters. Still in all, Series Four re-found a certain thrill that had gone missing in the third season, and I was glad to see energy that back.

The Host

The Host (3/22/07) DWA screening (2006 ***¼) Directed by Joon-ho Bong. The Host (originally entitled Gwoemul) was produced in South Korea, with special effects from The Orphanage in San Francisco. I don’t go to a lot of monster movies, but if they’re this good, I may have to start! I was knocked out of my seat by how intense some of the action was. There was a sequence early on in the film when the creature first made its presence known that was incredibly fun. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means, hence my wishy-washy ***1/4 rating; in particular, there were times when the action dragged a bit. While I enjoyed the ongoing humor, it was a South Korean film and there a definite non-American sensibility at work. I don’t want to give anything away, but certain things happened in The Host that would never happen in a mainstream Hollywood movie.

Modern Romance

Modern Romance (3/21/07) Netflix (1981 *½) Written and directed by Albert Brooks. Frankly, I was disappointed. Watching this film had me re-thinking my opinion of Albert Brooks’ body of work. Maybe this film was funny at the time it was released, but I sure wasn’t laughing. If nothing else, the film gave me a new appreciation for how far we’ve come since the early eighties. We now have names to go along with unhealthy dysfunctional behavior, names like “codependency” and “stalking.”

Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil (3/19/07) Novel (1998 ***) Written by Jerrilyn Farmer. This was the first in Ms. Farmer’s Madeline Bean mysteries series. The premise offered a terrific story engine: Madeline Bean is a Hollywood caterer who moonlights as an amateur sleuth. I bought this book because I was considering taking a mystery-writing class Ms. Farmer is teaching through UCLA extension. After reading the first couple of chapters, I enrolled: Clearly Farmer is a writer who knows what she’s doing. I was particularly impressed by her ability to establish a light-hearted, “cozy” tone while still dipping into the seedy side of life in Los Angeles.

Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction (3/17/07) Netflix (2006 ***) Directed by Marc Forster, written by Zach Helm. Will Ferrell delivered an uncharacteristically subdued performance as Harold Crick, a man who discovers he’s the fictional protagonist in a novel being written by Karen Eiffel (played by Emma Thompson). There was a distinctively “meta” aspect to the story, which tickled my brain. Unfortunately, that dimension of the film promised more than it ultimately delivered. The problem, really, was that the characters often didn’t react in believable ways, even taken within the fantasy context. This was especially true in the film’s third act.

Prime Suspect, Series 1

Prime Suspect, Series 1 (3/15/07) Netflix (1991 ***) Helen Mirren starred as a homicide investigator forced to deal with sexism while trying to get a break in solving a series of murders. This story was told over the course of four 1-hour episodes. At first I was more than a little annoyed by all the early-1990’s obligatory “boys club” resistance to a female lead detective, but over time that aspect of the story faded as Mirren’s character earned the respect of her male subordinates, and the series became more compelling.

300

300 (3/10/07) Glendale Mann 10 (2007 ***¼) Directed by Zack Snyder. Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, this film broke serious box office records both for March releases and for R-rated films. I have to admit I didn’t originally plan on seeing the movie; from the trailers it looked too much like an extended video game cinematic. It was my lovely — and apparently bloodthirsty — wife who wanted to go, and so we went. By the time we’d gotten to the theater (after an appropriately-messy barbecue rib dinner at Tony Roma’s), I’d heard the reviews were decent and so I wasn’t worried it would be a total waste of time. My expectations weren’t too high and I really enjoyed the film. The digitally-enhanced look was consistent throughout, and I was pleased there was enough visual variety to keep my interest for the length of the story. It was pretty gory, but then what does one expect from a film whose logo is rendered in dripping blood? My only major criticism, really, was that I found the subplot with Queen Gorgo to be overly melodramatic and unpleasantly sexist.