Monthly Archive for June, 2007

The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music (6/30/07) Sing-along at the Hollywood Bowl (**** 1965) Directed by Robert Wise, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Just how in the hell do you solve a problem like Maria? Based on a true story, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music has some of the most beloved and memorable music ever. Seeing it with a drunken, singing mob was a real kick. It reminded me of going to drive-in movies when I was a kid, only it was at the freaking Hollywood Bowl!

50 First Dates

50 First Dates (6/29/07) Netflix (2004 ***) Directed by Peter Segal. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore re-teamed for the first time since The Wedding Singer in this movie about a man in love with a woman who lost her long-term memory in a pineapple-related car accident. 50 First Dates was surprisingly sweet and I found myself enjoying this movie a hell of a lot more than I expected to. The one thing that held it back from being a better movie was that some of the ersatz Farrelly Brothers comic elements (Sean Astin as Drew’s weightlifting brother, for example) felt out of place and lessened the experience.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (6/26/07) Glendale Mann 10 (2007 **½) Directed by Tim Story, screenplay by Don Payne and Mark (Twin Peaks) Frost. I’ll be honest: I went in with zero expectations and left the theater with a sense of having been entertained. However, as I write this a few days later, there are no real lasting impressions of the film. One of the things it did well was capturing the family squabbling of the original comics. Compared to the Spider-Man and X-Men films, there was a definite second-tier feel to the Fantastic Four films. As a long-time fan of the FF comics (I happen to own a copy of FF #5, the first appearance of Doctor Doom, as well as a nearly full run of issues 20 through 200-something), that irked me. On the other hand, I can see how it made sense financially from the perspective of the movie studio. Will there be a third FF film? I wouldn’t mind if there was. Hell, I might even go see it.

Rent

Rent (6/23/07) Nederlander Theater, NYC (**½) Featuring Tamyra Gray as Mimi. I have a terribly embarrassing confession to make: I had so much trouble following the plot for Rent that when intermission came I thought the show was over! Whoops! At the risk of sounding like an old fogy, I didn’t really identify with any of the characters. The AIDS-related elements, while still absolutely relevant in today’s world, seemed dated. I was far from bored, though. The performers were certainly good and the music was fun enough. I had a good time while during the performance, but simply cannot remember any of the songs now, a week later.

Les Miserables

Les Miserables (6/21/07) Broadhurst Theater, NYC (***½) As I write this review a week after the fact, I still have the music haunting my ears. By this I mean I’ve literally had the soundtrack playing in my head for the past week. That’s a little weird, isn’t it? And yet I don’t mind. “Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in heaven has in store…” This was the fourth or fifth time (so far) I’ve seen Les Miz on Broadway. It’s my favorite musical ever, and I’m delighted I was able to share the experience with my wife. I have always gotten choked up a bit watching it, and I think that’s because some part of me identifies with the plight of Jean Valjean and his attempts to be a righteous man in spite of a world that wants to beat him down. There are a lot of different ways to be miserable, that’s for sure. My reason for giving it 3 1/2 stars instead of 4 is that my recollection of previous performances I’ve seen (the most recent being ten years ago now) was that the principals had far more powerful voices.

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia (6/20/07) Winter Garden Theater, NYC (***) Thank God for half price tickets at TKTS, huh? Even with the wait, it was still worth it. Only problem was the seats were up in the Mezzanine and far enough to stage right that sometimes we couldn’t see the action. I didn’t know anything about this musical before the performance we attended, other than the fact that it was built around ABBA songs. The plot was light but fun: A young woman is to be married and she invites the three men her mother had sexual relationships with. Which one is her father? While I liked it and left the theater feeling great, I probably would’ve enjoyed it even more if I’d been more familiar with the ABBA songs.

The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections

The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections (6/17/07) Graphic Novel (1993 ****) Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by various. This book collected nine stand-alone stories from the Sandman comic. After the disappointment of A Game of You, Gaiman returned to top form. This collection included the telling of the story of Dream’s son Orpheus and ended with “Ramadan,” which presented a far different Baghdad than the current one, nearly making me cry.

Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (6/17/07) DVD (2002 ***) Directed by Sam Mendes, based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, starring Tom Hanks, Liam Aiken, Paul Newman and Jude Law. I hadn’t watched this film since it was first released. Having recently read the sequel (well, in-between-quel) of the graphic novel, I thought I would. It’s really pretty good, though the story took a bit too long to get going. Tom Hanks was particularly well cast as likable, but cold-blooded gunman Michael Sullivan.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (6/17/07) Glendale Mann 10 (2007 **) Directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. I have a hell of a lot of respect for the writing team of Elliott andRossio, mainly because they wrote the first Shrek Movie. Unfortunately, at no point in this third Pirates movie did I have any idea what was going on. From its reviews, I knew going in that the plot was confusing and hard-to-follow, and you know what? Those reviews were dead right. Ahoy, mates! Best to keep a weather eye on that cruel beastie, comprehensibility!

The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You (6/16/07) Graphic Novel (1992 **½) Written by Neil Gaiman. I feel like a jerk for criticizing Gaiman’s writing, but what didn’t quite work for me in The Doll’s House really didn’t work for me in this volume. A Game of You collected a six-issue story arc centering on Barbie, a character introduced in The Doll’s House. It also concerned her imaginary fantasy world, a world she visited every night since she was a young child. Since we last saw Barbie, she doesn’t dream anymore. My problem with A Game of You is that the overall story was weakly constructed. A half-dozen potentially interesting elements were set up but not paid off. The story didn’t end so much as it stopped when Morpheus stepped in suddenly in a deus ex machina device. Ultimately I’m not even sure what the story was all about.