Monthly Archive for August, 2007

Sequins (AKA A Common Thread)

Sequins (AKA A Common Thread) (8/29/07) Netflix (2004 ***) Directed by Eleonore Faucher. The story: A pregnant teenager’s life intersects that of an Armenian woman who has recently lost her son; they share a kindred love for elaborate embroidery. As you may have guessed, this was one of my wife’s Netlix picks. It wasn’t one of those films I would’ve chosen on my own, but I enjoyed it well enough. Once again I’m forced to recognize I do genuinely enjoy a good foreign film now and then. As was the case with Sequins, they are often a good reminder of storytelling alternatives to those found in the American mainstream.

Hairspray (2007)

Hairspray (8/27/07) DWA Screening (2007 ****) Directed by Adam Shankman. I absolutely loved this movie from beginning to end. The casting was fantastic. Nikki Blonsky was radiant in the lead role of Tracy Turnblad. The stunt casting of John Travolta as her mother (in the role made famous in the 1988 version by Divine) was truly inspired. The term “feelgood” movie is thrown around a lot, but I definitely left the theater feeling pretty damned good! Shankman’s direction was spot on, and the wall-to-wall musical numbers all felt fresh. It didn’t just stop there, either. In particular I found myself oddly drawn to the stylized 1962 period Baltimore production design. All in all, Hairspray was an excellent film.

Wicked

Wicked (8/26/07) Pantages Theater, Los Angeles (2007 ***½) I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m giving this musical high marks even though my hearing was such that I couldn’t hear most of the dialogue or lyrics. Still, the production was beautiful and the story/premise was compelling. I did think the first act was stronger than the second, however.

Notorious

Notorious (8/25/07) Hollywood Forever Cemetery (1946 ***) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This was the first time this year my wife and I attended one of the Cinespia showings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We were joined by a couple of friends of my wife and it was a beautiful evening: Neither too cold nor too hot. The movie was quite good too. That Hitchcock fella knew what he was doing.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille (8/22/07) DWA Screening (2007 ***½) Directed by Brad Bird. Watching Ratatouille the second time I was amazed by the high level of visual excellence throughout. I did, however find myself getting a little bored with the story about halfway through. That might possibly have something to do with the fact that I watched the movie around dinner time and I was distracted by hunger. As is often the case, watching the movie again allowed my eye to wander and observe the artistry in the background as well as the foreground. One observation: There was a nice variety of character heights among the human characters. For example, Skinner (the head chef) and the health inspector were both quite short, while Linguini and Anton Ego were tall. This might not seem like a big deal, but in addition to the visual variety this offered, it also resulted in more interesting camera angles.

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz (8/20/07) Netflix (2007 ***) Directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This was the same team behind 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. I don’t think I enjoyed Hot Fuzz quite as much as the previous film, in part because I’d heard so many good things about it that my expectations were high. The story also seemed to sag in the third act and that was a let-down. Still, the action sequences mixed well with the comedy.

The Sandman: Endless Nights

The Sandman: Endless Nights (8/18/07) Graphic Novel (2004 ***) Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by various artists. Gaiman returned to what is arguably his most beloved creation after an absence of several years. Endless Nights was a collection of seven stories about Dream and his six siblings: Desire, Despair, Destruction, Delirium (Delight), Destiny and Death. The earlier stories in the collection were wonderful, but the later stories left something to be (no pun intended) desired. Granted, some of the characters presented more of a challenge than others. While I appreciated the experimentation Gaiman embraced with “15 portraits of Despair,” it didn’t make for compelling storytelling.

Fletch

Fletch (8/15/07) Novel (1974 **) Written by Gregory McDonald. I.M. (Irwin Maurice) Fletcher is a newspaper reporter working undercover on a “drugs on the beach” story when he’s approached by a rich man who hires Fletch to kill him. This setup kind of turned the murder mystery on its head, but didn’t really work for me. The identifying characteristic of McDonald’s writing was spare to non-existent description. Most of the book consisted of page after page of dialogue, much of it unattributed. While this was fun for a few pages, it got old quickly. Another annoying habit of McDonald’s was that he frequently presented information redundantly.

The Sopranos, Season 4

The Sopranos, Season 4 (8/14/07) Netflix (2002 ***) Series created by David Chase. What’s there to say? When Tony and his boys aren’t f*cking their mistresses, they’re whacking their enemies. (SPOILERS) In this, the fourth award-winning season, Adrianna became the unwitting target of an FBI undercover agent and Christopher’s addiction to heroin took its toll on his ability to step up to the responsibilities Tony had planned for him. Meanwhile, Tony and Carmella bickered over their financial future and eventually things went to hell. Meanwhile, A.J. stumbled through the 13-episode season as a poster child for eye-rolling disaffected teens everywhere.

Sgt. Pepper’s at 40: A Beatles Celebration

Sgt. Pepper’s at 40: A Beatles Celebration (8/11/07) Hollywood Bowl (2007 ***½) The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Cheap Trick were joined by Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, Rob Laufer, Ian Ball and others. By and large they did a fine job, though Ian Ball of Gomez goofed his lines a few times. A highlight of the show was vocalist Al Jourgensen and guitarist Sin Quinn of Ministry doing a very goth metal version of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” from the White Album. It may not have gone over well with some of the older members of the audience, but my wife and I sure enjoyed the hell out of it.