Monthly Archive for March, 2008

Funny Girl

Funny Girl (3/31/08) Netflix (1968 ***) Directed by William Wyler, starring Barbara Streisand and Omar Shariff as Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein. “Hello gorgeous,” indeed. Streisand exploded to superstardom, winning an Oscar for best actress in a leading role. I have seminal childhood memories of my mother taking me to see this when it was first released. Doing the math, I would have been three or four at the time. I definitely remember Streisand singing on the tugboat just before the intermission. Oddly enough, I remember being bored and wandering around in the theater while Mom and the other adults watched. At 2hrs:45min, Funny Girl was a movie that would tax most adult attention spans, let alone that of a 3-year-old. Watching it now, it’s clear that Streisand’s performance and vocals really carried a film that had more than a few story-related problems. On the whole, I liked Wyler’s directing (he’d won three best director Oscars), except for his tendency to use way too many damned lights in every damned scene.

Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind (3/31/08) DWA Screening (2008 ***) Written and directed by Michel Gondry, starring Jack Black and Mos Def. I recognized Gondry’s name. Looking him up on imdb.com, he had previously directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Science of Sleep (2006). Be Kind Rewind was a sweet film that almost worked but didn’t quite. The premise was that a ragtag group of misfits made their neighborhood (and their world) a better place by using their wacky inventiveness to make their own versions of famous films. Unfortunately the potential in that setup was never fully realized. It was sweet as hell though, and I surely wish I could give it a higher recommendation.

Used Cars

Used Cars (3/30/08) TV-HDMOV (1980 **½) Directed by Robert Zemeckis, screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, starring Kurt Russell and Jack Warden, with Michael McKean and David L. Lander (TV’s Lenny and Squiggy) appearing in a small role. This is a little embarrassing, but when I was a teenager, my grandfather took me to a handful of R-rated movies. Used Cars was one of them. Watching it now, for the first time in decades, I was flabbergasted by how much Kurt Russell’s character reminded me of Marty McFly in Back to the Future, which Zemeckis directed five years later. I had never made that connection before.

Hulk: Gray

Hulk: Gray (3/30/08) Graphic Novel (2005 ***) Written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale. This was a simple story, simply told, about the days following Bruce Banner’s exposure to the deadly rays of his gamma bomb. I found it consistently effective, with Sale’s artwork and Loeb’s words complimenting one another. My only reservation was that there was really so little story-wise to recommend the book more. Though it was glossed over in this book, the real story of why The Incredible Hulk started out gray and quickly became green was a pretty mundane one: The early 1960’s comic book printing technology had a hard time printing consistent gray values, and in order to get around this production limitation, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided Hulk would be better off emerald-hued.

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins (3/29/08) Netflix (1964 **½) Directed by Robert Stevenson, starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and David Tomlinson. I had such fond memories of this movie from my childhood. It seemed so magic, so wonderful. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Mary Poppins absolutely failed to hold up for me. I’m reminded of a similar disappointment I suffered a few years ago when I made the mistake of watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The visual effects in Mary Poppins, which were wonderful and inventive, were probably the highlight. At the risk of offending, I thought Robert Stevenson’s direction was half-hearted at best. Much of my childhood adoration was based on the music, and there were a few top-notch, memorable songs, but at least half the musical numbers were utterly forgettable. I also noticed that with only a few exceptions, the songs totally halted any progression of the story. And what the hell was that bird lady and her “tuppence a bag” thing about? It barely made any sense at all. One final note: Julie Andrews didn’t have much to work with in terms of character with Mary Poppins. Bert (Van Dyke) kept going on and on about how everybody loved Mary Poppins. But I actually thought she was kind of a bitch.

Justice League: The New Frontier

Justice League: The New Frontier (3/28/08) Netflix (2008 ***) Directed by Dave Bullock, based on the graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke. I appreciate that they even attempted to make a “feature” length version of Cooke’s graphic novel. Unfortunately, it was painfully obvious they were working with a limited animation budget. I understand the need to work within production constraints, I really do, but in this case it really diminished the potential of the source material.

Sandman Mystery Theater, Vol. 5: Dr. Death and the Night of the Butcher

Sandman Mystery Theater, Vol. 5: Dr. Death and the Night of the Butcher (3/25/08) Comics (2007 ***1/4) Written by Matt Wagner, illustrated by Guy Davis and Vince Locke. Like many of the books in my graphic novel collection, I picked this up at my favorite used book store, largely on a whim. This, the fifth volume in the series,was actually my first introduction to this incarnation of Wesley Dodds, the pre-WWII Sandman. The storytelling was strong and the realistic/sketchy art was totally appropriate to the material. I enjoyed this volume a lot, especially the decidedly non-superhero approach to one of the classic, albeit minor, golden age heroes. It was also fun to see the subtlety by which Gaiman’s Sandman influenced Dodds. I will definitely make an effort to seek out other volumes in the series.

Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1

Showcase Presents: Superman, Vol. 1 (3/24/08) Comics (2005 **½)Written and illustrated by various. Much of the appeal of reading these old stories from the late-1950’s is that they often take on a surreal quality. Unfortunately, there was much less of that in these Superman-centric stories than in the Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane stories in the first Superman Family volume. To be honest, I got somewhat bored by the juvenile stories in this collection. Maybe, just maybe, I’m finally growing up.

Get Rich or Die Tryin’

Get Rich or Die Tryin‘ (3/23/08) Netflix (2005 *½) Directed by Jim Sheridan, starring Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson. Once upon a time there was a hopeful young man who kept waiting for this movie he was watching to get better, but it never did. The end.

Enchanted

Enchanted (3/21/08) Netflix (2007 ***1/4) Directed by Kevin Lima, starring Amy Adams as Giselle, an animated (near) princess exiled to the real-world chaos of New York City. I love that Disney is finally taking ownership of the right to comment on their rich history. Enchanted wasn’t a perfect film, nor was it a tale told from a particularly sardonic viewpoint, but it was sure a lot of fun. Amy Adams was a perfect choice to play a wannabe princess. The songs (three of which were nominated for Oscar consideration) were pleasant enough, and I even caught myself with the “Happy Working Song” stuck in my head, but also I’m not particularly sorry they were beaten by “Falling Slowly” from Once.