Sunday, August 29, 2010

What's up Netflix!

Fame- 2 stars- The entire time I was watching this movie, I kept glancing at my DVD bookcase. Somewhere up there is the original "Fame" (1980), a movie packed with teen angst, anger, lust, determination, and struggle. What I was watching was a white washed version of a Disney channel movie. So disappointing. There is a reason the original is over 2 hours long (and was nominated for and won several Oscars): It needed to be. How can you successfully address 4 years of high school and a primary cast of 7 in 90 minutes? You can't. Some thing gets lost, usually character development and story. Instead of a poignant piece about growing up we get a few scenes linked together with no real feel for how they should connect. If I were you, I would avoid this remake entirely and just rent the original- Better songs, better dancing, better acting, better movie. Period.

The Wolfman- 2 stars- Oh, did this make me sad. Director Joe Johnson ("Honey, I Shrunk The Kids", "The Rocketeer", "Jurassic Park 3") attempts to remake a classic, in this case Lon Chaney Jr's "The Wolf man" (1941). In theory, it should work. The classic leaves room for impressionism and the latest in FX (though come on, Chaney still looks great in the wolf make up!). The updated version follows the original story line fairly accurately. Benicio Del Toro returns to his family home upon news that his brother has gone missing, despite the tension between him and his father. When he arrives, he visits the local gypsy camp to learn more and is attacked by a werewolf. The next month, the wolf emerges and terrorizes the town. Unfortunately, the remake doesn't work. Del Toro is a slob of a brother with an American accent never acknowledged (he grew up in England for Christ sake!) and a demeanor that wouldn't make even the most self-loathing woman swoon. But, swoon one does. This time it's Emily Blunt as the fiancé of his dead brother. Clearly there was no real love lost there as she is ready to jump into bed with Del Toro after a few brief words. Anthony Hopkins plays the father rather well, his acting the more recognizable amid the drek that is everyone else. No one speaks with passion or feeling. It's like you're watching the line reading and at any time the director will say, "Okay, I think we have it. Now let's try it for real". Frankly, I read a book while this was playing I was so bored. The FX by the legendary Rick Baker are supreme and the CGI transformation that takes place in the laboratory is on par with the practical FX of "An American Werewolf in London". All around, I would say skip it.

The Road- 4 stars- This movie has been sitting on top of my DVD player for at least a month. I just couldn't bring myself to watch it, knowing it would upset me. I read the book earlier this year and really liked Cormac McCarthy's stream of consciousness Spartan style. It's told almost as journal entries are written, with few descriptive words and no designation between quotes and thoughts. The film is equally jarring and warm at the same time. Following an unseen and untold apocalyptic event, Father (Viggo Mortensen) and Son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) walk the barren country side in search of food, shelter, and solace from the wickedness around them. They are on the run not just from tribes of cannibalistic survivors but the elements as well. It is a bleak setting, sure, but an uplifting one as well. It is the story of a father and son and what each is willing to do and sacrifice for each other. John Hillcoat's sophomore effort (he previously directed the magnificent "The Proposition") is a fully formed being, free from the constraints of being based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book much loved by the world. He doesn't seem to care; instead carving out his own piece of the legacy. It is a quite movie, but quite with a kind of intense burning that radiates from its core. Newcomer Smit-McPhee could have an amazing career in front of him if he is smart. He will next be seen in the remake "Let Me In" opposite another precocious star Chloe Moretz ("Kick Ass"). While I'm glad I didn't see this with my own father, the idea that he may not love it as much as I or not get it is too much to bare; I do plan to make him read the book. Whichever medium you choose, share this film with someone you love and who loves you.

The Big Chill- 4 stars- I must have seen this movie a dozen times. My parents love it and we used to listen to the soundtrack all the time. Now, it seems to be the butt of cinephile jokes ("High Fidelity" anyone?), but I don't care. It's a good picture. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), it is the quintessential Baby Boomer movie. After their friends suicide, a group of college chums meet for a weekend to remember good and bad times, and question whether the bond that held them together all those years before is still there. Jeff Goldblum delivers the best lines, but each actor is given room to shine. [side note: Where the heck fire has Meg Tilly been?] They play together as if they are old friends, each word spoken holds weight and meaning. Plus, the soundtrack of classic 60s songs keeps the action moving. If you have never seen this movie, do so now. If you have, isn't it about time to watch it again?

And, one that is currently not available on Netflix:

First Born (aka Moving In)- 3 stars- Ever time I hear the title of this movie I get confused. "Is it a horror picture"? No, though you may watch it the same way you would watch them. It practically begs to be made fun of, which may be a shame depending on whom you ask. Teri Garr (where has she been?) hooks up with Peter Weller after her divorce. He is a beast of a man, all fists and no words, who introduces his new squeeze to a life of fear and drugs. Along for the ride are her two children played by Christopher Collet and Corey Haim in his film debut. They don't like the new man in mommy's life and will do anything to get rid of him. [side note: check out Robert Downey Jr's bitchin' hair cut]. If you like MST3K or simply watching dated 80s movies and having a ball, you should check this one out!


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