Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home (Re)Viewing/What Are You Watching?

Today I return to a hybrid of DVD reviews and short takes on some movies I've seen on the small screen. 

Today's DVDs

Michael Jackson: This is It:  The documentary assembled from hours of rehearsal footage for the Michael Jackson extravaganza that never was could have been exploitative. Instead, it's a fascinating glimpse that raveled the Michael of old was still very much there. He remained too hung up on slick bombast and gooey sentiment when he didn't need them - but he was also still one of the most magnetic performers of our age when he simply sang and/or danced. By it's very nature, this portrait is incomplete, but at its best, it's enthralling.  Full review - GRADE: B+

Saw VI: Snore. Snore. Snore. Snore. Snore. Snore.

Surrogates: This sci-fi actioner gets points for some inventive ideas and well-staged action scenes, but it failed to make me care about the characters very much. It's a little too robotic for its own good. Full review - GRADE: B-

Whip It: I was very disappointed that Drew Barrymore's scrappy, winning  directorial debut got precious little attention in theaters. Her chronicle of a girl (Ellen Page) who finds herself when she gets into roller derby is the sort of solid storytelling people keep saying is missing from movies - and then they don't go to see it when it arrives. I hope it finds the audience it deserves now. Full review - GRADE: A-

What are You Watching?

A Guy Named Joe: Having recently bought The Wizard of Oz on Blu-Ray, I decided to check out this movie also directed by Victor Fleming. I had always been curious to see it because Steven Spielberg remade it into the one film of his I can't recommend: the pallid Always. Is the original better? Yes, but not by that much. The soapy World War II story, about a deceased Spencer Tracy trying to guide his girl (Irene Dunne) and the hotshot flyer who loves her (Van Johnson), takes WAY too long to get going. As it settles into the third act, however, the superbly talented cast gives it their all, and the melodramatics got to me. I can see why Spielberg liked it - too bad even he couldn't improve upon it. GRADE: B

Moonlight Serenade: People who know me know well my penchant for Amy Adams and for girls who can sing. So since Amy sings in this film, it should be an automatic winner for me, right? Alas and alack, no, I am surprised to say. Naturally, it's fun to hear Amy croon the standards, but she's stuck with  a barely Lifetime-worthy plot, a washout of a male lead (Scott G. Anderson) and production values that aren't much slicker than those of Paranormal Activity. Never mind that it's not up to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - it ain't even Leap Year. GRADE: C

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