Tuesday, February 02, 2010

DVDs, Oscar pics and a TCM viewing tip


Adam : Quirky indie romance never seemed to catch fire but looked fairly charming in its trailers.

Amelia: - So this was supposed to be a big Oscar contender, huh? Oops.

House of the Devil:  I can see why some people liked this low-rent throwback to 80s-style horror, and for a good long while it does build suspense nicely. But I think some people's nostalgia for that era blinds them so they don't notice or care that the ending, as the Hollywood reporter rightly put it, "borrows literally from a well-known horror film made by a guy (who was recently) in a Swiss jail." I do like the idea that it's being released on VHS - in this case, Blu-Ray must seem an anachronism, no? GRADE: C

Love Happens: Seemed nobody cared what happened between Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart. Eckhart is allowed a slip, but Aniston really needs to start picking better material. The Bounty Hunter does not give me much hope.

New York, I Love You: This omnibus film tries to do for the Big Apple what Paris Je'Taime did for the City of Lights - and apparently does it with much less success. At least New York Stories went two-for-three.

The Time Traveler's Wife: This adaptation of the best-seller gets by largely on the charm of its two stars, Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, who save the movie from occasionally muddled storytelling. I get the sense something was lost in the translation from page to screen. Full review. GRADE: B

Zombieland: Terrifically inventive and hilarious horror spoof, aided by a cameo everyone must know about by now. (Hint - Today's his day.) I didn't like it enough to buy it, but I did feel oddly compelled to buy a box of Twinkies this week. Full review: GRADE: B+


Crazy Heart: Jeff Bridges absolutely deserves every bit of praise he's received  for his performance as a burned-out country star, but the movie doesn't succeed solely because of him. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also excellent as the woman who prompts him to better himself, and the film as a whole is sharply observed. Every time it threatens to go into Lifetime movie territory, it goes off the beaten path and surprises. Well worth seeing, even if country music is not your favorite. GRADE: A-

Edge of Darkness: Mel Gibson's return to starring roles has been underrated by critics; I think the movie succeeds largely because Gibson still holds the screen as well as he ever did. People expecting an action-packed ride may be disappointed, as this movie is more of a police procedural than a thriller, but it's a story well told. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), who once again proves himself to be one of the sturdiest craftsmen in the business. He may not be a visionary, but I think Campbell warrants comparisons to a classic Hollywood warhorse like Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood), who was never visually showy but was always a strong storyteller. GRADE: B+

A Single Man: ZZZZZZZZ. Oh, I'm sorry. I was just reminded of watching this film, which is this year's The Reader:  a piece of stiflingly pretentious twaddle about piteous bores who really need to get over themselves. Colin Firth works hard to provide some emotional connection, but he can't escape the film's overbearing sense of self-importance.  GRADE: D

TCM Viewing tip

The Oscar nominations  come out today. My predictions are here, and I will write a reaction piece tonight. However, while we're on the subject of the Academy Awards, I'd like to alert you to Turner Classic Movies' 31 Days of Oscar, which is under way.

As before, every single movie TCM plays this month was at least nominated for one Oscar. But the channel's brilliant programmers have created a unique connecting thread for the films. Each movie in the lineup is connected by one actor to the next film in the lineup. For instance:

Tonight at 8 p.m. is The Thin Man, staring Myrna Loy, who was also in ....

The Best Years of Our Lives, the peerless post World War II drama playing at 10 p.m. The movie also starred Fredrich March, who was in ...

Inherit the Wind, playing at 1 a.m.

... and so on. It's really fun to try and guess the connections between the films - and it's even more fun to watch them. I'll be doing that even more than usual this month. You should too.

No comments: