Welcome to Film Roundup

Welcome to Film Roundup (inspired here), wherein I realize that I’ve watched a lot of movies over the years that I never discussed on the blog (like, several hundred) and double back to pick them up, a handful or so at a time. Herein you will find a somewhat random assortment, drawn as they fall from the past 3 and a half years (and counting), and probably only reviewed very briefly before we move on. If a feature is something extra-special that I haven’t discussed yet but have definite plans to cover at greater length later (like one of the Oscar winners, say), I’ll probably leave it alone for now; plenty of material without fishing for that stuff. And so, without further ado . . .

The Taming of the Shrew – 61%

Famous screen couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor shoot sparks out of their eyeballs as famous Shakespeare couple Petruchio and Katharina in this Franco Zeffirelli production. I saw this just after completing a course on Shakespeare and while taking a course on film, so perhaps I was in hyper-critical mode, or maybe I just don’t buy into everything this play does to its characters. Either way, while I did enjoy it, the casting felt gimmicky and the entire movie seemed to think it could run off of the gimmick alone. Not that it wasn’t fun to watch Burton and Taylor beat the snot out of each other, but the antics felt somehow lifeless. Michael York is also well cast, but languishes in a subplot. Just like the Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, which I had seen in class, the art direction and staging seemed to lack any sort of flair, and the acting was generally too muted to make up the difference. Shakespeare’s comedies were written to be hammed up to the max! I know it can be done better!

Calendar Girls – 81%

A group of middle-aged British women decide to pose nude for a calendar to raise money for cancer research. Hoping to sell a few hundred copies in their area, they are all taken by surprise when the story catches fire worldwide and their calendar raises hundreds of thousands of dollars. Based on a true story. This is risqué comedy fit for polite society. It’s cute and occasionally guffaw-worthy. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are, of course, fantastic. Overall the movie will probably leave you quite satisfied, but it’s not going to blow you out of the water. Has it’s moments, but they are largely forgettable. Great film to scandalize older relations without getting into too much trouble.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – 85%

I love Wes Anderson. His style is immediately identifiable, and his movies are quirky and off-beat. He brings immense talent together and puts it to work in the service of his vision, and the results are always good and often great. This film follows Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a Jacques Cousteau-like documentary filmmaker who travels the world’s oceans with a team of eccentric misfits (Anjelica Huston, Willem Defoe, et al) which serves as both his family and his crew. As the movie begins, his best friend has just been eaten by the elusive jaguar shark, and he has vowed not to rest until the shark is dead. The hunt, of course, will all be captured on film. Joining him for the voyage are an inquisitive and very pregnant journalist (Cate Blanchett) and a young airline pilot who believes he is Zissou’s illegitimate son (Owen Wilson). Zissou and his crew face piracy, mutiny, and a host of other adventures as their voyage leads each of them towards personal epiphanies that will change their lives.

Don’t mistake the above description as a sign that Life Aquatic says anything terribly deep. Most of the time it’s just crazy fun. This isn’t my favorite Anderson movie, but it entertains me. If you like different, this is for you.

Meet the Parents – 76%

A lot of people hate Ben Stiller, but he keeps showing up in movies, so someone, somewhere must love him. I fall into the camp that is often highly amused by Stiller’s antics, and Meet the Parents came out before he’d worn out the “Oh look, I’ve accidentally landed in another painfully embarrassing situation again” shtick. Robert De Niro, as the prospective father-in-law to Stiller’s very unsuitable suitor, is the perfect foil. He’s terrifying even before you learn that he used to work for the CIA. This isn’t high art by any stretch, but there are a number of masterful scenes that build awkwardness like Hitchcock used to build suspense, until you’re almost ready to explode. They’re all outrageously implausible, yet they somehow feel like they could actually happen.

My favorite is probably the dinner table sequence, which involves a mangled prayer, bad poetry, cat milking, a poorly-aimed champagne cork, and an urn containing the ashes of a beloved relative. If you’ve never had the experience of meeting a significant other’s family for the first time, you may not want to after this movie. At least, that was how I felt. Just take comfort (or caution) in the fact that, unlike this film’s protagonist, you probably aren’t a moron.

Sky High – 82%

Sky High is Harry Potter meets The Incredibles. There’s just no other way to describe it. Will Stronghold, the son of two famous superheroes, enrolls in a special high school for superheroes with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Of course, superhero high school turns out to be a lot like normal high school, and Will finds himself facing a lot of the same problems his more average peers are facing, though somewhat amplified by all of the superpowers. But before the end of the year, he’ll face challenges only a true superhero can overcome.

At first glance, it appears to be just the sort of thing you’d expect to find aired during the day on the Disney Channel. At times, the special effects are just a notch above made-for-TV, but somehow, cheesy works for this movie, and works well. The plot is surprisingly intricate, the characters are well-developed, and the script is full of affectionate, self-aware prods at the superhero genre, much like Galaxy Quest did to Star Trek. There are quite a few fun performances by the adult cast as well, including Kurt Russell as Will’s father (geez, he’s been appearing in Disney movies for nearly 40 years now), Bruce Campbell as the loud-mouth gym teacher, Cloris Leachman as the school nurse, and Lynda Carter (yes, Wonder Woman) as the school principal. Sky High represents just about the most fun you can have with pure fluff.

~ by Jared on October 30, 2007.

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