Film Roundup VI

“Another one? Already? What’s your excuse this week?”

Well, my dad was visiting from out of the country and we were doing stuff, including but not limited to visiting my brother a few hours from here.

“And you couldn’t go to the movies with your dad?”

I did. We went to see No Country for Old Men (my 4th time!). He didn’t like it, and neither did my brother (who abhorred the ending for what he felt was a lack of closure). That’s okay, though, I like it enough for both of them. And I’m betting that Oscar will too. Anyway, don’t worry, nothing good came out this week anyway. Not to worry, next week is almost certain to have something of interest (quality not yet assured). Meanwhile . . .

Memoirs of a Geisha – 86%

Based on a novel about a young girl in pre-WWII Japan who is sold to a geisha house. She eventually rises through much hardship to become a geisha herself, but finds that the world she once inhabited is changing rapidly in the wake of Japan’s defeat. Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago) and produced by Steven Spielberg, the film version is all style and not a lot of substance. The production is drop-dead gorgeous and was nominated for several technical Oscars, deservedly winning for art direction, costume design and cinematography. Despite the admittedly impressive spectacle, the film feels ultimately devoid of heart. It’s all just a bit too empty and lifeless, as though there were actually nothing beneath those pale, frigid masks of makeup the main characters hide behind.

Mulan – 92%

Mulan, a Chinese girl, is having trouble conforming to the role expected of her gender. An only child, she steals her elderly father’s uniform and rides to war against the invading Huns in his place, followed by an incompetent guardian dragon (Eddie Murphy) summoned forth by her ancestors, a “lucky” cricket, and her faithful horse. A fun, clever Disney effort, and one of the last really solid entries in their “official animated feature” canon to-date. Although it’s odd hodge-podge of Asian cultural and historical elements might irritate the knowledgeable, it has some catchy songs, much hilarity (mostly from Murphy’s dragon character), and an exciting plot (albeit wildly fantastical in more than one sense). One can certainly find far worse animated fare, both in terms of poor storytelling and non-existent research . . . Pocahontas or Anastasia, anyone? I thought not.

Spellbound – 92%

Not to be confused with the Hitchcock-directed Bergman/Peck psychological thriller of the same name, this is one of the best documentaries (and best movies) of recent years. It follows several kids from all different backgrounds and parts of the country as they prepare obsessively for the National Spelling Bee. They’re all great kids, but only one can be the winner, and the tension is unbearably thick as the final round approaches. Tells a fantastic and entertaining story that everyone can enjoy, although it ultimately lost the documentary Oscar to Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine.

Millions – 80%

Idealistic young Damian and his older brother Anthony have just had a bag stuffed full of pound notes dropped in their laps just a few days before England is scheduled to switch to the Euro. Anthony is all for enjoying the money, but Damian, more affected by the recent loss of their mother, wants to use it to do something good. Oh, and did I mention that Damian has an odd habit of talking to saints that no one else can see? I wasn’t quite tracking on the same wavelength as this movie. It was odd in ways that I didn’t expect. This isn’t quite a fair reason for saying I didn’t like it (I did), but it was often extremely weird for no discernible reason. To me, the hallucinatory nature of certain scenes (while sometimes hilarious and moving) mostly detracted from the story rather than adding to it.

Night at the Museum – 84%

Ben Stiller plays a guy who gets a job as a night guard at a museum that comes alive after everyone else has left. Various other famous actors add flavor, as well, including Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt, Steve Coogan as Octavius, Owen Wilson as a cowboy, and Dick van Dyke and Mickey Rooney as other guards. The whole thing turned out to be rather disarming, and I rather enjoyed it. Not a lot of depth, perhaps, but it’s very clearly meant as light, fluffy fare and it works spectacularly in that vein for most of the runtime. The final climax goes a bit overboard on the silliness, but fails to negate the fun of the rest of the movie.

~ by Jared on February 8, 2008.

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