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goddess of clarity: a blog about politics, culture, and serenity

Capsule Movie Reviews 2006

Copying Beethoven

The Little 12.20.06

The trailer was much better than the movie, probably because the trailer had the good sense to end at the dramatic premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The movie drones on for another pointless half hour during which Beethoven (played with hair by Ed Harris) falls for his young, pretty, copyist and she -- naturally -- falls for him. I really could have lived without the chest-washing scene.

Shut Up and Sing

The Little 12.18.06

The first time President Bush appears on screen in this documentary about Dixie Chicks scandal, the audience at the Little started to hiss. I haven't heard people hiss in a movie theatre in a long time; for a moment I thought I was back in Seattle.

For Your Consideration

The Little 12.04.06

Everything Fred Willard does cracks me up, including his performance in this Christopher Guest mockumentary about the Hollywood awards season. Best line: "We can't throw the baby out with the bath water, because then we'd have a wet, critically injured baby."

Casino Royale

Pittsford Plaza 11.27.06

There is a certain amount of intellectual curiosity that one must surrender in order to enjoy a James Bond movie. Trying to understand how Bond knew to go to the Bahamas or how that African bombmaker led to the Greek drug runner is a futile exercise. Don't fight it; just go along for the ride. Daniel Craig's abs and his oh-so-perfect ass should help.

The Queen

The Little 11.13.06

It's funny, I never thought that Chief Inspector Jane Tennyson looked anything like Queen Elizabeth II. Now I find it impossible to believe that Chief Inspector Jane Tennyson is not -- in fact -- Queen Elizabeth II.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Regal Henrietta 11.10.06

One woman in the aisle in front of us obviously had no idea what she was about to see and had been lured to the movie by her large group of friends. She was not amused. I, on the other hand, was delirious with joy. The movie isn't just a goof (though there is toilet humor and hairy nakedness aplenty). There is both seriously serious and seriously funny shit going on here. Yakshemash!

Nosferatu

The Dryden 10.31.06

I decided to avoid the trick-or-treaters last night and check out this classic silent horror flick featuring just about the creepiest portrayal of Dracula ever committed to film. Bela Lugosi's caped creation is a comic book caricature compared to the bat-skinned, pointed-tooth, freakshow-skinny frightfest that is Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orleck.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

The Cinema 10.17.06

I know there are those who don't see the genius, but for me Will Ferrell can do no wrong. He barely has to speak and he cracks me up. One favorite line of many: "I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence."

Invincible

The Cinema 10.17.06

Very uplifting, Disney movie based on the true story of Vince Papale, a part-time bartender and unemployed school teacher who walked on to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. The coolest thing about the movie is that Dick Vermeil is a main character (played by Greg Kinnear), and he was like a god in our house. A god in plaid pants.

Hollywoodland

The Little 09.09.06

I've never found Adrien Brody to be in any way attractive, and I still don't. I liked the movie eventually, but his weird New-York-gumshoe mumble almost ruined if for me. Ben Affleck, however, was surprisingly good. I say "surprisingly" because I've seen Jersey Girl.

Little Miss Sunshine

Pittsford 09.03.06

I usually respond badly to movies about quirkiness for quirkiness sake, but this was a whole lot of fun. All the performances were fantastic; I don't know who played those two kids but they were both brilliant. Long careers to both. I had read that the ending was contrived and over-the-top. Not a bit of it, sir. Try "hilarious" and "kick ass."

Cars

The Cinema 08.20.06

There was some amazing animation in this latest effort from Pixar, especially the shots of the cars moving through the landscape or being splashed by water. And the cars themselves were very cute and not at all creepy-looking (See: Shark Tale and Valiant). It's too bad all this great animation was put to the service of such a flimsy story.

The DaVinci Code

The Cinema 08.10.06

Wow, did this movie suck. I knew it was gonna suck as soon as the anagram on the Mona Lisa led to the Madonna of the Rocks, which led to the Fleur de Lis, which led to etc., etc., etc. Did you know The Da Vinci Code is an anagram for "Coin Death Dive?" I don't know what that means either, but it makes as much sense as this movie.

Who Killed the Electric Car

The Little 08.08.06

Fell neatly into the left-wing, corporations-are-evil subgenre of political documentaries. Except it was more than just screaming polemic. The corporations in this one really are evil. Like evil-for-no-reason evil. Shakespearean evil.

Superman Returns

Pittsford Plaza 07.19.06

This movie could have resorted to a lot of cheap, heart-tugging tricks, and it didn't. I like that the filmmakers went with a "return" story, avoiding the well-worn "origin" subgenre. And one major quibble: Clark Kent was gone for five years. Superman was gone for five years. Nobody, even for a minute, makes the connection?! They're not the quickest bunch over at the Daily Planet, are they?

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The Dryden 07.12.06

How cool is the Dryden? I'll tell you how cool. To mark the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, the Dryden is showing each of the first four Star Trek movies, preceded by one of the TV episodes. Last night was the jewel in the crown, The Wrath of Khan, preceded by a much younger Khan and Kirk in "Space Seed." People had driven from Buffalo and Toronto for the occasion.

An Inconvenient Truth

The Dryden 07.11.06

"The Al Gore movie" really is all Al Gore, all the time. He's the only person who speaks for the entire film, and the lecture does sag a bit at times. But there are enough shocking moments -- combined with shocking Apple Keynote slides -- to drive the point home. The best line from the film -- used by Gore to describe White House science advisors who deny the existence of global warming -- belongs to Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

The Devil Wears Prada

Pittsford Plaza 07.08.06

Meryl Streep didn't make me cry in this movie. She did however make the audience gasp out loud several times at the astonishing, over-the-top cruelty of nasty little creation, fashionista Miranda Priestly. Mainly the movie just made me think about my wardrobe, hair, waistline, and skin and how sadly inadequate each of these truly is.

A Prairie Home Companion

The Little 07.06.06

We saw this movie by "accident" (we had intended to see An Inconvenient Truth, but remembered at the last minute that we had already agreed to see this later with a friend). I like Robert Altman, but I can't imagine anyone who was not already fond of the radio show getting anything out of this movie. It was entertaining enough, but nothing really happens. You're basically watching a radio show. I did cry at Meryl Streep's song about her mother, though.

Mission Impossible III

The Cinema 06.19.06

The second half of that double bill. I do love Rochester's Own Philip Seymour Hoffman. Maybe Tom Cruise picked up some acting tips. And I laughed out loud at the Vatican sequence, as the IMF team blast their way through 13th century catacombs with dismissive abandon. No, Agent Hunt! Not the frescos!

Poseidon

The Cinema 06.19.06

The first half of a cheesy, $3-double-bill of summer crap at The Cinema. There wasn't a puppy that disappeared at the beginning of the film only to turn up miraculously at the end, but there might as well have been. Best line belongs to Kevin "Wow, He's Got to Die Soon" Dillon. "You don't just get the name Lucky Larry. You have to be LUCKY!"

It

National Film Theatre 05.28.06

We passed up the two-hour queue at the London Eye for this classic silent classic starring Clara Bow, the "It Girl" herself. And you can definitely see that she had the undefinable star quality. A very funny snapshot of the shop-girl-flapper era.

Art School Confidential

The Little 05.21.06

It's nothing like the trailer. Not a thing. And the only bits that worked were the bits in the trailer. Needed more of the art school bullshit and less of the utterly predictable murder mystery.

Inside Man

The Cinema 05.08.06

Really tight, visually hip heist caper with top performances from Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor and on and on. As the threads of the ending keep stringing out tighter and longer, you want the whole thing to keep going, and you hunger for one more juicy detail.

American Dreamz

Marketplace 05.01.06

Hilarious satire nails all the details and manages to stay just on the right side of funny (even the terrorists are funny). Hugh Grant has pefected the role of the self-loathing cad. And Dennis Quaid embodies a certain dimwitted president so completely that by the end of the film you start to think he actually looks like George W. Bush.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

The Dryden 04.27.06

This was the last in the Dryden's very successful '50s Sci-Fi Thursdays, and it was a good one. I had seen this one before, but it was sooo long ago, I'd forgotten how delightfully cheesy it is. Everyone picks on the Ray Harryhausen effects, but I think they are quite good. I love watching the flying saucers crash into just about every national landmark in Washington D.C. No, what totally sucks about this film is the acting. Or rather the lack of acting. Thrill as our hero ... stands around and watches silently as one flying saucer after another is shot down!

Thank You for Smoking

Pittsford Plaza 04.15.06

I think this movie pulled its punches a bit; it wasn't nearly as subversive or dark as I had expected it to be. It sags a bit in the middle, with the whole weird kidnapping subplot, but it begins and ends fairly strong with extended monologues from tobacco lobbyist and modern-day sophist Nick Naylor.

The Thing (From Another World)

The Dryden 04.13.06

The Goddess household is split on this one. Mr. Goddess found it "a naturalistic look at a classic sci-fi subject." I found it "a load of nonsense." Peter Graves as the the titular Thing is supposed to be some vegetable man from space. The movie does explore issues of what makes someone a sentient being, but most of the time it's about the Thing going "MREEEEHHHHHHH!!" One item worthy of note: This is the film that originated the line, "Keep watching the skies!"

Them!

The Dryden 04.06.06

The Dryden's look at '50s sci-fi movies with philosophical overtones continues with this classic about a colony of giant ants that attacks a desert community. The special effects are laughable: the giant, deadly ants are quite obviously giant, not-so-deadly puppets. But it's good, clean, campy fun. Plus, it features the famous Wilhelm Scream.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

The Little 04.04.06

I love Steve Coogan! This was a great movie, and Coogan is a big part of the reason why. He's perfected the art of being loveable while remaining fundamentally unlikable. Beyond Coogan, the movie itself is fascinating. It's a movie within a movie within a movie, and I'm going to guess it's also a pretty good representation of the pampered personalities and egocentric histrionics that must characterize the average movie set.

Why We Fight

The Little 03.28.06

Amazing. There wasn't anything new or surprising in this documentary about the growth of the military industrially complex and the current administration's place in it, but put together as a whole, it's just about the most eye-opening and convincing presentation of just where America went wrong and why everything continues to suck so bad.

V for Vendetta

Culver Ridge 03.24.06

I was really looking forward to this movie, but in the end it really didn't impress me that much sad to say. It was very, well, cinematic. Almost operatic. But it came across as kind of preachy, and oddly detached from its own story. You're never allowed to identify with or relate to the character "V." The unmoving mask is visually interesting for five minutes, then it's just creepy.

Underworld: Evolution

Movies 10 03.21.06

Is there a better way to spend a cold Tuesday night than with an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet followed by a vampire movie? I submit to you that there is not! Don't get me wrong; this movie is bad. Bad, and delightful. During the opening battle between the vampires and the "lycan," I could barely contain my glee. Yet despite the fact that fully one quarter of the movie is made up a flashbacks to the first movie, it remains completely incomprehensible to anyone who hadn't seen the original. Oh well, guess that's why God invented Netflix queues.

3 Women

The Dryden 03.19.06

This was a weird one. It's not confusing in the same way that Night Moves was confusing. The individual plot points make sense as you go along. But then about 20 minutes before the end there's this weird dream sequence and after all the hoogedy-boogedy special effects are over, the rest of the movie just sailed right over my head. The characters of the three women seem to shift and merge. Suddenly Shelly Duvall's character is Cissy Spacek's mother, and Cissy Spacek is acting like a little kid for no reason. Weirdness.

Night Moves

The Dryden 03.19.06

The most fascinating thing about this hard-boiled 1978 detective story was that the more our audience of self-professed film buffs discussed the movie afterwards (a discussion led by none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic Roger Ebert) the less we understood it. Wait, did the boyfriend kill the stunt pilot? Was the stepfather in on it? Were Joey and Paula in cahoots over the stolen Mexican art, or was Joey trying to double cross her? Nobody knew. So the audience consensus seemed to be, "Hey, it doesn't matter. Just forgot about the details and watch Gene Hackman."

The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Dryden 03.15.06

The Dryden is doing a 1950s "Sci-Phi" series in March and April (science fiction movies that explore philosophical issues) and this was one I hadn't seen before. The special effects from 1957 hold up remarkably well (the scene with the cat attacking the doll house is especially effective). And the film isn't funny or campy at all, as I thought it might be. It has a very serious "what is man's place in the universe?" tone to it.

Mrs. Henderson Presents

The Little 02.25.06

This movie was fun, but a little weak really. The dance numbers were great, and Judy Dench was her usual charming, witty self. But in the end, once you get beyond the premise of "naked women in World War II music hall," there's not much else you can do in terms of plot, and it felt like in the middle they were really stretching for things for these characters to do.

Brokeback Mountain

The Little 02.25.06

Finally! I've wanted to see this movie since it came out and it didn't disappoint. I loved some of the little touches, like how each of the supporting characters find out about the relationship between Ennis and Jack and how they react, and how Heath Ledger's character changes as a result of his relationship with Jack, while staying remarkably constant and solid. It's tough to choose between Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Best Actor this year. Which is more impressive: recreating and embodying a real person, or creating a character off the page?

Get Carter

The Dryden 02.23.06

This is one the best of the bleak, dystopian flicks that the Brits excelled at during the 1970s ("...and then everyone dies, the end.") The film is actually rather unremarkable but for the presence of Michael Caine. Caine *is*Get Carter, and the only reason this film has stood the test of time. Plus, his suits are so sharp you could slice bread with them.

Casablanca

The Dryden 02.11.06

With so many Oscar-implicated movies still on my must-see list (can you say, Brokeback Mountain?) it seemed a bit of an inefficient use of time to go see this classic, which I have seen on video many times. But, of course, it was well worth it. The film is so tight, the love story so engrossing, and the dialogue so witty, you just wish they still made movies like this. Claude Raines was robbed at the 1944 Oscars; his indescribably perfect performance as conflicted police captain Louis Renault is practically the embodiment of "Best Supporting Actor."

The Wrong Box

The Dryden 02.07.06

Michael Caine is one of those actors who's made so many movies, that it's possible to find whole swathes of his career that you know nothing about. This film falls into one of those swathes. Made in 1966, and released just a few months after Alfie had made him an international star, The Wrong Box is another crazy '60s British comedy. Set in Victorian England, it tells the story of two elderly brothers trying to outlive each other in order to claim the large inheritance that goes to the survivor. The awesome cast includes Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their first film, and an almost unrecognizable Peter Sellers as the dodgy doctor who's quick to dispense death certificates ... for a price.

Tom Jones

The Dryden 02.03.06

This was shown as part of the Dryden's "Best Picture Winners" series this month (it took the Oscar in 1963) and it's a weird little film. It's so full of Benny Hill-style zaniness and out-and-out pratfall-ery that I can't imagine the Academy honoring so silly a film today. It hasn't aged well, but it's still a bit of a laff.

Pride and Prejudice

Pittsford Plaza 01.19.06

I'll hand it to her: Keira Knightly made me stop disliking her pretty much immediately in this movie. (I could hardly bear to look at her as her sunken waif cheeks and collarbone almost ruined the otherwise excellent Bend it Like Beckham.) And even though I worship at the alter of Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy, Matthew Macfadyen acquits himself quite well also. Splendid.

The Squid and the Whale

The Little 01.15.06

I really love Laura Linney. When she smiles, she is really smiling and that makes it even more arresting when her face turns to rage or despair. This was an incredibly small movie where not much happens at all. But you feel like you're living this small, typical moment, which leads to no great insight or tidy conclusion. Cuz that's life, ya know?

Munich

Marketplace 01.11.06

The first two hours of this movie were fantastic -- full of tension and suspense, a real political thriller that makes you think. But it should have ended when Avner's (Eric Bana) mission ends. Speilberg wanders a bit in the last forty minutes, and I kept feeling like the ending was in sight, but it never quite came. And the sex scene? Unbelievably uncomfortable. I'm not sure what bigger point he was trying to make there, but I had to look away.

Capote

The Little 01.08.06

Now I really need to read In Cold Blood, but unfortunately my literary dance card is already filled with about a dozen other books I "need" to read and I'm still working on Great Expectations. Back to the movie: the whole film is made in the first scene. "Rochester's Own Phillip Seymour Hoffman" shows us everything we need to know about the character -- how charming, magnetic, needy, arrogant, fun, and selfish he is -- in that one scene, and the movie either sinks or swims with it. With Hoffman in the role, it swims.