November 24, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

littlemisssunshineA perfectly nice movie about family. Little Miss Sunshine doesn't try too hard, doesn't make too much of itself, and doesn't try to push the comedy or the melancholy too far. Well, perhaps the body-snatching was a bit much, and the Rick James dance finale was outrageous, but I loved it, and so did the apres-turkey audience on the Friday afternoon after the big holiday. (Arlington Capitol Theater)

November 5, 2006

For Your Consideration

foryourconsiderationAfter one viewing from the fifth row, it's my least favorite of the Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy-led comedies (Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind). The plot did not come to a satisfactory conclusion, the characters were all boringly dumb (Jennifer Coolidge just squawks randomly- not the same thing as comedy), and the hair and costumes, especially John Michael Higgins and Ed Begley Jr, were over-the-top. Perhaps we've all seen too many Hollywood satires? One of my favorite movies of all time is a Hollywood movie, Singin' In The Rain.

Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy create a skeleton of a plot to hang the improv scenes on. I imagine the movie-within-a-movie "Home For Purim" sounded funnier than the result onscreen: A Tennesee Williams-style southern melodrama, but featuring a Jewish family reuniting for Purim. Plenty of people in my audience were cracking up at the Jewish jokes, but I was only mildly amused. Rachael Harris showed a lot of potential as the lesbian girlfriend Mary Pat Hooligan, but her character just peters out.

Several scenes were included which were necessary to advance the plot, but were not funny. For example, Parker Posey and Christopher Moynihan are a Reese and Ryan-style couple. When she is rumoured for an Oscar nomination, she senses his jealousy, and they argue over it, but the scene of them arguing is not funny- I imagine the improv juices weren't flowing?

Perhaps the Hollywood premise is worn out, or the magic just wasn't there, but FYC just didn't spark. (Kendall Square Cinema)

November 4, 2006

The Prestige

Sometimes movies you have been anticipating for ages, end up letting you down. In other cases, a movie with no advance buzz ends up as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Who would have imagined that I'd find a movie about rival magicians so riveting? Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (yes, it's Wolverine versus Batman!) play Angier and Borden, who begin as friends and become bitter adversaries after a dangerous trick goes fatally wrong. They descend into a bitter spiral of revenge- it's not enough that they succeed- the other must fail, with pain and disgrace. I don't think I would be satisfied if the movie did not have a fantastical, supernatural element to it. The "real magic" performed in the movie is not revealed until the end, and it is a spine-chiller. I'm still turning it over in my mind two days later.prestige
Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) uses flashbacks - within - flashbacks to tell the story like a magic trick, which can get a little dense: at one point, Borden is reading Angier's diary, where Angier writes (in a flashback) about reading Borden's diary, where Borden reminisces (in a flashback) about his own past. Just like a magic trick, The Prestige rewards close viewing. In fact, the first words spoken are "Are you paying attention?" The movie does not have a "twist" ending like The Usual Suspects, where no reasonable viewer could figure out that Verbal Kint was Keyser Soze. The Prestige does require your full attention to keep up, and sharp minds will start to unravel the mystery by the mid-way point. (AMC Burlington)
I was never a fan of magic shows or magic tricks growing up- I always felt like the audience was being played for fools. I can appreciate a clever piece of misdirection, and admire deft sligh-of-hand, but a guy in a tux onstage playing with props never impressed me. I once went to a magic show at the Cabot Theater in Beverly, where the magician levitated an assistant into the air under a cloth- except I spotted the assistant roll out of sight as the cloth "covered" her.