08 May 2006

Stream of consciousness movie reviews...

So I saw a Jonathan Rhys Meyers double feature this weekend, and by the end, it got me thinking. It's clear that a single film can make the careers of several actors (The Big Chill, The Breakfast Club, Trainspotting, etc.), but does that mean that the casting directors of those films were just great identifiers of talent; or is it that there's plenty of competent actors out there, and it's just luck that they end up in a huge movie? I'm guessing the latter.

Match Point: 3 Stars. This film is basically Woody Allen remaking his own masterpiece Crimes and Misdemeanors in upper-crust London, just not as skillfully. The beauty of C&M was how he wove together the disparate storylines of people of various moralities in an exploration of human behavior and its consequences (just and unjust). Match Point turns C&M's Martin Landau into Jonathan Rhys Myers, a former tennis pro who manages to get very lucky in life and doesn't manage to fully appreciate it until he's gotten to the brink of screwing it all up. The first hour and change of this film is dreadfully boring to this American Jew, but my guess is that is because I'm not a WASPy Brit. WASPy folks probably feel the same way about the neurotic Jewish banter in Allen's earlier films. The movie really hits its stride in the last 45 minutes, and it was a pleasure to watch them. Scarlett Johannsen is as lovely as always, but doesn't really show the depth of emotion required for her part. Hopefully Woody can get a better performance out of her in their next pairing, Scoop.

My earlier ponderings was due to the appearance, in Match Point, of the ubiquitous Ewen Bremner, Spud in Trainspotting. The dude's everywhere...he's like the British Steve Buscemi...anytime they need a not-so-good looking skinny Brit, they go get him. Think about Trainspotting, though. In addition to Bremner: Ewan McGregor (world-famous), Robert Carlyle (slightly less so), Jonny Lee Miller (was huge for awhile), and Kelly Macdonald (not really famous, but damned accomplished. And I don't need to go through the casts of Big Chill and Breakfast Club because you know them all already. Rhys Meyers points out in Match Point that not enough people attribute luck as an essential component of their success. He's got a point.

Mission Impossible 3: 2.75 stars. This whole franchise has been a style-over-substance disappointment, and MP3 was no exception. Still, there's a place for nonsensical, big explosion movies. It was parts spectacle, fun, and ludicriousness, but I enjoyed most of it, despite the Bond-bad-guy-esque anticlimax. Anyone else find it funny that Billy Crudup and Philip Seymour Hoffman reversed positions from their performances in Almost Famous? Sort of, anyway. Also, Rhys Meyers, pick an accent, dude. I couldn't tell where the hell you were from.

Bushman out.

04 May 2006

DVD Review - THHGttG the Movie

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (2005): 2 Stars. So I ordered the original BBC series of THHGttG from Blockbuster.com, and they sent me this. It was in the BBC Series sleeve, but obviously the wrong disc. I told them and they shipped me the real one, or so they said. Yesterday, again, I got the 2005 movie in the BBC series sleeve. Clearly someone wanted me to watch this, so I did. And all I can say is, "Bleah." Lousy everything. Zooey Dechanel, a wonderful and lovely actress, is horribly miscast. Sam Rockwell is just flat-out annoying. Mos Def seems not to have any idea why he's in this film, and Martin Freeman, while actually pretty well-cast as Arthur Dent, has just got nothing else to work with. Skip it.

03 May 2006

In honor of the new player...some DVD reviews

King Kong: 2.5 Stars. Frankly, I thought it was boring. The first hour was really boring. The second hour had some good stuff (the brontosaur stampede was amazing, as were the giant insects). The return to NYC through the end was silly. The last line was awful. Naomi Watts is absolutely, amazingly beautiful, though, so the movie got bonus points for that. Not much more to say, except I expected more.

Mrs. Henderson Presents: 3.25 Stars. There's nothing wrong with a Judi Dench movie with substantial nudity, so long as the twain never meet, and while it was sketchy for a few minutes, they never did, so all was good. MHP is a solid period piece about a nude vaudeville show in London during the blitz. The women are lovely and buxom; the acting is good; the script is excellent; and the story was great. The set directors clearly had some fun, too, as easily half of the "outdoor" scenes are clearly supposed to look like stage sets. While that distracted a bit from the overall immersive effect of the film, it aided in putting things in context. I especially enjoyed the great Christopher Guest and Bob Hoskins, who both turn in excellent performances. Go rent it.

A New Toy

My beloved Cyberhome CH-DVD-500 died the other day. It was a good, nay, a great DVD player. It was progressive scan. It had 5.1 component audio out. It played both NTSC and PAL formats. It was region free (well, it was easily made region free). It played MP3s and displayed Jpegs. It only cost me $90 at Best Buy. It lasted a good 3-4 years and allowed me to play some of my prized foreign DVDs like Nobody Someday and the Australian versions of Serenity and The Dish, among others.

I almost got the same unit again from Amazon, since it's not in stores anymore, but I know there are some quality issues with the Cyberhome line, so I went local. The latest and greatest Cyberhome goody is the CH-DVR 1600, and what a goody it is. Besides having all of the above features (excepting 5.1 component out), it also plays DIVX- and XVID-compressed AVIs (so I can watch The IT Crowd on my TV rather than my computer). And as if that weren't enough, it has a built-in TV tuner and can record straight to DVD at several quality levels. It can also record from a firewire video camera. This makes me happy. It's also only $82.29 at BestBuy.com. You need to order it online, though, as it's $97.99 in-store, but since you can just pick it up locally, it's not really a hassle.

If you do get it, make sure you look at the model number on the box sticker carefully. There are 3 CH-DVR-1600 models: ZU (old), MU (newer), and MU1 (newest). Supposedly only the MU1 will play DIVX and XVID AVI files properly, and I can vouch that it works. As for making it Region Free...go here.