Friday, June 08, 2007

Quick DVD Reviews

Little Miss Sunshine
I had pretty high expectations and for the most part, they were met. It’s a fun little film with just enough pathos to make it stick with you for a while. A vanful of misfits is just a little too much to swallow at times, but the likes of Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell and Alan Arkin could make Plan 9 from Outer Space an Oscar nominee. It also reminded me how much beauty pageants for kids give me the creeps.
Grade: B+

Stranger Than Fiction
I thought I knew exactly how this movie would play out. I was a more than a little wrong. I was simply expecting some sort of post-modern Charlie Kaufman-lite type of thing, but it proved to have its own voice and I really liked the way it moved along. A lot of understated performances, which was nice as there was a real opportunity to ham it up here with the likes of Ferrell and Hoffman sharing scenes.
Grade: B+

The Queen
Meh. Nice job all around in terms of the performances, but I felt like the story got stuck in a loop for the entire middle act. The whole ‘Will she or won’t she go to London?’ bit ended up being the focus of the entire movie. Plus, the whole ‘Stalkers & Stag’ metaphor was too ham-fisted for my tastes. The whole thing came across as a bit of a Movie of the Week.
Grade: B-

The Prestige
What I liked most about this film, is it actually feels like a smallish 70s flick (think The Duellists), but there’s also a bit of a Hammer Victorian-era setting B Movie thrown in there too. Bale, Caine and Jackman are superb, and the whole film just oozes with atmosphere. The scenes in the U.S. with Bowie are the weakest point, as it all feels a bit slapped on, to help explain the almost inexplicable plot. I didn’t feel that was necessary – a few little mysteries left to ponder wouldn’t have been the worse thing that could happen. All in all, I admired this film because it was mainstream and yet sufficiently different so as to be unlike anything else I’ve seen in a while.
Grade: A-

The Illusionist
Well, it was a pretty damned fine year for movies about late 19th Century magicians. I was concerned that I had rented this one too soon after The Prestige, but the movies could not be more different (well, I guess that’s not entirely true – I guess and animated musical would have been even more different), but it is smaller in scope and delivery. Norton is in full command here – able to utilize his intensity for the first time in a long time. Giamatti wisely lays low but does a nice job as the conflicted detective. Jessica Biel is fine, but fairly wooden - if she picks more projects such as this, she could have an interesting career.
Grade: B+

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