Sunday, December 28, 2008

Escape from Sobibor (1987)

Jon and I first saw Escape from Sobibor many years ago, and it made a huge impression. It was just as good the second time. It's the true story of the only concentration camp to stage a successful revolt--about 300 prisoners escaped. (There were a couple of revolts at other concentration camps, but they were not quite as successful.) This is an inspiring and moving film, definitely worth seeing. And though the subject matter is awful, of course, it's not gory; we actually watched it with our kids and then talked about World War II and the holocaust.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bring It On (2000)

I've seen bits and pieces of this on TV over the years, but I just recently watched the whole thing, uninterrupted. (Or maybe it was a little interrupted; I think I watched in on hulu.com, but it's not there anymore.) It's a pretty good high school flick, though more crass than I hope my own teenagers will be. (One can hope.) Possibly even up there with my all-time 1990s favorites, Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Movies!

I've watched many a mediocre feel-good holiday movie in the last month or so, partly because our tiny library had a recent influx (I'm thinking ABC Family might be selling a cheap package deal of which they took advantage) and partly because I've been knitting crazily, trying to finish Christmas gifts. So here they are:

Snow (2004)

A bad guy steals one of the reindeer and the newest Santa--young, unmarried and good-loooking--goes looking for him at the zoo that bought him, where happens to work a possible future Mrs. Claus. Cute, harmless, certainly silly at times but not overly sappy.

Mrs. Santa Clause (1996)

A musical! Which made my kids a little fidgety, but we made it. Angela Lansbury is Mrs. Claus, who's feeling underappreciated and takes off with the reindeer and the sleigh to try out a new route before Christmas and, due to reindeer injury, ends up living incognito in 1910 New York for the week before Christmas. The movie introduces women's suffrage, the international feeling of New York in that time, and child labor laws as a backdrop to the simple story.

Holiday in Handcuffs (2007)

An unlikely premise, but more likely than the Santa stories, I suppose. A young woman desperate to please her parents just this once kidnaps a guy to bring home for Christmas. Melissa Joan Hart is likable and Mario Lopez is hot, and the family characters are believably annoying and funny. Definitely sappy, but not bad. (It's not rated but would probably be PG. In spite of this, it's not a kid movie--too many innuendos and other things objectionable.)

12 Days of Christmas Eve (2004)

A successful businessman who's lost sight of what's most important dies an untimely death on Christmas Eve and has twelve chances to live the day again and get it right. This was my favorite one, but I have to admit that my opinion was swayed by the inclusion of the word "catholic" (when asked if karma is a Catholic thing, a priest answers, "Small 'c' catholic...it is!") and grammatically correct lines (like "None of us is perfect"). Molly Shannon is the angelic "nurse" who keeps sending the main character, Calvin, back, and she's always a pleasure. Calvin's progress is also unusually believable, with lots of false steps but a convincing path to appreciating what's important.

I guess I haven't watched as many as I thought, because they've been interspersed with other knit-while-watching movies and online TV. More about them later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I think this is the first graphic novel I've ever read, and it's definitely worth reading. The author tells about her life as the daughter of freethinking parents in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. It's a very quick read and even though it's told from a child's perspective, there's plenty to think about.

What About Bob? (1991)

My favorite scene in this movie is where Richard Dreyfuss's character chokes and Bob goes to heroic and hilarious measures to save him, after which the family gathers around Bob congratulating and celebrating with him, while the deserted dad lies gasping for breath on the couch. I have to admit, though, that the first time I saw this, I didn't enjoy it much, because Bob reminded me too much of someone I knew at that time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Iron Man (2008)

I watched this to see if the kids could watch it (answer: not yet). I didn't expect to like it, but I really did.

(I know I could fast-forward through any offensive parts in this and other movies. But I'm pretty sure the fast-forwarding would only happen the first time, while I was watching it with them. After that, the kids would just remember that they'd seen a movie, not which part to skip. But they can wait a little while. They might think it'll kill them, but it won't.)

Joy School by Elizabeth Berg

This was another enjoyable novel by Elizabeth Berg. The main character is a 13-year-old girl trying to figure out how she'll fit in to a new place and school. She's true to life and more evidence of Berg's talent with characterization.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fever Pitch (2005)

I was surprised to find that this is actually very good, but less surprised when I saw that it's based on a novel by Nick Hornby. It's a romantic comedy, but it's meatier than most, addressing questions about how to make a relationship work by compromising without becoming a subservient shadow of yourself. I really liked it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg

This is one of several books by Elizabeth Berg that I read recently. So far I haven't found one I didn't like, although I have mixed feelings about this one because of how it deals with the subject of assisted suicide. Still, I liked it. I'm impressed with Berg's ability to capture different personalities and insecurities.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dance (2007)

The script in this film is better and the characters more complicated than in most LDS films, but I was still distracted by signs of mediocrity. Like the fake disco music at the dance, which seemed to be attended by about twenty people. Of course, I've never been to a young adult dance in Boston; maybe twenty people is a good turnout, but I'm guessing not.

However, it is based on a play (by Carol Lynn Pearson), which would also be sparsely populated.

Also, the title could use a little work. I did like the characters, who were more varied and had more depth than usual.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Wendell Baker Story (2005)

Written by Luke Wilson, who also stars, and directed by Luke and his brother Andrew Wilson, this was surprisingly charming and funny. It's about a laid-back, not yet financially successful con-man who's stringing his girlfriend along until he can make some real money. But then he gets caught and goes to prison, where he seems to be having such a good time that his girlfriend dumps him for good. Regret and reformation ensue as he tries to win her back after he's paroled. Besides Luke Wilson, you get Eva Mendes as Doreen the girlfriend, Owen Wilson as the slimy operator of a "retirement hotel," Will Ferrell as Doreen's new boyfriend with a real job (manager of a grocery store), and several other entertaining and well-acted side characters. I really liked it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mediocre (or worse) movies I watched recently

Jon was out of town for two weeks straight and I ran out of TV shows to watch online. And as I've said before, I try not to watch anything too good without him. So there's my excuse for watching (and sometimes even re-watching) crappy stuff.

Only You (1994)

Predictable. Marisa Tomei is pretty irritating, but Robert Downey Jr. is cute and Bonnie Hunt is always a pleasure. In retrospect, I am also annoyed by the picture on the DVD cover, which shows "Faith" dressed in her wedding dress, apparently dancing in an Italian fountain. And the back of the case shows her on a bike with "Bob" (oh, sorry, I mean "Peter"). But those scenes never happened in the movie. Why?

Head Over Heels (2001)

I think this was the movie that actually used pronouns correctly after prepositions (as in "There's nothing going on between him and me" instead of the increasingly prevalent "between he and I" and other similar horrors). But I can't remember for sure, so don't be mad at me if you watch it for the correct grammar and it's not there. Otherwise, the supermodels were slightly funny. Mostly, though, this was kind of dumb, predictable, and even downright crass a few times (as in teenage boy humor, although I can't imagine that teenage boys were the audience for this film).

Life or Something Like It (2002)

I have the impression that Angelina Jolie can act these days, but she couldn't back in 2002. Like Marisa Tomei in Only You, she always looks aware that people are staring at her. They are staring at her, but a good actress should be able to look like they aren't. (Nothing against Angelina, though; even though she and Brad have six nannies for their six kids, I'm still impressed with their number and apparent willingness to have even more. Good for them!) Tony Shalhoub has a mildly entertaining part, but it's not enough.

Two Weeks Notice (2002)

Okay, but predictable and full of stereotypes. This was my second time watching it, and it's really not worth watching more than once.

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)

This doesn't follow the typical formula, does it? And I have to admire that. Still, I think it's kind of an annoying movie. Also, watching it in 2008, it's hard to get over the size of Julia Robert's mobile phone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Traitor (2008)

Saw this in an actual theater, which is always something to celebrate. It was very exciting, well-acted, surprising. I have to agree with Eric Snider, though, who said the movie had "a tendency to bring up hot-button issues, frown thoughtfully at them for a few moments, then set them down again before moving on to the next superficially treated topic." There are some interesting concepts here, but they're not deeply entertained. But it was an entertaining couple of hours.

Note: Eric Snider used to write a humor column in BYU's newspaper The Daily Universe back when Jon and I were there. Now he's a film critic, but he still writes funny stuff, too.