These are some recent movie I've seen and my opinions of them.
As I was leaving the movie theater I heard a lady say, "We have to see another one to make up for this. This was the most ridiculous thing I ever saw!" I'm assuming that these women were on a "girl date" and they had seen the previews for American Dreamz thinking it was going to be a cute comedy poking fun at the president and American Idol. While it does do as advertised, it is much less cutsy than the trailers make it seem. What the comercials fail to imply is that the movie is dark and satirical. It reminded me a lot of Drop Dead Gorgeous in that the silliness and disturbing humor came as a surprise to me. It also kind of reminded me of Mars Attacks in the way that politics and the entertainment business come together to address a threat from a foreign entity.
Mandy Moore plays a contestant in the American Dreamz contest, an obvious knockoff of American Idol. Moore is in a good position to become the darling of dark comedy after American Dreamz and Saved from a few years back. Her performance in Dreamz as the souless teen queen hopeful who has to fain cute and bubbly for the camera is a very satisfying jab at her former self. Almost as much as her character in Saved is a self aware portrayal of the way that many people probably depicted her in her early years. Hugh Grant and the rest of the cast pull in decent performances. I'm convinced that Well-Meaning Stupid Guy is the only type of role Chris Klein is qualified to play. A few unbelievable plot points aside (doors haven't had keyholes that can be peered through since the turn of the century) American Dreamz is a pretty good yarn and if you like the ridiculous, like I do, you might enjoy it. However, if you want to see a crappy, cute movie, go watch something else.
3 bulls out of 5
The Squid and the Whale
This is the kind of movie that I'd like to own. The very fact that Wes Anderson is a producer and the writer/director is Noah Baumbach, co-writer of Anderson's A Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou seals that distinction for me alone. But, what this really means is that The Squid and the Whale is a movie that requires multiple viewings. I didn't quite "get it" the first time around. I understood the plot, the story arch, the character motivations, and all of that. That's not what I mean. I'm not even really sure what I mean, actually.
Have you ever seen a movie and you liked it, but you don't really know why? Have you ever left the theatre (or in this case the DVD) with a feeling of unsatisfaction. Not because the movie was bad but, beyond plot and character and motivation, you feel like you're missing something. That's how I felt with this movie. As much as I enjoyed the experience I needed more. I think that might frustrate some people, but I love it. Some people watch movies over and over again like The Lion King or Spiderman 2 or Steal Magnolias. I don't understand that. It's straightforward. These movies are good and fun and enjoyable, but once you've seen it, you've seen it. Story over, there's nothing more there that you are missing. To me, the best movies are like the best plays and the best books. Chalk full of content that couldn't possibly be explored in one viewing. Everytime I watch The Godfather II I discover something new to appreaciate about it. The same goes for a movie like Rushmore or Fargo or just about anything by Charlie Kaufman. The Squid and the Whale did that for me as well, and I can't wait to watch it again.
5 out of 5 bulls
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Historical films aren't my favorite genre of movie, but when it's done as well as Mrs. Henderson Presents they can be some of the most enjoyable movie watching experieces. I really appreciate when filmakers can take history and find the comedic spin that it put on a very dreary time. Some of the best examples of this come out of the World War 2 era. A League of Their Own and Life is Beautiful are notable examples of a film portraying, not only how the war affected everyday funny people that we forget lived during hard times as well, but how they coped with the war and helped others cope with it. These other movies probably recieved much more notoriety than Mrs. Henderson Presents, which is a shame, because I think this movie is equally as good and important.
Judy Dench and Bob Hoskins both turn out beautiful performances as the owner and manager, respectively, of a burlesque style review house in the West End of London during the end of World War 2 while the Germans were bombing the city on a daily basis. They are the first in England to do fully nude actors on stage and are met with criticism by the stuffy aristocrats of England, but with enthusiasm by the businessmen and soldiers. When defending the need for nudes in this time of struggle Dench gives one of the most convincing and surprisingly moving speaches on the subject I've ever heard. It may have been the only moving speech on nudes I'd ever heard.
4 bulls out of 5