Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Undead

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Satiric send-ups are always tough and this movie definitely has a narrow audience: highly literate geeks (and the more you have theatre in you, even better). It is amusing and, at times, fun. Some great cameos. But the pacing is uneven … perhaps due to the fact that the two main roles seem to have been written for, or directed as if they were for Seth Green and Robert Downey Jr., but neither of the stand-in actors have that charisma or energy. Frankly, if you’re looking for a Hamlet send up, Hamlet 2 is far superior in its effectiveness and quality–even if it is focused in a different area. But if you want silly, popcorn fun, that also references great works of literature and art, then it isn’t a wasted evening.

The Last Airbender

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Definitely a very soft 3 stars on this, but we expected so much worse. We’re back to the adaptation discussion here: and this one just didn’t work. It was far too close to the original anime, which was frankly awful. The ideas are great in both, but the lack-luster acting (other than Taub) and the jumpy narrative used to cover an epic in less than two hours, just didn’t help. Visually, of course, it is impressive. Why so much effort to explain a movie we didn’t really care for–because it had such potential. But, but as much as I think Night is one of the best storytellers out there, this is his worse film, bar none.

Disc World: Wyrd Sisters

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A solid 3 on this one–but, c’mon it is Pratchett… lots of great dialog and silly situations. Definitely a cartoon adults can appreciate as it riffs primarily on Shakespeare from the opening moments, but jumps on Grimm and just about every fairtale out there. But it is silly enough for kids and not very scary. We expected to watch the first episode, but we stuck with it for the whole series, in part as they are all clipped together to run as a movie on the disc, despite a huge “Episode 1” across the opening scene, but we also weren’t getting bored. Great voice talent didn’t hurt either.

Nanny McPhee

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Much like this fabled nanny, neither of us know how this movie got into our queue; but also like her purpose, we needed it. I was reluctant when it showed up and, as a huge Poppins fan, was even worried as the beginning rings so close to that childhood favorite. However, it quickly becomes its own and is every bit as fun and touching. Also, the main and supporting cast were a wonderful supply of talent we knew and always enjoy. When you want some silly, touching fun, this really works.

Agora

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It is difficult to discuss this film as it is hard to decide whether to rate it as a parable, a philosophical debate, or a movie. It is all of these. It succeeds less as a film than it does as the other two, unless you consider those its sole mission and forget the characters. It is an angering film, no question. It is full of seriously flawed individuals, all who are true believers in one way or another. The message of the movie is a indictment of fundamentalism in all its guises (religous, political, secular) and organized religion in specific. It purports to document the beginning of the dark ages, and it may well be. But it is framed in such a way as to diminish the story by always putting humanity it its place among the cosmos. The recreation of Alexandria and the library is amazing–I only wish that it had been a blu-ray release so we could appreciate that aspect even more. But the film is a teeth gnashing journey of events and actions that are scarily relevant and frustrating. I am unwilling to shoot the messenger on this one as I think it succeeded in what it wanted to do, but Eve hated it. Not light fare. Not a fun film. But it will get you thinking and maybe even spur you to action.

Basquiat

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A powerhouse cast and Schnable really captured the feeling and look of early 80s NYC. But it is an odd sort of anti-movie… Basquiat’s story is told without editorial and focused mostly away from his art, but puts on display the art world instead. It isn’t a pretty picture and, in the end, comments back on the art itself and human nature. There isn’t a truly likeable character in the whole film–but then there weren’t many truly likeable characters in that area of the industry. Worth the time, yes, but not necessarily an evening of light entertainment despite some rather funny moments.

Iron Man 2

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Popcorn? Yes. Good. S’Ok. Where did it lose its way? As much as I like Sam Rockwell… his character, its direction, and his portrayal diminished this film irrevocably. Unlike the first, Rockwell’s villain is wholly unbelievable as a CEO that the Pentagon, let alone gun runners, would take seriously. He was a fool. Fools are not scary, esp. when they don’t even really have a finger on the Button of Doom (whatever that may be in the story). Without a real nemesis (Whiplash wasn’t, he was just a speed bump in this plot as depicted, however effective he was), Stark has nothing to push against–he humiliates Hammer and we’re not surprised. We needed to see his risks, as we did in the first film, to really appreciate his triumph. Hammer could easily have been done well (think more Eric Roberts) and still have been duped by Whiplash and ultimately come to a fall. It would have been more satisfying. Given that this was rushed to screen to capitalize on the success of the first, weaknesses are to be expected. With the third out a couple years, hopefully they’ll find their mojo again.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

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This is a strong 3 or light 4 star flick… I really hate not having half-stars to pick. There is a great sense of humor, though it is often rushed, and not a bad plot, though it was edited back out at some point. The movie clearly had more of an adult bent at some point and then was “refocused” on the young teen market (witness the opening and thin interactions with the adults in the film). Rami did this much better with Spiderman, but there is enough to make this a fun watch. If only they’d added more meat, this could have been a classic, but that would have pushed to over 2 hours. Watching the film I can see the business decisions in the Disney board room that shortened and weakened the film. A shame as the post-credit coda shows they wanted a sequel, but no character made enough of an impression in this version to support that path IMO. Still, a bowl of popcorn makes the film go down easily, with some good laughs, and without too much complaint even if you won’t put it back in in your player again any time soon.

Art, writing, life explained… or at least commented upon…