A Good Yarn

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Movie Round up

Another weekend gone. :-( I did see a few movies, though. Friday night we went to the drive in and it actually was chilly during the second film! It felt so good to be cold for a change. We saw:

It was funny, of course. It was like a longer version of the tv show, so if you like the show, you'll probably like the film. The plot, in short: Homer adopts that pig in the poster and dumps the pig's waste into the lake. Springfield then becomes an environmental hazard, so the government puts a big dome over the city. Everyone finds out it's Homer's fault, so the family escapes and moves to Alaska. Eventually, Homer has to learn to listen to Marge and not be so selfish. I'm pretty sure that's been the theme of a dozen episodes of The Simpsons. The jokes come as quickly and as cutting as on the show. However, it's not a great film and die-hard Simpsons fans may be disappointed that it's not even as good as the best episodes, much less taking it up a notch for the big screen. It's very Homer-centric and the rest of the characters, even the other family members, get short shrift. There also seems to be a lot of storylines that are introduced but don't get much of a payoff. Having said that, it's still a funny movie and worth seeing.

The second show was:

I'd been waiting to see this until I could finish the book (my habit is to read each book the same summer the movies come out, so they're fresh in my mind). I took Friday afternoon off so I could finish reading, although I still have a couple of chapters left. I'll do my book review when I've officially finished reading. Having read 820 of the 870 pages, though, I was really disappointed in the movie. For those who don't read the books (and why don't you? They're wonderful!), it's Year 5 at Hogwart's for Harry Potter and his best friends Ron and Hermione. This is when school gets very serious and the students have to start thinking about what they want to do when they leave school. Harry himself is going through the usual growing pains too - he's a PITA teenager, cranky and confused. Trying to figure out girls and his own place in the world. And of course he's also being targeted by the Dark Lord and being humiliated and targeted in a different way by the Minister of Magic who doesn't want to acknowledge that Voldemort has returned. The Minister sends his own personal choice to Hogwart's to become the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor - Dolores Umbridge.

The film is the shortest Harry Potter film so far despite Order of the Phoenix being the longest book. For me, that showed. I remember a lot of criticism of the last film heavily editing the book, but for some reason that one worked for me. This one doesn't. It feels to me like they had a big checklist of the major plot points and just threw them in there one after another, without really worrying too much about how it was flowing together or the overall feel. They streamlined a lot of the events to make them fit into a movie-length, but you lose so much detail and feeling from that. I almost wish they could have cut the book in half and made two movies of it, but I suppose the cast is aging too quickly to spread the movies out more than a year apart. I do feel like the cast has grown well into these parts. Daniel Radcliffe can play the inner-struggle of Harry and Emma Watson and Rupert Grint do well with the more complex shadings of Hermione and Ron too. The A-list stars who are the Harry Potter regulars got way too little screen time. You barely see them for more than a scene or two. You do get a good dose of Dolores Umbridge and Imelda Staunton plays her brilliantly. She captures the sugar-sweet demeanor masking the cruel and ruthless person exactly as I imagined it. And her endless array of pink outfits is worth the price of admission! The end of the film has the patented Harry Potter battling Voldemort scene you always get and I do think the film did an excellent job capturing the emotion of what happens in that scene. Perhaps even more than the book, for me, since I am such a visual person. Overall, this film felt pretty rushed and like a lot of exposition to get to the next "chapter", so we'll see what happens next. We have the same director on board for Half-Blood Prince.

Saturday I had dinner and then saw this with a friend from law school:

Fun, fun movie. Of course, 9 out of 10 times I'm going to love a movie where the hero is a fat girl who gets the gorgeous hunk and sticks it to the racist lunatic in charge! For those who don't know, Hairspray is about a high school girl in Baltimore named Tracy who dreams of being a regular on a local dance show that looks a whole lot like American Bandstand. She is initially rejected by the Station Manager (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) for being too fat and ugly. However, after Tracy becomes friends with a group of African-American students and learns some great dance moves from them, she wows the host of the show and he hires her. Tracy has a crush on the lead male dancer on the show, Link, but Link is dating the lead female dancer, Amber, the Station Manager's daughter. Brittany Snow plays Amber, which makes me laugh because I first saw her on the late NBC show American Dreams. On that show, she played a teen girl who dreamed of dancing on American Bandstand and had a forbidden romance with the black son of her father's employee and became involved in the desegregation movement - a sort of Tracy in Philly, but tiny and blond. Once a month the show has "Negro Day" when Motormouth Maybelle (played by Queen Latifah) takes over hosting duties and the black kids get a chance to play. The Station Manager decides to get rid of that segment and Tracy joins her friends in protesting. And the fun just goes on and on.

Nikki Blonsky plays Tracy with a winning smile and a sense of optimism and wonder that's hard to resist. The entire cast is so attractive and you just love seeing them on screen. Every movie musical made should have Queen Latifah - she's obviously gold in these things. Tracy's parents are played by Christopher Walken as her dad (his nuttiness is just perfect in this setting) and John Travolta as her plus-sized mom. A lot has been written about that performance and for me, it didn't work. I thought it was hard for him to show his emotions through all that makeup and latex and his accent just really bugged me. I've watched all the episodes of "Homicide" and "The Wire", so I can deal with a Baltimore accent. But Johnny's just didn't cut it. I did like a nice dance sequence between Walken and Travolta, though. No matter what you do to him, Travolta's always got the moves!