Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Review – The Benchwarmers

More than once while watching this movie I had to ask myself if I was really seeing a picture about three grown men vindicating the rights of nerds everywhere by playing baseball against little league teams. Despite my disbelief, that’s exactly what this turned out to be. Just about everyone here has done better work elsewhere. I was particularly disappointed in David Spade, who can usually be counted upon to supply a few good lines even in the worst of productions. I’ve seen some bad baseball movies in my time, but this one sets a new standard. Wish I’d skipped it

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Review – Click

By all rights, the title should refer to the sound your remote makes right about the time the first act ends. The story – overworked dad (Adam Sandler) receives a magic remote control that allows him to manipulate his life – has some potential. And as long as the picture sticks to the amusing ins and outs of our hero learning to pause, fast-forward, and otherwise manipulate his existence, it works as a simple-minded situation comedy. Unfortunately, that only supplies enough material for the first third or so. Once the gags run out, the show is left without a natural direction. So it meanders into a weepy blend of It’s a Wonderful Life and/or A Christmas Carol, ultimately hovering between maudlin and just plain dull. Overall this is roughly 30 minutes of funny followed by a big-budget Hollywood sermon on the evils of materialism. See if desperate

Friday, November 24, 2006

Review – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

As with Lilo and Stitch, this movie surprised me with the volume of violence present in a production presumably aimed at a juvenile audience. Here the gun battles seem slightly more apt, as this is an adventure yarn vaguely – and only vaguely – suggestive of Verne or Burroughs rather than a cutesy picture strictly for pre-teens. On the other hand, the casualty list runs high before the story plays itself out. The animation is good, at least by American 2-D standards. The casting is notable for its self-conscious multi-ethnicity and a rare appearance by James Garner as a villain. The plot – adventurers set out to find the lost city of you-know-where – is sufficient to keep the show going, though it bogs down if fake mysticism toward the end. Overall this is a craftsmanlike but not especially inspirational outing. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Review – The Da Vinci Code

This is just about exactly the movie I figured they’d make out of the book. Everything about it is expensive: actors, effects, locations, the whole nine yards. In other words, this is pure Hollywood, crowd-pleasing entertainment. I admit that I thought it was somewhat fun to keep an eye out for the weird little bits of symbolism (or “symbology” if you prefer author Dan Brown’s term) sprinkled throughout the production. Beyond that, however, I repeat the criticism I leveled at the book: the question of Christ’s divinity is of considerable importance to many people. If this is a sincere attempt to sugar-coat the debate and thus interest a non-academic audience, then at least the producers’ hearts are in the right place. But if it’s just the cheap exploitation of controversy in order to increase sales … well, we’ll just have to wait and see how the less-scandalous Angels and Demons does at the box office. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Review – An American Haunting

The Bell Witch legend could have been made into a terrifically spooky movie. And that’s just what this starts out to be. However, by 30 or 40 minutes in, the film-makers have obviously either run out of ideas or they’re trying to do something other than tell a ghost story. I almost wish the former had been the case. This turns out to be like one of those long, complicated tales that ends up being about how the protagonist’s life was changed by Jesus. Though the secret sermon is about something besides Christ (and I can’t say what the lesson is without ruining the surprise), it’s nonetheless unwelcome to find out at the end that you’ve been tricked into watching a message piece. Thus is one of America’s better “true” ghost stories rendered preachy and dull. See if desperate