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Saturday May 14, 2011

Movie Review of the Day: Macdonald on Bridesmaids

“Watch any of the scenes between Wiig and Rudolph and you'll see something rarely shown in the movies: that giggly, affectionate way that longtime female friends talk to each other; the way they completely relax in the other's presence, over the kind of breakfast-at-a-coffee-shop or wine-at-Lillian's-apartment date they've had a hundred times before. You completely believe the friendship between these two (the way we didn't believe Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin in ”Something Borrowed“) and it lights up the movie.”

—Moira Macdonald, in her Seattle Times review, “Bridesmaids: Comedy Says 'I Do' to Female Friendship,” describing exactly how I felt about these scenes in “Bridesmaids,” the best comedy of the year.

Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in a scene from "Bridesmaids" (2011)

Posted at 08:49 PM on May 14, 2011 in category Movie Reviews
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Tuesday April 19, 2011

Reader Rebuttal: Hanna (2011)

Forgive me if this email is self-indulgent, but I liked the movie Hanna more than I thought I would, and, although your review would probably be understood as positive, I wanted to defend the movie as having more to it than you seem to suggest. 

First, let me agree that I think a stronger movie would have come up with an ending other than a face-off to the death between hero and villian.  That said, I think Hanna is a movie that Joseph Campbell would have loved because of its mythology and its symbolism.  Hanna is never simply innocent, never simply someone who doesn't know who she is.  I think she is meant to represent childhood and the experience of growing up.  At a certain level, at the deepest level, none of us know who we are at that age, and at that age that lack of knowledge is often felt more urgently than at any other time because the insight is new rather than familiar. 

Hanna movie posterMoreover, all of us with any integrity have to confront the startling and ambiguous realization that we are abnormal because, after all, “normal” is not meaningful at the individual level.  In other words, Hanna, the movie and the character, is appealing to the same experiences that makes the mutants of the X-men so identifiable.  Those lost, abnormal people are us - maybe not quite all of us, but many of us.  Hanna is more particularly a symbol for those from broken homes.  It is almost too obvious to say that Marissa represents the wicked stepmother, but I tend to think that that representation is iconic rather than cliched, universal enough to be readily understandable rather than merely common.  More particularly still, Hanna represents those from broken homes who have experienced tragedy in the shattering of that home.  She is curious about, and even mesmerized by, a “normal” family in a way that is, again, readily identifiable because it is similar to the way that those from tragically broken homes simply are mesmerized by “happy” families.

Maybe all of this is too apparent to be worth mentioning or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe I'm reading too much into the movie, but all of this representation seems to work on several levels throughout the film, and, if that is right, then the screenwriters and director deserve credit for it.
 
For what little it may be worth, you are my favorite non-Ebert movie reviewer, and I enjoyed your review of Hanna even if it did inspire this apologetic.  Good luck to you.
 
Sincerely,

Daniel Davenport

Posted at 09:50 PM on Apr 19, 2011 in category Movie Reviews
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Friday April 15, 2011

Movie Review of the Day: Ebert on “Atlas”

“I was primed to review 'Atlas Shrugged.' I figured it might provide a parable of Ayn Rand’s philosophy that I could discuss. For me, that philosophy reduces itself to: 'I’m on board; pull up the lifeline.' There are however people who take Ayn Rand even more seriously than poster for Atlas Shruggedcomic-book fans take 'Watchmen.' I expect to receive learned and sarcastic lectures on the pathetic failings of my review.

”And now I am faced with this movie, the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault. I suspect only someone very familiar with Rand’s 1957 novel could understand the film at all, and I doubt they will be happy with it. For the rest of us, it involves a series of business meetings in luxurious retro leather-and-brass board rooms and offices, and restaurants and bedrooms that look borrowed from a hotel no doubt known as the Robber Baron Arms.

“During these meetings, everybody drinks. More wine is poured and sipped in this film than at a convention of oenophiliacs. There are conversations in English after which I sometimes found myself asking, ”What did they just say?“ The dialogue seems to have been ripped throbbing with passion from the pages of Investors’ Business Daily. Much of the excitement centers on the tensile strength of steel.”

-- Roger Ebert on “Atlas Shrugged”

Posted at 03:57 PM on Apr 15, 2011 in category Movie Reviews
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Thursday April 14, 2011

Anticipating Guilty Pleasures

James Rocchi, of MSN, has posted a piece in which he asks different critics about their favorite summer guilty pleasures. Not past summers; this summer.

But it's not summer yet, you say.

But summer movies haven't been released yet, you say.

How can they know what's guilty, or a pleasure, if they haven't seen anything yet?

Details.

poster for "Bad Teacher" (2011)For the record, I thought Matt Singer's response was charming, Glenn Kenney's was funny, and Devin Faraci's incomprehensible. Who doesn't feel guilty over pleasure?

My favorite response, though, came from Jeff Wells. No, not “Super 8”—a movie that doesn't appear too guilt-inducing to me. Wells responded first on his own site, Hollywood Elsewhere, which is how I came upon the MSN piece in the first place. I love his impatience with the folks at MSN who waited 48 hours to post the piece. “I'm sorry,” he writes, “but in this era of instant worldwide expression the idea of writing something and having it gestate and cool its heels off-screen for 48 or more hours seems ridiculous to me.”

He has no idea. In the summer of 2008, I wrote a piece for MSN about a film opening that Friday. Submitted it on, I believe, a Wednesday. Was told it would be posted the following Monday. “But shouldn't we post it on Friday?” I asked. “Since fans of the movie will want to read about the movie over the weekend? Won't Monday be too late?” I was assured otherwise. I was told nothing could be done. Besides, how big could the opening weekend be?

That movie was, of course, “The Dark Knight.”

But it's not Wells' impatience with MSN that I loved. It's the summer 2011 guilty pleasure he writes about that MSN didn't post:

“My other biggie is Bad Teacher (6.24) because I've been nursing fantasies about secretly slutty, ill-mannered teachers (not to mention secretly slutty nurses and pre-vow nuns) since I was ten years old, and this looks somewhat fulfilling in that regard. Why oh why didn't a teacher try to take advantage of me when I was 14 or 15? Why do today's teenagers have all the fun?”

The response is itself a guilty pleasure.

Posted at 08:46 AM on Apr 14, 2011 in category Movie Reviews
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Friday April 08, 2011

Dueling Movie Critics: O'Hehir vs. Edelstein on “Your Highness”

“Gingival surgery would be more fun than watching this brain-draining, spirit-sucking attempt at a stoner spoof, which combines the cutting edge of frat-boy wit, the excitement of a mid-'80s made-for-TV action flick and the authenticity of a Renaissance Faire held in an abandoned field behind a Courtyard by Marriott. A bus trip from Duluth to Sioux City would be more fun, and don't think I didn't do my research: That takes 13 hours and costs 96 bucks.”

--Andrew O'Hehir, “Is 'Your Highness' the Worst Film Ever Made?” on Salon.com

“How low does Your Highness go? As low as the deepest pits of Adam Sandlershire, the darkest pools of Kevin Smithport, the coprophagic caverns of John Waterstown. As its title implies, it also soars as high as Mount Cheech-and-Chong. It features geysers of gore; bare boobs; Natalie Portman’s bum; and a long, stiff Minotaur knob, which is something you don’t see every day. The trick is that Your Highness is played like a straight sword-and-sorcery epic, with nary a whisper of camp — a cunning weave of low and high, regal and smutty, splendiferous and splattery. It conforms to popular (bad) taste in ways you might find alarming. But on the far side of alarm is nirvana.”

--David Edelstein, “'Your Highness' is Bad Taste Done Right,” in New York Magazine

Looks like O'Hehir on points: Rotten Tomatoes' top critics currently have “Your Highness” at 10%.

A publicity shot from "Your Highness," starring Danny McBride, James Franco and (gulp) Natalie Portman

This is similar to the critical reaction, too.

Posted at 05:56 PM on Apr 08, 2011 in category Movie Reviews
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