Review Roundup

Been extra-busy lately, which unfortunately means being less bloggy. "Less" as in I missed much of July and all of August. Sigh. Will try to pick up the pace for the fall TV season, but in the interim here's a quick catchup on the rest of summer cinema...

First up, Harry Potter and the Half-Assed Script - a poor adaptation of one of the least successful novels. The book was largely a 600-plus page setup for the Deathly Hallows finale, but at least opened and closed with some spectacular magic scenes that would've played great on screen. Unfortunately, the filmmakers opted to cull most of that excitement in order to include a series of minor moments designed to show the kid cast's emerging acting skills. True, they've rarely performed better, but the lack of action means that the series has rarely moved slower. Plus, the entire movie looks as if it was digitally graded by turning the "drab" setting up to 11. Worth a watch from a completist's perspective, but a wasted opportunity even tho it made a ton of money.

Wha'dya know? GI Joe, coming from a questionable pedigree and plagued with rumors of horrendous testing, turned out to be pretty good and fairly fun. It's eminently disposable, but executed with such upbeat style that after it zips by, you find you've had a smile on your face the whole time. Saying it's Stephen Sommers' best movie (he of The Mummy and Van Helsing "fame" isn't exactly high praise, but it represents a step up from the slapdash trash he's assembled before. Surprisingly worth a watch.

Meryl Streep's always, well, Meryl Streep – so it's no surprise that the biographical portions that show how Julia Child the somewhat adrift wife became Julia Child the household brand are terrific. She could've come off as a caricature, but instead is a fully-realized and wonderful character. What's a little less compelling is the modern-day portion of the movie, watching Amy Adams as Julie cook and blog her way thru Julia Child's cookbook as a way of dealing with mounting depression. Given that not a lot's at stake (by now we know that both Julie and Julia turn out ok) it goes on a bit long, but overall it's frothy and fun. Worth a watch.

Definitely the strangest movie of the summer and one of the oddest I've ever seen. Labeled alternately as audaciously bold alternate history and revenge porn that plays to the basest of instincts, Inglourious Basterds turns out to be, well, both. Anyone expecting a WWII-era Kill Bill-ish romp will be sorely disappointed – while there's gore to spare, it's queasy and unsettling, and while Tarantino sprays around oodles of his trademark conversational banter, to say the humor is black isn't painting with a wet enough brush. It's a brazen bit of filmmaking, and definitely watchable (depending on your constitution), but it's one of those flicks where you don't exactly feel good about the fact that you think it's pretty good.

Part political satire, part science fiction action, pretty much all awesome... District 9 is an absolute eye-opener of a movie. It's an unsettling examination of South Africa's apartheid policies set against the backdrop of an alien ship of refugees on the brink of resettlement that grabs you from the first documentary-style shot and keeps upping the tension, barely giving you a chance to breathe until the credits roll. You'll squirm plenty, tho, as the aliens themselves are an odd combination of off-putting and endearing and the overall vibe simply gets under your skin. Shot on a shoestring under the producing arm of Peter Jackson, Neill Blomkamp has created a breathtaking and breakthru piece of intelligent entertainment. Worth a watch... and prolly more than one.

Look, I liked it. There are many moments in the movie that are crazy funny. A ton of 'em, in fact. But I prolly waited a little too long to see The Hangover, so by the time I did, I didn't love it. Comedies can be very "of the moment," in that so much depends being surprised that when you hear rave upon rave about something being "the funniest movie you've ever seen" it can't help but underwhelm a bit. If, by any chance, you're waiting for Netflix on this one, rest assured – the tale of this trio waking up in Vegas is plenty funny. It's worth a watch – just don't expect it to, you know, cure all society's ills and you'll be fine.

And everything else, from Angels & Demons to Year One, slipped thru to DVD. Ah well, moving on... Melrose Place premieres tomorrow. Not expecting much.

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