Tuesday, November 28, 2006

POTPOURRI: Thanksgiving Vacation Edition

So here are some of the movies I watched over my Thanksgiving vacation.

Stranger Than Fiction: Loved it. Even more serious than I was expecting (and I was expecting fairly serious, not a laugh riot), but it had some definite humorous high points, and the drama worked very well. It's a very clever screenplay, but never in a showy way (such as, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I definitely thought was great, but which was very full of itself); it's all played very naturally. Will Ferrell is tremendous in it, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is a delight. The scene where she bakes him cookies is wonderfully sweet and touching. I would have liked to have seen a little more interaction between Ferrell and Emma Thompson, as well as more with Thompson coping with the realization that through her words, she may have killed a number of innocent people. But in all, it's a small treasure, one which I would gladly have kept watching for another two hours.

Casino Royale: I liked this movie a great deal, too, but it could've definitely stood to be about a half hour shorter. I thought Daniel Craig was fantastic as Bond, I loved the nods to Bond history throughout ("Shaken or stirred?" "Do I look like I give a damn?"), loved Eva Green, who may very well be the sexiest woman in the world, and I really dug the action sequences, especially the parkour chase scene at the beginning (though the tension is diminished by the fact that we don't know why Bond is chasing the guy until it's all over). The movie kind of loses its focus at the end, especially in the way the supposedly main bad guy becomes irrelevant a half hour before the film is over, but the final line, and the classic James Bond theme playing over the credits, thrilled me no end. I can't wait for the next Bond entry starring Craig (which, I hope, will be a tighter film, what with Bond's origin having already been dealt with here).

American Dreamz: Very funny political satire that unfortunately got extremely short shrift at the box office. Hugh Grant and director Paul Weitz, who made the fantastic About a Boy together, reteam to only slightly lesser success here. Grant again plays a charming bastard, and Mandy Moore does a surprisingly terrific job as his soulless, ultra-devious, fame-hungry match. Dennis Quaid is also great, playing (basically) George W. Bush, but a more humanized version than the real thing, one whose intellectual curiosity has been awakened; Willem Dafoe plays his manipulative, happy pill-pushing Cheney substitute. The movie gets a bit ridiculous, with its showtune-filled terrorism plot (my favorite line: "They don't call me 'The Torturer' because I don't like to torture people"), but it's an intentional and very funny kind of ridiculous, one that works to great comic effect while managing to keep some real heart alive at the center of it all. Great rental.

A Christmas Story: Watched it yet again last night. Such a classic -- possibly ther best Christmas movie ever. You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

And that's about it! Plus, I got to hear "Alice's Restaurant" on the radio on Thanksgiving Day. Twice! "And we was both jumping up and down yelling 'KILL, KILL,' and the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, and said, 'You're our boy.'" You can't beat that. A good week for entertainment.

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