Monday, March 27, 2006

Reviews - 40 YO Virgin, Perdition, Pink Panther, Dragonheart

This week, I saw a decent comedy, a good drama, a fun classic, and a piece of dreck. Check out my reviews for 40 Year Old Virgin, Road to Perdition, The Pink Panther (1963), and Dragonslayer.

The 40 Year Old Virgin (Apatow, 2005)
A typical coming-of-age, get-laid-or-die comedy, only this guy is coming of age a good 20 - 25 years late.
This one has been touted as the one of the best and most underrated movies of 2005. I don't know if it is as good as all that. It is pretty funny. I don't know if it was me warming up to the goofy humor or the movie finding its groove, but it took a good half hour before the jokes starting really playing as funny. It was definitely worth that first half hour to see Steve Carell (of the American version of The Office) in his element. There aren't many who can play awkwardness like Carell can. If it wasn't for him in this movie, I suspect that the script would have seemed stale, offensive, vulgar, and off-putting. Thanks to Carell, it comes off as funny, charming, and endearing (most of the time). However, if you are particularly sensitive to vulgar and graphic language, gay jokes, and psuedo-racial stereotypes, then you will probably find it a little harder to see the charm.

Road to Perdition (Mendes, 2002)
When a hit has gone wrong, hitman Tom Hanks will do anything to protect his son from danger and, even worse, from following in Dad's footsteps.
There are movies like this all the time; movies that show the conflict between work and family life, violence and conscience, in the world of organized crime. We even have enormously popular TV shows like the Sopranos tackling the topic. But what Road to Perdition isn't is just another one of those movies. Director Mendes, who also directed the unusually beautiful American Beauty, brings some of his magical touch to this one. The film is moving, and the shots are really inspired. Compositions are fantastic, but, visually, it goes way beyond composition. There is so much mood and atmosphere in every shot, but not so much that it's all you're noticing and you forget to pay attention to the story. The story itself has just the right touch of poignancy, not so much to be drenched in violence, drama, and tragedy, but enough to be touching and engaging. The acting, too, is so right on. It all felt very real, but better than real. This isn't the kind of movie that's going to elicit countless bad impressions as with the typical mob movie. This is the kind of movie that will really take you somewhere beyond yourself. Like a good, old-fashioned story.

The Pink Panther (Edwards, 1963)
The classic, featuring Peter Sellers as hopelessly inept Inspector Clouseau whose life's work has been to capture the famed and elusive thief, the Phantom.
Now that there is a Pink Panther remake, you may be tempted to forgo watching the original if you haven't already seen it. This may be a mistake. Although the comedy is dated, the original movie is great fun; if for nothing else it rates high for its kitsch-factor. Sellers is silly, of course, but that's what he does best. There is lots of 60s madcap revelry and trysts. And the opening credits were so fantastic that they spawned a series of successful Pink Panther cartoons. But the real star of the movie is the music. Henry Mancini's familiar theme tune is rich and funky, and the soundtrack is filled out with many more similarly retro-fabulous, loungey tunes. As for the remake. It looks as if it may be beyond over-the-top. Let's hope, at least, that Beyoncé has taken some acting lessons since her pathetic turn in Austin Powers 3.

Dragonheart (Cohen, 1996)
An unlikely friendship forms between a medievil dragon-slayer (Dennis Quaid) and the last living dragon (voiced by Sean Connery.)
I came across this while flipping channels the other day. I stayed with it, because I happened to catch it from the beginning and because someone had once told me it was surprisingly good. I can't remember who told me this, but friend, if I remember who you are, I will shoot you! Ok, yes, the movie definitely gets better in its second half. But this shift from terrible to mediocre is hardly worth the misery of sitting through the first half. The first half is bad from head to toe. Acting, writing, special effects and especially the music. It's so bad you almost wonder if it is trying to be tongue-in-cheek a la Princess Bride, but it lacks any of the humor and self-referencial irony of Princess Bride. Do yourself a favor: do not watch this movie. And if your kid one day insists that they must see this movie, and that you must watch it with them, and you can't convince them otherwise, I'm sorry for you.

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