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Monday, November 30, 2009

DVD Review Round Up

With all of my recent theater viewings, I've fallen a bit behind on my at-home reporting. Here are the last several movies I've watched, three 2009 releases and one from a few years ago. As you'll see, they are a bunch of B's, all worth seeing but nothing that blew my mind....

Funny People (2009)

The first 2/3 of this movie were very very good. Seth Rogen plays a young comic who is hired as a personal assistant and writer to George Simmons (Adam Sandler), a washed-up and detached from life comic who has also found out he is gravely ill. The scenes with Seth Rogen and his young comic friends (Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill), are hilarious. The scenes between Sandler and Rogen are alternately very funny and somewhat poignant.

The problem with this movie was the last 1/3. It turns the movie from a comedy/drama of mortality and humor into a love triangle between Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, and Eric Bana. Mann and Bana are good, but this part seems tacked onto a different movie. It also makes the movie about 20-30 minutes too long. A great premise and a great start, but definitely a step down for Judd Apatow from Knocked Up.

First 2/3-A-, Last 1/3- C, so I'll give it a B

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

I'm not usually a fan of horror movies, but this movie got a lot of good buzz. I'm glad I saw it. The movies follows a loan officer (Alison Lohman) who is cursed when she denies to extend a home loan to an old woman. Sam Raimi, the director, has travelled from horror cult classics (Evil Dead), to critically acclaimed thrillers (A Simple Plan), to blockbusters (Spider-Man). Here he returns to his horror roots and makes a movie that relies on every horror trick in the book.... and they mostly work. I thought a few scenes fell flat, and there was a little too much gross-out material, but overall this was a really effective horror film. I jumped multiple times It was also fun to watch. I'll take this over any of the Saw movies any day.

Grade: B

Every Little Step (2009)

This documentary is kind of two movies in one. One is the story of the creation of the Broadway musical A Chorus Line. Another is a movie about a competition over who will be cast in the musical's recent revival. The first story (the history) was a bit dry, but the auditions were fascinating. I wish there was actually more audition footage and more backstory on those auditioning. It could have been like Spellbound with adults. Overall, though, a fun movie to watch if you like musicals or competitions.

Grade: B

Birth (2004)

I was intrigued by this movie since I know that it got fairly negative reviews when it was released, but I've also seen it listed as a cult classic on many of my favorite film blog sites.

The story is strange (and more than a little bit disturbing). Anna (Nicole Kidman) is a woman whose husband dies. 10 years later, she is about to get married when a 10-year-old boy comes to tell her that he is her reincarnated husband. Anna gradually comes to believe this is true, which leads to many surprising turns of events. The movie is told stylishly with a great score and a wonderful and mysterious performance by Kidman. What I didn't like is how it gave away almost too much at the end. Ambiguity would have been much more interesting. Worth a look mainly for Kidman's performance.

Grade: B-

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