|KEX'S AMAZING WORLD|
|Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken|
Previously: The Forsaken:
Chances are, this review may be the first one you have read devoted to the movie, The Forsaken. This film wasn't presented to critics for early review, and I haven't come across a single website or newspaper critique of the film as of this writing. So this one is a K.A.W. scoop.
I can start out with a small measure of good news: Under the circumstances, I expected this movie to suck like a Hoover. In point of fact, it was better than either of the last two vampire flicks I have reviewed on this site. For those in need of a quick refresher course, the previous two genre pieces I took on in this forum were Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000 and Blade . By now, many of the regular readers are guessing that by saying this movie was better than those two I'm not about to gush about how good it was. Quite the contrary: And that observation would be on target.
Then again, I'm in kind of a good mood tonight, so I think I'll defy my usual repulsion for creating lists. Here are some other things that suck more than this film:
*Having all four wisdom teeth removed in one day.
*Watching Battlefield Earth.
*Catching a movie with PeeWee Herman.
*Counting votes in Florida.
*Participating in a "pissed off badger" toss
*Cleaning the streets after "The Million Elephant March"
*Getting stuck in the Salt Lake City Airport on Sunday afternoon
*Getting stuck in Salt Lake City period
*The Oakland Zoo
*Having a President with the last name of "Bush"
*Having your money in a bank partially owned by a member of the Bush family
*Being a Chicago Cubs fan in 1969
*Being a Chicago Cubs fan in 1970
*Being a Chicago Cubs fan in any other year
*Watching a Super Bowl involving the Buffalo Bills
*A Pauley Shore/Adam Sandler Film Festival
*The Blockbuster Awards Show
Not that The Forsaken didn't have its share of significant problems. We can start with the head vampire dude, Kit (Jonathon Schaech). Now, this movie was mostly a vehicle for the introduction of largely unknown actors, but I just can't see Schaech having a big career as a principle heavy. The guy couldn't have been less menacing if there had been scenes of him helping little old ladies across the street. Besides, the guy looks like he has been on the Winona Ryder diet plan lately. If you want to make a movie with a real sense of menace, it helps a lot to have a bad guy who at least looks like he couldn't get his ass kicked by that little girl in the Pepsi commercials.
Then there was the sound. There were a couple of guys from a rock band at the showing I attended who were bitching about how loud this movie was. In fact, this movie was "living next to the airport" loud. People who live next to the airport were complaining about how loud this movie was, and the airport is a good 10 miles from the theater.
There was also a weird scene in this movie in which Kit, the vampire, picks up a big ass rattlesnake and permits it to bite him, so he can get high off the venom. Kex does not like snakes. That one damned scene is going to give me nightmares for a week. Hell, I think I'd rather get bit by the freaking snake myself than have to endure watching a scene like that, especially since it was utterly gratuitous.
I might also mention that a half an hour into this film, I was starting to get the uncomfortable feeling that I was watching the first vampire movie in the history of the universe in which not one damned vampire was ever going to make an appearance. The producers in this film have a little to learn about pacing. Hint: a scene with a guy laying on a bed in his underwear in a sleazy hotel does not qualify as rapid plot advancement.
But, I'd like to say a few nice things about this movie as well. First of all, hold onto your hats Kexkateers: TITS!!!!! Yup, its been awhile since I've seen a movie with any reasonable quantity of gratituitous female breasts. In fact, its been awhile since I reviewed a movie that really had any at all. This one does...in fact, its the very first thing we see in the film. Its hard to completely hate a film with a good helping of breastesess.
There was also no weird ass kung fu stuff in this movie. If I had ever wanted to see Jackie Chan, Vampire Hunter, I'd have put in my request and two cents about that long ago. But I don't want that. Martial arts stuff may have a place in the complex lexicon of modern society, but lets leave it out of vampire flicks, okay? Vampires and martial arts go together like Madonna and tasteful, or Senator Phil Gramm and common sense. I'd rather see vampires ripping down the streets on skateboards, if its all together necessary to bring the old legend into the 21st century and frame it into a mold the primary movie audience can relate to.
For a movie that the studio apparently tried to just sneak by without fanfare, I have a sneaking hunch this one is going to find a decent audience. Mind you, I didn't care for it all that much, but I liked it better than I thought I would. Considering that most of my cinematic surprises these days are less pleasant, this was refreshing in its way.
ADDENDUM: Its Sunday morning, and I just awakened after a lovely night dreaming about big ass rattlesnakes...I swear, somebody is going to pay for this one. Nonetheless, I guess I wrote the main body of this review much to late last night, because I missed something really incredibly obvious that sucked about this movie. Who the hell writes a vampire movie, and names the main vampire Kit? That is the kind of name you give to a sweet cartoon puppy. We don't have to go to old school extremes here and give all of our contemporary vampires names like Count Vladimir Bitesallov or anything like that, but no Kits, okay? So here is the revised K.A.W. imperatives for vampire movies:
*No vampires that look like Jay and Silent Bob
*No kung fu shit
*No vampires who are the guilty incarnates of Jesus's disciples
*No more vampire movies with the name of the director in the title
*No bad haircuts
*No preppy, cartoon character, cutesy names for vampires.
Last Week: Cat's Meow:
For the benefit of anyone who is keeping score, the number of vitriolic, hateful films directed at the life of William Randolph Hearst has now reached two. He's still a dozen or so behind Hitler, but a deuce up on Osama Bin Laden, and that has to be a proud accomplishment. Not that its a safe lead, but then again, how many of us will ever have two different directors blast our ass in one lifetime?
I'm going to take an unusual stance on this film. While I'm giving it my highest personal rating, I'm going to recommend that most of you do not bother to see it. The film has a highly esoteric appeal that most film goers won't slip into easily. In order to enjoy this film, you are either going to have to have a signficant interest in Hollywood history, or a perverse desire to see someone take a crap on the grave of one of America's most notorious rich guys. The rest of you can pass.
The most interesting aspect of this movie is that Kirsten Dunst finally gets to appear in a movie where the fabric required to create her wardrobe is more than what would be necessary to cover a standard sized, two-slice toaster. Shave off my lucious curly locks and call me baldy, the chick really can act. On the other hand, the worst part of this film is that the fabric required to create Kirsten Dunst's wardrobe was more than what would be required to cover a standard sized, two-slice toaster.
Cat's Meow is a movie about an old, long whispered Hollywood legend. According to persistant rumors, William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrman) was not only a meglomanical, womanizing prick, but he was possibly a murderer as well. The film offers the tale of the true fate of Hollywood pioneer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes) who died under mysterious circumstances in 1924. According to his death certificate, he died of heart failure after a case of "chronic indigestion." But the coroner never examined the body, since it was turned into ash tray filler before he got a chance.
Our story begins aboard Willy Hearst's yacht, which effectively was to your standard yacht what the Titanic was to rowboats. Hearst organized a birthday cruise for his friend, Ince. The career of Ince was slowly evaporating, and he was anxious to attempt to cut a deal with Hearst to merge their movie enterprises. But in order to get on Hearst's good side, Ince decided to attempt to expose an affair that was going on between Hearst's young mistress, actress Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst) and Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), also a guest on the cruise.
Hearst is already suspicious but Ince manages to provide concrete proof in the form of a letter Chaplin has written. The proof enrages the already jealous Hearst, and drives him to a homocidal fury. But when Hearst sees Davies in the company of another man at the bottom of a dark stairway and shoots him through the head, the victim turns out to be Ince, not Chaplin.
Hearst immediately sets out to silence the other suspicious guests on the cruise. The only eyewitness is a young Luella Parsons (Jennifer Tilley), who Hearst buys out with a lifelong contract as Hollywood reporter to his newspaper chain. As we all know, Parsons went on to become the most influential Hollywood gossip columnist of her age. The other guests aboard the ship, including novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley), and actress Margaret Livingston (Claudia Harrison) didn't see anything, but took a willing vow of silence to protect their own reputations from the Hollywood rumor mill.
The curious question the movie raises is whether or not any of the story can be true. Chaplin and Davies unquestionably knew each other. Afterall, she costared in one of his movies. He was also a notorious swordsman, so to speak, who spent a lifetime pursuing much younger women, and cheating on his various wives. He was also a close friend of Hearst, so it wouldn't be difficult to believe that he would have been a guest on the ill-fated birthday cruise.
Its also not entirely improbable that Hearst could have committed the murder, and adequately covered it up. The circumstances surrounding the official investigation of the case were curious, to say the least. But conflicting accounts of the entire matter exist, down to the guest list on the yacht on the cruise. Since it can't even be established just who was on the tragic voyage, we are left with the official version of events, curious as they might be.
Incidentally, just for those who don't know this interesting fact, "Rosebud" was not only the name of Charles Foster Kane's sled, it was also the pet name W.H. Hearst used for Marion Davies' private parts. Talk about your weird inside jokes...When the reporter in Citizen Kane was looking for the mysterious "Rosebud," he might have found it if he had looked up Marion Davies' dress. Orson Welles did have a bizzare sense of humor.
Cat's Meow contains very little violence, not much gratutious flesh, no nudity and virtually no profanity. That's doesn't make it a family film, however. The kids won't enjoy this one, and a lot of adults won't either. But if you are a fan of Roaring Twenties period pieces or historic Hollywood gossip, you'll have a good time with this one.
Last Week: A Kex Video Review: Maid In Manhatten:
With a couple of minor changes, this might have been a pretty good movie. I'm not sure why all the professionals in Hollywood didn't catch the little vital revisions that needed to be applied. Maybe they just considered it a throw-away from the start. But since this movie is now safely available in the video stores, and no longer able to haunt Sony by tanking even worse at the box-office, I am more than ready and willing to step in and help them avoid a similar disaster in the future.
The first change they should have made was recasting Jennifer Lopez in the lead. Quick, name one good movie she has been in so far. Okay, don't strain yourself. The phrases, "staring Jennifer Lopez" and "sucks like a Hoover" go together like peanut butter and jelly, or Republicans and stomach-turning greed.
Yes, this movie did require a Latin American actress in the lead, and Hollywood hasn't exactly stocked the shelves with those in the recent past. That is a little surprising, since the Latino population of Los Angeles is approaching that of Mexico City. You'd think that out of a base of a few million young Hispanic women within 20 miles of Hollywood, a minimum of effort could turn up someone who can actually act.
Next, they should have recast Ralph Fiennes as the leading man. I have nothing against Fiennes as an actor, as opposed to JLo, who can sink a movie just by walking onto the set. Fiennes has turned in some truly memorable screen performances in the last few years. But he just isn't the leading man type. Casting him as the lead in a romantic comedy is a little like casting Billy Barty to play Goliath in a biblical epic. He doesn't have leading man looks, and he has no comedic timing whatsoever.
Put the two together and you have the kind of chemistry one might expect casting PeeWee Herman as Rhett Butler and Ellie May Clampett as Scarlett. Somehow, I just don't think Gone With The Wind would have had quite the same impact. The Fiennes-JLo combination couldn't raise enough sparks to ignite the Bush family's new oil reserves.
Marissa Ventura (JLO), presumably no relation to Jesse "The Body" Ventura, is a maid in a cushy Manhatten hotel. She has aspirations to move up to management, but she is kind of a wuss, so she never actually applies for the job. Staying in her hotel is Christopher Marshall (Fiennes), a New York state assemblyman who is running for the U.S. Senate.
Marshall is befriended by Marissa's young son (Tyler Perry), and he takes Marshall to meet mom, who is busy cleaning one of the rooms. But unbeknownst to her son, Marissa is trying on some expensive clothing at the prodding of one of her coworkers, and Marshall mistakes her for a socialite occupying the room. Naturally, he immediately falls for her.
Marissa avoids telling him the truth and plays along with the masquerade. She is smitten with him, and probably suspects that he wouldn't fall for her if he were aware that she was just a maid. Worse still, Marshall is a Republican, and if recent history is any indication, Marshall would be more apt to try to deport her than fall in love, so Marissa pretends to be wealthy.
The movie, which is a laborious blabfest for the first half hour, lapses into more of the same in the latter stages when Marissa's true identity is discovered. But Marissa's son persuades Marshall to give her another chance, and all ends happily. This movie takes place in an alternate universe where Marshall isn't as bigoted as most of the GOP's national candidates.
Oh, I forgot to mention the one other change the studio execs should have made in order to improve this movie. They should have shredded the script, burned the shreds, buried the ashes, salted the ground where the ashes were buried, and erected a 20 foot fence around the site where the remains of the script were buried.
Then they should have started over with a new script, new actors, and probably a whole new crew, just in case there were anyone around who might infect the new project with any of the crap left lingering in the air from the old one. For those of you who might be new around here, I didn't care much for this movie.
Which leads to the question of why I bothered to rent it. Well, there was nothing interesting in new releases this week, and we almost went to see this in release. I don't recall what stroke of good fortune led us in a different direction, but I'm eternally grateful to whichever movie spared us from having to pay much to see this. At least I suffered through it in the comfort of my own home. And Joy only had to wake me up 5 or 6 times.
Last Week: 13 Going On 30:
First of all, if you are going to base a full length motion picture on an idea ripped off unashamedly from another movie that has already been made, it would be a reasonably good idea not to steal from a lame one. On the other hand, the idea might have been more inspired than it would seem at first glance. We are, afterall, talking about an action that has every possibility of getting you sued into living in a cardboard box.
Fortunately, there aren't a hell of a lot of people associated with the movie Big that still really want any of us to remember their involvement, so the producers of 13 Going On 30 are probably going to get away with their larceny; at least legally. They do, of course, still have to face the music here at K.A.W., and this is going to be one blaring symphony of come-uppance.
Somebody once said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. If that is the case, we have reason to understand a little of why this movie ate like Rosanne Barr at a 3 buck buffet. It had not one, but two directors, the guilty parties being Gary Winich and Donna Roth. Its hard to speculate on which one peed the longest in the Kool-Aid, but between the two of them, they produced an absolute monument to the act of desecrating garbage.
Here is a sentence I never really thought I would hear spoken in the English language: "To be quite honest, I think Big was a much better movie." Imagine my astonishment at hearing that sentence spoken 46 times on the way out of the theater. Actually I wasn't all that astonished. I was thinking the same thing, which elevated my conscious to a whole new level of disorientation.
Problem number one is that it was quite obvious that neither of its directors would have known how to convey honest pain even if they had personally experienced having their genitals eaten by the family dog on Christmas morning. I don't know if that makes a whole lot of sense, but it does invoke a kind of pleasant mental image after having to sit through this film.
We open in the year 1987, when our girl hero, Jenna Rink (who is played by Jennifer Garner when she becomes 30) is having her 13th birthday party. We know that the action must have taken place a very long time ago, even if we are uncertain of the date. Jenna has the TV tuned to MTV, and they are actually playing music videos. For the benefit of my younger readers, they used to do that.
Jenna's dream is to become a member of the "six girls," the popular group in her school. I thought that they were a pretentious bitch squad, but apparently Jenna saw something in them that she envied. Her best friend and next door neighbor is Matt Flamhoff, a kind of tubby little loser who is mostly interested in photography, and probably fantasizes about getting into Jenna's pants someday, although that is merely speculation. I think he eventually grows up to be Spiderman. Oh, wait, that is another movie.
Jenna invites the "six girls" to her birthday party, but naturally they think the whole thing is a flaming bore. They are right too. So they decide to play a trick on Jenna. They send her to the closet for a game of "seven minutes in heaven. We realize at this point that we are in for 90 minutes of hell. Naturally the girls make off with the food, and leave poor Jenna in the closet. Upset Jenna then makes a wish that she is 30, and it comes true.
Jenna finds herself in her 30 year-old body, complete with a nice apartment, a great job, and a boyfriend who plays hockey for the New York Rangers. Strangely enough, he has all of his teeth and doesn't speak with a Canadian accent, so we immediately assume that either he rides the bench most of the time, or that the Rangers blow even worse in this alternative universe than they do in ours.
For Jenna, 17 years have passed instantly. For us, the next hour of the film seems to take 17 years. Jenna eventually comes to realize that she has grown up to become a complete jerk, and Matt (Mark Ruffalo), whom she immediately seeks out and also just happens to live in New York has become a handsome and sweet man. Somewhere buried in this tedious blabfest is a message that we should all strive to be good people and treat others well. I could have saved most of $20 by opening a Chinese fortune cookie which would have offered a similar insight more poignently in one sentence.
I suppose this is an entertaining film if you happen to be a 13 year-old girl. There were about 70 of them in the theater during the showing we attended, along with two bald guys in their late 50's who appeared to have as much business in the theater as Mel Gibson at a Wicca convention. I'll make a bold prediction, however. By the time the box-office numbers are projected Sunday night, this will be the weekend's top grossing film. How difficult can it really be to overcome formidable competition like Kill Bill Volume 2? I suggest making it a Blockbuster weekend.
Last Week: Star Wars III-Revenge of the Sith (sp?):
You do have to watch how you spell that. Personally, I think Lucas got some letters turned.
Now, I realize that it isn't going to make a crap bit of difference just what I say about this movie, because there are a lot of people who read this site that are exactly the type who probably haven't read any of my other reviews for the last 6 months. Its pretty hard to get computer access if you've been camped out in front of a movie theater since December, 2004.
I know that doesn't apply to all of you. In fact, it only applies to a very small percentage of you, and for those to whom it does apply, welcome back. I hope your parents made a lot of money renting out your room for the past several months. And now that all this Star Wars nonsense is over once and for all (I hope) maybe the readers to whom these comments apply might want to look into a new life adventure...Its called getting a J * O * B *...look it up in the dictionary...
I might take that one step further by saying that all of you might really want to go overboard and consider getting a L * I * F * E * , but that entails things like meeting women, and bathing once in awhile, and never again getting so worked up over a stupid film that you camp out for months to see it. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: You aren't going to meet women if you insist on dressing up like Yoda and going to sci fi conventions to hear a lecture by the brother-in-law of the guy who cleaned the porta-potties on the set of Aliens.
I have one really huge problem with Star Wars III and I'll admit up front that its pretty much the same problem I had with Star Wars I and Star Wars II. Its just damned difficult to tell and interesting story that is effectively 6 hours long when everyone in the theater knows exactly how its going to end.
That was precisely the strength of the original three films, not that I really loved them. But at least there was a degree of suspense, and Lucas managed to toss in enough plot twists and surprises to keep us guessing. There was none of that in episodes I-III. We all knew where it was all leading, and we just didn't care all that much.
Now, I'm not going to claim that this latest installment wasn't cool too look at. But dressing up a boring story with flowery language doesn't make it less tedious. Similarly, making this story wildly visually appealing just doesn't change the fact that Lucas was completely incapable of surprising us, because we knew exactly where everything was heading.
So, at the end of the day, what's the point? Here comes George Lucas with his hand in our collective pockets one last time, snickering as he says, "Look what cool images I can put up on the screen while I lift your wallet!"
George, buddy, I don't care. Its that old stage magician thing..."now you see it, now you don't, how neat was that, you sap!" I guess the astonishing thing is, that he probably made the $100 million it cost to make this mess in the first two hours after its release. Theaters here in Denver started showing it midnight Wednesday night, and are continuing to show it 24 hours a day all weekend. Hmmm, maybe some of my readers aren't back yet.
I can't really describe the plot of this film, because it essentially doesn't have one. Most of the movie consists of endless light sabre fights. Early on in the film, Padme (Natalie Portman) reveals to her husband, Anakin (Hayden Christiansen) that she is pregnant. At that point, she isn't even showing yet.
However, in the film's final sequence, which takes place a few days after this revelation, a lengthy battle occurs between Anakin (now Lord Darth Vader) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). That fight goes on so long that Padme is not only showing, but hours away from delivery. That was one long damned sabre fight.
There was one wildly relevant statement made in this movie. As Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) declares himself Emperor in front of the Galactic Senate, Padme sagely notes, "So this is how libery ends: With thundering applause."
Yes. Take note America.
I'm not going to leave my readers this week with a note that sour. Rather, its time to get a bit sappy for a moment. In the coming days, At The Movies With Kex will begin its 7th year, incredibly enough. I would have bet against it lasting a year. Somehow, I built it, and you folks came. I can't tell you how much I am moved by that.
To all of the wonderful Kexkateers out there, who have made this site a sort of cult phenomenon, as well as the other regulars who spend a few minutes of your valuable time here almost weekly, I offer my most heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
There have been times that I have given some thought to ending this weekly task, but you folks just keep coming back, and that makes the effort truly worthwhile. I think that one of the truly moving times in my life came in those dark days after 9-11 when I posted my reservations about doing reviews for a couple of weeks after the event. My emailbox filled with pleas and encouragement from readers asking me to go ahead and post reviews, as everyone needed something to smile about, even if just for a moment. Its sentiments like that that fuel this page.
So, in spite of whatever reservations I occasionally have about continuing, I make all of you, my treasured readers, a solemn promise. As long as you keep coming, this site will go on. Thanks again for all of your support for the last 6 years!
Previously: A Prairie Home Companion:
Way back when, during the first year of these reviews, I spent a lot of time bitching about the consistant lack of originality in movies. I even said that if a movie were released that was sufficiently original that I could come away feeling that I had never seen anything quite like it before, I'd automatically give it a smiley.
It's taken an awfully long time, but this movie finally won the K.A.W. automatic smiley. A Prairie Home Companion is not only original, its delightfully original. It isn't the best film that has ever been reviewed here, but it didn't suck...and be advised that I went to this movie fully prepared to blast it into prairie dust.
What is kind of amazing is that this isn't a particularly big budget film, but it has an incredible cast. I could spend a few paragraphs listing out all of the people who appear in this film, but it almost might take less time to list out everyone who isn't. Sometimes fairly substantial celebs will do indie films like this almost for union scale. The guess here is that either director Robert Altman succeeded with that strategy, or he knows where every body in Hollywood is buried.
This movie kind of reminded me of one of those sit com episodes where all the writers suddenly get a mass block, so they either do a show where they rerun a bunch of clips from previous episodes, or they do some sort of talent showcase. Its supposed to leave the audience thinking, wow, I knew Gilligan was a funny guy, but I never knew he could tap dance...and look at the Skipper juggle!
The plot of this movie revolves around the Prairie Home Companion radio show, which is something of a long running national fixture on National Public Radio. Its sort of a country and western variety program...say, Ed sullivan with a country flavor, or Hee Haw for people in states were everyone isn't related.
I think its the kind of show that people who live in my wife's hometown probably listen to a lot..you know, farming community with lots of good solid people. The kind that are hardworking, and generous, and for some inexplicable reason, consistantly vote for Republicans who have been screwing them sideways for 30 years. Some things are hard to figure out.
Anyway, the people that own the radio station which airs the show have sold out to large corporate interests, and are about to be shut down. The movie follows the interactions of the cast onstage and off, as they deal with the trauma of putting on their final show after a run of several decades. The cast is trying to figure out a mysterious stranger in their midst, deal with the death of one of the performers during the show, and simply attempt to cope with what the future may bring.
A lot of the movie simply involves surprising performances from members of the cast that you don't expect to display the kind of talents on showcase. Woody Harrelson isn't exactly the type you'd expect to see singing country numbers, and doing it well. For that matter, I never expected to see Meryl Streep in this kind of role, but she is a surprisingly talented singer. Even more surprising, she harmonizes extremely well with Lily Tomlin.
Garrison Keeler, who hosts the real show is along to lend an air of reality to the proceedings. One of the more interesting surprises is the casting of Tommy Lee Jones. He plays the heavy, which isn't all that surprising, but his part is so small that I'm not sure why he accepted the casting assignment. He usually only goes for starring roles these days.
Lindsay Lohan also accepts a small, backseat role in this cast, but does a good job. Kevin Kline similarly accepts a very small part, but plays it well. All in all, this is an entertaining film, but probably not family fair. There is some adult humor, and the running time of nearly two hours, along with the general subject matter will not keep the kids entertained long. But if you can leave the kiddos at home, I think you'll enjoy this one.
I want to close on one final note. We are now venturing into the 8th year of movie reviews here at K.A.W. I know, I find it hard to believe too. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, some sparkly and bright, some awfully dark and fretful. Some of you have caught on to the joke and appreciate it, others never will, but keep coming back anyway. But whatever your reasons for returning to this page week after week, I offer one heartfelt note:
Previously: The Starz Denver Film Festival presents the World Premier of: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium:
We had the honor (?) of attending the world premier of this movie. Hosting a movie premier is sort of a rare event here in Denver, although it has happened a time or two before. But kudos to the Denver Film Society for providing free admittance to anyone bringing a new toy to the event. A record number of new toys were collected which will be distributed by the Marine Corps on behalf of Toys for Tots. This is one of my favorite charities in the whole world, and I strongly encourage my readers to donate to it generously this time of year.
Since we were able to see the premier, readers of this page are enjoying the opportunity to read the first published review. Suffice it to say that the people who made this movie might not end up being all that happy that I was in attendance. This is projected to be one of the big holiday family movies, and I have little doubt that it will do pretty well at the box-office. But I doubt that it will endure as a classic holiday film.
Dustin Hoffman appears in the title role of Mr. Magorium, the owner of a magical toy store. Hoffman appeared thoroughout the film wearing something on his head that looked like it might have bailed out on Don King. Were his appearance not sufficiently clownish, which was probably somewhat intentional, his performance left little doubt that he isn't particularly interested in cluttering his domicile with any more little gold statues of naked men. His character was Gilbert Godfried annoying.
The manager of the store was Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), a wannabe composer/pianist who is working on a great symphony, but doesn't seem to be capable of finishing it. Based upon the portions of it we heard, the world of music wasn't suffering from her incapacity. Besides, somebody obviously needed to awaken Molly to the realities of the 21st century: Not too many folks are making money off penning classical style compositions these days.
Besides, she is running the coolest toy store on the planet. Would that be a neat job or what? Keep your day job honey, and bang away on the keyboard until you have joygasims on your day off. Somehow that basic idea seemed to allude her. There was another curious thing about this toystore, aside from it's magic atmosphere. Nobody but Molly seemed to work there. Oh, the store did have one other employee, a professional wrestler looking guy named Bellini (Ted Ludzik) who worked in the basement doing something with books. He also had the responsibility of recording the life of Magorium. Based upon the fact that Magorium never seemed to do much aside from hanging out in his apartment and walking through the store now and then, that had to be a mother of a dull book. I guess the script from the movie as based on it.
Another of the film's main characters is a little boy named Eric (Zach Mills). He doesn't have any friends. That is mostly because he has the self esteem of a crushed slug, and he wears weird hats. For all we know, he might have smelled bad too. The character development in this movie was pretty spotty.
Finally, we are introduced to Henry Weston, the accountant Magorium hires for no reason we can really figure out. Henry (Jason Bateman) is such a "Stick-up-the-ass" type that we are surprised his head isn't wrapped in syllophane. He is mostly in the movie to, um, well, uh, darn, I never could really figure out just why is character was in the movie. He eventually befriends Eric, but that particular subplot didn't contribute much to the story's development.
So, Magorium owns this wonderful store, but he's is about 6 million years-old or something like that, and he has decided it's time to die. He intends to give the store to Molly, but she doesn't think she is capable of running it, despite the fact she has been doing so for years. She pleads passionately to the contrary, but Magorium departs this vale anyway (selfish SOB that he is), and she is left to run the store.
The movie turns into an exercise of watching her wallow in her personal angst until she achieves a sort of personal growth. As close as I could determine, she never finishes her symphony, sparing us the pain of having to listen to it. She discovers that she has the power of running the magic store inside her, which isn't really a plot spoiler because it was exactly what we knew was going to happen 5 minutes into the story. That makes it something of an endurance test to have to plow through the remaining 85 minutes.
The film has its share of great CGI effects and a few touching moments. Otherwise it is unmemorable. There are no outstanding performances, and it almost feels like a bad carbon copy of the recent remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As family entertainment, it is harmless, but there isn't much to keep the attention of young children, and not enough depth for older ones. At best, it's a mediocre prospect for a second rental on a cold, snowy night.
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