Reviews A-Go-Go

Here’s the latest crop from the Queue, capsule-style:

  • Becoming Jane (Netflix): Anne Hathaway stars as Jane Austen in this biopic. I’m not sure of Austen’s real life, but I can easily see where she got her source material after watching. I’m a big fan of Hathaway’s and her portrayal of Austen as a strong, independent woman was compelling. It made me want to read a biography of Jane Austen—that’s a good indication of my recommendation.
  • Rush Hour 3 (Netflix): I had very low expectations of this third pairing of the aging Jackie Chan and the one-note Chris Tucker. It didn’t disappoint along those lines. My emotions at watching this flick ran the gamut: cringing, disbelief, disappointment, resentment, boredom, and even a touch of hostility.
  • Dan in Real Life (Netflix): Steve Carrell is excellently cast in this role, but he plays Dan as a little inept—a little too much Michael Scott and not enough Andy Stitzer. He’s a widower who finally meets the lady of his dreams but discovers that his brother is already dating her. Most of the movie is very uncomfortable in that you just know what’s coming. It turns out okay in the end, but there’s plenty of spots where you’re left thinking, “This guy’s a trainwreck!”
  • How to Steal a Million (Netflix): Audrey Hepburn plays the exasperated daughter of a master (and recidivist) art forger. He’s lent his master work to a museum to increase its value, but they need to bring in an expert to examine it for insurance purposes. So Hepburn enlists the aid of an art thief to steal it from the museum before her father is exposed. It’s pretty clever with the twists and turns.
  • The Usual Suspects (Netflix): done in flashback, this heist movie is a little too predictable for me. In fact, I’m getting a little tired of the flashback format. The film recounts the events that led up to the sole survival of the least-likely member of a gang during the commission of their big crime.
  • To Be or Not To Be (Netflix): “screwball comedy” set in Warsaw at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. I’ve never been a fan of Jack Benny, but he’s pretty good in this one. I think three years later they wouldn’t have been so apt to use “concentration camp” as a joke. I laughed more than I expected and the twists and turns in the plot are engrossing.
  • Kings Row (Netflix): rightly called Ronald Reagan’s best performance. It’s a psychological drama about an Everytown, U.S.A. at the turn of the last century where things are not as they seem. Apparently, the book was even more scandalous—I’ve already got it requested at the local library. It reminds me very much of Little Children, which I also liked a lot.
  • Witness for the Prosecution (Netflix): an adaptation of an Agatha Christie play that really throws you in the end. A possibly-philandering man is accused of murdering what seems to be his sugar mama. It seems pretty open and shut but he convincingly asserts his innocence. His only alibi is his wife, who ends up as a witness for the prosecution. I think it compares favorably to any modern courtroom drama.
  • Lifeboat (Netflix): set in the early days of World War II, a ship is sunk by a U-boat and a group of survivors are cast adrift in one of the lifeboats. Their prospects are bleak due to lack of supplies and they discover that the German they saved is the captain of the U-boat that got sunk at the same time. It’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock, but it belongs squarely in his early work.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks (Netflix): gah. It’s a desecration of the famous cartoon trio, which wasn’t all that great to begin with. Littered with bathroom humor and topical references, the movie really isn’t appropriate for the young children that represent its target audience. But anyone older than that is far too mature to want to watch this tripe.
  • Amistad (Netflix): excellent movie about the real-life court case argued before the Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams involving a slave ship overrun at sea by the slaves. It does an adequate job of covering the case itself and a tremendous job of showing the barbarism of the slave trade. Hard to watch, but very worthwhile.
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