Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on November 28, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

**SPOILERS** for Enchanted below.

When I heard of the premise of Enchanted, in which a Disney cartoon princess becomes transmuted into real-life New York City, I thought it would be dumb. Then I saw a preview and could not stop laughing. The movie lived up to the trailers’ promise–funny and as good a romantic comedy as any I’ve seen in a long while. Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey are fantastic as the leads, walking a very difficult line between unbelievable (as in what guy could ever accept a woman coming from nowhere and acting like Disney’s Snow White into his NYC apartment?) and totally credible (and if he did, how could he help falling in love with her?). The movie is deft in accomplishing this–we are willing to forgive logistics non-sequiturs like the villain suddenly appearing as a hot-dog vender or a restaurant waiter attempting to poison Adams’s Giselle merely because that’s how it’s done in the classic cartoons, but give an appreciative nod to Dempsey’s Robert taking the precaution of having his daughter come to his room to sleep for the night because he’s letting a total stranger stay on his couch. A highly realistic thread is Robert’s struggle between his feelings for Giselle and his resistance to their fairy-tale quality and his engagement to a woman he doesn’t love so much, out of his sense of realism and a lurking fear that he must do this for the sake of his daughter’s motherless state–Dempsey conveys all this on his face and in his eyes, finally put to very good use after a few years of dogging hapless Meredith Grey on television. And it is notable that he does not step up to give Giselle The Kiss of True Love, even at the point of her possible death, until released from his former promise by the grating but ultimately goodwilled fiancee. This Austen-esque sense of duty and honor is compelling and, like many other touches, brings a lovely gravity to the movie’s light-hearted hilarity.

When I saw James Marsden as the cartoon Prince Edward, I had a fleeting thought of “I’ve see him before” and flashed a little on Ally McBeal, but still didn’t truly put it together until I saw the credits–he was so convincing and so far out of the last role I’d seen him in, as Cyclops in X-Men, that it was startling. Susan Sarandon gives a suitably evil performance as evil stepmother/wicked queen/poison-apple hag, and Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz put their long-honed Disney songwriting skills to wickedly funny use, as in Giselle’s housecleaning song that calls all available New York animals and gamely rallies after discovering they’re all “vermin.” And a cameo by The Little Mermaid herself, Jodi Benson, wraps it all up into a nice self-parodying package that manages at the same time to give out a big dose of warm-hearted joy.

Woven of two levels–obvious enough that any little girl who’s ever watched a Disney movie will understand the humor but grown-up enough for adults to enjoy the romance and ridiculous situations–this movie is very well done on a premise that could have proved far more difficult.

Worst Episode Ever. Ever.

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on November 6, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

Of House. I wouldn’t usually bother to review a single episode of anything, but this is so egregious I can’t let it pass. When it’s obvious that in addition to a farcical plot with no redeeming humor value, the writer in question, apparently Thomas L. Moran, is writing all the roles so completely out of character and on the nose that it’s like he’s never even seen an episode, it warrants comment. House is satirical, not blatant. He’s sarcastic, not infantile. He’s blunt, not obvious. And don’t get me started on the supporting characters.

Since this must be a fluke, as it’s the first episode even remotely close to bad in a four-season run, I’ll skip the joke about how maybe it’s a good thing the WGA is on strike. This episode would be enough to put me off if it weren’t House.

Update: NOOOOOOOOOO. This show needs Michael Michele like it needs a hole in the head. Too much shake-up too fast, and we don’t need a competing face and name. Hugh Laurie is the show here. She jars. I hope it’s temporary.

Best New Show of the Season

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on October 20, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

Chuck. Hands down. Funny hourlong with a bit of real love story among its satirized action, not sitcom-funny, tall goofy-cute geek lead, short annoying-funny sidekick, and in my rundown of promising cast for this year’s shows, how in the hell did I keep forgetting about I’ll-Be-In-My-Bunk Baldwin? (As an update, Private Practice and Big Shots are both well out the window at this point, and the other two are stacking up on TiVo. Slim pickings this year.)

P.S., Dawn Summers, the show is a parody. And a pretty sharp one at that. I bet you don’t like Weird Al Yankovic, either.

Yes, I Really Need the Caps

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on September 25, 2007 @ 10:30 pm


You’d need caps too if you spent your last few weeks of summer slogging tortuously through last season’s Heroes. I’ve never seen a show with less consistency of characters, less explanation for events, or less emotional impact for more effort put in. First Peter learns to control his abilities, then he suddenly can’t control the nuclear thing. First Nathan hops on board with his elders’ preposterous plan to allow a foreseen nuclear event in New York with some vague and unlikely scenario of the “world being healed” to follow. I think I know what kind of nuts the writers were smoking in that pipe, if you know what I mean, and yup, it turns out it’s just as crazy as it sounds with Truthers say it. Then Nathan suddenly has an unexplained change of heart and swoops in to save the day. People dead left and right, and we don’t even care. Except Sylar. I would be very grateful if I never had to look at him again. Alas.

Am I the only one who noticed that “save the cheerleader” didn’t have any direct connection whatsoever to “save the world?” It might have if Claire had been the one to pull the trigger on Peter. As it was, what did it matter if she was there or not?

Bad writing. Bad show. Perfectly decent acting that really makes me hate the characters, but if there are too many characters to hate, why do you watch at all?

Don’t even get me started on Niki/Jessica/D.L./Micah. It’s a big word, but say it with me anyway: Ex-tra-ne-ous. I’ve never seen a more uselessly irritating set of characters.

I made it all the way through the season, so I’ll watch long enough to see what they do with La Bell. After that I’m gone.

Because in case you missed it before, House is back and every bit as good as ever.

And yeah, I know Dancing with the Stars is back too. They are pushing the outer limits of my tolerance with this multiple-nights-per-week schtick. Two was enough and more than. I’ll get around to it, but sorry, ABC, not tonight … House was on.

No More Potter Movies

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on September 13, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

For me, I mean. Calm down.

I finally caught up to the bandwagon and saw Order of the Phoenix last week. While it was indeed better than most of the films that have gone before, the thing is, that’s not saying much. I’ve never seen any film get less out of a bigger group of truly amazing talents than the Potter movies do. I understand the primary difficulties of transforming reaonably complicated books into movies, but I no longer feel at all interested in paying $9 to watch the filmmakers tick book events off a list without working them to best emotional advantage–“Now the Dursleys do their schtick; now Umbridge tries to throw out Trelawney; now Dumbledore saves the day.” And poor Dumbledore indeed–Michael Gambon simply can’t cut it. Given the direction for the rest of the cast, I’m not sure it’s entirely his fault, but he exudes no Dumbledore charisma whatsoever. It’s too bad.

“I Don’t Need a Nicotine Patch, Penny. I Smoke Cigarettes.”

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on September 6, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

Go rent this movie now before I get to the end, as I frequently become disillusioned at the ends of movies that were great until they ended wrong.

That’s about the tenth line I’ve wanted to quote to somebody else. This is the sharpest dialogue I’ve heard in months. When it first came out, though, I remember reading a poor review. I don’t remember where or by whom, but I’m thinking … moron.

Update: I’m stunned. It did not end wrong, an even more remarkable achievement because there were several ways it could have ended wrong, not just the one. Bravo.

TV Update

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on September 2, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

Heroes is still pretty bad. If I make it through last season, I’m not sure I can take any more even for Kristen Bell.

In whose head was it a good idea to try to mix “traits” that could plausibly, however improbably, be explained by genetics with the clearly paranormal and outright fantasy? Spontaneous regeneration, telekinesis, and empathic mind reading/control are within the limits of plausibility. Multiple-personality disorder is highly uninteresting as a “heroic” trait when it exists in reality and they didn’t even bother to make her/them good guys at all. Peter’s absorbing the traits of whoever he’s around is completely implausible in the genetic explanation, and Sylar’s being able to absorb them by … looking at? eating? dissecting? their brains is just a dumb excuse for the macabre.

Masi Oka, though, is fabulous and multi-talented: He was a digital artist at Industrial Light and Magic. Wow. Say what I will about the Lucas films that shall not be named, there were some talented people in the effects department.

Reviews You Can Use

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on July 13, 2007 @ 11:07 am

I’ve been wondering whether to see it or not, given that I’ve thought most of the other Harry Potter movies were pretty bad. Survey of PetiteDov says: Order of the Phoenix better than the rest and yes, Helena Bonham Carter is still crazy after all these years. Very well then. See it I shall.

Update: Speaking of Helena Bonham Carter, her grandmother was Violet Bonham Carter, née Violet Asquith, daughter of a WWI prime minister and close friend of Winston Churchill. Which I think is pretty cool.

Doctor Who: Heartbreaker

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on July 3, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

David Tennant, I think you’re the best thing ever in my limited experience of British TV, even including Hugh Laurie, but your show done broke my heart for the second season finale in a row.

**SPOILERS** for Doctor Who S3 after the jump. (more…)

And Now, A Short Review

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on June 10, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

This movie will make you cackle.

Review: Come Early Morning

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on May 18, 2007 @ 10:22 pm


It frequently happens that I see movies in pairs where one informs my opinion of the other. After Tuesday night’s viewing of Waitress, I sat down last night to watch Come Early Morning, writer/director Joey Lauren Adams’s ode to … well, I’m not sure to what, actually. Her hometown, where she insisted on filming despite greater financial advantage in other southern states? To her own difficult past? In that last link Premiere says that the lead character is trying to “overcome her humble hometown,” but it’s far less about the town than the classic tale of a family’s dysfunction setting up difficulties for one of its daughters. If anything, the setting, familiar and welcoming, peopled with concerned and loving neighbors in addition to her difficult family, is what keeps Lucy (Ashley Judd, in a part Adams wrote for herself before opting out of acting in the film altogether) going and seeking for some way to improve her road.

Essentially, both Waitress and Come Early Morning went after the same story, “young woman lifts herself out of a stuck past,” but Come Early Morning managed it much better. Both films are set in the South, but Come Early Morning is peopled with far more believable Southerners. Where Waitress went in for quirky comedy, Come Early Morning set up some plodding reality–it actually would have been almost stilted had not it been for the quick transitions between short scenes. Where Waitress allowed its heroine to come into glory through good fortune and simple deservingness, Come Early Morning presented us with a flawed woman barely even likeable through much of the movie, matched with a guy (Jeffrey Donovan, doubly interesting to me on account of A) his incredibly authentic Southern accent and mannerisms despite his New England upbringing and B) his being a dead ringer for my brother-in-law) who had a little more going on in the emotional department but not enough patience to stick with her. Thus both women end up alone and heading up the “strong and independent” road, but the end of Come Early Morning left me hopeful, while Waitress, as aforementioned, just left me disgusted with the breakup. Where in Waitress I felt that event after event just happening to Jenna with little control on her part devalued her character, in Come Early Morning we watch Lucy’s struggles to change her own behavior, take her own choices in hand, and leave behind what of her family’s troubled past she can’t reform. Her financial good fortune, unlike Jenna’s unexpected windfall, comes because she has the guts and the belief in herself to ask for control of the company her boss is leaving behind.

Kudos to Ashley Judd and Jeffrey Donovan for their heart-tearing portrayals of troubled and striving people. Kudos to Joey Lauren Adams for presenting Southerners, even charismatic holy-roller types, with sympathy and integrity. In one of the best scenes in the movie, Lucy goes to the minister and tearfully demands to know the meaning of a verse that describes God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” The preacher, a leather-vest ’70s-sideburns type, offers her some straightforward advice when she wails that she’s been defrauded by the promise of “knock and the door shall be opened.” He tells her: “So stop knocking. And just walk in.” The Southerners in Come Early Morning, including and especially the preacher, are the kind that in almost any other film would be set up for mockery. Here they are the heroine’s saving grace. And she gathers up their kindness and moves forward, creating her own new growth and a better life. Hopeful indeed.

With Increasingly Frantic Apologies and Movie-Hero Love to Nathan Fillion

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on May 15, 2007 @ 10:32 pm


But his new movie, Waitress, didn’t serve up properly. He was fabulous in it, and I can only hope that to all the people in the right places who still need to notice him, he was set off to advantage by all the cartoony facades of characters around him. But his character got royally shafted by the movie’s weak resolution. And the shafting of Fillion is the only the beginning of my problems with this film.

The movie’s tag line is “If only life were as easy as pie.” Well, isn’t it lucky, then, that for the heroine, Jenna (Keri Russell), it is! She gives birth to a baby she adores, is given a boatload of money by a conveniently expiring, lovable crank (Andy Griffith, lovely in the only believable role besides Fillion and Russell), which she uses to buy his pie shop where she will continue to do for a living what she does best (make the pie), tells her piece-of-shit husband to take a hike, ditches the suddenly superfluous other man as well, and lives happily ever after.

Yeah, really. The no-account husband never comes around bothering her any more; despite the fact that she goes on living in the same town, he never even makes a power play for his daughter. The doctor (Fillion) who hung on her every word and lived for her every kiss apparently settles for going back to his cloying wife without trying to win back the pie queen. Her cartoony friends are just as loving and convenient as ever, continuing to waitress for her at the new pie shop.


With Apologies to Nathan Fillion

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on April 15, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

I didn’t expect much out of Drive, the new Nathan Fillion-led, Tim Minear-written/produced “drama” on Fox. The premise–a secret, illegal, cross-country race, as the cast of tonight’s premiere kept reminding us in those exact words–seemed weak and the previews were not promising. Unfortunately my suppositions were correct. Though I love me some Fillion, he alone can’t rescue the show from insipid, repetitive dialogue, a sinister but meaningless premise, and weak costars.

Briefly, the main characters are all in the race for a reason–Tully (Fillion) because the race’s backers have kidnapped his wife, his partner because they kidnapped her when she was a child and she watched as her parents’ car, racing to reach her, was forced off the road and over the edge of a ravine, killing them both. Others’ reasons have yet to be revealed, but Tim Minear, sick imagination that he is, saw fit to include the one thing that turns me off any show faster than anything else: endangerment of an infant. We know that “Wendy Patrakas’s” husband was abusing her and that she escaped into the race, leaving her newborn in a safe-haven care facility. But previews for coming episodes show that somebody, one presumes the abusive husband, is zeroing in on the safehouse to get to the baby. My first thought is not that the race backers will do anything to help Wendy save her child. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I can tolerate the show long enough to find out.

Like reviewers have said of Studio 60, which by the way looks to have held its last after-party at this point, it’s just too hard to accept the premise as seriously as its characters do. Like most of the TV audience seems not to care if a comedy sketch show gets produced properly, I can’t make myself care about the race as such–it produces instead only a healthy portion of, ahem, road rage at the kidnapping of Tully’s wife and the endangering of Patrakas’s baby. Not to mention the killing of “Corinna’s” parents. Though there are a few indicators–a few–that the race backers have some humanity about them, still, they are putting the “contestants” through a rat race of their choosing. One supposes that we will eventually see that these people might have something up their sleeves that makes them worthy of being “punished” in this matter, a la Lost, but unlike that erstwhile trial/judgment drama, the show’s already made me angry enough not to care about the ultimate ends and altogether disinterested enough not to bother finding out for sure.

In a nutshell, if a show makes it that difficult to see how they’re going to make sense of it all, and that boring along the way (we really need four or five scenes per hour of the cars zipping in and out of traffic as they try to outdo each other?), it won’t be long before a lot of the audience stops trying. Even dedicated Firefly fans like me.

Minear as a writer really seems to have something of a split personality. I’ve seen him put together a really incredible show, and I’ve seen him put together some junk. Come on, Minear, where’s the guy who wrote “Out of Gas”? Get him back, fast. Because, with apologies likewise to Adam Baldwin, the guy who brought us The Inside never did it for me either.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace