Every summer, I usually do a write-up of all of the movies I went to go see when I was on vacation. This year, however, I didn’t go on vacation, as this was the summer when my son was born. That, and I’m a contractor right now at my current job, so I don’t get all the benefits that include vacation time.
So this year, I’m going to write about the movies that I was able to see any time at all throughout the summer (they were rather sparse), and one of them was already on DVD. Let’s begin.
The movie started out a little slow, and some of the characters were quite strange, but the ending has a twist worthy of a M. Night Shayamalan flick. A woman and her children have just moved into a house that seems to be haunted. Her children are photosensitive (allergic to light), and someone keeps opening the curtains in the rooms. The “help” (the maid, the yards keeper, and their daughter) seem to have an intimate knowledge of the house, and seem to be keeping something secret. This isn’t the typical Hollywood “gotcha” horror/suspense flick, it’s very involved and leaves a lot to the imagination, which is what makes this movie so much better than the same ol’, same ol’ crap that tends to be in this genre.
Bottom Line: B
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
First off, I need to explain that you should not compare this movie to the original “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. This is a different movie that has its own merits, and if you try to compare it to something it’s not, then you’ll naturally be disappointed. Tim Burton is a brilliant director who gives this film a standard Burton feel. The cinematography is all about the darker feel, the “film noir” contrast of dark and light, and the feeling of creepiness as you go through the chocolate factory tour. Gene Wilder (in the original) was a gleeful, excitable Wonka who teetered on the edge of insanity. Johnny Depp is a creepy, schizoid Wonka who doesn’t like children much, and who has issues that stem from his father being an overprotective dentist. The original was a movie for the whole family, while this remake is a movie for adults and teens who are old enough to understand the darker feel.
Bottom Line: B+
The Constant Gardener
I hadn’t even heard of this movie before the day I was listening to the Ebert and Roeper podcast, and they gave the film two enthusiastic thumbs up. Usually, I have to give their thumbs a few grains of salt, although they’re usually pretty good at separating the good films from the typical Hollywood garbage. The Constant Gardener is about a British ambassador and his wife who go to Africa to help those in need. 10 minutes into the movie, she is murdered, and her husband starts digging around to find out why she was killed. At first he thinks that she was cheating on him, but as we go through the movie, he discovers that she was fighting the Pharmaceutical companies and the unethical tests they were doing on the African people, and only falls more in love with her as he realizes the strength and passion she had. This is a very well-made movie that is also very depressing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but it’s the kind of movie you only see once (much like A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe).
Bottom Line: A-
The 40 Year Old Virgin
Steve Carell gives a brilliant performance as a man who reaches his 40th birthday and has never had sex. He reminds me of the teenager who has never had it, and didn’t think he could get it, so he just gave up the fight. He’s got toy figurines from all kinds of movies and TV shows completely covering the inside of his apartment, he rides his bike everywhere he goes, and he just has that dopey ignorance about sex that teenagers have before they’ve ever done anything. One night when he reluctantly accepts an invitation to play poker with the guys, they start talking about some of their sexual escapades. When it gets to Andy (Steve Carell), he begins uncomfortably describing some details about “this one girl”, including the fact that her breasts felt wonderful like two big bags of sand. It’s at this point where his friends realize that Andy’s awkward behavior isn’t because he’s a serial killer, but rather because he’s a virgin. The point in every romantic comedy where something happens, the guy and the girl get in a fight, and it takes some sort of romantic action to bring them back together again is also here, except that it just doesn’t feel right. You kinda hit a moment of “Star Wars logic”, where the pieces don’t quite fit together, but they went with it anyways. This movie is less about American Pie-style sex gags, and more about romance and waiting for marriage before having sex.
Bottom Line: A-
When I heard that this movie was done by Wes Craven, I started likening the film to Scream, where the first 10 minutes is really, really good, and then it becomes a typical Hollywood “formula” movie. Not so with Red Eye. It’s definitely not a scary movie by any means, but it keeps you squirming the whole way through. A girl is on her way home on a last-minute flight, her flight is delayed, she meets a guy, they hit it off, they end up sitting next to each other on the plane, he jokes about being an assassin, and then tells her he’s serious. From then on, it’s edge of your seat the whole rest of the way through. Most movies like this, only have about 45 minutes of story, and the rest is just action filler that isn’t really all that important. Can’t think of a good way to end a movie, throw in a good guy chasing a bad guy with guns blazing. With Red Eye, you have actual worthwhile storyline the whole way through.
Bottom Line: A