Friday, December 15, 2006

Movie Review Roundup

Lots of movies out today, with most everyone thinking "Eragon" is weak. The NYTimes criticizes "Dreamgirls" for the one thing I have no complaint about: its songs. No, it's not classic Motown and its roots are clearly Broadway. But "Move," "Fake your Way To The Top," "I Am Changing," "Listen," "Dreamgirls" and of course "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" -- that's one terrific, catchy song after another. "Dreamgirls" on a first viewing lacked some emotional punch for me. But it's glossy and fun and the songs are the one element that definitely won't let you down. The LA Times gives it an out and out rave. "The Good German" is a pastiche, but fun for film buffs, I think, with Cate Blanchett channeling Marlene Dietrich and worth admission on her own. Manohla Dargis has the best line: "They don't make them like they used to, even when they try." As for "Charlotte's Web," even the friendly reviews make clear this is no "Babe." AO Scott of the NYT is especially confusing when he writes, "On the one hand, it’s hard to ruin such fine material. On the other hand, even the smallest misjudgment might feel like a desecration." Uh, that makes no sense. The surprise of the week for me is"The Pursuit of Happyness." Will Smith is an appealing actor, but his taste in material has been very shaky over the years. But I found this film unexpectedly good. Manohla Dargis makes a crazy assertion worthy of the Village Voice. She says that this film's very specific story of one man implies "the idea that poverty is a function of bad luck and bad choices, and success the result of heroic toil and dreams." That's a sad twisting of the film's story. Poverty CAN be a function of bad luck and people CAN succeed thanks to heroic toil and dreams. To imply that the film's message is that anyone who is stuck in poverty is therefore stupid or responsible for their own fate or unwilling to work hard is offensive. It's just as negative and vile to tell anyone in poverty you're a victim and there's nothing you can do about it, isn't it? I'm really looking forward to seeing the film again to see what my reaction is a second time. It might just make my best of the year list. In any case, it's a good family film.

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