Monday, November 9, 2009

Movie Reviews III + Bonus TV Reviews

I realized that I haven't done movie reviews in a while. I haven't been watching too many lately, so some of these are movies you've all probably seen already. Get over it.

As an added bonus, I'm including reviews (or rather overviews) of my three favorite new TV shows of the season.

Chinatown (1974) (class assignment)
Private detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) discovers a potentially large-scale scandal during his investigation of the murder of a prominent member of the L.A. Water and Power Department. He of course gets involved with the widow and then has to add saving her life to his already difficult task of solving the murder. Also, he has to deal with Roman Polanski calling him kitty cat. And almost slicing his nose off. That’s a bad day. I’m not really into noir, whether traditional or neo-. I’m not sure why exactly, something to do with the pace I think, but who knows. I’m generally ok with slower-moving dramas, but noir just doesn’t do it for me. I recognize the general overall quality of the film though.

Nights of Cabiria (1957) (class assignment)
Cabiria is an Italian prostitute who is trying to come to terms with her life and profession, albeit without actually revealing or addressing her fragile inner feelings. When she finally starts to let her guard down, it looks like she might finally have the chance to overcome her demons and have a better life. It’s kinda like the original Pretty Woman. Only not. I really liked this movie. Cabiria is a very complex and, despite her profession, very relatable character. This was my first Federico Fellini film and I enjoyed it.

Jaws (1975) (personal time)
A giant shark terrorizes a small New England town during the busy summer season. A drunken boat captain (wouldn’t be New England without ‘em)(Robert Shaw), a persistent marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss), and the reluctant sheriff (Roy Scheider) set out to catch the pest and run into a few problems that always seem to interrupt their male bonding. Man-eating sharks have no respect. This is just a plain old great movie. I’ve never really liked horror movies that much because they always feel hokey and forced. Jaws is a great example of how to create real suspense and real terror. This movie can make an entire audience sit on the edge of their seats by…panning across people having fun swimming in the ocean. I’ve seen the movie before, but when I watched it the other day I still tensed up at the beach/ocean scenes.

Jurassic Park (1993) (personal time)
Santa Claus…I mean Richard Attenborough…plays God and all hell breaks loose. Dinosaurs + people + Jeff Goldblum = bad news. We were talking about Jurassic Park in class last week and the professor brought it to our attention that, even though everyone knows the movie is about dinosaurs, they don’t actually show a live dinosaur until over a half and hour into the film. But you still watch it. Excellent build up. Also, excellent raptor-on-British-guy action. And lastly, several gratuitous shots of Jeff Goldblum’s chest shining brilliantly beneath his unbuttoned shirt. Great movie.

My three favorite new TV shows:

Glee (Fox)
I’m not usually into musicals, but I really like this show. Perhaps its because they generally keep the random outbursts of singing in typically non-singing-related locations to a minimum. The show is about a high school glee club, obviously the dredges of the high school social hierarchy, trying to get their act together and win the regional competition. It’s fun and it feels different than most of the other stuff on the tube. There are of course several subplots, about 50% of which revolve around pregnancy at the moment. Good show. Even if you don’t like musicals, I’d say give it a shot.

Modern Family (ABC)
I love this show. I did from the first episode. It’s not really groundbreaking or overwhelmingly original, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Or funny. Hilariously funny. If you’re not aware, it’s about three families – the father (Ed O’Neill) (yes, Al Bundy) and his much younger Columbian wife and her 10 year old son; the daughter (Julie Bowen), her husband, and their three children; and the gay son and his boyfriend, who have just adopted a baby from Vietnam. Best line so far: “Excuse me…Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice. She’s perfection. Whether she’s divorcing Kramer, whether she’s wearing Prada, don’t even get me started on Sophie’s Choice…”

Community (NBC)
Another great show with a big cast, although I think they’re still working out the kinks of using a big cast to its full advantage. Things seem to be falling into place though and the last few episodes have been hilarious. The show is set at a community college and revolves around the diverse members of a Spanish study group (although they very rarely study Spanish). Please imagine: Chevy Chase in a Beastmaster costume huddled inside a fort built out of chairs during a bad trip. Awesome. Another highlight for me was an exchange between Troy, a young black student who was a big football star in high school but lost his chance at a scholarship after a kegstand-related injury, and Jeff, a disbarred lawyer who has returned to community college in hopes of someday returning to his former glory. Witness the rapid-fire convo as Jeff tries to convince Troy to join the community college football team:

Jeff: I’m saying you’re a football player. It’s in your blood.
Troy: That’s racist.
Jeff: Your soul?
Troy: That’s racist.
Jeff: Your eyes?
Troy: That’s gay.
Jeff: That’s homophobic.
Troy: That’s black.
Jeff: That’s racist.
Troy: Damn.


  1. Granted, I haven't seen JP in quite some time, but I think the first dinosaur is seen much earlier: when Grant & Ellie first arrive on the island, and they're going to the facilities, they stop to look at Brontasaurs. Did he maybe mean the Velociraptors in specific?

  2. What you just described = half hour into the movie.

  3. Erp, I read your post as "an hour and a half."