Sunday, December 26, 2004

Holiday Movie Bonanza

I saw many movies over the course of the past few days, so here are my capsule reviews:

-Maria Full Of Grace is the story of a pregnant 17-year-old girl in Colombia who decides to become a mule in order to find a better life. From the beginning, you want to root for Maria. She lives with her mother, sister, and nephew. The sister doesn't work and Maria provides most of the money for the family by working in a rose plantation. Her boyfriend doesn't really love her. Over the course of the movie, we understand why Maria would risk her life (and her baby's life) to be a mule. She sees it as a way out. However, we see how it negatively affects her and her friends. This movie is always compelling and at times very moving.

-Napoleon Dynamite is weird. This describes both the movie and the title character...and the plot. Actually, there is no real plot. The movie is all about how Napoleon lives his life with other unusual characters around him. Characters like his best friend Pedro, his brother who spends hours chatting online, and his Uncle Rico who is stuck in the past and wishes he could go back in time. There aren't many laughs in this movie. I spent more time looking at the movie as an oddity rather than actually laughing. That's not to say that the movie doesn't have any redeeming qualities. It's an incredibly quotable movie. Even as I sat and not laughed, there were many many lines that make great quotes to spit back at friends. And some stuff is funnier when you look back at the movie than when you actually watch it in action. In the end, I'm conflicted about this movie. There were elements in place to make an unbelievably hilarious film. In fact, I gather that it could be a very funny TV series given writers that can put these weird characters into interesting situations. But as a stand alone's just not that good.

-The Stepford Wives was actually a pretty funny movie. I liked Nicole Kidman in the lead role, and Matthew Broderick as her husband. The movie is breezy fun with a slightly dark twist. I liked that there was a gay couple in Stepford...and that the "flaming" one of the two was the one who was Stepfordized. I liked the twist on the Stepford secret (the villain isn't who you think it is!). There is one glaring plot hole in this movie (a small rewrite could've have fixed it, easy) but it doesn't hurt the movie too much. The actual ending (after the twist) was completely hypocritical. It made the point the movie tried to make completely pointless. Despite that, this was a fun movie.

-After seeing Hotel Rwanda, I can say that it deserves every nomination and award it has received. This movie really is one of the best of 2004. Very few dramas really shake you as you watch but this one did that to me. Don Cheadle's performance is great. With all the hoopla surrounding Jamie Foxx, I hope he is not overlooked for an Oscar nomination. His powerful performance demands a nomination. This movie is sad and heartbreaking, especially since it's based on a true story. This movie is to Africans/African-Americans what Schindler's List is to Jews. This is a great movie, plain and simple. I can't give it a higher recommendation. Go see it.

-Shaun of The Dead actually is successful in combining comedy and horror in the same film. It seems like a lot of horror films are unintentionally funny. You laugh because you aren't actually scared. Some horror films do add some comedy into the mix, but just to pass the time between horror stuff. Shaun of The Dead is really equal parts comedy and horror. Shaun's life is messed up. He's at a dead-end job. His relationship with his girlfriend is on the skids. His friend, Ed, is a hindrance to his life. He hates his stepfather and refuses to call him his dad. However, he becomes an unlikely hero when zombies start appearing. It's hilarious when he and Ed see a zombie girl and think that she's drunk. Things get scarier and more intense, though, as the movie goes on. I was especially impressed by the climax of the film. It was singularly more intense than much of the Dawn of The Dead remake. All the while, the movie is still funny (and it even finds time for real drama). All in all, Shaun of The Dead is a really fun movie, perfect for both horror and comedy fans.

-The Terminal is a nice, gentle little movie. Tom Hanks is incredibly likable as Viktor Navorski, a man who makes the most out of the bureaucratic quagmire he is in. He's nice, resourceful, and honest. I loved how he figured out ways to survive in the terminal (he even gets a job late in the movie). This movie is old-fashioned in style. There is no cynicism. People from the customs officers down to the workers in the airport sympathize with Viktor's plight. Even the bad guy of the film doesn't hate Viktor personally...he just wants him out of the terminal. This is a feel-good movie. I wish it could've been a little shorter (it's 129 minutes long) but it's not slow-moving. This is the movie to watch when you need a pick-me-up.

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