Sunday, January 02, 2005

More Movies

It seems like all I'm doing over the holidays is watching movies...

Ella Enchanted is a funny, sly little movie that flew under the radar. This fairy tale has Anne Hathaway from The Princess Diaries as a girl who is cursed to do whatever someone tells her to do. Similar to Cinderella (get it...Ella?), she lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Her father is not dead, but gone a lot, so Ella is still at the mercy of her stepmother and stepsisters. Ella's kingdom is ruled by the evil uncle of the late King, a man who has basically enslaved all non-human creatures. Prince Charmont, the rightful heir to the throne, returns to the kingdom to be crowned King. He and Ella meet several times and end up gradually falling for each other. Ella decides that she wants the curse to be lifted so she can be free to do what she wants, so she goes on a quest to find the fairy that cursed her and ask her to lift it. This movie is bright, colorful, funny, and sly in a way that is reminiscent of Shrek. Little things like an escalator that is hand-cranked at the mall and references to classic stories, make it fun for older audiences too. This movie is better than a lot of other kids' films, so take a chance and rent it. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Ben Affleck has the worst taste in picking movies as of late. After a streak of bad and so-so movies that include Daredevil, Jersey Girl, and Gigli, and now here comes Surviving Christmas. This is a movie that did so poorly that it came out in October in theaters and on DVD in December of the same year. I can say that I am glad that Auntee rented it because I didn't have to pay to see it at all. This movie isn't really as bad as people say it is...but that doesn't mean it's good. The story could have been made into a decent comedy, but it doesn't help that Ben Affleck's character is borderline mental. James Gandolfini, who plays the curmudgeonly head of the family that Ben rents looks like he doesn't want to be there. It's a shame that Catherine O'Hara, who was memorable in the first two Home Alone movies, resorted to what she does in this movie. There are a few funny scenes here and there, but this movie feels a lot longer than it's ~96 minute running time. I survived Surviving Christmas...but you shouldn't even risk it.

My all-time favorite Christmas film is Miracle On 34th Street, about a little girl who doesn't believe in Santa but comes around when she meets Kris Kringle, the Santa at Macy's. It makes perfect sense, then, that I really enjoyed The Polar Express, a movie about a boy who starts to believe less in Santa until one fateful Christmas Eve train ride. It's a beautiful movie to look at, from the animation/motion-capture to the colors and "camera" shots. Tom Hanks does a nice job as several characters. You can tell that he voiced multiple characters, yet the voices are still distinct. Even though I have never read the book, you can tell that it has been padded. There are a few long adventure scenes that take up time and also make it perfect for viewing in IMAX 3D. The best, though, is when the train has to cross a frozen lake. After seeing this film, I can see why it held its own throughout the holiday season. It's a well-written, well-made film with a wonderful, bittersweet ending.

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