In all the book release madness, I'll bet you thought I wasn't watching any movies. Well, you thought wrong. I've been watching them, and I'm here to review them for you. All of these are on Netflix Instant Watch right now, and there are some pretty decent ones to choose from. I'm light on time, though--so let's launch right into it.
Broadway Danny Rose--A Woody Allen pic from 1984. He's an agent for the down and out (a crystal goblet player, a singing parrot, a bad ventriloquist). But he's a dedicated agent--he makes these acts his life. Has them all over for Thanksgiving dinner, picks their outfits for them, mourns with them when their top singing birds pass on. Very quirky movie, somewhat marred by the framing device Allen chose to use for the film--it's introduced by snippets of a group of other agents talking about Danny Rose in a cafe, and they tell story after story about him, culminating in one big long story focused on how he tried to get his last really good act a shot at the big time. I enjoyed the snippets, but I didn't like the sporadic nature they lent to the first third of the film. That said, it's still a very good movie, notable for the only shootout scene I've ever watched where mass amounts of helium were inhaled at the same time. (Might explain some of Allen's later life choices.) Plus, it culminates in one scene where Allen really has a chance to show some heart. Three stars, and maybe more for Allen afficiandos.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend--Complete dreck. Full disclosure--I didn't finish the film. It starts out with the main character: a struggling aspiring writer, meeting with an editor at what seems to be a reputable house. The editor's read all his work, and she's just so torn up for the poor guy, but let's him know he needs to move on. This got things off on the wrong foot right away. Editors do not meet with aspiring authors in their offices. The film made it seem like the guy just dropped by her place, and she made time for him. Not going to happen. But I trooped on, and it didn't get much better. You've got the requisite cute waitress who somehow can't get a boyfriend, despite being Alyssa Milano. And then the writing schlub meets her, and they hit it off, and right after that, she meets a handsome blah blah blah. Click. The end. Maybe other people can stomach it. Not worth my time, though I can't give it an official rating, since I didn't finish it.
Here Comes the Groom--A Bing Crosby musical from 1951. It won the Oscar for best song (for "In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening," which was quite catchy). Also scored a nom for best writing. Bing is a war reporter who wants to adopt two French kids. Only problem? He has to be married to do it. So he goes home with the kids in tow, and he has a week to get married--except he finds out his girlfriend is already engaged to a rich millionaire. A fun, cute story, although the fact that most women in the film are treated like mindless lemmings does tend to detract from the general freewheeling spirit the movie's trying to create. (The women come off as nothing more than empty headed people just waiting for the nearest man to tell them what to do and how to behave.) That said, Denisa and I enjoyed it. Three stars.
Bottle Shock--Chris Pine (in his pre-Star Trek days) and Bill Pullman are California wine makers. Alan Rickman is a British wine critic out to see if California wines are any good. Go figure--it actually is. Based on a true story, and we enjoyed it, even knowing not a blessed thing about wines. If I drank wine, I'm sure this would be even better. Three stars. Fun, also quirky--it has a sort of an art film feel to it, and I liked that. Bill Pullman's character annoyed the living daylights out of me, but the fact that I enjoyed the film in spite of that says a lot in its favor.
The Great Buck Howard--Colin Hanks (Tom's son) is a young man who doesn't know what he wants in life. He ends up being the personal assistant to The Great Buck Howard (John Malkovich), a once-popular mentalist who has since been reduced to touring the not-so-popular towns. (People love him in Akron.) Another movie with a strong art film vibe, and another one I enjoyed quite a bit. Three stars. (Popular rating for today--what can I say? I saw a lot of good but not fantastic movies the past bit.) Through the course of the film, Hanks learns a thing or two about people and how to get along with them. Malkovich (who usually bugs me for some reason) is quite good in his role--probably because he's supposed to bug you, so that worked for me. Hanks does a fine job, as well--though he lacks the immediate everyman feel of his father. Maybe I'm expecting too much. A good movie, all told. Funny and entertaining.