December 19, 2006

Watch It - Top 5 Christmas Movies

5) Elf

Elf is about Buddy, a normal man who believes he is one of Santa's elves due to being raised at the North Pole. Buddy is raised by Papa Elf, who is played wonderfully by Bob Newhart. Will Ferrell plays Buddy and is hilarious, he never quite fits in due to his enormous size relative to the other elves. Eventually Buddy figures out that he's a normal sized man and he heads to New York to find his real Father and more hilarity ensues. I know this isn't exactly a classic Christmas movie but I loved it. I'm a big Will Ferrell fan and you definitely need to be to love this movie, though I'd recommend it either way.

4) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

This is a great kids movie. The original story of how Rudolph saved Christmas one stormy year with all kinds of added plot lines like Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman. In this story we learn that everyone is worthwhile no matter how "different" they might be. I watched it again recently and was reminded of why I loved it so much as a child. This is a true classic with great animation and voices, a truly unique story.

3) It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life is not only a great Christmas Movie, for many people it is also one of the great movies of all time. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, a kind and compassionate businessman who runs into a string of bad luck and tries to take his own life. His guardian angel saves him and shows him what life would be like had he never existed. This is a great story, a feel-good story if you will. The style and age of the movie may keep some of today's movie goers from getting into it but if you've never seen it you're missing out.

2) How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Another classic kids movie. This cartoon based on the Dr. Seuss book is 30 minutes of pure enjoyment. The voices, drawings and songs are all memorable and I still enjoy watching it as an adult. This is yet another Christmas movie with a great uplifting moral to it and though Jim Carrey did his best with the live action version they made a few years ago it pales in comparison to the simple and superior cartoon.

1) A Christmas Story

This is a movie that captures childhood. Through the narration of the main character, Ralphie, we are told the story of a memorable Christmas in his childhood. A Christmas that includes a bebe gun, a horrible gift of bunny pajamas that Ralphie is forced to try on, a child's tongue freezing to a pole, a Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant and many other family moments you'll never forget. This is my favorite because it re-tells Christmas from the perspective of a child who is at the age when I remember loving Christmas the most.

December 15, 2006

Mission Impossible III - $7

In the latest Mission Impossible installment Ethan Hunt is off the frontlines and is working in the classroom, well maybe not a classroom per se, but he's training future agents and not working in the field anymore.

Mission Impossible III starts by informing us that Hunt is getting married and his cover story with his fiance is that he works for the Department of Transportation. Of course Hunt's quiet life of training agents and being out of the field lasts all of 5 minutes in this movie as he is drawn back into action by the kidnapping of one of his trainees.

The villain and kidnapper is Owen Davian, an arms dealer who has eluded authorities for years. Davian is played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman, so well in fact that I wish the movie would have featured more of his character.

As usual though, this impossible mission centers almost entirely around Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise. Davian kidnaps Hunt's fiance and forces Hunt to recover the 'Rabbit's Foot' to save her. Curiously the audience is never let in on just exactly what the Rabbit's Foot is.

Unlike the first two Mission Impossible movies, this one is a little truer to the TV show it takes its name from. Hunt uses and relies on his team and on advanced gadgets and technology to get the job done. At one point he impersonates the bad guy by wearing a silicon mask, a classic Mission Impossible move that is as standard as the A Team drugging B.A.'s food to get him on an airplane.

I didn't love this movie, but I liked it. It is a far better movie than the first two in this series and it delivers exactly what you'd expect out of an action move - action.

I put Mission Impossible III on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7.

December 8, 2006

Casino Royale - $9

James Bond is back and better than he's been for a long time. Actually in Casino Royale James Bond is just beginning. The 21st Bond film takes us back to the beginning and lets us watch James Bond become OO7 and evolve into the man we've watched 20 other times.

Daniel Craig is the new Bond and I, like many others, was skeptical when I heard he had to learn to drive standard and had never held a gun before this movie. Craig proved me and all of his critics wrong with the best Bond performance since the great Scot himself. Craig plays Bond with the usual sophisticated confidence bordering on arrogance; what he also accomplishes is the tough side of Bond that was less than convincing in some of the past actors who played the fictional legend.

Casino Royale is a great action movie and a great Bond movie. As cliche as it may sound, I was literally on the edge of my seat during some of it. One scene in particular, where Bond chases a bomber through a high rise under construction, could be the best chase scene I've ever witnessed.

The movie centers around a classic Bond villian with a physical disfiguration. He is an understated villian named Le Chiffre who is not trying to take over the world but rather he is a financier of terrorists. Le Chiffre needs to make millions of dollars back to save his life and he plans to do this by winning a big-pot poker game at the Casino Royale. Bond's plan is to break Le Chiffre for good at the gambling table, and the $10 million buy-in is financed by the British Treasurey and delivered by Vesper Lynd who is the anti-Bond-girl in every way.

The only part of this movie I thought could have been better was the love story between Bond and Lynd, we see the sensitive side of Bond and we also see the context behind his womanizing ways and why this sensitive side is never to be seen again. I acknowledge that this part of Casino Royale was necessary for the plot but Craig was slightly less convincing as the romantic lead man.

Overall this is one of the best Bond movies I've ever seen and certainly the best action movie produced in years. I highly recommend seeing Casino Royale, especially if you are a Bond fan. The gag and gadget centered themes of the past few Bond movies are stripped away and the audience is left with a simplified movie that centers on the characters, low-tech real action, and a newly invigerated Bond character. I'm looking forward to #22.

I put this movie on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9.

December 1, 2006

Superman Returns - $3

Superman has returned to earth and he looks younger than when he left. Why did he leave you might ask? He went to see if Krypton had in fact blown up as he had always believed since human astronomers had apparently spotted it intact. It took him 5 years to find out the astronomers were wrong and return.

While he was gone Lois Lane got engaged and had a child. He was not replaced at work for 5 years and slipped back into his lame Clark Kent job seamlessly.

This movie was true to the Superman genre, in fact so loyal to the genre it was ridiculously predictable, and that was it's downfall for me. If you've ever seen a Superman movie you've seen everything that's in this one. Superman opens with a heroic act saving hundreds, he then tries to win Lois Lane back by taking her for a romantic flight, Clark tries to get Lois Lane's attention too but those glasses magically keep her from noticing he looks a little like Superman. Everyone else seems to miss the coincidence that Clark and Superman are not only identical twins but they returned on the same day.

And don't worry, Superman faces Lex Luther who uses Kryptonite to initially defeat him only to lose to Superman in the end. I didn't see that coming.

And all this was accomplished in a 2 1/2 hour movie that left me wondering when it would end more than once.

This movie wasn't a total loss, Brandon Routh does a great job playing Superman. I almost felt like I was watching Christopher Reeves. The special effects are entertaining though I couldn't help but feel like I was watching a video game at times. Plus it just feels like a Superman movie and fans of the old ones will likely enjoy it.

Here's my problem though, I found it boring.

I put this movie on my 'Don't Watch It' list and give it a value of $3.