Evan’s out of town on a much-deserved vacation, so you all get me this week. In other news, it appears to be the week for coming-of-age stories starring Dakota Fanning and set in the American south…enjoy.
The Singing Revolution –
I missed this doc when it was in theaters, but Evan’s four-star review definitely has me interested. This one tells the story of Estonia during the time of the U.S.S.R., how it was subjugated to Russia, and how the people fought back — simply by standing together and singing their national anthem every five years at the Russian-imposed choral celebration. In this simple, nonviolent act of rebellion, Estonians held onto their humanity and their hope and eventually achieved independence.
Recommended if you doubt the power of the human spirit.
As with almost anything else (cheese, art, cinema, etc.), French wine was long considered to be inherently superior to wine coming from any other geographical area. All this changed in 1976, when the California wine Chateau Montelena won an international blind taste test, sending shockwaves throughout the international grape-worshipping snob community. This fictionalized account is a great feel-good comedy, featuring some astonishingly beautiful shots of Napa Valley and a dryly hilarious performance from Alan Rickman. We never did get a review of it up, but we do discuss it in episode three of our podcast. Spoiler: all three of us loved it. (And as a side note: Sideways, the other film we discuss, comes out on Blu-ray today.)
Recommended if you like wine but hate pretension
Afro Samurai: Resurrection
I admit that I had never heard of Afro Samurai before researching this post (aside from noticing that some songs from the soundtrack occasionally play on my Pandora Radio account), but it’s just too weird not to mention. Apparently, this one is the unnecessary sequel to the anime TV series, which features a samurai with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson and a hairstyle from the 1970’s competing to be “Number One,” whatever that means. In other words, it’s a dream come true for all the anime dorks out there. In other news, why are the subtitles for sequels always either “Resurrection,” “Requiem,” or “Evolution”? Seriously: the movie business needs to learn some new big words.
Recommended if you always wished Cowboy Bebop and Snakes on a Plane were the same movie.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist –
I know I only gave this one two stars when it was in theaters, but part of me says I’d like it better if I gave it another chance. I saw it in the early evening with a theater full of teenagers who ate up all its worshipful nods to unprotected teen sex and superficial individuality; that was more than enough to turn me off. If I was watching late at night on DVD with a few close friends, I’d probably be more generous to it. In any case, I’d rather watch it than the next several choices.
Recommended if you spend all your free time scrolling through your iPod and smiling to yourself
Apparently, this is a campy horror-comedy about the crew for a reality television being trapped in a small town where a killer is on the loose. Well, anything that results in the deaths of the people who make reality TV can’t be all bad.
Recommended if you liked Scooby-Doo, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, or Baghead
The Secret Life of Bees
Sadly, we’re all white males here at MovieZeal (unless you count Heather, who’s rumored to be a white female), so none of us rushed to see a movie geared toward black females. It’s not that we’re particularly racist or sexist…there were just a heck of a lot of other movies coming out that week that had more explosions in them. This one got middling reviews, which means that you might like it, particularly if you want to see Dakota Fanning (of Little Miss Sunshine Charlotte’s Web fame) come of age as Queen Latifah’s adopted daughter.
Recommended if you liked The Color Purple, Waiting to Exhale, or The Jerk
Choice number two for those of you who can’t get enough Fanning. (Meaning enough of Fanning the actress, not like you constantly need fans running. If that’s the case, seek medical attention.) This one debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to abysmal reviews and created quite a bit of controversy in North Carolina, where it was filmed. The storyline involves the underage Fanning learning to sing the blues and getting raped, although not necessarily in that order. Actually, it’s in the exact opposite order, come to think of it.
Recommended if you’re hapless enough to mistake this one for The Secret Life of Bees
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
I’ve never been a huge Kevin Smith fan, but even I was surprised by how much this one got dumped on in the blogosphere. I assume that the main reason is that the aspiring film critics of today were in high school when he was big, and therefore could appreciate his juvenile sense of humor — and now that they’re mature enough to know what a hack he is, they feel betrayed. Anyway, this one’s about a pair of male and female “best friends” who attempt to make a pornographic film, and guess what gets in the way? Anyone who’s seen a romantic comedy since When Harry Met Sally should be able to give you a hint.
Recommended if you haven’t been on the Internet since 1996 (…oh wait).
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
For Hollywood, animation boils down to a simple equation: Talking Animals + Celebrity Voices + Videogame-Style Animation + Millions of Dollars in Shameless Promotion = $100 Million in Parents’ Money. I can’t really blame the folks at Dreamworks for going where the money is, but I really hope at least one of them saw WALL-E and felt just a teensy bit of shame.
Recommended if you can’t afford a babysitter.