Thursday, February 18, 2010

“Word Wars”

Although I never really thought about competitive Scrabble as a career choice, apparently some people have. Including the four players profiled in “Word Wars.” This is a rare group of men who have a talent with the tiles but no visible means of support – and Scrabble isn’t exactly paying the bills. The characters range from the mildly eccentrlc to the downright creepy. One competitor with the unpleasant nickname “G.I. Joel” (G.I. as in gastro-intestinal) swigs Maalox and explains the finer details of his acid reflux. It’s all a bit sad. Hence my tweet: Word Wars-Forget the underdogs. This film about competitive Scrabble makes you feel sorry for the winners. 5.5 (out of 10) If you’re looking for a documentary about someone with an unhealthy obsession, I’d recommend “The King of Kong.” I gave it a 9. Steve Wiebe’s quest to beat the world record on Donkey Kong is a much more exciting and interesting story.

“Word Wars”

Released: 2004

Rating: NR

Length: 77 minutes

Cast: Joe Edley, Matt Graham, Marlon Hill, “G.I.” Joel Sherman

Directors: Julian Petrillo, Eric Chaikin

Genre(s): Documentary

Monday, February 15, 2010


Hands down my favorite Amy Adams movie. In fact, she carries “Enchanted” with an unbelievably believable performance as a fairytale princess who finds herself stranded in the very unenchanted New York City. Once in the city, Giselle (Ms Adams) retains her pluck along with the rose-colored view of the world of someone who believes in happy endings. She’s rescued and reluctantly taken in by Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey), a jaded divorce attorney who has no reason to believe in happy endings. But, surprise! there is a happy ending. However, this modern twist on the classic Disney fairytale from Disney itself is a knowing, post-modern update. Prince Edward (James Marsden) is Giselle’s vacuous sword-wielding suitor, unable to decipher modern New York. The evil Queen’s (Susan Sarandon) henchman Nathaniel, (Timothy Spall) obediently does the Queen’s bidding but, according to a call he places to a talk-radio psychologist, he feels unappreciated. And when Giselle calls for the local critters to help with her cleaning chores, she’s greeted by New York’s own pigeons, cockroaches and sewer rats. This particular event leads to one of the film’s musical numbers and, critters aside, it’s the kind you’d expect from Disney. There are also plenty of references to other films in the Disney catalog for Disney-philes. But even if you’re not, there’s a lot to like in “Enchanted.” It may be a little “Shalit-esque,” but I found it enchanting. My tweet: Enchanted-When an evil stepmother strands her in New York City, Disney Princess Amy Adams makes it her own magic kingdom. 8.5 (out of 10)

Other Amy Adams movies worth a look: Julie & Julia, Doubt


Released: 2007

Rating: PG

Length: 108 minutes

Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel

Director: Kevin Lima

Genre(s): Comedy, Romance, Adventure

Friday, February 12, 2010


At the risk of getting political, I’d like to say that this was a pretty good movie. It doesn’t really offer any new insight into what helped shape the 43rd President of the United States. But “W.” does a good job of stringing together the story of a party boy who wanders aimlessly through life, reaches the land’s highest office yet still can’t get his father’s approval. Director Oliver Stone walks a fine line between biopic and satire and at time it’s difficult to tell which side he's on. Josh Brolin gives a credible performance as George W. Bush from his days at Yale to the post-Iraq period. But for me, the show is really in the side characters. Thandie Newton plays an obsequious Condoleezza Rice who spends most of her screen time wearing an expression that looks as if she swallowed a lemon. Scott Glenn’s Donald Rumsfeld is completely lost, has no respect for the President, or both. In one particular meeting, he seems more interested in the pie than the policy. And Jeffrey Wright portrays Colin Powell as the only man of principle in the room. The one false note is Richard Dreyfuss, who might bear a faint resemblance to Dick Cheney, but doesn’t have the former VP’s scowl or his growl. (It was difficult to picture “Mr. Holland” bullying the CIA into fudging the yellow cake reports.) With fact-based dramas like this I often find myself wondering how much is fact and how much is drama. With “W.” I also wondered how much is “Oliver Stone?”— this is the man who directed the conspiracy-theorist’s favorite “J.F.K.” Regardless, there’s one thing about “W.” I have absolutely no doubt about: It would have been a lot more entertaining if it weren’t true. My Tweet: W.-Oliver Stone biopic makes the case that while anyone can become President of the United States, not everyone should. 7.5 (out of 10)


Released: 2008

Rating: PG-13

Length: 129 minutes

Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss

Director: Oliver Stone

Genre(s): Drama, Biopic, Satire

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

“X-men 3: The Last Stand”

My tweet: X-Men 3: The Last Stand-While Bryan Singer is minding the Superman franchise, Magneto and Brett Ratner make a mess of things. 7 (out of 10) Brett Ratner, who took the helm while Brian Singer was directing “Superman Returns,” must be from the “too much of a good thing still isn’t enough” school of directing. Because in “X-men 3: The Last Stand” he piles it on. “The Last Stand” is bigger and louder than the first two X-men films, and has more characters than you can count. It also has two storylines: one involving a “cure” for mutants, derived from the DNA of a mutant boy and another about the resurrection of Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), who died at the end of the X-men 2. Needless to say, the mutants are split about the cure and Jean is now Phoenix with unimaginable, and uncontrollable, powers. These two stories collide in a effects-laden battle between the Brotherhood, led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) and the humans, with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry) and the X-men providing support. But it’s all pretty much expected by now. So while “The Last Stand” may surpass the prior installments in pyrotechnics, unfortunately it comes up short on satisfaction. I’d recommend either one of the first two.

“X-men 3: The Last Stand”

Released: 2006

Rating: PG-13

Length: 105 minutes

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn

Director: Brett Ratner

Genre(s): Adventure, Sequel, Action