May 30, 2006

Brief Critiques

Took in two films this weekend which may or may not prove of any interest to readers of this blog. One featured the offspring of Mary Magdalene and one featured an angelic Virginia Madsen. One included French accents and one included Minnesota accents. One had a freaky albino and one had Lindsay Lohan, whom some may argue is just as scary.

First, The DaVinci Code. I thought it did not suck, which was surprising since critics seemed to pan it. While Hanks would not have been my first casting choice and the mullet was downright egregious, I otherwise felt that the movie unfolded exactly as it had in my mind while I read the Dan Brown book. Thanks to my short-term memory, I had forgotten many of the plot points (besides the final "ta-da") so all the revelations along the way made me "ooh" and "aah" all over again. I won't go into a thorough review as they are a dime a dozen. All I'll say is that I was entertained and did not feel as though I had been robbed of my $10 when all was said and done. If you were on the fence about seeing it, I'd give it the green light or at least sanction a rental when it's out on DVD. (Except for you, Meg, ye hater of "The Hanks.")

As for the second film, A Prairie Home Companion, it seemed like something I should have liked, especially since I saw it for free. Nevertheless, Robert Altman is hit-or-miss in my book: Dr. T and the Women = bad. Gosford Park = good. A Prairie Home Companion, in the end, equalled "eh." Granted, I wasn't too familiar with the long-running public radio program which the film lovingly depicts. The movie was basically a real-time (or almost) staging of the live, old-timey show, helmed by writer Garrison Keillor (who plays himself) and a host of colorful characters who take the stage and sing sweet ditties. The whole thing is charming and poignant, given that it's supposed to be the show's last night before the historic St. Paul theater is bought up -- and shut down -- by some corporate meanie played by Tommy Lee Jones. Woody Harrelson and William C. Reilly are great as the singing cowboys Lefty and Dusty, and Meryl Streep, as always, is quintessential Meryl Streep (that's a good thing). Lindsay Lohan broods as an angst-ridden teen and angel Virginia Madsen saunters around interacting with the stage hands in moments that are supposed to add a bit of gravity to the over-arching bungling and quirkiness of the show. There wasn't much of a plot beyond what was laid out between the many, MANY musical, Stephen-Fostereque interludes. And while my inner Girl Scout will always enjoy a rousing rendition of "Tavern In The Town," after two hours of it, I was starting to side with Tommy Lee Jones. The movie was a nice fat slice of Americana, but perhaps I only needed a sliver. That said, if you need an activity for grandma, this is is it. -- Amy

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