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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Because you can't review them all...

This is my monthly column to briefly discuss the films I watched (or rewatched) but didn't have the time or energy to write full reviews of. This month, I'll be talking about high school politics, classic Disney, and a pretty awful Marilyn Monroe impersonation, among other things.

Election (3.5 Stars)
It's funny how one's opinion of a film can change so much over time. I first saw Alexander Payne's Election about six years ago and found it perplexingly unappealing. Everyone loves this movie, I thought, and there's nothing about it that shouldn't appeal to me. I just thought it was executed poorly. It certainly wasn't a film I ever cared to revisit. But with The Descendants finally hitting theaters, my thoughts drifted to Payne's filmography, and bits and pieces of Election had me chuckling inside. Suddenly, I loved this movie, though I hadn't watched it since that first underwhelming viewing. I needed to see if my instinct was right—if I actually like this movie. As you can see by the rating, I do. It's a riot. Every character is brilliantly stereotypical. Most of them are ridiculously petty. Payne's direction is very energetic—probably the best of his career. I have some small issues with a few unresolved subplots, but on the whole, this is a very worthwhile effort that clearly gets better over time.

Catch Me If You Can (4 Stars)
It didn't take multiple viewings for me to love Steven Spielberg's 2002 caper film, Catch Me If You Can. It was a four-star movie the first time I saw it, and things haven't changed since. The globetrotting cat and mouse game between Leonardo DiCaprio's teenage con man and Tom Hanks' no-nonsense IRS agent is a highlight, but the film is greatly enhanced by Christopher Walken's terrific performance. Hollywood's go-to guy for playing zany, off-the-wall characters rolls it back here and really nails it. Then, there's Spielberg's direction, which is delightful. It's clear he's having a blast, and as a result, we do to.

Insignificance (3 Stars)
What would happen if Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Joe DiMaggio, and Joseph McCarthy crossed paths? That's what Nicholas Roeg asks with Insignificance—a very obtuse and somewhat frustrating film that's forgiven its flaws on the strength of a fantastic end note. There's next to no narrative arc, and though the character development is there, it took a long while to really rope me in. I also thought some of the performances were weak, especially that of Theresa Russell, who plays The Actress (aka Monroe). But the film's final ten minutes are jaw-dropping for a number of reasons. Technically, the scene is spectacular. Beyond that, I think it makes some stunning points that might not make it four-star material, but do present enough food for thought about the fickle nature of celebrity as to make the film watchable, even recommendable.

The Lion King (4 Stars)
You all know the story. The lion cub Simba is destined for the throne, but a tragic accident shreds his confidence, sends him into exile, and almost destroys his kingdom until he makes a triumphant return as an adult to vanquish his evil uncle, Scar. And if you had any doubts that your love of this film is based solely on nostalgia, no need to worry. Simply put, this is the greatest Disney film ever, complete with sensational songs, beautiful animation, and a ton of heart.

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