Saturday, January 3, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXI

Happy new year! I'm back from Papua New Guinea and am hoping to finish off my 2008 movie posts in the next couple weeks. I'm pretty behind. I still have 12 movies to write blurbs about, and have already seen two new movies in 2009 (thanks to airline viewing).

Meet the Robinsons (2007)
This is a solid effort that is a lot of fun and kind of silly (but in a good way).

Isle of the Dead (1945)
A group of nine people are trapped on an island and start dying off one by one. Is it the plague, as the doctor declares, or have the gods cursed them for harboring a demon, or some combination of both? This is the best science versus the supernatural themed film from Val Lewton. While some of his films sway one way or the other, this one is left the most ambiguous as to what was really going on. And of course it contains wonderfully atmospheric photography and a domineering performance from Boris Karloff.

Room Service (1938)
According to IMDb, this is the only Marx Brothers movie that was not written specifically for them, and it shows. Groucho is too busy advancing the plot to get many strings of double and triple entendres off, and Harpo does little more than stand around and look out of place. I can't help but think it would have been much better if it had been directed by Howard Hawks and starred either William Powell or Cary Grant in the Groucho role.

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
This is another pairing of Myrna Loy and William Powell, this time with Clark Gable in the mix as well. Gable and Powell are foster brothers and best friends. The only problem is that while Powell is a straight-laced politician, Gable is a very crooked-laced gangster. Of course they both fall in love with Myrna Loy (who wouldn't?). Though there are several funny scenes, Manhattan Melodrama is not a comedy and asks serious questions about justice vs. doing the right thing and holding yourself to the same standards you hold others to.

Surf’s Up (2007)
The mockumentary aspects of this animated film are well executed, though there are a few places I found myself thinking, "A real life documentary crew would not have had a camera there." The whole movie is fun, and while the story may be pretty conventional, the fact that it is a mockumentary keeps things fresh. Much better than that other animated penguin movie.

Coming up next: An afternoon and a night facing a video player.

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