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Vanity Fair

I'll admit up front: I've never read Vanity Fair, so I can't comment on how this movie compares against the book. However, Vera and I did greatly enjoy Monsoon Wedding, which was also directed by Mira Nair, so we felt this one was worth a shot.

As a period piece, Vanity Fair does a reasonable job, with lush sets and stuffy, uptight people obsessing over class and social order. This kind of thing can be fun when done well (I really enjoyed Gosford Park, for example, even though it was very stuffy and very talky :-), but here it just seemed like a bunch of bitter unlikeable people out to get each other's money when they died.

Having not read the book, I thought Reese Witherspoon did fine as the heroine, though I have heard from others who have read the book that she lacked "bite" as Becky Sharp. I did like the fact that her attempts to rise up the social ladder did not always succeed nor necessarily better her life.

Overall, it was a diverting couple of hours, but not as good as I was hoping. 2.5/4 stars.

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda is a tough movie to watch. It is the story of Paul Rusesabagina (played extremely well by Don Cheadle), a manager at a Western-run hotel in Rwanda, who finds himself caught in the crossfire and protecting over a thousand Tutsi refugees from the Hutu militia, as the terrible genocide between the two groups gets underway.

There were a number of powerful and emotional scenes in the film, but the one thing you feel watching this is just how hopeless the situation was. There was a small U.N. peacekeeping force there, but they were hardly enough to have any impact on the violent Hutu mobs that were created and constantly encouraged over the radio to kill the Tutsi "cockroaches". In fact, the radio announcement that launched the killing spree was one of the most haunting things I have heard on film.

Nick Nolte has a small role as one of the U.N. peacekeepers, and Joaquin Phoenix plays one of the sympathetic reporters who ventures out in the midst of the violence to document it, only to report back to Paul that the West just didn't care.

Overall, this is a really good, if difficult, movie, and one of the best I've seen in a while. 4/4 stars.

The Incredibles

Yes, I did manage to see The Incredibles in the theaters when it came out. But like every other Pixar release, this one went straight into my DVD collection as soon as it was released.

As usual, it's quite an excellent film, filled with just the right balance of comedy and drama. I liked the fact that they cranked up the edginess a notch this time and got the dreaded "PG" rating. It also clocks in a bit longer than the typical U.S. animated film, which is nice since I always tend to feel that things end too quickly.

This is the first Pixar movie to focus exclusively on humans, and they did a good job achieving a 3D animated look that doesn't try to convince you that they were attempting photorealism. The only place where it looks like they still have some trouble is with wet hair, but that's only a minor distraction. :-)

Jason Lee was inspired voice casting as Syndrome. But Brad Bird himself steals the show as the voice of the superhero fashion designer.

About the only negative thing I can say is that there weren't any "outtakes" at the end. What's up with that??? And the "outtakes" on the DVD aren't nearly as inspired as those from the other Pixar movies.

But I can't really complain. Overall, the movie is fun, and a total joy to watch. 4/4 stars.

About those movie reviews…

Well, I'm finally (!) caught up with all my movies. A few people have commented that I see a lot of movies. Which may be true, but keep in mind also that the burst of reviews from the last half-month covers two whole months' worth of movie watching. I was just really far behind. :-)

Going forward, I'll intersperse the reviews amongst other news like I did before. Hopefully I won't get so far behind again!

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

Sometimes you get home after a long day and just want to watch something dumb and funny. And that's exactly what you get watching The Naked Gun 2 1/2. It's about as funny as the original, very little plot to speak of, but just good, silly fun.

Leslie Nielsen is back as Lt. Frank Drebbin. Unfortunately, it seems he has tried to take this role and re-use it in other movies to much less success (anyone else see Dracula: Dead and Loving It?) But at least in the original Police Squad! show/movies, he is perfect for the bumbing detective role.

Priscilla Presley is back as Jane, the ditzy love interest. And it's always weird to see O.J. Simpson again, knowing what has become of him.

I was all ready to mention an unexpected cast sighting of Juliette Lewis as the sex shop worker, but it turns out it was only a Juliette Lewis lookalike, played by Gina Mastrogiacomo. I was, however, happy to see "Weird Al" Yankovic turn up in this one, since he made a cameo in the first movie as well.

Good, clean, dumb fun. 3/4 stars.