Weekend viewing: Capsule reviews

Last week we’d intended to watch two silly movies, but suddenly got busy and ended up only watching one. So, the second had to wait for this weekend. They were indeed silly.

Ella Enchanted (2004)
This early Anne Hathaway vehice, based (apparently quite loosely) on a YA novel, is essentially a slightly updated version of the Cinderella story, with some interesting twists.

At her birth, Ella of Frell (Hathaway) is “gifted” with obedience. Essentially, she is compelled to do anything that anyone tells her to do. You see where this could be a problem, right? She manages to keep this trait a secret until she’s a teenager, and her new stepmother and stepsisters arrive. Stepsister Hattie (Lucy Punch, whom I love) quickly figures out what’s what, and abuses her power accordingly. Meanwhile, Ella meets Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy, meh) who is returning to the kingdom to take over from his uncle, the unctious Edgar (Cary Elwes, hysterical!). Ella and Charmont meet and he is instantly smitten, much to the dismay of Hattie. Ella, however, blames Charmont for all of the bad things going on in the kingdom, like the persecution and subjugation of elves, giants, and ogres. This is, of course, all the fault of Edgar, but Charmont is blind to his uncle’s true motives. Ella sets off on a quest to rid herself of her “gift,” and ends up working to end Edgar’s tyranny alongside Charmont. Think they fall in love? Please.

So it’s a cute movie. Anne Hathaway is at her most earnest and toothsome, Lucy Punch and Cary Elwes are fabulous, and all of the “modern” twists are amusing, if a bit much at times. The musical selections are kind of painful, although the ensemble number at the end is cute. It was fun to sort of note all the other fairy tale movies that are vaguely referenced throughout, most notably Edgar’s sidekick Heston, a CGI snake clearly based on Disney’s Robin Hood’s Sir Hiss. Entertaining. Sure to delight the kiddies.

National Treasure (2004)
You’re probably thinking, “Geez, she’s just now getting around to this one?” But here’s the thing. In my other life I am a rare book librarian. So the plot of a movie that involves an important document like the Declaration of Independence just makes me cringe. The husband wanted to see this one, so I decided to sit in. Husband’s take: “Wow, that was so much worse than I thought it’d be.” My take: “That was about as bad as I thought it would be.”

Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) has been brought up believing in a conspiracy theory that involves the Knights Templar turning into the Freemasons, who, during the nascent years of the United States, hid away a treasure of untold riches. With the help of a rich benefactor, Ian Howe (Sean Bean; gee, you think he’s going to end up the bad guy?) and Riley, a snarky computer geek (Justin Bartha, the film’s saving grace), Ben goes in search of the first clue, which leads them to the discovery that the treasure map is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. In invisible ink, natch. Here the explorers meet their parting of the ways, with Ian determining to steal the document, and Ben being far too patriotic for that. However, when Ben and Riley soon realize nobody’s going to help them, so they decide to steal it first. To keep it safe. Of course, it all goes awry, and suddenly, the lovely Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger, sufficient) gets involved in the race to be the first to discover the Masons’ secret. Ben’s disbelieving dad (Jon Voight) and an FBI agent (Harvey Keitel) are also drawn into the action, which sends our heroes racing through some of the country’s most historic cities to follow the trail of clues.

Seriously, this is not a good movie. For a group of people who are generally acknowledged to be pretty good actors, the whole thing is so amazingly wooden. And as for the plot, I think I was at least a step ahead the whole time. I mean, I’ve read a couple of Dan Brown novels, you know? There wasn’t even enough real action to entertain. It was all Nic Cage furrowing his brow and wracking his brain to come up with the next answer to the puzzle. With hilarious asides by Bartha. And Sean Bean doing what he does best, which is glower menacingly. We will not be watching the sequel, despite the addition of another Oscar winner (Helen Mirren) and nominee (Ed Harris). Thanks, but no thanks.

So yes. Silly movies. BUT. Tonight, I am so excited, for we are going to see, finally, The King’s Speech! Yay!! Hopefully, it really is “all that”. And you, dear readers? What did you see this weekend? Do tell!

3 responses to “Weekend viewing: Capsule reviews

  1. Ok, so I know this is another completely ridiculous ‘Oh come on Nic, do a decent movie already’ movie, but I found it kinda fun. I like films that you can just turn your brain off to and just watch. Or ignore. Wallpaper cinema at it’s best.

    • Ordinarily I love those too, the Tomb Raider and the Mummy movies being personal faves, but this one was just so stilted. It was as though not even the actors were having fun. Except maybe Bean & Bartha. To each their own, eh?

  2. Indeed. There is no accounting for taste. Which is why cinema is for me the best artform becuase even at it’s worst it will always have an audience. not sure if that’s a goo thing or not actually. I think it should be standardised but then who decides what is good and what is not?

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