Monday, January 26, 2009

DVDs for a Snowstorm

Today I celebrate my 100th post from a bus (gotta love the wireless on Bolt Bus). Leaving Massachusetts, I heard another massive snowstorm is coming tomorrow night. We only get a fraction of Boston's snow in New York; it's enough for a magical winter night without keeping anyone indoors. But for those of you stuck inside Tuesday night, here's some movies I caught recently that could make a good companion by the fireplace.

Hamlet 2

Hamlet 2 came out of Sundance a year ago as one of the biggest buys, only to completely fizzle at the box office last summer. Maybe it wasn't worth the $12 in theaters, but this enjoyably amusing comedy deserves a stronger second life on DVD. Hamlet 2 stars Steve Coogan, the incompetent and doomed director from Tropic Thunder, as incompetent though less doomed high school drama teacher Dana Maraschz. When the school principal announces the drama program's end, Dana sets out to prove its worth with an extravagant, time-traveling, musical Hamlet sequel.

The movie starts out by spoofing inspirational classroom movies like Dead Poet's Society and Dangerous Minds, a strategy that only sometimes pays off. And Dana's over-the-top buffoonery sometimes comes a little too close to the worst of The Office's Michael Scott. But as soon as the play-within-the-play kicks in at the end, with such awesomely terrible songs as "Rock Me Sexy Jesus," it's all gold. Throw in Amy Poehler, Catherine Keener, and Elizabeth Shue (as herself) in minor roles, and you've got everything needed for a great rental.


When I first saw the trailer for Wanted, I thought it looked like a lame Matrix rip-off. After having seen it, I realize it is in fact an awesome Matrix rip-off. With Fight Club mimicking voiceover and such cheesy special effects as a bullet whizzing back into the gun it was fired from, there's nothing the movie won't unapologetically steal. And such no-holds-barred ridiculousness is exactly what a dumb action movie needs.

The plot has something to do with James McAvoy's office drone (Neo) being recruited by Angelina Jolie's more-creepy-than-hot shooter (Trinity) into a secret society of assassins led by Morgan Freeman (Morpheus). If you doubt that McAvoy, after The Last King of Scotland and Atonement, could make a credible action hero, you're probably right. But his hilarious overacting shows he's fully in on the fun. The plot twists at the end make little sense, but I'd be disappointed if they did. Wanted won't revolutionize how action movies look, but it's a great chance to turn off your brain.

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