Sunday, July 24, 2005

Movie Review: Sideways, Napolean Dynamite

So my wife and I have made a commitment to watch more movies, one of my favorite pastimes. When I lived in Sacramento, I went to the Birdcage Movies every week, sometimes twice, and watched movies that were a few months old for $1. Now, we can't even get into a matinee in Ukiah for under $6. So, it becomes a DVD watching Saturday night. Here are a couple of reviews, hopefully without spoilers:

Sideways:
This movie was so hyped that I couldn't wait to watch it. I love a good romantic comedy, and I love good wine. This movie is a little bit of both. The plot involves two men that travel to the Santa Maria Valley to do a little pre-wedding wine tasting and golf. The groom-to-be decides that he wants to see some action before he gets hitched, while the best man is trying to get over a divorce that occurred over two years ago. The movie takes some twists and turn about love, wine and friendship, all while developing a feel for the characters. In fact, if you are really into wine (which I am), you will come away appreciating the movie that much more.
In my opinion, the movie started a little slow. We get a sense of the two guys rather quickly, but the plot felt a little recognizable in the beginning. Once Virginia Madsen (Maya)comes on the screen, the film starts to flow much better. The personal relationships are interesting and cast does a very nice job playing solid roles. The movie doesn't really show serious romantic tones, that's why I would label it a romantic comedy. There are some funny scenes. In fact, a few times were laugh-out-loud funny (golf course, wallet).
Sideways is a nice movie. I was a tad disappointed with the raving about the how it was a "spectacular film", "one of the best of the year". I wouldn't go that far, but a "good movie"? Absolutely. A solid 8.5 out of 10.

Napolean Dynamite:
-If there is one movie I have heard more about from my students, its Napolean Dynamite. My wife had seen this movie about 6 months ago and made this comment, "This is a movie where kids like it more in an 'altered state'". I don't really know if I've seen a movie that fits into that category, until I watched Napolean Dynamite. Now I know exactly what she means.
Napolean Dynamite is about a loser kid in a nowhere Idaho town who goes through some quirky little adventures while trying to survive at school, fall in love with a girl, and work towards electing his friend Pedro as Student President. Sound like your typical John Hughes Brat Pack movie? Well, that's part of the beauty of Napolean Dynamite. Take a John Hughes movie, cut away all the melodramatic episodes, and give the rest to the crew of Saturday Night Live, and you have this movie. Don't get me wrong, this movie is utterly stupid, but in a way that lovers of good film will appreciate it. Jon Heder (Napolean) plays the part of the loser to total perfection, his lines given with such sincerity that you could probably go to any high school and find that exact guy. You will find yourself laughing at things that you don't usually laugh at because the scenes are just so quirky (I couldn't stop laughing at the llama, and I don't know why).
Don't expect movie perfection. In fact, watch this film with no expectations at all because this is a "love it or hate it" kind of movie. Although it doesn't measure up to "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" or the Brat Pack flicks, Napolean Dynamite is THE "high school" movie of recent memory. 8 out of 10.
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