MELVIN GOES TO DINNER (Dir. Bob Odenkirk, 2003)
I wish there were more movies like this these days! Thoughtful character-driven comedies are getting harder and harder to come by. It's like an updated MY DINNER WITH ANDRE times 2! Four people (Michael Blieden, Stephanie Courtney, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Matt Price) with loose and not-so-loose connections to one another by chance meet for dinner at a posh LA eatery, and discuss everything from the supernatural to relationship etiquette with funny insights aplenty.
Based on the stage play by Blieden (who plays Melvin) and gracefully directed by Bob Odenkirk (of Mr. Show fame) the core cast is enhanced by amusing cameos from David Cross, Fred Armisen, Jack Black, Melora Walters, and Odenkirk himself. Highly recommended.
The DVD has a few great extras: a hilarious short film about an ill-fated film festival appearance by the filmmakers and some of the cast and two different commentaries that are as funny and interesting as the film itself.
MONA LISA SMILE (Dir. Mike Newell, 2003)
A chick flick even a chick-flick lover would hate. It would be too convenient to label it as a female DEAD POET'S SOCIETY; it's more like a trumped-up Facts Of Life episode. Watch only if you want to see such new hopefuls as Maggie Gyllenhall, Kristen Dunst, Ginnifer Goodwin, and especially Marcia Gay Harden being wasted in a dreary one dimensional period piece. Julia Roberts fans should be used to this type of thing though.
SECONDHAND LIONS (Dir. Tim McCanlies, 2003)
In less than 3 minutes the premise is set: Haley Joel Osment is dropped off by his scamming Southern-Belle Mama (Krya Sedgewick) to spend the summer with his eccentric uncles Michael Caine and Robert Duvall who mysteriously have a treasure of millions of dollars hidden somewhere on their farm property.
Incredibly hokey yarn that even tries to work in a PRINCESS BRIDE style back-story in the form of Caine's tensely told tales to Osment while Duvall overacts like a sleep-walking lovesick winner of the SNL game show sketch “Who's More Grizzled?” You could do worse than to sit through this pleasant pap but then you could do a lot better. A whole lot better.
More to come...