Movies for the Weekend of 11/30/2007

Scrooged (7/10)

The first movie I saw this weekend was Scrooged, playing as the midnight movie at the Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek. In it, Bill Murray plays the young and ambitious president of a television station that is preparing to air a live version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, when he finds a modern-day version is playing out in his own life. It also includes Bobcat Goldthwait, Karen Allen, Carol Kane, three other Murray brothers, and a host of cameos.

Even though Bill Murray comedies (especially the more recent ones) have been hit-or-miss at best, this one definitely goes in the “funny” list. It’s not his funniest ever, but it’s far from his worst. There are several non-funny parts as well, but that’s to be expected based on the story being told. It’s certainly the best version of A Christmas Carol that I’ve ever seen (but I also loved the “Bah, Humbug” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati). However, Bill Murray’s brother Brian holds the honor for being in the best Christmas movie of all time (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).

Awake (6/10)

The trailer for this movie reveals an interesting premise: a man (played by Hayden Christiansen) undergoing surgery isn’t completely anesthetized and finds himself awake and aware of what’s going on, but completely paralyzed and unable to do anything about it. And as if that weren’t bad enough, he overhears the doctors talking about how they’re going to kill him

Unfortunately, the trailer screams out “plot twists”, so you’re watching out for them and it’s hard to be surprised by them when they happen. In fact, one of the biggest twists is blatantly given away in the movie’s tagline, and even if you hadn’t read it you should have seen some pretty obvious evidence to suggest that in the movie’s opening scene. Nevertheless, reactions in the theater I went to (the Regal Gateway 16, since the movie was unfortunately not being shown at any of Alamo Drafthouse theaters) at least some people were surprised several times.

I was also disappointed by the number of inaccuracies in the movie. If you’re going to have a plot that deals with medicine, then it’s probably not that hard to find a doctor to consult on the project and make it a little more realistic. The plot didn’t depend on any of the medical inaccuracies, so in my opinion it’s inexcusable to have made such mistakes. I won’t go into detail on what some of these problems were to avoid any spoilers, and it’s probably true they would go unnoticed by most people without as much of an interest in medicine, but they did impact my appreciation of the movie.

I did like the story itself, and despite the problems that I’ve mentioned earlier I did find the movie enjoyable. It’s probably actually something that I would find more enjoyable watching a second time with complete knowledge of what happens, since anticipating the twists may have perhaps been a distraction. I was a little concerned that Hayden Christiansen’s more prominent earlier role might have detracted from his choice in this movie, but that didn’t really seem to happen much in this case and it offers more hope for his upcoming role in Jumper. Jessica Alba’s performance seemed the same as pretty much every other movie that she’s done, which is to say that she is pretty.

August Rush (7/10)

August Rush is in a rare class of movies that I find to be both utterly predictable and utterly enjoyable. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you shouldn’t expect any surprises. It’s what last year’s The Pursuit of Happyness should have been.

If you’ve seen the trailer, then you should know what happens, but if not then the short version is that Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Myers are both musicians that hook up for one night and Keri gets pregnant but has to give the baby up (and the circumstances around her giving it up are probably about the only thing in the movie that you wouldn’t have guessed from the trailer). Her son Evan Taylor grows up hoping that his parents will one day be able to find him. He’s always loved music, and when he meets Robin Williams (who gives him the “stage name” of August Rush) we discover that he’s a musical prodigy, and ultimately that it’s music that will reunite him with his parents.

Even though I did like the story, there were a couple of things that I think could have been done better. The beginning of the movie was a bit too jumpy for my tastes, switching several times between the past and the present, and I think that a more linear presentation would have been better. There were also several pretty obvious mistakes in the movie (e.g., notes getting lower instead of higher as his hands move to the right on a piano) that really should have been caught. And at the time that I saw it, I felt that the ending was a little too abrupt, although after having thought about it I think that it was probably a safe decision and that there were many ways that they could have screwed it up if they had chosen to prolong it.