Tag Archives: reviews

To Rome with Love (Review in a Nutshell)

Dixie and I saw Woody Allen’s new film, To Rome with Love, tonight. The film spans a day or two in the lives of four couples who live in or are visiting Rome. It’s not getting great reviews: its metascore is 55 and Rotten Tomatoes has declared it rotten with a 45% rating. I can see why. It was funny throughout, and the story lines are clever at several points, but the film lacks the energy and edginess of Allen’s best work. To Rome seems somewhat meandering and slapped-together.

But I’m with Roger Ebert on this one. He gives it 3 stars out of a possible 4 and says:

“To Rome With Love isn’t great Woody Allen. Here is a man who has made a feature every year since 1969, give or take a few, and if they cannot all be great Woody, it’s churlish to complain if they’re only good Woody.”

It’s a poor film when compared to other Woody Allen films; that it comes on the heels of last year’s wonderful Midnight in Paris doesn’t help.

And as I watched the film, I began to realize something. The plots of the four independent stories, some of which border on the absurd, are closer in feel to the material in Allen’s books of short stories, essays, and plays from the 70s and early 80s than to what one has historically found in his films. For instance, the Roberto Benigni’s story line, in which his character, who is a normal, almost dull individual, becomes famous for no other reason than having become famous, put me immediately in mind of “The Metterling Lists,” a satirical essay analyzing the laundry lists of a man named Metterling. Those books were a delight, but that kind of thing may not translate well into film.

Easter Roundup and Miscellany

» Sunday I was up at 5:30a.m. to lead our sunrise service at the river at 6:00a.m.  That went well, I think.  It’s traditionally a short service–20 minutes or so–but it felt particularly short this year, as I prepared for (with Linea‘s input and Randall‘s blueprint) and led the service.  Seemed short for the effort of getting up at such an hour and just about freezing our butts off–just like that, it’s over.  It was nice, though: mist rising from the river; the sun breaking over the clouds right around the time I read from a Psalm, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

» Preached on Easter Sunday morning as well.  For some reason this was a really difficult sermon to prepare for, trying to come to terms with the scripture and what’s inside me and what might be expected of the Easter Sunday service from within my tradition.  I felt good about what I was saying (but unhappy about how I said it), but I wasn’t sure how it would come across.  I tried to level the intellectual playing field a bit (e.g. we all make leaps of faith) and took a  “What if it’s true?” angle.

I see I wasn’t totally alone going that route, which is comforting:

What looks like madness to the mind

Makes absolute sense to the eyes of faith.

“He is not here. He has risen!”  (link)


It’s easy enough to get into the spirit of Easter, especially if the sun is shining, the church bells are ringing and there are plenty of flowers about adding to the sense of spring and new life.  But stop and think about it for a moment, and – especially if life is not unbounded joy for you at the moment – resurrection is an extraordinary idea, truly beyond belief.  (Link)

Received a positive response afterwards, too, which is nice.  (Though I need to keep my eagerness for approval in check.)

» On Saturday I finished reading the 500-page Early Christian Doctrines, which was good to get through.  Now I just have to type out the answers to the reading questions (which I’ve marked in the book) and that’ll be another assignment done.

» With all the Easter services done and a major reading assignment complete (well, the reading part, anyway) I decided to take the rest of the weekend ‘off’ from schoolwork (I got Monday off as well).

» Sunday night we finally watched The Dark Knight.  I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5.  I confess, though, to having an increasing distaste for violence in film.  I don’t know where this is coming from (maybe having children?), but I’ve noticed it quite a bit lately.  Last week Dixie and I watched Kill Bill Vol 1 again.  Last time I could handle the violence of that film (which was helped by its intentionally campy, B-grade tone), but for some reason it made me uncomfortable this time ’round.  With The Dark Knight I started wondering about who these people are that sit around thinking up these diabolical film characters and their horrible ideas for death and mayhem.  Seriously.  Who are these people?

» When Heath Ledger killed himself, it seems to me the media suggested that he got so into character when playing The Joker in The Dark Knight that it affected his mental health.  Maybe, but I didn’t find The Joker nearly as dark as I had expected the character to be.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first (Michael Keaton) Batman film, but, as I recall, Ledger’s Joker wasn’t a great deal darker than Jack Nicholson’s.  (But then memory may not be serving well.)

» Purchased the Tragically Hip’s new album, We Are the Same.  I like it so far.  It’s a quiet album with plenty of melody, which is something which has been distinctly lacking from their last couple of albums.  Being somewhat of a completist, I also bought In Between Evolution at a highly discounted price and remembered as soon as I put it on why I didn’t buy it when it was originally released.  Noisy, melodyless.

Monday Mix

Watched Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events the other night.  It got mixed reviews from the critics and its domestic (U.S.) gross didn’t make up the film’s production budget.  But I enjoyed.  Jim Carrey was excellent as Count Olaf.  I was worried that he’d play Count Olaf in a too Jim Carrey-ish way, but he did quite well.  The humour in the role was more quirky than rubbery, if you know what I mean, and he did well.  Quite a dark film—could’ve been directed by Tim Burton (but it wasn’t)—and not sure what to make of the ending, but still…3.5/4

Of course, I’ve always thought Jim Carrey was a fine actor.  The Academy has a hard time with crossover actors, at least at first (Tom Hanks has broken that barrier, though).  One day Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell will get their due acclaim.

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Looking at some of my site stats, particularly country of origin for hits.  Lots of 1 and 2 hit stats from all over the world, which I consider flukes or bots or spam.  The number spikes in the UK, but I know I have at least one regular reader there.  Canada is the majority source for hits, with the U.S. in distant second. But there is an oddity: a significant number of hits from Switzerland.  Enough hits to not be accidental.  Who could that be?  Swiss reader: show yourself!

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The worst part of writing a sermon?  It’s impossible to include everything without taking up an enormous amount of time, turning it into a lecture and losing everyone in the process.  I wonder if any sermon ever feels complete to some degree.

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My favourite song ever?  “The Pink Panther Theme” by Henry Mancini, for several reasons:

1. Apart from everything else, it’s a fantastic song.

2. It moves me, probably because

3. It’s steeped in memory.  As a young boy in Holland I must have seen a episode of the animated Pink Panther at some point, because I remember seeing a number of opening credits when they played the Pink Panther movies (starring Peter Sellers) and getting excited.  The opening credits always involved the animated Pink Panther character and the animated Clouseau character in hot pursuit.  I loved those opening credits, which included the theme song, because I thought it was an episode of the Pink Panther.  But I was always disappointed when the “episode” ended and the live action film began.  I appreciate Inspector Clouseau much more now than I did then.

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I anxiously await Phil‘s review of the Bob Dylan concert in Regina.  I’ve heard Bob Dylan’s concerts can be quite “tempermental”: sometimes they’re fantastic, sometimes they’re terrible.  Here’s a review by my seminary course “instructor”.  I take his review as “mixed”—good because it was Dylan, not so good because of poor sound.  He links to the setlist, which is largely made up of post-1997 material.

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I’m listening to some music samples on BobDylan.com.  Some observations:

1. Why is it that the best artists go through nearly-unlistenable periods in the 1980s?  Bob Dylan and Bruce Cockburn both do and it’s a shame.  I have a large Bruce Cockburn CD collection, but there is a huge gap in there spanning the late-70s and the 80s.  1978-1986 are nearly unlistenable years musically (although I’m sure he remains lyrically brilliant during that time).  And just at the time when Cockburn comes to his musical senses, Dylan dives into his own period of 80s darkness.

Who ever thought that drum machines and synthesizers were a good idea?

2. Bob Dylan’s “born again” albums are fantastic.  Shot of Love is a personal favourite and, based on what I’ve heard on the website, I think both Saved and Slow Train Coming are worth purchasing.  (I’ve said it before, but I can hardly believe that “Gotta Serve Somebody” won a Grammy for Best Song—not because it’s a poor song, but because it’s so overtly evangelical.)

3. I could use more Bob Dylan.  The unfortunate fact of being born in the mid-70s and not getting into Bob Dylan until well into my 20s is that I have a lot of catching up to do.