The Dime Bag, volume VIII.

I haven't done one of these since last August, so I figured I'd better clean it out before the summer season starts next week. I hope to get a bit of a preview up before then, but who knows. So here are some brief comments about some of the movies I saw during my Oscar rush, plus one new figure skating parody...

Blades of Glory--Eight words: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, men's pairs figure skating. Any additional description is superfluous. It is consistently funny, but isn't often as incisive as it could be. Like most movies of this ilk, this one is half an hour too long, with a few unnecessary scenes and a few that last too long. The flick only makes about five jokes, though it does them well and in about every manner possible. If you like Ferrell's others, you'll like this one. (5)

Cars--Though just as clever as it's Pixar predecessors, this one didn't quite have the charm. Still good entertainment, but it didn't have the universality of Finding Nemo or The Incredibles. Maybe Pixar's saccharine tendencies have worn a bit thin. (7)

Hollywoodland--This story about the rise and fall of George Reeves, TV's Superman in the 1950s, started well, but floundered as it resolved. Diane Lane was excellent as usual, and Ben Affleck was actually decent. Too bad the script mailed in the latter half. (5)

Babel--Another multi-layered drama in the vein of Traffic or Crash, but not as good as either. One story arc that didn't mesh at all, and the rest were only mildy interesting. Well-made, but not particularly likeable. (6)

Once in a Lifetime--A great documentary about the New York Cosmos, a 1970s soccer team comprised of international superstars. The archival highlights alone make it worth watching for soccer fans. The rise and fall of the team's fortunes are very engrossing as well. (8)

The Devil Wears Prada--A fairly predictable but enjoyable flick about a young woman (Anne Hathaway) who somewhat accidentally finds herself as the assistant of the wicked witch of the fashion world (Meryl Streep). It's really worth watching just to see Streep gleefully vamp her way through the movie. That and the great clothes of course. Or something. Let's just move on. (7)

Pan's Labyrinth--A great fairy tale set during one of the countless Spanish Revolutions. The contrast is gripping, and the debate of reality versus imagination is pleasantly unsolveable. #8 for 2006. (8)

Letters from Iwo Jima--Like I said in my Top Ten, it's a little tough to connect with this Japanese perspective on the WWII battle for Iwo Jima. But it's still Clint Eastwood at his finest. The film looks phenomenal and is surprisingly powerful. #5 of 2006. (8)

The Illusionist--This magician tale starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti might have been better had it not been overshadowed by that other magician movie, The Prestige. Illusionist isn't bad, but the production values aren't nearly as good, nor is it nearly as gripping as Prestige. But you could do far worse if you want something to rent.

Tsunami: The Aftermath--This is a two-part HBO movie that relies heavily on raw emotion as it relates the stories of a father (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a journalist (Tim Roth) in the...uh...aftermath of the tsunami that crushed Thailand two and a half years ago. The emotion is palpable and is enough to make this a very good television special. But there's a reason it was "only" a TV movie and not a big screen feature. It just doesn't have that extra power to deserve such treatment, but it's still solid. (7)

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