Thursday, June 4, 2009

Five Movies in Five Minutes (2)

Here are some more movies we’ve seen recently. Unfortunately, none are strikingly good or bad, so my reviews will be neither recommendations nor warnings. Again, the titles are links to trailers.

In the theater:

Star Trek

Fun, action adventure, probably not for Trekkers (you know that’s what they prefer to be called). I went looking forward to seeing Chris Pine as Young Kirk: Ladies Man and found Zachary Quinto (new to me) much more interesting as young Spock. I like nerdy boys so this was really no surprise, but he was nerdy with a twist. Despite my affection for old Spock, my initial delight in seeing Leonard Nimoy quickly gave way to my distaste at his overuse to deliver much needed narrative.

As it is a big action movie, it should be seen on a big screen – for me this means at a theater and therefore I must discount the entertainment value by the added expense [6].

Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian

Another Amy Adams movie! She is just plain fun to watch as the sporty-taking, Katharine Hepburn-esque Amelia Earhart. Hank Azaria as the evil Kahmunrah made Stephen laugh like Muttley (which is not normal for him) and Christopher Guest makes a great Ivan the Terrible. There was some neato stuff with pictures coming to life (a la Harry Potter) and when the characters jumped into the Alfred Eisenstaedt VJ-Day photograph, it was quite fantastic. I did enjoy the animation of French's Lincoln as well, but no amount of movie magic could save the movie from my indifference to the characters' fate. In general, my kids agreed.

Even knowing and accepting that museum pieces come to life, this movie was much too contrived to be enjoyable [3]. If I had paid less, I might have given it a 5 for the performances and the wizardry alone.

At home:

The Reader

I read the book by Bernhard Schlink many years ago and I remembered that I was intrigued by its portrayal of an ex-Nazi female guard, Hanna Schmitz. Kate Winslet’s character, Hanna, who spends the first hour of the movie basically naked, is cold and exacting and elicits no empathy from the viewer as she has an awkward sexual relationship with a 15 year old boy which ends as quickly as it began. It is when the boy, eight years later as a law student, sees her again in a courtroom as she is being tried for her war crimes she committed over 20 years earlier that I began to empathize with her. Weird, I know. She is punished for her crimes, which is just, but she is also punished for something she did not do. She chose to go to jail for life for the killing of 300 prisoners rather than admit her hidden shame which would have lessened her criminal charges.

I found the power of her unearned guilt fascinating particularly when compared with her lack of remorse for the atrocities for which she was actually responsible. It was hard to watch, but well done. [6]

On a Clear Day

It’s a quirky English movie about a man, feeling useless after being forced out of his job, deciding to swim the English Channel when he’s got nothing else to do. I really liked the main character and the actor who played him, Peter Mullan, and Brenda Blethyn, as always, was great. It began to lean toward a decent buddy movie, but I found the younger buddy, Danny, played by Billy Boyd (Pippin Took of LOTR), to be more like an annoying Disney sidekick rather than a thoughtful addition to the plot. Finally, despite the heart-wrenching premise of the initial estrangement, I was not sold on the reconnection between the father and his grown son.

I give it points for showing older people fighting to be more than just alive. [5]

Run, Fatboy, Run

Another quirky English movie bordering on buddy status, this is about a loser who leaves his pregnant girlfriend at the altar only to regret it years later. Again, Hank Azaria as the girlfriend’s perfect new boyfriend is pretty damn funny, and the cousin and neighbor have moments of hilarity and earnestness, respectively. I just didn’t care much for the main character as a hero who arises not from a guy who has been trying hard and triumphs over his shortcomings, but from a guy who is not necessarily bad, but shiftless and wins because he’s just not as bad as the other guy. Neither romance with the beautiful Thandie Newton was believable.

I thought it was interesting that both this and the last movie (On a Clear Day) used a physical feat to demonstrate the character’s triumph, and the metaphor of “hitting a wall” to portray their challenges. [4] (Worth noting: while Stephen agrees with my assessment, he’d give it a 6 or 7).


Michael Randall said...


Thanks as always for the movie reviews and recommendations.

I've been pimpin' it like crazy, so I am curious if you watched the pilot for 'Glee'.

If you haven't, I'm pretty sure you and your musical family will love it.

LB said...

No, I haven't seen it yet. Apparently I've been too busy watching movies to catch any TV - even my beloved RedSox!

I'm sure I'll see it at some point soon. Thanks for the recommendation.