Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Complicated

Finally, a great romantic comedy about 60 year olds played by 60 year olds! Meryl Streep, Alex Baldwin and Steve Martin, and a great supporting cast of very likeable people, enter into this film with great believability and great enthusiasm. It is laugh out loud funny in a lot of places. And it is very sweet and poignant in spots. The best part of it is that it portrays people who are NOT freakish or crazy . The kids are not screaming at their parents- but they are normal, happy and emotionally stable. The parents aren't drug addicts or alcoholics (though they come close on that one). Every one of the people is likeable. After so many movies where the teenagers are obnoxious, where the parents are shrewish or abusive, and where women are weak and ineffective, this movie is a pleasant relief. Even better- the men in the audience laughed out loud at the truths in this. I can see it being something we will watch on cable over and over just to make sure we didn't miss anything. And, the cinematography is beautiful. Some of the scenes start with almost a postcard feel- they are framed so beautifully. It's a little gem of its genre. It isn't a chick flick at all. Despite it's family story, it is NOT a family film. Leave the kiddos with the sitter or park them at the Squeakquel.

The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Quinton Aaron are the stars in this movie about a black kid who is homeless and is adopted by the Tuohy family - and he grows up to be the real Michael Oher of pro football fame. This could have been schmaltzy beyond words. But Bullock and McGraw positively radiate southern hospitality and spirit- and yes, love- for Oher. This is a true story. The film doesn't follow the book and/or real life too closely, but it gets the gist of it right. Bullock is amazing in this role- it is as if she was born to play Leigh Anne, the former sorority girl from Ole Miss. Leigh Anne does it her way. And she does it without asking for compliments or praise. She does it because she could and because it was right. Her husband obviously adores her independence and conviction. This is a heartwarming and wonderful movie- even more so because it is true. If everyone took just one homeless child, it would be a different world. It must be a priviledge to know Leigh Anne Tuohy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Let's get this out of the way first- it is a visually stunning film- maybe the most visually stunning film you will ever see. Every detail of a strange planet and its biological diversity seems to be taken care of. So, if you want to spend over two hours marveling at that, go for it. I am not sorry I saw it- at least on that level. But I promise, I could have written it myself- the dialogue and plot were so stock that anyone over 13 could have finished the lines. Leave it to the Canadian James Cameron to make the enemy the US army. In an imaginary universe, Cameron could have chosen any random imaginary enemy, but he makes it the United States military. There is all sorts of preachy stuff that implies that humans are horrible and have ruined their "mother" (earth). Cameron is so full of self indulgent crap that the movie feels not only cliche ridden but ridiculous. Cameron COULD have made a brilliant film. But he didn't. And anyone who isn't blinded by the action and effects will know that. It is beyond predictable. But you should see it anyway because it is simply beautiful to watch.

Monday, December 14, 2009

An Education

It is 1962 in a London suburb and a very bright, fresh faced Jenny(Carey Mulligan) is the great hope of her girl's school to be the one to go Oxford. She has what would be called "spirit" in 1962. She is bright, pretty and intensely curious about the adult world she hasn't yet entered. So when a handsome and winsomely charming, and well off, older man (Peter Sarsgaard) begins his seduction, she is a willing follower. The rest of the movie is "an education" for Jenny and her parents, and perhaps her teachers. If I say more, it will ruin the story, so I won't. But if you miss this wonderful film and go to see some crappy movie instead, you've made a mistake. "An Education" is a movie you can talk about at dinner. Jenny is only one person's fool in all of this- and we feel she knows it but doesn't want to end the illusion. You can discuss what would have happened to her had she done various things instead. You can discuss what her parents did or didn't do (keeping in mind that it IS 1962, not 2009.) Because you will leave the theater having cared about her. I loved this movie. And so will you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Everybody's Fine

How strange to make a film so sad as this at Christmas time. The film ads and posters show a smiling, happy crew headed by Robert DeNiro. Take a long, hard look because that is about the last time you'll see them happy. DeNiro is a newly widowed father who kept in touch with his adult kids via his wife (the usual). Now that she is gone, he invites them but they don't come. They planned to, but since one of them is in prison in Mexico, they all cancel. So he goes to find them. Yet, he has a lung disease from working with PVC wire that insulates phone lines- so we are supposed to get the irony that he made all that communication possible, but no one calls him. Anyhoo- he does visit them and they are each hiding something so they don't disappoint him. You get the drift. Parts are absolutely wonderful- but the story becomes oppressive. The children all love their father but they won't tell him the truth?? It is very 1950s in that respect. DeNiro plays a very wise and caring father. It seems odd they wouldn't tell him his kid was in Mexico in prison. The end of this movie is a miserable failure- was it an homage to Christmas spirit that they tied it up tightly with a bow? Should you see it?- no, you should wait and rent it. It's too down for this time of year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


An ensemble film depends on every single actor doing a wonderful job. The danger is when there is even a slightly weak link- that actor will be somewhat ignored while the viewer pays attention to the better actor. In this movie, the best actor is the child actor Bailee Madison. It is up to the adults to keep pace. Tobey McGuire and Jake Gyllenhaal hold their own as the brothers who switch places as the good/bad child in the family. Natalie Portman, who is a very boring actress to watch and listen to, limps her way through as the wife who believes her husband (McGuire) is dead and picks up with his brother (Gyllenhaal). There is plenty of tension. It's a good movie, and it is interesting to watch. There is a problem however, and that is that it just isn't enough. A complex story becomes a simple story. McGuire tries to save it by using his eyes to express his craziness. But truly- the kids tell the story better than anyone. I'd recommend it. Yet, everyone in this film really seems like they are working too hard to make it a film. It feels far more like a play.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fantastic Mr Fox

Bearing an odd resemblance to Wladyslaw Starewicz's The Tale of the Fox (1930s), Anderson uses stop animation to tell an adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's story of the same name. I must confess, I never read the book. Not even to my kiddos. So the story was new to me. The stop animation is very similar to Starewicz- especially when compared to more modern animation. But it works. The story is clever and the dialogue is funny. I liked the touch of having a driver hop into a car on the right hand side, since Dahl would have done that. Some of the things are obvious references to Anderson's previous works. It is never over done, and it would be easily identified as a Wes Anderson film in style. I think this film would suit almost anyone over the age of 7- but it has quirks and could be scary for little kids. (The usual Dahl problem). I had one complaint- and it is a common one for me. I cannot stand having famous voices in animated film. It is highly distracting. This one SCREAMED George Clooney. And Meryl Streep. Clooney was great, but his highly recognizable voice keeps you from getting into the character. You are completely aware that Clooney has a mike in front of him and is reciting this dialogue. Anderson needs to stop using his friends in any future animations- it just distracts. Otherwise, it was fun and easy.


I start out this review by saying the usual- it is what it is. Lots of explosions. Lots of implausible science. Lots of overacting. Lots of predictable situations. The world is going to end in 2012. Everything is falling apart. There is some vague Noah's Ark ideology. And that's it. But what there is of it is indeed spectacular. In fact, if you are going for a plot or story, you will be very disappointed. It is a special effects film- no more, no less. And for some of us, that is enough.