Snapshot movie reviews

I’ve seen a lot of movies in the last 11 weeks. It helps fill the time on weekends, and there are times when getting out of my life for a few hours is a good thing.

Matinees are my favorite time to see a movie. Fewer people in the audience and a cheaper ticket price for the exact same movie seem like a deal to me. Plus, I’ve always loved the feeling of coming out of a movie all dazed and still in that other world and then hitting the bright sunlight.

A movie is one the few social events where attending alone is perfectly acceptable. Even when Rick was alive, I often went to movies solo; while our tastes mostly aligned, the Venn diagram of our life would put Coen Brothers films solely in my circle.

Argo
Wonderful, great movie and well worth seeing. It’s a rare movie that can be both funny and thrilling, but Argo does both and succeeds. John Goodman & Alan Arkin supply the comic relief, but never in a way that cheapens the story or seems out of place.

The actual story line was fascinating for me personally. I remember those events of 1979, including the story of the 6 who were spirited out by the Canadians (as we thought at the time). It was meaningful to me in 1979 partially as these were people my age, and it was moving to relive that story a generation later.

The costumers hit it right on everything from eye makeup to shoes. There was nothing incongruous in how characters looked or acted. I could swear I saw some of my old clothes being worn; a few skirts looked really familiar.

Stick around for the credits; pictures of the actual people are shown next to the actors, and newsreels of the events depicted are shown split screen with the movie’s depictions. Most interesting is the narrated postscript from President Carter, in which he ruefully states how much he would like to have been able to tell the true story back when it happened.

Cloud Atlas
A hot mess. I went to see this movie because of the trailers, despite seeing tepid reviews on Rottomtomatoes.com. What I was hoping for was a movie that would provide me with some confirmation that relationships persist, that the important people in your life never really go away, that there are ties between people that can’t be broken; you know, the perfect movie for a new widow.

What I got was a confusing series of vignettes with no real connection other than the same actors appearing in each. Most disappointing was that the ‘big truths’ revealed by the characters are bit on the banal side, more suited to fortune cookies or a newspaper horoscope.  A sampling:

“from womb to tomb, our lives are not our own.”

“We cross and re-cross our old paths like figure-skaters.”

“Fear, belief, love phenomena that determined the course of our lives.These forces begin long before we are born and continue after we perish.”

Paired with a more evocative script and a plot that was, well, follow-able, it might been a good movie; but in this version nothing ever jelled. The editing went back and forth between the six different plot lines, which made it impossible to develop a connection to any of the individual stories. If the editing had resulted in a single macro-story line it would have worked, but that never happened. I spent much of the 3 hour run time trying to identify the lead actors under the makeup donned for each new role.

The sad thing is that this was such an ambitious movie. So many movies are cynically made, with writing and character development taking a back seat to special effects, glorified violence and an pathetically unrealistic portrayal of women. This movie aimed high and spent a lot of money trying to do something extraordinary. They failed, but I’d rather have seen this failure than a Transformer movie.

Moonrise Kingdom
Fantastic, transcendent, delightful. Another great movie from Wes Anderson. The plot focuses on the young teen daughter of a quirky family living on an island off the New England coast. She and a young boy attending what has to be oddest quasi-boy scout camp ever fall in love and decide to run away together.

The plot description doesn’t do justice to a movie that is a sheer delight to watch and experience. The movie is extremely funny in the small details while compelling and rather sweet in the larger story line. Francis McDormand, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Ed Norton; all are wonderful. See this movie. Now. You won’t regret it.

Looper
Pleasant, but eminently forgettable; I actually forgot it within a week.  Nifty idea, that in 2075 the mob uses an illegal time portal to send people back to 2035 for execution and disposal (apparently 2075 forensics are too advanced). The individuals from 2035 who perform this function are called “Loopers”. They are paid for each execution, but realize that at some point in the 2075 future they will end up as a victim. The story focuses on a Looper played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man and Bruce Willis as the older man. They pull this off by using a prothetic nose and contact lenses; when the nose and eyes look the same, you can forgive the rest.

The movie does a great job in setting the scene. They avoid the trap of bad set design where every building looks brand new. The city scenes show a realistic looking mix of old and new. Flying scooters share the road with old beaters retrofitted with solar panels and external fuel systems. This is a world where global warming has come true. The farm scenes look so realistic, and then you realize that the crop drying in the fields isn’t corn; it’s sugar cane. All of this is well done, and best yet is that they don’t fall for the obvious and have the characters provide the explanations through a conversation no one would ever have. They show it, you see it, that’s it.

The one flaw is that somehow the role of women has returned to the 1950s. There are no Loopers who are female. No cops. The only women you see in this movie are decorative, with the exception of the lone main female character, cast in the classic hot-mom role. With the level of attention paid to the rest of the movie, this flaw stuck out like a sore thumb and ruined the movie for me.

Flight
Just got back from this movie. Caught it on the tale end of its multiplex run. First off, a big shout out to the 2 older ladies who companionably chatted with each other throughout the movie; thanks for reminding me why I try never to attend this particular theater.

The movie is good; really good. It’s a truly adult movie, a welcome rarity. Denzel Washington’s character is a complex man. There’s no easy explanation for his problems, and the movie doesn’t simplify the situation or the characters. There are no starkly drawn good guys or bad guys. His character is an alcoholic with a drug problem, but also a damn good pilot whose actions saved many lives. The lawyer assigned to represent him starts off with barely hidden contempt for him, but ends up reluctantly admiring the man.
The scenes of the airplane ride are harrowing to watch; it’s a guarantee this movie will never be an on-board choice of any airline, so rent it and watch at home. Oh, and John Goodman totally steals the picture playing the larger-than-life drug dealer friend of the main character.

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5 thoughts on “Snapshot movie reviews

  1. Thanks for the great reviews…I’m a big Coen Brother’s fan as well. I did see the beautifully detailed Moonrise Kingdom, but have wondered about the rest. I am thankful that you ruled out Cloud Atlas for me, as that one was tempting me with its escapism. I’m thinking Argo. I enjoy reading your blog – as others have also stated, such poignant, straight-forward writing.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. Writing the more sobering stuff is good for me – but I needed to add something lighter and less serious. I’m actually a fairly humorous person, thought not so much lately.

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