Children of Men

DVD review from Nick at Nite

Children of Men. I have an affinity in my heart for end-of-the-world-type movies. Omega Man, Meteoroid, Armageddon, Night of the Living Dead, Heidi, etc. . . . Children of Men moves very close to the top of the list. Set in the year 2029, the film shows us a future where man is infertile and a child has not been born since the year 2009. The world is falling apart. Paris is in flames. New York destroyed. There is a siege in Seattle. Things are bad everywhere. The movie starts with a blast. There is a terrorist attack in a coffee shop in London just as the world learns that baby Diego, at 21 years old the youngest person in the world, has been killed by a stalker. The terrorists are trying to start a revolt against the government’s handling of the refugee crisis. We are shown a bleak Great Britain – the last fully functioning government on earth – where refugees and immigrants are being rounded up and sent to “Homeland Security Refugee Camps.” In Great Britain one has to remember that it is illegal to skip fertility tests. Our protagonist, Theo, played by Clive Owen (The International), is thrown into the mix and must help a young, shockingly pregnant woman get out of the county. My description has not done justice to the film. It is very good. You should check it out. I give it an “A.”

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A Spot of Bother (book review)

From The Movie Snob

A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon (2006). This is a British novel about a dysfunctional family. The paterfamilias is George Hall, a 61-year-old retiree from a career working for a company that manufactures playground equipment. Like many men his age, George is solid, dependable, quiet, unromantic, and uncomfortable talking about his feelings. Thus, it hits him particularly hard when he starts to go crazy, suffering from panic attacks and episodes in which he is convinced that he has cancer and can think of nothing except death. But his family is of little help. His wife is having an affair with a former co-worker of his. His divorced daughter is about to get married to a man that her parents dislike, and even she isn’t sure she’s in love with him. His homosexual and amazingly self-absorbed son has broken up with his lover. In short, the Hall family has problems. Although well written, the book’s charms gradually palled on me, and by the end I thought the plot had gotten a little creaky. An average book.

Augustus (book review)

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor, by Anthony Everitt (2006). After reading the outstanding biography of Julius Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy, I was sure to be disappointed by this book, and I was. But taken on its own merits, Augustus really isn’t bad. (It sure could have benefited from a few maps, both of the empire and of the battles described in the book, like Goldsworthy’s book featured.) Augustus learned well from his great-uncle’s fate, and his rise to the status of “first citizen” was cautious and methodical. His defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and his efforts to secure a dynasty for his family, read like a soap opera. He himself had only one child, a daughter whom he eventually exiled to an island. He had other male relatives, or relatives by marriage, but the ones that he favored all died young, and ultimately he was succeeded by Tiberius, who was Augustus’s stepson and who had only a cordial relationship with the emperor at the best of times. A good book.

Solaris (book review)

From The Movie Snob

Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem (1961). I enjoyed both movie versions of this science-fiction novel by Lem. Both movies had a sort of dreamy 2001 feel about them, so I was a little surprised by how much stronger the “techie” science-fiction trappings were in the novel. In the movies, there is very little description or depiction of the mysterious planet of Solaris, but in the book there are lots of expeditions to the planet surface, and there are lots of descriptions of the planet’s surface features. But even in the book, the planet is essentially mysterious, and its most remarkable characteristic is the ability to scan human memories and create exact simulacra of people out of those memories. Weird stuff; I probably liked the Steven Soderbergh movie a little better.

Miss Potter

New review from The Movie Snob

Miss Potter (A-). Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man) stars in this biopic about children’s author Beatrix Potter, best known as the creator of Peter Rabbit. According to the movie, at the start of the 20th century Potter was in her 30s, unmarried, and living with her stuffy upper-crust parents in London. She had no friends to speak of, but she had a lively imagination and was an excellent illustrator and watercolorist, specializing in rabbits and farm animals. Something possesses her to try to publish one of her stories, and a publishing firm reluctantly agrees. The junior member of the firm (Ewan McGregor, Jane Got a Gun) is assigned to her project, and the two fall in love. Complications ensue. Sure, the movie is a bit melodramatic, but I enjoy a good melodrama once in a while, and this one is solidly plotted, well acted, and features some great views of the British countryside. Check it out.

The Watercoolers (stage review)

Stage review from The Movie Snob

The Watercoolers. A friend and I saw this musical/sketch comedy at the Eisemann Center in Richardson last night. Its run ended today, which is a shame because I would have recommended it to all my friends. Five actors (three guys, two gals) sing and act out a series of skits making light of the absurdities of the modern American workplace. Subject matters include unhelpful IT departments, political correctness in the workplace, cubicle life, selling stuff to co-workers for your kids, the dreariness of economy air travel, and office paranoia about downsizing and lay-offs. Sure, the ground is rather well-plowed at this point, thanks to TV’s The Office and comic strips like Dilbert. But the cast is appealing, the songs are lively, and the 90-minute show breezes by.

Letters From Iwo Jima

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Letters From Iwo Jima (B). If you follow the movies at all, you know that last year Clint Eastwood (Jersey Boys) directed two movies about the WWII Battle of Iwo Jima. Flags of Our Fathers told the story from the American point of view, and this one told the story from the Japanese point of view. This one got much better buzz (and some Oscar nominations), so I skipped Flags and saw Letters. It’s not a bad entry in the war-is-hell genre, and there is fine acting by the two protagonists. Ken Watanabe (Inception) plays General Kuribayashi as a gifted leader who knows that reinforcements will never come and defeat is inevitable. Kazunari Ninomiya plays Saigo, an everyman character who was drafted into the army and torn away from his humble bakery and his pregnant wife. I did feel some empathy for the doomed soldiers, but for some reason the movie never completely absorbed me. Although it’s less than 2 1/2 hours long, I found myself looking at my watch before the 2-hour mark. But I still think it was a good movie. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood.