Iron Man 2

A second opinion from The Movie Snob

Iron Man 2 (C). I think Movie Man Mike gave this sequel high marks, but I just can’t go there. In fairness, I had a slight headache when I entered the theater, so maybe I wasn’t in the best shape to see a loud action movie. But my head was POUNDING by the time I left. Anyway, if you saw the first Iron Man, this is basically more of the same. Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder) reprises his role as Tony Stark, a zillionaire businessman with a suit that gives him superpowers. Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) steals most of his scenes as metal-mouthed villain Ivan Vanko. Scarlett Johansson (He’s Just Not That Into You) has surprisingly little screen time as girl-from-legal/secret-martial-arts-expert Natalie Rushman. Anyhoo, it’s loud, lots of stuff blows up, and the cuts are edited so fast you really never know what’s going on. Stay through the end credits for a scene that I guess hints at the contents of Iron Man 3.

Eclipse

The Movie Snob reports on a recent release

Eclipse (D-). Seriously, do even teenaged girls really like these terrible Twilight movies? They are s-o-o-o slow! Nothing ever happens, and when it does, it’s very seldom. In this latest installment, human Bella (Kristen Stewart, Zathura), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson, New Moon), and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautin, New Moon) hang around and yak incessantly about who’s in love with whom, who’s not in love with whom, and if and when Bella is going to get changed into a vampire herself. Blah blah blah it goes. Meanwhile, really evil and good-looking vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, Terminator: Salvation) is inexplicably kept off the screen virtually the whole movie. So is the other attractive gal vampire Alice (Ashley Green, New Moon). What is up with that? This was a really painful experience. Avoid it!!!

49 Up

DVD review from The Movie Snob

49 Up (B-). Well, the Borg Queen and I are finally up-to-date on this series of British documentaries. To recap, in 1964 some British filmmakers rounded up a gaggle of 7-year-olds from various social classes. They interviewed them all about their attitudes, their likes and dislikes, and their expectations for the future. The result was the first entry in the series, 7 Up. Every seven years since then, director Michael Apted (Amazing Grace) has gone back, found those same kids, and interviewed them again for a new film. (I think they were mainly made for TV, but imdb.com shows that 49 Up got a short theatrical release in the U.S.) As of 2005, when this one was made, the people are all about 49, and time has been hard on some of them but pretty good to others. It’s an interesting experiment, but I have to say the series gets less interesting as it goes on. People just don’t change as much after they’re 21, or at least 28, and after 28 Up each episode has seemed kind of the same: people have mostly married, maybe had kids, maybe divorced, and probably lost a parent or two. The kids from the lower classes have generally had a tougher time than those from the upper classes. The most interesting part after the early episodes is that one of the participants, who was a really cute and happy-seeming child, developed mental illness, and you always wonder what each new episode will bring for him. For that reason alone, I hope they do make a 56 Up here in the next couple of years.

Lord of the Changing Winds (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

Lord of the Changing Winds, by Rachel Neumeier (Orbit 2010). Full disclosure — Ms. Neumeier is a cousin of mine, so I may be prone to partiality here. Disclaimer aside, I thought this was a really good fantasy novel. It’s subtitled The Griffin Mage: Book One, but it reads like a stand-alone book. In a world where magic is real, three human kingdoms exist side by side: Linularinum, Feierabiand, and Casmantium. Kes is a teenaged girl in a small village in Feierabiand, where nothing much ever happens–until a band of griffins (half-eagle, half-lion, all-killer) swoops out of the sky and begins to change the lush and fertile fields of Feierabiand into the scorched and lifeless desert they prefer. What is the cause of this unwelcome invasion? The mystery only deepens when a wizard appears and sweeps Kes away to the griffins’ new home. I thought this was a good story, well told, and even better than Neumeier’s debut novel The City in the Lake. One quibble — did the griffins’ names really need to be such jawbreakers? Try saying “Opailikiita Sehanaka Kiistaike” three times fast! And that’s just one griffin! Quibble aside, I highly recommend Lord of the Changing Wind and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Inception

Movie Man Mike is the first member of The Movie Court to see

Inception (A). Loved it! I don’t know who dreamed up the story idea for this movie about dreams, but it made for a fascinating experience. The dream-within-a-dream concept gave the writers a lot of liberties to show multiple timelines and storylines with some bizarre events that could only happen in dreams. The story format opens up opportunities for the viewer to question what may or may not be reality versus dream. The special effects were great. There are some nice action scenes created by the subconscious minds of the dreamer when the subconscious realizes that there may be some foreign element invading their dream space. And the actors are really good. Main characters Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are very good in their roles as dream invaders. If I had to find flaws in this film, it would be two things: They don’t really go into a lot of depth to explain this whole shared dream technology other than to say that it was devised by the military—as if that explains it. Second, Ellen Page, as Ariadne, is a little too quick to grasp the concept of dream invasion and she is a bit young and green to be advising Cobb (DiCaprio) about his psychoses. This is a criticism of the character, not the acting, which was otherwise good.

One thing that may have been a bit of a private joke on the part of the producers was the choice of music that the characters used to signal to the dreamers that time was running out in the dream. They used the music of Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, but she also appears in this film as the deceased wife of Cobb. I can’t help but to think this was not a coincidence.

By all means, go see this film and don’t wait for the rental, as it’s probably better viewing on the big screen.

Despicable Me

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Despicable Me (B). The name of this animated movie and the trailers for it that I saw a hundred times were both strikes against it. But it got a good review in the Dallas Morning News, so I was game for it. Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) voices a villain named Gru. Although he aspires to supervillainy, he doesn’t really have what it takes. (Instead of stealing the actual Statue of Liberty, he steals the one from New York, New York in Las Vegas.) To accomplish his supreme feat of supervillainy–stealing the moon itself–he first needs to steal a shrinking-ray gun from rival villain Vector. Here’s where the real beating heart of the movie, which is totally missing from the trailers, comes in–to get access to Vector’s lair, Gru adopts three adorable little orphan girls who have sold Vector a bunch of cookies and will be admitted to the lair when they deliver them to him. If you don’t think the girls will melt Gru’s heart–eventually–you don’t know movies. I saw the 3-D version, but it didn’t add a whole lot, in my opinion.

Cyrus

A new review by The Movie Snob

Cyrus (B-). This is an odd little movie. The premise is simple. Sad sack divorced guy John (John C. Reilly, Chicago) starts dating attractive Molly (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler). They get along great, but the fly in the ointment is Molly’s oddly close relationship with her 21-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill, Get Him to the Greek), who still lives at home. You could take this set-up over the top and wind up with a comedy along the lines of Stepbrothers (which also starred Reilly). Or you could make Cyrus totally unbalanced and make some sort of Psycho-type flick out of it. But Mark and Jay Duplass, the directors of Cyrus, play it straight — Cyrus is maladjusted but he’s not crazy, and his relationship with his mom is weird but not perversely so. I liked it well enough, and I certainly wanted to see how things were going to turn out.