Movie Man Mike gives us his take on a new release
Jane Eyre (B). This 2011 film left me unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, I love Judi Dench, and she’s the reason I went to see this film in the first place. Her performance was spot-on, but certainly not the centerpiece of the film. I enjoyed the rich dialogue and the head-strong, principled character of Jane Eyre, played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland). I also enjoyed the performance of Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as Edward Rochester. All-in-all I couldn’t help but to wonder if they’d cut some essential parts of Charlotte Bronte’s story from the film because I never really felt the characters’ motives as determined from their history, nor did I feel that the ending resolved the conflicts within them in a meaningful way. I was also perplexed by Eyre’s abrupt departure from the presence of St. John Rivers upon his insistence that Ms. Eyre should marry him and go to India with him. That scene didn’t ring true to her character, and we don’t really know enough about Mr. Rivers at that point to understand his motives other than him seeing Ms. Eyre as a good catch. I found this film captivating, but it left me unfulfilled.
Book review from The Movie Snob
The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, by Marilynne Robinson (1998). Robinson was previously known to me only for a couple of acclaimed novels – Housekeeping, about a couple of orphaned sisters who are cared for by their odd hobo aunt, and Gilead, which is written as a long letter by an elderly Protestant minister to his very young son.She is a singular writer, and these essays reveal her as a singular thinker too. The main theme of these essays seems to be that John Calvin – yes, the founder of the school of Christian thought that goes by the name Calvinism – was neither the ruthless killjoy nor the proto-founder of capitalism that history generally makes him out to be. And it seems that Robinson herself is both a serious Calvinist and a serious liberal. It seems like an odd combination, but it makes for interesting reading. And it half makes me want to actually seek out and open Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
A new review from Nick at Nite
Battle: Los Angeles
It has been years since I went to a movie on opening night. My life has conspired to keep me away from the theater. So it was a little miracle that I was able to go on opening night to see Battle: Los Angeles. I was only a little disappointed. Likely because I was looking forward to it a little too much. This is a fine popcorn film. It is not too original. It is not particularly clever. It is a little clichéd. It is fun. Stuff blows up. A city is destroyed. The good guys win. Basically, a bunch of mean, nasty, water-based aliens start attacking us (see Independence Day, SkyLine, E.T., Bees, etc …) and a group of hardened U.S. Marines must come to our rescue (Aliens, Predator, Heartbreak Ridge, Wall Street, etc …). Do not get too attached to any character. Do buy popcorn. Do feel a little nauseated by the herky, jerky camera work (Cloverfield).
I give it an “A.”
From the desk of The Movie Snob
The Last Lions (B). Jeremy Irons (Dungeons & Dragons) narrates this National Geographic documentary about some wild lions in Africa. It focuses on a lionness dubbed Ma di Tau. In the opening segment of the movie, her mate is killed by an encroaching pride of lions wanting their territory, and she flees with her three young cubs. Survival is always in doubt as she tries to scratch out an existence in a swamp that also becomes home to a large herd of dangerous buffalo. It is rated PG with good reason, because there are plenty of bloody fights, and not all of the cubs survive. And the narration is way over the top in its anthropomorphization of the lions; much less would have been much better. But the movie’s point is both good and shocking: in the last 50 years, the population of wild lions in Africa has dropped from 450,000 to 20,000, so it is far down the road to extinction. I hope that this film helps draw attention to that sad fact.
New review from The Movie Snob
Lord of the Dance in 3D (B). Okay, I’ve been a big fan of Irish music and dance since visiting the Emerald Isle a few years ago, but this show is just a bit over the top. As everyone knows, it stars a hammy fellow named Michael Flatley, and he apparently was the guy who had the inspiration to make a rock-n-roll stage show out of traditional Irish music and dance some 15 years ago or so. This “concert film” of his show Lord of the Dance is actually a composite film shot during four different shows, but apparently most of the footage came from a show in Dublin. Anyhoo, the music and the dance are fun, and there’s no question Flatley can still dance even though he’s over 50. But “cheesy” doesn’t begin to describe this show. There’s a goofy gal in a jester outfit who shows up from time to time, mugging for the camera and pretending to play a recorder. There’s a plot of sorts about some evil dancers and some good ones (led by Flatley, of course). There’s a wholesome blond woman and a seductive brunette, and a troop of women dancers behind them that sometimes do tap and sometimes do more ballet-type things. In the middle of a big tap routine by the ladies, they unexpectedly and distractingly rip off their dresses and finish the number in outfits more like you’d see on “Dancing with the Stars,” i.e., barely anything there. The whole show seems more sexed-up and Vegas-cheesy than the live “Riverdance” show I saw a couple of months ago. But I can’t deny, I still enjoyed it pretty well.
A new review from The Movie Snob
Paul (B). Setting aside the extensive foul language, this is an amiable buddy/road-trip/chase movie in which one of the parties being chased happens to be an alien named Paul. Two nerdy Brits (the guys from Shaun of the Dead) are vacationing in America, and after attending a comic-book convention in San Diego they set out in a huge RV to see the great UFO locations of the American West. Lo and behold, they encounter an actual alien in the desert, and although he looks pretty much like you’d expect if you’ve seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, personality-wise he’s a slacker type like the Seth Rogen character in Knocked Up. (He also happens to be voiced by Seth Rogen (Knocked Up).) Government agents led by Jason Bateman (Hancock) are in hot pursuit, but the trio of fugitives has time to pick up a winsome fundamentalist Christian named Ruth (Kristen Wiig, Whip It) and an older woman named Tara (Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom). I enjoyed it, but the movie unnecessarily dumps scorn on fundamentalist Christians, not just for being creationists but seemingly for believing in God at all.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Carmen 3D (A-). I guess I am earning my “snob” stripes with this one. I have never been to the opera, and I don’t know anything about it. But like everybody else, I know some of the tunes from Carmen (especially from that episode of Gilligan’s Island involving the musical version of Hamlet). So I figured this filmed performance of Carmen would be a good way to cut my teeth on opera. It was a good guess. I really enjoyed it. The cameras must have been pretty darned close to capture so much of the action, and with the help of the subtitles I had no trouble following what was going on. Actually, it is not too difficult a story to follow: a young man named Don Jose falls madly in love with the bewitching gypsy woman Carmen. Somewhat later, so does the dashing bullfighter Escamillo. Consequences ensue. I am not qualified to comment on the quality of the singing, but it sounded great to me. Of course, 3 hours is a long time; they could have cut the 20-minute intermission down some and shaved that time off the end. But like I say, I really enjoyed it, even if I did have that darned toreador song stuck in my head for the rest of the day….