Born in China

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Born in China  (B-).  I don’t think I have seen one of these “Disneynature” Earth Day releases in a while.  This one focuses on several species indigenous to China.  Cranes and a certain kind of antelope get brief coverage, but the movie focuses on the giant panda, the snow leopard, and some kind of snub-nosed monkey I had never heard of before.  The photography is exceptionally good, as you would expect, but the narration (provided by John Krasinski, Leatherheads) is way too sentimentalized and occasionally downright goofy.  There’s very little gore, but there is still a death that might trouble the little ones and the exceptionally tenderhearted.  Personally, based on the previews, I’m hoping for more from Disneynature’s 2018 release Dolphins.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

A new review from The Movie Snob.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi  (B).  Remember American Sniper?  If you enjoyed that movie—and I mean the battle scenes, not the back-at-home scenes—then you will like 13 Hours.  This is the story of the September 11, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.  How accurate it is, I must leave to others, but as a movie-going experience, I enjoyed it.  We experience the events mainly from the perspective of six CIA contractors—former Navy SEALS and the like who live at a secret CIA base not too far from the diplomatic compound.  Thanks to their training and remarkable musculature, they are, of course, basically an army unto themselves, and they do almost all of the fighting in the movie.  Unfortunately, they aren’t fleshed out too well as characters, and I had a hard time telling some of them apart.  (It helped that two of them, John Krasinski and David Denman, used to be on The Office, where they played romantic rivals for the affections of receptionist Pam Beasley.)  Of course, the main thrust of the movie is that the diplomatic compound was badly under-secured and that the State Department—or somebody—was at least criminally negligent for not sending whatever help was available.  I didn’t perceive the movie as too much of an attack on the present administration or the then-secretary of state, but it definitely puts the lie to the administration’s and press’s initial reports that the attack was a local protest that got out of hand instead of a planned and premeditated assault.  Anyway, I thought the battle scenes were engrossing and conveyed well the “fog of war” in a strange land where the enemies and friendlies were virtually indistinguishable.  On the down side, there is a decent amount of cheesy dialogue to be endured.  Still, it’s definitely one of the better efforts from director Michael Bay (The Island, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).

Big Miracle

New review from The Movie Snob

Big Miracle  (B-).  I caught this little movie at the dollar theater (actually $1.75), and I felt like I got my money’s worth.  “Inspired by a true story,” this is the story of three California gray whales that accidentally got trapped under Arctic ice off the coast of northern Alaska in the fall of 1988.  (I was in college at the time, which I guess explains why I remember nothing about this incident.)  The whales had a small hole in the ice to breathe through, and the hole was way too far from the open ocean for them to swim the distance without drowning.  In the movie, a reporter (played by John Krasinski, TV’s The Office) reports the story, which draws attention back in the lower 48 and triggers a massive rescue effort spearheaded by an amazingly annoying Greenpeace activist (played by Drew Barrymore, E.T.).  Lots of recognizable stars show up, such as Kristen Bell (When in Rome) as a reporter up from Los Angeles, Ted Danson (Three Men and a Baby) as a wicked oil mogul, and Dermot Mulroney (The Family Stone) as a tough National Guardsman.  I liked it well enough, but somehow it just lacked a certain magic about it.  Maybe it was that annoying Drew Barrymore character.  Anyhoo, it’s basically family friendly, but there is a little swearing, and it does get a little sad at one part.

Leatherheads

Movie review by The Movie Snob.

Leatherheads (D). Well, I was hoping that the stream of bad reviews had so lowered my expectations for this movie that I would enjoy it regardless of its (lack of) quality. Alas, it was not to be. The scene is the Upper Midwest, 1925. Director George Clooney (TV’s ER) also stars as an aging professional football player and hustler who is trying to keep the whole concept of professional football alive in the face of massive public indifference. He sees his chance in the person of Carter “the Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski, TV’s The Office), a WWI hero and nationally famous footballer for Princeton. He manages to lure Rutherford to play for his team (the Duluth Bulldogs), and attendance soars. But a tough newspaper reporter (Renee Zellweger, Miss Potter) is worming her way into Carter’s life on a tip that his war-hero record is trumped up. The makers of the movie shoot for screwball comedy, but without much success. Zellweger is miscast, and she and Clooney have no chemistry. The inherently likeable Krasinski plays an inherently likeable Rutherford, and when the movie abuses him it makes the movie itself unlikeable. I expected to leave disappointed, but I left actively annoyed.