Marjorie Prime

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Marjorie Prime  (C).  Hmmm, an independent sci-fi drama starring Geena Davis, Tim Robbins, and Jon Hamm?  Now that’s something you don’t see every day.  In fact, you hardly see Geena Davis and Tim Robbins in anything at all, do you?  I’m pretty sure A League of Their Own (1992) was the last movie I saw Davis in.  Anyway, this movie is a close relative of her, the movie in which Siri sounds like Scarlett Johansson and develops artificial intelligence.  In the near future of Marjorie Prime, computer engineers have largely perfected the ability to create a lifelike hologram of your deceased loved one.  Apparently the hologram starts out knowing the basic facts of the original person’s life, and then it learns more and more—and thus becomes more and more realistic—as you talk to it and tell it more things about the dearly departed. When the movie starts, an elderly woman with dementia named Marjorie (Lois Smith, Minority Report) is comforted by a hologram of her beloved husband Walter (Hamm, Baby Driver).  But Marjorie’s daughter (Davis) is not happy about it—envious of the attention Walter gets, perhaps?—and Marjorie’s son-in-law (Robbins, City of Ember) hangs back and observes the proceedings, usually with a strong drink in his hand.  Time goes by; other holograms (or “primes,” as they’re called) come into play.  The concept is an interesting one, but the movie is a little too quiet and slow for my taste.  Rex Reed’s review of this movie starts with this verdict: “Intellectually stimulating yet dramatically stunted.”  That sounds about right to me.


Baby Driver

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Baby Driver  (B-).  Hm, I didn’t know until just now that this highly rated movie (Metacritic score 86) was directed by the same fellow (Edgar Wright) who directed Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz, and The World’s End.  It’s a crazy little movie about a getaway driver savant called Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) who works for a criminal mastermind called Doc (Kevin Spacey, L.A. Confidential).  There’s a very good and elaborate car chase at the beginning, and the climactic pursuit at the end seems to go on forever, and in between there’s not too much of note.  Lily James (Cinderella) plays the sweet li’l waitress who steals Baby’s heart, and Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls) plays a crazy gangster named Bats.  Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men) has a lot of screen time as another gangster, but I’m afraid I will always see Don Draper whenever he’s on screen.  Eiza González (Jem and the Holograms) makes an impression as a gangster called Darling.  On the whole, an okay and disposable summer movie.

Mad Men – Season 2

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

***  Spoilers about Season One follow ***

Mad Men – Season Two.  Has it really been four years since I watched season one?  I guess I didn’t love it that much.  Anyhoo, I have finally gotten around to watching season two.  It was okay, but I really don’t see what the hoopla about this show is, or was, all about.  As everyone knows, it’s a soap opera about the NYC advertising agency Sterling Cooper set in the 1960s, and it’s especially about one of the ad guys there named Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm, Friends with Kids).  Only Don Draper isn’t really Don Draper; from season one we know that he’s really a guy named Dick Whitman who switched lives with Draper during the Korean War after Draper was killed.  Whitman/Draper has built an entirely new life on this lie, complete with well-paying job, beautiful wife Betty (January Jones, X-Men: First Class), two kids, and a house in the suburbs.  And he keeps adding to the lies by having serial extra-marital affairs.  Don and Betty’s marital problems are front and center during season two, but somehow they don’t really come across as flesh-and-blood people.  What makes them tick?  Who knows?  There are lots of subplots involving the other folks at Sterling Cooper (and their spouses, like cute Alison Brie from Community), but they seldom seem to go anywhere or add up to much.  Still, it’s a watchable show, if only to enjoy the early 1960s fashions and manners.  It’s fun to be shocked by scenes of people smoking on airplanes and happy families casually leaving their litter all over a hillside after a picnic.  Colin Hanks (The House Bunny) has recurring guest role as a Catholic priest who is not a horrible human being, so that’s nice.

Friends with Kids

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Friends with Kids (F).  Why did I dislike this little romantic comedy so wholeheartedly, to the point of being even a little angry when I left the theater?  Let’s see if I can pin it down.  (1) I thought the premise was dumb.  Jason (Adam Scott, Our Idiot Brother) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, Kissing Jessica Stein) are Manhattan yuppies in their 30s, they’re longtime best friends, and they’ve never been romantically attracted to each other.  When their four best friends (two married couples, played by Bridesmaids alums Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Jon Hamm, and Kristen Wiig) start having children, Jason and Julie decide that they want to have a child too, but they are leery because they have observed that the strain of raising children kills all the romance between the parents.  So, because they have no romantic feelings between them to get ruined, they decide that they should have a child together, split custody evenly, and continue to pursue romance separately like they always have.  Does this strike anybody else as an insanely dumb idea?  (2) The film takes unnecessary potshots at Republicans and religion.  But only a few, and truthfully I think I need to excuse them in the name of verisimilitude in a movie about six white Manhattan yuppies.  (3) And here’s the main problem–the six main characters are hideously vulgar and crass.  I gather that they are supposed to be representative of today’s urban bourgeoisie, who have jettisoned any traditional values that don’t easily jibe with their secular and hedonistic materialism and who regard “organized religion” as something that can be dismissed in its entirety with a single scatalogical reference.  They are educated and intelligent and capable of clever conversation on most subjects, but when it comes to sexuality they are as gutter-mouthed as sailors and as sentimental as ranchers breeding livestock.  The Jason character in particular is a loathsome womanizer who openly values his endless parade of girlfriends mainly for their physical attributes.  How has Julie managed to avoid falling for such a charmer all these years?  It’s a mystery.

This movie is terrible.  Avoid it.

Postscript (March 30, 2012).  A friend of mine brought a news story to my attention: apparently the premise of this movie is not as insane as I thought.  Apparently, some people are actually trying this “co-parenting” business, or as I think of it, time-shares in kids.  Check out the story here.

The Town

New review from The Movie Snob

The Town (B). The critics have really liked the latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck (Argo), and I have to say I liked it too. Affleck stars as Doug McCray, the leader of a small band of bank robbers from the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) costars as McCray’s trigger-happy right-hand man, James Coughlin. In the opening bank robbery (in which the gang is heavily disguised), Coughlin takes a bank manager named Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) hostage. Although the gang later lets her go unharmed, Keesey also turns out to be from Charlestown, and Coughlin is concerned that she might be able to I.D. them later. McCray refuses to let Coughlin snuff her, and he contrives to meet her so he can try to find out if she saw anything that could identify the robbers. She’s a sweetie, and soon enough McCray is hooked. Meanwhile, hard-as-nails FBI man Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm, TV’s Mad Men) is tightening the net around the gang. Although the movie is not quite believable in spots, I still thought it was a good heist movie, with some better than average car chases, shootouts, and the like.

Mad Men (Season One)

From The Movie Snob

Mad Men (Season One). I don’t have cable and had never seen an episode of this show before buying the DVD’s. I went strictly on critical word-of-mouth. And I’ll say watching the first season was definitely an interesting experience. The setting is Madison Avenue, New York City; the year is 1960. The protagonist is Don Draper (Jon Hamm, Bridesmaids), a Korean War vet and one of the top dogs (though not yet a partner) at the advertising firm of Sterling & Cooper. He has a beautiful wife (January Jones, Sweetwater), two kids, and a swell house in the suburbs. He also has a mistress in the City, and a mysterious past that starts to catch up with him from the very first episodes. Most of the kick comes from watching people behave in ways that are just unimaginable now. Everyone smokes all the time (including pregnant women), and everyone drinks most of the time–even (or especially) at work. The casual sexism is astonishing. Even seeing children ride in the front seat of a car (without seat belts) makes you look twice. Draper’s wife has the suburban blues that Betty Friedan would soon write about in The Feminine Mystique. Draper’s mistress is a bohemian artist type, and some of the funnier scenes are the encounters between Don and her beatnik friends. Anyway, I don’t think it’s as great as the press led me to believe, but I definitely enjoyed it and will watch Season Two.