Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Movie Reviews

The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon stars with some random woman (the casting was entirely unimportant; all she does is look nice and hold his hand) in a plot that should have been a 22 minute TV show. John Slatterly (Mad Men) and some other dude play angels whose job is to keep people on track with their fate. Despite complete access to everything everyone is thinking and will think in the near future, these angels fail spectacularly just when a plot turn is needed.

It all makes little sense, somehow the entire universe is centered around the NY area, and the ending (and most of the movie) is predictable, a cop-out, and stupid, but John Slatterly always looks good in a fedora.

Captain America

Captain America the most comic book of all comic book movies. Deux ex machina rules, the hero can do anything, has any skill, and can do no wrong. People appear where they shouldn't, women lead charge into battle (in WWII), cars can fly faster than planes, metal shield always bounce back when you throw them, and inertia and gravity apparently don't exist when they're not needed - no one ever gets hurt in an accident, no matter how fast they were flying or falling.

The two mcguffins are a) an infinite energy crystal or some other dohickey belonging to the gods, and b) a serum that makes, together with vast amounts of radiation, a superhero. Ok. Why not? Nazis with lasers are cool.

The other recent superhero movies, such as Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc tried tempted us with seriousness using flawed heroes. Captain America is superhero for the pre-teens and teens who wouldn't understand that stuff (you'll say "Sure, why not?" many times). And for the adults who can remember being too innocent to care about complexity. Actually, one small scene at the beginning of the movie pays lip service to a modern sensibility, namely that it's not about killing but about standing up to bullies; but this is quickly forgotten. There are endless scenes of killing and explosions, but no blood or gore.

A very enjoyable summer blockbuster, some quotable lines, and shallower than a kiddie pool.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

The finale of the eight part movie series, the movie doesn't spend even a second getting you up to speed, so make sure you've watched the previous films. There's little in the way of characterization or exposition. Heavy, emotionally gripping, and important scenes in the book are passed over in a few seconds of screen time. Spells that would be particularly useful in certain situations are often conveniently forgotten.

However, there many well-directed action sequences, as well as kisses, daring rescues, dramatic flights, humor, climax, and denouement. If you've come this far, you'll want to see it. It's satisfying.

Jane Eyre (2011)

Another adaptation of this novel, the main question is how it compares to the 1995 version: they're about the same (both good, but quiet drama pieces). They both tell the same story. Ok...

Morning Glory

A light comedy with Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford. McAdams plays random smart but overwhelmed protagonist girl (think Sandra Bullock in nearly every movie except The Blind Side), and Ford plays gruff older man who won't give anyone the time of day but eventually is seen to actually have a heart. Formulaic. It was ok. Other than the first bullpit session, it's all pretty forgettable.

Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal, some random woman, and Vera Farminga. Again, the love interest is eye candy and not much else. Jake is a dead? dying? army dude sent to occupy a mind and body on a train that is going to explode in eight minutes. Somehow the "memory" of the train event, and every person on it, is recorded and able to be run in simulation, over and over, with each repetition changing depending on how Jake acts. Not only the train, but every possible location and person within travel distance of the train. It's not just the memory recorded; apparently it's the entire world and what each person would do if the script changes.

The bomber is on his way to set off another explosion, so time is of the essence. And yet, only through Jake's unsubtle, brute force detective work will they be able to find out who actually planted the bomb on the train and where that person is headed now. No, it doesn't make sense, but you kind of go with it. Until there is some kind of hint that the alternate flashback reality can be made into something more than just a simulation, and then I got lost.

Jake and Vera are both good presences on the screen (though I tend to get Jake and Tobey MacGuire mixed up). The material should have been written by someone who understands paradox, consciousness, time travel, ... heck, science, a little better.


A very good adaptation of an excellent novel starring a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart, this is some super acting and directing work about a teenager at high school with a secret that's not so much of a secret to the audience, but that doesn't matter. It's not a feel-good movie; but it's not a downer, either.

Super 8

A movie that feels like a classic 70s/80s Spielberg movie, interspersed with explosive effects from a JJ Adams movie. It's got a lot of sweetness and a lot of kid-centered action driving the plot. However, it moves along at a quicker pace than I remember actual Spielberg movies moving; remember ET slowly crawling around picking up Reese's Pieces, or long treks with singing kids in The Goonies? We don't have time for those types of scenes today.

The payoff might let down some people, and some problems raised in the movie's middle are not dealt with by the end of the movie. But it's good, solid, summer fun.




Along the lines of Speak, this is another very good movie about a similar subject (rape) in a similar setting (high school). Only this time the creep is a 35 year old man who hides behind the identity of a teenager on the internet. A tad didactic, but beautifully acted and directed with a great script.


Creepy European movie about girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl clones and gives birth to boy copy, and what happens next? Is this kid ... her future lover? Ick.

Contains the oft-seen trope of prejudice against "them" (clones, this time). But mostly you need to know that the movie is a string of pregnant images with little in the way of conversation. Each shot is a beautiful frame or moment, mostly of barren coastlines and landscapes, but it's all very unreal. Most jarring is that boy clone ages from birth to adulthood, but no one else (especially the girl) ages at all, which makes little sense and kind of skews the point of the movie. For lovers of cinematography.

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