Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Six Movie Reviews

Kick-Ass: Roger Ebert, and several other reviewers, call this a morally reprehensible movie for its over-the-top, unremitting violence, lack of emotion displayed by any characters in committing this violence, and profuse use of swear words by, let's face it: not only the 11 year-old character in the film, but the 11 year-old actress.

As far as morality goes, I'm kind of in agreement with them. It's pretty morally reprehensible, but so are a great number of comic books, video games, and so on. And this movie is simply a live-action version of those comics and games. I would prefer that no media portrays the kind of in-your-face blood and killing that this movie portrays, but it's not really any worse than those others. As far as the swear words go, the actress Chloe Moretz said in an interview that she would get punished if she said any of those words at home, and that she's heard her four older brothers use them. Her parents were on the set and ensured that she didn't do or say anything that made either her or her parents uncomfortable. In fact, her mother was the one to put the c-word back into the script (from the original comic strip).

The movie's faults, however, suffer from more than poor morals. The movie, like the second Indiana Jones movie, can't seem to make up its mind as to whether it is supposed to be realistic fiction or fantasy. All of the plot-line about a normal kid pretending to be a superhero falls apart when there are people going around whose skills and talents don't exist outside of the most fantastic martial arts films. And eventually, the normal kids take scene after scene of punishment that should permanently disable anyone, but scene after scene he blinks, gets up, and walks away to fight again. It's a comic book. Which is fine, but then what was all that about a normal kid?

While there are snippets of what could be some good plot development with this normal kid and a girl on which he has a crush, those snippets surface only briefly, while the rest of the time we just see ass kicking. Kind of a waste.

An Education: A sweet romantic coming-of-age story set in the 60s in England. They get a lot of the 60s atmosphere down pat. Carry Mulligan is fantastic in the lead, and channels Audrey Hepburn. Excellent performances and directing.

The Great Debaters: A true story about the first black debating club to take on the white debating clubs in the early twentieth century. While some of the plot elements fall too pat into place (a little more mess would have been more realistic), and the outcome is a foregone conclusion, it's well acted, directed, and shot. Not really a gripping movie, though, as I didn't really love any of the characters.

Loving Leah: There have been a few movies that explore the clash between the Hassidic world and the secular world. A Stranger Among Us was the Hassidic world's Witness, showing lots of love for the community, though it messed up near the end when it showed the secular world as having too much temptation for the Rabbi's son. A Price Above Rubies showed the Hassidic world is an ugly light, though it messed up the ending by being semi-happy. That's what happens when secular Hollywood Jews get their hands on the Hassidic world; they think that all of us religious Jews are always tempted and want to be secular, but for a daily struggle to resist that temptation.

Loving Leah is more toward the former than the latter. A religious woman ends up married to a secular man because he refuses to go through with halitzah after his brother's death. While an accommodation between the two would have been fine, too much accommodation occurs in ways that are too secular. Despite this, it's a good movie about culture clash, the lead actress is fetching, and it's a good romance.

The Lake House: A story about lovers separated by a two-year time warp, somehow communicating through a mailbox. Makes no sense, and the plot holes are big enough for Keanu Reeves' paycheck to fit through, and the ending is pretty dumb, but the actors have decent chemistry. Not a complete waste of time.

The Blind Side: I've never been too impressed with Sandra Bullock, since she always seems to act like Sandra Bullock. In this movie, the first minute in which she appears I had the feeling that we were going to see more of the same, but after that scene and for the rest of the movie she rose to the occasion. This is her finest performance, and the only one that I can remember that really shows her talent. Kudos to her for not descending into overdone sentimentality each time she realizes what a poor life the kid has had compared to her own wealth and comfort; she simply gives a poignant look and a troubled face.

The movie is based on a true story and is touching and inspirational. Everyone on the cast does a great job. However, the daughter was under-utilized, and they dramatically downplayed the Christianity. And there was a pointless scene of gun violence near the end.
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