Movie review roundup

Remember that 1,300 word review of No Country For Old Men that drew over 130 comments? Well, who has time to write those anymore. Even though I’ve been on sabbatical, I’ve been too busy with other projects to write any detailed book or movie reviews, so here’s a quick roundup of movies — new and old — that I’ve seen recently, and briefly what I thought of them. What do you think? Am I way off? What else should go in the old Netflix queue?

Burn After Reading: Big disappointment. I’m usually a huge Coen fan (see above, see below), but Burn After Reading was a big miss. Despite the impressive cast, the characters were incredibly flat, and the story wasn’t the least bit engaging. Don’t waste your time on this one. See any other Coen film instead.

The Big Lebowski: I know, I know. It’s 11 years old, but I just saw a few months ago for the first time. I was driving between San Jose and San Francisco with a friend of mine who had never been to California before, and we passed an In and Out Burger. He was beside himself with excitement since he thought In and Out was a fictitious invention of the Coen Brothers. I was forced to admit that I’d never seen The Big Lebowski at which point he was scandalized. I watched it on my iPhone on the flight home, and just watched it again the other night, and plan on watching it again several more times before I die. It’s a fantastic and incredibly entertaining movie that manages to be about nothing except maybe bowling and nihilism. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. If you have, this is a reminder to watch it again.

The Virgin Suicides: Another old one, I know, but the late 90’s were a really busy time for me (so much code to write and foosball to play — you remember how it was). Anyway, I saw this one in a friend’s DVD collection, and since I like the soundtrack, I decided to check it out. It turns out I prefer the soundtrack. When the movie was over, I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to have learned. When you watch The Big Lebowski, you know you weren’t really supposed to have learned anything. But after The Virgin Suicides, I was pretty sure that Sofia Coppola was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t sure what it was, except that I shouldn’t lock my daughters in their rooms and force religion on them. Ok, done. I’m probably being overly harsh — it’s an entertaining movie, but not nearly as interesting as Lost in Translation which I was kind of hoping for.

The Day The Earth Stood Still: Not really worth spending the big bucks on (tickets here are $10.50 now!), but it’s worth checking out on Netflix, fios, etc. The message was a little cliché, but it was delivered in a semi-entertaining way. I think Keanu Reeves was handed his dream role as a emotionless alien, though I don’t think he had no opportunity to exclaim "whoa!" With the right expectations, you won’t feel like you completely wasted 103 minutes, but if you have anything at all better to do, make sure you do it first.

Slumdog Millionaire: Best movie I’ve seen in a long time. I love me some Danny Boyle (more below). I was worried when I had to drive an hour to find a theater that was screening Slumdog because I was afraid it wouldn’t reach enough people, but now it’s playing right down the street, so I guess it’s doing well. Slumdog is an incredibly suspenseful love story primarily about fate which is set in the rapidly evolving city of Mumbai. I’m not going to bother explaining the plot because the movie manages to be about much more than a plot summary can possibly do justice. Just see it. Trust me. It’s tragic, inspirational, suspenseful, triumphant, and it has great music and visuals. It’s even worth seeing on the big screen, if you can still catch it.

Sunshine: Again, not a new movie, but another really good one by Danny Boyle. I don’t think this movie ever really made it to the mainstream, but if you’re a Science Fiction fan, it’s a must-see, and very possibly, a must-own. The visuals and sounds are fantastic (a theme of Danny Boyle’s), and a few of the characters are almost magnetic — one of them, much to my surprise, being Chris Evans. Sunshine isn’t perfect by any means, but I think it’s one of the best SciFi movies in recent memory. And like the Coen Brothers and Charlie Kaufman, I’ll see anything Danny Boyle is involved with.

Children of Men: Simultaneously one of the best and most under-appreciated Science Fiction movies of all time. Children of Men is incredibly intense with a fascinating plot and likable characters. I’m not sure what this says about me, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone else who likes this movie very much — at least not nearly as much as I do. If there’s anything at all to criticize, you might be able to say that it’s actually too intense. I actually had to pause it at one point to give myself a few moments to recover. This is a movie worth watching at least twice as there was a lot I picked up the second time that I think I was too dazed to noticed the first.

The Tale of Despereaux: I seldom take my kids to see movies, but all the rain over the Christmas holiday eventually drove us into a theater. I think I just don’t get kids movies. The only kids movies I like are Jungle Book (the 1967 version, though I wasn’t even alive then), and the Toy Story movies. WALL-E was fun, but that’s because I like robots and Macs. Anyway, despite the impressive and no doubt expensive cast, Despereaux didn’t do much for me, or for my kids, more to the point. I think they got more out of the snacks than the movie.

Quantum of Solace: I’m not crazy about this most recent interpretation of Bond. He seems more like an assassin than a British agent. I guess psychotic revenge, rule breaking, and "dropping off the grid" is supposed to be sexy and thrilling, but it all seems kind of ludicrous to me. Everything in the movie (especially the plot) seemed secondary to Daniel Craig’s blue eyes and murderous vengeance. Quantum was clearly more inspired by the Bourne movies than Ian Fleming’s wonderful creation.

The Dark Knight: Not quite as good as Batman Begins, but very good nonetheless. It’s probably the best value of any movie I’ve seen recently as they seem to pack at least two movies into one. Certainly the best Joker ever. I’m a pretty steady fan of Christian Bale, and I’m looking forward to seeing Terminator Salvation.

Iron Man: Another very good hero movie which, like the new Batman movies, manages to actually be somewhat believable. Robert Downey Jr. makes a very decent hero, and although Jeff Bridges is far from The Dude, he makes an interesting villain. I’m glad to see that the movie industry has finally figured how to make hero movies. Now it’s time to remake Spiderman so we can finally put the Tobey Maguire abominations behind us.

4 thoughts on “Movie review roundup

  1. That’s quite a summation you have here. I agree with you on most points, though I have not seen No Country for Old Men or Quantum Solace yet, and therefore can’t comment on them.
    I thought Iron Man was definitely one of the better “hero” movies, and Robert Downey Jr. in typical fashion, pulls of the quirky character with great style!
    The Dark Knight fits its name. I think it presents interesting questions about human nature in some of the choices that have to be made.
    As for the Tale of Despereaux, well, I’m just waiting for a decent kids movie to bring my kids to, and this was definitely not it. Great animation, as we’ve come to expect these days, but too dark in my opinion for a kids movie.
    I have to admit, I was very unsure about Children of Men before watching it. Although I WANT to love Julianne Moore, I’m not typically impressed with her movie choices. But this movie turned out to be one of the most captivating, well-done movies I’ve seen. Again, a lot of questions about human nature, particularly how humanity reacts in dire situations.
    As for the other movies you mentioned that I have seen, I can’t really add anything you didn’t already point out. I did enjoy The Day the Earth Stood Still as a fun popcorn movie, though the message came across as a little cheesy.

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  2. the big leboski is a cult classic. love it. the new batman movies blow away the old ones. can’t wait to see watchmen!
    -a

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  3. I agree with nearly every movie review, I absolutely loved children of men, after leaving the theater I was raving about it. It ended like there will be a sequel but I have not heard anything yet.

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  4. Came across your blog and was reading it backwards. And a very good reading it is indeed, especially the reviews.
    A little note on your comment about Quantum of Solace above. Bond *is* an assassin. That’s what the ‘double-O’ moniker means (licensed to kill). The recent interpretations starting with Casino Royale is actually rebooting the character back to what Ian Fleming wrote him to be, ‘half hitman, half monk’.

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