Winter break and the evacuation of my friends from the Ithaca area have left me with virtually nothing to do. This has resulted in my going to the movies almost every day after work. I thought it may be nice to start posting quick little reviews of what I’ve seen–not because I’m self-important and feel you all should have my opinion crammed down your throats, but if I can help you decide what to see tonight then my job is done! I work with a four star rating system based on the overall experience the film gives.
Hilarious dialogue and an excellent play between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, who has been absent from the silver screen for quite some time. The action is continually engaging, but the plot lacks depth or complexity. Fortunately it doesn’t become outlandish in an attempt to save its own ass. The plot is completely forgivable, however, because the visuals are so stunning.
The cinematography is rich and the editing, characteristic of Guy Ritchie films, is fast paced and keeps the excitement going. While it has nothing really to do with the actual Sherlock Holmes literature, it’s still lots of fun. Sherlock Holmes is a perfect film for friends and family to enjoy together, and for first dates! I give it three stars because of sheer enjoyment and the Robert Doweny Jr. factor.
An Education **
What began as a delightful F. Scott Fitzgerald-esque tale of vapid wealthy socialites being fabulous only got better with a fantastic twist that rendered our protagonist, Jenny (Carey Mulligan), hopeless as to her future. But then the film became something worthy of Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen circa 1999, as everything Jenny sacrificed in order to run with this suspiciously sophisticated crowd (i.e. her education and admission into Oxford) was miraculously saved in a pointless montage that intercut clips of her frantically studying (which is silly because she is a very bright character and wouldn’t have had that hard of a time with her course work) with flowers blooming to show the passage of time.
The montage is out of place in the pace of the rest of the film, and, along with some extraneous voice over at the end, seems a last minute attempt to wrap the story up. Ultimately, Jenny’s dreams are saved, and it seems that the entire story was a bit pointless. There’s Oscar talk for this one, but if it has to be nominated I’d say the production and costume design are where compliments should be directed. Two stars for a horrible ending.
Brothers (105 min) *** and A Half
Emotional and fantastic acting from Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, and most especially Toby Maguire. This intense look at a family put through the most horrific effects of war on the home front is not only beautifully written, but also beautifully played by all. Sam Cahill (Maguire) goes missing in Afghanistan and, while a P.O.W., is forced to do the unthinkable. Meanwhile back home his family believes him dead and tries to move on with their lives and the simple yet important relationships within them.
When Cahill is found and returned to his wife Grace (Portman), he can’t bare to live a civilian’s life. Driven crazy by the thought that Grace and his brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) may have slept together, Cahill snaps. It is a heart wrenching, yet truthful look at modern Americans dealing with our military involvement across seas. While it too has extraneous voice over at the end, the rest of the film is powerful enough to allow for it to be forgotten. Three and a half stars!
Up in The Air ****
It is very difficult to go wrong with Clooney. I must say I am very pleased with how much he’s been around recently. I can’t walk two steps without running into his face…and I’ve never been more happy to be visibly running into things in public. Up in The Air is both funny, sad and engaging.
It presents Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a work-aholic with no personal life to speak of and a penchant for traveling. He works for a company that deals with the sensitive matter of firing people for bosses and CEOs that can’t handle it themselves. When a youngster fresh from Cornell (our neighbor!), Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), comes in and tries to reinvent the company by installing video chat firings, Bingham lets her tag along with him to show her what a horrible thing it actually is to fire someone, and how it just can’t be done through a computer.
In the process we see how Bingham operates. We get a look at his routinized system of living and how regretful he is of changing it. His romantic interest, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), gives hope that Bingham could have a normal life, but, like so many other things, it’s she’s so normal herself.
The characters are complex, as well as the plot, and the acting and writing are both fantastic. While there’s Oscar talk for Clooney, I have to say that, while Clooney did do an incredible job, the character of Ryan Bingham doesn’t stand out enough to garner a Best Actor. I give it four stars because it is the overall package and can be enjoyed by anyone.
It’s Complicated ***
I drove through a massive snow storm just to see Alec and Meryl in this adorable romcom. The story is fun, the dialogue and characters both are entertaining, smart, and hilarious, and overall it just made me feel fantastic! Nancy Meyers has a talent for making me excited to be in my 50s.
Everyone is so elegant and live in such well put together homes. They all look like they dress in Gap and Ralph Lauren and eat lavishly decorated chicken and pastries all the time. Who wouldn’t want this life, quirky hi-jinx included?! Meyers’ films aren’t always super creative and tend to be similar, but it’s something I crave over and over again, like chocolate peanut butter pie.
This tale of a middle aged divorced couple reconnecting keeps romance and fairy-tales alive for more than just teens, yet still keeps it real. Baldwin, Streep, and Steve Martin give wonderful performances that keep you smiling. I must admit that I liked Something’s Gotta Give better, but It’s Complicated is a close second. Three stars for great humor, a good story, and a fantastic cast all around!
I was surprised by this one. With all the hype it was getting, I was almost ready not to see it out of principle. But I did, and I’m glad I did, too. Avatar is visually stunning. The world of Pandora is so complex and beautiful that that alone makes the film exciting and fun to watch.
While it’s been taking many hits for its plot, I actually found it very touching. Your basic Pocahontas story reincarnated for a future time and space–a tale of imperialism at its most disgusting and the heart and resolve of those fighting to stop it. It’s relatable to current life, as Americans fight in the battle over oil and natural recourses, and it’s reminiscent of our past.
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-marine, takes his brother’s place in a scientific quest, headed by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), to learn about and communicate with the indigenous people of Pandora. In the process, he falls in love with the people, the planet, and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the chief’s daughter. Humans (basically Americans) are interested in the planet Pandora for its rare and valuable minerals, and are ruthlessly harvesting them without a care to the original inhabitants.
While I hate to give him even MORE credit (like the Terminator, the Abyss, and Titanic didn’t do enough already), James Cameron has definitely done it again. Avatar is massively entertaining, and gets my four stars.
Stay tuned for another Box Office Quicky, as I still have nothing to do for about three weeks and movies play all day!