Mini Movie Reviews!
Rather then commenting on the continued decline and fall of the American Republic, let me mention the last few movies I saw.
On DVD I saw:
City of Ember -- a well done sci fi mystery of two children discovering the secret of how to escape from their buried world of eternal darkness. There were one or two movie elements added, not in the original book, meant to heighten drama, but which I thought unnecessary, or even foolish. Despite this, the mystery was gripping and the characters delightful.
I am a little surprised this did not do better in the theaters. The science fiction premise was simple enough that even a muggle could grasp it, and who cannot root for the main characters who have never seen the open sky, seeking to escape a dying underground city? As a metaphor for everything from the fearless scientific investigation of the world, to youthful awakening, to maturity to rebellion against soft oppression, to a spiritual awakening, it strikes a deep cord.
Cinderella Man -- Every father or would-be father should see this film, especially the scenes where the father tells his son stealing is wrong, even if you go hungry, and where it is shown how a man pays his debts. Based on a true story, a prizefight so famous that even I had heard of it, the drama is gripping, and the message more pertient now than ever. If you liked the film Seabiscut, you'll like this. Stars Russel Crowe, so rent this and rent Master and Commander at the same time, and make an all Crowe weekend of it.
High School Musical 3 -- Sorry highbrow guys, but I just love me this Disney hoofers. It shocks me that Hollywood cannot make a film with half the energy and charm of his low-budget made-for-TV song and dance flick.
5000 Fingers of Dr. T -- Maybe the weirdest little thing I'd ever seen on the silver screen. In a dream a child is kidnapped into a concentration camp (surrounded by electrified barbed wire) run by an evil piano teacher
bent on world conquest. After the piano teacher has a duel of hypnotic whammies with the plumber, the piano teacher (who has his own physics lab) orders the plumber disintegrated atom by atom. Meanwhile the plumber falls in love with the kid's mom whom the piano teacher has used his hypnotic powers to place in a trance. The kid and the plumber are thrown into a dungeon inhabited by all the abducted musicians of the world, and must escape with the aid of an atomic -- a very atomic -- music-fixing bottle. The happy fingers beanies must be seen to be believed. The only live action movie ever made by Dr. Suess, who also did the set direction.
Singin' in the Rain -- The best comic musical piece ever is Donald O'Connor singing Make 'em Laugh. My three sons (ten, eight, and five) made me rewind that scene and play it over and over. Cameo by the leggy Cyd Charisse.
[Trivia time! In the "Would You" number, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) is dubbing the voice of Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) because Lina's voice is shrill and screechy. However, it's not Reynolds who is really speaking, it's Jean Hagen herself, who actually had a beautiful deep, rich voice. So you have Jean Hagen dubbing Debbie Reynolds dubbing Jean Hagen.]
While it does not count as a movie, I also recent re-watched the last few episodes of Avatar, the Last Airbender, which is almost Miyazaki-like in its depth, well-done kinetic motion, character development, lush animation style, charm and humor. It is almost impossible in SFF to portray an alien world that seems both exotic and comfortably familiar, but the writers and illustrators of Avatar found a way to do it.
Also saw the first two episodes of BBC's Upstairs Downstairs starring Jean Marsh. Very impressive for a television production. Next time someone tells you we have a class society in America, show then this little gem of a series, so they can see what class societies are like, and what must be done to maintain order and discipline within them. The scene where the new maid's name is arbitrarily changed by the mistress of the house should make the point clearly enough.
But in the theater I saw:
Gran Torino -- hysterically funny in places, moving, deep and human in others. Not the ending you'd expect. For once, the Priest character in the film is not an ax-murderer. If you are squeamish about heading a LOT of racial slurs, this one is not for you.
Slumdog Millionaire -- the only film that won an Academy Award in the last five years which actually earned it. Well worth seeing. The brilliant concept here is that a boy from the slums, who knows nothing, just happens -- by providence, or fate, or Karma, or coincidence -- to know the answers to the increasingly difficult questions of a 'You Want to Be a Millionaire' gameshow. Questioned by the police (who think he is cheating) the youth reveals the details of his sometimes bittersweat, funny yet often horrid past, and the girl who appears as a bright thread in the dark tapestry of his life, a thread he has lost and seeks, somehow, to pick up again. Soon we realize that more than merely a million dollars is at stake.