April 9th, 2013

storyteller doll

Catch-up: Movie Marathon Edition

I figured that Roger Ebert’s death is as good a reason as any for me to do the movie viewing part of my catch-up. Ebert was one of the critics I found both readable and reliable. His tastes didn’t match mine 100%, of course, but were close enough to be valuable. And his passion for movies was always made him interesting to read.

Anyway, I see movies primarily on airplanes. Having done a bunch of airplane travel over the past few months (partly the normal travel, partly trips made for the United challenge from Star Mega Do 4), I’ve seen a lot of movies. That started with 5 movies on the trip from Tel Aviv to New York in January, which is a bit extreme. Many of the rest were watched either on trans-cons or during airport layovers. I’ll note the one exception when I get to it. You may detect another theme running through my comments.

  1. Horrible Bosses: Parts of this were very funny, especially early in the movie. I could tolerate the crudeness, though the sexism (in the case of a man not being taken seriously for being harassed by his female boss) was annoying. But I hate the trope in which people behave like idiots to the police and get themselves in further trouble.

  2. Liberal Arts: I am a sucker for romantic comedy and this was an intelligent one, involving a 30-something man whose attraction to a college student helps him grow up, even as he struggles with the age difference. There are a couple of side stories, involving his relationships with former professors and with current campus misfits, which are also reasonably interesting, albeit a bit predictable. The ending was not, however, completely predictable and was very satisfying. It also helps that Josh Radnor makes for nice eye candy. Recommended if you like chick flicks.

  3. The Oranges: More intergenerational romance, as an idyllic New Jersey suburban life is disturbed by a prodigal daughter having an affair with her father’s best friend. This was an unpleasant movie about unpleasant people, which may be appropriate for a film set in New Jersey but doesn’t make it worth watching. I can’t think of a single redeeming thing to add. If you see this and hate it, don’t blame me. I tried to warn you.

  4. Trouble With the Curve: Clint Eastwood plays the curmudgeonly type of character he does so well. And there is baseball in the background, which never hurts in my book. Of course, it isn’t really about baseball. It’s about reconnecting with family and healing old wounds and all that. Also, Justin Timberlake is pretty good eye candy. Highly recommended.

  5. African Cats: Samuel L. Jackson attempts to do for lions and cheetahs what Morgan Freeman did for penguins. The nature footage is appealing, but I am not a fan of anthropomorphizing wild animals. This is probably a great film for 8-year-olds. The best part was the credits.

  6. Gone With the Wind: So I am no longer the only person in North America who has never seen this classic. It was a good test of my tablet’s battery life (which let me watch the whole thing on a business trip flight to L.A. with no issues). It’s grand and sweeping and absorbing, so I’d say it lives up to its reputation. However, I don’t find Clark Gable at all attractive. Anyway, I don’t need to tell you to see this, because you almost certainly already have.

  7. Beasts of the Southern Wild: I rented this (on my tablet) based on several reviews which made it sound interesting. I thought it was simultaneously too abstract and too concrete. I like my “people in traumatic situations” drama to have fewer ancient semi-mythical beasts. Being hit over the head with symbolism isn’t my idea of a great time.

  8. The Apartment: This was another on the list of Oscar winners that I’d somehow or other never seen. I was familiar with the story, since it’s the basis for the musical, Promises, Promises. The thing that makes this movie so great is the tone, which is not quite as cynical as it initially seems. See above about being a sucker for romantic comedy. And Jack Lemmon is not even great eye candy. Highly recommended.

  9. Pitch Perfect: This was United’s choice of movie; my decision was just to watch it. It’s a likeable enough romantic comedy, albeit even more predictable than most. I did find it hard to believe that there’s a college where that many people take a capella music that seriously, but that’s a minor flaw. The highlight of the movie is Rebel Wilson’s performance as Fat Amy. This isn’t a brilliant or revolutionary movie,but it’s a good enough distraction to fill in flight time with.

  10. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: I will, eventually, get around to the rest of the trilogy, but I thought it made sense to watch them in order. I was a big fan of Tolkien when I was a teenager and I thought this film adaptation matched the book well. Except for getting the balrog all wrong. (Er, yes, I do know what it looks like.) There is also probably something I should say about the score, but I haven’t quite figured out what. Also, Viggo Mortensen is good eye candy.

  11. Here Comes the Boom: This was another movie chosen by United, not me. I admit I’d never heard of it and was skeptical when I read the description. Short plot summary is teacher takes up mixed martial arts competition to raise money to save the school music program. It’s a bit melodramatic and extremely predictable, but it’s all warm enough and airplane worthy.

  12. It Happened One Night: Getting back to the “movies everyone else has seen” and adding to the Oscar winners list, this is a reasonably clever romantic comedy. The banter between the characters (runaway heiress and newspaper reporter) is generally amusing. The hitchhiking scene, in particular, is justifiably classic. There is a certain amount of disbelief to suspend, but that’s how the genre works. I still don’t understand why anybody finds Clark Gable attractive, however.

  13. Lincoln: An upgrade on a United flight let me watch one of their more current selections. Daniel Day-Lewis was surprisingly convincing in the title role. There weren’t any great revelations for those of us who are reasonably knowledgeable about history. And ideally it would have been 20 minutes or so shorter. But it is certainly watchable.

  14. The Artist: This was the exception to the airplane watching. The Smithsonian American Art Museum had a free screening and it was on a night I had nothing else booked. Anyway, while I don’t think that the gimmicky part (black and white, mostly silent) was as wildly original as some people seemed to think it was, the movie did work for me. I think that is largely because the characters felt believable.

  15. Skyfall: Again, this is a movie I watched because it was a United main screen feature. James Bond movies are all pretty much the same, with just the settings and love interests changing. I prefer less violent entertainment, but I kew what to expect and it met those expectations. I do like the movie’s title song (sung by Adele). For the record, I prefer Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.

  16. The King’s Speech: Continuing my personal Oscar winners marathon, I watched this on my tablet in a United Club during a long layover at ORD. I’ve never really grasped the appeal of Colin Firth, but I will admit he did a fine acting job here. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. The issue of dealing with life circumstances presenting challenges beyond your control is a nice broad theme and I like to see people overcoming adversity. Highly recommended.

  17. Gigi: Another Oscar winning romantic comedy should be right up my alley. There is a lovely Lerner and Loewe score and Lois Jourdan provides fine eye candy as Gaston. I’m just uncomfortable about the age aspect of the relationship. I’m not sure how old Gigi is supposed to be, but she looks to be about 16 at most. Yeah, that’s why Gaston finds her fresh and charming. But it is still creepy.

Whew! 17 movies in just over 3 months may be a personal record.