July 2010 In Brief, Part 1

Movies:
Blame It on Fidel (*** 1/2) – [2006] Nine-year-old Anna’s life is turned upside-down when her parents take up the leftist cause in 1970’s France. I really enjoyed watching upper-middle class Anna struggling to understand and accept all the changes happening in her life.  It makes for a sweet and funny movie.  [Saw in French with English subtitles on DVD through Netflix]

Capitalism: A Love Story (** 1/2) – [2009] I want to like Michael Moore’s movies but they tend to disappoint me.  He’s an excellent researcher who dredges up fascinating facts and stories on his subjects.  Instead of letting those facts tell the story though, he gets in the way of his own point with cutesy stunts and heavy-handed narrating, turning off potential converts.  That’s too bad because Capitalism: A Love Story is full of compelling evidence that illustrates how the current capitalist system in the US hurts regular everyday people.  My recommendation: see the movie for the facts and use the Michael Moore grandstanding bits for bathroom breaks.  [Saw on Netflix Instant Viewing.]

Chloe (**) – [2009] Short review of this movie: horrible script, good acting. It’s clear to the audience exactly what’s going on with Amanda Seyfried’s character from the very beginning — but because of stupid writing– Julianne Moore’s character has no idea how this girl thinks– despite being a gynecologist and dealing with women every day.  D’oh!  Also, unless you watch the deleted scenes you won’t understand why Julianne Moore’s character and her son are fighting.

PS- If you think you’ll soldier through the bad script because you want to see the very pretty Amanda Seyfried’s first nude scene, you’re going to be disappointed.  Her nude shots are brief and all in profile.  [Saw on DVD through Netflix]

Iron Man (***) [2008] – This movie has such an annoying premise I shouldn’t have liked it as much as I did.  A "brilliant" inventor (played by Robert Downing, Jr.) thinks his weapons keep the peace because his brilliance somehow keeps him from realizing that both sides could use his weapons, not just the good guys.  He realizes the horrible truth when he’s kidnapped by the bad guys and treated to a front row seat for the weapons-harm-innocent-people show.

His response to his upsetting revelation is to stop making weapons and instead create an awesome crime fighting suit — that again, he can’t predict could be used by bad guys too.  While living in his wealthy ignorance, he takes his loyal employees for granted, gets them in trouble with his careless attitude, and never seems to realize how badly he treats them.

The redeeming feature of the movie is its accurate, loving portrayal of the problem-solving and creating process.  Robert Downing, Jr. expresses the joy, frustration, and thrall of creating something complicated with a lot of charm.  Luckily these sequences are a large part of the movie.  They’re great fun and the crime-fighting suit is pretty awesome.  [Saw on DVD through Netflix]

Sherlock Holmes (***) – [2009] A slight but enjoyable Sherlock Holmes mystery.  The fun chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson and  the gritty portrayal of working class Victorian London liven up what would have otherwise been a tiresome magical-voodoo mystery. [Saw on DVD through Netflix]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (****) [2009] –  I enjoyed this gritty mystery about a journalist and an eccentric computer hacker investigating the 40-year-old disappearance of a Swedish banker’s favorite niece.  I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how it compares.  There’s some really graphic, dark, dark stuff here, but it’s done with a more kickass feminist spin than older gritty movies about missing women. [Saw in Swedish with English subtitles on Netflix Instant Viewing.]

The Runaways (** 1/2) [2010] – This movie can’t decide if it wants to be the story it’s marketed as — a bad-ass story of an all-girl band making it in the rock world — or a sad tale of drug abuse and exploitation.  That’s probably because the movie is based on Cherie Currie’s drug addiction memoir and co-produced by Joan Jett, who did become a rock star.  Currie was only fifteen when she joined the band and had no support from her dysfunctional family or her exploitative manager.  Since the Runaways broke up with a lot of in-fighting– like many bands of their day– Lita Ford and a couple other band members still don’t  talk to Jett and Currie and the movie barely gives them any lines to avoid legal battles.  That’s too bad because Scout Taylor-Compton gives a kick-ass performance as Lita Ford, with the kind of force I wish Kristin Stewart had for her portrayal of Joan Jett.  Overall, a disappointing movie made about fascinating material.  [Saw on DVD through Netflix.]

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (****) [1993] – Somehow I had never seen this sweet story about a young man who feels trapped caring for his dysfunctional family in a small town.  Johnny Depp is touching as the responsible Gilbert and Leonardo DiCaprio gives a super realistic performance as Gilbert’s mentally challenged younger brother.  [Saw on Netflix Instant Viewing.]

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