Saturday, October 10, 2009

Catching Up - September Edition

Every time I walk out of a theater, I fully intend to go home, hop on the computer and write a witty, pithy review for your reading enjoyment. Unfortunately, my inner slacker takes control by the time I get home and I end up being distracted by something shiny or feel the need to do something low-effort, like inspecting the inside of my eyelids. So, with all the guilt a slacker can
muster, I present September's catch-up post - on October 10.

500 Days of Summer

The narrator says at the beginning that it's not a love story, it's a story about love. Fine, I'm a guy, so save the subtlety. 500 Days is a good light comedy about a romance. It's not too heavy, has great writing and some really impressive visuals.   Consider it Zooey Deschanel's redemption for The Happening.


All About Steve

I've gushed about Sandra Bullock before and I'm not about to stop now. She's pitch-perfect as a 30ish free spirit who develops an obsession over a journalist and begins following him around the country. It's played for laughs but disturbing on several levels. Steve is generally funny but drags in a few places. The ultimate event will come as no surprise as it was shown ad nauseum in the previews, although the resolution is kind of unexpected. All in all, All About Steve is a decent but not great comedy.


The Time Traveler's Wife

I seem to be in a viewing category all my own: a straight guy who likes chick flicks. The Time Traveler's Wife is definitely a chick flick but a high caliber one, if for no other reason than Rachel McAdams. Rachel is a very natural actor - her presence on-screen tends to make every scene gel. And The Time Traveler's Wife needs a little help gelling. Sci-fi people will giggle at the premise - a guy with a gene for time travel? - and the story bounces around a bit, but in the end, I enjoyed it.


Julie and Julia

I knew about Julie Powell's attempt to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking years ago - both Powell and Julie and Julia's director Nora Ephron made appearances on Lynne Rosetto Kasper's The Splendid Table, so as a foodie, I'd already bought into the concept. Julie and Julia was executed brilliantly, with Meryl Streep channeling Child and Amy Adams being her adorable self with a side of neurosis. The story is told in parallel style, with Julia in the 50s and Julie in 2002.  I liked it a lot and went back a second time.

Julie and Julia is a decent food movie but it isn't the best food movie ever - that title still belongs to Big Night, a 1996 indy film.  J & J co-star Stanley Tucci was also in Big Night, which featured mouth-watering scenes of cooking and eating that are miles beyond what any other film has done.

In a side note to my telcom readers, Julie and Julia did a wonderful thing with phone numbers. You know how movies and TV shows use numbers like 555-0197 so they won't get blamed for viewers calling real numbers? Do you hate it as much as I do?  Well, Julie and Julia used invalid NPA-NXXs several times. It worked very smoothly - non-telcom people would think they were real numbers.  Kudos to Ephron and company for incorporating a subtle touch that keeps the viewer in the movie rather than using the fingernails-on-chalkboard 555 trick.


The Informant!

Promotion for The Informant! was everywhere so you're probably aware of the movie, with Matt Damon as a buffoonish middle-manager turned whistleblower. The story is told pretty much as you'd expect, except that the story isn't what you think it is. I won't spoil anything here but I will recommend The Informant! for some good character-driven laughs.



What would happen if you could live your life sitting in a chair while you received all the sensory input from a robot that does whatever you want? In Surrogates, everyone gets an attractive robot and lives out fantasy after fantasy. With no actual human contact, there is no crime. One day, a bad guy finds a way to kill people through a feedback loop linked to the robot's person.  Now we've got a story!

At a brisk 83 minutes, Surrogates never drags and the story is fairly involving, although I could quibble on a few points. I can always quibble on a few points, so that's not a criticism. Some of the characters' motivations may leave you scratching your head on occasion but overall, a good ride.

I have a fundamental quibble with Surrogates, however. The film makes a point of saying that there hasn't been a murder in the United States in 15 years, but what about white collar crime? Humans may hide behind robots but human nature isn't going to change any time soon. Only the scale of crime has changed since the time of Hammurabi.  Where once you could only steal what you could carry, today you can plunder a country with a computer terminal. Exploring that is a movie I'd like to see.


Love Happens

Talk about shooting your movie in the foot. Is that possible? When I read the title Love Happens, I thought about Love Actually.  When I saw the poster for Love Happens, I was reminded of Love Actually. I went in thinking the two movies would be similar. They aren't. Love Happens' original title was Brand New Day and that isn't much better.

Love Happens is a character study with a touch of romance. The versatile Aaron Eckhart plays a self-help writer who runs workshops to help people deal with grief, while he has not - wait for it - gotten over the death of his wife. Jennifer Aniston plays the flower shop owner who catches his eye. The guys stands in his own shadow for a while then makes the requisite breakthrough. It's somewhat amusing but not quite a must see.

Interesting product placement for telcom people. Love Happens is set in Seattle, rain and all, and one scene required a telephone truck. Guess who the RBOC in Washington is? Qwest. Later, one of the characters drives past the Seahawks' football stadium. Who paid to put their name on the stadium? Qwest. As I'm employed by one of the anti-Qwests, it was a little weird.



I love a good sci-fi story, whether on screen or in print, and Pandorum is only about 30% good. Set on a deep space mission, two crew members on a space ark wake up from artificial hibernation and find no one else around. They later run into mutants and what's left of the crew. It starts strong but when the survivors begin to figure out what happened, it turns blah.

The film-makers need a lesson in spaceship design. The ship is big and boxy but with sweeping, curving arms. Anyone who has read ANY sci-fi knows that space stations and ships have circular areas - wheels - that allow centrifugal force to imitate gravity as the wheel spins. The ship in Pandorum has artificial gravity so no need for the circular design, yet it has partial circles for some reason. Try again, please.


No comments:

Post a Comment