I’m not going to go into deep commentary, but will touch upon a few movies I’ve seen lately:

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy: 4 stars out of 5. Not as bad as the worst reviews claimed, but nowhere near as good as the books or the bits of the radio plays that I’ve heard before.

The War of the Worlds: 3 stars out of 5. Sorry, but if it were set in a Victorian or Edwardian milieu, this movie would have been wonderful. Set in the present, it was just… anachronistic. Aliens that can travel across intergalactic space, set up force fields, and pilot lighting bolts can’t figure out disease immunity or the dangers of bacteria? I mean, how arrogant! We figured that out by the late 19th century, long before we ever got into space, didn’t we? Other parts of the alien’s tech was also painfully anachronistic, such as the snaking viewscope that hunted characters at one point. Uh, sorry, but if we low-tech sods have wireless internet for free in libraries across North America already, not to mention remote-controlled cockroach scouts that are being developed in the labs (something I read about in an already-dated Jensen book), I’m sure the alien invaders to Earth would have something more advanced than us, especially after planning the invasion oveer a million years or more.

Again, not as good as the infamous Orson Welles radio-play. But if it causes people out there to read the book, as it has given me the urge to do, then I suppose I can thank Spielberg. But something I read recently about Hollywood cannibalizing SF rings more true than ever. Which reminds me of another remake on the way… King Kong. What the hell? Are there no new ideas left in Hollywood?

Hotel Rwanda: 5 stars out of 5. This movie, based on true events in is amazing. Even more amazing is the audio commentary on the bonus tracks, where you hear the story of the main character, Paul Rusesabagina, told by the man himself. This movie simply blew me away.

Lemony Snickets’ A Series of Unforunate Events: 4.5 stars out of 5. Except for a slight bit of tiresomeness in the recurrence of the same bad guy, over and over—a tiresomeness added to by the fact that it’s always Jim Carrey playing the bad guy—I think this movie is brilliant. My folks both complained that it was too dark and weird, not for children. They missed the point that it’s exactly for that reason that kids like it—and kids overwhelming have liked it, as the books are sold out all over the place, even now—because it smacks of the real coldness, the real silencing that children to experience in the world. That aspect of the film’s subversiveness is brilliant and makes up for what is sometimes a so-so plot. I do wish to read the books… perhaps if they are published in a single onibus someday, I shall buy them all in one fell swoop.

Frailty: 3.5 stars out of 5. This movie was just on TV last night, and it caught me enough to get me watching, though I wandered off a few times into the book I was reading. It was a very brutal portrait of the kind of coercion thatI think , in a more subtle way, often underlies religious beliefs as they are passed on to children. A father becomes convinced that he is a holy warrior serving God by “destroying demons”. This awful, Satanic quest—continually garbed in the trappings of a holy war— is concluded finally with the triumph of a demon-killer—in reality a horrible, evil man bent on killing people. Or does it end in the triumph of a good which is so stomach-turning that the sane could only turn their backs on any God that commanded it? It’s a fascinating look at how we see good and evil, and justify evil as good, depending on our motivations, upbringings, and preconceptions, and sometimes even our delusions.

House of Sand and Fog: 5 stars out of 5. Again, DVD commentary was priceless. I am beginning to think I can tell a good movie by the fact that my parents hate it. This is a straight-up tragedy, with no real explicable cause, no preventability, no reasoning. Ben Kingsley often in the commentary refers to it as one would a Greek Tragedy, and one can tell from many of his comments what a brilliant man he is; his performance, and most of the others, are quite stunning.

4 thoughts on “Movies

  1. I saw WotW yesterday with some co-workers, and I think you’re review is spot-on. I really wish it had been set in Victorian times — the tripods actually looked anachronistic juxtaposed with modern cities and military tech. If you’re going to keep your opening and closing monologues, not to mention your major plot device, in the spirit of a book based on woefully out-of-date science, then the rest of the movie needs to be done in such a way that the disparity is minimized. However, when the tripods first emerged and started disintegrating people…that was hella cool. And I’m grateful the aliens didn’t all die of HIV or Ebola something trendy (forgive me) like that. Although the sudden fluid-gushing of the dying tripods was pretty Ebola-like.

    Anyway, while watching WotW, two things kept running through my head. The first was, “Aliens have invaded and are exterminating the human race with special effects recycled from Schindler’s List, and the most dramatic thing Spielberg can think to focus on is sitcom-level family drama?” If he wanted to do something serious and contemporary he should have ditched the divorce plot and focused on the kind of tension between we saw in the aspiring resistance-leader’s basement. “When the world is invaded, people will go fucking nuts, like so.” That’s a story.

    The second thing I kept thinking was, “What, they couldn’t get Will Smith? Shouldn’t he be starring in this movie?”

  2. And I kept thinking about how, gee, why would aliens traveling so goddamned far, come only to wipe us out? The original story was based in an ignorance about ecology which is highly characteristic of us, but which I think would be unlikely in a spacefaring species, unless they’d been spacefaring a long time (by which point one would assume they know better than to invade without biohazard suits).

    It was, as I commented to my father, far more like the aliens would arrive and observe, and be horrified at how we’re performing all these exterminations against life on our planet—life that seems, after all, somewhat rare in the universe, or at least in our corner of the galaxy—and they’d eliminate those of us they held responsible… which would be, oh, most of us living in the developed world, and a good hunk of the developing world, too.

  3. Oh, and yeah… the divorce plot did nothing for me, though at least the new husband was still in the picture at the end. If he’d died on the way, leaving room for Tom Cruise to come back into the fold, I’d have thrown up.

  4. You gave WOTW the same review as I did…3 outta 5…I too prefer the radio play and the was strange to set the plot in modern day…it did make the premise of being unaware of germs a little rediculous…however the fact that there was little character development made the movie easier to take…House of Sand and Fog and Hotel Rawanda were both brilliant…u have good taste in flicks! Cheers!

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