As per comments that my reviews of things run long when I clump videos and movies along with TV and music, I’m going to only do movies and TV here. I’ve got another post on books in the works. These will be quick-capsule reviews, for the most part.
- Martian ChildSaw this in Seoul with Lime. She found it a little too “normal,” as in, the supporting characters were just a little too predictable for her tastes. I haven’t read the original story, though I have read other things by David Gerrold, but I found the movie entertaining in how it explores the way metaphors can take shape and meaning in our lives. Too bad the character had to be writing such crappy SF. Swords? Space? Why couldn’t it be a little less retarded than that?
- Samgeori GeukjangThis movie was, for the most part, great! Okay, in the odd bit I wished it took itself just a tiny bit more seriously — and there’s a fifteen-minute chunk at about 1’30” where to me, the movie fell apart briefly, where something happens that violates all the rules of the film as I took for granted, and is seemingly justified on the grounds that it’s all fantasy, after all — but all in all, it was still extremely entertaining, and the best musical I’ve seen in Korean film.
- Running with ScissorsWhat a strange story — and it’s autobiographical. This film was bizarre but wonderful, not for the weirdness, though I like weirdness for its own sake, but for the sake of the way the characters in it stay as sane as they can despite the weirdness thrown at them from without and from within.
- Charlie Wilson’s War
I’m surprised when people claim this film stays away from criticism. (It’s been claimed online, anyway.) This film is a screaming, shouting, dire warning about how everyone is eager to get the hell out of Iraq as soon as possible.
I should say something about the film, and I’ll say it’s quite competent, the characters amuse, especially the one played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I think is probably one of the best actors we have today. The film also hammers home the fact that America’s current puritanism in terms of the sexual life of its elected officials is silly, as there can be a huge disconnect between one’s messy private life and one’s more effective, focused, and professional public life. (And, in fact, all the scandals we see suggest this: after all, you rarely hear people claim that a politician slept with his secretary and it caused him to mess up the state’s budget, or vote badly; rather, his having slept with his secretary is enough for a scandal. Even if everyone involved is okay with it.)
But yes, this film is waving its arms and screaming a political message — it’s not one about the past, though. It’s about right now, and anyone who misses it isn’t paying enough attention. It’s saying, “If America pulls out of Iraq right now, bad things will result.
But it also entertains. Though it’s nobody’s best work, I found it worth my while.
- JunoOverrated. I don’t get why so many people are praising it. The dialog was utterly contrived all the way through, the characterization was weak, and the best I can say about the performances is that the actors did the best they could with the material.
As with #6 in this list, it’s not so much the politics of women (or high school girls) choosing the keep their unplanned pregnancies — after all, pro-choice implies they can choose to keep such offspring, or carry it to term, or whatever — as the fact this and Knocked Up suggest to me a trend of films about females whose lives are positively transformed by pregnancy.
Which in itself shouldn’t disturb us… after all, many women and even some teenagers who have babies without planning it report their lives changed by the experience. Some young women credit their own growth to adulthood, to sensible, responsible people, to their teenaged pregnancies that they kept. And honestly, human beings were designed to mate and have offspring. Women being stuck with the harder part suggests there’s also probably all kinds of psychological incentive built in to take care of children — that parents, but especially mothers — should be programmed to change once they have offspring makes total evolutionary sense.
But on the other hand, what’s odd is to see women — Juno, the woman who gets Juno’s child, and the female lead in Knocked Up — whose reactions to parenthood are so comparable. They’re suddenly as good as they can be to the (unborn and later born) offspring as they can be. There doesn’t seem to be so much struggle. An instructive point of comparison is the mom in Martian Child, the sister to the David Gordon character, who issues enough warnings to signal that motherhood isn’t easy, isn’t simple, and at least for some women, just doesn’t click into place. (Probably for very few parents of either sex is it that easy.)
And this is the troubling part: the fact that motherhood-as-transformation is a myth that, in these films, doesn’t even require much more than a bulging abdomen.
All that said, Juno sucks much less than Knocked Up, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.
- Knocked Up It never ceases to amaze me what crap people fall in love with. Knocked Up has generated so much ink and so many pixels of praise, condemnation, and discussion that Bill Hicks’ comment about Basic Instinct comes to mind. You know, where he reminds people that Basic Instinct is a turd of a movie, and any more ratiocination about it is simply a waste of thought?
Forget the plausibility of the coupling in the film — it is plausible enough, by the way, in lots of parts of the world for a woman that attractive to end up with a guy that unattractive — and forget the ethics, the gender roles, the politics, all of that. You’re way ahead of yourself.
Knocked Up is a film that fails as a drama, fails as a comedy (as the jokes actually have to be funny, while most of the dialog in this film is so far beyond retarded as to warrant deletion), fails as any kind of statement about anything. It’s trash. Let’s just move on.
And fix our education system, hopefully. Because if this is the signal comedy of the kids who are in their 20s now, the nulls’ version of The Graduate, then we’re screwed. That’s right: I think this film’s popularity signals an even further drop in the net intelligence of Western civilization.
- Cloverfield Someone asked for my reaction to this film and I said it was basically “Blair Witch Project Daikaiju.” And that’s true, but I got a great kick out of it just the same. It’s by Bad Robot, the same people who (I think it was) Dead Like Me, one of the best TV shows so far of the nulls. There was a lot of ambition in this film, and at least, instead of some silly explanation pulled out someone’s backside, they chose to leave things a semi-mystery. I had fun, and that was the point. So, well done!
- Wyatt Earp Cowboy films aren’t usually my thing. This was okay for a naptime in my hotel room while traveling, but I gave up on it because sleep was more attractive at that time.
- Cocaine CowboysI learned a lot about the connections between underground or criminal industries and the generation of across-the-board legitimate industry that can arise from it. But much of this exposé bored me a little, especially the interviews with the sleazy ex-traffickers.
- Transporter 2
Um, well, it was good enough that I left it on while packing my bags late one night. But, like, I wouldn’t pay money to see it.
- The Ice Harvest
This was good, dark, nasty fun. I especially have a new respect for John Cusak.
- Let’s Go to Prison
Insanely funny, a little predictable but with some killer twists as well, and it made me laugh out loud — the only film during my trip that (intentionally) did so. This one I would recommend to anyone.
- The Golden Compass
I can’t remember whether I posted about this before, but I found this alright. There were weaknesses, but they were the kind I’m willing to overlook in general for good, adventurous fun. I’m very amused that some Catholic groups have come out against it. Maybe there’s something in the books about churches, but the film is devoid of such comments.
In fact, it’s only if you interpret the movie in a way very unflattering to the Church that an analogy can be drawn. That is, the Magisterium is a totalitarian, power-grubbing, soul-stealing, and nasty organization that silences researchers and scientists, and presents itself in the most positive light possible while trying to control the world. One is inclined to wonder about those Catholics who look at the Magisterium and see the Catholic Church in it… I mean, when your neighbour complains about how you put him in your book, and a day or two later you realize he means the character next door who beats up his wife and children, what can you say but, “Hey, dude, you said it, not me!”
The more charitable interpretation is that maybe there’s something more anti-religious in the books, or that Pullman’s unapologetic atheism (in the past — he seems to have toned it down lately) is drawing snipes and criticism. I haven’t read the books, so I don’t know.
- Rome, Season 2
Not blowing me away. I haven’t finished it yet.
- The Sopranos, Season 3
Blew me away. I finished it very quickly, like, in the space of a few days.
- Lost, Season 3
People who complain about Lost have what is to me an inexplicable lack of patience. It’s a great show, better than Season 2, and Lime and I are watching Season 4 as the episodes come out. Good, clean, weird, specfictional fun.
- Heroes, Season1 This might be rude, but the reason Heroes was so popular was that the dummies lost interest in Lost around that time. Heroes is not groundbreaking if you know anything about superheroes, it’s all been done before, but then, the guy writing the series probably doesn’t know that, as I’ve been told he prides himself on his own ignorance of the genre. I watched it, I may follow the second season, even, but I was not impressed with the beginning. The nicest thing I could say is that it got a little better as it went along. But the fact it took me months on end to finish Season 1 says something. I will admit the last few episodes were a compulsive watch, though.