Sunday, January 03, 2010

Holiday Movie Cavalcade

I didn't do much over the holidays (alas) but I did see movies. More movies than in all of the rest of 2009. It was all mainstream fair, but enjoyable nonetheless. Read on: no spoilers.

Sherlock Holmes

Holmes and Watson as action heroes. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law star. Early on, Holmes (Downey) does some bare-knuckle fisticuffs which were sufficiently violent that Spousal Partner decided she'd had enough. By the way, Rachel McAdams (as Holmes' love interest Irene Adler) is freaking gorgeous.

Needless to say, this was "based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," and not part of the Holmes canon. Purists may turn up their noses but it was rousing good fun.

Avatar (3D)

I wasn't initially planning to see this (it registered a bit high on the hype-o-meter) but Youngest Son saw it with friends and said he'd see it again with me.  I find that I tend to enjoy movies a lot more if I've previously lowered expectations.What I'd read was it was visually stunning but a so-so story. Thus prepared, we went forth.

Due to timing, we ended up seeing this at a former AMC theater in southwest Ft. Worth turned Starplex. To lower operating cost they appeared to have cut their cleaning crew. It was a rat-hole -- trashy as hell.

If you're going to see Avatar, by all means, see it in 3D. Bonus: you'll get previews of all the other upcoming 3D movies in the pipeline (of which there are several). That being said, 3D glasses are a bitch if you already wear glasses, especially if they are bi-focals.

Okay -- story was slightly predictable (you pretty much know most of the major plot points way before they happen), but that's okay. To the accusations that this is a tree-hugger film I say "so what?" Like that's a bad thing? The villains are stereotypically villainous, but this is not Chekov -- it's a popcorn feast.

You'll want to see this in a theater: the scale is vast. Visually this is a stunner -- even more than I'd been led to believe. And let me say it again: see it in 3D if you can. The 3D effect serves the film well and is arguably more than a gimmick.

Hit the bathroom before you go and lay off the soda, it's long, too -- just under 3 hours.

It's Complicated

Not exactly a romantic comedy but it will have you laughing throughout. A great cast, including Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and in a deft supporting role, John Krasinski from The Office, all have well-honed comic chops.

Meryl Streep plays the conflicted ex-wife of Baldwin with an effortless grace. John Krasinski is spot-on as the fiance of the couple's daughter just trying to keep things on an even keel. Steve Martin, in (for the most part) a reserved performance, is a divorced architect and Streep's would-be suitor.

As a slightly over-weight middle-aged guy, I say God bless Alec Baldwin for daring to make paunchy into the new sexy. Despite all the other talent, Baldwin owns this movie. His character is a slightly smarter, more sentimental Jack Donaghy (from 30 Rock). One take-away for me: leaving your wife for a younger woman isn't necessarily the best idea.

As a side note, this was set in Santa Barbara, where I used to live. No wonder those shots of the cliffs overlooking the ocean looked so familiar.

Up In The Air

A few years back, I spent a lot of time flying for my job, so much in fact that I managed to hit Gold status on the American Advantage program. Now to true air warriors, Gold status is nothing. My sister hits Executive Platinum year in and year out. After a certain point, the miles are about keeping score, not getting free tickets.

And so it is with George Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, in Up In The Air. For him, life on the road (with hotel upgrades, expense accounts and world class cities) is much preferable to his humble digs in Omaha freaking Nebraska. He's managed to pack his life as compactly as possible. Clooney's job is to jet around and, as he puts it, "fire people for managers too chicken-shit to do it themselves." More than just a hatchet man, he counsels his victims on making a fresh start in surprisingly upbeat yet realistic terms.

Enter some things to disrupt this well-ordered life: a chance relationship with a jet-setting business woman, Vera Farmiga ("think of me as you with a vagina,"), and a young, ambitious, and slightly naive Anna Kendrick, who proposes to the home office a way to do the blood-letting online and cut travel budgets. Jason Reitman, who also directed Juno, has crafted another slightly off-beat movie that ends...well, you don't exactly see it coming, but it makes sense.

Despite the far-flung destinations, the film was shot largely in St Louis, with Lambert Field standing in for multiple airports (when it comes right down to it, they all start looking alike).

One more personal note: my first job had me living in downtown St Louis, at the Mansion House apartments. Imagine my surprise when they show George heading back to his apartment -- at the Mansion House. Even more surprise when his apartment is shown to be a dreary studio efficiency identical to my old digs!


The Whited Sepulchre said...

Here's my take on the Sherlock Holmes movie:

It opens with a scene pulled from any random Indiana Jones movie, where a beautiful woman is about to be ritually sacrificed in some kind of occult ceremony.

That is followed by a scene from any Hannibal Lector movie, where the bad guy is all alone in his cell, and is wreaking havoc on the other inmates just through the sheer force of his brilliant awesomeness.

Which is followed by all sorts of "mismatched cops" nonsense, the type you can see in the Mel Gibson "Lethal Weapon" franchise. (This isn't quite fair, since Holmes and Watson were the original mismatched cops....)

Then we cut to a scene where the ultra-villain is assembling all the bad guys, and there's one bad guy who wants no part of it any longer, and the ultra-villain does away with him, by making his pistol explode when fired. (See DeNiro in The Untouchables, with a baseball bat. Or Heath Ledger in the latest Batman, with a pencil. Or Dr. Evil, in one of the Austin Powers movies, with an airliner seat.)

Then Holmes explains how he figured out what the ultra-villain was up to: "By tasting the chemical compound "Doesntexistium" on the bannister, I deduced that you had created a potion that would make you only appear to be dead. And by sniffing the aroma of the "Nothinglikeitbefore-aphyll" in the study, I determined that you had invented a potion that would bring about instant paralysis, and coated the bathtub with it.
It was like an episode of CSI-Hogwarts.

Don't even get me started on the Keyser Soze ending, ripped from The Usual Suspects, where nothing before the last scene can be taken at face value, because, you see, the evil Professor Moriarty had been behind the scenes all along, manipulating everyone ! ! !

Or at least I think he was. I was totally bewildered by then.

I did like the sets and CGI London scenes. Acting was good. The fights were fun. But I have a fifth grade niece who turns out better plots.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Sherlock Holmes was pretty good. A popcorner.

And what do you mean Alec Baldwin "TURNING paunchy into the new sexy"? Paunchy IS sexy. We're waiting for somebody to turn buff back into sexy. So far, nobody's done it. Since people tell me every so often that I look like Alec Baldwin or a GE Executive, I'm all about the paunch-sex-bomb. I just fear that they may subconsciously displace his politics onto me thereby reducing my sexiness.