I don't know about all the nay-sayers (nor do I care) - I thought Valkyrie was really good, and that includes Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg. He plays well as a man sure of himself and of his convictions. The rest of the cast was great too - Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hollander, Thomas Kretschmann, Christian Berkel, and Jamie Parker - and I learned a thing or two about the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944. I knew about that, and that it failed, but I didn't know that these officers had been trying for a couple of years to assassinate Hitler, and that he kept eluding them because he kept changing his plans and schedules. I also didn't know anything about the "Valkyrie" part of their conspiracy - how they were planning to overthrow the government after Hitler's death. Good stuff, well played.
Oh yeah, and Firstshowing.net has an interview with screenwriter/producer Christopher McQuarrie that is well worth a read for lots of background and historical info.
I drove up to San Francisco to see Milk with my nifty friend Sarah Dopp. I figured the right thing to do was to see it at the Castro Theatre, right where the story unfolded in the Seventies. It was something else to sit in the theatre and see the surrounding neighborhood on film.
The theatre was pretty full, and instead of advertising, we got photos of local gay and political life back in the Sixties and Seventies, including pictures of Harvey Milk and Dan White and George Moscone.
As far as the movie goes, I am nowhere near as eloquent as Rogert Ebert, so I'll let him tell you why it gets four stars.
PS: And I'm nowhere near as eloquent as Dervala. She says exactly what I felt:
The film opened with real footage of men being pulled out of New York bars and loaded into police wagons. They were homosexuals, and therefore criminals and psychiatric cases, and they covered their own faces as if they agreed with those assessments. That was the detail that shoved me into tears that lasted throughout the film: these men—fruits, faggots, queers—were already imprisoned by shame.
Please read her whole entry.
I saw The Day The Earth Stood Still because I like Keanu Reeves, despite all of your complaints about him. Hey, and Jennifer Connelly, and that guy from Mad Men, all stubbly-shaven. What, even Kathy Bates and - John Cleese!?!?! I had planned to brush up on the original film, which I may or may not have seen. TiVoed it when it was on, but then I didn't feel like it. So there. I liked the remake well enough, except for the ending. Silly aliens, falling for us being all cute and well-intentioned occasionally! I'll predict this won't end well.
With bunches of new films opening on Christmas Day, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was one of several on my list, and the top pick for my friend Jason, whom I hadn't seen in way too long - we bumped into each other serendipitously at Whole Foods late at night.
I liked that film. Yeah, it didn't really make any sense - what did he mean, he was born under, what did he call it, "unfortunate circumstances"? But the effects and/or makeup were good, Cate Blanchett was mostly lovely, although I didn't care for her old-woman makeup or her accent. And it was just a great fantastical story. I enjoyed it.
I still have more blogging backlog to process - today I'll discard the rest of the movie and book bloggery, so that I can finish the year with my lists intact and complete. Folllowing are several more of the films I've seen since my last long-ago entry.
- Elegy was lovely. I really got drawn in by the performances of Ben Kingsley and Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson and especially Penelope Cruz. The ending felt a little flat and inconclusive for me, but the journey to get there was great.
- I had high hopes for Bottle Shock - a film set in California wine country, about the famous blind tasting comparing French and California wines, starring Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman - that had to be good, right? Unfortunately, it just felt discombobulated, the different story lines just didn't mesh for me, and the love story seemed completely gratuitous. And what really bugged me was that I couldn't tell how much of the story was true. Did the Chardonnay really turn color after bottling?
- Religulous, Bill Maher's questioning of religions, was entertaining and snarky, as I expected. I agree with him that religion causes more pain and trouble than it does good, but his conclusion seems to be that it must be done away with. I don't think it's so easy. Why is religion so popular? What is it that makes most of us want to believe? Don't knock this question - even if you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist, you believe in SOME greater purpose, some good larger than yourself, don't you?
- Changeling was fantastic. I don't usually care for Angelina Jolie's acting, but she was great in this. The cinematography was spectacular, the story was gripping, and I am definitely a fan of Clint Eastwood the director. (I'm a late bloomer - I don't think I really took notice of him directing until 1992's "Unforgiven", his 19th film and 21st year as a director.)
- W. was - odd. Very interesting take on Bush jr's life. You could like this film whether you support or despise his politics. It just depicted events in his life without passing much judgment on them, you could draw your own conclusions. I kind of admire it for that balancing act, but it felt a bit bland.
- Quantum of Solace was not bad. I like Craig as the new Bond, but I kept comparing it to Casino Royale, and didn't like it quite as much - it felt less surprising, and too much of a sequel, Bond still in pursuit of the villains who killed his girl.
I'm never gonna get around to blog in depth about the movies I've seen in the last few months, am I? So let's just list them, just for the sake of list-making, and see if I have anything to say about them.
- There was that Bette Davis movie at the Stanford Theatre, "It's Love I'm After". A silly screwball comedy from 1937, starring Ms. Davis, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Havilland.
- Sex and the City: The Movie. Meh.
- WALL-E. That was adorable. I really enjoyed it. Great story, great geekery, great visuals.
- Get Smart. I'd expected a bit more after really liking the trailer. Okay, but not great.
- The Dark Knight. Holy moly, what a ride! I didn't even notice the plot holes until a month later.
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I immediately disliked the voiceover. Much too cerebral for my taste. To be expected from Woody Allen, I guess. I didn't like the Vicky character and her dialogue for the same reason. Didn't believe for a second that a fiery woman like Maria Elena would put up with sharing her man with another woman. But I did like the performances, particularly Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Although of course I am hopelessly biased in Bardem's case - I could just stare at him for twelve hours, no matter what he does.
- Tropic Thunder. Cracked. Me. UP!!!! I loved all those references to other war movies. How come nobody says anything about Apocalypse Now? C'mon, the whole opening is brialliantly stolen! And the entire Rain of Madness is such an obvious Heart of Darkness spoof. Lovingly spoofed, by the way, I really liked that. And Stiller, Black, and Downey were having a fabulous time being completely over the top. Good times. Good times.
Oh wow. Wuddaya know. All caught up on movies. Here's the pretty pictures, all linking back to their imdb entries.
This is the second time I've gone to see a blockbuster on its opening weekend - first Iron Man and now Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I didn't read any reviews until after I'd seen it, because I wanted to go in clean and free of other people's opinions. After coming home, I checked out Roger Ebert's review and his blog entry about Indy. My taste follows his pretty closely, but of course he can articulate his likes and dislikes and the reasons for those much better than I ever could. His blog entry is titled "I admit: I loved it 'Indy'!", and his review is summed up thus:
I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you.
...or Jiu-Jitsu or something. I am confused after seeing Redbelt. Was this supposed to be The Spanish Prisoner meets Fight Club? And one review said this was Mamet at his best? I wanted to see this because Mamet usually does dialogue-heavy cerebral, stage-like dramas, and just about did a double-take when I heard about him doing a film involving martial arts. This got several good reviews, but I'm sorry, I didn't buy it. I liked the martial-arts part, and I really liked Chiwetel Ejiofor - I think he's a fine fine actor. The plot, on the other hand, made no frigging sense to me whatsoever. What is it with movies threading events in a line that won't hold up on the slightest tug? I've got to say, it dampened my enjoyment of the film. I believe Mamet is a smart guy. Does he think I'm stupid?
Plot holes to drive the proverbial truck through: was this all supposed to be a set-up? Was the actor - Tim Allen nicely cast as a not-so-nice guy - supposed to be in one some conspiracy? How? Why? One guy "won't bring dishonor to the academy", but it's not dishonorable for him to kill himself? That bit I found REALLY hard to believe. A couple of things were never explained (how did that shell case turn up again?), and some important things were brushed off in in a subclause! Who set him up? "So-and-so sold you out." Why? And how?
Still, I didn't hate it, and I thank Chiwetel Ejiofor for his performance. If you like him, you'll probably like this movie. Oh, and you might also enjoy an interview with him at the AV Club.
Did you think that Robert Downey jr. would make such a fine superhero? I probably would not have thought of casting him, but I bought it from the first morsel of trailer I saw a few months ago, and could hardly wait for the film to open. I happily suspended my disbelief and thoroughly enjoyed Iron Man. That was a great ride. I mean, GREAT ride.
Saw La misma luna (Under the same Moon), a sweet film about a Mexican woman who lives in L.A. as an illegal immigrant, and her son in Mexico, who decides he can't wait any longer to join his mom, and makes his way across the border to find her. Los Tigres del Norte add music. The movie is a bit cutesy, but in a nice way. Like I said, sweet.