Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

7:17 pm


I saw RED (Retired,ExtremelyDangerous, not the color) today, with Bruce Willis leading as a retired CIA operative who’s been targeted for assassination.

It’s seriously predictable and way over the top. As long as you can go with that and can suspend belief for a couple of hours, I have to say that it’s really not bad. It’s certainly appears to have been superior to the crop of similar movies (Knight and Day, The Killers, The Expendables…) from this past summer. But still, the less said about the plot, the better. The reason to see it (if see it you do) is for the cast.

I’m not ordinarily a Bruce Willis fan, but I did like him in this. I was less taken with Mary-Louise Parker’s Sarah: she threw herself into the spirit of things a little too easily, but that seems to be a hallmark of movies of this kind. I came out of the movie wishing that they had cast for the role someone closer to Willis’s age.

As for Morgan Freeman, I’d like to see him (and Michael Caine, too, as far as that goes) get out of this sidekick rut he’s in. And I’d like to see John Malkovich play sane every once in a while. Is that too much to ask? I wasn’t way keen on Brian Cox, and I have serious doubts about the plausibility of his character’s involvement in the activities of the film.

The other roles were nicely cast and well played. I enjoyed both Helen Mirren and Karl Urban in this, and generally, it looked as though everyone involved had had a great time making the movie.

As guilty pleasures go, this gets four stars (out of a possible five).

P.S. Anyone else have a "Oh my God, he‘s still alive"? moment when Ernest Borgnine came on screen?

11:03 am

Brideshead Revisited

I made the mistake a couple of months ago of watching the new film version of Brideshead Revisited. It was perfectly dreadful. Now I have to admit that it was very lush and beautifully (and expensively) filmed, and the performances weren’t bad.

But the story! It was as though they were filming not the book, but a Cliff’s Notes version of the book written by someone who hadn’t actually read the book and didn’t understand what it was about. If it hadn’t pretended to be Brideshead Revisited, I probably wouldn’t have hated it as much as I did. I still wouldn’t have liked it: the story didn’t hang together well.

The only good thing to come out of watching that dreadful movie was that it prompted me to go back and read the book, since the movie had left me all confused about what was and wasn’t in the book.

The book was, I found, even better than I had remembered. When I read it the first time, I was in my early 20s, like the protaganists at the start of the book; now I’m older than they are at the end. The first time, I was mainly entranced by the romance and luxury; this time, I noticed more the melancholy and even pain. I hadn’t been sensitive to how very Catholic it was that first time either; I think perhaps I just took Catholicism for granted. (I frequently have trouble even now discerning what others describe as "Catholic" themes, since they just seem so very ordinary to me.)

It’s an amazingly graceful book (and I use "graceful" in both senses of the word).

4:05 pm

Star Trek

So, I saw the new Star Trek, not without some trepidation, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Obligatory disclaimer: there may be spoilers ahead. (I don’t really think so, but at least you can’t say that I didn’t warn you.)

It does make me feel very old to realize that the crew are now all younger (much, much younger) than I am, and I thought the whole time travel bit was overly convoluted. It does make it easier, though, to account for departures from the canon, so in that sense I suppose it makes sense. Trying to keep track of who was when, though, was giving me a headache. And even with the time travel bit thrown in, some things are not satisfactorily explained. Chekov, for instance, isn’t supposed to join the crew until later. (And his accent is too thick to be funny.) Nor is it explained just how, within moments of coming aboard, Scotty is in charge of Engineering?

I’m puzzled by the inclusion of that scene (that features in the trailer) of the young Jim Kirk sending a car over a cliff before announcing to the police officer that “My name is James Tiberius Kirk”. Aside from giving us his full name, which could have been done elsewhere, all it really establishes is that he was a snot-nosed brat who grew up in Iowa (and that, too, we could have gotten later).

On the plus side, the movie has a great look and feel (although, as so often happens with these special effects extravaganzas, they’re overly enamored with lingering lovingly over sets and effects), and the opening ten minutes are very intense, and do a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the movie. The performances are solid: for the most part, I could easily envision these characters growing up to be their past and future counterparts.

I think this will prove a successful reboot, and I’m looking forward to future installments. I’ll be particularly interested in seeing how they handle the Spock/Uhura relationship.

10:29 pm

Jára Cimrman lezící, spící

The Globe Bookstore, an English-language bookstore and café in Prague, recently started a (free) Sunday evening movie series in which they show "classic" Czech movies subtitled in English.

A few weeks ago, they showed Postriziny, which was charming, although much of the humor was seemingly lost in translation. (After the movie, the Czech waitresses were surprised and a little disappointed that the English-speaking customers failed to appreciate how funny it had been.)

This week’s movie was Jára Cimrman lezící, spící, about that great Czech polymath, Jára Cimrman. The movie presents key episodes from his life:

  • His parents brought him up as a girl, so that he could wear his older sister’s hand-me downs.
  • His tampering with Marconi’s telegraph lines prompted him to suggest to Marconi that he try transmitting wirelessly, thereby prompting the invention of the radio. He improved upon Eiffel’s prototype for the Eiffel tower by splaying the supports which Eiffel originally had straight and perpendicular to the ground. He suggested to Chekhov that "Two Sisters" sounded a little skimpy.
  • In his own career as an inventor, he always showed up to the Patent Office just a little late. He presented the telephone just after Alexander Graham Bell had showed up; similarly, Edison got in with the electric light bulb (and various other electrical devices) just before he did. Alfred Nobel was sitting in the Patent Office at the very instant that Cimrman discovered dynamite.
  • His career as a tutor to the children of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand, was cut short when he was caught trying to use the Duke’s double to force the Emperor to grant further recognition to the Czech nation.
  • His career as a school teacher, replacing his recently deceased sister, came to an end when he went off to war, and he was never seen again. Or was he…?

Cimrman is a great hero to the Czechs, and the movie makes it clear why. I just wished I understood Czech better: I’m sure I missed a great deal.

8:45 pm


I saw WALL·E today, and I have to say that I didn’t think that it was all that, though I think it was just a matter of my expectations being too high.

I have two specific thoughts to share, though:

  1. I thought that the choice of Hello Dolly to establish WALL·E’s model for romance was somewhat arbitrary. So I put it to the reader: how would the movie have been different if the tape that WALL·E had found had been Grease? Can we all picture EVE in black leather and with big hair? 🙂
  2. The humans have spent 700 years on a cruise that was supposed to have lasted only five years, and they’ve had no opportunity for planet-fall to restock. So, while we don’t see them eating (only drinking), they’re getting their sustenance from somewhere, but where? There is one inescapable answer: Soylent Green anyone?

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