I’ve been meaning to use this blog to get back into posting reviews regularly, as I used to do for Examiner.com. Predictably, it’s mid-January and I’ve already fallen behind. Here are a few movies that have come out on DVD recently that I’ve had the pleasure to see, and let’s all hope I can write at greater length and depth as the year progresses!
Directed by Rupert Wyatt, starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, and Tom Felton
Admittedly, I was not too anxious to see this when it was in theaters. The effects shown in the trailer looked frankly bad and the proliferation of re-boots and endless sequels/prequels can be a little trying. No one loves a good franchise more than me, but I can only take so many and Planet of the Apes isn’t first on my list. I remained sceptical as the hype and good reviews started to grow. I’m happy to say that for once the movie lived up to its hype. Sure there’s an inherent silliness to the story, and this iteration is no exception. If I think about certain sequences or story-elements too hard…well, I try to avoid that (There can’t possibly be that many apes in the San Francisco area…No! Don’t think about that). Beyond a little over-the-top-ness, however, I highly recommend suspending disbelief and enjoying the emotional thrill ride this movie presents. Most of all, watch it for yet another unbelievable Andy Serkis mo-cap performance. If they ever do establish an award for digital acting, it could only be named for him. He’s a wonder. Also, Tom Felton is at least as nasty here as in Harry Potter but gets his comeuppance in a much more spectacular way.
Directed by Bennett Miller, starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Wright.
I’m not really much of a baseball fan (as my dad can tell you) and I’m definitely not interested in economics (as my mom can tell you) but I thoroughly enjoyed Moneyball. Really, that’s my whole review right there. If you don’t know anything about the story, I won’t spoil it except to say that it is a lovely little meditation on what consitutes success and meaning in our lives. Brad Pitt gives a subtle performance, but the stand-out for me is Jonah Hill. I’ve always liked him, but it’s nice to see him branch out a bit.
The Debt (2010)
Directed by John Madden, starring Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Sam Worthington, and Marton Csokas
Unfortunately for The Debt, I was reminded often of Munich, in my opinion a superior film, and that made an otherwise strong movie a little redundant. The setting, period, mood, and even themes are all so similar it’s hard for me not to compare the two. Both are set in Israel and middle-Europe during the Cold War (’60s and ’70s) and are about undercover Israeli agents exacting revenge/justice on anti-Semitic terrorists (an ex-Nazi doctor in The Debt, and the assassins of the Israeli Olympic wrestling team in Munich). They both even have Ciaran Hinds. More importantly than the superficial similarities, however, are the thematic studies of the nature cowardice and courage, patriotism, and fear. What lengths will people go to for revenge? What is the difference between a cowardly and a heroic act? What are the implications of living in constant fear? Forgive me, but as Munich remains one of the most devastating portaits of paranoia I’ve ever seen, I have to view The Debt in light of it (or, more accurately, in its shadow). The Debt does have several virtues on its side – a strong cast, a kick-butt female lead (played by both rising star Jessica Chastain and that sexiest of all senior citizens, Helen Mirren), a despicable Nazi villain, and a truly unexpected plot twist. Worth a watch: Yes. It just isn’t as hard-hitting as it needed to be.