J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Archive for July, 2009

Vantage Point

Posted by J on July 26, 2009

Vantage Point is a wannabe clever movie with lots of B-list actors, all of vantage-pointwhom probably looked at the script and thought it was “thought-provoking.”  That’s because the movie tells its story by presenting six or seven different perspectives of the same 20-minute event, which is the President’s assassination in Spain.  Any halfway knowledgable moviegoer is going to look at this movie and say within five minutes “That’s just like Rashomon.”  Whereas Rashomon was a cinematic examination of the problem of truth as presented through different perspectives, Vantage Point is really just a cheap action thriller that tells its story through multiple perspectives for the sake of a gimmick.

That’s not to say that you won’t get something out of the movie.  Even the most mindnumbingly stupid cultural production tells us something.  In this case, the movie gives us a rather wimpy Hollywoodish stance on the “War on Terror.”  The President, for example, is conveniently assassinated in Spain, which makes it impossible to tell if the assassins are Spanish, North African, or Arab.    Working with the assassins is a turncoat Secret Service agent, whose one and only ideological line, uttered while dying, is, “This war will never end.”  Does that mean that those who disagree with a global war on an abstraction are turncoat traitors?

Ah, but of course not, for this is a Hollywood production, which aims to please all of the people all of the time.  While our white American traitor thinks the war will never end, the President is busy telling his aides that he will not — CANNOT! he says — retaliate against a possible terrorist base somewhere way far away.   The President’s aides, of course, are warhawks who desire to blow up anybody who isn’t them.  But the President is more magnanimous in uttering the campy line, “We don’t have to act brave, we have to BE brave.”  Here we have the movie’s ideology, a muddy middle ground wherein everyone is stuck between loving the power to wage war and talking like they don’t want to wage war.

Meanwhile, lots of needless chases with pointless characters occur.  The redeeming quality of this movie — like so many action thrillers — is that it can be readily mocked in company that is willing to mock dumb movies.  Apparently the writers of this movie think that everyone watching is like Alice’s White Queen, who believed six impossible things before breakfast.  More realistically, this movie will try to make you believe a thousand impossible things after dinner, which can be fun if you want a totally mindless sort of evening.

Entertainment: 6

Intelligence: 0

Morality: —

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Posted in Silly but Entertaining, Spy Thriller | Leave a Comment »

Harry Potter and the SomethingorOther

Posted by J on July 24, 2009

As we left Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a ten-year old boy 2008-11-14-harry_pottercomplained to his parents that “this movie had no character development!”

We’d say the lad is a budding movie critic.  Indeed, son, there is no character development, but in fact what Harry Potter movie has had one second of character development?  Sure, in this particular movie there’s a lot of teenage oogling and crying in many insufferable scenes about adolescent love. And the whole Potter series is roughly about growing up.  But that’s about it.

Harry is still Harry, which means he must get into trouble, do some magic, combat evil.  All in a day’s work for an archetype.

If there is a plot to this movie, someone should carefully diagram it out for us.  We mean, either there was a plot, a very intricate, unintelligible one (to laymen), or there was no plot at all.  We weren’t sure.  This Potter movie, like many of the others, seems like it simply treads water, waiting for the big finale in the last movie — the climactic tidal wave –to crash down on our heads.  There was something about Horcruxes and Death Eaters and lots of characters we vaguely remembered, but all of that starts to run together for those of us who don’t see the point of all this Potter mythology.

We have been waiting for Harry to combat ultimate evil for, oh, six movies.  Eventually the forces of Good will face the forces of evil, but these movies have taken approximately fifteen hours to get to that point.  As they say in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Get on with it!”

Entertainment: 7

Intelligence:0

Morality: 3 (hard to believe this is a PG movie)

Posted in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Silly but Entertaining | Leave a Comment »

Knowing

Posted by J on July 18, 2009

knowing_ver3Knowing is yet another Hollywood commercial product that dumbs down the philosophical material it contains and turns it into hogwash.  Ten minutes into the movie, you know you’ve seen this all before — creepy kids who hear whispers, mysterious numbers that seem to predict the future, and philosophical lectures by the stereotypical scientist as main character.

The movie features Nicolas Cage as an astrophysicist at MIT (yeah, right!) who specializes in solar radiation.  This astrophysicist gives us a lengthy lecture early in the movie about the sun’s power and randomness vs. determinism, a lecture that experienced moviegoers will understand is a giveaway to the ending of the movie.  Of course this astrophysicist believes in randomness, even though his dad is a pastor and he has recently lost his wife.  Does he not know he is in a Hollywood movie, wherein he will be required to find the vaguest of faiths in some higher power?  Here, he finds faith in “heaven,” ultimately realizing that once we die, we’ll all just be okay.  It doesn’t get any deeper than that, dear reader, but did you expect it to?

Undoubtedly the starry-eyed Christian movie reviewers elsewhere will praise this movie for its “Christian elements.”  After all, the movie favors a predestined plan implemented by a higher power, it calls its characters to “faith” in something, and it features the Bible for a few minutes.  Of course “Christian elements” can be found anything if we look hard enough.  The Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Analects of Confucius — plenty of “Christian elements” here.  There’s even potential glory in any sewer, right?

SPOILER ALERTKnowing follows the “theory” of Intelligent Design to one of its logical conclusions by claiming that angel aliens — who are creepy white men until the end of the movie — have planned our futures for us.  Ultimately two children get raptured to another planet, to start all over as a sort of Adam and Eve.  These two children are “chosen,” while at the same time everyone and everything on Earth has to die, even though the angel aliens have the technology and ability to transport everyone off the Earth to safety.  Not the nicest of guys, these angel aliens.

And why are movies like this always so bleak about the end of the Earth?  Knowing takes global warming to the extreme, as the Earth in consumed in a wave of solar radiation so powerful that it scorches everything. Just before this heat wave of destruction, our faithless astrophysicist learns to accept death and the words of his pastor father, who consoles us with the view that everything’s going to be alright after death.

Meanwhile, the two kids are raptured into the heavens just like Richard Dreyfuss was at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Apparently we all just want to escape this hideous planet, which we are destroying at an alarming rate, and even if we aren’t destroying it all that fast something else will destroy it for us.  For once, we’d like to see a movie where the Earth is renewed.  (Oh wait, that was Wall-E‘s point.)

Actually we liked the last five minutes of this movie, as the director (Alex Proyas) overcame the movie’s lame script with good visuals and the Adam-and-Eve surprise.  Prior to that, the characters go into the dark woods just because this movie is supposed to scare us, and when they aren’t going into the dark woods they of course live in a secluded house in the dark woods.

Someday someone will make Out of the Silent Planet and far surpass these regurgitated sci-fi flicks.  Granted, C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy will be dumbed down to the point of stupidity, too, but they can’t screw it up completely.

Entertainment: 6

Intelligence: 2

Morality: 5

Posted in Okay, But We Won't Watch It Again, Sci-Fi and Fantasy | Leave a Comment »