Sunday, January 06, 2013

Movie Review (2012)

I imagine hearing a great sigh of relief as I announce to trumpets that I will not, today at least, be writing the political update for January 2013. Not that I don't want to at all, and not because there is nothing to say and not even because I realized my political posts "suck" (quoting a renowned hot-tempered blog critic) but, because I do realize, now that the campaign is over and attention is at least temporarily moving on from the so-called fiscal cliff, that I have nothing new and/or original I want to say about the state of things. Everything I want to say, I've read elsewhere. But, because I cannot help myself, I will give one long, ungrammatical and possibly nonsensical sentence in which I will tell you what I think about the most recent state of affairs and leave it at that:

Long deep breath in aaaaaand go! -  The Democrats continue to win every federal battle since 2010 on every  front, including just adding some 4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years (CBO) and if the Republicans, who could not defeat a weak and almost defeated president, want to rise again they have to resolve their schizophrenic party either by concentrating or splitting, amoeba-like into two entities, forming a single mass dedicated to stopping the unyielding Jacobism with which we are creeping our way to full out social/communism and economic disaster and, not just for Greece and Spain and Ireland, but for us and probably every country in the world, save a few lucky ones, and yes, it is as scary and possible as all that, because, whatever older white American males might think is good for the country and however they suppose that their values of competition and self-sufficiency and raising yourself up by your bootstraps works and dependency, confiscation and bribery do not, quite the opposite is the belief of too many progressives, women, minority and special interest groups, not to mention politicians (even some very beloved Republican governors)  who like, want, cherish the super-regulated nanny state which has gone so far beyond manageable plans to take care of the elderly, sick or infirm who cannot help themselves into a full blown, every man for himself, one government ever expanding like the blob to enter into every bit of your life with its tentacles or fist through one stratagem or another and this wave, beloved by many people, because at some time they are getting or hope to get "paid," and they see no alternative but to go along and survive or even thrive if they are the right people at the right time getting other people's else's money to work for them, and are so dedicated to the idea of equality that they have not for a long time seen it as about equal opportunity and law but equal results and equal merit even if they have to pretend, that frankly, the Republicans may not have much of a chance unless  they rally like never before, drop the anachronisms of anti-this or anti-that (usually gays, atheists or secularists) and focus on what really matters, the political and economic freedom Whigs and then Americans were talking about for so long, but can never seem to get right, because if they don't the force-multiplying power of modern technology and demographics will wash them all away like a boardwalk in the path of Hurricane Sandy, although it is quite possible that is what is going to have to happen, a complete failing and surrender, and then a wretched miserable reign of terror that follows the complete breakdown of society whether by fascists, Nazis, commies, Golden this or thatters, and then, only then, the slow remembrance of past and that awful slog to get us back to where we need to be -- at least part way, before it all starts again, by which time I will likely be dead and my desiccated heart will look much like the stuff you find in the bottom of the vacuum bag, if they still have them then.  At least, I think that is what might indeed happen.
But leaving all that aside, I will instead review the movies I liked from 2012. Keep in mind, I usually only like action movies, comedies or romantic comedies. So . . .

Act of Valor- I was really excited to see this movie, being still hopped up by the death of bin Laden. It is hard not to hero worship the Navy Seals, particularly if you are a boy, or were at one time, anyway.  I read a book on the Special Forces many years ago -- I see myself in my first bedroom, so probably during law school. As I went chapter by chapter and read about the training of each group, I kept thinking, yeah, I could have done that. I think most men do the same, even if it is a fantasy for most of us. But, when I got to the chapter on Seal training, I thought instead, how is that even possible?  I would have washed out the first week, possibly earlier if I spent any time thinking about it.  Anyway, this movie was terrific. I think it might be my favorite this year. It stars real Seals (so they say - I wouldn't know) and was made in a very realistic style, almost like a video. Looking back, I only vaguely remember the plot and a few scenes reminiscent of a NCIS plot, and as archetypical as that disaster of a film, Syriana. But I'd see A of V again in a Kabul minute. You just wanted to cheer through the whole movie and they managed to create some empathy for the choir boy characters (who seem much different than the Seals in Zero Dark Thirty, which as of yet I can glean only from commercials).

John Carter of Mars - This was a bit of a surprise. It's a Disney flick based on Edgar Rice Burroughs books about the title character.  They managed to weave in a fantasy story about the author too to sort of tie it all together.  Despite how bad it could have been (I feared), I really enjoyed it.  Everything worked for me, even the special effects I am often indifferent to.  I cared about the main character and enjoyed it more  than the very similar Avatar, which was based on the same late 19th century/early 20th century writing style and I thought a little over praised.
21 Jump Street - They took a tv show I never watched about cops going under cover in high school starring Johnny Depp and made it into a decent cop buddy comedy with Jonah Hill, one of those guys who is funny to just look at or listen to the way John Candy was, and Tatum Channing, who, though People's Sexiest Man Alive last year, is a really good actor who can play it straight or do comedy, dance, fight and, apparently, strip (prior career).  The plot is about two idiot cops who went to high school together (the great big idiotic bully and his much smarter but weaker victim) who become partners and friends. There are scenes like the one where they are at a party and all of a sudden Jonah Hill character asks - ". . . When did I get stabbed?" and you see a big knife in his back. Then he says with an insanely victorious grin - "That's awesome!" because getting stabbed can be laughed away in a movie.  I know, I know, it's dumb, but I liked it. I'd sure rather see that than something like Jeff who lives at home.

The Avengers - First, I admit, I am a geek. I grew up reading comic books, including The Avengers, loved some of the Marvel movies the past few years about the individual heroes in it (Iron Man, The Hulk), liked one of them (Captain America)  but would probably not see it again and did not like Thor at all - they just ruined it by making it too sci fi.  They have been setting up The Avengers movie through the appearance of Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. , played by Samuel Jackson, in the earlier films. The Avengers worked because it was funny and there was a controlled flow of bad guy kicking the good guys' teeth in, followed by acts of redemption and pay back.  Robert Downey makes the movie as Iron Man, but, Mark Ruffalo (who I am a fan of since he played the nice guy leading man in 13 Going on 30) made a pretty good Bruce Banner too. Of course, so much of the movie is special effects, but that was a given in the fight scenes.  I was a little disappointed by the appearance of Hawkeye, one of my favorite minor  heroes - he's Marvel's version of Green Arrow, though I suppose they'd say Green Arrow is D.C.'s version of Hawkeye -- not liking what they did with his character and the whole weird thing with Black Widow. You have no idea what I am talking about? That's probably because you find super heroes trite and childish. Fortunately for me, I am both.
However, just in case you think I just like super hero movies, I hate what Marvel did with the Spider Man reboot this year (The Amazing Spider-Man). They changed Peter Parker into a Twilight character. Skip it. 'Nuff said. I also thought the newest Batman entry that also came out this year, The Dark Knight Rises, was the weakest of that series. Not as bad as when George Clooney played Batman in an earlier incarnation, but not so good either.  

Looper - This was a Bruce Willis vehicle. I avoid most Bruce Willis vehicles like the plague, because they are a bit like the old routine from The Gary Shandling Show (not the HBO show he later made about late night tv, but his original and pretty funny sitcom) where a celebrity would knock on his door; Gary would open it and say - "Hey, everybody, it's Bruce Willis" or whoever was standing there.  But Looper was pretty good. It is a time travel movie, filled with all those pesky time travel paradoxes that make you realize that this is one thing there will probably never be (unless, in the future, they are reading this now and laughing).  There was a kid actor in it too, and he was actually pretty good, even when he had to carry on like a psychotic little brat. I almost liked the little fellow and felt purged at the end.  Jeff Daniels played the heavy and was there ever any part he could not hit out of the park?  Even made me laugh. Netflix it.
The Man with the Iron Fist - I know this is a Hong Kong kung fu take off and for a lot of people that just means - nooooo thank you.  They can be ridiculous AND THIS WAS ridiculous. But, here's my pitch. My gf and I went to the movies during Hurricane Sandy's aftermath and we wanted to see something else (well, not me, but she did). Then, thank you movie gods, she had to see this because it was the only movie that worked for us time wise. She didn't want to at all. But, you know what? She really liked it after all. The funny thing is, as ridiculous as a plot device it is to have the hero he end up with metal arms that can move like regular ones (via magic), they actually now have technological wonders that can do just that. And I think we all know in a few years, they will be better than our own. Look for a Six Million Dollar Man reboot.

Lincoln - Here's my review in a nutshell. Daniel Day-Lewis was awesome. He will win the Oscar. The movie was interesting, but I would not call it riveting. I liked it, but, I'll probably never watch it again.
I'll also take this opportunity to say, not for the first or last time, that Doris Goodwin's Team of Rivals was a very good book and I enjoyed it, but I didn't think it was a great one. I read histories pretty carefully and I don't think I really learned all that much I didn't know or had read elsewhere. Even a book about his cabinet, instead of him per se, wasn't completely original (how could it be?), though it hadn't been done in a long time to my knowledge.

Silver Linings Playbook - An unusual romantic comedy about two very damaged people and their damaged families. What made it different was that there were some scenes which were a little hard to bear, more so at the beginning, sort of the way Larry David makes us cringe in Curb Your Enthusiasm or George does in Seinfeld when he opens his mouth to try to charm someone into doing something there is no chance they are going to do. Perhaps the ending was a little Hollywood, but . . . Robert DeNiro was funny, pretty much playing the comic version of his one character (why I don't think he is all that great an actor). Possibly after Act of Valor and  Argo, this was my favorite.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - I don't know. I just don't know. With distance from the film, my happiness with it dims. Perhaps I need to see it again. The three Lord of the Ring movies were wonderful. I have watched all ten hours or whatever multiple times.  I suppose I should feel the same way about this, but I don't. I don't even mind that they made three movies out of one little book, because they are filling in things that we know happened from other Tolkien material that were vaguely mentioned but left out of the Hobbit. But, the dwarves did not look right to me. It looked as if they were wearing too much make up and they made too much of a human out of their leader, Thorin Oakenshield.  The action scenes lacked something of the great battle scenes, even the smaller ones, of LOTR.  There were no real memorable lines in it. There were no heart breaking scenes in it. The character who played Bilbo is a well known and enjoyable Brit actor, but, he just didn't work for me here.   The Troll scene was too childish (I know it was a kid's book, but still, they are making a prequel to an adult film) and for some reason they changed even that and made it worse. I hated them making more of a character out of the wizard Radagast than the book justifies, and, if they were going to, they shouldn't have made him a Star Wars or Disney-like character. I acknowledge high expectations have something to do with my review -- but it could have worked the opposite for it. I know I will watch this again when it is on tv and I still look forward to the next two, but perhaps they dropped the ball a little bit.

Django Unchained - The following movies make Tarantino one of the great directors and writers in the business -- ever. Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, From Dusk Till Dawn, True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill (he says it is really one movie) and Death Proof/Grindhouse. I never saw Natural Born Killers for which he wrote the story (as opposed, I believe, the screenplay), so I won't include it. After all those movies, I'd rank Django  only before Inglourious Basterds, which I liked, but didn't love.  I'm not knocking the Django.  It was entertaining.  I am also dismissive of any claims that this movie is disrespectful to blacks or exploits slavery.  As for his use of the N word, while I do get why it makes people (including me) so uncomfortable, I won't criticize Tarantino for using it unless I hear him call someone it and I doubt that is  going to happen. Samuel Jackson says we should get over it.  The use of rap music disturbed me, even if it fit fairly well. And, though it was an imitation spaghetti western, I thought the gun-fighting was workman like and just not super cool as in some of his older films. But, good movie.  However, don't go expecting Pulp Fiction level anything.
Skyfall - Take a great James Bond movie, say one with Sean Connery or Roger Moore. Keep the music, but not too much of it, and their patented opening theme number. Use a  brooding, muscular hero. Don't include a great villain like Goldfinger or a super-powerful henchman like Odd Job, or witty one liners; substitute great casting with politically correct casting (like Moneypenny) or casting changes that make no sense (Q is now a young man who seemed to have no real personality or reason to be in the movie). Ixnay on the great gadgets, the great chase scenes, any cutting edge special effects and a great theme song (Adele is a great singer, but have you heard anyone play Skyfall on the radio, like Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me, etc.?)  You are left with a typical and not so bad spy story with a spy named James Bond in it with some nominal trappings -- but it's not a great James Bond movie. One of the least good, in fact. I know they wanted to go retro with it, but I think they overdid it and retro'd it all the way back to pre-Bond. And by the way, nothing against Daniel Craig. He's a good Bond.  But Roger Moore is crazy -- he is not the best Bond.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - This is a fun concept. It is also a good movie, but certainly not a great one. It ended after I wanted it to end and wasn't as cool as I thought it could be. It should have gone smaller and kept him as a young vampire fighter. Too sweeping and long. But, in its way, more entertaining than the serious Spielberg effort this year.
That's the list, but there were some other movies I did not see for which I am either sorry or glad.

Sorry I didn't see:
Zero Dark Thirty - Actually, I'm sure I will. I would have just called it Operation Kill bin Laden.

Killing them Softly - Brad Pitt. I actually think Brad Pitt is a pretty good actor, not that it is really all that hard. Something about a hit man. Looks good.
Solomon Kane - My buddy, Bear, and I use to think we might end up writers when we were teens. Neither did. But the one project I always remember him talking about was writing a screenplay for Solomon Kane,  a Robert E. Howard (Conan) character who was a swashbuckling Puritan leaving a trail of blood across Europe and Africa with his sword. I didn't even realize this movie came out earlier this year until last week and have heard nothing about whether it was any good. Hope they didn't blow it.

Snow White and the Huntsman - I wanted to see this for several reasons. First, let's face it, Charlize Theron is one of the prettiest and sexiest women on the planet (and no, they are not the same thing). The most unbelievable thing about the movie is not the supernatural nonsense we all accept if we are watching a fantasy.  It's that the magic mirror thought Kristin Stewart was prettier than Charlize Theron. Come on. What kind of stupid mirror is that?
Here Comes the Boom - Kevin James in another of his silly comedies. This has the markings of the Jack Black movie from a few years ago - Nacho Libre, in which he became a professional wrestler (here -- it is a mixed martial artist). Wait a minute?   Was Salma Hayek in Nacho Libre too? No, but a pretty good imitation of her was.  Anyway, Mr. James makes fun little movies, like Mall Cop, and despite my stoic seriousness, stiff upper lip and royal blood, I enjoy them.

Contraband - This was okay. Marky Mark, I mean Mark Wahlberg,  seems to be constantly busy (and IMDB bears this out) and I think I have similar taste to him in movies. Trying to think if he ever made anything except Ted (which I won't see) that I didn't like.  But, this isn't The Departed either.  But it wasn't  half bad, even if there was nothing surprising in it.  If you see it on tv, watch it.  But, you might rent a classic, like Payback, instead.
Glad I didn't see:

Cloud Atlas - I can't even figure out what it is about, but I am fairly certain I would hate it.
Seven Psychopaths - This looked so bad that I am sorry Christopher Walken was in it. The supposedly funny things that these tough guys would say in the commercials (and they always go with their best stuff there) - not so funny.

2016: Obama's America - No, I am not going to see a movie to tell me I don't want to vote for Obama or that he is out to destroy America . I was praying we'd get rid of him and I know that this stupid partisan movie would have made me almost want to vote for him instead. Bet it had that effect on a few people.
End of the movie review. That must be The New York Times on the line right now.


  1. Great post! I love reading all your posts.

  2. Oh look, Frodo has a groupie! Just short of the "I'm going to vomit" notch on the oh-so-cute meter. You can practically hear the breath-ey quality of "I love reading all your posts." Emphasis on ALL. Raaaaaaaaaallpppphhhhhhhh.
    Haven't seen not one of the listed movies,but your political rant was fascinating.... from a therapeutic perspective.

  3. So jealous of my status in the blogosphere, aren't you? Truth is, I first thought it was spam, which I get every day, but they always put their website in the comment (how I know it's spam). But, for all I know. . . On the other hand, if the filebook poster would like to tell Bear exactly what he/she thinks of him -- I would not complain a bit.

  4. You know something? You watch waaay too many crappy movies. I mean it's one thing to go see a movie that you think will be good but, unexpectedly, turns out to be crap. It's even ok to go to a movie that you think might be ok but might not. I can understand a roll of the dice.But to actually go see what absolutely has to be crap ...21 Jump St...John Carter....Abe as a Vampire hunter....I don't understand that. You obviously have way too much disposable income.
    AND...speaking of disposable income...or the lack thereof...for all of us...your run-on sentence of political analysis was sadly correct. This country is circling the economic toilet bowl and the republicans who are the only possible hope have decided that they'd rather be popular in a "Lords of the Last Days" way than actually try to do the things that would prevent this from being the economic "last days". Makes we want to move to a cabin in Montana. Oh wait.

  5. It may have been a review of 2012 movies, but it is too late for you to win, place or show in the Holiday Spectacular best comment category, all of which were won by Bear this year. I was tough on some of the movies, but it was a relative thing, comparing Bond to previous Bonds, The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings and Tarantino to previous Tarantinos, but I actually liked them all. I am usually accurate on what I will like or not. Sometimes I'm surprised by a movie I think I won't like but for some bizarre reason see anyway (usually because I'm with the gf or someone else when it comes on), but rarely do I think I will like something and then not - Shrek being the all-time champion in that category. I still can't believe people liked that.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .