We just saw:
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. Nice, very, very, nice. Much as J. K. Rowling did herself proud in writing the books and bringing off the sprawling yarn and its many loose ends, so now yet another director picks up with mostly the same actors and makes a VERY compact and effective movie. Its a keeper, no doubt. The three principals are maturing as actors as they grow taller, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman would have stolen any NORMAL movie, that they don’t says much about the focus of the script writers and directors of this epic industry. They’ll be sorry when its over, I can tell you that. The brief appearance of the now-married (in the movie, in the Movie!) Tonks and Professor Lupin is nice, and the scenery, the world outside the cloister of Hogwart’s, is just beautiful to look at. At one point The Hogwarts’ Express rolls along tracks through a autumn gold land dotted by a thousand ponds, lakes, streams. Another scene depends on raging seas against cliffs out of a nightmare. I can’t tell how much of this is digital and how much literal, but I’m not complaining…
Recently we’ve also seen:
The 2nd Transformers movie, Abby loved it. Really. A lot. Still talking about it a week, two weeks, later. Value for money, there.
Me, perhaps not so much. The human interactions don’t make any more sense than the robot interactions (Can’t tell a Decepticon from an Autobot? You’re not alone…) One of the bad robots disguises itself as a very attractive young woman and then throws herself (itself?) at Shia LeBouef’s character. I have nothing but respect and admiration for attractive young women but this bit and the key point between SLB’s character and Megan (?) Fox, that SLB, recent highschool graduate won’t tell Ms. Fox’s character that he loves her , don’t seem aligned with a special effects spectacle derived from a cartoon and licensed product gold mine aimed at 6-9 year olds.
Up in 3D. we all thought it was terrific fun. Sad at the beginning, less so than Finding Nemo, but its no accident that Pixar can have sadder and more touching things happen in their animated features than any other animated studio, with the possible exception of Studio Ghibli (H. Miyazaki) in Japan. Perhaps Pixar will made a bad movie, someday, this one isn’t it.
Lovely, unexpected depth in the characters and the story. The whole concept of taking the little house hemmed in by the big city and floating it away is wonderful. The trick of the dog’s thoughts being rendered into speech is as funny here as in The Far Side- Abby and I are still breaking suddenly and looking to one side while saying “squirrel”…
Coraline in 3D. What a great movie! For sure wierd, very wonderful. and appealing. The apparently wish-fulfilling mother in The Other Side sets off all kinds of alarm bells from the word go. And the cat and neighborhood boy are terrific foils for Coraline. Not to mention her real mother and father, and all their messy difficulties.
Milk. Wow. “I’m Harvey Milk and I’m hear to recruit you!” boy oh boy can Sean Penn put across a character, and the supporting cast are superb. Directing tight, script crisp and emotionally satsfying. A truely great movie.
“Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day” – Frances McDormand in an overwhemling sweet and happy story. Many adventures, Amy Adams’ astonished, round, eyes and a happy ending that only gets telegraphed at the very end. Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle) has a meaty and unsympathetic character, Ciarán Hinds is a treasure.
Tropic Thunder. Wow again! A surprising comedy-drama. Laughs are deadly, well aimed, lighting up conventions found in far too many places. The panda bit is howlingly funny, in a very, very, dark way, and Tom Cruise shows why we bother paying attention to him- his performance is simply jaw-dropping and would have overwhelmed a lesser movie. (The strength and sure-touch of the this film are reminders of how good a movie can be. Even turned up to 11, Jack Black, well cast and with a real part that matches his talent, can’t steal more than a scene or two. The material and the rest of the cast are that strong.) Ben Stiller really has a lock on funny characters who aren’t actually likable, but remain sympathetic. Robert Downey Jr’s, “dude pretending to be another dude, who’s pretending to be another dude” (or however that goes) is even further over the top than Cruise. Its like fireworks- once the fuse it lit, everyone’s committed. Jean and I saw this by ourselves and really enjoyed it, and after talking it over, let Benjamin see it on-demand at home. The beginning is gorey-er than he was comfortable with and we’d forgotten sexual nature of one of Jack Black’s character’s drug-withdrawal-crazed rants. We were embarrassed, but it didn’t last long. This is a real “R” for violence and strong language, folks. So wait until your 12 year old turns 13, perhaps, but this one’s a keeper, for sure. Just as good, maybe better, the second time I saw it.
Night At The Museum II – Battle of the Smithsonian. A sequel which basicly wrote itself – the primary characters are known, complexity is turned down, slapstick turned up and everyitng is what you’d expect and more. The bad bad guy’s dismissal of Darth Vader (or someone wearing a Darth costume) is wonderfully realized and puts that particular icon in its place quite firmly. I must agree with the review in one national print media which noted that all the skill and attention devoted to special effects are good but what most fathers will remember of Movie Magic ™ is Amy Adams’ painted-on pants.
Ghost Town Another one Jean and I saw by ourselves and a delight, a terrific showcase for Ricky Gervais, a wonderfully wacky premise and a full measure of both romance and comedy. Gervais is less off-putting than his breakthrough role in the UK “The Office”but he’s still mining the awkward and not easy to like formula. Dr. Pinkus is not a bad person, a bit prickly, a bit odd, but not a bad person. But he’s complicated and dropping him into something MORE complicated plays to his strengths. – he has that Fred Astare thing going,, he makes it all look SO easy.