Monday, January 5, 2009
THE MOVIE WASN’T SO HOT, IT DIDN’T HAVE MUCH OF A PLOT
There you have it! The essence of a movie review. Welcome to the aftermath of the first holiday “Newport Film Festival”. Max had two weeks off, chose not to shave, act a tad Bohemian and watch a few movies with the family. We have a friend who is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and she is sent a whole bunch of DVD screeners, some of which she brought by Castle Newport for us to watch over the holidays. The discs contain only the movie and warnings flashed throughout the feature that the disc was “for screening purposes only”. So we decided rather than watch the movies, we would “screen” them.
Several years ago, my wife and I decided to avoid the Cineplex experience after determining that we were the only folks in the audience who were there to watch the film. Due to a combination of cell phones, crying babies, the sounds of a tuberculosis ward and what appeared to be a junior high school track meet, we decided to go the home theater route. Now we have a sound system that will cause ripples in neighboring pools (and white caps in ours) and a screen that you can view easily from across the street. There are still distractions, such as the dog needing to go out at key points of the movie and unexpected visitors, but at least there is the pause button.
The Press Journal at one point actually had a person from Vero Beach writing movie reviews for the paper. If memory serves me correctly, based upon location and circumstance, the year was 1987 when a worker in the print shop wrote a column predicting the winners of the Academy Awards. His name was Byron Gray and his predictions and analysis were right on. They decided to make him the local movie guru and it was nice to have a person from Vero put a local spin on the flicks on the reel in our fair city. Byron kind of disappeared when the paper went regional. He was relegated to a blog site which doesn’t seem to have a lot of action.
Now the paper prints reviews that appear to be from a wire service. We miss you Mr. Gray.
That being said, here is the Max Newport spin on a few of the movies we watched (I meant to say screened). Max is not a film critic, but I’ve seen enough to know what I like. I am going to recommend that you see all of the movies I am going to comment on. They are all worth a watch whether you wish to dash over to the Majestic or wait until they are available on Netflix. A couple of these haven’t been released yet, at least for our market which makes it nice to have a friend with screeners.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
Curious indeed. This is a movie worth seeing in spite of its preposterous gimmick and almost three hour running time. This will definitely be a butt number if you see it in the theater. Think of “Titanic” meets “Forrest Gump” with a little “Lord of the Rings” on the side. Benjamin is born looking a lot like Gollum from the Rings trilogy causing his father to run like a madman through the streets of New Orleans and abandoning the newborn old man on the steps of what appears to be a nursing home. While everyone else is growing older, Benjamin is growing younger physically but progressing as a child mentally. This requires a good deal of CGI work putting Brad Pitt’s face on the body of other actors. After awhile, hey, this guy turns into Brad Pitt! What I found to be the major flaw in this movie is that no one around him found this particularly disconcerting. The film is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Eric Roth wrote the screenplay. Roth also did the screenplay for Gump.
If there was a message to this movie, I think it involved taking advantage of the time that you have. There was a particular sequence that gave the movie perspective for me involving a series of events that lead to an accident along with a voiceover claiming that if just one event had been timed differently, the accident would not have occurred. This will cause me to either welcome or resist answering the ringing phone as I am walking out the door. Now I am really confused.
Director David Fincher previously worked with Pitt in one of my favorite movies, “Fight Club”. I was hoping for a cameo by Meat Loaf, a.k.a. Marvin Aday saying “My name is Robert Paulson”, but that didn’t happen. If the producers can arrange a special commentary track by comedian Lewis Black, I will preorder the DVD right now.
Clint Eastwood is awesome. On the sunny side of 80 years and still kicking ass. Clint has won two Oscars for directing but none for acting. This could be his year. The plot is basically a morality play about a miserable old bigot who sits on his front porch with a shotgun, his dog and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and his reaction to a Hmong family moving next door to his row house in Detroit. He is a retired Ford assembly line worker and his prize possession is a pristine 1972 Gran Torino that he helped assemble. The car doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the plot other than being a treasured symbol of the good old days.
The message is one of tolerance, understanding and sacrifice. This is not Eastwood’s best movie but he is fantastic, maybe because most of the supporting actors are making their first appearance on film. Clint also wrote and directed and it is a showcase for his talents. He has made a habit of singing off screen on recent movies he has directed. If we learned anything from “Honkytonk Man” and “Paint Your Wagon” it was that Clint Eastwood should not sing. Eastwood’s performance alone makes this movie worth seeing.
This is a movie I was ready to dislike immensely. I pictured it as a “chick flick” because it was promoted as the first reunion of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet since the blockbuster “Titanic”. Off hand, I can’t think of a movie I enjoyed less than “Titanic”. Is that damn boat ever going to sink? For the love of God, sink, sink, explode and roll credits. I felt like a hostage. We had just seen “Titanic, the Musical” in New York and it was 100 times better. That was in 1997. Needless to say, Max was not looking forward to this reunion of Kate and Leo.
I was wrong. This movie is so real that it is painful to watch. The actors bare their souls and emotions. It is gut wrenching. Sam Mendes, who directed “American Beauty”, also directed this film. “American Beauty” was a sit-com compared to this. I will probably watch this one again.
The story is set in the 1950’s with a young couple living the American dream. The message centers on the emotional conflict created by abandoning youthful dreams and aspirations and the attempts to find satisfaction in the life that you have created for yourself as an adult along with the realization that you can’t go back. It seems relatively elementary but the complexities are portrayed perfectly in this movie.
This is an adult movie in the sense that only adults will understand it.
We did see a few more that are worth watching, but I am getting a tad wordy here so these will be brief.
Mickey Rourke is an aging, uh, wrestler. Marisa Tomei spends a lot of time undressed. She is aging well. The message here, I believe, is that the image you portray to others through your profession isn’t necessarily who you are.
This movie is in the theaters now. Go see it. Stay for the closing credits. I can think of very little that Alec Baldwin and I would agree on, but we do agree on this movie.
MARLEY AND ME
Max continues to suffer from a yet recognized illness that prevents me from watching any movie that features a dog. I call it the “Old Yeller Syndrome” (OYS) which has yet to be acknowledged by the mental health community. I petition the editors of DSM-IV annually and have yet to receive a response. Not even a post card. Get out of your ivory towers you intellectual numbskulls and find some help for the common man who was taken to a Disney movie at the age of six. Disney kind of messed me up with “Dumbo” too. Thanks Walt.
I will not be seeing this movie. A screener left unscreened.
Writing this has made me miss Byron Gray and dismiss the corporate character our local newspaper has assumed. Who cares what some corporate hack in Chicago thinks about a movie that is playing down the street from me? I want to know what my friends and neighbors think of a movie during polite chit-chat over, perhaps, a cocktail.
The Scripps Corporation is neither a friend nor a neighbor.