I think I’ve watched more movies this January than I’ve watched in the previous six months together. And, while I’m only going to highlight the first timers, I’ve also indulged in some repeats such as Cloverfield and Inception. That would equate to at least eight movies in four weeks. I was worried about fitting fifty movies into 2012. The concern was obviously unfounded because the year is off to a screaming start.
- Easy A (2010) starring Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Penn Badgley (1/50). Lovey and I watched this movie on New Year’s Day while we folded wash. It was OK – a not horrible and not outstanding movie about the high school rumor mill in the twenty-first century. I was a little annoyed by the pervasive stereotyping. Almost no one was safe – from the gay friend to the hypocritical Christian girl played by Amanda Bynes who starts the reputation-ruining rumors to the hard-nosed principal. Emma Stone’s character was the only one with some depth and dimension. As a matter of fact, Emma made this movie. She was a pleasure to watch. Although I wouldn’t bother to see this movie again, I didn’t feel it was a total waste of time. (3.5/5 stars)
- Double Indemnity (1944) starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck (2/50). After I decided to do this 50/50 Reading Challenge, I thought I would use the opportunity to watch some classic movies that I’ve heard about but never took the time to see. Double Indemnity was a free movie On Demand so I watched it one afternoon while I once again folded wash. (I have a feeling the folding wash bit will become a theme.) Once I adjusted to the overly dramatic acting style and Fred MacMurray’s “cool” (meaning weird) way of talking, I actually enjoyed the plot. There was passion, mystery, and suspense. This is the first example of film noir I’ve experienced and I liked it enough to want to see more. Oh, and some of Barbara Stanwyck’s outfits were rockin’. Gotta love the glamour of the 1940’s. (4/5 stars)
- Book of Eli (2010) starring Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals (3/50). The setting of this movie is a post-apocalyptic America baked by the sun where civilization has given way to lawlessness. Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is on a quest from God to deliver a bible (the only left) to a safe haven in the West. In his quest he must overcome several obstacles including Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who has been looking for the Bible to increase his own power. In essence, the movie is the quintessential hero myth and a well done one at that. I thought the acting was great and the premise interesting. My husband and I talked about it for days afterward – about what happened to people when they no longer had God’s word available to them and about how the Bible could be used to enslave people or set them free (just like today). We also discussed the surprise ending, and why we never saw it coming. There is a lot of violence, which for me is often hard to swallow. However, I didn’t feel it was gratuitous. It was just representative of the moral condition of the people when civilization had decayed. A very thought-provoking movie. (4/5 stars)
- The Blob (1958) starring Steve McQueen (4/50). Don’t ask me why we chose to watch this. Curiosity, maybe? Or perhaps it was to see Steve McQueen, one of my Dad’s favorite actors. The boys and I endured it one Sunday afternoon because it was free On Demand and we were bored. Guess what – we were still bored. This movie is just bad. What could possibly be scary about a pulsating piece of Jello that moves at the pace of a snail? I don’t know which was worse: the acting, the special effects, or the music. The theme song is more appropriate for a beach/surfer movie than a horror movie. It turned into a history lesson for my kids. Now they have a complete understanding of why The Blob is in the animated movie Monsters vs. Aliens (which is worth seeing). I wasn’t expecting much and that’s what I got. For what it’s worth, I can now say I actually watched The Blob. (1.5/5 stars)
- Wuthering Heights (2010) starring Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Andrew Lincoln, and Kevin R. McNally (5/50). I’ve seen the Wuthering Heights version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche which was dark, passionate, and brooding with a spooky edge. While this version has plenty of passion, it doesn’t have the dark, psychotically obsessive feel. Because I’ve never read Wuthering Heights (I know, I know – I’ve put it on the list for February) and don’t know the details of the story, I can’t speak to the movie’s fidelity to the original work. Lovey, who just finished reading the book and was the reason I watched this movie in the first place, was very disappointed in this regard. Because I wasn’t burdened with preconceived ideas, I found the movie to be very good with just a few parts thin on explanation. Visually, the movie was a treat with beautiful actors, costuming, and setting. Some of my favorite movies are Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, and Jane Eyre with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. It’s understandable why a movie like this would appeal to me and why I would be more generous in my review than perhaps I should be. This is one time when seeing the movie before reading the book worked to my benefit. (4/5 stars)
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), (6/50). I’m currently taking an on-line Humanities course called Modern Culture and the Arts. We’ve discussed the cave drawings of Lascaux and Chauvet (pronounced show-vee) in France. I chose this documentary because I wanted to see more and know more about the drawings. My husband and I watched this movie last Sunday afternoon with Ace, my youngest son. I checked out the reviews ahead of time and there seemed to a polarization of responses. People either loved it or hated it. I fall into the “loved it ” category. The music was appropriate for the subject matter – eerie and mystical. Werner Herzog’s narration was unobtrusive but not boring or monotone. And the cave paintings themselves were simply breathtaking. They’re historically and scientifically relevant because they reference the fauna of the area: rhinos, leopards, bison, lions, hyenas, bear. They are beautifully stylized and graceful representations that can be universally understood and appreciated as art. Some of the drawings even suggest animation.
Many of the interviews in the movie involve scientists discussing time frames and who the artists could have been. Neanderthal? An early form or sub form of homo sapiens? Here’s my unscientific two cents. The cave artists were just like you and I, made in the image of God and capable of intelligent thought, creative design, and artistic expression. They used the materials they had at their disposal to do what every artist is drawn to do – create. Whether it was drawings on a cave wall or music from a bone flute based on the pentatonic scale, these ancient people were no less homo sapien than we are. Why is that so hard to see? – I digress. Because these cave drawings are not accessible to the public, this movie is about the only way to get a good glimpse of them. As a side note, the post script was ridiculous and had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Just skip it. Watching this film was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I highly, highly recommend it. (5/5 stars)
Well, that’s January in a nutshell. I’m not anticipating that I will maintain this frenzied pace indefinitely. Life is bound to get in the way of my movie watching. Shutter Island is up next, but I have no definite plans after that. I’d like to keep my options open. What movies (good or bad) have you seen recently?