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Movie roundup, part 20

Nic watches movies again. Included are Moon, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Avengers, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Coriolanus, The Grey and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Nic is mostly unimpressed.

[All movie titles link to Rotten Tomatoes, so you can see what the people who get paid to write about movies think.]

Moon ★★★★☆

Stripped-down, psychological sci-fi about a solitary worker on a moon base who is coming up on the end of his three-year tour of duty and is fraying both physically and psychologically.

Moon is slow and hypnotic, building to its bitter end. Worth watching just for the pacing—so nice to see a director dare to be slow and understated these days of epileptic jump-cuts and all kinds of shit blowing up just for the sake of blowing up.

Snow White and the Huntsman ★★★☆☆

Loud and clunky movie that’s still worth watching just for Charlize Theron’s scenery-chewing performance as the Evil Queen and the lush, gorgeous visuals.

Unfortunately, it also stars Kristen Stewart as Snow White and she comes across more as a sulky sales person at Hot Topic than a plucky heroine.

Nevertheless, it’s dark fantasy and has an interesting take on the Snow White myth, so, worth watching.

The Avengers ★★★☆☆

This must have been horribly difficult to write—making a movie understandable to people who aren’t comic book nerds while at the same time not stepping on the sensibilities of the comic book nerds is a tightrope. Just imagine knowing that Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons multiplied by millions is going to be taking your work apart frame-by-frame and then try to make something interesting and new. Actually, in issue 23 of WhoGivesACrap it’s clearly stated that Boffoman only buys pizza on Wednesdays. Shudder.

As a non-comic book nerd, I found it OK. Not great, not awful, just OK. Obviously the filmmakers had a lot of money to spend on effects, and boy did they spend it. Avengers looks great. But then there’s the, ahem, plot. Which is no stupider than any other summer blockbuster plot for sure, though that’s setting the standard at a subterranean level.

Even though the plot did make (some) sense, it only hinted at a lot of backstory, so I’m sure the comic book nerds got a lot more out of it, which is fine.

And it’s uplifting to see Downey play Tony Stark—he seems to have such a blast doing it.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi ★★★★☆

A film about obsession, it captures the aging Jiro—arguably the greatest sushi chef in the world—and his difficult relationship with his two sons. Like Jiro himself, it’s a spare, unostentatious documentary, uplifting in its serenity.

Well worth watching, though make sure you eat first or you’ll have to pause the movie to go find some sushi.

Coriolanus ★★★☆☆

Movie adaption of one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, set in a modern day “Place that calls itself Rome.” I’d argue Coriolanus is one of the Bard’s least effective tragedies, since the protagonist is, well, a dick, but the movie does a good job of translating the imagery to modern times, including a version of cable news called “Veritas TV” and it has Ralph Fiennes and Vannessa Redgrave both in full-on I’m-a-Shakespearean-Actor-Dammit-and-I-Shall-Now-Declaim! mode, which is always great to see.

You do feel a bit bad for Gerard Butler, who is so out-acted it’s not even funny, but hey, you sign up to do a Shakespeare adaptation with people like Fiennes and Redgrave…

The Grey ★★★☆☆

The biggest problem with The Grey is that it exists in a weird grey zone (see what I did there?) between art house movie and blockbuster.

There are really great action sequences, including a harrowing plane crash, and there’s plenty of Very Hard Men Opening up to Each Other™ scenes which straddle the line awkwardly close to cliché.

That being said, the idea is solid—Liam Neeson plays a depressed hunter who works for an oil company shooting wolves that threaten an oil field somewhere in the arctic and who of course by the laws of drama ends up threatened by wolves himself.

Liam Neeson, of course, was genetically engineered in a lab to play the perfect avenger, smoldering with rage, and does so admirably here, deftly mixing in the futility and hopelessness of his backstory.

The Grey is also very well made with exquisite cinematography of the Great North and solid acting performances all around.

Not a spoiler, per se, but there’s a tender reveal at the end that I’ll admit put a lump in my throat.

The Grey is worth seeing if you adjust your expectations appropriately. Although it should come with a warning label: “If you’re afraid of flying, do NOT watch this movie.” Seriously. Heed that warning.

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows ★★☆☆☆

Sigh. A disappointing sequel. If you loved the first Sherlock-Holmes-as-Tony-Stark movie you might find this one tolerable. If you found the first one tolerable, you might be able to sit this one through. It’s the same formula as the first one but with every dial turned to eleven, except for heart and fun.

To add to the disappointment, Noomi Rapace—of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Prometheus fame—is pale and lifeless in her first Hollywood appearance. She’s a much better actress than this.

Robert Downey Jr. sure looks like he’s having fun, though, so that’s something.

Posted Thursday, 04 October 2012 by

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