movie review

We watched two dvd’s on Friday night. First up was the family film The City of Ember based on a novel for tweens of the same name. Mick recommended it to us over the Christmas holiday and had given Dee a copy of the novel, though she is still a bit too young to read it to herself.

As usual with fare aimed at families, dead parents were plentiful. The main characters had two dead mothers and a dad between them and the girl’s grandmother dies in her sleep just to add to the authenticity. I should really get over this particular dramatic effect because I totally get where the plot point comes from – most children’s greatest fear is losing a parent in some way.  Dead parents throw a child into a world that requires them to take care of themselves which is another childish fear – who will take care of me?

I just wish that  kid movies did something more than play on well-recognized fears  or portrayed live adults in children’s lives as incompetent and/or stick up the bum prigs.

But the City of Ember wasn’t really too bad though it hammered a bit on the whole eco-collapse thing due to man’s wanton waste (not surprising as Tim Robbins was featured and it was produced by Tom Hanks).  Still, it had a lot to say about the current state of modern life as played out in the future effects of short-sightedness.

And the character who directs much of the problem-solving, as it is a bit of a mystery, is a girl. I like girl heroes.

Later, Rob picked the “grown-up” movie for himself and I, a Canadian comedy from 2002 titled Men with Brooms. It’s about curling and a fictional Stanley Cup of the curling world – The Golden Broom.

“I’ve seen this,” he told me. “And no one is dead.”

The film begins on a lake with beavers singing and quickly takes us to a father and daughter on a boat, retrieving a curling stone that somehow wound up on the bottom of the lake.

The young woman dives down to attach a line to the stone and then helps her father haul it up. Curling stones weigh 42 lbs after all.

And then the father drops dead of a heart attack and the young men he coached all show up for his funeral and are urged by their dead coach at the reading of his will to reunite one more time to compete for The Golden Broom.

Using a curling stone that is doubling as his urn.

Let’s see … one of the daughters is a recovering alcoholic who is in love with one of the men who left her sister at the altar ten years earlier resulting in that sister getting degrees from McGill and Harvard and becoming an astronaut. The vied for gentlemen in question has “issues”. He cheated the last time that the rink (curling team) competed in a match together.  His dad is a legendary curling champion who was away from home much of the time his wife was dying (yes, I know, I know) and father and son are estranged.  Another teammate is a drug dealer who can’t remember the names of the women he sleeps with. A third is an undertaker in a lifeless marriage.  The last man is desperate to impregnate his wife but has a single digit sperm count.

Oh and there is a lesbian local police chief being chased by a waitress that has no relevance to the plot in any way but keeps coming up.

And quacking beavers swarm the roads.

Rob says that beavers don’t quack but people who live in Ontario apparently don’t know this because the beavers in this movie make a noise that is very duck sounding.

Oh, and curling? Major sport. Major. Not like hockey is major but more like how softball rules in some parts of the midwest. I have a writing friend whose son is heavy into curling. It’s like being a little league baseball mom.

The soundtrack for the film is all Canadian and it rocked. The film itself picked up speed and meandered away to subplots but was charming and funny. Leslie Nielsen, who hails from the Northwest Territories, plays the estranged father who grows “magic mushrooms” and is quite good – and surprisingly attractive for such an old man.

It’s not as heavy-duty a movie, and already I’ve forgotten much of the point of it, but I don’t lament the time lost and that’s hard to say about so many movies these days.

With Dee safely pawned off at her bff’s house Saturday for an overnight (I will miss that about summer. We’ve had a Dee-free weekend just about every other and at the price of hosting bff on the opposite weekends which is still a definite win-win in terms of child occupying), Rob and I spent the day pondering the “movie” side of dinner and a movie date night. 

Rob wants to see the new Tarantino flick but it doesn’t open until next weekend and so I googled the offerings and did a bit of review reading and came up fairly empty. It’s not that bad reviews put me off. I don’t pay much attention to what a critic thinks. I read reviews to get a feel for the story-line and to find links to trailers. The bottom line is always this:

Is a story interesting enough to justify the time spent elbowing with the masses?

Most of the time, the answer is “no” because unless a movie is a must see – like the recent Star Trek for example – we aren’t in any hurry. The majority of films are out on dvd within four to six months and our public library does a wonderful job of keeping current on titles. Trekking to the theatre to queue up with teenagers and young adults who have little concept of personal space or tmi conversations, which they carry on at deafening levels that make me glad when I run across groups of young people who text each other even when shoulder to shoulder, just isn’t an experience I need and I know Rob has little patience with humanity anyway, so why? 

Movies can be savored from the comfyness of the sofa, snuggled with husband, pillows and under blankets. The living room is a lot closer to the true amenities of life and what it lacks in screen size is more than made up for by a clean bathroom and a kitchen with a wider – healthier – variety of snack options.

After ruling out the theatre and taking in dinner at the local Chinese option, Rob and I decided to splurge and rent dvd’s. Our selection for last evening was the Nick Cage flick, Knowing. The trailer blaring from a tv screen in the store lured us into it. Trailers are deceptive but nothing else was really screaming out “pick me” and it had an intriguing premise.

A time capsule buried fifty years earlier is unearthed and reveals a sheet of paper covered in numbers that turns out to be the date, location and death totals for nearly every major disaster between 1959 and 2009. And there are just three dates left. Cue the spooky music.

Unfortunately many things work against such a promising start.

  • Nick Cage is a one facial expression actor.
  • The film can’t decide if it wants to be a horror, action or alien encounter movie.
  • It veers wildly back and forth between actual science and Rapture inspired religious mumbo-jumbo.
  • And did I mention that Nick Cage really sucks the air out of every scene?

Of course widowhood reared its head. Cage’s character is a widower who drinks himself to sleep every night while staring morosely at the unopened birthday gift his wife died before having the chance to give him the year before, and there is cgi galore. The end is part Michael Bay/part Spielberg AI. And there are two adorable children. Something for everyone and therein lay the problem. No focus. Story drifted and then would scream off in an almost opposite direction.

I hate it when good story ideas are treated so badly. Some people should not be allowed to make movies.

Last weekend after dinner at BP’s, Rob and I engaged in that trailer park tradition of trolling the dvd bargain bins at our local crap peddling box store because we were too tired to make the drive to the suburbs and muster the inner reserves to deal with the Saturday nite hordes at the multiplex.

After rearranging two bins brimming with theatric cast-offs we settled on two of the $5 selections: Fever Pitch and In the Name of the King. We watched the former that night. It’s a remake of a British film starring Colin Firth that was adapted from a book of short stories by Nick Hornsby. I sorta wish we could have seen the original because this version, while cute and rom-comish, was predictable and even Drew Barrymore’s patent cuteness couldn’t spark any sort of believable chemistry with the Jimmy Fallon character. It did evoke memories of my late husband who was a professional sports team fanatic like Fallon’s character although Will lived and died for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the character in the film was a Red Sox fan. Here’s a peek at the Firth version:

One wouldn’t believe it but there is an upside to involvement with a lunatic pro-ball follower;  they are easy to buy presents for and a girl is always guaranteed time to do things her boyfriend/husband would have ruined with his petulance. In my case it was Sunday afternoons from September through December when I could wander bookstores or window shop or just curl up with a good book. Will always encouraged me to go out with girlfriends and couldn’t understand my preferring time off on my own, but he was almost incapable of being left to his own devices – something Dee has inherited, and Rob and I have worked hard to eradicate. My job plunked me in the thick of crowds of children and daily collaboration with other adults. I cherished any social decompression I could get and I learned to be alone in crowds or in public in order to facilitate recharging.

Last night we watched the second film, In the Name of the King, which turned out to be based on a video game. It was awful. How awful? Burt Reynolds was the King in question – ’nuff said.

I am not certain why video games need to be made less passive as entertainment by turning them into movies in the same way I am puzzled by the need to ruin perfectly good novels by filming them. There were a few interesting elements which a better writer (there were three listed in the credits – never a good sign), less cheesy CGI and better casting could have made more of, but the film was doomed from the opening.

I guessed most of the plot turns well before they happened and when Rob noted,

“This is just a bad knock-off of Lord of the Rings.”

I had to point out that “Everything is an inferior knock of Tolkien.” Which is why it was so easy to predict events well before they happened. It is curious though because there are certain elements that always show up and yet don’t make much sense:

1) The enemy army is always made up of subhumans.

2) The hero is fatherless but has male role models aplenty which makes one wonder – why not just give the kid a dad?

3) Women are mostly absent.

4) Power derived from ruling people/countries is less corrupting than the ability to work magic.

In the Name of the King might be a video game of worth (though I question the idea that video games are worthy of any amount of time), but it sucked as a movie. But as always, decide for yourself.