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By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, October 22 2008 - 1:46 pm

February 4, 2011

We actually went to a real, big-screen movie last night at a time we would normally be asleep.  Our most exciting movie experience in months!  A last chance to see the second Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr. on the big screen!

I liked A Game of Shadows even better than the first movie, maybe because the first one was so full of hocus-pocus on the part of the criminalia.  On the other hand, maybe it was because the day before our last night's viewing we saw the first movie at home on the small screen.  We'd seen it before and loved it, but WOW!  All those wonderful intrigues and gorgeous scenery and amazing perspectives on the big screen - even closer than we would normally have sat.  Stupendous.

Improbable?  Of course.  Outrageous?  Indubitably.  Partly why I loved it.

I also love that these rewritings of Sherlock Holmes give Dr. Watson more respect (in spite of UK-style slagging) than the originals.

This Holmes is more physical by far than the original literary works.  But really isn't tracking down murderers more dangerous than the old, original writers gave it credit for being?

Still a little bit of familiarity with the original works adds the ability to have misgivings and speculations while watching this movie that you might not have if you never read Conan Doyle.

Tell you one thing:  when I watch the early Basil Rathbone productions of Holmes on  TV - I fall asleep!

(New Year's Resolution - when I have more freedom I will watch a movie on the big screen every week!*

*In which there is a worthy film for my time and pence, not always available here in Valpo.)

October 1, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love was crazy but not stupid.  Well, maybe it was kind of silly but it sure was fun - a veritable puzzle box of surprises you have an inkling of and then dismiss - that turn out to be true!

A little too coincidental for real life?  Well, I don't know about you, but my real life isn't nearly as much fun as the lives of these comic characters, with their tortured prejudices and egregious mistakes.

More power to them!  It is comforting to watch the folly of others.

Fun to watch the double standard go byebye.  Almost.


April 29, 2011

We read Water for Elephants in the Valparaiso Book Club and loved it.  I thought it would be a great movie to take my 92-year-old mother to, so four of us went on an expedition to the movie theatre.  (The theatre is not far away - just taking a 92-year-old anywhere is an expedition.)

We all enjoyed it.  I adored Reese Witherspoon.  She was positively gorgeous in circus costume draped over an elephant.  Well, no surprise, that - but how could she look so relaxed?

As well as I can remember, the movie follows the book very closely.  The climactic scene held some ambiguity for me in the reading of the book, and really held it for me in the movie.

Not so other members of our expedition.  Everyone remembered it differently, including my mother, who when asked about that scene of the movie in the car on the way home, said, "What movie?"

Ha, ha.  Slight exaggeration.

Anyway, I have heard rumors that the critics had strong reservations.  If you would rather purse your lips in disapproval than see the magnificent spectacle (that is very intimate all the same) go ahead and read the reviews.  I would rather see the film again than read one review.

As for the title, it is illuminated by the book - not by the movie.

I always love it when movie-makers reserve something for the literati!


February 26, 2011

The big screen is a wonderful thing, but you might enjoy this movie just as much at home.  Unknown doesn't concentrate on the great outdoors.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for dense city car chases that make you feel as if you are right there, in danger of getting burned from flying sparks.

The plot and devices may not be unheard of, but they work and they work wonders in this movie.  We enjoyed it heartily.

January 27, 2011

The King's Speech  (a 12 Academy Award nominations movie which we had to take a twenty minute drive to Portage to see - grrr) was wonderful.

Think kings and presidents are immune to family abuse and dysfunction?  Well, I missed George W so I haven't had the fact that they are not brought home to me via the film industry before.

The intimacy and almost claustrophic narrowness of the part of "Bertie's" life dealt with in this film contrasts beautifully with the grand effect of this very colorful and dramatic behind-the-scenes action.

The speech therapy is so clever that I am reassured that actor Colin Firth won't develop a stutter as the result of this role!

January 20, 2011 

Never saw the first True Grit.  But from what I hear (and being familiar with some work of the Coen brothers) I think the grit in this version is truer than the grit in the first.

Fabulous on the big screen, but one of those movies that make you glad you are safe and relatively sound (albeit jacketed in this inexplicably cold Valpo movie theatre) at home.

Ah, the lengths people will go for revenge!  And to avoid contractions, too.  I'm not saying it wasn't effective, but I don't believe (I mean I do not believe) that people in those days did not use contractions.  One thing good about this movie, though.  It proves that you can be audible and still believable.

The Rooster's sleeping place was a masterpiece. 

January 14, 2011

This one is a rarity.  How often can you combine such dancing with such acting?  And such acting as a not-quite-there dancer!  Black Swan on the big screen the way it would be impossible to play it on stage.  But it is not only the ballet.  It is a first-rate thriller to the point that well, I got truly uncomfortable and nervous.

Not that it is hard to get me uncomfortable.  Laurel and Hardy do that to me.  I didn't hear anyone in the theatre laughing at this one, though.

Wonderfully performed, but that is not all.

Stuff happens in the dancer's mind and in the "real life" onscreen, wonderfully intertwined.  The fifth dimension is our minds.

November 1, 2010

A few days ago we drove all the way to Schererville to see Hereafter.

This is a gentle film.  At least most of the people in the film are gentle and most sympathetic.  Er, at least the people the film is mostly about are -

Well, you get what I mean.  Dramatic things can happen to anyone, but this is not a film for car chase freaks or lovers of superheroes.

Gentleness and perspective.  That's what this film has.  What a welcome change!

September 16, 2010

A friend mentioned that I hadn't written about Eat Pray Love yet.  I said sure I had.  Well, I hadn't.

We saw it last month, I think, but I do remember some of my thoughts.

I thought it was good, but it could have been better.  One of the most important messages of the book came towards the end, I thought, when her negotiations and relationship with her healing friend became a little complicated.

I'm sure that is why the movie just didn't deal with it, but one of the biggest component of the love segment wasn't about romantic love - except in the sense that your romantic partner can help you grow in perspective and compassion.

Faced with a choice?  Read the book!

Julia Roberts' upper lip bothered me a good deal in the film.  Is it really better to look deformed than older?  I love Julia Roberts, but this, I think, was a mistake.  Maybe the director and/or producers made her do it.

April 10, 2010

Clash of the Titans in 3D was an opportunity missed.  The 3D effects were fine at first, but as the movie went on, the effects tapered off as if the makers ran out of money.

The battle with Medea could have been much more effective.

I might have been tempted to say, "Oh, no!  I am becoming blase to the three-dimensional effect!  The novelty is wearing off!"  But my partner noticed the same.  And when you stop dodging the stuff coming towards you from the screen, it's hard to attribute it to being jaded.  That tendency to dodge is reflexive.

My partner was also discontent with a lot of other stuff about the movie:  the colors were too subdued, the costumes were lame, the screenwriting not the greatest.  Even the hero, he felt, was too passive.

I'm not so critical as he, or perhaps I didn't expect so much.  I didn't expect to be blown away, and I thought it was fun.

He says you might as well save your dollars and see it in regular non 3-D form.

It's too bad, because now before we go to a 3D movie we are going to be wondering if the 3D is going to be great throughout the film instead of being gung-ho.

March 10, 2010

I realized yesterday, upon contemplation, that I appreciated how nuanced Anne Hathaway's performance of the White Queen was in Alice in Wonderland.  She played with her role.  The Red Queen, on the other hand, seemed one-dimensional by comparison, with a strident obnoxious straight-forward uncomplicated corruption.  The consequence of absolute power, perhaps?  Or unreined emotion?  The White Queen was kind of the scientific one.  Hmmm....

March 8, 2010

Ever since we saw Avatar I've been like a little kid looking forward to Alice in Wonderland in 3D.

Well, we saw the movie today and I'm still a little kid!  I'm still in a Wonderland distorted by fun-house mirrors and amplified by The Lookingglass Wars and none the worse for it.

What fun!  Don't expect the Walrus to recite portmanteau poetry - the Mad Hatter will have the honor here.

But most of the original characters remain and they couldn't be more charming or more horrid than in this flick.  (I confess that I'm sorry to have missed the Duchess, though!)

Maybe we can look forward to seeing her the next time round, because I think the movie ended in a perfect set-up for a sequel.

More!  More!  Encore!

February 23, 2010

What a charming movie Blind Side is!  Yesterday I would have said I had nothing negative to say about it, and I still don't.

But I couldn't help but think that the big kid in the movie, while not picked for his size alone for the good fortune that befell him, might not have been noticed by anyone at all if not for his size.

Nothing against the movie, which was taken from real life.  Nothing against the people portrayed in the movie, who can't help noticing what they notice (or in the case of this big guy, what you are visually hit in the head (via the eye) with.)

It is an inspirational story, and one you can't but help will be repeated for gee, more athletes, and poets, and people with a wonderful sense for visual design, and...

But is the money there?

Anyway - great movie.  I loved it.

February 1, 2010

Got February off to a good start seeing Up in the Air on the big screen.  Loved the opening photo montage and liked the rest of the movie, too.  A turn-around for the sexes - as in what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  Personally I think the sauce is inedible for either.

Ha, ha!  I don't think I've ruined it for you - there are several hits on the concept of up in the air, and they are all interesting.

January 23, 2010

Extraordinary Measures:  Wow!  I could see everything!  I could understand the dialog!  A very affecting movie taken from real life experience.

I usually avoid shows about the terminally ill and hospital movies like the plague, but this one is interesting not only for the disease but for the exposition of how the science and business work together to create a medicine that heals.

How can you not love a film that shows how a disease can be stopped in its tracks instead of fatal?

The strange and scary thing is how it took the initiative and energy of one individual to make it happen.  Isn't there a way that we can institutionalize this process a little better?  Make it more routine?

January 4, 2010

Sherlock Holmes as a Superman.  High time, I guess!  Thoroughly enjoyable on the big screen, which, as you can see, I haven't experienced for almost nine months.

New Year's Resolution:  Go to many more movies on the big screen?

So what if I experience major hearing loss?  (What are these theatre managers thinking?)

True confession:  sure, I wanted to see Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock, but we meant to see Avatar today.  Make sure that you are heading to the 3-D version of Avatar if that's what you want - we got there in time for the wrong (not 3-D) version.  Beware!

April 19, 2009

Saw State of Play today.  Awesome!  Thought I was so clever because I saw a connection almost from the beginning and that was it.

Well, I was wrong.

Helen Mirren spoke the true words of the show.  "No, the big picture is...!   (Well, what do you expect?  Want me to ruin the movie for you?  Fat chance!)

What is this country going to do about/for its newspapers, anyway?

Next day.  Well, maybe this film is for older people who still care about newspapers.  You could actually hear almost all the lines!  The actors enunciated!  Movie heaven!

It made me wonder if younger people have better ears (of course they do!) or whether they just don't care that much about dialog (could also be true?)  The young are so visual!  While I was on that train of thought I thought about some of the dialog that could have been better in a certain spot.  But that was only on later reflection.  I, too, was caught up in the amusing visuals! 

February 23, 2009

I am kind of embarrassed by how many really good movies I'm going to these days.  (Of course, that is how I try to choose them!)  But what worth is my little word of response among such an ocean of attention as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has gotten?

I mean, I liked it, too!  Intriguing, interesting, very well developed.  I didn't get bored.  (Of course my viewing got interrupted two times, but still - it is a long movie and I didn't get bored!  That says something!)

Only I must confess I got impatient to see Brad Pitt young!  (Remember those first tantalizing glimpses of him in Thelma and Louise?  That director was downright sadistic!)

The long-legged Cate Blanchett and her dancing were exquisite. 

Lots of memorable characters and realistic acting with dialog so slurred and muttered and "natural" that I couldn't always understand what the actors were saying.  But hey, I'm over sixty!  You'll have to ask a young'un if she/he had trouble.

Almost a tear-jerker in spots.

One interesting thing I did not know until the movie was over.  The movie is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald!  That was a surprise to me.  Inspires me to look at his short stories.

February 17, 2009

Wow!  Slumdog Millionaire!  How did they do it?  How could they do it?

I love the slant of the movie is that "it is all grist for the mill" as Baba Ram Dass used to say.  If you look back over your life you can see how different experiences, both good and bad, work together to make the particular blend of circumstances that comprises your own situation.

Slumdog Millionaire is kind of like the show How To Be a Millionaire in that respect.  A quiz show is a random pointless series of questions of no particular educational value in itself.  To be able to answer enough questions correctly to win the grand prize is a combination of knowledge and luck.

In this movie, big little tragic comic circumstances all combine to give our hero - but no, I don't want to ruin it for you!

And I won't tell you the dangers the movie portrays attend success in this quiz show, either!

(Are there really parts of India where only two people are present in a large area at one time?  Hard to believe!)

A great movie!

December 18, 2008

Usually I only write in here about movies I have seen in the theatre, figuring that in the theatre is where they were meant to be viewed.

But I saw An Inconvenient Truth today via DVD and was so awed by its scope and persuasive powers that I have to write about it.  In a way, for me it was preaching to the choir, but it was still fascinating.  What an impressive job of compilation Al Gore has done!

The graphs and maps and tables told the story for people who have trouble listening to lectures.  And yes, in a way, Al Gore brought the lecture room to the movie theatres!  But a story more dramatic could not be found, I think.

He doesn't say how he came to decide to make the movie after personally lecturing in thousands of cities.  I like to think he was inspired by Michael Moore's documentaries.

He correctly linked our economic well-being to the development of green technology.

At any rate, just imagine what our country would like right now if Al Gore had been given his majority-earned election in 2000!

December 2, 2008

My family went en masse to Quantum of Solace on Thanksgiving Day.  Made me thankful I have a lot more solace!  Glad I don't feel I have to buy it by....   oops!  Dont' want to ruin this movie for you!  If you want action action action go for it, definitely.  This movie delivers with some incredible survival scenes.  Bond himself?  He's supposed to be good, but I'm biased.  I like dark good looks.  Besides, in a movie like that, who has time to act?

The motives of the malfactors were more realistic than the old Bond movies that I recall (having only seen two Bond heroes before) from decades ago.  Maybe I just didn't get them, but the arch-enemies just seemed like grotesque crazy people who wanted to take over the world for fun and power.

Noisy, fast and violent.  If you have sensitive ears, jittery eyes, or sensitive soul, this may not be the movie for you.


October 23, 2008

The other movie of the "double header" my mom and I saw was in another town between our viewing of Religulous (see below) and home.  This movie, Miracle at Santa Anna, is a war flick. 

I'll start out by saying right up front I don't like war movies, even ones located in beautiful Tuscany.  Even ones extolling the virtues of the often ignored Buffalo soldiers.

I don't like the color red when it is on motionless bodies, or even moaning squirming ones.  I think war is stupid, and unlike men, who think war is interesting and the subtleties of psychology and relationships a bore, I get restive and unhappy when watching too many men in camouflage stepping over too many bodies or even walking through beautiful countryside.

I also can't say I saw the whole movie, because we did experience a slight disruption in the middle.  Maybe I missed what would have been my favorite part of the whole movie!  In spite of all my reservations, though, I have to admit that if you must see a war movie this is a pretty good one (as if I would know - ha!)

Enjoy all the miracles, because they are far outweighed in my mind by what should have been the title of the movie as far as I'm concerned, The Massacre at Santa Anna.  One miracle is that out of evil can come good?  Well, okay.  But wouldn't some of the good stuff have happened anyway?

I think some of the acting was great (although they couldn't film the little boy Angelo's breaking down in tears in one scene obliquely enough to make it look real - but here I am, picking on a little kid!)  I admit at the end I got a little bit teary myself.  The ending was very affecting.

But both my mom and I liked my movie choice better.  (In my mom's case, that's not saying much.  See below.)

October 22, 2008

Yesterday my Mom and I saw a double header.  First we saw Religulous (my choice) then we went to another theatre and saw Miracle at Santa Anna (my mom's choice, because she thought it was about angels).

I'm not going to say Religulous was a great movie because I'm not a movie critic.  But it was funny (to me - it was an early afternoon matinee on a Tuesday and there were only 8 or 10 people there.)  I could tell my mom began to get bored and turned off as it progressed.  She said later she thought it was "one-sided" (well, duh!) but I was pretty sure she was offended by the language.  She was.

Too bad Bill Maher hurt his cause by using offensive language, because it demeaned his message.  But I do believe his message is right on!  He must have read my Rumilluminations! (ha, ha!)

I bet many of the people he interviewed will never give interviews again to people not of their own faith, because he really showed belief for what it is.  (And not coincidentally, what a lot of them are - control freaks!)

(One of the first shots of the movie was a picture of a "HELL IS REAL" sign exactly like one of the ones I saw along 65 (but did not write about - the "H" was red with a black border on it.  In real life, at least, it had less emotional impact to me than the others.)

I was surprised (and felt vindicated) when Maher pointed out the difference between what Muslims said about Islam and what is actually in the Koran .  (I said something once at a social gathering about the "die, infidel" aspects of Muhammed's (or is it Mohammed's?) preachings and the people glared at me, shocked and put off.  Definitely politically incorrect!)

Personally, I think Westernized Muslims tend to not take that part of the Koran seriously, just as more sophisticated Christians don't take the virgin birth seriously.  Maher has a more sinister take on it, which I will not report here.  (See the movie!) 

I was beginning to think he had gone on long enough, and shortly after that he did begin to wind up.

His last scene was of himself above the cameramen (and ergo us) on a bluff (intentional, I believe, with a little humorous accompanying detail) saying four final words.  They are brilliant.  Why didn't I take the next logical step and think of it like that?

Of course I won't tell you what he said!  Let him lead up to it himself!  SEE THE MOVIE!

Personally, I think that Bill Maher is the Second Coming! 

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