THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese and Jon Hamm
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
What it’s about: Keanu stars as Klaatu in this remake of the 1951 classic. A mysterious alien lands in Central Park in a giant, swirly sphere. The military “accidentally” shoots him and takes him hostage. It’s up to a spunky scientist to help him escape. However, she soon learns that Klaatu’s plan is to destroy human life on Earth because we have been so devastating to the environment.
What I liked: Having never been much of a fan of the original 1951 film, I wasn’t expecting much. So, it’s easy to say that I wasn’t that disappointed with this film. I loved the opening of the movie. It brought back memories of Independence Day and Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. While not perfect, the movie did evoke that powerful alien invasion moment.
Gort was cool, although he didn’t get enough screen time. And he sort of disappeared in the third act… literally. However, it would have been great to have seen more of him. Anyone interested in Gort getting his own film, sans Keanu?
The scale of the film was pretty cool, and if you check your sensibilities (and logical thought, morals and disbelief) at the door, you might enjoy this one.
What I didn’t: Is anyone surprised that this film was a giant preachy mess? In the original, it was nuclear proliferation. In this one, it’s a sermon about the environment. But Klaatu’s actions don’t make much sense. On one hand, he’s saving individual people from danger. Yet, he unleashes a plague upon the Earth that is set to wipe out all human life.
Pretty much everything I didn’t like about this movie was the same as the original… the preachiness, the silly storyline, the annoying kid. But then again, I did forgive this to a degree because it did capture all of this from the original film.
Oh, and Jaden Smith’s gotta get a new hairstyle because he looks like a janitor’s mop in this.
Who is gonna like this movie: People who want escapism and doesn’t mind having a message beaten into them.
NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements including some sexual dialogue, and brief drug references.
Starring: Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Pena, Freddy Rodriguez, Luis Guzman, Jay Hernandez, John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Vanessa Ferlito and Melonie Diaz
Directed by: Alfredo De Villa
What it’s about: A Puerto Rican family in Chicago gathers for the holidays. They bicker at each other, the mother wants grandchildren, she thinks the dad’s cheating on her, the white Jewish wife of one of the brothers struggles to learn the Puerto Rican traditions, the acting daughter returns from Hollywood and the war hero brother comes home from Iraq. After a few days of fighting, they manage to put their lives back together.
What I liked: I always like a good cup of holiday dysfunction in my Christmas movies. With Four Christmases, this is the second film of this type. Four Christmases was funnier, but this one was made to be more realistic.
I thought there were some pretty funny moments, most of them courtesy of Luis Guzman and John Leguizamo. The film reminded me a lot of The Family Stone, but it wasn’t as well made. Maybe a bit of it was lost on me because I’m not Puerto Rican.
Still, all families fight during the holidays, and this film helps put all of this in perspective (although no one’s family is able to resolve stuff as nicely as they do in this film).
What I didn’t: Call me crazy, but if a white dude made this film, he’d be strung up for perpetrating every negative Puerto Rican stereotype. In some ways, this reminded me of The Miracle at St. Anna by falling into caricature of its own racial issues.
There’s nothing in this movie that we haven’t seen before, either in other dysfunctional family movies or anywhere else.
Who is gonna like this movie: Puerto Rican families and anyone who identifies with the family bickering.
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Rated: R for some violence, disturbing images and language.
Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla and Rajendranath Zutshi
Directed by: Danny Boyle
What it’s about: A poor, young Indian man from the slums of Mumbai has a chance to win 20 million rupees on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He’s up to the final question, which has never been achieved by anyone in Indian television history. The producers think he’s cheating, so they arrest him and interrogate him. However, the audience learns the unique stories of his life that allow him to know the answers to the seemingly random questions.
What I liked: Slumdog Millionaire is being touted as one of the best films of the year, and I don’t disagree with it. I generally like anything I’ve seen from Danny Boyle, and he continues to impress with unique stories and innovative films.
The cinematography is brilliant in this movie, simultaneously capturing the run down depression of the Indian slums and the breathtaking and vivid life of the characters’ lives. It is a gritty look at the awful life many are forced to live, but there’s hope infused into the story and characters.
Quite simply, Slumdog Millionaire is one of the more unique films of the year without weighting itself down with overly artistic ambitions. It tells a relatively simple story of love and triumph over problems. The movie gets better and better as it goes along, and you’ll find yourself cheering near the end.
What I didn’t: There’s nothing really bad about this movie. The biggest problem I had with the movie was the subtitles. I don’t have a problem reading subtitles, and I thought that Danny Boyle did a unique twist with the colorful title cards, but they were pretty small at times and a bit hard to read.
But then again, if the subtitles are the biggest problem with a film, things are pretty peachy.
Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of Danny Boyle, Bollywood aficionados and anyone who likes a solid story of the underdog.
WENDY AND LUCY
Studio: Oscilloscope Pictures
Rated: R for language.
Starring: Michelle Williams and a dog
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
What it’s about: Michelle Williams plays a drifter who gets arrested for shoplifting in a small Oregon town. When she’s released, she can’t find her dog Lucy. So she looks for him… and walks a lot.
What I liked: It was in focus… sometimes.
What I didn’t: This is quite easily one of the most boring movies of the year. What little plot there is could fit into a fifteen minute short film. I had no respect or sympathy for the character of Wendy as she had several hundred dollars with her yet needed to shoplift $3 worth of dog food.
Wendy is the epitome of irresponsibility and pathetic living. If the dog is so important to you, shake out the money a bit and feed it. Don’t jeopardize the dog’s safety to save a couple bucks.
Wendy and Lucy was completely uninspired and ludicrously dull. I watched it at double-speed on my DVD player and it still dragged. I would say this is one of the worst films of the year, but that means I’d have to acknowledge it as an actual film. I’ve seen better film on week-old pudding in my fridge.
Who is gonna like this movie: Neil Miller and anyone who enjoys watching paint dry.