Monday, October 31, 2011


Just in time for Halloween, here's a new horror movie out on DVD.  I'm not a big horror fan, but when I saw the preview for Rubber, I knew I had to see it.  Now that I've seen it, I realize it's a funny idea that's perfect for a spoof preview, but in this case it doesn't flesh out into a decent movie.
The police confront the suspected killer.
The star of Rubber is Robert, the tire.  Yes, he's a tire who somehow becomes sentient, and somehow gains telekinetic destructive powers.  He moves from bottles to small animals to people.  The movie tries to be sort of artsy and innovative by putting an audience in the movie and then sort of involving them in the story itself.  That part doesn't work.  The story doesn't work.  It's not even that funny.  I was thinking it might be funny bad like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or something, but it was just bad.

Bottom line, 1/2 star.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Poor Stieg Larsson.  He finished this series of 3 novels, and died before he even saw them published.  For his sake, I hope the novels are better than this movie adaptation.  Also for his sake, I hope the American remake coming out in December is better than this Swedish version.

The girl in the title, Lisbeth, a counter-culture computer hacker, comes to the aid of Mikael, a journalist hired by a wealthy industrialist to look into the disappearance of his niece 40 years ago.  The industrialist and his extended family, creepy super-rich people who live on an island, have mystery and secrets surrounding them.  They do not approve of this journalist and punk girl living in the guest house on the island.
Aww, an established journalist having an affair with a tattooed and pierced girl half his age.  Isn't that sweet.

So this unlikely pair figures out that a serial killer has been stalking young women.  And guess what?  Big surprise!  The killer is an ostensibly upstanding citizen who quotes scripture!  Give me a break.  I get so sick of seeing these "religious" serial killers.  Come up with something original.  (Oops.  I'm speaking ill of the dead.  Sorry Stieg.)

Besides this major thematic turn-off, I guess it was an OK movie.  No, I take it back.  It was a muddled mess with questionable plot manipulation and poor characterization.  Bleh.  I have a feeling the American version will be slicker, with better music, but will still be a mess.  Oh, by the way, the dragon tattoo has nothing to do with the story.

Bottom line, 1/2 star.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet Dave

A couple of weeks ago I posted a review of I am Number Four, a teen-drama take on aliens living among us.  For a kid-comedy take on aliens, Eddie Murphy comes through with Meet Dave.  Dave is a spaceship designed to look like a human.  Murphy is the spaceship, as well as its captain.  The crew, tiny humanoids with Spock personalities, have come to retrieve an orb that will take the salt from the Earth's oceans, transporting it to their planet.  The orb has ended up in the hands of a little boy in New York.
Dave disembarking from . . . Dave!
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say Eddie Murphy is a comic genius.  Sure, he's been in some not-so-great movies, but he's hilarious and fun to watch in Meet Dave as a spaceship trying to portray itself as human and as an alien trying to reflect American Earth culture.  He's plenty silly, with some gross-out (but kid-friendly) humor.  The story, a passably entertaining alien tale, a la E.T., moves along nicely, but mostly as a vehicle for Murphy's comedy.  Good, clean, family-friendly fun.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kak ya provel etim letom (How I Ended This Summer)

I tend to like many of the movies put out by Film Movement.  Most tell great stories, and almost all of them capture a slice of life in a foreign place.  How I Ended This Summer doesn't so much portray another culture, as another landscape.  I've never been to the Arctic, and may never go, but this movie captures the bleakness of that environment, and, even in your warm, cozy house, makes you feel the cold.
Cold enough for ya?
As well-made as the movie is, and as stunning as some of the visuals are, the story isn't much to report.  Pavel and Sergey are manning a remote weather station on an island in the Arctic Circle.  Sergey's the old hand; he's been there for years.  Pavel, the new guy, doesn't take things as seriously as Sergey.  Personality conflicts abound, exacerbated by close quarters and limited contact with others.

Pavel makes things worse when he receives a radio message concerning Sergey's family, who have been in an accident.  He avoids telling Sergey as long as he can, and in the meantime, both of them act like idiots.  This made the movie seem rather stupid to me.  I thought, "Why doesn't he just tell him!"  And then they make a bunch of other stupid choices.  Boring, and a little pointless.

Bottom line, 1 1/2 stars.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I am Number Four

This is a pretty cool twist on the usual alien invasion story.  Hiding out on earth, trying to avoid the pursuit of interplanetary bounty hunters, "John Smith" makes every effort to blend in as a typical American teenager.  He is Number Four; the bounty hunters systematically hunt down his kind, killing them in order.  Number Three has just been killed, so he and his guardian take off for another part of the country, assuming new names and identities and covering their tracks as best they can.
Seems like the guys with the super powers get all the cute girls.
I couldn't help but wonder why they bothered enrolling John in high school.  He looks old enough to be out of school; just get him a job where he can be more anonymous than he can in the high school environment.  Or, for that matter, why get him a job at all?  In any case, he falls in love with a human, meets another student whose dad researched aliens and knows much about John's people, and eventually is found by the hunters.  I especially liked Number Six, who comes around to help Number Four against the hunters.

I am Number Four is good fun, and, even though it's a Disney-distributed product, it's produced by Michael Bay, who directed the Transformers movies and others, and directed by D. J. Caruso, who also directed Eagle Eye and Disturbia, both decent thrillers.  The effects and action meet up to their standards, and the story surpasses the teen angst and romance to move along to a satisfying, but possibly sequel-yielding, conclusion.

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Zuo You (In Love We Trust)

Most of us will never face the type of moral dilemma faced by the families in In Love We Trust, but all of us, especially parents, can empathize with the gut-wrenching choices they make.  Set in modern-day Beijing, In Love We Trust introduces us to the cute 5-year-old Hehe, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.  Hehe lives with her mom and her loving step-dad, but sees her father regularly.  Treatments are unsuccessful, leaving a bone marrow donation as the only option.  The doctor says a sibling would be an good option, as there are no other matches.  Sibling?  Are you kidding?  This is China, with the one child policy!
But Hehe's mom has a plan: she proposes that she and her ex-husband, Hehe's father, get together and have another baby.  That's problematic for his new wife, who desperately wants a child, as well as for Hehe's step-dad, who realizes that this would rule out his having a biological child, given China's policy.  Emotions run high, and the couples reflect on the meaning of sex, and consider what sacrifices they are willing to make for the sake of Hehe.

In Love We Trust treats these questions respectfully and thoughtfully, while giving some insight into the life and culture of modern, urban China.  Fair warning: the nature of the story puts the couples in bed together, and although they are portrayed while having sex, no nudity is shown.  Far from being titillating, it was almost uncomfortably intimate, as the two couples struggle with their relationships.

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The preview of Unstoppable made me think of Speed 3 or some such movie.  A runaway train, civilians in danger, unexpected heroes heroically trying to stop it.  I fully expected a terrorist plot, a dirty bomb in the cargo, a criminal band making demands, or some other explanation for the train's rogue journey.  I was pleasantly surprised all the way around.  Those other elements don't necessarily indicate a bad movie, but they lean toward the formulaic.
There's enough smash-up action to keep things interesting.
So while Unstoppable doesn't completely avoid disaster movie cliches, it is refreshing that rather than resorting to some nefarious plot to send the train out of control, this disaster in the making was a simple matter of bad human judgement, mechanical malfunctions, and bad luck that sends the freight train down the tracks.  Unstoppable, based on 'true events,' has so many hairy close calls that I wonder how much was embellished and what was really true.  Even so, it's an exciting thrill ride, with plenty of impressive special effects, in which regular guys get a chance to be heroes. 

I don't know much about trains, but I can get behind a solid suspense movie with heroes you can cheer for.  Good performances by the stars, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, but the rest of the cast really seemed to add to the realism of life on the railroad. 

Bottom line, 3 stars.