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Posts Tagged ‘Atlas Shrugged – movie review’

I had a few days off last week, so I relaxed by watching a few films: Cash McCall, StarTrek Into Darkness, Fist of Legend, Interstellar, Annapolis and Atlas Shrugged 1, 2 and 3.  Because there are so many, I’ll apologize in advance for the length of this posting.  I hope some of you make it all the way through, though…
Cash McCall (1960)
Wealthy “youngish” industrialist Cash McCall (starring James Garner) makes his money by purchasing unsuccessful businesses, whipping them into shape and then selling them for a profit.  (Shades of Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman“.)  When Cash comes across a small corporation which manufactures plastics, he realizes it might be a gamble to buy the company, but the company’s owner, Grant Austin (played by Dean Jagger – better known as the General in the holiday favorite “White Christmas”), is the father of an old love interest, Lory Austin (played by a young Natalie Wood), he buys the business just to get a second chance at romance.
Well, that’s pretty much the “love story” aspects of the film.  Very predictable and, to be honest, not as funny / humorous as I thought it might be.  Be that as it may, there are a few interesting things about this movie.  First, Woods is absolutely gorgeous in this film.  She plays a “wealthy” daughter and nails the “acts very entitled” role.  The camera loves her.   Strangely, although Garner is only 10yrs older than Woods in this film – in real life that is – he “looks” much older.  Granted he’s still a sexy Hollywood male lead, but to me, the couple didn’t really gel because he “felt” so much older than her.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the movie actually has very little to do with romantic comedy and everything to do with predicting economic reality.  Bear with me on this…  At the end of his second term as President of the U.S. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the military / industrial complex.  There is a scene where Cash is explaining his view for the companies he’s consolidating (in the movie) – a plastics and an electronics firm.  The one he already owns is a financial conglomerate – which by the way owns a private security / detective agency and a credit / business checking business.  Anytime someone investigates him, Cash gets a report from both companies.  The second company is interesting because it’s a plastic firm.  If anyone knows anything about films from the mid to late 60’s, you almost certainly know the famous line “One word, son: Plastics”, from “The Graduate“.   Well, in this film, the star is saying (six years before “The Graduate”) you have patents on manufacturing plastics and the patents are worth more than your company because plastics are the future of manufacturing.  He then goes on to say, but that is only a bridge because the long term future is selling electronics (mounted on plastic) to the military and he doesn’t want the electronics company as much as he wants the retired general who is running the company, because he (Cash) wants an inside track with the officers in the Pentagon the retired general can provide access to (because he knows them all personally).  Who knew Hollywood could be so prescient about the future of industry in the U.S. (and the world).
Bottom line: a fairly typical rom-com with a very attractive couple.  If that’s all you’re looking for, this will be okay.  If you make the effort to look at the movie more deeply, there is a whole lot more going on…  Highly recommended!!  (By the way, I am a Jim Garner fan from his “Maverick” TV series days and I make no bones about my lack of objectivity.)
StarTrek Into Darkness (2013)
This is the sequel to the hit reboot of the movie franchise from 2009.  As with the second movie in the original StarTrek movies, this is about one of the series most popular villains: “Khan!!!” – or more accurately: Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan is a product of biological enhancement, essentially a superior man – physically stronger and a genius mentally.  The problem (well, one of them) is that Khan has little to no regard for “normal” humans.  Blah, blah, blah…  Long story, lots of special effects and a very good addition to the StarTrek legend.  This is a second review and you can read my original (and more detailed review) here.   This movie has “legs” and can definitely be re-watched again and again.  (Still) Highly recommended.
Fist of Legend (1994)
This movie is kind of a “classic” in the martial arts genre.  A Chinese martial arts student Chen Zhen (Jet Li) returns home to China to investigate the death of his Sifu.  Chen discovers his master was poisoned and goes about seeking revenge.  If you’ve spent any time watching movie fights on YouTube, you’ve probably seen at least one of the five (yes, count them 5!!) set piece fight scenes in this movie.  Hence my opinion that the film is a classic.  To be honest, although the movie is 20+ years old – and I’d never seen it before (!!!) – I felt as if I’d already seen the entire movie just based on the fights – which I have seen multiple times.  I would rate this movie right up with any of the early Bruce Lee movies (“The Big Boss”, “The Chinese Connection” or “Fist of Fury”) and definitely with any of the more recent Ip Man series.  Jet Li may not have the cinematic charisma of Bruce Lee, but he (Jet Li) certainly plays the part of acrobatic martial artist just as well.
Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!!  Come for the fights, stay for the interesting social commentary about national bigotry (from both the Chinese and the Japanese).
Interstellar (2014)
Now I never saw this movie at the theater, which is probably my loss, but I did not find the cinematic effects in this movie as awesome as everyone else seems to have found them.  Having said this, I feel the movie was a “real” attempt to bring some of modern science to the big screen.  So, kudos for that effort.
In Earth’s not to distant future, a global, unexplained, biological agent produces a crop blight and second Dust Bowl which together are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable – nitrogen is being released and oxygen is not.  A brilliant NASA physicist – Professor Brand (played by Michael Caine), is working on plans to save mankind by transporting Earth’s population to a new home via a wormhole. First, Brand must send former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and a team of researchers (one of which is his daughter Amelia Brand played by Anne Hathaway) through a recently discovered wormhole near Saturn and across the galaxy to find out which of three planets could be mankind’s new home.  One of the movie’s tag-lines is: “Humanity was born on Earth.  It was never meant to die here.”
Of course there is a “conspiracy” and bad guys.  Hey this is Science Fiction, you know…  No, actually this is less a science fiction movie than it is a cinematic battle of ethics and morality.  In the end, time is malleable and family is everything, so the hero saves the day…  The movie works in a lot of different ways: as science, science fiction, special effects, acting.  The movie was nominated for multiple Oscars and deservedly so.  Final recommendation: highly recommended, but see it on as big a screen as you can find.
Annapolis (2006)
A cross between “An Officer And A Gentleman” and “Rocky“, this movie is about a fish out of water who goes to the U.S. Naval Military Academy at Annapolis.  (And, yes, that’s a bad pun.) The three main characters are:  Jake Huard (the “fish” – I mean star –  played well by James Franco),  Ali (the love interest played well by Jordana Brewster) and Cole (the antagonist played well by Tyrese Gibson).  Basically, Jake is only marginally qualified to be at the Academy and Cole is trying to force him to leave by quitting.  Ali agrees to help coach Jake in boxing for the brigade tournament and life ends happily ever after.
Just a few comments: I am not a big James Franco fan.  I thought he almost personally ruined a couple of the Spiderman movies.  Well, close anyway.  I have never heard of Jordana Brewster, but the camera loved her in this movie.  I had to check the Wiki-background on this actress because I could hardly believe she has done nothing I’ve seen in the eleven years since this movie came out.  She reminds me of a (Latin and younger) Jennifer Connelly.  Anyway, Brewster has worked, but I’ve just not seen any of it (TV or movies).  Finally, I like Tyrese Gibson!  I liked him in the Transformers movie series and I liked him in this role.  He and Brewster have both been in the Fast And Furious movie series, but I haven’t seen any of them so I can’t really comment on them in those roles.  Tyrese is multi-talented, but I wish he was able to focus more on acting.  I think he could be another Denzel Washington – and that’s saying quite a bit.
Final recommendation: better than most movies in this genre – moderate to strong recommendation.
Atlas Shrugged (1, 2 and 3) – (2011, 2012, 2013)
Back in 2012 I reviewed the first movie in this trilogy (see review here).  If anything, each movie in the series got worse.  I picked up I and II on sale for $5 each.  #1 was probably worth it.  #2 was not.  I saw #3 on YouTube.  The quality of the film was not high, but it was still better than anything else about the movie.   Terrible acting, terrible actors, terrible writing and absolutely no explanation of the reasons behind Ayn Rand’s popularity (objectivism or libertarianism).  Use the six hours of your life to do something productive and don’t watch these films.
Final recommendation:  not recommended movie(s).  You’ll get more from reading the book, than you’ll EVER get from watching these three movies.
Again, apologies for the length of this post but that’s four highly recommended, one moderate to strong recommendation and three not recommended.
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On This Day In:
2014 Get Wisdom
2013 Enjoying The View?
2012 Adam’s Rib
2011 I’m Sure I Remember That…
Memorial Day, 2011

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Today’s three movie reviews are for “Doubt“, “Atlas Shrugged” and “Captain America: The First Avenger“.  The first two are new and the last is a second(/third) opinion.
Doubt” is the story of a new nun/teacher who may or may not be right for the job, an older nun/principal who may or may not be acting in good faith to protect her charges and punish evil, and a priest who may or may not be molesting a child (or children).  First off, did he or didn’t he?  The movie is not meant to provide any resolution.  If that’s your cup of tea, fine; most of the time, it is not mine – so that’s a minus to me.  (I’m simple and I like resolution…  Even if I have to think to get there.)  My bet is he did not.  Second, can you commit sin if it is for a higher (“a good”) cause?  Well, this assumes the intent was to reach the higher goal.  In this case, I “doubt” it was (pun intended).  Third, can a new person (trained to be obedient/subservient) be led astray by a superior?  In this case, easily.
Meryl Streep plays the sister superior / principal and she does it with a cold steel many people seem to remember fondly.  I don’t.  I attended a Catholic grammar school and the principals I had there were every bit as kind and loving as the other nuns and lay teachers.  Was the portrayal then, accurate?  I have no doubt, that for many, it was.  Just not for me.  In any case, Streep plays the part well and definitely deserved the nod of the Oscar nomination.  Without spoiling the ending, I found the final scene between the two nuns, completely unbelievable.
Amy Adams plays the new sister / teacher.  This new nun is very much the way I remember most of my younger nun teachers.  Was she (the nun) believable in her faith, love for her students and desire to teach?  I believed her (in the role), so I would say yes.  Was she (the actress) great in the role?  No, but she played her part well.  Adams also appeared in “Julie, Julia” and in “Leap Year“, and I liked her very much in those roles too.  Three very different roles for Adams who seems to be defying type-casting (at least for now).
Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the priest.  I haven’t seen Hoffman in much so it’s hard to make much of him in this role.  I loved him in most of it and then he fell off the cliff for me.  He spends most of the movie as a kind pastor and pleasant man.  He then has a few tense moments which demonstrate strength and commitment to his ordination.  However, in the final confrontation, while admitting nothing, he completely surrenders to the sister superior.  While it could happen that way, it just didn’t strike me as believable.  He did whatever he did (in the past) and there is no explanation of it (let alone a description of his sins).  I just didn’t buy the scene and therefore the movie fell flat for me from then on.
Finally, much was made of Viola Davis’ role as the mother of the child who may or may not have been molested.  Her scene was powerful and moving.  The only problem was that it really was nothing but a side issue to the main purpose of the movie.  Was the movie about the child or the relationship between the three main characters.  I believe the latter, so this scene, while powerful, was nothing but a distraction.
All in all, as well shot as the film was, as well acted as it was by the main characters (and Davis), I find it difficult to recommend the movie whole-heartedly.  Like a murder-mystery with a “surprise clue” unknown to all but the brilliant detective at the end, the movie was ultimately unsatisfying for my taste.
The second movie I watched was one I was looking forward to seeing at the theater, but then never got around to going to see: “Atlas Shrugged“.  The movie is based on the novel by the same name and kind of – but not really – purports to defend capitalism from the scourge of socialism.  The book is over 1,000 pages and has the time to develop the arguments in much greater detail than does the movie – even though the movie is promised (“threatened”?) to be a three-part opus.  Despite part-one being a commercial and theatrical failure, part two is under development and is scheduled to be released in late summer before the 2012 presidential elections.  I haven’t heard any word if part-three is seriously being considered.  I suppose that will depend on if the “devil-socialist” President Obama gets re-elected or not.  But I digress…
I read the book (in fact, almost all of Ayn Rand’s major works) back when I was in my early 20’s and full of myself.  I was convinced a dedicated, hard-working person (like me for instance) could change the world and make money doing it (not necessarily in that order).  If we could only get rid of all the socialists and deadwood.  Over time, I realized this attitude is symptomatic of mostly young folks with more potential than a real history of accomplishment.
BUT HOW IS THE MOVIE???  Well, both good and bad.  First, the bad — the good-guys are mostly good-looking, hard working, dedicated folks who also happen to be moderately to filthy rich and flit from party to dinner to social engagement.  The bad-guys are oily, weaselly, short, plump (males) or tall, slender and frigid (females).  Not that anybody is type-casting or anything…  How’s the acting?  See type-casting above…  Does the movie explain Rand’s main points?  Well, no.  That probably would have slowed down an already crawling pace.  Not only does the movie not try to explain the bad-guys reasons for doing anything (blame it on corporate greed and management laziness, or social programs which only benefit the lazy), it doesn’t really explain why those who can (the good-guys), do.  We’re left with “for the money”, but when offered a chance at monopolistic wealth, one of the main good-guys passes on the chance because he wants to “earn it” his way (more precisely: “own it, because I created it”).
Was there anything good about the movie?  Surprisingly (given the above comments) yes, quite a bit.  I liked the special effects, even if they were cheesy at times.  There is an extended scene of a high-speed train racing across the country which I really enjoyed (but I am a train enthusiast).  The two main characters: Taylor Schilling who plays Dagny Taggart of Taggart Transcontinental (a train company) and Grant Bowler who plays Henry Rearden of Rearden Steel are typical young and beautiful unknown actors who have a certain amount of chemistry together up until consummation.  After that, it’s like four different people (the two actors and the two characters).  Schilling is acceptable in the role of Taggart because the movie goes out of the way to mention hers is inherited wealth.  Bowler is less so, because the movie gives the impression his character (Rearden) is self-made, but he appears to be far too young for this to be the case (maybe just poor casting).  Interestingly, Rebecca Wisocky who plays Lillian Rearden (Henry’s wife) is refreshing in her role as a rapier wit, frigid wife.  But, for me, the “best” thing about the movie was the visual contrast between the futuristic “art-deco” world of the rich in stark contrast with the “Blade Runner” desolation of the slums for the rest of us.
Final answer: recommend.  It’s not a great movie and I don’t really believe it even makes the attempt to convey Rand’s arguments/philosophy, but at the end, you are still left asking:  “Who is John Galt?” — and that’s probably the whole point.
A final comment:  I do think there is a “great American movie” out there, but it will be about “corporate socialism” versus “regulated capitalism” and not capitalism versus government sponsored socialism/mediocrity.
The third movie I watched this week was “Captain America”, which I watched with my daughter, Sarah.  It was her first time viewing the movie.  I saw the movie twice last summer – first in 2D and then in 3D.  Again, this is a very patriotic, “rah-rah” America movie, but to expect anything less is naive.  I didn’t notice it before, but there were a number of points in the movie which were shown in slow-motion and which were obviously intended to be shown in 3D.  Sarah pointed this out.  She was not overly enamoured with the film.  The main character is played by Chris Evans who does a good job in this role.  He’s big and buffed, square jawed and blond, and he suits both sides of the role – the wimpy kid and the super-hero patriot.  The movie is a serious attempt to move the comic to the big screen and it works.  It also has a surprising amount of comedic one-liners in it, which help to lighten the movie enough to make it “fun”.  I will say, it wasn’t as good seeing it the third time as I remember it.  The jokes were funnier (or still funny), but the action wasn’t quite as good.  Still, I recommend this movie as being one of the better comic-book class adaptations.  It’s also a good primer for the Avengers movie due out soon.
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