Posts Tagged ‘Captain America – movie review’

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 enamored 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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Back at work now for a week after my thirty days off for vacation.  Hil, Sarah and I flew to Liverpool, U.K. to visit her family for three weeks (Sarah has stayed an extra two weeks and will be back soon).  We flew out of Oakland, to Portland, on to Amsterdam, and then into John Lennon / Liverpool International Airport (aka Speke Airport).  The return trip was via Seattle instead of Portland.  All the flights were surprising comfortable and there were no problems at all.  The most interesting thing was we took a turboprop on the initial leg of the trip (from Oakland to Portland).  This was only the third time I’ve ever flown in a propeller aircraft and it was the first time it was quiet.  I would say it was quieter than a jet – particularly on the takeoff and landing.  I was expecting to have to shout to Hil, but we could speak at normal volumes.
We had a wonderful time visiting with family and old friends and I felt particularly relaxed by the whole experience.  We stayed close to Liverpool and just enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the jewel at the mouth of the Mersey.  The weather was surprising agreeable – in fact, I would say the first four days we were there it was “hot” (in the low 80s).  Very pleasant for us coming from Concord, CA (in the 90s).  I was hoping for more rain.  We did get some, but it was mostly intermittent and not a bother at all.  “Just enough to keep the dust down,” is how it’s described in Scouser.
I took a number of books along with me, hoping to be motivated enough to get through them.  I wasn’t.  I made the “mistake” of purchasing a Sudoku book at the airport and ended up wasting many hours in simple entertainment.  I find the pattern matching in Sudoku to be extremely relaxing even though it seems to also involve a great deal of mental concentration.  Anyway, the three books I did complete were: The Art Of Pitching, written by Tom Seaver (1984©) with Lee Lowenfish, “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons“, written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (1976©), and “A Christian’s Pocket Guide To Islam“, written by Patrick Sookhdeo (2001©).
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you probably are aware of my re-kindled interest in baseball (in general) and the San Francisco Giants (in particular).  Hil and I have watched most of the games this season and I would estimate we’d seen some of all but three games – up until we left for our vacation.  Anticipating I was going to be suffering from baseball withdrawal, I took along Tom Seaver’s book to ease my suffering.  The book is an excellent guide to learning about the mechanics of pitching and I would highly recommend it for a junior level baseball coach or 10 to 12 year old who dreams of becoming a high school, college, or Big League pitcher.  For me, there were many insights into the mechanics, but not a lot on the strategy of pitching to a specific hitter or work a game.  Seaver does spend the last chapter going pitch by pitch through a game (he wins it), but it was somehow lacking in what I was hoping for.  I’m not sure what I was looking for, but this didn’t quite “get it” for me.  Anyway, it did help me get through the three weeks without watching a game and I do highly recommend this short volume to anyone interested in the mechanical side of pitching and picture preparation.
Many years ago, I read a few of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  The one which struck me the most was “Slaughter House Five“, but I enjoyed the couple I read and I bought several more intending to complete more of his works.  Well, life got in the way and I’ve never gotten around to them.  I found a few of his quotes on another blog I subscribe to (and copied them to my own), but they tickled my fancy about getting back to the ones I’ve not read.  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons” is one of those unread works.  This is actually a terrific little book about science fiction, life, war, peace and honesty.   I highly recommend it!!  One story on Biafra was particularly touching;  another (a SciFi story) on prolonged life was particularly frightening.  As I said – highly recommended.  And now I really do want to read several of his other works which have been sitting on my shelf for thirty odd years…
The third book I completed, “Pocket Guide To Islam“, was a very thin book I found at Hil’s mum’s place.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect reading it.  It seems to be written by a Christian minister who has spent some time studying Islam.  I would say the book captures the basic story, philosophy, historical facts of the religion, but I don’t feel the book conveys the depth of feeling or nuanced interpretation of a Muslim.  Of course, not being Muslim myself, I may be completely incorrect, but my direct experience with Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Arabic Muslims is not in complete agreement with some of the minor facts in the book and therefore I find it difficult to accept the whole of the work.  Still, I do feel the author seems to be coming from a willingness to accept conversion to Christianity by Muslims.  I’m just not sure the author says anything which would help a Christian convert a Muslim, even if the Muslim were personally willing to listen to an attempt at conversion.
Including one movie I saw after I got home from Liverpool, I’ve seen fourteen new movies during my thirty days off.  They include:  The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle, The Green Hornet, A Law Abiding Citizen, Grand Torino, Transformers 3, Defiance, Invictus, True Grit (the new version), Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2, Battle: Los Angeles, The Lincoln Lawyer, Country Strong, and Captain America (in 3D and normal the following day).  Wow!!  (That’s some sittin’ around on your duff – even for me!)
The Adjustment Bureau:  another good, solid performance by Matt Damon.  Is life pre-ordained or is there free will?  See the movie and then you decide…  Highly recommended as an adult, thinking movie.
The Eagle:  a surprising entertaining movie about Romans in England (Scotland, actually, but why nit-pick).  Reminiscent of the first battle scene in Gladiator (which I also enjoyed), but this is the longer, drawn out version.  Not great, but a solid “man’s” movie.
The Green Hornet:  mostly a dud.  Very disappointing.  I’ve never seen Seth Rogen in anything before and this movie will go a long way in making sure I make NO effort to see him again soon.  Reminiscent of the Adam West Batman TV series, but I don’t think they were going for the high camp that made the TV series tolerable (sometimes very funny).  Save two hours of your life and do something else besides watching this.  You’ve been warned…
A Law Abiding Citizen:  if you liked The Usual Suspects, you’ll probably like this movie.  I enjoyed them both for what they are – good, solid, adult, storytelling.  Perhaps too much implied violence for the young or squeamish, but otherwise, solid entertainment!
Grand Torino:  Wow!!  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much watching a serious movie.  Clint Eastwood at his best!!  Shades of Archie Bunker from “All In The Family“.  A serious movie about racism, hope, coming of age – AND it is laugh out loud funny because it’s so well written and acted.
Transformers 3:  Not as good as T1 or T2, but still pretty good summer entertainment.  If you want to see robots kicking each other around, this is it!  The down side is you have to sit through about 45 minutes of blah, blah, blah about the hero (Shia Labeouf) and why Megan Fox isn’t in the movie.  Next time, just say, “the part of Megan Fox will be played by…” and get on with the robots fighting.  Another thing:  you don’t HAVE to include every character from every earlier movie.  Still, I’ll pick it up when it comes out in DVD for X-mas (cause I’m that kind of guy).  I saw this opening weekend, in 3D.  I’m not sure it added much to the movie.  Again, I’m left unimpressed with 3D technology…
Defiance:  an interesting movie about some Russian Jews who resisted the Nazis during WWII.  Based on a true story, it’s not a documentary and it’s not “entertaining”.  Worth seeing and interesting.  Stars Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.  Okay acting – moderate recommendation.
Invictus:  I was expecting a rugby version of Rocky, but instead this was a major bio of support for Nelson Mandela with Rocky thrown in for good measure.  If you like leadership movies and or sports movies about underdogs who win, this is for you.  I highly recommend it (on both counts)!!  Oh, yeah, Matt Damon stars (again).  He is rapidly compiling a significant body of work.
True Grit (the new version) – pretty much follows the original John Wayne classic and then disappoints (me) at the end.  It’s a more realistic ending, but who cares – it’s not a four-poster.  I’d watch them both if I were you and then let me know which you think is better.  This version has Jeff Bridges playing John Wayne (I mean Rooster Cogburn) and it’s a good solid performance.  Oh, yeah, there’s Matt Damon again…  Recommended, but definitely see the first version too.
Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2:  a good, solid movie and ending to the series.  I am not a devotee to the books, but I felt it was fairly close.  Interestingly, they did not make the same mistake as Transformers 3, they assume you saw the other movies or read the books, cover the transition into the part two movie in about ten minutes tops and get on with the rest of the story.  I saw this on opening day with Sarah, in Liverpool, in 3D.  For some reason, the things not immediately focused on were blurry.  I’m not sure if this was meant to increase the feel of the 3D or not, but I did not find 3D added much to the movie.  I will definitely pick this up on DVD (in 2D).  Highly recommended if you’ve seen any of the other earlier movies…
Battle: Los Angeles:  this was probably the surprise movie of the bunch for me.  I did NOT expect anything from the movie except the pleasure of (once again) seeing Los Angeles get destroyed.  Unfortunately, LA gets saved, but at least it gets thoroughly trashed before it gets saved and the movie is a good action movie.  It’s gung-ho, Marines, oo-rah, but who cares…  It stars Aaron Eckhart (who I first noticed and loved in The Core) and he makes a surprisingly good Marine sergeant.  It’s definitely over the top for the military and the Marines and I loved it.  Great summer entertainment.  Highly recommended.  Oo-rah!!
The Lincoln Lawyer:  a smart law / lawyer movie.  Who would have thunk it?  Stars Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer who does much of his work from a mini-office in a classic Lincoln towncar (oh, I get the title now).  Of course, he’s also out to do the right thing and help the down-trodden – just like ol’ Honest Abe (oh, I get the title now).  Not as interesting as A Law Abiding Citizen (above), but another entertaining adult movie.  Recommended, but not quite highly recommended.
Country Strong:  first let’s get the facts out of the way – 1) I listen to country music (a lot), and 2) I think Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful and talented actress.  Still, the movie didn’t reach me.  The songs were not that good and the performances (of the songs) were not that good either.  I just didn’t believe Paltrow was a star or the up and coming male singer was up and coming.  I also just didn’t buy into the story of the producer / husband, either.  I know there’s a lot of that in all forms of the music industry – I just didn’t buy it.  This movie came highly recommended by my daughter (Rebecca), but I think she misjudged me on it.  It was okay, but I would not really recommend it and I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it (it was on the flight home).
Captain America:  This was a first for me…  I saw the movie twice – on consecutive days – first in 3D and then in normal 2D.  I was supposed to see it with my son, James, over the weekend, but I went up to visit my brother, Sean, and he wanted to go see it with his son.  So the three of us went to his local movie house.  I really enjoyed the movie!  Of course, it’s VERY over the top on patriotism and rah-rah America, but it’s about World War II and Captain America.  If you can’t get past that, why did you plan to go see the movie?  Chris Evans is much more believable in this role than he was as the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies.  I think it’s because Evans really does play the role seriously (completely unlike Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet).  I also feel Hugo Weaving made a great Red Skull (the bad guy).  I noticed the same blurring of out of primary focus characters in the 3D version (the same effect I saw in HP-Hallows Part 2).  I did not notice the blurring in the 2D version, so again, I’m thinking it’s something the director is trying to do to add depth to the movie or it’s the result of something funky in 3D movie technique.  It doesn’t work for me.
While I’ve stated several times I am not a big 3D fan, I must admit when I watched both versions in close proximity, I missed the 3D effect.  Somehow, my mind remembered and I was expecting it, and I noticed not getting it in the 2D version.  I doubt this will ever happen again, because I doubt I’ll pay to see two version so close together – but it was an interesting sensory experience.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  You get a No-prize and a promise I’ll try not to do another marathon blog like this for a while.
I’ve got more to say about our trip to Liverpool and photos – but that’s for another day / blog.

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