Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some Movies I like (and some I don't): 7 Quick Takes XII

The movies edition: Iron Man 3, Anna Karenina, Life of Pi, Looper, Wreck-It Ralph, Argo & I Confess . . . 

--- 1 ---


Iron Man 3

Eh, it was okay, I guess, if you're looking for an action movie. I just didn't find it nearly as clever as the first Iron Man, or Captain America (I am a big Captain America fan), or the Avengers.  It was pretty standard kick-punching and blowing stuff up.  

The notable exceptions being Tony Stark's dialogue with a fatherless kid -- I found that to be unexpected and hilarious, if totally inappropriate in real life, and Ben Kingsley's villain -- he plays two completely different characters, both perfectly.

The two things I was most bothered by were the fact that IT IS A CHRISTMAS MOVIE in May.  Christmas trees everywhere, Christmas carols playing, the works.  The teacher in me kept marking the movie down for its obvious lateness.

And Gweneth Paltrow spends the last third of the movie in stretch pants and a sports bra.  It makes me sad that an actress of her pedigree, and a wife and mother, would choose to lump herself in with all the other forty-something actresses who do a lot of situps.

There's also Tony Stark doing a weird mock crossing himself thing that I really didn't know what to make of.  And when he says "Let's take them to church," he means "Let's kill them."  Also odd.

I can't really recommend it, but it wasn't THAT bad (but for adults only I'd think, due to the hook ups and shacking up).


--- 2 ---


Anna Karenina

I saw this one on the plane on our way to Italy and it was so creatively staged and visually stunning that I kept lamenting the fact that I was watching it on a four inch screen.

If you're familiar with the book you'll know that this is the anti-Jane-Austen-happy-ending story.  An aching story of love and disregard and adultery and consequences.  It is so well acted and feels so TRUE that I don't think I was prepared to handle the emotions it brought forth in me.  And the love scenes, while not very graphic, are so sensual that I don't think I'll be able to watch it again.  Even though I was familiar with the plot, somehow seeing it messes with my head more than reading it.

Unless you're sitting around saying to yourself, "I would like to be titillated and horrified and amazed by a movie right now," I don't think I'd recommend it, but I thought it was a really good movie and a very faithful adaptation.  So, how's that for a helpful review?


--- 3 ---


Life of Pi

Another one I saw on the airplane.  Also beautiful to look at, but this one was almost completely devoid of substance.  And I found the twist at the end to be depressing beyond belief.

I had read the book, so I knew what to expect, but it was still bothersome to hear the lead character explaining how he was born Hindu, then became Catholic, then Muslim, without ever abandoning his previous faiths.  Because he's just THAT much more enlightened than all the rest of us who are so narrow-minded we have to choose only one religion.

I do not recommend this one.


--- 4 ---


Looper

Totally worth the language and violence and brief nudity.

I loved the visual world of this movie.  Floating watering robots alongside an axe, a new way to take drugs, beater cars with solar panels, ironic ties and hover cycles . . . I'm a big fan of dystopia and I really think they nailed it.
And it's perhaps the only morally justifiable positive and direct . . . wait, I won't tell you, I don't want to spoil it.
Suffice to say this is a gripping and SMART movie focusing on redemptive love.  I highly recommend it for adults.


--- 5 ---


Wreck-It Ralph

I resisted seeing (and letting my kids see) this one for a long time, assuming that a made-for-kids movie starring a young lady famous for her profane comedy routines would probably not be a great fit for my family.  

I also got the sense that it would be another exercise in: "Hey kids, you can be anything you want to be if you just believe in yourself."

But, I ended up trapped at the dentist's office all morning with the kids, so we watched it together (I figured I would just explain how inappropriate it had been on the way home and it would be another Tierney family exercise in Discerning Viewership) but I was pleasantly surprised.

Ralph uses kindness and self-sacrifice to eventually win over his neighbors, and instead of being whatever he wants to be, he becomes the best possible version of himself.  Ms. Silverman's character, Vanellope, ends the movie less willing than Ralph to embrace her own responsibilities, but not nearly as problematic as I had feared she'd be.  And the kids loved it so much they ALL watched it again the next day on the airplane.

So, overall, I'd recommend it.


--- 6 ---


Argo

It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but I know you're waiting to see it until you find out what *I* think about it.

Well, wait no more because I thought it was swell.

LOTS of language, tons, and a bit of skin, but they couldn't have done it any other way.  It seemed necessary to the plot, so it was okay with me.

The costumes and settings are great, the characters are believable, and the action is exciting. (The climax of the movie seems fake and overwrought, and it is, but everything else leading up to it is great, so I can let that slide.)  The Hollywood stuff is HILARIOUS.

And my favorite part is probably one the other reviews leave out, which is that it has a really sweet pro-family message.

Again, not for kids, but I recommend it.

--- 7 ---


I Confess

Hey, you thought I was late on my review for Argo?  Well, I Confess is a Hitchcock movie released in 1953, so I'm waaaay later on this one.

It's in black and white, and has all the Hitchcock suspense and twists and turns you'd expect.  But this time, the hero is a priest.  He is faced with the dilemma of knowing the truth about a murder for which HE is the prime suspect.  But he cannot exonerate himself without breaking the seal of the confessional.

There's considerable innuendo throughout the movie that our hero may have broken his vow of celibacy, which could be confusing to younger viewers.  So I'd recommend it for high school and up.


Silver Linings Playbook is on my to-watch list, and David Tennant's Hamlet.  Any other suggestions?

Update: I saw Silver Linings Playbook and have a very strong opinion about it, which you can read about here.



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14 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you on Looper! I've watched it twice and I still think the message is one of the best out of the movies I've seen recently. I guess it could be morally problematic, if you wanted to look at it that way, but mostly I loved the ending and was very touched by it!

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    1. I really loved it! And I would argue that the ending is the only possible morally acceptable instance of that, since he's doing it defensively, which isn't usually possible.

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  2. Could you just watched everything in the kids section on netflix? It'd be a big help. Thx. ;)

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  3. I haven't seen a single movie on your list, so thank you for reviewing them. I'm bummed you didn't like Life of PI, though. I had high hopes for that one... I guess I read it back when I was a bit more malleable. :)

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    1. Me too! I had a bunch of books that I finally got rid of, that I remembered really liking but I couldn't remember if they were really inappropriate and I kept worrying people would see them at my house and think I was a terrible hypocrite. I meant to reread them but wasn't getting around to it, so off they went.

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  4. Life of Pi put me to sleep on the airplane. Kiera Knightly stared in the remake of both Anna Karenina and Dr Zivago and both were terribly sad with people behaving badly. After my book club read AK I saw an old version of the book made into a movie staring Vivian Leigh (Scarlet O'Hara in GWTW) who played a much better Anna. I haven't seen the others but am looking forward to the new Thor movie coming out soon.
    Nanacamille

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  5. I too was pleasantly surprised by Argo, and Wreck-it-Ralph. My 4 year old was allowed to watch it on a very long plane ride home from Italy since it was the only suitable option. However, I have to disagree with your comment regarding the nudity in Looper. I haven't seen it, but, as Catholic film watchers, we have to keep in mind, the ends don't justify the means. Nudity in films is never acceptable. There are so many aspects of just one shot that are imprudent on so many levels. Even if it ends up on the cutting room floor, there's still a crew of mostly men on the set, holding lights, measuring the distance between the camera and the actor's bodyparts, makeup being applied to them, etc. I know because my husband's a filmmaker, and for those reasons, vows to never make a film with any nudity whatsoever. We are putting ourselves in front of someone preaching their vision, beliefs, and values to us when we watch any film. It is so important to carefully discern what we expose ourselves to. Thank you for reviewing the films you've seen as a Catholic mother! Also, if you want to check out a good site before you view anything, I highly recommend movieguide.org. They have very thorough reviews and break down violence, nudity, profanity, and overall message nicely. I love your blog Kendra!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words and your considered opinion on the nudity issue. I would certainly prefer it not to be in that movie, it didn't feel necessary, but it also didn't feel like it would be an occasion of sin for most viewers since it was fleeting, upper female only, and in a non-sexual (at that moment anyway) situation. I found the scenes in Anna Karenina to be much more personally problematic.

      However, I do think you make a good point about the cast and crew in such a situation. It certainly is troubling. I'm not quite willing to concede the point yet, but I'm certainly going to think more about it. I haven't been able to find any guidance so far from the magisterium or the bishops or Catholic Answers, which are usually my go to opinions. I'm hesitant to google anything with "nudity" as a search term, which makes looking into it more difficult. So I think I'm just going to have to wait until I can bring it up in spiritual direction.

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    2. Okay, I've had a couple of days to think about it and look into it and I'm going to get to continue to disagree with you, but now at least I know why.

      As Catholics, we need not immediately dismiss as immoral all works of art containing nudity. The great works of art in the Sistine Chapel (re-nuded by the order of Blessed Pope John Paul II) and St. Peter's itself attest to that.

      Neither does it being in a film rather than a painting or statue make it necessarily immoral, since films included on the 1995 Vatican Film List include nudity in both sexual and non-sexual contexts.

      Nor does the consideration of workers in the film industry make all nudity in film immoral since there are other professions (painter, doctor etc) which include seeing nudity as part of the job.

      It comes down to: is the nudity meant only to titillate or is it meaningful? Even if that meaning is to show how debased a character has become, which is how I believe it functions in Looper.

      Stephen Greydanus has a great article at Decent Films (my personal favorite review site) on The Vatican Film List, which covers this and other related topics.

      Thansk for giving me something to think about!

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  6. Good to know about Wreck It Ralph. I'll have to remember that one for the kids.

    And I too loved Argo and I Confess. Maybe I'll need to watch Looper now that you say it's good. I thought it looked too much like a guy movie and fell asleep on the couch.

    I hope you like Silver Lining Playbook.

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    1. Thanks, it was you who put it on my radar!

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  7. I was perusing the Amazon Prime options before family movie night and came across "Joseph - King of Dreams" starring Ben Affleck. Looks like it was never released in theaters. Anyone seen that one? Recommend it?

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  8. I'm going to pin this post so I can look back on it when deciding what to watch (in the very brief moments that I actually have to watch a movie). I've seen Iron Man 3 although I never saw the first or second one, at least in their entirety, but the others I haven't. I tried to read Life of Pi but thought it was too weird and boring so I knew I would skip the movie. I'm a bit perplexed by your review of Anna Karenina, but maybe I'll go for it??? And really, really happily surprised that you liked Wreck It Ralph. I'll put that on the list for when my little one is older.

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    1. Well, that's because I was perplexed by the movie.

      Anna Karenina is beautifully staged and acted, and is very true to the source material, but basically it's an indepth study of an adulterous love affair. It's exciting to watch, and there are romantic love scenes (with a bit of nudity).

      It shows the terrible consequences of the affair, but it presents all the characters sympathetically. And I just can't help but wonder if it's good for me, as a married woman, to watch a movie like that. No matter how brillant it is.

      Sorry I can't be more decisive. But it really is a judgement call. My only issue with it was that it was too romantic about an illicit relationship. Maybe it's best watched as a cautionary tale for the unmarried. We all need to pick right the first time!

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