Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Movies: August 14 - 20

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Match Point (2005): As near as I can tell this is Woody Allen's best film since at least 1999, possibly since the early 90's. Match Point is Allen's first film set and shot in London and somehow it has revitalized him. This film features a washed up tennis pro taking a job as a club pro offering lessons to the rich when he befriends one of his trainees. The rich kid takes the pro under his wing, introduces him to the rich kid's sister (Emily Mortimer) and to his fiancee (Scarlet Johansson). The sister falls for the tennis pro and the tennis pro falls for the sister, but the tennis pro also falls for the fiancee and she may have interest in him. Somehow this all seems typical Woody Allen and it works. The characters feel real and they do not talk and joke like the typical Woody Allen intellectual. So, the movie is mostly good and mostly solid, though I think it loses a bit in the last act as we move towards a resolution. The most dramatic decision made during the film is shockingly out of place for the character as well as the film...nothing really set it up or gave us reason to believe the character was capable of it. Bah. The movie was a step in the right direction for Allen, though I hear Scoop is something of an egg.

Why We Fight (2005): Eugene Jarecki directs this documentary which focuses on some of the reasons we, as a nation, go to war and what sort of reasons we give to the American people. It starts with the warning of departing President Eisenhower about keeping a check on the Military Industrial Complex, meaning the business of war (corporations, lobbying, congress, government contracts) and that if left unchecked then unwarranted power will accumulate in the hands of men who are not accountable to the voters. The next 40 years has shown Eisenhower's warnings to be prescient and also unheeded because this is exactly what has happened. At first glance it would seem that Why We Fight is yet another Anti-Bush film, and there are elements of that, but Jarecki is holding all of the American Presidents and all of the Administrations since Eisenhower accountable for what has gone on. There is a scene in the film where there is a map of the world and countries that we have attacked or been militarily involved in over the last 40 years were highlighted with what year, and every president has had multiple armed conflicts and supported others in their conflicts. There are a couple of talking heads in the film supporting America's actions, and they are persuasive because it is difficult to argue with the buzz word of "freedom" and "security", but the anti American Military Empire speakers are more persuasive to me about how so much of this isn't necessary and is built upon the relationships between these government contractors and the leaders in the administrations, and it is all legal but it may not always be ethical and it is certainly not necessarily in the best interests of American foreign policy. And yes, the current Bush Administration is held accountable but I believe this is more because President Bush is the sitting president and this film could have been made during any administration. Why We Fight is an excellent, necessary documentary. One of the year's best.

Final Destination 3 (2005): Sure this series of movies has followed the formula laid out in the first movie: a girl has a vision of a horrific accident unfolding just moments before it would actually happen. She, her friends, and some random strangers are spared because of her refusal to do get on the plane/highway/roller coaster and then the accident occurs. The rest of the movie is spent by the saved people getting killed in an ever more creative manner. This is so that the people who were supposed to die actually do die and Death's plan is intact. This movie features an accident on a roller coaster during the senior year of high school for a group of kids. This is a highly entertaining movie and it's all about the creativity of the killing. A couple of deaths are cringe inducing, but overall this is a fun ride. It's a teen horror movie and it isn't as gory or intense as some of today's other teen horror movies. The fun factor is high.

(1970): George C. Scott start as General George Patton in this Best Picture winning biopic from 1970. The film follows Patton's arrival on the scene in World War II in the African campaign against Rommel and follows through to the end of the war against Germany. The film shows Patton as a very talented field general, but one without a bit of tact. He admits that he is a bit of a primadonna but his success in war generally outweighs his personality...but his personality does hurt Patton's career as a general who should have potentially been the #2 man in the war behind Eisenhower. This is a long movie and is close to three hours, but the battle sequences are well done as battle scenes and when George C Scott is on screen and speaking as Patton it is compelling film. Excellent movie.

Mr. 3000 (2004): Bernie Mac stars as Stan Ross, one heck of a ballplayer back in his day, but an incredibly selfish and self-centered man who retired the day he hit his 3000th major league hit. He assumed this would be his ticket to the Hall of Fame, but nine years later he still has not been voted in. Then, when statisticians discover that three of his hits were counted twice, Ross tries to make a comeback with the Brewers so he can collect his three hits and still be Mr. 3000. There are hurdles, like he has hasn't swung a bat in almost a decade and he is not longer a young man, not to mention all the bridges he burnt during his playing days. Since this is a comedy and a family friendly movie (though there is a bit of PG-13 language) we can guess how this will end and what sort of emotional redemption there will be for Stan Ross, but the journey is what matters and this is a very pleasant, fun, entertaining movie. Bernie Mac is believable as Stan Ross and there is something about a fun baseball movie that adds to the entertainment value of this movie. It's worth the time spent watching it for light entertainment.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973): This fifth and final entry to the Planet of the Apes series could not end soon enough. The movie begins with a framing device 600 years in the future talking about the great leader Cesar the Ape, then we flash back to sometime after the end of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes where Cesar began the revolution to remove the apes from under the control of humanity. War has wrecked the globe the rise of apes to power is nearly complete. Cesar journeys back to the "forbidden" city where there is a record of his parents (Cornelius and Zira, the future apes who traveled back in time) warning of the destruction of the world which is to come nearly two thousand years in the future. There is also a conflict with a gorilla General Aldo in the best way to rule the apes as the gorillas seem naturally more aggressive. What I didn't understand here is how only 20 years after the events of Conquest (maybe less than 20 years, the timeline is unclear) nearly all the apes can speak and think and communicate in clear English and while they are still learning to write, there is a definite intellectual culture here. It just seems awfully quick to go from animals which can not speak (except for Cesar, the child of two apes from the future who can speak and communicate) to having discussions on parallel futures and timelines and philosophy. With all this said, the movie just is not as entertaining and does not seem to tell a coherent story. My recommendation would be to watch the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston and then stop and pretend the next four movies do not exist.


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