January 15, 2010, - 4:35 pm
Nothing really bad at the box office, and with the exception of “The Book of Eli” (which is pretty good) nothing really great. The screening of “The Spy Next Door” was on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, so I couldn’t attend that. But out of dedication to you, my dear readers, I went to the Midnight screening, last night, to check it out so I could review it for you. As always, you can listen to my reviews on “The Mike Church Show” on the Sirius Patriot Channel 144, every Friday Morning after 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Here’s the rundown:
* “The Book of Eli“: This is yet another doomsday movie, but it’s a pretty good one. It’s part morality tale, part action hero movie. Beware, though, it’s very bloody, a few scenes of graphic dismembering, and several killings, as well as at least one attempted rape. It’s good to see a movie coming out of Hollywood, where the religious man–the righteous and moral man–is the hero, the good guy. It’s also good to see the Bible respected. Not the usual Hollywood scheme. The bad guys are actually the bad guys here.
Denzel Washington plays Eli, one of the few good guys left with the strength to survive and the morals that are lacking in the world in the setting of this film. I loved the religious theme of the movie, in which Washington has one of the last Bibles in existence and sets about preserving it and keeping it from villains who would use it to do evil. But I could have done without the shot of a Christian Bible and the Jewish TaNaCh (the Jewish Bible or the Torah, Nevi’im–Prophets, and Ketuvim–Writings) next to a Koran, at the end of the movie . . . as if all three are morally equivalent.
The story: a big war has happened in the world and much has been destroyed in the aftermath, with the bright sun and other atmospheric events destroying much of what’s left. After the war, “they” (we’re not told whom, but apparently it’s a reference to the powers that be) burned and destroyed most of the remaining Bibles. Eli has one of the few Bibles left, and he’s headed West through the desolation that America has become. On the way, he encounters humans who are now mostly thugs, rapists, murderers, and then cannibals. But Eli is something of a nimble action hero and best them all.
Soon, Eli finds himself in a small town, run by a mobster-like Gary Oldman. The whole town’s population are essentially his slaves. Oldman is searching for a Bible, but the thugs that work for him can’t read, and bring him Oprah magazine, and Harlequin romances. But no Bible. He wants to use the Bible to further enslave people in his own town and other towns he’s planning to establish. Eventually, Oldman discovers that Eli has one. And the rest of the movie is the fight between Eli and Oldman and his thugs, and Eli’s attempted escape to the West to get to where there is still, reportedly, civilization. Key is the protection of his Bible. Can’t tell you much more, or I’d give away the movie.
Mila Kunis seems a little out of place as Eli’s young eventual accomplice/sidekick. She and her mother, played by Jennifer Beals, live in fear of Oldman, and they try to help Eli.
Entertaining but dark and not for the faint of heart.
* “The Lovely Bones“: People who’ve read the book tell me this is pretty close to the story of the Alice Sebold novel upon which it’s based, but for a rape and murder scene, which were left out of the movie.
Saoirse Ronan plays a Susie Salmon, a teen in high school in the ’70s, who is abducted and murdered by a creepy, child-molesting neighbor, played by Stanley Tucci. At first, this tears her middle class, suburban American family apart. But soon, it brings them together, as her sister and father don’t give up in trying to find out what happened to their sister/daughter and who is responsible. In the meantime, Susie (Ronan) is in the world between earth and heaven.
While I found it somewhat entertaining on a creepy level, I could have done without the constant animated psychadelic scenes of what the realm between earth and heaven looks like. While that’s a significant part of the book, I felt it took away from the movie. Also, I found the abrupt ending very unsatisfying and cold. Cold is probably the adjective that best fits the entire flick.
This movie really isn’t for kids, and it’s very dark. Still, I found it mildly entertaining, if very slow moving. It’s not a great movie, but it’s not terrible. And, ironically, as much as I dislike her and her politics in real life, Susan Sarandon, as the mother-in-law in this movie, is funny and the only cheery thing therein. Also stars real-life criminal thug and attempted murderer Mark Wahlberg as the kidnapped girl’s father.
* “The Spy Next Door“: I found this kids’ movie to be kind of boring and uninspired. It lacked a magic and charm a good kids’ movie usually possesses. But it’s fine for kids and family entertainment. Jackie Chan plays a nerdy next-door neighbor who is dating single mother Amber Valetta. Her kids hate him and think he’s a total geek. But that’s a cover. Secretly, he’s a Chinese intelligence agent on loan to the CIA. He battles a Russian criminal mobster-type while babysitting and attempting to win over the kids. Lots of action, but yet not that entertaining to even an action movie junkie like me. Young boys might like it. To me it was just, eh. And the presence of Billy Ray Cyrus, complete with chick hairdo and highlights, didn’t help. I’m not sure which job he’s worse at: actor or father.
HALF A REAGAN
* “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond“: This is what you’d expect from your basic Tennessee Williams material. Lots of depressing scenes of people with sexual angst that eventually sort of resolves itself. Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter) plays a wealthy Southern belle and debutant, whose father has been dynamiting and destroying irrigation ditches relied upon by sharecroppers. She recruits and employs the handsome, down-and-out grandson (Josh Evans) of a former Governor to be her date to debutante balls and parties, and aggressively tries to make him her man, which turns him off. The slow-moving movie is their kabuki dance with really bad Southern accents.
HALF A REAGAN
* “Crazy Heart“: Jeff Bridges is excellent as a washed-up, alcoholic, aging country singer, who tours the country at small bars and romances a younger Maggie Gyllenhaal, the homely actress who said America deserves, is to blame for 9/11. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t nearly as good as Bridges is. It’s kind of old hat–the movie in which an aging has-been, who’s made a mess of his life, gets the young girl, but he can’t get his act together, so he loses the girl (and in this case, at least in my opinion, that ain’t no loss). We’ve seen it a million times over.
What’s striking is how much Bridges resembles Kris Kristofferson in this movie. It’s uncanny. And he sings all of the songs in the movie, in a voice that resembles Waylon Jennings. So, too, does Colin Farrell, who plays Bridges’ younger former singing partner, now a big star. Both have the excellent singing chops in their own right.
Been there, seen this. And it’s depressing to boot. But can’t discount Bridges’ excellent performance in a not so excellent flick.
HALF A REAGAN
Tags: Alice Sebold, Amber Valetta, Bible, Billy Ray Cyrus, Book of Eli, Bryce Dallas Howard, Colin Farrell, Crazy Heart, Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Jeff Bridges, Josh Evans, Koran, Kris Kristofferson, Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, Lovely Bones, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, movie, Movie Reviews, Saoirse Ronan, Spy Next Door, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Tanach, Tennessee Willliams, The Book of Eli, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, The Lovely Bones, The Spy Next Door, Torah, Waylon Jennings