September 7, 2007, - 10:43 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Two of this year’s best movies, “3:10 to Yuma” and “In the Shadow of the Moon,” are out this weekend, as are two of the year’s worst, “The Brothers Solomon” and “Shoot ‘Em Up.” Here are my reviews:
“3:10 to Yuma“: The Great American Western is back. Fifty years later, this remake of the 1957 movie (based on Elmore Leonard’s short story) is among my TOP FIVE Movie Picks of the Year (If Not THE BEST). It is about good versus evil in the starkest, clearest terms, and how those who are evil can even grow to respect those who sacrifice all to stick to their principles.
The great Christian Bale is excellent and moving as Dan Evans, a dedicated, loving father, who holds honor, principle, and family above all to the end. That’s a portrayal of men and fathers we rarely see out of Hollywood these days, and I’m glad it’s back in this great film about honor and integrity above all else.
Dan Evans is a down and out-on-his-luck Arizona rancher in the late 1800s, who is struggling to support his family and keep from losing his horses and farm. He is also a Civil War veteran who lost his leg in the war. He agrees to guard the outlaw Ben Wade and accompany him to the 3:10 train to Yuma to face justice there. It is a dangerous job, but Evans needs the money to help his family survive. But money cannot buy his honor and decency. Along the way, he and the others in the posse meet with all kinds of danger, and Evans is offered all kinds of enticements. But he keeps his honor and sticks to his guns in this great movie.
Somewhat bloody and violent, so not for young kids. But the violence is necessary to the story, which, in the end, shows that good sometimes prevails over evil and even wins evil over. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. It is just that great.
“In the Shadow of the Moon“: Forget Michael Moore. This documentary by Ron Howard is what documentaries are supposed to be about. And this one is the Best Documentary of the Year, thus far–in my Top Ten Movies of the Year. About the astronauts who went to the moon for NASA, it debuts in New York and Los Angeles today and rolls out to the rest of the country by month’s end.
Buzz Aldrin says that most of our computer and telecommunications technology would be at least 50 years behind what it is today, but for our ambition to beat the Russians to the moon. Regardless, this movie makes you proud to be an American, and it shows a day when the rest of the world revered and cheered America, too.
It features the living astronauts who set foot on the moon or got close enough and a few people who helped make it happen from NASA’s mission control. Absent is Neil Armstrong, who is sort of a hermit and doesn’t give interviews. But Buzz Aldrin and the others make you almost feel as if you were with them.
The documentary is mostly interviews with them today and footage of what happened then. But it is also a positive humanization of these astronauts who were larger than life. Buzz Aldrin tells us that he felt guilty about going to the moon and not serving in combat in Vietnam. He tells us:
Those [who served in Vietnam] were my guys. That was my war. I should have been there. I always felt bad about that.
Aldrin also realized that he would be under the public eye forever after, a strong contrast to the diaper-wearing fatal attraction astronauts we’ve been seeing in the news of late:
From that day on, I was always extra careful about what I did, because I always knew people would be watching.
But then there are the astronauts who also realize that as amazing as it was to go to the moon, it was not the ultimate be-all end-all. Gene Cernen recognized that:
My walk on the moon lasted three days, and it was an adventure. But my walk with Jesus lasts forever.
And there is humor of sorts, too. We see a pre-recorded, televised speech President Nixon made in case the astronauts were lost or died in a failed mission. One astronaut comments on conspiracy theories about the moon landing being fictional and staged in Hollywood:
We’ve been to the moon 9 times. I mean, if we faked it, why did we fake it 9 times?
We hear astronauts talk about the food:
It’s not Granny’s food.
Other astronauts, though, say the moon taught them to appreciate what we have here. Alan Bean is one of those:
Since that day, I’ve never complained about the weather. I’m glad there is weather. . . . I’m glad there are people around. . . . We are lucky to be here . . . . We are living in the Garden of Eden.
One drawback to the movie is an astronaut who becomes mired in an “urban pollution/environmental” message. Hardly relevant to landing on the moon, and it (microscopically) takes away from an otherwise spectacular film.
That’s eclipsed, though, by footage showing that, when Americans first landed on the moon, the rest of the world waved American flags and said, “We did it.” But America did it, and it shows a magnificent program that was important and significant, unlike the constant wasteful space shuttle missions of today that seem to be meaningless.
Perhaps we need to return to the moon. See this movie and take your kids. They will be awed by this fantastic film. And so will you.
* “Shoot ‘Em Up“: This extremely violent and bloody “comedy”/parody kill-fest about a man (Clive Owen) and a prostitute (Monica Bellucci) trying to protect a baby from certain death is a little preposterous and has a blatant pro-gun control angle. The baby was bred to give stem cells and blood to a pro-gun control Presidential candidate. But if a gun manufacturer executive has his way, the baby will be assassinated by his henchman (Paul Giamatti), thus killing any chance of gun control in America.
Lots of body parts being gratuitously blown off and dismembered for no legitimate reason other than making a bloody movie. Way too long and not recommended. An unthrilling “thriller.” Just silly and way too graphic and bloody. Lots of gratuitous, stupid nudity. A waste of time.
* “The Brothers Solomon“: Easily one of the worst movies of the year. This 2 Wills film (Will Arnett and Will Forte) is supposed to be a comedy. But it is more groanworthy than anything to laugh at (or with).
Two incredibly stupid and inane loser geeks who can’t get women want to make their father (Lee Majors), who is in a coma, happy by producing a grandchild. They try the dating scene with no luck and settle on a surrogate mother with a bullying boyfriend. And even though they seem to have oodles of money, they strangely don’t seem to have jobs. Not that it matters in this absurd waste of time.
Too stupid for words, and I’m surprised they screened this dud ahead of time for critics.
Tags: 3:10 to Yuma, Alan Bean, America, Arizona, astronaut, Ben Wade, Christian Bale, Clive Owen, Coma, Dan Evans, Debbie Schlussel Two, food, Garden of Eden, Gene Cernen, In the Shadow of the Moon, Lee Majors, Los Angeles, Michael Moore, Monica Bellucci, Moon, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Neil Armstrong, New York, Nixon, Paul Giamatti, President, pro-gun control Presidential candidate, Ron Howard, Shoot 'Em Up, stem cells, telecommunications technology, The Brothers Solomon, Vietnam, Will Arnett, Will Forte, Yuma