June 10, 2011, - 5:42 pm
I did not see “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.” Here are my reviews of the new movies which I did see and which debut today at theaters:
* “Super 8“: I absolutely loved the first half of this movie (and the kid actors in this, which is why I’m giving it a good rating). It’s the second half–in which the U.S. Air Force are the evil bad guys who round up the population of a small town into a movie version of Gitmo–that was a mess and ridiculous. I’ve grown tired of alien thrillers that suddenly turn into “America’s military is evil, oppresses extraterrestrial aliens, and causes them to hate us and attack and kill us.” It was bad enough when they made this crap before 9/11. But when they made it afterward–as symbolism and allegory of how we are supposedly to blame for Islamic terrorists hating us–it got absurd. Come on, Hollywood, come up with a movie where it’s actually the aliens’ fault, not ours.
Several young boys in small town America are shooting a movie with a Super8 video camera. It’s 1979, and the lead character is one of those boys, Joe Lamb, played by Joel Courtney. His mother died, and his father–who is a deputy sheriff, wants him to give up his amateur movie hobby with his friends and go away to a summer camp for boys. One night, the boy and his friends sneak out to the train station to film their movie, when they see a horrific train crash after their teacher has driven onto the tracks, head-on into the train. It’s a spectacular scene, and probably the best use of special effects in the movie. The camera is still rolling, while the crash happens. They see their teacher, still alive in what remains of his truck, and he warns them to leave quickly and not to talk about what they saw.
Soon, airmen from the Air Force are on the scene, and the kids escape. The airmen are trying to find out who was at the train station and witnessed the crash. In the meantime, weird things are happening throughout the town. Dogs and people go missing. Buildings and cars are destroyed. Washing machines and other appliances are flying around in the air. And the Air Force sets fire to the land around the town, so it can evacuate the people and round them up onto a military base. Also in the meantime, Joe develops feelings for Alice (played by the beautiful and far more talented Fanning sister actress, Elle Fanning), the boys’ friend and fellow actress in their Super 8 movie.
I’ve already given away enough, so I can’t say more about the plot.
What I liked about this movie: the ’70s feel and the great acting by first-time actors who are just young kids, including the lead, Courtney, who was 14 at the time he filmed this. It was a more idyllic time, when kids were more innocent and didn’t act and dress like sluts and gangstas. The camaraderie of the young boys in the movie (and their female friend, the lovely Elle Fanning) is great and fun to watch. The kids are cute, and their interaction in this movie is reminiscent of the great boy buddy movies of the ’70s and ’80s, like “Stand By Me.” The late ’70s setting, morals, dialogue, costumes, and technology props made me feel like I was watching a movie made when I was a kid and with nearly the same morals and character.
What I didn’t like: this movie is aimed at kids and features kids in the lead roles, and yet the kids utter four-letter words. Was this really necessary in a movie kids are going to see in droves? No, it’s gratuitous. The movie would have been just as good without it, just as most of those kid movies from the ’70s and ’80s were. I also didn’t like the alien, which looks silly and unbelievable, kind of like the story.
And, per usual, the movie features your typical Hollywood race politics. To use Black cultural critic David Ehrenstein’s term, this movie features the “magic Black friend”–in the form of the kids’ righteous professor/teacher, Dr. Woodward, who warns them about the evil Air Force men (including the stark White evil commanding officer) and who resists the Air Force’s attempts to get him to talk about the whereabouts of the alien. He just so happens to be the only Black guy in town (until two Black guys are strategically juxtaposed as minions to the evil Air Force commander). The magic Black teacher is the one who tells the U.S. Air Force–in vain–that they should help the alien build his spaceship and leave. But, instead, we are evil and force the alien to stay and undergo experiments. Where’s PETA–People for the Ethical Treatment of Aliens–when you need ’em?
Still, I so much enjoyed the first half of the movie, as well as these cute and charming kids that lead the story, I’m still giving it a positive rating. You will enjoy it, but for the silly ending, and it’s fine to take your kids to it, provided you promise to wash their mouths with soap if they copy the four-letter words in the dialogue. And you can do as my late father used to always do with me at these movies: tell your kids to ignore Hollywood’s anti-American, anti-military message, and tell them, in real life, it’s the aliens’–and the terrorists’–fault. We did nothing to deserve this, unlike what writer/director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg tell you.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Tree of Life“: This is THE most pretentious movie I’ve ever seen. Also the most boring and absurd. I struggled to stay awake. How could 138 minutes seem like 138 days? So frickin’ loooooong. The best part was when the credits began rolling. Couldn’t wait for this waste of time, hodgepodge of nothingness, artsy fartsy BS to end.
There is very little dialogue in this movie, and it goes in and out from scenes of people saying things in partial mish-mosh scenes to scenes of what seem like shoplifted National Geographic films just slopped on in the middle at several points. The National Geographic Channel called, and they want their films of dinosaurs, rivers, planets, animals being born, sunflowers, and oceans back.
When a completely unrelated series of scenes of wildlife and nature were slapped in the middle of the movie along with computer generated dinosaurs, I laughed out loud. But I was the only one. Everyone else was eating up this crap as if the emperor with no clothing actually had something on. He didn’t. I passed a note to a fellow movie critic, on which I’d written “WTF?!” It’s kind of my view of this movie. Pretentious drivel starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn clumsily edited and sewn together with an unrelated wildlife film from a boring museum. Oh, and it’s anti-Christian.
The “story”–if you can call it that: a mother in the late ’50s or early ’60s learns that one of her sons has died and she cries, with her husband (Brad Pitt) warding off sympathetic neighbors. Then, we see a scene of another son, now grown and in contemporary times, walking around his fancy modern home, then walking around his fancy modern office building, and then sitting in the office–sulking in each setting. Then, we go back to Brad Pitt’s younger family walking around their house and going outside, playing the yard. Then scenes of planets, nature, sunflowers, computer-generated dinosaurs, then scenes of the grown Sean Penn in his business suit on a beach, walking like a zombie and seeing his young mother also walking. Oh, he also walks in his suit in a desert.
From the few disjointed, slapped-together scenes in which there is any dialogue, the story is that Brad Pitt is a mean, overbearing, abusive, religious Christian father (is there any other kind of religious Christian father in Hollywood’s eyes)? His young kids hate him and seek refuge with their naive, soft mother. The father is a repeated failure who loses his job and patents he invented but can’t get approved in patent court. Life is tough. One of their sons dies–presumably in Vietnam, but it doesn’t say–and one grows up to be a confused, messed up Sean Penn. The end, plus a lot of nature films mixed in.
A five-year-old on speed could have made a better movie (with apologies to five-year-olds and speed addicts). “Tree of Life?” More like, waste of life.
FOUR MARXES PLUS THREE SLEEPING PILLS PLUS THREE LADY GAGAS (for pretentious BS)
Watch the trailer…
* “Midnight in Paris“: This is a Woody Allen movie. And, if he’d stayed away from the several lines of dialogue, gratuitously knocking conservatives, Republicans, and Tea Partiers, I would have no reservations about it. But he put those in for a reason. They were unnecessary and added nothing to the movie, other than to please the many liberals who flock to fund Woody Allen’s investment and pension fund by seeing his movies. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of this movie are very, very funny and entertaining . . . like when pretentious, left-wing, artsy-fartsy, intellectuals are mocked–though without identifying their ideology or political party.
Owen Wilson plays a Hollywood screenwriter who is on vacation in Paris with his materialistic wife, Rachel McAdams. They are tagging along with her gauche, materialistic parents who chose to take the vacation. Wilson is working on a book about a man who works in a nostalgia shop (think “Brady Bunch” lunchboxes), but he won’t show it to anyone. He longs for a life of art and writing, away from materialistic Hollywood. His wife doesn’t. They run into her married former college friend. He’s the pretentious artsy lefty. One night, at midnight, Wilson is sitting on a Paris street, when suddenly he is invited into an old fashioned car and transported to a bar in the early part of the 20th Century. He meets all the famous authors and artists of the time: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, etc.
The next day, back in contemporary times and the real world, Wilson realizes that he longs for another time, that he wished he lived in that era. But when he goes back, a woman with whom he’s fallen in love says that she longed to live in an earlier era. The issue is raised, regarding whether people who collect nostalgia or long to live in another time feel this way because they refuse to face their problems of the present time.
While Wilson is away every night back in the 1920s and ’30s, getting advice on his book, and dreaming of bedding the woman he’s fallen for there, his wife and her parents are getting suspicious that he’s cheating on her.
There was a lot of buzz about Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, having a role in this movie. But her role, as a tour guide, is paltry, and she still can’t act. Big whoop. Don’t believe the hype.
Can’t give away the whole movie because, without the pointed, brief, anti-conservative attacks, it was actually entertaining and elicits a few good laughs. It’s typical of the better Woody Allen stuff, but not his best.
ONE HALF REAGAN
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Brad Pitt, conservatives, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Midnight in Paris, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, Owen Wilson, Paris, Rachel McAdams, Republicans, Sean Penn, Super 8, Tea Partiers, Tea Party, Tree of Life, Woody Allen