December 23, 2011, - 3:49 pm
It’s a FOUR REAGAN movie two-fer at the box office, this weekend.
* “The Artist“: This is among my top picks for best movie of the year (a list I’ll be posting next week, G-d-willing). It’s absolutely terrific. It’s got glamor. It’s got style. And it harkens back to the olden days of movies when movies were great and class exuded from every frame. It’s a mostly silent movie with music as its dialogue. The only talking is at the very end, in the last scene. Instead, in addition to the music, there are a few frames with subtitles of what the characters are saying. Given that, I thought I’d hate it or fall asleep. But, just the opposite, I was charmed and enjoyed every minute of it. It moves quickly and has a tight, well-told story. Although it’s rated PG-13 (I’m not sure why), you can take even your youngest kids to see it, though younger kids might not understand what is going on (you can explain it to them).
Set in 1927 Hollywood, Jean Dujardin plays silent film star George Valentin. While he is rich and famous and at the height of his career, he bumps into Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), a pretty young woman who desperately wants to become an actress. She mugs for the cameras and gets on the front page of the newspapers. The next day, she goes to a movie studio (run by John Goodman) for an audition and eventually charms her way to getting hired. Talking films are not just on the horizon, they are the latest technological advancement, and silent film is about to die. Dujardin tells Goodman he refuses to talk and will remain a silent film actor. As his career and fortunes fall, Bejo has signed a multi-picture talking film deal. Her star has risen. She harbors feelings and nostalgia for the fallen silent film star. And the movie shows us their interactions as his career ends and he loses everything, while she becomes rich and famous.
This is a love story, but a not a chick flick. In fact, it’s mostly told from the male actor’s point of view. While it may sound sad, it has a happy ending and is a charming, fun, cute movie, with a cute dog who gets a lot of screentime to boot. Like I said, it’s an absolutely terrific movie and something you really should see on the big screen as opposed to home video. As a member of the Detroit Film Critics Society, I voted for Dujardin and Bejo as my respective Best Actor and Best Actress picks. (I plan to tell you more about those picks and how I voted, next week.) Many of you, my smart readers, predicted this was one of my FOUR REAGAN movies, and you know me well.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “War Horse“: This opens on Sunday, Christmas Day. Despite my anger at Steven Spielberg for his “Munich” BS (read my review), I gotta give credit where it is due. And in this, he directed a fantastic movie. Although it takes place during World War I and there is some killing on the battlefield, it’s not graphic, and I think it’s fine to take kids to see, if you explain to them what is going on. It’s just such a great and touching movie. And it promotes the values of commitment, hard work, and doing what’s right in the face of evil.
I generally hate horse movies. But this is an exception. Spielberg managed to tell you a story using many different people and how they all interact with a spirited horse during the war. It’s got charm, and it also has heart, even if some of the World War I scenes of the British interacting with the Germans across the battlefield seem kind of ripped off from the terrific “Joyeux Noel” (read my review).
The movie begins with the Narracott Family of England. They are poor farmers and behind on their rent. Yet, Mr. Narracott spends the rent money on a horse, whom their son, Albert, names “Joey.” Albert teaches the horse how to plow their field, and soon enough crops grow to pay the rent, but tragedy strikes and Joey must be sold, against Albert’s wishes. Joey is bought by a young British soldier going off to fight in World War I, and it follows Joey’s journey from an English soldier’s horse to a German Army horse, to the treasure of a French orphan girl and her grandfather. We also see Albert eventually join World War I, fighting for England and how everything comes full circle.
Well told, touching, and enjoyable. I recommend this film highly. It’s the kind of movies we need more of from Hollywood.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “We Bought a Zoo“: I absolutely loathed this cheesy movie for kids. It stars Noam Chomsky/Howard Zinn superfan, Matt Damon, as a widower father trying to raise his melodramatic, troubled young son and his way-too-saccharine-sweet-cute daughter on his inheritance. He blows it on a zoo in the country, where they work to get it ready to open to visitors, all while Damon uses up his remaining funds. On the staff of the zoo is a very de-glammed Scarlett Johansson. The predictable, inevitable “romance” between Damon and Johansson is lackluster, boring, and not believable. There’s no chemistry between them.
While this is very distantly-based on a true story (the zoo is in England, I believe), that’s irrelevant. The story was long, boring, and tiresome. I didn’t care about any of these people. The father, Damon, was dull. The son was not believable as a drama queen. While it shows a father who cares about his kids (something rare in Hollywood fare), that’s not enough to make me like this amateurish movie. The daughter was way too cute and precocious to the point of vomit-inducement. She said things a kid that young would never say . . . or shouldn’t. I mean, do you really take your kids to a Christmas weekend movie in which the young girl calls a state zoo inspector, “a dick.” Great if you want your young kids talking like that, too.
The inspector, by the way, is an extreme stickler for regulations who tries to keep the zoo closed, and that was the only other good part of the movie–showing how a statist government worker can ruin your business and your life. But I didn’t need this movie to show me that, nor to you. Aside from the inspector, there are several characters that are ridiculous, but not funny. Just silly and stupid, like a lot of this movie.
The actual zoo in the movie is dull, unimaginative, dated, and not something I or a parent would drive miles and miles and pay a ton of money to see. And yet, in this movie, people line up by the carful, eventually, to see this schlocky place. I didn’t believe it, nor did I believe all the product plugs that this movie seemed to be about. Target, Home Depot, Mayflower (moving company), Coca-Cola, Apple. Those were just a few of the companies constantly in-your-face in this uninteresting movie. Oh, and by the way, in case you forget the title of the movie, the sentence, “We bought a zoo!” is uttered at least three times during this movie. Yaaaawn.
Save your ten bucks and two hours from this waste of time and take your kids to see “The Artist,” “War Horse,” “Hugo” (read my review), or any of the other far superior movies I’ve reviewed on this site in the last month. You’ll thank me. This movie’s a dud.
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Albert Narracott, Berenice Bejo, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Matt Damon, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, Movie Reviews, Scarlett Johansson, Steven Spielberg, The Artist, War Horse, We Bought a Zoo, World War I