February 10, 2012, - 3:27 pm
Incredible but true, I actually didn’t hate any of the new movies in theaters, today. But, two of them, I really liked.
* “Safe House“: To my surprise, I really liked this (though I do really like Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds as actors). When, at the beginning of this movie, they describe rogue CIA operative Denzel Washington as first going off the reservation when he was believed to have leaked information to the Mossad, I wondered if this will be your typical Hollywood leftist anti-Israel fest. I wondered the same again when quick flashes of documents on a giant CIA projection screen show emblems of the Mossad and the Government of Israel. But, thankfully, it turned out not to be. In fact,without giving away movie spoilers, Washington’s dealings with Israeli intelligence turn out to be the thing that saves the day, in the end. While it’s vague positive stuff on Israel, from Hollywood that’s a big deal, since it’s usually the same old anti-Israel crap.
Even better is that the main bad guy you constantly see chasing after Washington–and who finally gets his–is very obviously, visibly an Arab. I was shocked that PC Hollywood would do this. Sure, in the credits, the guy is listed as “Vargas,” but he’s played by a Lebanese actor named Fares Fares. I smiled as the old Jewish couple behind me clapped and loudly cheered both times this guy gets shot. Glad to see that not all of my fellow co-religionists have turned left and Islamopologist. (Who was that Jewish couple? If you’re reading this, e-mail me!)
Washington is Tobin Frost, the CIA’s most legendary and skilled agent. He’s been off the grid and a rogue agent wanted by the CIA for the past ten years. He just bought a computer file of some sort from a former colleague and friend who is former MI6. And suddenly a group of Arab-looking and other men with machine guns are chasing and trying to kill him. He’s in South Africa and, when he sees no way out from their pursuit, he sees the U.S. Embassy and turns himself in to save his life.
Ryan Reynolds is a rookie CIA agent who is a “housekeeper.” He spends all day maintaining a CIA safe house in South Africa, but after nearly a year of this and lying to his girlfriend about what he does for a living, he’s bored to tears waiting for a “guest” to be interrogated and yearning for action in the field. That day comes when a CIA interrogation team brings Washington/Frost to the safe house and all hell breaks loose. There’s a mole in the system, and everyone’s getting killed.
I could have done without the waterboarding scene and references to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being waterboarded, as if that’s supposed to make me think this is torture or feel bad for the mastermind of the 9/11 mass murder of 3,000 Americans. But other than that, I enjoyed the thrilling, non-stop action and suspense throughout. It’s my kinda movie–intrigue, guns, shooting, explosions, car chases, etc. Definitely NOT a chick flick.
The ending is sort of predictable, but you’ll like the movie anyway. It’s very violent and bloody and not for kids. But it’s one of the “good guys win” movies of which we’re in short supply these days. And, like I said, Israel is the good guy, even if it’s by vague reference. Given the state of Hollywood these days, I’ll take it and laugh as HAMAS CAIR and the other Muslim grievance theater actors whine.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Vow“: Finally, Hollywood makes a movie in which the guy/husband is a mensch–the kind of guy all American men should be (even if he is sort of a hipster). While I did feel that this movie was kind of manipulative, I still recommend it enthusiastically. It’s a great date movie and the kind of chick flick which guys will find very bearable. I really liked this, despite a few instances of unnecessary melodrama and a vague, sub-rosa element of class warfare. If you liked Channing Tatum in “Dear John” (read my review), then you will definitely like this. He plays a similar type of “classy guy” romantic lead role.
Based on a true story, the very hot Channing Tatum plays a Chicago husband whose sculptor/artist wife (Rachel McAdams) suffers a concussion in a car accident. When she wakes up from a coma, she cannot remember him and has regressed back to the time when she was still in law school, living with her wealthy family in Lake Forest, and was engaged to a previous boyfriend (Scott Speedman). As she is challenged to recover her memory, Tatum must win her back all over again, since she not only can’t remember him, but doesn’t feel attracted to him.
The couple is a hipster/artsy couple living in downtown Chicago, but McAdams character came from a very preppy, wealthy suburban family. There is a subrosa class warfare thing going on in which the parents are “evil, wealthy” parents, while McAdams’ character was living without health insurance and voted for Obama. I didn’t need that part.
But, otherwise, it’s really romantic–though not in your typical saccharine or unrealistic Hollywood kind of way. And I found it enjoyable and entertaining. The husband in the movie is really very heroic and puts up with a lot, whereas the female is kind of bitchy. You almost never see this dynamic in the movies, even though that’s the way it is, many times, in real life.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “W.E.“: I didn’t hate this Madonna-directed (and co-written) vehicle like most of the mainstream liberal movie critics. While it is a bit disjointed and the camera moves way too much in the first third or so of the movie, I liked the dynamic of the modern story connected with the older story of the romance between Wallace Simpson and King Edward, who everyone knows gave up the throne to marry her, a commoner divorcee. And that’s even though I believe the Wallace Simpson/King Edward story has been done to death and isn’t all that important or fascinating. But, guys, you will not like this. So stay home or see “Safe House,” instead. This is a disjointed chick flick.
I could have done without some of the melodrama in the relationship between Wally Winthrop (Abby Cornish)–the modern-day admirer of Wallace Simpson, who daily visits the Sotheby’s exhibition of Simpson’s jewelry and belongings about to go up for auction–and her psychiatrist husband. And I could have done without the absurd seen of Wallace Simpson and the Duke of Windsor dancing to “Sex Pistols” music with modern-day Black model Alex Wek in the late ’30s/early ’40s or Wallace Simpson with bad “old-people” make-up in 1972, dancing to “The Twist.” Plot devices like that are just silly. And I didn’t like that Madonna gave a free pass to Simpson and King Edward on their support for Hitler and the Nazis.
But I liked the story of Wally, the modern day woman who imagines what it must have been like back then. I guess you could call it an “Antiques Roadshow” romance. I like to read letters back and forth between American soldiers fighting in World War II and their loved ones, so I can identify with someone reading Simpson’s letters and looking at her belongings, imagining what it might have been like. (But this woman’s occupation with Simpson goes much further. It’s an obsession–check out how much she pays for her winning bid on Wallace Simpson’s leather gloves.) I also liked rising star Oscar Isaac, who plays the most likeable character in the movie, a security guard at Sotheby’s. He’s probably the best actor in the movie and does a convincing Russian accent most of the time.
As I noted, the movie intertwines two stories: the story of how Wallace Simpson and Edward meet and eventually marry, he gives up the throne, and they forced to leave England and live a boring life in France. Wally Winthrop, a modern woman whose mother and grandmother were obsessed with Wallace Simpson named her for the woman. She becomes fascinated with Wallace Simpson, as well, visiting the Sotheby’s exhibit daily, in order to escape her loveless marriage to an abusive, absentee husband. At the exhibit, she meets a Russian immigrant security guard, Evgeni (the handsome Oscar Isaac), who is attracted to her and keeps an eye on her. Will she eventually give Evgeni the time of day? That’s the story I found more interesting that the Wallace Simpson one.
Sadly, the acting isn’t all that great. Abby Cornish is cold and like a dead fish, as is James D’Arcy, the actor who plays the Duke of Windsor. It’s not a “great” movie, but it’s not bad and it’s entertaining enough. Plus, it’s a high-styled movie, with the most detail and attention having gone to exquisite period wardrobe, jewelry, and decor. Women will love that. But as I said, straight guys, this ain’t for you.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Journey 2: Mysterious Island“: This is fine for families and taking your kids to see. It’s sort of a sequel to 2008′s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (read my review), but you don’t have to see that one to get this one. They are completely different. This is far inferior to the 1951 and 1961 versions of “Mysterious Island.” But, like I said, it’s fine to take your kids to. It’s wholesome, and it features good grandfather/son dynamics and father/stepfather dynamics. I must note, though, that I hate Luis Guzman, whose inanity ruins every movie he’s in. Also, I definitely could have done without Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “pec pop of love” schtick in which he flexes his chest muscles. Please make it stop.
Josh Hutcherson plays a teen boy who is always getting into trouble and is saved by his stepfather (The Rock/Johnson) from his latest stunt, crashing a motorcycle into a neighbor’s swimming pool. But Hutcherson, who dislikes his stepfather, really just wants to decode a message he believes was transmitted via satellite from his absentee grandfather (Michael Caine), who is an explorer believed to have discovered Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island.” His stepfather helps him decode the message, and soon they are on a bonding trip to the other side of the world to try to find the island and his grandfather.
If you’ve seen the far superior previous versions of “Mysterious Island” mentioned above, you know the drill: giant animals and creatures, amazing, lush landscape, and a quest to get off the island before they are doomed. Captain Nemo’s notebook and submarine/ship, the lost city of Atlantis. All that stuff is in this version, too. But this one seems too hurried and dumbed down for kids, even though I believe kids would really enjoy the original and other previous versions.
Nothing objectionable about this and entertaining enough for kids and families.
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Abby Cornish, Arabs, Barack Obama, Channing Tatum, Chicago, CIA, CIA agent, CIA agents, class warfare, concussion, Denzel Washington, Duke of Windsor, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Dwayne Johnson, Evgeni, Fares Fares, hipsters, housekeeper, Israel, Israeli intelligence, James D'Arcy, James Doohan, Josh Hutcherson, Journey 2, Journey 2: Mysterious Island, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, King Edward, Lake Forest, Lebanese, Madonna, Michael Caine, Mossad, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, Muslims, Mysterious Island, off the grid, Oscar Isaac, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Reynolds, Safe House, Scott Speedman, Sotheby's, South Africa, South African embassy, The Rock, The Vow, Tobin Frost, Vargas, W.E., Wallace Simpson, Wally Winthrop, waterboarding, We