December 31, 2010, - 3:23 pm

Movies I Didn’t Yet Review: Mao’s Last Dancer, Animal Kingdom, Takers, Devil, Let Me In, Case 39, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, Winter’s Bone, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

By Debbie Schlussel

Because of Jewish holidays, migraine headaches, and scheduling conflicts, there were a few movies I saw this year, but never reviewed on this site.  And before I can post my year’s Top Ten Movies, I gotta post these reviews , since at least one is on the list:

*  “Mao’s Last Dancer“:  This was, easily, one of the top movies of the year.  It’s the charming, uplifting story of Li Cunxin, a Chinese man, who at age 11, is taken from his poor rural farming family by the Maoist Communist government and put in a state-run ballet school. His dancing is different and not as “disciplined” as that of the other dancers, and one of his teachers–secretly an anti-Communist–takes him under his wing. The professor is punished and fired, treated harshly and sent to prison.

Li is sent to America to dance in Houston on a cultural exchange mission in the 1980s. He is shocked that America is not the bad place he’s been taught in repressive China. And he ultimately loves the freedom and people of the United States. Soon, he is fighting authorities and seeking to defect and remain in the U.S. Newcomer Chi Cao is terrific as the adult Li, who is now, in real-life a successful stock broker in Australia, after a long and successful career as a ballet dancer in the U.S. and internationally. The movie also has one of my favorite standby actors, Bruce Greenwood.

This  is the kind of movie my parents would see, then take me to see as a kid, and use it to discuss the opportunities we have here in America and the perils of Communism.  It’s such an inspiring, uplifting, funny, terrific story. The ending brought tears to my eyes. And I wasn’t the only one. The audience at the special screening I attended clapped raucously when the film was over. Finally, someone in Hollywood made a movie that shows the greatness of America, rather than tearing it down.  A great story all around, and beautifully depicted on the big screen.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Animal Kingdom“: A creepy movie about an Australian teen, who doesn’t want to get involved in the family’s thuggish life of crime, but gets caught in it anyway, including through the manipulation of his scheming, creepy grandmother. Didn’t much care for this sad, depressing, pointless movie. But the acting of Jacki Weaver as the grandmother is diabolical and spot-on.  Ditto, as always, for the acting of Guy Pearce.


Watch the trailer.  .  .

* “Takers“: A gang of thieves plots to rob a bank in Los Angeles. High on style, low on substance and story. Found this extremely boring, bloody, stupid, and pointless. Was disturbed when the mostly urban audience with whom I saw this cheered as bank robbers shot and murdered police. A total waste of time, unless you’re into the thug life. The title is truthful, though, because this one just takes and takes two hours of our life you’ll never recover.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Devil“: This M. Night Shyamalan horror/thriller wasn’t directed by him.  But it’s not a bad movie.  Not a great movie, but not bad, and it has a great moral message.  I’m surprised it wasn’t screened for critics.  On a dark weather day, a group of people get stuck in the elevator of a high-rise office building in downtown Chicago.  One by one, they are murdered but the elevator video goes blank each time and it’s hard to see which one is the murderer and why.  Meanwhile, cops and building security are monitoring the elevator, trying to rescue its inhabitants, and figure out who the killer is.  Like I said, it’s a moral tale, and in the end, you learn that only the bad guys meet their just, swift ending. Bloody and violent and not for kids.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Let Me In“:  A boy who lives with his divorced mother in an apartment building befriends the mysterious new girl (Chloe Moretz) who moved in with her father.  Soon, he discovers that she’s a vampire, who needs fresh human blood to survive.  He’s also ruthlessly bullied by the popular kids at school, and she helps him take revenge.  While I liked this thriller, I was repelled by the violence, blood, and gore.  A redo of the Swedish film, “Let the Right One In.”  Not for kids.  But if you like horror/thriller/sci-fi stuff, this is for you.  Entertaining.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Case 39“:  Renee Zellweger plays a state social worker who adopts a young girl, after her creepy parents try to kill her in an oven.  Soon, she and her friend, Bradley Cooper, discover that it’s not the parents who were the problem, but the creepy girl.  This started out okay, but become tedious, predictable, and very overwrought.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps“:  Not quite sure why this sequel to the original anti-business, anti-capitalist “Wall Street” needed to be made, a few decades later.  The only reason can be that anti-Semitic, “anti-capitalist” filmmaker Oliver Stone needed to make some more capital to live his capitalist lifestyle while lecturing everybody else against it.

Michael Douglas a/k/a Gordon Gekko gets out of prison and tries to reunite with his estranged daughter.  Her boyfriend, Shia LeBeouf, a top deal-maker at an investment house, secretly makes a deal with Gekko to reunite them in exchange for advice.  LeBeouf is in over his head, as his investment house is going under and he’s bet his entire million-dollar bonus on the company stock.  Meanwhile, he’s trying to fund scientific research, which depends on the success of his investment.

Just like the original Wall Street, this one is anti-capitalist, anti-business,  boring, slow, and just plain hypocritical.  Not sure what other point was trying to be made here.  But this movie just didn’t need to be made.  And you don’t need to waste your time seeing it.  I’ve had enough of Hollywood’s limousine liberals telling us how bad it is to make money while they make a whole lot of money telling us.  Apparently, the only kind of greed that’s good is that of Oliver Stone.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Winter’s Bone“:  Mainstream movie critics a/k/a liberals all over America are gushing over this grisly, desperate tale of a girl in Appalachia searching for her estranged, small-time drug-dealer/user/addict, deadbeat dad, so that she, her mother, and siblings can hang onto their house, which he put up for collateral as bond to get out of jail.

This is typical Hollywood elitist stuff.  Everyone is inbred and related.  Almost everyone is scum, except a kindly next door neighbor who gives the poor, starving family some food.  While the girl is searching for her father, she’s threatened by her scummy aunts and cousins, who are part of the mob that apparently killed him.

Grisly, dark, cold, and snobby.  Yes, the acting is good.  But, so what?  No thanks.  There’s a reason this slow, pointless, boring, anti-American movie was stuck at arthouse theaters.  Waaaay over-rated by the brie and espresso crowd.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger“: Your typical Woody Allen morality tale, which contains morality that unfortunately he and his Hollywood friends don’t abide. A once-successful, but now blocked, writer (Josh Brolin) has a medical degree, but is working as a limo driver. He’s working on a new novel, but his publishers don’t like it. Soon, he finds himself submitting the fantastic new novel by a friend of his–a friend who is in a coma. And he’s having an affair with the Indian woman (Frieda Pinto) who lives across the way, moving out on his wife (Naomi Watts). Subplots include Watts’ crush on her boss at the art gallery, which she mistakes as mutual, etc., and Watt’s father, Anthony Hopkins, leaving his wife for a young hooker who makes his life miserable. Watts wants to open an art gallery of her own, but needs the money from her mother, who is a sucker for a shady psychic/fortune teller. Entertaining enough. But you’ve seen one Woody Allen morality tale, you’ve seen ’em all. And they start to get kind of repetitive. This was one of the better ones, though.


Watch the trailer . . .

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2 Responses

Mao’s Last Dancer isn’t a Hollywood film, it’s Australian.

Anne Lyn on January 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm

And for anyone who saw “Winter’s Bone,” it wasn’t about mocking rural life. It was a naturalistic life of how family, blood and crime overlap, yes, even outside cities. Depiction is not advocacy. Drama isn’t spoon-fed National Uplift.

Seek on December 2, 2013 at 5:17 pm

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