Audrey and I gave each other some DVDs for Valentine’s Day, and today finished watching the fourth of four movies. How did they stack up?
The best, I think, was “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Tom Hanks isn’t always great, he was, after all, in a terrible movie with a dog once, and he has been featured in marginal movies made from marginal books by a marginal author whose name rhymes with “Tan Clown.” But this is a good one, and Hanks does have a talent for “period” films—think “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apollo 13,” or even, thought the events were totally fictional, “The Green Mile.”
Anyway, in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” he plays a somewhat tainted Congressman who nonetheless champions the cause of Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. It’s not always remembered as well as it ought to be that the Taliban takeover of that country was partly due to the fact that we were willing to arm anybody who would kill Russians, but the Russian invasion was every bit as cruel as it was depicted in the movie, and forcing them to leave Afghanistan was an achievement.
Hanks is good in the movie, and so is an actor who has a somewhat more uneven record, in my opinion—Julia Roberts, who actually plays a complex and mature woman in the film. And Amy Adams? Well, she’s Amy Adams. I know it’s probably for all the wrong reasons, but yes I am a fan.
America’s post-Vietnam history is too full of fits and starts—of foreign involvements either handled very badly or begun well but ended too soon. Such is the case with this movie, where, as Charlie so colorfully says, we “messed” up the end game.
My rating? Four and a half of five daisy petals. Definitely worth a look.
Next, in my opinion, was “The Invention of Lying.” I was a bit troubled by the film, whose star, Ricky Gervais, is pretty open about his atheism in real life and certainly espouses that philosophy in this flim. I can see why some religious people are troubled by this film, which treats religion as the uber-lie.
Still, the film cleverly creates and presents an alternative universe where humans are not capable of lying. That somehow works. I loved the movie company in the film, which, since humans could not write fiction, was reduced to having “readers” recite history. Gervais’ character, Mark Bellison, is stuck with the 13th Century, and thus is not very successful. Jennifer Garner is charming as his love interest, although the weakness of the film, one that is shared by too many movies, is that the entire basis of love appears to be sex.
Still, another thought-provoking, watchable movie. The humor is a bit harsh and anti religion, but then again there is noting duplicitous or dishonest about it, and I don’t mind if people don’t share my philosophy as long as they are thoughtful and honest about theirs.
Four of five petals. (Daisy petals just seems like a good rating system for movies.)
Somewhat less successful was Wallace and Gromit, “A Matter of Loaf and Death.” I like W and G, and this was somewhat funny, but not as inventive as some of their earlier work. And for some reason, Wallace was not as obsessed with cheese as he should have been. I missed the cheese.
Three petals. Just as an Ebert review of three stars is favorable, I would say this is more of a plus than a minus, but if you have not encountered the clay British chap and his more intelligent canine sidekick, this would not be the best first introduction, but if you enjoy W and G it’s certainly worth a look.
Finally, “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.” Did I like it? Just saw it, and honestly, I’m not sure. It was nice to see that Spanish actor from “No Country for Old Men” being passionate rather than being a serial killer.
It’s a Woody Allen film, and like some of his other movies, sometimes bogs down a bit as characters sit around and yack and the camera pans back and forth and you get a bit tired of the verbal ping-pong. And the characters irritate you by saying one thing and doing another.
It’s a “love” story that is really a sexual lust story. Of course, lust and sex are strong adult motivations, and I don’t mind if a movie maker explores those motivations.
And I like a lot of Woody Allen movies.
Also, Penelope Cruz is always watchable. And Scarlett Johansson is very interesting as the glue that holds Penelope and Javier Bardem together.
Furthermore, I really liked Spain, want to go there.
On the other hand, I found the movie slightly yucky. The husband comes off as a bore simply because he is one of the few characters who acts like an adult. Bardem’s artist character is particularly irritating, and I couldn’t help but think he was partly Allen’s alter ego (and Allen himself seems more than slightly creepy).
How many petals? I guess three, but a more mixed three than W and G. Still worth seeing, but has some minuses, too.
That’s it for now. I’m reading an old Bill Bryson book, “The Mother Tongue,” and a memoir by another author, “The Last Kid Picked.” When I finish one, I’ll blog about it. Planted Hollyhocks a week ago, they are supposed to take 10 to 14 days to germinate but are already showing. Morning Glories and Moon Flowers will be started next, but not yet, since germination time is pretty quick for them and it will be some weeks before plants can go in the gardens. Gardens themselves are a beehive of activity—the Sedum from last year doesn’t look like it’s been in the dark for three months under three feet of snow, but it has. The new rose bush in front looks particularly vibrant with almost totally green canes. Most bulbs in the new garden have not declared themselves yet, but in sunnier back gardens many green things are showing.
It’s officially spring in Iowa. Very early spring, still chilly and I would not be surprised by a late season snow fall one of these cool, wet days, but still. Although Cedar Rapids doesn’t look as sunny as Barcelona, it’s not Siberia anymore, either.