Avatar: I’m not sure what the big technical achievement was supposed to be. The cat people did not look “real”, at least no more or less real than, say, Jar-Jar Binks did a full x years ago. And its a shame to the erstwhile Lt Ripley, she of let-s-nuke-the-dangerous-alien-species-from-orbit, reduced to explaining that, well, only cute alien species deserve respect.
Marley & Me: the Φ family got a puppy the year we got married. By the time daughter #1 arrived, she had grown into a 100 lb Rottweiler, and would be at least as vexed as Mom when the baby cried. By the time daughter #2 cried, the dog would simply walk out of the room. But she was well trained, so it was frustrating to watch this family being jerked around by a mere golden retriever. That said, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are just good-enough actors to make this story of an ordinary family and their pet come heartwarming without being melodramatic.
The Boys are Back: A low-key movie about a widower with two young sons, unexceptional but for my favorite line:
I don’t have trouble finding women to do things with. But I can’t find a woman I can do nothing with.
Inside Man: Christopher Plummer is 80 years old. Which means that he would have been a child at the time his character was allegedly a Nazi banker. Hollywood had better start finding more recent nefariousness for its oldsters to be involved in before more people start noticing this kind of implausibility. But otherwise, a well-paced, cerebral thriller that kept both Φ and Mrs. Φ engaged.
Shutter Island: A good film (with a disappointing, nonsensical ending) about Cold War experimentation on mental patients. How much of this actually went on that we really know about. (Warning: yet more Nazi references!)
Post Grad: I saw trailers for this movie when I watched (500) Days of Summer. The wasn’t exceptional either way, but I was struck by what I can’t help but regard as the irresponsible behavior of the female protagonist. In the middle of a weak hiring market, she walks away with no notice from her dream job and flies off to the opposite coast to pursue a boy she wasn’t interested in when he lived next door. This seems to happen a lot in the movies; I remember how Winona Ryder’s character in Reality Bites did something similar in the last recession. Are girls really that irresponsible? I’ve clung to the same company for my entire adult life and felt damn lucky for it.
Whip It: I saw the trailer for the movie when I watched Post Grad. I love Ellen Page, but it’s obvious that Drew Barrymore can’t direct. Sometimes you can’t appreciate a skill until you see its absence. Which is too bad, because substantively the movie has a lot of worthwhile things to say.
Adam: I saw the trailers for this movie when I watched Whip It. A touching portrayal of how crippling Asberger’s Syndrome can be for an adult. But the romantic angle was implausible: a girl, supposedly having just ended a “bad” relationship, initiates flirtation with an okay-looking guy with a personality deficit.
Surrogates: If almost the entire population of the industrialized world is living their lives through the remote control of robots . . . then how are babies getting made? The movie also cheats by having Bruce Willis (55) married to Rosamund Pike (31). The efforts to make her look older/uglier are, um, unsuccessful.
Sling Blade: Outstanding performance by Billy Bob Thornton, and I especially liked the strong portrayal of religion in the South. But are really supposed to think that Doyle deserved to be murdered for . . . well, for being an asshole? Are we really supposed to think sympathetically of Linda for being bereft of responsibility for her own life?
Disgrace: It is a terrible thing to lose your country.
Annie Hall: Supposedly, Woody Allen the director is much more “alpha” than the jittery neurotic character he created for himself. Can anyone recommend a “making of” feature that shows Woody Allen in real life?
The Book of Eli: Unsurprisingly, I emotionally identified with this post-apocalyptic story of a man fighting to protect the last known copy of the Bible. But I’m curious: I can understand why our popular culture is most comfortable with a therapeutic, post-modern, let’s-all-get-along version of God, but why is it more comfortable with a God of wrath and judgment than with the God of the gospel of Christ?