Mike Kueber's Blog

July 21, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #38 – Do the Right Thing, The Rebound, Ayn Rand: In her own Words, My Week with Marylyn, Antares, Atonement, and The Grey

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 12:21 am

Watching movies took an ugly turn earlier today with the Aurora shooting, but the show goes on:

Do The Right Thing is a wonderful 1989 Spike Lee movie about an Italian family trying to maintain its pizzeria in the middle of a black part (Bed-Stuy) of Brooklyn.  The characters make the movie special, primarily Danny Aiello as the gruff owner of the pizzeria, John Turturro as his bigoted son, and Spike Lee as the pizzeria’s deliveryman.  Other Spike Lee-movie regulars include Ozzie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Samuel L. Jackson.  Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez make their movie debuts, but Lawrence’s performance is only memorable because of his weird face while Perez’s grating personality is in full force.  Rotten Tomatoes critics scored it 96% and its audience gave it 85%.  I love getting to know NYC neighborhoods/people and give it four stars out of four.

The Rebound is another movie that I liked (loved) a lot more than most other people, just like Last Night, which I recently reviewed.  Rotten Tomato critics scored The Rebound at 42% and its audience wasn’t much better at 48%, very similar to the scores for Last Night.  Guess I’m a sucker for romance, but I thought both movies were exceptionally believable. 

The Rebound is a 2009 movie starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha (The Hangover) that was never released in the U.S. and went directly to DVD earlier this year.  It involves a recently divorced 40-year-old Zeta-Jones moving to NYC with her two kids and taking up with a childish 25-year-old neighbor.  The movie is categorized as a romantic comedy, but there is not much comedy; it is pure romance.  Soulmates.  Four stars out of four.   

Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words is a 2011 biographical documentary that explores the life of one of my intellectual heroes.  There’s a joke that naturalized Texans tell about not being born in Texas, but they got here as quickly as they could.  Well, Ayn Rand (Ayn rhymes with wine) wasn’t born in America – she grew up in totalitarian Russia – but she got here as soon as she could, and to her dying breath she spoke of her love of this country, with its freedom, capitalism, and individualism.

Rand was controversial because she thought that a person’s life should be controlled by reason, not emotion, altruism, or “mysticism” – i.e., religion.  A person should pursue happiness, which flows from personal achievement, not from sacrificing yourself to the tyranny of the state.

As the title suggests, most of the documentary is in Rand’s own spoken words, accompanied by a plethora of photographs.  But there are also clips from several fascinating interviews she conducted late in her life – one with Mike Wallace, another with Phil Donohue, and finally one with Tom Snyder.  These guys threw hardball questions, and Rand knocked them out of the ballpark.

This documentary is an excellent primer on Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, and it also provides some context for her two classic novels – Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  The Rotten Tomatoes critics have not yet weighed in on the documentary, but 76% of its audience liked it.  I did, too, and give it three and a half stars out of four.

My Week with Marilyn is a 2011 drama based on the real-life experience of a 23-year-old Brit who became Marilyn Monroe’s friend for a week during the filming of a movie in Britain.  The kid, Colin Clark, was an assistant to the movie’s director and co-star, Sir Lawrence Olivier.  Michelle Williams earned an Academy nomination for his portrayal of Monroe.  Eddie Redmayne does a good job of playing an innocent, warm kid who was just what Monroe needed to deal with the pressures of working with the intimidating Olivier, played by Kenneth Branagh.  Unfortunately, neither Williams nor Branagh can hold candle next to Monroe or Olivier.  Scarlett Johansson and Ralph Fiennes, who were considered for the parts, would have been better. Julia Ormond, however, is fine as Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh, as is Emma Watson as Clark’s girlfriend.  Rotten Tomato critics gave the movie an excellent 83% and the audience liked it almost as much at 73%.  I’m not quite as impressed and give it only two and a half stars out of four because, although the kid seems likeable enough, Marilyn comes off as a flaky, erratic misfit with charisma that is talked about but never revealed.  The most memorable line in the movie occurs when Marilyn asked Clark whose side he is on, and he responded, “yours.”  I am so accustomed to hearing the response, “I’m not on anybody’s side,” that it was both refreshing and jarring to hear someone take sides.  It was satisfying to know the director must have felt the same way because he repeated the line at the end of the movie.

Antares is a 2004 Austrian film that was that country’s Academy submission, but it didn’t receive a nomination.  Although the Rotten Tomato critics gave it a 0% (only five reviews), its audience gave it 63%.  The critics got it right.  The character study and explicit romantic escapades of several households in a slummy high-rise apartment building are boring.  I give it only one star out of four.

Atonement is a 2007 British war-based romance that, in addition to receiving an Academy nomination for Best Picture, was approved by 83% of the Rotten Tomato critics and 79% of its audience.  Early on, I didn’t enjoy the movie because it involved the British aristocracy, a subject that doesn’t interest me much.  But as the story developed, I came to like the stars, James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, and in the end I came to sympathize with Knightley’s younger melodramatic, narcissistic sister who was tormented by an act as a child that sabotaged the McAvoy/Knightley romance.  I give it three stars out of four.     

The Grey is a 2012 so-called thriller about a group of men, led by Liam Neeson, who survive an arctic plane crash only to be stalked by a pack of wolves.  Despite Neeson’s ingenuity, the wolves seem to have the upper hand.  Let me list the reasons I did not enjoy this movie:

  1. Act One fails to create any emotional connection with any of the men, who are continually picked off by the wolves.  The men didn’t even connect with each other.
  2. The men are implausibly unaffected by the ever-howling blizzard, even getting swept down a river without hypothermia setting in.  This reminded me of the early scenes in the water in Titanic.
  3. The climactic final scene comes after the credits and although a friend warned me about this unfortunate timing, I forgot and took out the Netflix DVD before viewing the scene.  Then later, after being reminded, I had to unseal the DVD and play the credits again.

The Rotten Tomato critics gave The Grey a rating of 79%; the audience not so much at 64%.  I think the audience was too generous because I give it only one star out of four.


1 Comment »

  1. i like rand’s ideals more than her authorship… an invisible valley, really…

    Comment by q — July 23, 2012 @ 12:47 am | Reply

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