Mike Kueber's Blog

July 28, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #39 – The Help, The Science of Sex Appeal, Act of Valor, and The Last of the Mohicans

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 10:08 pm
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The Help, a Best Picture nominee earlier this year, is a drama that examines the treatment of household workers in Jackson, MS in the early 60s.  Emma Stone stars as a recent Ole Miss grad who returns home to learn the family maid who raised her has been summarily dismissed by her parents.  Prompted by this injustice, Stone decides to write a book about the abuse and mistreatment of maids, but the maids are reluctant to cooperate because of fear for their safety.  Initially, Stone is able to enlist the support co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer until eventually there is a groundswell of support from another dozen maids.

The racism depicted in The Help is not hardcore violence, but rather the type that has civilized whites treating blacks as second-class people.  The white people seem so consistently devoid of morality that it is hard to imagine that society producing someone like the enlightened Stone.  I’ve always had a special aversion to the use of servants, so this exploitation of maids was particularly odious to me.  In the end, the story is inspirational and reminds us that the Civil War didn’t really free the slaves.  Rather, they were exploited for another 100 years.  The Rotten Tomato critics gave The Help only 76%, while its audience gave it 90%.  That doesn’t surprise me because the movie is a bit hokey, but I liked it like the audience did – I give it three and a half stars out of four.

The Science of Sex Appeal is a 2009 documentary that has not been reviewed by the Rotten Tomato critics, but is audience has given it a score of 64%.  One of its leading contributors is Douglas Kenrick, and I have previously blogged about his studies on evolutionary psychology.  Essentially, the thesis of Kenrick and the movie is that humans are greatly influenced by their DNA to find a mate who will best enable them to produce offspring. 

  • According to Kenrick, this has nothing to do with age.  Rather, men are looking for looking for fertility and health (younger women), and women are looking for men with significant resources (older men).  This has been confirmed over multiple times and cultures.”
  • “Conspicuous consumption is not a result of capitalism or consumerism, but rather of masculine urge to wins sexual favors from females by impressing them – like the peacocks.  Women are similarly attracted to dominant men.   Interestingly, dominance in a woman makes her neither more nor less attractive, and conspicuous consumption by women is primarily limited to things that make them more attractive.

Book generally are considered to have more depth and be more informative than documentaries, but The Science of Sex Appeal delivers information in a more efficient manner than several books that I have read on the subject.  Thus, for someone with limited time (i.e., all of us), I suggest they watch this movie instead of poring through several books.  As a movie, I give it three stars out of four.

Act of Valor is a 2012 action movie that glorifies the Navy SEALs.  It was released in February, just in time to capitalize on the bin Laden assassination in May of 2011.  I have never seen critics and audiences disagree more about a movie – critics hated it (25%), while audiences loved it (76%).  The major criticisms faulted the story and the acting.  Personally, I found the storyline more plausible than in most action movies and the acting was serviceable, not distracting. 

Act of Valor is a satisfying movie, not only because the work of the Seals is inspirational, but also because it shows the importance of what President Kennedy’s strategy of “flexible response.”  America has to be prepared to fight global bad guys on a variety of levels – strategic, tactical, and conventional – and the SEALs exemplify its ability to fight on a tactical level.  Not only do they take on jihadists, but they also show how America can deal with Mexico’s drug cartel.  As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, we can sleep easy because Navy SEALs are on the wall.  I give the movie three out of four stars.

The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 epic based on James Fennimore Cooper’s novel of the same name.  Its setting is the French and Indian War in 1757.  Our hero, Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), is a frontiersman raised by the Indians, and he finds himself caught in the middle of the warring British, French, and multiple Indian tribes.  His role is to fall in love with and save a British commander’s daughter, Madeleine Stowe.  Neither this love affair nor the other characters nor the warring situation are interesting.  Inexplicably, the Rotten Tomato critics scored the movie 97% (34 out of 35 reviews).  Even the audience score of 84% is too high.  I give it two out of four stars.

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