Mike Kueber's Blog

August 18, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #42 – Primal Fear, The Lives of Others, and The Kids Are All Right

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:04 pm
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I selcted Primal Fear for viewing because one of my drinking friends insists that Edward Norton is the best actor extant and he proffered Primal Fear as definitive evidence of his assertion.  I told him that I don’t generally enjoy mysteries/thrillers, but agreed to give it a try.

Primal Fear is a 1996 movie that stars Richard Gere as a dashing defense lawyer and Laura Linney as his earnest, former-lover foil.  (Linney looks like a former secretary, Cathy Phillips, especially when smoking.)  Gere defends altar-boy Norton, who has a multiple-personality disorder, for the murder of a Catholic archbishop who has some business-corruption and sex issues.  All of that sounds pretty standard for a movie, but what makes this movie special is the all-American charm of Gere and the acting of Norton (amazingly, his first feature film).  Also, Alfre Woodard is outstanding as the judge, and her role provides one of the few arguments in favor of a judge who is independently elected instead of one who serves at the pleasure of the local establishment.  And finally, I won’t give away the surprise ending, but it is one that I personally observed early in my legal career during one of the two cases that I tried to a jury while working for the Texas penitentiary.  Rotten Tomato critics give it a middling 74%, while its audience likes it better at 85%.  I agree with the audience and give it three and half stars.

The Lives of Others is 2006 a drama that depicts the overwhelming, oppressive surveillance that occurred in East Berlin in the 1980s.  The story concerns a prominent writer in East Germany’s theatre community being surveilled because some in the secret police thinks the playwright might be disloyal to the communist state.  Although the secret police are mostly immoral, unethical thugs, one of their mid-level persons has some culture and integrity, and it is interesting seeing how that person deals with his conflicting loyalties.  The movie won an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language film.  The Rotten Tomato critics give it a score of 93%, and its audience likes it even more at 95%.  I thought the story and the acting were superb, and its depiction of life in a society of corruption and totalitarianism is sobering.  I give it three and a half stars out of four.

The Kids Are Alright is a 2010 drama about two children of same-sex parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) deciding they want to get to know their sperm-donor dad (Mark Ruffalo).  The problem is that Dad is ultra-cool, while the lesbian parents are either (a) super-critical and uptight (Bening) or (b) laid-back and ditzy (Moore).  Neither parent is very happy when the kids begin to see Dad as a role model, with Bening noting that, “He seems so self-satisfied to me.”  Seems she is troubled by someone comfortable in his own skin.  Eventually, she tells Dad, “If you want a family so bad, go out and make your own.”  The movie appears intended to show how wonderful same-sex parents can be, with the storyline reminding me of the old saying that many kids hate their parents for riding their back for years, only to find out that their parents are the only ones who truly have their back.  Although same-sex parents and single parents are becoming more prevalent in America, I believe a mom and a dad should remain our gold standard.  The Rotten Tomato critics give it a 93% score, but the audience rates it only 72%.  Although it received a Best Picture nomination, I agree with the audience and give it only two and a half stars.     




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