Mike Kueber's Blog

September 15, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #45 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (old), The Hunger Games (new), and Arbitrage (newer)

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 7:40 pm
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A friend recently asked me why I write movie and book reviews.  Although I obviously lack any skill as a critic, I write the reviews for two reasons:

  1. According to Benjamin Disraeli, the best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.  That principle applies to book and movie reviews, too.  By writing a review, I learn things about the book or movie that otherwise would have eluded me.
  2. Usually, something in a book or movie strikes me in a relatively unique way, and I want to memorialize and share that.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a science-fiction movie that came out when I was in high school (1968).  Thematically, the film involves evolution and space travel.  The dominant theme, however, concerns an intelligent computer that mutinies against its two astronauts.  It won an Oscar for special effects, even though those special effects seem primitive by modern standards. 

Although 2001 came out to mixed reviews, its stature has grown over time and it is now on many lists of all-time great movies.  The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 96% and the audience is almost as favorable at 86%.  I don’t enjoy science-fiction movies, even thoughtful ones like 2001, so I give it only one star out of four.

The Hunger Games is a 2012 science-fiction movie about a dystopian future ruled by a totalitarian regime.  The regime produces lethal Hunger Games as a televised survival competition in which teenage contestants fight each other on to death, much like Roman gladiators.  If this sounds like a reality TV show – perhaps Survivor – that would be accurate. 

I almost never watch reality TV because it seems the epitome of what Newton Minow said in characterizing TV as the “vast wasteland.”  But the movie was well executed and entertaining, so I give it two stars out of four.  Rotten Tomatoes liked it better – 84% from the critics and 85% from the audience.  The movie is based on the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy, and filming on the second movie started only a few days ago.   

Arbitrage is a brand new movie that opened on Friday in San Antonio.  I don’t commonly attend new movies, and instead rely on Netflix, but I had a Friday night date to entertain.  The movie is not about arbitrage, but rather appears to be another version of Bonfire of the Vanities, with Richard Gere playing the Master of the Universe who gets involved in a messy traffic mishap, and the rest of the cast acting like an episode of Law & Order.  Rotten Tomato critics give it a rating of 82% and its audience gives it 68%.  I agree and give it three stars out of four.


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