Mike Kueber's Blog

October 20, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #51 – Fight Club, P.S. I Love You, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Husbands & Wives, Chinatown, Two Jakes, and Seven Days in Utopia.

Seven Days in Utopia is a widely panned 2011 movie about a kid (Lucas Black) from Waco floundering in his attempt to make the professional golf tour.  Setbacks are just about to take him down when a small car wreck forces him to stop in Utopia, TX for seven days of car repairs.  As luck would have it, the small town (population 373) has a former golf pro (Robert Duvall) who decides to teach the kid everything he learned from his life on the tour.  The movie, which is based on a 2006 book – Golf’s Sacred Journey – by a sports psychologist, reminds me a lot of George Strait’s Pure Country movie, with a good old boy being corrupted by big-city values until he comes home to small-town Texas values.  Filming was actually in Utopia, and I remember some of the locations from a stop in Utopia one year while doing the Leakey Death Ride.  Rotten Tomato critics give the film a rating of only 12 (the movie is slightly religious), while the audience sees it as a satisfactory 71%.  I like it even better and give it three and a half stars out of four. 

Fight Club, described by its director as a coming-of-age movie like The Graduate, reminds me of Mulholland Drive, a movie that I started but did not finish a week ago.  Because I was in a better mood for Fight Club, I stuck it out to the end, but that didn’t change the result – i.e., I have no idea what the movie was about or trying to say.  It involves a young, middle-class loner, Norton, who takes up with anti-social, psycho Pitt and dissolute Bonham Carter.  Together they are nothing but destructive and self-destructive.  There are some references to excessive consumerism, but the point escapes me. What a waste of Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter.  Amazingly, Rotten Tomato critics give it an 81%, and because it has become a cult classic, the audience likes it even more at 95.  I give it zero stars.

Chinatown (1974) and its sequel Two Jakes (1994) involve a Los Angeles private detective (Jack Nicholson as J.J. Giddes) caught up in some shady land dealings while trying to document some extramarital affairs.  The first film is set just before WWII and the second immediately afterwards.  Chinatown co-starred Faye Dunaway and was directed by Roman Polanski in his last movie before fleeing America.  Although it was nominated for 11 Oscars, it won only a minor one.  The Rotten Tomato critics have scored it at 100 and the audience gives it a 92.  Two Jakes, which co-starred Harvey Keitel, was directed by Nicholson and was poorly received – 65% by the critics and 36% by the audience.  Both movies were written by Robert Towne, and he had planned to complete a trilogy set in 1968 with Nicholson at the end of his career dealing with his own divorce, but those plans have been permanently shelved.  Because I don’t enjoy neo-noir crime mysteries, I give Chinatown only two stars and Two Jakes only one out of four.

Husbands and Wives (1992) is a typical Woody Allen movie that examines a couple of marriages going through mid-life crises.  As with most Allen movies, it is set in Manhattan and contains fascinating characters.  It is Allen’s last movie with Mia Farrow before their break-up.   The Rotten Tomato critics love it (100%), and the audience likes it (84%).  My kind of movie – three and a half stars out of four.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962), directed by John Ford, is the best movie ever made.  John Wayne stars as a strong, silent cowboy/rancher who watches as co-stars Jimmy Stewart, an earnest tinhorn/pilgrim lawyer, and Lee Marvin, a sadistic outlaw, battle over law & order in a small frontier town.  The last line of the movie has a railroad conductor generously providing Stewart with a special cuspidor and commenting, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valence.”  The irony of that statement makes it the best closing line ever (better than Casablanca and GWTW).  The Rotten Tomatoes critics scored it at only 97% because one of its 34 critics didn’t like it.  The audience scored it at only 89%.  If I could give it more than four stars, I would.       

P.S., I love you (2007) is a chick flick about a moody young woman (Hilary Swank) married to a great guy (Gerard Butler) who dies from a brain tumor.  Because she is scarred from being abandoned by her father many years earlier, she is unable to move on with her life.  Then some letters written by her husband before he died start arriving, and in these letters he attempts to get her back on track.  I love sentimental stories like this and was in tears for half the movie.  Unfortunately, the casting was terrible.  Butler is great, but Swank and her angry mother (Kathy Bates) don’t have a romantic bone in their bodies.  And Swank’s three best friends – Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, and Harry Connick, Jr. are similarly unattractive.  The Netflix jacket says the movie is set in Dublin, Ireland, and that is true of the book upon which it is based, but the movie is actually set in Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The Rotten Tomato critics score it only 23%, but the audience gives it 82%.  The audience is mostly right – I give it three stars out of four.


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