Mike Kueber's Blog

February 26, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies #142 – Laggies, The Good Lie, About Time, Amores Perros, The Judge, and Whiplash

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:40 am

Laggies (2014) is a romantic comedy set in Seattle involving a slacker (Keira Knightley). Part of her problem is professional (she is trained as a counselor, but doesn’t feel that is her calling) and part of it is personal (she has a clique of life-time friends, but those friends don’t really speak on her wavelength). Her boyfriend/fiancé (Mark Webber) seems OK, but he is as close to the clique as he is to her.

After a friend’s wedding, Keira’s boyfriend proposes, and because she cannot think of a reason to say no, she accepts. But she immediately gets cold feet and vanishes for a week while pretending to attend an out-of-town career-development seminar. In fact, she stays in town and crashes with a high-school girl she recently befriended. The girl happens to have a cool, divorced dad/lawyer (Sam Rockwell).

The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 69%, but the audience approval was only 53%. Parts of the storyline was forced and implausible, and for too long it was unclear which man was the better catch, but in the end, Keira seems to have figured it out. I think the critics got it right and I give the movie three stars out of four.

Incidentally, regarding the title, Wikipedia says:

  • The directors have explained that choosing the title “Laggies” was a complex decision. Shelton revealed that she had never heard of the term laggies before making the film, but screenwriter Andrea Seigel insisted it was a common term for adult slackers. As the film was made, Shelton realized that no one except Seigel had heard of laggies before. However, the title stuck, although in the UK the film was released as Say When.

Put me in Seigel’s camp. I don’t specifically recall using the term “laggie,” but its meaning seems obvious. While the reference to “adult slacker” is fine, I think it more closely is associated with the term, laggard.

The Good Lie (2014) is a critically-acclaimed movie, but it is given short shrift by Wikipedia. The popular online source of information describes the movie’s plot as follows:

  • Four young Sudanese refugees (known as Lost Boys of Sudan) are helped by Carrie Davis, a brash American woman after they win a lottery for relocation to the United States.”

Even the Netflix wrapper contains a lengthier summary:

  • In this fact-based drama, a young Sudanese War refugee wins a lottery that allows him to start life anew in the United States. But adapting to his new home presents challenges — both for the ‘lost boy’ and for the American woman who’s helping him.”

Amazingly, the Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 87% and its audience at 83%, but its review of the movie provides a clue for these numbers:

  • The Good Lie sacrifices real-life nuance in order to turn its true story into a Hollywood production, but the results still add up to a compelling, well-acted, and deeply moving drama.”

In other words, the movie is a sappy, hokey, feel-good film. I almost stopped watching after 15 minutes because the storyline was so unrealistic, but by the end I couldn’t help rooting for these immigrants because of their values and their humility. Reese Witherspoon stars, but the movie is not about her; it is about the Lost Boys of Sudan. I give it two and a half stars out of four.

About Time (2013) is a British movie about a guy, dorky Domhnall Gleeson, who learns at age 21 that he can travel back in time and revise the way he behaved in the past. It is a trait that all his male ancestors also possessed. Being a dork, Gleeson uses this newly discovered ability to have numerous do-overs of romantic encounters, most especially with the love of his life, played by Rachel McAdams. The Rotten Tomato critics approve the movie at 69%, but the audience is more favorable at 81%. I suspect the audience loves the movie because of a standard successful formula of matching an ordinary, unassuming guy (Gleeson) with a beautiful, but warm and approachable woman (McAdams) – e.g., Something About Mary. I love the movie because of the aforementioned romance, but also because it prompts the viewer to think about what is important in life. I give it three and a half stars out of four.

Birdman won the Best Movie Oscar last week, and its director, Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inirritu, also won the Best Director Oscar. While waiting for Birdman to become available on Netflix, I decided to examine Inirritu’s pedigree.

He made his directorial start with his so-called trilogy of death, starting with Amores Perror (Love is a Bitch) in 2001. Amores is available on Netflix streaming. I was encouraged by the film’s Rotten Tomato ratings, 94% and 92% respectively, and I was not disappointed by the bit-too-long, triptych movie (153 minutes).

It is exactly what I would expect from someone who will eventually win an Oscar for Best Director – dark characters and complicated storyline. The triptych format allows three strata of urban Mexican life to be interwoven around the concept of personal loyalty. I give it only a solid three stars instead of better because I am not a big fan of dark films.

The Judge (2014) is a mix between a crime mystery, courtroom drama, and a character study of an estranged, successful son (Robert Downey, Jr.) trying to make up with his old, cantankerous father (Robert Duvall). Before watching the movie, I told a friend that I don’t enjoy Downey movies because I consider him to be wimpy, like James Spader, but I was wrong. He has a line in the movie accusing his brothers of being MIA from the queue when they were born that handed out testicles; Downey obviously maintained his place in said line.

The movie received mixed reviews from critics (47%), but the audience was much more favorable (73%). Count me with the audience. Both of the lead actors play flawed characters, but they are likeable. I’m not even sure why I liked Downey so much because he has so many unfavorable characteristics. Further, things have happened in his earlier life that seem irredeemable, such as losing his wife because of neglect, permanently injuring his brother’s major-league baseball prospects because of a car accident while driving high, and having his estranged saintly mother die before meeting her five-year-old granddaughter. No fairy-tale ending here. I give it three stars out of four.

Whiplash (2014) is about a kid (Miles Teller) attending a music college and being pushed by an intense taskmaster (J.K. Simmons). The taskmaster is reminiscent of tennis or gymnastic teachers who have well-documented reputations for cruelty in trying to produce exceptionally skilled performers. The movie was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and 95% of the Rotten Tomato critics like it. The audience was even more supportive at 96%.

Me – not so much. Simmons (Dr. Skoda on Law & Order) is excellent and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, but Teller is thoroughly dislikeable and unsympathetic as an arrogant, insecure kid raised by a pusillanimous, insecure dad played by Paul Reiser. I give the movie only one and a half stars out of four.


1 Comment »

  1. […] movie won this year’s Best Picture Oscar, as did its director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. I previously wrote about Iñárritu’s first movie (2001), Amores Perror (Love is a Bitch), and complained about its […]

    Pingback by Saturday Night at the Stylized Movies #144 – Birdman | Mike Kueber's Blog — March 26, 2015 @ 4:42 am | Reply

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