Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Film and video

Wall-E (2008) Went to the theater with my kids to see this Disney/Pixar feature and it does have plenty of kid fare. But the fact that it was made for adults from my generation who grew up watching cartoons can't be denied.
The story of an outmoded robot left clearing the earth of waste generated by humans who abandoned it starts as perhaps the most melancholy cartoon ever made. Our lonesome automated buddy Wall-E has only the detritus of mankind to tell him what we were like, and eventually he meets up with another robot we sent to see what remains of the earth we gave up on. Then comes the predictable machinations of people, with what felt like a contrived ending, and that is too bad. Although there are plenty of unflattering-but-accurate portrayals of our kind along the way, the quiet, simple robot sub-plot I liked better. Three stars (out of four).

21 (2008)
Went and rented this one the day it came out on video, and it was a good watch. But I still am not quite sure what to write about it.
Built around the true story of Ivy League brainiacs who counted cards well enough to get rich playing blackjack in Vegas, 21 is told by one of them who saw the whole thing come crumbling down in the end. It has Kevin Spacey, it has slick camera work, amazing moviemaking slickery, and all that. It also has a backstory to add depth to our hero. But it came up just a tad short on card-playing action for my taste, and a few times the story twisted out of focus, so to speak. Two and a half stars.

The Bucket List (2008) Saw this one in the video store and thought, how could I have missed a movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? Got it home and saw exactly why I'd not heard of it.
The stars, both stricken with terminal cancer, break out of the hospital room they share to complete a list of things to do before they kick the bucket, such as visit famous spots in the world, hike the Himalayas (with cancer???) go skydiving, and the like. The Nicholson character's wealth makes all this possible, but the plot makes none of it plausible. Plus, although both perfomances are good, the star roles are typecast to the point that, we know what will be said and done long before it is. Two stars, but I might take back one of them if I saw this a second time.

3:10 to Yuma (2007) Been out for a good long time on video, but I'd not checked it out because I need to have the right 'head' for a Western. I went for it to watch with my dad, who loves the genre, but we shared the same lack of interest on this one.
Bad guy Russell Crowe somehow has an ax to grind with the good guy, a one-legged rancher played by Christian Bale. Pop and I never quite figured that part out, but it seems Crowe and his gang are robbers who rip off the same railroad again and again until it hires mercenaries to bring them to justice. There was MUCH time spent building the story, but it did not help. The gunplay, dirty deals and betrayal could have gotten done in 45 minutes or so, and been much easier to follow. We still would not have cared what happened, though. Two stars...I guess.