Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Journey into DVD: Roundup of movies I got at the liberry

That's right, my local library. It's not just for renting space out to community groups too small to rent out a school auditorium or HOA office anymore! it has books, magazines, and even DVDs.

Ocean's 13: Well, it was better than Ocean's 12. I mean, much better than Ocean's 12. It's pretty much just what it wants to be (what it should be?): a fun heist film. The gang gets back together to screw over Al Pacino's character, who has just screwed over Elliott Gould's character. It is a credit to Gould that his character (admittedly, one already well established in the Oceaniverse) leaves a far bigger impression than Pacino's, but come on. We all wanted to see an over-the-top Al shouting down all the A-, B-, and C-listers in the cast. Instead, he's just...effective at playing at a prick who deserves to have his casino ruined. In essence, fans of the series won't be disappointed, but fans of Extreme Pacino might be. I enjoyed Ocean's 13 but can't think of any particular reason to watch it again.

Admission: It's not the movie's fault that the studio sold it as a delightful romantic comedy (remember that cute scene of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in those rustic shower stalls?) when it's more of a dramedy (or even just a light drama) about self-identity. It may be my fault for not getting what I expected and feeling a little thrown off. It IS the movie's fault for not being sharper, funnier, or more interesting.

Just because it isn't the kind of generic romantic comedy the marketing might have indicated doesn't mean that it is an intelligent film by default. It's thoughtful but never all that compelling. Fey's admissions officer at Princeton finds herself screwing with the process in order to help a boy who Rudd's character believes is the son she put up for adoption years ago.

I'm not sure "Admission" ever knows what it wants to be, and the result is a muddle. It doesn't quite make any solid points about elitism of the university system, and in fact at some point you just wonder, "Who cares if the kid gets into Princeton? He can go to some less snooty school and get a decent education." I'm sure a lot of people will want to like this just because it stars Fey and Rudd, but those two deserve better.

Midnight in Paris: I watched this before the Dylan Farrow scandal kicked back into high gear during the Golden Globes. I feel like we have to at least address that whenever we talk about a Woody Allen movie right now--well, not that "we have to," but rather I feel I need to. I have an opinion, but I can watch the movies while distancing myself from that opinion. Borrowing a movie from the library makes it easier than paying 11 bucks to see it in a theater. Plus Woody's not even in this one.

I don't have a strong opinion about "Midnight in Paris." I was expecting something magically charming or at least charmingly magical. Instead I got an amusing but not all that substantial fantasy about nostalgia. Owen Wilson made an enjoyable enough Woody substitute though and even an acceptable enough romantic novelist type. But the ending was anticlimactic, and why do we have to kiss Paris' ass all the time, anyway? I liked this a lot more than "Vicky Christina Barcelona," but I didn't think it was all that big a deal.

X-Men First Class: OK, let's end on a high note after 3 lukewarmish mini-reviews. This one is fantastic, easily the best of the franchise, and I'm irritated I didn't see it sooner. I don't know how well it holds up "in continuity" with the other 3, and I don't care. This is a prequel that brings new life into the series.

The casting is fine, especially James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, and their relationship is credible and absorbing. On the villain side, well, January Jones as Emma Frost is a misfire, but Kevin Bacon at least seems to be having a great time as Sebastian Shaw.

I like how "First Class" sets up the X-Men while also combining elements of Cold War history. I really was kind of "eh" at the prospect of Bryan Singer bringing more of these movies to the big screen, but with Matthew Vaughn directing, I think they have hit on the right formula. Action, intrigue, and superheroes--I strongly recommend this one and look forward to May's "Days of Future Past."

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