Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Insider * * *

The first half of The Insider is the story of the tobacco industry whistle blower Jeffrey S. Wigand, played subtly as a mild eccentric by Russell Crowe, and 60 Minutes executive producer Lowell A. Bergman, played with passion by Al Pacino, and how they brought revelations about the tobacco industry to the 60 Minutes program that would ultimately cumulate in the tobacco industry settling with the states for $268 Billion dollars.  The second half of the movie is about how this story was almost suppressed because CBS was afraid of lawsuits from the tobacco industry.

It seems to me that the movie plays a bit like a history lesson, although an interesting one, especially by the way it is played by the two principle actors.  This is a side of Russell Crowe that we have not seen before, although I think that there is a slight similarity to his A Beautiful Mind performance.   

It bothers me that the movie plays a little loose with the facts for dramatic effect.  They made up a scene where Jeffrey S. Wigand finds a bullet with a note on it.  Would that not be slander toward the tobacco industry?

I have to wonder about the significance of the events portrayed in this movie.  The movie does a great job of making what might otherwise seem rather mundane interesting.   But how many people in the 1990's didn't know that tobacco was dangerous and addicting?   So I don't see the 60 Minutes piece as being that revealing.  The $268 billion dollar settlement happened because the states sued the tobacco industry, which makes me wonder how culpable the tobacco industry should be for providing a product that many people want and everybody knows is dangerous?    Should the states also sue McDonald's for serving fried food?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010) is a dark and intense movie. It is sometimes exciting and other times slow and somber. There is an awful lot of scenes where people are running away from terrible things. There is also at least one scene too many of people sitting around sad and wondering what they should do next. Still, I was never bored, but the under-13 crowd might find this movie slow and depressing.

This is more of an adult Harry Potter, unlike the first movie 9 years ago where all the main characters were young children. Here they all look like young adults and they have some serious adult problems. Some people I know have made a fuss about a nude love scene, but that scene is a brief mirage strategically obscured by smoke. Nevertheless, this is clearly not a kiddie picture anymoe.

I think that the cinematography, special effects and attention to detail are the best we have seen so far in this series. The movie is a little too complicated to fully understand in one sitting, but that is O.K. It gives me reason to see it again.

P.S.  I forgot to mention that there is much humor in the first half.  The second half gets all serious and forgets about humor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dark Star

Dark Star just came out on DVD. I saw it on cable 28 years ago and
thought that it was hilarious. My dad thought the movie was junk and
he was surprised when I said that I liked it. I am not sure how well
it holds up now, because one of the points of the movie is that
traveling through space is really boring. I also remember that the
movie was playing at a drive-in in the late 70's.
Every once in a great while this movie will come up during lunch time
conversation where someone will mention how funny it is and that it is
a classic.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Zombie Land (* * * *)

Zombie Land is comedy about 4 people trying to survive a Zombie Apocalypse.  I was a little put off by the gory opening sequence, but this movie is not as gory as other zombie movies and once past the beginning, the movie is in full comedy mode.  There is a surprise cameo in the middle of the movie that is absolutely brilliant.  

I am bumping my rating of this movie to 4 stars.  Why?  It is clever and witty in almost every scene, which makes it incredibly watchable.   There is enough here to keep me entertained through at least 3 or 4 viewings.

I enjoyed it much more than Shaun of the Dead (* * *), which is another zombie comedy that I liked.

Other more serious zombie movies that I liked are ...

28 Days Later  (* * *.5)
I am Legend.  (* * *.5)
The Omega Man

Of this bunch, I prefer 28 Days Later  (* * *.5), because it shows the Zombie Apocalypse being caused by a virus;  No dead people crawling out of their graves.  It also has a reasonably good sequel.

That is the limit of my experience with zombie movies, but along comes a new TV mini-series about zombies called The Walking Dead.  At this point I was wondering why do we need yet another show about a  Zombie Apocalypse?  You would think that with the dozens of zombie movies out there that this genre would be beaten to death.  The answer is that The Walking Dead is extremely well written, or at least the first part is because that is all that has aired so far.  The characters in this show feel very real.

The Walking Dead is excessively gory, which I don't like, but the story and the characters are so good that it kept me interested.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stuart Little 3 (* * .5)

Having just watched Stuart Little 2, I was curious enough to watch Stuart Little 3.  Just so we are clear: this is a direct to video movie, minus the live action.  It is mostly 3D computer animated, although the characters look like they are animated in 2D, which seemed kind of weird to me at first.  This is NOT a top quality animated film, but there are a few parts where the animation does look interesting.  I see on Netflix that some people reject the movie because of the animation.

I am not so much worried about whether this is live action or all animated, and I am not too concerned about the cheapness of the animation.  I am mostly interested in the quality of the story.  The first half seems so full of promise.  There is a lot of humor here and a few very cool moments.  I think that the first half might be worth checking out.  You can see all the best parts here.

The second half is a little dull.  It seems like they ran out of cool ideas and therefor the movie mostly degrades into a kiddie story.  That might be O.K., but I think that even little kids know the difference between good stories and dull ones.  It is not terrible, but it is not that great either.