Thursday, May 24, 2007

Movie Reviews

Spiderman 3 -- Too long, too many villains, too devoid of heart. I believe there was too much action at the expense of any kind of cogent story. The strength of Sam Raimi's first two Spidey's was the expert handling of the humanness of the Peter Parker/Spiderman character. In Spiderman 3, it is botched so badly that when Tobey Maguire's character breaks down emotionally, you just don't buy it. I think Tobey Maguire is a good actor and I've liked most of his movies, but when his lip starts to quiver, my tendency was to laugh.

I know movies based on comic heroes are obviously going to be a little cartoonish, but Raimi took a step towards camp with this one and that is where the original Batman movies doomed themselves. Probably the only highlights of the movie are in some of the supporting roles. Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Ron Howard) is cute as a button as a competing love interest and Thomas Haden Church turns in his normal solid performance as the Sandman.

I did find interesting the fairly obvious religious imagery of Spiderman 3. Themes of pride, vengeance, forgiveness, sacrifice, etc. are splattered throughout the movie. Visual cues of crosses and the church where Spiderman removes his black suit drive the point home even more. I'm not necessarily criticizing the fact that there is this religious imagery, I just think it was done in a rather ham-fisted manner. If you really need to see a comic book movie, check out the first two Spideys and Batman Returns, but skip Spiderman 3. Grade: C


On Sadie's tip, we checked out The Education of Shelby Knox. I had heard Shelby speak before on Al Franken's radio show a few years back and I knew of her pursuits but I hadn't watched the movie yet. Shelby's a very socially conscious high schooler from a conservative Christian family in Lubbock, Texas. Her crusade is to get more comprehensive sex education into the notoriously backward Texas schools. Abstinence-only education is prevalent in this area where it is assumed that if you even mention condoms to young people, they will go out and have sex on the spot. The problem is, in this area, they are doing it anyway. Rates of teen pregnancy and STD's are higher in Texas than in areas with more encompassing sex education. The movie follows Shelby for two years as she works through a local youth group to petition school boards and the public in general to change the system. She fights the school board, local religious leaders, local government, other students in her group, and even her family a little bit. It's a very good story and shows that if you care enough about anything, it doesn't matter where you are or what type of background you have, you can make a difference. Grade: B+


Pursuit of Happyness -- Another very good acting job from Will Smith in a serious role that documents the life of Chris Gardner: "In 1981, Chris Gardner was a struggling salesman in little needed medical bone density scanners while his wife toiled in double shifts to support the family including their young son, Christopher. In the face of this difficult life, Chris has the desperate inspiration to try for a stockbroker internship where one in twenty has a chance of a lucrative full time career. Even when his wife leaves him because of this choice, Chris clings to this dream with his son even when the odds become more daunting by the day. Together, father and son struggle through homelessness, jail time, tax seizure and the overall punishing despair in a quest that would make Gardner a respected millionaire."(from IMDb)

It would be hard to question the determination of Gardner or to doubt the obvious love that he had for his son, so I won't try. Smith brings an earnestness to the role that has the viewer definitely rooting for him.

Laura did a nice review of the film quite awhile ago: Pursuit of Happyness

I agree with all her points. No real problems with the film itself but more with how conservative pundits tend to glorify the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" stories to push an agenda that says we should do away with all social services. I watched an interview on Glenn Beck's show with Chris Gardner where Beck tried to do just that. With Beck and O'Reilly and the like, guests are just a means of them reinforcing the opinions that they have already formed. If the facts from the guests don't jibe with that, they'll just steamroll right on past that.

A second issue I would have is that the movie elevates the profession of stock broker to being a noble pursuit. I respect that Gardner found something that he was good at, did it honestly and provided for his family. But, inherently, the profession is not an honest one. You ultimately have to convince people to invest in things that they didn't originally want to invest in. And you have to use dubious information and half-truths to do it. You are, in effect, a glorified car salesman.

But, you can't change the actual facts of Gardner's life and what his job was has nothing to do with the acting or directing or look of the movie ... all of which are very good. I recommend the movie. Grade: B


Jeff said...

I saw that episode with Glen Beck and Gardner. I find myself wildy attracted (not in a sexual way) to Beck. Every night I watch his show before I go to sleep, normally I can't sleep while watching it because it's quite enraging but it's addictive...

CyberKitten said...

I too was less than impressed with Spiderman 3. Actually I don't know why I saw it after disliking Spiderman 2... But then again I watched the first 3 Harry Potter films - go figure!

I did 'clock' Bryce Dallas Howard though..... VERY cute.... [growl].

dbackdad said...

Jeff -- Oh, I'm attracted to him in a sexual way. Those chubby cheeks ... that brazen confidence ... that manufactured indignance. Rrrrrrrr. I could eat him up. --- Oops, sorry. Did I say that out loud? lol

CK -- "Clock"? That's a UKism that I had not heard. But I think I know what you mean and agree wholeheartedly.

CyberKitten said...

'Clock' to notice, recognise, admire.

No idea where it comes from though....

Laura said...

John was less than thrilled with SM3 too. I didn't bother seeing it. The second one was good, but I'm not as into it as he is and after reading the reviews I said "eh".

Thanks for the props. I really liked Pursuit of Happyness.

BTW: We saw Pirates 3 last night. I was less than thrilled with that too. Too long, too muddled, and except for Johnny Depp's hilarious sarcastic wit, not worth $9 for sure.

dbackdad said...

We're heading to see Pirates this morning. I've heard similar things about it. At least we'll pay matinee ($5) prices for it.

Sadie Lou said...

I love your movie reviews, I'm your biggest fan in that sense.
Guess what?
I'm going to go see Cake tonight--special treat from the fetching Mr. Sadielouwho--it's my birthday on Tuesday. I'm so excited!
I hated all 3 of the Spiderman movies. Kirsten Dunst and her hippie-breasts! Kirsten Dunst and her lame voice! The non-stop frenetic action!
I'm glad you gave Shelby Knox a shot--hey, weren't we supposed to become Netflix buddies?

dbackdad said...


I definitely want to be a Netflix buddy. I didn't have your e-mail address till recently and then I forgot to do it. I'll get on it right now. We just saw the Queen and loved it.

Thanks for the props. I've always loved your movie reviews too! Have fun at Cake. I always associate Cake and the song "Going the Distance" with Duke Nukem. At the last job that I worked at, we stayed after work on Friday's, set up the network to play Duke Nuken person-to-person, drank large amounts of soda and cranked the stereo. For whatever reason, the primary period of time that we did this, it seemed like "Going the Distance" and Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People" were playing all the time. (ed. note -- playing video games with your co-workers on a Friday night ... can you say, LOSER?)

"Kirsten Dunst's hippie-breasts" ... rotflmao. I'm going to be chuckling about that one for awhile.