2011 Movies

Mini-reviews of: Atlas Shrugged, Bad Teacher, Blind Side, Battle L.A., Capt. America, Green Lantern, Hanna, Rise of Planet of the Apes, Redstate, Salt, Thor, Tourist, Tower Heist, Salt, Waiting for Superman, and What’s your number.

## Atlas Shrugged Movie

I recommend it with reservations. How much you like it will be influenced by how much you liked the Book (and how high your expectations are). I was a reserved fan of the Book, and my movie expectations weren’t very high. So I thought the movie was really good (better than the Book). The whole plot is basically like 1984 or Animal Farm (and follows the book) — it was about how a well meaning collectivist society keeps punishing the producers and rewarding the slackers, until society crumbles. (Those producing the most, go away. E.g. Atlas Shrugs and the world falls).

I was a modest fan of Atlas Shrugged. It had the same basic lessons of Animal Farm, 1984, or Robin Hood, with a LOT more words. But it was and will remain a formative piece for many people. And it got me to read what I think were Ayn’s better, earlier works. ("We the Living" was her best and shortest work for me, because it left the responsibility of conclusions to her reader. And because it was almost her autobiography). Atlas Shrugged was much heavy handed with long monologues and told in such a ham-handed way, that it had all the subtlety of dynamite fishing. But the lessons were good and pointed (if a bit overplayed and simplistic). This movie managed to fix many of those things I didn’t like about the book for me. I didn’t go into this movie expecting much. An obscure production telling a long-winded story with almost a religious following: what could go wrong?

Surprisingly, I thought it was really well done, FAR more subtle and much better acting than the book. And because it was a Part 1, I think it had to leave more to the viewer than the original left to the reader: which was an improvement. The political timing: with Obama’s economics speeches getting plagiarized almost word-for-word by Mr. Mouch, made it amazingly attuned to the times. (Even if by accident). And while it ended a bit abruptly (with many open questions), it was at a well timed spot in the book (at least as good as Star Wars IV). So it left the viewer wanting more, while still remaining complete on it’s own.

However, I have less hopes for the next 1 or 2 in the series. It isn’t fast as is, and I expect the remainder to drag and either follow the book and get very droll, or it will clean up for brevity and then be heresy to the devout fans. And since it tells an anti-Hollywood message it won’t win any awards and the reviews will hate it on ideological ground (but find other excuses to trash it).  But that it was able to get made in Hollywood against the odds (the Citizen Cane, or Passion of Christ factor), that makes it significant for its rarity alone.

It is timely, polarizing and was hard to make in Hollywood: thus one of the most important movies of the year. (Anything that adds diversity of thought to Hollywood is important).


## Bad Teacher

It certainly won’t be up for any awards or offer many surprises. But it wasn’t quite AS bad as the reviews.

If you go in expecting a shallow plot, a few laughs, and fluffy stoner humor — and that’s exactly what you get. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it, but it was an excuse to ride to a theater and better than top-chef reruns.


## Battle L.A. 

Went and saw Battle LA. You’d normally think it’s like Independence Day, but it’s actually a bit deeper than that: much more a character movie with a plot. A total action war movie, but better acting and deeper plot than one would expect. In the context of "for another Alien invade earth" total shoot ’em up movie. 

From the human side I kept thinking, "nukes! nukes! What’s more important a few million people or the planet?" But I’m pretty sure mushroom clouds wouldn’t have been as good of a suspense building device. And from the alien side, they weren’t very smart. If I wanted to colonize earth, it would look like this: drop a few rocks into the oceans — the tsunami’s would clear out the coasts to 20-60 miles inland (many major cities), and the saltwater rain covering the planet would do a pretty good job of cutting off the food supply. After a few years it would start to clear. Rinse and repeat. So the idea that Aliens will spend long periods of time to come here and go war with an inferior technology civilization, and be that dumb about it, is sort of boring.

Since it is L.A., I’m always kinda rooting for the Aliens a little, "They took out hollywood? Oh noes, the average IQ of the planet just went up by some measurable amount." And unless the resource they’re going after is silicone breast implants and superficiality, I’m not sure I’d start in L.A. But for a hollywood war movie (in the last 30 years), they actually didn’t abuse the usual cliche’s. The president wasn’t a warmonger, the hero wasn’t a military hating liberal, the leadership wasn’t all stupid, all the soldiers weren’t emotionally destroyed druggies and they didn’t have to rewrite history or explain why we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. This already puts it near the top 1% of hollywood war movies. And since it didn’t have any of the usual anti-conservative dogma, I’m pretty sure it won’t stand a chance of any awards, (this also explains both the low reviewer ratings, and significantly higher viewer ones). So if you can suspend disbelief, it’s not terribad. 


## The Blind Side

Really good movie, better than the 66/85 on Rotten Tomatoes (in my opinion). Best of this list of 2011 flicks, by far.

What many people see in a movie or book is often more a reflection of themselves (as much as the authors intents). Some people got bent about the cliche’s of white family saving a black kid, or the black kid turning out to be a star athlete. (Playing to some stereotypes). And there is that. But like it or not, it’s more or less a true story. To me, race is a part of it, mostly in overcoming different worlds. But it’s more just a human interest story about how people from dramatically different realities can impact each other (in good ways), and surprise each other. As well as how individuals are often surprisingly more than the narrow minded want to pidgeon-hole them.

In the end, it was just really good performances of a nice but completely predictable (semi-known) story.


## Captain American: The First Avenger

Rented two movies this weekend. I picked Capt. America — wasn’t bad for a Alternate Universe Steam-punkish Super-Hero flick. You have to like the genre, but if you’re looking for a Buck Rodgers type retro-futuristic super-hero / alternate universe kind of film, you’ll like it. If that doesn’t sound appealing, then save your redbox money and watch something else. For me, it was worth every penny of the $.99 spent, but not a penny more.


## Green Lantern

OK. Completely predictable, simple plot, nothing too racy. But nice effects, and entertaining. Great for kids/teens. I preferred XMen much more and Thor a little more to it, but those were both really good for the genre. So worth the money if you like the genre.


## Hanna

Saw it. Meh. I was expecting something between kick-ass and born identity. Right idea, but a lot slower and nothing vaguely related to a surprise. I wouldn’t rate it as bad, and I don’t feel ripped off for my $7. But I think the reviewers definitely mismanaged expectations. It got 77/66 on Rotten Tomatoes, and I think the 66 was a little high. I would have been perfectly happy to wait for video or see it on a plane going somewhere.

A friend summed it up as:

> I was looking forward to a 17 year old kicking ass and raging all over the place (the first 20 minutes were definitely the most entertaining). Instead they spent over half the movie being all touchy feeling and focusing on the ‘plot’. Normally, that wouldn’t be bad, except there was no plot.


Rise of Planet of the Apes

Not bad. Predictable but entertaining. I don’t usually like remakes — but this prequel worked well.  


## Redstate

Wife rented Redstate because it was a Kevin Smith movie and she thought it might be funny. Wow. Not funny. Not good drama. Just depressing homophobic religious serial-killers get taken out by the even worse government.

Only about one movie a year (or less) gets my stinker award: this earned one.

If delusional far-left dogma by a Hollywood sellout, who hates conservatives and all the redstates are fly-over country, and you want watch bad dialog with a worse plot in a hollywood hate-film, then you’ll probably love this. But I felt ripped off and I only paid $.99 at redbox for this dog.


## Salt

This movie wasn’t worth its salt (despite the 62/59 it got from Rotten Tomatoes). Sometimes it’s the little plot devices that annoy in movies like this, in this move it’s all of them. More cliche’s than a Piers Anthony book. Less depth than a playboy centerfolds interview. The ham-handed dialog of an Arnold movie: without the humor. If Mystery Science Theater 3000 did action flicks, they would pick this one to pan. It probably wasn’t the worst movie of 2011, but it would take work to guide low enough where people would come out thinking, "it wasn’t THAT bad’.


## Thor

Went and saw this (rode over). Wasn’t horrible. Wasn’t deep or great. Lots of backstory, and really predictable dialog — but I didn’t go expecting the 6th sense or anything. And actually the lack of over-action throughout the entire movie made it better than some crazy, flying place-to-place non-stop movies that just tire you out. It will keep the kids entertained. So for pretty fluff, with some action, it was good. I don’t know if I’d give it the 77/76 it got on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you want a super-hero movie, it probably won’t be the worst one you’ll see this year.


## The Tourist

I was hoping Depps acting could counteract Jolie’s. I didn’t like any of the characters, and figured out the plot in about 5 minutes. It was an action, drama, romance, thriller that managed to achieve none of the above for me. Watch it if you’re stuck on a plane, but there’d have to be very few other options before I’d recommend it.

My wife liked it more than I did. Believe it or not, I didn’t hate it. To me it was like neopolitin ice cream: it isn’t great ice-cream… but it’s still better than no ice cream at all. Yeah, Jolie has big boobs, but she isn’t very appealing to me. Her and the character she played made me think, "high maintenance".


## Tower Heist

We went and saw Tower Heist: surprisingly, not horrible

Amusing, cliché, and about as believable as Beverly Hills Cop, but some funny lines and entertaining.

Better than the movie of the week on TV. (A lot better than Red State was). If you go to a matinee with low expectations (as I did), you’ll walk away feeling you got more than your money’s worth.


## Waiting for Superman

I want documentaries to have pacing, support, and point/counter-point (not a Moore/Gore propaganda film). This was 111 mins to do 11 mins of info, so I think the 89/84 Rotten Tomatoes score was a lot higher than it deserved. Of course if you’re looking for a slowly paced, poorly supported documentary that trashes the American School system with all the lack-of-balances of "An Inconvenient Truth" director can muster, then this will be the best option for the year.

The premise is the failure of  the American school system, as told from a far left-of-center director, which will go for tugging at the heart-strings (and person interest stories), instead of offering facts and data to support them. So lots of focus on a few personalities or shots of people driving in cars pondering the failure of our system. While I agreed with the message, I wanted it both harder hitting and more balanced. Result: OK. but slow, depressing and not nearly as thorough as I wanted.


## What’s your numbers?

I did my husbandly duty of seeing the chick-flick (romantic comedy) with my wife… and it made Something about Mary or a Kevin Smith dialog seem G-rated. Funny movie, with some real hysterical lines, and quite a bit better than I expected… but very adult shock-humor type jokes.

Plot, with the help of her man-whore neighbor, the lead character (Anna Faris)  browses back through the past 19 mistakes she’s made (failed relationships) and ponders if she missed, "the one". It works, if you like the crass humor genre.