Archives for the month of: April, 2015

Haters gonna hate, I know, but I love this movie. I love that it shows a teenage girl who is good at some things and bad at others, and, because of the vagaries of the adolescent mind, thinks that she’s bad at everything. I love that her validation comes chiefly from the women in her life, but that she has the courage to stand up even to them when necessary (as we know from Dumbledore, this is one of the hardest things to do). I love that she has a stupid crush on the stupid cute boy (and, boy, is the casting spot on for a boy you’d be mad for at fifteen, and hate yourself about forever after), and knows that it’s stupid, but falls for it anyway. I love the car, I love the quiet but great love interest, I love Joe the security guy, I love the wonderfully supportive gym teacher, and I even love Sandra Oh’s sycophantic but ultimately worthwhile Principal Gupta.

You can bitch and moan about the centrality of the makeover, if you are joyless and naïve. People, even deep people, care about how they look, and learning to do the best you can with what you have (even if you are not beautiful like Anne Hathaway) is an excellent first step on the way to confidence. Blame the patriarchy if you like, but that won’t necessarily make you feel better.

Stray notes:

  • I do not love the M&M pizza. That ruins two amazing things.
  • The second movie is funnier but less touching, perhaps because more exaggerated and silly. By the time you graduate from Princeton, you should stop falling in fountains at fancy parties, even if Chris Pine is involved.
  • In the Princess Diaries books, the grandmother is amazing and mean and has tattooed-on eyebrows and a general air of capable evil, and, if it didn’t mean giving up the joy of Julie Andrews, I wish she were that way in the movies, too.

Director: Garry Marshall
Rating: G
Length: 115 min.
Score: 4/5.

This movie’s based on a true story; I don’t know how closely, nor, as usual, do I care. And the main message is not its truth, in particular, but how much better a person Robert Redford is than you are.

It’s the 60s. “Twenty-One” is the most popular quiz show on television, and it turns out that it’s rigged to have properly popular winners: first, a bumbling Jewish everyman, Herb Stempel (John Turturro), and then a good-looking preppie, Charles van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). A frankly irritatingly idealist lawyer working for some congressional committee on oversight, Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow), cottons on and then digs around. He believes that he will “take down television.” I don’t even know what that means, but Van Doren’s father gives a lecture on Don Quixote (to an uncredited Ethan Hawke!), so I’d guess that’s what we’re supposed to take away.

And that’s really how I feel about this movie. It deals with Issues–all of which are real, and serious–but it deals with those Issues with the subtlety of a navvy, and none of the pay-off is earned. An example: Dick’s religion is dealt with mostly by the bye (he’s from Brookline, he has eaten rugelach), until his wife (Mira Sorvino) yells at him for being the Uncle Tom of the Jews. She is unpleasant generally. On the other side, Van Doren’s family are caricatures of Connecticut, capable only of boating and Bardinage.

As a parable about anti-Semitism or general honesty this might have succeeded, but you’ll not be shocked to learn that Mr. Redford has loftier aims, and doesn’t quite succeed, especially as the larger moral is awkwardly shoe-horned.

Stray notes:

  • In this “Mad Men” era we sometimes forget that that kind of attention to detail was not always the norm in show business, and the cuts of suits and hair in this film shade early-90s.
  • Ralph Fiennes is super young and super cute. He neither murders anyone nor catches fire. Refreshing.
  • However, his accent is pretty bad.

Director: Robert Redford
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 min.
Score: 3/5.

So, you’ve seen Risky Business, pretty much for sure. Well, I hadn’t. Which is weird on a number of levels–it’s generally considered a classic, it came out in the 80s, it has Tom Cruise in it–but is still true.

And I’m now not entirely glad I did. I almost wish that my familiarity with this movie still consisted entirely of Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear, because the rest of it is so troubling. The 80s, guys. They were a special time, when we were crazy people. Crazy people in preppy outfits, sure, but also with insane ideas about everything, especially what high schoolers are or should be like, and also hookers.

So…points for young, cute Tom Cruise in some stellar Levis, minus points for bonkers sexual politics and general skin-crawly insanity.

Stray notes:

  • My Princeton interview also succeeded because my house was full of prostitutes (just kidding, it wasn’t at my house).
  • Having sex on the CTA seems like a really gross idea.

Director: Paul Brickman
Rating: R
Length: 99 min.
Score: 2/5.

I’m not entirely clear on what happened in this movie. I do know that it starts off with Tom Cruise in a Russian prison, that within 30 minutes the Kremlin has blown up, that Tom Cruise falls off the Burj Khalifa, and that then, for some reason, they go to India, and Anil Kapoor gets involved.

And I do not care. The whole thing is rollicking good fun. Simon Pegg does his Simon Pegg thing, Jeremy Renner does his Marvel thing rather than his actual-actor thing, Paula Patton is… there, and Anil Kapoor– Well, Anil Kapoor made me worry for a little while, that the writing was, shall we say, not entirely progressive. And I still have that concern, but with the proviso that the responsibility for his anomalous behavior is at least 50% on Mr. Kapoor’s own head. I have seen Taal, and he is not less crazy weird in it.

Character development is heavy-handed and/or non-existent, but that’s not what you’re looking for in such a movie. Tom Cruise needs a haircut, but otherwise is his old self, which you like or you don’t. He did his own stunts and some of them are literally (and I mean literally) breathtaking. I dropped my iPad at one point.

Stray notes:

  • There are people that I think you’re supposed to care about from previous M:I movies, but I’ve only seen the first one, so I’m not sure about that. It doesn’t matter.
  • Tom Cruise has a magical jacket that is Russian army on one side and tacky American windbreaker on the other. It’s awesome. Also his disguise-glasses are hot. Not sorry.
  • Russians are such great film villains. I love that we can still do this.

Director: Brad Bird
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 min.
Score: 4/5.