Thursday, February 4, 2010

Movie Reviews V

Up In the Air (2009)
A professional downsizer (George Clooney), flies all over the country to fire people whose managers/bosses don’t have the banungas to do it themselves. When a young employee wielding new technology threatens his beloved lifestyle, he takes her on a firing spree to show her what it means to crush people. Along the way, his fear of commitment/settling down starts to waver after he meets a likeminded female road warrior (air warrior?) and…I won’t spoil it. I really liked this one. For me, it was somewhere between Lost in Translation and a traditional beginning-middle-end romantic comedy-ish movie. It has a similar sort of ambiguous feeling as Lost in Translation, but I think it’s a bit more mainstream in how it presents that ambiguity.

It’s Complicated (2009)
A divorced mother of three grown children (Meryl Streep) finds herself in a tricky situation – she’s exploring the possibility of a relationship with the pleasant and interesting architect in charge of her home remodeling (Steve Martin), but she’s also having an affair with her remarried ex-husband (Alec Baldwin). I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this one – more specifically I was concerned about whether or not I would connect to the material, seeing as I’m closer to the experiences of the secondary characters (the children) than to the main characters (the parents). I was pleasantly surprised to find myself interested in and intrigued by the main characters’ actions and motivations. I think the movie strikes a delicate balance between conveying the complicated (and not necessarily complicated in a funny way) emotions of the characters and keeping the overall feeling light and comedic. Also, Alec Baldwin makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps because I associate him with roles like what he plays in this movie – charming in a sort of slimy/sleazy way that makes me immediately wary and/or makes me check my purse for my pepper spray.

Invictus (2009)
The story of Nelson Mandela’s attempt to begin racial and cultural healing in South Africa by encouraging nationwide support of the country’s rugby team, which was heavily associated with apartheid. Nelson Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon plays François Pienaar, captain of the rugby team. The overarching feeling is that of a typical feel-good sports movie, but the backdrop of seemingly irreparable tension and cultural division in South Africa in the early 1990s lends quite a bit of weight to the story, enough to take it beyond the sappy, cheesy, underdog-fighting-for-a-chance territory. My sister enjoyed the movie but thought that certain aspects, particularly the ending sequences, were a little too heavy in implying that a few rugby games solved all the country’s problems. I didn’t necessarily get that impression, but I could see how she came away with that opinion. I personally took it as more of a suggestion that uniting over a common interest, in this case a sports team, was the first step and the first indication that it might actually be possible to bridge the gap.

Julie and Julia (2009)
Julie and Julia is based on the true stories of Julie and Julia (imagine that). The former is a modern young woman (played by Amy Adams and set in 2002), struggling through career confusion and those moments in life where you start to feel like everyone but you has figured out the answers and has it together and you’re just drifting along trying to keep on top of buying wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, baby shower gifts, you’re-so-much-more-successful-than-I-am-so-here’s-a-gift gifts and you don’t have a 5-month plan, let alone a 5-year plan and…what? I’m not personalizing… Anyway, Julie’s hit a rough patch in life and turns to one of her comforting hobbies to help her through the tough times – cooking. She grabs her copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and sets out to cook at least one recipe each day for one year, all the while blogging about her experience. Interspersed with Julie’s story is the story of the master herself, Julia Child (Meryl Streep). Set mostly in Paris in 1949, we see how Julia came to become the culinary giant that she was. I think by now you should know how I feel about Meryl Streep. She doesn’t disappoint as Julia, but that doesn’t mean I loved the movie. I actually liked it a lot, until about the last 10 minutes. At which point I was a little disappointed. I can’t blame the writers for sticking to what really happened, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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