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Film Roundup VIII

I have guests this week, and I’m pretty sick, so I’m not going to the movies. I don’t like it when people with loud, hacking coughs join me in the theater, so I certainly have no intention of subjecting fellow moviegoers to the same. You know what that means:

The Producers – 93%

Producer Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane), once the toast of Broadway, is now the king of expensive flops. Until, that is, timid accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) clues him in to a scheme that’ll make him some real cash: raise a ton of money for a guaranteed flop and no one will notice that you cooked the books. The two settle on “Springtime for Hitler,” an idea sure to have the whole audience storming out in a huff by the end of the opening number. But, the best laid plans . . . well, you know the rest.

I have a little rule. Mel Brooks movies are brilliantly hilarious, as long as he stays out of them. In this case (a movie based on a stage muscial based on a movie based on a stage musical) the rule definitely holds. The movie is a hilarious send-up of the genre, and a great, catchy musical in its own right.

Robots – 49%

In a world populated by robots, an idealistic young inventor-bot travels to the big city to follow his dreams. Instead, he finds himself battling evil corporate fat-cats with a rag-tag band of new friends. This is yet another lousy product of the recent mania for CG-cartoons starring a slate of big-name actors as long as your arm (including, in this case, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes, Drew Carey, Paul Giamatti, James Earl Jones, Greg Kinnear, Jay Leno, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci and Robin Williams). Can you say overkill? It’s flashy and fast-talking, but very shallow stuff.

Gattaca – 98%

In the world of the future, every child is engineered to be excellent. Unfortunately, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) missed the boat, thanks to his parents, who declined any genetic modification when he was born at the cusp of the new technology. His younger brother, who was engineered, is stronger, faster, taller, and (his parents think) better than he is. And so is everyone else of his generation. But Vincent has a dream: to become an astronaut. To realize that dream, he’ll have to assume the identity of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), a golden-boy track runner whose career ended abruptly when he stepped in front of a car, borrowing his blood, urine, hair and saliva to defeat a barrage of tests and checkpoints. Everything is proceeding smoothly until, just before Vincent’s first outer space mission, his supervisor is murdered. The ensuing investigation threatens everything he has worked so hard to achieve.

This is possibly the best science fiction movie of the decade, and certainly one of the best of all time. It’s sort of a combination of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, with an incredible visual style all its own. The story is brilliant, intricate, suspenseful and deeply satisfying. A real masterpiece.

The Devil Wears Prada – 77%

Inexperienced Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) comes to New York City with journalistic aspirations and lands a job as assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the terrifying queen bee of the fashion world, in charge of “Runway” magazine. The movie, adapted from a hit novel, is alright, if you like that sort of thing. It largely amounts to empty entertainment, but it is funny and reasonably engaging. This is basically a painless experience with which to kill an evening.

Fast Food Nation – 60%

The marketing director for a major fast-food chain (Greg Kinnear) discovers that there are traces of fecal matter in their best-selling burger, and heads down to the supplier to investigate. What he discovers is a system of corruption and exploitation that includes everyone from local restaurant workers to slaughterhouse employees. The movie puts its ensemble cast (which includes Ethan Hawke, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano and Avril Lavigne) to work illustrating the evils of capitalism and burger production, but mostly they just sermonize. There are loads of self-righteous speeches, which bog the movie down severely. Its heart may be in the right place, but the result is too preachy to be effective. Note to filmmakers: If you can’t get your point across naturally through the course of the story, a script rewrite may be in order.

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~ by Jared on March 14, 2008.

One Response to “Film Roundup VIII”

  1. A moviegoer with a social conscience! We should have more like you.

    Well, we should have more like you anyway, for purposes of buying power and intelligent discussion, but you know what I mean.

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