All The Movie Reviews
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — Doubt by Steve
It is 1964, and inside the most packed Catholic church I have ever seen, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is delivering a homily on the virtues of doubt. In the faces of the unrealistically attentive parishioners, we see just how relevant the topic is. Here a lonely man, there a sick woman, all around a community of people who remember all too well that earthshaking day, less than a year before, when they witnessed the murder of their beloved president. “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty,” the priest tells them. “When you are lost, you are not alone.”
A peculiar conclusion to a sermon, I thought — and so did Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the rock-ribbed battleship of a school principal, who views ballpoint pens as tools of Satan, casts aside cough drops (“candy by another name”), and unironically refers to Frosty the Snowman as “disturbing and heretical.” She views herself as a guardian who foresees and prevents evil, and soon the unease she felt at Flynn’s sermon of doubt is fanned into a flame of full-blown suspicion. “Every easy choice today comes with a consequence tomorrow,” she tells the innocent, young Sister James (Amy Adams), whose observations quickened the fire. Aloysius, we can see, is not afraid of the hard choice.
A cinematic adaptation of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning parable of a play, Doubt is at its most powerful in the adroitly written interplay between its major characters; all four performers have been justly nominated for Academy Awards. Between those scenes of brisk dialogue, the symbolism is laid on a trifle thick — wind, okay, we get it — and the juxtaposition of the sisters’ timid, sedate dinners with the rollicking, smoke-filled bacchanalia of the priest and monsignor is comically blunt. But once the movie gets down to what it’s really about, it is spellbinding.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — Four Christmases by Connie
I went to the movies with my girls last week over Thanksgiving break, and we saw Four Christmases, the latest (with Fred Claus) in the ongoing series of Vince Vaughn holiday movies. Maybe he\’s trying to corner Christmas the way Will Smith has hijacked the Fourth of July.
Anyway, I was hoping to like it — really, I was — but there was just something off. I sensed no onscreen chemistry between the two stars; as a matter of fact, they did not appear to fit together at all. Maybe it\’s that I just don\’t care for Vaughn, but imagine Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in It\’s a Wonderful Life, and you might get a sense of how uncomfortable I felt.
The plot was sadly relevant and timely, I suppose. I like to enjoy holiday movies, though; having to watch the protagonists visit four sets of parents, the aftermath of two divorces and remarriages, is not exactly something to warm the heart. And then! To have them ALL be completely dysfunctional, even dangerous, was just too much to swallow.
And the story? Predictable and boring. Slapstick has never appealed to me; I prefer depth and an actual storyline for my characters to explore. These two looked like they were just counting down the minutes until they could get to the end of the movie and go home. Funny, I know exactly how they felt…
It gets a 3 out of 7 on the Bweinh! scale: a hearty Eh!
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — Religulous by Steve
I’m going to make a documentary. I’ll line up a friend with a camera to follow me around; maybe a boom mike too, for effect. I’ll get people to sit down and have a conversation with me, just two folks trying to understand each other — only once I edit the footage, I’ll make them look as stupid as I can: cutting them off before they finish, splicing in some vacant stares, maybe throwing in a nasty caption or two. And if I can’t think of the perfect smarmy comeback immediately, that’s okay! It’ll come to me in the editing room, and I’ll splice it right in!
I think I’ll call my film “Maheronic.” Too derivative? Well, why don’t you sit down and tell me why you think so? Don’t forget to look directly into the camera — no, not the one I set up on the floor behind you so you look like a naughty student in the principal’s office. Look at the other camera, the one behind me with the zoom set on “Nose Hair.” Don’t worry, I’ve been taping you while you were confused. And yes, if I really hate you, I’ll use that part too. Don’t pick your nose!
How will I start? Oh, by giving away the ending — namely, that I think Bill Maher is an insufferable, swaggering dunce. But then I’ll quickly explain that I’m making this movie to explore whether I’m right, which I am, because no rational human being could possibly disagree with me.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — An American Carol by Steve
Low expectations get an undeserved rap. Think of how helpful they are! They help us endure torturous high school musicals, they operate as a bulwark against corrosive despair in the workplace, and they singlehandedly keep nearly 3,000 Arby’s restaurants all across the United States in business.
I brought my own well-worn set of low expectations last weekend when I went to see David Zucker’s answer to the Hollywood left: An American Carol. In my mental budget, I had already allocated my $9 ticket as a “political contribution,” rather than “entertainment.” I don’t particularly like going to the movie theater: movies are expensive, and if I wait a few months, I get to watch them for what feels like free when Netflix mails them to my apartment. But for the first time since The Passion of the Christ, I wanted to buy a movie ticket to make a monetary statement.
The nagging problem was that I knew what kind of movie it was likely to be. Zucker, acclaimed director of Airplane! and The Naked Gun, reviled director of BASEketball and Scary Movie 4, is not known for subtlety. I’ve enjoyed the over-the-top political ads he’s produced since 9/11 made him a conservative, but like everything else these days, they’re designed to entertain people who already agree. No liberal watches a commercial that shows Madeline Albright painting a terrorist cave and comes away thinking, “You know, maybe I was wrong about Iraq — and I’m suddenly queasy about embryonic stem cell research too.”
And as much as I hate to be proven right, that was the biggest problem with this film.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: Wanted by Connie
I finally got back to the movies to see Wanted — but I was totally disgusted by this piece of cinematic trash. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this review is to apologize to anyone who may have taken my earlier enthusiasm as an endorsement. . . It could have been a good film; instead, it was an embarrassment. That’s how James McAvoy looked throughout the entire thing too: embarrassed. He even used an American accent. Perhaps he didn’t want to be recognized.
I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone, unless I get to edit it; as is, it gets no letters on the Bweinh! scale. Go see Kung Fu Panda again instead. I hear that’s good!
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: Hancock by Connie
I went on a spontaneous date night the other evening to see Wanted, but ended up in an unexpected early showing of Hancock. We’ve all seen the trailers for the reluctant drunken superhero played by Will Smith, and it looked good — so since my movie required waiting an additional hour and had Jolie in it, we opted for Hancock. But I have to say, I kind of wish we had waited for James McAvoy. . .
I must be true to myself and give it only an EINH (B-/C+) on our BWEINH! scale. I’m still down wit’ Will (I’ll see you next July, man), but this film just did not deliver the goods.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — Kung Fu Panda by Djere
Jack Black in the feel-good movie of the year this… is!
Though my brain can hardly believe it… I… actually… liked… a Jack Black movie.
Uncharacteristic of our movie-watching habits, Official Wife Karen and I watched this 92-minute romp on opening day. And while usually admitting you have a problem is the first step, Jack Black as Po, the laziest panda in ancient China was laugh-out-loud funny. From the opening sequence and the one-liners straight through to the end, something about this movie just worked.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — Leatherheads by Connie
Sarah and I hit the local theater last night to see George, Renee, and — let\’s face it, John Krasinski (I really miss The Office) — in Leatherheads, which had been touted as a quick-witted romantic comedy. Sure enough, it scored some points. . .
Ultimately, we enjoyed the movie a lot, although at 1:54, it could have been about 15 or 20 minutes shorter. So I\’m taking the letters E and I from “edit” out of Bweinh!, and only giving it a five out of seven for a final rating of “Bwnh!” Game over.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: Horton Hears a Who by Djere
Jim Carrey in the feel-good picture of the year, this ain’t. But if you’re looking to be diverted from your troubles with a non-canonical Seuss-ish movie, drop the nine bucks on a ticket and kick back.
I give it a “Bwei” out of “Bweinh!” (4 out of 7)
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies — The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Chloe
The screen is blurry, and I blink several times to clear my eyes. No, still blurry. I blink again. So does the screen. A little better. There are shapes moving about now. The screen blinks again and the shapes become people. It wasn’t my eyes.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor of French Elle, who suffered a stroke at the age of 43 and lived the remaining two years of his life locked inside his paralyzed body. The opening scene is a rendering of Bauby waking from the coma and learning that he has locked-in syndrome — he cannot speak, he cannot move, and he cannot communicate at all, despite his fully conscious and capable state.
But Bauby is a remarkable person, and so he does not only spend his last years longing for his past life and the release of death.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: 10,000 BC by Job Tate
I knew a girl like 10,000 BC once. An entity of enthralling beauty and delicately constructed features, but once I discovered how shallow and plotless she truly was, I came to resent the effort spent on her charms. As such is this movie, a libation poured out on the ground of cinema.
To be sure, the fanboys will have something to text each other about. The graphics are state-of-the-art, at times truly captivating, and there’s enough gore to sate the bloodlust of any desensitized young American man. The cinematography was beautifully captured, and it covered the entire earthscape, from snowy hillsides to dry deserts. But — I say again — I was just appalled that so much effort could be expended to provide this beautiful vehicle of a motion picture, then occupy it with a little runt of a story.
To call it formulaic would give it too much credit. Missed opportunities to force myself to become emotionally invested in characters were all too frequently evident, and the script smacked of having been written in an afternoon. Enthralling CGI manifestations like the saber-toothed tiger were sadly, sorely wasted, and the timeline of technological advances was irritatingly incongruous.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: Bee Movie by Steve
Inertia is a property of matter, the New York Jets, and married men. It keeps papers on your desk, does an excellent job of keeping your house exactly where you left it, and generally succeeds in keeping me seated in my apartment — where various corporations are kind enough to provide me with the means to entertain myself, in the event I’m unable to handle the job myself.
But there are forces, “outside forces,” more powerful than inertia. Chief among those forces is the woman, whose desire for such exotic fare as “leaving the house” and “going out” possesses no known bounds. But as the old axiom says, where there is no woman, there will probably be a 15-year-old boy. And that’s how I wound up at a matinee showing of Bee Movie last week, accompanied by my youngest brother, who seemed to want more out of life than a jigsaw puzzle and the Fox Soccer Channel.
I expected to dislike it going in. This wasn’t because the entire plot is based on the fantastic revelation that honeybees can speak — I can deal with unrealistic movies, as long as they maintain their complete lack of realism. It’s where a movie tries to live in that twilight land between fantasy and reality that trouble sets in. Choose your home: real or fake! I had a nagging feeling that Jerry Seinfeld, king of observational humor, would try to straddle that line — and straddling, I assure you, is usually unwise.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: Chick Flicks by Connie
As a preface, I am in no way officially recommending any particular movie to anyone, just sharing the experiences of my last two visits to the cinema with my girls (Karen , my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, and my daughters Rose  and Sarah ).
In mid-December, I heard Rose say sheepishly, “I kinda wanna see that…” I looked up to catch the end of a trailer for Juno, a new teen pregnancy movie, pitched as a smart, funny, gets-into-your-heart-and-head kind of film. As Pentecostal Christians, we generally don’t support many teen sex movies, which is probably why she sounded sheepish. I watched the last few scenes with little interest, but tucked it away. Around the same time, 27 Dresses trailers were on every day, constantly reminding me of our two upcoming weddings. My girls and I had already made a date to see that one; I was hoping it might give me some ideas for the reception and rehearsal dinner.
But frankly, Dresses was forgetful and predictible, giving me plenty of time to check out gowns and cakes, and take mental notes on bouquet arrangements, centerpieces and lighting. I mean, James Marden was okay, but he’s no Mark Ruffalo. You knew who the girl was going home with — there was no “OH NO!!!!” moment like in How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Just Like Heaven. Discussing the movie afterwards, we quickly ran out of things to say.
Reviews began trickling in on Juno. “Fast-paced, witty dialogue. Candid, funny, real.” It began to sound like the Gilmore Girls, and we sure missed that show. We miss a lot of things; stupid writer’s strike. When the Oscar nominations were announced and Juno stuck gold, I fired off texts to the girls and a date was on. I remained afraid it might portray teenage pregnancy in a sympathetic way or trample over our values — and I wondered if it could stand up to all the hype.
- Bweinh! Goes to the Movies: Rambo by Djere
I’ll tell you one thing — Rambo is by no means Sylvester Stallone in the feel-good picture of the year. But he has his moments.
The story revolves around sexagenarian John Rambo and a squad of mercenaries who rescue missionaries from the evil clutches of a brutal, dictatorial, oppressive, homosexual, Southeast Asian general and his raping, pillaging, murderous goon-filled death squads. Overall, the plot itself is fairly standard for 1980s-level action films, just with a higher production value.
Rambo himself is as murderous a killing machine as he is inventive, eliminating enemy soldiers with knives, bows and arrows, pistols, truck-mounted machine guns, and even by attaching a Claymore to an unexploded WWII British bomb. Oh, and he also rips out a man’s throat. Wicked. But it’s all for a good reason, so he’s kind of a nice guy at heart, you know?
Other characters lack depth (unlike the ever-multifaceted Rambo’s two sides — kill and slur). The missionaries are presented as pigheadedly bent on complete nonviolence as they infiltrate the border of a war zone for “the greater good.” The mercenaries are completely off the handle, screaming and swearing at Rambo, one another, trees, boats, rain, missionaries, enemy soldiers… in this movie, just about anything that can be screamed or sworn at is.