Archive | Movies RSS feed for this section

Screen Shot: ‘Dumbo’

El Capitan’s organ was sadly silent during a recent kid-filled rainy day matinee, and the leading character does not make a live appearance, but at least Walt Disney’s classic 1941 picture, Dumbo, is being screened at the once-legendary studio’s Holllywood Boulevard movie theater. The animated feature, which was affectionately introduced by El Cap’s extremely knowledgeable manager Michael, runs at the historic theater through January 28 to honor the film’s 70th anniversary next year. Next door at Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store, there’s a caramel-topped ice cream sundae and exclusive Dumbo merchandise. Unfortunately, Dumbo is preceded by a trailer for the latest Tim Burton horror movie, sharing the title of Walt Disney’s 1955 animated feature, Alice in Wonderland. The new, live action version looks like just another of his visually striking nightmares.

If only the currently volatile, unfocused, and increasingly generic Walt Disney Studios were creating movies of Dumbo‘s caliber, showing them in venues to match the quality of these outstanding twin enterprises, and cultivating outstanding cast members (that means you, ushers Melvin and Lucia). Read my review of this wonderfully colorful motion picture here.

Screen Shot: ‘Book of Eli’ starring Denzel Washington

This bleak, violent, post-apocalyptic picture is involving up until the point you realize it’s just another example of religious propagandizing. Starring Denzel Washington as a mysterious stranger who walks alone and comes upon a town ruled by a dictatorial Gary Oldman (fabulously chewing it up like an older version of his drug-addicted bad cop in The Professional), the grizzled solitary man carries a Bible, speaks in riddles, and winds up dressed as a Moslem in a progressively dull movie. The Book of Eli borrows nihilism from The Road Warrior and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood, a cheap trick from The Sixth Sense, and preachy religion from any of a variety of recent Christian pics. Also featuring Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) in the film’s best performance as a blind woman and a young actress named Mila Kunis as a nubile type. Its theme that religion will save the world is pure hokum. Despite fine turns by leads Washington and Oldman, this book sermonizes more of the same.

Screen Shot: ‘Leap Year’

The romantic comedy Leap Year starring lanky Matthew Goode (Watchmen) as an Irishman who meets a real estate decorator played by chirpy Amy Adams (Doubt) on her superstitiously pre-marital jaunt across Ireland has a few soft spots but is largely humorless. This effort from the director of the stylishly vacant Shopgirl is less than inspired but it beats watching the dreadful megahit Avatar, which I finally saw after Christmas at the suggestion of a pal in Seattle and a nephew who promised me it was the greatest movie ever made. James Cameron’s animated diatribe against civilization is apparently causing people to practice what the movie preaches: CNN reports that audiences are having suicidal thoughts.

Fall 2009: Peikoff, OCON and Ayn Rand

This fall, I am working on projects and studying Objectivism, and reading new biographies of its creator, Ayn Rand. My review of Yale University Press’ Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein is available for purchase in the fall edition of a print publication. The foremost expert on Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff, will deliver a 6-part lecture course at the 2010 Objectivist Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) reports. Dr. Peikoff’s forthcoming book, The DIM Hypothesis, in which he presents a new philosophical theory, will be the basis for the course. For more information about this exciting news, read the announcement in ARI’s latest Impact, which is packed with interesting information (incidentally, my movie review of the pirated, 1942 Italian film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s We the Living is published in the electronic edition, with a brief history of the motion picture). The review is one of a series of articles for this site; others include this op-ed about the 1936 novel. I’m planning to post new, exclusive interviews about We the Living, about both the book and the movie, in the future.

Screen Shot: ‘Surrogates’

Disney’s Surrogates is a generic affair yet it is not without value. Written and directed by the creators of this year’s Terminator: Salvation, another dystopian picture about a society in which economics and state are mixed, Surrogates poses some interesting questions. Bruce Willis stars as a cop who, paired with Radha Mitchell (Feast of Love), investigates the murder of a young man who is the son of the inventor of the robotic surrogates that everyone uses as proxies for dealing with reality. That’s about it. With an underlying theme that it takes courage to face reality while most fake reality, certainly a timely message in this text-messaging age of heads buried in technology as a religion instead of as a tool for living, Surrogates scores some points. But it gets bogged down in static characters, a lack of suspense and a thinly plotted climax. Still, borrowing from Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, Westworld, and, of course, Blade Runner, this slice of science fiction about a world in which everyone wears a mask, with society’s charismatic leaders urging us to “sacrifice yourself for the greater good,” offers more than most in the genre. A touch of irony: in one scene, the hero chases one government-sponsored machine by commandeering another: the Toyota Prius.