Santa Cruz / Monterey MOVIE REVIEWS: February 2013
Santa Cruz / Monterey Movie Reviews by Karin Leonard & Daniel Robin
Each month, we select our favorite or otherwise important movies to be featured on this page. We rate the movies, subjectively, on a scale from 1 (worthless) to 5 (awesome) in terms of their entertainment and message. We leave the plot details and storytelling to the filmmakers and instead attempt to characterize, highlight strengths and flaws, and hint at purpose. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
With Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Taylor Schilling
Entertainment: 4.5 Message: 3
Based on a little-known, Iran hostage crisis in 1979, when 52 Americans were seized in the US Embassy in Tehran, this is one of the most gripping, well executed and tightly edited movies of 2012. Ben Affleck does a fine job directing and acting, retelling the incredible odyssey of this covert CIA operation through an outstanding cast and script. This is not a cautionary tale or about politics—it is history recast and played for entertainment and powerful education on non-violent conflict resolution. Rated R for language and some scenes of violence, but the focus is mostly on the “strategic risk,” bringing it up close and personal. An engaging and suspenseful human drama, with a good dose of humor. Don’t miss this one … honored with Best Picture and Best Director Golden Globes Awards( 2 hrs).
With Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe. Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried
Entertainment: 3.5 Message: 4
It is safe to say that this version was, well, much less miserable than previous incarnations. Telling Victor Hugo’s meandering, melodramatic story to contemporary audiences without becoming tedious or sadistic is a big challenge. And another film version attempting to uphold the dramatic impact of the stage play? It manages to come close, with some startling performances by a remarkable cast that not only acts, but sings, and often at the same time! Dark, ugly and at times difficult to watch, almost too realistic or graphic (unlike stage plays), the amazing music carries it through and delivers quite a wallop. Long unbroken scenes where the camera stays on the performer’s song with no cut-aways … is an artistic achievement, but perhaps a bit much. The themes are universal, and somehow this historical perspective (French Revolutionary War) comes fully alive, owing once again to the music and Oscar-worthy performances (2 hrs 32 min).
With Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Jackie Earle Haley, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Entertainment: 4 Message: 4
This stellar movie masterpiece from director Steven Spielberg delivers a riveting history lesson and Lincoln Memorial that comes alive with meaning. A remarkable acting achievement from Daniel Day Lewis (did we say Oscar?). America’s beloved 16th president comes boldly forward in this brilliant biopic, and we forget we are watching an actor on screen. Elegantly focused on January of 1865, Lincoln’s battle to abolish slavery becomes the lens through which Spielberg provides fascinating insight into this president as story teller, uniter and man of integrity (and a Republican no less). We witness the early political process, even more cantankerous than today, amazingly enough. Tommy Lee Jones is also a treat as surly, intense Thaddeus Stevens, and Sally Fields rules as Lincoln’s volatile First Lady (2 hrs 30 min).
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
With Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett
Entertainment: 3.5 Message: 3
For fans of the series, it is irresistible. Another chance to be immersed in this other world of Middle Earth is at once thrilling and heart-warming. Most of the familiar, beloved characters are there, with new ones that take a while to warm up to. We enjoyed the new “Brown” nature wizard is immediately likable. Knowing this pre-story to Lord of the Rings fills in Bilbo’s adventure, which is satisfying. Not as soulful or prescient as the LOTR series, there is an apparent stretching and (dare we say) milking of this material, originally a short story, into another 3-part series by committed film artist, and part time hobbit himself, Peter Jackson. Why? Because he can. (2 hrs 46 min).
The Life of Pi
With Suraj Sharma, Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, Tabu
Entertainment: 4.5 Message: 4.5
Based on the 2001 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Yann Martel and thought to be “unfilmable,” this amazing tale directed by Ang Lee (Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon), comes vibrantly alive in masterful 3D. Gorgeous visuals envelop us from start to finish: a journey floating on water becomes poetry in motion, reflecting dreamlike skies, sunsets and stars as well as revealing miracles above and below the ocean surface. In addition, there’s the search for God and meaning, a ferocious wild Bengal Tiger “on board,” and a frame of retrospective storytelling that holds it all together, … all adds up to a fabulous movie-going experience. The dialogue might have been edited a touch, but otherwise this movie is a rare gem, not to be missed on the big screen (2 hrs 6 min).