Sunday, December 21, 2008

The View from the Tank Valu-Pak

Up the Yangtze (2008)

A masterful documentary. Quiet, intelligent, and thoughtful. Beautifully shot. Maintains an almost perfectly balanced point of view. Thoroughly Canadian in temperament (i.e., makes you feel smarter and more reasonable just watching this). Four tentacles (out of five).

Let the Right One In (2008)

The best Swedish, pre-teen, vampire love story you will ever see. Often tender and sweet, bizarrely moving, and ungross, despite the copious gore. More alive than 99% of the American movies I've seen in the past few years. Both young leads are excellent, especially the vampiress. Four tentacles.

Gran Torino (2008)

This is a great American movie and my current choice for movie of the year. Clint Eastwood is simply phenomenal here. I don't know that I've ever seen a better performance from him, in anything, which is incredible, given that he'll turn 79 on his next birthday. The Hmong cast, who are not professional actors but amateurs, are fantastic. The climax manages to surprise, and the final scene, with Eastwood singing, has burned itself into my mind. The final scene is Eastwood's bracing and generous vision of a new America, an image both fresh and timeless, showing how our country is changing in the way it always has. How much did I love this movie? I want to buy American again. Four and 1/2 tentacles [this is the highest rating I've ever given any movie here]

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Formulaic and unsurprising. [SPOILER ALERT] I wish I hadn't known that the screenwriter also wrote Forrest Gump, though the similarities likely would've beaten me over the head anyway. (E.g., childhood friendship with future love, walking on crutches as a boy, an all-loving perfect mother, girl goes away into her own world and goes "bad", going off to war, losing a role model in the war, coming back wiser and more worldly, becoming rich somehow, the love interest becoming injured/hurt in some way and needing the hero again, losing the love interest again, all set to the tunes of various historic events and phases (WW I, WW II, the Fifties, the Beatles, the space program, and finally, Katrina)). With a lot of useless and heavy-handed purported symbolism (e.g., the ridiculous hummingbirds that pop up at Meaningful Moments, the various ominous clocks, the unexplained and dubious connection between the opening story and the rest of the movie, and a ridiculous and foolish montage leading up to a Meaningful Accident). Worth seeing if you have a lot of time (2hrs and 50 min.), and a fine holiday film, but not one really worth remembering. Three and 1/2 stars Three stars(mostly for amount of movie time purchased for your movie dollar).

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