I have been too busy with more important topics to write movie reviews. So here are a few mini reviews (reviewlets?) of movies I have seen recently. I wanted to like both Looper and Skyfall but didn’t really. Conversely, my expectations for Lincoln and Life of Pi were lower and I wound up enjoying both immensely. Maybe there is a theory about the impact of expectations on actual enjoyment here (trying to remember if Daniel Kahneman or Dan Ariely have written about this).
Looper’s basic time travel meets organized crime meets karma setup is a great premise. I also enjoyed the gritty and dystopian world it painted. And I have a soft spot for Bruce Willis. But the relationship between the past and the future in Looper didn’t work for me at all. I won’t give away any details — I don’t have the time right now and I don’t want to provide any spoilers — but there were such gaping inconsistencies that I completely popped out of the suspension of disbelief.
Skyfall has pretty much the same issue. I am a fan of Daniel Craig as Bond and loved Casino Royale (if you like Craig, you should watch Layer Cake). I also really like Javier Bardem. And the idea of a story line around agent in the field versus computer hackers is of course timely. I can even get behind the “mother” theme in the relationship between agents and M (the ever good Judi Dench). But Bardem’s character is so wildly overdrawn and overacted as to be unbearable (a Sam Mendes specialty, I am afraid) even as an echo of campy Bond villains past. As in Looper though the most damning part were the huge logical inconsistencies even within the universe of the story and characters.
Lincoln was the complete opposite experience. It could have been a dry historical exercise with too much dialog that would feel like a long movie to sit through. Instead, the 2.5 hours went by quickly and at every point I felt fully engaged in the story unfolding. Daniel Day Lewis is terrific as Lincoln who comes across as a quirky American original. The loneliness at the top for a leader seems palpable. And even the characters that provide some comic relief, such as James Spader's WN Bilbo are not overdone (except maybe for the scene with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black mode). We went to see Lincoln with our kids and even they felt drawn in.
Finally, Life of Pi is excellent also. It is the kind of movie to experience on a large screen and with great sound. I took my mother along who at one moment actually yelled out in surprise (and she was not the only one in the theater). Despite a framing story with an interview of the adult Pi and many fantastical elements this movie has such coherent and powerful visual story telling that I stayed fully engaged for the entire time. This is maybe all the more surprising as one of the movie’s main characters is a CGI tiger and I went in intent on actively looking for the CGI.
There are so many movies out there that I would love to see, including Anna Karenina and Argo. And more coming out. Now based on these four mini reviews it would seem I have to figure out how to hold my expectations for The Hobbit in check ..