Category Archives: Movies

The Invention of Lying

Light-hearted movie that I suppose could be called a romantic comedy with a fantasy twist:

Like the old saying goes, in a world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.  Similarly, the story takes place in an alternate universe in which no one can tell a lie.  As a result, everyone is extremely gullible, because there’s no reason to question what anyone else is saying.  Ricky Gervais plays Mark, a hapless writer, who discovers the ability to tell a lie.  If he tells a bank there’s money in his account, the teller will give it to him without batting an eye.  If he announces that he saved a baby from a burning building, no one questions it.

For comic effect, the movie expands the principle to beyond just everyone telling the truth to everyone blurting out what they’re thinking, and I’m not sure how the two go together.  It’s one thing for a man to tell his boss he’s not coming into work, not because he’s sick, but because he hates the job.  It’s another for a waiter to announce that he’s had a sip of the drink you ordered.

Anyway, Mark’s new ability to tell lies leads him to invent Heaven to console his dying mother, which then blossoms into Mark styling himself a prophet of the never-before-heard-of “Man in the Sky.”  Mark tells the crowds that God wants them to be good and nice, and if they are they’ll get mansions after they die, which of course everyone finds a great relief.  But Mark is unhappy, because Anna, the girl of his dreams, (played by the lovely Jennifer Garner) finds him unattractive, albeit friendly and kind, and she will be soon married to a vain but good-looking man played well by Rob Lowe.

All in all, the story seems enough to fill a half-hour comedy show, but by the end it’s wearying trying to understand why people feel compelled to tell each other that they are so miserable.  The story ends on a cliche, with a race to the church to object to the wedding.  Still, it’s a clever idea and the actors appear to have fun with the concept.

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From such humble beginnings…

Fun clip of 25 major movie stars in their first roles, some I’ve seen, others I’ve never heard of.

Before They Were Famous: 25 Actors in 3 Minutes

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Tangled

Watched Tangled with my wife last night.

I’m a sucker for these types of Disney movies.  The animation was absolutely beautiful, a three-dimensional painting style that was vibrant and full of depth.  The characters’ expressions were convincing and effective, and there was enough humor and action to keep me engaged.  And I’ll admit it, the ‘floating lanterns over the river’ scene was breathtaking and throat-choking.

As for the story, well….  It started off all right.  Rapunzel is locked in a tower by her kidnapper Gothel, who is keeping the captured princess for her hair’s healing properties.  The poor girl is a teenager, hungry to explore the world outside, when a handsome thief named Flinn Rider breaks in.  The two fated lovers agree to help each other out, letting Rapunzel have her exciting adventure.  The middle chapter involves a den of thugs won over by Rapunzel’s infectious innocence and optimism, as well as a chase through a huge waterworks.  The ending, however, invokes a cheat, presumably necessary by the fact that this is a G-rated Disney movie, but it still soured an overall positive experience a bit.

Still, Disney has done far worse than this one.  I’d happily place Tangled among the ranks of Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin as an enjoyable fairy tale.

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Movie 2-fer: The Adjustment Bureau & Source Code

This Friday night was a two-for-one-and-a-half movie rental night.  (No joke.  I Redboxed one movie for a buck, and the machine asked if I wanted another rental for fifty cents.)

First was The Adjustment Bureau:

Up-and-coming politician falls in love with dancer, but odd guys in hats tell him that he has to break it off in order to keep the predetermined plan on schedule.  Naturally, he refuses to agree, ending with odd chases around the city.

All in all I was pleased but not impressed.  The movie nods toward the free-will argument, but the ending felt like a deus ex machina wrap-up, and other elements were too hard to swallow.  The young couple flirt and sizzle, but then are separated by circumstances, unable to find each other for years at a time.  But, he’s a political celebrity and a successful lawyer–and she can’t seem to find him?  Have either one of them ever heard of Google?

 

Next was Source Code:

Another mind-twisting sci-fi flick.  Soldier is involved with an expensive military experiment and is sent back in time to figure out who set off a bomb on a commuter train.  When the bomb goes off anyway, he’s sent back again, and again, having only eight minutes to figure it out.

The movie plays fast and loose with quantum mechanics, and it’s not really explained why the soldier’s consciousness can be transferred into another person’s body–what happened to the other guy’s mind?  I also couldn’t understand why everyone was so reluctant to tell him why he was involved in the mission.  It does has some disturbing images of people dying in bad ways, but Michelle Monaghan is rather fetching.  All in all I didn’t not like it, but I doubt I’ll be watching it again to tease out the subtle implications of “time re-assignment.”

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Captain America: The First Avenger

Cheryl and I saw Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend.

Overall, I enjoyed it, much more than Green Lantern and even most comic book movies recently.  I liked the World War II period sets, when men wore fedoras and women wore brilliant red lipstick.  The story didn’t take itself too seriously, which naturally made it more relaxed and fun.

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The Man Who Planted Trees

Just finished watching the short animated film, The Man Who Planted Trees.

Based on a delightful short story by French author Jean Giono, the tale describes the quiet efforts of an lone shepherd to restore a barren valley in the Alps during the early twentieth century.  He plants and cultivates countless trees, watching in proud silence as a lush forest slowly grows and thrives.

The film is ranked highly for its unique animation, and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1987.  It also motivates me to plant trees, but with the drought Texas is going through right now (today’s temperature 108 degrees) perhaps I’ll wait until a more seasonable time.

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The Old Man and the Sea (1958)

I had not heard that Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella The Old Man and the Sea had been filmed until just recently, and I just finished watching it. 

Spencer Tracy plays the old man, a poor Cuban fisherman with a nearly three-month-long string of bad luck.  He is loved and cared for by a young boy who maintains the faith.  When the old man in his tiny boat snags a marlin beyond his imagination and is pulled out to sea, he engages in the struggle of a lifetime, a heroic quest to restore his lost virility, his honor, and his pride.  But then, the sharks begin to follow the trail…

The movie is essentially a one-man monologue, difficult for any actor to work with, but Tracy plays the role with thoughtfulness and gravity.  Every time I encounter this story I desperately root for the old man, hoping he’ll bring his catch back to port and re-gain the esteem of his friends.  The story is one of struggle, triumph, failure, hope, and love–the human condition.

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