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In-Flight Entertainment 13 March 10, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Up and Away.
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Here’s another round of bullet reviews for films seen in transit that were previously unseen in theaters (by me, of course):

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It’s pretty decent kids’ entertainment for sure. But I still say the concept is damn strange. Maybe it worked better in the book?

The Damned United. While most sports films stick to the tried and true formula of “underdogs overcoming adversity to achieve unlikely success,” this story of Brian Clough and his stint as manager of Leeds United surprised because it was anything but. It’s really a story of the pride that comes before the fall, woven together in the subculture of 1970s English professional football. I thought Michael Sheen was brilliant in Frost/Nixon; he’s even better here as a borderline egomaniacal Clough. Timothy Spall also does great work in the film as well. All in all, a great film, especially for those interested in English football.

District 9. Very compelling science fiction. Sure, I was taken aback by the more than occasional violence and gruesomeness, but the overall creative vision of the film and its accompanying social commentary are truly something (even if the latter is a tad contrived). The more I think about it, District 9 is the movie that Cloverfield wanted but failed to be.

An Education. What a delightful film. Based on British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoirs, it’s a wonderful coming of age story that also offers a peek into the culture and values of 1960’s England. A lot of credit has to go to the cast, particularly a very charming Carey Mulligan, as well as to Nick Hornby’s screenplay (which is good, even if it does occasionally try to be too clever for its own good). And may I just say that Peter Saarsgard and Ewan MacGregor are probably twins separated at birth? I submit the latter could play the former’s role and it would still have been pretty much the same film.

In the Loop. An interesting satire about the horsetrading that goes on behind the scenes in the corridors of power, but not entirely my cup of tea. Yes, I loved the very biting British putdowns (not to mention the inventive cussing that seemed to have no end), but really I didn’t care much for the story other than the underlying critique that the Iraq war was a total sham. If anything, I think the biggest kick I got out of watching the movie was the surprise of finding Anna Chlumsky among the cast, all grown up from her My Girl days.

The Informant! I tend to like Steven Soderbergh’s work. He did good in the way he directed this film, adding touches here and there as if to “wink-wink” at the viewer and convey that there’s something not quite right with what’s going on (because, indeed, that’s exactly the case). Matt Damon does well in his portrayal of executive turned informant turned scam artist Mark Whitacre, and if there’s anything a little off-putting in the film it’s in finding Joel McHale cast as an FBI agent (though he acquits himself quite well throughout the movie). All in all, it’s one of those movies that I enjoyed enough to wish I’d gone ahead and read the book first (and that’s a compliment).

Inglourious Basterds. I don’t really get Quentin Tarantino. I thought I was beginning to partway into Inglourious Basterds, until it became clear that this was an alternate reality take on World War II — and I just have to wonder what the hell was the point of that. That said, it’s entertaining most of the time, perhaps because of the effort the actors put into it. Brad Pitt? Yeah, he’s awesome here. But it’s really Christoph Waltz, who reminds me a lot of Tim Roth, that steals the show.

The Invention of Lying. It’s an interesting premise: what would the world be like if no one could lie, and what would happen if someone suddenly discovered how? Unfortunately, that’s about all that’s good in this otherwise snooze-fest of a movie. Whatever novelty it has gets old fairly quickly, and it doesn’t help that Ricky Gervaise’s dry British humor is just a little too dry for its own good.

Law Abiding Citizen. Sort of like Se7en with a twist, I suppose, and entertaining up to a point. Jamie Foxx portrays the right amount of hubris for a district attorney direly in need of some humble pie, while Gerard Butler is convincing enough as a mad genius capable pulling off some rather inventive acts of revenge. The point where the suspension of disbelief ends, though, is when the advanced technology and heavy artillery get thrown into the picture. Also, it fell short at the end of showing genuine remorse in the two main characters. Sure, there was an effort, but the script was rather anemic in that regard.

Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Long live the King of Pop. ‘Nuff said.

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