The Things You Find On Netflix: Sergio (dir by Greg Barker)


Sergio, which dropped on Netflix last Friday, is a biopic of the Brazilian diplomat, Sérgio Vieira de Mello.  Sergio spent 34 years as a diplomat with the United Nations, going to some of the most dangerous places in the world and trying to negotiate with people who were determined to kill one another.  Sergio was so respected within the UN that he was seen as a likely candidate for Secretary-General.  Instead, in 2003, Sergio was killed in a terrorist attack while he was in Baghdad, observing the American occupation of Iraq.

Starring Wagner Moura in the title role, Sergio opens with Sergio arriving in Baghdad.  For the majority of the film, he’s buried in the rubble of his blown-up office, thinking about his past life while an American soldier (played, with quiet authority, by Garret Dillahunt) tries to dig him and his assistant, Gil (Brian F. O’Byrne) out.  Through the use of flashbacks, we watch as Sergio negotiates peace in East Timor and argues against the occupation of the Iraq.  We also watch as he meets and falls in love with Carolina (Ana de Armas), pursuing a passionate affair with her despite being married.

Sergio is a rather staid biopic.  If you’re expecting to see an Adam McKay-style screed about international diplomacy and American war crimes, that is not what this film is and we should be happy for that because, seriously, have you tried to watch The Big Short or Vice lately?  Instead, Sergio is more like a Jay Roach film without the attempts at humor.  It’s a blandly liberal biopic that is conventionally structured and a bit too convinced that the audience is going to automatically agree with its points.  Indeed, one of the film’s most glaring flaws is that it assumes that we’re all as enamored with the UN as it is.  Instead of making a case for why the UN should be taken seriously, Sergio just assumes that it is.

The other big problem with the film is that it’s just boring.  There’s nothing interesting about the film’s structure and, as portrayed in the rather bland script, both Sergio and Carolina come across as being ciphers.  We’re constantly told that Sergio is charismatic and controversial but we really don’t see much evidence of it.  The film itself doesn’t seem to know what made Sergio tick but what’s even worse is that it doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in finding out.  There’s not much interest in digging into Sergio’s mind or his motives,  The film forgets that you can portray someone as a hero and celebrate their accomplishments without necessarily idealizing them.  With the exception of one or two scenes (and there is an effective moment where one of Sergio’s assistants does call him out for putting everyone’s life in danger by refusing to accept protection from the U.S. army), Sergio is portrayed in such an idealized that he comes across as being a bit dull.  Wagner Moura is an appealing actor but there’s no depth to his performance.  Meanwhile, Ana de Armas is reduced to playing the stock girlfriend with a social conscience role.

All that said, I almost feel guilty about not liking Sergio.  The film was made with good intentions but good intentions don’t necessarily translate to compelling storytelling.

 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Review by Case Wright, Dir: Michael Dougherty


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Godzilla: King of the Monsters is like eating a huge handful of different colored Jelly Bellys all at once; it’s fun and kinda sticky.  It was written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus, or anything that’s filmed for a few hundred bucks and a sandwich).  Dougherty is known for inexpensive genre films like Krampus, which was kind of fun in a goofy way.  This is a much bigger budget and if it weren’t for the dialogue, it would’ve been great.  Honestly, you don’t really need to listen to the dialogue and Dougherty is a lousy writer; so you’re better off tuning the people out.

The cast was everyone you like: Coach Taylor, Eleven, Tywin Lannister, That Lady from the Conjuring, That Science Teacher from Stranger Things, West Wing Guy, What’s His Face, and the guy who was in the last one who wanted the monsters to fight.  On the monster side: there was Mothra, King Ghidora, Rodan, Michaelangelo, Godzilla, and the rest.  They were all thrown at the screen like water balloons hitting you in the face.

The movie opens with Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) at a Monarch facility where baby Mothra wakes up and everyone seems to want to touch it.  Gross.  They’re gonna get a dino-rash! Terrorists enter, kill everyone, and take ….. did I write take … I meant pick up Dr. Russell and Madison.

Why? Dr. Russell lost her son to the last Godzilla attack and has decided that everyone should die because that makes sense…somehow. So, she sets up her Doctor Doolittle machine to talk/wake up all the Kaijus to kill everyone.  Her argument is really annoying and has a makeshift powerpoint presentation.  She is the embodiment of every sanctimonious Seattleite, Vegan, Composting, Apologist, Whiner all rolled into one; she figures if the monsters kill all the people that the world will be better off- think if that horrible Lorax finally got the money to kill for the trees.  They’re why I refuse to recycle …. EVER!

Anywho….she wakes up all the monsters and Coach Taylor who is Dr Russell’s quasi-ex-husband scientist is granted crazy authority over the military to figure out how to stop all the monsters from killing everyone.  And man do they ever fight?!!! I mean it do they ever fight?  I counted only four monster on monster fight scenes- kinda skimpy.  Also, Godzilla had to be recharged with nukes or radioactive spa time to keep going; I guess Godzilla decided to upload the latest Apple Update.

Godzilla ends up on top….literally. He gets on top of a mound in Boston and all the other monsters bow down to Godzilla, except Mothra – She curtsies (she’s from another time).  There’s good CGI and Monster fighting- when they do fight.  Just don’t go trying to find deeper meaning.  I loved these movies because they’d be on tv for the nerd set when I was a kid.  I saw them all.  In fact, in King Ghidora v Godzilla, Godzilla tries to help the Japanese win world war II or at least one battle. It was awesome.  These movies are great because you can unplug and watch some awesome destruction.  This movie brings the boom.  Enjoy!

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Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Post (dir by Steven Spielberg)


So, I finally sat down and watched the 2017 film, The Post.

The Post is something of an odd film.  Imagine if someone made a film about the production of a movie.  And imagine if, instead of focusing on the actors or the members of the crew or even the director, the film was instead about the studio executives sitting back in Hollywood and debating whether or not they should agree to give the director another million dollars to complete the film.  Imagine dramatic scenes of the execs meeting with their accountants to determine whether they can spare an extra million dollars.  Imagine triumphant music swelling in the background as one of the execs announces that they’ll raise the budget but only in return for getting to pick the title of the director’s next film.  The Post is kind of like that.  It’s a film about journalism that’s more concerned with publishers and editors than with actual journalists.

To be honest, The Post‘s deification of the bosses shouldn’t really be that much of a shock.  This is a Steven Spielberg film and a part of Spielberg’s legend has always been that, of all the young, maverick directors who emerged in the 70s, he was always the one who was the most comfortable dealing with the studio execs.  As opposed to directors like Martin Scorsese, Brian DePalma, and Francis Ford Coppola, Spielberg got along with the bosses and they loved him.  While his contemporaries were talking about burning Hollywood down and transforming the culture, Spielberg was happily joining the establishment and reshaping American cinema.  No one can deny that Spielberg is a talented filmmaker.  It’s just that, if anyone was going to make a movie celebrating management, you just know it would be Steven Spielberg.

Taking place in the early 70s, The Post deals with the decision to publish The Pentagon Papers, which were thirty years worth of classified documents dealing with America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  Since the Pentagon Papers revealed that the government spent several decades lying to the American people about the situation in Vietnam, there’s naturally a lot of pushback from the government.  It all leads to one of those monumental supreme court decisions, the type that usually ends a movie like this.  And while the film does acknowledge that there were journalists involved in breaking the story, it devotes most of its attention to editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep).

Gasp as Ben and Katharine debate whether to publish the story!

Shudder as Katharine tries to figure out how to keep the Post from going bankrupt.

Watch as Ben Bradlee talks to the legal department!

Thrill as Katharine Graham learns that her family friends, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, weren’t always honest with her!

And listen, I get it.  The Post isn’t as much about Nixon and the Vietnam War as it’s about Trump and the modern-day war on the media.  And yes, we get plenty of scenes of Tom Hanks explaining why freedom of the press is important and the movie ends in typical Spielberg fashion, with triumphant music and all the rest.  But watching The Post, it’s hard not to think about other films that celebrated journalism, films like All The President’s Men and Spotlight.  Both of those films featured scenes of editors supporting their reporters.  In fact, All The President’s Men featured Jason Robards playing the same editor that Tom Hanks plays in The Post.  But Spotlight and All The President’s Men focused on the journalists and the hard work that goes into breaking an important story.  Robards and Spotlight‘s Michael Keaton played editors who were willing to stand up and defend their reporters but, at the same time, those films emphasized that it was the underpaid and underappreciated reporters who were often putting their careers (and sometimes, their lives) on the line to break a story.  Whereas Spotlight and All The President’s Men showed us why journalism is important, The Post is content to merely tell us.

The Post was a famously rushed production.  Shooting started in May of 2017 and was completed in November, all so it could be released in December and receive Oscar consideration.  Production was rushed because Spielberg, Streep, and Hanks all felt that it was important to make a statement about Trump’s treatment of the press.  While I can see their point and I don’t deny that they had noble intentions, a rushed production is still going to lead to a rushed film.  The Post is a sloppy film, full of way too much on-the-nose dialogue and scenes that just seem to be missing Spielberg’s usual visual spark.  It feels less like a feature film and more like a well-made HBO production.  Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep give performances that are all surface.  Streep’s performance is all mannered technique while Hanks occasionally puts his feet up on his desk and furrows his brow.

It gets frustrating because, watching the film, you get the feeling that there’s a great movie to be made about the Pentagon Papers and the struggle to publish them.  I’d love to know what the actual reporters went through to get their hands on the papers.  But The Post is more interested in management than the workers.

All through 2017, The Post was touted as being a sure Oscar front-runner.  When it was released, it received respectful but hardly enthusiastic reviews.  In the end, it only received two nominations — one for best picture and one for Streep.  In a year dominated by Lady Bird, Shape of Water, Get Out, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Post turned to be a nonfactor.  For all the hype and expectations, it’s the film that you usually forget whenever you’re trying to remember everything that was nominated last year.

Godzilla: King of Monsters 2nd Official Trailer


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This past summer we saw the first trailer to Godzilla: King of Monsters. To say that the reaction to that trailer was positive would be an understatement. It was one of the highlights of San Diego Comic-Con 2018.

Now, Warner Brothers Pictures saw fit to release the second trailer for the film. This time with less classical music and more Kaiju mayhem visuals instead. Michael Dougherty takes over directing duties from Gareth Edwards and this time it shows as the film stresses the action in the film rather than the human interactions underfoot.

Kaiju films have been fan-favorites for decades upon decades because of the monsters and less about the humans. The humans really were just there to give voice to the different factions of monsters duking it out. It looks like this time this sequel will follow the same formula.

Godzilla: King of Monsters is set for May 31, 2019.

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: Megan Leavey (dir by Gabriela Cowperthwaite)


One of the best (and, in my opinion, overlooked) films of 2017 was Megan Leavey.

Based on a true story, Megan Leavey tells the true story of … well, Megan Leavey.  When the film starts, Megan (played, in one of the best performances of 2017, by Kate Mara) is living a somewhat directionless life in upstate New York.  Her parents are divorced and she’s closer to her father (Bradley Whitford) even though she has more contact (and shares a much more strained relationship) with her mother (Edie Falco).  Speaking as a child of divorce, the scenes of Megan trying to navigate the mine field between her parents rang painfully true at times. I spent the entire movie waiting for Megan and her parents to have some sort of big moment where, in typical artificial movie fashion, all conflicts would be solved and everything would suddenly be okay.  To the film’s credit, that moment never comes.

Instead, Megan enlists in the Marines.  She finds herself assigned as a Military Police K9 handler.  What that means is that Megan finds herself in Iraq, working with a dog named Rex.  Rex’s job is to sniff out explosives and other threats.  One wrong move by either Megan or Rex will result in not only their deaths but also the deaths of everyone around them.  Remember how tense some of the scenes in The Hurt Locker were?  Well, that’s nothing compared to the intensity of the bomb-sniffing scenes in Megan Leavey.  After all, in The Hurt Locker, we only had Jeremy Renner to worry about.  Megan Leavey, however, features a truly adorable dog.

When Megan returns home from serving two tours in Iraq, she struggles with PTSD and the adjustment to civilian life.  Rex is assigned to a different handler and continues his duties, leaving Megan without the one creature that she felt she could trust.  And again, Megan Leavey deserves a lot of credit for not offering up any easy or pat solutions for Megan’s difficulties to adjusting to life back in the States.  It’s too honest a film and has too much respect for it audience to cheapen its narrative with easy or manipulative sentiment.

When Rex develops facial paralysis, he is retired from active duty.  With the help of her U.S. Senator, Megan adopted Rex and gave him a home until he passed away in 2012.  That senator was Chuck Schumer and thankfully, Megan Leavey resisted the temptation to cast Chuck Schumer as himself.  Instead, when Megan approaches her Senator on the Capitol steps, the senator is played by a professional-looking character actor who looks and sounds absolutely nothing like Chuck Schumer.  By making this simple casting decision, the film keeps the focus off of the politicians and on Megan and Rex, where it belongs.

Did Megan Leavey make me cry?  You better believe it did.  However, it earned every one of these tears.  This is a wonderfully sweet and moving film, one that works largely because it refuses to overemphasize the sentimental aspects of the story.  Instead, Megan Leavey always remains rooted in reality.  It’s a gritty film about a dog and a soldier who survived being sent to one of the most dangerous places n the world.  It’s the story of how Rex saved Megan’s life and how Megan returned the favor by saving Rex’s.  It’s a sweet, straight forward story that can be appreciated even by people, like me, who prefer cats.

Back to School Part II #23: Adventures in Babysitting (dir by Chris Columbus)


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One unfortunate thing about both being the youngest of four and having a teenage reputation for being a little out of control is that I never got a chance to be a babysitter.  Whenever my mom wasn’t around, my older sisters were in charge.  When I was technically old enough to look after other children, nobody was willing to trust me with them.  So, I missed out on babysitting and…

Well, to be honest, that never really bothered me.  I was too busy either having too much fun or no fun at all to worry about any of that.  But maybe I should have because, whenever I watch the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting, I’m always left convinced that I could have been a kickass babysitter.  Seriously, if Elisabeth Shue could still get babysitting jobs even after taking the kids into downtown Chicago and nearly getting them killed, then anyone could do it!

In Adventures in Babysitting, Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) is a responsible 17 year-old who lives in the suburbs of Chicago.  (As anyone who seen The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off can tell you, being a teenager in 1980s meant living in Illinois.)  When we first meet Chris, she’s getting ready for her anniversary date with her boyfriend, Mike Todwell (Bradley Whitford, years before achieving fame by playing assorted pompous jerks in assorted Aaron Sorkin productions) and she’s dancing around her bedroom.  There’s an important lesson to be learned from the opening of Adventures in Babysitting: if you want me to relate to a character, introduce her while she’s dancing in her bedroom.  Seriously, though, the whole film succeeds because of that opening bedroom dance.  Chris is instantly likable and relatable.  You want to see her succeed and achieve what she wants.

So, of course, we’re all disappointed when Mike shows up and breaks his date with Chris.  That said, as upset as Chris may be, she’s still willing to take the time to try to talk her friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) out of trying to poison her stepmother with Drano.  That’s a true friend.

With nothing else to do, Chris ends up taking a babysitting job.  She has been tasked to look after 8 year-old Sara Anderson (Maia Brewton) and Sara’s brother, 15 year-old Brad (Keith Coogan).  Sara is a bit of a brat, though she’s also generally well-meaning and is obsessed with comic books (Thor, in particular).  Brad is likable but dorky.  He has a huge crush on Chris and even turns down a chance to spend the night at a friend’s, just so he can be around her.

Brad’s friend, incidentally, is Daryl (Anthony Rapp, who would later play Tony in Dazed and Confused and who starred in the original Broadway production of Rent).  Daryl is a hyperactive perv who is obsessed with Chris because she resembles the centerfold in one of his dad’s Playboys.  Daryl decides that, if his friend Brad can’t visit him, then maybe he should visit Brad!

However, Chris has more to worry about than just looking after Sara, Brad, and Daryl.  Brenda has attempted to run away from home and now she’s stuck in a downtown bus station!  Her glasses have been stolen and, as a result, Brenda is doing things like picking up a giant rat and calling it a kitten.  Brenda uses her last bit of money to call Chris and beg her to come pick her up.

(Of course, none of this would happen today.  Brenda wouldn’t have to use a pay phone to call Chris and she could just call Uber to get a ride home.)

So, Chris and the kids drive into Chicago and, needless to say, things quickly fall apart.  They get a flat tire on the expressway.  Chris panics when she discovers that not only does she not have a spare tire but she also left her purse back at the house.  They are briefly helped by a one-handed truck driver named Handsome John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan) but then Pruitt discovers that his wife is cheating on him and takes a detour so he can catch her in the act and, of course, this leads to Chris and the kids being kidnapped by a helpful car thief.  Soon, they’re being chased through Chicago by the Mafia and…

Well, it gets rather complicated but that’s kind of the appeal of the film.  The film starts out as a fairly realistic, John Hughes-style teen comedy and then it gets progressively crazier and crazier.  Downtown Chicago turns out to be a rather cartoonish place, one where one disaster follows after another.  (To be honest, if Adventures in Babysitting was released today, it would probably inspire a hundred increasingly tedious Salon think pieces on white privilege.  Bleh!)  But, regardless of how silly some of the adventures may get, Adventures in Babysitting remains grounded because of the good and likable performances and a script that is full of witty and quotable dialogue.

It’s an entertaining movie and it’s one of those films that always seems to be either on Showtime or Encore.  If you’re sad, watch it and be prepared to be massively cheered up!

(Avoid the Disney Channel remake.)

 

Back to School #48: Scent of a Woman (dir by Martin Brest)


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Along with my current series of 80 Back to School reviews (48 down, 32 to go!), another one of my long time goals has been to watch and review every single film to ever be nominated for the best picture.  So, imagine how happy I was to discover that by watching the 1992 film Scent of a Woman, I could make progress towards completing two goals at once!  Not only was Scent of A Woman nominated for best picture of the year (losing to Unforgiven) but it also features a major subplot about life and discipline at an exclusive New England prep school!  Even better, it’s been showing up on Showtime fairly regularly for the past month or so.

“Wow,” I thought as my boyfriend and I sat down to watch this movie, “could life get any easier?  Or better?”

And then we watched the film.

You know how occasionally you watch a film just because you’ve heard that it was nominated (or perhaps even won) an Oscar or because it has an oddly high rating over at the imdb or maybe because someone said, “Roger Ebert loved this film so, if you don’t watch and love it, that means that, by that standard of the current online film community, you really don’t love movies?”  And then you watch the movie and you’re just like, “What the Hell?”

Well, that was kind of my reaction to Scent of a Woman.

Look, the film’s not all bad.  It has a few good performances.  It looks great.  It’s certainly better than Gigli, the film that director Martin Brest is perhaps best remembered for.  It features a great scene where Al Pacino (playing a blind man) dances the tango with a woman that he’s just met.  (Then again, I have a notorious weakness for dance scenes…)  It’s not so much that the film is bad as much as it’s just that the movie itself is not particularly good.

Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is a scholarship student at an exclusive prep school in Massachusetts.  Much like Brendan Fraser in School Ties, 1992’s other prep school melodrama, Charlie is a poor kid attending the school on a scholarship.  While his rich friends prepare to go home for the Thanksgiving weekend, Charlie knows that there’s no way that he can afford to fly back to Oregon.  In order to raise the money so that he can at least go back home for Christmas (how poor is this kid’s family!?), Charlie gets a temporary job for the weekend.  His job?  To look after Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino), who is blind and yells a lot.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, Frank convinces Charlie to drive him to New York and they have all of the adventures that usually happen whenever a naive teenager spends the weekend with a suicidal blind man.  Frank bellows a lot and tells about how, through his sense of smell, he can always tell when there’s a beautiful woman nearby.  Frank also yells a lot.  Did I already mention that?  Because, seriously, he yells a lot.

Charlie has other problems than just Frank.  It seems that a rather mild prank was pulled on the headmaster (James Rebhorn) of Charlie’s school.  As a result, a bucket of paint was poured down on both the headmaster and his new car!  Now, the headmaster is looking for those responsible.  He just needs two witnesses.  He’s already gotten one student to confess.  And now, he’s blackmailing Charlie with a letter of recommendation to Harvard.  All Charlie has to do is name names and his future is set…

Will Charlie name names and sacrifice his honor just to get into a college that could assure him a great life?  Or will Frank convince Charlie that honor is the only thing that matters?  And finally, will the film end with a big hearing in front of the entire school in which the headmaster attempts to badger Charlie, just to be interrupted by a sudden appearance from bellowing Frank Slade?

Will it!?

You can probably already guess and, since we have a no spoiler policy here at the Lens, I’ll just assume that you guessed right.  (Or you could just look at the picture at the top of this review…)

The prep school subplot pretty much just adds to the film’s already excessive running time.  But it is interesting to watch because the other student — the one who names names — is played by a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman.  (Or as he’s credited here, Philip S. Hoffman.)  This was one of Hoffman’s first screen roles and he gives a memorable performance as an unlikable character.  If you were to have seen Scent of a Woman in 1992, you would not have guessed that Philip Seymour Hoffman would eventually be an Oscar winner but you would know that he was a very talented character actor.

Otherwise, Scent of a Woman is a fairly forgettable movie.  If I hadn’t known ahead of time that it was nominated for best picture, I never would have been able to guess.  I’m not enough of an expert to be able to name every good 1992 film that was not nominated to make room for Scent of a Woman but I imagine that when that year’s Oscar nominations were announced, there were quite a few people left scratching their heads.

Can you figure out which one grew up to be Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Can you figure out which one grew up to be Philip Seymour Hoffman?

In Memory of Robin Williams #3: Awakenings (dir by Penny Marshall)


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The 1990 Best Picture nominee Awakenings is exactly the type of film that seems to have been designed to make me cry.

Taking place in 1969 and based (very loosely, I assume) on a true story, Awakenings features Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer.  Dr. Sayer is a dedicated and caring physician but he also suffers from an almost crippling shyness.  He’s at his most comfortable when he’s dealing with a group of patients who have spent the last 40 years in a catatonic state, suffering from a tragic disease known as encephalitis lethargica.  (One thing that I learned from watching this film was that, from 1917 to 1928, there was an epidemic of this disease, with millions either dying or being left catatonic.)  While the rest of the medical establishment (led by John Heard, who always seems to be the embodiment of the establishment in films made in the 90s) assumes that the patients are destined to spend the rest of their lives in a vegetative state, Dr. Sayer is convinced that the patients can be awakened.  He soon discovers that, even in their catatonic state, the patients will react to certain stimulii.  One woman can catch a baseball.  Another appears to react well to music.  And finally, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) — who fell ill with this disease when he was a child — tries to communicate with a Ouija board.

Over the objections of his supervisors, Dr. Sayer treats the patients with an experimental drug.  Leonard is the first one to get the drug and is also the first one to wake up.  While the rest of the patients wake up, Dr. Sayer tries to help Leonard adjust to the 1960s.  At first, everything seems to be going perfectly.  Leonard even manages to strike up a sweet romance with a woman named Paula (Penelope Ann Miller).  However, it soon becomes obvious that the awakening is only going to be a temporary one as Leonard and all the other patients start to descend back into their catatonic states…

It’s easy to criticize a film like Awakenings for being manipulative and sentimental.  And the fact of the matter is that the film is manipulative and it is sentimental and undoubtedly, it probably is a massive simplification of the true story.  (The character played by John Heard is such an obvious villain that he might as well have a mustache to twirl.)  And yes, you know even before it happens that there’s eventually going to be a montage of an amazed Leonard staring at a girl in a miniskirt while Time of the Season plays on the soundtrack.

But, no matter!  It’s a tremendously effective film and it earned the tears that I shed while watching it.  Both De Niro and Williams give excellent performances which add a good deal of depth to scenes that could otherwise come across as being overly sappy.  De Niro has the more showy role but it really but it’s the performance of Robin Williams that really carries the film.  As played by Williams, Dr. Sayer is a fragile soul who hides from the world behind his beard and his professional determination.  When he finally asks a nurse (Julie Kavner) out to dinner, it’s impossible not to cheer for him.

It’s also impossible not to cheer a little for Awakenings.

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Review: Marvel One-Shot “Agent Carter”


AgentCarterEver since Thor was released on video (DVD/Blu-Ray) the people over at Marvel Studios have added as a special bonus to the video’s extras a small short film they’ve dubbed “Marvel On-Shot”. So far, they’ve either been about the adventures of fan-favorite SHIELD agent Phil Coulson or a brief look at a post-Avengers New York. The short films were cute, but nothing to really write home about.

With the release of Iron Man 3 on DVD and Blu-Ray we get a new Marvel One-Shot and it looks like the creative minds at Marvel Studios have decided to work a tad harder on making this new short film much better. It’s a flashback moment to one Agent Peggy Carter who is still grieving a year after Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) supposedly died trying to save New York from a HYDRA bomber full of tesseract-fueled bombs.

We see how she’s been relegated to doing paper work and kept from doing the field work she’s more adept at. This one-shot film actually shows in it’s short running time how even someone as skilled and heroic as Peggy Carter must still navigate and deal with a male-chauvinistic society that dismisses whatever accomplishments she’s earned in the past and seen more as a sort of “affirmative action” hire.

The film doesn’t try to force-feed this theme, but instead tries (and does so successfully) to blow-up the damsel-in-distress stereotype by showing Agent Carter at her best. And what she does best is doing the sort of field work that earned her not just the respect of the soldiers she worked with during WWII in Europe, but those of Captain America himself.

“Agent Carter” stars the original Peggy Carter in the form of British actress Hayley Atwell and she does a fine job of helping continue her character’s growth. She continues to show that she’s just as useful and skilled as Captain America which she showed in the film of the same name. In this one-shot we’re reminded of it and it also does an interesting thing in making it plausible to create a spin-off around her character.

Marvel has intimated that it’s something they’d be interested in doing and if the quality of this one-shot is anything to go by then a series (tv or web-based) starring Ms. Atwell as Agent Carter would be well-received by fans everywhere. This short film also showed that Marvel Studios has a new secret weapon to keep DC at bay. This was the first one-shot that truly belonged as a prologue to a feature-length Marvel film on the big-screen. Here’s to hoping that attaching future one-shots to full-length features not on video but in the theaters becomes an idea that Marvel Studios allow to happen.

**Spoilers** Review of The Cabin In The Woods


Originally I wasn’t going watch this because of pathological hatred of Zucking Fombies. Fortunately, Arleigh told me that it was more than those wretched Zucking Fombies. The Cabin In The Woods is sheer brilliance because Whedon and Goddard turned the tired and cliched horror formula on its ear. Their collaboration freed us from the oppression of torture porn and loathsome gore for the sake of gory credo.

**Spoilers begin here**

In this film world, every horror film nightmare creature from the shambling zombies to snarling werewolf to a Cenobite analogue to Lovecraftian elder gods exist.  As a fan of Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer series, I couldn’t help but see similarities between the TCITW’s world and the world of the Slayer.  So the description, “It’s like an episode of Buffy with gore, cussing, and naughty bits, but no Buffy Summers” is pretty accurate. The presence of Amy Acker (Winifred “Fred” Burkle) from Angel fame cemented this opinion. The film cast could easily be stand-ins for the Scoobies with Marty playing Xander Harris, David as Riley, Dana as Willow, etc. The mysterious shadow organization could easily be division of Wolfram & Hart and the slumbering elder gods could replace the Senior Partners as well as Buffy’s Big Bad. I found it interesting and clever that the token victims served as the required sacrifice to appease slumbering boogie men because it explained why the fool, the virgin, the scholar, the jock, and the party girl are always the victims of horror movies. I also loved that the grumpy old man that cryptically warns the kids also served a purpose.

The film is also reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe in the sense that the evil and violence had a higher purpose.  The nightmare creatures could easily be Ogrdu Hem carrying out the will of their parents, the Ogdru Jahad. The secret organization had the dual role of the BPRD and Rasputin.  They were like the BPRD in the sense they prevented the end of the world and captured/contained/employed the things that go bump in the night. They were like Rasputin because they reverenced the elder beings and paid them annual tribute.

Found the following things interesting:

  1. The plot to keep the elder gods happy was a global one (other nations like Japan were involved).
  2. The wide range of monsters that the organization captured (made me wonder how they were able to capture the most lethal ones like the Cenobite wannabe, werewolf, soul stealing ghost, etc).
  3. The causal office vibe the organization had despite their morbid mission.
  4. The elder gods represented the audience/horror audience (an interesting point brought to my attention by a friend)