After a break around Memorial Day, I have resumed the Movie Project and have discovered…egads!…a new round of reviews is necessary. Okay, maybe not “necessary”. But some of you crazy folks actually enjoy reading what I have to say about the movies I watch. And so we commence!
Just before the holiday break, Joe and I watched Sherlock Holmes (together! A miracle!) This was the 2009 version, with Robert Downey Jr. portraying Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. I know some people (particularly crazy aunts) have voiced skepticism about the extreme liberties taken with the characterization of the beloved literary figures in this recent box office hit. And let me tell you…this ain’t your Masterpiece Theater Sherlock Holmes. One avid WttYs reader said she was reluctant to see it because she “could not deal with the fact that Hollywood suddenly had to turn [Holmes] into Bruce Lee”.
Oh, excuse me. I got a little distracted there. Okay, right. That wasn’t hot at all. Except it was. Also hot: Watson.
Isn’t this dude supposed to be a somewhat portly, bespectacled dandy? I, for one, loved this new take on the classic characters. Did they bear any more than a passing resemblance to the original Doyle creations? Not really. But I loved Robert Downey Jr.’s excruciatingly clever Holmes: so haunted is he by his intellect that he has to fight and drink himself silly and other banal things to continually remind himself that he’s human. This rakish take on the genius reminded me of another Downey Jr. character that I loved: Tony Stark in Iron Man. In its totality, I found this new Sherlock Holmes feature to be fun, a visual feast with its incredible effects, and smart to boot. And did I mention Robert Downey Jr.?
I tell you what I won’t mention: Planet 51. Oops. But that was a really dumb movie, so don’t watch it.
Next, I had the pleasure of watching a lovely movie based here in MN, and filmed here, too: Sweet Land. I had to talk myself into watching it, so profound is my dislike for Alan Cumming (who plays a supporting role in this film), but I’m so glad I did. While poor Joe slaved away with his Algebra homework, I settled in for this photogenic love letter to lovely Minnesota circa 1920’s.
The story is simple and compelling: a strong-but-silent Norweigian farmer’s parents arrange a marriage on his behalf. But when he goes to fetch her from the train station at the end of her long trans-continental journey he discovers…she’s German. Oops.
Keep in mind, this is just after WWI, and the people of the small MN community do not take kindly to their newest resident. Farmer and Inge (the German bride-to-be) are prevented from marrying and then shunned for their cohabitation. I don’t want to give much away because I really, really recommend this film. It is gorgeous and the story is sweet and the chemistry is amazing. Go watch!
The next night, Joe and I had our “date” night, which is actually just two hours a week (truly, waaah!) and chose to watch our latest Netflix mailing: Raging Bull. Bet you can’t guess who picked that one! Shockingly, though I have a well-known affinity for boxing films, I’d never seen this movie, and neither had Joe. But then, he hasn’t seen all but the last of the Rocky franchise 100 times, either. God, but I love the Rocky movies. Especially Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Communism!
I digress. This was a boxing movie widely regarded as one of the best movies ever. Jake La Motta was a real-life middleweight boxer with some issues: violent tendencies, a predilection for young pretty girls, extreme jealousy…you get the picture. It stars Robert DeNiro with Joe Pesci playing his brother, Joey.
This movie was…uncomfortable. It was hard to watch Jake pursue a 15-year-old (oh, when he was still married to someone else, by the way) and hard to watch the bloody fights and hard to watch his anger boiling over again and again. In one memorable scene Jake, now old and overweight and pretty much rock-bottom, lands in jail and the resulting dialogue (monologue?) is heartbreaking. Cinematically, it is a stunner. It’s shot in black-and-white, and Cathy Moriarty’s Vicki looks like a pitcher of cream.
Joe kept asking me over and over if I’d liked it, what I’d thought of it, when it was over. The answer is not so clear. Like the other two movies reviewed here today, it was a visual treat. Just beautiful. But it was hard to watch. I’m glad I saw it, but I wouldn’t watch it again. Unlike some other boxing movies I know. In the end, I told Joe I prefer my boxing movies to be cheesy and ultimately uplifting.
I’m almost on-track! Only 9 more to watch in June to make the 50-movie halfway mark! I think it’s in the bag.