This week I again had a hard time deciding which movie would be my "pick of the week." I decided on "Moon" but it was so close, you should just watch "Gran Torino" while you're at it. Both are fantastic movies with Oscar-worthy performances from their leads (maybe a bit of carry over from last week). Rounding out the mix are two movies that ended up being pleasant surprises mostly in part to their wonderfully wrapped-up endings. I didn't quite have as many words in the titles this week to compose a proper title, but did the best I could with what I had (and an extra "on"). Also, for the first time, some of the movies are "Watch Instant" movies on Netflix (you can stream to your computer, game system, or other compatible device). I have denoted these movies with a ^.
Gran Torino – (4 ½ Stars)
Clint Eastwood is the epitome of a tough guy. “Gran Torino” sees Eastwood as aging Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, who still lives in his old neighborhood despite its change in residents and frequent gang activity.
After his wife passes it becomes apparent that Walt’s children are more interested in what Walt might leave them when he passes than getting to know him better. When Walt steps in and assists the next door Hmong family in their gang trouble, it sets off a change in Walt and the beginning of a friendship between himself and the family.
Despite Walt’s many flaws, he is an inherently likeable character and Eastwood brings a lot of emotion through his direction and portrayal. “Gran Torino” is another fantastic, emotionally-charged film from the master director.
(Netflix)(116 minutes – Rated R for Language throughout, and some violence – 2009)
An Education – (3 Stars)
Jenny (Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan) is a 16 year old with hopes of attending Oxford once she graduates with her father providing the biggest push. But when a chance meeting with the older David (Peter Sarsgaard) leads to more than a casual friendship, she begins to question her plans and direction in life.
I went into “An Education” with some skepticism, wondering what direction they would go in regarding the relationship between Jenny, the teen, and David, the older “playboy.” However, by the end, I was pleasantly surprised by overall direction of the film. Jenny receives quite the education (yes, I know!) from her experiences with David and his friends and learns some valuable life lessons.
(Netflix) (95 minutes – Rated PG-13 for Mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking – 2009)
*^Moon – (4 ½ Stars)
I wanted to start this review off with a confession: I am a sci-fi fan. No, I don’t go to the extent that some people do (Dressing up, naming pets/children after characters, writing fan-fiction, etc.) but I am nonetheless a sucker for a good future/space story (key word: good). I realize that not everyone is as much a proponent of the genre that I am, so I take off my sci-fi hat and switch it out for a hopefully more objective post.
“Moon” takes place in the semi-near future. Earth has found a clean, renewable source of energy in Helium (He3) harvested from the surface of the dark side of the moon. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the lone worker assigned to the Sarang mining station for a 3 year period. Sam is down to his final 2 weeks aboard the station, and it is clear from the start that it couldn’t come soon enough for the worn down astronaut. He begins to hallucinate and doubt begins to creep in as to whether he will get to go home after all and what is really going on at Sarang.
The movie is basically a one-man show (unless you count GERTY the robot, voiced by Kevin Spacey) and Rockwell does an excellent job channeling the loneliness and paranoia that Bell is experiencing. The more that he finds out, the more the tension builds. Clint Mansell’s (The Fountain) score perfectly compliments the action on screen and helps drive home the emotional impact of Sam’s inevitable decision regarding his status on the station. An intellectual sci-fi thriller that should appeal to more than just fans of the genre, as it is firmly rooted in the realm of possibility and not the extraordinary.
(Netflix)(97 minutes – Rated R for Language – 2009)
^Parenthood – (3 Stars)
Steve Martin is no stranger to the neurotic, yet loveable, father role. Whether it’s the “Cheaper by the Dozen” movies or “Father of the Bride 1 & 2,” Martin knows how to appeal to both the heart and the funny bone. However, before there was George Banks or Tom Baker, there was Gil Buckman. “Parenthood” follows the Buckman family and their parenting exploits. The movie maintains a decent balance of humor and heart, sometimes dragging a bit at times, but manages to overall stay true to its message and wraps everything up in a very satisfying way.
(Netflix) (124 minutes – Rated PG-13 – 1989)
Movies for this week: