Paul’s DVD Reviews

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.” — Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront (1954)

the ramen girl The Ramen Girl (2008)
The Ramen Girl is like a prettily-wrapped gift box with nothing but tissue inside. There isn’t enough here to make a 30-minute TV sitcom. There isn’t enough here to make a three-minute Saturday Night Live sketch. The least they could have done was add Smell-O-Vision so that we could have smelled the soup.
valkyrie Valkyrie (2008)
Going in, you already know what happened: the bomb failed to kill Hitler and the conspirators were rounded up and killed. What I didn’t know — and frankly had a hard time believing until I went back and re-read the pertinent chapters of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich — was the extent of the conspirators’ planning, which went beyond the assassination to include taking control of the government and high military command in Berlin. Valkyrie was a well-thought-out operation that could have succeeded, had a few high-ranking generals not lost their nerve. The complexities of the Valkyrie plan provide the suspense: how far will the conspirators get before their plans come tumbling down?

It’s a good thing the producers injected that suspense, because otherwise . . . well, unless you’re particularly interested in Nazi history or obsessive about the authenticity of period detail as shown in the recreations of Hitler’s homes, bunkers, and furniture . . . Valkyrie would be a pretty boring movie.

slumdog millionaire Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Now I understand what all the excitement’s about: if Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t move you, you should probably check your pulse. This is an astonishing movie: brilliant acting, great music, incredible photography. But beyond all that, what impressed me most was the lack of narration and exposition: the story is told visually, with enormous impact.

At first I thought the producers glossed over the realities of slum life in a poverty-stricken nation: they give you little glimpses of the horrors these kids grow up with (if they live, that is), but quickly move on to happier interludes. On second thought, I realize they were being merciful to the audience: we Westerners couldn’t have handled a totally honest depiction of third world slum life; without the fairytale rags-to-riches plot moving the story along, audiences would simply have slit their wrists in despair. Well, thank God for the fairy tale, I say. It turns the movie into an uplifting, inspiring experience . . . and there’s nothing wrong with that!

eagle eye Eagle Eye (2008)
“A young slacker and a single mom get tangled up in a terrorist cell plotting a political assassination.” Ooookay, the guy is definitely a slacker, and there’s a single mom, but the terrorist plot? It’s actually a sentient computer gone mad, like HAL in 2001 or SkyNet in Terminator III, and this particular sentient computer controls everything right down to your digital watch. It can drop high voltage lines from on high to electrocute specific individuals, kidnap your kid, take out dozens of pursuing police cars in fiery collisions, and turn off the timer on your coffee maker just to fuck with you, so the two of you (i.e., the slacker & the single mom) MUST DO WHATEVER THE COMPUTER SAYS, including, in one 24-hour period, leaping from tall buildings onto subway cars, leaping from subway cars onto streets, stealing cars, running from one end of New York City to the other, driving cross-country, disarming guards and stealing shit, riding baggage conveyor belts through airports while being shot at, stowing away aboard airplanes in coffin-like boxes (never once going to the bathroom or anything), then do it all over again in fucking Indianapolis, then show up in Washington DC at the president’s state of the union speech rigged up to a bomb you don’t know you’re wearing, and you’re not even the least bit dirty or sweaty from all this frantic edge of death activity . . . and it just gets sillier from there. Sorry about the spoilers, but watch and see if I’m kidding.
gran torino Gran Torino (2008)
Sometimes during Gran Torino, you get the impression that Clint Eastwood is satirizing Clint Eastwood movies, but you know what? It’s okay! This is vintage Eastwood all the way, with what was, to me, an unexpected twist I didn’t see coming until the last second.

Clint acts, directs, and produces movies. He’s been a mayor. He could probably do most anything he put his mind to doing. Except for singing. He really shouldn’t do that.

new in town New in Town (2008)
There must be a few “star vehicle” movies that are worth watching, and god knows Renée Zellweger is pleasant to watch, but if ever a movie could have been improved by the addition of brain-eating zombies, this is that movie.

I started this session of DVD reviews with The Ramen Girl, a piece of superficial fluff starring a pretty blonde, and I guess it’s appropriate that I end it with New in Town, another piece of fluff starring a pretty blonde. Glancing ahead at the next six DVD reviews in my queue, I can at least promise you a break from movies like these, so do check back!

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© 2009 – 2011, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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