Monday, June 15, 2009

DVD Roundup: Valkyrie and New in Town

As always, my DVD Round up pairs two movies that only in the land of Netflix would they have arrived at the same time. The first is Tom Cruise's latest, Valkyrie, tracing the last attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler by German soldiers right around D-Day. Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a disillusioned soldier fighting for Germany in North Africa. He loses his hand, and eye in an attack and is sent back to Berlin where he hooks up with a recently foiled group of assassins in Hitler's high command, led by Kenneth Branaugh and Bill Nighy. They set up a plan to assassinate Hitler and Himmler and route the SS and the Gestapo and take control of the government. Just from watching how much von Stauffenberg's group have to take over makes you realize how pervasive Hitler's terrible government had become and only a huge coup and a lot of treason would put a stop to their attrocities (luckily the Allies were able to come at it with a huge army rather than a small group of insiders). They're nearly successful in their assassination attempt, but history records Hitler's suicide later, so these movie makers were tasked with the unenviable position of having to make a known historical event interesting when everyone already knows the ending. I thought they did a good job of creating a tension and revealing another side of the most complicated war ever. Tom Cruise is good. His performances in recent years have been colored by his real life exploits, but in this case, I found it made sense. His zeal for getting rid of Hitler was a perfect place to put all the energies he's devoted to his real life, so it wasn't distracting for a change. Good movie, with excellent supporting performances. 3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

The second movie I watched was New in Town with Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick, Jr., J.K. Simmons, and a wonderful performance by Siobhan Fallon (her big moments I remember are as the bus driver Dorothy Harris in Forrest Gump and the birth coach in Baby Mama). Renee plays an executive at a food company who is sent to reorganize a plant in Minnesota, and figures out that most of the country is really cold in the winter, and that there are places where it doesn't really matter what you look like, but who you are and what you do that matters. Yes, it's a super-duper simplified rom-com about good and bad and learning to be yourself and falling in love. But it's also, reasonably heart-warming and Renee is good, and the supporting cast is really funny, especially Siobhan Fallon as her secretary, with a strong Minnesotan accent. The cheap laughs come when Renee is struggling with the cold (it's impossible to be attractive and sexy in a down coat, it just is), but the really funny parts are with Siobhan's observations about the differences between Minnesota and the rest of the country. Not great, but not bad, either. 3 stars/lambs


diane said...

I hadn't planned on seeing this movie but after reading the review, it sounds like fun, so I'll definitely give it a whirl. Thanks, Jess.

Jess said...

Diane, I'd actually recommend it. the more I think about the movie, the funnier Siobhan Fallon is in my memory. She was also the funny wife in Men in Black (Egger's wife).