I've seen a few good and a few not too good movies lately, but none deserved a full review nor brought me to the reviewing table/page. But now I'm getting behind and want to keep up. So below are a few comments about Sunshine Cleaning, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Adventureland, and Knowing.
Sunshine Cleaning was a big deal at Sundance last year, but didn't really pan out to be as big a success when it opened widely this spring. It's not fantastic, but it's not bad either. Personally, I thought it was a lot of substance with no flash. You really need both to make a fantastic little movie. The movie deals with a lot of issues, every character leans towards cliche - Amy Adams as the high school cheerleader whose life didn't amount to more than being a maid, Emily Blunt as the sister who can't be bothered to get out of her sister's shadow, and Alan Arkin as the single father who is constantly trying to make get rich quick schemes turn into something big - but luckily they're all such good actors that I never thought they were locked into a characterization rather than a person. It follows the travails of opening a new business - cleaning up after death and violence, and becoming an adult. I liked it, and a better soundtrack might have upped the flash factor, but a stronger script would have put it over the top. 3 of 5 Lambs/stars, good but not great.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas shows a single sliver of the Holocaust through the eyes of the son of a high ranking Nazi officer. When the family is moved to the country when the father (a remarkably dark David Thewlis) is promoted to manage a work camp (possibly Auschwitz), his children have to find a new life. Our hero, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) just wants to play with the forbidden children who live on the "farm" behind their house, while his older sister becomes enthralled with the Nazi party and starts preaching its messages. However, Bruno is just a child, and sneaks away to find other children to play with. One day he meets Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), another 10-year-old who doesn't understand much about the camp he's in. Through their conversations, the picture of the Holocaust is painted with broad strokes, revealing the horror as a child might understand it - which is to say, not at all. They meet regularly in secret until one day Shmuel's father can't be found, and they figure out a way to sneak Bruno INTO the camp to help look for him. As all Holocaust films are sad, and terrible, and yet need to be made from every perspective, this was a unique and ultimately good film. 3 of 5 stars/lambs
Adventureland, however, had lots going for it, but never delivered. It has lots of comedy - working at an amusement park, great comedic actors - but nothing interesting to say. Our hero needs to save money for graduate school (yes, this is post-college group, making much of what they do seem more than a little idiotic), and works at an amusement park with the girl from Twilight (yes, Kristin Stewart, you'll be tagged with that forever) who he falls for. However she's sleeping with a sleazeball married guy (Ryan Reynolds completely wasted). Nothing happens and then it ends. 2 stars/lambs
And finally, yes, I saw Knowing. While Nicholas Cage has made lots of bad movies, I did like the National Treasure movies a lot, so I figured maybe Knowing wouldn't be so bad. I was wrong. The movie teaches us that aliens implanted numbers into special people that predicted all the various catastrophes throughout history and their casualties. When Nick Cage figures out the pattern, they're near the end of the list and now everyone will die as the sunbursts get bigger. But fear not, two children and two rabbits will be saved and thus humankind will continue. Yes, I kid you not, this is the plot. No stars or lambs.
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