Spitzit’s House

Where serious topics come to relax

Movie Review – Avatar by James Cameron (Possible Mild Spoiler Alert)

I went and saw the highly anticipated James Cameron movie, Avatar, last weekend, and I have to say I was both impressed and disappointed at the same time.  I watched it in IMAX 3-D and the movie was a visual masterpiece, really spectacular.  However, as you start really getting into the story itself, I couldn’t help but think I have seen this before.

Was I having a wierd case of dejavu?  Not at all…I was just watching a very unoriginal story.  I have seen other reviews that discuss political undertones, and important messages, etc. in this movie, but that just wasn’t the case for me.   I turned to my wife in the middle of the movie and said “This is Dances With Wolves set on a different planet”.    Outsider befriends local natives, becomes one of the them, hooks up with chief’s daughter, has antagonistic relationship with the main warrior, but eventually wins his respect, and eventually the outsider’s own race of people rolls into town killing and pillaging everything in site, and outsider comes in to save the day.

The fact is that many parts of this movie reminded me of other movies such as Aliens (walking robotic machines controlled by a human driver), Return of the Jedi (battle in the jungle with local natives using their own knowledge of the environment to eventually defeat the technologically advanced enemy).    Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the movie, but it was not as great as I expected which is too often the case.    I saw the highly regarded District 9 which sucked big time and qualifies as one of my biggest disappointments of the decade.

I do recommend Avatar if for nothing else, because it is visually awesome.  However, don’t expect to be blown away by an equally awesome story line.  There is nothing original or political about it other than the imperialistic nature of a race that intends to crush the peaceful nature-loving natives of a foreign land.

That is my critical opinion…and I am sticking with it.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Movie Review – Rendition

This movie, Rendition, evidently came out about a year ago. Problem is I have never heard of it until now and just recently caught it on cable. How a movie this good gets by me without having ever heard of it, I will never figure out. At first, I figured I must be some idiot living under a rock or something, but after telling a few people about the movie, I realized I was not the only idiot. I actually had mutual company under this rock.

Released in 2007, Rendition has an all-star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde), Meryl Streep (Devil Wears Prada), and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). The compelling storyline consists of the very separate but intertwined lives of the characters. I know, not a really original idea, but in this movie, the “separate but intertwined lives” are not a bunch of trendy pretentious couples roaming around Manhattan. This is actually an intelligent thought provoking movie.

In a nutshell, the movie is about an Egyptian man, Anwar, who has been living in the US, is married with child to a hot and pregnant American lady, and ends up getting abducted by the CIA through a process known as Rendition because he is suspected to have ties to known terrorists. His pregnant wife is worried sick and so pissed off she is kicking down government doors to find her man. Anwar on the other hand has been swept off on a little involuntary all-inclusive vacation to “Rendition” (country unknown and clothing not included), where he is able to catch a few volts and do a little water-boarding all at the generous hospitality of his pleasant and calm-natured host, a stern family man of unknown middle-eastern descent who is of the strict belief that the right level of pain and torture will get even the Pope himself to confess to terrorist associations. If you have heard all about water-boarding on the news and wondered what it was…well you will catch a glimpse of it in this movie.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Douglas Freeman, the straight CIA analyst with a conscience, who through an explosive chain of events ends up in a position he is not accustomed to and evidently does not have the constitution for, but must stand by and witness the “interrogations” without interfering. He struggles, does a few shots of whiskey and decides to grow some “cahones” after being somewhat of a puss for much of the movie. Good old Meryl Streep plays the part of Condaleeza Rice…oops, I mean Corinne Whitman, the hard as nails high authority government biatch who can order renditions like ordering a Starbucks and not even blink an eye when denying that the US engages in such activities.

What is rendition you ask? It is defined pretty accurately by Wikipedia as the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another, particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners or to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture. Therefore, when we say that the US does not engage in torture in this country because it is illegal and/or unethical, immoral or whatever, we can believe it with full confidence. We simply kidnap them and accidentally drop them off at secret detention centers in other countries where they have no real qualms about using the human body as an electrical conductor.

What is interesting about this particular movie as opposed to say Babel or Syriana is that it is fairly easy to follow and has very human and convincing characters. Each of the characters in this film from the terrorist, to the torturer, to the CIA agent, the wife, girlfriend, and even Corinne all expend and display common human emotions that we can all identify with. Suicide-bombing terrorists can fall in love too, you know, and cold hearted torturers can have a family that they love and protect, and deceitful politicians have children and grand children they love, single not-gay CIA agents like to get action from hot exotic CIA mistresses, and pregnant American women can play soccer with their kids. No one character in this movie is really demonized anymore than any other. In fact, every single one of them, with maybe the exception of the pregnant wife, has some pretty significant flaws and struggles they are contending with. Even the hubby who is taking nipples full of electricity is not completely exonerated in this movie if you really pay attention. That is the thought provoking part of the movie….

You want to believe that torture like this is never the right thing to do, but how many lives has it really saved? How many lives has it cost? How many more terrorists has it spawned? Does the US really engage in this activity? Does Douglas really do the right thing? Is Anwar really innocent or is he really guilty? I’m not convinced either way, but it makes you think and that is one sign of a good movie.

I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment