Good Bye, Lenin!
I was taken aback at how … cute this whole production was. It’s basically a Marx Bros. farce set in the geopolitical climate of 1989/90 East Berlin, with some heart-tugging familial drama introduced in the last act. The farce is very, very funny – there’s a particularly wonderful scene where Alex’s (Daniel Bruhl) efforts to give his fragile mother (Katrin Sass) an old-style Communist birthday is nearly undone by a certain megacorporation’s sign unfurling on the skyline. The measures taken to protect his mother from the truth of the DDR’s breakdown are goofy and increasingly sad, as are the undertones of political bitterness between East Berliners and “Wessies.” Even so, I felt that the movie added too many plot threads and outlived its welcome by 15-20 minutes. A mild recommendation.
An excellent revenge movie disguised as a terrible one – I agree with Roger Ebert’s assessment that “there’s so much that’s well-done here that you sense a good movie slipping away.” Thomas Jane’s excellent acting and the successful opening act make it look like we’re in for something smart, and then a set of goofy neighbors are introduced … The Punisher tortures a goon with a popsicle … he makes his presence known to his killers for no apparent reason … threads are tugged at and unravel one by one. The final is an encapsulation of all this. Finally, The Punisher is presented as a serial-killing sociopath whose “heroism” is disturbing to us, and his quest seems unfulfilling. Then he takes out his archnemesis by exploding a bunch of cars in the shape of a giant skull. A decent b-movie, but below my expectations.
The classic example of shit served on a silver platter. A dopey heist story is given a stellar cast and knowingly overcooked dialogue. But I felt it so overcooked that I could never really enjoy it. A misfire.
Children of Dune
By many miles the best adaptation of a Frank Herbert novel … which is faint praise, but I want to make it sound like a ringing endorsement. Basically, the first “Dune” novel was a masterpiece that has been made into mediocre movies, and the second and third novels were slightly dull and goofy reads that have been turned into a thrilling miniseries.
The gist: Paul Atriedes (Alec Newman) has reigned as divine emperor of Arrakis for 12 years, while his followers have spread murder and jihad across the galaxy. He’s become bitter and afraid of fate, waiting for his enemies to pounce. When a plot finally arises, he manipulates it in a way that allows him to bring two children into the world while sending himself into exile in the desert. The children grow up and have the choice of following the divine path their father never could.
There are very few weaknesses in the entire production – acting is excellent (although Susan Sarandon gives off the impression that she’s slumming), the plot is cut together to make sense, and the action is movie-quality. When Keanu Reeves beat up dozens of Agent Smiths, it was a CGI display with no purpose. When Leto II effortlessly dispatches a wave of soldiers, it’s a forceful and compelling moment that brings the plot into focus.