This Week at the Movies

I don’t normally write movie review-type posts, but we had the experience of seeing the X-Men: The Last Stand in the theater and The Squid and The Whale at home the other night. Here are some thoughts, complete with spoilers, so if you don’t want to be, ah, spoiled, quit reading.

First, an extra credit question: name the Academy Award winning actress who is in both movies (see the end for the answer).

Okay, first the biggie, the X-Men movie:

  • This was a “family movie night” since we had rented the first two earlier in the winter and they seemed to go over well. I think this third one was perhaps a little more intense than the other two, but Will seems to have survived.
  • On the plus side: the effects are cool, shit blows up real good, it’s damn loud, etc. In other words, it’s certainly a big theater movie, which is perhaps why the box office has been so big. But I was once again reminded of just how unpleasant it can be to go see a movie like this in the theater. The place was packed and so, of course, sitting behind us was a family of idiots narrating the film to each other. It wasn’t so bad during the loud parts, but the quiet parts could have been a bit more, well, quiet. Anyway, if I were to do it over, I would have seen this at about 11 am on a Tuesday instead.
  • I’m sorry, but I could never get over the fact that Kelsey “Fraiser Crane” Grammer is in this one. Fraiser I mean Grammer plays Dr. Hank McCoy (what does this say about mutants and/or the likes of me that about half of the mutants are doctors or professors?) who is the U.S. Secretary of Mutant Affairs (or some dumb title) and whose mutation is that he looks like a big blue gorilla— though, I will grant you, he does turn out to be a bad-ass fighter. The voice is bad enough; what makes matters worse is that Fraiser –oops, I mean Hank– spends much of the movie wearing a suit and tie and even reading glasses. So basically, Grammer’s portrayal here is exactly like a big hairy blue Fraiser. I half expected to see David Hyde Pierce make a screen appearance as a mutant who looks like a yellow turtle or something.
  • There are more mixed metaphors here than an eskimo fire fighter watching a rattlesnake convention in St. Peter’s Basilica. You’ve got the whole mutant=terrorist kind of thing, the idea of viruses, diseases/disabilities that aren’t really diseases/disabilities, etc., etc., etc. Best not to think about these things too much and just enjoy shit blowing up and Fraiser as a blue gorilla.
  • An example of a bad metaphor: I heard some NPR report where one of the writers was claiming they were trying to make the mutant’s right/choice to a decision to being “cured” analogous to women’s rights/choice to have the choice of abortion. Which is why, said this writer, there were protests outside the clinics where mutants were being vaccinated. This just doesn’t work for me. I mean, it seems obvious to me that if you’re a mutant and you have a cool mutation (you can control the weather, fly, shoot flames, turn stuff to ice, make the world blow up, etc.), then you don’t want to be cured. On the other hand, if you have a mutation that sucks (you kill anyone you touch, you’re a big blue gorilla, etc.), then you’d want the cure. I don’t see how this is a metaphor for the more complex decision about abortion.
  • Given that about half the characters get killed off (the professor, Scott, Mystique, in the end Jean, etc.), it seems to me that there must have been some sort of contract negotiation where the actors and the suits got together and the actors said something like “Okay, okay, OKAY already. We’ll do one more. But JUST one!”

I have much less to say about The Squid and The Whale. This is most certainly not a family film– we watched this the other night after Will went to bed. It’s a very good movie about a washed-up novelist who is in the midst of an ugly divorce from his wife, who just happens to be an up and coming writer herself, and also about their two sons who have quite different perspectives on the whole business. It’s one of those comedy/drama flicks– a dramedy? a comrama?– that really was kind of “Oscar bait” in the way it was performed and filmed and paced. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m kind of surprised it didn’t get any nominations– at least I don’t think it did.

And, once again, it’s an example of a movie not to see in the theater. Since it isn’t damn loud and since shit does not blow up real good, this is the kind of movie that can really only be ruined by a family of idiots seated behind you. Unless seen at a more “serious” movie venue like the Michigan Theater, this is the kind of movie best experienced on DVD in the comfort of one’s home. Go rent it if you haven’t seen it yet.

Extra credit answer: Why, it’s none other than Anna Paquin, all grown up.

4 thoughts on “This Week at the Movies”

  1. Oh,TV Stevie, what fascinates me is that you spend many words obsessing over the big blue Frasier gorilla, and just a few talking about the Squid and the Whale, which was quite good. a) I *never* even noticed that Frasier played the gorilla mutant until we got out of the theatre and you started obsessing about it (I guess I was too distracted by stuff blowin’ up and assholes in the multiplex theatre talking on their cell phones and holding loud, inane conversations). b) I’ve been thinking about _The Squid and the Whale_ a lot today (I stopped thinking about The X-Men about five minutes after we were out of the theatre). TS&tW reminded me a lot of _The Ice Storm_, both featuring baby boomer self-obsessed parents and their neglected, unsupervised children stumbling through their teens with only assholes as role models. I thought it was really well-done, smart and funny without being annoyingly pretentious like _The Royal Tennenbaums_. So there. — Anet

  2. We watched the first 2 X-Men movies the other night in an attempt to gear up for the new one. They really blow though. The first one is junk from beginning to end… the second is a bit better, but I don’t expect the 3rd to be much better that the 2nd.

    As far as the politics go, Stan Lee supposedly had some Civil Rights issues in it originally (in the 60s) and so I kinda figured we were supposed to se hte movie that way too. But they seemed to fit more with the Gay Rights issues of today which seems to go along with the fact that Ian McKellen is in them. I kinda figured that was the only reason he did the movies (that and the fat cash).

  3. I gotta mess with your computer so you stop being me….

    Anyway, no argument at all with what you’re saying, Annette. I agree with what you’re saying almost totally– I liked The Royal Tannenbaums better than you did, but I think this is a better movie. The Squid and The Whale is all around a better movie than the X-Men flick, though comparing it to this latest X-Men is sort of like comparing a basketball to a pool cue: different sports, different purposes.

  4. I liked The Royal Tannenbaums too, bit my sister freaking loves it. She gave it to us for x-mas 2 years ago and I still haven’t rewatched it.

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