Category Archives: L

The Last Song

The Last Song (2010): United States – directed by Julie Anne Robinson

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains kissing, some mature themes

Is there something to be said for films that don’t mind recycling formulaic plots and cliched devices, if the film is done well enough?  What if it’s not particularly well crafted?  Perhaps it lands in the worst possible category of film, a generic film not bad enough to be enjoyable and not good enough to appreciate.  These are the most disappointing films; they inspire neither loathing nor love, and end up being mere piles of “meh.”

The Last Song’s story is indeed formulaic, but what more could you expect from Nicholas Sparks?  The star of the film is Miley Cyrus, who is perhaps the sole reason the film exists.  She plays Ronnie Miller, and at the beginning of the film she and her brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are dropped off at their father’s house on the beach.  Their parents are divorced, and the split was devastating to the children, particularly Ronnie.

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Little Miss Marker (1934)

Little Miss Marker (1934): United States – directed by Alexander Hall

Not rated by the MPAA – contains gangsters and a little girl used as betting collateral

There’s hardly been a cuter child star than Shirley TempleHenry Thomas in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial [review here] is perhaps close, and closer still is Ronny Howard in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.  But Shirley Temple lights up the screen every time she appears, regardless of how many times she glances off camera to look for direction.  In short shots she is radiant, practically the best part of Little Miss Marker.

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010): United States/Australia – directed by Zach Snyder

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains violence, intense action

Many have wondered if Zach Snyder, helmer of 300, Watchmen, and the Dawn of the Dead remake, could successfully transfer his skills to a more family friendly genre.  Then initial trailers appeared, with images of owls flying in slow motion through rain (it helped knowing that the film would be in 3D), and folks were rightfully concerned.  This trepidation makes it all the more relieving that Snyder has successfully created a family friendly feature, albeit one that will appeal to more boys than girls.

The story, based on the line of books by Kathryn Lasky, is occasionally convoluted but rarely difficult to follow.  Soren (voice of Jim Sturgess) is a young barn owl, contentedly living at home with his little sister Eglantine (Adrienne DeFaria) and brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten).  He tells his sister grand tales of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mysterious group of owls that protect the weak and battle evil.  Kludd is less convinced that they exist, and his cynicism spills over into his sibling rivalry with Soren.  They are just beginning to learn to fly, but Kludd’s strength and over-exertion are too loud for barn owls.  Soren’s graceful gliding is more highly praised by their parents, and this is just the beginning of their Cain and Abel conflict.

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A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own (1992): United States – directed by Penny Marshall

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some language and mild sexual references

A League of Their Own is a nice movie, a pleasant movie, a Hollywood movie.  It doesn’t take risks, doesn’t alienate its audience, and doesn’t provide any controversial material.  It tells a simple tale with some obvious themes, and it does it perfectly well.  This is why the film has achieved a certain status as a fan favorite.

The story is based on real-life occurrences during World War II.  Most of the athletic young men were away at war, leaving professional baseball devastated.  Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall, director Penny Marshall’s brother) is a candy man, well known for his Harvey Bars.  He’s a bit of a showman as well, eager to lure crowds back to once-packed baseball stadiums.  His hope is that a new league, one filled with attractive dames, will woo a war-weary audience back into the seats.

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Little Manhattan

Little Manhattan (2005): United States – directed by Mark Levin

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some vomiting, mild language, a little punching, a tiny bit of kissing

Little Manhattan is primarily a standard romantic comedy, but with protagonists a good ten years younger than normal.  Some of it is standard, some is obvious and forced, some is sweet, but the primary message is strong enough that I am wont to forget the film’s many flaws.

Young Gabe (Josh Hutcherson) is ten, nearly eleven.  To him, girls are icky; they’ve been known to cause cooties since his days of kindergarten.  One of the opening scenes has enough projectile vomiting (caused by being touched by a girl, spreading like a zombie virus) to nearly rival Stand By Me.  Gabe has a happy life, generally.  He trains to be a placekicker with his dad, Adam (Bradley Whitford).  He has fun with school chums playing basketball.  The only downside is that his parents are in the middle of a divorce, made messier by New York’s divorce laws.  The couple can’t leave their apartment until the divorce is final, meaning that Adam has been sleeping on the couch for a year and a half.  Making the situation even more awkward, Gabe’s mom, Leslie (Cynthia Nixon), is dating a new man.

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Letters to Juliet

Letters to Juliet (2010): United States – directed by Gary Winick

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some mild language

Women, for a long time, had to suffer heartily in the movies.  They were expected to be housewives and mates (and potential mates).  In 1940 Rosalind Russell was a powerful reporter in His Girl Friday [review here], and then Katherine Hepburn took the reins.  Nowadays women are required to work in films, and are usually empowered.  But so often they rotate between one of three professions: writer, journalist, or fashion industry worker.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a writer, or at least wants to be one.  The film opens with a montage of her as a fact checker; she verifies information in other people’s articles before they run.  She works for The New Yorker and is very thorough.  Her boss (Oliver Platt, in a brief bookending cameo) wants her to stay on as a fact-checker, not wishing to give her the opportunity to expand into writing.

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L’atalante

L’atalante (1934): France – directed by Jean Vigo

Not rated by the MPAA – contains a single nude pin-up and mature themes

L’atalante is a deliberate, slowly paced film.  At the same time it appears almost haphazardly constructed, with a loose plot.  It presents some themes, however, that are at once raw and powerful, and it is a striking look at the difficulties faced by the two participants in a new marriage.

Juliette (Dita Parlo) and Jean (Jean Dasté) are freshly married in a small village in France.  The villagers wonder why she’s decided to marry a boat captain, a trade that will require the pair of them to travel up and down the rivers of France, occasionally stopping at larger cities and smaller docks.

They won’t be alone on their barge, however.  The first mate, a surly, rude, and unkempt fellow by the name of Jules (Michel Simon), proves both a companion and a hindrance to the couple.  Additionally, there is a younger boy (Louis Lefebvre) who helps out around the ship, though it appears he may be a bit dim-witted.  Finally, there are a plethora of cats, kept by Jules, that continue to multiply throughout the film.

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The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones (2009): United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand – directed by Peter Jackson

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some language, violent content, mature themes

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0380510/

Alice Sebold’s debut novel caused quite a splash when it hit shelves in 2002.  The profound sense of loss and the painful growth that the characters experience hit a nerve with many people.  The fantasy element ensured that many people (including me) would think Peter Jackson might be an excellent choice to direct, following in the vein of Heavenly Creatures.

Unfortunately, we were wrong.  The Lovely Bones not only disappoints as an adaptation of the novel, it is also a surprisingly poorly made film.  Jackson’s touch with fantasy elements remains intact, but any hope at subtlety or emotional impact is lost in the confusion.  Part of me wonders whether this is the film as Jackson intended, or if various studio elements were overly involved.

The story follows the primary elements of the novel.  Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, from Atonement) is a young girl living in the suburbs of Pennsylvania.  She has a loving family which includes her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz), younger sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) and younger brother Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale).

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Little Women (1994)

Little Women (1994): United States – directed by Gillian Armstrong

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains…I don’t know why they rated it PG

This is not the first time that Louisa May Alcott’s novel has been put on the big screen, and I doubt it will be the last.  I fear I am not familiar with the source material, so my only means of judging the film is how the story turned out in film form.  As far as an adaptation of a classic novel, Little Women is a solid, well-produced and strongly-acted film.

The story revolves around the March family toward the end of the Civil War.  They reside in Concord, Massachusetts, and their father is off fighting the war.  The four sisters eke out a noble, though not terribly wealthy living guided by their wise mother, Marmee (Susan Sarandon).  The four sisters vary in age and temperament, and are the titular centerpiece of the movie.  In fact, since very little happens plot-wise, it is these four characters that carry the film.

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The Lion King

The Lion King (1994): United States – directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Rated G by the MPAA – contains violence, scariness, mature themes

It’s been several years since I’ve seen The Lion King.  It was a favorite of mine growing up, primarily because we got it on video in Pakistan shortly after it came out and had many chances to watch it.  Watching it again with older eyes proved to be an interesting experience.

We start at the beginning of the great circle of life, where young Simba (voice of Jonathon Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick) is presented to the animal kingdom from the top of Pride Rock.  His father Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones) looks on proudly.  Simba soon grows into a young rapscallion.  Mufasa shows him the kingdom he will soon take over and tries to teach him that there is more to being king that showing how brave he is.  There is also the small matter of Simba’s uncle, Scar (voice of Jeremy Irons), to deal with.

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