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**½

I love my wife, very much.

David Lindsay-Abaire adapted his play into the screenplay for this drama. John Cameron Mitchell took over the job of filming this, which is odd because his prior two movies were Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. If you have not heard of those movies, they are both really out there. So much so that I have not troubled to watch either of them before. Perhaps those movies prepared him to make movies very different from this one.

Nicole Kidman rejecting the affections of Aaron Eckhart, © Olympus Pics. 2010.

Nicole Kidman rejecting the affections of Aaron Eckhart, © Olympus Pics. 2010.

This movie was about two parents dealing with the death of their four year old son. People should not be judged harshly for the way their grief manifests itself, that does not mean that the representation of that grief makes for a compelling movie. Or that suffering alone is sufficient to make an audience root for a character or characters, even if that, or those, character(s) are presented as the protagonists. For me the problem here was that I did not like, or care about, Nicole Kidman’s character. More than that though, I did not see why Aaron Eckhart would still love her. The only reason I could see to stay with her was to share their misery together, but they did not even have that, since they reacted differently and provided no comfort to each other for the first 80 minutes of a 87 minute movie. Maybe they stayed together because on some level they were punishing themselves. I do not know, nor do I care.

Dianne Wiest as Nicole Kidman's mother.

Dianne Wiest as Nicole Kidman’s mother.

Other than Nicole Kidman and the apparently very limited Sandra Oh, neither of whom were bad, the rest of the acting was very good. In fact, I was glad to see Dianne Wiest getting work.

Elysium

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William Fichtner in Sony Pics' Elysium, © 2013.

William Fichtner in Sony Pics’ Elysium, © 2013.

Why does everyone want to kill William Fichtner? Maybe that question goes too far. Why, recently, does William Fichtner keep getting cast as someone whom the audience openly roots for violence against? In this film he takes on the role of John Carlyle, CEO of Armadyne Corp. At first he seems like just another Elysium resident, but when he tells his subordinate to not contaminate him with his Earth breath and then wants Max–Matt Damon, whose body has been flooded by radiation, off of a gurney before Max’s skin falls off, he comes across as slightly murder-able. Compare that to the cocky mob banker with the shotgun in Dark Knight—”Do you know whose bank this is? You guys are dead.” He also played the bad guy in Lone Ranger. Or say it seems. Since no-one saw it, I cannot verify this claim. I have heard people talk about Drive Angry, so he definitely played the I-hope-he-gets-killed character in that. So he does that in this film too.

Frey (Alice Braga) holding her daughter while under the guard of one of Kruger's associate's. © Tristar 2013.

Frey (Alice Braga) holding her daughter while under the guard of one of Kruger’s associate’s. © Tristar 2013.

One of the two female characters in this film is Secretary Delacourt. She is played by Jodie Foster, who reprises her role as a powerful jerk with a lack of morality from Inside Man.  She serves a function in the film and looks perfect for her role. The other female character is Frey–Alice Braga. She was Max’s best friend as a kid, but then she went on to become a nurse with a terminally ill child. I liked how she was both a damsel and in distress, but not a damsel in distress.

Tahir and Foster from http://www.welcometoelysium.com/

Tahir and Foster from http://www.welcometoelysium.com/

The last actor I want to talk about is Faran Tahir–President Patel. Having an Indian President of Elysium seemed very Star Trek to me. Interestingly, I could not remember that he was the captain of the USS Kelvin in 2009’s Star Trek. I also failed to recall that he played the Afghani warlord in Iron Man. It was nice to see him not getting killed in this. Writing that, only now do I realize how much death there is to named characters in this film. That is a rarity in non-horror films, and this was pleasantly non-horrific.

**** I added an extra half-star because of the look and effects of the film.

Hitch

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**

Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.

I didn’t really like the movie Hitch. But I laughed a few times and about 1/5 “lessons” was not a complete cliché. And I know it’s been said 100 times, but Will Smith is no Hugh Grant when it comes to being clumsy and put upon in a romantic comedy.

Mulan vs. Monsters, Inc.

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It is the showdown that no-one asked for: the Chinese girl who crossdressed to fight on behalf of her father and the two monsters who fight to save the life of a little girl.

Kids these days. They just don’t get scared like they used to.

My children never caused such trouble. They all became acupuncturists.

I will compare these two over several criteria: (1) animation, (2) voice acting, (3) story, (4) message, and (5) comedy.

Mulan on a roof in the Forbidden City, © 1998 Disney.

Mulan on a roof in the Forbidden City, © 1998 Disney.

1. Mulan’s style and costumes really impressed me. They were neither Western, nor anime. On the other hand, Monster’s, Inc. has a Pixar look to it. The best part about it was the variety of monsters. The villains of Mulan, the huns, just had a really cool look to them, whereas the villains in Monsters, Inc. were almost hidden, and underwhelmingly frightening.

James P. "Sulley" Sullivan and Henry J. Waterhouse, © 2001 Pixar/Disney.

James P. “Sulley” Sullivan and Henry J. Waterhouse, © 2001 Pixar/Disney.

2. Billy Crystal and John Goodman outweigh Freda Foh Shen and Eddie Murphy as far as casting goes. Interesting, I thought Freda Foh Shen outshone Eddie Murphy in Mulan. Murphy’s jokes, probably not his fault, but they rarely hit. Not that Crystal’s were a high percentage either. The highlights for Mulan were Shan Yu—Miguel Ferrer, Eduardo Ruiz from Traffic—and the Emperor’s assistant, Chi Fu—James Hong, recently in R.I.P.D..

Shan Yu and the Huns, © Disney.

Shan Yu and the Huns, © Disney.

3. Mulan’s story was much more interesting than Monsters, Inc.’s. In Monsters there is about 30 minutes of plot, mostly revolving around a bad date, an impossibly slippery child, and the torture machine from The Princess Bride. Whereas in Mulan there is a Mongol invasion of China, a young woman who sets out in her injured father’s place to fight in the war, a miniature dragon that must protect her and bring her home, and interesting gender role impositions. The best part of Monsters, Inc. came once Sulley and Mike save the little girl and it gets emotional. Jennifer Tilly voiced Mike’s love interest and she is totally wasted in the movie.

Sulley saying goodbye to "Boo," © Disney.

Sulley saying goodbye to “Boo,” © Disney.

4. Even though the emotional part of Monsters, Inc. was the best part, it still seemed like rehashing of Toy Story, something that Toy Story 3 did much better. While Monsters started with an interesting proposition, that the protagonists had value because they frightened children—which was Monstropolis’ source of energy—it moved onto the bland position that not torturing children was good. To be fair, Monsters also dealt with sacrificing one’s happiness for the good of a child. Mulan showed that a young woman did not need to grow up to be a man to have value, but that by striving for the positive values in her society—honor, fealty and sacrifice—she could become a good person. And that amongst Chinese men, there were some good ones who could look past their sexist ethics and find the truth in their morals.

Mulan returning her father's sword to him, © Disney.

Mulan returning her father’s sword to him, © Disney.

5. On the children’s movie scale, neither of these is in the ballpark of Kung Fu Panda, but the underlying comedy within Mulan is definitely cute. The best of which was an unlucky cricket and some misshapen soldiers . Eddie Murphy only hits on about 10% of his jokes though, which is about half as good as Billy Crystal’s Mike. I was disappointed in both, but John Goodman got almost no chances to be funny as his potential laughs came almost exclusively from boring physical comedy.

The more I rationalize my preference for the less favorably remembered Mulan the more I realize how disappointed I was in Monsters, Inc.

***½ for Mulan; **½ for Monsters, Inc.

The Wolverine

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***½

Eternity can be a curse. The losses you have had to suffer… a man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose.

Hugh Jackman, The Wolverine © 2013 20th Century Fox.

Hugh Jackman, The Wolverine © 2013 20th Century Fox.

This is a wonderful redemption from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While the cast was decidedly non-American, it delivered in a way that Liev Schrieber did not. While the cast was short on familiar faces, the story has many familiar names.
1. Logan/Wolverine — Yay, he is back! But for some reason he cannot speak Japanese. I suppose that having him only speak English made it easier for the audience, and for Hugh Jackman, but I was a bit sad that he lacked that skill
2. Mariko — (one of) the love(s) of Logan’s life! It was good to see her show up, but they lacked the chemistry I expected from the comics. On the other hand, she is prim and Japanese.
3. Yukio — she is an adopted girl of Shingen Yashida in the movie, but formerly just worked for him as a ronin, kind of. I thought she was Logan’s adopted daughter, or actually his daughter but that she did not know he was her father. THERE ARE A LOT OF COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS AND I AM JUST ONE MAN! I did not even do that well on this Sporcle quiz. It turns out that Amiko is the character whom I mixed together with Yukio. Also, Yukio is not supposed to be a mutant.
4. Shingen Yashida — Mariko’s lame father. He does not try to kill Logan as quickly in the movie as he does in the comics. He is about equally deceptive though.
5. Silver Samurai — NOT THE SAME GUY. I do not know if the phrase Silver Samurai ever appears in the film, and if it did, it was during a funeral and not regarding a super suit of armor.
6. Harada — He plays Mariko’s childhood sweetheart, instead of her half-brother and mutant whose name appears above.
7. Jean Grey — No she is not back alive, but she is still wonderful. And played by the non-American Famke Janssen. She is Dutch.
8. Viper — Apparently she and Silver Samurai teamed up to try to kill Wolverine back in the same adventure that introduced the Yashidas to us. I thought of her as an Avengers villain, but that might be based on video games more than comic books. When she uses a claw I briefly thought she was a re-envisioned Lady Deathstrike.

Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper, © 2012 Marvel Entertainment.

Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper, © 2012 Marvel Entertainment.