Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Midnight in Paris vs. Battleship

My tastes can be varied to the point of nonsense at times.  That's okay.  I love pop culture as you can probably tell from my blog posts.  My late mother gave me her love of movies.  We went to the movies together from the time I was very young.  When I was twelve, she took me to see Gone With the Wind, her all-time favorite.  Anyhow, she instilled in me a passion for movies.  I took it a step further than she did, though.

I like all kinds of movies.  My tastes run the gamut from drama to comedy to historical to action pictures to super heroes to sci-fi, paranormal, and the occasional war picture.  (Someday I'll write about The Pacific - an excellent mini-series from HBO created and produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks.)

A case in point, this last Saturday night, I was home with my two shih tzus watching premium cable.  So I watched back-to-back movies. The first was Midnight in Paris, a charming comedy from 2011.

When Midnight in Paris came out, I read the reviews and thought it looked mildly interesting.  The title put me off.  Unfortunately, that was the name of a particularly pervasive perfume that was modestly priced when I was in elementary school.  It was given away on television game shows back then.  When it showed up in dime stores (think Woolworth's) I finally got to smell it...I could understand why it was given away so frequently - nobody wanted to buy it.

I'm sure that sensory memory made me reluctant to see the film of the same name.  A few months ago, a friend recommended the movie so I decided to watch it last Saturday on HBO.

Anyhow it's the story of a screenwriter played by Owen Wilson.  He has been successful writing scripts for Hollywood, but is working on a novel, the project dearest to his heart.  He comes to Paris with his obnoxious fiancee and her more obnoxious parents.  In her case that apple landed right at the bottom of the tree...So the writer starts walking around Paris at midnight.  He gets lost the first night, cannot find his way back to the hotel.  This antique car stops, a man gets out and beckons him to join the party.  It seems the man is F. Scott Fitzgerald and he is accompanied by his fabled wife Zelda.  In their world it's in the late 1920s.  Gil (the Wilson character) has walked into another time.

Each night he waits anxiously for the car to pick him up.  He meets Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Picasso, Salvador Dali, a number of luminaries from the period.  He also meets Picasso's current mistress, a lovely young woman played by Marianne Cotillard.  Gil falls in love with her and feels more comfortable with her than he ever has with his fiancee.

He gets Gertrude Stein to read his novel.  She critiques it and he rewrites the book.  Hemingway also reads it and gives it his approval.  Talk about a dream for a writer!!!

I won't spoil the movie for you by revealing anything else.  This is a beautifully told story.  The romantic streets of Paris glisten with rain on nights when the moon goes in and out of the clouds.  The film is shot with filters to soften the focus on those nights, making it look like a treasured memory.  I don't blame Gil at all for waiting anxiously all day until he can be with his friends once more.

It is a beautiful love story steeped in nostalgia for the best of the past.  It teaches the lesson that no matter the era, the contemporary inhabitants long for an earlier time, no matter how wonderful we latecomers may think their time was.

It's a great movie for a quiet night, a little popcorn, a little wine, whatever you like with your movies.  It is best seen with someone you love.  Enjoy!

The other film I watched was Battleship, produced by Hasbro, the company that created the game, Battleship.  It is a rousing adventure in which you certainly must suspend your disbelief.  I loved it.

It's the story of two brothers, one, played by Alexander Skarsgard (aka the 1000 year old Viking vampire, Eric Northman, on True blood.)  Insert howling here... The younger brother is played by Taylor Kitsch (aka John Carter in the film by that name.)  Insert a wolf whistle here...

The older brother (Skarsgard) Stone Hopper, is a commander in the US Navy and the younger brother (Kitsch) is an unemployed construction worker who is always messing up.  When the movie opens, he does something so stupid, that his older brother tells him, "that's it.  You're joining me in the Navy."  Then it's three years later and younger brother Alex is in the Navy with the rank of lieutenant.  He is still messing up, however.  (How did he make it to lieutenant?!!)

Anyhow, aliens invade the Earth and head for Hawaii where there is a transmission station on a mountaintop that has been broadcasting signals to outer space via satellite.  The Navy is conducting war games with other countries in the waters around Hawaii.  The aliens successfully block off the area around their target which prevents most of the Navy ships from getting through the shielding.  The area includes the Hawaiian islands.  The only ships in the area are missile bearing destroyers, one from Japan and two from the US Navy.  One of the US ships is commanded by Stone.  Alex is an officer serving on the other one. 

The aliens have surprising technology and weapons.  Two of the Navy ships are lost.  The third ship wounds the aliens badly before being destroyed as well.  The survivors make their way to the USS Missouri, a World War II battleship, now docked as a museum.  In reality, the USS Missouri was the ship on which the Japanese surrender was signed in 1945.  In the movie, there are former members of the crew who work on her now that she's a museum.  With their help and expertise, the old battleship goes out for one more battle.

The USS Missouri wins the day with the assistance ashore of a wounded veteran from the war in Afghanistan - he wears two prosthetic legs, his physical therapist (who happens to be Alex's girlfriend), and a wimpy scientist from the mountaintop station.

UPDATE:  I learned that Lt. Col. Mick Canales was played by real-life Col. Greg Gadson, an active Army officer.  Col. Gadson graduated from West Point where he played on the football team.  He lost his legs in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq several years ago.  Since then, he has become a motivational speaker when his schedule permits.  His role in the movie was his first acting job. He performed his own fighting wearing the titanium legs he wears daily.  That's more impressive than any movie.  Thank you Col. Gadson for your service...

They win the day and the Earth is saved!  Was there ever any doubt?  It's a great action picture with good special effects and excellent resolution of the story at the end.  Look for Rihanna in a surprisingly good acting job as a weapons expert.  Her "Mahalo, M..." is right up there with Bruce Willis' "Yippee Ky Yea, M..."

Besides the end credits roll to Creedence Clearwater Revival's song Fortunate Son, which had me playing my invisible drums and engaging in some lively chair dancing...What else could you want?

It's got everything - hunky actors, a brave wounded warrior (who is realistically played and who does an honorable job in the part), mean technologically superior aliens who seem to be insurmountable, but are soundly beaten in the end...

I'll take my Alexander Skarsgard dosages whenever I can.  True Blood doesn't come back until June.

Oh, and on that note, I am now reading George R.R. Martin's book Game of Thrones on which the HBO series is based.  I've watched the two seasons of the series, so the book isn't any surprise so far.
That series comes back for its third season later this month...

Whew, it's a lot of work being a pop culture diva!

Until next time, take care out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment