REVIEW: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

4 01 2014

24 hours before I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” I was sitting in a press screening of “The Wolf of Wall Street” for three straight hours of sex, drugs, profanity, and despicable behavior.  Roughly an hour before I saw it, though, I was watching TCM’s broadcast of “White Christmas” with my family and listening to my parents ask once again where the nice movies are in theaters today.

It should be fairly obvious that “Walter Mitty” falls in line with the latter of the two aforementioned films; after all, it is based on a film from the 1940s.  And following an evening of watching a candle stuck wedged between Leonardo DiCaprio’s butt cheeks (one of the few shenanigans I dare to write about), it was just nice to watch a good, clean family feature.  Even though Ben Stiller’s film is nothing spectacular, its intermittently successful embrace from a bygone era is a nice change of pace.

Stiller, who also stars as the film’s titular character, does not drown the film in excessive sentimentality, often a hallmark of Hollywood’s golden age cinema.  But perhaps it would have been welcome had it brought any charm, which is largely absent from this languidly paced film.

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REVIEW: Bernie

25 06 2012

Most movies are just set in some generic city, and it proves merely a bland backdrop for the story.  Sometimes, though, a filmmaker finds a special affection for a city, a state, or a country, and the setting becomes a character in the movie.  Lucky New Yorkers have been lavished with movies celebrating their magical city thanks to Woody Allen and all his proteges, and Allen gave Europeans one of the all-time best city characters with his recent “Midnight in Paris.”

Richard Linklater, a fellow Houstonian, has created his own “Midnight in Paris” with “Bernie,” a true crime flick with a documentary angle set deep in the heart of Texas.  Granted, no one would ever mistake Carthage, Texas for Paris, France.  But just as Allen acquaints us with the architecture, the culture, and the rich history of Paris, Linklater gives us a taste of small-town Texas with pinpoint accuracy.

For once, my beloved state isn’t the butt of the joke, mocked by caricature, or stereotyped into a mythical land where cowboys ride their horse to work.  (As I like to remind everyone, we have three of the ten most populous cities in the United States!)  It’s a tender and nuanced portrayal of a tiny community rocked by a scandal beyond their wildest imaginations.

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