This is the best of the Twilight movies so far, but that is like saying bleach is the tastiest household cleaner. There actually are enough elements here to make a good movie including a reluctant alliance between two factions that are historically at war with each other. Unfortunately all the potential is squandered. Characters’ motivations are unclear, the dialog is clunky, and everyone (except the breath of fresh air Anna Kendrick) still suffers from giant pause-itis. Apparently Bella is really important for some reason or another, but the director, the screenwriter, and actress Kristen Stewart still have yet to show us why.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
I had no idea what to expect with this movie. The book is extremely episodic, which makes it very difficult to translate to the screen and as a result this is definitely the weakest of the Narnia films so far. The added characters did little more than get in the way, the story often felt rushed, and the inclusion of a quest to find a bunch of swords made me feel like I was watching a video game. There were also times when the screenwriters opted to write their own dialog when Lewis’s original words would have worked just as well or better (and never once did the Dufflepuds exclaim “Keep it up, Chief!”). But there is still a lot to like in this movie. The production design looks great, Will Poulter (of Son of Rambow fame) is perfect as Eustace, and the newer take on Repicheep as a pint-sized Cyrano de Bergerac is well done. The best part of the movie is watching the relationship between Eustace and Repicheep grow from bitter antagonists to best friends. And almost all faults were forgiven when Aslan uttered one of my favorite lines from the books at the end.
Ken Burns’ loving yet epic documentary tells the story of baseball through the twentieth century. It chronicles baseball’s humble beginnings all the way to the mega-franchises of today, with numerous highs and lows along the way. There is plenty of talk about Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Ty Cobb, but there is also plenty of time devoted to the Negro leagues and to the way baseball existed outside the major leagues. I would call this a love letter to baseball, except that description falls far too short of the amazing accomplishment that Baseball is. All 19 hours of it.
Baseball: The Tenth Inning (2010)
A lot has happened in the baseball world since 1994, so Ken Burns decided to make a sequel to his epic documentary. This time it was a little different for me since I started following baseball in 1993, so I lived through everything the film chronicles. All the important things are here: Roger Maris’ record falling to Mark McGwire whose record in turn fell to Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron’s record falling to Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr. outlasting Lou Gehrig, and the Red Sox finally winning the World Series (twice). But the largest chunk is devoted to the steroids scandal. What could have been a very angry and vindictive treatment was instead sorrowful and introspective, trying to understand why and how it happened instead of pointing fingers. There were a few things that I wish they had included (most notably Ricky Henderson, Ivan Rodriguez, and fantasy baseball) but overall it is a nice followup to a great film. The only true misstep comes at the beginning when it chronicles the despair of Giants fans who root for a team that has never won a World Series, made obsolete since I just watched the Giants beat my Rangers in the World Series just two months prior.
A Cry in the Dark (1988)
This is the heartbreaking tale of a family which is forced to deal with a personal tragedy under intense media scrutiny. It is also a scathing indictment of how the media can quickly turn heroes into villains almost on a whim and can take a simple story and blow it completely out of proportion.
Being There (1979)
Peter Sellers is charming as a simple-minded gardener who becomes a national voice of wisdom through a series of misadventures. The film is quiet fun with the only drawback being a scene where a character masturbates that is supposed to be played for laughs but is completely out of place with the rest of the movie.
Coming up next: my top and bottom 10 lists from last year kick off.