American in Spain

Transatlantic Movie Marathon – 5 Movie Reviews

November 27, 2012
American In Spain On A Plane

During my recent Thanksgiving pond hop, I had the opportunity to watch several movies during my 16.5 hours of air travel over the ocean. I was impressed with the selection available, with a few dozen older classics and about twenty "new releases". With so many movies fresh in my memory, I figure I should tell you about them.

People Like Us

This was the first film I watched. I had never heard of it, but something about the poster caught my eye. I've been a fan of Chris Pine for a few years now; he first wowed me in Bottle Shock, which I highly recommend, and then in Star Trek and Unstoppable. Elizabeth Banks is a good actress, who I enjoy in everything she's in, but I've never been motivated to learn her name or look her up on IMDB. I've seen an awful lot of her filmography, but she always seems like a fresh face. It could be that she's just that good of an actress, or that she's just that unmemorable; I suspect it's a combination of both. The kid in the movie, Michael Hall D'Addario, definitely has some potential.

The one sentence plot summary is very clichéd: A young handsome money grubbing New Yorker learns What Is Really Important in life. But the actual movie kept surprising me and showing a subtlety of character development that had me very impressed. The one-word description of the movie is one of my favorite words, which I almost never get to use in proper context: avuncular.

Watch it; it's good.

This Means War

Impressed with Chris Pine from the previous film, and intrigued by the "It's spy against spy" subtitle, I decided to watch This Means War. There's something about Reese Witherspoon that really gets under my skin. I can't think of a single movie she's been in where her character didn't annoy the crap out of me. All her characters come across as whiny and arrogant. I could go on, but let's just say I'm not a fan.

The plot involves two CIA operatives buddies that start dating the same girl and compete to woo her. It was even dumber than it sounds. They cut off the entertainment system for landing about halfway through this movie, and I didn't care one bit.

The Dark Knight Rises

I've never been a comic book fan, and don't really like the cinema genre that much, even though Hollywood seems to think it's like printing money. I have, I think, seen all the Batman movies, so I understand the back story and know a little about the characters. I was unaware at the time that Bane, the evil villain, was played by Tom Hardy, the guy I'd just seen playing Chris Pine's rival in This Means War.

Despite my low expectations, I was very impressed with The Dark Knight Rises, and must declare it my favorite Batman movie so far. Christian Bale is always amazing, Anne Hathaway is usually pretty good (although Michelle Pheiffer was a much sexier Catwoman), and I have a serious Hollywood crush on Marion Cotillard. For me, Marion Cotillard is the exact opposite of how unmemorable Elizabeth Banks is and how irritating Reese Witherspoon is. I particularly liked all the backstory into the Bane character and the prison sequence. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is always fun to see on the screen as well. It must have been quite an Inception reunion on the set. Oh, and how bad can a movie be when Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine have small supporting roles?

I recommend it, even if you harbor an aversion to superheroes, like I do.

Total Recall

I've seen the 1990 version of this film, but I can barely remember any of it other than it being a psychological thriller that had something to do with Mars. And the lady with three breasts, of course. The 2012 version is set entirely on Earth, at the antipodes of Australia and England. The actual antipode of Australia is in the mid-Atlantic, of course, with Spain and New Zealand being one of the rare land antipodal pairs. In this dystopian future, there is a tunnel that connects England and Australia via the center of the Earth, called The Fall, and workers commute through it.

It really took a lot of effort to ignore the horrible lack of knowledge of simple free fall physics. The gravity inside the elevator thing is all normal as they free fall toward the center of the planet, and then gravity magically switches to being normal in the other direction. In reality, if the fall were relatively frictionless you'd feel weightless until you stopped at the other side. Also, a frictionless free fall through the center of the Earth takes 42 minutes; if you were to do it in the 20 minutes it takes in the movie, the acceleration would reverse gravity when you start and then the deceleration really would flip you over onto your head at the halfway point. Goofy.

If you can bring yourself to ignore the immense implausibility of the scenario, it is a fun action movie. I've always liked psychological thrillers where neither the character nor the audience is certain what is real and what is a dream (Inception, The Others, etc.). The actors are pretty gorgeous, too. Jessica Biel is very pretty, but she's nothing compared to Kate Beckinsale. Wow! Beckinsale is absolutely stunning in this movie. Colin Farrell is one seriously handsome Irish lad as well.

Oh, and they did include the tri-mammeried freak.

The Watch

Towards the end of my last flight, I wanted some lighthearted fun on my screen, so I chose The Watch. The Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn style of humor is one that you really need to be in the proper mindset for. It's incredibly silly, but I will never forget seeing That Scene (you know the one) from There's Something About Mary back when I had no idea who Ben Stiller was, in a fully packed cinema on opening night, and the roar of shared belly laughter. And it was nice to see Richard Ayoade on the big screen, although his character was pretty indistinguishable from Moss in The IT Crowd. There were a few moments where I had to cover my mouth to stop from laughing too loud.

We landed before I could finish this movie, and I did mind this time, and I plan to make an effort to see the rest of it sometime this week. Remember, you have to be in the mood for some really silly humor, but if you are, The Watch can be quite enjoyable.


To recap, the movies above in order of my opinion of best to worst (IMDB ratings in parentheses): People Like Us (7.1), A Dark Knight Rises (8.8), The Watch (5.7), Total Recall (6.3), and This Means War (6.3).