And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Quickie Reviews: Ben Is Back; Bumblebee; Vice

I know – these are three very different films. But I’m playing catch-up with my reviews! So I’ll start with my favorite of the three (though Bumblebee comes in a surprisingly close second!).

Arrival

Arrival is very… cerebral. It’s about a linguist (Amy Adams) who is recruited by the military to help translate communications from aliens that have landed in Montana and 11 other sites around the world. The “action” (such as it were) all takes place in a basecamp set up in a field, and aboard a spaceship that resembles a giant egg or shell-shaped rock. The vessel opens itself up to visitors every 18 hours, and that’s when Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) and her colleague, sciencey guy Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), try to figure out who the aliens are, and what they want. It’s like E.T. as a deep, psychological drama. Inception-esque, slow to unfold, mind-bendy. The type of movie that movie nerds will want to see multiple times. I found the movie interesting overall, but a tad boring in parts, especially in the middle. That’s probably because I figured out one of the big plot twists fairly on and was eager for validation. But hey, no spoilers. Here’s what I can tell you:

Her

Her is really all about him, him being Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his personalized operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). If this sounds a bit weird, it is, but only for a bit. In this film set in the very near future, true love is as elusive as ever, and a new technology allows people to become intimately entwined with their computers’ operating systems. Lonely Theodore is still recovering from breaking up with his wife (Rooney Mara) and isn’t having a lot of success in the dating world, so when Samantha enters his life through an earpiece and a mic, her ability to see and appreciate him is incredibly attractive.

American Hustle

“Some of this actually happened.” With that, American Hustle proceeds to take a fair amount of creative license to create a really good movie. The story is loosely based on the FBI corruption sting of the 1970s code-named ABSCAM. It features a schlumpy but successful con man named Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale with a paunch and a comb-over) who, along with his smart and seductive partner Sydney (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wacky FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who will let them off the hook, if they help him catch some bigger fish.

Man of Steel

The new “Superman” movie is getting some mixed reviews, but here’s the real deal on the Man of Steel: It’s definitely worth seeing – just keep your expectations in check and don’t over-think it. It’s not a perfect movie. It’s probably not the best action-hero movie you’ll see this year. But it is an interesting and entertaining re-imagining of the Superman mythology. He’s still the guy who can leap tall buildings in a single bound (once he realizes he can fly) and fight the good fight for truth, justice and the American/Earthly way. He just goes at it from a slightly different angle.

Arty Chick’s Oscar Adventure

During all my years living in Los Angeles, I never got anywhere near the Academy Awards. I watched at Oscar parties (including one attended by my favorite ♥ George ♥), and I always wondered who all those screaming fans in the bleachers were and how they got to sit there. Now I know. Thank heavens for Mainstream Chick! She entered the lottery online for Academy Awards bleacher seats and won! And I was her lucky +1. So the day of the Oscars, we headed to Hollywood.

The Muppets

It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights… Oh, nostalgia take me away! I grew up with the Muppets and have fond memories of them. So when I heard there was a new Muppet movie coming out after all of these years I was excited to relive a little bit of my childhood. But I was also worried that it wouldn’t live up to my Muppet memories. Let’s face it, most things from our childhoods rarely do. But I am happy to report that The Muppets are just as fun now as they were back then.

The Fighter

Every once in a while a movie comes along that has a little something for everyone. I think The Fighter is one of those movies. In fact, I think it may be my favorite movie of the year. It’s the total package: A really good story (based on a true one), a powerful mix of drama, romance, humor and heart, and stellar performances across the board. You don’t have to be a boxing fan to step into the ring for this one. It’s a chick flick wrapped in a sports drama.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Looking for a good chick flick rental? Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is the perfect little piece of fluff. Set in London between the wars, it stars Frances McDormand as Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle aged governess who is let go from her job with no severance. The agency won’t give her another assignment, but she overhears a phone call about a job working for an American singer/actress and pretends to be the “social secretary” they were looking for. The American actress named Delysia (sounds like delicious) Lafosse is played by the ever-bubbly Amy Adams.

Sunshine Cleaning

I will repeat what I said before; what is the deal with Amy Adams? I don’t get it that she is all over the place, pretty much playing the same role over and over. In Sunshine Cleaning, she is a sweet, well-meaning girl who is not making ends meet and not having the life everyone thought she would when she was a popular cheerleader in high school. Here she is a single mom, with a married boyfriend, barely making a living as a maid. Her kid has some behavior problems in school and they suggest she put him somewhere that can deal with him, i.e. private school she cannot afford. The married boyfriend who is a cop suggests that maybe she could make more money cleaning up after dead people – some homicides, a suicide or two and lots of people who died at home. And so she starts her Sunshine Cleaning business and hires her deadbeat sister to help her.