Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Very Brief Mini-Movie Reviews

I saw a couple of movies in the past several weeks that greatly exceeded my expectations- the first was The Pursuit of Happyness, the one starring Will Smith and his real life son as a father and son fighting poverty, homelessness, and the IRS in trying to become a big time stockbroker. The movie received lukewarm reviews when it first came out, and I had dismissed it as the usual sort of feel good clap trap, so I was a bit surprised when I found myself enjoying it on HBO last week.

I can also honestly say I enjoyed the film as something a bit different, and, honestly, a bit libertarian. It's just plain great to see a Hollywood film where stockbrokers are not villains, but rather honest men making an honest living. Smith's Chris Gardner spends the film literally pursuing happiness- traipsing from end of San Francisco to another, attempting to take care of his son, complete his job selling portable bone density scanners, and fulfill the obligations of a full time internship with Dean Witter. Sometimes I question whether many of my generation have that sort of motivation and dedication, so it's refreshing to see it on screen. And as Chris Gardner reminds us in the film, Thomas Jefferson didn't write about guaranteeing the right to happiness, only the right to pursue it. It's not the film of the year, but it's very watchable, and Smith's performance alone is worth your time.

The other movie I'd put into the surprising category was "Let's Go To Prison" featuring Dax Shepard, the brilliantly funny Will Arnett, and the underrated Chi McBride. This one received horrible reviews, garnering a mere 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. (I do have to admit however, that one of the reviewers jokes, "Let's Go To DVD," made me lol out loud.)

Now, the movie is no gem, but it was much better than what most reviewers would have you believe. For all the portrayals of prison we've seen- both on the big screen and the little screen- this comes across as one of the more honest looks at life in the slammer. Yes, it's over the top, but that doesn't mean that there's no truth there. Perhaps the most telling bit was after Arnett's Nelson Biederman IV begins to cope with how small and disgusting his cell is, he asks Shepard's John Lyshitski what he's supposed to do. Lyshitski, in the midst of his fourth stint in prison, is a bit confused- sitting around, not having anything to do, and waiting for lunch is exactly what goes on in prison. It's just a neat little scene that captures the essence of being imprisoned and having your freedom taken away.

I'd recommend the movie for Arnett, beloved by Arrested Development aficionados, and for the scathing critique of the Prison system in the midst of a somewhat over the top film. The film attempts to lay rest to any notion that our prison system rehabilitates- in fact, the system seems to create career criminals. Some of the usual sorts of prison abuses are only hinted at in favor of showing a system itself that's drowning in corruption, from the guards all the way up to the warden. Again, not the best film of the year, but maybe one to dust off and pull out of the scrap heap of "Films Not To Watch."


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12:06 PM  

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